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Enlightened but Unenlightened
Ravi: Hi, James, a few more follow-up questions:
What exactly is the nature of the self? I know that the Buddha did not answer these sort of questions, but does Vedanta offer any insight into this process? Can you refer me to any texts?
James: Awareness/consciousness. It is what is observing you read these words. It is you. Texts won’t help, Ravi. They will just confuse you further. What understanding will you use to interpret them?
Ravi: Where does the self begin and end?
James: Take a look, Ravi. Where do you begin and end? The self is just you, awareness. If you can’t determine that you have no beginning and end, then take scripture’s word for it. You are ajati, unborn. If you are unborn you have no end. You need to give up on this yogic thinking, Ravi. It is just confusing you. You seem to be very attached to it. You are way beyond it, yet you persist in it.
Ravi: Is there one self or multiple selves?
James: One self, appearing as many. If you look at it from the body level there are multiple selves. If you look at it from your level, there is one self. What is the difference between you and your wife and kids?
Ravi: Nowadays the body feels like a shell, which it might as well be, but the self cannot be perceived without the body.
James: The body feels like a shell because it is a shell. It is inert and insentient. Your second statement is ignorance. The self is self-aware. It does not need the body to know itself. It does not need the mind. How can body perceive anything if it is just inert food? Even if it was conscious, it couldn’t perceive the self, because the self is beyond perception and inference. Honestly, Ravi, you seem to have forgotten your Vedanta. Maybe your experiential filter was so strong, you missed the knowledge.
Ravi: Another interesting thing happened: for some reason after my enlightenment experience, I stopped dreaming. I don’t have dreams anymore. Is this a common occurrence? Scientifically it has been shown that everyone dreams, and in my case it is probable that I cannot recall my dreams, but do you know why? Have you heard anything like this?
James: Yes, it is quite natural. The experience evidently cleared a lot of your samskaras, so there is little basis for dreams. Dreams are just samskaras outpicturing in the subtle body. You may have occasional dreams, however. This experience probably did not clear everything, just the most superficial layer.
Ravi: Another odd thing is that I don’t have psychic experiences anymore. I was very gifted, and I could instantly sense what people were thinking or feeling around me, but now I cannot feel anything or sense anything. The connection to the outside world for some reason has broken. Do you know why this would happen? If you read traditional descriptions of enlightenment, you would expect the exact opposite to happen.
James: You are the self. What use are psychic experiences anymore? They were only useful for Ravi, and you are no longer Ravi. The problem is that you did not understand what the enlightenment experience meant. Your identity has shifted but your intellect has not caught up. It still thinks you are Ravi. It is quite odd, really. I have seen this happen before but it is unusual. You won’t figure it out by reading texts, I’m sorry to say.
The broken connection with the outside world it called moksa, Ravi. You were never connected. You just thought you were. When you transcended Ravi, the connection was broken because Ravi died. You won’t be able to reconnect, sorry to say. So you better adjust to being the self and stop trying to revive Ravi.
Ravi: I hope you are enjoying the vacation.
James: Yes, indeed. I have been on vacation from samsara for 41 years. It promises to continue.
~ Much love, James
Ravi: Thanks, James, for the reply. It is interesting, as you point out, that the identity has shifted but the intellect has not caught on. I am concerned about fooling myself because the mind can artificially impose a reality on the self, so I want to make sure every step is logically and clearly thought out. I have seen enough instances of people falsely believing that they are enlightened and spouting nonsense afterwards.
James: Not if they understand Vedanta, Ravi, because Vedanta is just common-sense knowledge. It is the end of knowledge. If you have got it, you have got it. Trust the knowledge, Ravi. Anyway, this is not the way to “make sure.” The way to make sure is to revel in your wholeness, to take your sense of security from who you are. Recognize the doubtful intellect for what it is and ignore it. You cannot remove the doubt by talking with others or reading books. Look to yourself and see that you are immutable. In this way you develop confidence in the knowledge. I get the sense that you are still not satisfied, that you still expect something more to happen. Enlightenment is not an experience, an event. It is hard and fast knowledge in the intellect that you are the light, i.e. limitless awareness, and not the experiencing entity. You need to develop the discrimination between you and the experiencing entity. In any case don’t feel too bad about it. Most spiritual literature is actual spiritual porn, calculated to incite fantasies of amazing cosmic orgasms, etc. It is no wonder that an ego that feels limited and incomplete is susceptible to them.
Ravi: What I was trying to say, unsuccessfully, it seems, was that you need a fully functional body and mind to realize the self. A schizophrenic patient or mentally retarded patients will not have the tools to realize the self.
James: Okay. It wasn’t clear. A lot of people think the self can be known by the body-mind.
Ravi: Until I met you, I did not know the difference between knowledge and experience. All my previous training, including Ramana’s and Maharaj’s teaching, was very experience-based teaching. In addition, the identity shift happened through an experiential process through you in the retreat. So obviously the experiential filter is very strong, since all my understanding and shifts occurred through an experience. The I-sense is an energetic process, and so was the light coming from you into my body and the disappearance of the I-sense since then. After that Ramana came in my dream and said that I need to let go of him. That was the first and last time I dreamed about Ramana.
James: It is so easy to be fooled by experience. The experience of the light coming from me into your body causing the I-sense to disappear is how the mind personified the understanding that there is no I-sense. The “light” was only knowledge. It was in the words that I was speaking. I did not experience it as you experienced it, although I could see that it had an impact on your mind. The destruction of the I-sense, a subtle object on which you had been meditating, destroyed your identification with the experiencing entity and shifted you “back” to where you always are. You never were Ravi, the experiencing entity. But the tendency to identify with Ravi is so strong that you tend to take his spiritual vasana seriously. Since this vasana has been such an obsession, I suppose you are unwilling to let it go. Seeking often becomes a treasured identity. This is usually the main impediment to seeker becoming finders. The knowledge of who you are is very simple. If you are still looking for confirmation from the outside, it is not firm. Use it to destroy the doubter.
Ravi: The body feeling like a shell, no dreams henceforth and the psychic connection being broken, all seem to me a very experiential process.
James: Sure, but so what? What is the fascination with experience? Why not make a big deal out of the lunch you had yesterday? It is all the same. Experience is nothing special. Everything is experience. Only one fact stands out: I am not an experiencer. The experiencer is not real, Ravi. If the experiencer is not real, then experience is not real. Yes, it is the self, but the self is not experience. It is the non-experiencing witness. If you want to be doubt-free you need to get your head around this fact. All this experience stuff is just a big spiritual wank.
Everyone, enlightened and unenlightened, is experiencing the self all the time, you included. If you weren’t experiencing, how could you get the knowledge? The knowledge is the only valuable thing. Experience is just a decaying time capsule that releases knowledge. But if the intellect is obsessed with experience, it will not absorb the knowledge.
The self is the ultimate experiencer, the one to whom experience is presented. It does not generate experience, except indirectly by its presence, because it lacks nothing. But when it illumines unconscious content – which is all the time – experience is produced. Life is an unbroken stream of experience. I wonder if you think that because you are so clever that your experience is somehow special. It is the coin of the realm of samsara. It is no big deal.
Ravi: I think I am one of those odd cases where the identity shift occurs through experience instead of knowledge. The intellect has to catch up. I am in no hurry anyway.
James: How could you be? You are not a doer, an experiencer. But actually you are not that odd a case. Since nearly everyone is caught up in the experiential illusion, you have a lot of company. I don’t think you have really understood the argument about experience and knowledge. I think you would benefit from rereading the second chapter of my book.
~ Much love, James