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Seeker: Dear James, are you familiar with Atmananda Krishna Menon? I have been listening to Greg Goode’s interview with Chris Hebard. It is a very detailed analysis that caused an experience of being in a direct state of immediate knowledge… or some samadhi. Since it faded it only takes a little attention for me to feel this again. But I cannot say it is a feeling either, because it is a transparent feeling… the feeling is a by-product. It reminds me of this peace and clarity and expansion I used to experience, like a dramatic crystal ball which is too subtle to describe. Metaphors like a “screen” and “crystal, see-through, glass-like” awareness come to mind. It was a frequent and sudden shift a few years back, but now it has faded into a vanishing veil that is merged with maya. It only takes a very easy attention and stillness to be in that… as that… but not as I would think afterwards. Afterwards the mind would try to understand what had happened. That is what creates some confusion because I am caught trying to describe it. Yet descriptions such as “the observer and the observed become one” are accurate for this experience. I have actually came across an even more accurate sentence at Greg Goode’s site somewhere which struck me as exactly what this is: “One may examine the self to see that it is the world (inside out). This consists of making the separate “I” (which seems small and separate) larger and larger until it incorporates everything. In this way one begins with the subject and shows that it’s really the object. After this point, the distinction between subject and object drops away.”
Also, with Krishna Mennon, is it a different way of approaching atma vichar? It seems to remind me of how after neti neti you do iti iti, and then you have done a thorough investigation. What do you say?
Ram: Greg is a very good teacher of Atma Menon’s so-called “Direct Path.” It is for advanced seekers, sanyassis. It is a very effective teaching. It usually produces self-realization, in the sense that you get a direct experiential confirmation of the non-duality of things. I use it all the time. It simply destroys the distinction between the subject and the object. It is atma vichar. Any investigation that removes the idea of duality is atma vichar. When I say it is for sanyassis I mean that the point of the teaching is to give you self-knowledge. Karma yogis will not get it, because their minds are not subtle enough. In other words, you should come away from the realization with firm knowledge of your identity as ever-free awareness and the hard and fast understanding that the world is not separate from you. I think what you are indicating when you say, “But I cannot say it is a feeling either, because it is transparent in the feeling, the feeling is a by-product,” is knowledge. However, if the mind is trying to explain it later, it means that the knowledge “I am awareness” has not stuck.
These experiential self-realizations induced by inquiry are good, but they can be a problem too if the one to whom they occur is not clear about the distinction between knowledge and experience. If you have the wrong notion about moksa you may feel that you should be experiencing the merger of subject and object in this direct way all the time and that such an experience constitutes moksa, enlightenment – if it becomes permanent. But this is not true. You are already and always merged into the self whether you know it or not, whether you have had an induced epiphany of this sort or a happenstance one.
So what is meant to happen – what we mean by “knowledge” – is that you have to see who you are quite apart from any experience and be content with self-knowledge alone. To an experience-oriented person this does not make sense, because he or she wants enlightenment to change his or her experience of the apparent reality. But this is not possible or necessarily desirable. What you experience is not up to you. Isvara, the total, programs your experience according to your karma. If you want to change your experience, you can take up yoga which allows you to alter the quantity and quality of your vasanas.
How you interpret what you experience is actually “your” experience. And how you interpret your experience depends on what you know. If you do not know that you are the self, your experience is very different from when you do. So in that sense knowledge is experiential. But there is not some kind of special experiential knowledge as opposed to “intellectual” knowledge that constitutes moksa. All knowledge is “intellectual” insofar as it takes place in the intellect. There is no other place for it to take place, because the intellect is consciousness’s instrument of knowledge.