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No Magic Formula for Enlightenment
Sundari: I am glad for you that you have found Vedanta and ShiningWorld, there is no better vehicle for delivering the priceless teachings of Vedanta. I am glad also that you found my nutrition article helpful. I am working on a book on the gunas and lifestyle, and nutrition is one section of it.
Your jiva story is a common one. There is no permanent joy to be found in objects and your drama-filled relationship is proof of that. To fully assimilate the knowledge, the mind must be purified and qualified. If you have a lot of unresolved karma in the world, a messy life and relationships, it is very difficult for self-knowledge to obtain.
There is no magic formula for moksa. It is not a destination, it is who you are. But to live that truth requires rendering all binding vasanas non-binding, negating the doer and the constant practise of karma yoga. Slow and steady wins the race. Ignorance is hardwired and has been running the show forever. It won’t just disappear. How strong is your desire for freedom from dependence on objects? If it is strong enough, you will keep going until self-knowledge sets you free. The doer/ego cannot free the ego. Only by steadfast application of self-knowledge to your life, moment to moment, day to day, year by year, does the job. It can take years, decades or a lifetime. It may never happen in this lifetime. Only Isvara knows. It all depends on your qualifications and commitment.
Friedrich: I would really like to be able to just reflect the love that I know I am. I know it, but I don’t experience it all the time.
Sundari: You are experiencing it all the time, but you don’t feel like you reflect it, because ignorance stands in the way. Everything you see is a reflection of you, consciousness, in apparent form. Self-knowledge, enlightenment, is not a feeling, a special state or an object to obtain. It is simply the knowledge that “I am the self, ever-present, ever-free, whole and complete, unlimited. I need nothing and fear nothing.” It is a rock-solid self-confidence that never leaves no matter what is going on for the jiva. It is not some blissful “high.” If you have read James’ book How to Attain Enlightenment, make sure you understand Chapter II, where he explains the difference between experience and knowledge. I don’t think you have assimilated this and still expect that enlightenment is something to gain, a blissful, far-out experience. It is not. You are only ever experiencing consciousness, your self, you just don’t understand what that means. To live free of limitation requires freedom from and for the jiva.
Friedrich: Is this the process of nididhyasana? Bringing this knowledge again and again to my everyday life experience until its firm? Till it’s become a condition?
Sundari: Yes, it is, and it can take decades to self-actualize. But I think you are not quite at the nididhyasana stage yet. It seems to me that you have not assimilated all the teachings and are still in the first two stages of self-inquiry. Have you followed our instructions on the website page regarding self-inquiry? Please make sure you do.
The most important qualifications for self-inquiry:
1. Faith in the teachings of Vedanta.
2. Dispassion: in brief, non-attachment to outcomes – karma yoga.
2. Discrimination: the ability to discriminate what is changeless, or real (consciousness/you), from that which is changing, or seemingly real (all objects – which include the mind and body, thoughts and emotions; in other words, anything other than consciousness).
4. A burning desire for liberation from bondage to objects: meaning one has understood that there is nothing to gain through objects and desires above all to understand one’s true nature.
There are three basic stages to self-inquiry:
1. Sravana: Listening or hearing the scripture by exposing an open mind to it. This requires that one leaves everything one previously believed or thought one knew temporarily on the shelf. One can take them back if self-knowledge does not work for you. This is very important; if one keeps comparing Vedanta to all one’s beliefs and opinions, and try to make it fit in with them, it is best to forget about self-inquiry, as it will not work. Vedanta is a radical teaching; it is counter-intuitive and it will challenge everything one thought one knew about the person one thinks they are.
It all depends what one wants most. If freedom and an end to suffering is what one wants more than anything else, then this is the only means to achieve that. If one is still after experience, there is nothing wrong with that, but then Vedanta is not for you.
2. Manana: Reasoning, contemplation. This is thinking about what the scripture is saying, examining the unexamined logic of one’s own experience. At this point, one looks at one’s beliefs and opinions in the light of what the scripture says, NOT the other way around.
3. Nididhyasana: Applying the knowledge to your life; taking a stand in awareness as awareness.
Nididyasana comes after karma jnana sannyas – the full negation of the sense of doership. Karma yoga is a secondary form of nididhyasana. Nididhyasana is managing the mind’s involuntary thoughts as well as our habitual thoughts and feeling patterns, which are bedrock duality and can survive moksa. Without self-objectivity and mind-management, these patterns can still hijack the mind without a moment’s notice, denying it access to the self in the form of self-knowledge. There is nothing inherently wrong with involuntary thoughts, but they tend to immediately morph into actions which are liable to create unwanted karma in the form of obscuring thoughts and emotions.
The practice of self-knowledge involves keeping it in the background during one’s daily transactions. It is difficult if you have a lot of karma because the mind is easily lost in dealing with it. It is constantly reminding the mind that one’s jiva and the world are both mithya and that the jiva is only a contributor of action while Isvara is the controller of the results. “You have a choice over action alone; never over results. May you not think you are the author of the results of actions. May you not have inclination towards inaction,” (Bhagavad Gita 2:47). It is a fact that you don’t have control of your body, mind, family and possessions, so leave them alone and accept the world as it is. You should always think, “It is a great blessing that I am never affected by anything that happens in mind or the world.”
The obstacles to mind control are (1) sleepiness (tamas) happening during meditation, (2) a mind hopping from one thought to another (rajas), (3) subconscious problems (samskaras) that make the mind dull and (4) attachment to sattva produced by meditation. Once these obstacles are overcome, the mind permanently rests in the knowledge, “I am limitless, unborn, ordinary, unconcerned ever-present blissful awareness.”
Friedrich: Is there a point where this knowledge becomes natural, habitual and experiential any time?
Sundari: Consciousness is always experiential – it’s a question of whether you understand what that means for the jiva. Life is experience, and moksa is only for the jiva, never for the self, because the self is and always has been free. Having only intellectual knowledge of moksa or the self will not free the jiva or free you of the jiva. When self-knowledge has fully obtained (actualized), which means you have rendered all binding vasanas non-binding, negated the doer and cleaned up all your karma, and you manage the mind/gunas and spontaneously discriminate yourself from all subtle and gross objects that appear in you. You know that you depend on nothing for happiness. That is moksa.
Friedrich: Because even if we say that only knowledge will set us free – not experience – we can identify awareness as being aware in our right-now experience.
Sundari: I really do not know what you are saying here. This email is very badly written and hard for me to decipher. I have had to fix up all your grammar and punctuation. Please, in future have some consideration and bear in mind that we work very hard to answer emails and are very busy. Take the time to think through your questions and to write clearly.
Friedrich: I always thought about enlightenment that it’s a kind of Big Bang, a big, fast change, something that happens immediately – a moment of “Aha, now I know.”
Sundari: Well, that is your problem, and you are very wrong. That is a typically experiential view of enlightenment. You cannot “become” enlightened, because you already are the light. You cannot gain something you already are. Enlightenment is not an object of experience. It is permanent self-knowledge and freedom from dependence on objects. As I said, ignorance is very tenacious and difficult to remove. Only steadfastness and total dedication to the teachings will do the work. If your lifestyle and life karma are a mess, self-knowledge will not work, no matter what you do. Please check on the list of qualifications required for self-inquiry. Track yourself on them on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. If you lack some of the qualification, develop them. What price freedom? The price is eternal vigilance and dedication to self-inquiry.
Friedrich: In my case there were a lot of small moments of “aha.” And it looks like Vedanta is like a journey, an inner process of reprogramming the mind computer. Checking which programs need to be deleted and replaced by better-working ones. Some can stay as they are because they work pretty good (who are in accordance with the dharmas), others just need an update. So I keep up observing the mind, choose peace of mind and ease in my life.
Sundari: Repeat: Vedanta is not a journey, because enlightenment is not a destination. IT IS WHO YOU ARE. How can you journey to where you are? There is nowhere you are not because you are all that is. You need to understand what makes up the jiva, the forces that condition it (the gunas), how and why you behave the way you do as the jiva, what makes up the dharma field and the laws that run it (Isvara), the connection between the jiva, Isvara and the world – consciousness. Do the work, Friedrich! It is all there for you on our ShiningWorld website, follow our instructions. You can’t expect moksa to just magically happen and make you “transcend” your jiva problems. You must negate the jiva and its conditioning in light of self-knowledge, not the other way around.
Friedrich: Recondition the mind that it is able to reflect my true nature – and share it with others. I keep on the satya-mitya viveka sadhana.
Sundari: Who is going to recondition the mind? As the jiva, or ego, you cannot permanently recondition the mind. You can only permanently recondition the mind through inquiry into what governs it – the gunas, understanding them and managing them for peace of mind – sattva, i.e. through self-knowledge.
~ Om, Sundari