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Mind Run by Involuntary Thoughts
Mike: Well, this jiva knows that it’s just an actor in a play/movie, just a bunch of images flickering on and off incredibly quickly, which makes it seem as though something is happening, but nothing really is.
Sundari: Okya, Mike, this is our third exchange on the topic of your negative thinking, let’s have a final go at getting you to see that negative thoughts are not you.
We all have a range of thoughts available to us, from negative to positive. Thoughts appear in you but actually have no effect on you, awareness. If you identify with them, however, they take over and control the mind. They neither belong to you nor originate from you, not as awareness or as the jiva. They “belong” to or arise from beginningless ignorance, maya. So ask yourself: If your thoughts are not you but are objects known to you, and you can choose to indulge them or not, why not choose thoughts that bring peace of mind?
Do you like being unhappy? I don’t know much about you, but I infer from the way you write and what you have told me that apart from being a spiritual misfit (which goes with the territory if you are a candidate for self-inquiry) you come from a good home, have people who care for you, a roof over your head, three square meals a day, no pressure to work and time to indulge your spiritual vasanas. Where’s the problem? You have no real problems. There is only a problem with your thinking.
It seems you have not yet figured out that freedom from limitation and fear is only for the jiva, never for awareness, because as awareness you are and always have been free and fearless. But of what use is self-knowledge to the jiva unless it has the power to change how it relates to the world? A happy life for the jiva is all about thought-and-emotion management.
Think of it this way: you are unborn, undying, ever-present, unchanging, limitless awareness. One day, the jiva called Mike appears in front of you. Arising from you, he is perfect because he is you. But there is one problem. Maya, the power in you to delude, has also appeared.
Although Mike is conscious only because your light shines on him, he believes he is Mike, and he is separate from you, awareness. He experiences objects and identifies with them, believing they too are separate from him. He believes he is incomplete and needs something to make him whole. He looks out at the world and sees only ugliness, sadness, suffering, pointlessness, hopelessness. He believes that what he is looking at is real. He suffers. This suffering is also a gift because it galvanizes him to find relief. So he starts seeking.
Mike has very good karma and finds the Holy Grail, Vedanta, very young. He also finds one of the most qualified teachers alive on the planet to teach him, Ram. He also has me, as I now teach on Ram’s behalf, being taught by him. This is better than winning ten jackpots. But Mike is still miserable. His thoughts are dark and heavy. He does not see the point of living, cannot feel gratitude for his life. He does not seem to realize that his problems are only in his mind.
Thanks to Vedanta, he now knows he is the knower of this instrument, the mind, not the instrument itself. But there is a problem. Although he was given the mind as an exquisite instrument with which to experience life, he does not understand what it is or why it functions the way it does. He does not know that the mind has a serious drawback inherent in its nature which prevents him from experiencing the joy of his true nature as awareness.
The drawback of the mind is that, without Mike’s permission, it generates continuous involuntary thoughts he has no control over. With or without his involvement, the mind, which is supposed to be his instrument – he is the owner – acts on its own, of its own volition.
The thing is, the mind is supposed to and can produce deliberate thoughts of our own choosing, but unless we understand it and know how to manage it, its nature is to produce and churn out thoughts continuously. It is simply a machine, and this is how it is made. There is no off button, but you are one of the lucky ones who have, by some good grace that is not your doing, stumbled upon the manual, Vedanta.
This manual contains not only all the operating instructions, it also explains the nature of the mind, what it is, and the forces that run it, the gunas – the three energies that bring about, sustain and destroy all of creation: sattva, rajas and tamas. We have all written extensively about the gunas and are busy on books about on this vital teaching. You can read up on them, Chapter X of The Essence of Enlightenment covers the gunas, or ropes, as they are called, extensively. Triguna vibhava yoga, which is the teaching on the three gunas, is a very subtle and most important teaching, which comes after you have established karma yoga.
The mind run by the gunas is a very serious problem for the jiva, with many adverse consequences – like the negativity and hopelessness that has clouded your thinking. It is like a heavy cloud has covered the sun, called TAMAS. When involuntary thoughts kidnap the mind, it means the mind is not available for our use in self-inquiry or for much else. We do actions without thinking, as an absent-minded or mindless person, living “in absentia.” We can go through an entire life doing actions inefficiently and to our detriment, making many mistakes, causing much trouble for ourselves and others.
To add to the trouble these involuntary thoughts create, they also produce toxic emotions, like worry, anxiety, fear, depression, regret, hurt, guilt, sadness, despair, hopelessness – and many more. These thoughts encroach on the mind, they take it over. The intellect, whose function it is to think, is run by these emotions. Even when we ask them to go, they don’t go away. The problem of emotional disturbance is a serious one. We only have to look around us to see what it does to people. Suicide is often the result of a mind that can no longer tolerate or endure the thoughts that control it. Death is preferable to those thoughts. So are most of the many and varied mental health problems caused by toxic thought/emotional patterns that run the mind.
When these toxic emotions continue for a long time, they cause the loss of physical health as well. Loss of efficiency is the first problem, loss of physical and mental health is the second inevitable adverse effect of involuntary thoughts. In fact a stressful mind causes many modern diseases. Stress is RAJAS out of control. Rajas and tamas always work together, and if they run the mind you are in trouble. You are stuck with a mind you cannot get away from, it comes with you wherever you go, and there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from it. You will die young or old with a mind that is not your friend but your worst enemy. Your life is miserable because you do not understand the nature of reality, the nature of the mind. It is impossible to understand what causes involuntary thoughts without a valid means of knowledge and a qualified teacher to correctly unfold the teachings, because our own beliefs and opinions will get in the way. And self-knowledge will not obtain, as you have experienced.
The quality of our life is dependent on the most powerful organ, the mind. The mind is so primary and powerful it has the unique capacity to convert heaven into hell and hell into heaven. A person with every convenience can feel miserable and tortured, and a person weighed down with so many problems can feel totally happy and peaceful. Most of us do not understand the first thing about how to manage our thoughts or even that we can and indeed must manage our thoughts and emotions – if we want to be free of the torture the mind can produce for us.
Here is a good analogy for you: it’s like Mike owns this beautiful piece of land but squatters have moved in; ugly, smelly, gross, uncouth – even evil squatters. And they take over. Worse, they do not even see him. They ignore him. It seems he is helpless to get rid of them even though they contradict everything about him. They paralyze the mind, like a virus. Mike feels dark, heavy, dull, depressed, sick and hopeless.
Then, through the dark cloud of tamas, he remembers. He is not Mike; he is the knower of Mike. Mike exists only because of the knower, his true self, awareness. The bad thoughts recede somewhat into the shadows for a short while. But they have a life of their own. Even though he is the light that makes even those thoughts possible, there is a certain order that is keeping the involuntary thoughts in the real estate of the mind. They do not go away and they keep coming.
They come from an unknown and unknowable place, the unconscious – the macrocosmic causal body, the repository for all vasanas (mental/emotional tendencies) and the gunas that generate them. But Mike does not understand what the causal body is. Self-knowledge is not working to protect him from the negative thoughts/feelings, those awful imposters that have taken over his mind, because the knowledge does not translate into his life. His self-knowledge is purely cognitive, indirect. So even though the thoughts are not real, they are like phantoms of the opera, they run his mind. What to do about them? How do you reclaim the power and real estate of the mind?
Managing the mind means managing the gunas – and vice versa. This means we first must gain some objectivity over the thoughts and feelings that arise in the mind because the mind is nothing other than a thought processor. We experience everything in the mind as a thought. Emotions, which seem to leap from and into the mind independently of thought, all arise first with an unconscious thought. The apparent reality is nothing but a “thought universe.” The gunas generate all thoughts and feelings, and each guna gives rise to very predictable thoughts, feelings and ensuing actions.
There’s no magic to Vedanta. It all boils down to owning your mind as your primary instrument, and repeatedly and consistently reconditioning it with thoughts that are true – in other words, that produce peace of mind. Vedanta shows us that the mind is our primary instrument for experiencing, realizing and actualizing ourselves in this world. Any seeming failure to realize or actualize ourselves or to have a peaceful life, is only due to lack of knowledge and incorrect thoughts that dominate the mind/emotions/intellect. The simple solution is reconditioning the mind with chosen thoughts that are aligned with the truth and based in self-knowledge. This is called volitional, deliberate, thinking.
When skilfully managed, the mind will produce peace of mind and allow us to express and enjoy the beauty that we are in our day-to-day life, no matter what life dishes out to us. When you feel bad, for any reason, you can convert your emotional distress and mental agitation into gratitude and peace through managing the gunas. This involves observing the habitual emotional thought patterns dominating your mind – and creating your negative state of mind – emotional and mental suffering – like a hawk, and literally transforming those thought patterns into new thoughts of your own choosing.
Vedanta has a term for the constant management of the mind: mano nigrahah. It involves the consistent application of guna-knowledge to the mind. It may sound like hard work, and it is, at first. Ingrained, habitual patterns that have been in the mind forever, are not easy to change. What price a happy, peaceful life?
Constant vigilance is the price of peace of mind and freedom. You can be in the world and free of it by applying the only true power every single person has, which is the power of voluntary, deliberate, thinking based on self-knowledge. But to do this, you need to understand the causal body, Isvara – the forces that condition the mind, the gunas, along with the application of karma yoga. There is no getting away from this. Without karma yoga, you are dead in the waters of samsara. Make sure you understand what karma yoga is, if freedom from suffering is truly what you want.
We have a brilliant course, available free on ShiningWorld, Christian Leeby’s 5 Step Formula to Mastering Mind Control. I have taken the liberty to adjust and flesh out this simple guideline for managing the mind below.
Seven-Step Formula to Effective Mind Management
1. Own your mind as your primary instrument.
2. Clarify your highest values by conducting a fearless moral inventory.
3. Take responsibility for every experience you have; they comes from your thoughts, not the world.
4. Your thoughts/emotions don’t come from you, they come from the three gunas. Make sure you understand what they are.
5. Monitor your every thought and the emotion it produces, see the guna behind it.
6. Discriminate the habitual emotional thought patterns that compel you to act against your highest values, creating pain and suffering.
7. Evaluate your daily actions to discover those that do not support your highest values.
8. Change those thoughts and the actions they produce by conditioning new chosen thoughts into your primary instrument. Always apply karma yoga to every thought, word and action.
7. Relax and stop worrying, as your primary instrument automatically serves your highest values in your day-to-day life, no matter what unfolds.
You may know you are an actor in a play, but you are still looking at the play from within the play, seeing it and yourself, consciousness, as separate. You know you are consciousness, but to know what that means for the person living in the world is where all the “work” of self-inquiry begins. Self-realization is not enough to set you free. The jury is not out on who you are. You are whole and complete, non-dual consciousness, always full, always satisfied, always present, never changing, always blissful. So why aren’t you experiencing this? You are not experiencing this because self-knowledge has not obtained to remove ignorance. As stated, your mind is run by involuntary negative thoughts and you only have indirect knowledge of the self. You know what it is but not what it means to BE awareness. To repeat: you need, first and foremost, to understand karma yoga and apply it to every thought, word and action. Triguna vibhava yoga will not work unless you first understand and apply karma yoga.
Mike: He’s always contemplating his death every moment, whether he gets hit by some deadly stricken illness at an early age or some painful disease as he ages and dissolves.
Sundari: Who is contemplating whose death? As awareness, you are unborn and undying, always present, aware of Mike and his morbid thoughts, his fear of life, of aging and of death. The ego is afraid of its demise, that’s all. Your mind is thinking you.
Mike: All these déjà vu occurrences make it seem as though he’s perpetually stuck in a loop of eternal recurrence whether he knows that he’s the self or not. Even if one knows he/she is the self, what is the point? Duality doesn’t end, pain, sorrow and sickness don’t end.
Sundari: You are very wrong. It is true that duality does not end, because it is not opposed to non-duality and does not contradict it, because the two orders or reality, the real (non-dual) and the apparently real (dual), are in two different orders. The apparently real never affects the real, it just seems to. When self-knowledge obtains, duality definitely is as good as over for you because you know it to be only apparently real. It is just like a mirage in the desert appears real but you know it is not, so you would not try to drink the water. Therefore you no longer take this world seriously – and you see everything as entertainment, nothing more. You contact objects happily, not for happiness.
You can enjoy duality for what it is, without getting sucked into it. I have a saying: duality is cool when you know what it is, and cruel when you don’t. Think about that. How would you touch another, make love, enjoy a good meal, watch a beautiful sunset, listen to music, etc., etc. if duality disappeared? Duality is only ever a problem when you take it to be real. If you don’t, you enjoy it for the limited bliss it has to offer, knowing YOU are the bliss that never ends, the bliss that makes temporary bliss possible and blissful.
Yes, the body will age and die, so what? It’s not you. Even if the jiva has illness as its prarabdha, which most of us do at some point, and no doubt the body will fall apart gracefully or not so gracefully as we age – but that karma comes to the body, never to the self. A jnani or jivanmukta never confuses the body with its true identity and is always free of it.
As I have said a few times now, maya is inscrutable, there are no answers to why things happen the way they do in mithya. Isvara takes care of the total, and in the big picture everything is working out as it must for the good of all concerned, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Vedanta is the only teaching available that can unfold HOW the apparent reality works, WHAT it is and its relationship to you, both as the jiva (mind) and as the self. I have explained in previous emails that the apparent reality must function the way it does for the game to continue, there is no other way it can function – but it is a game, a dream world.
Do you believe your dreams are real when you wake up in the morning? Well, when self-knowledge has removed ignorance and you are “awake” in the dream (not that awareness ever slept), you do not take the dream world to be real either. You see it play out the way it does and all is well because you see the world in you, not the other way around.
You think you know a lot, and you know enough to see that the world offers no solutions, but you are stuck there. If you truly looked at the world through the eyes of the self, you would see only its beauty and perfection, not its sorrow and suffering, because you would see only the self, you. And you would smile a lot because you would see the humour.
In fact if you don’t smile and laugh a lot, it’s unlikely you will ever be “enlightened,” meaning free of limitation and suffering, free of the torment of a mind run by involuntary thoughts. You see the world through the filters of very heavy, tamasic thinking patterns that dull and cloud the mind. If you chose other thoughts, such as sattvic thoughts like “how beautiful and perfect this world is, down to the tiniest raindrop, how beautiful I am and life is,” how would that look?
It would look like you, awareness, the fullness and joy that knows the sorrow, is not real. As I said above, this is a thought universe, Mike. There is no “there” out there. It’s all happening in your head. Direct, unobstructed knowledge, the view of the enlightened self is “the world is there because I see it.” Indirect, obstructed knowledge is “I see the world because it’s there.” There is a vast difference in experience between the two.
Mike: Accidents happen, will happen all the time, and people die. One can simply treat it as a movie, but for how long and why? Where’s the proof that there’s an afterlife? Why work out our karma if we just keep returning?
Sundari: There is no proof that there is no “afterlife” either. What more proof do you need than to know that you are always aware because how do you know what you know? That you are conscious and that you exist is a non-negatable fact, a self-evident fact. Why? Because existence is awareness. And the logic? You don’t exist unless you know you exist and you don’t know you exist unless you exist. But you don’t appreciate the significance of this fact, so there is no anandam, bliss, i.e. no freedom. If you are the knower of the apparent reality and all its suffering, why are you so upset by it? If you know something, it can’t be you, can it? You are upset because you take it to be real. Who cares about the afterlife when you are life itself? The afterlife is a religious term for people who need to believe in heaven and hell. Vedanta is not for or against religion, but it surpasses all religions because it simply and powerfully explains the true nature of reality, both the real and the apparently real, which no religion does or can do, because none of them have a valid means of knowledge or know the difference between the real and the apparently real, satya and mithya. Vedanta is not interested in an “after” life. There is no “before and after” for awareness, no time and space. There is only always and everywhere.
And who returns, Mike? As awareness, you never incarnate in the first place, so you never return. Return where when there is nowhere you are not and you never left? You are only ever the actionless, non-experiencing witness from which everything arises and into which everything dissolves. Why worry about anything? What has worry ever accomplished? Get on the Vedanta bus, put down your heavy luggage, stop complaining about the world or wanting it to be different and trust the scripture to take you “home,” to the placeless place you are and always have been.
As the person, or jiva, if you are identified with the body-mind – or Mike (which you are) – that “you” dies – the body and the ego/personality dies, and that does not return. So if you think you are Mike, this is it, for you. Enjoy it while it lasts and make the best of this life because Mike will not be back. Better learn to love him and love his life!
However, the vasana load, or subtle body, that seemed to belong to that personality/ego called Mike carries on indefinitely. It will reincarnate as another apparent person, who will appear before you one day and who will get another opportunity to free itself from identification with objects, but that person will not be Mike. It will be somebody else. And you, awareness, will be there to observe whoever that is. Vedanta calls the subtle body “the traveller.” The field of existence is a trick of light in which eternal vasanas keep playing out the same movie which seems to be unique to you, looking at the movie from within the movie, but nothing is personal. It’s like a computer game in which all the possible moves are already programmed into the software. It seems like you are making choices to play the game, but the game is playing you until self-knowledge sets you free of the game, forever.
It is all a question of discrimination betwween you, satya (that which is always present and unchanging) from mithya (that which is not always present and always changing. If and when you can permanently discriminate between the two and never confuse them again (which is moksa), you are forever free of maya. Karma is over for you because there is no karma for the self. There is only karma for the jiva identified with the body-mind – ego, deluded by maya.
You asked: Why gain self-knowledge if it doesn’t even change anything?
You would not be asking this if self-knowledge had truly obtained, because it changes everything – while seemingly changing nothing. If you think that changing involuntary, fear-filled, limited, anguished thoughts that condition your mind causing such suffering to spontaneous, voluntary, fearless, unlimited, blissful thoughts of “I am whole and complete, non-dual, unchanging, unlimited, ever-present, ever-blissful awareness,” NO MATTER WHAT is going on for the jiva, is NOTHING, you clearly have no idea what self-knowledge, or moksa, is. If self-knowledge has removed all ignorance, you are free. Freedom means you are forever free of Mike and his thoughts/feelings. You are not free of Mike but very much identified with him, and suffering as a result.
If you knew what freedom is and means, you would know that when the “I am awareness” thought has obtained in the mind, it is the most powerful thought possible, and with it comes the complete understanding of reality. Fear and worry are over, full stop. If self-knowledge has not obtained and does not translate into your life as a jiva, it is powerless to alleviate your suffering. Indirect knowledge of the self is better than nothing, but it is far from freedom. Firm and fast self-knowledge ends existential suffering, permanently and completely, no fine print. It’s the end of the line. You either have it or you don’t, and you don’t.
There is nothing else capable of ending suffering but Vedanta. I have said this before and will say it one last time: you need to dedicate yourself to self-inquiry and develop the requisite qualifications, which are lacking. You are trying to read your way to moksa and it has not worked and will not work, even though you have a good understanding of some of the principles. The teaching methodology of Vedanta is set up in such a way as to take the inquirer through every stage of self-inquiry, answering all questions and removing doubt, one step at time. If you are not properly taught, you will keep interpreting the teachings according to your limited understanding and you will never be free.
Very intelligent young people like yourself have often not developed the patience and forbearance that comes with living a little longer, with maturity and experience of life, which is why traditionally Vedanta was not taught to people who have not matured sufficiently. But if you have the burning desire for freedom, even if you don’t have all the other qualifications required, you are very blessed. You can develop the other qualifications but it is very difficult to develop mumuksutva, the burning desire for liberation from limitation. A burning desire for freedom, one that overrides every other desire, is grace. And grace is earned.
As I said, you have hit the jackpot in finding James and ShiningWorld. It gives you the road map with James’ books, videos, tons of e-satsangs and 12-month teaching course on the website, along with Christian Leeby’s course on mind control. Do you have any idea how valuable this is? You are whining about life – yet it’s like Isvara dumped a huge pile of gold on your lawn but all you can see is that it is ruining the grass! Take heart. You could crack the code and have a fabulous life. God, if only Vedanta had come to me at age 25! How different my life could have turned out.
Why not really get on board with the logic, start at the beginning and put everything you think you know on the back burner? Assume that you know nothing. Go slowly, don’t skip. You need faith in the scripture, but it is not blind faith. It is faith pending the results of your self-inquiry. You can always take back your own ideas if you prefer to be miserable and drown in negativity. That is your prerogative.
Mike: I guess it’s just the best way to be happy in this dream, but then again, what’s the point? I can only sum up the fact that there is no reason, you just go with it. Whatever happens to this jiva is fine because it’s not me.
Sundari: Your negative attitude is tiresome. There is no reason for the world other than to understand that it is you – and you are not it. It is not our job to do self-inquiry for you, nobody can give us moksa. If you are not sufficiently dedicated to freedom, to self-inquiry. I cannot go around in circles trying to get you out of your tamasic, negative thinking. It’s a waste of my valuable time. Get over yourself, get on board or not. Vedanta is for mature people who understand its value. I can’t help you unless you are willing to follow my instructions. Your choice.
~ Love, Sundari