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All Is One–Chapter One–Unity

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Chapter One in All Is One: A Commentary On Sri Vaiyai R. Subramanian’s Ellam Ondre

1. All, including the world seen by you and yourself, the seer of the world, is one only.

2. All that you consider as I, you, he, she and it, is one only.

3. What you consider to be sentient beings and what you consider to be insentient, such as earth, air, fire and water is all one.

4. The good which is derived by your considering all as one cannot be had by considering each as separate from the other. Therefore all is one.

5. The knowledge of the unity of all is good for you and good for others as well. Therefore all is one.

6. He who sees “I am separate,” “you are separate,” “he is separate” and so on, acts one way to himself and another way to others. He cannot help doing so. The thought “I am separate, others are separate” is the seed from which grows the tree of differing actions in relation to different persons. How can there be any lapse from righteousness for a person who knows the unity of himself with others? As long as the germ of differentiation is there, the tree of differing actions will flourish, even unawares. Therefore give up differentiation. All is one only.

7. Ask: “If in the world all things appear different, how can I consider all as one? Is there any way of gaining this knowledge?” The reply is: “In the same tree we see leaves, flowers, berries and branches, different from one another, yet they are all one because they are all included in the word ‘tree.’ Their root is the same; their sap is the same. Similarly, all things, all bodies, all organisms are from the same source and activated by a single life principle.” Therefore all is one.

8. Oh good man! Is the statement that “All is one” good or evil? Think for yourself. Just as the person will always be righteous who regards himself like others and others like himself, how can any evil attach itself to him who knows himself to be others and the others to be himself? Tell me if there is any better way for obtaining good than the knowledge of unity? Certainly other methods cannot be as good as this one. How can anyone love others more than when knowing them to be himself, to know them in unity–love as unity, for they are truly one.

9. Who can share the mental peace and freshness of the knower of unity? He has no cares. The Good of all is his own good. A mother considers her children’s well-being to be her own well-being. Still, her love is not perfect because she thinks she is separate and her children are separate. The love of a Sage, who has realized the unity of all, far excels even the love of a mother. There is no other means of gaining such love than the knowledge of unity. Therefore all is one.

10. Know that the world as a whole is your undecaying body and that you are the everlasting life of the whole world. Tell me if there is any harm in doing so. Who fears to go the harmless way? Be courageous. The Vedas teach this very truth. There is nothing but yourself. All good will be yours. Yea, you become the good itself. All that others gain from you will be good only. Who will work evil to his own body and soul? A remedy is applied if there is an abscess in the body. Even if the remedy is painful, it is meant to do good only. Such will be some of your actions; they will also be for the good of the world. For that reason, you will not be involved in differentiation. I put it briefly: The knower of unity will act as one should. In fact, the knowledge of unity makes him act. He cannot err. In the world, he is God made visible.

All is one.

Commentary

We approach any experience or idea with preconceptions, with a frame of reference that is habitual with us. This small book is about Unity on various levels. It is necessary for us to realize that this first chapter is about the individual and his relationship with the phenomenal world and those living with him in that world. If we begin to read while holding the idea of the absolute unity of Brahman with all that seems to be Its “else” the words will appear to be nonsense. Or we will reduce them to nonsense ourselves by our refusal to look at the words as they are, insisting on bending them into the context of the highest Advaita teaching. But this chapter begins and ends with the practical view of the world and its human inhabitants. That is all.

For the last nineteen years of her life on this earth I was closely associated with Anandamayi Ma. Those who encountered Ma, whether her devotees or not, naturally tried to define her, for that is how human beings normally gain understanding. But Ma was truly Something Other, and often in people’s questioning of her in an effort to fit her into a context or definition would adamantly say: “Leave this body out of it!” (Ma usually referred to herself as “this body.”) The same is true in this first chapter: Leave Brahman and its absolute nature out of the matter. This is just about us as individual evolving consciousnesses and our relation to the world around us and the people in it. The rest will come later.

1. All, including the world seen by you and yourself, the seer of the world, is one only.

Not only is Brahman absolutely One, so is the entire relative world and all within it, for only oneness can be projected (“created”) by the One. Otherwise It would violate Its own nature–which is an impossibility. The author says “you and yourself” to indicate that the world is seen by our bodily senses and that stimulus is relayed to our brain which in turn is relayed to the senses of our subtle bodies which in turn relay that to our consciousness, who is the seer. When Sri Ramakrishna was asked, “What is the Self,” he replied: “The witness of the mind,” the mind being the complex comprised of the subtle bodies. And in reality the seen, the seeing and the seer are really one.

It is essential to understand that the word “one” can mean more than a single concept. In our simplistic (lazy) way of thinking we assume it means only a number, but one is a quality, a condition, as well. You cannot speak of the Divine Unity as you would of a single egg–this is the continual error Western thinking, and sad to say some in India (perhaps educated in the Western manner) do the same. Always we must remember that Advaita does not mean One. It only means Not Two. So Monism is a profound error, even through in East and West many think it is Advaita.

If this sounds like mere word juggling, it is because we do not have the perspective of yogis–the only people who really understand the truth of Advaita which is transcendent and therefore completely beyond the limited intellect of anyone. Ultimately Advaita is a state of being, the state of true vidya, of true knowing, that is itself moksha: total liberation and enlightenment.

Notice that the author begins his statement: “All, including the world,” implying that there is much, much more to the All That Is than just us, our perceptions and anything we perceive. Regarding that All, the Kena Upanishad (2.3) says: “To whomsoever It [Brahman] is not known, to him It is known: to whomsoever It is known, he does not know. It is not understood by those who understand It; it is understood by those who do not understand it.” The interpretive translation by Swami Prabhavananda make this more clear: “He truly knows Brahman who knows him as beyond knowledge; he who thinks that he knows, knows not. The ignorant think that Brahman is known, but the wise know him to be beyond knowledge.”

2. All that you consider as I, you, he, she and it, is one only.

Again, please realize that he does not mean this in relation to Brahman. Later the author will be speaking of the highest truth that Brahman is truly Ekam Evam Advityam, One, Only, Without a Second, but here he is introducing us to the idea that we are one with all the human beings we encounter in our life. His intention is that we should understand that we are all one in essence, part of the One Life. We are all waves on the ocean of divine manifestation, all rooted in the divine, but none of us are the totality of the divine.

I emphasize this because there are books of Advaitic philosophy that would make us believe that when we attain the ultimate enlightenment we will say: “I am everything” and we will not longer perceive anything else. What an awful thing it would be to come to the end of the evolutionary road and find that there was nothing left but “me”!

At this point the author is not speaking of Brahman at all, only of the way we view ourselves and others–a view that of course must be in the perspective of the Reality that is Brahman.

3. What you consider to be sentient beings and what you consider to be insentient, such as earth, air, fire and water is all one.
4. The good which is derived by your considering all as one cannot be had by considering each as separate from the other. Therefore all is one.
5. The knowledge of the unity of all, is good for you and good for others as well. Therefore all is one.
6. He who sees “I am separate,” “you are separate,” “he is separate” and so on, acts one way to himself and another way to others. He cannot help doing so. The thought “I am separate, others are separate” is the seed from which grows the tree of differing actions in relation to different persons. How can there be any lapse from righteousness for a person who knows the unity of himself with others? As long as the germ of differentiation is there, the tree of differing actions will flourish, even unawares. Therefore give up differentiation. All is one only.

Those who see this separation of others from themselves act accordingly, making a non-existent differentiation. This denies the two wisdom statements of Jesus: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). In this second statement we see that Jesus considered himself at one with all men, that what we do to anyone we do to ourselves and ultimately to all humanity. It is like dropping a stone into a pond whose waves move throughout the entire body of water and affect it. Those who see this as true will not relapse from righteous thought and behavior regarding his fellow human beings.

Writing this I can see and hear after sixty-three years dear Brother Crawley talking at a gathering of our church one Christmastide. The church I belonged to was begun in 1880, and from the first day taught the unity of all human beings and actively opposed racial segregation, establishing fully integrated churches. Naturally, for years the Klan did all it could to destroy the little church (they failed), and even in the 1950s burned down our church building in Pasadena, which was right next to Alhambra where the American Nazi Party had its headquarters.

Brother Crawley was from Alabama, and he said in his talk that he had told some other black people, “I am going up to Guthrie [Oklahoma]. We are all one up there and love each other and worship together as brothers and sisters.” “But that’s against the law,” objected one of those he was speaking to. “We don’t care,” Brother Crawley told him, “We do it anyway!” The next summer one of our ministers told me that he had gone to pick up Brother Crawley in Missouri for a church meeting there. “When Brother Crawley got off the bus we hugged and kissed each other, and I thought the woman who ran the bus station was going to have a heart attack,” he told me. But, as Brother Crawley said, we did it anyway. A few years later a friend and I were stopped by the police in Hollywood and falsely given a jaywalking ticket. Four other people had walked across the street at the same time during the green light, but the police said we two had walked across at a red light. Why? My friend was black. I’m glad “we did it anyway.”

7. Ask: “If in the world all things appear different, how can I consider all as one? Is there any way of gaining this knowledge?” The reply is: “In the same tree we see leaves, flowers, berries and branches, different from one another, yet they are all one because they are all included in the word ‘tree.’ Their root is the same; their sap is the same. Similarly, all things, all bodies, all organisms are from the same source and activated by a single life principle.” Therefore all is one.

This is the practical perspective we must have of ourselves and all humanity. Anyone can say, “It is all one,” but we must be those who live it.

This verse makes me think of my beloved Aunt Faye, who was father, mother and spiritual teacher to me from my age of six. During World War II she had gone to the south to be near my uncle George who was a patient in a military hospital. To manage this financially she got a job in Little Rock at Ottenheimer’s dress factory. Quite a few black people worked there at the lowest level jobs and wages, and Aunt Faye became friends with several of them. They used to come and tell her when they were being pushed around or mistreated by the supervisors, and she would go and complain and get them to stop. They also told her a lot of their griefs that took place outside the factory. She would tell me about them and literally cry bitter tears and say, “I am so worried about my friends because they don’t have anyone to speak up for them.”

Her bitterest memory was when one of the black workers came to her and asked to speak to her alone. He then asked her if she thought God had cursed the black people and made them that color. (This was and is common teaching in some churches. Supposedly the black people are descendants of Ham, the son of Noah whom Noah cursed and said his descendants would be slaves. See Genesis 9:22-27. One of my black friends from the island of Saint Thomas told me that she was taught this by black teachers when she went to school.)

“When he asked me that,” Aunt Faye told me, “I called inside to God to help me answer him.” And she began to point out to him that in all the things God created he made many differences, that every species of living being had many shapes and sizes and especially colors. And so it was with human beings that were all equal but different in appearance, and she quoted to him, “God that made the world and all things therein, hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 7:24, 26). Her friend smiled and said, “Yes, that’s right; that’s right!” and went away smiling. “But I,” Aunt Faye told me, “ran behind the bales of dress goods and cried and cried, just thinking of how terrible and cruel it was that anyone would tell my friends that God through Noah had cursed them and wanted them to be nothing but slaves and servants.” She had not read Ellam Ondre, but she had the same understanding.

8. Oh good man! Is the statement that “All is one” good or evil? Think for yourself. Just as the person will always be righteous who regards himself like others and others like himself, how can any evil attach itself to him who knows himself to be others and the others to be himself? Tell me if there is any better way for obtaining good than the knowledge of unity? Certainly other methods cannot be as good as this one. How can anyone love others more than when knowing them to be himself, to know them in unity–love as unity, for they are truly one.

There really is no need for commentary on this, but I wanted it to be presented here on its own in order to emphasize the divine truth of this verse and the divine wisdom of embodying its ideals in our own individual lives.

9. Who can share the mental peace and freshness of the knower of unity? He has no cares. The Good of all is his own good. A mother considers her children’s well-being to be her own well-being. Still, her love is not perfect because she thinks she is separate and her children are separate. The love of a Sage, who has realized the unity of all, far excels even the love of a mother. There is no other means of gaining such love than the knowledge of unity. Therefore all is one.

This is truly divinely inspired wisdom. Certainly in Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh I saw this lived out daily. He lived in perfect consciousness of The One and therefore saw It in us. By this he inspired us with faith in our own true selves and the possibility of realizing It just as fully as had Sivanandaji. He signed all his letters: “Thine Own Self.” In him was embodied the truth of the saying:

The parents give birth,
But the guru gives life.
There is an end to birth,
But there is no end to life.

10. Know that the world as a whole is your undecaying body and that you are the everlasting life of the whole world. Tell me if there is any harm in doing so. Who fears to go the harmless way? Be courageous. The Vedas teach this very truth. There is nothing but yourself. All good will be yours. Yea, you become the good itself. All that others gain from you will be good only. Who will work evil to his own body and soul? A remedy is applied if there is an abscess in the body. Even if the remedy is painful, it is meant to do good only. Such will be some of your actions; they will also be for the good of the world. For that reason, you will not be involved in differentiation. I put it briefly: The knower of unity will act as one should. In fact, the knowledge of unity makes him act. He cannot err. In the world, he is God made visible.
All is one.

The “you” that is “the everlasting life of the whole world” is your true Self, the jivatman that is one with the Universal Self, the Paramatman, that is in all things and is all things. But since there is no essential difference between one jivatman and another, is it reasonable for someone to conclude “I am the everlasting life of the whole world” alone? If all jivas are one, cannot they all make the same claim if they see things as I do?

So we see the folly of identifying our little false and ignorant “I” with the Infinite “I” that is all things. Without true Self-realization we dare not say, “I am That.” This would be the illusion of the satanic ego–total spiritual insanity. Rather the truth is: THAT Am I. THAT comes first, I comes second. That is the whole and I am the part. That is why the sadhana mantra is Soham (That Am I: pronounced “Sohum”) and not Hamsa (I Am That). (See Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.) We have to get our ideas in the right order. Otherwise philosophically we will be putting the cart before the horse.

Now see how the author asks, “Who fears to go the harmless way?” Ahimsa is not just the resolve to injure no one, it is also the insight into the unity of all being, of existence itself. If an insight is not lived out consistently in the life of a sadhaka, then that insight is, practically speaking a mirage, not a reality. We must make these sublime insights of the ancient sages of India a living reality in our life, whatever others might choose (or fail) to do. And to embark on that resolve does indeed require great, even superhuman, courage. But since we are not merely human, it is possible for us to do so. Sri Ramakrishna said, “When Shiva realizes His own Self, He dances about in joy exclaiming, ‘What am I! What am I!’” We, like Shiva, must awaken and rejoice, saying, “O! What I am! What I am!” But there are countless ones who should be doing the same. We will not be alone with a tiny, satisfied ego. So we will see that they, too, are “God made visible.” For truly: All is one.

***

Next: Chapter Two–You

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Chapters in All Is One: A Commentary On Sri Vaiyai R. Subramanian’s Ellam Ondre:

About to All Is One

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