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Helen: Dear Ram, I apologize in advance because as I wrote this the questions kept surfacing. In the end, what follows are several questions rather than one. Thank you so much for making it possible to ask you directly.
Throughout my “life” – okay, the story of Helen – Helen has experienced a great deal of synchronistic events, magic and miracles, incredible stuff hard to believe, etc., etc. After maybe 20 years or so of this I got sick of it. So what? More magic. So what’s the point? No point was the answer. Just life playing out a story through this character called Helen. Right? Not that I want to be ungrateful. It’s been a magical story indeed. I’ve entertained a lot of people with it, not to mention given the Cosmic Jokester a few good belly laughs. Here I am, however, into my fifth decade, and much as I understand that character much better than I did, I’m possibly less in touch with the mystical “something” my heart aches for.
Ram: The love/freedom you seek is not mystical, although it is a mystery – it seems to be somewhere else – when you do not know that it is you. So it is good you are fed up with the mystical, the “magical,” etc. All these signs just point to something unknown.
Helen: Much as I’ve managed to wander upstairs to watch the strings being pulled… who’s pulling the strings? I’ve never seen it/her/him. I’m just seeing the strings and I haven’t seen the puller. Is the puller awareness? The real self?
Ram: No, the puller, the puppeteer, is not you, awareness. It is ignorance of your nature as love/awareness. Ignorance of the fact that you are whole and complete love/awareness causes you to do actions – “spiritual” and otherwise – that you believe will give you what you seek, not knowing that what you seek is you. And these actions condition you to do more actions in search of your nature. This never works – hence the frustration – because actions cannot get you what you already have. Only understanding that you are free, that you are love, that you are whole can do that. So this pursuit of freedom/love needs to be reformulated in terms of knowledge, not action/experience. If this is true – and it is – then you need something that will remove your ignorance of your nature.
Helen: Every time I read (or listen online) to a teacher saying, “Okay, go ahead and try to PROVE duality,” I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. It seems obvious! I’m here, you’re there. Why would I have to prove something that is obvious?
Ram: It seems obvious because your point of reference is the body. Duality is real if you take the body entity to be real. But are you the body-mind? This is the point. When you investigate the body and the mind dispassionately, you cannot find that they are actual entities.
On the other hand, when you look at experience from the point of view of awareness, it is very clear that duality is only a belief and that non-duality is a fact. So the problem is your orientation, your perspective. No blame. It is the most “natural” thing in the world – everyone is fooled by it – to assume that you are the body-mind entity. In fact if you think about it carefully you can only conclude that the body-mind entity is a known object, like a tree or a sunset. If it is an object, you are something other than it. That something is awareness.
Helen: Then I try various exercises: look at objects, then look at myself. Who’s looking at myself. I am! Is that the I AM? If so, it just appears to be my mind (again!) telling me that I am! It’s very frustrating, Ram, because I’m dying to know this I AM that everything I’m reading says I am, but it’s eluding me totally.
Ram: The problem is that you do not know what it means to be awareness. For this you need a teacher. Helen is not going to figure it out, because she thinks it is an object. This is the fundamental duality that bedevils seekers. But you, awareness, are not an object. You cannot be objectified. A teacher can remove your ignorance about your nature. The problem with the modern teachers is that they are not teachers. The only talk about awareness, they do not have a practical, proven method that will remove your doubts about your nature as awareness.
Helen: The only thing I’m interested in is love, resting in complete, total love.
Ram: You cannot “rest in it,” Helen. See the duality. You want to be Helen and experience something that you are not already experiencing. Love is your nature. It is not an experience, a feeling. When this is understood you will see that you are love.
Helen: I want that, and isn’t that wanting just another desire? I don’t have fifty years to sit at the feet of a guru, to practice various austerities. I’ve piddled away much of this life. Truly. And I have responsibilities, single mom and all. So what can I do day to day that might speed up the process? So that I can spend at least, say, 10 years (or even a day!) of this life in the bliss you speak of and write about, and have experienced!
(Experience continually?… WOW, if so!) Where do you feel that bliss? Is the bliss love?
Ram: What does it mean to say that you want bliss/love? It only means that you feel incomplete as you are. Any desire means that you are not satisfied with yourself as you are. You believe that if you get some object – some experience, like endless bliss/love – it will complete you and remove your desire.
It means that you are whole and complete already. Not as the desiring, wanting Helen, but as awareness. Freedom – from desire – is not for Helen. It is freedom from Helen. Helen is not who you are. Helen is simply awareness under the spell of self ignorance, i.e. the belief it is incomplete and limited and loveless. This causes it to identify with the desire and become a seeker. The problem is that the seeker does not realize that it is the sought. He or she is caught in duality and formulates the seeking as seeking for an experience of bliss or freedom or oneness, etc. This is the seeking trap.
Helen: When I started studying Vedanta…
Ram: You can’t actually study Vedanta, Helen. You need to be taught. The problem is so subtle you cannot figure it out on your own. If you have Vedanta worked on you by a competent teacher, it will set you free. It will reveal your nature to be love/bliss, assuming you are qualified for it.
Helen: …and watching videos of satsangs, reading and reading, my heart melted and I wept like a baby. What is that deep, oceanic heart-weep? Ancient, unconscious craving for unconditional love? And is that not the universal legacy of human existence, the desire and/or need for love and acceptance, very basic, primal need and – in fact – independent from ideas of Source, self-knowledge, awareness and so on?
Ram: Yes, indeed. If you look at your last sentence, the word “Source,” which you have capitalized, indicates that you think that you are not “Source.” You – self, awareness/freedom/love – appears as an object, something to be attained and experienced.
Helen: I’ve struggled with shame much of my life. What does non-duality say about shame?
Ram: When you do not know that you are whole and complete awareness/love you do actions that are not in harmony with your true nature. When you do this you feel shame and guilt.
Helen: I’ve been working on “The Presence Process” by Michael Brown. It’s a 10-week course intended to “integrate” old unconscious stuff so that the way is clearer for Presence. His theory is that unconscious baggage loads down the body-mind. Would you agree with that? If I have shame issues still, is it best for me to work on those with some kind of therapeutic means/help and THEN, once I’m more clear, pursue the I AM of pure awareness?
Ram: No – and yes. Again, see your use of language. The word “Presence” is the culprit. If you are “Presence,” meaning awareness/love, then you exist prior to this unconscious stuff. It does not obscure you at all. It is known to you. And when you believe that this stuff stands in the way of your recognition of yourself as “Presence” (this is such a bad word for you, for awareness) you set yourself up for an endless process of purification. And during this process, while you may get rid of certain conditionings, you only actually reinforce the belief that you are the doer, a limited, inadequate, incomplete entity, that you are not presence.
On the other hand, if you have serious psychological problems, you need therapy to get you to the point where you are teachable and can dispassionately inquire into your nature. From the tenor of your letter and from what you have shared with me, I think it is a complete waste of time for you to take up this kind of process. I think you may be actually qualified for Vedanta. But you cannot get the message by reading Vedanta or Neo-Advaita, and listening to all these self-proclaimed “awakened” people who have no methodology. Your dualistic orientation and the beliefs you have developed from that orientation will prevent you from assimilating the meaning of the words “I am love/awareness.” So the process is one of stripping ignorance, not removing psychological barriers. You may just be mature enough for Vedanta.
Helen: I hope you say no. I’d like to just jump into awareness head first without a life jacket than spend another minute of this life sorting out the shit that already happened… or the residue of the shit.
Ram: How are you going to “jump into” yourself, Helen? You are not two people. See the duality in your thinking. You have already “jumped.” Identification with this longing for love is preventing you from seeing that you are love. Love is not an experience, a feeling. It is your nature. You can only appreciate it.
Helen: So how does one DO that (jump in head first)? Please do tell.
Ram: You realize you have an ignorance problem, not an action/experience problem, Helen. Then you find a qualified teacher who has a valid means of self-knowledge and you expose your mind to it in a systematic, committed fashion. Vedanta works – but only if you convert your desire for experience into a desire for understanding. This letter seems to indicate that you are ready to do that. If you have not read my book How to Attain Enlightenment, I suggest that you do. It will remove most of your doubts. Then we can have a proper conversation, if you like.
Helen: Another question I have concerns something I read in a letter or email. You seemed to equate consciousness with energy. Do you?
Ram: No. Consciousness if free of energy.
Helen: Does consciousness (whether it’s an energy or whatever it is) want me to be self-realized? I mean, does it (It) want me to recognize me as It?
Ram: Insofar as you are consciousness under the spell of apparent ignorance, yes.
Helen: Does it want the mirror to be clean?
Ram: Insofar as a dirty mirror causes suffering, yes.
Helen: If so, why?
Ram: It apparently obscures its appreciation of itself as it is – as love.
Helen: Can consciousness have desire for self-love?
Ram: No, but apparently it can. There is only one self and you are it, and you want to love yourself unconditionally.
Helen: Why would it care whether I was self-aware or not?
Ram: Consciousness is not something other than you, Helen. You care because you are suffering. As I have pointed out many times in this letter, consciousness is not an object. It is not another person, a big conscious being in the sky, like God. It is simply your existence, your being. When it is under the spell of apparent ignorance, it seeks for itself outside itself. It wants to become aware of itself. This is completely absurd because you, awareness, are self-aware. You do not require anything at all to be aware. Observe your beingness, your I am-ness, and see if it is anything other than self-luminous awareness.
Helen: And if it doesn’t care one way or another, why bother? I mean, is it just so I can sip a cup of tea and watch the sunset without a care in the world?
Ram: Yes. Why should you have a care in the world? What is the point? It is nothing but a dream, “a passing shadow, a poor player that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” to quote the Bard. Why should you care? It is a waste of time, a kind of vanity, actually. Sip your tea, Helen, and be happy.
Helen: Why was Vedanta created?
Ram: To destroy the belief that you are anything other than love. It works.
Helen: I’m so sorry, Ram, I’ve inundated you with questions. Please take your time, I’m in no rush whatsoever (and I’m a total hypocrite). And if there are more readings you can point me toward rather than having to write answers (if you’ve already answered such questions for others), I’d be happy to be directed.
Ram: You lucked out, Helen. I happened to have a few moments free. I am in Manchester, England, jet-lagged like hell, it is 3:00 a.m. here and I have nothing to do till later today when a group will come to hear me talk, and something in your email got me. So I decided to be a saintly guy and help you out – noblesse oblige and all that. ☺ Read my book. It will be a big eye-opener. If it is not the best book you have ever read I will personally refund you double your money. That’s a big statement because I am poor as a churchmouse.
Take care of yourself.