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The Path of Delusion
Joshua: I have actually been incredibly lazy for the last six weeks. I was intending just to keep going and going with my studies, but all of a sudden I just stopped. It’s actually been really cool to just come home and cruise the Net, watch TV and just be lazy, which is the first time in over six years that I have done that, and the only time ever as an adult where I have been basically carefree. Even during times in my life when I haven’t been doing much, I was always agitated about the future and plotted my next move. In my hiatus, I have concerned myself with such important matters as discovering how magicians do their tricks – I have always wanted to know how their tricks are done, though it’s always a shame when you find out because the tricks are usually very simple, though when performed well they are really fun.
Sundari: It’s good to hear from you and I’m so glad you have been taking time out! We highly recommend it as a spiritual practice for all jnanis. And interesting things you learned too – magic – ha ha! Good old maya.
We have had some very interesting discussions with people about the pratibasika state, although this is not magic per se, all magic thinking comes from it. How “real” this state can be for some people, as real (or unreal) as the waking state or dream state. We have a good friend who was involved with a guru in India for 14 years who was basically just that – a good magician. Magic has nothing whatsoever to teach. This friend of ours is no goofball either. She is actually (or has become) a jnani and can’t believe she was caught up in that “scene” for so long.
Still, what she told us she witnessed take place in front of her eyes sounded pretty far-out, like this guy cutting a bird’s head off – they saw the blood, the dead bird. Then he sang some mantras, put the head back on and the bird flew off – weird! But so what? Apparently there where many faithful disciples, presumably also not unintelligent people, who believe to this day in this magician guru – that there is something important they just missed or some experience that is going to occur to change everything. Talk about bondage!
Joshua: That is a very interesting story about the magician guru. One thing I learned – and learned the hard way – is how deeply impressionable the human mind is and how easy it is to get suckered into things. It happens to intelligent people all the time. Many times, when I was reading, I got led down the wrong paths, thinking I had just discovered the treasure of all treasures and the final truth on whatever subject I happened to be reading about. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the maturity or filters in place to stop my mind running down those alleys and questioning what I had come across.
At one time I genuinely thought Tony Robbins was the greatest human being in history, the master of all masters. Now I think of him as a selfish, childish, manipulative fool, selling false hope and preying on gullible people, even though what he teaches is true enough on the level at which it is offered, and it was useful to me and many others to varying degrees. A year or two later I thought NLP [neuro-linguistic programming] was it. A few years later, I found Eckhart Tolle and declared him the greatest spiritual teacher of all time – I am not joking. At one point I thought humans naturally evolved as vegetarians and that the vegan diet was optimal. I am never surprised when I hear intelligent people going down paths that they later realise weren’t right. The sorry state of spirituality on this planet is almost purpose-built for this sort of thing to occur.
Sundari: How well put! Yes, indeed most of us have walked the path of delusion until we find Vedanta!
Joshua: It is interesting you mention sattvic tamas. Lately I have been thinking about the interesting relationship between sattva and tamas in regards to the power of sattvic thinking to create tamasic emotions. When you start seeing clearly, it is very easy to become depressed and experience other tamasic emotions. When I was in my early twenties I looked very clearly at this world and saw what was happening – and I did not shy away from it – and I was just horrified, disgusted and depressed. I think many people who are depressed have realised deep sattvic truths, such as there is no permanent joy in objects and that this is a difficult world – but because they don’t understand what the realisations means, and they live in a culture that is clueless, it creates long-term tamasic emotions. That is what happened to me anyway, and I suspect many others.
I think one of the more advanced parts of the spiritual journey is overcoming the tendency of sattvic thinking to create tamasic emotions. Sattvic thinking should eventually create sattvic emotions. I still have quite a bit of work to do on this issue, as I was super tamasic. I may be interpreting and using the term sattva incorrectly here, and possibly extrapolating too much from my own experience and generalising it, but I think you know what I mean.
Sundari: I could not agree with you more, and funnily enough this is the third time this month that this topic has come up – James and I have discussed it at length. We all have to live in the world and follow our dharma. Sometimes this requires us to face less-than-optimal conditions for peace of mind. The world appears to be a crazy place, and it is impossible to understand without self-knowledge. One must apply the knowledge in all situations, observing dispassionately as the mind has to accommodate to its karma, whatever it is.
A trap to avoid is the downside of sattva. Sattva can become such a strong like that one becomes cynical and judgmental of everything else – resulting in strong dislikes – more vasanas. There is a kind of sattvic arrogance that does not help at all. It makes it difficult to compassionately and patiently go with the flow – to see everything in one’s environment as the self, playing out in self-ignorance. In fact sattvic arrogance can become a real hindrance to moksa. This is a common problem with self-realised people. One becomes oversensitive to everything: noise, people, pollution, crime, etc. It does not bode well for self-inquiry unless one has the eye of compassionate non-duality. Accommodation is a very important qualification for moksa.
Joshua: I have enjoyed the break immensely, but fortunately I am back in serious mode now. I am not forcing myself to go back to work, it just feels natural to do so.
Sundari: Ah, Joshua. You never change mode, being limitless, ever-present, unchanging awareness – and you are never really serious now, are you?
Joshua: I must admit I have enjoyed learning about the magicians, but when it comes down it, magic is actually pretty silly. And when you realise how the illusions are done (though there are still many I don’t know the solution for), you can’t believe you are fooled. Even David Copperfield’s much-vaunted flying routine – it’s just wires, only very beautifully and cleverly done.
Sundari: Oh yes (big yawn)!
Joshua: Sounds like you are on the mend. That’s great. Though of course the illness is a pain, it must be nice to stay in South Africa for a while longer.
Sundari: I will be in SA probably until the end of April. I am going for more tests, as this bronchitis is just not clearing up. What a pain it is to have a body sometimes! All is well though; James left on the weekend for Amsterdam, fit and ready to rock more minds! I hope all is well with you.
~ Much love, Sundari