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I Am Not Enlightened
Frank: Dear Ramji, thank you for taking time to write when you have such a busy schedule. Truly, Isvara’s ways are inscrutable, considering you have dedicated your life to serving Isvara in the form of students.
Ramji: I love you, Frank. I always have time for you.
Frank: Understanding and internalising myself as Brahman is the easy part. I have no doubts at all about my nature as Brahman. Trying to understand Maya is the challenge. Krishna so rightly said in the Bhagavad Gita 7.14 that Maya is difficult to understand/overcome.
Ramji: That statement implies that you should not try to understand Maya. After all, Maya is anirvachaniya, inscrutable. What’s to understand? Quite the opposite: it implies that you should investigate the self along scriptural lines. The texts are very clear that even jnanis don’t understand Maya, Isvara. The reason is that it is an ever-changing, unreal bubble of dreams, a passing shadow, etc.
Frank: My questioning and re-questioning of Maya exposed an extremely subtle obstacle in my unconscious: the acceptance, belief that Maya is real.
Ramji: My previous statement implies that you have a belief that Maya is real and that there should be some kind of experiential change in the jiva as a result of self-knowledge. The only thing that changes for the jiva is the idea that the world, meaning obstacles, are real. Probably the most common unconscious reason that people don’t get moksa is the belief that if they just hold on another day Maya will supply moksa for them when moksa is their nature. You really can’t get free until you give up the desire to be free. It is like going to sleep. You can’t get there as long as you are trying.
Frank: It could be from this birth or most likely from previous infinite births. In all of them, Maya was taken to be definitely real. Whatever the period, this belief was buried deep in the unconscious and regularly reinforced, birth after birth.
Ramji: Join the club, Frank. Everybody thinks it real. I thought it was real until I was 25.
Frank: What I noticed is that the arising of any unconscious material is heralded by certain signals: questions, doubts, confusion and activation of unseen, unknown vasanas, even surprising ones. It has become clear to me now that the reason for my continued revisiting and repetitive questioning about Maya was this hidden unconscious belief, still lingering even after self-knowledge, that Maya is indeed real. This mistaken belief was so strong and so deep. It needed to be exposed and cleared.
Ramji: Is it cleared?
But moksa is the knowledge of the immediately available, always directly experienced self as you and as the objects (doubts, confusions, etc.) that present themselves to you, in this case obstacles. The knowledge that they are mithya should clear them on the spot. If not, then the jiva need do dismiss them in whatever way works.
So what I’m saying is that if you are the self, then Maya is not Maya at all. It is you. The only way to account for an interest in Maya is if you think you are a Frank that knows “I am the self,” but a Frank without the clear understanding in the form of the direct knowledge/experience “I am everything that is.” The world and the mind are the self. Moksa means that you know you aren’t the mind and the world. So what’s to do about it?
Although the intent of these two mahavakyas is non-different, the first statement, “I am the self,” excludes the world by implication. In the second statement the world is included. It says that the world is me. If the world is me, there is no Maya, because there is only me, existence/consciousness. So there is no problem with it.
To review: there is no problem with it if it is mithya and there is no problem with it if it is you, satya. But the subsequent portion of this email suggest that there is a problem with it.
Frank: This obstacle is the first “child” of ignorance and is the source of all the other secondary obstacles, particularly the belief that I am the mind-body (working from the subtle to the gross). For some people, obstacles may be cleared quickly with self-knowledge, but I think for most of us it is a slow chipping away, again and again. The repeated questioning is examining the belief from different angles. Cutting down the tree of Maya takes some chopping!
Ramji: You didn’t mention the two satsangs by one of my disciples which show that self-knowledge destroys the doer gradually without any help from the doer, obviating the need for the doer to “do” nididyasana. The nididyasana teaching is for the doer. It is to prevent enlightenment sickness, which affects at least half of all jnanis – until they realize they have it. If “I am the self” is firm knowledge, the doer and the world immediately become perceptibly transparent. If there is still a doubt – and there must be or the Frank would not be interested in Maya – then nididyasana is premature since nididyasana is for jnanis who have firm self-knowledge but are denied the fruit of self-knowledge, perfect satisfaction, tripti. You can’t have firm self-knowledge if you think that the world is in any way real.
If you argue that your knowledge is firm and you are doing nididyasana, then why are you still dissatisfied? I say dissatisfied because a satisfied doer doesn’t do nididyasana; there is nothing to gain by it. Doing has been consigned to Isvara in the form of prarabdha karma. Committing to nididyasana implies the need to change something. You can only be dissatisfied if you take mithya to be satya.
Frank: The difficulty is that these obstacles are in the unconscious. Who knows how many more are there! After all, they are in the unconscious, well-hidden, out of conscious sight. Much time and vigilant watchfulness is needed, even while self-recognition of oneself as awareness is being internalised through nididhyasanam.
Ramji: Well, you can’t work on something that you can’t see, so you why worry about it? Inquiry is for the doer. It is just looking at your thoughts on a moment-by-moment basis, and when you find a pesky thought you negate it as mithya or you apply a positive mithya thought that negates it. Or you just wait until your attachment to it dissolves. But that is a lot of hard work. Maybe you are bored and want something to do? Anyway, what did you understand from those two short satsangs I sent?
There is a big difference between a jiva knowing it is the self and actually experiencing yourself as the self. How can a jiva, which isn’t real in the first place, internalize anything, including knowledge which is mithya?
Frank: Nididhyasanam is the process by which firmly held unconscious and mistaken beliefs are exposed and cleared. Just as the mistaken notions were previously reinforced, now it is the correct understanding which gets reinforced into the unconscious through nididhyasanam. Most likely new neural networks get established in the physical brain. Such change means that the mistaken notions have to be displaced, surface, be recognised and cleared through self-knowledge, leaving behind only the correct understanding.
There Is No Understanding for You
Ramji: That is true, assuming you’re a jiva and your knowledge is not firm. The correct understanding is that the obstacles are mithya. But the correct understanding isn’t the end of it. The correct understanding removes the mithya and leaves you as satya, consciousness, free of knowledge and ignorance, not as a jiva with “correct understanding.” There is no understanding for you. You are what stands under everything, including knowledge and ignorance. Knowledge removes ignorance and then disappears, leaving you as pristine, original consciousness. Enlightenment sickness is the retention of the knowledge by the jiva when the knowledge should negate the jiva. Once the jiva is gone there is only you with nothing to do. By “gone” I don’t mean experientially absent, I mean present as dream, a paper tiger, as it were.
Frank: Even a jnani has to be watchful because he/she does not know what is buried in the unconscious of this current birth. Such is the nature of the unconscious, even though it is mithya. The jnani has to be watchful right up to the time of death when all prarabdha karma is exhausted and the body drops. Then, with sanchita karma negated, and with no new agami karma, the jnani has no more rebirth. But until that time of death? Vigilant watchfulness because we do not know what is in the unconscious. This is like the parable of the ten wise virgins in the Bible.
Ramji: Yes, if your doer thinks it is a knower of the self. But if you say you are the self and know what that statement means, no. A jnani is the self, but the self is not a jnani, so how does nididhyasana apply to you if you are the self? There is no shame in being the doer. I suppose that “doing nididhyasana” is a comforting thought and insofar as you identify with Frank – if you do – at least it keeps him off the streets, but how real is it?
Frank: So I find that questioning, investigating and requestioning, when it arises, is fine, is not a problem and needs to be pursued. So too with the challenge of managing unseen and surprising vasanas which arise and must be made non-binding. How many vasanas have been generated through all the births? Do we know all of them? Impossible. And so it takes effort and time and perseverance. Each requestioning and reinvestigating chips away at and gradually weakens the obstacle and vasana. Courage and a hunger for freedom and peace will bring victory. Self-knowledge makes it so much easier.
Ramji: This whole idea is mithya. Why do you take it seriously? Everything happens by the grace of Isvara in its own good time. Who needs to question, requestion, pursue, manage, persevere, etc? All this doing just keeps the spiritual samsara alive. It sounds a little too responsible, serious and noble to me. I hope you see the irony. Of course if you want to chip, chip by all means, but aren’t you worried that all this chipping down there in the salt mines till the day you die might make you a dull boy? ☺ I quit chipping the day self-knowledge became firm almost fifty years ago and started to live the life I had been denied by all the seeking.
Frank: Their arising does not indicate a slip in spiritual growth. It simply means that more obstacles are appearing and need to be faced and cleared. Their appearance is to be appreciated and suggests that one is maturing spiritually. The more the unconscious is cleared of mistaken notions and beliefs, the better it is for the subtle body and the more firm is the knowledge being internalised.
Ramji: Who says they need to be appreciated? I would rather curse Isvara and ignore them insofar as they are mithya. Why do the obstacles need to be “faced”? Why do you need to “mature” spiritually? I don’t think you are thinking this whole nididhyasana business through carefully. It sounds to me like you have just memorized the party line and want to be part of a good cadre till your dying day. What does facing them even mean? At some point you have to accept yourself, warts and all. The vasana kshaya theory has some truth, but it is not meant to be taken literally.
Everything Is Flooded by You
It sounds like you have bought the Vedanta myth hook, line and sinker too. It’s only a means of knowledge. The Gita says that for a jnani the Vedas are as useless as a puddle of water when the land is flooded. Flooded by what? By you. The obstacles, Vedanta, the doer are all you alone. There is nothing to do about them.
How can you grow? You are everything that is. What is real can’t grow and what is unreal can’t grow either. Take a stand in your true nature and dismiss this well-meaning doer. He sounds like an accountant or a Christian saint worrying about his immortal soul. Frank is fine in every way. Kick back and smell the roses. That can include studying Vedanta – it is a lovely samsaric bauble, endlessly fascinating, but don’t take it seriously. If you know who you are, it is just a hobby.
Frank: It is ironic that all the questioning and requestioning about Maya ultimately turned out to be not specifically about Maya itself but about recognising the obstacle.
Ramji: Obstacles are Maya, Frank. Would you like to share which obstacle is bothering you?
Frank: But we have no knowledge nor control over them until they surface.
Ramji: You don’t have any control of them when they surface either. They are just Maya/mithya.
Frank: The “signal” they send when they are surfacing is questions, more questions, doubts, vasanas. If no questioning arises, then fine, one can be and enjoy the peace of self-recognition.
Ramji: The peace of self-recognition is not in any way dependent on the absence of vasanas, Frank. You are assuming that mithya and satya are in the same order of reality, that the absence of self-recognition is due to the presence of vasanas. I think you’ve learned Vedanta very well, perhaps too well, and the essence of the teaching – satya/mithya – which we have spent a lot of time on, still eludes you.
Frank: The benefit of self-knowledge and its internalisation is that such clearing work is made so much easier and joyous and, the best part, successful. It is fun watching the unconscious making itself known and rocking the boat. I am the observer of it all and free of the conscious and the unconscious movements.
Ramji: Yes, indeed!
Frank: The other realisation I had was that samsara cannot be fixed despite whatever we do. This is how it is, as it is. This is how Isvara wants it to be; it is his domain, his Kali Yuga and it is fine as it is, warts and all, the good, the bad and the ugly! Nothing needs to be fixed. Besides, how else would humans exhaust their papa and punya karma? This is what the earth realm is for. So samsara will continue as is, sristi after sristi.
Solution? Jump off the samsara chakra through self-knowledge. There is no other way. Let the play continue… Ha! Ha!
Ramji: I should have read this part first before I spent so much time taking your statements above seriously. I’m reissuing your enlightenment certificate. ☺
Frank: First, I want to thank you for your love. To have the love of a teacher of your calibre is a real blessing. Thank you for taking so much time, effort, which show in your replies over the years. I am deeply grateful.
Our correspondence has shown me that my cognitive shift is not complete, that there are deficiencies in my understanding. My self-definition fluctuates, is not firm. My satya-mithya discrimination is not well-established. I am definitely not a jnani.
So it is back to square one again. I will persevere in self-enquiry: continue in the karma yoga attitude, continue sravanam, mananam and nididhyasanam, and leave the results to the dharma field.
That is all I can say for the moment. But thank you ever so much. I am deeply grateful.
I Have a Block
Ramji: I must say I admire you a lot because it takes great integrity to expose your views to me and to accept conclusions that challenge them. But there were contradictions that I needed to make you aware of. I am certainly willing to start over and answer your questions. You have the right attitude – karma yoga and soldier on. You have dedicated your life to knowing the truth, so there is no other option. At the same time, as we always say, Vedanta is about you. The truth is you so you can’t “study” Vedanta as if it were a university course. So I suggest you go back in your mind and pick up the life you had before you started seeking and see why you started seeking. That may give you access to the block that you thought seeking would solve. People don’t come to Vedanta out of the blue; there is always something about themselves that is bothering them that makes Vedanta attractive.
Trying to figure out anything in mithya is a lot like trying to fall asleep. As long as you are trying, you can’t get to sleep. You have to let go of the “I want to sleep” thought.
In any case, whatever it is for you, it is still there. What is it? There aren’t a lot of options – think of the motivations – they are the same for everyone. And then see if there is any truth to it now. If there is, then you have your block. Next, you wrestle with it in light of the knowledge. There isn’t much to do about it but to understand it – no purifier like knowledge. And in this way you bring yourself to book. There’s no glamour in it – no cool Sanskrit and hobnobbing with the jnanis – although you are welcome to hobnob with me. But it is good work. It is important. So you have my support.
Blocks Are Mithya
Frank: All good. I realised my mistake: I believed thought that Maya is real instead of observing and dismissing it. Yes, as you said, it cannot be understood, so why bother! All I have to “do” is “be”!! Funny. I am awareness, and that’s all there is to it. That example of trying to go to sleep helped. When I “let go,” it clicked. Good experience… falling off the razor’s edge.
Falling Back On
Ramji: Cool! Good on you, Frankji. Yes, it is as simple as identifying with the thought that is playing in your mind at the time. All thoughts are mithya. They are not real. Problem solved. You just fell back on.