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The Presence of the Teacher
Dexter: Hi, Sundari.
I did make it out to the meeting, and it was good. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was glad to see people there at least with more knowledge about Vedanta than I have (not saying much, I know). When the conversation got going well it ended up being helpful. No one of us really knows that much, but they do the best they can. We watched a video on YouTube of James speaking for about 25 minutes, and then discussed it. The topic was on objects and experience. I’m thinking of starting my own Meetup group in St. George and going through The Essence of Enlightenment chapter by chapter until we all “get it.” (Then we can start the next book.)
Sundari: That’s a great idea, Dexter. Although the people involved are not experienced Vedantins, the main thing is that they rely on a qualified teacher like James teach them. The difficulty with groups like this comes in when inexperienced or not fully qualified minds start interpreting the teachings according to their own ideas. And of course having people at very different levels of qualifications has its own inherent difficulty.
Dexter: James keeps talking about the “necessities” for enlightenment as being qualified, receiving the true teachings of Vedanta and a spiritual “helper” to guide you through your practice. My question is, does asking questions of any of your qualified teachers at your website and reading the satsang replies cover that last ingredient or does one actually have to spend time with a “guru”? Does that strangely-put question make sense? That would be a difficult requirement living out here in Arizona/Utah/Nevada, like I do. (I really do live in the corner of those three states. And it’s the most confusing place in the world, I reckon, with the time zone situation here. ☺ Thanks for listening!
Sundari: Having read James’ book, you should be well-versed in the requirements/qualifications for self-inquiry to work. Although not all the qualifications need to be present, they need to be understood and developed. So, yes, indeed both qualifications and a qualified teacher are not negotiable, assuming moksa is the aim. There is a very good reason why Vedanta stresses the importance the qualifications and of a qualified teacher. Ignorance, or the non-apprehension of the true nature of reality as non-dual, is hardwired and very tenacious. As the mind is conditioned to think a certain way and because non-duality is counter-intuitive, unless the mind is guided in its exposure to Vedanta it will interpret Vedanta according to its conditioning, or vasanas, and self-knowledge will not obtain. There are apparent contradictions within the teachings which are not real contradictions and need to be resolved by a qualified teacher. Teachings and teachers abound who teach according to their methods and experience, but this is always flawed and limited because unless a teaching is independent of the teacher it will be contaminated by his or her beliefs, opinions and experiences.
It is extremely beneficial to be in the presence of a qualified teacher, but not essential. There is no real boundary between you and the guru, because a guru literally means one who “dispels the darkness” and in doing so reveals that the self is the only guru because this is a non-dual reality. Whether we are physically with you or connecting via technology, the knowledge is wielded in the same way by us because we are qualified teachers of Vedanta. If the mind is prepared and qualified and you are firmly dedicated to self-inquiry, self-knowledge will do “the work” of removing ignorance. We are all here to help you with any questions that arise. James has taught thousands of people around the world and helped many of them find moksa, most of whom he never met. You have most of the qualifications and you have read James’ book, so you have already engaged in the process of being taught by James.
As James is fond of saying, Vedanta is the court of last appeal for those fortunate souls whose karma prepares them for moksa, freedom.
~ Much love to you as well, Sundari