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The Wrong Attitude
James: I don’t think you understand, Peter. It seems you haven’t watched the Bhagavad Gita videos.
Peter: I am watching the video, James. I understand that on one level it is a symbolic narrative about the quest for moksa. But when you have God advising the hero to follow his nature, no matter the moral implications, how can that not be taken as an endorsement of sociopathic behavior?
James: Sociopaths and/or potential sociapaths will not be reading the Bhagavad Gita, Peter. It only comes to a person who is spiritually inclined. In forty-five years of teaching it, I have yet to meet anyone who thought that the Gita was advocating killing. You need to look at the context.
Peter: It doesn't strike me as much different than Yahweh telling the Israelites to commit genocide on the Canaanites. If the moral results of knowing that ultimately all is the self is an apathetic acceptance of the status quo, no matter how evil, then that is a huge problem for any person of conscience. I don’t believe that necessarily IS the implication; most teachings state that the result is compassion. But it seems like that is what the Gita is saying: compassion is mere sentimentality.
James: The Gita is not about action and its results, Peter. It is about moksa. But you get to moksa by working out your stuff. If you are a soldier and you find yourself in an unsolicited war and you don’t fight, you will create a conflict that will disturb you all your life. If you don’t resolve your inner conflicts, you will not get free of them. The Gita is not about “an apathetic acceptance of the status quo.” It has nothing to do with the status quo. It is about freedom through understanding who you are both as a person and as awareness. Certain actions are required of everyone in life whether they want to do them or not. The point of the Arjuna situation is that you must take appropriate action, not run away from your karma. Self-knowledge is compassion, not the “idiot compassion” of an uninformed morality. If evil is not confronted on its own terms, it will destroy the world. You have to see Krishna’s words in the context that brought about the war. If America did not respond to 9/11 in a violent way, after first asking the Taliban to hand Bin Laden over, we would have a 9/11 every year and dharma would indeed disappear from the earth. Killing is inevitable. It is only wrong when the reasons are wrong. In Arjuna’s case, it was required because Arjuna wants moksa, freedom from the doer, the one that kills.
Peter: As for the Russians, censorship hasn't exactly resulted in a violence-free society there! They need to address their paranoia instead of looking for scapegoats.
James: My point is that you are making the same mistake as the Russians. You are interpreting the Gita literally, not figuratively. I agree with you about war, but the Gita is not about war.
Peter: Moving on, I have been bothered by your statement that there is no “why” when it comes to samsara. How can there be an effect without a cause? It isn't enough to say “ignorance arose within the self” without giving a reason. So what about this? Awareness cannot exist without an object of awareness.
James: This is simply not true, Peter. The whole point of moksa is that you, awareness, do exist without objects. The scriptures are totally clear on this issue. Awareness is self-existent, self-luminous, self-aware. It does not require an object to illumine. In the presence of objects it illumines itself and objects. In the absence of objects it illumines itself.
Peter: It is like saying electricity can exist with only one pole. How would it be aware of its own existence with nothing to be aware of? So samsara is a logical necessity. Does this destroy the concept of non-duality? I don't think so. In itself, the self remains non-dual, but it generates duality as the necessary complement to its own being.
Is there a place in the tapes where Isvara is discussed? I feel like that is a missing piece of the puzzle for me.
James: I really can’t teach you, Peter, and I don’t argue. I have been writing to you for years. You have not done your homework. The whole Gita is about Isvara. Isvara is the key to moksa. Vedanta is a complete teaching. Have you read How to Attain Enlightenment? If you have, you will not be making these statements. Do you read the satsangs on the website? If not, you need to read them before you write again. If you have read them, then you do not understand what Vedanta is about. I know that I started communicating with you years ago when I had time to discuss certain issues with you but times have changed. There are now thousands of people in the ShiningWorld orbit and there are now guidelines for e-satsang. After all, it is a free service. There are four or five other ShiningWorld teachers writing to answer the questions and we still can’t keep up with the demand. So you have to fulfill certain requirements so that you know what kind of questions to ask.
Both of these issues, the morality issue and the idea that awareness requires objects to be known, not to mention the statement about Isvara, show that either you have not studied the teachings in a systematic and rigorous way or that the Peter-filter is interpreting them according to his own lights. You cannot interpret these teachings if you want them to work. You can only contemplate them to see what they mean. There is never an argument. I am sorry to be rather stern, Peter, but you have been around long enough to know what Vedanta is all about. By now you should be discriminating the self from the not-self on a moment to moment basis, not arguing about morality, the need for samsara, etc. It is a waste of your time and mine.
~ Much love, James
(Note: Needless to say, Peter was not amused by my reply and send a rather unkind email which does not warrant publication. The lesson to be drawn from this email, as mentioned above, is this: Vedanta is not meant to be interpreted by you. It is meant to be heard and contemplated, and, hopefully, understood.)