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You Are Not Impure
Jack: Hello, James. I finished How to Attain Enlightenment today, taking me nearly five months of daily reading, and I am convinced you are doing well. I am writing to you because I have questions and comments. First, the comments.
I’m in the middle of your autobiography, about page 100-something, and I must say that it’s highly inspiring. It’s so real, and thank you for that. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but honesty does build friendships, right? It’s inspiring that such a self-loathing, slow-learning curmudgeon with vices up the wahoo could lose their ignorance. I say this because for years I loathed, drank myself silly, battled with sex addictions, fought endlessly with lovers and, in short, hated myself. I got into yoga and meditation at 20, and Vedanta at 26 (thank God too). And now, at nearly 28, I’ve read your book and there is so much clarity in my understanding.
James: It just goes to show that even sinners can become saints.
Jack: There are two points I need clarification on. First, I read, understood, reread and accepted each chapter before moving to the next one, just as you recommended. Without going into each chapter, as that would take, well, a book, I couldn’t help but glean the fact that everything up until “Knowledge Yoga” was for knowledge yoga. That is, every yoga presented was to purify the mind for vichara. And of knowledge yoga, applying the opposite thought to each and every vasana is the real meat and potatoes of the teaching. That reorients one’s vision into a non-dual one, as the vasanas aren’t in line with the understanding. Is this correct?
James: Yes, indeed.
Jack: Moreover, in regards to applying the opposite thought, there seems to be an apparent chicken-and-egg situation. Must one apply the opposite thought to clear up residual vasanas post-moksa? Or must one do it for moksa (not that action will set me free)? Or do both?
James: Before, during and after, it’s good. The mind is the mind and when it needs correcting it needs correcting. It will have some issues post-self-realization. The self will not be fully actualized in your apparent life until the last doubt has been removed. Eventually, the knowledge will kill the mind completely, but it takes time.
I notice in this statement and others below that you seem to be thinking of moksa as the end result of something. While it can be viewed that way, it is better to think of yourself as already free. Moksa is not something that is going to happen one fine day. Moksa is your nature now. You are moksa, i.e. free. So it is best to think like this and act from this understanding. This will burn up your impurities like nothing else, giving you great spiritual confidence, and one fine day you will see that it has always been true.
Jack: No, I haven’t had “the hard and fast understanding that I am non-dual, ordinary, actionless awareness.” There is a feeling that ignorance will leave soon because once one’s eyes have been open to the deepest and most available of realities, they cannot be shut.
James: This is true. Once you are on the Vedanta bus you will get to your destination.
Jack: Yes, awareness to me is both “I” and an object because doubts still remain, but continued listening and inquiry will reduce them until I know I am the self.
James: So you are saying that intellectually you understand that awareness is both the subject, “I,” and the objects, but you still have doubts, so you need to listen and contemplate more?
There is a doubt here, but I can’t seem to figure out what it is; I think it is a language problem. To say “awareness to me is both ‘I’ and the object” is not correct, because awareness is just awareness. It is free of objects. The “awareness” in which objects appear is reflected awareness, i.e. the subtle body, i.e. Jack’s mind. Awareness is “that because of which the objects, i.e. subjective events like thoughts and feelings, etc. appear.” It is completely free of objects.
Jack: Yet it seems that vigorously applying the opposite thought – which is an action – with introspection sets one free.
James: Yes, indeed.
Jack: I also gleaned from your guna yoga section that one must fully understand how they work, be able to identify them as they arise, but ultimately renounce them as not-self – because they too are maya and the self is free of parts – but finally see them as totally dependent on me, awareness.
Jack: If this is so, enlightenment need not ultimately be about purification of all things in maya (sans purifying enough to inquire), because that is a dualistic concept.
James: Yes. Why? Because maya is also awareness. So as awareness it is fine. It is only “impure” when you take yourself to be a jiva and identify the apparent reality to be the only reality.
Jack: I think you said that one needs to stop being impure, but stop trying to purify.
James: Who needs to stop? The self is already pure and you are the self, so you can’t stop being impure. And you can’t purify the self. The part that needs purifying is the reflected self, the intellect. As long as it has erroneous notions, its knowledge will not reflect the reality of your self.
Jack: I see this apparent contradiction as enlightenment being the shift in identity – not experience – and to apply the knowledge that all things in maya depend on me, I am free of them and already whole and complete. Is this understanding correct?
James: I think you have a confusion between the self, pure awareness, and the “self” that we call “reflected awareness,” or the subtle body, i.e. what Jack probably thinks of as “I.” If you see that you are pure awareness, no purification is necessary or possible. If you think you are the reflected self, purification is possible, but it is only nececessary when you do not understand that you are pure awareness.