There is no vessel to ferry man across the ocean of samsara except jnanam (Self-knowledge). – Chinmaya
This samsara (world/worldliness) is compared to the ocean in almost all Hindu scriptures. There are many reasons for this:
1) The ocean appears endless for a sea traveller; so too there is no end to worldliness (the cycles of birth and death).
2) संसरति इति संसार: – Ceaseless change is the nature of this world; so too with the ocean.
3) Whether the waves or the bubbles, foam or the froth – death has the final laugh in all happenings in the ocean. In the same way, all the things, beings and happenings of the world are constantly swept across towards the shores of death.
4) A drowning man in ocean, without any stable support to hold on, is at the mercy of the huge waves which toss him up and down. A man drowning in samsara too is tossed mercilessly by the dualities of life – heat and cold, health and disease, joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain, birth and death, victory and defeat, honour and dishonour etc.
5) A drowning person tries to quench his thirst by drinking the oceanic water. But alas! His thirst only increases with every drop drunk. So too, the cravings for the worldly pleasures only intensify with every act of indulgence.
6) Samsara is also called Bhava sagar. ‘Bhava’ means to become. Each one thinks that in future by becoming the person of his dreams, he will be permanently happy. This chase for happiness continues ad infinitum.
7) The life of a person drowning in the ocean is ever threatened by dangerous aquatic creatures. So too, the worldly existence is ever threatened by disease, accidents, natural calamities etc.
8) So says the Lord in the Bhagavad Geeta – दैवी ह्येषा गुणमयी मम माया दुरत्यया |
Worldliness is unassailable by the ignorant; just as the ocean is impossible to cross over.
9) The only way a drowning person can save himself is by getting into a ship. So too, the only ship to save us from the ocean of worldliness is jnanam or Self-knowledge.
How can jnanam help?
A jnani is like a lighthouse in the ocean. A lighthouse doesn’t take the support of the ocean; it takes the support of the solid ground beneath. Hence the lighthouse, though remaining in the ocean, remains unaffected. So too, a jnani remains unaffected by the perishing world, as he holds on to the eternal, imperishable Self.
Waves and bubbles have to die, but not the water, the essence of the ocean. A jnani is the one who has realised the essence of the perishable world as imperishable Self. Hence he becomes fearless.
Samsara belongs to the ego. A jnani dries up the ocean of samsara by discovering that this ego is a mere illusion born out of indiscrimination. Ego is nothing but the sentient Self-identified with the insentient matter (body, mind etc.). Jnanam is, therefore, putting an end to this unholy marriage. This is done by identifying with the Self and not identifying with the matter. This Self, of the nature of Sat-Chit-Anand, is the ship which the jnani boards to cross over the ocean of samsara.
A ticket collector in a train found an old worn-out wallet in a compartment full of many people. He looked inside to find the name of its owner. There was no clue. All that there was in it, was some money and a picture of Krishna. He held it up and asked, “Who does this wallet belong to?”
An old man said, “That’s my wallet.” The ticket collector asked for the proof. The old man gave a toothless smile and said, “It has a picture of Krishna in it.” The ticket collector said, “That is no proof; anyone can have a picture of Krishna in his wallet. What is special about that? Why is your picture not there in it?”
The old man said, “Let me tell you why my picture is not there in it. My father gave this wallet to me when I was in school. I used to get a small sum as pocket money then. I had kept a picture of my parents in it.
“When I was a teenager I was greatly enamoured by my good looks. I removed my parents’ picture and put in one of my own. Some years later, I got married. My wife was very beautiful and I loved her a lot. I replaced my own picture with a picture of her. I spent hours gazing at her pretty face.
“When my first child was born, my life started a new chapter. I shortened my working hours to play with my baby. I went late to work and returned home early. Obviously, my baby’s picture occupied the prized position in my wallet.”
The old man’s eyes brimmed with tears as he went on. “My parents passed away many years ago. Last year my wife too left her mortal coil. My only son – he is too busy with his family. He has no time to look after me.
“All that I had ever held close to my heart is far far away from my reach now. Now I have put this picture of Krishna in my wallet. It is only now that I have realized that He alone is the eternal companion. He will never leave me. Alas! If only I had realized this before. If only I had loved the Lord all these years with the same intensity as I loved my family, I would not have been so lonely today!”
The collector quietly gave the wallet to the old man. When the train stopped at the next station, the ticket collector went to the bookstall at the platform and asked the salesman, “Do you have any picture of God? I need a small one to put it in my wallet!”
The above quote reminds us of the following verses from the Bhagavad Geeta:
तेषामहं समुद्धर्ता मृत्युसंसारसागरात् । भवामि नचिरात् पार्थ मय्यावेशितचेतसाम्||
For the devotees who have taken total refuge in Me, I become their Saviour. It becomes My responsibility to lift them from the ocean of worldliness.
अपि चेदसि पापेभ्य: सर्वेभ्य: पापकृत्तम: । सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं सन्तरिष्यसि ||
Even a rank sinner crosses over the ocean of samsar by the raft of Self-knowledge.
O M T A T S A T
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