Search & Read
Vedanta Must Be Taught
Vivek: Dear Sundari, thanks for your timely intervention and your very thoughtful response. I recognise now what a difference a good teacher can make to a seeker.
I read The Value of Values this morning (long transcontinental flights have some value). It was a beautifully written book, and my mother had asked me to read the book in the past. I also read the chapter on karma yoga that you had thoughtfully attached. I also went through the qualifications that James had described in his book.
Sundari: I agree with you that the tedium of long flights is mitigated by reading scripture! We spend way more time flying than we like to do, and it is a good opportunity to write and read. I am happy to hear that you read The Value of Values and the chapter on karma yoga. Dayananda’s legacy and contribution to the sampradaya is huge, and the importance of all his writings cannot be overstated. Many inquirers we coach find Dayananda’s Bhagavad Gita 12-month home study course very beneficial.
It is important to have the teachings correctly unfolded. Apart from the fact that there is a progression to the teachings, if the scriptures are not properly taught by a qualified teacher, the mind will interpret them according to its filters. Vedanta is not up for interpretation. For self-knowledge to free the mind of ignorance, one of the most important qualifications is faith in the scripture. The scripture cannot be manipulated to fit into your beliefs or opinions. Your life has to conform to the truth, not the other way around.
Vivek: Based on these, there are the following takeaways for me, but truthfully, I have to spend the next few months reflecting on the directions you have laid out.
I am clear that what I am seeking is moksa. I have seen too many people aim for material success, only to be left with the inevitable empty feeling. However, the confusion in my mind was whether I was “running away” from my challenges and duty by choosing moksa, similar to Arjuna when he asked Krishna whether he should choose sanyassa instead of fighting the battle (karma yoga). I realise now that I was wrong. These aspects are not contradictory. I can live my life as a CEO and householder with an attitude of a karma yogi, and there isn’t a conflict. Doing what needs to be done with a prayerful attitude and surrender to Isvara is the way of karma yoga, and it isn’t something that I have sufficiently internalised. Clearly, I don’t have the solid base of karma yoga that you have described, and I need to spend time building this if I am to proceed further on my journey.
Sundari: Excellent. Without a “burning desire” for freedom, the fruits of self-inquiry will be piddling to middling, as we say. Once you have established that this is your primary motivation in life, the rest becomes simpler, if not necessarily easier. You already have the requisite faith in the scripture, which is also a huge step in the right direction. As you have correctly understood, it is not necessary to take sanyassa for moksa. Following dharma means doing your duty by taking care of your karma in the world. Negating the objects does not mean that one has to leave the world. There is nothing wrong with the world, and ignorance is only a problem when you don’t know what it is. Once you do, you can live happily in the world without being “in” the world because you know the world is in you. Duality is purely a superimposition onto non-duality; it is not real. James takes a look at and debunks most of the enlightenment myths that abound in the spiritual world in his book How to Attain Enlightenment. One of the most insidious myths is that for moksa to obtain the jiva has to change, perfect itself or “transcend” its worldly existence by becoming “holy,” whatever that means. The truth is that the jiva will always be limited because, like all other objects, it is always changing; “enlightened” or not, the jiva lives in the dharma field which is also always changing and limited – both are mithya. One cannot perfect something that is not real.
As previously stated, to live free of the jiva and as the jiva just requires understanding what it is, what makes up the laws that run the field of existence and how the jiva relates to it, in the light of self-knowledge. There are different kinds of sanyass and only one requires taking the vow to renounce the world. If it is your svadharma to do so, your karma will allow this. However, the subtlest renunciation of all is renouncing the renouncer – the one who “renounces.” What is there to renounce if it is all you? Krishna says, “I am the desire that is not opposed to dharma.”
Abandoning or running away from your duties because of the mistaken idea that the life of the jiva stands in the way of moksa is a sure way to ensure that your unresolved karma will follow you wherever you go. There is no escape from what Isvara assigns the jiva. Karma yoga has to be the foundation for self-inquiry and life as the jiva. There is no fine print to this.
Vivek: I also need to start with basics again, as you have accurately pointed out. I went through the ShiningWorld website and the one-year course. I will go through the various steps in a careful manner with sufficient contemplation. If you have any suggestions on how I should approach the material, I would be most grateful. Reading through it is one thing. What is the best way for one to internalise these teachings?
Sundari: We advise most inquirers to read the scriptures daily, even if just for a few minutes. Set aside some time whenever you can. Whether you commit to the 12-month course at ShiningWorld or Dayananda’s Bhagavad Gita course, stick to it. You are clearly very busy, so time is in short supply, but it is always possible to do if one prioritizes it. Most inquirers find it very beneficial to listen to James teaching on their iPods, in their cars while they drive to work, air travel, even before they sleep. Many have his videos playing while they go about their daily lives. We have tons of video and audio material available at the website and at YouTube. I would suggest you listen to the Self-Inquiry Berlin talks, which give the big picture from start to finish. They are available for free at YouTube. From there you could progress to the Bhagavad Gita, of which there are many iterations of this teaching available at the website. James’ recent book, The Yoga of Love, commentaries on the Narada Bhakti Sutras, is also a vital read. It covers the same material that the Bhagavad Gita covers, without the Puranic delivery system. It focuses on the importance of bhakti and on having a devotional practice of some kind as part of your sadhana.
The ShiningWorld website is a goldmine of the highest-level Vedanta you will find. Corroborate your inquiry by reading the e-satsangs. As I said before, there are thousands of pages written by all the ShiningWorlds writers, covering every topic you could imagine. There is a search function available, which makes it easier to hone in on your specific inquiry or doubt. And of course we are always happy to answer your questions personally. We also offer Skype satsangs by donation. The most important thing is that self-inquiry becomes the guiding principle for your life. It is not something you “do” at specific times of the day. It is your day. Karma yoga is the way you live, breathe, think and feel. Nothing is exempt from this. If you get caught up in the busy-ness of your working life, surrender the busy-ness to Isvara. If you are truly committed to moksa and keep the mind on the self no matter what you are doing, what you need will be given to you. As Krishna says: “With a mind that knows no otherness, keep your mind on me and I will take care of your getting and your keeping.”
Vivek: I think the above two will require a lot of work on my part, and I am clearly some ways away from being able to dive into self-inquiry. Hopefully, if I keep at it with the right attitude, things will happen when they are meant to happen.
Thanks again for setting on the right path. I look forward to your continued guidance.
Sundari: You are most welcome, we are happy to be of assistance. You definitely have the right attitude, Vivek. Trust the scripture, it works. As James says, take it easy, take one step at a time, there is no hurry. Don’t put pressure on yourself. There is nowhere to get to; you have nothing to lose other than ignorance. Follow the methodology as set out by James in How to Attain Enlightenment and in The Essence of Enlightenment, you will not go wrong. Although self-inquiry is a path of action in that it requires great dedication to sadhana, it is primarily a path of knowledge. And for self-knowledge to mean anything, it has to translate into your day-to-day life.
I am wishing you all the success with your sadhana. May the fruit of your inquiry bring the ultimate prize – freedom from dependence on objects for happiness.
~ Om, Sundari