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Look on the Bright Side
Seeker: Dear Ram, since I met you I have become so devoid of desire I cannot even see the point of going down to the shop to get milk. Advaita Vedanta has left me powerless. I cannot see the point of anything anymore. I’m reminded of the lines in the Aitareopanishad, X.96:
“When the highest self had entered the body he gazed around at the creatures and thought, ‘How should anyone speak of any other? What else besides myself is there for me to name?’ He said to himself, ‘O I have seen this.’”
Ram: I think I get your drift. Ramji says, “Look for the bliss, O man!”
One day I was on a long drive with a dear old friend and we were talking about the self, and somehow during one of my Vedantic inspirations she “saw” the absolute emptiness of things. She knew it intellectually already, more or less by inference because the things she had chased in life didn’t deliver what she expected. But this time she “got it” in a big experiential explosion though the words of Vedanta. It was a deep and abiding getting and she fell silent like a zombie for a long time. I could see the realization imprint onto the deepest level of her being.
For several years it robbed her of her energy to deal with life. Whenever we met I was confronted with a powerful negativity, not a petulant, childish negativity, but a kind of endless disappointed resignation. I couldn’t connect these feelings with the event at first, but when I realized what it was – and she herself had traced the change to what happened on that drive – I realized that the problem lay in her interpretation of emptiness, not in emptiness itself. As was her tendency, tamas made the interpretation. She saw the realization of emptiness as a loss of everything she believed in. She mourned that loss. What point living in this world when nothing “mattered,” when nothing “meant” anything, when whatever you did instantly disappeared into nothingness?
A couple of months back a young man came to a satsang I gave in Tiruvannamalai. He been consciously on the path for about 13 years. He had been with a teacher for several years whose specialty was the destruction of all concepts. And this had been useful to him. At that age you don’t have the benefit of enough life experience to realize that there is nothing here, but he had suffered at the hands of his expectations and the negative teachings were helpful. When I met him he was a very pleasant, happy young man with a lot of spiritual experience under his belt. I noticed in the satsangs that he was really paying attention, more than most people. And after several meetings he told me that our talks had ended his search, and he said that the reason he didn’t realize himself before was because he had only heard the negative world-negating side of the teachings, but that I showed him the amazing positive nature of the self and that was all it took to finish him off.
I see that quote from the Aitreya in that light. It says that all this is you, the self. Your distaste for the world is for the sake of yourself. It pleases you to find the world this way. Perhaps you aren’t even aware of the reasons. But the world is only that way because you see it that way. “As the mind so the world,” to quote the Yoga Shastra.
I hate to disillusion you from your disillusionment, but the world is not actually a negative emptiness. It is poorna, fullness. The mantra says, “Om poornamadah poornamidampoornaat poornamdachyate poornasya poornamadaya poornamevavashisyate.” Translation: “That (the self) is full. This (the world) is full. Add this to that or subtract that from this and only fullness remains.”
And it so happens that fullness is bliss. Bliss translates into happiness on the emotional level. The objects have only a temporary meaning, but the whole thing is beautiful because it is you and you are beautiful. The scriptural word is sundaram, meaning “pure beauty.” The objects are only there to reflect your beauty, for your enjoyment.
So don’t blame Sri Ramji and that nihilistic advaita for your funk. Buckle up, man! Put on a happy face. You could be stuck in the bowels of Abu Ghraib with your genitals wired to the electric grid and a bunch of trailer-trash Americans tormenting you. You’ll earn a very nasty next life if you keep thinking like this, and I’ll have to find you and rescue you. As you know, I have taken the vow of the boddhisattva: “Though sentient beings are numberless I vow to save them all.” And I am so weary of saving the world.
~ Much love from your brother across the seas, Ramji