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Desire, the Inveterate Sinner
Cindy: Dear James…
…good to hear from you. After I received my inheritance… my father was quite rich, as you know… I decided to buy a really nice car and a house that’s bigger than I really need. Practicing karma yoga on the karma phala – not what I thought it would be and really just a lot of work and distraction. And the house is empty of furniture, so now I need to buy some and I won’t settle for crappy furniture, and I need an alarm system installed on the house because I’m afraid that when I am gone someone will come and steal my stuff… so it’s as if I’m on some sort of a wheel in a rat’s cage, spinning, spinning. For what? More than once in the past weeks I’ve thought of just dumping it all and “running off to Rishikesh,” as it were, just simplifying my life. But I have my therapy practice and if I was drop out, it would cause problems for others. So could it possibly be that, somehow, it’s my duty to buy all of this stuff, to stay in this job, to struggle with these compulsions?? Just thinking about the Gita where Arjuna asks Krishna, “What is it that compels someone to act in error even though he knows better?” and this pretty much sums up my life over the last nine months or so. Just acting, as though compelled, rajas at full tilt.
The really odd thing about this state of affairs – which at times causes me to feel desperate and lost, and to feel like I’m completely wasting my life – is that there is also this welling up in me of real kindness and love in my heart for everyone, and a wish to be of service, and a delight in the well-being of each person as if they were my brother or sister. The hard-heartedness of which I have been unaware for most of my life is giving way to some real tenderness and fellow-feeling. Not sure what to make of this, but one thing I can say is that this way of relating to others is something that I caught from you and I’m grateful to you for that.
James: Dear Cindy…
…you probably won’t believe it, but there are moments when I experience the same “trapped” feeling with reference to my karma owing to my desire to serve the Vedanta sampradaya, feelings that make me long for the simple monastic life I once had. Success is success; everybody wants a piece of you and it is an endless merry-go-round of activities. At the same time there is a tremendous upside, so I dwell on that when the spirit of renunciation is particularly strong.
The spirit of renunciation, the breaking up of the hard-heartedness and the tenderness you feel for human beings is a consequence of assimilated self-knowledge. You are a very lucky lady, knowing what you know.
I suppose it isn’t fair to compare our situations too closely because, truth to tell, I am happy as a clam on all counts and the sense of dissatisfaction that comes with every jiva never lingers more that a second or two when I turn my attention to the big picture: the self, my health, my wonderful wife, the luxurious peaceful surroundings and the raft of great friends – yourself included – that Vedanta provides. At the same time, we all serve in different ways – but not really, because it is not our lifestyle that matters so much; we serve by being who we are. I’m sure the many people you interact with are blessed by their contact with you as you are by theirs. There are no mistakes, but if there is one in this situation, I’d say yours was not thinking through the lifestyle issue. Less is always more for people like us.
Anyway, you have the bucks to insure the whole mess, so why worry? I love my van, but it is insured, so what does it matter if it is stolen? No thief would want our possessions. Even our Shiva, which was a bit of an extravagance, is useless on the black market and, frankly, I would be happy if somebody stole the big screen TV. Anyway, it’s all mithya. And if you fall on hard times and lose your shirt, I’ll find some ShiningWorld work for you – you can write satsangs since you know who you are and are a helping person. You you can move into the trailer next door and Sundari will feed you well. ☺
Upside/downside: it seems that as long as we have bodies it is (as Ramakrishna used to say) either women – men in your case – or gold. So look on the bright side; at least for now it seems there is no boyfriend story bothering you. I recall that you passed on that handsome hunk you met at the opera a few months back, so it seems that the spirit of renunciation is alive and well. Or maybe you’re thinking that now you are rich you can trap a studly underachieving man with the big house and plenty of disposable income? ☺ I don’t know and I am going beyond my brief as your guru when I say this, but maybe you still long for love. Most samsaric desires mask the real desire, the desire for love.
Anyway, I think your ego needs a big a rap on the knuckles for trying to slip the “duty” idea past me. Let’s call it a desire and leave it at that. To be honest, I would have done the same thing if I got the big inheritance – well, I did get it when I realized who I am – but you know what I mean. You work your butt off all your life and Isvara showers wealth and, hell, yes, you get the American dream, lock stock and barrel. It’s our right! We’re entitled!!! No blame. In any case, if it really troubles you, gussie up the big house, put it on the market and get a one-bedroom flat – I’ve an extra futon and a hair shirt left over from the good old days. Oh, yes, and if you have money to burn, send me a big donation – I will see that it does some good.
In any case, the only solution is to continue with your nididyasana until that extroverted impulse dies for good.
I love you, Cindy. You’re a great lady. Keep your mind on who you are and soldier on.