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Going Beyond the Mind with the Mind
Cynthia: Dear Ram, you say life is good, but I say life is neither good nor bad. Life is everything that appears on the screen, good and bad. Life therefore is. But your idea is that the badness in life is negated by using an affirmation: “life is good.”
Ram: You are right and I am right. Life is neither good or bad. It just is. I said life is good because you were having trouble with the idea of surrendering to it. You wouldn’t surrender to something that is bad. The point of the teaching as I presented it at the time is that you need trust if you want to be happy and that trust is related to one’s idea about reality.
The name Shiva, which is a name of the self in Sanskrit, means “that which is good at all places, at all times and under every circumstance.” It refers to the self. And insofar as this is a non-dual reality then maya is also the self and therefore everything in maya, the good and the bad, is Good, i.e. you, the Self.
Cynthia: The “life is benign” idea is designed to trick fearful egos into surrendering to life but it is just a concept that doesn’t correspond to experience. It is not true, but it is okay if it removes fear.
But Vedanta tries to lead to the understanding that it is indeed the nature of mind to conceptualise and to recognise that concepts are not one’s true nature. It is supposed that a higher concept (Vedanta) also delivers a more consistent conclusiveness, therefore your thesis is not convincing. Trying to give a logical understanding of something with illogical means cannot work for me.
Ram: I think I understand what you mean and I would agree provisionally. I never said that Vedanta was not a clever tool operating in maya, that it did not sometimes resort to half-truths to remove ignorance. Fear is in maya. It is illogical and irrational from the self’s point of view. And it is counterproductive when a person is trying to understand reality. So we use whatever means we can to help a person get rid of it. It just so happens that the “life is benign idea” didn’t work with you. However, I should point out that you have had a hard time seeing though your fears too – the money-fear, for example. Logic has not been helpful in getting rid of it – at least not until now perhaps.
Cynthia: But the Vedantic concept goes further by claiming life experiences are not true.
Ram: This is not exactly Vedanta’s position. It says that experience is neither true nor untrue, therefore the interpretation of life experience by a limited individual it is not a good basis for self-understanding. What I meant to say was that you can relax and enjoy life if you know that at bottom it is fundamentally non-threatening; this is a self-aware creation that likes itself and looks out after itself. If you read the papers you might come to a different conclusion.
Cynthia: After some thought I think I can understand the idea that the only real protection we have in life is that it is benign. Protection means clear understanding, no doubt at all, imperturbable knowledge.
Ram: Yes. Knowledge is the only true protection.
Cynthia: And “benign” means the potential of ALL within anything, like the potential of bad within good, good within bad, thus transcending the ideas of good and bad, neither good nor bad, only life in its flow.
And now I also understand both of your sentences: “You are right that identification with the self is a limited stratagem for neutralizing the mind’s suffering. But you are wrong that enlightenment is something other than identification with the self.”
I swear to you, at this moment it is the first time in my 43-year-old personal life that I, Cynthia, KNOW I AM the SELF. There is no need to attempt identification with the self. But I understand that identification with the self is also a possibility/potential to get the knowledge “I am the self.” But to be very precise, I think one cannot say enlightenment is identification with It only?
Ram: Good thinking, Cynthia. This is true. I tip my hat to you.
Cynthia: You can get to it with the help of identification? Identification is only a means.
Cynthia: Enlightenment is the absolute knowledge.
Cynthia: Puhhhh! I’m happy I went through this terrific mind jungle and the ensuing headache. Many thanks to my thinking vasana God blessed me with… the good side of the bad side of life!!!
Ram: This process you just went through is called manana in Vedanta. You acquitted yourself very well. I have to admit that I couldn’t follow all the logic, because of the language problem, but it doesn’t matter because you came to the right conclusion. This shows that you can directly realize “I am the self” without stopping the mind. Vedanta is a path to the self through the mind.
Cynthia: And many thanks to you, Ram, for arguing with me, confusing me, being a little bit angry with me and, above all, inciting me. I did the next step, for my understanding this mind-struggling act was so necessary (do you know what I mean?), and I would be very glad about your correction or confirmation; both I welcome.
Ram: I’m impressed. I figured you would get there but not so quickly. I take the dust of your lotus feet.
~ Love, Ram