Question: ‘All is one’ may be the truth, but one can’t treat everything in the world equally. In daily life one still has to discriminate and make distinctions.
Annamalai Swami: I once went for a walk near the housing board buildings [government flats that were built in the 1970s about 300 metres from Annamalai Swami’s ashram]. There was a sewage trench on one side of the building. I could smell the stench of the sewage even though I was a long way away. I stayed away from it because I didn’t want to be nauseated by the bad smell.
In circumstances such as these you don’t say, ‘All is one. Everything is the Self,’ and paddle through the sewage. The knowledge ‘everything is the Self’ may be there, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in dangerous or health-threatening places.
When you have become one with the Self, a great power takes you over and runs your life for you. It looks after your body; it puts you in the right place at the right time; it makes you say the right things to the people you meet. This power takes you over so completely, you no longer have any ability to decide or discriminate. The ego that thinks, ‘I must do this,’ or ‘I should not do that,’ is no longer there. The Self simply animates you and makes you do all the things that need to be done.
If you are not in this state, then use your discrimination wisely. You can choose to sit in a flower garden and enjoy the scent of the blooms, or you can go down to that trench I told you about and make yourself sick by inhaling the fumes there.
So, while you still have an ego, and the power of discrimination that goes with it, use it to inhale the fragrance that you find in the presence of an enlightened being. If you spend time in the proximity of a jnani, his peace will sink into you to such an extent that you will find yourself in a state of peace. If, instead, you choose to spend all your time with people whose minds are always full of bad thoughts, their mental energy and vibrations will start to seep into you.
I tell you regularly, ‘You are the Self. Everything is the Self.’ If this is not your experience, pretending that ‘all is one’ may get you into trouble. Advaita may be the ultimate experience, but it is not something that mind that still sees distinctions can practice.
Electricity is a useful form of energy, but it is also potentially harmful. Use it wisely. Don’t put your finger in the socket, thinking ‘all is one’. You need a body that is in good working order in order to realise the Self. Realising the Self is the only useful and worthy activity in this life, so keep the body in good repair till that goal is achieved. Afterwards, the Self will take care of everything and you won’t have to worry about anything anymore. In fact, you won’t be able to because the mind that previously did the worrying, the choosing and the discriminating will no longer be there. In that state you won’t need it and you won’t miss it.
From Final Talks, pages 27-28