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Mark: Dear Ramji, thank you for your response. Some thoughts and intent on my part follow.
At the same time most highly intelligent people think they can figure out everything on their own, which they usually can as far as relative knowledge is concerned.
My perspective on intelligence is that “human intelligence” is an oxymoron. How can I, as a subset of something larger, comprehend via that larger thing? It seems like hubris to assume otherwise, but maybe there is no “subset.”
James: There is and there isn’t. Our view is that everything is just knowledge and that what you know and don’t know can either help or hinder you. Of course there are certain things the human mind can never know, how a sperm and egg become a living being, etc. So the omniscience one gains through Vedanta is not the omniscience of God, who knows the details of everything and creates and destroys everything. Self-knowledge is the knowledge of the essence of everything. The Upanishad rhetorically asks, “What is it, knowing which, everything is as good as known?” That I am full, adequate, free and immortal is all I need to know to be completely satisfied here.
(Mark came to a teaching and meditated on the energy, reflected awareness, and thought the words were irrelevant, so I told him that he missed the point. The idea in Vedanta is to assimilate the words and dismiss the energy, even though it is a pleasurable experience.)
Mark: I thought the knowledge was a comprehension of the energies, the nature of the universe, as it were. My meditation for the past 34 years has been on tying up the little mind with things to do, like pranyama, that I may focus on the silent radiance of energy.
James: Yes, I understood this right away. Let me put it this way: If you were to comprehend the universe as energies, what would your life be like? Would you be peaceful and happy and problem-free? Our view is that energy is not the nature of the universe, although the universe is energy. It certainly seems so to materialists, but Vedanta reveals the ever-present radiant substrate of the energetic universe, which happens to be none other than your own essence, discovering which you discover that you are full, adequate, free and immortal.
The problem with energy is that there is no way to determine its nature insofar as it is never the same from one moment to the next. So knowledge of it does not translate into a fulfilled life. On the contrary, the quest to know it just leads to more questing insofar as every bit of knowledge reveals further ignorance. Modern physics is a case in point.
Most people in the spiritual world – not to mention the worldly world – are energy-seekers, worshipers. It is their idea of “God.” Well, it is God insofar as it creates the universe, but so what? It doesn’t solve the love problem, the anxiety problem, the security problem, etc. Energy has a context; it is a “subset” of existence/consciousness, which is energy-free. Where there is no energy, there is total peace, total silence, total bliss. The mind comes to rest. Energy is restless, and a mind meditating on it is a restless mind.
Finally, there is only one mind and it should be committed to inquiry, not distracted with various yogic practices. Practice is good for purifying the mind, but it will not set you free of “energy,” i.e. the world and your thoughts. Its core practice should be self-inquiry, which involves dismissing objects, which are energy.
Mark: What I perceived was not anything I actually “saw.” I would have experienced the same with my eyes shut; it was a “knowing,” if you want a better word for it.
James: Yes. Seeing is a metaphor for knowing. The point, however, as I said above, is that knowing energy gets you nowhere existentially, because energy isn’t real. You are still Mark, just a mixture of energies that is changing “you” as we speak. Most people would not describe their experience in a satsang as “seeing energy,” although many people “see” it. Our point is that the experience/knowledge of energy is not possible unless there is something or someone seeing it. The words of Vedanta, which perhaps seem unnecessary to energy-worshipers, reveal the one that knows the energy, which happens to be the real you. Energy is not self-knowing. It is inert. It only means something if you aren’t it. If you are energy, you will never understand yourself.
Because of your orientation, you probably didn’t realize that my fame is basically due to pointing out the unreality of energy to energy-worshipers. Most people start off in the spiritual world chasing energy, i.e. experience, with the idea that they are going to actualize some sort of perfect energy state, i.e. happiness. After a while they become aware that this is not going to happen, because they don’t control energy. Energy happens by dint of the gunas. So they were ready to let go of this approach solely on the basis of the logic of non-dual reasoning and give the knowledge approach a try. Energy is totally fickle. You feel one thing one minute, something else the next. See how your mind, which is energy, is starting to change recently. You don’t think you’ll change your mind and then change it at will. It changes and then you notice it changed. If you take to Vedanta it will definitely change because you will gain mastery of the mind.
Mark: The approach with reference to Vedanta is that the scriptures are to be held without judgment until one can know them. I have held a similar approach for 40 years or so, to not believe anything, rather hold it as a possibility with potential for misperception or inability to properly perceive. I gleaned this from the Eden expulsion story, the fruit of the tree of good and evil is the mental misperception by labeling something, causing the mind to remember the label the mind applied, and experience the label rather than the “now” with what was labeled then.
James: Yes. Faith pending the result of one’s investigation along scriptural lines is the essence of Vedanta. Vedanta is interested in the “now,” to use a term that attracts energy-worshipers. Eckhart Tolle became very rich and famous by equating energy (power) with “now” because most people are energy-worshipers or maybe his own energy worship led him to awareness. We hate the word “now,” which legitimizes time, which is energy and which keeps people trying to actualize something that can’t be actualized, i.e. the experience of “now.” Actually, his “now” is existence/consciousness, which is totally free of energy, i.e. experience/time, and cannot be actualized, because it is one’s innermost essence, the only access to which is knowledge. I can’t help you if you are interested in energy. If you are looking for freedom from energy, i.e. experience, I can probably help.
Mark: I’ve felt a change coming, letting go of unneed things – extra food, less dope, old animosities disappearing – without a conscious decision to do so. So aside from meditation and scriptures, are the aforementioned changes adequate to pursue a Vedantic path?
James: They are positive omens, to be sure. For Vedanta to work, however, you need to actively commit yourself, not wait for things to happen. If your desire is piddling, you get piddling results; if middling, middling results; and if it is burning, you will progress quickly.
The change you felt coming is a case in point. Energy is doing you, causing things to happen. But it doesn’t help in evaluating what happens. Only taking a vantage point beyond energy does.