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The Gift of Disappointment
Stan: Dear Sundari, I hope you are well.
Thank you for your reply and for the attachment.
I have been reading it all day.
It was not new information, but it was good to have it laid out in this way – it had a great impact on the mind.
Sundari: Good, glad to hear that.
Stan: Last night I was reflecting deeply on my life and saw it all as addiction (I am an AA veteran). Ultimately, I am addicted to everything; alcohol (a thing of the past), work, sex, money, praise, love, attention, meditation, spiritual seeking…
There has always been the obsessive attempt to gain something from outside myself to complete me – it is utter hell.
Sundari: Samsara – the hypnosis of duality – is hell. You have just described the plight of the jiva. Chasing objects, addiction, need and desire are what motivates everyone in samsara – there are no unique vasanas and no such thing as a “private” ego. There is only one ego and we all share it as jivas, if we identify with being a jiva, that is.
Stan: No object can complete me, as I am always whole, complete, perfect, unborn existence/awareness/bliss.
Sundari: This realization must be there for duality to lose its grip on the mind and to step through the doorway of Vedanta into the completely different world of non-duality. Once there, nothing you did or thought before works anymore. If you cannot let go of “your” stuff and beliefs, Self-inquiry will not work for you. It’s a case of all or nothing, no fine print.
Stan: My problems in relationship are all down to my fears, desires and projections based on this ignorance of myself.
Sundari: This is inevitable in relationships based on duality – they are all driven by rajas and tamas.
Stan: My partner and I are both experiencing the breaking up of our illusions about ourselves, each other and “the relationship.”
We are seeing how our illusions were different and how we tried to fool ourselves or (in my case) manipulate the other into doing/being what we wanted or morphing into what we thought they wanted.
Sundari: The gift of disappointment, go with it. It is standard rajas and tamas at work, and they work the same way for everyone until Self-knowledge puts an end to the drama of life in duality. Welcome the process, as this must happen to dismiss the ego and see it for what it is – a fear-construct, nothing more. “Your” problems have nothing to do with the “other.” There is no other.
Stan: Even though you know you are doing this at the time, the vasanas are so strong you can’t resist them. The question is, can all this die and can we begin again on a new, clean, spiritual basis or will we have to go our separate ways?
Sundari: That depends. It should not matter. The right question is not about whether the relationship will survive or not. It is about the death of the illusion of duality for you. Work on that, together or “apart.”
Remember, duality is the belief in I Need Someone to Complete Me.
The definition of dualistic love is “mental attraction towards an object that is a source of joy.” Dualistic love always fails to give us what we actually want in the long run, although it seems to satisfy us in the short run. Non-dual love – love of our true Self, which happily includes the small egoic personal self – never fails to give us what we want because we are what we want, and we are always present. Non-dual love always exists. It is the ground of our being and never changes.
Love of objects is flawed because it creates dependency in a world of constant change. If the people with whom we fall in love didn’t change, dependency wouldn’t bother us. But the other half of experience is us, conscious beings. It so happens that we change too, which complicates matters tremendously. If our feelings about material objects – hairdos, clothing, vehicles or dwellings – change, why shouldn’t feelings for people change?
Duality, the existential condition of being separate from the whole, makes friction and conflict ever recurring facts of our lives, particularly in relationships. If we can be honest with ourselves, we see that we are constantly in friction with what is happening in our lives. “I don’t like this; I can’t stand this; why does he/she act that way; you are wrong, I am right; I hate feeling depressed; why are you treating me this way?; I wish I could be happy; I hope that does or doesn’t happen,” etc. Every instance of unhappiness or suffering – from being mildly bored and dissatisfied to being intensely angry or deeply depressed and anxious – always begins with resistance to reality as it really is.
All our psychological suffering has as its basis the false conviction that the facts of the situation are the problem, and hence the cause of our suffering. Typically, we act to correct the situation instead of correcting our thinking. This way of looking at the world is common to all human beings and left uncorrected, remains so – which is why we suffer.
Non-duality, the discovery of a relationship with the whole in which there is no psychological conflict with facts as they really are, renders a radical and fundamental change to the quality of our thinking. What this means is that if projection/denial should happen, you are instantly aware of it and resolve the issue with reference to yourself, not the other person. In other words, you never expect anyone to solve your problems, not that you have any real problems.
There is a fundamental rule upon which we can always rely. When we find ourselves involved in any form whatsoever of psychological agitation, friction or emotional conflict, rajas and tamas are involved, and we are thus living out our subjectivity and isolation, our belief in duality, which makes everything we experience unreliable and, at worst, false.
Reality Does Not Care How You See It. Projection causes suffering because reality exists independently of your projections. So when reality demands a response, and you respond from your projections, you are asking for emotional problems. Every situation is new and demands that you think on your feet. It needs what it needs, not necessarily what you think is good for it or for you. If you don’t respond appropriately, the situation at hand will anger or depress you because it did not meet your expectations.
Thinking that what happened caused your emotions is just another delusional projection. Contrary to what you think, life does not have it in for you. It just doesn’t care what you think and feel. It takes care of the total needs before it looks to your individual needs. Reality is only friendly to grown-ups – mature people who are aware of their projections and respond sanely according to what is required, irrespective of what they think or how they “feel.” Protecting and nurturing a wounded persona, however much mileage you are deluded into thinking you get from doing that, is self-abuse – a prison of pain
Even though you may both know who you are, Self-knowledge is not hard and fast yet. Self-realization is usually experienced based and where the work of freeing yourself from bondage to the jiva’s neurotic desire-driven personality begins. It is not merely an intellectual understanding of who you are, as you know. Unless karma yoga and Self-inquiry have dissolved your conditioning before you realized who you are, you are not free yet. Many Self-realized people have not dealt with “love” issues, to their detriment. There are no levels of freedom; you are either free or not. But relative freedom isn’t the kiss of death, so if you remain in the relationship, you should enjoy it as it is, persevere with karma yoga and Self-inquiry until the tendency to think of yourself as a doer/enjoyer dissolve. If the doer has been negated, attachment to objects is never a problem. Nor is there is there need for a special someone with whom to share your love, because everyone is a special someone worthy of your love.
The final stage of Self-inquiry, nididhyasana, is managing the mind’s involuntary thoughts as well as the habitual thoughts and feeling patterns that have survived Self-realization. It is converting residual object-love into Self-love and removing ideas picked up in the Self-realization phase. Once non-dual Self-love is actualized, every relationship, intimate or not, is a love relationship. This phase makes it possible to live naturally in the world as the Self, free of identification with the small-self persona and the doer’s limitations.
Self-actualization is the assimilation of Self-knowledge. It constantly owning your identity as awareness, which may feel inauthentic to the doer, not because it is not convinced that it is awareness but because the voice of diminishment has not been extirpated. You must keep asserting your wholeness with understanding even if it feels wrong until you experience the power of the words. The words are powerful because the Self agrees.
Stan: I don’t know – blessedly, the obsessive attachment to that outcome has stopped, at least for today.
Sundari: Stick with it, brick by brick, thought by thought, practise the knowledge. Freedom will not happen overnight.
Stan: There was and still is a calm acceptance of this state of affairs.
I am very aware of my part in the breakdown of this relationship and I can see clearly not how to fix it but how to fix my attitude to it and life. In a way I am grateful for this breakdown – perhaps it is the inevitable result of Self-inquiry Things are born, exist and then die. This is the way. I have to deal the death blow to all this and create the space for understanding to take root.
Sundari: What matters most now is dedication to your own sadhana, not to the idea of the relationship. If you can both see that Self-inquiry is the only solution to your lives and practise living the knowledge, i.e. through karma yoga, mind (guna) management and jnana yoga, it should not matter that much if you stay together or part. But if remaining in or trying to hold onto the relationship causes too much agitation, it is best you part company. If you don’t, Self-inquiry will not work for either of you. If there is a real connection between the two of you, nothing will be lost in the long run.
Stan: It has been a long haul, 26 years of spiritual seeking interspersed with vain attempts to make samsara go my way!
Sundari: You speak for every true inquirer – most of us have been down this path; there are very few exceptions.
Stan: It is patently obvious as I sit here that it is a stark choice – either a life of endless, fruitless seeking or total surrender of everything. I am not in charge here of what happens, but I can choose to fully commit to this way of life and I do.
I will put the advice into immediate, obsessive operation – zero tolerance for ignorance. We only commit fully, it seems, when it is obvious that there is no alternative.
Sundari: It’s the only option you have. Once we get to Vedanta, we know there is no way back, because there are NO solutions in mithya. Take the leap and trust Isvara, the knowledge will not fail you if you commit to it wholeheartedly.
Stan: There is not even the remotest possibility of squeezing satisfaction out of objects – there is no happiness in them, however beautiful they are. I cannot gain or lose anything.
Sundari: Vedanta 101.
Stan: I am well aware that such epiphanies come and go like everything else – I pray for the strength and determination to stick to this way through thick and thin, no matter what.
I also pray fervently for the happiness and freedom of my partner Shizuka – she is a kind, valiant, decent, determined seeker, and I hope she comes to peace soon.
Sundari: These are the only prayers worth saying. If you don’t have one, create an altar, a focus of devotional practice and gratitude to Isvara. Follow the prayers with appropriate action by living the knowledge and you will not fail.
Stan: I look forward to reading the book and I wish you well with all your activities.
Sundari: Much love to you too, Stan, my book should be out shortly.