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James: Hi, Ken.
I understand how passionate you are about Vedanta. It is a gift that keeps on giving. I admire your dedication. And naturally, because no man is an island, you want to share it. But when other people come into the picture there are certain challenges, the world being what it is. In a way, communicating subtle truths about which one feels passionate is more difficult than understanding them because of the “rightness” factor. People don’t necessarily know that what is good for one is good for all. They usually are attached to their ignorance, believing it to be knowledge, and they rarely have the kind of dispassion required to listen without predjudice. They associate the messenger with the message. If there is duality in the messenger’s words or style of communicating, it will upset them, not because the truth is counter-intuitive, but because the spirit in which it is conveyed needs to be commensurate with the truth itself. In short, dharma trumps moksa.
So before you want to share something, you need to establish a loving relationship with the person to whom you are communicating. This is the purpose of karma yoga. Before you open your mouth, consecrate the words to Isvara. You will not presume to be “right,” even if you are, in the presence of God, whereas it is natural to think you are superior to others. If reality is non-dual, which it is, the person to whom you are speaking is God. So you need to find a way to say what may be hard to swallow in a simple, kind, loving, self-deprecating way. To establish rapport, it is very helpful to point out your own limitations before you speak. And when you do speak, you should use words in such a way that they give you lots of wiggle room.
You should say, “I think,” or, “I believe,” not give them the impression that you are “right.” Being “right” makes others “wrong.” Nobody likes to feel as if they are wrong. And they aren’t, because nobody sets out to be wrong, ignorance being what it is. So lest you upset them you can say, “I don’t want you to think I’m a know-it-all,” which means that you are aware of this tendency, but it seems to me (seems is another word that gives you a lot of wiggle room) that there is another perhaps (big wiggle-room factor in this word) way of looking at this issue that may be helpful, not that the way you see it is wrong,” which implies that they are right too.
And at the same time you need to be carefully in touch with the karma yoga attitude. Karma yoga is “right action” and “right attitude.” Right attitude is love. This is why karma yoga is bhakti yoga. There are negative subconscious forces operating in everyone, including Self-realized people, that need to be walled off from the conversation. If your mind is sattvic, it will be easy to recognize them and neutralize them before they have a chance to make trouble. If it is rajasic or tamasic, the wrong words will come out or the right words will come out wrongly.
I’m not criticizing you, Ken. Ego is a principle, the same in everyone. You may be the most selfless person in the world, but this fact is usually only appreciated by you. Mere mortals cannot be expected to appreciate that wonder that you are. So if you want to communicate successfully, you need to display your warts. A successful communicator establishes a solid connection before he or she gets into sensitive topics. I don’t think I am better than them. I actually make myself look worse than I am because it sets people at ease. There wasn’t anyone in that room that was not moved by Terry’s confession of weakness. It was very inspirational because it was honest, transparent, vulnerable. A pure mind is one that has no secrets, is not afraid to let others see into it. A strict judgmental attitude to others’ ignorance isn’t right or wrong; it just doesn’t work. I apologize for making a case about it, but it seems to me that it is an opportunity to serve the Vedanta community here. I think what you guys are doing is very good and it would be a shame if the group broke up because the moderator is creating duality.
~ Much love, James