19 Jan

“Why do you want to talk about Vedanta?”, asked a friend. “There’s nothing in it”, he continued, as he prepared to walk away. What he said was probably true. There’s nothing in Vedanta, except a totally different world-view from what is accepted by most people. 

To say that “one is not other than the Universe” is simple enough. To act according to this view is another matter altogether.

But I wondered if he had ever thought about where words come from. Spoken speech is the end of a process of which we are usually unaware of.To make this clearer, somewhere within ourselves, after we become aware of  a thought that needs expression, we have picked a language (that is, if one speaks more than one language) , then chosen words, and finally spoken them.Breaking this down further, the words that we pick are merely sounds strung together which are tagged with a commonly accepted meaning. So the question about where words come from should actually be re-phrased to consider where sounds come from. We could say that sounds come from consciousness, pushing the question backwards, and forcing us to consider what consciousness is. 

Vedanta has a theory for this: first there is the thought (or feeling), vritti; or movement, which appears in the para state (or the state of pure consciousness), then there is the monologue within, which marks the initialisation of the verbalisation process, when one senses or sees the thought, in the state called pashyanti. After this state comes the madhyama state, or the middle state, where the sounds that make up the words begin. And then finally, there is the vaikhari ;state, or the gross verbal state, when the sounds finally find utterance.

It is interesting to note that in mantra practice - where the objective is to reach the para state - the process is reversed.

We begin by reciting the mantra (whatever it may be) loudly, so that everyone can hear, in the vaikhari state. Moving ahead, we reduce the loud repetition of the mantra to a stifled murmur, so that no one except you yourself can hear the mantra - the madhyama state. And then, further ahead in the practice, you stop even the murmuring of the mantra, and become aware silently of the movement within that makes up the mantra, in the pashyanti state. If you get thus far, and persist with your practice, you may perhaps hit upon the para state, where you begin to experience undifferentiated consciousness, and this could be the beginning of a radical transformation in your world-view.

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