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Kumar: Hi, James. I came across this interesting article when I was looking up Michael James, the student of Sadhu Om. It was very fascinating because I can see the logic of this practice and why it takes a long time to be fully liberated. I think the initial insight that you are not the experiencing entity can get you started on the path, but to be fully liberated means that you stop identifying with the body-mind complex. In other words, this is an interesting take on self-inquiry. In my opinion, this is exactly what self-inquiry should be, along with reading the scriptures and following dharma.
I don’t think there is any shortcut to this process of disidentifying yourself from your body-mind complex. I was wondering how to proceed with the next stage of my self-inquiry process, and I think what the author is saying below makes sense. There is a reason why Ramana, Maharaj and lot of people spent time doing self-inquiry. It takes a while to go through the whole process of negating the five sheaths experientially. This is why in Buddhism you are always tasked with practicing the four jhanas before proceeding to the formless jhanas because ignoring the body-mind complex and going to the subtle states of the mind is deleterious.
I think Laxmana Swamy says it best. When asked to define liberation, he says it is like being in zero gravity. Your vasanas don’t push and pull you anymore.
I would be interested in your thoughts. My take is that sadhana is the shortcut to liberation. ☺ I am convinced that there is no “end” to this path. Yes, you are free in one sense, but in another sense as long as you are human you have to do sadhana, enlightened or not. See this link.
James: Hi, Kumar. I read it carefully. Self-inquiry involves two practices: (1) disidentifying with the equipment and (2) simultaneously shifting the identity to the self. Swamiji called it detachment/attachment yoga. To move the identity to the self, you need to know (a) what the self is and (b) what it means in terms of the apparent reality, i.e. your life in the world.On the other hand, if you understand the relationship between satya and mithya, nothing needs to happen because this understanding effectively shifts your identity for you insofar as the equipment exists, it is as good as non-existent, because it is not real. How can you shift something that is not real to something that is real? And why would you, if you know you are the self without a doubt?
So if you take the position of the jiva, then you need to transfer the identification to the self. This is what nididyasana is all about. Nididyasana is the work you do after you know “I am awareness,” assuming this knowledge has not negated the doer. If the doer has been negated, there is no one there to shift identities, and if there is a doer and it has been negated, it will know how futile it is to shift something that is unreal, i.e. apparently real to something that is real. In other words, there is nothing to shift. So liberation is the “firm,” meaning unshakable, conviction that one is whole and complete, actionless, ordinary awareness, meaning there is no doubt about it. So when you speak and act you are awareness speaking and acting, even though nobody else – except other jnanis – can tell. You continue to look like the fool you always were and you are ever so fine with it. Nididyasana is simply continuing with your sadhana – right living, values, increasing sattva guna, etc. We call it “actualizing.” There is no desire or anxiety associated with it, because you know that it is just an enjoyable game. The vasanas are like roasted seeds. They can’t sprout, but they are pleasant to eat.
Kumar: Thanks, James. As usual, it is brilliant satsang.
I have a lot more respect for your teacher Swamiji because I can see the logic of why he choose to teach the experiential methodology along with Vedanta. Most people, and that includes me, take a long time to realize that they are not the body-mind complex. In meditation or studying scriptures it is very easy to realize that you are not the body-mind complex but pure awareness. In day-to-day living it is not very easy.
My general impression after talking to a lot of Vedanta people is that they really haven’t negated the mind-body complex but somehow believe that by repeating the same phrases again and again they can negate the mind-body complex. It is not so straightforward, and I am sure Swamiji knew that and that is why he taught both experiential and Vedanta-type teaching to the common man. I am sure Ramana and Maharaj realized that it is impossible to teach Vedanta to one who is not ready and hence taught a provisional experiential-type teaching. The danger of practicing Vedanta without negating the mind-body complex is that it is very easy to ignore parts of yourself that you haven’t come in terms with and issues will crop up later on in your life that you haven’t really negated. I can attest to that personally.
In the presence of a jnani, Vedanta is deceptively simple and it’s easy to fool yourself that you have “it.” “It” is a lot harder than that, for sure. I also realized that the white light which came from you and hit my heart was probably cutting the energy knot of the heart centre, which is why the shift was so dramatic and irreversible. I talked to my wife about this and she says that she is 100% sure that something changed after the Vancouver meeting with you. She says that I am not the same person anymore and there is a fundamental shift in my personality. Also, she says there is no need to change anything since I know who I am, and she is happy with the change.
That said, I would be glad if you gave some pointers or satsangs on self-inquiry for people who know that they are awareness. I would appreciate that personally. There is a reason why jnanis spend so much time in solitude and contemplation – because self-inquiry is energetically intensive. It cannot be otherwise, assuming you are honest and not deluding yourself.
James: Yes, you are right about the reason for Swamiji’s emphasis on the experiential aspect of the teaching. But like everything in duality, there is a downside to the emphasis on experience: you may come to believe that moksa is some kind of experience – which is isn’t. But it is experiential in this sense: if it didn’t have an experiential impact, what would be the use of seeking it? So once the knowledge “I am whole and complete, actionless, ever-present, non-dual, unconcerned, ordinary awareness and not the body/mind/sense complex” is firm, it definitely has experiential implications. The personality, one’s life and the way one relates to life change. The point, however, is that while the changes may be enhanced by acts of will, they do not require will power, because they are the karma that comes from self-knowledge. The knowledge allows the jiva to be happy with its apparent imperfections – as those imperfections are gradually effaced by the knowledge. In fact moksa is understanding the meaning of the word “apparent.” Imperfections – such as they are – exist and persist but if they are apparent, they are as good as non-existent. You may have a good cry at a movie but you aren’t really crying, because the movie is – well, not real. If you know the movie isn’t real, the tears can’t be real either even though it feels like they are.
Kumar: I was thinking of about this for a couple of weeks and realized that thinking moksa is an experience is a logical fallacy. Any experience by definition requires knowledge to confirm its validity, otherwise how would you be able to evaluate the nature of the experience?
Even the experience of enlightenment depends on knowledge about the nature of the enlightenment, otherwise how would you be able to know whether the experience was valid or not?
Even the “experientialist or the yogi” depends on knowledge to validate his experience, therefore knowledge reigns supreme! It’s pretty obvious if one thinks about it.
James: Yes, indeed. I have just finished my most recent book The Yoga of Love, which basically is a very simple, practical description of a self-actualized jnani. It is at the website. It is commentaries on The Narada Bhakti Sutras. There is a video in the shop called The Narada Bhakti Sutras that I did in Trout Lake in 2015 also. You should probably read my satsangs at the website. Many of them are addressed to self-realized people. I’m not sure what your doubt is, specifically.
~ Love, James