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Nididhyasana at Work
Kim: Dear James and Sundari, I hope you are both well, as you are so busy serving such a large community of Vedantins now. How very fortunate we are to be in such a group of blessed jivas! Every day I give thanks to Isvara for the teachings, for the guru and for this beautiful life.
I have not written in a while, and it feels timely to bring you up to date about my particular jiva’s “progress” with nididhyasana. I write from a place of joy and gratitude, as much learning has been taking place due mostly to the effect of the enlightening material that you both sent me last time we wrote. Sundari – you most generously wrote me a long and detailed letter about shame and guilt and the effect of those deep samskaras on the life of jivas. This in a way revealed to my understanding a (tamasic) veil that has been a lifelong mode since a childhood of strict discipline and high expectations as well as love. I never saw before (psychotherapy notwithstanding) how this type of formative background – even if done by loving parents with the best of intentions – can set up such a pattern of low self-esteem and striving, followed by shame and guilt if goals are not reached as expected. Performing well drew praise (and love), and the opposite was accompanied by self-reproach, perceived (if not actual) withdrawal of love and further striving. No more details needed – only to say that all of this was strongly reinforced by Cohen, who praised me as one of his top students and then rejected me whenever I failed to meet his standards. UGH!! No more woundology for me!!
Fast-forward to Vedanta, and of course I found myself applying the same hardwired judgments – but this time the knowledge that this was only a jiva and not my real self was also present but not actualized. Your explanations of shame have given me perspective on the thoughts that go with this samskara, and I have begun to deconstruct my mind and constantly replace these negative thoughts with the understanding of my true nature, which is beautiful, whole, complete, ever-present, effulgent awareness.
Combined with this understanding and not separate from it is the knowledge that I am not and never have been the doer, and in that there is eternal relaxation from the striving.
As I know you know, this nididhyasana practice does not (or rarely) produce an overnight metamorphosis, and knowing one is “on the bus” (I love that phrase!) allows for the sadhana to become a 24/7 new lifestyle of what I am now calling relaxed vigilance – destination and journey merging into one.
My jiva “lifestyle” including all aspects is slowly changing according to the implementation of self-knowledge that creates its own momentum of alignment with a sattvic, peaceful life. James – your wonderful book on the gunas has been super helpful… I have read it three times now and each time brings more clarity and discrimination. I think it is brilliant and has brought me so much greater awareness on the macro- and microcosmic levels, connecting experience and action to the ever-present larger context of the guna dance.
My partner has also been diving more and more deeply into his own study of Vedanta, and this has inevitably brought us closer and removed the irresolution I previously struggled with about whether we were suited to continue to live together. We both acknowledge that our lives are a gift from Isvara and that everything that comes to us is to be taken as prasad. We are also able to accept our differences as just our individual svadharma rather than a problem in the relationship. A huge relief!
Sundari: Thank you for this beautiful affirmation of how self-knowledge works to chip away at the all too persistent ignorance, clinging like a limpet to a rock! Well done to you for your dedication to your sadhana, may the fruit that it bears bring you ever closer to permanent freedom for and from Kim. In your very eloquent explanation of your journey I read in your words the recognition and acceptance of the jiva as it is, while divesting it of its woundology through self-knowledge. Freedom is not freedom without both realizations. The bonus is that this process is taking place for both of you, which is wonderful. Love can only deepen as it becomes non-dual.
~ With much love and many blessings to you, Sundari