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Non-Duality for a Beginner
Sally: Hello, James. I went to your website today and upon seeing Buddha and the disciple bowing to Buddha, the emotions just burst from me. That light within me wants to experientially know. I no longer want to be tied to karma and the goings-on of the world. I want to know that light that you talk about, that light Ramana knew about.
James: That light is called chaitanya (awareness, or consciousness) in Sanskrit. It is just simple awareness, that because of which you know and feel and experience things. It is not the things you experience but the awareness in which your experiences take place. When Ramana says that the spiritual quest is a quest to understand “who am I?” the “I” he is referring to is awareness.
So you are limitless, non-dual, actionless awareness. Sally is an idea that appears in you, in awareness. You are not Sally. If you look carefully into Sally you will not find a special person with a certain history, someone who wants some things and doesn’t want other things. You will only find awareness. Knowing that you are awareness is enlightenment. When you know that you are awareness you no longer want things nor do you fear things. You don’t get excited when good things happen nor do you get depressed or angry when negative things happen. You feel completely free. Worldly problems disappear.
This deep, unexplained longing that you feel is called mumukshutva, a desire for freedom, a desire for self-knowledge. This desire can only be satisfied by self-study. Ramana says, “By jnana, or spiritual knowledge, alone is this bliss (the self) to be realized and jnana is achieved through vichara, or steady inquiry.” So with the help of this idea that you are awareness you look within yourself and try to locate awareness. It will probably feel as if something or someone is watching you. It is often called the “witness.” It, you, are always alone. There is no need to try to put your body in a situation of aloneness. This does not help. This aloneness that you are is not at all lonely. It is just the understanding that nothing but you exists.
Sally: What have found lately is that the deeper sense of me wants to go further into being alone. This is my lifetime to awaken. I have been searching all this life for something, something that would bring me happiness. Okay, it is inside of me. If the mind starts to process anything, thinking, then writing or talking of how I want to meet someone who can share this with me, part of me feels again drawn into the world. So the mind is some of the issue here. When I talk to others, I find that I don’t want to talk about things that don’t matter. I don’t want to be rude, but what is the point in keeping drama going? It draws me back into the world and I just don’t want to be there.
James: If you know that you are awareness you solve this problem of being in the world because the world appears in you, not the other way around. The world is an object and you, awareness, can never get in it. It is always outside. You are inside where there is only light and peace. Investigate to see if this isn’t true.
Sally: Of course I have compassion for the people that are suffering and can see the small part of me that identifies with that as well. So then I watch nature when I can, observing what is going on. Still, at times I come home and feel, “What am I doing here?” I feel at times frustrated.
James: Until you know that you are awareness and not Sally the feeling of frustration, separation from what your Heart wants, will be there. It is a symptom of separation.
Sally: Then there is this lovely heart within the self that wants to merge with its opposite. I cannot explain it, but at times I want to reach out and commune with another being with the divine. While I choose to be celibate and have been for years now, there is this deep longing of something smoldering deep in the heart that has nothing to do with anything other than a longing that doesn’t seem to go away. I guess I have been somewhat ignoring the thought behind the feeling. I have to accept what is.
James: The thought behind the feeling is the important thought. It is the thought of non- duality. The desire to commune is an emotional expression of the fundamental truth of existence: that everything is already one. No merger or communing necessary.
Sally: Then there is the dharma of being here, physically here as opposed to somewhere else. Part of it has revealed to me that the mind wants me to consider some fantasy unreality that moving somewhere will lead to something better, thus seeking something outside of the self. So I stay put. Whatever will be will be.
James: This is right. It will not be different somewhere else. This desire to be somewhere else is a symptom of a lack of self-knowledge. You cannot be anywhere else, because there is only you everywhere.
Sally: Still, I don’t always know how to reconcile this, because it is beyond mind. What to do about being here? I mean, finding work that sustains me and I don’t attach to. I don’t really want to work, I want to make art and art is not supporting me. I just want to be. That is it.
James: The only way to not work is to realize that you are not the doer. The body and mind will be active until the day they die. Even if you have an independent income and are doing art, this longing for self-knowledge will not go away. So all you can do is to do what you do in the right spirit.
You can’t “be.” Be is not a verb. Why? Because you already are. Find out who you are.
Sally: When I find myself too stressed, I just go and take a nap. That is it. Just go and take a nap. It seems to help because when I wake up notice a big peacefulness about me. There is a beauty within me when I can just be quiet and feel the peace of something that feels forever. There is nothing I have to do and can just be. Then, based on old patterns, I move about and start back into the world of seeking a job and making a new resume and the mind starts all over, telling me one thing after another. So when am centered, it is easier to accept things as they come.
James: That’s right. When you’re centered you take things as they come. The problem is that “being centered” is a doing that goes away when the vasanas, subconscious tendencies, are operating – which they are in the waking state. These vasanas are the cause of all the thoughts and feelings that come into the mind and chase away the peace, the centeredness.
The only way around this problem is to realize that you are the center, meaning that you are awareness. Everything revolves around you, but you revolve around nothing. The thoughts and feelings can’t touch you. They come right up to where you are and they go back. They cannot get in to disturb you.
Sally: I have been reading That Alone: The Core of Wisdom by Guru Naitya Yati. Have you heard of the book? It has been inspiring in a profound way. Well, since there is no place to go or nothing to do and there is no birth and death, things have started to shift for me.
James: I have not read this book, but if this is what is said then it is the truth. It is non-dual wisdom. This is a statement about you, awareness. You cannot go anywhere, because you are already everywhere. You cannot die, because you were never born.
Sally: I want a deep relationship with myself unlike anything I have ever had.
James: This is a good desire, but it is not really possible. Why? Because there are not two “yous.” You are non-dual. If this is true – and you need to look and see if it is – then you can only understand who you are. This is not a relationship. It is jnana, as Ramana calls it, self-knowledge.
Sally: I want to see and know the light that you talk about, to see the world as a more magical place instead of whatever the mind is telling me. I want to know by fully experiencing this very thing. I want PEACE AND HAPPINESS to be there constantly. Hmm…
James: Well, again, this is a good desire and it should motivate you to inquire into yourself, but the truth is that you cannot “fully experience this very thing.” Why? Because you are already experiencing “this very thing.” “This very thing” is you. If you can see that you are non-dual awareness and not Sally then it will not matter whether there is peace and happiness or not. You are beyond peace and happiness. If you see yourself as a limited entity, as Sally, then you will have to do a lot of work on your mind to get it to the place where it is peaceful and happy all the time. In fact you can never make it one hundred percent peaceful and happy. And usually people who try to make themselves happy or peaceful die long before their negative vasanas have been purified. The best way out of this is to seek self-knowledge because self-knowledge means that you are peace itself, you are happiness itself.
Sally: I don’t know much about awakening.
James: Oh, you’re already awake, Sally. This longing you feel is a sign that you are awake.
Sally: So please understand that I have a limited understanding and it is really only because I started reading a few books.
James: I understand this and I know I am taking a chance telling you the highest truth right off the bat. But sometimes the people who know the least are most suited to the truth because they don’t have a lot of ideas about it. It won’t be easy to grasp what I have said totally, but it will be very helpful if you can think over this idea that you are the non-dual self and not Sally. Approaching the spiritual path as Sally in search of some kind of mystic union will be a long, hard journey. But if you approach it as a path of understanding as Ramana suggests, it can be quite easy and you can take a shortcut to the peace you are seeking.
Sally: I am just learning and reading to quench a deep thirst. My intentions are pure, as there is nothing I desire or care for, or so I think. Then there are times that I long for this divine dance of a deeply felt love with someone.
James: I can sense your purity and deep longing. It is good. The longing for someone to dance with is the longing for self-realization. It can only be satisfied in a relationship with someone who knows who they are and can help you to see it.
Sally: Currently, I am selling personal things that did at one time belong to me. What I notice about myself is the wanting to be free, to laugh and be in the eternal moment. On occasion I am the self.
James: The desire for freedom is the fundamental desire of all human beings. It can be satisfied because you are already free, or as you say, “On occasion I am the self.” All that needs to happen is for you to see that you are the self all the time. It’s not an experience. There is nothing you can do about being the self, because you are already the self. All you can do is appreciate who you are.
Sally: Then it goes away. I will never be fooled again, to think happiness is outside of me. The mind enters into everything. I just want to be at peace and happiness now and always in this eternal moment. Can be, yes, can be!
James: Absolutely, because you are.
Sally: Anything you want to say in response to reading this email, feel free to share.
James: I hope this wasn’t too much for you, Sally. Let me know what you think. I’m happy to discuss these things with you. If non-duality is too difficult, then we can approach it in a different way.
~ Love, James