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Is Your Mind Your Friend or Your Enemy?
Matt: Hi, Ramji.
Thanks for the message, great to hear from you. Nice pic of you and Sundari at Facebook. I hope you’re both well.
Life has been pretty bewildering lately, and I’m somehow finding the logic of Vedanta not satisfying, or rather it seems to add more doubt and confusion by trying to practise it. I went from three or four hours of listening to your stuff a day to nothing – it was just adding to the doubt and worry. I seemed to have an argument and doubt with everything. Nothing has been enjoyable for a long time. Life seems perverse, weird and a bit horrifying.
I figured that rajas has been so predominant since Christmas, a strung-out malaise, trying to do all the shit that seems had to be done, not sleeping well and endlessly busy. When I’m not busy I’m either sleeping badly or trying to cope with terrible discomfort in the body. Maybe that’s why…
In the end, I turned to some of the old Buddhist practices to help find some relief: metta and vipassana. I got me thinking: I don’t know about what consiousness is and whether it is “me,” what that even means, whether it’s limitless, unmodified, etc. but objects definitely are limited, transient and unsatisfactory. That is obvious and easy to see. Metta brings a very temporary sense of well-being. Rather than generating a swirl of concepts and doubts through contemplating Vedanata, I found a modicum of relief in contemplating things that are obvious: there’s no room for doubt that objects are transient. I found the agitation calming down a bit.
James: Well, that’s what Vedanta says too. However, if you are convinced of this fact, then why do you get involved in the pursuit of objects?
Matt: So I went back to my old Buddhist centre and spoke to the new teacher there, an allegedly “enlightened” ex-monk. I wanted someone who is close at hand to talk to, to get regular face-to-face contact. I don’t always feel comfortable bothering you, because you are so super busy. I thought maybe if I settled into a regular meditation routine with a system and concepts that I’m familiar with, it would be better than cracking on with Vedanta.
The moment I stepped into the monastery I felt a resistance. The nun who greeted me seemed ill at ease, trying to “be good”: just like how I tortured myself when I was a monk, never feeling good enough, always guilty about something. It could have been pure projection, but when she verbally scolded herself in front of me – a complete stranger – for not being sense-restrained enough, then that seems pretty stressful to me. Anyway, I went up to the room where the monk was waiting, knocked on the door and, in the tradition of the place, gave a gift to him. He was seated, and traditionally I would have got down on my knees with head lower than his to give my gift, but somehow I couldn’t! I didn’t want to. All the contempt for being submissive came out. Well, that didn’t set up the meeting very well, and I found myself on the one hand criticizing the place and asking for instruction on the other!
The monk wasn’t having it. He laid all the blame for the troubles I experienced at the monastery on my inability to follow instructions, and furthermore wouldn’t let me talk. He asked me what am I actually willing to give up. Am I willing to give up my need to be heard and listened to? If not, then I could leave then and there. He went on to add, when things had calmed down a bit, that his reaction was due to my state of mind, and that all the criticisms that I had for the meditation centre were a projection of my own mind. He concluded by saying that he was willing to teach me, but not at any price – I had to be willing to listen and do exactly as instructed or I’d be wasting everybody’s time.
Well, I emailed an apology for criticizing the place. He was very friendly in his reply and suggested I make a decision in my own time, and in the meantime gave me some very simple meditation instructions. I don’t seem to be able to do even those: the agitation is so intense, I don’t know what to do. A friend suggested that the monk may be right after all: that I never follow through with things and instructions. I think he may be right!! Whatever the case, there is just total stasis, an inability to move in any direction.
Well, that’s the Matt-jiva’s drama to date. I hope it wasn’t too “poor me”!
~ Much love as always, Matt
James: Well, I don’t think the Buddhist is right either, unless it helps you simplify your life. However, in the kind of atmosphere you describe, you would probably just pick up on the neurosis of the others who are trying to make their jivas better. I also don’t think the teacher’s reply that you caused his angry reaction was very enlightened. I don’t think you are ready either for Buddhism or Vedanta. I think you need to think through your priorities and eliminate non-essential duties. Your mind dithers because it is not clear what you want. When you get that straight, your mind will become your friend and help you get what you want, not your enemy. I wish you well.
~ Much love, James