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Neema Majmudar

One may wonder what is the use of studying Vedas in the present days. How relevant is it to modern life? And what value does it add to one’s life? It may seem that studying Vedanta is a thing of the past and redundant in present day context.

I would have probably agreed with this view a few years ago when I was growing up in a modern Gujarati Brahmin family in Mumbai. All my education was in modern schools and colleges in Mumbai. Coming from a family, which had a lot of value for education, after finishing my B.Com, as a family convention, I went to the United States of America for my MBA. My life seemed to have been made!!!

However, after going to the US and observing the society there, many questions started arising in my mind. I started thinking that, it is true that people in USA have a lot more money and physical comforts. However, they don’t seem to have happiness and contentment that I expected them to have. Neither I could say that in India, where people have to struggle for their daily existence have peace and contentment. Then, the questions started arising in my mind, what is the meaning of life? What brings contentment and fulfillment that one is really looking for?

I was just searching for an answer to this question, which was occupying my mind. Then, one day in October 1986, I met Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a great scholar of Vedanta and Sanskrit that changed my life forever.

When I first met him, I was impressed by his command over Sanskrit, his logic, his clear expression. However, coming from a modern background, I also had doubts about the validity of what was being said. That is why, when I first met him personally, I asked him, “Swamiji how do I know that what Vedanta is saying is the truth?” I was impressed by his response!! He didn’t try to be authoritative or try to convince me that what he is saying is right. Instead, he just smiled and said very softly, “You will know it”!!! “You are a smart girl”!!

Listening to Vedanta, slowly my whole being underwent a transformation. I started understanding that the sense of limitation that I was feeling in wake of which I was looking for answers, is in fact a fundamental human problem. Through Swamiji’s teaching, gradually I came to appreciate that Upanishads are a means of knowledge to know the reality of I to be limitless, which otherwise cannot be arrived at. What gave me confidence in Upanishads is when Swamiji stated that in order for Upanishads to be a valid means of knowledge, they can not be contradicted by any other means of knowledge which includes logic. This became a big challenge and I started thinking that until I find some reason or logic that contradicts Upanishads, I have no choice but to listen to what it says, as freedom from limitation is desirable by me and everyone else.

What was striking throughout my learning was the importance that Swamiji gave to Vedanta, the tradition of teaching which starts from Lord Shiva in the form of Dakshinamurti to Vyasa, to Sankara. Swamiji never claimed himself to be the person who realized the truth one fine morning, but clearly stated himself as only a link in the lineage of this teaching.

Moreover, Swamiji brought Isvara in my life. Through out the handling of the teaching, Swamiji emphasized that it is not merely knowing “I am limitless Brahman” but Vedanta reveals the equation, “You are that (Isvara)”. The implications of this are big. In any equation, there are apparent differences that finally resolve in non-difference. Like in the equation 3+2= 6-1, both sides look very different but come to the same result “5”. Similarly, there is a difference between I (who has limited knowledge and capacity) and Isvara (all knowledge and capacity). I as an individual am totally governed by the laws of Isvara. Even the opportunity for me to know, the teacher I get, my capacity to assimilate the teaching that finally enables me to understand the non-difference is given by laws of Isvara. This highlights the importance of relating to Isvara. As I understood the significance of this, I started relating to Isvara in form of order that governs my whole life. My specific prayers to Isvara slowly evolved into having prayerful attitude in and through every event of my life. Once I relaxed in the order of Isvara, Swamiji’s words that revealed identity of oneself with Isvara started becoming a reality.

The importance of this knowledge and tradition grew so much in my life that I decided to leave my job with United Nations as Economist and decided to study with Swamiji for 3 and half years. During this course, we covered several Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutra and Panini system of grammar. Everyday, I could not but thank Isvara for giving me an opportunity to study. Tears used to come when I used to think what merit must I have gathered to have the opportunity to know this truth. During the three years, it was a great learning also to see how Swamiji was living what he was teaching. His compassion, care and interest in every student really validated every one of us, let us grow according to our own capacity, and helped us discover the truth.

Eight years have passed since I completed my course. Life has become such a blessing. This transformation in me is due to this great tradition of teaching. This knowledge, this tradition because of its intrinsic value in solving the fundamental human problem, will continue to bless people of the past, present and posterity. The only thing is that, one has to choose to expose oneself to it.

I have only one prayer now. I pray, “let me also become a link and help others the way I was helped by this great tradition”.


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