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The Secret and the Lure of Other Paths
Richard: Hello, Sundari.
I have a couple of questions that I hope you can help with, please.
Prior to finding James on YouTube and now trying to incorporate the knowledge, I was aware of the Abraham Hicks material, which seems to be the “law of attraction” concept. From Vedanta’s viewpoint, how can this explained/dismissed, do you think?
Sundari: You can influence the field (Isvara) for the purpose of getting what you want with right thought and timely action and thereby maximize the chances of getting what you want. If you have conducted any serious study of the teachings on Vedanta, you should be able to answer this question and easily dismiss this line of thought.
I had never heard of Abraham Hicks, but a cursory read on Wikipedia reveals that what he [Abraham] espouses is closely aligned with The Secret. What [Esther] Hicks and her kind teach is ignorance dressed up as knowledge. It is the promise of happiness if you just do the right actions to get the right stuff to make you happy, whatever that is to you.
But it is totally against the teachings of Vedanta, which are to negate the idea of doership and to surrender to Isvara with the karma yoga attitude. If you have conducted Self-inquiry according to how we prescribe it on the home page of our website, you will have come across the teaching on karma yoga. Karma yoga states that although we obviously all act to gain results we want or nobody would act at all, nobody is in control of the field or the objects in it, only Isvara, the Creator and ordainer of the field, is. Therefore no result is guaranteed.
Karma yoga is an attitude you take towards action, acting with an attitude of gratitude, surrendering the results to Isvara and taking the results that come as prasad. It is designed to negate the doer and to render binding vasanas non-binding.
The whole purpose of Self-inquiry is to realize that the joy is never in the object, that gaining anything gives at best temporary, never lasting, happiness. It is to investigate where happiness really comes from, and that is never from gaining anything. It is only from understanding your true nature as the ever-present, ever-full, unchanging Self. The fruit of Self-inquiry is Self-knowledge, which destroys your dependence on objects for happiness, which means that you stop chasing objects for that purpose. You do not undertake Self-inquiry to the “stuff” you want. You conduct inquiry because you want YOUR SELF.
There is no progress possible with Self-inquiry if you do not sign on to the logic of Vedanta and commit yourself to it. The last time you wrote, you asked about A Course in Miracles. If you are determined to look for answers elsewhere that is your business, but it is not our job as teachers of Vedanta to point out the failings of other teachings, although we can and often do. Please do follow our instructions for Self-inquiry and commit yourself to it with single-pointed dedication, read the books slowly and carefully, put what you think you know aside for the time being. Self-inquiry requires qualifications, such as faith in the teachings, which is not blind faith but faith pending the outcome of your investigation. If, after you have truly followed all the steps of Self-inquiry as laid out by qualified teachers such as James, you still have doubts, then resume your old way of thinking.
Richard: I struggle to understand how the sages and mahatmas, etc. became aware of the Vedantic knowledge – which can be explained in a different way from channeling or any other kind of inspirational thought process that proves the purity of the information/knowledge, in other words, that removes the possible contamination of ideas, beliefs and opinions of the recipient? I’ve heard James say that it was “revealed,” which to me could be channeled information or some sort of apparition, and whichever the method, it surely still relies on the human senses and brain with which to deal with it and accurately record/remember it. Is there another way to describe this process, do you know?
Sundari: Vedanta is called a “brahma vidya,” which means the “science of consciousness.” It is an objective and scientific analysis of the true nature of reality, and your experience, based on the facts. Like any other science, it is not personal, and it has a methodology, which, if followed with great dedication and commitment, will provide irrefutable knowledge that results in freedom from limitation (moksa), if the student is qualified. Vedanta is simply the truth about you, not your truth or my truth or anyone’s truth: The Truth. Without all the necessary qualifications present in the mind, the mind or ego will be suspicious of the teachings or confused, as it will not have the requisite faith in them to put aside its own opinions, biases and beliefs.
Most inquirers who come to Vedanta have a ton of indoctrination from other teachings to work through. It sounds like you do too. It’s not that there is anything wrong with other teachings, but most other teachings are unclear about what the Self is, nor are they able to explain the apparent reality, other than through their own experiences or beliefs. There is no other teaching available that has a completely independent and valid means of knowledge capable of revealing the Self as the only reality and unfolding what the world is, how it functions and how it relates to you as an individual and as the Self.
Vedanta, the teachings on non-duality, is not theory in practice and is also called apauruseya jnanam, meaning “not the philosophy or experience of one person,” like a prophet or a mystic, as in the Buddha, Jesus or Abraham. It is not a belief system or religion either. Vedanta predates all known religious or philosophical paths because it is the pathless path that underpins all other paths. It is an independent teaching, or sruti, which means “that which is heard.” It is also called Self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge, unlike object-knowledge, stands on its own and is always true because it is true to the Self, meaning it cannot be dismissed or negated by any other knowledge. Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of objects, which is object-based, not subject-based. Knowledge of objects is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. If I am looking at a dog and my eyes and mind are functional, I will not see a cat. If it is “my” knowledge, then it is my interpretation of an object (pratibasika), which is not necessarily knowledge. Ignorance (or my point of view) causes me to see or experience objects in a certain way because of “my” conditioning. People believe that ignorance is knowledge because they believe that what they experience is knowledge. It may be knowledge, but it may not be. Self-knowledge is neither confirmed or negated by anyone’s opinions or experience.
The rishis were people with very pure minds who were capable of receiving knowledge through revelation. Vedanta was revealed to the mind of man, not thought up by man nor the result of any action on anyone’s part. It is not like “channelled” material, which is invariably contaminated by the channeller’s filters. So, what do we mean by “revealed”? Don’t all religions claim this?
What Vedanta means by “revealed” is simple. A good example of revealed knowledge is Einstein’s “discovery” of the law of relativity, Newton’s of gravity or Thomas Edison’s discovery of applications of electricity. To discover the means to “uncover something that was there but previously unknown.” Relativity, gravity and electricity describe how the world works according to the laws of physics, not according to Einstein or Edison. Gravity, relativity and electricity do not care if you believe in them. They operate the same way whether you understand what they are or not.
It is the same with Vedanta and the teachings on the Self. The Self/awareness does not care if you have realized your true nature or not, because it is unaffected by knowledge or ignorance. Liberation from ignorance is for the apparent person who lives in the apparent reality. As awareness, you have always been free, which is why moksa, or freedom, is discriminating you, the Self, from the objects that appear in you, 24/7. In other words, dis-identifying with the person as your primary identity – AND knowing what that means so that Self-knowledge translates into all areas of life. Vedanta is freedom from the person and for the person.
Richard: I hope you don’t mind me asking this. I have never been to India but would like to make a visit. I have heard of Rishikesh and thought maybe that would be interesting for me now that I have an interest in Vedanta. I wondered if you could recommend an ashram or two or a place to stay, for example. Or perhaps places to avoid!
Sundari: Are you interested in Vedanta or are you dedicated to Self-inquiry? There is a big difference. I am not a huge expert on India, as I have only ever been to its south, specifically Tiruvannamalai. There is a Dayananda ashram in Rishikesh, Arsha Vidya. There are some very good teachers there, I believe. Anyone who was taught by Dayananda is a bona fide Vedanta teacher. The Chinmayananda Mission is verified also and worldwide; you can find them in several places in India, check online. There are many other so-called Vedanta teachers that are not bona fide or they are at best a confusing mixture, so it is always tricky knowing whom to trust. If you stick with qualified teachers of Vedanta, you will not go wrong.
Richard: Many thanks, Sundari, for your kind help. I’m desperately not trying to question Vedanta but simply trying to clear out stuff I’ve been aware of in the past. I’m not trying to find anything else. I’ve heard James mention A Course in Miracles sometimes and I didn’t know anything about it, so I listened to an audiobook. I ask these questions because it helps me clear out curiosity/doubts and questions that pop into my mind.
I appreciate that from now on if I needed to write again, it should be to ask specific questions about Self-inquiry and the teachings, should I find myself stuck or unsure. You have been very helpful and kind. Hopefully you won’t hear from me – and that will be a good sign of course!
Sundari: I do understand, Richard, and it is important to negate bad ideas, so do so when it is necessary, and I am happy to help out.
The thing with Vedanta is that it is so powerful and its logic is so flawless that nothing stands up to it. At the same time, it’s not a dogmatic philosophy or way of thinking; Vedanta underwrites all truth because it is the pathless path that makes all paths possible. Wherever you find the principles of non-duality shining through, that’s Vedanta, meaning Self-knowledge. Where you don’t, and the thinking is instead dualistic, you find ignorance. So an investigation of other ideas is important, as Vedanta is a critical tradition – but it criticizes bad ideas, never people.
The critical factor is to take the leap of faith regarding the scripture and accept that if something it teaches does not fit with your thinking, it’s your thinking that needs to change, not the scripture. There is no “grey” area when it comes to non-duality; it either is or it isn’t. Learning to discriminate between satya and mithya (non-duality and duality) 100% of the time is moksa.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with duality, and it never opposes non-duality, because nothing does. The problem with duality is when you do not know what it is and take ignorance to be knowledge. Then you suffer.
Keep up the good work, you are doing just great. Don’t hesitate to write if you get stuck.
~ Love, Sundari