Search & Read
Do Your Duty and Cut Your Hair
“Duty is its own reward.” ~ Adi Shankara
Kenny: Hi, James. Since I last saw you, I have given up on the homeless explorations, moved back to my home town in Tennessee and taken up honest work. I’m looking after my daughter with an impersonal ease that permeates my knowing. Everything is always working itself out with little to no effort.
James: Lovely to hear from you, Kenny, and it is good to hear the news. Now, if you have shaved your hair, the transformation will be complete.
Kenny: It became plainly obvious to me that I didn’t need anymore of that bumming around. I’m not berating myself over spending the money. As I see it, it was a great gift, one which afforded me the opportunity to commit to years of meditation and inquiry. A commitment that graciously led me to India, and to your direct and clear Vedanta teachings.
James: It was the same with me. I spent all my money on moksa but it was worth every penny.
Kenny: I’m not sure why you say I have an experiential notion to get over, because I am not the least bit interested in looking for anything experiential. I see that experiences can play their role in encouraging and confirming aspects of inquiry, and am in complete agreement with your statement that they are but envelopes containing knowledge. In truth, I no longer even see experiences as experiences but as knowledge which we designate as experience in the process of identification. “Experience, is personalized knowing.”
James: It is also good to hear that I was wrong and that you are clear about the experiential versus the knowledge view of enlightenment. I guess I was misled more or less by the way you used words. This letter is a breath of fresh air. It is clear and straightforward.
Kenny: For a time I wrestled with the Vedanta position that “there are no experiential requirements.” I did so because, based on my experience, I could not fathom that inquiry alone, without some key experiential realizations, could be enough. I accept the unsullied teaching position of Vedanta, but I also took note of a statement you made in an interview video with Stillness Speaks: “One can have the intellectual understandings [of these stages or ‘enlightenment’], but one still needs to go through the experiential realizations.”
James: I’m not sure that is exactly what I said, and if I did I would amend it to read: “Experience can confirm knowledge – or not – but one need have no spiritual experiences for moksa.” If there were experiential qualifications, they would be mentioned in the texts. The most the texts do is call them “leading errors” insofar as they may lead an experience-oriented person to become an inquirer. People don’t chase experience for knowledge. Knowledge may come but it usually doesn’t. It is better to go directly for knowledge because the seeker is the sought, a fact that is universally lost on the experiential crowd.
Kenny: I know you had many experiences, and I imagine they were also key in shedding your doubts.
James: Yes and no: They convinced me there was something more than my own vision, but what it was I had no clue. In the end, the experiences were a great hindrance and I finally gave up on them completely. The day I did so I met Swamiji.
Kenny: If I do speak of experience, I continually emphasize that its greatest value is in the self-knowing that it can clarify and confirm, provided one is engaging a proper and proven means of interpretation/understanding. The conditioned mind-body interface is simply not the right point of reference for inquiry.
James: This is the truth.
Kenny: I agree that experiences are not to be taught, and even their promotion can be a great distraction. I see that an open-minded approach to self-inquiry is also a gateway to grace, as well as the mystical revelations that can be so helpful. Let them happen as they might for each, and encourage proper interpretation if they are presented. You did this for me and my “witnessing creation” experience. It struck me instantly, of course: I am that very same ever-present knowing awareness.
James: Experience is only as good as the knowledge one extracts from it. When an experience ends, it ends. Knowledge is forever.
Kenny: I also see, and have reflected upon long before you mentioned it, what you called my type of mind. I feel somewhat unfamiliar with systematic teaching structures, and I may also be somewhat impatient or overbearing with the way I speak of self-knowledge. Someone recently commented on being given too much to digest at once, and I could see it happening. I need to slow down. I need to focus on smaller and specific components of the teachings, one at a time, and present them as they are designed to be presented.
James: Yes. I had a really hard time understanding what you were saying, Kenny. Effective communication is always impersonal. Words are very easy to misinterpret, so one should use only very simple ordinary words that everyone understands. And yes, you should give less rather than more when you speak. You have to understand the capacity of the mind in front of you to assimilate knowledge.
Kenny: It’s unknown to me if it’s possible to make the adjustments necessary, but this is something I want to attend to, and something I would still very much love to have your guidance with. I have discovered that a strong intolerance of gluten was also contributing to difficulties in my concentration. I’m planning to attend the India talks this January, with a focus on the structures and delivery of the teaching methodology. I pray that you remain receptive to me.
James: This letter is excellent, Kenny. It is well-written and clear. What turned me off was your tamasic nature, your vague language, your eagerness to teach and your appearance. The hippie look works for twenty-somethings, but that is about it. As I recall, you were a Mooji guy before you met me. Nothing wrong with it, but most of those people are pretty immature, worshiping a guru and chasing shakti. Vedanta requires maturity, spiritual and otherwise.
It is great to want to share what you know, but your life should be in order before you set out to enlighten others. I am quite happy to hear that you are doing your duty in a disinterested spirit. You are most welcome to attend the talks in Tiru.
Kenny: I’m glad to see you came through your medical challenges with such ease and strength.
James: It seems Isvara wanted me to keep on truckin’.
~ Love, James