tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṃ gamaya
Om shanti shanti shantih
Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality.
This verse is like a mantra or a prayer or a plea. It’s looking into our humility and saying, I’ve lived my life with illusions and confusion, and I now want to be open to another way. I am ready. I will surrender. Please help me.
We may go through life without clarity, similar to looking out a glass window that is dirty or fogged up. We have to exert a lot of effort to squint, to see through the other side, and even then, we make these mistakes because of that layer in between that obscures our vision. This is when we are stuck in our minds, when we have to calculate everything, when everything is all mind and no heart.
If we live this way, everything feels difficult. Even empathy would appear like a thing we do, the yamas or ethical precepts a checklist of things we tick off. Even when we try to “do the right thing”, it comes from an intellectual conclusion, which is not bad per se, but is certainly effortful.
When we are stuck in the mind, we may consciously choose not to be homophobic or not to be classist or not to be sexist because we think we have to let our morality keep up with the times, with what is widely accepted as the right thing. But then, it’s still a “to do” list.
If we, however, have a clear vision with no obstruction, if we connect more with our heart instead of relying solely on the mind, then we get to feel more completely. We do not discriminate against others— be they from another species of race or gender etc— not only because of a logical conclusion, but because we feel innately that it is what’s natural, that we are all a part of each other, that we are connected, that we are not so separate.
In this state of clarity, we need not exert effort to understand empathy or train ourselves to be compassionate, because it would be plain and simple that that is who we really are. No fogged up vision. No obscured view. All real. All light. All immortal.