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If You Can’t Make It, Fake It
Ram: Dear Franklin, in my last letter I said, “Well, you will have to wait until Presence goes to give me an answer. There are never any questions when Presence is present. They only come when it goes. So the big question then is: Why does it come and go? Any presence that comes and goes is not real. So what use is this kind of presence?”
And you said, “It is not that Presence comes and goes, it is my awareness of it being here that comes and goes, when I feel it, it’s clear that has been always here because it’s me, and it is also clear that somehow I was aware that it was present even if that awareness was not in the mind.”
This is a good answer. You are very close to realization. Let’s think your statement through carefully. You say that your awareness of Presence comes and goes. Now tell me if you come and go. I say that you do not come and go. Your awareness is an object to you. It is outside of you. So you see it becoming aware of Presence and then you see when it is not aware of Presence. So this means that your awareness (read: mind) is not you. It is something that is seen or experienced and you are the seer, the knower.
Your next statement confirms experientially that Presence (the self) is always here and then you make a statement that shows that you are self-realized. You say, “…it’s me.” This is called indirect self-knowledge. Indirect realization is good but it needs to become direct. How does it become direct? It becomes direct when you say “I am it.”
Your final statement is very interesting and I will tell you what it means. You say, “…somehow I was aware that it was present even if that awareness was not in the mind.” This shows that you have self-knowledge. Why? Because if the awareness was not in the mind then it can only belong to you, the self. And in fact, as I have mentioned, the self is chaitanya, or chit, and this means “awareness.” So you are awareness. This you experience and this you know. Because of this I say you are enlightened.
But you will not accept this. You will say that this knowledge is not enough, that it is only intellectual and then you will go on to tell me that you are just a small self that is attached to so many things.
So here we have a big problem. You know by experience that you are the self. You say this in your own words and I cannot find anything wrong with this statement. It is in harmony with Vedanta. And then you say that you are not the self and that you are a small self attached to many things.
Since you aren’t two beings, please tell me which one you are. You cannot give me an answer like you did to your guru to the question about moksa or your girlfriend. You cannot be both. Are you awareness or are you the small self?
If you say that you are awareness then you can just throw away that small self altogether and stop worrying about attachments and “going beyond” because these silly ideas belong to the small self – which you say you aren’t. And if you are awareness then you are already “beyond.” You are the absolute. There is no other awareness behind you looking at you.
So from your own experience and words it is clear that you are the self and not Franklin. Can you see it? If you accept it then your spiritual work is finished. If you don’t, if you want to be the small self in spite of your knowledge and experience to the contrary, then I will tell you how to turn the small self into the self.
So now let’s take up the statements you made about your lack of burning desire and your attachment to the small self. You say: “I will reply beginning with the first point, ‘burning desire,’ intensity. That is a very key point and I feel I can’t do anything for this if is not there.”
And I said, “When you asked me if I can take you ‘beyond,’ how badly do you want it? If you’re not highly motivated, how can you succeed?”
And then you replied: “This point is the most important: I am not motivated enough. Is this true? If the desire is like the desire a drowning man has for air then I am not at that level and I don’t know how to reach that. For sure, since I met Osho I can’t live without feeling in contact with Truth or with that Love that is beyond the normal love. I have always chosen to be living close to the guru in spite of other things.”
Franklin: But when Devananda asked me, “What do you want, Franklin, God or your girlfriend?,” I answered, “Both.” And if I am asked again I will give the same answer, yet I know that to keep my girlfriend I have to “leave” her. I still have attachments, though not many (lust is very strong), I live a simple life but that is not enough, I am attached to my small self.
I am attached to the image I have of myself. All the experiences I have do not touch me deeply, because they become part of my small self. I can be the Vastness, I can be the Silence, yet I experience that it is the small self that is the vastness, the silence.
Ram: I think you are still attached to the small self and its small pleasures because you have not realized how limited they are. In other words, your lack of a burning desire for moksa is related to your lack of dispassion toward worldly objects. For example, you won’t walk away from sex, because you have not seen its limitations, how it gives you a temporary feeling of freedom and binds you at the same time. In maya everything has an upside and a downside. And the upside – what it is that attracts you – is equally balanced by some cost. For example, to satisfy your lust you might have to keep your girlfriend happy – unless she’s as lustful as you, in which case your relationship is just good business. However, very often you have to say and do things that you really don’t want to say and do to keep her in a good mood so she is available to relieve your lust. You might have to tell small lies or just waste time pampering her emotionally to get her past some silly insecurity when this is something she should be doing herself.
But never mind this. What about the lust itself? It must feel pretty bad or you wouldn’t need to keep a girlfriend handy. And when you have sex you guarantee that the bad feeling, the lust, comes back. So you have sex again to get rid of the lust and it just reinforces the lust. Around and around you go from feeling good to feeling bad to feeling good to feeling bad – what is wrong with this picture? Why do you keep this cycle going? Actually, what is happening is the lust, which is tamasic, is blinding you to what it actually going on. This is what I mean by limitation. And what is true with lust is true with every desire-prompted activity.
If you want to “go beyond” you cannot take your vasanas with you. It says in the Bible: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” In this case “rich man” means someone who is attached to a lot of worldly and spiritual experiences. For “kingdom of heaven,” read “the self.” Why not just give up on this desire to “go beyond”? Perhaps it is best to just stay in maya until you get completely fed up with it and your desire for transcendence becomes like a raging fire. It will happen one day and then all your sadhana and your association with mahatmas will bear fruit.
Perhaps it will take a long time for you to get fed up because it sounds to me like you have done very well in maya. I think you have a nice personality, health, money, sex and lots of time on your hands so you can surf the internet. You probably have good spiritual friends to make satsang or bhajan with. You also have bhakti for saints and for the Truth, and this is a rare and valuable possession. Why would you want to “leave” that for the unknown life “beyond”?
In reality you don’t have to leave anything. Everything can remain just as it is. There is nothing wrong with any of it. In a non-dual reality it is all you, the self. All that happens is that you have to embrace a larger identity, one that includes your small self within it. And that larger identity you have already realized, as we have seen above. So if you are still not satisfied then perhaps you are just plain stubborn. Maybe you would rather hang on to your limited identity – even though you know full well that you are limitless. Or maybe the problem is that you do not understand the value of being the self. Maybe, as you say, it is the small self being the self.
If this is true then you need teaching. By this I mean that you need to understand the value of freedom. I often meet people who have experienced freedom who say, “That’s just great, I’m free, now I think I’ll have everything I always wanted.” This is called spiritual materialism. The small self has turned the self into an experiential possession and then wants to go on accumulating other experiential possessions. It does not realize that the freedom that comes from being whole and complete is so satisfying that the idea of getting some additional satisfaction from situations in maya doesn’t even occur to it. So it is incapable of rest. In your case you experience and know that you are the self but you are still attached to worldly pleasures and pains. And the worldly attachments must not be very satisfying, because you want to “go beyond.” If you study the logic behind these words your desire to be free will start to grow. If you are spiritually honest you will have to accept what is being said, not because I say it, but because it is the truth.
When you understand the value of freedom you can bring that freedom to the mind. By this I mean that you can confidently purify the rajas and tamas from the mind. There is no experience in maya that is superior in terms of pleasure to a pure mind. If you think that satisfying sexual lust is a big pleasure you should experience the pleasure of a pure mind. It is like having an orgasm in every cell every minute. Why? Because the bliss of the self is directly experienced without the aid of gross or subtle objects. In the case of someone who is stuck in samsara, they have to take the bliss indirectly as it reflects off the objects that the mind contacts. They think it is pretty wonderful, but they do not know that it is a pale reflection of the bliss of a mind that is locked on the self.
It puzzles me that you are not ready to let go of your small self and its nice life if, as you say, “I can be the Vastness, I can be the Silence.” If you truly did experience yourself as limitless and supremely peaceful, then why is it not easy to walk away from your small self and all its temporary pleasures? Usually the experience of the self is so satisfying that the mind locks on it and won’t let it go. The outer attachments just drop off naturally because the mind is enjoying a much greater pleasure. The Vedic texts call the self “parama sukka,” supreme pleasure.
You say, “I experience it is the small self that is the Vastness, the Silence.” This is true but you, the Silence, the Vastness, are not the small self. I think the problem here is that you have failed to identify yourself completely with the Vastness even though you say you are it.
The basic problem with self-experience is that it is difficult to make the transition to identity with the self. It is only your identity as the self that will set you free. When people experience, the things they experience always seems to be something other than the one who is experiencing. This, however, is not true with the self. When you experience the self it is the self that experiences itself, not “Franklin,” whoever that is. But if you don’t know this you think that the ego/mind/small self is experiencing the self and you cannot see the connection between it and the self.
What I have suggested several times in the two previous emails and in this one is that you are not the small self, that you are “the beyond,” that you are the Vastness. The knowledge that you are the self is moksa. It is something you have to see and appreciate for what it is. To appreciate it you have to hold your mind steady on the self and investigate what you are seeing/knowing/experiencing. At some point it will become completely clear that you are the Vastness alone and not the mind that is experiencing it. This frees you of your identification with the mind.
So now let’s come down into maya. You say, “I know all this intellectually but I haven’t realized it.” I think this is true. Is there anything you can do about it? In Vedanta we have a saying: “If you can’t make it, fake it.” This means if you can’t realize it, then you have to think and act as if you have realized it. You have to have faith in the words of the gurus and the scripture and your own experiences of Vastness. If you do then you can recondition your mind to see yourself as the self. The problem is in your mind – it thinks it isn’t enlightened, so you have to change the way it thinks.
The practice of transforming the mind is called pratipaksha bhavana, applying the opposite thought. In this case you have been saying that you are the small self for so long that you actually believe that you are the small self. This is simply not true. This is a non-dual reality, and there is only one self and that self is limitless. So you are actually limitless. You are vast. So every time you think, “I am the small self, I am attached to this and that,” you are living a lie. Your belief in this lie is very strong.
So you have to change the thought that you aren’t free. It is hard work because this voice in your mind that tells you that you are lacking something, that you are small and spiritually unworthy, has become a deep samskara. So what has to happen – if you take up this sadhana – is that every time you catch yourself thinking like this you have to recall your experience as the self and change that thought to, “I am limitless, I am everything that is, I am whole and complete, nothing is missing,” etc. When you do this for some time, you notice that your life starts to change. It changes because the way you see yourself has changed. Your life starts to become vast and silent and very satisfying. This practice works because your idea about who you are is in harmony with the Truth, with Reality. If you say, “I’m an attached small self,” then you your life is only in harmony with the dream of maya.
I know what you will say: “But this is dishonest. I don’t feel like I’m vast and limitless and complete.” And I will say, “That’s right. The reason you don’t feel that way is because your thoughts have conditioned your feelings.” Behind every feeling is an idea. That “I am a small self” thought has generated the feeling of dissatisfaction and the desire to be free because it is not in harmony with the truth. This is why in my last letter I said that you are prisoner of your feelings, your experience. It is the wrong idea of who you are that is causing your problem. In Panchadasi Vidyaranya Swami says, “If you think you are not enlightened, you are not enlightened. If you think you are enlightened, you are enlightened.”
Waiting around for some kind of experience to solve the problem is not going to work. You were with mahatmas, but they couldn’t transmit this understanding to you. You have had plenty of experience of yourself as whole and complete, yet you keep right on thinking that something is missing. So I recommend this practice. It takes a lot of mindfulness because this “I am the small self” thought is very subtle and it has worked its way into your thinking from childhood. So it is always there behind the screen of your daily thoughts. And this practice, investigation of the “I,” digs it out and objectifies it so you can see that it is not true.
~ Love, Ram
Franklin: Dear Ram, thanks for your beautiful answer. I am totally with what you are saying. I will do what you suggest, and I don’t feel I am faking, because I have done something similar though not as a regular practice. I asked myself, “Am I realized or not?,” or, “Am I the self or not?,” or similar questions, and each time it happens that I couldn’t answer “no” but I couldn’t even answer “yes,” because that knowing is not of the mind.
Deep down I know for sure that “no” would be false and then I cannot say it or if I say it I feel I am lying. But saying yes feels also difficult because, as you say, my mind can’t believe it. So I will use these positive affirmations as you suggest.
What makes it difficult to believe is that somehow Vastness, of Silence, seem less concrete than material objects or less material than feelings that somehow are felt also body-wise, and so felt more real. It’s difficult to perceive Emptiness (with Presence) as more real than body and feelings, because “I” is used to another kind of substantiality coming mostly through body perception (I include feelings and maybe even thoughts in these body perceptions). At the same time there is nothing more real than the sense of self (Self) that is always here with me and it is me, and as far as I know is there also in sleep and enjoys the sleep. What could be more real, what gives me my very existence?
~ In love, Franklin