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Subjective Reality and Chasing Experience
Dana: I guess maybe you’re sort of still processing something or other about channeling, as am I, since you wrote again. Anyway, don’t worry, I’m not good enough at it to put up a shingle and call myself a spiritual teacher based on what someone (I’m trying for Ramana Maharshi) who comes through me says. I have been around some amazing psychics who have basically done that, when you call in the angels and ascended masters and whomever, it turns out pretty much any fool can generate an impressive energy field and say right-on, amazing things to individuals… until they come out of trance and are their regular screwed-up personalities again.
Sundari: No, I was not processing anything about channelling – there is nothing to process. I sent you a revised copy of our exchange because I was preparing it to post it at the website (anonymously of course). As I tried to explain to you, channelling, angels, demons, “ascended masters,” et al are all experiential subjective phenomenon. Vedanta is unambiguous about this topic.
Because there is only awareness and all objects have a dependent existence on it (you), dis-embodied jivas of whatever ilk are not much different from the supposedly embodied jivas. As reality is non-dual, they are objects that arise in you and are known to you, awareness. The apparent reality is all a dream within a dream; none of it is real, “real” being defined as “that which is always present and never changes.” Only awareness fits that definition.
Disembodied beings are jivas too, and have a subtle body; they still have great attachment to the world of gross objects, just like embodied jivas do. It is desire that keeps them attached, so they are driven by their vasanas. But vasanas cannot be directly seen, whereas the subtle body can be seen, even if it is not seemingly attached to a gross object, like a physical body. Some people can see subtle energies such as disembodied jivas of whatever nature more clearly than others, and are called “sensitives” or “psychic.” It is just the ability to tune in to a different bandwidth, so to speak, much like tuning into a different TV or radio channel. It is no big deal.
This ability to perceive the subtle realm of disembodied beings is the stuff of mythology and mysticism, not to mention some of the biggest load of BS in the so-called spiritual arena. Admittedly, there may be more “genuine” channellers; but the problem of course is the channeller themselves – the person or entity who must make contact with and “transmit” information from “other” realms. From awareness’s point of view, there are no other realms and there is nothing to transmit, because everything is known to be you. When self-knowledge is firm, everything is known and understood and there is no purpose or need for “transmissions” of any kind. I suppose an experience such as channelling does have some benefit in that it can give one the understanding that there is something outside of the information available through the normal organs of perception. The insights available in such cases are much like the insights a drug-induced high – or an epiphany – can provide. The problem arises when more import is given to these insights than they actually hold. Like all subjective experiences, experiencing disembodied beings is of little use unless it delivers knowledge – and the knowledge is understood and assimilated.
As all knowledge is true to the object and not the subject, subjective knowledge may or may not contain truth, whereas self-knowledge is not dependent on the object; it is self-revealing. Vedanta calls the subjective realm of experience “pratibasika,” which means “apparently real,” and the information obtained from this is dependent an interpretation. Everyone will experience this realm differently, through the filters of their conditioning, meaning their vasanas. I can assure you, if someone claims to be “channelling” Ramana, it is purely their own projection.
Vyavaharika refers to the realm of empirical reality, such as Newton’s world of billiard balls and clocks. This realm is apparently predictable and relatively stable. If we are both looking at a mountain, we will probably both agree that it is a mountain. But I might find it a scary mountain and you might find it a peaceful mountain, which will be a result of our subjective (interpreted) view of the mountain. Lastly, one has the realm of paramarthika – the perspective of awareness. This is non-dual vision, where everything is seen as awareness, as you. It means that which is real, meaning always present and never changing.
The Vedas have a body of literature called the Karma Kanda which deals with the different realms in the apparent reality, all the lokas and the myriad jivas that inhabit them, from angelic to demonic, as well as many rituals for jivas who think they are doers and who believe they can supplicate and propitiate the “gods” to fulfil their desires. Much mystery, importance and hype has been attached to this by the spiritual world. It is dualistic, desire- and fear-based. The people interested in this are not interested in (or qualified for) self-knowledge, because it is all experienced-based and for people who think they are people, identified with being the doer.
Vedanta means the truth that is “at the end of the Vedas” (Veda means “truth,” anta means “end”), or as we like to say, the knowledge that ends the quest for knowledge. About this subjective realm with all its hype, Vedanta says very clearly: so what? What difference does it make if it is a jiva with or without a gross body? What difference does it make it you can see or “channel” subtle energies? If you do not have self-knowledge, you are still ignorant. At best it may be a leading error in that it makes you realise there is something more than what you think you know or can perceive with the tools available for perception. As Vedantins we are interested in moksa, not silly rituals or the so-called arcane and mysterious world of spirits, “channelled” information or ghosts, because we are engaged in self-inquiry in order to negate the doer and render the binding vasanas non-binding.
If you know that your true nature is awareness and therefore non-dual, you do not need to engage with disembodied beings, supplicate Isvara, God or anything else. With self-knowledge you appreciate Isvara with the karma yoga attitude of gratitude because you know that although as awareness you are beyond Isvara, as a jiva – enlightened or not, embodied or not – you live in the apparent reality, and so you are subject to the laws that run the dharma field.
Dana: That said, I’m finding it really useful to access the wisdom of whomever it is who comes though for myself… maybe it’s the satguru, my (everyone’s?) true inner self. Sometimes when I’m really stymied about an answer (because I go to lots of groups and teachers).
Sundari: Your “true inner self” is awareness; that is ultimately the only guru there is. What you say here is totally dualistic because you are implying that there is something “outside” of you to “get.” Vedanta says this is a non-dual reality. Your true nature is whole and complete, non-dual awareness; you are only ever experiencing awareness and you cannot gain something you already have. But maya (apparently) deludes the self under the spell of ignorance into identifying with objects. It then believes that awareness is something it needs to find or gain. The mind then chases objects of whatever nature (channelling is an object known to awareness) in order to feel complete.
As stated, the spiritual circus, which for the most part has no idea what non-duality is, likes to make a big deal of this subjective reality of seeing and channelling disembodied beings. But this has no more inherent import than seeing a bus going past in the road, a stranger crossing the street, a cat sitting on the neighbour’s wall. It has the meaning you read into it. Vedanta is about common sense. It is about what is real: YOU, the one observing the dream.
Only self-knowledge sets you free of it all. And when you have self-knowledge, all of these things that so fascinate the ego fall away and are seen for what they are: distractions. They make no difference to awareness whatsoever.
Dana: Sorry, if Ram were here all the time I’d go to him all the time, and I do believe 99% of what he says, which is way more than what I believe from most anyone else… a few things I don’t buy though, like when he says it’s not important, even counterproductive, to meditate).
Sundari: There are seeming paradoxes in Vedanta, but they are not real paradoxes. They all fall away when discrimination, dispassion and all the other qualifications are present in the mind. Ram does not teach his opinions or beliefs. He teaches Vedanta, the science of consciousness. It is not his teaching and it is not up for interpretation. Either you get it, or you don’t. If you don’t get something he says it’s because qualifications are missing on the part of the listener. He definitely does not say that meditation is a waste of time. You have not understood the teaching on this. What James teaches about it is that a practice such as meditation is a tool to aid self-inquiry, but it does not equal self-inquiry. Unless one has realised that one is not the meditator but the one who knows the meditator, meditation can keep one stuck for years trying to have an experience of the self, which many meditators do have, but the problem is the identification with the experiencer/meditator is still there. Unless the knowledge that meditation is designed to impart is fully assimilated – i.e. “I am whole and complete, non-dual awareness,” and not the meditator – the experience ends because it was just that, an experience. This is true of any other spiritual experience, such as samadhis or kundalini awakenings or channelling, for that matter.
Dana: Anyway, I go to lots of lineages, whatever pops up in town, and there are many approaches to everything, and when there is confusion I find it useful to put myself in a bit of a trance and call in whomever it is who answers… I tape myself and play it back and sometimes do admittedly get a bit of arrogance, thinking that’s pretty good, maybe I should put up a shingle… don’t worry, I know better).
Sundari: Can you see how dualistic this statement is? Who is going into a trance other than the ego? It is all about chasing an experience, something to make the person/doer feel better – or more important. Yes, the ego is deluded into thinking it has “special” powers. This is why you are confused, Dana; if you were seriously interested in moksa, you would drop the spiritual window-shopping and settle for self-inquiry into the true nature of reality with an independent and valid means of knowledge, which is Vedanta. If spiritual candy is what you after, then Vedanta is not for you.
Dana: Meanwhile, I’m certainly not kicking Mother out when she comes through! I could be wrong, but kind of suspect that if one of your loved ones crossed over, God forbid, you wouldn’t exactly kick them out either if they decided to put in an appearance to you from the other side.
Sundari: I have lost many loved ones over the years (fatal car crashes, illness, suicide, etc.), but I have never lost them, because I know that they are really awareness, not the person with a body and a story. As much as the ego grieved their loss, I know that their essence is who I am and I am always experiencing them because they are not separate from me. I am not confused about what is me, awareness (satya), and the objects that appear in me – everything else (mithya).
Dana: Mom and I have a deal that we help each other; it’s kind of an energy-alignment thing to basically help us both access the space of quiet and joy. On personality levels, we didn’t ever or at least not since I was 12 years old or so have that much to say to each other, she was just such an earth-bound, pragmatic sort of person, but the love was and is always there and that’s what is accessed now. But it’s not just the generic love of everyone and everything, there’s a specific sort of one-on-one alignment that seems to help us both. We’re kind of mutual guides. I learned how to do that, actually 13 years ago when my last boyfriend committed suicide… I wouldn’t have thought he would be guide material, but actually he was, he helped me (and I believe I helped him) a lot, for a while, from the other side.
Sundari: This is the doer speaking again. But if it helps you deal with the life in the world as the person identified with being a person, so be it. It is a question of what you are really after. If it is moksa you are after, then the qualifications for this are pretty clear, as explained above, and self-inquiry is what you need, not more experience.
Dana: I’ve read (in a great book by Nisargadatta’s guru Siddharameshwar Maharaj) that one can’t bypass the bodies (gross, subtle, causal) in order to jump right to what he calls the great causal body. One needs to honor them fully in order clearly to realize their impermanence, then move beyond. Besides all the myriads of levels of angels and masters and heavens and hells and whomever and whatever else like there are in the subtle body, the subtle body also consists of our thoughts and emotions and perceptions, etc. I’ve certainly been in groups where people thought they could bypass the thoughts and emotions, basically jump right over the mess of their lives in order to be spiritual, and we know how that turns out. I also used to be a serious Zen Buddhist. I learned a lot from that but after some years it was just plain TOO grim. If you saw/perceived anything like lights or colors, let alone angels or gods or goddesses, you were supposed to ignore them and just go on until you hit emptiness (which Siddharameshwar puts in the lower levels of causal body)… what was the fun in that?
Sundari: Vedanta agrees that in order to free the mind of its conditioning, it has to be seen and understood – in the light of self-knowledge, not in light of interpreted truth – if moksa is what you are after. In order to be free of the person and to live free as the person, who knows that their true nature is awareness, the only “what” to do this is through self-knowledge. Denying the person and their conditioning keeps you bound to them. However, casting about in the apparent reality for methods to free the mind, unless they are based in non-duality, keep one stuck chasing objects to feel better, worthy, connected, loved, etc., etc. (see statements above).
Vedanta is called a “brahma vidya,” which means the science of consciousness. It is an objective and scientific analysis of the true nature of reality – and your experience, based on the facts. Like any other science, it is not personal and it has a methodology – which, if followed with great dedication and commitment, will provide irrefutable knowledge that is moksa, if the student is qualified. Vedanta is simply the truth about you. Not your truth or my truth or anyone’s truth: The Truth.
This is why Vedanta is called apauruseya jnanam, meaning not the philosophy or experience of one person like a prophet or a mystic, as in the Buddha or Jesus. It is not a belief system or religion either. Vedanta predates all known religious or philosophical paths because it is simply how things are and have always been, because it is the pathless path that underpins all other paths. It is an independent teaching, or sruti, which means “that which is heard.” Vedanta is revealed to the mind of man, not thought up by man or the result of any action on anyone’s part; this is why you can trust it.
Vedanta teaches that you cannot do anything to get enlightened, because the doer is the problem; no action taken by a limited entity can produce a limitless result, which is what liberation, or moksa, is. However, Vedanta is a complete teaching in that it is both a path of action, self-inquiry, and a path of knowledge. Although self-inquiry is an action, it is not the action itself that provides the results, but only self-knowledge that removes ignorance, not the one “doing” the self-inquiry. And the result that self-inquiry produces is a limitless result because it produces freedom from the limitation of identification with the doer – which is moksa.
As for Buddhism, what does it really teach – does it have a teaching? Many Buddhist interpretations say that “no-mind” is the key to “nirvana” – but who is it that knows the no-mind or nirvana? If you know something, it can’t be you, can it? The knower and the known share the same identity as awareness, but they do not exist in the same order of reality, because the knower is the subject and the known is the object. The mind is an object known to you, awareness. One cannot get rid of the mind – and even if one could, there is no need, because the mind is not the problem.
Identification with the mind is the problem. The mind is a product of the vasanas – and Buddhism does not address the conditioning that runs the mind and creates the mind, the gunas – and it ignores the Total Mind, or Isvara, so it has no teaching. The best it has to offer with its gruelling methods to get rid of the mind is perhaps a certain calm and peace – but unless the conditioning that is there in the mind is understood, the vasanas are still binding, and as soon as the peace wears off, which it will sooner or later because it is based on experience and not knowledge, the person, the mind, the vasanas and therefore the problems, are still there. So one has to go back to meditation or yoga or whatever one does to try to get rid of the mind. It never works, not for long.
Dana: Anyway, I know I won’t overdo it. I’m bored at pujas… I don’t mess with the shamanic methods anymore, having finished with that (well, unless the body gets ill anyway, maybe). Angel channelers annoy me… unless they’re myself, in which case I enjoy the process now and then (the angels have to help me move beyond this world though; I’m not about to ask them for material things).
So thanks for your interest and concern!
Sundari: I am not concerned, Dana; you are an intelligent woman and you do what you do to find peace in your life. As I said, I am not knocking anything, just giving you the non-dual perspective because that is what we teach and live. If it does not work for you, that’s fine too.
Dana: I know the technical answer to “who is channeling what?” but that’s not going to help me unless there’s firm abiding experience of True Self all the time… and maybe some people have the make-up to realize that via processes of talking and thinking about it and thoroughly knowing the scriptures, but others of us are built differently and need to fully feel it as well, which means a good big chunk of fully feeling what is not-that along the way.
~ Love, Dana
Sundari: Yes, I hear what you are saying; however, as stated several times now, if self-knowledge is what you are after, certain qualifications are non-negotiable, no matter how the jiva is “built” – the main one being that you have seen that no object (experience) is capable of giving you what you are looking for, because you are what you are looking for. When you understand the guna teaching, you will see that all jivas are actually pretty much the same, give or take a seeming twist or two here and there. ☺
~ Much love to you too, Sundari