Search & Read
Denny: Dear Ram, thank you again for taking time to respond. It’s always a blessing to hear from you.
James: I love this email, Denny. I read it to the group at Trout Lake last week.
Denny: It is clear to me now that I could never have come to understand the teachings by reading Ramana and Nisargadatta (or even the Gita and Upanishads) on my own. So the self led me to you, no doubt, when the time was right.
James: It’s true that you can’t read yourself to freedom, particularly when the “teachings” are just one-off statements of a realized soul collected over time by individuals whose spiritual provenance is uncertain and who rendered them in a language that was not their native tongue. One’s preconceived notions of enlightenment will skew one’s interpretation of the words.
Denny: Now I find that the aham and the ahamkara are regularly changing place, and that limited being which I used to think was me is just appearing in me; he is an actor, a body and soul in the self’s dream, produced and directed by Isvara.
James: Yes, if the aham and the ahamkara are known objects, they can’t be you.
Denny: I can’t say that I’m still not free sometimes – because I am and always have been free – but I do continue to get myself confused with the objects. I guess this is just force of habit (“hardwired ignorance”), and just needs more and more practice at viveka and karma yoga until the knowledge is always present. Also, shouldn’t the knowledge that I am fine, always have been and always will be, “transform” the jiva? That guy still gets involved with useless “situations” and involved with objects, worries and so on.
James: “You” don’t intentionally confuse yourself, obviously, ignorance confuses Denny. You are the one that knows the confusion. If you know you are confused, are you confused? It may come as a surprise, but if you know that “the knowledge” refers to you, you needn’t worry about its presence or absence because you are always present. The knowledge just needs to remove the ignorance and, having done so, it disappears back into the causal body and arises if and when it is needed – or not. Actually, all that is required is to know what knowledge is and what ignorance is. One need not remove one and gain the other, though it can’t hurt. It is more a matter of confidence. Having said that – and speaking to Denny, not you – yes, the knowledge will transform the jiva gently in the fullness of time in wonderful ways. Just keep discriminating and looking at action from the karma yoga perspective. Freedom is just a matter of building a hard-and-fast discrimination vasana, killing the ignorance little by little until there is no need for it.
Denny: I have finished reading Edwin’s commentary on Vivekachoodamani (which was excellent, I thought), and I have been watching your video set as well. It is now very clear to me who I am, and the fact that one needs to be clear with oneself about which level one is operating from.
James: Yes, indeed. Liberation is discrimination between satya, the aham, and mithya, the ahamkara, i.e. awareness, and the objects that present themselves to it.
Denny: So I find that I continually (but not constantly) stop a thought “in its tracks” to examine it, and remind myself that it belongs to Isvara’s world and is not me, but it also is me reflecting into “my private world.” And that reflection is “not away from” the mirror.
James: Good on you, Denny. Your practice is proceeding apace. Slow and steady wins the race.
Denny: Just the other evening when walking, it became crystal-clear to me that reality is obviously non-dual, as there can only be one ultimate truth (conscious existence, the self) and that, of course, “that” cannot become anything other. And seeing as I obviously exist, and the self is non-dual, I must be that self. There’s no other option. All objects can only be that ultimate reality appearing as names and forms (experiences), but they have no existence in themselves; they are totally contingent.
James: Yes, indeed. Self-knowledge is only established by reason because you are always awareness. And yes, the objects depend on you, awareness, and not the other way around. Objects are a combination of existence plus name and form. Their existence (sat) is just awareness (chit). The name and form is added by maya/Isvara. Establishing the non-duality of the material world and you is achieved by understanding that existence and awareness are one. It is reasonably easy to see that the awareness (chit) in me and the awareness in other living beings is one, but it is more difficult to understand my identity with gross and subtle material objects since they are not conscious. It is accomplished by appreciating the fact that the existence of objects belongs to awareness, not to the objects, and that the existence and awareness are non-dual. Maya reverses the relationship between awareness and existence. It seems as if the existence of an object belongs to an object, i.e. the tree exists. In this case, the word “exists” is a verb to the noun “tree.” But in reality the sentence should read existence “trees” because existence is the subject to every object, not the object of multiple subjects.
Denny: There was something that I wanted to mention: When I read your last reply, more or less confirming that I (as in the intellect/ego) had “attained the knowledge,” it actually led “me” into a very profound sense of disappointment (almost despair, actually) that lasted several days. I think it was because the doer had secretly been still expecting an enlightenment experience (which was now confirmed not to be coming), and also because of the obvious and correct conclusion that life here really is a zero-sum game. We got through it though, the self obviously unaffected by the whole thing, and the intellect by affirming that this work of Isvara is something incredible for the jiva to be included in, even if it’s all a dream. That profound feeling of disappointment actually turned into a strong desire for liberation which became an inquiry into its cause.
James: Isn’t it strange that the doer seeks like crazy for years, and yet when it becomes a “finder” it gets depressed? You are quite lucky and obviously mature because you got through it in a few days. I have one friend whose doer spent two years in a funk when she realized that she was free and that life was a zero-sum game. You’re right about the reason: the doer is subject to innumerable fantasies, none so enticing as the idea of infinite orgasmic bliss. Once understanding dawns, the doer is very surprised that it is still the same old jerk subject to the same moods, thoughts, etc.
Denny: The other thing that became clear to me today, in terms of the apparent suffering in this samsara, is that the only solution is to go for full liberation, which is just knowledge. It is not possible for jiva to move in any direction (toward any object or experience) in order to get relief, to get free. This world of experiences is like quicksand, and any attempt to move or struggle with it only sinks one further into it. The solution is to “get free” (get knowledge), but who can pull himself out of quicksand? That is why there needs to be the teaching and the teacher by which the student can pull himself out.
James: Yes, indeed. One needs a teacher, an idea that is particularly difficult for entitled Western individualists. The paradoxes created by maya tend to be too subtle to work out oneself, like the idea I presented above that existence “trees.”
Denny: I do have some further questions, if I may. I might be able to just inquire into this myself and get there, but I’ll ask you anyway to be sure. As the limitless self, why is it that my awareness of all the experiences taking place seems to be limited to only those apparently happening to this single entity “here”? And you as the limitless self also are aware of the experiences that are happening over “there.” Is this just a confusion of levels again? Is it just that this is coming from the level of the intellect, and that intellect has no access to the total (only Isvara has that privilege)?
James: Yes. It is the same awareness looking through James as is looking through Denny. But the upadhi, the instrument, limits the knowledge available to awareness. If you want to know what I am thinking, you need to become Isvara. Isvara’s upadhi is maya, all the subtle bodies, so Isvara knows what everyone is thinking all the time. Both jiva’s and Isvara’s upadhis are mithya, in the apparent order of reality. In mithya there are two sub-orders: the total consciousness and the individual consciousness. Isvara has all knowledge, and jiva has limited knowledge. But both Isvara and jiva are ordinary, non-dual awareness, so they are identical on that “level.” As one, they are known as paramatma or brahman.
Denny: It’s not that I want to be a mind-reader, but there is just this doubt: How can you be the limitless self when your awareness of the world appears to be limited to the life of this one jiva? I guess it’s because what I mean above by “your awareness” is actually referring to the reflection of awareness in the subtle body, and the self doesn’t see any world; it only sees the self and that is the same for both of us (not that there’s two of us).
James: Isvara is the key. There are three factors: awareness (paramatma), God (Isvara – the total mind) and the individual (jiva – you, me). Understanding all three and the relationship of one to the other usually resolves every problem.
Denny: Anyway, James, appreciating that you have many enquirers and students to deal with, I’m very grateful for the time you’ve spent with me in this conversation. I’m just going to start again on the texts and videos, because I might as well keep learning as “do” anything else! It also helps with the practice. I’d like to wish you all the best, but I know you already are the very best, the self.
James: It is a pleasure communicating with you, Denny. I am sorry for the delay. This email came in a day or two before Trout Lake, and I was busy teaching five hours a day all week. I wanted to do it justice, so I took my time.
~ Love, James