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Karma Yoga, Vasanas, Orchestras and Jim Carrey
Jack: Dear Daniel, my name is Jack and I’m following you through the Nondoodle Facebook page.
I’m contacting you, since I saw you posted that it was cool to ask you anything regarding Vedanta via your email address, plus I’m following James Swartz a lot, and it is not so easy to reach him, as you probably know.
I have some questions I would really appreciate your answer to whenever you have the time.
It took me some time to decide about writing this email or not, since I don’t know you personally, but after some days and some links and your post, I felt very confident in writing to you.
Daniel: I’m glad you decided to shoot through an email! We’re all on the same ride, my friend.
Please see responses below.
Jack: Would you please give me some concrete examples of actions for doing karma yoga? I’ve been reading several pages about the topic, but I’ve never heard James giving concrete examples of actions about it… except for hugging trees and respecting our parents.
Daniel: Karma yoga is not an action. Karma yoga is an attitude taken towards action and its results. It’s the understanding that though I have the right to act, I’m not the dispenser of the final results. This attitude is kept firmly in the mind before, during and after you perform any action.
Appropriate and timely action is performed whilst appreciating the fact that results are dished out according to fit the needs of the Total – not according to personal desires. Understanding the fact that results are not up to the jiva allows him to relax and objectively see what arrives without “playing God.” Instead of projecting unknown outcomes, you attend to your duties as best you can in the given moment.
You accept everything as a prasad (blessing/opportunity). Karma yoga is simply an attitude of gratitude without expectations.
Below is something my dear friend Christain Leeby wrote about karma-dharma yoga that I think you may appreciate:
Non-attachment and gratitude are our only safe havens.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean putting down your bow and becoming a monk, it means stepping up to your dharma without being scared – of whatever might happen after you TAKE ACTION.
It’s the non-attachment to “needing to have the outcome of your actions just the way you want”…
That means a much “freer-feeling” life. Imagine total confidence expressing whatever you really want to express, with no trepidation.
That’s what comes as you release the attachment to getting everything “your way.”
It starts with gratitude and right understanding.
I am grateful for all things appearing in front of me all the time. I am constantly being given to, over and over and over.
This whole creation is a set-up, for me to get pushed back to my simple self, and remember the limitlessness that I am, always shining.
Jack: I would like to burn some vasanas, like fear of some insects and some stage anxiety (I’m a musician), among others.
Daniel: There is nothing more powerful to burn vasanas than the application of self-knowledge (Vedanta). But it takes time. Be patient and gentle with yourself, Jack. Certain vasanas may just be here to stay because that’s what colours in your svadharma. We all carry some whacky vasanas! Vasanas are totally fine as long as they’re not leading to adharmic action – which I can see is not the case for you.
But what’s important to investigate is this: Do these vasanas actually belong to you? Do they affect you? The answer is no. You are the knower/awareness of the vasanas and the jiva called Jack. Jack and his impressions never affect you, awareness. You are always free from Jack and his play.
This may sound a little subtle or far-fetched at this point, but as you continue to apply the teachings of Vedanta your freedom from Jack and his vasanas will become totally obvious. You’re right on track!
Jack: Is karma yoga the best way to burn those kinds of vasanas faster? When I am reading and learning about Vendanta, I do understand that I’m awareness, and sometimes I could even stand as awareness, but still couldn’t burn those vasanas, since when I experience one of the two, I told you sometimes I get very scared.
Daniel: The application of self-knowledge whilst performing all action in a karma yoga spirit will burn what’s needed to be burnt. The two go hand in hand.
To stand firm in awareness as awareness takes time. When your identification to/as awareness is rock-solid (direct knowledge), then all fears dissolve. Why? Because nothing affects you. You are free from everything that arises to you. Remember, Jack too is just an object appearing in/to you. Again, this may take a little bit of time to assimilate and fruit into a solid sense of freedom. But there’s no rush.
Jack: This is more a personal question I was not sure to put in this email, but since it’s about Vedanta, why not?
In some areas of my svadharma (music), like working with several people (playing in an orchestra), I react with some anxiety and nervous emotions during some experiences, while when I do my own creation (performing my music) I feel much more free and comfortable.
My question is, should I keep trying to deal with the orchestra (good money, by the way) and keep working to burn those negative emotions or should I follow what I love (no secure economical situation at all)? I’m more sure about following my heart, but some spiritual masters confused me by the idea of “do not follow the comfortable option.”
Daniel: First of all, many of the “spiritual masters” out there are not actually so spiritually mastered. ☺ Feeling anxious does not necessarily mean you’re going against your svadharma. It’s most likely just past impressions getting triggered by certain activities. Though these feelings may feel negative, it does not mean that they are negative. Ninety-nine per cent of the time they have nothing to do with you, and you need not claim or feel responsible for them.
Unless you feel totally miserable playing in an orchestra – I’d make a game out of it and see how I could manage these feelings whilst enjoying the experience (good money is always useful!) – but if playing with others fatigues you both mentally and physically, then I’d say “fuck it!” and move on.
Why not have two projects: (1) a money-making duty (orchestra) and (2) a personal side project for your own performance?
Jack: Anyway, whether you have time to reply or not to this email, thanks a lot for your nice Facebook page. It’s very inspiring!
Daniel: I will always have time for you, Jack. You are welcome to write to me anytime. I hope you don’t mind, but I have also copied Christain Leeby, another disciple/teacher of James Swartz, who I think would be able to offer you the most beneficial material.
He has also just written an eBook which deals primarily on how to master the mind, which I believe would be the most effective tool for you, based on what you have shared with me.
Please feel free to write to me again or include me in your conversations with Christian if you feel inclined to do so.
~ Much love, Daniel.
PS: “…except from hugging trees and respecting our parents” sounds like James was making some joke. He sometimes likes to take the mickey out of the spiritual circus! ☺
Jack: Dear Daniel, thanks so much for your quick, clear, nice and deep reply. I really appreciate each answer.
The karma yoga topic is totally clear now, although my tricky mind still finds it difficult to be grateful, not only for the “nice things,” but also for the things I react to with some “negative feelings.” I guess I have to be patient and keep studying Vedanta, trying my best to remove ignorance each day. Also, for me it was always difficult to say “no” to certain persons or situations in life, so at the beginning the topic of karma yoga was a bit confusing, since I thought it was referring to accepting and saying “yes” to every situation (you know, like Jim Carrey’s movie The Yes Man, hee, hee).
Daniel: Yup, the mind can be a super tricky bastard. But it’s only our relationship to the mind and our interpretation of the mind that causes the havoc/suffering. In other words, it’s the misunderstanding of the mind that allows negative thoughts to get a grip.
When we understand the mechanics of the mind and our relationship towards the mind (which Christian’s book will clearly deliver), then the mind loses its ability to cause such havoc. Though negative thoughts/feelings will still appear, they don’t have any grip. Basically, they don’t get activated.
It boils down to one thing: identification. When you identify with/as the mind, then it will sweep you away into a play of ups and downs. This is the experience of most people (samsaris). But as you continue to apply the teachings of Vedanta, your identity shifts from/as the mind to the knower/awareness of the mind. In other words, you realise that you are actually totally free from the mind. When your identity as awareness is firm, regardless of the quality of thoughts that arise – positive or negative – they have absolutely no impact on you.
But this is where it gets cool. Though you are free from the mind, you still have the option to partake in what the mind comes up with. In other words, you’ll be able to select and manage the degree of quality of much of your experience. The mind no longer uses you. Rather you use the mind.
The rewiring of our true identity takes time because ignorance (misidentification) is incredibly hardwired. You’re on the Vedanta bus, so you can confidently relax knowing that the job will get done. Be gentle with yourself and have fun whilst applying your inquiry.
Yes, most people misunderstand the term karma yoga. I’m very happy to hear you realised that The Yes Man attitude is definitely not for us inquirers! Make peace of mind your core value wherever you can. If it does not suit you, then lovingly tell the person or situation to find another man to do the job. You are not here to serve others. You are here to serve/understand yourself. Self-service/self-understanding naturally serves the environment around you.
Jack: I’ll get the Christian’s book. It seems great and very clear. I saw some posts of him through James’ Facebook page; I really liked them. Just for sharing, I just found the video, where James mentions these examples of actions that are composed by karma yoga. When you get to 1:00:40 (YouTube link), hugging trees and respecting and loving parents are mentioned there!
Daniel: My dearest Guruji – and homie Christian – the two most stand-up guys I know!
Jack: Regarding the vasanas topic, it is amazing to observe ourselves. Actually, even funny. I told you I have a stupid fear of some insects. One day I was meditating and studying about it and could totally feel and understand I’m not separate from any being or thing in existence. The next day a small frog came into my house and I got totally panicked, all the teachings in my mind got blocked or went to hell (in my mind)… but at some moment I just starting laughing at how ridiculous that situation was, so I could relax just a bit. So once again, you are totally right: I need time to make a deep assimilation of all the teachings.
Daniel: Yes, when we observe the mind from our true identity, then things just become a real joke!
Yes, your mind was sattvic after the mediation and the teachings formed a non-dual vision/understanding of reality, you understood the non-separation of the insects. But here’s the key: though the insects were you (awareness, the subject), you simultaneously remained free from the insects (objects).
Everything that you can perceive is an object known to you, awareness. Here’s where it gets a little subtle: insects are no different than the body-mind called “Jack.” Both the insects and Jack are objects known to you, awareness. And awareness is always free of the objects it knows. It’s only because of misidentification to/as the mind that we mistake the person to be the subject (the reference point) instead of understanding that it too is just an object arising in me, free awareness. Vedanta simply shifts your reference point from the body-mind to the knower/awareness of the body-mind. The reference point from/as awareness = total freedom.
Jack: I just have one doubt regarding your email, when you said “Ninety-nine per cent of the time they have nothing to do with you and you need not to claim or feel responsible for them,” referring to those “negative feelings” I told you of.
I understood these feelings are part of the illusion I create with my mind (jiva history, vasanas, family, etc.) and are not coming from outside of me. Would you clarify this for me?
Daniel: When I say that 99.9% of the time they have nothing to do with you, I mean that those vasanas or “negative feelings” are not intentionally self-inflicted. They come from an impersonal field (causal body), totally out of your control.
If Jack deliberately did adharmic actions with the intention to harm himself or another, then he can take blame for these negative feelings. But I doubt this is the case; your jiva seems like a pretty good guy. ☺
Jack: You know, I feel very lucky I will attend the next seminar of James in Amsterdam next month, but I would be great to find a teacher closer to where I live (Valencia, Spain).
Do you think it’s very important to work personally together with a teacher at some point of the inquiry or is it not super necessary and fine as long as I keep studying by myself every day?
Daniel: It delights me to know that you’ll be attending James’ seminar, he’s a true mahatma! It’s always a blessing to be around a great teacher. But it’s not necessary for moksa. As long as the teachings get unfolded by the teacher (whether in person, a book, audio or email, etc.) and your mind is qualified to apply/assimilate what is being delivered, then you’re totally sorted!
In addition to Christian’s book, I also suggest you read James’ book The Essence of Enlightenment. It would be very good if you could read it before the seminar.
Easy day, friend.
Jack: All right, I already ordered the The Essence of Enlightenment some days ago. I’m glad you told me about it.
Once again, thanks a lot for your kind replies to my inquiry doubts!
I will keep following you at Facebook…