Most people wish for boundless, everlasting abundance, and thus most also try to create this abundance in their lives. They wish for everything being utterly complete in itself. Sometimes this succeeds for 5 minutes, sometimes for an afternoon, sometimes even for a whole weekend; at least it feels that way. But since this completeness is going to bid goodbye once again at some point, it wasn’t eternal to begin with. Nor was it limitless. But at least most of us are able to catch a small glimpse of abundance every now and then.
It is interesting that something in us seems to know for certain that it is completeness we actually seek and that actually pertains to us. We speak of the fact that we feel un-fulfilled. By contrast, we never say that we are un-emptied, let alone complain about any such thing. We know that achievement lies in fullness and not in emptiness. Even those who speak of emptiness as achievement somehow imagine it as completeness, as fulfilment.
In which areas do we know completeness? What is fulfilment? Of course, the answer utterly depends on our interlocutor. Parenthood can mean fulfilment, a house, one’s profession, travelling, nature, the garden, wealth, creativity, a relationship…, all this can be fulfilment. Unfortunately, all this is also limited, it does not last, in any case we can’t count on the fact that these will keep on providing abundance forever. In addition, all of the above is always limited, because even if one’s profession is fulfilling, there are still many other areas of life that may be less fulfilling, requiring our attention and thus representing a limitation to the fulfilment experienced in the professional sphere. Even a big, fat bank account has its limits and so does the ideal relationship, which may be lacking in certain areas.
It is difficult to accept that limitless, everlasting completeness cannot be found in this world – which is already evident thanks to the fact that from time immemorial there has been untiring research and experimentation with the intent to miraculously bringing it about at some point: in the shape of perfect security, perfect quality of life, perfect justice.
Why is it so difficult to resign oneself to the fact that life as such is imperfect? Vedanta says that it is impossible to resign oneself to it, because something inside us knows that limitless, everlasting abundance is possible. But not where we ordinarily search for it; nor do we find it the way we ordinarily find things. This is the problem. Nevertheless, there is good news as well, namely that we tend to imagine it in too complex a manner and that all our efforts are not at all necessary. Why not? Because the abundance we miss is not really absent. What is missing is only the knowledge about the abundance that is already present. Running after any alleged abundance will not grant us this knowledge and therefore is a pure waste of energy. It would be better to search for the missing knowledge.
If we wanted to cover all tastes and do justice to appetite in all its variations, we would have to constantly eat: first some salty snacks, then a piece of cake, with whipped cream of course, and a cup of coffee as well, then a fresh salad, then a hot soup, then a cheese sandwich with a cocktail gherkin, then a glass of grape juice, then mashed potatoes with mushroom goulash, then a fancy chocolate, then a few cherries, etc., etc.
Such compulsive eating would keep us constantly occupied, just as much as the search for limitless, everlasting abundance keeps humanity constantly occupied. The only (and of course fictitious) solution to such compulsive eating would be to pause and notice that we are utterly full and that all conceivable taste variations have already been completely satisfied, so that we wouldn’t feel any urge for additional satisfaction. With regard to abundance, the situation is quite similar: only if we were to find out that the statements of the Upanishads are true, i.e. that there is abundance already and that we ourselves exist unseparated from it as pure abundance, only then we could stop searching.
Limitless in time and space
Since we are used to consider everything within the barriers of space and time, the image of absolute abundance and perfect satisfaction suffices to provoke a feeling of insecurity in us. When will it pass? When do I have to „reload“? We automatically associate the idea of abundance with transience, and rightly so, for the simple reason that as body-mind-beings we are finite. Death is the irrefutable, insurmountable hurdle, at least as long as we cling to our present idea of abundance and fulfilment.
Hence, the completeness Vedanta speaks about has to be free from death. It has to go beyond death and even include it, without being affected by it. Death, just as life, is contained in completeness. At the same time the completeness is limitless, i.e. one cannot imagine it as a container the contents of which are life-death-world-god. Every container, no matter how big, has its boundaries. But what we are seeking is boundless abundance.
It is basically impossible for the mind to conceive of limitlessness and eternity. Why? As it is limited and transient, the objects of its mindscape are also limited and transient. Yet, the higher mind, the Buddhi, is able to understand that something like limitlessness and eternity may exist. The Buddhi can also understand that the boundaries of its present identity would resolve in the knowledge that the Buddhi itself is only a part of this limitlessness. And it can even understand that the boundaries of its present identity can only resolve into the limitless. In other words, the Buddhi can understand that it is actually nothing but limitless, eternal abundance.
However, this in itself is not the end of the search. Our identification with a separate self is powerful, even though it actually brings nothing but trouble. This separate self is based on the identification with the body, its subtle functions (the energy, the capacity to act, the ability to perceive, the physiology) and the mind (consisting of memory, functional and emotional mind, the idea of an ‘I’ and the Buddhi). Of course it will take time to leave behind all of these identifications. What could help? First, talking with other seekers and the teacher, in order to recognize when and how there are identifications with the separate self. Second, by recognizing clearer and clearer through talks and the guided study of the Vedanta scriptures what is the one identity that one can never leave behind, but into which all other identities resolve. What remains, is pure abundance.
One verse from the introductory prayer of the Isha Upanishad summarizes the above (as well as clarifying why studying Vedanta without a teacher is not very useful).
Om Shantih, shantih, shantih.
That is completeness. This is completeness.
From that completeness comes this completeness.
Removing this completeness from that completeness,
Or adding this completeness to that completeness,
what remains is completeness
Om Peace, Peace, Peace
Completeness can be replaced by fullness, whole or full but the concept may still sound obscure. Therefore I translate the verse using a metaphor frequently employed in Advaita Vedanta:
Water is completeness. Waves are completeness.
From the completeness of water comes the completeness of waves.
Removing the completeness of waves
from the completeness of water,
Or adding the completeness of waves
To the completeness of water
What remains is completeness.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace
And in a following step I translate the metaphor into the context of our lives:
Limitlessness (in time and space 1) is completeness.
Man, world and god are completeness.
From the completeness of limitlessness
Comes the completeness of man, world and god.
Removing the completeness of man, world and god
From the completeness of limitlessness,
Or adding the completeness of man, world and god
To the completeness of limitlessness
What remains is completeness.
Om peace, peace, peace.
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