Search & Read
In the Ballpark
Daniel: Dear James and Sundari, respectfully, I would like to ask you a question about the necessity for a qualified teacher, and the form that such may take. I hope you can find the time to respond. I’d like to give you a bit of background information about me, “my search” and my present condition before getting to my actual question, if that’s okay…
I came across your website ShiningWorld.com “by chance” when I was searching for some material on Ramana Maharshi. I very much enjoyed your commentary on the Maharshi’s teaching, and found your approach and style very refreshing and helpful for someone such as me, coming from a Western point of view.
I bookmarked your site, but didn’t visit again for quite a while until recently. I have since read your autobiography Mystic by Default, and many of the satsang topics on the site. I also took the quiz. I have listened to the series of audio talks given on the site as “self-enquiry.” I’ve also recently discovered your Vedanta Retreat material on YouTube (the series that was given in Germany).
I was comforted to note that your teaching tradition comes through Swami Chinmayananda. I have spent many hours listening to both Chinmayananda and Dayananda on YouTube on topics of self-enquiry and the Gita in the past several years. I found myself very attracted to that style of teaching/tradition, even though I have listened to or read many other teachers, including some of those you refer to as “the Neos.”
I am 47 years old, and I first came across non--dual teaching about six years ago. I was very committed to a form of “existential Christianity” within Catholicism, when one night in bed I quite spontaneously had the mental realisation that there could be no separation between myself and God, and that in a certain qualified sense “I am God.” I sensed that “God” was actually revealing this to me directly, and I was very happy about it (I could even rationalise it in terms of Christian theology of the fall) – that is how I understood it at the time, anyhow, and I had had no exposure to advaita/non--dualism at that time. That initiated an intense period of search which inevitably turned me toward the East. Actually, I have been quite explicitly in a search for knowledge since my young adulthood, which has taken one form or another, one (wrong) turn and another. It all began in my teens with many spontaneous lucid dreams/OBEs.
I think I have understood your teaching on the qualifications to receive the Vedanta, but I live in the most isolated city on the planet. As far as I can tell, there are no qualified teachers here at all. I have come across a couple of Vedanta groups, but none of them are teaching the Vedanta in the way that I have seen through the traditional line that you advocate. There is a single contact for a person of the Chinmaya mission on the other side of the city –‐ I don’t know if that person is an enlightened teacher or not. I have understood the non--dual teaching intellectually (I got over 80 on your quiz!), but I find I am not liberated, confident in the teaching of my true nature. In fact, earlier this year I had somewhat of a “spiritual crash” which left me with a bit of an anxiety condition that I’m trying to get through now. I put this down to getting lost again in the world and ending up confused and depressed in front of my incomprehension of my own existence. The intense desire that I have “to know” seems to often take the form of fear of “time running out” and fear of death.
So, the questions: Should I just forget about Vedanta for the time being, trust in Isvara and wait for a suitably qualified teacher to appear? Or is it possible to continue on my own and receive some teaching through your (and others in that tradition) audio and video recordings, and keep working on karma yoga to reduce the vasanas (the source of all my fears and anxieties)? I notice on your website you talk about being “in the presence” of a qualified teacher.
I hope that you will be able to find the time in your busy schedule to respond.
~ Wishing you well in your continuing mission, Daniel
James: Dear Daniel, after a careful read of your email and giving a bit of thought about your seeking the answer to your question, “Should I just forget about Vedanta for the time being, trust in Isvara and wait for a suitably qualified teacher to appear?,” is no. You should “continue on your own.” You are definitely in the ballpark, so not to worry. If you have difficultly assimilating the teachings, it is for lack of qualification, not the physical presence of a teacher. Quite a few inquirers are set free solely on the basis of my books, videos and the website, although attending a seminar or two definitely can’t hurt.
Your letter gave me two clues concerning your qualifications: “I have understood the non--dual teaching intellectually… I quite spontaneously had the mental realization…” These quotes suggest a belief that there are two kinds of realization, a “mental” or “intellectual” realization and an experiential realization. This belief is perhaps the most common obstacle to freedom. Please re--read Chapter 2 of How to Attain Enlightenment and get the booklet on the website Knowledge and Experience to get the logic clear concerning the nature of liberation. In fact the “mental” realization “I am God” is liberation. Liberation is just the knowledge of one’s non--dual wholeness, one’s limitlessness. The knowledge made you happy because it is true. Why didn’t the knowledge stick and keep you happy till this day? Because you failed understand what it means to be “God.” This is where Vedanta fits in; it contextualizes this fact by revealing the “big picture,” the nature of reality and how Daniel and his knowledge is to be understood.
The second clue is your statement “getting lost in the world.” This means that there is lack of clarity with reference to your goal in life. Please read Chapter 1 of my new book The Essence of Enlightenment and memorize the arguments.
Once you get these two teachings clear, you should have clear sailing assuming you keep applying karma yoga throughout the day. If you have questions you can write. I also do Skype satsangs by donation. Keep reading Dayananda. Hold off on Chinmayananda until you have assimilated Chapter 2 because he often gives the impression that enlightenment is experiential which will only increase your confusion.
I hope this has been helpful.
~ Love, James
PS: What city do you live in?