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The Firefly Stage
James: Hi, Tony. Thanks for as always well-written letter. It explains many interesting things that I always wondered about. I’ll make a few comments here and there to round out this discussion.
Tony: “Go for the knowledge. Don’t go for the gurus.”
James: The problem with this approach is that someone who does not know that he or she is the self will interpret the teachings according to his or her ignorance. So you can’t read your way to enlightenment or interpret the teachings according conclusions drawn from your own experience; Vedanta needs to be taught. When you understand the method of self-inquiry, you become your own guru and apply the knowledge until you are set free of the notion that you are only a limited human entity. Then you throw away Vedanta.
Tony: I became aware of a process within myself which I identified as “the turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness,” having previously become aware of such a concept in reading about Tibetan mysticism. Therefore it was at that point that the “silent witness observer,” experiential or non-experiential, began to take centre stage. This “turning about” was a process that either occurred in consciousness or that I was fully aware of, depending on how one describes these things. There was no beatification, no Hollywood spiritual moment, it just came of itself in the midst of everyday life.
James: Yes, an inward-turned mind is the beginning of self-inquiry.
Tony: What that meant in practice was that before any problems of the earthly Tony could be sorted out, the first task was the awareness of what was going on – good or bad, awareness was the key. Of course there are many things that distort awareness, but in essence a one-to-one inner conversation with consciousness was thenceforth taking place. To the extent that it was inner as opposed to outer, it might have seemed to an outsider that Tony was “doing it.” But if you were actually inside Tony, you would have seen that there were two parties to that conversation – consciousness and Tony. It was always the two of us. My job as a living, breathing Tony was to clean up my act so that I could receive at maximum clarity.
James: It’s true that self-knowledge won’t take place if there are psychological issues.
Tony: Sometimes, most of the time, Tony is the subject and at other times consciousness is the subject. An easy, peaceful co-existence has been established between the two.
James: We call this the “firefly” stage, a shifting between subject and object. Enlightenment is defined by Vedanta is a permanent shift of one’s identity from the object (Tony) to the subject, the self. This shift sublates or negates the object, Tony, but does not destroy it. Seen from the platform of your true nature, Tony is known to be mithya, apparently real, and you, the unchanging witness subject, real. Although Tony exists, he is as good as non-existent because he leaves no trace in you, unchanging awareness.
Tony: There is always room for expanding and refining awareness, so I am happy to engage with Vedanta on those terms.
James: Try to understand the distinction in the book between awareness and reflected awareness. Awareness cannot be refined. Reflected awareness, the intellect, can.
Tony: On the one hand, Vedanta is a worthy measure of things, but no one thing can be the measure of all measures for the simple reason that the measure of all measures is all measures itself. And no one single measure, by definition, can assume the stance of all measures. If anyone wishes to use Vedanta as the scale by which to weigh all things, then there are no issues with that. It’s certainly one way of doing it.
I will read The Essence of Enlightenment with an open mind and with great interest, but I choose not to situate myself on the Vedanta scale for the simple reason that the ongoing, direct process of consciousness is too important to be allowed to fall into any camp, into any other hands than those of the freedom and independence manifestly inherent in consciousness itself.
James: You don’t understand what Vedanta actually is, Tony. You think it is a philosophy or some kind of intellectual system. It is just a means of knowledge that removes a limited entity’s ignorance about its nature – the “measure of all measures.” Vedanta is a throwaway. I discarded it in 1971. Put it this way: you – awareness – are the measure of all measures.
Tony: Nevertheless, consciousness manifests itself to me as without values, without conditions, without mercy, without compassion, without flinching and quintessentially free – and as extremely hard-edged, as hard and pure as a diamond, to use the famous analogy.
James: In terms of your definition of morality, Vedanta heartily agrees; it is not moral. But since is it you, it is the ultimate value because it is for the sake of the self that everything does what it does. It is the basis of morality, but it is not moral.
~ Love, James