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Dogmatism and Vedanta
Joseph: Hello, Sundari. I have been interested in non-duality for a while with some but not much to “show” for it. I came across your husband’s name through a review of Western Masters of Non Duality. You’re probably aware of this but I am including anyway the author’s critique:
“Comment: Of all the teachers appearing on these DVDs James Swartz is the most dogmatic (although I found him to be charmingly so). Specifically, I am referring to his steadfast belief in the power of the Vedanta teachings. He believes that its wisdom can provide clarity where ignorance once ruled, that to develop the kind of mind that can understand that you are awareness certain specific actions and ways of thinking are necessary.
“Because of this, and here comes the controversial part!, James says: ‘Even people who are enlightened and happy are NOT qualified to teach, to help you remove your ignorance, because they don’t have a valid means. Vedanta has a proven, time-tested means called the scriptures: the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, karma sutras, etc. And because ignorance is so pervasive it requires this methodology.’
“I like James, enjoyed much of what he had to say and love his passion but to say that no one else is qualified to teach non-duality except Vedanta sages seems a bit elitist to me. Vedanta teachings are wonderful and have helped many awaken to their true nature over the centuries and will no doubt continue to do so but to say it is the only valid way is simply not true.
“While I know nothing of the Vedanta teachings and am intrigued to begin, I am a bit hesitant to have too much of a ‘dogmatic’-approach teacher.”
Thank you for your attention to the above.
~ Respectfully, Joseph
Sundari: Hi, Joseph. I suppose this argument depends on what you mean by “teach.” We think that Vedanta is best because self-ignorance is hardwired and systemic – you yourself said you haven’t much to show for your foray into non-duality, and nearly everyone that comes to Vedanta comes from various teachers and teachings and almost nobody ever leaves Vedanta except those that are set free by it – and it requires a proven methodology along with a number of qualifications. Vedanta is such a means of self-knowledge.
If by “teach” you mean to present awareness as an object to be achieved experientially then yes, many people “teach” non-duality. But at best this is indirect knowledge, similar to a belief in God.
I didn’t say that Vedanta was the only means of self-realization at all. Many realize they are awareness and are set free by the knowledge who have never even heard of Vedanta. And it is also possible that a highly-qualified seeker can realize who they are through a non-Vedanta trained teacher, although it is quite rare.
What you call dogmatism – and I can understand your view – is just confidence, certainty. Vedanta works like nothing else – assuming you are qualified (this is the big issue, Joseph; see my book How to Attain Enlightenment). It has worked for thousands of years. My teacher had scores of enlightened disciples, perhaps more. Many have been set free by Vedanta through me (see the satsangs at the website).
It works because it is impersonal and based on a clear knowledge of the nature of reality, not on the experience of an individual.
We are quite familiar with the charge of elitism, Joseph. People have said it for thousands of years, and owing to democratic ideas that have been in play for a few hundred years there is a belief that everyone one is equal and “all roads lead to Rome” but this is simply not true. Some people are more qualified than others and some paths (although Vedanta is a “pathless” path) are more efficient than others.
Joseph: Dear Mr. Swartz, thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. I realize my question is in large part fear of going from one dogma (Catholicism) to another. Also, I realize don’t have time to tread water any longer. I need to take the leap and will be ordering your book.
Again, thank you for your considerate reply.
~ Best regards, Joseph