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Experience Is Sometimes Available, Knowledge Is Always Available
Sundari: Hey, Christian. Good to hear from you! I have answered your questions briefly, not that they need answering! You seem to have it sorted.
Christian: Yes, karma yoga is the only way. There was definitely a time in my life – not too long ago – that I would’ve maxed out my Visa card in the hopes of having the deepest of enlightenments. Add to that a love of all things traditional, i.e. wanting to study in the temple of an orange-robed sage that chose me from thousands and with whom I wash his/her feet daily and get THE ENLIGHTENMENT! But now, through the karma yoga way and, more accurately, the teachings of Vedanta, I am okay with this whole unfolding business in a basement in Nebraska. The ego wants to make such a big deal of it all, and all the more so when the seeking has been occurring for years.
Sundari: Yes, indeed this desire for the whole traditional experience is a tenacious and over-rated myth. If you have ever been to India, you will see it wholesale! It is a joke to see the poseurs who think they are achieving something with the whole charade. A traditional discipleship can be a beautiful thing, no doubt about it, but it is certainly not a necessity. James was very fortunate to have had the real thing, but his sadhana was the real thing too, and what’s more, the well-earned grace of Vedanta found him when he had given up the whole spiritual scene. His story may sound very romantic and sublime, but few have any idea what James went through and what he was prepared to give up to have the journey he had.
That is not to say that if you don’t have it you are missing out. It is important to see that spirituality is not about having a special experience but is about self-knowledge. Knowledge is available anywhere, anytime, every moment of every day. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are dealing with the gunas as they disturb or compose your mind with likes and dislikes. So knowledge of them is essential for self-inquiry. In many ways continuing sadhana while taking care of your karma is much more difficult than the ashram experience – and is a truly beautiful way to purify the mind. How easy it is just be given a robe, a mat, simple food and your every moment devoted to study of scripture, devotion and contemplation. Give yourself a spouse, small children and all that goes with taking care of householder karma and see how easy it is to stay focused on the self! As you know, with karma yoga you take everything as prasad, consecrate it all and bring your every thought back to the self.
You can also track those gunas. If you can catch them before they bite it’s like getting out of jail free! They are the governing factors in the creation of vasanas, i.e. your likes and dislikes – and they will quickly get burnt up by observing them. Any form of inquiry is beautiful; there is no better or worse, there is just what is. Your knowledge is there, trust it to do the work for you.
The point of self-realisation is to realise that you are the point! When you know who you are you contact all objects happily instead of contacting them for happiness. This is James’ favourite quote and defines enlightenment perfectly. Another quote from the great Ramji: “Life goes on and has nothing to do with you. Spirituality is how you relate to it.”
Christian: I would love to Skype just to say hi and maybe address the last email or smaller points that come up in “real time.” In the meantime, however, there is one small question which I think I know the answer to. I am the self. I know I am the self. The ego will never be enlightened, because the ego, Christian, is the self, me, in a particular form. It is nothing but a thought randomly appearing at times, and that reflection is awareness itself in form. So with this logic, why even bother anymore, because everything I inquire into is the self, me.
Sundari: Yes, you do know the answer to this. The ego is the self under the apparent spell of ignorance. It seems to have this form which goes by the name of Christian, but the self, you, are beyond all names and forms because you never change. The reflection is a mirage. It is not real. Nothing ever happened. If you know this without a doubt, there is no reason to bother anymore, because it means you understand the meaning of life.
Christian: Please let me know if my statements are accurate… or even necessary: assimilation of the knowledge is knowing that I am the self.
Sundari: Yes, this is self-realisation. Self-actualisation happens when the knowledge is properly assimilated. It renders the binding vasanas non-binding and negates the sense of doership.
Christian: Self-realization is understanding that there is no real seeker, that I am the sought because desire is really a thought, the thought is awareness and therefore whole and complete; therefore (non)fulfillment of this thought is arbitrary. And suffering ends when everything is seen to be mithya, dependent on satya, me.
Sundari: This is a confusing way of putting it, but if you are saying that as the self all objects are known to be you, although you are always free of the objects, then yes, this is correct. “Non-fulfillment” is the wrong word, because the akhandakara vritti is just knowledge, which puts an end to the ignorance when you realise your true nature to be the self. Therefore it is not arbitrary in that unless this knowledge is firm, ignorance is not removed. Arbitrary for whom? Which I are you talking about? It presupposes a doer, and knowledge is object-dependent, so no will is involved.
When the knowledge that you are awareness is firm, suffering does not end abruptly, as there may be prarabdha karma in the form of deep-seated binding tendencies (pratibandikas) to still work out, but they will be observed as objects and known for what they are. What does not get cleared up before self-realisation will take place after or freedom is not freedom.
Christian: Self-actualization is applying the opposite thought. It is when awareness (because Christian is not real) loses apparent ignorance of itself (because bondage is a notion that is really awareness). Self-actualization is the stage where I’m at (for lack of a better word)… gaining the confidence in the knowledge… until one fine day the last vestiges of ignorance are gone, and POOF… I’m cooked! I just need to keep inquiring and apparently rewiring Christian to think from my point of view.
Sundari: Self-actualisation is moksa, freedom from all thoughts. Applying the thought, “I am awareness,” is self-inquiry. It is opposite to the habitual thought, “I am small, inadequate and incomplete.” Yes, the rest of your thinking is correct. James says self-actualisation is where the rubber meets the road – a GREAT life for the jiva as a result of realising your true nature. The self is self-aware, as you know, so moksa is for the jiva. What good is the knowledge if it does not offer the doer freedom from the doer in day-to-day life? As unreal as it may be, the world is here to stay. Ignore it at your peril.
Christian: I know there are no stages of enlightenment, because there is no enlightenment really, which is the greatest cosmic joke. You don’t have to respond to these questions now if you’re busy. We can do it via Skype.
With great love from me and my family to you and yours (including the holy Sri Sri Ramji!).
Sundari: His Holiness, who is the most senior member of the GCSS (Galactic Council of Saints and Sages), is very busy with official affairs (having a nap) and when he wakes up, I will respectfully pass on your very lovely wishes. ☺
Much love to you and all your beautiful family.