Now and then we know a moment of supreme bliss, when we ask nothing, give nothing, know nothing but bliss. Then it passes, and we again see the panorama of the universe moving before us; and we know that it is but a mosaic work set upon God, who is the background of all things.
Vedanta teaches that nirvana can be attained here and now, that we do not have to wait for death to reach it. Nirvana is the realization of the Self, and after having once known that, if only for an instant, never again can one be deluded by the mirage of personality. Having eyes, we must see the apparent, but all the time we know what it is; we have found out its true nature. It is the screen that hides the Self, which is unchanging. The screen opens and we find the Self behind it. All change is the screen. In the saint the screen is thin, and the reality can almost shine through. In the sinner the screen is thick, and we are able to lose sight of the truth that the atman [Self] is there, as well as behind the saint’s screen. When the screen is wholly removed, we find it never existed—that we were the atman and nothing else, even the screen is forgotten.
The two phases of this distinction in life are: First, that the man, who knows the real Self, will not be affected by anything; secondly, that that man alone can do good to the world. That man alone will have seen the real motive of doing good to others, because there is only one. It cannot be called egoistic, because that would be differentiation. It is only selflessness. It is the perception of the universal, not of the individual. Every case of love and sympathy is an assertion of this universal. “Not I, but thou.” Help another, because you are in him and he is in you, is the philosophical way of putting it. The real Vedantist alone will give up his life for a fellow being without any compunction, because he knows he will not die. As long as there is one insect left in the world, he is living; as long as one mouth eats, he eats. So he goes on doing good to others, and is never hindered by the modern ideas of caring for the body. When a man reaches this point of abnegation, he goes beyond the moral struggle, beyond everything. He sees in the most learned priest, in the cow, in the dog, in the most miserable places, neither the learned man, nor the cow, nor the dog, nor the miserable place, but the same divinity manifesting itself in them all. He alone is the happy man; and the man who has acquired that sameness has, even in this life, conquered all existence. God is pure; therefore such a man is said to be living in God.
– Swami Vivekananda