What is Vedanta?
The basic teaching concerns the ultimate identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The goal of Vedanta is for the seeker to have the direct experience of his or her true nature, and it is held that each and every one of us is qualified to have that highest illumination, if we are willing to put forth sincere and intense effort.
From the very earliest period, Vedanta has preached the harmony of religions. We find this in the ancient words of the Rigveda, ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti(“Truth is one, sages call it by various names”) as well as in the realizations of the modern day saint, Sri Ramakrishna (“The substance is One under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance; only climate, temperament, and name create differences. Let each one follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God, peace be unto him. He will surely realize Him.”)
According to Sri Ramakrishna, God is both formless and with form, the Personal God of the devotee as well as the Impersonal Absolute of the philosopher. We can call on God in any number of relationships, but, Sri Ramakrishna believed, to look upon God as one’s mother and oneself as Her child is a very pure and effective means to realize God.
Vedanta also teaches that we are all members of a single family and that our differences are merely superficial…..
The Vedantic teaching that the Lord dwells within in all beings was given special meaning by Swami Vivekananda through his doctrine of the “Living God.” For him, the highest form of worship was to see God dwelling within all beings, and especially in the poor and underprivileged. To serve the poor with the attitude that we are serving God was to him the greatest worship of God.”(Thanks to http://vedantadc.org what-is-vedanta)
According to what is written above, Looking at Mother Teresa, I would say she was also a saint of that teaching. During an interview on Canadian TV several years ago, she was asked as to how a woman of her age could do the work she did.
Many of the popular teachers today are of this school. Among the best known, was Ramana Maharshi who lived in Tiruvanamanali and who made a very profound impression on the life of Fr. Henri Le Saux and we also read of Papa Ram Das and Mataji and I mentioned Nisirgadata Maharaj, and in our times, alive and teaching, of the same school is Mooji.
All these teachers have their own ways of expounding the same realities of Vedanta leading to the experience of our true Self or God within. It was the same truth that the early Christian monks of the dessert sought and wrote about. Their writings have come down to us and translated from the books called “Philokalia” Here is one of the writings from St. Nicodemos The Hagiorite:
“God, the Blessed nature, The Transcendant Perfection, the Creative Principle of all good and beautiful things, Transcendentally Good and Beautiful, having from eternity destined according to His Divine Idea to deify man, and having from the beginning, within Himself set this purpose, created man at a time when He was well pleased. Making the body out of matter and placing inside it a soul which He created, He set man as a sort of a cosmos, great by virtue of the soul’s many and superior powers, in a small cosmos.. He placed man as a contemplator of Visible Creation…..” (The Philokalia, translated from the original Greek. edited by Constantine Cavarnos ISBN 1-887429-79-7))
I was inspired and encouraged to visit Arunachala and Tiruvanmali and the home of the great saint of Vedanta, Ramana Maharshi.
The holy mountain Arunachala
Manifestation of Shiva
Home and guru of Sri Ramana Maharshi
I arrived by train one day and went to the address which was given to me to seek a room close to Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram for a week or so. There was hardly any room and I was allowed to leave my things there while I went to visit the ashram.
Although all the rooms in the ashram were occupied, the darshan room which held the couch that Ramana Maharshi sat on during the interviews and talks, was very quiet and I found myself alone sitting very close. There was a very large picture of him on the couch, in the place where he sat. I looked at it for some time and then closed my eyes and enjoyed a very peaceful meditation.
I could not help wondering about Fr. Henri Le Saux and from his writings of his meeting and how it changed his life completely. So many things had happened and changed the lives of so many people all beginning in this place.
On coming out I met a young lad from France and he asked me if I had just arrived and if I found a place to stay and he offered to show me one, so I followed him. It was in walking distance and not very far away. This little village was very quiet at this time of the year.
The young man lived in a cottage surrounded by a large yard with flowers and trees and the place he proposed was a small hut in the garden next door. The place was owned by a wealthy woman from Switzerland and she was away for several months and her gardener was able to lease the hut to me.
It was a simple space with a cot and in the back of the yard was toilet and also a spot for me to shower, with the garden hose. I liked it and so I paid for the week and settled in for the night.
The next morning after my shower, I was going to my hut when the guy next door called out to me as he was tending a fire, cooking something in the garden. “Would you like a bowl of porridge?” he offered and I politely thanked him explaining I don’t eat porridge, just cant, after eating it all the days of my youth!. He then invited me to accompany him to visit a saint in the area, a man they called “The beggar”. I accepted. later on, we were on our way and stopped at the market to get some gifts for the “Beggar” as was the custom. I was buying some fruit but my companion insisted Instead, that I buy a few boxes of cigarettes. “Strange” I thought, but he insisted! and so we arrived at the home of the Beggar with our boxes of cigarettes and waited in the corridor our turn to go in.
Eventually a young lad came and called us in. It was a large room with a high roof and large windows and the Beggar sat in the middle, on a mat and next to him was a big child’s potty which he used as an ash-tray! I was rather surprised. after welcoming us he asked from what country did I come and when I mentioned “Quebec, Canada” he exploded with laughter. He said “that country wants to be free!” and he chuckled.
“Would you sing the mantra for us” asked the lad, and the Beggar began to sing “Om Sr Ram Jai jai Ram….” and he said “Papa Ram Das gave me” It was quite an experience hearing him sing this and it reminded me so much of my stay at Papa Ram Das’ ashram.
I do not remember all that was said afterwards except when It was time to leave, the young French guy said “It is so nice to be here. The time passes so quickly, why is it I feel so sad to leave?” The Beggar looked at him and taking a puff at his cigarette, said, “You like it here, because of my Father”.
“I have difficulties believing in the Father” said the lad and again another puff and looking directly at him, he said “Whenever you are hungry, do not say “I am hungry, but rather, ‘this body is hungry” and you are tired, say, ‘this body is tired’, If you do this, one day, you will know the Father.”
We were now out in the streets and the lad looked at me and said, “we must find a shop, I am so thirsty!” “Already you forgot what he told you, Say ‘this body is thirsty’”
I never took his address but sometimes I wish I did so I could ask him “Do you now know the Father?””