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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Essay on The Real and the Apparent Man, Chapter 16 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “The one theme of the Vedanta philosophy is the search after unity. The Hindu mind does not care for the particular; it is always after the general, nay, the universal. ‘What is that, by knowing which everything else is to be known?’ That is the one theme. ‘As through the knowledge of one lump of clay all that is of clay is known, so, what is that, by knowing which this whole universe itself will be known?’ That is the one search. . . .” This quest for transcendence need not be an unconscious motivation that misses the mark. While the common man will mistakenly seek for unity in enjoyment of objects or association with a group, the spiritual seeker desires to know God and become absorbed in that Presence.

There are many obstacles to perception of Truth.  First, the body and the work required for its survival and comfort. Also, the ignorant and confused mind with its many fantasies, preferences, and selfish tendency toward personal aggrandizement and calculating gains and losses. Third, social situations, from the subtle pressure of ancestors and error-as-custom to the more direct influence of our family, friends, and colleagues to effect conformity to norms and taboos. The unthinking crowd’s collective wrong emphasis results in superstition (misinterpretation) and nihilism that denies Truth and stigmatizes its witnesses. The built environment does not encourage contemplative inquiry: there is distracting noise of electric media and machines whose only virtue is their speed.  There is a cultural epidemic of mindlessness and mindwandering that is exploited by a sick economy which preys upon physiological needs and psychological desires. The marketplace offers a variety of false identities in the stereotypical roles of consumer lifestyles. The custodians of wisdom, the schools and the religious institutions, have few qualified guides and true masters, and their message is bastardized into a commodity promoted as a cure for misfortune, love problems, and failed health. Many come to the Truth, not for Truth itself, but as an avoidance of pain and suffering.


Many incorrectly assume that Truth is only possible for ascetics in forest retreats or hidden in books to be studied only by the learned. Swamiji wished that these ideas and ideals would become the common property of the whole world, and for this purpose, he outlined an program of education aimed at Freedom. The perception of Truth requires intellectual training and personal discipline. This is not the superficial acquisition of information or grandiose mental acrobatics but the transformation of character in accord with timeless principles. A disciple must have a strong desire to hear the teaching of a Master, to serve a genuine authority for the rare opportunity to hear the lessons, to memorize and consider the instructions, then apply the ideas, or not. Next comes a refined command of the concepts and more nuanced discrimination before a complete entry into the Reality. Many students delude themselves in believing that a glimpse of Truth is the same as being established in the vision of God.

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