Who Am I? Exploring Vedanta
My Personal Introduction to Vedanta
In 1980, I was a fairly successful computer professional, owned a house, was raising a wonderful son, and living a comfortable life. Years before, I had decided unequivocally that the idea of God, or a higher power, was just a creation to make people happy. After all, look at the world. It was a mess. If there were really a higher power running the universe, would the world be like this? I took my cynicism and shared it with my young son, who came home from school at age 6 and asked me about it. I said, “Well some people believe God exists.” That was the best I could do.
Then I met my first meditation teacher, Swami Muktananda. I didn't know what to expect as I saw him enter the hall where I and a few hundred others were waiting. Then he made a declaration: “God dwells within you as you.” Suddenly I was confronted with this odd paradox. My mind said there was no such thing as a God. And then there was this Indian man, who exuded the conviction that he knew God intimately and that I could as well.
Even more surprising to me than what he said, was what happened to me over the next month or so. I received initiation from him in a meditation Intensive, having never really meditated extensively before. The experiences I had were beyond what my mind could comprehend. One time, I literally entered the space between the breaths, and found my consciousness like a tiny dot inside my being, where the breath was suspended. On another day, I found myself completely aware of an exquisite vibration of sound, that was emanating from within me, like the sound of celestial chimes. Each experience left me with this amazement: I was not who I thought I was. I was more than this body, this mind. But, who am I?
My heart was won, but my mind needed support. So I began to read everything I could. The philosophy that spoke most directly to what I was experiencing was Advaita Vedanta. Vedanta explains very clearly that we are more than this body, more than this mind, and even more than the blissful experiences we may have. Indeed, we are the Self, known as the Atman, Brahman, Consciousness.
Vedanta also gave me a context in which to understand the world, which had created such discouragement in me. Vedanta teaches that the world is not as it appears, and that underlying the world is a pure and undefiled principle that Vedanta calls “Brahman.”
Thus began my deep love and affinity for the practice and teachings of Vedanta.
Let me state at the outset that I am not a scholar or academic student of Vedanta. Rather, I have found points of Vedanta a helpful lens through which I could view events of my life and the world around me. Through my readings in the Vedanta philosophy, and the accessible way that Muktananda presented it, I could navigate life with a new ease, a new optimism, a new confidence. This in fact is one of the hallmarks of Vedanta: that it is both a religion in the truest sense and a philosophy. The path it lays out involves both faith and reason, and by including both, my whole being was satisfied.
Next: Origins and Definitions
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