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This is an email exchange between a Vedantin and a Neo-Adaviti. Daniel had approached a well-known talk show host to do an interview with James. The invitation had sparked a dialogue that demonstrates the paradoxical fact that though Neo-Advaita is spot on, it’s also, as a teaching, totally off.
It also exhibits that, though a person may understand the absolute reality 100%, he/she can still remain 100% ignorant of the necessity/logic behind acknowledging and unfolding the apparent reality and what a complete teaching entails.
Spasmodically we see an attempt to negate the existence of the apparent reality, mithya. Though the apparent reality is not real, it is not non-existent. This is what Daniel attempted to point out to well-known Neo teacher “Bert.”
Bert: Hello, Daniel. The show is no longer making new material. You obviously are not familiar with my website or the way that I dismantle the progressive imaginary path that so-called traditional “teachers” perpetuate. We rejected the idea to interview James many years ago simply because he was not clear.
With respect, I can only respond from my understanding. Pleasantries are deviations and unnecessary, except as a social means for relative peace and harmony.
Daniel: Hi, Bert. First off, I’m not here to defend James Swartz, he’s big and ugly enough to to defend himself. However, for love of the truth, I’m quick to whip out my sword in defense of the Vedic teaching tradition.
You mention that you only respond from your own understanding – this is evident, as it lacks clarity. Please read my response with an open mind.
Bert: It is only the identified fixation (me) that can be offended by words. Vedanta means the end of the Vedas, the end of words! Advaita means “not two.”
Daniel: Vedanta does not refer to the end of words. Vedanta refers to “the end of knowledge,” pointing to the fact that it brings about the end of the search for knowledge. Actually, Vedanta has two meanings: an exoteric and an esoteric reference. But this is not important for now.
Bert: So many teachers are very obviously stuck in a belief system and their “teaching,” which they believe is real and true. I know that you will reject those last few words almost instantly because of your belief in the “system.” There is no system. There is only consciousness. Have you ever considered that so many teachers are just pushing their own barrow to the market place?
Daniel: Vedanta is not a religion, belief system, philosophy or a school of thought; it is revealed truth and is to be realized. Or not.
“There is only consciousness’’ is a hollow statement and means nothing to an inquirer who, at the mercy of ignorance, helplessly identifies himself/herself as being a limited action figure [jiva]. Ignorance is well smudged-in, and unfortunately this statement – or even a “realisation” of it – is not going to “poof away” the hardwired ignorance. This is where the work of inquiry lies, in moment-to-moment “unwiring” of the idea that “I am limited.”
There are many phoney teachers milking the spiritual market. But thank God for the qualified teachers who have no personal gain. Out of loving service, proper teachers provide Vedanta, a systematic antidote, that liberates people of their existential suffering that they find themselves in.
Bert: The imaginary power of being a “teacher” corrupts the mind in subtle ways and the subject is blind to their own erroneous beliefs – because they believe in them! They believe that they are true. They also believe that they can lead others to find the “prize” called enlightenment. There is no such “thing” as enlightenment.
Enlightenment means “illumination.” Can you tell me what is not illuminated in reality? All you can answer with is concepts and beliefs. Light is not a concept or a belief. The sun shines upon everyone without distinction. “The truth is a pathless land,” says J. Krishnamurti.
Someone who professes to be a guide for a path, process or time-bound method is clearly deluded and has not seen the truth of things. Denial will rise up like an angry demon against anyone who points out the errors of their teaching or way.
Daniel: The prize is the removal of ignorance – which in turn reveals that you have never not been enlightened.
Vedanta is not a path nor is it a time-bound method. You, awareness, is not bound by time, therefore Vedanta is not either.
Vedanta does not belong to anyone. I’ve never heard James Swartz claim that it is his teaching. On the contrary, he makes it very clear that what he shares has zip/zero to do with him, and only that it had set him and many others free – and has been doing so for thousands of years.
If you visit the ShiningWorld site you will see that the first few lines under “Contact” read, “The teachings on this website belong to Vedanta and not to me personally.”
Bert: In reality there is no one stuck in anything and there is no path. The path that so many speak of is obviously a metaphorical path in their own minds. The imagined progress they are convinced is real is nothing but a dream.
Daniel: In reality there is no one stuck in anything and there is no path. But unfortunately this mere statement doesn’t offer much assistance to a seeker who is hardwired in duality. Besides, it’s not reality that has the problem.
Apparent problems apparently occur only within the apparent reality. And this is where the teaching is required and applied, within the apparent reality. Knowing the meaning of “apparent” clarifies one’s relationship to objects.
Bert: Belief is the thing that keeps everyone turning on a dead spot. Everyone gets offended when their beliefs are challenged, but the fact is that there is NO belief that is the actuality.
Daniel: Vedanta is not a belief system.
Bert: The spiritual scene is not much more than a circus. The performers are sitting on a gold mine, but it has nothing to do with truth or reality.
Daniel: Though Vedanta makes you your own teacher, it does not negate the importance of having a qualified person to wield the knowledge appropriately. If no teacher was required, people would then be able to solve the existential problem they find themselves in (knowingly or unknowingly) on their own and continue to go about their daily duty without feeling a sense of lack or fear. But this is not the case.
A qualified teacher is required to unfold the teachings because ignorance, or the non-apprehension of the true nature of reality as non-dual, is hardwired and very tenacious. As the mind is conditioned to think a certain way and because non-duality is counter-intuitive, unless the mind is guided in its exposure to Vedanta it will interpret Vedanta according to its conditioning, or vasanas.
I can understand why you get so hacked-off by James – actually, it’s not James that ticks you off, but what the teaching, Vedanta, exposes.
It’s simple. Vedanta exposes the limitations of Neo-Adavita, something that – believe it or not – you are totally stuck in. And even though it’s an illusion, it still exists, hence your statement, “It is only the identified fixation (me) that can be offended by words.” Your response is so utterly personal, yet you attempt to totally negate this little offended jiva called Bert.
Bert: There are no such things as Neo-Advaita or Traditional Advaita. There is only the single essence of life. No labels can stick to THAT. The mind is dualistic. Those who rally against one side or another are dreaming.
Daniel: “There are no such things as Neo-Advaita or Traditional Advaita.’’ This is true from awareness’s point of view. But its not the Absolute that requires teaching.
Bert: Awareness is not a concept. Awareness is not a word. The word “awareness” is just a label.
Awareness is self-aware. Awareness does not need an agent or teacher, pupil or thing. Seekers don’t actually exist, just as a dream character does not exist. In the scheme of things it is rare to find one who has gone beyond mind and lives without being drawn back into the apparent dualistic nature of mind. The fact is that there are no entities anywhere. Consciousness is the content of awareness. It has no power to do, see or know anything. It appears to have all manner of qualities, but it is just a dream.
Daniel: True, you, awareness, cannot be objectified and do not require a single thing. Everything is you – yet you remain free from everything.
But because Bert does not have a complete teaching, he is confusing the absolute reality (satya) with the apparent reality (mithya).
Bert: It is plain as anything that almost every observable spiritual teacher alive today is coming from a belief in being someone special. The truth is they are nothing. Why brag about one’s nothingness? That is what they are doing, but they don’t see it. Ignorance parading as knowledge is an absurdity. Vanity is the obvious sign written upon the faces of each and every one of these teachers. They cannot hide it. They are obsessed with themselves.
Imaginary saviours are a grotesque absurdity lost in their own self-image. Yes, they appear to be very “good people” and very compassionate. Contrived habitual behaviour is all it is. Observe your teacher with fresh eyes. You will not miss the vanity on display.
Daniel: James puts on a “teacher hat” when asked a question. I can’t speak on behalf of James, but I have an inkling of a feeling that he would be rocking his trucker hat whilst out fishing and spending time with his lovely wife, rather than offering his precious time serving others. He’s definitely not on any saving mission. That dude is way too lazy and out of shape for that!
Here is a great copy/paste paragraph from our friend Ted [Schmidt]. It summarises what I have been attempting to point out.
“Vedanta – to put it very simply – has been a pragmatic and effective tool for thousands of years for gaining self-knowledge or, to put it more correctly, for removing the ignorance about one’s true nature as limitless awareness. Vedanta is a dualistic means of using concepts to destroy false concepts about the nature of the self. And in the process both the correct idea and the erroneous idea disappear into the vision of oneself as non-dual reality. The heart of Vedanta is a number of teaching methods, found in the Upanishads and used by the teachers of the tradition to communicate the vision of non-duality.
“Vedanta has an immense depth describing our true nature and the nature of existence. It only focuses on removing ignorance and not on creating a complete philosophical system. In Vedanta the qualifications and maturity of a seeker as well as the qualifications of the teacher are considered important for success fully removing ignorance.”
And the below explanation on Neo-Advaita yokes well with your statement, “The way that I dismantle the progressive imaginary path that so-called traditional ‘teachers’ perpetuate.”
“There is no real definition of Neo-Advaita, so I will come up with one for the purpose of this essay. It is the message that ‘all is one,’ or ‘not-two,’ which reflects the actual Sanskrit meaning of the word advaita where dvaita means ‘dualism’ and ‘a-’ is a negating prefix.
“But it is just this message and nothing more. There is no teaching method, no tradition, no scriptures and no coherent teaching style. Also, there are no qualifications needed for a seeker or for a teacher, since ‘all is one.’”
Bert: Words always fail. It seems that you missed what I was attempting to point out and you kept referring to the unclear character, the apparent subject, that wrote the email. I have no need to defend myself.
Daniel: Bert, your understanding of the Absolute/self is spot on, and I agree with everything you have said – or at least, the most part. If you just lay down your loaded-automatic-spiritual-defence-responder and read what I have responded, you will see that I have not said anything that is in conflict with what you have sheepled on about.
I have only been tackling one point – the point of what a complete teaching entails, meaning covering the other half of the story, the apparent reality.
Though it’s not real, meaning it does not last, it is not non-existent. To realise one’s nature is the easy part. But to hear about maya is not so easy, or more accurately, the work lies in the removal of the jiva’s hardwired ideas and attachment to his/her ideas. To chip away at ignorance and unhelpful vasanas – which have been in the driver’s seat ever since it can remember – is very hard work.
Yip! Believe it or not, work is required, Bert. I bet this doesn’t go down with your “there’s nothing to do” teaching. I can just imagine the cringe when you read this next sad line. Qualifications are required too. I will not bother to go there, but here is a link that covers the topic of qualifications. You really won’t like it: NonDoodle.com/funny-truth/qualifications.
Bert: You speak of the Vedanta teaching as if it were an entity, and that is the subtle trap. Religious people are all the same. Belief in some “higher knowledge” obscures the ordinary everyday awareness. Who cares?
Daniel: Though the apparent reality is not real, it is not non-existent. Existence doesn’t equal “real.” Read that line again: existence doesn’t equal real. Vedanta completely agrees with you on what you say about the nature of ordinary everyday awareness, but what the teaching does not ignore is the necessity of unfolding the apparent reality.
Bert: There is a line attributed to Krishna which says it all: “No one can penetrate my world-bewitching maya.” No one. The entire manifestation is an appearance. The apparent entities appearing are an aspect of maya. They cannot penetrate or get out of the dream. It appears that some dream that they have escaped and then then they help others to escape. It is all a dream.
Daniel: You are totally zapped in the Neo-trap! An image just popped up: a guy attempting to ride around on his bicycle. But this bicycle only has one wheel at the front. The wheel could be the most perfect wheel there is, but it still doesn’t make up for the lack of a missing back wheel. Unfortunately, as a tool for transporting (taking the jiva across and out the storms of maya) it ain’t going to give much service, the point being, knowing just the Absolute is not enough and does not add up to a complete teaching.
(PS: His T-shirt says “nobody.”)
Bert: Anyway, there is no point in playing ping pong. You continue to assist the helpers. Missionaries have often done more harm than good – but they are the last to agree upon that. The apparent manipulation of apparent knowledge in order to fix the ignorant is an illusion. Buddha says: “Nirvana and samsara are not two.”
There is no duality in non-duality. Be happy. I trust you have enjoyed this little exchange.
Daniel: Bert, you are spiritually clued-up, but remain spiritually clueless on what a complete teaching entails.
Bert: Defenders of the truth are dreamers. Truth needs no defence. There is an old saying: “Never stick your head in a hornet’s nest.” Self-proclaimed experts on any teaching are many. Every one of them is on a mission. They have a disclaimer, something like, “It is not me, God is working through me.” It is so transparent and utterly naive. The feature that shows up is a kind of exclusive access. Reality is all-inclusive.
No method, no practice, no effort to become something other than what one is. The emotional investment in belief in a teaching is just that. Who is the one identified? Atman? Brahman? Jiva? Words put upon the perfection of life, believed-in words that divide the indivisible. How absurd it all is.
Daniel: Understandably, you are nauseated by the spiritual circus and the teachers that have throned themselves, but I don’t know why you keep bringing this up in our conversation.
Let’s stop. Its been a fun exchange. I like your previous statement, “Be happy,” which leads me to a statement by Dogen, “Next to good manners, enlightenment is the most important thing in the world.”
Bert: Yes, we can stop. Easy. One last short exchange. One last arrow.
Maya is the appearance. Phenomena. The definition of phenomena is “that which appears to be.”
You say my understanding is incomplete. It may appear to be from where you are judging it. Right there in your judgment is projected fixation of a “me.” In actuality you cannot know what my understanding is – or is not. In essence I am nothing. I have no knowledge. It appears that I am good at rousting out the hidden ego mind games of others. Who cares? In the appearance it appears that I have a talent of getting under the skin of pretenders.
Pretenders very often don’t even know that they are pretending. They don’t actually exist as an entity. It is all merely belief and belief is never the actuality. Awareness needs no agent! Awareness is self-aware.
Daniel: Again, I agree with everything you say with regard to “nothing has happened, is happening or will ever happen. There is no teacher, seeker, or seeking that is actually happening,” etc., etc.
I also feel your point on the spiritual circus and all the clowns that juggle their prey around – knowingly or not.
Bert: The other side: there is nothing quite so absurd as the appearance of a “teacher” who openly displays vanity and conceit while pretending to be an agent of Vedanta or some other apparent “higher realm.”
Imaginary power corrupts the mind. I have watched videos of James. He really thinks he is one special being, eh! I have met a few folk who have been with him. Their reports about him are not good. It is obvious that he is incredibly vain and locked into his mind games. The label I give it is “holy shit”: shit mixed with sugar.
Mooji falls into the same arena. Adyashanti also. Eckhart Tolle is just a clever pedlar of concepts. Basically, seekers worship the messenger and miss the message. The message may well be there in brief moments for all to hear, but it is obvious that the messenger in so many cases has missed the message themselves and so they add lots of their own crap to the message. They muddy the message with their own vanity and stinking specialness. They all walk like they have a broom stick up their ass. Most seekers are incredibly self-centred and vain and so they don’t recognise the obvious display of vanity.
Daniel: James can be confidently satirical at times, but it stops there. One of the main reasons why James is both adored and disliked is the very fact that he exposes erroneous spiritual myths – including phoney teachings and teachers like you had mentioned. If you had taken the time to listen to his delivery you would then perhaps not have stated what you had stated.
You guys are actually not so different – just that his jiva-knowledge is complete.
I say jiva-knowledge because you, awareness, are free from knowledge.
Bert: Don’t dismiss the evidence so quickly. Investigate for yourself. Test it. Reality doesn’t give a shit about any of this. Yes, don’t worry, be happy. You were never in bondage. That is the revelation beyond all revelations.
Daniel: People cling tooth and nail to their erroneous beliefs and hardwired patterns. “Patterns” here refer to the desires and fears that compel the action figure [jiva] to act. Why does the action figure feel incomplete? Because he/she does not know his/her true natural as limitless, non-dual awareness. This is caused by a lack of jiva-knowledge – and this is where the teaching comes in. A teaching is not here to give the person anything, rather it serves in removing something: ignorance. Because ignorance only appears within the maya dream, it is therefore only valid and applicable within the maya dream.
Unfortunately, these fears/desires don’t just “poof away” because the person has “woken up” to his/her true nature as awareness. Devotion for liberation and diligent work is required to neutralise the vasanas and the lifetime conditioned sense of “I am a doer.”
Though maya is not real, understanding its apparent mechanics is vital for the seeker who is inquiring into the nature of reality and for the application of discrimination, discrimination/viveka being the essence of the teaching.
Keep well, friend.
PS: You didn’t like the image I stuck in? ☺
Bert: This can go round and round and round until the cows come home. I will only point to one “thing” regarding vasanas, which you say quite clearly require “work” to neutralise. That is not so. To prove it for yourself, look at this: vasanas would be conditioning, I think you would agree. Now, what conditioning is there if you do not think about it? If you are truly open and observant, you will see that there is no conditioning whatsoever. So the “problem” is in the thinking – or more exactly, in the belief in the thoughts and ideas about the “past.” So – what past is there if you do not think about it? None whatsoever. Now you are totally free, which you were already.
Daniel: Yes, I, awareness, am totally free. Vasanas belong to the action figure, not to me, awareness. My whole response to you, Bert, has been to the jiva about the jiva.
Bert: If you are truly fortunate you will recognise that the emptiness of mind is naked cognition, which functions as non-conceptual awareness.
Daniel: Believe it or not, the nature of the mind is to vibrate, aka to think. LOL. How the jiva is able to stop thinking beats me?!
You right, when awareness identifies with an incorrect thought such as “I am limited” it causes a problem. But this problem is not awareness’s problem. The sense of lack sticks to the jiva. Hear that again, Bert: though non-conceptual awareness remains free, the person apparently does not.
If the mind is qualified, the ego is ready to understand that Vedanta is not about destroying the ego. It is about understanding that the ego is only apparently real and the true nature of the mind is whole and complete, non-dual awareness, that which is actually real.
I’m bored with this conversation. The last thing I’ll do is copy/paste an extract about the myth of the “no-mind/blank mind/empty mind” notion – that you are thinking about as you read this.
“As the self is always enlightened, the idea that ‘no-mind’ is enlightenment implies a duality between the awareness and thought.
“To say that the self is not experienceable when the mind is functioning means that the mind and the self enjoy the same order of reality, like a table and a chair. But experience shows that this is untrue. Do you cease to exist when you are thinking? Is there thought without awareness? In fact thoughts come from you, but you are much more than a thought. They depend on you, but you do not depend on them. Does the mind hide the ‘I’ and prevent you from experiencing the ‘I’? For you to know that the mind is empty or thinking you have to be aware. In both cases, with and without thought, I, awareness, am present. If I am aware at both times, I am not hidden by thought nor am I revealed by no-thought. Whether they are present or absent, I, the ever-free, ever-present self, am always directly experienced. Awareness is always present. There is nothing you can do about it except know what it is and what it means to be awareness. It is ignorance of my nature as awareness that causes me to believe I can gain my self by stopping my mind or getting into a state of emptiness.” ~ James Swartz