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I Finally Got It
James: Hi, Brian. Isabella is working on a book and asked me to reply to your email.
Brian: Anyway, I was just wondering where and how I will find a qualified teacher in order for them to grant me the self-knowledge in order to remove my ignorance.
James: I am a qualified teacher, Brian. You can read the testimonials on the website if you like – start with the new satsangs and work back. But there is no way you can tell, so you would have to take my word for it. And why should you? I may be a power hungry guru, for all you know. But, for now, let’s assume I am a well-meaning friend that perhaps knows something you don’t. In any case, a teacher cannot “grant” you self-knowledge, although you probably won’t “get it” without a teacher. Self-knowledge is not something difficult to understand. It is quite simple, actually. It is just knowledge of you as limitless, non--dual, ordinary, unconcerned awareness. And ignorance is pretty simple too. It is thinking you are Brian, a limited entity, born at a certain time, bothered by various fears and desires, seeking self-knowledge, for example. So what’s the big deal, then?
Self-knowledge may be simple but it is not easy because these two views of yourself contradict each other. One says you are limitless and free, the other that you are limited and bound. Which one is true? Let’s say you accept the idea that you are limited and free, which is Vedanta’s point of view. This knowledge is only useful if it causes you to live free. But everyday desires and fears tell you to chase certain things and avoid certain other things. If you obey these desires without considering the fact that you don’t need the things they pull you to, or cause you to avoid, then what use is self knowledge? So self-knowledge is applying the truth of who you are – whole and complete awareness – to the fears and desires that appear and dismissing them because you know that the objects that they point to cannot satisfy you. We have many teachings that make your work easier because all the teachings remove the root ignorance that creates the fears and desires. Those teachings are laid out very carefully in my books, articles and videos. Which videos did you watch? I suggest you get the Vedanta Full Set from the website and watch it systematically, starting with the self-inquiry series, then the Bhagavad Gita, etc. And keep going over the book. The satsangs on the website are extremely helpful. You can start with the most recent ones and work back.
Brian: Apparently, even after watching all the videos and reading the book, I don’t know how I will attain the self-knowledge if doing it myself will twist the ideas into ignorance.
James: This is true. Ignorance is very clever. If you feel that you already have the basic idea of discriminating the self – awareness – from Brian – the jiva – then write with your questions and I will answer. This is where the teacher comes in. It is always good to hear the teachings live but if you are systematic and watch the videos, and do the reading, they will remove your ignorance. Some people find the videos even more effective than live teaching because they can rewind and hear it again until it makes sense.
Why not come to one of my seminars in the West? I do weekends in Berkeley and Reno, and seven days at Trout Lake, Washington, near Portland.
There are no proper traditional Vedanta teachers in your city, and the Ramakrishna Mission is good for some devotional things but there is no proper teaching. It is called New Vedanta, as opposed to Neo--Avaita, and, as you know, perpetuates a number of spiritual myths. They are not bad people. Most of the swamis are kind and decent but they live in the past, and mostly the Mission is centered around devotion to Ramakrishna and the Mother which is not the kiss of death, but is not moksa. If you want to attend, I suggest you just go for the atmosphere and don’t try to discuss with them the essential teachings because they have their own take on Vedanta. It seems like Vedanta but it is not traditional. If you distort even one teaching, it is no longer Vedanta.
Brian: After much reading and watching, I think I’ve finally got it. The self is simply the knower and I am it. Although my body and everything in the realm of maya is affected by karma, I am not. What I am is simply what’s watching this body-mind play throughout life with its silly antics, behaviors and thoughts. This individual jiva of mine is simply a personality that has been programmed to contribute to the creation. It seems like a coincidence but it’s not; there are people who think like me and have similar thoughts. Not all of them, though they have different roles to play, but I’m never separate or isolated from creation. I believe what I have to do is disassociate this body with the knowledge that I am the knower, or else I will take everything that has ever happened to it as “me.” Though I do care about this jiva of mine and its personal desires/fears, I find it disappointing now that improving it doesn’t make me more enlightened. Although it can improve in the apparent reality, later in life it will be over because maya is simply impermanent. So basically the jiva gets nothing except the knowledge that he/she is the knower. Does this mean I have to keep pursuing qualifications? You claim that it’s meant to simply prepare the mind before moksa, but once I got it, there’s no need to do anymore, and I can simply just rest as the knower. Or is there more I can do to live my life more in accordance with it? You mentioned about living a sattvic lifestyle and behaving in accordance to dharma. But I assume this is all prior to enlightenment.
Thank you for personally responding back to me. I was surprised simply because the site stated you were busy, so I assumed you would ask another realized individual listed on the page to answer these questions. Regardless, I really appreciate it. Thanks!
James: You are welcome. Yes, you figured it out. Anyone who is diligent in inquiry and who appreciates the value of a legitimate means of knowledge, i.e. Vedanta, will figure it out. It is not complicated but it is not easy either, because it requires the jiva to let go of some cherished, but incorrect, beliefs. Your statement,“So basically the jiva gets nothing except the knowledge that he/she is the knower,” is sad but true. There is nothing for it to “get” here insofar as the apparent reality is, well, apparent. It’s often a bit of a letdown, and takes the wind out of the doer’s sails. It might be a bit depressed until the idea that there is something to gain fades away. When it does, there is only enjoyment.
Brian: Does this mean I have to keep pursuing qualifications?
James: No. You understand. Qualifications are helpful to get you to understand. But they will stand you in good stead anyway. For example, it is natural to feel a bit let down when you realize who you are. This agitation means that there is a still some rajas disturbing the subtle body. The rajas is there in the form of an expectation of a result – a better Brian! – that is now known to be futile. But the twofold knowledge of yourself as the knower and of the unreality of the world supplies the dispassion needed to dismiss the agitation. So the knowledge is the only “qualification” you need. This knowledge is discrimination and it is dispassion, a tool that is always useful should you need it. Rajas and tamas will continue to arise – they are part of the nature of life – but they will have lost their sting. You will experience them from afar.
Your lifestyle should get more and more sattvic because you appreciate the impact of rajas and tamas on the mind, so you make the choices that create a simple environment that reflects the beauty of awareness, blessing the jiva.
Self-realization is the end of seeking. It is not the end of life. Life begins when seeking ends.
Good for you, Brian. You just joined the jnanis club, not that anyone but you and me know. Good luck with everything.
~ Love, James