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Waiting for Something to Happen
Jeff: I have been procrastinating about writing to James for some time, as I have had difficulty formulating a question and know he is extremely busy. At the seminar in Amsterdam I attended last month my questions didn’t seem relevant, so once again I put it off. Thank you for the push and the opportunity.
Firstly, may I apologise for my use of the term “I” to describe “myself”? I am fully aware that this mind-body is not who I truly am, but for simplicity’s sake I shall refer to this “meat tube” as “I” in my writing.
I shan’t go into my story, as I know it’s not relevant; let’s just say I have seen my fair share of suffering in this life and might consider myself rather blessed to have got this far.
Tan: It is fine to go into your story. Your story is a representation of your vasanas, so it is not irrelevant for understanding what you are up against. Maybe you have had your share of so-called Neo-Advaita teachers negating all the questions of seekers by saying, “This is just a story.” Although this negation “neti neti” is a valid instrument for discriminating between the self (atma) and the so-called “not-self” (anatma), it is also a valid means to analyze your past to see which vasanas are the ones that are central to your “story.” Of course they are just vasanas and not yourself, but as long as self-knowledge is not hard and fast these vasanas seem very real and they have to be dealt with, dealt with for the sake of a peaceful mind, which is required for successful self-inquiry. A mind that is constantly disturbed by actions born out of unhelpful (rajasic or tamasic) vasanas cannot do successful self-inquiry.
Jeff: I think I could be considered to be very determined, have travelled far and spent much time on finding the true self which I now know doesn’t need finding, as it is and has always been here already.
The doer, the seeker in me, has subsided.
Tan: Spending much time shows desire for freedom, which is good. It is a qualification. Travelling far is not necessary, because “how far are you away from yourself?” but it shows determination. What do you mean by “the doer, the seeker in me, subsided”? Do you think that the doer has to disappear for freedom?
Jeff: This search lead to working with Mooji, Rupert Spira and a teacher I found locally. With her I was able to work one-on-one, but at some financial cost, I might add. I was so desperate that I ignored some glaring flaws in what I was being told, and in hindsight this all led nowhere.
To cut a long story short, I hit a dead end and was left in a state of disassociation and void.
One particular video of Mooji’s really sent me gaga and I spent a year or so battling panic attacks and anxiety. When I discovered ShiningWorld purely by accident, and James’ Vedanta teachings, things got a whole lot better within days, and now here I am writing to you in total acceptance of my story and experience.
I can see that it is all dreamlike and that I am what observes the doer, not the thinker and doer himself.
I have also realised since listening to James that these “teachers” still seem full of attachments, mostly money and popularity, it seems to me.
Tan: The first factor is the teaching that should be judged in light of its value as a means of self-knowledge (a pramana), its consistency, methodology and its impersonal content. Vedanta, for example, is a proven means of self-knowledge and works independently of the teacher that uses it.
The second factor is the skill of the teacher in unfolding the means of knowledge upon a mind.
The third factor is in judging whether the teacher is free.
Your judgment is a remark on the third factor, whether the teacher is free or not. Although freedom is an important factor, the first two are more important, since they are sufficient if the mind of the student is qualified. The teaching (Vedanta) and its skillful unfolding does the work, not the person of the teacher:
Also, every jiva is full of attachments, or vasanas: James, myself, you or Mooji. A jiva is nothing but vasanas on two legs.
Freedom is knowing that you are not the jiva.
In your judgment about these teachers there is a sound of feeling superior to them. This is dangerous because it can lead to pride, which is ignorance.
Jeff: My recent five-day retreat with Mooji will be my last. I found the cult of personality around him rather worrying (putting it politely) and the shop we were constantly being pointed towards; selling what I can only describe as seaside souvenir tat with his face on it seemed almost laughable.
I returned home to an email encouraging me to sign up for his latest subscription TV channel at $30 a month, and enough was enough.
A rather expensive book launch of Rupert’s, along with a very vague teaching, has also shown me that these “Neo” teachers really have little teaching at all and can actually be quite dangerous, as they theorise about the end result with little preparation or practical tools on how to get there.
Tan: Mooji and Rupert are different types of teachers. Rupert, Francis Lucille and Greg Goode are called “Direct Path” teachers. They teach based on the works of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon, which is based on traditional Vedanta.
Mooji is a student of Gangaji. Her teaching is not based on traditional Vedanta and is called Neo-Advaita by many.
Jeff: At the Mooji retreat we all had to sign a medical disclaimer in advance. I wonder why that is.
Anyway, I only mention all this because I know there are many more like me out there, and wondered what ShiningWorld’s view on this phenomenon might be.
It is mentioned in a couple of your online satsangs, but not in any great detail. It is my experience that Neo teachings (on the internet especially) are actually potentially psychologically damaging.
That was more than I meant to write already, but on to where “I” am now. ☺
So it’s very difficult to describe of course, but I find myself in a state of limbo, as if caught between two places, two realms of consciousness.
Eckhart Tolle described it best as a “no man’s land” and then didn’t bother to offer any solution.
Jeff carries on, thinking, acting, talking, but he is no longer who I am, although he appears in me.
Tan: This is good. It sounds like a first step: understanding who or what you are not. Sometimes this creates a depressive mood or a feeling of emptiness, since the you or the world is seen as not real.
Now the next step is to really understand what or who you really are.
And then later to understand what it means practically to be who you are – in daily life.
So if you are not Jeff, who are you then?
It is not a mystery, as you know.
You are consciousness.
You are ordinary, non-dual, non-acting, unconcerned, unchanging, unlimited, ever-present and always whole.
There is only consciousness.
Because there is only consciousness, consciousness is neither awake nor sleeping, neither higher nor lower, neither enlightened nor unenlightened.
Jeff: Time is disappearing, suffering is simply observed (although a highly rajasic household becomes very frustrating) and perception is as if watching everything through a lens.
I have flashes of nothing. Who am I? Who are they? Almost as if momentarily I recognise nothing as I thought I did, moments of peace and as if I am a bright space that everything appears inside, moments of intense emotion for no apparent reason.
This has been going on every day for perhaps two-and-a-half years solid, but when I think I have a handle on it, it shifts slightly and changes.
Tan: It sounds to me as if you expect to stabilize these experiences.
No experiences can be handled. They come and go.
What does not come and go, whether “Jeff has a handle on it or not,” is what you are.
You are what knows the coming, going, shifting, changing, the handling or not handling.
Jeff: I know that experiences and perception are not “it,” but where does one go from here?
Tan: The word “it” makes it sounds like the self is something outside of you. This is all about knowing you.
It seems that your mind has still an idea to stabilize these experiences in order to reach a future state: “it.”
It thinks this “it” will be coming after an experience that will transform you somehow into someone truly free and unattached of money, power, etc.
This is the good old myth of the final stabilizing moment or grand experience – which will never come, because all experiences begin and end – and you are untouched by experience. That is the good news, and the bad news is you cannot become free of experience, because you are already free of experience.
Do you appear when an experience comes? Do you disappear when an experience leaves?
No. You are there before, during and after an experience, always untouched, always knowing.
If you would change, appear or disappear with the experience you could not report “that you had an experience.” Only your freedom from experience enables the observation of experience.
Jeff: I work with the gunas and karma yoga, I “self-remember” and pinpoint my vasanas hundreds of times a day, and I know part of the ego is still “waiting” for something to happen, which is not “it” either.
Tan: I could have spared my writing the lines above.
Yes, you have a very good understanding of what is the ignorant belief in your mind. It still expects some grand thing to happen, some shift, some “it.” Your mind is not convinced of all the “Vedanta theory.” Your mind is ignorant because it ignores you while looking for an outside experience which it coins “it.”
Jeff: It’s as if I am semi-realised (which sounds stupid, I know), but still feeling separate and unsure of my relationship to Jeff.
Tan: Yes, very good indeed. Your mind is getting closer to the real issue here. You can only feel separate from the world because there are still beliefs in your mind that identify with the body, the mind, the intellect or the idea of Jeff (the doer).
Jeff: As I write this I am seeing how impossible it is to articulate and how foolish and contradictory I sound.
Is this the firefly stage? Am I mentally ill? Should I give up, which is not an option, as this search is leading me now, not I, it, anymore? Do I just sit tight and get on with life?
Tan: This sounds like what James calls the firefly stage.
Jeff: These are the questions coming to me every day, all day! Once a month I seem to get very depressed about it all and hit a really deep ravine, but even that can be observed. I feel stuck!!
Sure, I will think of so much more after I hit “send,” but maybe that’s enough for now.
Any words are welcome and greeted with gratitude.
~ Jeff from the US
PS: I have watched dozens of hours of “Vedanta curriculum” and read How to Attain Enlightenment along with a whole library of other literature, but it feels like the reading and video-watching are exhausted and no longer needed because I hear the same messages over and over again and it’s all in my head already. This is a strong feeling, not an arrogant statement. I “get” all the theory, but that’s not enough, is it?
Tan: No, the “theory” is not enough. Vedanta has to be unfolded to a mind that is prepared, and qualified by a teacher who is qualified. Knowing and memorizing the Vedanta jargon will not set your mind free. Maybe it is prudent to go back to the qualifications. Is there a qualification that is lacking?
You can also use the book Value of Values by Swami Dayananda, which is a good list of more than twenty values. They are like subcategories of the qualifications. A mind that is qualified lives primarily according to these values. James also has a shortened section about the values in his new book.
Let me know how it goes, and again, apologies for the very late response.