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The Practice of Self-Knowledge
Aurora: Hi, Sundari, greetings to you and James.
I am a 63-year-old female who has been on this path for roughly 14 years now. Around six or seven years ago it dawned on my mind that what was being pointed out in Vedanta (what I had been searching for) was awareness/consciousness.
My mind thought that was the end of the path and all should be roses and clouds from then on! Of course, that did not turn out that way at all.
Still, the emotions are doing their thing and life has suffering (perhaps not as much as before) still there. I have read James’ book more than once, and have read almost every satsang on your website for years. Finally it has dawned on my mind that the vasanas are not rendered non-binding nor the doer negated. So how do I proceed now? Every time I think I am awareness, there is no rock-solid confidence, and there seems to be more rajas and tamas playing out daily! Please help. I need information on how to proceed, and think I have wasted enough time already!
What do I want? Rock-solid confidence that I am awareness and nothing can help or harm, and more of a sattvic mindset than what is now happening (constant jumping from rajas to tamas). I would appreciate any help I can get, having tried what I can on my own which has not worked.
Also, give you both my thanks for the tremendous service you both are doing in bringing the truth to people like us!
As you may have very well figured out, there is no self-actualisation here, only a mental realisation. Also, the whole proper connection between Isvara, jiva and awareness seems to be lacking. Not to mention the vasanas and gunas still controlling pretty much everything.
~ With deepest regards and sincere thanks, Aurora
Sundari: Hello Aurora. Thank you, your appreciation is much appreciated. I am so happy that self-knowledge is working for you!
My sincere apologies for not getting back to you sooner; we have been inundated lately doing all we can to keep up. I have attached a number of e-satsangs that should be of help to you. Please feel free to write any time you have a question; we are happy to be of service to you.
You have correctly assessed your problem. It is one thing to know that awareness is your true nature, what we call indirect knowledge, and quite another to live as awareness. Direct knowledge is the firm and steadfast knowledge: “I am awareness.”
Self-actualisation is the crucial part of self-inquiry, and where most teachings fail utterly as they do not offer a valid means of knowledge with which to anchor self-knowledge. What good is self-knowledge if it does not translate into the life of the person, setting them free of the identification with the person and the tyranny of their likes and dislikes? You are blessed that you have found Vedanta (it found you!) and that Isvara gave you the good grace to find a teacher such as James.
Like you said, and indeed it is a common myth, life does not magically change and become blissful as you float off into some kind of transcendental “realm,” when you realise the self. Self-realisation is where “the work” of self-inquiry begins. Unfortunately, the spiritual world is mostly experience-based and as all experiences happen in time, all experiences have a beginning and an end. Self-realisation is an experience and will end unless self-actualisation takes place. The fundamental principle in Vedanta is that only self-knowledge removes ignorance from the mind, not experience.
Understanding that your nature is awareness is the easy part, relatively speaking, as in actual fact, for most people Self-knowledge is counterintuitive. You have clearly been doing your sadhana and it sounds like you have the qualifications for self-knowledge. You have also pinpointed where you need to focus your attention.
The Isvara-jiva identity is crucial to liberation and we have written extensively on this topic. I have attached an article of mine for you to read and James has written about this in his book too. In order to dissolve the conditioning/likes and dislikes (vasanas) that condition Aurora’s mind, you need to understand her conditioning in the light of self-knowledge. This requires a full understanding of the gunas and how they function (this is called triguna vibhava yoga) as the gunas run everything in the apparent reality (the environment). There is no separation between Aurora’s mind and the environment; they are one and the same because reality is a non-duality, not a duality. There is nothing wrong with duality if you know what it is: A superimposition onto non-duality. It is like the mirage on the desert floor; once you know that the mirage is a mirage, you would not try to drink the water, although you can still see the mirage.
Liberation or moksa means the ability to discriminate you, awareness, from all the objects that appear in you, i.e. Aurora and “her” conditioning, thus negating the doer and rendering the binding vasanas non-binding. There is no purifier like self-knowledge. Once duality (ignorance) is known for what it is, one observes life in the apparent reality from the standpoint of awareness and no longer buys into it as being real.
As you probably know, real is defined by “that which is always present and never changes,” which can only be used to define you, awareness. Once self-knowledge has removed ignorance (duality) from the mind, the pressure of the vasanas diminishes and existential suffering ends. This process does not happen overnight for most people; the effects of ignorance (prarabdha karma) take as long as they take to be removed from the mind. It takes considerable “work” and vigilance to change entrenched thinking patterns and deeply buried samskaras. Continued and committed practice of self-knowledge is absolutely essential as ignorance is hard-wired and very tenacious.
Karma yoga is essential to negate the doer. I have attached a document on this vital practice as well.
I can also strongly recommend a devotional practice (if you do not already have one) as in doing so, one is practicing devotion to the self. Devotional practice can take any form that works for you as whichever way you focus on awareness; awareness responds to awareness. (See attached article.)
Lastly, remember that sattva is the natural state of the mind when rajas and tamas are in balance. You cannot gain more sattva, just as you cannot become more aware. The mind can only become less ignorant of its true nature. You are already awareness; sattva is already the nature of the mind. You need self-knowledge to remove ignorance of your nature, which will bring rajas and tamas into balance so that you experience the ever-present (but temporarily obscured) peace of your true nature, awareness.
Keep up with you sadhana; you are in the ballpark and on your way. Just keep focusing on awareness, take a stand in awareness as awareness. Practice affirming the opposite thought whenever a thought to the contrary arises in the mind.
~ Om shanti, Sundari