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Resolving the Doubter
Mira: Dear James, I hope your well. I have a few questions and would be really grateful if you could answer them.
Questions: When resolving doubts, in my experience it seems there are a couple of approaches; (1) take the doubt seriously and think it through in light of the teachings and logical analysis of one’s experience; (2) negate the doubt by negating the doubter/jiva, with the understanding that the doubt and the doubter are just objects appearing in me, awareness. There is often a confusion when a doubt arises whether to identify with it and seek the knowledge, to lay it to rest or just cut out the middleman and put attention straight on awareness, where it undoubtedly is going to end up anyway after the doubter has been satisfied by a satisfactory solution. Not that, when I put the attention on the self, the doubt/vasana hook dissolves, as it normally creeps back when I let go of my focus on the self! In this case, I am talking about subtle doubts concerning the process of assimilating self-knowledge – good fun – or gratuitous thoughts concerning past actions or events – annoying.
James: Both the specific and the global options are good, Mira, because both put the mind back where it belongs – on the self. However, as you mention, unless you dig into the specific bit of ignorance behind a doubt it will eventually recycle and irritate the mind again. If you consistently dismiss them with reference to the global option: “I am limitless awareness; this is not me,” they will eventually stop appearing for want of attention. But personally – although I don’t have any doubts about anything anymore – when a doubt persisted in light of self-knowledge I would dig into it until I exposed the cause and then apply the knowledge.
Mira: My mind is obsessed with Vedanta, especially when it discovers a floor in its understanding or a tricky paradox. I can spend a couple of hours easily, writing the problems out, which I find a highly effective way to clarify my understanding; is this process nididhyasana?
James: It’s a good obsession, Mira. I can see that you are doing nididyasana diligently by the way you present your doubts. Writing is a good practice; it quickly identifies problems. There is often a subtle chain of logic behind every doubt that needs to be exposed. It is often hard to keep all the steps in mind. So if you write down each insight as it occurs, you needn’t remember it and once you have recorded all the thoughts, you can see the pattern and dismiss it.
Mira: I am weary of getting too caught up in the nitty-gritty, as when meditating on the self in the form of silence no doubts or concepts seem relevant, as your effortless nature is appreciated.
James: Well, meditation is good, but it is purely experiential, so that when you are not in meditation the doubts come back. It is better to see to it that the knowledge is rock-solid. When it is rock-solid, the causal body negates the doubt before it rises to the level of the subtle body to disturb you. And personally, I found meditation a bit boring after a while. Yes, I could sit in mindless bliss for days on end, but so what? I wanted to live in the world. So I meditated for enjoyment and applied the knowledge until I rooted out every doubt. Yes, working out the details can be tiresome too. The way I see it is that the mind is going to be busy your whole life, so why not give it something useful to do? After all, once you dismiss a doubt for good, the space it formerly occupied fills with bliss. When the last doubt goes, the subtle body, the experiencing instrument, is a 24/7 bliss machine.
Mira: When vasanas are said to be neutralised, does this mean that the mind can at will drop its gratuitous thoughts and rest on the reflection of awareness or does it just mean that the thoughts don’t cause apparent identification anymore, therefore one remains happy?
James: I can’t see that there is a difference between the two. When doubts are gone and the mind rests on the reflection of awareness, the mind is happy. When there is no identification with the doubter, the jiva, there is no identification with the doubts. Without jiva identification, the doubts die. So far, we are discussing the issue from the jiva’s perspective. But the real problem is the idea (doubt) that “I am a jiva.”
Mira: It seems there is a vast difference between knowing your indifference to the thoughts arising in the mind and even objectively seeing thoughts of identification take place… and being able to voluntarily resolve the mind and get it to rest effortlessly in awareness.
James: Yes, there is a difference.
Mira: Does this ability come with the assimilation of self-knowledge or is this a yogic pursuit?
James: The assimilation of self-knowledge is a yogic pursuit. It is jnana yoga. Yoga means that there is some effort involved, meaning the jiva/inquirer is engaged. If the mind is completely sattvic and committed to Vedanta, then just hearing the knowledge resolves the jiva into awareness. I don’t think you question the knowledge “I am limitless awareness.” But if doubt is an issue, then the knowledge is not completely firm – it is in the process of firming up – so you have to do nididyasana, which you are doing.
I really enjoy your emails, Mira. You are coming along very nicely.
~ Love, James