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Dennis: Dear Jim, studying your satsangs, I have clarified many things, but as you know, the greater the light, the greater the darkness. In short, I have some questions. ☺ If I have correctly understood, the illusory reality in which the self is experiencing itself is the projection of the self, which manifests experiences and looks at itself through the mind of the person, “me.”
James: This is more or less true, but the self does not project. In conjunction with maya, ignorance, the illusory reality comes into being. There cannot be a projection without the self, but the self does not project.
Dennis: In one of your satsangs you said that the universe does not know if “I” woke up or not, so I continue to be subject to the laws that govern it.
James: Dennis is subject to the laws that govern it, but you – the self – are not. Dennis awakes and sleeps, but you, awareness, never woke up, because you never slept. So who are you – Dennis or the self, awareness?
Dennis: Again, if I correctly understand, you said that the one who obtains moksa, which is dis-identification from the personality, is free from his karma.
James: Yes, in a manner of speaking, but moksa is not obtained by the person. It is the nature of the self, awareness. It is obtained when the self, under the spell of ignorance, realizes it is the self and not the person. The self is always free of karma; the person never is.
Dennis: But it is free because it no longer identifies with the hardships of his personality, although the personality remains, haunted by its karma.
James: Yes. This is correct.
Dennis: Being “I” (the self) and also “me,” the only protagonist of this illusion (the person), who determines forms and meanings… I assume that everything I’m living and recognizing through the physical senses and the intellect is only the projection of my mind. This includes: (a) the production of facts as a result of my conscious thoughts and the actions that flow from them, (b) the production of seemingly random events due to unconscious automatisms, or vasanas, and (c) the production of scenarios and events due to the self, from which my mind emanates.
James: Yes, but no. You are giving the self something that it does not have. It does not produce scenarios and events. Ignorance of the self by the person, Dennis, causes desires which produces scenarios and events. I like your description of the vasanas as unconscious automatisms. It is very creative. In any case, I understand what you are saying and I can see where this is leading.
Dennis: And here are the questions:
1. The creation of this reality is the exclusive job of my mind, which acts more or less as a lens through which the self manifests itself, or is there a direct creative intervention of the self in which the mind is included but just as a witness, not as a projector?
James: The self, awareness, does not intervene in the projection. The creative intervention is maya, ignorance of the self. The self is a non-projecting, non-experiencing witness. It is not right to ascribe the projection to the self, unless you understand the role of maya, or Isvara. When you say “this reality” I assume you mean the world of Dennis, the person. It is a projection. The objective world is not Dennis’s projection. It is projected by maya.
Dennis: 2. If the first statement above is true, how is it possible that the universe does not detect my disidentification from the person if the universe itself is a projection of the person?
James: You do not understand Isvara, maya. The universe is not projected by Dennis. It is projected by maya. The projection is not conscious. This means that the universe does not know what is happening in it. It is inert, insentient, a machine. All that happens is the self, which thinks it is Dennis, realizes that it is not Dennis at all. It has no effect on Isvara, the macrocosm. The self as Dennis does not have the power to change Isvara’s projection.
The projection of Dennis that happens owing to ignorance is removed when the self realizes it is the self and not Dennis, but the objective universe remains.
Dennis: 3. If there is no change in the karma of the person, Dennis, when he is awakened it means that the vasanas cannot be stopped but only transcended?
James: The vasanas can be changed, but that does not change you, awareness. They are changed through yoga. They will change on their own if Dennis realizes he is actually awareness and does not try to change them. The knowledge, “I am awareness and not Dennis,” will cause them to change slowly over time as the rajas and the tamas purify. As the self, awareness, you are already beyond the vasanas. Once you understand that you are awareness you don’t care what the vasanas are. If you think you are Dennis and you do not like your life, the way to change it is by karma yoga. I think Dennis is trying to use spirituality to get a good life. If his life is messed up, the way to change it is to see that a messed up life is absolutely perfect. It is Isvara/maya trying to teach you who you really are.
Dennis: And if they can be stopped, why does the karma continue?
James: They can be changed, but not stopped. If they are stopped, Dennis dies. Dennis is nothing but his vasanas, what he wants and does not want. If you want to get away from Dennis and his vasanas, you need to see that you are the self, awareness. But you can’t do that so easily, because the self, under the illusion that it is Dennis, still wants to have a successful life. That is fine, but the way you do that is by karma yoga and purifying the mind, changing the lifestyle, the thinking, etc. It is a big job and it is hard because Dennis’s vasanas are still powerful. If you are Dennis, you will always have karma. You can have very nice karma like I do or you can have lousy karma. I don’t have nice karma because I know who I am, I have nice karma because of the way I live. True, it is very easy to live properly if you know who you are, but many people who don’t know who they are have great karma and many people who know who they are have unpleasant karma. Your karma depends on what you do, not who you are. Of course if you are a sensuous fool and chase ephemeral things, you will have unpleasant karma. But developing good karma is a lifestyle issue. There is no easy spiritual way to fiddle your karma and make your life better.
Dennis: To be more clear, I would like you explain what is the reason of these reflections. Unless it has not been a trick of my stressed mind, I understood a few days ago on a much deeper level than in the past that every single detail of my world is me, the projection of my mind. This is complete with everything that I think and I believe consciously and everything I believe and I think unconsciously, which turns out to be a huge mirror of my ego. If so, to change my world and my experiences would be possible as I find and edit my unconscious thoughts. I could use tricks, such as hypnosis, to prevent or pervert the course of negative thoughts that I am not aware of, for example. And many masters teach that nothing is impossible. The shamanic ways lead in this direction, as far as to say that the laws that govern this universe can be bent to the will of those who are free from the belief that it is impossible.
James: Ha! I could see where you were going with this argument. Yes, you can change it. But hypnosis and shamanic tricks do not work. You will just get vasanas for hypnosis, New Age The Secret-type crap and shamanic tricks. The spiritual option is bullshit. This “you are master of your destiny” idea is partially true in the short run, but it does not solve the fundamental problem. It does not take into account the nature of the vasanas and it does not take into the account the sad fact that Dennis himself is the problem. Dennis with money in the bank and sexy ladies and lots of friends is still a problem. The way out of this is to accept your life as it is right now and not try to change it. Forgive yourself for messing up. You messed up, but so what? Everybody in samsara is messed up. The guy with the money in the bank with a babe on his arm is messed up. The fools walking around in samsara saying they are enlightened are messed up. Everyone in the dream of Isvara is messed up. I can hear you thinking, “What about you, James? Are you messed up?” The answer is that I am messed up if I think I am James. But I don’t think I am James, and I am not in Isvara’s dream. Isvara’s dream is in me. This means that whichever James is in the dream is fine with me. People think I am in the dream and they criticize me, but I never take it personally, because I am not in the dream. What they see in the dream may or may not be true about James, but even if it is true about James – people sometimes say I am dogmatic, for example – it is not true about me. It is fine with me if James is dogmatic. It does not bother me in the least. James is free to be what he is. I do not interfere.
In fact there is nothing to forgive, because ignorance caused the fuck-up and you didn’t create your ignorance. This is why Christ, about his torturers, said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is no solution there apart from forgiveness. Go ahead and try to change your life or change Dennis, but both Dennis and his life will still be a dream and he will not be satisfied. If you accept the judgments that your mind makes about you in ignorance, you will suffer. Please try to see your beauty right now, apart from Dennis and his life.
Dennis: Since I started to understand how things work, my deepest doubt, my real obstacle, has always been the dichotomy between the fact that I am being acted and that I am free to act.
James: You hit the nail on the head, Dennis! This whole letter is about the distinction between you, actionless awareness, and the ego, the doer. But you are still taking yourself to be the doer, Dennis. You are acted if you look at it from Isvara’s point of view. You are the doer if you look at it from Dennis’s point of view. How do you want to see it? It is up to you.
Right now you choose to be Dennis, and Dennis is not satisfied with Dennis, and he wants to do something to make him acceptable to himself. But if you look at it from Isvara’s point of view, you are completely acceptable. Dennis cannot be any other way than Dennis is because Dennis is just a thought in Isvara’s mind and is completely under the control of Isvara. If Dennis understands this, then Dennis leaves Dennis to Isvara and stops trying to fix him. This is what karma yoga means. You surrender all your worries to Isvara and live worry-free. You do what you do happily knowing that Isvara is doing everything through you. It is all good because it is Isvara’s will.
Dennis: I feel stupid to talk to you about this, but every time that the foreground gave me a more accurate model of the universe, this doubt was enough to make everything collapse because I do not know how to reconcile the two statements!
James: Don’t feel bad, Dennis. Everybody has the same problem. I am sorry I had to be a bit stern with you – you can do all that shamanic stuff you want, but it is just another Band-Aid.
Dennis: Thank you so much, James! I do not want and I do not need to still be Dennis! I’ve had enough of Dennis and his unnecessary problems. I’m coming from seven years of the shamanic way, and it seems that the spiritual world, made by false and true teachers, is divided between those who teach to let go and those who teach to act. It’s so easy to get lost, for the mind, even staying close to a safe guide.
My problem, as Dennis, is not to fix Dennis’s life, but rather to prevent Dennis from creating other obstacles to recognising himself as the self…
Thank you, James, I warmly hope to meet you in Tiruvannamalai next month…
~ With love, Dennis