This clarion call of Vivekananda is essentially a mantra for the modern man. Vivekananda placed great emphasis on “awakening”; so what exactly does this awakening constitute? The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you are awake, right? Nay, that is being awake at the physical level. Real awakening is when one wakes up to the beauties of one’s own inner self. It is the realization that one’s body is a temporary “shell” and the real self, the “inner you,” is Atman [soul].
To attain self realization, one has to awaken to truth—higher levels of wakefulness. There are four such levels. The first is the apparent wakeful attentiveness with which we move about and busy ourselves everyday. We are very much like others, alert and aware, when thus awake. But Vedanta reveals four categories of wakefulness:
the fully awake
the wakefulness of the mind only (as while dreaming)
the wakefulness of the self alone (as in deep sleep) and
the illumination of the self (awakening into the Over-self).
These are named as Sthoola, Sookshma, Kaarana, and Mahakaarana [The Gross, The Subtle, The Causal, and the Super-cause].
The Upanishads say, “Get up, arise, awake”; time is fleeting fast. Use the moment while it is available, for the best of uses, the awareness of the Divine in all. When you die, you must not die like a tree or a beast or a worm, but like a man who has realized that he is Maadhava [God]. This realization is the consummation of all the years you spend in the human frame.
In the mirage of modern life, when one is forced to fulfill never-ending obligations and when responsibilities and burdens weigh on man with all force, how can one even think of realizing the indwelling spirit? The answer lies in realizing the fleeting nature (temporariness) of worldly objects. When man realizes that all he does is perishable and will not lead to real happiness, the burdens will cease to hold weight any further.
There is a beautiful illustration: There was once a man traveling by train. While seated in the train, in the foolish assumption that the responsibility of carrying the luggage was on him, he placed the luggage on his own head. Would it have mattered if he had put the luggage on the train’s floor? The train was already bearing the burden of the man and his luggage. Modern man can be likened to such a traveler. While traveling through the journey of life, he places all worldly burdens on his own head. While in reality God is carrying both man and his burdens, he assumes all burdens on himself and invites worries and unhappiness.
It is man’s incessant desire to run after worldly objects that has caused the burdens to increase in the first place. When desires are controlled and work is done in a spirit of dedication to God, work then becomes worship and burdens lighten automatically. When God blesses man with a Volkswagen, he wants a Lexus. When he gets a Lexus, he wants a BMW. These desires are endless and with the progressive fulfillment of every desire, man unknowingly increases burdens. At first, man makes objects, such as cars, work for him, but when he has acquired them, these objects start making a man work (for their upkeep).
So do we need to throw away all our work and sit in laze? We should work
with love and perform with a selfless motive
and not seek any reward for our deeds
In a spirit of dedication to God.
A beautiful story comes to mind: One night a man had a dream. He dreamt that he was walking with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there were only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’ll walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there are only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you the most, you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
The story illustrates God’s infinite compassion. Let us from this day make a commitment to ourselves. We will perform all our actions as if they were for God; let us spend our time in performing sadhana [spiritual exercises]; let us arise from our present states; awake to the beauties of our inner selves; and tirelessly march toward God until we achieve the GOAL (self realization).