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Karma Does Not Care If You Are Spiritual
James: Dear Maribel, there is one point that I failed to make in my reply to your email. It may be a bit difficult for you to accept and I want you to know that what I am about to say is not in any way to be considered a criticism or a negative judgment about you or Manfred. It is just an interpretation of your relationship from the point of view of self-realization based on what you told me. It is always hard to accept one’s illusions and the love illusion is perhaps the last to leave. Please take it in the spirit of friendship that it is offered.
You said that people often go through a lot of pain before they get enlightened and I agree with that. But let me ask you this: What caused the pain in first place? Is it just an accident over which one has no control or is it possible to eliminate existential pain – or at least reduce it to an acceptable minimum? I think this is an interesting issue raised by your email and I thought I would use it as an opportunity to speak a little more about the gunas, the three basic energies that make up the entire creation. I think you must have read about them in my book and I know I mentioned them in our discussions, but I thought I would apply the guna model to your situation with Manfred to help you to understand your recent relationship from the spiritual point of view.
Spiritual science says that suffering comes when there is a preponderance of rajas and tamas in the mind and that the mind is basically happy when it is predominantly sattvic.
Although rajas and tamas are very different energies, they go together and cause pain for the same reason. Rajas is called vikshepa shakti, projecting power. It is a state of mind that is characterized by intense mental/emotional activity. It is an extroverting power. All one’s thoughts and feelings run to objects and never back to the source, the self. Because the mind is thinking of objects all the time it becomes exhausted, or tamasic. If the mind was sattvic it would spontaneously meditate on the self, it would feel light and high and the energy would be continually regenerated from within. When you were in crisis with Manfred your mind was rajasic. It was only thinking of Manfred and your relationship with him and it wouldn’t let up. It sometimes took me one hour or more to get it calmed down and turned inward so that you had enough shanti to hear what I was saying. And even then its retentive power was not good, because the rajas was still there in the background ripping off your attention.
When the mind is extroverted, negative and painful things happen. They happen because the mind is so scattered that is it incapable of properly gathering information about what is going on and so it makes irrational choices that almost invariably result in pain. When it is scattered it is out of touch with the self and higher values, so it is forced to react on the basis of emotion – which again leads to pain.
If the mind is sattvic one does not make mistakes, because a sattvic mind is still and clear and full of awareness. Because of this quality it gathers information efficiently. Because it is clear it can think logically and rationally and apply the information it has gathered intelligently. Thus it is not prone to making decisions based on emotion. A sattvic mind is also in contact with the self because the self is reflecting clearly in it. So the decisions it makes are made in light of the self. They are in harmony with dharma and therefore they do not produce pain.
Tamas is quite different from rajas, but it causes pain for the same reason. Tamas is called avarana shakti, or veiling power. When the mind is tamasic it is not aware. It is sleepy and dull. It operates out of habit because it is not intelligent enough to creatively respond to life situations. So when you are tamasic you make mistakes which bring pain. You choose the wrong food, the wrong friends, the wrong work, the wrong lovers, the wrong lifestyle – and this causes suffering. You can’t see what is going on clearly and you have no access to the self and to higher values. In tamas your discrimination is faulty because you cannot see all sides of the situation – which causes you to make choices based on your conditioning – which is not the best way to respond to situations.
So let me ask you this: If there is a way to remove rajas and tamas and develop a sattvic mind, wouldn’t that be preferable to just acting out one’s tamasic and rajasic vasanas? I don’t think it is reasonable to say that because people who are suffering intensely sometimes realize the self that you should not try to eliminate the causes of your suffering, because it increases your chances of self-realization. It is also a fact that most people who are suffering do not realize the self at all. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem sensible to justify tamas and rajas as aids to self-realization, because it is easy to get self-realized in sattva. Why? Because the mind is in intimate contact with the self when it is sattvic. This is why the Yoga and Vedanta texts recommend sadhana. Sadhana is defined as the removal of rajas and tamas and the cultivation of sattva.
I was suffering when I was young because I was very rajasic. Eckhart Tolle was depressed for such a long time because his mind was very tamasic. If you and Manfred were so sattvic, then why didn’t you see that the way you were relating to each other was causing the pain? In fact your passion (rajas) blinded (tamas) you to the subconscious factors that were producing the conflict. When he was hitting you and you were biting him you were both completely tamasic – you were neither small self-aware or Self-aware. You were not in control, because rajas and tamas were in control.
Every mind has all three energies in it. Nobody has completely one or the other. So Manfred has sattva and rajas as well as tamas. If this is true then it seems to me that the issue for someone doing spiritual work is what proportions of each guna (sattva, rajas and tamas are called gunas) make up the mind? Is the person 70% tamasic, 20% rajasic and 10% sattvic?; 33% tamasic, 33% rajasic and 33% sattvic?; 90% sattvic, 5% tamasic and 5% rajasic? The amount of rajas and tamas determine the amount of suffering. A person is most happy when the mind is sattvic.
Another fact about the gunas is this: the gunas pervade every aspect of one’s being. One part may be under the influence of a particular guna and another part may be under the influence of different guna. For example, a person may be physically rajasic and yet tamasic intellectually; or sattvic intellectually and very tamasic physically or rajasic emotionally, physically sattvic and intellectually tamasic; or sattvic intellectually, emotionally and physically. There are hundreds of possible combinations.
And to further complicate the matter, the body, mind and intellect may be tamasic for a few hours, rajasic for a few hours and sattvic for a few hours. Everything in maya is subject to the gunas and you cannot make a hard and fast statement about anyone or anything on the basis of the play of the gunas in them. So your belief that I think Manfred is tamasic is not correct. He is like everyone else. What I meant was that I have observed him for many years coming and going and observed that he often carries a noticeably tamasic vibration. He is obviously physically rajasic because he does sports and is a real tiger in bed. This doesn’t mean that his mind is always tamasic – only that it has that tendency. It’s not a very profound observation since it applies to a very large percentage of the human race. When you told me about his behavior in relationship, it confirmed my observation.
When you say he was in his deepest pain process, to me that means he was very tamasic. Tamas causes pain, as I mentioned above. He was intellectually tamasic (as were you) when he got into a relationship with you because he could not see that the way he was seeing the relationship and you would cause so much suffering. If his mind was sattvic he would have seen you as the self and treated you accordingly. His sexual lust is tamasic. He had no control of it. When you wanted to get up in the morning and do your spiritual practice he wanted to have sex. You can make a big romance about it, but it is just tamas, lust.
When you are tamasic or rajasic you do not consider other people’s needs to be as important as your own, so there are always problems in relationships. Look at that situation in the ashram when he wanted to leave and you didn’t want to deal with him because it was interfering with your big spiritual state. If you had on the eyes of non-dual love you would have seen that his needs were as important as yours and served him. Instead you became angry (rajas) and denied (tamas) him what he wanted.
There is nothing “wrong” with tamas – which is the most obvious expression of duality – except that it produces pain. Pain is its cause and pain is its effect. Lust is so painful, you have to get rid of it immediately or you will go crazy. One is tormented by a feeling of lack and incompleteness and deluded into thinking that an orgasm will solve the problem. But the orgasm makes it worse because it reinforces the lust vasana. As you know, it is common for men to kill and rape women who will not submit to them sexually. There was a woman school teacher in the States, a mother of three, thirty-five years old, who fell in lust (of course she called it love) with a thirteen-year-old student. She was told by the school authorities to quit, but she couldn’t. So they prosecuted her in court. During the trial she was forbidden to have contact with the boy, but she couldn’t help herself. This ruined her chance for a suspended sentence. She was convicted and spent several years in jail. When she got out, the terms of her sentence forbid her from having contact with the boy, but a few days later she was found having sex with him in the back of a car late at night in a public park and sent back to jail. She remained there for a couple more years and when she got out the boy was now of legal age, so she could marry him. But it didn’t work out and eventually she let it go. It destroyed her marriage, her family, her work prospects and her reputation. This is why lust is considered one of the seven “deadly” sins. It is the essence of tamas.
I think you mentioned that when you and Manfred were suffering he tried to convince you that the pain was good, that it was a part of growing spiritually. How sattvic is that? That is tamas speaking. And at any point does he say to himself, “Maybe the problem in my relationship is because I’m treating this woman like a sex object.” He thinks desire is good and the satisfaction of desire even better.
Tamas is a very dark prison. It has to lock up the objects of desire so that they will be available at all times – to give it relief. You told me he was very possessive. Possessiveness is tamas, fear. Maybe you gave him reason to feel insecure – perhaps you were also involved with other men – but even then this is his problem. Why become attached to someone he couldn’t trust unless he was blinded by tamas? How much pain he must have suffered when you were away, all the time thinking that you were “with” another man. This is the fruit of passion. Passion, rajas, causes tamas, suffering.
I’m not saying this because I read some Yoga texts about the gunas. My knowledge comes from direct experience. I was at least as lustful and tamasic as Manfred when I was young and I learned all this by going through it. Fortunately, I woke up to my real nature and that made it possible to overcome my rajasic and tamasic tendencies. And I learned the three-guna model from my teacher, which also made working on my mind much easier.
You say that Manfred was “using this energy and pain for self-enquiry.” That’s good, making the best of a bad situation. But I’d be interested to know what conclusions he came to. The purpose of self-inquiry is self-knowledge. Did he get self-knowledge? Is he now free of desire? Did he figure out that his concept of love was somewhat limited? What exactly did he learn? It is very easy when you are in crisis to have some insights, but these insights rarely produce lasting transformation. They are usually quickly forgotten when the next most wonderful thing comes waltzing into one’s life.
If you are doing your life as sadhana, then you don’t need to wait for a crisis to do inquiry. Why wasn’t he doing inquiry when he met you? If he’d been doing inquiry he would have avoided getting into an attached relationship. It does no good to live one way and then use spiritual tools to get you out of trouble only to have your vasanas put you back into the fire again. If you live the right way from the start you avoid trouble. If you live the right way the mind naturally does self-inquiry because it is not always occupied trying to sort out the problems that come from following one’s passions.
We are talking about a fifty-five-year-old man who has been on the “spiritual” path for a long time. He is some sort of spiritual teacher. He has been to more satsangs and workshops than you can shake a stick at. He’s had plenty of relationships, including a long-term one with a sattvic woman. Presumably he is going for moksa. So what business does he have falling in love with a younger woman on the rebound from a failed marriage, a woman who has plenty of karma to clear up before she is actually ready for a proper relationship, a woman who is so attractive that men swarm around her like bees around honey, the very thought of which must have kept him in a state of constant anxiety, a woman who is so confused about love that she runs off to an ashram with a saint one day, then to a tantra school with a sexual monster for a master the next, a woman whose lust gets her into a sexual relationship with a younger guy before she has actually finished the relationship she is in?
So where was the self-inquiry when he needed it? How long is the belief in this kind of love going to go on? The nursing homes of the world are full of men in their eighties and nineties trying to have sex with anything that moves. One of my dearest friends works in a nursing home and she tells me amazing stories about the sexual vasanas of ninety-year-olds.
I don’t think badly of Manfred, Maribel. I don’t even know him. I see everyone as the self. Insofar as there are “people” they are really little more than expressions of impersonal energies and forces. Sattva, rajas and tamas are very practical and useful concepts because they represent the three aspects of the one universal shakti, or energy, and provide an excellent way to understand one’s mind and the forces operating in it. And with understanding comes power and control. Even though you are very energy-sensitive I could see that you weren’t familiar with this guna model and with the idea of sadhana as purification of rajas and tamas, so I tried to introduce these concepts to you.
If you want freedom you have to live free. There is a way to live free: follow dharma. Dharma is based on the idea that this is a non-dual reality. A mind that understands non-duality is not subject to the play of the vasanas. It has a clear appreciation of the limitations and sufferings that come from following a vasana-motivated lifestyle. Self-inquiry doesn’t mean asking “Who am I?” The jury is not out on this question; you are whole and complete, non-dual, actionless awareness. Self-inquiry is living from the non-dual platform, seeing that you are complete already and ignoring the vasanas that try to force you into dependence on objects. Self-inquiry is a way of life that means following dharma, often at the expense of your worldly desires.
Most of the people on the spiritual path, particularly Westerners, have no concept of dharma. They believe that fulfilling their desires is the road to happiness. So you have them doing all sorts of “spiritual” stuff and hanging onto their desires at the same time. If a person is going to get free of his or her dependence on objects, at some point he or she is going to have to realize that rajas and tamas are counterproductive spiritually and get to work cleaning up the mind.
The ego wants you to believe that you can have your cake and eat it too, but it is wrong. Mind you, I’m not saying not to have relationships and have sex, but I am saying that if you are pursuing a worldly lifestyle don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you are getting spiritual benefits because you are doing “spiritual” practices and think you are on a “spiritual” path. Karma does not care whether you are spiritual or not. It delivers results solely on the basis of the action and the motivation behind the action. The suffering came because the actions were unspiritual and the motivation was unspiritual – and for no other reason.
The only “spiritual” energy is sattva, which translates as unconditional love. If you had loved him unconditionally and he loved you unconditionally all this pain would not have happened. Anyhow, that is enough. Perhaps you understand this already, in which case forgive me for running on about it. But in case you didn’t, I think it might be spiritually useful to think about the gunas and how they relate to spiritual life.
Things here are just fine. Today it’s a bit cold but the snow has been melting a little. I go out for long walks every day and I’m happy to be free of India’s noise, heat and rajasic food. My jet lag isn’t too bad and I think I’ll be in good shape for the long flight to California. I’m happy that you have found a nice place to stay and that your spirits are good.
~ Much love, Ram