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The Long, Arduous, Twisted Path to Vedanta
Ed: Hi, James. I am reading your book The Yoga of Love. Truly, a Great Wonder to understand the Eternal Splendour of jiva’s complete Self-Love.
What is so striking to my intellect is the long, arduous and twisted path that was trodden to arrive at the doorstep of Vedanta. Of interesting note that the teachings at the feet of Ranjit Maharaj seemed to my mind a negative exposé of the teachings. The neti neti tool of removal/deletion of all appearance was the methodology.
James: Neti neti is good but you have to teach the upside at the same time. Seekers need to be inspired by what they can gain rather than continually confronted by the idea that they have to lose everything to get free. But the teaching is actually duality because it gives the mind the same degree of reality as the self. The self, however, is not obscured by the thoughts. If a teacher is a good teacher – I’m not saying that Ranjit was not a jnani – he or she needs to reveal the bliss of awareness as he teaches negation of the mind. This way the mind has something positive to hold onto as it negates the objects.
Ed: Also, my mind wasn’t exposed to the complete teaching in a formal contextual way. This could have been possible in my view because of the difference of language, culture and lack of time spent with Maharaj.
James: Possibly, but it is probably because Ranjit wasn’t actually qualified to teach Vedanta.You can get moksa through Vedanta and want to share what you know, which is not the kiss of death, but it does cause problems for seekers in the long run because you need a methodical way to attack ignorance. You need to learn what the self is, what the not-self is, how to distinguish them as experience presents them to you, etc. You have to go through the steps, sravanna, mannana and nididyasana. Just hanging out near an enlightened person doesn’t work unless you are extremely well-qualified. You can only really appreciate mahatmas if you are free.
Ed: Maharaj did appear as a Loving Free Being. His devotion to his master was the supreme hallmark of his life.
James: I’m sure he was.
Ed: Now I can understand in much more of a complete way the whole and utter magic of Vedanta and the importance of a guru to direct that knowledge in a wise way.
What seems correct that Maharaj and others of a similar ilk give a very direct vivid kick into finally understanding what you always are, at the very root that is present through all appearance and is never changed.
This direct approach will only succeed for a very mature jiva that is completely qualified for this absolute understanding. Unfortunately, not many are.
So in Maharaj tradition there was a strong push to do bhajans four times a day. This was to prepare and purify the subtle body to receive direct understanding, in my view.
James: Yes, but you need more than bhajans. You need to use your intellect, not just submerge it in bhakti. If he had gone through the Vedanta system, he surely would have taught Tattva Bodh. It is an introductory text that almost anyone can understand. It sets up inquiry as a value and leads to more and more sophisticated texts. The intellect needs to be developed. Unfortunately, there is a huge anti-intellectual bias in the spiritual world.People would rather feel good with a puja and a chant than actually learn anything about themselves.
Ed: Anyway, after my time with Maharaj, I was constantly attempting to put the whole thing into context. I couldn’t completely accept the world as a complete illusion. I didn’t understand the way non-dual self doesn’t have any qualities and nothing to do with the world. But my experience says the world exists. Maharaj did say to me once that the world exists only because of self, although without a complete understanding of the framework around the apparent creation I could never make sense of it.
James: You were probably born an inquirer. We have to know the big picture, the why. As you know, Vedanta is the why, the big picture.
Ed: The unchanging, detached, non-dual self was clear, but the link of a world and why wasn’t. Of course the why from the intellect’s view is a paradox. From the self’s there is no questions about self, it is self-complete, whole, eternally same-self, worlds come and go but I AM never changed!
James: Yes, the whole key to moksa is Isvara, the Creator. It is the link between the jiva and the self.
Ed: So my search for a deeper understanding finally led to the Grace of your approach to Vedanta appearing in my life. This I would say is the positive expression of a complete teaching. So with both ends of the magnet the understanding is complete. The maturity of jiva in play is ever deepening, as jiva swims in a Great Ocean of Self-Love.
James: Cool. You deserve it. You paid your dues.
Ed: I want to say a deeply Heartfelt thank you for your dedication and wisdom to make Vedanta available to starving jivas that are weary of an apparent eternal journey in ignorance.
May this letter find you in comfort and wellness.
James: Everything is good here – no complaints. My wife loves me, my health is excellent, the seminars are packed, the books and videos are walking out of the shop, etc. God is great! Take care of yourself.
Ed: Yes, I appeared shell-shocked, asking God why… inquiring from an early age was my only interest, to understand “I” and a world that seemed so alien! Here I AM, whole and complete, which was always the case. What was lost was confusion/ignorance that was the alien. What was understood, knowledge to remove the alien confusion! God is Gracefully Great!