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The Only Thing We Can Be Truly Sure Of
Conrad: Reading your profound and clear email immediately had/has the effect of returning attention/the mind towards the self, to knowledge.
Shams: That is the intention of inquiry, to focus the attention on knowledge, which implies a very accurate understanding about it. Otherwise, the mind would keep doing what it always does (focusing on experience), even in subtler ways, like in the case of the last email.
Conrad: There is now, again, deeper understanding that this is the “only thing that counts” (and “everything there is,” me, awareness), and so as a consequence, a noticing of a “zooming out” with respect to “my” jiva/experience, where – of course – a new subtle sense of freedom is arising.
Shams: What should the mind do with this? In the first place, noticing that all these things, the “sense of freedom” and the understanding included, are objects that appear in you. You are free whether they appear or not. The sense of zooming out is maybe the result of better understanding, but even this subtle change is an experience (that will change), like all the things that appear in the mind. And the mind: Are you it? Are you limited by it?
Conrad: Also, your answer about the energy flow (high-pitched) as – maybe – kundalini feels fitting intuitively; I notice a sense of rest here also.
Shams: The “secret” motive behind all the explanations of Vedanta is to entertain the mind, to let rest its extroverted attention, in order to lead it to the self. After all, the only thing that we can be certain about is that there is a self and that it is everything that is. Any other names or descriptions are just that: names, ideas, objects, that actually never happened. But we have to follow the path in order to remove the ignorance spread all over the place.
Conrad: I could write more but stopped it, noticing that this would again be a return to/identification with the jiva’s mind/experience.
Shams: I think that your comprehension is better. The next step, as you know, is to keep applying it to the mind. Intellectual understanding is necessary for the removal of ignorance because it’s the only way you can let the inquiry happen in the mind.
Conrad: Apart from this, and fitting in this picture, there are some further shifts now in my personal situation (in the situation of “my” jiva), all “good,” a further freeing from old patterns, such as a too-strong “loyalty” to people.
Shams: The jiva will always keep changing, and it’s a good idea to engage in dharmic activities and to keep a sattvic mind, as you are doing. Knowledge also is a big aid because it’s the best purifier for the mind. In order for this knowledge to be the correct knowledge, it’s very important to undersand that the jiva will always be imperfect. Removing the binding vasanas is one of the requirements for a pure mind, but the removal of all the vasanas is not equivalent to liberation. Liberation, as you know, is understanding that you are free of that jiva and its vasanas.
Conrad: Another question, still: Please, can you comment a bit more about what you wrote, “…start looking at what I know and not at what I feel or react”? Although the next sentence is quite clear (the intellect being more subtle), I seem to not quite get it.
Shams: Focusing your attention on what you know, when you are applying the knowledge, is to look at the self. It’s also the way inquiry works, putting on the right idea whenever you catch an incorrect idea about your true identity. When you focus your attention only on feelings and reactions, leaving the knowledge aside, the mind would let the emotional centre and/or the ego lead whatever it is doing, including inquiry, which won’t get you the desired results (i.e. elimination of ignorance). Reactions and feelings, as we said, are not realiable evidence about anything, because they are always changing. Also, they depend on what you know, as the intellect is subtler than the ego and the emotional centre. That is why the only important signal here is what you know, what you understand. Moksa won’t save you from your obscure feelings or emotions, and it won’t change (at least not directly) the way you react. What the knowledge of your true identity changes is the relationship between you and those elements that appear in you, which, by the way, eventually helps with changing reactions and feelings – or not. In summary, we can communicate better when you write directly about your ideas or understandings, which is exactly what you are doing now in the best old Vedanta way.
Conrad: Secondly, could you also comment a bit more about the next sentence: “…having to go to the root and stay there for a while”? As I understand it now, it means remaining (with the mind) as awareness/knowing/existence, focusing on this (without much effort/doing), getting more and more used to this true identity of it, with increasing duration, until it has become a natural experience, a falling away of being identified with the jiva-person.
Shams: In the phrase “go to the root,” the root is “the self.” In this case, you know that the only way that you can go to the self is by knowing that you are it. As you are it, you cannot go to it, so the expression is not the most fortunate one. However, as you apparently don’t know it, the mind could “go” to the self by applying the knowledge, “I am the self.” When you understand what it means and you apply it via inquiry, that is “going to the root.” These applications are the ones you know, like discriminating between you and objects.
I know I wrote it in a way that could lead to confusion, but it’s fine because now we can talk about some ideas related to ignorance. I used experiential language, so these sentences could mean that the mind should seek for the experience of awareness or even the experience of knowing until that focus or that attention (see that we are talking about it as movements of the mind, which is also experience) would become automatic or natural, which would lead to some change in identification. There is even an experiential practice (not in Vedanta) that consists on focusing the attention on the sense of being, until the identification with the individual has “dropped out.” It entails a problem, because it’s using the language of experience and it’s missing the whole point: the thing that would let the identification with the jiva fall away is only the firm knowledge, “I am the self.” And even this “falling away” won’t be a big experiential falling. It would be a little non-dramatic understanding, that the body-mind is only an object, and that you are free of objects. Let’s subsitute “go to the root” for “apply the knowledge” because we are not seeking for more and better experience with more duration, we are just applying the right idea about you, until the wrong ideas are gone, and you become obvious.