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Seeking the Presence of the Guru
I have read Master Key to Self-Realisation by Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaja, after which I found and started reading Tattva Bodh by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. It’s a beautiful work on Vedanta, seeking truth and searching for moksa; however, all scriptures seem to point to the importance of sat guru. The closest to such a guru would be Ammaji or Sri Karunamayi. I have received blessings mantras from both, but I am not sure if that would be considered having sat guru from a lineage. How can I find sat guru in Seattle, Washington, area? In Vedanta?
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Sundari: Hello, Sandana.
Ammaji and Sri Karunamayi are not qualified teachers of Vedanta, they are shaktipat gurus. A shaktipat guru is someone with a superabundance of “spiritual” energy. By having contact with such people, one often “experiences enlightenment.”
Unfortunately, all experiences have a beginning and an end. The guiding principle of Vedanta is that it is only knowledge and not experience that has the power to remove ignorance from the mind. Experience such as shaktipat is inspirational at best, but will not remove ignorance unless self-knowledge is present and the mind is qualified to receive it. And one important fact needs to be taken into account: all experiences are in time, so shaktipat, like nirvana and samadhi, can never become a permanent or continuous experience.
For enlightenment you need self-knowledge, and for that you need a qualified teacher and scripture. You need to be taught how to discriminate yourself as awareness from Sandana, your reflection. Most shaktipat gurus transfer energy to people and awaken their faith in God. They do not teach. They talk about moksa indirectly in general, but are not adept at showing you how to remove your ignorance of your self. Shaktipat gurus take you as the person that you think you are and communicate to you in that way. But you are not actually that person. You are really the self, limitless awareness.
While many people receive shaktipat from having contact with James, he is not a shaktipat guru. He is the self teaching the self. If freedom from limitation is more important to you than anything else, you have come to the right place. Having found ShiningWorld and James as a teacher is double grace in that you have found the Holy Grail – Vedanta, taught by one of the best teachers alive today. As James is fond of saying, Vedanta is the court of last appeal for those fortunate souls whose karma prepares them for moksa, freedom.
Now you need to be properly taught. There is a very good reason why Vedanta stresses the importance of a teacher. Ignorance, or the non-apprehension of the true nature of reality as non-dual, is hardwired and very tenacious. As the mind is conditioned to think a certain way and because non-duality is counter-intuitive, unless the mind is guided in its exposure to Vedanta it will interpret Vedanta according to its conditioning, or vasanas. There are apparent contradictions within the teachings which are not real contradictions and need to be resolved by a qualified teacher. Teachings and teachers abound who teach according to their methods and experience, but this is always flawed and limited because unless a teaching is independent of the teacher, it will be contaminated by his or her beliefs, opinions and experiences.
The best thing you can do right now is to follow the 12-month teaching course that we are offering. It is based on James’ recent book, The Essence of Enlightenment, which is the same material as in James’ first book, How to Attain Enlightenment, but much simpler and easier to follow. With each chapter we give questions and the answers, all freely available at the website. The e-satsangs available at ShiningWorld also offer a gold mine of the highest-level Vedanta teaching you will find anywhere, with answers to any question you could think of. There is a search function to assist inquirers find the relevant answers they need. If you have not signed up for our newsletter, make sure that you do so that we can keep you in the loop.
For self-knowledge to work on the mind, it needs to be exposed to the scripture on a daily basis. James has worked out a methodology that starts at the beginning and takes you right through, if you follow it. We recommend that everyone reads either of James’ books carefully and slowly, signing on to the logic at each step of the way. What helps enormously is watching as many DVDs of James teaching as possible. Serious inquirers make self-inquiry their most important focus. It takes total commitment to self-knowledge to free the mind of ignorance. This does not necessarily entail changing your life situation or seeking a guru. In fact it is advisable not to seek a guru. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. You have already found the best one you could find in James.
It is extremely beneficial to be in the presence of a qualified teacher, but not essential. There is no real boundary between you and the guru, because a guru literally means “one who dispels the darkness” and in doing so reveals that the self is the only guru because this is a non-dual reality. Whether we are physically with you or connecting via technology, the knowledge is wielded in the same way by us because we are qualified teachers of Vedanta. If the mind is prepared and qualified and you are firmly dedicated to self-inquiry, self-knowledge will do “the work” of removing ignorance. We are all here to help you with any questions that arise. James has taught thousands of people around the world and helped many of them find moksa, most of whom he never met. He has also taught several people (myself included) to teach Vedanta with the same integrity with which he teaches. There are not many teachers that we recommend, other than Dayananda and his top student, Paramarthananda.
For self-inquiry to work for you, take stock of your life situation and lifestyle, change what needs to be changed if it is distracting or agitating the mind. Conduct a fearless moral inventory to determine exactly what your values are and what underpins them; make a list of the qualifications required and track yourself on them on a daily basis. Your main goal needs to be peace of mind and your life must be in service to the truth in order for self-knowledge to stick in the mind. If your life is full of agitation (rajas) or dullness (tamas), self-knowledge will not stick.
We can help you with your self-inquiry and field any questions you may have, so feel free to write to us. I have attached a satsang I had with an inquirer on what is entailed in practising self-inquiry. We also offer Skype sessions by donation, so in that way you can make personal contact with us.
Sandana: Thank you so much for responding; your email has been super helpful. Now I seem to have more clarity in the subject (not to say more doubts appear). I have been with Ammaji for well over ten years, and yes, while the experience has been and is very beautiful, I follow the Sri Vidya tradition and have been initiated into Shodashi mantra associated with Sri Chakra. I started to feel I need to inquire within at this point, not external worship. I am not so well-versed in Sanskrit, but am interested in the Vedas. I got the book James wrote, The Essence of Enlightenment, and will further follow as per your advice to read the book, the videos, newsletter, etc. – as you mentioned, when the time is right hopefully things will unfold at the right moment and time.
I am very grateful and fortunate for your prompt response.
Sundari: Worship and devotion is very good and an essential part of the inquirer’s lifestyle and sadhana; the problem comes in when you rely on someone or something to make you feel good. Vedanta is for mature people who are ready for discrimination, have realised that the joy is not in the object and that experience does not last. Clearly, you are.
I have attached an e-satsang on bhakti and the logic of devotion to help you clarify your doubts. As for the videos, one of the best videos of James teaching is available free at YouTube, called Self Inquiry Berlin. It takes you through the whole methodology.
Feel free to write once you have done some reading and watching.
~ Namaste, Sundari