Search & Read
Do I Need a Teacher?
Sundari: Hello, Jackson. Thank you for your feedback with regards to James’ book and our website, much appreciated. Indeed, anyone who is so fortunate to come across James and ShiningWorld has struck gold.
With reference to your question about a teacher, there is a very good reason why Vedanta stresses the importance of a 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 non-duality is counterintuitive, unless the mind is guided in its exposure to Vedanta it will interpret Vedanta according to its conditioning, or vasanas. 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.
As you mentioned, Neo-Advaita left you and so many others like you frustrated for the simple reason that it does not have a valid means of knowledge. It tells you that you are awareness but it offers no means for you to realise what this means as a person living in the world. Neo-Advaita denies the existence of the person and the world. It is true that as awareness the person you think you are and the world you live in are not real but nonetheless the person and the world has an apparent existence because you can experience them. The definition of “real” is “that which is always present and never changes.” Only awareness fits this definition.
You can deny the apparent reality all you like but this will not liberate you from it. Self-knowledge can only be actualised if one understands what liberation means for the person who lives in the world. For knowledge to be assimilated it needs a valid means and a qualified teacher to unfold it. Vedanta is such a means and you will not find a better teacher than Ram. A qualified Vedanta teacher is not identified with being a teacher, has full knowledge of the teaching and knows how to wield it. A qualified Vedanta teacher also sees himself or herself as an equal to the student and not above them because they see everything as non-different from themselves, awareness.
Vedanta is called a “brahma vidya” which means “the science of consciousness.” It is an objective analysis of the true nature of reality – and the logic of your own un-examined experience, based on the facts. Like any other science, it is not personal and it has a methodology – which, if followed with great dedication and commitment, will provide irrefutable knowledge that will lead to moksa, if the student is qualified. Vedanta is simply the truth about you. Not your truth or my truth or anyone’s truth: The Truth.
This is why Vedanta is called apauruseya jnanam, meaning “not the philosophy or experience of one person” like a prophet or a mystic. It is an impersonal and independent teaching given to consciousness by consciousness so that the self could be revealed in a pure mind. This is because awareness is not an object of experience, so the means at our disposal to know anything, perception and inference, are too gross to know the self, awareness. The object cannot know the subject because the object is not conscious. The mind or subtle body appears to be conscious but it only appears this way because awareness shines on it, pervading every atom. The mind is an object known to you, awareness, and awareness is that by which everything is known.
So how do you know awareness? By purifying the mind and submitting it with great dedication to self-inquiry into the true nature of reality under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Liberation is the negation of the doer and discriminating you, awareness, from the objects that arise in you, which also means that the binding vasanas have been rendered non-binding. Although this sounds like a doing, liberation is not something you achieve because it is who you are; self-knowledge does the work of removing the ignorance from the mind so that your true nature as whole and complete, non-dual, actionless, unlimited and unchanging, ordinary awareness is revealed in the mind.
Vedanta is sruti, which means “what is heard.” It is revealed to the mind of man, not thought up by us. This is why you can trust it. You have come to the right place, you have found the Holy Grail. You just need a little help to understand what it means to be self-realised and to live the knowledge.
As to your question about the necessity of being physically near a teacher, although it is extremely beneficial to be in the presence of a qualified teacher, it is not essential. 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. James has taught thousands of people around the world and helped many of them find moksa, most of whom he never met. James has taught several people (myself included) to teach Vedanta with the same integrity with which he teaches. If the mind is qualified and you have read James’ book then you have already engaged in the process of being taught by James.
What is very important in reading How to Attain Enlightenment is that you read it slowly and carefully, signing on to the logic every step of the way. Read it several times as it is Vedanta at the highest level you will find. It is very beneficial to corroborate what you read with watching as many teaching videos as possible; there are free downloads on the website as well as YouTube, and you can also purchase more recent video recordings at the website. Read as many of the e-satsangs at the website as possible as you will find that most questions have been answered there.
I am very happy to assist you with your self-inquiry so you are most welcome to write if you have any doubts or get stuck anywhere. We also offer Skype satsangs by donation, which are very helpful as one gets to have visual contact.
I wish you well with your self-inquiry and look forward to hearing from you.
~ Namaste, Sundari