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Follow the Steps – No Skipping
Jackie: Dear James, first, I want to let you know of my profound joy to hear from you and to have ever known you. To be reintroduced to Vedanta through your view was for sure one of the most meaningful presents I’ve received from Bhagavan.
Allow me to share with you what I’ve been up to since we last spoke. I’ve been basically studying Bhagavad Gita (both through your videos and a text that I’ve downloaded from Dayananda’s website) and I feel that, like Arjuna, I’m being guided into acceptance. Acceptance of my part in the game – my dharma – acceptance of the various degrees of difficulty in dealing with challenging aspects of my relationships, acceptance that, yes, I am STILL developing the necessary qualifications for self-inquiry, through all of the happenings in my life that are somehow shaping my mind into a more sattvic state – and this last one is the most important because somehow I thought I was entitled to freedom, since I was already “so spiritual” that the simple idea of “not been qualified yet” was already a reason for a big contraction.
James: You must be doing your inquiry properly if your life is “somehow shaping your mind into a more sattvic state.” Everyone is capable of freedom because the self is always free, but freedom is earned by dharmic living. There is really nothing spiritual about spirituality, Jackie. It seems like an alternative to the samsaric life but it is usually just an escape born out of an inability to do one’s dharma. I was a bit depressed when I realized that spirituality, as I conceived of it, didn’t work. It is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. There is no authority higher than an ego that thinks it is superior to what it once was and subjects itself only to self-defined disciplines.
You really start to grow spiritually when you enter the Vedanta sampradaya because you are required to follow a program that is not set by you. Self-inquiry is a process. You have to start at the beginning and go through the steps. In the modern spiritual world people want instant enlightenment, they think they are entitled to freedom simply because the want it. The idea of disciplining their minds so that they can understand the truth is too much. Life is laws and we need to follow them. The majority portion of the Vedas is call the dharma kanda, the section on dharma, right living, and it prepares the mind for the jnana kanda (Vedanta) and moksa.
Neo-Advaita is about skipping right to the end without going through the steps, converting your desires for objects into a desire to know God and then doing the karma yoga, the upasana yoga and finally, self-inquiry.
Jackie: And through some synchronicities, I’m being invited to attend some courses, getting to know methods that I would a couple of months ago consider to be lower degrees of understanding – things like “enneagram” or “non-violent communication” since they are a portrait of the ego in action, and would be seen by me like having little value for a “seekers of the Truth.”
James: Don’t linger there, Jackie. Jackie shouldn’t be much of a mystery. You must have been observing her for about forty years? It really doesn’t matter what type of person you are. Just look at what your vasanas are, what you pursue and what you avoid, and figure out the reasons. They all just boil down to one fact: you feel inadequate. You need to compensate and get recognition, fame, power, security – whatever it is for you – so you chase things.Everybody does it. Types 1 to 9 of the enneagram system do it. All the zodiacal signs do it.
Non-violent communication (NVC) is helpful, particularly for rajasic people who are prone to conflict. But it is really little more than manners, being polite and respectful in your communications. Everything that comes to us in life comes through others, so the key to success is to see that everyone is just the same as you. This is the basis of empathy and sympathy. Cultivated, considerate people serve the situation in which they find themselves and “eat the remnant of the sacrifice” (take what comes) with a glad heart. Demanding, manipulating, etc. to get what you want may work in the short term, but a spiritual person never really feels right about putting themselves forward.
Jackie: But very humbly, I have to say, James, that I’ve discovered through Vedanta and also the last happenings in my life, combined with those studies, that for a long time – if not my whole life – I’ve avoided dealing in a mature way with differences in relationships. It was always a fight-or-flight response. And with all of this spiritual-seeking thing, I was basically trying to bypass the uncomfortable feelings experienced in my subtle body in an attempt to get rid of the all the emotional/mental suffering that took place every time things “went wrong.” And to tell you the truth, I see this a lot in the spiritual marketplace, and that’s also why I left the ashram.
James: It’s excellent that you can admit it, Jackie. As I said, the there is nothing particularly spiritual about spirituality. The spiritual types are just trying to get what the samsaris are trying to get, but it they can’t admit it, so they put on this big façade of holiness, dispassion, etc. and inside they are always disturbed.
Jackie: In the same way that we’re ignorant about our reality, we are also completely ignorant about the art of relating to each other. We don’t really know how to solve conflicts, how to communicate in a mature way, telling what needs to be said with assertiveness, without using projections, spiritual excuses or on the other hand, simply breaking up and pulling plugs – as if the “enemy” was outside – usually to disguise a very immature personality, replacing basic excuses for more sophisticated spiritual talk.
James: Yes, indeed. Dharma yoga is the only solution.The texts say over and over “a non-conforming lifestyle” prevents moksa. You hit the nail on the head with the word “mature.” Moksa only works for mature, psychologically healthy people. The inner child, the part that is so egoic that it is completely unskillful in negotiating with the world, needs to become an inner adult.
Jackie: And in a way that’s what I feel happened in my relationship. I wrote a person I was in conflict with a couple of weeks ago, and said that for some reason things were not okay for me to communicate face to face yet. I didn’t know what else to say at the time, and only wanted to connect, but now I feel that for me, at this stage I’m still trapped, bypassing feelings or avoiding talking about specifics is not going to solve the knot that has been created with OUR inability to connect on a higher level.
James: It’s a love problem brought on by low self-esteem, Jackie. You don’t love yourself properly, so you lack the confidence to be indifferent and non-aggressive.
Jackie: So, yes, I intend to have another conversation with him very soon and hopefully get things sorted out, in whatever way possible.
James: There is nothing to work out. There is only one way – love him. He is non-different from you. If it is hard, it because you don’t love yourself enough. So turn it over to Isvara.
Jackie: About my relationship with you, Ramji, I don’t feel anything uncomfortable as you’ve mentioned. I knew you before I knew him, and I feel my relationship with you has nothing to do with him.
Ramji: There is no connection. My relationship with you has nothing to do with my relationship with him. I just wanted to know what was going on with you, as I haven’t heard from you for quite a long time. I care for you, Jackie. I can’t help it. Isvara made me feel this way, so this is how I feel. It is the same with him and with everybody. You don’t have anything to worry about Jackie if you follow Krishna’s advice in the Gita, “With a heart that knows no otherness, keep your mind on me alone; I will take care of your getting and keeping.”
Jackie: About Vedanta, kirtan and Sanskrit: I’ve been chanting in a kirtan band for the last seven years and I appreciate Sanskrit a lot. For me it was always natural to spell the words and memorize them (I know the whole Vedanta sloka that you sing in the beginning of your teachings by heart, and love to sing it with you!). The thing is that I’m feeling more and more inclined to go deeper into the whole logical structure of the teachings hidden in Vedanta. I’m already studying Sanskrit, also because I want to know what I’m actually singing, speaking it properly and making it a part of my karma yoga practice.
James: Be careful that you don’t get lost in Vedanta, Jackie, at the expense of your karma yoga. The karma yoga removes emotionality, self-centeredness. “Studying” Vedanta can lead to enlightenment sickness and a lot of people use it to avoid looking at themselves.Vedanta is about you and you are always present as awareness (and as Jackie), so you are the topic, not Vedanta. It is a beautiful teaching, very intellectually stimulating and exciting, but never lose sight of the goal. I’ve noticed that the people who get very serious about Vedanta sometimes catch a case of enlightenment sickness. After a while they get really romantic about purity and think they are great sages who are superior to everybody, including me. It can be a distraction. There are two basic teachings: karma yoga and self-inquiry. You need karma yoga to get over the emotionality so you can separate yourself from your experiences.You need very little “Vedanta” for that.
Jackie: And about that topic, I’ve once heard you speak and also read in that Dayananda’s Gita text that there are five actions (right actions) that the karma yogi needs to take:
1. Worship your deities.
2. Contribute to your parents.
3. Contribute to Vedic culture, mahatmas.
4. Do social service.
5. Take care of the environment.
Since you don’t talk much about that, I would like to know how important they are in your view to the practice of karma yoga.
Ramji: They are absolutely essential. You can’t skip them. I suggest you get the Narada Bhakti Sutra video from the shop. It explains the whole love thing and the relationship between informal bhakti, karma yoga, upasana yoga, self-inquiry, moksa and non-dual love. And you should order The Yoga of Love from the shop. It will set you straight.
Jackie: Also, Ramji, I’m wondering if you’d properly introduce me to the Upanishads, like it was done in the Chinmayananda Ashram you were living in – reading them in a particular order? Or should I follow the path suggested at the ShiningWorld website?
Ramji: Stick with the path suggested at ShiningWorld. To summarize, the two danger points that I notice are (1) trying to use “spiritual” tools (enneagram, etc.) to deal with psychological stuff. If karma yoga doesn’t work, then go to a psychologist. The emotional stuff is there because you are not getting what you want. There is nothing really “wrong” with you psychologically, only attachment to the results of your desires/actions. If you really get Isvara and the dharma field, your emotions will settle down quite quickly; (2) studying Vedanta. I explained the problem. You need to be very honest with yourself. You don’t want to become an expert on Vedanta; you want to become an expert on yourself. Vedanta is just a tool.
Much love to you, Jackie, keep in touch.