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Ignore Vasanas or Do Battle with Them?
Petra: I was confused about one point and didn’t have time to ask the question, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer it.
Ram said that you don’t have to worry about your psychological issues – what your mom/dad/society has done to you, because it really doesn’t matter. You are the Self, whole and complete and limitless. We should understand this and be vigilant when these thoughts/ideas come up and dismiss them.
However, he said that when we enter the stage of nididhyasana, some of these psychological issues are deeply embedded samskaras and need to be uprooted and worked through, so I’m not sure why they need to be worked through in the nididhyasana phase but not otherwise.
Sundari: On the tricky question of how to deal with binding vasanas, it’s a both/and, not either/or, as is so often the case in Vedanta. What is so important to understand is that Vedanta is not about perfecting the jiva or making it wrong; it is to understand who and what they are and the forces that condition them, to be free of the identification with the jiva and not modifying to the gunas, which requires guna management. We are all made a certain way and are not to blame for our psychology until we know. When we do, the buck stops there. Yes, of course it’s true that you never made your (not-) self the way it is, but on the other hand, to be free of it requires the application of knowledge. Nididhyasana, the last and most difficult stage of Self-inquiry, applies to all jivas who are glued to their jiva identity and unaware of it because think that because they have realized the Self, they are home and dry. Most inquirers who realize the Self are a long way off from actualizing what it means to live permanently free of the jiva as the Self.
Nididhyasana is a full-scale approach to the jiva’s story, no fine print, full disclosure, total transparency in thought, word and deed. It is not about beating up the jiva, blame or feeling bad about its story. But if one is serious about Self-inquiry, there is no room for making excuses for or protecting the jiva identity – it must be seen for what it is to be dismissed. Only the merciless truth will set you free of the jiva program – and then we can truly accept the jiva as it is. For a pure mind to obtain, there can be no place to hide for the little ego. It must be flushed out. Self-realization is a guarantee that Isvara is going to step up the heat with any detritus still lingering in the microcosmic causal body. Living the teachings means allowing this stuff to surface, see the program, understand its origin as guna/Isvara and only then to dismiss it. There is no way to be truly free of it any other way. You can live with the stuff if you see it all as not-Self and don’t care about the mental agitation it will cause, but then freedom is not that free, is it? The advaita shuffle (I can’t help it, it’s not me, so who cares how I act or treat myself or anybody) is not going to result in limitlessness, for sure.
The point is, do we want to continue being jerks and suffering or do we want to apply this amazing knowledge to the jiva so that it has an amazing life, with permanent peace of mind? We can say we know who we are and like ourselves the way we are and so does everyone else, and that’s perfect. Bravo. Only we will know if this is true or not. Once we see how Isvara has conditioned the jiva/ego, it behoves us to understand the jiva and its impact on those around us, as well as on how protecting the jiva identity impedes our growth and moksa, freedom from and for the jiva. It is up to us to make the adjustments so that the jiva lives happily and so do the people around us with whom we have contact
We are all flawed as jivas and all have our little issues, nobody is perfect. Who cares? This is not about being perfect, as I said before, quite the contrary. It is about paying attention to what is, to life as it is presenting itself to us, and managing the mind, i.e. the gunas, for maximum peace of mind or the gunas manage you.
The only way full and firm assimilation of the teachings can take place is if we are willing to face the messy duck pond of our lives and clean it up. Everything that is not in line with the scripture must be renounced. This is non-negotiable, and if you try to make the scripture fit into your life instead of the other way around, it just won’t work, as you know. End of story. The BS must end on all levels and if the teachings do not translate into our lives you might as well give up on Self-inquiry.
Once we have seen and understood our vasanas for what they are without denial or projection and know that they do not belong to the jiva or the Self, then we can say why worry about them? Leave them firmly in Isvara’s hands and make it clear that you expect them to be taken care of, while sticking to your sadhana, following dharma, practising karma yoga and guna management. To be free as the Self means you are totally okay with the jiva being flawed, knowing you are done with that identity and no longer invested in it. Until then, when the hungry vasanas pop up like unwelcome corks in the ocean of samsara, which they will until they don’t anymore, you dismiss them instantly or just ignore them. If we stick to our sadhana and keep discriminating, Self-knowledge will eventually destroy the binding vasanas turning them into burnt ropes with no power left in them to bind.
Short Teaching on Nididhyasana Practice
Self-realization is the full understanding of your true nature as awareness, but it is not yet Self-actualization. It means you apply the knowledge to your life and take a stand in awareness as awareness, but if the mind is still agitated by rajas and tamas because all the qualifications are not in place and residual binding vasanas still condition the mind, Self-actualization has not taken place.
Nididhyasana is the final “stage” which comes after all the previous steps and stages of Self-inquiry have been completed (sravanna and manana). It is also the final stage of karma yoga and comes after karma jnana sannyas. Karma yoga is a preliminary form of nididhyasana. Here karma yoga becomes a different kind of mind management – it is the transformation of our remaining binding mental/emotional conditioning into devotion to the Self along with the final renunciation – renouncing the idea of seeking moksa because you are moksa. To complete the last stage of self-inquiry can take decades for some people; it is almost always the longest stage. It requires the application of sacred karma yoga and jnana yoga until the jiva is fully dismissed and you never think of yourself as a person again.
Nididhyasana is managing the mind’s involuntary as well as habitual thoughts and feeling patterns, which are bedrock duality and can survive moksa. Without self-objectivity and mind-management, these patterns can still hijack the mind without a moment’s notice, denying it access to the Self in the form of Self-knowledge. There is nothing inherently wrong with involuntary thoughts, but they tend to immediately morph into actions which are liable to create unwanted karma in the form of obscuring thoughts and emotions. To fully negate all thought/emotional patterns we must have knowledge of the gunas from which they originate so as not to condition to them. Until this stage is complete, Self-actualization has not taken place.
Unless Self-knowledge translates fully into the life of the person, he or she is still identified with certain aspects of being a person. In other words, binding vasanas and the sense of doership or egoic belief in separation will still be causing agitation in the mind. For existential suffering to end and for awareness to be one’s primary identity, the person needs to be free of the idea of being a person to live free as the Self. What is the point of Self-realization if the mind is still under the tyranny of its likes and dislikes (vasanas)?
To be fully Self-actualized means (1) that one has fully discriminated the Self (consciousness/awareness) from the objects appearing in it (all objects, meaning all gross objects as well as one’s conditioning, thoughts and feelings – all experience) and (2) that that knowledge has (a) rendered the binding vasanas non-binding and (b) negated one’s sense of doership. Once Self-knowledge is permanent, you never think of yourself as a person again, and you are totally fine with the apparent person and their role in the world of objects.
~ Much love, Sundari