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The Crest-Jewel Of Wisdom First Steps On The Path, The Crest-Jewel Of Wisdom By Shankara

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(Verses 1--15) I BOW before Govinda, the objectless object of final success in the highest wisdom, who is supreme bliss and the true teacher. For beings a human birth is hard to win, then manhood and holiness, then excellence in the path of wise law; hardest of all to win is wisdom. Discernment between Self and not-Self, true judgment, nearness to the Self of the Eternal and Freedom are not gained without a myriad of right acts in a hundred births. This triad that is won by the bright one's favor is hard to gain: humanity, aspiration, and rest in the great spirit. After gaining at last a human birth, hard to win, then manhood and knowledge of the teaching, if one strives not after Freedom he is a fool. He, suicidal, destroys himself by grasping after the unreal. Who is more self-deluded than he who is careless of his own welfare after gaining a hard-won human birth and manhood, too? Let them declare the laws, let them offer to the gods, let them perform all rites, let them love the gods; without knowing the oneness with the Self,' Freedom is not won even in a hundred years of the Evolver. "There is no hope of immortality through riches," says the scripture. It is clear from this that rites cannot lead to Freedom. Therefore let the wise one strive after Freedom, giving up all longing for sensual self-indulgence; approaching the good, great Teacher (the Higher Self), with soul intent on the object of the teaching. Let him by the Self raise the Self, sunk in the ocean of the world, following the path of union through complete recognition of oneness. Setting all rites aside, let the wise, learned ones who approach the study of the Self strive for Freedom from the bondage of the world. Rites are to purify the thoughts, but not to gain the reality. The real is gained by Wisdom, not by a myriad of rites. When one steadily examines and clearly sees a rope, the fear that it is a serpent is destroyed. Knowledge is gained by discernment, by examining, by instruction, but not by bathing, nor gifts, nor a hundred holdings of the breath. Success demands first ripeness; questions of time and place are subsidiary. Let the seeker after self-knowledge find the Teacher (the Higher Self), full of kindness and knowledge of the Eternal. (Verses 16--34) He is ripe to seek the Self who is full of knowledge and wisdom, reason and discernment, and who bears the well-known marks. He is ready to seek the Eternal who has Discernment and Dispassion; who has Restfulness and the other graces. Four perfections are numbered by the wise. When they are present there is success, but in their absence is failure. First is counted the Discernment between things lasting and unlasting. Next Dispassion, the indifference to self-indulgence here and in paradise. Then the Six Graces, beginning with Restfulness. Then the longing for Freedom. A certainty like this--the Eternal is real, the fleeting world is unreal;--this is that Discernment between things lasting and unlasting. And this is Dispassion--a perpetual willingness to give up all sensual self-indulgence--everything lower than the Eternal, through a constant sense of their insufficiency. Then the Six Graces: a steady intentness of the mind on its goal;--this is Restfulness. And the steadying of the powers that act and perceive, each in its own sphere, turning them back from sensuality;--this is Self-control. Then the raising of the mind above external things;--this is the true Withdrawal. The enduring of all ills without petulance and without self-pity;--this is the right Endurance. An honest confidence in the teaching and the Teacher;--this is that Faith by which the treasure is gained. The intentness of the soul on the pure Eternal;--this is right Meditation, but not the indulgence of fancy. The wish to untie, by discernment of their true nature, all the bonds woven by unwisdom, the bonds of selfishness and sensuality;--this is the longing for Freedom. Though at first imperfect, these qualities gradually growing through Dispassion, Restfulness, and the other graces and the Teacher's help will gain their due. When Dispassion and longing for Freedom are strong, then Restfulness and the other graces will bear fruit. But when these two--Dispassion and longing for Freedom--are lacking, then Restfulness and the other graces are a mere appearance, like water in the desert. Chief among the, causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of the Self. Let him who possesses these Perfections and who would learn the reality of the Self, approach the wise Teacher (the Higher Self), from whom comes the loosing of bonds; who: is full of knowledge and perfect; who is not beaten by desire, who really knows the Eternal; who has found rest in the Eternal, at peace like a fuelless fire; who is full of selfless kindness, the friend of all that lives. Serving the Teacher with devotion and aspiration for the Eternal, and finding harmony with him, seek the needed knowledge of the Self. (Verses 35--40) "I submit myself to thee, Master, friend of the bowed-down world and river of selfless kindness. "Raise me by thy guiding light that pours forth the nectar of truth and mercy, for I am sunk in the ocean of the world. "I am burned by the hot flame of relentless life and torn by the winds of misery: save me from death, for I take refuge in thee, finding no other rest." The great good ones dwell in peace, bringing joy to the world like the return of spring. Having crossed the ocean of the world, they ever help others to cross over. For this is the very nature of the great-souled ones (Mahâtmas)--their swiftness to take away the weariness of others. So the soft-rayed moon of itself soothes the earth, burned by the fierce sun's heat. "Sprinkle me with thy nectar voice that brings the joy of eternal bliss, pure and cooling, falling on me as from a cup, like the joy of inspiration; for I am burnt by the hot, scorching flames of the world's fire. "Happy are they on whom thy light rests, even for a moment, and who reach harmony with thee. "How shall I cross the ocean of the world? Where is the path? What way must I follow? I know not, Master. Save me from the wound of the world's pain." (Verses 41--71) To him, making this appeal and seeking help, scorched by the flame of the world's fire, the Great Soul beholding him with eyes most pitiful brings speedy comfort. The Wise One instils the truth in him who has approached him longing for Freedom, who is following the true path, calming the tumult of his mind and bringing Restfulness. "Fear not, wise one, there is no danger for thee. There is a way to cross over the ocean of the world, and by this path the sages have reached the shore. "This same path I point out to thee, for it is the way to destroy the world's fear. Crossing the ocean of the world by this path, thou shalt win the perfect joy." By discerning the aim of the wisdom-teaching (Vedânta) is born that most excellent knowledge. Then comes the final ending of the world's pain. The voice of the teaching plainly declares that faith, devotion, meditation, and the search for union are the means of Freedom for him who would be free. He who is perfect in these wins Freedom from the bodily bondage woven by unwisdom. When the Self is veiled by unwisdom there arises a binding to the not-self, and from this comes the pain of world-life. The fire of wisdom lit by discernment between these two--Self and not-Self--will wither up the source of unwisdom, root and all. "Hear with selfless kindness, Master. I ask this question: receiving the answer from thy lips I shall gain my end. "What is, then, a bond? And how has this bond come? What cause has it? And how can one be free? "What is not-Self and what the Higher Self? And how can one discern between them?" "Happy art thou. Thou shalt attain thy end. Thy kin is blest in thee. For thou seekest to become the Eternal by freeing thyself from the bond of unwisdom. "Sons and kin can pay a father's debts, but none but a man's self can set him free, "If a heavy burden presses on the head others can remove it, but none but a man's self can quench his hunger and thirst. "Health is gained by the sick who follow the path of healing: health does not come through the acts of others. "The knowledge of the real by the eye of clear insight is to be gained by one's own sight and not by the teacher's. "The moon's form must be seen by one's own eyes; it can never be known through the eyes of another. "None but a man's self is able to untie the knots of unwisdom, desire, and former acts, even in a myriad of ages. "Freedom is won by a perception of the Self's oneness with the Eternal, and not by the doctrines of Union or of Numbers, nor by rites and sciences. "The form and beauty of the lyre and excellent skill upon its strings may give delight to the people, but will never found an empire. "An eloquent voice, a stream of words, skill in explaining the teaching, and the learning of the learned; these bring enjoyment but not freedom. "When the Great Reality is not known the study of the scriptures is fruitless; when the Great Reality is known the study of the scriptures is also fruitless. "A net of words is a great forest where the fancy wanders; therefore the reality of the Self is to be strenuously learned from the knower of that reality. "How can the hymns (Vedas) and the scriptures profit him who is bitten by the serpent of unwisdom? [paragraph continues] How can charms or medicine help him without the medicine of the knowledge of the Eternal? "Sickness is not cured by saying 'Medicine,' but by drinking it. So a man is not set free by the name of the Eternal without discerning the Eternal. "Without piercing through the visible, without knowing the reality of the Self, how can men gain Freedom by mere outward words that end with utterances? "Can a man be king by saying, 'I am king,' without destroying his enemies, without gaining power over the whole land? "Through information, digging, and casting aside the stones, a treasure may be found, but not by calling it to come forth. "So by steady effort is gained the knowledge of those who know the Eternal, the lonely, stainless reality above all illusion; but not by desultory study. "Hence with all earnest effort to be free from the bondage of the world, the wise must strive themselves, as they would to be free from sickness. "And this question put by thee to-day must be solved by those who seek Freedom; this question that breathes the spirit of the teaching, that is like a clue with hidden meaning. "Hear, then, earnestly, thou wise one, the answer given by me; for understanding it thou shalt be free from the bondage of the world."

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1 Ben N = "Govinda literally means "cowherd," and is another name for Krishna, the supreme Godhead. "
2 Ben N = "Human life is an incredible blessing and gift, because our advanced degree of consciousness, self-reflection and choice uniquely equips us for spiritual practice and advancement."
3 Ben N = "Bases upon the philosophy of karma and reincarnation, we are all born again and again until at last, after countless lifetimes of struggle and effort, study and practice, and accumulating merit through selfless deeds, we attain the supreme wisdom and are liberated from the wheel of death and rebirth."
4 Ben N = "Just to be born a human is considered an incredible blessing. Even more rare and precious is to be graced with knowledge of spiritual teachings, and a yearning for God."
5 Ben N = "Considering the countless lifetimes, the ages of spiritual advancement it takes to gain not only human life, and then the even greater blessing of spiritual knowledge and instruction, to waste such an opportunity is one of the most sad and foolish of mistakes."
6 Ben N = "Indulging oneself in worldly pleasures wastes the life-energy on cravings that can never be satisfied. The wise know that God is the only pursuit worth striving for."
7 Ben N = "Offerings, rituals, and other accoutrements of worship do not lead to liberation or spiritual awakening. But they can be useful in steadying the mind, and fixing one's attention upon God."
8 Ben N = "This refers to the metaphor of a man who, alone in a dark room, sees a rope and becomes terrified, thinking it to be a snake. He is in no danger, yet his mind projects danger where there is none. So it is with all of our fears and judgments; they are not real, they are illusions, projections of our minds. The cure, we are told, is to study and examine until we can see through our fears, and discern Reality."
9 Ben N = "The highest form of knowledge is self-knowledge, to realize who and what we truly are: God. The universe and everything in it shares one consciousness, one Divine Identity. So the Teacher, or Guru, is really none other than our Awakened Self."
10 Ben N = "Not everyone is "ripe," or ready, for supreme Self realization. To achieve this, the highest of all human achievements, requires that one has already achieved a high degree of personal development: patience, focus, self-control, etc."
11 Ben N = "The spiritual aspirant must be able to discern what is real, and what is Maya; between the Self, and the ego-mind."
12 Ben N = "Dispassion is the willingness to let go of "the world" and it's pleasures, having fully realized their ultimate inadequacy. Also known as "detachment.""
13 Ben N = "This is a quality of steadfastness; of having the mind settled upon one object, not scattered about, and constantly shifting from one thing to another."
14 Ben N = "To withdraw means to give up wanting anything from the external world, to stop pursuing satisfaction there, and begin to look inside oneself for fulfillment."
15 Ben N = "Spiritual endurance requires a kind of indifference to changes in fortune; pain and pleasure, gain and loss, are to be regarded as equal."
16 Ben N = "This does not mean obsession or devotion to what one believes to be true, or imagines God to be. Right meditation is to humbly surrender such concepts and give oneself wholly to the mystery..."
17 Ben N = "Perhaps the most crucial of all is the longing for freedom above all else. The intense desire to give up all attachments and illusions and be liberated from the prison of the false self."
18 Ben N = "Without dispassion (giving up on worldly pleasures) and the longing for liberation, all of one's personal development is for naught. If however, the aspirant has given up selfish desires, and yearns whole-heartedly for spiritual freedom, then all the necessary virtues will blossom in time."
19 Ben N = ""Devotion" is here defined as intense faith in, and focus upon, the Higher Self, the cosmic Self, the Great I AM."
20 Ben N = "The Mahatmas, similar to the Buddhist notion of Boddhisattvas, are noble beings who have awakened from the delusion of the ego-self, and realized their own liberation. Yet, they continue to ride the wheel of death and rebirth for the sole purpose of awakening and others, and freeing them from suffering."
21 Ben N = "Ignorant of the truth of who and what we are, we cling to what we are not. Identifying with our body, our thoughts, our name, etc. we become bound by this false sense of self, the delusion of ego. This gives rise to all of the suffering in the world."
22 Ben N = "By discerning the real Self from the countless phenomena of the mind and the material world, and realizing what we truly are, we are freed from all delusions and the suffering that they cause."
23 Ben N = "These are many ways of saying the same thing: that enlightenment can only come about through one's own effort. No one can do it for you. It is up to us to realize the Self, and surrender the ego-identity."
24 Ben N = "Talking about God is not the same as knowing Him, and reading or talking about spirituality is not the same as diligent effort and practice. It won't get us very far. The goal of liberation can only be reached by those who strive for it with all of their being."