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The World’s Your Oyster
D: Hi, Nondoodleji.
There is some difficulty at this time and I wondered if you might be able to help:
I feel in limbo right now between standing in awareness and identifying with the jiva. There is a question mark over all activity I do – I don’t know whether or not to do, carry on doing the things I loved doing, like acting and writing, as well as other worldly activities like working – because there is some belief here that by engaging with them I will reinforce duality. So I am abstaining from lots of things that bring me joy (as well as trying to work out unhealthy-seeming vasanas around food and sex). As such, I feel caught between two worlds and totally inert. There is a lot of sadness and confusion. And doubts about Vedanta are starting to creep in – “maybe I am just deluding myself that I can really be free!” I have a feeling this may be due to some misunderstanding that I can’t figure out by myself. Are you able to shed any light on this, please?
~ All the best, D
Daniel: Om, D. ☺
I totally get where you are coming from. This temporary confusion of “to do or not to do” is common, and in most cases is an unavoidable feeling whilst one goes through the different stages of self-inquiry.
But it will pass as you continue to apply the teachings of Vedanta and become clear as to what your svadharma is.
There’s no need to superimpose one’s relative duty (svadharma) on your true, actionless identity: awareness.
The key is to allow your action figure (i.e. “D”) to attend to its worldly duty and follow its natural program whilst simultaneously understanding your freedom from him. In other words, there’s no conflict by taking a stand in your non-dual identity whilst still acknowledging your “secondary identity” which is nothing but a play of opposites.
As long as there’s a “D” walking around, duality applies. But this does not mean that you got to reinforce or get suckered in by the projection of duality (Maya).
A discriminating mind is one that acknowledges the fact that duality (mithya) exists, but does not mistake it for/as reality. The definition of “reality” is “that which does not change.” And the only “thing” that does not change is you, awareness (satya).
But let’s head back to the topic of svadharma, as I think it’s more relevant to your question for now.
Svadharma means self-dharma, doing your duty to the person you think you are. It means not trying to live up to an ideal or imitate role models.
If you do not know what your svadharma is, then you won’t know how to respond appropriately. For example, it is a mistake to override your svadharma because of a need for security. Taking an unhealthy job just to pay the rent is not always the best course of action.
As Ramji says, “The road to liberation is not about transcending or denying your ‘little self.’ It is accepting who you are here and now. If you made mistakes and did bad things, don’t punish yourself. Understand that if you knew who you really were you would not have done what you did, and forgive yourself. Ignorance, not you, is to blame. Understanding this makes forgiveness possible.”
So what am I getting at?
Act, write and continue doing the worldly activities that your jiva loves to do, D!
Obviously, if you engage in adharmic activities then you’re going to suffer the shitty fruits (i.e. mental or physical agitation), which is something you’d want to avoid as an inquirer. So some discipline and clarity from your side is required. But other than that, the world’s your oyster.
It’s good that you’re working out some unhealthy vasanas. Do this whilst being gentle with and loving yourself.
To help deal with unhelpful vasanas and activities, I’d add the principle behind the teaching of dristha/adristha phalla, the seen and unseen results.
Whenever those unhelpful urges arise, before acting upon them, take a moment to evaluate the end result. Meditate on the unseen result – the result that comes afterwards. Weigh it up against the immediate result in light of your values, and ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”
Granted – this takes some discipline, but the more you flex your “values muscle” the easier it gets and slowly these unhelpful vasanas will fade as satisfaction from living your values is where the true honey’s at.
The question to ask yourself is: “What do I value most?” If moksa is truly the most important thing to you, then your sadhana needs to exclude as much as possible the activities that agitate (rajas) and distract/dull (tamas) the mind, and promote above all others those that promote sattva – peace of mind. For self-inquiry to work and self-knowledge to obtain in the mind, rajas and tamas have to be brought into balance with sattva.
But again, this does not mean becoming a monk. It just means acting and engaging in activity with intelligence. Assert a bit of discipline, but take it easy on yourself.
No need to doubt, D. You’re on the Vedanta bus, so you can relax knowing very well that you’ll be taken care of. Be patient and continue to apply the teachings with unblind faith (shraddha).
If you’ve not yet read James’ book How to Attain Enlightenment, then this is what I suggest your next move be. And if you’ve already read it, read it again. Repetition is key.
You’re most welcome to write to me anytime.
~ With love, Doodleji
D: Doodle, thank you so much for your response. It’s so helpful to get a calm and clear perspective during times of turbulence. I will meditate on the points you raise and read or reread James’s book (I can’t remember which ones I have and haven’t read).
All the best to you, brother.