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Vedanta Has Unique Requirements for Knowledge to Take Place
Luma: Dear Sundari, thank you for your lovely reply.
I agree with all that you say, particularly your point about the importance of continued alertness (“vigilance” always sounds a bit prison-guardish to me) and humility. I appreciate this more with each passing day. And of course love. If wisdom is not expressing as – is not synonymous with – love, then it is still alloyed with ignorance, I think. “My freedom” is not freedom.
Sundari: I could not agree more; wisdom is the application of knowledge, which is love of the highest order. I like the word “vigilance,” and so does Ramji. It has more gravitas than “alertness.” It is required because the ego is so sneaky and ignorance so deep.
Luma: There’s one thing I would like to clarify about a point I made in the last email, however. Only because it’s a theme I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately, and I’d certainly want to know if there’s any ignorance in it I’m not seeing. (In general, I hope we can share a tacit agreement in this friendship to prioritize shining the light of knowledge on ignorance over formality, politeness, etc.; to me, this is the true value of satsangha).
Sundari: You have nothing to fear here; ignorance is never personal and neither is knowledge. We are all equals; we are the self and we relate to you as such. We have seen how your mind functions – its clarity and lack of tamas. The light of awareness shines so brightly on it and from it.
Luma: When I said earlier that, “The best teaching is the one that gives the student something right within his/her grasp, then learning feels like remembering; something that’s coming from within,” I was by no means implying that the student’s ignorance (i.e. inference/perception) should guide the learning and inquiry.
Rather I was trying to say that because the jiva is an admixture of knowledge and ignorance, the teaching that a student will be able to “tune into” most easily and in turn assimilate is the one that meets her at the level of subtlety for which her mind is prepared.
Sundari: Absolutely, I got that. I was just pointing out that regardless of this, if we are talking about moksa, very specific qualifications are still paramount. If we are talking about knowledge of objects, the only qualifications necessary are those that are relevant to the object being studied. As Vedanta is about you, awareness, it cannot be studied.
Luma: Crucially, this would be a shastric teaching, but of course these are many and varied in terms of their approach.
Sundari: Yes, it’s true there are many teachings and teachers. Some are better than others. For moksa to obtain in the mind, the mind has to be purified and the teacher wielding the knowledge has to be qualified and wield the knowledge properly without being identified with it. We are lucky to have been taught by the best. In essence all scripture boils down to one teaching: “I am awareness. All objects are made up of me, arise, dissolve and depend on me, but I depend on nothing.” Understanding what this means for the jiva is where all the teaching takes place, the hard part.
Luma: For example, it seems to me that many beginning (unqualified) students find the Upanishadic mahavakyas too subtle to assimilate. For such students, other shastric-based teachings, such as those that deconstruct samsara (e.g. Atma Bodha, “the joy is not in the objects teaching” in general or texts like the Gita and the Narada Bhakti Sutras, which start with the apparent reality/duality that the student knows well can be more effective entry points or levers for prompting inquiry into the nature of reality/one’s own self.
Sundari: Yes, of course we have made this fact clear with the teaching course at the website. My main reason for pointing out that all other teaching methods fall short when it comes to self-inquiry was your using as a reference psychologist Lev Vygotsky. While he may be a brilliant psychologist, his means of knowledge (perception and inference) would be for objects and not for awareness. There is a vast difference in approach, in fact no comparison. There is no methodology other than Vedanta that is a valid means of knowledge for awareness. As stated, I understand why you used this reference and did not confuse your point, which was to point out that a teaching of whatever ilk needs to fit the individual filters of the mind. My point is that while I acknowledge this is true of knowledge in general, when talking about self-inquiry and the means of knowledge for awareness there are factors involved that apply only to Vedanta and no other teaching method.
Luma: In fact I take Krishna himself to be making this point by the very way he teaches Arjuna. Krishna starts very directly (read: subtly) by describing the nature of the self, to which Arjuna responds, “I don’t get it! I’m so confused!” So Krishna dials it down a notch (i.e. to a grosser-level teaching) by elaborating on karma yoga, dvaita bhakti, etc. Still, if Krishna had not at least given Arjuna a taste of the ultimate goal at the outset, it may have been difficult to get some “buy-in” from Arjuna for the sadhana. (This is but one example of the “set-up” aspect that I’d alluded to earlier.) That about sums it up.
Sundari: Yes, indeed.