My husband and I had the good fortune to attend a Billy Joel concert a few weeks ago. Needless to say, even at the age of 64, Billy Joel can rock the house. The ‘Piano Man’ was at his best and had us on our feet for most of the night. The energy in the room was unbelievable and it is a concert I will always remember.
As I looked around at the packed arena, which has a capacity of 20,000, I couldn’t help but be enthralled at how so many people were all acting as one.
I mean, think about it.
Here were 20,000 people from different walks of life. Different economical circumstances. Varied educations. A myriad of colors. Every gender. And just about every age group. Yes, I saw both young children and old men! I can only presume that there must have been representatives from a large cross section of religious traditions as well.
Yet, we were all behaving as one.
As I watched this massive group of people move in sync, I was reminded of the concept of monism. Advaita Vedanta, which is a Hindu school of philosophy, advocates for monism. According to this philosophy, we are all One. There is only one Supreme Reality called Brahman. In this school of thought, there is no difference between God, the universe, you and me. We are in fact, all part of one whole. The differences we see are an illusion, Maya. Our mission is to realize this. The moment we do realize it, all the differences will fall away.
This is a hard concept for many people to grasp. And rightly so. After all, we live in an individualized society. We are constantly struggling to make our mark as individuals. Our personal struggles and victories form an important component of our self understanding.
On the other hand, there is definitely something about the idea that we are all One that is appealing. A collective mentality might serve us well in our effort to preserve our earth. Or to avoid wars. Or to eradicate hunger and disease.
I do not know if monism is the right way to view this world we live in. I do not actually think there is a right or wrong answer here. Just different strokes for different folks. Different people approaching their realities in different ways. Monism is just one of those ways.
I will say this however. Hearing Billy Joel sing his tunes to an audience who roared with approval in unison and sang ‘The Piano Man’ in unified voices was a magical experience. If it was an empowering feeling to be one with the crowd, then I can only imagine that it must be infinitely more empowering to feel like you are one with the universe too.