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Left the World Too Soon
Karen: Hi, Ramji. I was happy to get your newsletter, and to hear all the wonderful things you and Sundari have been doing. It did my heart good to see you relaxing in the Aegean! – although it sounds like you really only relaxed in between working on your new book. ☺
I am way overdue in writing you – in fact the thing that prompted me to write tonight was reading the new satsang Does Enlightenment Fall Down from Heaven? I didn’t want you to think I am one of those people who have left their guru – I have never left you, Ramji. I’ve just had a year or so of total upheaval in my life, and it has taken some time to get perspective on it. I did write you while I was sort of halfway through it all – at this point I’m ready to draw some conclusions about what happened, and to share them with you.
I used to be sattvic all the time, and I was able to maintain that because I had rejected the world as unreal (not realizing that rejecting it reinforced the misapprehension that it IS real – why would I reject something unreal?) and I was happily living in my peaceful inner world, supported by an outer existence that was very smooth and easy. You make a comment in one of your teachings: “It’s easy for a king to be dispassionate.” That was me. I had everything, nothing to worry about financially or any other way, and life was a breeze.
But then Isvara decided to set my house on fire by giving me a life-threatening disease. And putting me in a situation for a few months where every single thing I counted on for security and safety was either absent or threatened. And it was during this time – I remember writing you this – as I lay in bed to find my usual peace of mind – I wondered, if my peace of mind was this flimsy, what the heck was it founded on?
So I had to go back to square one, really. And I discovered that I had tried to get out of the world too early. I was still completely a materialist, finding my comfort, safety and joy in objects, but not putting together that you can’t “give up the world” with all that attachment still going on. I was blissfully living in rejection of the world, until it crashed down on my head. I had no choice (thank you, Isvara!) but to get right into the thick of it and get my hands dirty.
I was not prepared for how painful that would be. All at once, the world came rushing in. My heart broke wide open at the pain and suffering of it all, and I cried and cried, for weeks. So this is what I had been avoiding! Well, I couldn’t avoid it anymore. Self-inquiry was difficult at this time, because my mind wasn’t right. I started having panic attacks and depression, and I couldn’t access my self-knowledge. I decided to get a little psychiatric and medicinal help, and it was a good thing to do. I had a friend who was trying to “non-dual” me out of my anxiety and depression, but it was just making me angry and resistant. Once I got my head right, and could access my spiritual knowledge, it was gangbusters.
So I don’t really want to make any big claims about my progress. I don’t even feel like trying to describe “where I’m at.” Let’s just say I cannot yet claim that I know without a doubt that I am the self, but the doubt remaining is about the thickness of a piece of tissue paper. And with the 24/7 discrimination going on the last several weeks/months, the doubt hasn’t got much life left in it.
The world created in thought keeps crumbling away before my eyes, and I remain – free, limitless. The flickering in and out can be on a moment-to-moment basis. The personal entity never sticks around for very long anymore.
Anyway, I am on the lookout for enlightenment sickness, and am asking for you to let me know if you see anything fishy – I understand full well the difference between jiva knowing itself as the self and the self (me) knowing myself as the self, but there is a lot of flickering back and forth, so self-inquiry continues. I invite your feedback.
You are always my guru, Ramji. I listened to the amazing 74-track Panchadasi – WOW! What a knockout that was. There’s no way that every final doubt is not going to be cleared up, and anyway, I’m not worried about it. ☺ Bless you, Ramji.
~ Lots of love to you, and to Sundari
Ramji: Dear Karen, lovely to hear from you! We think of you fondly and often, and often wonder what is going on with you. I really admire your self-inquiry. It takes exceptional devotion to investigate the reasons for one’s security/happiness. Is it the result of good karma from a skillfully crafted life and a bit of good luck or is it the bliss of the self? It is so easy to get stuck in sattva but, as you know, Isvara is a jealous god. It is not satisfied if the devotee loves sattva more than Isvara. So it creates circumstances that shake the jiva loose from the world. I love your statement, “The world created in thought keeps crumbling before my eyes.” It shows that your inquiry is working properly. There is no world apart from ephemeral thoughts. Thoughts seem so real, particularly the idea that “I am a jiva,” but they rot away like everything else in nature. The jiva flickers on and off, but you are the steady unborn light of awareness. When you leave the world is not up to jiva; it is Isvara’s business. One fine day, when Isvara wills it, the world leaves you. But the one who really knows, knows that the world can remain because it is mithya, an apparent world. An apparent world is as good as a non-existent world. Nothing fishy as far as you are concerned, Karen. You are a person of great integrity. I love you and respect you very much.
Karen: Thank you so much, James. Wonderful to get this encouraging reply from you. It’s interesting to me how it all seems to reach a point, with constant discrimination, when all the various kinds of misconceptions are dismantled – a little dismantling over here on the “what I am not” side, and then a little more understanding over here on the “what I am” side, and the myriad subtle beliefs that are all mixed up somewhere in between – as they are teased apart, the world becomes more and more visible for what it is and the truth of awareness as subject is revealed. It really does take a lot of inquiry, and a big vasana for that. I can see how the inquiry vasana is the only one to keep – it’s not the same as the other vasanas!
James: You are absolutely right about retaining the inquiry vasana, but you really don’t have to worry about it. It is the nature of the mind to inquire; so as long as you have a mind you will be an inquirer. However, unless you have been blessed by Isvara with good spiritual karma in the form of a proper teaching and teacher, the mind will only discriminate between shadowy objects in the apparent reality – spiritual versus material things, for instance, not between the subject and the objects.
Karen: Life is getting nicer. Jiva can’t really keep obsessing about feeling unsafe and needing to act to get safe, when I know I am this free consciousness and that jiva’s stuff doesn’t spill over to me. I’m not sure how that works to relax jiva, but it does. I am going to guess that it is because my mind is jiva’s mind. Is that right?
James: Jiva is awareness plus the subtle body. It is an intimate association, set up by Isvara. The knowledge – discriminating the self from the objects and asserting one’s identity as the self – removes the fear causing the tension in the subtle body. When it relaxes, it seems like the jiva is relaxing, owing to this association.
Karen: Thank you for the addendum – “an apparent world is as good as a non-existent world.” This helps. No need to make it go away. It can stay. ☺ I can totally see how it makes no difference, when you know what it is.
James: “The self is real, the world is apparently real” is the essence of Vedanta. The world exists and is always experienced in the form of the three states. Living here as an enlightened jiva is like going to a movie. You experience it as real, but you know it isn’t. There is no way the jiva can do anything about anything, because the jiva is actually the self, and the self is not a doer. But as long as there is some kind of identification with the subtle body, the jiva thinks it is a doer and tries to make unpleasant thoughts go away. Fear is the most unpleasant thought. Believing that it is real is very painful. You cannot secure yourself in samsara, because samsara is mithya. It is not real. And if it was real you could not secure yourself either, because it never remains the same. So on all accounts the only solution is to expose one’s mind to the teachings for as long as it takes to see the insubstantiality of one’s thoughts.
Karen: Much love to you, Ramji. I am grateful to you beyond words.