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Sundari: I will reply in more detail soon, but I highly recommend you read James’ book The Yoga of Love. It will answer all your questions about religion and devotion. Here is an excerpt from an inquirer about this book:
Dear James and Sundari, I am writing to thank you both for the book The Yoga of Love. I spent many years in dualistic devotion, five years in Catholic monastic life (what was I thinking?!) followed by ten years of Zen nonsense (hey, that’s what it is!). Eventually, I came across the so-called “non-duality” of the Rupert Spira kind (they mean well), and finally James’ clear exposition of Vedanta four years ago.
I hope the above biographical detail gives the context for why I consider The Yoga of Love your most important book. In short, it is a masterly guide to transitioning out of religious delusion into freedom (true religion). One doesn’t wake up one morning and do “no-thing” (the latest non-duality fad, aka Tony Parsons).
Your book is a wonderful guide to what ought to be done – living one’s program, one’s dharma, one’s duty, including study of Vedanta and that which supports it all – correct worship (self-inquiry, seeing God in everything).
Next time I see a book of yours with a title that makes me squirm a bit, I will buy it first, not leave it till last or possibly never (lesson learned, follow the teacher’s advice). Thank you both for teaching Vedanta so clearly and with great skill.
Saru: I begin to smile. ☺ It, I, may be far from being “done” – but at least I think clearly. When not, I leave it, and half the time I don’t think.
Many questions to answer, but now I know that the answers actually exist and the funniest of them all doesn’t speak. So that’s good. I will get the book later, got to pay first some bills.
Sundari: Self-inquiry requires thinking, Saru. In fact it will stretch the intellect in ways nothing else can.
Which “I” do you mean? The one that does not speak does not need to be “done.” The Self never was “undone.” The “I” identified with the body-mind needs to learn to discriminate between satya and mithya. That’s the whole point of Self-inquiry. It sounds easier said than done.
Saru: Here’s a small joke: the ego hopes to have a soul; the soul wishes not to have an ego.
Sundari: The ego is just a thought wrongly associated with and identified with objects, so it is always worried and confused, desperately trying to pretend otherwise. The jiva/doer/ego seeks outside of itself for validation, never finding it. The soul, on the other hand, which is another name for the jivatman, the Self, has no wishes and certainly, no ego. How can it? It is the only reality, there is nothing outside of it. See the attached a list of facts about awareness and the jiva.
Saru: Your timing is perfect. I am already happy to receive your response. You show me where I missed out on clarity. I found the reason why I write to you also. I do not trust my intellect much, but Vedanta is super logical. So I try to discern between quickness of understanding, to be quick mentally and real understanding. One thought or sight popping up, a sentence of a text or a comment from you or James can occupy me for days, losing sight on everything else, of things that also must be taken care of.
Sundari: It can be a bonus for Self-inquiry to have a good intellect, and it can also be a stumbling block. Highly intelligent people tend to be attached to and identified with the way they think, and mental agility. Vedanta requires a completely different way of thinking, so however accomplished the mind is, it needs to learn how to think according to the scripture, not according to its own ideas. This can be difficult for some.
Saru: This makes me sloppy also, both in daily life and understanding. To keep track of daily demands, social stuff, paperwork – physical work sets that somewhat straight.
Sundari: It is not always easy to manage our lives as well as undertake Self-inquiry, but if your life is very tamasic, not sattvic, and does not conform to dharma, Self-inquiry will be very difficult.
Saru: To be clear, it seems that I begin to swallow that Vedanta has to “stamp out” my mind a whole lot more – I am fickle and ignorant more than I like to admit.
Sundari: Good – admit it. Acknowledging how little the mind really knows is a very good thing, essential for Self-inquiry in fact.
Saru: If you think that this mind of mine is too problematic for the level of your teaching, I really want to know. I often get that impression. I am too dark for Vedanta, but everything in me goes there. I feel stupid, although I know I am not exactly stupid. (If IQ says anything, that aspect is rather high and fast – but useless if it has nothing to chew on that is of any real substance, the very problem I had in philosophy and art, and so battled against – without wanting a “war” between me and, well, almost all of Western philosophy: the total denial of Being, the human analyzed as a “locked-up figure” by means of “subjectivity,” horror ending up in nihilism and carnival. This jiva-me, somehow, had to remodel and brainwash himself outside of culture/society to rid myself of a very dark vision of life. But this battle also brought me to Vedanta).
Sundari: If you are truly on board with the methodology Vedanta offers and stick to it with great dedication, you are on the Vedanta bus. Make sure you are very clear about the qualifications required, track yourself on them. Nothing in the world offers any real solution to man’s existential problems, because there are none, other than Self-knowledge.
Saru: On your question of what yogis I listen to, I read a piece from Swami Dayananda from time to time. Hisamatsu Shin’ichi (or Zen in general). Taoism helps my sight-sense – seeing the end of seeing somehow. I bounce things against Vedanta, sometimes finding overlaps, and often Vedanta shines through a lack in other texts. I aim at non-dual vision, even if vision is not the ultimate, for attention is still a dividing thing also – but – if I get it, discernment makes attention a function of knowledge – not guessing.
Sundari: Swami D is an excellent choice; the others will not give you much in terms of Self-inquiry. One of the three main vasanas that Swami Dayananda lists as being the hardest to neutralize is the addiction to other scriptures. Stick to Vedanta. You won’t go wrong and will only confuse yourself by reading other stuff. There is nothing that compares to Vedanta, and faith in the scripture is one of the main qualifications for Self-inquiry.
Saru: I can discern between the lack of knowledge of the Neos (or my own, for that matter) and yours or James’. Some of my philosophical endeavour is still useful. I learned to discern between information and what is “not said” that should be said, strictly speaking, if one claims to convey knowledge.
Sundari: What do you mean by discerning between the Neos lack of knowledge and James’ and mine? The Neos do not have a real teaching, whereas James and I teach only Vedanta, which is not our teaching and certainly has no lack of knowledge. It is the whole picture, the whole truth about you, the Self.
Saru: But mostly I take the terms, apply them to what I experience and so see the structure of the jiva. I check whether I can see with some love also.
Sundari: Make sure that applying the teachings of Vedanta means you check the jiva against the scripture, not the other way around. And what do you mean by terms? For instance, are you applying karma yoga?
Saru: This last weekend all was transparent. No thoughts bugging me. No introspection, there was nothing to introspect or inquire. I think this was a step-non-step. Conversation with people didn’t disturb it. All was relatively clear and didn’t matter for the time being. The “dark night of soul” or ranting epiphanies are somewhat decreasing, finally. These things kept me away from normal life. All my life I was looking for a mentor, but that didn’t work. So I took life as a mentor and began to see/think close to the witness. I didn’t know really what I was doing of course. ☺
Sundari: It sounds like your mind is getting more sattvic. Life is a great teacher, no doubt. But it does not help much if you don’t understand what life is, who you are as a jiva and your common identity with life as awareness. Without a valid means of knowledge such as the scripture, you will not know what you are doing, because you will not be able to discriminate between knowledge and ignorance. Vedanta is the ultimate mentor because it is who you really are – bedrock Truth. But you need to be taught by a qualified teacher because you have so many contradictory thoughts in the way, and no doubt will interpret the scriptures according to how you think.
Saru: Now I see that this intellect has been building something only to look through itself. I hoped that it is a phase or stage and I take it to be so; that means to trust Vedanta – or at least discipline myself to the knowledge.
Sundari: As I said above, without a proper means of knowledge, the intellect does not know how to properly discriminate and will perceive life through the subjective lens of the likes and dislikes that condition it, so disciplining yourself to trust the scripture and to make sure it unfolds in every aspect of your life is your sadhana. Stick to it.
Saru: Do I see it right when the deep-sleep, dream and waking states are stacked up or are each other? Sometimes I get the impression I see all of them at once, forming maya in that way, not in any “mystical mood” but by consequence or order relative to the Self.
Sundari: All three states are in Maya and are the only “states” of experience available for the jiva; if you look at them as the jiva, you experience them separately, although there is the waking aspect of the dream state and the dreaming aspect of the waking state. Both the waking and dream states are a dream, and in the dream of Maya, as is the deep-sleep state. The major difference between the waking and dream state is that in the waking state the ego thinks it is real and identifies with objects and in the dream state you know that the ego/objects are not real once you wake up. The deep-sleep state is when consciousness is identified with the causal body and all vasanas are resolved into it. It is a state of non-transactional bliss, but because there is no knowledge present, it does not resolve ignorance. And like all states, it ends. But if you see all three states as the Self you will know that none of them affect you, as you are the only constant factor in all three states.
Saru: I am not matter. But thought is that discernment feels quite daunting, but true. I hope I can make peace with matter – mind seems to be matter too, of a subtle sort, but I want to wake up from its dream state completely.
Sundari: Thought and mind are subtle matter. Matter, whether gross or subtle, is not real – it is mithya – apparently real, meaning not always present and always changing. You, the Self, or awareness, are satya, that which is real – always present and unchanging. You cannot wake up, because you never went to sleep. Only the jiva, the Self under the spell of ignorance, can “wake up,” so to speak, from the sleep of ignorance. But it’s an apparent waking because the Self is never actually bound by ignorance. And only Self-knowledge has the power to wake you up.
Saru: It feels that I must stand up in let’s say sattvic mode and correct bad habits, as you say. Plenty of them – smoking is one of them. I threw out an old “picture” of God some years ago; I “killed” that God-notion in a rage for all kinds of reasons. That was quite a visual trip and I felt more love for my anger at God than for God – or existence.
Sundari: If you want to be free of the limited, emotional and suffering small identity as the jiva, you need to be sure you have the qualifications for Self-inquiry and stick to your sadhana. Freedom from the jiva requires rendering binding vasanas non-binding and neutralizing the sense of doership. There is no fine print to that. Please make sure you understand what karma yoga is and apply it to every thought, word and deed.
Saru: You speak of devotion in relation to the anger you sense. The anger you sense in me is that; I do not feel any respect for anything that says “devotion” (the image I had of God, or the field) while so much pain and numbness just surround me, increased rather, without any freedom. I really felt “I do not need that, this – or to be at all. If this is it, I rather ‘not-be,’ so fuck God.” Why fall that deep, be so mad? I do not want to be disrespectful. But I am often, or was, hopefully.
Anyway – that may have had its use, but became self-indulgent; so thank you! You brought back this sense of devotion.
Sundari: Good, devotional practice, converting all emotional disturbance into devotion to the Self is a vital part of Self-inquiry, and of course to neutralize the ego/doer, the small limited self. Please make sure you read The Yoga of Love, as it will correct your thinking about what or who God is.
Saru: I made so many mistakes out of ignorance – to know not to know is quite a conscious hell. But I hardly dare to say it – sometimes I see that Isvara is “doing” the jiva; seeing “myself,” others and everything else as Isvara. In that perspective and by consequence that “vision” puts “me” as the Self – or somewhere in the middle of Self and Things; the witness in opaque state and a clearer one; to just be. I want to “grow up.” At least I tasted some of that now. Thank you again. I hope to see Isvara completely some day.
Sundari: Everyone makes mistakes without firm Self-knowledge, it is unavoidable, as under the deluding spell of Maya you will take what is only apparently real to be real. I am not sure how dedicated you are to proper Self-inquiry, but if you are and you follow the methodology of Vedanta, it will address all your doubts and mental disturbances. We have a 12-month free course on our website which covers the whole methodology and offers the correct questions to ask as well as the answers to them. If freedom from suffering is important to you, commit yourself to it. Don’t write back unless you are stuck with a proper inquiry, not with ramblings about what you are or are not experiencing. I can only help you if you are serious about your Self-inquiry, which I think you are.
Saru: One last thing: I didn’t get what James meant with “fake it till you make it.” To know the Self as the Self is a stance one cannot claim, yet I do in some sense, and it does put the “me” out (and bursts into laughter sometimes ☺) – I don’t know how to formulate it exactly – but since it is true that “I am” I might as well “take it” – i.e. to be the case, true, a fact. But I do not lie when sadhana is just at its beginnings.
So, what do I not get here?
Sundari: By “fake it till you make it” Ramji means if you are not convinced you are the Self, act as if you are because this “faking” is not faking. You are the Self, but if your knowledge is indirect, i.e. you know what the Self is but do not yet understand what it means to be the Self (Self-actualized), then you need to go through all the steps of Self-inquiry, which is what I sent you. Taking a stand in awareness as awareness and thinking the opposite thought whenever a contrary thought arises in the mind is “the work” of Self-inquiry. It’s not easy, but there is no other way to end suffering for the jiva.
Once you do know who you are the Self, you absolutely can claim to be. Why would you not? Assuming of course that it is not the ego claiming to be the Self, or “enlightened,” which is what we call “enlightenment sickness.” In this case, the ego has co-opted the knowledge because it is still identified with being a person as its primary identity. As the Self you are neither enlightened nor unenlightened, you are the source of all light, the knower of the enlightened or unenlightened jiva. You have never not been the Self, the Light, but ignorance (superimposition of duality on non-duality) stood in the way of this firm knowledge. Please read through all that I sent you before writing again.
~ Om, Sundari