A big and warm hug to my dearest OS.me family. I have found sisters, brothers, and paternal figures on this beautiful platform. Every time I get lazy and stop writing, someone reaches out and gently reminds me of my duties as a member. Most of our offerings are towards our dearest guruji or our beloved Sri Hari. However, the following five posts are devoted to you, my dear sangha.
I have always been interested in Advaita Vedanta but have found it very difficult to internalize. Sometime during the new year, I bumped into this video by Swami Sarvapriyananda. He shares five stories that help us quickly understand the core principles of Advaita Vedanta. I will share one story in each post, and some describe how the principles in his story play out in our lives.
First Story – The Washerman and the Donkey
A washerman visited a village every day. He went to every house in the town, collected all the dirty clothes, loaded them up on his donkey, and set off to the river. After reaching the river, he gasped in horror. He had forgotten the rope at home. He panicked and looked in all directions for some help. Without his rope, he could not tie his donkey to a tree. If the donkey remained untied, it could walk away, and he would lose his livelihood. If he went back to the village, he would not have enough time to return and wash the clothes. He would lose his day’s work, which meant he could not earn money to feed the family.
He was sweating anxiously when a wise man walked up to him and asked him about his troubles. After listening to his story, the wise man smiled and offered the washerman a suggestion.
“Pretend to tie the donkey with a rope and go to the river. The donkey will graze and wait for you here.” The washerman was astounded, but because he lacked other options, he tried it out. He took an imaginary rope, wound it around the donkey’s neck, and pretended to tie it to a tree.
He walked a few steps and saw that the donkey had begun grazing. He walked all the way to the river, and the donkey had not moved. The washerman spent all day washing his clothes peacefully, dried the clothes, and loaded them back on the donkey. He pats the donkey and signals that they are ready to go, but the donkey does not move. The washerman is puzzled when the wise man appears and reminds the washerman to untie the donkey. The washerman opens the imaginary rope, and the donkey starts trotting off to the village.
Swami Sarvapriyananda explains that this story illustrates the philosophy of Advaita by using superimposition(adyaropaha) and desuperimpostion to explain the idea of consciousness and bliss. A donkey that is free all the time thinks that it’s tied. Similarly, at a metaphysical level, we, the immortal beings, feel we are tied to the body. Our soul is captive, and that seems to be the concrete truth. At a physical level, we are bound to samsara, people, bad relationships, and financial problems. We believe that we have to find a key to our prison. That key could be more money, freedom, passion, true love, or any other desire. What if we are already free? What if we imagine the prison? I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s problems, but Swami Sarvapriyananda and OM Swami have often talked about solving our problems by removing the layers of conditioning (imaginary ropes) that tie us to our problems. Maybe living within our means is a good thing. Maybe walking away from toxic relationships is the right thing to do irrespective of what others think about it.
Vedanta and true spirituality help us untie the ropes. That is called Apavada in Sanskrit.
So dear family, find ways to untie the ropes that hold us to our miseries. I hope all of you have a lovely evening. Thank you for making this community the best place on the internet.