As I said in the last two talks, self-realisation is basically to understand oneself and in the process of understanding oneself (which, of course, is the ultimate aim of the Upanishad), one has to break down innumerable illusions that we have created about ourselves, one by one.
We have to break all the idols that we have created for ourselves, not ‘ideals’ but idols. The Vedantin, or the seeker, is the ultimate iconoclast. It is not enough to just say I don’t worship idols, every one of us worships some kind of idol or the other; there is nothing wrong with that per se and it is fine.
We appreciate somebody, say matinee idols, and we worship them in a way. That is fine. What I am saying here is that when it comes to enquiry–going within and finding out about the self–one has to discard a number of misunderstandings and illusions that have been drilled into us from a very young age.
I am not against idol worship. I love those beautiful forms featured inside temples. And so on, the lovely mountains, which are also images. Nothing wrong in that!
Illusions are not only inside, but outside also. Not only should we be free of the illusions built within–the images and idols within–but also, the illusions we have about the outside world. After all, the inner and the outer are linked; they are one in the ultimate analysis.
So, the Vedantin, searching for the truth, comes across a certain set of conclusions and says “Now this cannot be, it is not this”. I am looking for the ultimate truth; this cannot be that. It is relative and, therefore, impermanent.
This is the actual meaning of ‘neti’–not this, not this; it does not mean that you keep repeating it like a mantra ‘neti, neti’. It takes you nowhere and it becomes the worship of ‘neti’, which is another form of idol worship.
I am not against idol worship. I love those beautiful forms featured inside temples. And so on, the lovely mountains, which are also images. Nothing wrong in that! The beautiful rivers and the flowers–they are not formless, they are with form, beautiful form! You look at them in awe.
You enjoy the bliss of looking at them. I am only saying that misunderstandings, prejudices and wrong information are the illusions that our mind is occupied with. Clearing up of that is the exploration, the enquiry, the seeking for the truth and this is Vedanta and this is what the Upanishads talk about.
In this context, since we have discussed quite a bit about the inner illusions, let us now talk about the external illusions–the world that we see, feel and hear.
Is it as we think it is? Or is it not as we think it is? Or is it that it may not be what we think it is, although we see, hear and feel that it is? This is the question.