A big warm cozy embrace to all the members of my dearest os.me family. Today, I wanted to share my favorite story with you that helped me understand a crucial part of Advaita Vedanta. You can read the first story here. If you cannot wait for the remaining stories, you can watch this magnificent video by Swami Sarvapriyananda.

This post is dedicated to all of you who form a part of my spiritual family and sangha. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Second Story – Is This True or That True

The mighty emperor Janka was asleep in his palace, and he suddenly jerked awake. People were screaming, and guards were running around. They shouted about an invasion by an enemy and asked the king to defend the kingdom. Janka slipped on his armor, led his army, and fought a terrible batter. He was finally defeated and is dragged to the emperor. Since Janaka is of royal blood, the emperor said he could not be killed and banished him from the kingdom. Janaka wandered around in his kingdom with his clothes in tatters and his covered with filth and dust. No one dared to offer him food or water because they did not want to upset the new king. 

Janaka crossed over to the next kingdom. He saw poor people are being fed Khichdi in an ashram. He stands in line for the food, and by the time he reaches the counter, the person serving folds their hand and apologizes since the food is over.  Janaka begs him to scrape the bottom of the barrel sand give him something. After receiving the food, Janka brings the bowl to his lips when a kite knocks it out of his hands. This was the last straw. Janaka collapses on the floor with a cry asking the lord to end his life.

Janaka, the emperor, wakes up on his bed with his heart pounding and his body drenched in sweat. Guards run in upon hearing his scream enquire about his wellbeing.  While most of us would have said it’s just a dream, Janaka was of a more inquisitive nature. He mumbles, “Yeh Sach Ya Woh Sach.” Is this true, or is that true?

His queen comes to visit him and is escorted by the finest doctors in the kingdom. Janka keeps saying, “Yeh Sach ya Woh Sach.”

The story spreads like wildfire around the kingdom. The king has lost his senses. He keeps mumbling. Hearing about the state of the king, the sake Ashtavakra comes to meet him.

 Ashtavakra walks up to the king. Since he is a divine master, he knows what’s troubling the king. He gently askes the king that does he experience defeat, humiliation, pain, and exhaustion at the present moment? Janaka thinks for a while and says, “No.” The sage then says, all the majesty, might, your army, your beautiful queen, were they with you when you were lying on the road ready to die? The emperor whispers, “No, I was alone.”

 Ashtavakra emphatically says that’s why neither this is true nor that is true.

He elaborates that even when the world as we see it is was not true, we experience it like it’s real.  Similarly, in the dream, the pain and humiliation experienced by the king felt real, but it was not. He summarizes that “Neither this not is true, but you are the truth.”  You are the truth, and the world is mithya.

When we are awake, we see the world, do our job, spend time with our families, love, and get heartbroken, but it all disappears when we sleep and enter a different world. However, in a deep sleep, even that world disappears.

We consider our waking state as real because we spend all our time in this state. Ashtavakra gives the king the example of a gold necklace. It’s false, yet it appears to be true. The same gold is used to make a necklace and bracelet or ring. The names are different, and they look different and are used differently. However, the only reality for all three ornaments is the gold. Without the gold, they don’t stand, and this is reality. Take away gold from all of them, and they don’t exist.

What does the name necklace refer to then? It’s a word without a referent. The reality of gold is not affected by name or form. Nothing has happened to it. Consciousness appears as a physical world. The same consciousness without changing appears as a dream. The same awareness shuts down, and we have a deep sleep. That’s when you are not impacted by anything. It’s called Turiya and is the real deal.

This is called the Sankhya philosophy of separateness. Vedanta tells us that Brahman is real everything else is mithya. Once you are comfortable with the philosophy, you are the actor and play out roles without impacting you. The gross, subtle, and causal projections are simply within the turiya. You are equating dreams and waking. Madnukya Upanishads says waking is no more real than a dream. Everyone protests when they hear this the first time. Ask yourself this question. “If you are thirsty when you are awake, will water in the waking world will satisfy your thirst?”  “If you are thirsty in a dream, will water in the dream help you satisfy the thirst”? When you ponder this, we realize that different states of awareness are not equal to different states of consciousness. There is only one permanent state of consciousness, and that is the Brahman.

The second argument people use to debunk the philosophy is to say, “all people and things are outside our mind in the real world but inside our mind in the dream. That’s not true. Inner and Outer differences are maintained in dreams. When you dream, and you experience fear, your dream self is experiencing it within them.

While it’s hard to digest initially, you realize the truth behind the story when you reflect on it for a few days. If you are of a scientific bent of mind, I suggest you read Seven and a Half Lessons About the Human Brain. Here is what neuroscience says about the brain.

“Neuroscientists like to say that your day-to-day experience is a carefully controlled hallucination, constrained by the world and your body but ultimately constructed by your brain,” writes Dr. Barrett, who is a University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern and who has research appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s an everyday kind of hallucination that creates all of your experiences and guides all your actions. It’s the normal way that your brain gives meaning to the sensory inputs from your body and from the world (called “sense data”), and you’re almost always unaware that it’s happening.”

Our spiritual texts confirmed this fact thousands of years ago, and King Janaka’s story brings it home.

Thank you, dear family, for all the love and grace you shower on me. This post is a humble offering from me to all of you.

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Akshay Iyer

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