Did God Make a Mistake?

Did God Make a Mistake?

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There is an image offered us in the Katha Upanishad as an aid to understanding the nature of desire. We are told that God made a mistake: he fashioned human beings with our senses pointing outward. But a wise man corrected the mistake by focusing his attention inward, and there, he discovered his true self. 

To say that God made a mistake is to acknowledge that nature, uncorrected by wisdom, will lead us astray. Our attention will be drawn in the wrong direction, where objects appear like mirage water in the desert. We begin our trek toward the seeming oasis, but we never reach it. The closer we get, the more it recedes.

The wise man in the Upanishad recognizes that he is looking for satisfaction where it can never be found. He turns his attention away from the world. He stops chasing objects that appear to be the source of happiness and begins to wonder, “Who is this being who wants to be happy? Why do I feel unhappy to begin with?” We can do the same. 

When we initially turn inward, we first acknowledge that we are here, in this perplexing world, where nothing is as it seems. Now, it seems that we are a body. It seems that there are objects outside of our body – other people and things – that can give us pleasure or pain. We then set about pursuing the sources of pleasure and avoiding the sources of pain. There is no freedom in this, but mere reaction. And we want freedom for it is our nature. We can only have it when we stop reacting to the stimuli of external objects, like iron filings being pulled toward a magnet. 

In our body, our animal nature, we have no freedom. Hunger, lust, pain and pleasure are the events in the life of the body. And the mind? There is no mind, really, but only thoughts. The word “mind” signifies the notion of a knowing entity in which thoughts arise. But if any such entity exists, it must be separate from the thoughts. What is mind separated from thoughts?

When we speak of the mind, we are referring to a power, not an entity. This power pictures the world of objects according to the qualities of our senses and the coordinating faculty of our brain. The result is a thought, an image. We take these images to be real. That is, we believe that these images exist independently of the thought that is their only shape and substance. This is how objects are conceived. Once we have given birth to them, they become our world. Why is it not a happy world?

Because some of the images that appear in our awareness arouse what is called desire: we want to possess them. But if the image is in our awareness, we already possess it. What we usually mean by possession is some form of bodily union with an object: I want to sit in my house, drive in my car, count my money, have sex with my partner, etc. From among all the images that appear to us we select certain ones that we call “mine,” and others that we want to call “mine’ but which as yet elude our grasp. We believe that if we can collect all the objects we want for our own, we will be happy. But we are never happy so long as we are engaged in this collection of objects.

First, we can never have all the things we want for the simple reason that our capacity to form desires is endless. It is not as though there are, say, 52 things I need to complete myself and then I’m done. There are 52 million things, and that’s just the beginning. Desire is a bottomless barrel. We can never fill it, and most of us will die trying. 

Second, as the objects of desire are essentially thoughts, they have no abiding substance. What we take to be objects is existence seen through the filter of the senses and the qualities of the mind. We don’t see existence, which is unchanging; we see the thoughts, which are ever changing. And we attribute the reality of existence to the ephemeral thought, to the object. Trying to possess the object is like hugging the air: we end up with an armful of nothing.

Third, as thoughts are not separate from our awareness, we cannot own them: we are them. Perhaps, it is better to say that they are us, for we are not contained in a thought, but all thoughts are contained in us. What we really long for when we chase objects is our own self. We want to possess that which we already are. What we need to do to be happy is to know what we are. If we project our self into thought, into an object, we will want the object because all we ever want is our self. And our body, and every thought, is a projection of our self into an object. 

Maya is largely misunderstood to mean that we should deny the evidence of our senses; that the world we experience is not real. This is why many Westerners reject Vedanta as a mental construct it is impossible to believe in. But Maya is not the world we see. It is rather the world as we misunderstand it. As Goethe expressed it, it is not the senses that deceive, but the judgment. 

The world is a manifestation of God, or Ishwara – whichever you prefer. As we are part of that world, we are also a manifestation of God, or Ishwara. We are individuals, yet our individuality is dependent on God, in whom we live and move and have our being, as St. Paul expressed it. When we realize that we have no being independent of God, we will stop trying to be God. Original sin is often understood as the primal calamity that came about from an individual trying to be God.

We are one in the indivisible being, the supreme reality, but we act in this world as individuals with a particular destiny. We did not create the world. To say that we are the supreme reality is a dangerous statement because it is both true and false, depending upon the level from which we understand it. Being/awareness is ultimately indivisible, so in that sense we are God. But being/awareness expresses itself in the empirical world as individuals, so in another sense we are not God. The human ego, the limited self that identifies with the body and mind, does not determine the course of the world and the laws that limit it. This must be clearly understood. 

The love that we mistakenly pursue in objects is really the love we have projected into the world. We are trying to take back that which we have unknowingly given away. And we try to take it back by assuming the power of God and trying to arrange the world so that we can possess all those things to which we have attached our love. But the ego is not God, and when it tries to usurp God’s prerogatives, it makes itself unhappy and frustrated. Despite the many grand pronouncements one encounters in modern spiritual teachings, we do not create the world or our own reality. We live as individuals in the world and our reality is the embodiment of a myriad of factors the mind cannot comprehend or control. 

If we are to have any hope of happiness in the here and now, it must rest on something the contemporary world finds difficult to accept: humility. We have to acknowledge the limitations of the human instrument that is the vehicle for the limitless being/awareness in which it rests. It may have become a hackneyed expression, but it is nevertheless true that we must “Let go and let God.”

The mention of God is sure to arouse resistance in many. One appeal of Vedanta and Buddhism for many Westerners is that it seems to avoid the theism of Judaism and Christianity. But the fact is we are not self-created individuals, and it is as individuals that we are presently living in the world. A great deal of confusion arises from loose language about our nature as pure being/consciousness or brahman. For some people, these words become ideas that they use to deny the reality of ordinary experience. But we can only begin where we find ourselves. And we can only take one step at a time. To try to pole-vault our way to pure being/awareness, as though the body/mind need not be taken into consideration, is not possible. We can break our metaphysical necks trying to do it. 

The simplest approach is always the best. Taking a step back from abstract notions, no matter how lofty and appealing, and looking at who we are and where we are as individuals is the place where we must start. 

We know that we want love and we try to find it in objects and in other people (considered as objects). We also know this doesn’t work. The only way to find the love we long for is to realize that we are not the ego, but an expression of God or Ishwara, an expression of love. And this love, although expressed as our individuality, is ever rooted in the love that transcends it. When we turn to our source and realize that we are grounded in love, we will no longer try to wrest it from others. But the ego must bow to Ishwara if we are to know our true Self.

With humility comes love. With love comes the only happiness that is possible to us in this vale of tears. The world does not need to be fixed. It can never make us happy no matter how it may be arranged. When we stop trying to be God, the weight of the world will lift from our shoulders. Then, we can accept whatever comes our way. The world is no longer a problem to be solved. Our individuality is no longer something to be cast off or thought away. It, too, is a gift of love, for as long as it lasts. 

Edwin Faust 

Traditional or Non-Traditional Vedanta

Traditional or Non-Traditional Vedanta

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We all have reasons to justify our likes and dislikes. Some Vedantins criticize me because of a peculiar duality: traditional vs. non-traditional. Obviously the Truth is beyond tradition. Many years ago Swami Dayananda wrote a small pamphlet to explain why he no longer felt comfortable teaching with Swami Chinmayanada. His first statement is, “I call myself a teacher of traditional Vedanta.” Much later Swami Paramarathananda, Dayananda’s foremost disciple, explained the difference between mystic and non-mystic non-dualists, which I summarized in a recent satsang posted on ShiningWorld, although he did not refer to Chinmaya or Dayananda. It is an important issue that highlights the relationship between experience and knowledge, which is the signature issue of Dayanada’s pamphlet. It is also summarized in an article entitled ‘What is Advaita Vedanta,’ posted in the publications section of ShiningWorld.

Almost fifty years ago I realized that I was the Self at the feet of Swami Chinmaya who was a mystic non-dualist and for several years I taught his style of Vedanta, which was called ‘modern Vedanta’. One day I read the pamphlet mentioned above, when I realized the limitations of mystic non-dualism. Mind you, Isvara sends the teacher you need. If you are qualified and the teacher is skillful you will be set free, irrespective of the style of teaching.

Keep in mind that both mystic and non-mystic non-dualists teach non-duality. One style is easier for experience-oriented people and the other for knowledge oriented people, although both have downsides. The downside for experience-oriented individuals is the tendency to think of liberation as a discrete experience and the downside for knowledge-oriented people is the tendency to expect some kind of non-dual experience to confirm the knowledge. So, in an extremely important contribution to the Vedanta sampradaya, Swami Dayananda made the distinction clear, coming down heavily on the side of knowledge. However, gaining and retaining knowledge is also experiential so you can’t dismiss experience either. You can only know the difference. And you can’t dismiss the experience-oriented approach because epiphanies very often kick-start inquiry which leads to understanding the value of knowledge. Having said that, he was not the first teacher to make this distinction as it is built into the fundamental premise of the Upanishads. If reality is non-dual consciousness, everything is non-dual consciousness, including me and my experience, which means that I am always experiencing the Self which, in turn means that my fundamental problem is ignorance if I don’t enjoy the bliss of Self knowledge.

It is understandable but sad that some Vedanta people who did not know both Chinmaya and Dayanada allowed their views of Dayananda’s teaching to prejudice them against mystic non-dualism. A number of these people look down on me because I got Self knowledge from Chinmaya, even though I have been passionately teaching Dayanada’s non-mystic style for the last 40 years. But when you are a partisan, it is often difficult to see the forest for the trees. There are many Western people who are not just fascinated with Vedanta but with the Indian culture that nourished it. They have the idea that Vedanta is only ‘real’ Vedanta if it comes in a certain package...India, orange clothing, Sanskrit, etc. Recently one of my admirers went off to India to study with one of Swami Dayananda’s disciples because he assumed that study with an Indian in an Indian ashram was required because that was what happened to me. A year later he returned free of that idea. In Atma Bodh Shankara said that circumstances are necessary auxiliaries but only knowledge ‘cooks the food.’ The truth is beyond all forms. Chinmaya wanted me to become a sanyassi but Isvara had other ideas. I am an American and when in Rome I do what the Roman’s do. It is only sensible. Once my path was clear he supported me one hundred percent.

Most people do not know what a mahatma really is. Both Swami Dayananda and Swami Chinmaya were mahatmas. It is important for Dayananda devotees to know that Swami Dayananda served Chinmaya for many years and it was due to Chinmaya’s love for him that he became so well known so early in his life. They simply had different ideas about how to teach Vedanta based on their own svadharama and the needs of the total during their lifetimes. But the point is that Vedanta stands above the teacher. The teacher is glorious because of the teaching. Yes, if a teacher is glorious, he or she will be a great advertisement for Vedanta, but that is all. As long as you use the traditional/non-traditional duality to make yourself feel special, there is still work to do.

It is often the case that people come to me and become inspired about Vedanta and I teach them as best I can. But when I tell them something they don’t want to hear or if I behave like a normal person they lose interest in me and, having heard about Swami Dayananda and some of his disciples, they think that they will get the ‘real’ teaching from a ‘real’ mahatma. So they write me off on some pretext, which is fine for me, but not fine for them because it means that they have confused the name and form with the truth and kept duality alive in their minds.

Your enlightenment is not special because, like mine, it has the smell of India. It is quite lovely if it does, but Isvara stands above concepts like East and West, traditional and non-traditional, my guru and your guru. I make a big point in every seminar that ‘guru’ is just a hat that I put on when I am invited to teach. It is not a career or a lifestyle. When I step down from the podium I am just a regular guy. How can this small person co-opt Isvara’s glory?

Rules for Vedanta Teachers

It so happens that ShiningWorld has become a successful voice for non-dual Vedanta because it is a powerful tool for transforming one’s life in harmony with the Truth. We appreciate the need of those who have received this precious teaching to communicate it to others and lend support to them, assuming they don’t mix Vedanta with other liberation, quasi liberation, or dualistic teachings...Christianity, Buddhism, Neo-Advaita, Yoga, etc. and that they they don’t monetize the teachings. At the same time there are certain expenses associated with the dissemination of the teachings which can be defrayed by the concept of ‘donations.’

Donations fall under the category of visesa dharma, situational ethics. They are adharmic or dharmic depending on the state of mind of both the giver and the receiver. Only you know if your gift is conditional or unconditional and only you know if the gift you receive is used for the intended purpose so there is room for problems. The rules for charity are discussed in the 17th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. It is not wrong if a teacher who has given value uses your donation to support him or herself, although financial insecurity often tests a teacher’s integrity, as do other factors, desire for recognition, power, etc. So those individuals whom we support need to be very clear concerning their motivations for teaching.

As one of the senior lineage holders in the Vedanta sampradaya, it is my duty, along with my wife, Sundari, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, so we expect people who represent it to stick to the spirit and the letter of the rules. At the same time, we can't monitor the behavior of the people we endorse...Vedanta should never be thought of as a career. It is a sacrifice. Swamiji’s teaching was called The Sacrifice of Knowledge, Gita gyana yagna.

Apart from the teaching itself, ShiningWorld is successful because we have not monetized the teaching. I have occasionally solicited donations for a particular publishing project but never for personal financial reasons, as I have a small inheritance and friends who contribute to our living expenses. We finance the website, books and videos and our travel expenses...which are considerable...from donations for the teaching. The books and videos, which involve considerable work and expense, make virtually no profit. However, we continue because the purpose of ShiningWorld is to disseminate Vedanta. ShiningWorld is not a business, although I pay taxes on donations and the sale of books and videos.

We have been extremely generous with the young men we endorsed over the years and they have benefitted by their association with ShiningWorld...We have helped them establish themselves as Vedanta teachers and we know they have people who benefit from their teaching who can support them if they see fit. We encourage anyone who has benefitted from their teachings to continue doing so.

We will continue to encourage and assist people who want to teach, who have assimilated the teachings and have the right attitude, but we will not promote anyone henceforth who does not have an independent means of support and does not adhere strictly to the spirit of the teaching. It is very difficult teaching Vedanta in the West because materialism has infected every institution in society.  People actually often tell us that we are fools for teaching on a donation basis. But this is a sacred holy teaching and we cannot stand to see it contaminated by even the appearance of worldliness.


Love,

Ram and Sundari

The Process of Vedanta

The Process of Vedanta

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Vedanta is a three stage process. You have to go through all three stages if you want to be radiantly happy. If you skip a step or only partially assimilate its knowledge, Isvara will send you back to the previous level until you work it out. The three steps are hearing (sravana), reasoning (manana) and Self actualizing or assimilating (nididyasana).

Stage 1 involves several steps which roughly conform to the Chapters in Essence of Enlightenment. The first step of Stage 1 is assimilating the knowledge that life is a zero-sum duality. It involves the realization that nothing you can do in this world will solve the problem of suffering.

When the full impact of this realization hits, disillusionment is inevitable, a ‘dark night of the soul,’ that may last a year or two. It is particularly difficult if you are prone to epiphanies, glimpses of the reality beyond the world, because they give you hope and dash it at the same time. The second step of the first stage involves anther particularly galling fact: enlightenment—liberation from the world—is not a special kind of experience. Until you understand that it isn’t you are basically condemned to the same frustrating merry-go-round that you experienced at step 1. Your experience of the Self, which you imagine is out of time, comes and goes, because it is not out of time at all.

This realization also produces disillusionment and frustration. The rare realization that happens in the third step of Stage 1 involves accepting the idea that you have an ignorance problem, not an experience problem, and the forth step of Stage 1 involves accepting a valid means of knowledge i.e. Vedanta. Each step is increasing more difficult than the preceding step. Consequently, a burning desire for freedom and a lot of good karma is required to work your way through the steps of understanding. To help you we present the three stages in the form of the 5/10/15 rule.

The 5/10/15 Rule

A lot of people think that the end of seeking caused by firm Self knowledge...otherwise known as direct knowledge (“I am limitless ordinary unborn ever-present awareness”) is the end of the jiva’s spiritual work. It is, but only if the jiva is perfectly satisfied with itself when Self knowledge is firm. This state is extremely rare.

However, it is commonly believed that Self-knowledge or Self-realization, if you prefer, is the end of seeking, inquiring, ego, doing, teaching, etc. On the basis of this unexamined notion...which is grist for the mill of the next stage, nididyasana, most Self realized people declare themselves ‘finished,’ ‘cooked,’ or ‘enlightened’ and set themselves up as authorities on the topic of liberation.

The stage after firm direct knowledge is called nididyasana. Vedanta is very clear about the importance of this stage as it removes residual desire (rajas) and fear (tamas).

We see many young people who gain direct knowledge infected with the seemingly benign desire to teach others. Usually, their spiritual tendencies (vasanas) kept them away from deep commitments to the world...careers and families...and they just got by doing odd jobs, living off family money or the dole and/or taking up short term relationships for emotional satisfaction and abandoning them when they proved difficult, etc.

Sometimes they complete stage 1, hearing, and Stage 2, removal of doubt, and gain direct knowledge, but ignore stage 3, Self actualization or assimilation, usually because they have not done proper inquiry on the idea “I am free.”

The Self will never make this statement. It only means something to a jiva. If the idea ‘I am enlightened’ has not been removed and the jiva has been led to self inquiry without having properly succeeded or failed in the world, the temptation to achieve worldly success behind the idea “I am enlightened’ often arises, which shows that the doer has survived Self realization.

If a seeker is properly qualified when firm Self realization happens, the doer is negated. Negation means that the doer’s unresolved issues are laid to rest once and for all. They do not remain and subliminally influence its decisions going forward. Self realization presents a particularly difficult problem for the Self realized doer who does not appreciate the importance of the third stage, Self actualization, because it has the capacity to use the teachings of Vedanta to suit its purposes. Unfortunately, it wants the same things all jivas want: security, pleasure, power, status, etc. Nididyasana addresses this issue and prevents this phenomenon.

These three stages are meant to be presided over by a living guru because the jiva has a built in tendency for self deception i.e. denial (tamas). Along with the “I am enlightened” idea comes the belief that I am an authority in my own right and therefore I don’t need a guru any more. So we see that a Self realized ego with unfulfilled ambitions is happy to get rid of his or her guru when it is convenient. Usually it is convenient when the guru doesn’t give you what you want or tells you something that you don’t want to hear. It is particularly difficult to hear that you are not finished with your spiritual work when you realize the Self.

I don’t write and teach for my benefit. Writing and teaching are topical responses to situations that occur daily in my relationship with people that come into my life. In the last few years I have supported the teaching tendencies of several young (ish) people in spite of the danger of enlightenment sickness and withdrew my support when I felt that I had somehow lost their respect.

In our tradition, we don’t want to monitor the lives of our students. We try to present the purity of the tradition and comport ourselves in such a way that they don’t lose sight of the nobility of the teaching and consequently consider all their actions in light of the tradition itself. I don’t claim to be a saint...far from it...but the respect that I feel for Vedanta has been transferred to thousands of people over forty-seven years of teaching. There are many humble people worldwide quietly propagating the teachings according to their innate tendencies and taking care of themselves financially without reference to the teaching. So the few instances where I was called on by my association with my office as a senior lineage holder to rap an occasional disciple on the knuckles does not in any way mitigate against the purity of my motives, nor does it change in any way the love I feel for them. Parents, for instance, don’t cease to love children who misbehave.

This satsang was occasioned because I recently withdrew my support from a young man who said I was his guru but didn’t maintain the proper relationship with me. Perhaps I bear some responsibility, but the only way forward when so many are teaching Vedanta is to trust the discrimination of my disciples. It was very clear that he did not gladly accept my withdrawal of support, which would have been the appropriate response if he was a proper karma yogi and if I was actually his teacher. Why should the gratitude that he expressed over the years suddenly evaporate, considering the fact that at the behest of my wife, Sundari, I have supported him as a teacher for several years.


Teacher is an office filled by Isvara, so whatever comes from the teacher comes from Isvara, not from a fickle ego. So for love of Isvara a proper disciple takes his or her disappointments with grace and dignity as they are opportunities for growth.

One of my gurus, Swami Dayananda, kicked me out of his Vedanta class a long time ago and I love him and Isvara for it. It was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I recently taught a group of 70 in Spain with his picture on the altar. Removal of dualistic guru bhakti is a sign of spiritual maturity and another important purpose for nididyasana.

This incident also confirmed what I already knew; that he did not appreciate the value of the nididyasana stage, probably owing to the sympathy, respect and support he was receiving from the people with whom he was communicating the teachings, which indicates the value of Vedanta in the first place and his skill as a communicator secondly. Teaching is a skill that builds ego like nothing else, in so far as people hate ignorance of every sort and respect people who can remove it. If you allow yourself to get stuck in enlightenment, enjoy the fame and think of Vedanta as career, you deny yourself the opportunity to become a truly noble soul. It doesn’t take an exceptional person to achieve success in the modern spiritual world, only a clever ambitious one.

If doership survives direct realization, the doer needs to practice nididyasana, which removes the part of the Self that is subject to ambition (rajas), boredom and depression (tamas). Residual emotional dissatisfactions should be removed if you love the sampradaya and if have compassion for your jiva.

Vedanta’s basic formula is encapsulated in the 5/10/15 rule. Of course, it varies from individual to individual but thirty years is not too long to commit yourself to Vedanta. 5 years for sravana...hearing the complete teaching with an open mind and appreciating the logic of each step. 10 years for resolving doubts (manana) created by the teaching and 15 for getting rid of jivahood, i.e. the sense of doership. The goal of Vedanta is tripti, compete jiva satisfaction. An apparent jiva remains but it has no desire whatsoever for things to be different, inwardly or outwardly, from what they are at any moment. It is called Isvara pranidanam, surrender to Isvara, or non-dual devotion (bhakti). Of course it is quite possible to dismiss your ambitions as non-existent because you are the Self, but you are fooling nobody but yourself.

Non-dual devotion means that you put the needs of others, in this case your guru, ahead of your own needs. My number one need is to protect the purity of the teaching tradition. Showing verbal guru bhakti to your disciples to convince them that they should be devoted to you and failing to consult your guru when you involve yourself financially with your disciples is not guru bhakti as it creates dependence, which is the antithesis of Vedanta’s purpose. Even if your need is legitimate, it is absolutely necessary to protect Vedanta from even the appearance of impropriety in these excessively materialist times, particularly if your disciples exist in cyberspace. In the old days, you had physical access to your guru so you could see where the donations went. If you are a proper teacher, you will not have to solicit money because people whose lives have been transformed by your teaching generously support you unasked.

If my disciple had taken time to really understand the purity of my commitment to the tradition, he would not have solicited donations in the name of ShiningWorld. Consequently, I will no longer endorse a Self realized teacher unless he or she has an independent means of support.

Tamas presents another Self actualization problem that usually affects older Self realized people who have have had families and/or careers. Jobs and families solve the problem of financial and emotional security but they don't take care of the doer problem, so the tendency to act has no place to go when you realize the zero-sum nature of life, except into a depression, because you cannot in good faith distract your doer with mindless samsaric pursuits i.e. jobs, entertainment and endless family events.

I didn't suffer that phase because I went from firm Self knowledge directly to perfect doer satisfaction because I was totally qualified when Self knowledge was firm, owing to the intense sadhana with my guru and intense sadhana on my own the three years prior to it. I never had a career or a family or any interest in worldly things after age 25. At the same time, I kept my rajasic doer hard at work studying scripture, writing commentaries and teaching Vedanta, which is the best dharma there is for a doer. To support myself I did hard physical labor for minimum wage until I was nearly seventy. Because I was successful in both love and money before I took to Vedanta it was impossible to misuse it, once Self knowledge took place. I sincerely hope that Vedanta students who want to teach will take these words to heart. Teaching is not a career. It is a sacred duty for whose values stands in direct proportion to the sacrifices you are willing to make on its behalf. It owes you nothing because it gives you everything.

Swami Paramarthananda, a guru bother, calls nididyasana 'requalifying.' You never know when, during the manana phase, firm Self-knowledge will take place and you never know how long nididyasana will take. In fact, if Self knowledge makes you a perfect spontaneous karma yogi, it doesn’t matter because time doesn’t exist for you. So if you don’t experience perfect jiva satisfaction when Self knowledge is unshakable, you need to remain humble and keep up the practices that qualified you for understanding as they will eventually remove the obstacles to limitless bliss.

Enlightened or not, the human mind needs to be committed to something other than the doer and its projections. It needs noble work until its dying day. Serving the world should fill the gap that serving the doer formerly filled. If you want to know more about the nature of non-dual devotion and the stages of spiritual development explained by Vedanta, please read The Yoga of Love, as it makes clear what a non-dual devotee is and the reasons for keeping up one's sadhana once Self-knowledge is firm.

I AM the Song of the Self

The Song of the Self

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1. I Am whole and complete, non-dual, actionless, unlimited, ever-present, ordinary Awareness/Consciousness, the Self. My nature is Unconditioned Presence, Fullness, Pure Love, Pure Existence, absolute peace, and unlimited happiness. I never change for I Am the Lord of Immortality.

2. I Am the source of all happiness and joy. You will not find lasting happiness outside of me, it is futile seeking because it does not exist. I need nothing to complete me nor any experience to make me happy. I am neither what is, nor what is not. I am pure Auspiciousness, the essence of wisdom and the eternal Reality. I alone give reality to everything. Though I am Sathya, that which is Non-dual, always present and unchanging, I created Ignorance and the unreal, or apparent reality, that which is not always present and always changing, Mithya, duality. In Mithya, dharma and adharma must co-exist or the apparent reality could not function as the Field of Existence in which jiva works out its karma. But neither dharma nor adharma is real because duality is not real. Adharma, evil, is the result of ignorance of me and not ‘my will’. I have no will. Once I am known, adharma is no longer possible and dharma is automatic.

3. I Am beyond the Macrocosm, the Creator of the Field of Existence, Isvara or ‘God’. Though Maya, the power in me to apparently limit myself exists because of me, it never hides or covers me. The Macrocosm, the Creator of the Macrocosm, the myriad laws and principles (gunas) that make up the creation and the seemingly individual jivas all appear in me like a dream, a mirage on the desert floor, a movie on a screen.

4. I Am the subject for all objects not the object for multiple subjects. An object is anything other than me. All objects are therefore known to me but do not know me because they are not sentient and, only apparently, not actually, real.

5. I Am the attributeless Nature and Essence of all objects, the invariable, essential factor that cannot be negated or removed, just like water remains when the ocean and the wave are eliminated, or the gold remains when the ring is removed. It is impossible to remove or negate me because I would have to be present to be removed or negated. I am sometimes called emptiness, but I cannot be emptiness because I am the witness of the emptiness thought. I am the Fullness of Unconditioned Awareness and cannot be changed, transformed, or reduced to anything else.

6. I Am Isness, the substrate of all Existence. The Existence of all objects belongs to me, not the objects. Everything existent in name and form arises from me, comes and goes, dissolving in me, but Existence itself remains because it is me.

7. I Am non-separate from all objects who depend on me to exist, but I depend on nothing. I am Self-Existent, I am the only thing that stands alone. I am Self-Effulgent and need no other source of light to know myself because I am the source of all light. Though all objects reflect me, the projection is not the same as me, but it is not different from me either, just as the reflection in a mirror is the same but not the same as the one who casts it; it cannot know or reach out and touch the one who casts it because the reflection is inert.

8. I Am the independent Consciousness that enlivens the body just like a ventriloquist enlivens a puppet. The apparent person seems to be alive and independently aware, but it is not. By my Light shining on the mind and senses, it thinks, feels, knows, and acts. Hypnotized by my Maya it wrongly identifies with the body, thinks it is the doer, and suffers. Maya crushes the deluded mind in its crocodile jaws convincing jiva it is flawed, insignificant, entombed in decaying flesh, subject to ever-changing forces beyond its control. Staring in the contemptuous mirror of duality with self-loathing, jiva sees only its perceived need, unlovability, vulnerability, its hateful lack, and imperfection. Instead of turning inwards to look at me, jiva looks outward at the world, hoping to be healed, seen, loved, known. Wanted. But nothing satisfies for long or can free the mind from the inevitable dissatisfaction of the limited small-self besides Self-knowledge.

9. I Am not a part, product, or property of the body/mind. The human form is a microcosmic projection of me within the Macrocosmic projection. It is an object known to me. I am thought to be associated with a material human body and mind due to ignorance of my nature, although I am always free of it. I am the unlimited Self, free of qualities and limiting factors.

10. I Am the invisible, all-pervasive, intangible space-like Consciousness in which all bodies appear, including the one jiva refers to as ‘mine’.

11. I Am only ever One, though it seems like I am two, limitless Awareness and an apparently aware individual, because of Maya’s power to delude. The apparent person appearing in me seems like a unique individual with unique characteristics, but in truth, there is only one Eternal Jiva whose essence is Atman, Me, the Self. Freedom from bondage to the idea of being a limited person/doer is moksa, liberation.

12. I Am never affected or conditioned by ignorance/duality, though when Maya weaves the creation into existence and I appear as a Subtle body, it seems as if I am. Because the apparent person is a mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of spirit and matter, like Twilight is a mixture of light and dark, I seemingly become confused and seek to find out who I am, even though I am always present and known to myself alone. Duality is not a problem for me, only the superimposition of duality onto me, the Non-dual Self, causes suffering for jiva.

13. I Am Undifferentiated and always free of the world. I appear as all names and forms, but I am nameless, formless, and never become the world. My physical form is in one order of reality, Mithya – and I am in another, Sathya. The two orders of reality never meet and do not contradict each other. Just like the reflection in the mirror is true to the reflection but neither the reflector or the reflection affect each other. Or, like when there is smoke in space, it seems as if space is smoky, but it is never actually contaminated. Nothing can contaminate, touch, or hide me.

14. I Am not limited by the boundary of the body. There is nowhere I am not. I am everywhere, brilliant, indivisible, and undefiled by sin. Wise beyond measure, I am both immanent and transcendent.

15. I Am never the jiva, the apparent person, but I seemingly use the person that appears in me as a lens to contact and transact with the world of objects. The only thing that changes when Jiva knows its primary identity is me is how and why I contact objects – which I do happily, not for happiness. I love and accept the Jiva as it is because I know there is nothing wrong with it. It’s just a program appearing in me. It does not need to be perfected, only understood and negated in the light of My Truth so that I live free of the jiva program as the Self.

16. I Am never bound by individuality. When I understand that I am the limitless Self, my individuality and sense of doership disappear because I was only seemingly ignorant of my true nature. I am never liberated either because I was never actually bound. With or without my apparent individuality I am, and always have been, the limitless Self, free of knowledge and ignorance. I just thought I was a person, thanks to Maya. If my ignorance was real, it could not be removed by Self-knowledge.

17. I Am never incarnated so I do not reincarnate. But, at the determined time, according to the momentum of its past actions, the Gross Body dies, and the Subtle Body goes into a potential, unmanifest state, subsumed in the Macrocosmic Causal Body from whence it came. Depending on whether the vasana load and karma of the deceased jiva have been resolved, it may or may not appear as another jiva. If it does, the next Subtle body that incarnates will have the same vasana/karma load but not the same personality/ego. Those who perceive me in every being ‘merge into me’ and are released from the wheel of birth and death.

18. I Am unborn and undying. I am unaffected by the body superimposed on my radiance, so I Am unaffected by the birth or death of the body. Realize me as the Self and conquer death. I am hidden in the hearts of everyone, the first and only causeless cause, and the final resting place. Obsessively devote your mind to me and I will reveal Myself to you.

19. I Am not limited by or ‘in’ time. Time is an object known to me and is another name for desire, projection. It is Mithya, I am Sathya. I am eternal, beyond time, space, and causality. I am inexhaustible, beginningless and endless. From within myself I project and sustain the whole cosmos. At my command evolution begins. At the end of time, I withdraw the whole creation back into itself like the spider its web.

20. I Am Self-Evident and need nothing to prove my Existence/Consciousness. It is obvious all living beings exist and are conscious. When I am apparently under the spell of ignorance I know that I exist and am conscious, but I do not know that I AM Existence/Consciousness itself, or, what this means. I rely on the testimony of the senses, but they fool me. Eyes cannot see me, ears cannot hear me, nor can words express me. The mind cannot grasp me, though I am that by which you know what you know. I am known but not known because I am other than the known and the unknown.

21. I Am never contaminated or affected by the thoughts and feelings that appear in me even though without me, no thought or experience is possible. I illumine and pervade every thought/experience. I exist between thoughts and in all three states of being available to jiva, waking, dreaming and deep sleep. I do not come and go when thoughts/experience or states of being come and go. I am the knower of the coming and going of all things and whatever happens in the mind makes no difference to me. The mind cannot hide me, but, when it is identified with thoughts/feelings and the body, it is confused and deluded by duality – Maya. It thinks it is a limited and incomplete person, so chases objects to complete itself and suffers.

22. I Am the non-experiencing witness to whom experience is presented by the experiencing entity. Yet, I am also the ultimate experiencer even though I am never directly experiencing anything because I lack nothing. Jiva life is one unbroken stream of experience generated by the gunas, Isvara. Experience presents no problem for my jiva if its true meaning is assimilated, which is, that no experience takes place without my light shining on the mind illumining unconscious content. Experience does not take place ‘in’ me because there is nothing but me. There is no ‘space’ to accommodate objects/experience in non-duality. Non-dual means nothing other than. Experience takes place in the apparent reality, in Mithya, the world of objects created by Maya, and never touches me.

23. I Am Limitless Bliss which has nothing to do with the experiential bliss of feelings and is never affected by them. I am always experiencing limitless bliss because it is my nature. It is not something that happens ‘to me’ when the jiva feels good. It is who I am, so does not come and go, like feelings and states of mind do.

24. I Am the Silence beyond silence because there are no differences in me. I need no thought or sense organs to exist as I do not have a body or mind. I am the witness of the body and the empty or active, noisy mind. The silence which is devoid of sound cannot reveal me. Soundless Silence is an object known to me and will not remove ignorance of my nature. For that, only self-inquiry with a valid means of knowledge for me works.

25. I Am neither sentient nor insentient. I am the knower of both and by my presence alone I make sentiency possible. I never modify to experience so cannot be called conscious as such, because there is nothing to be conscious of other than me. It is only when Maya, the power to delude and not know appears in me that I seem to be conscious because there is something for me to be conscious of – the apparent reality.

26. I Am Beyond the jiva’s means of knowledge for objects. Even though I operate perception, I cannot be known by the senses, or by perception and inference because I am the subject, not an object of perception. Nothing a limited entity/doer/ego can do will reveal me or produce limitlessness as it is the doer/ego that stands in the way of freedom from limitation. The object cannot know the subject because I am subtler than the objects. By my power alone is the mind capable of self-reflection, to think, desire and will. I have given you free will to choose and the means to know me, but you must be taught to think differently and surrender to me. If you resist me, believing the world can give you what you seek, I cannot free you from the whirlpool of samsara, which is no problem for me, but it is for the jiva. I can only be known by the analysis of your own experience through inquiry into the cause and effect, i.e., the creation, with a valid and independent means of knowledge for me, which is Vedanta, Self-knowledge. Use this powerful teaching to meditate on me. Only Self-knowledge can reveal my true nature with the removal of the superimposition of duality onto me, non-duality, and end existential suffering for jiva. For self-inquiry, jiva needs certain qualifications, the first being the realization that there is nothing to gain in this world. Also needed is a qualified teacher of Vedanta capable of wielding the teachings, just like an expert restorer is required to painstakingly remove the layers of accretions on a masterpiece that hide its true glory. If you try to teach yourself the mind will contaminate the teachings with its own ideas and prejudices.

27. I Am not the reflection, though I can be experienced as a reflection of My Self in a pure sattvic mind, but the reflection does not know me directly because it too is an object of perception. Once Self-knowledge has removed all the limiting factors that seem to hide me from being known, I am known directly as the one and only true and unlimited SELF – CONSCIOUSNESS. Once this knowledge is firm, it can never be lost.

28. I am never not Awareness and am only ever experiencing Awareness, regardless of what the mind believes or thinks it knows because there is no other option.

29. I Am the Self does not mean I must act in a ‘special’ way as the jiva. There are no rules and no karma for me, the Self. How my jiva behaves once liberated from duality will depend entirely on discrimination as the Self, not on the likes and dislikes of the jiva because I am no longer bound to or identified with the jiva/doer, so am no longer driven by fear and desire. All desires that still exist will be in harmony with dharma and non-binding. Once liberated from bondage to the limited small-self, I continue to exist as the jiva with a given nature, always following dharma spontaneously with great devotion to Isvara, the Creator, or God. But I do so minus the hypnosis of duality. I do not believe ‘in’ God because I know there is only God, that Isvara and Jiva share the same identity as Me, the Self.

30. I am the Self means I would never cause injury to life in any form because I know it is all me. The world may not be real, but it is an intelligently designed universe that runs on certain laws that must be understood and honoured for the jiva to have a peaceful life. Macrocosmic Maya continues when jiva’s personal ignorance (avidya) has been removed, but when I know I am the Self and not the person, the world of objects and the jiva is as good as non-existent, for me.

31. I Am totally free of fear, worry, smallness, insecurity, helplessness, confusion and need. Nothing can be taken from or added to me. Having gained the fruit of knowledge, I know there is nothing other than me. I need no validation because I validate everything. Contented and free of the senses, I enjoy being alone, sipping the nectar of the bliss of my Self. I do not need distraction or entertainment and I am never miserable in this world, for I know the whole universe is filled with me alone. There is nothing else for me to identify with. Because I no longer perceive duality which is the source of all misery, sorrow cannot touch me, though jiva still apparently experiences positive and negative feelings. All my actions are but apparent, so experiences, feelings and desires leave no impression on my mind. As I know I am eternal I have no body idea though I honor and take care of the body Isvara presents before me. I Am ever-free and never bound, unattached to objects, always at peace. I am desirous neither of enjoyment or liberation and have no attachment or aversion to virtue, security, pleasure, freedom, life, or death. Life and death are meaningless to me. I live happily on whatever comes as a matter of course. Being fulfilled by the knowledge of the Self my mind is absorbed in the glory of Self-knowledge and its resulting blessings, content that nothing needs to be done.

32. I Am Moksa. I am not a rare event, experience or ‘happening’. I cannot be attained because I am not an object of experience. You cannot gain something you already have. I am, always have been, always will be, ever-free, ever-present, ever-full Consciousness. See Me, the Essence of Mercy, in your Heart and in everyone. Realize I am the Ordainer, the maker of all the laws and the ruler of all. You attain the goal when you realize I Am the only Reality, the source of truth, wisdom, and boundless joy.

33. I am the altar fire burning in the homes of the righteous. I am the limitless light of Awareness that flashes in the lightening, that twinkles in the stars and in your eyes. I am the light shining on the day and the night, the source of the sun and of every light in the universe. Throughout my luminous robes are woven the heavens, the earth, mind, and body. I dwell in men, in the gods, in truth, and in the vast firmament. I Am the air you breathe, the fish swimming in the rivers and the plants growing on the earth. I Am the wind blowing in space, the replenishing rain falling on the land and the dewdrop on the flower. I Am the butterfly, the blue bird, and the green bird with red eyes. I Am the fiery volcano, the thundercloud, the violent storm, the seasons, and the seas. I Am the giver and taker of Life. I Am all that is beautiful and all that is ugly. I Am the innocent baby, the boy and the girl, the man and the woman and the old man tottering on his staff. My face is everywhere. I have no beginning and no end.

I Am You.

Brahma Sathyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Bramaiva Na Parah
I, the Self, Am Limitless Consciousness and Jiva is Non-Different from Me

Sundari