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Seeker: Dear James, a Vedanta question here. First a statement, then the inquiry.
Vedanta is very simple. It talks about everything under the sun – karma, reincarnation, cosmology – but all the “worldly” stuff is only a teaching device so as to not lose the student immediately. In the end it all means very little. All Vedanta is trying to do is to get you see what you actually are: “I am limitless existence/awareness (brahman).” Once this is known, you are done. Even if the ego creeps in and demands that it, and all the stuff it wants needs to be taken seriously, my identity – my Self – is not changed. I am That.
So, if all that is true, there’s nothing more to done. I don’t need the scripture at my hand – I did once, but not anymore. If a loved one commits suicide or is diagnosed with stage-four cancer, I am still That. If my father and mother die in a horrible accident, it has nothing to do with me, because I am That. There is no problem. Everyone and everything born dies, so there is nothing to worry about. I reflect in all temporary things of the world, but I am eternal. It seems like I can just throw the Vedanta stick in the fire. Is that right?
PS: By “Is that right?” I basically mean is there something to watch out for? Because it seems like there’s nothing more to do or know.
James: Yes, there is nothing more to know, because you were mature psychologically when you heard the teaching. What happens in mithya stays in mithya. It has no effect on you, satya, the Self. If there were any connection, there would be no freedom. But if you aren’t qualified when you hear the teaching and your sense of wholeness is shattered by circumstances (which are beyond your control, as they are your conditioning manifesting now) then you have to requalify. This is the basic theme that Sundari and I are dealing with now, hence most of the recent satsangs are about the five-step process of Vedanta: karma yoga, upasana yoga, sravanna, manana and nididhyasana, and how you can’t skip a previous teaching, because subsequent teaching, i.e. “I am the Self,” is more sexy and appealing and easier to grasp.
Because Vedanta is such an effective means of Self-knowledge, there are many people who experience a very wonderful sattvic high, which they mistake for liberation, that can last months, even years, but which eventually fades away, in which case they again begin to be disturbed emotionally by various things. They assumed that just knowing who they are would take care of all the mithya stuff. But it didn’t, and they are confused and disappointed. So I have to send them back to karma yoga, particularly the second stage of karma yoga, so they can clean up the rajas and tamas that is obscuring the fruit of Self-realization – the steady, ever-present current of ananda that they are missing owing to the fact that the mind is focused on itself, not on the knowledge “I am That.”
Yes, there is nothing more to know and there is nothing more to be done, because you are the Self and you can’t do anything except be what you are, nor would you want to do anything, because you are completely satisfied with yourself alone.