It is often said that the ultimate truth cannot be spoken or put into words, so “indicators” are used to get the seeker to look (and experience) that truth directly. Most of us have heard the analogy that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. Things that point to the truth usually embody profound teachings that are commonly overlooked. Plus, the bare-naked truth is all too often sugar coated for easy digestibility, or in an effort to carry the truth home. Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) holds that there is an undivided, unified oneness which is the essence of all that is created, both animate and inanimate. Ironically, this non-dual oneness is also transcendental, being beyond the body/mind complex. So, since the truth cannot be related directly using words, how can words help one to see for oneself? Ancient sages and enlightened masters have found if they must speak, the truth is best represented through analogy, allegory and metaphor, which are meant to reveal the truth (in part) through comparison, giving the seeker a glimpse.
Examples of a few of these analogies commonly used to expound the Hindu spiritual teaching of the Advaita Vedanta follow. These analogies have become popular because they have helped many seekers to grasp the truth with a bit more ease…
The Vessel and the Space Within: Take a clay vase as an example, it represents the body, an aspect of creation. It has space within and without. Even when it is filled with stuff, it is done only in because of the empty space within. Therefore the space exists irrespective of the presence of the stuff (or its absence). Furthermore, the space within the vase is identical to the space outside of it. Through this we can realize that one’s essence is same as the essence of the world (or universe) at large. When one recognizes oneself through conscious awareness, shapes and forms no longer matter as everything is now seen as consciousness itself. There is no longer any plurality, but instead only oneness.
The Ocean and the Wave: This analogy again points to the truth of universal oneness beyond all apparent forms. Although there are an endless variety of waves in the ocean (big and small, rough and gentle, etc.), they are all made up of the same substance – water. Additionally, the waves cannot exist apart from water. We are no different, we cannot exist without sense of being. Even in deep sleep we exist, even though we are forgetful of our name and form. Once we understand our true nature is to be this “beingness,” (or spirit), we realize ourselves to be immortal.
Gold and Ornaments Made from Gold: Here’s another analogy that again emphasizes the same essence existing in different shapes and forms. While gold can be melted and formed into different ornaments (chains, earrings, bracelets, rings etc.), they are all still essentially gold. Vedanta points out that this is so with humans as well. Though we all exhibit differences in size, shape and color, we are all still made of the same essence as the Atman (Universal, Divine Self), the pure spirit without which, we cannot even exist. There are no ornaments made of gold that can exist apart from the gold itself.
The Snake and the Rope: You may be familiar with this one as it is one of the most common of the traditional analogies used to expound Hindu spiritual teachings. In the dark we mistake a rope for a snake and become afraid. Once we realize that our fear is unfounded due to the mistaken identity of a rope for a snake, all fear vanishes. So is it with human beings. Once the mistaken identification of ourselves to be a separate body is exposed to the light of conscious awareness, the ego-self complex is deconstructed and all fears evaporate. This realization provides us with the opportunity to awaken to the bliss of Self-realization and abide in that.
*Of related interest, click on: Is It Important To Be “Spiritual?”
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