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Don’t Trust the Teacher, Trust the Teachings, Part 1
Cynthia: Dear Ram, since midst of December I have found myself in a remarkable state of stillness, lightness, clarity, calm, patience – as if hardly anything could disturb me in the conviction that I would be able to overcome some of my strongest identifications. For a couple of weeks I lived with an ease so wonderful!!!! – although nothing at all changed in outer circumstances or concerning people. It definitely was my mind relatively free of thoughts, feelings and reactions which ordinarily occur. It is a rare state I sometimes had before but never as long as this time. I am sure it was connected to my contact with you and reading and thinking a lot about the whole topic of enlightenment. But experience is changing, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but what is very difficult for me is that I can’t fix on the idea anymore of being capable to let go of some quite hindering conditionings.
Just a handful of people have let go of their conditionings and been able to fasten the knowledge of Awareness. I don’t know them (for example, you) and don’t know how they did it. Hopefully I can learn from you! Can I? Though I know there’s nothing to reach or to gain I also know the letting go is almost impossible for human beings.
My superego caught me in its trap: “You aren’t one of those handfuls of people. It is impossible to overcome deep conditionings,” it said. And the reason why this superego is so strong is because its content is 99% confirmed by society, colleagues, friends, clients… Everybody suffers by numerous demoniac identities, but far and wide no way out of the misery, not the slightest gleam of hope in our culture. The 1% that remains belongs to some books about dead enlightened people, some living ones spread all over the world whom I don’t know, and one called Ram who lives in India. I cannot say I know him and – taking him as a gleam of hope – what are you doing, Cynthia? Come back to the floor/ground!
Ram: Maybe it is best not to try to get rid of conditionings. When you have lived with them long enough and no longer have any use for them they drop off naturally, like ripe fruit. At a certain point you just get bored with them and you can easily let them go. And if you have the karma yoga view the conditionings get worked out as you go. As you know the karma yoga view says that the results of one’s actions are not up to the doer. So all you can do is offer them to awareness and see what happens.
Sometimes you really see how they are giving you more pain than pleasure and you just stop. On my first acid trip I was given a kind of x-ray vision and I could see into my body when I lit up a cigarette. I experienced in a very direct way the violence that I was inflicting on my cells with just one puff. I was so amazed by what was actually going on that I threw the cigarettes out the window and never smoked again. I had a two-pack-a-day habit of non-filter Camels that had been going on for ten years. That’s a nasty habit if there ever was one. But the direct knowledge of what I was doing to myself gave me the confidence to stop. A lot of these so-called unpleasant conditionings are not that unpleasant. The ego gets some sort of payoff from them and they become part of its identity. Remember what my friend said when I told him to clean up his life: “Well, Ram, it may be shit but its warm and its mine.”
Maybe your problem is this desire to be rid of your conditionings. Since they are too hard to drop, why not take the easy path and accept them? If this is a non-dual reality the conditionings are the self too. Are they so terrible that you can’t live with them? Many people with physical disabilities accept them and live good lives in spite of them. Why not do the same with psychological conditionings? You can say, “I’m wounded. I’m screwed up. I’m a complete mess – but so what? I like myself as I am.”
When I met you I thought you were a beautiful, attractive person. I thought you were very intelligent and classy. I thought that if I were twenty years younger you would be the kind of woman I would love to have as a companion. What was I seeing? Was it a projection? Look to the bright side. Look to your strengths and not your weaknesses and you will not feel unworthy and inadequate.
Or finally, when you get into this confused state of mind try counting your blessings.
Cynthia: Anyway, I feel some trust in you. (The risky parts of my identity are still working! Useful, isn’t it?)
Ram: Don’t trust me, for God’s sake, Cynthia. It is not about trusting me. It is about trusting the ideas I’m passing on. I’m the messenger, not the message. The Buddha is reported to have said, “Believe nothing you have read or anything you have heard – even if I have said it – unless it corresponds with common sense and reason.” I think Vedanta is eminently reasonable and logical. If you trust me you give me power that you should be giving yourself. If you trust me and I accept your trust then I have a problem. I have to always be concerned about keeping your trust. The first time I tell you something you don’t want to hear you will have a “trust” issue and our relationship will break down.
Trust means that there is distrust. This is why Vedanta is about inquiry. Inquiry means that you are looking for understanding. When you understand something you do not have to trust it. You know what it is and what it will do. Yes, it is certainly useful to trust the words of Vedanta until you have verified them in your own experience but if you understand that you can discover the answer yourself you will not be burdened by the trust idea. I’m just offering you different tools for your investigation. You’ve been using psychology but psychology is not working. If it was working you would not be suffering anxiety. Psychology doesn’t work, because it takes the ego to be the self, does not adequately address the issue of desire, skirts the values issue and evidently has no understanding of the fact that the fruits of one’s actions are not up to the doer. There are probably other limitations, but I am not an expert, so I don’t know.
Cynthia: …although the whole situation seems somewhat strange: a female, solitary fish swimming upwards against the flow of a stream (society and culture) towards the source (self). While unfolding “my story” I cannot help laughing about this super-funny movie – poor old Cynthia swimming against the rest of her little world, longing and seeking for the REAL knowledge. Sorry, but I can’t stay serious reflecting on this kind of crisis.
Ram: Yes, it’s actually not a crisis at all. Or if it is, it is a “garden variety” crisis, meaning an ordinary, everyday existential crisis. These anxieties are more or less normal. When you start to go into this kind of state remind yourself that in a few hours or a day or two it will be all over and you will think life is just fine – until the next time. If you want you can let the mind run with it and stay alert and before too long you will see how silly it is. Or you can grab the mind and bring it into the present. Then you look around and see how lucky you are – how everything you need has been provided.
One of the things it may be helpful to look at is why you care what society and people think.If the problem really has to do with how you are perceived I think you should know that basically people do not really care about Cynthia and what she is doing or thinking. Mostly people are self-concerned and their interest in others is meaningful to them only insofar as it concerns them. If this is true, then what is the point of living with this consciousness of “others”? Why value the opinion of people who are so lacking in love and acceptance that they can’t appreciate your spiritual yearnings and your unconventional approach to life? Love is when you try to understand how the other person sees things. If there is no real attempt on the part of others to find out who you are on a relative plane, why value their opinions?
Cynthia: On one hand I have no doubt at all about the unreality of the ego-world and its completely conditioned dream state; it is so obvious. On the other hand identifying with the self makes me feel as if shifting only into another world of “dream” because identification is a mechanism of the mind/consciousness. It seems to be stupid just changing identifications, to let go those from the first half of the century and train another while in the second half of the century and then die. It has the flavour of climbing up Mount Everest (I’m not a climbing freak) just to jump down at the end, a little spark within one’s heart that some mysterious thing will enable you to fly/be free at the end.
Ram: I dealt with this question in the last email, so I won’t go into it again.
Cynthia: These days I again doubt my strength, my being capable of distinguishing and burning the utmost hindering identifications. I feel very lonesome with my idea of “A REAL HOME.”
Ram: What will it take to get you to feel strong enough to deal with your mind when it is doubtful? When you feel like this it is often helpful to trace the feeling to its root. If you do you will find the self.
Cynthia: Transferring this to my momentary mental state, what could be my fear? To fall off the bounds of society completely could be one reason. From childhood on, in certain areas I found myself at the borders of the regular society and it was hard work to feel as “normal,” part of it, but in the end I have to acknowledge that I am still a person of niches (hope you get the meaning?). Sometimes this feels like being under a curse and sometimes like grace.
Ram: This is where you have power: take it as grace and forget about it. Why take the negative view? “Feelings” are so very fickle; is it wise to trust them?
Why not accept that you are a person of “niches”? Why do you want to be “normal,” whatever that is, and at the same time want to be different? See how the mind works: it wants to have its cake and eat it too. I dropped out of society a long time ago and life couldn’t be better. Why give a damn about something as stupid as society? I’m proud of the fact that I’m different. I think it is a sign of good mental health. I think there is something wrong with society, not me. You shouldn’t give away your power to a foolish concept.
Cynthia: A good example for this topic is my disunion about your suggestion in one of the first letters, staying with me in my house for a couple of weeks to support the integration of the non-dual view in everyday life. The society side comments: “Neighbours and Quirin (my son) will think of me now going completely crazy – how can I introduce and declare Ram as a person for them to understand – who is this person? – a teacher, an enlightened one, is impossible – why is he here?, what is he doing with her,” and so on, and so on! My God! And the crazy-Cynthia side says: “How wonderful, I even do not have to go to India (heat makes me sick). He offers to stary with me, in my house, not a saint but a normal person, normally speaking and full of humor – great! Life is full of surprises and wonders.”
Ram: As far as a visit is concerned, how would it work if you were all the time uncomfortable with how it was being perceived by “the society side”? I don’t think it’s wise to give others (or the “otherness” in your mind) that kind of power. What does it matter what they think? Why do they need an explanation at all? This shows a lack of self-confidence, Cynthia. Probably people already think you are a bit loopy if, as you say, you’ve been living on the edge of society most of your life. You’d be surprised how tolerant people actually are. The world can tell you’re a good person. People generally just say, “Oh, yes, there’s Cynthia, being Cynthia,” and forget it right away.
See the conflict here again. On one side a visit seems like a good thing, on the other it seems like a bad thing. Here again you have power: choose to see it as a good thing and dismiss the negative thoughts. Spiritual life is making these choices, not allowing your freedom to choose to be a “dreadful” freedom, as the existentialists used to call it.
This issue leads to the self-esteem problem – by which I mean the feeling of inadequacy to deal with what life throws in your face. When you are result-oriented, anxiety becomes a way of life because you are never sure how things are going to turn out and whether or not you will be able to deal with what happens. This situation should cause you to think of your ultimate goal in life. Is it to achieve a particularly worldly result? For example, is it to be accepted and liked by society? Is it to be materially comfortable? Or is it to be free? If it is to be free, then you have to know what freedom is. So you face life with a different orientation: the need to understand yourself. If your true need is to understand yourself then everything that happens teaches you this lesson. So it doesn’t matter if people like you or not, if you have a certain standard of living or not.
Cynthia: A second reason could be the fear to lose the remaining little rest of motivation to earn money as psychotherapist and end up as poor as a church mouse. Don’t laugh, Ram! It is very, very realistic, only a little step far from that. Motivation to DO anything has a development towards zero over the past ten years. Two years ago I designed a picture above the dining table in the kitchen (a favourite place of mine) with a Hakuin poem: “What are you doing? Nothing! I let life rain on me.” It is music to my ears and my soul – also a deep identification! And what then? I have to earn money; anyhow, not easy in these days.
Ram: If you don’t feel like working, then don’t work. Be poor as a church mouse. It’s not the kiss of death. In Germany you don’t have to sleep on the street and you have enough to eat if you are poor. What is so bad about that? I’m poor as a church mouse and life looks after me quite nicely. A bout of serious poverty might also convince you of the value of what you once had. You really ought to come to India for a visit if fear of poverty is a real issue. You would realize very quickly how good you have it. You would be so grateful for what now, in this state of mind, seems to be a problem.
Cynthia: A third reason maybe is – I am so tired, Ram. I have to go to sleep to refresh the body-mind-matter and then we will see what the spirit will reveal further.
Ram: Okay, sounds good. You can be sure that this mood will pass and life will look pretty good again before long. In a couple of days I will reply to your well-written and interesting letter about love and the self.
~ Much love, Ram