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Factors Necessary for Action
Andy: Hi, James. Thanks for your reply. I just wanted to make sure I was clear on your point. You said, “The reason for discriminating between self and ‘not-self’ is to break your attachment to the objects appearing in you. Once you are free of your attachment to the objects, you realize you are the subject, the self. You can negate everything except the self. Then you realize, ‘I am the self.’ Then when you look at the objects from the self’s point of view, you realize that all the objects are the self, they are you and therefore you are free of them. And you can enjoy them without attachment, as they are you.”
So as I understand it, discrimination should goes something like this:
“I am complete, whole, ordinary, actionless awareness. Andy, thoughts, emotions, desires and all other objects are just objects in me, awareness. I am them, but they are not me. They are dependent on me, the self.”
This would be the initial practice to break attachment to objects. Then in time the understanding that everything is actually the self flows naturally from that.
James: Yes. The “not-self” teaching is an intermediate but necessary stage in the process of inquiry. It is important to note that the negation is not merely intellectual. In other words, you can’t just dismiss the objects without having actually tried to make them work. For example, you can say that romantic love is “not-self,” but you will still long for it if you have not tried it and understood its limitations. Or you can say that money is “not-self” and still be attached to it. The Neo teachings that willy nilly dismiss everything as “unreal” are ill-considered for this reason. A mature person will have more or less eliminated everything as “not-self” through intelligent living. Now that seeking has become a lifestyle followed by many young people, you find so called “enlightened” young people who claim they are beyond the ego and its interest in objects purely on the basis of the belief that denial of objects constitutes enlightenment. But if you observe their behavior you find them chasing things they have never experienced just like the unenlightened.
Andy: I also wanted to ask about the “no doer” teaching. Is the ego taking responsibility for action similar to a person in a car saying, “I am driving,” because the person would just be the conscious being, who only initiates an action? The whole car would be the body where everything takes place, the parts would be the organs and means of action (like wheels, engine, axles etc.). The gas would be the energy (prana, petroleum) and the road or landscape would be the field where the driving occurs. So in this case, the idea that, “I am driving,” is just a notion because the driver is just a piece of the puzzle. It would be like the wheel saying, “I am driving.” None of the parts can actually claim to be doing the driving. Therefore there is no driver.
James: Excellent, Andy! I love this metaphor.
Andy: In reference to a person, would that be like the ego saying, “I am walking,” or a foot saying, “I am walking,” when in fact they are just one of many factors involved in the walking. They can’t claim ownership to the action. And furthermore, ownership of action cannot be claimed, because reality is non dual, making action impossible in the first place.
James: The purpose of this teaching is to show that the doer is only one small cog in the karmic machine, that all the parts are required for action, the point being that the doer need not take responsibility for anything other that the appropriateness and timeliness of its action. Taking responsibility for something that is not in your hands is foolish.
Andy: A continuation of that thread is a question I have about free will. The ego is supposed to have choice regarding its actions, right? But if everything is the result of past actions and vasanas there may actually be no free will, correct? The ego may think it chooses when in reality it is just playing out its programming. If this was the case it would be terrible to be Andy because he would just be playing out life like a puppet on vasana strings. But since I am awareness, if Andy has no free will then no big deal. What is your take on that?
James: Got it in one! The ego has free will if it thinks it has free will. When you look at it from the point of view of the total, the karma/dharma field, the field causes action, not the individual. When you understand that you are awareness you are quite happy to let Andy mindlessly dance to Isvara’s tune. As long as Andy thinks he is Andy he has limited free will.
Andy: Okay, I’ve got several other questions I am eagerly awaiting to ask, but I will hold off for now. I guess I got a little caught up in the book and didn’t take the time to email the questions I had written down. As far as the book goes, I have to say that it is great. I find myself sometimes laughing out loud at some of the examples you use because it almost seems like the teachings have been tailor-made for my needs. Plus, I enjoy some good sarcasm and a little criticism of certain spiritual ideas too. It seems like even though you know you are not a person that you know all about being a person. Whereas a lot of teachers seem very aloof, your approach is very down to earth and real (and not self-righteous, thank goodness).
All right, thanks a million.
James: So far, your understanding is flawless.