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Does Enlightenment Fall Down from Heaven?
Frank: Hi, James. Like I told you in Westerwald, the BIG questions or ultimate obstacles still don’t arise. Obviously, it has not been Isvara’s plan to bring them up. ☺ I mean, I do have questions… but different issues come and go… and I never feel I am stuck in the process. Somehow answers are being given just by going on or they simply disappear. It’s funny to realize how many questions and answers belong to the maya world! Isn’t that right?
James: All questions are maya, Frank.
Frank: It seems as if answers or the “right“ answer is less important than staying “online” in the process of karma yoga, taking a stand in awareness and offering all to Isvara.
James: Yes, if you keep up your karma yoga and jnana yoga, all the questions get answered eventually.
Frank: And there is another simple fact that wants to reveal its truth to me: concerning the energy you put out, there has to be a certain amount of input! Like an aircraft on a runway that doesn’t take off until it reaches 300 km/hour, I feel I need to really put in “all my power“ into the Vedantic process to take off. It doesn’t work when you indulge in Vedanta as a favorite hobby. To do so I have to have faith in the teaching and in the teacher. ☺ That’s what I have to pay for the ticket to fly…
James: This is a very good sign, Frank. It is called mumukshutva in Vedanta and it means BURNING desire for freedom. If your desire is only middling, you will not take off. And yes, you need a teacher. Some people get all inspired by Vedanta after hearing it and forget about the teacher, thinking they can do it on their own. They get fanatical and often get lost in the dream of enlightenment, all the while thinking they aren’t lost. The games that ignorance cooks up to keep you bound are amazing energy! About once a year one of my students gets enlightenment sickness and writes me off.
Frank: After a few months of practicing, I knew that Vedanta helps so much. It’s simple: the more you put in the more you get out of it. Even much more! There was literally no day that I haven’t read Vedanta or listened to your videos, often two hours a day. Vedanta has become the core of my life. That feels great, easy and natural. In the last weeks I had become a little lazy. I can see it, but I don’t worry.
I’m in a quite close contact with Mary (I told you, we had been in a love relationship years ago and she never was interested at all in spiritual matters), and talking Vedanta with her is a great pleasure and very helpful. Could there be a better proof that it works?!!
Trying to follow dharma, giving it all to Isvara and taking the results as a gift, is a wonderful daily practice although it is sometimes hard. Amazing how the effects can be seen. Taking a stand in awareness sometimes turns out to be a little tricky. The split mind – watching itself – has a slippery tendency to claim to be awareness. ☺ Is it unfiltered awareness or is it a delusion? How can I deal with that?
James: This is a good, very important, question, Frank. “Stand-taking” is done with the mind and can lead to a kind of self-hypnosis that makes the jiva think it is the self without the full understanding of what it means to be the self. Of course on the basis of logic alone (is there an essential difference between one ray of the sun and the sun itself?) the jiva can claim its identity as the self, but only when its knowledge of satya and mithya is firm.It is one thing to say, “I am the self as the self,” and another to say it as the jiva. The self’s experience of itself is qualitatively different from the jiva’s experience of the self as an object or as the objects that present themselves to it. When you get to the stage when this question comes to you, it is especially important that you have a teacher. I had this confusion and it would have stayed with me for a long time if my teacher hadn’t pointed it out clearly. It was a painful moment because I was very convinced that my jiva was enlightened without knowing that I was only enlightened as a jiva, not as the self. This question itself shows me that you are a true inquirer, that you are not eager to claim enlightenment, because now, after the last few years of self-inquiry, you have enough knowledge to claim it. This question is discussed in my book Inquiry into Existence, which are commentaries on Panchadasi.
You need a strong desire to be free, but it should not be so strong that you become hypnotized by it. Hypnosis is of course not something one does consciously, but innumerable conscious actions – thinking the thought “I am limitless awareness and not this body/mind entity” over and over can produce the illusion of enlightenment.
You know you are deluded if you refuse to accept the idea that you are deluded from your guru – assuming of course that your relationship with him or her is a mature one. There are many gurus who use the idea that you are not enlightened – whether you are or not – to keep you under their control. Of course, if you are enlightened as the self, you will see their game. If you are only enlightened as a jiva, you will be confused by their statement.If someone is identified with his or her role as a guru, he or she will have the idea that enlightenment is only for the special few and will feel diminished if you suddenly claim equal status with them. If you know the difference between the self’s enlightenment and the jiva’s enlightenment, then you will not be bothered if the teacher points out that your jiva has a case of enlightenment sickness. You will know if he is wrong or you are wrong, so there will be no emotional charge associated with his or her words. I am not going on about this because it applies to you or because it happens very often. Most Vedanta people are very discriminating and humble, and know the value of the teacher, but sometimes a person’s ego is immature – “touchy” is perhaps the right word – and perceives good advice as unwarranted criticism.
In any case, the answer to your question is this: if the mind is split, it does not mean that you are split. You are the one that is aware of the split. So the practice “I am awareness” does not give you the experience of awareness or make you awareness. It negates the idea “I am Frank, the jiva.” When Frank is negated, the inquirer should be mindful of the awareness that remains because negating the jiva only produces a void. At that time you become aware that you are experiencing as awareness, i.e. that you are an unmodified witness, even though you have been experiencing as awareness all along! So the discrimination between jiva’s experience of awareness and the self’s experience of awareness is realized.
The best way to recognize if you have enlightenment sickness is a tendency to guru people who don’t ask for teaching. I just got an email from a man a few days ago who has been in Vedanta for several years who met a woman who discovered Vedanta last year. She was very inspired by it. They liked each other – there was some kind of spiritual/romantic connection I think and they loved satsanging together – and she set out to teach him when he didn’t need a teacher and didn’t ask for her to teach him.
Knowing you are awareness does put you one up on who you were before and on most everyone in the world, but it is just the first stage. If you think it is the final stage, you will have problems. It seems that most people really need for others to think that they are “spiritual.” Most of the modern Neo-Advaita gurus are in this category. They prematurely claim enlightenment and rush out to enlighten the world. People get stuck in the claim of enlightenment because it generates sublime emotions, i.e. bhakti, which makes them attractive to others and to themselves. So as long as you think you are enlightened you more or less feel pretty good about yourself, which is definitely preferable to the time when your happiness depended on intermittent situations, so your jiva self-esteem is enhanced by the “I am awareness” practice. But the downside, as I mentioned, is that your ego gets so big you imagine that you are superior to everyone, even your guru! “I am enlightened” doesn’t mean “only I am enlightened” or “I am more enlightened than others.” There is a raft of gurus who promote the idea of stages of enlightenment and somehow they always end up all alone at the last stage with everybody else conveniently situated somewhere far below them.
See the jiva’s vanity. See the duality. One of the perverse manifestations of enlightenment sickness is claiming that you are nobody. I have another friend who realized who he was about twenty years ago. I was not his teacher. We were just friends. He never asked me a spiritual question, because he didn’t think he had any spiritual problems. He remained in the spiritual world, however, as a kind of anti-guru. He was not afraid to expose the ignorance of others. His enlightenment sickness was a kind of passive aggression. Instead of claiming enlightenment, he would claim humility. He would say, “I know nothing. I am just a normal person.” Of course the subtext of the statement was that only a really enlightened person could say that he was not enlightened! Anyway, just a few months back he invited me over to visit and during the visit he told me that he finally realized that he had a huge ego about enlightenment! It took him about twenty years to figure it out on his own. If he had had a guru he would have seen the problem very quickly. So this claiming the status of the self is very useful on one hand to negate the ego, but it can be very dangerous too without a teacher. Sundari had a student who knew about enlightenment sickness who asked her to warn him if he ever contacted it. When he did she pointed it out and he terminated his relationship with her! Sometimes people ask me if I am enlightened and I say, “I am not enlightened but I am not unenlightened either.” This means that enlightenment is not the issue, that it is not an event. Awareness is the nature of the self.The self is eternal, so it was never not awareness. Enlightenment has nothing to do with it. It is just an idea, an object appearing in awareness. So one needs to be mindful of who is claiming what – and why.
Frank: I see how important it is to rely on a true teaching and teacher who lives and acts according to what he says! I am very grateful for these circumstances and that God brought me to you, James, and Vedanta. Finally!
After Ramesh’s teachings in the nineties I found myself a little forsaken and in a state of resignation. “Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no doer thereof,” “there is no free will” and “all there is is consciousness“ were his three most frequent statements. They made me think that there is nothing I can do. Maybe enlightenment falls down from heaven or maybe it doesn’t, I thought.
So for some time, in the beginning of my Vedanta time, I was struggling with this issue of free will or apparent free will. Of course Ramesh was right: there is no free will – seen from a standpoint of the self. Only after your teachings and a very helpful satsang by Ted Schmidt, The Cycle of Life and the Illusion of Free Will, I got it easily sorted out. From the jiva’s point of view, very much can be done. Apparently. A contradiction cannot be resolved by the mind. Would you agree when it’s put in that way?
James: Yes. You need to look at the mind from beyond the mind. This is why Vedanta is valuable. The teaching looks at reality from consciousness’s point of view and it looks at it from jiva’s point of view. It also looks at it from Isvara’s point of view – which is the key to moksa. The first six chapters of the Gita are all about exercising one’s free will.
You use the word “quotation” with reference to Ramesh. It is a revealing word because Ramesh was not a proper teacher. He was an intellectual, like Osho and many others, who have some basic realizations but have no way to teach except to cull spiritual writings and extract ideas that more or less fit their experience. They appropriate the words to themselves and quote “profound” statements without being able to explain them properly. I’ve met perhaps one or two hundred Ramesh people who had this same conflict. It could have been easily removed with the satya/mithya teaching but people don’t understand that both free will and fate exist – depending on one’s point of view. Ramesh had a guru but even though he knew who he was, he was not a proper guru. In fact at the end of his life I saw a video in which Ramesh said that he questioned the non-duality of his guru. A guru is not a convenience or a fashion statement. If Ramesh understood satya/mithya he would not have left thousands of people confused.
Frank: I often feel like living in the fog that more and more is about to dissolve. It’s getting clearer and clearer. Ignorance seems to fade away. Confidence is getting stronger. Recently I felt like one step further and the sun is revealed.
James: This shows that your practice is working, Frank. Enlightenment is a gradual process because the mind is terribly conservative. Ignorance is hardwired and will not yield to the truth easily. So you need this incredible desire and the will power to keep working patiently through the fog. It is the only way.
Frank: In this very moment some kind of panic came up and momentum passed by. As a homeopath and therapist I’m professionally working with patients’ dreams. They can be so helpful finding a way through the jungle. I personally also often get significant dreams. So how’s this one?
I dreamed that my washing machine was out of order. The motor had crashed. Then you, James, appeared and you offered to take it to America to get it fixed. And you said, “When I come back, it will be fixed.” I agreed and was happy with your offer. Sound like a great perspective, doesn’t it? (Actually, two weeks later my real washing machine gave up and I had to buy a new one.) ☺
James: Dreams are Isvara teaching. If Isvara says your washing machine will be fixed, it will be fixed. James is just Isvara’s instrument. Stick with your self-inquiry. You are going about it in the right way. Give my best regards to Mary.
~ Much LOVE, James