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The Experience of Non-Duality Is Maya
Terry: Dear James, I would like to know more about your Vedanta group. I have been learning Buddhism and am looking for something different. I hope you will reply.
James: Lovely to hear from you, Terry. We’re a group but not a group, actually. Vedanta is scripture-based. But you can’t “learn” it. In other words, it is not up to you, because if you are trying to learn something you are admittedly ignorant of the topic. In this case the topic is you – the ever-free self – and how the “you” you think you are, and the world of objects, relates to it. Vedanta is a subjective science. You need to be taught. But your ability to receive the teachings depends on your eligibility, your maturity and state of mind. Discrimination and dispassion are the cornerstones of inquiry. So to gain this state of mind you need a means and the means is karma yoga.
Vedanta is a completely solitary path. It really has nothing to do with your associations in the world, although it is helpful to associate with mature individuals who are committed to the teaching. So you have to be taught. If you are coming from a Buddhist background, you are more or less at a disadvantage because Buddhism is a heterodox Vedic means of enlightenment, which means that it modified and rejected certain doctrines, which are essential for liberation. Vedanta is a complete means of knowledge; you need to understand the whole thing from A to Z, so there must be a serious commitment. I don’t know how much you know – probably quite a bit – but knowledge in samsaris is always mixed with ignorance, and they usually don’t know the difference.
Short of attending my seminars, follow the suggestions on the website. Start with an elementary text, Tattva Bodh or Vedanta: The Big Picture. It will familiarize you with the concepts. Then move on to Bhagavad Gita, Vivekachoodamani, etc. You should read the books and watch the videos slowly. Once you feel that Vedanta is for you, there is a USB stick of 220 hours of video for $150 with all teachings from A to Z. There is also a subscription service that gives you access to thousands of hours of audio and video for $150. If you still have questions once you have done your homework, you can write to me or my wife and we will try to help you with your questions. We cannot start from scratch with you. The good news is that once you have the foundation, your sadhana is in your hands and you grow beautifully. Vedanta is a very logical path – you have to work though the steps. Once you are conversant with the language and the concepts, read the satsangs on the website. Talk with Mike. Come to one of my seminars in Europe this spring, etc. It is a lifetime pursuit; inquiry is a lifestyle.
Buddhism Is a Cult?
Terry: Thank you for your very full reply. I have been reading and listening every day.
I have also modified my meditation. What the teaching says is making sense deeply.
I already see Buddhism as a cult. I feel a fool that I did not pick this up when Mike pointed me to you a couple of years ago. Very grateful to have begun this at last.
I will see if I can get to one of your seminars. In the meantime, I am studying every day.
I am also in touch with Christian Leeby. I will express my profound gratitude to the teaching and to your unfoldment of it – it is already an addiction!
James: That’s great, Terry. Consistency in inquiry conducted along scriptural lines produces wonderful results. All the best.
Terry: I feel a strong urge to write to you. If it is an imposition or an irritation then let me know – I will understand. I do not demand that you reply or comment – I just want to write. I feel a great gratitude to you and the teachings.
This morning I was reading Atma Bodha, verse 53: “On the dissolution of the adjuncts (the body, senses, etc.), the sage now freed from particularities merges in the all-pervading being (Vishnu), like water in water, ether in ether or fire in fire,” – bit of a dodgy translation by Alan Jacobs, but still…
Feelings Are Body + Thought
I noticed a sadness.
Immediately I began to investigate.
There was clearly an attachment to this Terry character.
I investigated the Terry character – thoughts, feelings, body.
I noticed that feelings are really only body + thought.
I saw the utter transience of this Terry character and the hopelessness of clinging to this mirage – attachment dissolved into love.
The light inside was very bright.
I have been increasingly calm and confident each day – reminding myself that I am this whole, perfect awareness.
I am so moved by this and can’t believe that I have spent so much of my life in frantic search for understanding of this when the knowledge was here all along – many books will be heading to the second-hand department!
I really cannot express my gratitude enough.
I hope we can meet in due course so that I can thank you in person.
James: Lovely email, Terry. No bother at all. I love these testimonials to the power of Vedanta. I am very happy for you. Your appreciation is much appreciated. I hope we will meet sometime.
Terry: This morning in meditation I became aware of a level of effort and investigated – it was a desire for moksa.
I noted that I did not know what moksa was and that I was striving for a thing I couldn’t even imagine.
I noted that other desires – sex, praise, peace were all just objects in the imagination.
I noted that I was an object in the imagination – always changing.
I noted that I just create objects and crave them.
I noted that I do not crave objects – I create the situation of craving.
What you said is right – I am Terry, but Terry is not me.
James: You mean “Terry is me but I am not Terry.” You, awareness, are always free of you, the jiva.
Wants Are Very Empty
Terry: There has been a sense of insubstantiality the last day or so.
Wants seem very empty.
There is not so much a sense of the self as the mind is investigating the insubstantiality of the ego/jiva – yes, it exists but it is not real.
There is a sadness.
I have been out of the jungle for three months now – where I lived with refugees from all over Africa and the Middle East – 18 months of attempting to collect virtue and indulging in anger and sadness.
It showed me the futility of “helping” people.
Millions of dollars and mind-bending efforts all adding up to a burnt-out, empty field and most people worse off than before – talk about zero-sum.
This teaching is beyond praise.
Nearly at the end of Self Inquiry Berlin – will begin Baghavad Gita next.
I am living with the sadness, missing the self.
I’m Missing Me
James: How can you miss the self, Terry? You are the self. The very first teaching of Vedanta is “the self cannot be objectified.” It is never away from you, because it is you. Your statement is tantamount to the statement, “I’m missing me.” Not possible. Contemplate this for a while.
Terry: Yes, of course – it is impossible to miss the self; it cannot be an object.
I have been feeling good about being the self and identifying the self with feeling good.
The good feelings have been replaced by sadness, creating the illusion of being separate from the self, as I was equating the self with good feelings – stupid.
It is clear now.
Feelings are nothing to do with the self.
Actually, very calm, even-minded and content now – that is not the self either; I am.
Do really let me know if this becomes too much.
Yes, this morning very clear in meditation that only the self is real – all else is imaginary/illusory – existing, but not real.
There are strong tendencies to identify with feelings and ideas, very clear the restlessness desire to add something to the imaginary ego in the belief that this will complete it.
The bubbles come up and burst on contact with knowledge if knowledge is operating at that time.
When this is not seen, what is happening?
A Hangover from Buddhism
I think a hangover from Buddhism is an expectation that the experiencer will disappear never to appear again, and therefore the tendency to lie in wait for that rather than notice that it is I who knows the experiencer.
James: It seems to me is that your view of enlightenment is experiential. When “this” is not seen, you – awareness – are still present. You are the content of the experience of not-seeing. The not-seeing is mithya, unreal. It is an object. It seems that you think freedom is some kind of experience. But freedom is the nature of you, awareness, the seer. You are what you’re seeking, not some kind of experience. You need a context to evaluate your experience(s). That context is scripture. I suggest you go back and read the first three chapters of The Essence of Enlightenment. Enlightenment is knowledge of the seer, not knowledge of “this.” “This” is an object. Objects are not real. Only you, the seer, are real. So what you experience at any moment, inner or outer, needs to be dismissed at every moment, and the seer/self investigated, not the objects.
Objects – this – have no intrinsic nature of their own. They are projections of Maya. Investigating them with the idea that they contain some kind of key to freedom is pointless. They can never reveal you, the self, because you are beyond experience. Scripture is the only revelation. I think we are going to have to wait until you can hear me teach. I’m not trying to discourage you – not at all – but the view you have about freedom is not correct. Isvara sent you to Vedanta for a reason. You need it. But the experiential issue is the most difficult to understand. If you can’t see through it, you’re pretty much stuck with meditation, as you see it. Our view of meditation is to apply discrimination in a meditative setting. But before you apply it, you have to know what it is. Discrimination involves dismissing the meditator and its experience of “this and that” as “not-self,” not trying to find meaning in them. No experience can validate you, ever-free awareness. You are not Terry. Terry is not real. He is a mental construct with which you are presently identifying. He needs be dismissed, along with his experience. Freedom is freedom FROM Terry and his experience, not freedom FOR Terry.
Burning Desire Necessary
Terry: This is what s needed – strong direction.
You said in your original reply that my background in Buddhism might be a disadvantage – I believe this is so – I need to correct what I now see as very wooly and inconsistent thinking based on an incomplete and contradictory teaching.
I woke up this morning with the feeling of something missing – familiar – I investigated.
Nothing was missing.
I noted that I pretty much have everything that people want; I am attractive to women and live with a woman I love and respect. I have no trouble making money and could make more if I wanted to. Most people think I am a good/spiritual guy. But there is both a despair and an attachment to this Terry character and a desire to perfect him – impossible!
As you point out, he is a projection.
I will read the chapters you suggest and I look forward to learning from you in person.
I am very happy to have arrived here, thank you.
A Means of Knowledge That Begins Where Perception Ends
James: Yes, once you are firmly in the hands of the scripture – your seeking stops and you can lay your burdens down. Even non-dual epiphanies are subject to interpretation, and if you are seeking, ignorance is present and will inform the interpretation. You need a means of knowledge that picks up where perception leaves off. When you really understand the value of Vedanta a great weight is lifted. As you get more conversant with it, your confidence builds because knowledge puts you in the driver’s seat.
Terry: Thank you, James. I was talking to my partner this morning – we are both so out of love with samsara. I really want to follow this to the end. I will study each day and ponder all day.
James: Good, Terry.
Objects Are Me but I Am Not Them
Terry: I hope you are well.
I am reading The Essence of Enlightenment.
Slowly. Stopping to contemplate each question or statement before proceeding.
Very clear yesterday, the difference between experience and knowledge.
I have definitely confused the two!
Also, some anger about the ways I have been taught in the past! But no matter, I am glad to be here now.
There was a sense before that I was separate from objects with a kind of oscillation between identifying or not.
Today this is not the way it seems.
Those objects are me, but I am not them.
Instead of study and meditation being separate as in the past – I am just sitting and contemplating the teaching.
It also appears when working and in all activities.
It is very bright inside and relaxed.
I can see the experience-confusion arising when it does, but it is very clearly seen now.
I am everything. Nothing excluded.
I will continue in this way unless you want to suggest a different course.
I am deeply grateful to you and to the teaching.
This is a joy.
~ With joined palms and head down, Terry
PS. I also fell for the nirvana and the damned “now” teachings!
James: Now, you’re on the right track. Always think, “I’m the self, whole and complete.” There is nothing to gain in samsara. And look at your thoughts in light of this knowledge. In this way you, awareness, will gradually objectify Terry and at some point it will be abundantly clear that you are free of Terry.
I Bow to All the Teachers
Terry: This morning, reading the passage: “Finally, experience seems like it is a matter of a conscious subject experiencing an inert object, but consciousness is everything,” I stopped and went inwards to contemplate.
It was clear that I and all other beings were one with the source.
I am the being Terry.
He is not me, but flows from me.
As do all other beings, objects and everything.
It has always been so hard to get this.
I, Terry, am not the source of everything.
The source of everything is Terry, and I am that.
Tears streamed in tranquility.
I will continue.
Finally, after all this time I have the means.
I bow to you and to all the teachers and to the source, God.
Sorry to bombard you!
I am in a very intense period of inquiry and it helps to communicate.
In Buddhism we are given the axiom – sila, samadhi, panna; discipline, concentration, wisdom. I spent years working on discipline and concentration hoping that wisdom would come. It did squeeze one out every now and then, and that was a red-letter day!
Vedanta Is the Opposite
Vedanta seems quite the opposite; understanding is giving rise to meditation and harmonious behavior.
I am not getting annoyed by the usual stuff. There is effortless love. Worries are being seen and dis-identified from.
It is really bright in the mind.
As the understanding goes deeper the meditation comes simply and naturally.
This is becoming a very serious vasana – I may have to go to Vasanas Anonymous!
The last passage, “Experience is always only awareness experiencing itself,” crashed like a gentle tsunami – beautiful.
James: I think I know what you mean, but we need to get the words right. You say:
“I am the being Terry.
“He is not me but flows from me.
“As do all other beings, objects and everything.
“It has always been so hard to get this.
“I, Terry, am not the source of everything.
“The source of everything is Terry, and I am that.”
This is how it should read:
I am limitless being.
I am not Terry, but Terry is me and flows from me.
I am the source of everything.
Terry is not the source of anything.
Terry is a concept.
Terry: Yup… what you said!
Coping on the Go
Dear James, I hope you are well.
I have been continuing each day as we discussed.
I have been having some problems related to money and business, which have produced a lot of fear and projection in the mind.
This has been painful but fruitful in terms of inquiry, I think.
I have come much more aware of when the mind is fearful, needy, weak (tamasic?), desiring, angry, self-important (rajasic?) and the blessed times when it is sattvic: calm, detached, gentle.
Terry: I am learning how to cope on the go when there is fear and desire running.
I am learning that they are not me and how to recognize this.
James: Good, but you need karma yoga, Terry. You may have read about it but you don’t understand it. You can’t get to first base spiritually without it. I suggest you watch one of the Bhagavad Gita series. Or carefully read the section on karma yoga in Essence.
Terry: I some questions: How do I identify with the mental states?
James: It is totally unconscious, Terry. The fear around money is identification with tamas, fear of loss. You didn’t try to identify. Tamas forced you to identify.
Terry: How do I become aware that I have identified?
James: If you experience negative emotions you have identified.
Terry: I can see the extent to which I am NOT dispassionate and that I need to work steadily in this department!
James: Karma yoga is the key. It makes the mind dispassionate, destroys fear.
Terry: I am very grateful to you and to this teaching,
James: Appreciation is much appreciated, Terry.
Terry: Okay, karma yoga it is! I am amazed at the speed with which reading the karma yoga chapter in The Essence of Enlightenment stabilized my mind.
Yes, I get it.
How could results have anything to do with me?
Nothing is mine here.
I just do my best to determine my duty in line with dharmic values and do it.
The results are up to Isvara.
I had a frank chat with my client and we have arrived at a reasonable way to proceed.
~ In gratitude and with love, Terry
James: Good! Karma yoga is just common sense, but desire for results obscures common sense. Keeping the knowledge that Isvara is the ordainer of results until it is hard and fast will take care of your emotionality and set you up for jnana yoga, i.e. knowledge of the self and the Creation, which will set you free.
Terry: Thank you again for the advice. I am using Dayananda Saraswati’s book on the Serenity Prayer each morning (I am an old AA person!) and will just continue with daily study as directed. I have been studying the Bhagavad Gita as you suggested.
So Many Ways Not to Be Free
I woke up last night with some very clear thoughts.
Isvara has created various situations throughout my life which produced the desire for freedom.
I have seen so many ways NOT to be free.
I have, as most people do, thought that I could remove this jiva’s ignorance and have a permanent non-dual experience.
It came to me absolutely last night that this jiva is not in charge of anything.
It is not up to me whether I experience duality or non-duality.
Even the “experience” of non-duality is in Maya.
For this jiva to have a permanent enlightenment the whole of Maya would have to go.
This jiva is being controlled by Isvara; it is up to Isvara how and when things happen.
It is time for whatever is happening to happen when it happens.
If get that all I can do is keep studying, observing and reflecting upon this knowledge.
The feeling of freedom is paradoxically coming from seeing the hopelessness of the kind of freedom which most jivas seek.
The idea that I can make this world give me what I want! Ha!
Neo-Advaita Has Privatized God
This Neo-Advaita enlightenment racket – they have privatized God!
Thank you for your clear and tireless teaching; if there are errors above – please point them out!
James: No errors, Terry. Spot on. That’s basically all there is to it from jiva’s point of view. Keep your head down and do your sadhana. Good for you!
This Light Is Always On
Terry: I have been contemplating each day.
I study The Essence of Enlightenment in the morning, make a gratitude list (I am an old AA guy) and then look quietly at what I am not, followed by what I am.
In the evening I have been studying the Bhagavad Gita.
I have been practicing giving away all my actions to God during the day.
The perception of suffering around me is heightened but much reduced within.
This morning in my contemplation it became very clear to me that I am not Terry.
I felt great affection and love for him but I am not this body, feelings, thoughts, karma.
It became very clear that this light is always on and that I (Terry) cannot turn it off.
I am the light that never goes out.
Very calm about the epiphany, as it is just an experience.
I have had these experiences many times but this has a very simple clarity and is in context with the teaching – not personal, not an achievement – not important.
I love this way of life and will continue.
Thank you for your work.
My gratitude brings tears to my eyes – I am a sentimental old thing.
James: The light is always shining because you are the light. When your identity has been completely transferred to the light and you can with absolute confidence say, “I am the light,” there is no more suffering. The practice of making a checklist is very wise. Good for you. Daily is the way to go.
Terry: I have been applying the teaching to fear, and more recently sorrow.
Fear in the form of feeling inadequate to fulfill work commitments.
It has worked very well to apply the karma yoga principle and also to identify the thoughts behind the fearful feelings and replace them with “I am full, complete and infinite awareness” or something similar. This is becoming more automatic now and fear is becoming less of a perceived problem. Sure enough though, as fear subsides, desire takes its place. Bhagavan has arranged it for me to be earning a lot right now – desire is coming out to play. Do you have any tips on how to get sexual craving into perspective?
How Stupid We Are When Rajas and Tamas Are Running
Ha! I just rewatched part of the Bhagavad Gita talks – same answer as for fear…
I am complete. Amazing how slow on the uptake we are and how stupid when rajas or tamas are running powerfully. On top of it now! Thanks!
PS: Very clear that the only solution is Rock-Solid Clarity about the self.
Until then though…
James: Yes, just hang in there when you are feeling frustrated or depressed. Look at the knower of the depression. And make sure that you have a daily practice of video watching or scripture study, etc. Get my new book, The Yoga of the Three Energies. It should be helpful. Results are always out of our hands. Just work patiently every day and build some form of recreation into your life. It’s best if inquiry is entertaining. And remember, you are the goal. Since you are always present, you already have what you seek. The wanting is born out of incompleteness. You are complete.
~ Love, James