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Self-Realization Is Just the Beginning
Vinod: Dear James, I realized that my delusion goes far deeper than I thought, that this process of identification with the body-mind complex is the source of all my problems.
The initial insight might help you see how deeply the patterns are entrenched but actualization is a lifelong process. It’s a good thing I didn’t decide to become a teacher and try to save the ignorant. ☺ The I-sense is another identification that needs to be understood and relinquished.
On analysis, I actually think self-inquiry and nididhyasana are one and the same. This is what Shankara and Suresvara say below. Ramana uses slightly different language, but he is saying pretty much the same thing:
“Reflection (manana) is a hundred times superior to listening (sravana); meditation (nididhyasana) is a hundred times superior to reflection; nirvikalpaka samadhi is infinitely superior.” ~ Shankara
“Nididhyasana is so called when instruction about the uniqueness of the Atman is justified by [proper] reasons viz. the Sruti [the instructions of] teachers and [one’s own] experience [of the same].” ~ Suresvara
“When the discriminating one becomes detached and, giving up the idea that one is the body, single-mindedly enquires, the churning of the channels takes place.” ~ Ramana
James: Hi, Vinod. I very much respect your spiritual integrity. Sometimes lesser mortals take self-realization as an opportunity to quit inquiry – which means that the doer has not been negated – but self-inquiry goes on one’s whole life; it is Isvara’s nature; jiva has no say in it. It can only recognize the value of nididyasana and participate gladly. Writing and teaching Vedanta is my nididyasana. By nirvikalpa samadhi Shankara means self-actualization, not the yogic state. Ramana’s word “channels” is yogic and confusing. It means discrimination, churning the thoughts with the idea “I am awareness” until the bliss of awareness is continually manifest. The bliss of awareness is likened to butter, which is obtained by churning milk. The mind is often referred to as “the milky ocean” in the Vedic tradition. He is not talking about a special yogic state.
Vinod: Thanks, James. I am finally understanding what karma yoga entails and what actually submitting to Isvara’s will entails. Until the doer has been completely negated, self-inquiry has to continue.
I didn’t know about the mind/awareness and churning milk part. I thought Ramana was metaphorically referring to the churning of the ocean of milk by devas/asuras.
James: The metaphor of the devas and the asuras churning the ocean of milk is a symbol of inquiry, Vinod. The asuras are the thoughts generated by an ego that doesn’t know it is ever-free awareness. The devas are the “opposite thoughts” (prati-paksha bhavana), the teaching of Vedanta, i.e. self inquiry. When the ocean is sufficiently churned by manana, the causal body gives up its poison – negative vasanas brought on by identification with the body – and self knowledge, i.e. Shiva, drinks it and neutralizes it – puts it in a place, the neck, between the head and the heart, where it can’t contaminate one’s thinking or one’s love. This is why Shiva is called nilakanta, blue-necked. In another Purana story the poison comes up as Kalika, a vile serpent, and Krishna, the self, subdues it and dances on its heads, the ten senses.
Vinod: Fascinating. I never knew that the Puranas are actually talking about self-knowledge. I like these stories much better and I think people relate to stories a lot easier than dry Vedantic texts.
Honestly, Panchadasi is about the only text other than the Gita that I can read without falling asleep. I am sure you already know this, but Vidyaranya was a devotee of Kali and a tantric adept. Ramana was also a big fan of Puranic texts.
I think I am getting the beginning of a framework to communicate Vedanta more easily to the common man. Unfortunately, the common man doesn’t care. ☺ It’s like being a king with no subjects. That is okay too.
I look forward to meeting you in June.