Tree of Knowledge

Tree of Knowledge 

There Can Be No Happiness Without Self-Esteem 

Swami Dayanandasaraswati has been teaching Vedanta for over 40 years. He tells us that ancient wisdom contains universal truths that are relevant in today’s world… What is Advaita?

Advaita refers to knowledge of the non-dual reality: the individual jiva, the scheme of things in which the jiva ex­ists, the world and the cause of the world, and that jiva and Isvara – jiva­jagat-isvara – are one and the same reality. The jiva has to gain this knowledge to gain freedom from being small and insignificant.

How can Vedanta be applied in our daily lives?

Even a commitment to know reality as one’s ultimate goal frees one from self-centeredness, the cause of greed and violence. One who has this commitment will value compassion and reaching-out actions. Such persons are not just con­sumers, but contributors.

How did you get initiated into Vedanta and how did you become a sanyasi?

I was interested in journalism that led me to pursuit of learning of different subjects. I happened to listen to a series of talks on the Mundaka Upanisad by Swami Chinmayananda at Chennai. For me those lectures were not inspir­ing, but transforming. I never looked back since.

You have said: “A mystic has no means of communicating to make you a mystic…”

If a mystic has got a means of com­munication he is a guru, not a mystic. Even a question like what is sweetness cannot be taught by words; but you can give a sugar crystal to the person so that he can know it for him­self. In Vedanta, we are talking of what is self-evident — and that is you. You have to be there in order to know. The job of Vedanta is only to negate what is not and reveal the self-evident.

You once said experience is ‘dumb’; yet you call Advaita the ultimate experience. Isn’t that a contradiction?

Any experience is as good as your understanding of it. Life is a series of ex­periences. You do not need a special ex­perience in order to know this fact. You see me. This experience reveals the ex­istence of subject and object; one is different from the other. But the truth is thus; this reality of the subject is the reality of the object. Reality transcends both, even though they do not transcend reality. That is why any experience is as good as what you make of it.

Why do you feel the study of scriptures rather than ‘practice’ is the way to Self-realisation?

What is to be known does not fall within the scope of the means of knowledge that we have. Eyes are a means of knowledge but only in terms of forms and colours and they cannot hear much less the means of hearing can see forms and colours. Therefore, the whole of Vedas has a subject mat­ter that is not available for the means of knowl­edge known as direct perception and infer­ence. We want to know the reality of both the knower and the known, which is non-dual. So sra­vanam itself is sadhana for self-knowledge.

What prompted your involvement in the All India Movement for Seva and the Global Commission for the Preservation of Religious diversity?

I see in our society a need for caring. Coming as we do from a culture of no competition, our entry into the competitive world re­quires a lot of caring and shar­ing. Ours was a caring culture. Competition knocks off the sense of security our culture had and the consequent caring that was natural. In the changed situation where the ten­dency to grab and hoard is common, I felt we needed to initiate a movement of caring which is the basic characteristic of Indian culture. We now have 80 homes for children, each having 30 to 50 children. We would like to have one such home in every district, involving local people, and educating them in car­ing and sharing.

Leaders of all faiths should teach their followers to live in harmony with others with love and compassion. Reli­gious freedom is to follow one’s religion freely without being suppressed by soci­ety or government; it does not mean de­stroying other religions. It implies mu­tual respect. Suppose the follower of a given religion feels that he is mandated to bring to his fold members of other re­ligions, he is free to pray for others to come to his religion, but not commit acts of aggression.

The youth has to understand the fact that there can be no happiness without self-esteem, which implies respect for one’s self-identity: this includes one’s parentage, culture and spiritual heritage. My appeal is that youth should not be indifferent to these.


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