Swami Atmarupananda

Ramakrishna Order and Puri Sampradaya (Texas, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

The most basic teaching of all schools of Hindu Vedanta is the unity of existence.

The infinite diversity of this universe and all possible universes is rooted in a unitary, or nondual, spiritual reality, and everything within the universe is a unique manifestation of the one reality, known among other names as Brahman. That is, if we look deeply into anything within this universe with a mind purified by meditation, we perceive this same luminous, transcendent being.

The unique and the universal: each thing, living or not, is a unique manifestation of that universal being. Unique and universal at the same time.

This paradox can be illustrated by the ocean and its waves, bubbles, foam: they are nothing but water, yet they appear distinct. Or the example is given of clay: an infinite number of forms can be made of clay, but all are essentially nothing but clay.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

Worship is the attitude to cultivate. In every puja or ritual worship we make an offering to Mother Earth: Oh Mother Earth, you hold the whole world on your lap. You are held by the Supreme Reality. Hold us always, and purify the place where we sit (for worship).”

This is not poetry, not personification from an unscientific mind. It is the literal experience of the sages that consciousness exists everywhere, and consciousness itself is divine, synonymous with existence. Therefore the earth, all that is on the earth, and all that is beyond is to be worshiped and thereby respected.

Today it is true that India has a serious problem with pollution of the land, water, and earth, but that is a modern problem that has arisen because of very rapid industrialization without an infrastructure for, or tradition of, trash collection, together with very rapid population growth. Even fifty years ago India had little need of it: there was no plastic packaging. Newspapers were read, then used for packaging in the bazaars, and then when it didn’t even serve for packaging, it was thrown on the ground where cows and goats ate it or the tropical sun and rain broke it down. Everything was recycled. That doesn’t work with plastic and styrofoam, but society has not caught up with the changed circumstances.

The problem for India is not the religion or culture. Religion is the solution: to revive the sense of the sacred dignity of everything.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Thou, O God, art woman, thou art man, thou the young man and maiden, too. Thou art the old man, tottering with his cane. It is thou alone who art born in all these infinitely diverse forms. — Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:3

The wise see no difference between a learned and humble priest, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and an eater of dog-flesh. Here itself they have conquered the world whose minds are established in samesightedness; and since Brahman is stainless and homogeneous, therefore they are established in Brahman. — Bhagavad-Gita 5:18-19

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

In the Srimad Bhagavatam, 11:7, the avadhuta or saint speaks of his 24 gurus or spiritual teachers — those who have given him wisdom. Among those 24, only two are human and both are women — a prostitute and a peasant girl. Among the non-human gurus are a serpent, the honey bee, a deer, and a moth. The idea is that wisdom is found everywhere and in everyone, if we have the eyes to see.

Anuttama Dasa

ISKCON Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya (Maryland, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

ISKCON is part of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. As an international society we are humbly trying to carry forward the teachings and mission of Lord Krishna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the 16th century Bengali saint and avatar.

All Vaishnava traditions are theistic. Although there is some variation in philosophy and ritual, Vaishnavas believe that God is the Supreme Person and that all jivas — the atmas, or individual souls — are minute “parts and parcels” of God.

Caitanya taught the philosophy of acintya-abheda-bheda tattva. We are simultaneously one with God and different from God.

We are one with God in that we have the same qualities as God. But, we are different from God in quantity. God is infinite and we are infinitesimal. We can never be God. We are God’s eternal servants. When we act in that capacity, the full experience of the soul’s natural, joyful state awakens. So, our oneness is of quality, and when we become one with God’s purposes, or when we act according to God’s desires and instructions we are acting in our eternal constitutional position.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat one another?

We are God’s servants, and every living being is a part-and-parcel of God. Thus, we are servants of all beings.

Sri Caitanya taught that to chant God’s names (to practice bhakti) we must respect all living beings, even an ant. He taught we should be more tolerant than a tree, and feel oneself to be lower than the straw in the street.

Therefore we should be kind, caring, compassionate, tolerant, respectful, forgiving towards all. And, we should try to show the highest mercy to others, whenever possible in a respectful way, to help them understand the importance of human life and the opportunity to end the cycle of birth and death.

Regarding non-human species, we should begin with being vegetarian, and minimizing the violence we cause in the world.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all living things and the planet?

The world belongs to God (Isopanishad and Gita.) Thus, we should care for the world knowing it is not our property to exploit, nor is it a product of unconscious material processes. The universe was created by God, and it belongs to God. As servants of God, we are servants of all. We must care for the planet and all its residents.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong. — Sri Isopanishad Mantra One

He who systematically sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being. — Sri Isopanishad Mantra Six

O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether…I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives… — Bhagavad-gita As-It-Is, 7.8-9

(Translations by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

How the world is the property of God, the energy of God, dear to God, and thus should be protected: The story/lila of Lord Krishna and the Kaliya snake.

Kaliya had poisoned the Yamuna river, so much so that even the birds would die if they flew overhead because of the toxic fumes. Yet, Krishna personally jumped into the waters, defeated Kaliya and banished him away from Vrindavana. Thus showing that the world is sacred to God, and He wants it protected and cared for. As told in the Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, and in Krishna Book (His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada).

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

Narayanashrama Tapovanam, Tirtha lineage of Shankaracharya (Kerala, INDIA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

When any subject or branch of knowledge is discussed rationally, it becomes science as well as philosophy.

Philosophically, spiritually, as well as yogically not only humanity, all beings on Earth are one.

Each has a body, made up of matter, in the form of the five elements called pañca-bhūtas – Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space.

Bodily we are not different, in content and purpose. But the body is inert. It is animated and activated by a sentient presence, which is one in all. Because it is the subtlest, it is also all-pervading. Everyone equally says ‘I’, which clearly denotes that the spiritual presence in our body is just the same, identical. So all constituents of the body, as well as the inner presence, are one.

This is what Krishna states and restates in Bhagavad Gita throughout.

For instance: Bhagavad Gita 2.12, 2.30, 13.3. [na tvevāhaṃ jātu nāsaṃ na tvaṃ neme janādhipā: na caiva na bhaviṣyāma: sarve vayam-ata: param Bhagavad Gita 2.12 dehī nityam-avadhyo’yaṃ dehe sarvasya bhārata tasmāt-sarvāṇi bhūtāni na tvaṃ śocitum-arhasi Bhagavad Gita 2.30 kṣetrajñaṃ cāpi māṃ viddhi sarva-kṣetreṣu bhārata kṣetra-kṣetrajñayor-jñānaṃ yat-taj-jñānaṃ mataṃ mama – 3 Bhagavad Gita 13.3]

In terms of experiences too, our bodies are alike. Whatever perceptions we make employing our senses are uniform and alike for all. Colors and shapes, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches are alike. Only the inner responses to them can be different. Except that our blood groups differ, we have uniform blood. One’s blood can be matched with another’s and transfused. The same oxygen is given to all in case such a need arises. Same medicines are administered to all for the same disorders or ailments. These underscore that life and living are one. We are more one than different. In isolation, an individual does not mean much. Individuals put together become a societal group, with same societal needs and activities. Individuals grouped become families. Families grouped become societal segments, societal segments grouped become a nation, nations together make the world polity. The constituents of all are individuals. We live separately in our houses as families. But outside the houses and families, we are together in using all facilities like roads, transport, schools, other educational institutions, research centres, etc. Pavements, roads, parks, hospitals are all common. As much as life is there in families, so much societal life together is there. Families and societies are symbiotic and flourish together. In other words, there is no individual life alone. Is not oneness the pronounced factor in our life?

How should this teaching translate to how we treat one another, all living things, and the planet?

Food for the body, contentment for the mind, and oxygen for the lungs are common for all beings. While bodily we are separate, inwardly we are not. We are bound by commonness. As our body lives in a house, our houses and all the facilities we use are living on planet Earth. As we should not hurt others, we should not harm the planet too. Preservation of the planet in its fullness is absolutely indispensable. Our attitude to earth is that of a son to his mother. This ensures that we humans do not do anything to hurt or endanger Earth.

Daśa-putra-samo vṛkṣāh (one tree is equivalent to ten children) is another tenet we adore and try to adhere to. To plant a tree and nurse it till it can survive by itself, is to have ten children. What a noble view and compulsion! The trees breathe carbon dioxide, and give out oxygen for us to breathe. This one fact is sufficient to understand and respect the role of greenery to preserve human life.

Everywhere we can find the mutuality and complementariness between human life and Earth, its vegetation and forestation. The thread of interconnectedness is indelibly imprinted everywhere around.

Resources of earth are not to be depleted, but preserved and bequeathed to succeeding generations, as we bequeath wealth and property to the descendants. The idea of exploitation is repugnant to human intelligence, propriety and dignity.

The potential of our intelligence is unlimited. Using it judiciously, we should ensure that everything we do does not adversely affect the sustainability of life, civilization and the planet. Sustainability is to be the watchword in all that we think, speak and act. In this context, it is important to think about how forests survive for long, and discern what they convey to humanity. Go to a huge forest. It has remained huge and full for millennia, left to itself. Births and deaths take place there. Plants flower and fruition. Seasons come and go. Rains fall. Rivers flow. Rays of the sun and moon fall liberally. Every creature gets ample food and nourishment. None interferes with others, except that each preys. Yet the forest life thrives. Because man has not intruded there. The moment he intrudes, the whole balance and abundance are ruined. Is it the least fair?

Our universal prayer is very relevant: sarve bhavantu sukhinah sarve santu nirāmayāh sarve bhadraṇi paśyantu mā kaścit duhkha-bhāk bhavet – Jagat Kalyana Stotram (May all be happy; may all be free from disease; may all see auspiciousness; let not anyone be a victim of affliction). Kale varṣatu parjanyah prithvi sasyaśālini deśo’yam kṣobharahitah sajjanāh santu nirbhayāh – Jagat Kalyana Stotram (May the clouds shed at the proper time and the earth become fertile. May the country remain free of agitations and the noble souls be free from fear). In Bhagavad Gita, the word sarva-bhūta-hite ratāh (interested in the welfare of all beings) is used twice (5.25, 12.4). In both places, Krishna emphasizes that even the Maharshis, free of sinfulness and doubts, as well as those given to exclusive pursuit of Self-knowledge, attain their supreme goal only when they are devoted to the welfare of all beings.

Those with spiritual wisdom and pursuit, must not remain indifferent. Instead they must take interest in the welfare of all beings, and do whatever is possible in pursuit of this objective. It is very clear that without the unhindered presence of other beings on Earth, our life will not be enriched and empowered. Every being has something to contribute to the all-fold welfare and solidarity. We may not have discerned the role of each. But our ignorance does not invalidate their relevance and utility. So care and concern should be shown to all fellow beings, including non-humans.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Bhagavad Gita says more than once: The inner presence, sentience, called Self, is present alike in all. And all are present alike in the Self.

सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मनि। ईक्षते योगयुक्तात्मा सर्वत्र समदर्शनः॥ Bhagavad Gita 6.29

sarva-bhūtastham-ātmānam sarva-bhūtāni cātmani īkṣate yoga-yuktātmā sarvatra sama-darśanah

“He who has gained yogic integration with equal vision everywhere, perceives the Self as abiding in all beings, and all beings as dwelling in the Self”.

समं पश्यन् हि सर्वत्र समवस्थितमीश्वरम्। न हिनस्त्यात्मनात्मानं ततो याति परां गतिम्॥ Bhagavad Gita 13.28

samam paśyan hi sarvatra samavasthitaṃ īśvaram na hinasti-ātmanātmānam tato yāti parām gatim

Seeing the Lord equally present in all, one does not hurt or kill another. Thus all loving as he is, he attains the supreme abode, pedestal. When non-hurting becomes one’s habit, all goodness and nobility will irresistibly follow.

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

The best parable is what happened to Arjuna, the valorous fighter, when he stepped into the Kurukshetra battlefield to fight.

He was totally unnerved. He said he would retreat. Saying so, he kept his bow and arrow down, and sat on the chariot behind Krishna, his charioteer. Arjuna’s mind was paralyzed, intelligence enfeebled. His body trembled. Krishna exhorted him pointing it was not right and cannot be allowed. Krishna explained how the whole world and creation carry an indestructible, eternal, thread of divinity, binding all people together. Body alone is perishable, but the inner presence that animates the body, is imperishable. Live on this understanding, finding everything and all alike and together. You may defend yourself, but not attack anybody first or assault anybody unnecessarily. Resist evil you should. Otherwise evil will destroy you. Goodness, Equalness, and Oneness constitute propriety. Any affront to these should be opposed and disallowed in the human kingdom.

Arjuna heard Krishna, corrected himself. His mind and heart expanded. The lack of divine connectedness had enfeebled Arjuna and made him abandon his weapons. When he got corrected, he stood up to his duty well.

This is the way divine connectedness works. Open yourself to it unreservedly. Install goodness and fondness in the heart. And be full and abundant. Resolve to live well, helping and serving others, and fulfilling the intentions of Nature.

Other parables:

1) Yadu and Avadhoota, Janaka and Ashtavakra, King Rahoogana and Bharatamuni. In the last instruction Krishna gave in Dwaraka to Uddhava, Krishna cites the instance of his predecessor Emperor Yadu’s dialogue with an avadhoota, a mendicant.

Yadu was travelling. On the way he found an avadhoota. From the very looks of the mendicant, the emperor recognized that he was a great ascetic. Yadu stopped the chariot, got down, fell prostrate at the ascetic’s feet and said, “In this beaming youth, with such resplendent face, you are moving without any anxiety or concern, like a huge tusker immersed in a river, the least affected by the powerful current of the river. Be kind enough to tell me, Sir, what makes you do so? Where from did you gain the lofty vision, which enables you to meander like this?”

The avadhoota said he moved freely and learnt many values, lessons, and messages from various sources. His own intelligence was his teacher. His intelligence showed him 24 teachers, ranging from mountain, sea, wind, fire and trees, to a young girl, an arrow maker, a prostitute in Mithila and many others, and finally, his own body. The avadhoota’s narration was full of spiritual wisdom, a parallel to which is seldom found. (Source: Srimad Bhagavatam, Skandha 11, Chapters 7-9)

2) Sage Ashtavakra, who had eight bends in his body, once went to Janaka’s palace. The King was holding a session with his illustrious assembly of the wise. Seeing the gait of the visitor who walked with great difficulty with eight bends, the whole assembly burst into laughter. In derision, the Sage also burst into laughter. King Janaka was surprised. He could understand the behaviour of his assembly. But how did the King Janaka was surprised. He could understand the behaviour of his assembly. But how did visitor, who was mockingly laughed at, also laughed. The Sage replied, “Everyone’s body is shaped by Nature and is indeed a gift of Nature. None can claim any superiority on account of his body or the looks. Seeing my deformed body and my shaky gait, why did your assembly laugh? And they are all supposedly men of wisdom and knowledge! If this is what the wise have to display, then it is indeed laughable that these are the people who advise you on a daily basis. You are a great king, famed for your wisdom. I laughed seeing how a king of your stature sits on the throne advised by such a foolish assembly. What kind of advice can they possibly give, and how dare you accept it and act? I wonder how you can ever stoop to this level of incompetence!” Janaka was stupefied, but enlightened too. He fell prostrate before the Sage and sought knowledge of the Self in its true essence.

A dialogue followed, in which the Sage enlightened the King in Self-realization.

This shows how great, responsive even emperors of our land were, when it came to spiritual enlightenment and Self-knowledge. (Source: Ashtavakra Samhita, an important ancillary text in Vedanta)

3) King Rahugana was once travelling in a palanquin. Along the way, the carriers of the palanquin wanted an extra person to relieve them in turn. They soon found a hefty man on the road. His name was Jada Bharata. The King asked Jada Bharata to relieve one of the carriers of his palanquin. The stranger readily agreed. The King’s retinue soon found the new comer markedly slow. This displeased everybody and irritated the King. Rahoogana chastised Jada Bharata for his inattention and inefficiency. Jada Bharata initially kept quiet, but later responded: “I am trying to be careful not to trample over small living creatures on the ground. You are threatening to punish my body but know that it is of little consequence to me, for I am not the body. I am the unaffected soul.” After exchanging a few words, the King came to know that Jada Bharata was an enlightened person. He alighted from the palanquin and prostrated before Jada Bharata, begging his pardon. The King also asked Jada Bharata to enlighten him about the Self. Jada Bharata obliged. The whole retinue of the King was surprised beyond measure. India has a number of legends of this kind, all revolving around the inmost Self. This story appears in Chapter 10 of 5th Skandha of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami

Kailasa Parampara (Hawai'i, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

The word “omnipresence” is defined as the state of being present everywhere at the same time. In a religious context, omnipresence is generally thought of as an attribute unique to God, where the Divine is present everywhere and man is only present in the location of his physical body. In Hindu thought not only is God omnipresent, but He has graciously shared that attribute with us. The soul at its core is also omnipresent. Imagine a string of 108 japa beads. The individual beads are all separate but inside each there is a one cord binding them together. The bead represents a person in his normal state of consciousness—feeling separate from all the others. However, if the person looks inside, into the core of the soul, he discovers the one cord that permeates all. In that state of unitary consciousness the individual has the same perspective as does God—he permeates everyone and is everyone. From this profoundly deep place God, souls and world are a divine oneness. The omnipresent, pure consciousness within an individual is also the true source of life. Hindu scriptures refer to this as the Life of life.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat one another?

In Hindu culture, every time we greet others with the traditional gesture of namaskar, we have the opportunity to practice looking deeply enough into their eyes to see God as the Life of their life. In doing so, we fulfill the true meaning of namaskar, which declares, “I greet God in you.” If we can genuinely see others in this way, we will naturally treat them with kindness, helpfulness and deep affection. The Hindu views our purpose on planet Earth in the context of spiritual progress, or evolution. We mature over a period of many lives into the full realization of the Divinity within us. All individuals are on the path of spiritual maturation, whether consciously or unconsciously. Omnipresent divinity is within everyone—there are no exceptions. Therefore, our dharma is to help ourselves and others to maximize spiritual growth in this life. There is an even more yogic way of understanding our duty to and treatment of others. It is firmly grounded in the truth that there is, in fact, only one. Each of us contains all of us, all of existence. For those who are graced to know this, it is natural to treat all, and that means all forms of life, as ourselves. When we harm others, we harm ourself. When we uplift others, we uplift ourself.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all living things and the planet?

Divinity is also within animals and plants. Perceiving that Divinity as the Life of the animal’s life, we seek to help all creatures have a happy existence and minimize their suffering. The dharma of Hindus is to be stewards of trees and plants, fish and birds, bees and reptiles, animals and creatures of every shape and kind. The planet is viewed as a sacred, living Goddess, part of the divine oneness of God, souls and world. Therefore, it is treated with the same reverence given all sacred objects. It is the source of all life, not a harvestable commodity. The planet graciously provides an ecosystem in which humans and millions of species can, when wisdom prevails, coexist and even thrive. Our dharma toward the planet is to nurture and protect its ecosystem and act in ways that allow this ecosystem to function well and sustainably.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

He who knows God as the Life of life, the Eye of the eye, the Ear of the ear, the Mind of the mind—he indeed comprehends fully the Cause of all causes. — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.18

The Cosmic Soul is truly the whole universe, the immortal source of all creation, all action, all meditation. Whoever discovers Him, hidden deep within, cuts through the bonds of ignorance even during his life on Earth. — Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.10

What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin. — Tirukural, Verse 321

He is God, hidden in all beings, their inmost soul who is in all. He watches the works of creation, lives in all things, watches all things. He is pure consciousness, beyond the three conditions of nature. — Shvetashvatara Upanishad. 6.11 (Translation by Juan Mascaro)

As movement within wind, as sugar within sugarcane, as ghee within milk, as juice within fruit, as fragrance within flower, thus does the Lord pervade all. — Tirumantiram Verse 2639

You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever. — Yajur Veda 12.32

Protect both our species, two-legged and four-legged. Both food and water for their needs supply. May they with us increase in stature and strength. Save us from hurt all our days, O Powers! — Rig Veda 10.37.11

Peace be to the Earth and to airy spaces! Peace be to heaven, peace to the waters, peace to the plants and peace to the trees! May all the Gods grant to me peace! By this invocation of peace may peace be diffused! — Atharva Veda 19.9.14

He who sees that the Lord of all is ever the same in all that is — immortal in the field of mortality — he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path. — Bhagavad Gita 13.27-28

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Semmana Selvi is an old lady who lives in Tamil Nadu, India. The river in her village is in spate and threatens great destruction. The king announces, “The river is flooding. All citizens must come to raise the banks.” Semmana Selvi prays to Lord Siva, “I am feeble and need help to build the dam.” Soon a young worker approaches and tells her, “I will help you build the dam. I am hungry and you can pay me with food.” He digs with a shovel, filling a basket with dirt again and again. Occasionally he puts the basket on his head and dances. He eats, perhaps too often. Though the dam is not finished, he finds the shade of a tree and goes to sleep. The king, arriving to inspect the dam’s progress, sees the laborer slacking and angrily strikes him forcibly on the back with his cane. Instantly, the man disappears, and everyone, including the king, feels the pain of that cane. They all realize the worker’s true identity. He is Siva; and because Siva is in everyone, they all suffered the king’s cruel lashing.

Acharya Harish Chandra

Arya Samaj (Texas, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

God as Maker and Prime-Mover of the Material World: Any man-made thing is made by a conscious human being out of certain raw materials. For example, a carpenter makes a chair out of wood. It is thus extrapolated that the natural things (sun, earth, air, water, etc.) are made by a supreme consciousness out of matter, called prakriti (matter in its raw state).

The same observation is true regarding movement/displacement of a thing.

For instance, a chair in my home continues to stay where it is until and unless displaced by a human being.

So is further extrapolated that all movements in natural things such as that of air, water, planets, etc. are due to the said ‘supreme consciousness’.

Of course, the movements are seen according to the laws of physics then the Vedic view justifies it saying that the ‘supreme consciousness’ is the lawmaker because the material things lack intelligence to develop the laws that abide them. Besides being the lawmaker, the ‘supreme consciousness’ enforces the laws as it pervades through the entire universe.

Thus, the ‘supreme consciousness’ is: 1) maker of all things, 2) lawmaker and law-enforcer to govern the material part of the universe.

God Governs Living Species: Besides governing the material world, He governs all conscious beings as we did not decide to take birth in a particular family. So, He governs all conscious beings by certain laws, called as the Law of Karma.

God, the Only One CEO of the Universe: As is seen in the world, any organization has a final authority for its smooth governance. So, He is the CEO of the entire universe, one and only one, known by His principal name Om: YajurVeda (40.17): Om Kham Brahma That entity is Om – that is most subtle (finer than anything) and great (greater than any other thing). RgVeda (10.121.3): … Mahitvaika Id-Raja Jagato Babhuva… He is One (Eka) presiding entity (Raja) because of His enormous importance (Mahattva) and has been so in the distant past, too One God with Many Names: Though He is One, He is known by several names reflecting His various attributes and functions RgVeda (1.164.46): Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agnim, Suparnah, Garutman, Yama, Matarishva, are His names. He is One (Ekam) but is called by sages (Vipra) by different names –

How should this teaching translate to how we treat one another?

God, Head of One Family of All Conscious Beings: As stated above, He is known by the names Pita (father) and Mata (mother), too. Indeed, out of His abundant kindness He passes on His fatherliness and motherliness to the young man and woman when they become father and mother, and are filled with the necessary fatherly/motherly love for the just born child’s growth and development. RgVeda (8.98.11): You are our father; you are our mother … All Humans One Family: We must live in harmony.

The last section of RgVeda (the Sangathana Sukta) RgVeda (10.191.1-4) has a comprehensive message in this regard. The last verse may be translated as: May your minds be in harmony; may your hearts be in harmony, and thence, you all may experience happiness. RgVeda (10.90.12): All Humans equal and must be treated equally. RgVeda (5.60.5): Nobody is superior and no one is inferior. All are to be treated as your brothers. All Resources Must be Equally Shared: AtharvaVeda (3.30.6) says that as He provides the same sun, earth, air, water, etc. for all beings without any discrimination whatsoever, likewise humans must ensure that any measure, say by providing human-made sources of water such as canals, wells, ponds, etc. must be equally accessible to one and all. Ahimsa Paramo Dharma: Thus, not only all the humans but all the living species are children of one God, and hence must be treated by us with love and affection as is seen among the siblings of common parents in the world. YajurVeda (13.47-48): Do not kill (hurt) them whether with two legs (birds) or four legs (animals) … Patanjali’s guideline of Yama includes Ahimsa (not to hurt whether in thought, word, or deed) as the first and foremost that cannot be compromised in any circumstances: Yoga (2. xx): Yama are: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha Ahimsa Can Never be Violated: Yoga (2.31): Yama must be followed in all circumstances, being a universal vow. Behave Appropriately with Good and Bad Humans: Humans are uniquely different from other species that they fall within three broad categories – Devata, Manushya and Rakshasa (nobles, ordinary humans, and bad) – whereas all other species are invariable ‘good’ – they are so programmed that they function predominantly via instinct, whereas humans are less instinctive and more intellectual, functioning via a powerful tool called Buddhi (intellect) that discriminates between right & wrong, good & bad, Dharma & Adharma, Punya (right deeds) & Paapa (wrong action), etc. Thus, they fall into three categories based on how their actions (called Karma) affect others (humans, other species, included) directly as well as indirectly – the latter possibility includes how we affect the environment. We do encounter bad people in the world, the corresponding guideline is seen in Yoga (1.33): We should treat people in a joyous state with friendliness; those in misery with compassion; those engaged in Dharma with ever-ready happiness, and those engaged in Adharma with a sort of disengagement (sort of ignoring them as much as possible).

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all living things and the planet?

Likewise Behave Properly with Other Species: The way we treat other living things has been covered above in Item No. 2 because all conscious beings have the common attributes as ability to know, act and experience.

We all (humans and non-humans) experience sukha and duhkha (joy and pain) in day-to-day life experience and wish to get away from duhkha (pain, suffering and misery). Thus, all living things are included in so far as our treatment to other humans are concerned.

It is all one family of His – humans, animals, birds, fish, insects, etc. included. Earth, Air, Water for All Species: Also, reference was made to affecting others indirectly, say, via adversely affecting the environment. We are told to treat earth as mother as it nourishes all living things, humans having the greatest burden of responsibility. AtharaVeda (12.1.12): … Peace Everywhere, Must in Our Minds Too: We are told to perceive the entire universe functioning with underlying peace, imparting peace to all inhabitants. YajurVeda (36.17): Shantih (peace) is the commonest parameter in the functioning of all layers of the universe, such as, sun, space, earth, … even as, for example, earth is running at the speed of about 100,000 km/hour yet providing unwavering and stable support as if it is stationary. We must function responsibly as a torch bearer of peace and that will be possible only if peace dwells in everyone’s mind.

Moderation in Natural Resources: Conservation has been the hallmark of the ancient Vedic tradition where every gift of mother nature was revered. Cyclic functioning of nature determined human interaction with the mother nature. For instance, utilizing every drop of rainwater to store it for use throughout the year brought self-reliance. Treating 12 months as a cycle of seasons will ensure that the rainwater brought to us by the mother nature must be utilized in the 12 months. Such an intelligent strategy would lead to moderation in our lifestyle. Taking clue from the ‘water cycle of 12 months’ the scientists could advise us that oil gets formed underneath in so many years and oil must be consumed at the rate at which it is replenished by the nature. Then we would not have fallen into the trap of climate change and would have chosen a more sustainable lifestyle. Fire Can Purify Air: Vedic Rishis went a step further in conservation. Having invented fire, they utilized its property to vaporize various substances and devised Agnihotra to purify the air. YajurVeda (3.1): May the Samidha (wood stick) generate fire and evaporate ghee and other herbal stuff that are poured into it.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

He only is our father, mother, brother, friend, one companion – who gives us light and purifies us. — RgVeda (10.7.3):

Vishvam Bhavati Eka Nidam  (The universe is one bird-nest) — YajurVeda (32.2)

Sarva Asha Mama Mitram Bhavantu – May all directions be friendly to me (emanating from Him) — AtharvaVeda (19.15.6)

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

The greatest strength of the Sanatana Dharma principles is that every human being can connect to Him direct without any intermediary such as the only son of God, or the last messenger/ prophet, etc. Furthermore, one need not go anywhere to be with Him – He indeed is the closest entity to me. The following two Vedic verses capture that meaning.

Easy and equal accessibility of Him for everybody as is mother’s milk to an infant RgVeda (10.9.2): Yo vah Shivatamo Rasastasya Bhajayateha nah. Ushatiriva Matarah.

Easy accessibility of Him for everybody as is water for a fish RgVeda (7.89.4): Apam madhye tasthivamsam Trishnavidajjaritaram. Mrida Sukshatra Mridaya.

Swami Ishwarananda Saraswati

Chinmaya Mission West (California, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

The cause of the creation cannot but be the one that independently existed without a cause of its own. If that one cause had created the universe, then the effect must have the qualities of the cause. However, we only see varieties in the creation such as plants, animals, humans which have distinct features and characteristics.

Just as any furniture made of wood must have the quality of wood, by simple analysis we will understand that, in and through the differences that we see, there must be an underlying essence in the entire creation, which pertains to the quality of the cause.

What is common in all? Life. Life is most dear to all creatures. Each living being strives to sustain life by protecting, nurturing and caring for it. Though it is imperceptible and invisible, yet no living being is ready to spare it in exchange for anything else.

This very life is regarded in Hindu philosophy as the essence of God or the Self in us.

Irrespective of the form, whether it is the miniscule bacteria that one can observe only under a most sophisticated microscope or a gigantic dinosaur that can devour many animals at the same time, in all life is same.

Meaning, presence of God is equal in all.

This perception of Oneness is the theme of all Hindu scriptures. The contemplative Hindu seers in every age who have realized that, unless this divine connectedness is understood and practiced, there will be only chaos in the society and never peace or harmony. Thus, they tirelessly propagated the philosophy of Oneness in various ways to their own generation of people. Some adopted the means of devotion to God, and some others the path of knowledge, yoga etc.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat one another?

Religions believe in the concept that God as the source of the entire creation and God as omniscient and omnipotent. Religions consider the creation as subservient to God. God’s will alone is the ultimate dictum in all matters of life. Transgression is said to be detrimental to the soul’s evolution.

While this convinces the humans to follow the disciplines of moral and ethical values of life, very often a thinking individual comes to feel that one’s own independence is lost, and freewill denied.

Conversely, the school of philosophy in every religion empowers the individual by proclaiming that significant responsibility in life lies in human will and personal choices.

Happiness and sorrows of life are not pre-determined; they are products of the choices that we make in everyday life.

Though this appeals to all, humans are also cautioned about the laws of nature that will ultimately prevail, which do not allow anyone to easily conquer the cycle of birth, growth, decay and death.

The practical — human situation lies somewhere in between this wide spectrum of personal disciplines, values, freewill, responsibilities, choices, and strict laws of nature. Such a spectrum is not available for other living beings and therefore, it is imperative that we as humans are expected act responsibly towards other living creatures with whom we share this beautiful universe.

We must respect their share in the resources that we come to take advantage of. This is our dharma toward others. Unless we see the oneness of life as the connecting link that permeates in and throughall living beings, call it God, ultimate power or energy, we continue to see only gross divisions and differences, not only as humans different from other creatures, but also among each other.

This leads to racial, religious and cultural intolerances and violence.

Vedanta that teaches us about the essence of all living beings as One, urges us to also live our life with the awareness of Universal Oneness. The concept of oneness is not only intellectually appealing but also, it intimately connects everyone with mutual love, compassion and kindness.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all living things and the planet?

Though we think that each one of us is living independently, keeping ourselves busy with daily routines and striving to accomplish our personal and professional goals, we fail to notice that every being in this universe is directly or indirectly responsible for our sustenance.

The food that you eat may have been bought by you from a local food store, but origin of the ingredients that make your daily food, may have crossed continents before reaching your dining table! Apple from Australia, sauce from China, coconut from Thailand, rice from India, oil from Italy, spice from Mexico and so on. The dress that we wear, the car that we drive, the phone that we carry and all other things that are useful for us to efficiently work are the results and products of skill and labor of many unknown faces.

Even closer to home, a progressive and peaceful community needs the participation of like-minded individuals ignoring inevitable differences, and accepting common values and ethics to follow and uphold for the purpose of living in harmony. If this is valid for the peaceful existence of a community, it is equally applicable to a nation as well as to all in the planet. This is our dharma.

We should never take undue advantage of the natural resources for our selfish indulgences and greedy possessions. These surely affect the nature around us which was very carefully guarded and handed over to us by the previous generation of mindful, and gentle forefathers.

It is our responsibility to pass on the natural resources without causing much depletion and destruction to the next generation. This is also our dharma.

Educating the next generation of citizens of this beautiful planet about harmonious living is also our dharma.

If we fail to communicate to them, we will be indirectly responsible for the fall of human race and destruction of the planet. We are already seeing the effect of our mindless behavior toward the nature and other living beings resulting in the current pandemic.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

एकोवशी सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा एकं रूपं बहुधा यः करोति । तमात्मस्थं येऽनुपश्यन्ति धीराः तेषां सुखं शाश्वतं नेतरेषाम् ॥
It is One inner Self in all beings, that makes one form into many. Wise people are those who see It as their own Self; for them alone is the eternal peace, not for others! — Katha Upanishad 2.2.12

इहैव तैर्जित: सर्गः येषां साम्ये स्थितं मनः
Here itself is rebirth is conquered by them whose minds are established in sameness. — Bhagavad-Gita 5.19

यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मन्येवानुपश्यति | सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ||
He who sees all beings in the Self itself, and the Self in all beings, feels no hatred by virtue of that wisdom. — Ishavasya Upanishad 1.6

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

A guru once asked his disciple: “What is light by which you see everything?” The disciple answered: “Sunlight during the day and lamps during the night.” “To see the light what you light you use?” “The eyes” “To see the eyes, what is the light?” “The mind” “To know the mind?” “My Awareness, O Guru!” “Awareness is the light that shines within everyone; that is your own Self!” (Ekashloki composed by Adi Shankaracharya – Advaita Vedanta school)

Mahant Swami Maharaj

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (Gujarat, INDIA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

Jay Swaminarayan. Bhagwan Swaminarayan taught the philosophy of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, explaining that there are five eternally distinct entities (jiva, ishvara, maya, Aksharbrahman, and Parabrahman).

Parabrahman is God, and Aksharbrahman is Parabrahman’s ideal devotee and divine abode. Aksharbrahman is present in the world as the Guru through whom jivas (souls) are able to serve and experience God. By attaining the virtues of Aksharbrahman, jivas are able to attain the liberated state.

Aksharbrahman and Parabrahman, also known as Akshar and Purushottam in the Vedas, are eternally beyond maya (primordial ignorance), each possess an eternal divine form, and are the antaryami (omnipotent and omniscient indwellers) of all sentient and non-sentient beings.

Each jiva is distinct, yet equal in every inherent and potential virtue. As one begins to realize these spiritual truths and incorporates them into one’s life, it changes how one sees the world and the beings that comprise it. Superficial differences dissolve as one realizes that every being is a jiva, that all are God’s children, and that God is in everyone.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

Aspirants guided by these principles see Aksharbrahman and Parabrahman in everything. Thus, they recognize everyone including themselves as fundamentally equal and endeavor to serve and empathize with each jiva. Such spiritual principles define reality for Hindus. As such, perceiving others as in any way lesser than oneself is a divergence from these spiritual principles of Hinduism. By hurting or demeaning any human or animal, one offends God, who lives within each soul. The world which we inhabit is created by Aksharbrahman and Parabrahman for our liberation, and these two divine entities are present in all of the world. A Hindu who understands this reality approaches and considers everything and everyone with the respect that one would have for God.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

The spiritual principles of Bhagwan Swaminarayan summarized above are found throughout the various sacred scriptures of Hinduism.

For example, the first verse of the Ishavasyopanishad declares: ॐ ईशावासिमदँसवरयितञ जगतांजगत्। Aum īśāvāsyamidaṃ sarvaṃ yatkiñca jagatyāṃ jagat (Verse 1) That is, Akshar and Purushottam are the antaryami (indwellers) of all the living and non-living things that make up this world.

Bhagwan Swaminarayan similarly explains in Vachanamrut Kariyani 7 that a spiritually enlightened person experiences the presence of Aksharbrahman and Parabrahman in all sentient and non-sentient beings—that is, everywhere and in everyone.

Shri Krishna Bhagwan explains further in the Bhagavad Gita (5/18) that everyone in the world, whether human or animal, is understood as equal by those who are enlightened: विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि | शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन: || vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini śuni caiva śva-pāke ca paṇḍitāḥ samadarśinaḥ (5/18) The wise see the same (Akshar and Purushottam) in a brahmin endowed with wisdom and cultivation, in an outcaste, in a cow, in an elephant, and even in a dog.

The Ishavasyopanishad affirms in mantras 6 and 7 that someone with this perspective transcends malice, misery, and delusion: यसुसवारिण भूतानातनेवानुपशित । सवरभूतेषुचातानंततो न विजुगुपते॥६॥ यिसनवारिण भूतानातैवाभूिदजानतः । तत को मोहः कः शोक एकतमनुपशतः ॥७॥ yastu sarvāni bhūtānyātmanyevānupaśyati sarvabhūteṣu cātmāna tato na vijugupsate (Verse 6) yasminsarvāni bhūtānanyātmaivabhudvijānataḥ tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvamanupaśyataḥ (Verse 7) Whoever perceives God as the supporter of all and sees God within all beings does not insult, denigrate, or express contempt towards anyone. Within the enlightened state, the wise realize that God pervades all living things. What delusion and despair can there be for those who see this oneness?

Moreover, in the Bhagavad Gita (3/14-15), Shri Krishna Bhagwan teaches that everything in the world is connected: अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: | यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: || कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम् | तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम् || annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād anna-sambhavaḥ | yajñād bhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karma-samudbhavaḥ || karma brahmodbhavaṃ viddhi brahmākṣara-samudbhavam | (3/14-15) From food are produced all living things. Food in turn is produced from rain. Rain is produced from yajna. And yajnas are the result of karma. Know karma to arise from the Vedas, and the Vedas to manifest from the divine sound of Aksharbrahman.

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

The story of Shvetketu in the Chhandogya Upanishad (6/8-16) further illustrates this interconnectedness. Shvetketu’s father, the sage Uddalaka, explains to Shvetketu, “Both Aksharbrahman and Parabrahman reside within the souls of everything – trees, animals, seeds, and so on. Like salt melted in water, they may not be visible, but they can be experienced. Those same divine entities reside within you as well.”

Yogacharya O'Brian

Kriya Yoga lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda (California, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

One Reality expresses as all that is. Everyone is That. From the spiritual perspective, there is no “other.” Only One.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

Nothing is separate from the One Reality. Loving and serving the One includes the earth and all living beings.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti.
The Reality is one. The wise call It by various names. — Rig Veda 1.164.46

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

In Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna opens Arjuna’s spiritual perception, enabling him to realize the manifold forms of the universe united as one.

Brahmachari V. Sharan

Nimbarka Order, Vedānta (Washington DC, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

Everything we perceive today is a conglomerate, constituted of successively smaller parts. Eventually, we get to a place where we are beyond subatomic particles, quanta, and quantum string, to a place where there is no longer physical matter but simply energy.

What is the origin of this energy? This same process is repeated for the individual – what are we? The body? The cells? The mitochondria? Or, maybe, my cognitive faculties? The mind? The intellect?

Even more subtle than that is the energy of life.

Energy is still tangible — both in the case of the multiverse, and in the case of the individual.

The origin of these energies is just energy — referred to commonly as the singularity. The Upanishads teach that the origin of that energy is a principle — a coherent unity of which these two principles are an inherent part of. That principle — encompassing the totality of everything, the essences of everything there was, is and ever will be — is the locus of existence and non-existence. That principle which defies all words inheres in every single atom, every single moment, every single being, every single life.

Oneness, therefore, is not simply knowing that every single thing in existence in and beyond this multiverse at its essence has the same principle. Oneness is feeling it, abiding in it, relishing it, and living it.

All it takes is a little effort.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

Oneness is perceived in every form of life — from multicellular to single-celled, and also in every natural formation.

The cycles that sustain are termed Vāsudeva itself, and so our actions, thoughts, and words should always endeavour to contribute positively to this awareness.

Knowledge of Oneness without commensurate actions is not true knowledge, it is simply information.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma || Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.14.1 All of this is only that Principle.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Art of Living (Karnataka, INDIA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

Classical chemistry says that the world is made up of the elements of the periodic table like oxygen, carbon, iron and so on. These elements come about from different combinations of protons, electrons and neutrons. Going further, according to quantum mechanics, these atomic particles are also made up of energy and ultimately everything is a wave function. This is what the Upanishads say as well, that everything is a manifestation of consciousness or energy. While recognizing the underlying oneness, it is also essential to recognize diversity. The door, the table and the chair are all made of wood but the door cannot be used as a table and the chair has a different function than the door. From one level, everything is the same and from another, everything is different. Though they appear entirely contradictory, both are true.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

Our environment is the first sheath of our existence. The quality of air and water around us has a direct impact on our health and the quality of our life. When we see our ecosystem as an extension of ourself, we cannot but take care of it. The ancient cultures of the world honored Nature in all Its forms. We share this planet with all the creatures living on it. They have as much right on it as we do. The ancients honored and worshipped trees, mountains, animals and had a sustainable relationship with the environment and the elements. Unfortunately, in recent decades, we have lost that sensitivity resulting in large scale pollution globally. We need to sensitize people about this and rekindle the deep respect people had for Nature.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

There are many scriptures that elaborate on how the Self or consciousness is the source and basis of all that is. Niralambopanishad says, ‘Sarvam khalvidam brahma neha nanasti kinchana’ |9| Meaning, all that exists is Brahman or the Self and there is nothing else apart from it.

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

Lord Krishna beautifully describes the relationship between the consciousness and the world in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, Verse 7: मत्त: परतरं नान्यत्किञ्चिदस्ति धनञ्जय | मयि सर्वमिदं प्रोतं सूत्रे मणिगणा इव || There is nothing beyond Me. Everything rests in Me, like the beads strung on a thread. Though there appear to be different creatures living independently, there is one life force that runs through them.

Swamini Svatmavidyananda

Arsha Vidya Gurukulum (Pennsylvania, USA)

What is the core Hindu teaching of Oneness?

To be one with everything is a natural and universal yearning. No one likes to be disconnected from the world, from one another, and from Īśvara, the source of the universe. Yet, feelings of disconnection and notions of alienation persist in one’s everyday life. Vedanta, the knowledge of oneness posits that this notion of alienation is a result of self-ignorance. In other words, one is already one with the whole. That which is famously known as the “ocean of saṃsāra is but a notion of saṃsāra.” Therefore the remedy here is to study the scriptures, such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and become familiar with the person that these text reveal one to be — whole and limitless, free of all alienation, strife, fear and sorrow. The more we become familiar with this person revealed by the Upanishads, the greater the sense of connection with the universe, with our station in life, with what needs to be accomplished in this incarnation.

How should this teaching translate to how we treat all people, all living things, and the planet?

To be one with everything is a natural and universal yearning. No one likes to be disconnected from the world, from one another, and from Īśvara, the source of the universe. Yet, feelings of disconnection and notions of alienation persist in one’s everyday life. Vedanta, the knowledge of oneness posits that this notion of alienation is a result of self-ignorance. In other words, one is already one with the whole. That which is famously known as the “ocean of saṃsāra is but a notion of saṃsāra.” Therefore the remedy here is to study the scriptures, such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and become familiar with the person that these text reveal one to be — whole and limitless, free of all alienation, strife, fear and sorrow. The more we become familiar with this person revealed by the Upanishads, the greater the sense of connection with the universe, with our station in life, with what needs to be accomplished in this incarnation.

When the Upanishads reveal that everything is Īśvara, then it means that all things here, known and unknown, are sacred. We do not bother with this one- god-many-gods controversy. For us everything is God. In our tradition, we practice a sophisticated spiritual ecology, whereby we see the world as an extension of ourselves. Everything has a right to live; everything is Īśvara. The light of the sun, the air we breathe, Mother Earth are all Īśvara. Similarly we can invoke the presence of the Lord within our own bodies. The daily, and so-called mundane acts of bathing, dressing, and beautifying the body is all for the sake of being mindful of the all pervasive presence of the in-dweller of the body-mind-complex.

What quotes from sacred texts best express this teaching of our divine connectedness?

īśāvāsyam idaṃ sarvam
All that is here is pervaded by the Lord — Ishopanishad

sarvaṃ khalvidam brahma
Indeed all that is here is brahman alone — Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

What parable best expresses this teaching of our divine connectedness?

A famous allegory from the Mundakopanishad (3.1.1-3.1.3) relates the tale of two birds in a tree. One of the birds is very restless and is in search of tasty berries, while the other just watches the first one, without really participating in its striving. In the same manner, the jīva, the individual suffering from self-ignorance, symbolized by the restless bird, becomes a striver after happiness, which he or she thinks is going to be gained by various outward pursuits, indicated by the berries. Like the berries, anything that one pursues, other than the self, is finite and leads to sorrow and anxiety. The contented bird, resting in its own glory, is Īśvara, indwelling the same body, but unrecognised due to self-ignorance. The moment the hapless, helpless and hopeless jīva starts to correct this error through the study of the Upanishads, and identify with the truth of itself as Īśvara, there is cessation of all alienation and sorrow. Om Tat Sat.