The most striking shift in Advaita Vedanta is from viewing the world out there from the perspective of the individual self to identifying with the True Reality that is prior to the manifestation of the world.  As Nisargadatta says:

Who was born first, you or the world? As long as you give first place to the world, you are bound by it; once you realize, beyond all trace of doubt, that the world is in you and not you in the world, you are out of it. Of course your body remains in the world and of the world, but you are not deluded by it.

However, this shift in vantage point, while seemly simple and effortless, has a requirement – giving up all identification with the personal self and the network of desires and fears that fuel the sense of self.  For the individually bound seeker, this price can seem too high:
  • What about my position on the mountain?
  • What about my relationship with the pebbles nearby to me?
  • What about my smooth edges and unique colours?
  • What if I lose all of that?
What the individually bound seeker does not see is identification with the personal self is a FALSE identification. You are not the small individual self, and have never been. Temporarily lost in the fog of false identification, you have just forgotten your True Nature. By relinquishing your identification with the individual self, you are simply letting go of a false set of beliefs.

You are a mountain, yet you are temporarily convinced you are a small pebble. You are given the invitation to let go of identification of yourself with a pebble – because only then with clear sight can you see that you are the mountain. However, perhaps you will cling to your sense of “pebbleness” with questions like these:
  • What about my position on the mountain?
  • What about my relationship with the pebbles nearby to me?
  • What about my smooth edges and unique colours?
  • What if I lose all of that?

The answer of course, is that you cannot know yourself as the mountain unless you let go of these personal associations with yourself as a pebble. You have to remove the blinders – or the limits to your View. Perhaps this analogy can help you to see what is really “given up” by letting go of the false sheath of personal identification.

What is the effect of the removal of false identification with the individual self or the body/mind/personality construct? Nisargadatta Maharaj provides the answer: Remove the sense of separateness and there will be no conflict.” Let this pointer penetrate deeply.

Can you imagine a life with no conflict, relationships with no conflict, a world with no conflict? For most human beings, this is impossibility. Even when not self-initiated, the human being inevitably encounters “conflict” during day-to-day life.  

The world of duality contains all the opposites:
  • Health and disease
  • Peace and war
  • Light and dark
  • Love and fear
  • Harmony and conflict
  • Etc.

The separate individual will experience all of these dualities and more during the relative life. However, what Maharaj means is that from the vantage point of the View, there are no separate individuals. There are simply happenings in consciousness – with all of the flavours and colours that relative life brings. 

In this way, while the relative dramas of harmony and conflict etc may play themselves out between individuals, from the perspective of True Reality, these events simply occur with no one to take possession of them. So a conflict may arise as a happening within consciousness, but for the Realized this is just like mist arising from a mountain or writing on water.

Pointers for consideration
  • What is my True Nature?
  • If I am identified with myself as an individual, can I even glimpse my True Nature? Can the pebble know the mountain?
  • How do I break the spell of identification with the individual self? What beliefs or concepts am I clinging to that support this sense of personal self-identity?
  • How do I know that I am a separate individual? How do I know that I was born and that I will die? Where do my concepts and ideas about myself come from?
  • If the sense of separateness is removed, how is it that there is no conflict?

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