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All One

The April Jivamukti Yoga focus-of-the-month by Nicklas Noack is called “All You Need to Know and All You Ever Were: A Distillation.” In it Nicklas writes about two of the four principle Mahavakyas or "Great Sayings" from the ancient yogic text The Upanishads:

Tat Tvam Asi (You are That) and Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)

In his essay, Nicklas write, “Both statements pinpoint the underlying principle of oneness and the understanding of Vedic thought, that the personal Self (Atman), and the universal principle (Brahman), are essentially one and the same changeless reality.”

The Mahavakyas are the distilled wisdom of the Vedas. The essence of each of these Mahavakyas is the same, since all are intended to guide practitioners toward the realization that all beings are One with Brahman. Understanding this Oneness is believed to be the ultimate form of compassion, in which individuals recognize one another as part of the same whole. The Mahavakyas refer to the unity of Atman (the individual self or soul) with Brahman (Universal Consciousness or the Absolute).

The four Principle Mahavakyas are:

  1. Prajnanam Brahma – Consciousness is Brahman

  2. Ayam Atma Brahma – This self is Brahman

  3. Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art That or You are One

  4. Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahman or I am Divine

The Mahavakyas unite the macrocosmic ideas of God and Universal Consciousness with the microcosmic individual expression of the Self. These mantras highlight the notion that all beings are intimately connected to universal energy and cannot be separated from it. To recite the Mahavakyas is to recognize that Brahman and Atman are one, and as such, there can be no ego or sense of separation. These mantras may be contemplated as part of self-exploration and are generally incorporated into practices such as meditation and chanting mantra. Jnana yoga in particular focuses on contemplation of the Mahavakyas.

Because as humans we get caught up in the illusion of separation—seeing others and otherness, we get quite attached to what we might think of as our “small-s self”—our body, personality, ego, thoughts, roles we play, etc. We forget who we truly are—we forget our Self with a capital-S, our Higher Self, the Divine within. The practices of yoga are designed to help us remember who we truly are. In his essay, Niklas writes, “… by realizing sat-cit-ānanda [truth, consciousness, bliss], the sorrow associated with otherness, limitation and finitude disappears and I, the Jivatman, am given the opportunity to act accordingly in our world: from a place of true happiness, with compassion and love, grounded in and empowered by the oneness we all share.”

This focus-of-the-month made me immediately think of my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. He was a great Indian saint of the Himalayan lineage who left his body in 1973. (He is affectionately called “Maharaj-ji” and “Baba-ji” by His devotees.) Maharaj-ji “taught” in a highly personalized, non-traditional way that reflected the deep devotion of the bhakti path of the heart.

Maharaj-ji’s teachings were simple and universal. Like the Mahavakyas, one of his teachings in particular is a distillation of the wisdom of the Vedas: “Sub Ek” — All is One. (He would often hold up one finger while he said this.) He also said that “God, Guru, and Self are One.” He taught devotees to “Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God, and tell the truth.”

Saying that God came to the hungry in the form of food, he fed all who came to him, and He encouraged his devotees to feed the hungry and to serve others. His instruction is that through service to others, compassion for all beings, and devotion to God (however we conceive of the Divine), we come to realize the Oneness of being, or the state of Yoga. We begin to see beyond small-“r” reality and to glimpse Ultimate Reality (with a capital-R), the state beyond duality, where there is no separation, where All is One.

Blessings and Love,

Sharada Devi

(Jennifer Lenhart)

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