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Finally Getting It
Kumar: Dear Ram, thanks for your detailed replies. I am reading Chapter II again with new eyes. Just for clarification, is your position a philosophical difference between the two schools of thought, Yogacara and Samkhya, or do you think it has epistemological origins? I am fine either way, but I am curious to know what you think.
Ram: It is not my position, Kumar. It is just what sruti says. Vedanta is not a school of thought. It is means of knowledge for the self. It borrows some ideas from Samkhya and it treats Yoga as a means for purifying the mind. It does not accept Yoga as means of enlightenment.
Kumar: Despite being born and raised in India, most of my education was in the US, so I am not so solid on Vedanta. Most of my reading was on Krishnamurti (J.K. and U.G.) , Maharaj and Sadhu Om/David Godman on Ramana. However, I am unclear what Ramana said in Tamil. I have been following Sadhu Om’s writings for a while.
Ram: This problem is that none of them taught Vedanta. You only get bits and pieces based on their personal experience and the interpreted “knowledge” which is not always knowledge. To crack the ignorance-code you need a comprehensive means of self-knowledge. The arguments in my book are not “my” arguments. They are just the arguments of sruti, i.e. Vedanta.
Kumar: From my understanding and reading of Sadhu Om’s book on Ramana, I think what Ramana calls the “I-sense” and what Maharaj calls the “I AM-ness” are one and the same. This is not a mystical state by any means.
Ram: This is knowledge.
Kumar: How is this knowledge? This is a recognition of a state, like “I am awake” or “I am feeling happy.” For any state to exist there has to be a recognition of that state, otherwise there is no way you can know the existence of a particular state. Recognition is an experiential process?
Are you trying to tell me that the recognizer of any state is awareness? If that is true, then there is nothing much left to do except be in it.
Ram: That is precisely what I am saying. But you cannot “be in it.” You can only be it. Your language is hanging you up, Kumar. It is totally experiential. Vedanta is just statements of fact. You either get them or not. There is nothing for you to be or do, just something to understand.
Kumar: I was told to never let go of this feeling of “I AM” until it becomes a continuous experience.
Ram: This is dumb advice because no feeling is under the control of the experiencer, the doer. The teacher is unskillful. I doubt that he is what he says he is, if he is purporting to teach moksa. Why? Because he is addressing you as the doer, the experiencer. He needs to reveal awareness first, then bring in the doer so you are not confused. But by this instruction he immediately tells you that you are the doer, the experiencer, and because you do not know better you accept his advice.
Kumar: This is exactly what Maharaj says in his teaching, so did Sadhu Om and Annamalai Swami. They all said “grasp the I-sense and trace it back to the root.” Robert Adams, who is a student of Ramana, says the same thing. However, I am not clear if this is what Ramana said.
Ram: They were all addressing the ego, the doer. Once the doer has “grasped” and “traced” it is still a doer, isn’t it? Moksa is freedom from the doer. The reason they say this is because they have no way to negate the doer, because they do not have a proper means of self-knowledge, only their own experience. If you can do it, then do it. But you cannot do it. The doings are for purification of the mind, not for moksa. Ramana says emphatically, “Only by knowledge is the self to be gained,” although he made other statements that seem to contradict this.
There is a difference between a jnani and a srotriya, someone who can wield a valid means of knowledge like Vedanta. They were all jnanis, but they were not proper teachers.
You will notice that I am not addressing you as a doer, an experiencer. I am addressing you as awareness. You can only understand this as awareness. The doer cannot understand. To teach the doer is a waste of time. Vedanta works because it speaks to awareness and objectifies the doer. When you speak to the doer you have to objectify awareness, but you cannot objectify awareness. It is not an object. It is you. You are not an object.
Kumar: Maybe continuous experience is a wrong word, abide in the I AM. Is that a correct word? Without doubt, the experiencer is cognizant of the I AM. I am using experiencer and the ME synonymously; please correct me if I am wrong.
Ram: “Abide” implies a duality, someone that abides and something that one abides in. So both words are unhelpful.
But you finally got to the crux of this issue. ME and the experiencer are not the same. They are both consciousness, but they are not the same. The experiencer is not conscious. It seems to be conscious. The ME, awareness, is conscious. It lends awareness to the experiencer, the subtle body, and when maya, ignorance, is operating, awareness thinks it is an experiencer.
Kumar: In summary, I totally agree with you that experiencer (the key operative word) is more important that the experience and the focus should be on the “I” having the experience.
Ram: This is incorrect. The “focus” should be on how the “I” having the experience is known. There is another factor that you are ignoring. It is you, awareness.
Kumar: Maybe I misunderstand “knowledge.” How are you defining knowledge?
Ram: What cannot be negated is knowledge. The experiencer can be negated insofar as the subtle body does not exist in deep sleep and awareness has no bodies. The self is knowledge because you cannot negate it. It never ceases to be. You never cease to be.
Kumar: How is the “I” experience known?
Ram: By you, awareness. For experience you need a knower. (Gita, Chapter XII.) Experience is awareness, but awareness is not experience.
Kumar: If I understand you correctly, this is it. There is nowhere else to go except be. The very effort to change something or become something means that you are not acknowledging your self-existing awareness.
Ram: Yes, indeed. Now you are thinking. This is why the exhortations by those gurus that you refer to above are not useful. They make it seem as if you can attain awareness, experience awareness, as an object. You are awareness. There is nothing you can do about it except understand who you are.
Kumar: Awareness exists by itself, it is free. I get that. But I am not able to tease out the awareness from the experiencer. I am sorry, but I have no idea how to recognize the difference between awareness and the experiencer.
Ram: Now you are onto something! This is the crux of moksa. When you can discriminate awareness from the experiencer, you are free.
Kumar: I should go back and read your book again.
Ram: Yes, but this time throw out everything you know about spirituality and read it with an open mind. You need to sign on to the logic at every step. It is good if you get the hard drive with the videos of the teaching to watch as you read the book. There are one hundred hours of Vedanta, starting with the basics, including Atma Bodh, Vivekachoodamani and the Bhagavad Gita for $200 plus postage. If you return the hard drive, it is $150. You actually need to be taught. When you read, you interpret, and if you do not know who you are, which you wouldn’t if you are reading books on enlightenment, you will definitely misunderstand. If you are qualified and you are taught, you cannot misunderstand. Some say the videos are even better than live teaching because you can rewind and go over teachings that are not clear. Vedanta is a complete means of self-knowledge. It is away beyond any teacher’s experience. But a jnani can teach it if he or she learns the methodology. The jnanis you mention did not know the methodology, so they say things that are confusing. The methodology resolves the many apparent contradictions that appear when you have two apparently different things, i.e. the subject, awareness, and the objects appearing in it.
Kumar: In summary, I agree with your approach, but I find it hard to believe that knowledge can solve the condition of a human being. Adi Shankara was an ascetic, practiced austerities and was probably influenced by the Yogacara school, since his teacher Gaudapada took elements of it in his teachings. I really get what you are saying, but I am not sure if I had met you 10 years ago I would have grasped the essence of your teaching. Surely, my meditation and practice must have helped reach a state where I can understand your teachings?
Ram: Yes, indeed. Practice is absolutely essential, but it only prepares the mind for jnanam. Once the mind is prepared it is capable of understanding. In your case you are ready, but you got confused on the knowledge and experience issue. This is a universal confusion, so don’t feel bad. My book has been successful and prepared people are flocking to hear Vedanta from me because the experience/knowledge argument makes complete sense to them. To beginners it makes no sense. Once you quit trying to abide in the self or experience the self or grasp the self, you are well on your way. Then you can expose your mind to a proper teaching.
I am not putting down these great souls. They are probably jnanis, but they are not proper teachers. Ramana never said he was a teacher. He made no attempt to resolve the contradictions in his statements. Vedanta has resolved every possible contradiction.
I don’t know how you can use Shankara to buttress your argument. There is no one more clear about self-knowledge being moksa than Shankara.
Kumar: Thank you for taking the time to clear my doubts.
Ram: It is my pleasure, Kumar.