It is interesting to compare an aspect of the Course’s teachings with Advaita Vedanta, the doctrine of non-duality, which is at the very heart of Hinduism. This doctrine was promulgated by the great spiritual master, Sri Sankara, also known as Shankarcharya (788 AD – 820 AD). Several centuries later his teachings were revived by the great spiritual teacher Sri Ramana Maharshi (1897 – 1950), who translated some of the works of Sri Sankara. Ramana Maharshi emphasised the need for Self-enquiry and Self-knowledge. He said one should ask oneself, “Who am I?” and eventually one will come to the realisation that one is not one’s body or one’s mind as these are unreal. Only the Self is real and everything is the Self. In an essay written in the 1920’s, Ramana Maharshi stated, “Self itself is the world; Self itself is the 'I'; Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.” http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/
In Lesson 62 of A Course in Miracles we read, “...Your goal is to find out who you are, having denied your Identity by attacking creation and its Creator...” Our true identity is the Son of God, who is one with God and every aspect of creation (that is why the word identity is capitalised.) ACIM asks us to recognise or remember that we are all Sons of God and that we have never left our state of oneness with God and with each other because all that we see around us in the world of form is unreal—an illusion. Although the terminology in Advaita Vedanta and A Course in Miracles differs, both these great teachings emphasise the need for self-enquiry, and both are non-dualistic systems of thought. Non-duality means only God or the Absolute is, and everything exists within the Absolute.
Lesson 91 asks us to pose the question, “What am I?” As we read on page 157, “Miracles are seen in light. The body’s eyes do not perceive the light. But I am not a body. What am I?” Then we reminded that it is a mistake to believe that we are physical bodies. “If you are not a body, what are you? Ask this in honesty, and then devote several minutes to allowing your mistaken thoughts about your attributes to be corrected...” We are reminded that although we may think we are, among other things, weak, helpless and limited, we are actually strong, all powerful and unlimited.
On page 147 of the Text Jesus tells us, “...The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself. There is no separation of God and His creation...God’s Oneness and ours are not separate, because His Oneness encompasses ours. To join with me is to restore His power to you because we are sharing it...” And in Lesson 183 we are told that if we call upon God’s Name it is the equivalent of calling upon our own name because of our oneness with Him. “God’s Name is holy, but no holier than yours. To call upon His Name is but to call upon your own...Repeat the Name of God, and call upon your Self, Whose Name is His. Repeat His Name, and all the tiny, nameless things on earth slip into right perspective...Repeat God’s Name, and you acknowledge Him as sole Creator of reality. And you acknowledge also that His Son is part of Him, creating in His Name...”
The last sentence in the passage above refers to the fact that God endowed us with creative powers—the mind being the creative agent of the spirit. This is explained in Chapter 2 of the Text, which starts off by explaining that God created us by extending Himself, and in doing so he gave us the ability to create as He had done. “In the creation, God extended Himself to His creations and imbued them with the same loving Will to create. You have not only been fully created, but have also been created perfect. There is no emptiness in you. Because of your likeness to your Creator you are creative...” But a problem occurred at the time of the separation when the mind split into two, and one part “miscreated” the ego, the human body and the universe through the process of projection. In other words, we used our creative powers inappropriately and the result was “the detour into fear.”
In Lesson 191 Jesus paints a very bleak picture of our “miscreated” world and says that if we believe in duality and deny our oneness with God there will be little hope for us. “...Deny your own Identity, and you assail the universe alone, without a friend, a tiny particle of dust against the legions of your enemies. Deny your own Identity, and look on evil, sin and death, and watch despair snatch from your fingers every scrap of hope, leaving you nothing but the wish to die.”
Yet, all it takes is the belief in non-duality to help us rise above the world we created and return us to our rightful, pre-separation place with God in Heaven. In Lesson 191 Jesus says that if we really believe we are the holy Son of God we will no longer be a prisoner of this world. “But let today’s idea find a place among your thoughts and you have risen far above the world, and all the worldly thoughts that hold it prisoner. And from this place of safety and escape you will return and set it free. For he who can accept his true Identity is truly saved. And his salvation is the gift he gives to everyone, in gratitude to Him who pointed out the way to happiness that changed his whole perspective of the world.” Not only do we escape from the world of the ego but, because all our minds are joined, we give the gift of freedom to others too.
It is interesting to note that although the Course talks about us being prisoners in the world it also stresses that this hasn’t really happened because the separation never actually occurred; we only believe that it did. So, strictly speaking, we are not in bondage here on earth and are already liberated. However, because we believe that we are in bondage, we need help to awaken to our true nature or our true Identity. Similarly, Ramana Maharshi also taught that both bondage and liberation are unreal. In an interesting short story on this website http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/
we learn that Ramana said that through self-enquiry we will eventually discover that the ego is non-existent and that bondage and liberation are false. This makes sense because if it is the ego that is keeping us in bondage, if there is no ego, there can be no bondage.
The last two passages of Lesson 191 in the Course are very moving; they deal with the need that we have to awaken from our dream of life on earth and help others to do the same. “Then let the Son of God awaken from his sleep, and opening his holy eyes, return again to bless the world he made. In error it began, but it will end in the reflection of his holiness....You are the holy Son of God Himself. Remember this, and all the world is free. Remember this, and earth and Heaven are one.”
Submit Your Own Article