by Bronwyn Slater
The philosophy of Advaita originates from the world’s oldest-known scriptures – the Vedas. They originated in India and date back to 1700 BC, forming the basis of the Hindu religion. Advaita means ‘not two’ and is also referred to as ‘non-duality’. It holds that everything that exists is simply Oneness or ‘the Self’.
Barriers to happiness
We live in a world which appears to contain a vast multitude of objects and other beings. Because we see ourselves as separate beings in the world we often feel isolated, unhappy and alone. As a result, we seek happiness in things like relationships, activities, food, entertainment, and so on. The problem is that the happiness we find in these things does not last. It may last for a while but eventually the old feelings return, and so we are caught in a cycle – constantly looking to the outside world for fulfilment. This is an endless cycle of desire, action, result and experience which continues, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
How do I achieve lasting happiness?
Advaita says that the real source of happiness is your true Self which is the one Whole. The key points in Advaita philosophy are as follows:
Silence the mind:
The mind is the primary source of suffering. If we can switch off the mind we will find peace. Meditation, for example, is a powerful tool with which to quieten the mind’s constant inner chatter.
We should accept everything that happens – both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ equally. When we resist anything we only increase our suffering. Everything is happening as it should and we are not in control even though we believe we are. There is nothing wrong with being an activist for animals, for example, as long as we act without attachment to the outcome. Activists often get ‘burned out’ because they are constantly faced with stories and pictures of animal suffering. Try to accept the suffering and do the best you can.
I am not the doer:
Everything is the Self alone. The separate ‘you’ that you believe yourself to be is not real.
Get rid of the ego:
The ego takes credit for everything we do and it then feels guilty for things we regret having done. When you realise that you are not the doer then you will no longer identify with the ego, and you will no longer suffer as a result.
The world is an illusion:
When we see the world as being composed of many different things – individual people and separate objects – then it is said to be an illusion. When we view the world as the non-dual Self then we see it as it truly is – Reality or Oneness.
Suffering only exists in the mind of the unenlightened person:
When you no longer identify with your separate self there is no more suffering as there is no-one to suffer.
The Self is happiness, peace and bliss:
The Self is beyond all description. It is not a ‘thing’ or a concept. It is completely unchanging and eternal.
Birth and death are illusions:
You are the Self which is eternal. It was never created and it cannot be destroyed.
If you can take on board and make progress on any or all of the points above you will notice changes in yourself. You will feel more at peace. You’ll take things less seriously. You won’t react to things that in the past might have hurt your feelings. News stories won’t affect you as much as they used to. People may even start to remark on how happy and calm you seem to have become.
The key thing to realise is that happiness is intrinsic to our own being. We are fine as we are and there is no need to go searching in the outside world for things to make us happy. Recognising that we are the Self and therefore eternal and beyond all fear and suffering is known as ‘moksha’ or liberation.
For more on the philosophy of Advaita I would recommend the following books:
- ‘Be As You Are – the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi’ (edited by David Godman)
- ‘I Am That – talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’ – also available on PDF
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