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Home is where the heart is

Swami Ranganathananda offers some tips to those suffering from self-alienation and low self esteem.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 12:50 IST
INNER VOICE | Swami Ranganathananda
INNER VOICE | Swami Ranganathananda

Many peopletoday suffer from some form of self-alienation. I was surprised to read this even in Betty Friedan’s famous book, The Feminine Mystique, which is about women’s liberation movement.

She is a fascinating writer and shed plenty of new light on the subject of men, women and children—how to achieve fulfilment in life. She did not know anything about Vedanta but very often what she says can be justified on the basis of the ancient text.

She points out the trends in the second stage of the movement and says that after attaining the freedom to compete with men, women have risen to high positions. “We achieved a good deal but there is more still more to achieve. Before this liberation, we were an item within the household and were known as the mother of somebody or wife of somebody and had no identity. After liberation, the same problem has risen: I am treated as an executive. But where is myself, my true identity,” she writes.

This problem of self-alienation, I feel, is not just women’s but a problem of entire humanity. In this context, we have to view the point raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO): how to include “spiritual” in the definition of human health that traditionally cites “health” as physical, mental and social well-being. The question arises from the higher reaches of modern science, from neurology and nuclear physics. What lies beyond the sensory apparatus?

It is here that scientists can find a hint from one of the biggest and most outstanding of the principal Upanishads: the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. It says that by studying the body, the sensory and nervous systems and brain you can trace the Atman, the Infinite Divine present in man. Atman “leaves its footprints in experience”—this is the language. They lead within, from the outward body deep into the mind. Within lies superknowledge called “wisdom” that establishes you in your self: no more self-alienation, you’re home.

(Abridged from Man the Known & Man the Unknown, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai)

First Published: Apr 01, 2006 12:50 IST