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Stages of Enlightenment and Level Confusion
Shanti: Dear Ramji!, you know, if everything is brahman or the self alone, the whole creation is nothing but brahman, as Swami Paramarthananda points out so clearly and logically once again in the tapes on MundakyaUpanishad I am listening to right now. If everything is brahman, is one, there is no difference, right?
Shanti: In fact there are not even two or more things to be different from each other. So how can there still be a distinction between mithya and satya? How can Swami P. or the Upanishads talk about cause and effect, brahman being the cause and the world being the effect? How can one still talk about real and unreal, form and formlessness, mortal and immortal, absolute and relative, dependent and independent, existing? How can there be two, one existing dependently from the other??? How can there be atma and anatma? And there is still awareness and things, phenomena appearing in this awareness – so there still seem to be two? Somehow that entire Vedanta logic seems to have a crack, and then they come and glue it with the concept of maya, saying that in fact there is no world, no creation, that nothing has ever happened. Sounds like a bad trick to me!
Ramji: The problem here is level confusion. Reread my discussion in What Is Advaita Vedanta? about the three stages of spiritual life: endarkenment, self-realization and enlightenment. In the endarkenment stage, samsara, there is no notion that the unreal is actually unreal. The manifest is taken as reality but this does not result in happiness, because the manifest reality, the subject, jiva, and the objects are anitya, impermanent. So whatever happiness is picked up through circumstances doesn’t last nor does the sorrow that seems to come from circumstances.
In the second stage, an understanding has developed that seeking for happiness in samsara is futile, but one still has vasanas developed in the samsara phase and one is continually sucked back into that state of mind even though one knows better. So this discriminative, dualistic view is helpful at this stage. One needs to be reminded that the self is reality and maya is mithya, apparent. This keeps the mind inward-turned, meditating on and inquiring into the self.
At some point one sees that all is me, self. And when that happens the teaching that brought one to that realization is no longer necessary, just as the pole a pole vaulter uses to get over the bar is thrown back when his or her body is over the bar. The understanding at this “stage” which is not a stage, since there is no other place to go, is that the self and the manifestation, the mind and the world outside, are actually non-different, even though they seem to be different. The seeming difference is due to the dualistic thought through which they are viewed. When this thought is dropped they are known to be one, even though they continue to appear to be separate. This is called “conditioned superimpostion” in Vedanta. It is like a mirage. You see it, but you know it isn’t water.
Vedanta does not claim to be a consistent philosophy. It is only a means of self-knowledge. Its purpose is to remove doubt about who one is. Doubts take a lot of different forms and therefore there are different teachings, none of which have to be intellectually consistent, although they tend to be. One can actually interpret the the same teaching in different ways – if the teaching is used to remove doubt. Grasping the teaching does not produce enlightenment, because one is already enlightened. One is the self, which is “light,” or chaitanya, awareness.The teaching removes the ignorance that stands in the way of appreciating oneself as non-dual awareness.
Shanti: And what’s even worse, if there is only the ONE, I can no longer say that when I am angry, lonely, uninspired, bored, that this is not me. I can no longer distance myself from my “stuff.” I can no longer dismiss anything as not me, as not self, or as unreal. Not even the most stupid or torturing thought.
Ramji: That’s right. You have to own it. It’s called forgiveness or acceptance. The crap is you. To get to this position you have to give up the notion that you have to be something other than what you are to be happy. But there is one more little point that needs to be understood. Even though it is you, you are not it. So you are free of it while you are it. The crap is not conscious, it is just vasana patterns, subtle energy. And you are the knower of it. The knower is always free of what it knows. It is pure. So you are actually pure when you seem to be impure. The problem is your notion of what purity or freedom is.
Shanti: If I am everything there is, I have to see the anger, the greed, the longing, is ME. As Swami Suddhananda always used to say, “There is no neighbour’s compound where you could dump your thoughts.” But how can I, the self, whole and complete awareness, be longing???
Ramji: You aren’t longing, but you can long. If you can’t long, you can’t be limitless. You would be limited by your inablity to long – or anything else. If longing is there, you see it for what it is – a joke, a play, an apparent reality.
Shanti: Although I am thinking these noble thoughts of “the highest level of teaching of the Upanishads,” as Swami P. puts it, all the stuff is still there. You would say the vasanas are still functioning. So if I can no longer follow your brilliant advice of dismissing things as not-me, how to deal with the difficult stuff then?
Ramji: The stuff is always there. It is just a matter of you wanting it to be different stuff. This desire to have it different is the problem. It shows your self-dissatisfaction. You think it is wrong or bad or painful or whatever to have stuff because you perhaps think you can only be happy when you are stuff-free. But you are already stuff-free. It is you, but you are not it. So pack it in on getting rid of your stuff.
Shanti: Right now, I am fine and happy…
Ramji: And your stuff is gone? It is but it isn’t. Why let go of the happiness when the stuff comes?
Shanti: …(except for missing you badly) but I know that I will have to face a lot of that stuff when I enter the Engl-team. I am a little afraid (not really though).
Ramji: The “not really though” is what I’m talking about.The fear is there, but you are not afraid. If you don’t want the fear, you cannot join the team. Or you can join the team and neutralize the fear with knowledge “It is not real. It is not me.”
Shanti: Please, great and incomparable Ramo, save me from my doubts!
Ramji: You are saved! The great Ramji has spoken.
Shanti: I wish I could have come to Amsterdam and see you there, but life has different plans. It was such a privilege to have you here and be able to talk to you directly about all that Vedanta instead of having to write it all down. And I don’t like the thought that you are moving away further and further, even it’s only in terms of distance. Well, what to do?!
Ramji: See Shanti as Ramji. Without Shanitji there is no Ramji. So Ramji is you.
Shanti: I’m sure you are having a great time in Amsterdam, and inspiring satsangs. It’s such a beautiful city. How is Martin?
Ramji: I am having a great time – non-stop satsang. Martin is just fine. He came twice and what I said moved him right along. He’s a great guy – trememdous bhakti – and took it all in. He has no doubts about himself, actually, just about how to deal with a marriage of thirty years that is not what it once was and some petty financial problems which can be dealt with by removing a bit of rajas and tamas.
Shanti: Okay, that’s it for tonight. It’s nine o’clock and the sky is still all en rose. Take care, Ramji, I love you.
Ramji: I love you too, Shanti.