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Braveheart, Seek the limitless!

If one is not different from the limitless, and if one still seeks the limitless, then the problem may be understood as one of self-ignorance (avidya) and the Advaita tradition is replete with numerous parables illustrating this predicament. A famous one, used by Shankara himself, is the story of the tenth person.

10 disciples were on their way to a sacred site when then encountered a river in flood. They decided to brave the rapids. After reaching the opposite shore, the leader took a count to ascertain whether everyone was safe. To his dismay, one appeared to be missing. Each disciple repeated the count and came up with the same result – the tenth person was lost. This loss caused sadness a feeling of helplessness. “We are missing that one…” was the general lament.

A woodcutter, attracted by their wailing, became curious and inquired about their predicament. After patiently listening, he requested the leader to repeat the count. When he stopped at nine, the stranger asked why he had not included himself in the count. “Dashamas-twam-asi” (You are the tenth person)! exclaimed the woodcutter, bursting into laughter. The students immediately understood the problem and their grief vanished. The tenth person, lost in ignorance, was discovered to be always there.

(from the Chandogya Upanishad / text adapted from A Rambachan’s The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity)
(Art-work: Smt. Rita Wadhwa)