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Bum in the Butter
Tony: Hi, James. In your autobiography you mentioned that toward the end of the discipleship with Swamiji that it rained pure awareness and that you felt lifted far beyond the body-mind equipment. The same thing happened in my case, starting from the 25th of August just gone. I felt I was at the top of the mountain with a 360-degree awareness in all directions, and this lasted about three days; now it has settled down with the knowledge, but I know nothing will ever be the same. The pure happiness that I felt was indescribable. I had thought that when the actualisation came or realisation that it would be very ordinary, as I had read many accounts at ShiningWorld.com of a depression of sorts when the knowledge came, as it is just your self, naked and natural. It just wasn’t like that with me and I was actually quite shocked at how ecstatic it was. I now feel a deep peace and also an amazing feeling of love almost 90 per cent of the time. I can’t see the downside of this at all, and all I did really was fake it until I made it! Could you please comment on this? Oh, and by the way, this is not a boast: I think I was just very lucky? I just feel like nature now, like I can wait forever for anything.
James: Hi, Tony. I am so happy for you!!! You are indeed lucky. Luck is Isvara’s grace, and you should probably know that grace is earned, so you can’t really call it luck. So it is not a boast. I’ve had the lucky feeling most of my adult life. In fact when I was in my thirties, I was known as “Lucky Jim.” It’s just good karma, built up over lifetimes that steers you to the self. In any case, the context in which knowledge happens and the manner in which the jiva responds is going to be different in every case. I think you can reasonably interpret the lucky feeling to your high level of qualification, i.e. to what I suspect is a predominately sattvic nature. The sense of peace also indicates a sattvic mind. Usually the rajasic/tamasic types feel let down because there is residual doership and the doer faces the fact that everything worthwhile has been accomplished, although other doers feel a great sense of relief. There isn’t a downside unless you take your realization for granted, let your guard down and rest on your laurels. Scripture advises – and I agree completely – that if you want the feeling of luck and love to persist you need to keep burnishing the mind or else, as the Bhakti Sutras say, “there is danger of a fall.” Of course you can never unknow who you are, but the immediate experience of bliss, which is producing these feelings, can get clouded over and move back to the background. There is still a doer – the one that feels lucky and peaceful – and it needs noble work, so it is best to just keep up your inquiry and refine your lifestyle to see that your jiva remains with its “bum in the butter,” as the South Africans say. Scripture recommends continued practice because if you don’t continue to strengthen your discrimination other desires will start to tickle you and, owing to a sense of overconfidence – “I’m enlightened, nothing can touch me” – you may very well be tempted to “play in the maya,” which is not exactly the kiss of death, but it can set up conflict in the jiva.
Perhaps you have told me – I can’t remember – but what led you to Vedanta? I’d be interested in a brief rundown of your seeking.
Tony: My seeking started when I was 20 and living in a guest house. A good friend who was also staying there let me borrow Awareness by Anthony de Mello, a famous Jesuit priest who obviously knew something and was a spiritual teacher. This book kick-started the quest, and around five years later or maybe less I discovered a very old book about Ramana Maharshi by an old Western devotee, in Berne Library, of all places. I don’t know what my sadhana was at these points except to listen and ingest. Looking back, I was always a natural, as results of actions never bothered me in the slightest. I remember the police taking my newish car, and I just took it on the chin and never even thought about it, for example.
I would have periods of six months or so of total bliss when I was just sattvic and I would have hardly any thoughts. Life would just roll on, as it were. Don’t get me wrong though. I have suffered great depressions as well, but they only made me stronger. Eckhart Tolle, I must admit, did help along the way, but he’s not very useful as one progresses. When I hit thirty I discovered you, and five years later… wham, bam, thank you, man… So there you have it, James, not a typical struggle until Vedanta came and I HAD to knuckle down.
I am still trying to sort out the Skype situation, James, and as soon as I’m done we can have a nice chat. I don’t have a girlfriend, by the way, and to be honest, I can’t see that changing anytime soon, although I wouldn’t mind… you know… I’m actually a very good-looking jiva (even if I do say so myself, Isvara at it again, hey?). Anyway, it has been a fabulous journey with you at the helm… well, mostly fabulous anyway. And if ever you need ANYTHING and it’s within my power, it’s yours. Of course I know you don’t really “need” anything, but it is nice for me to be available to you for whatever you may require; after all I owe you my LIFE, in a way. The gratitude that I feel towards you and to Vedanta is immeasurable and infinite as I know you felt the same toward the great Swami Chinmayananda. To me you are just as great as he. I look upon him as my spiritual grandfather (not forgetting Swami Tapovanam, my spiritual great-grandfather) and you my father (spiritually speaking, of course). I hope this is okay? I do, however, feel a tad sorry for spiritual types who are yet to discover the samparadaya. Although, as you say, the tradition keeps those who aren’t “ready” out… I’m guessing… not by force, but because the soul/person is unable to understand what is being taught.
Anyway, Ramji, you truly are my HERO, and nothing you could ever say would ever dissuade me from that notion and view. Just to end: the fact that in the eighth century AD Vedanta was, as you say, crystallized into perfection with the help of the very great Shankaraya Swami, and even before this was setting people free left right and centre, is a wonder indeed. And is of course humanity’s (hidden in plain sight) secret treasure of infinite Grace and compassion. All my deep, deep DEVOTION to you, Sundari and all the teachers, NOT FORGETTING, of course, VEDANTA!!!
Wouldn’t you ever come to England, James? I would even put you up and pay for your plane fare. It isn’t that bad… as I’m here, aren’t I? If not, I suppose that I’ll have to drag my lazy butt to Europe, the Netherlands or Deutschland one day soon to see you, my dear friend. Have an incredible day, as I will, and give my respects and love to Sundari. God bless you and all that sail in you. Namaste.
James: Thanks for the invitation. I’ll take you up on it one day, perhaps. Yes, I do come to England, although not as often as I used to. I used to come twice a year, not to teach but to visit friends. It seems the English in general have an affinity for Buddhism. Is that your impression? Vedanta seems to intimidate them. Maybe the message – you are perfect as you are – is too positive, too unqualified. As a culture they seem to be basically a depressed and fearful lot – although in general they are quite intelligent – and loyal to a fault – so there has not been much interest when I did come to teach, as I did a couple of years ago and before.
Where do you live? What is your profession/occupation? When you get the Skype going we can have a chat. I don’t suppose you will have any questions about who you are or Vedanta, as it seems you have cracked the code, as it were. And there is enough gratitude in this email to last lifetimes. Don’t get me wrong; appreciation is ALWAYS appreciated; however, I don’t really feel that I did anything at all, not because I am not the doer, but because it seems you got it all on your own with the help of the sampradaya. Maybe you did write me a long time ago? I guess I can take a little credit insofar as I am a charter member of the the sampradaya and I have worked ceaselessly to make these teachings available in a format that is suitable for Western people. Maybe we can talk about girls, as it seems that even spiritual men, handsome, by their own admission, have trouble finding love. It shouldn’t be much trouble anymore as happy people are always attractive. But in the event that you are too shy or too enlightened to hit the pubs and put the moves on the babes you can send me a pic and I will post it on the lonely hearts section of the website with a glowing recommendation.
Tony: When I said I can’t see me getting a girlfriend anytime soon I meant I don’t want one. I’ve had enough of women, although if there was a “sattvic type,” then maybe, just maybe… I think you may have misunderstood me? No matter. It is just this PESKY sex vasana that “bothers” the jiva. I have had plenty of sex, but it is something I now find very tiresome indeed. The act itself can be wonderful, but the craving… no, thank you very much! As you said, it is Isvara keeping the human race going and that’s that. Anyway, thanks again for everything and please come and visit some time.
~ Much love, Tony
P.S. As for Vedanta being the real thing, it was fairly obvious as I got into it and at the beginning I could just sense it.