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I’m Not the Self Now
Inquirer: Firstly, I want to thank you for the opportunity to Skype with you. I think it is a great service to add to ShiningWorld. I already sent a donation.
I haven’t been with you since 2013, in India. I don’t have anything specific to ask you, but I felt that by being with you and talking to you whatever I need to know will just occur. I still am very much a “seeker,” I know that. My practices are very important to me.
James/Ram: What does it mean to be a seeker?
Inquirer: It means that the truth, the Self, is my desire, my focus in life. I want to know who I am. That is my prime force in my life. And I do practices that support that, which means I am still identified as being a seeker, and I realize that.
James: So how are you seeking?
Inquirer: I teach yoga twice a week as a way to be in my own yoga practice, in alignment with prana, and having space and time to be without any distractions.
James: So you are saying yoga is part of your seeking?
Inquirer: I would say that. I feel like I am still qualifying myself to know who I am, fully.
James: What do you mean by “who I am”?
Inquirer: To be identified with the Self, which is me, right here right now, without past and future.
James: So you are not you, right now, here?
Inquirer: I am right here right now, with you, yes.
James: So what does past or future have to do with it?
Inquirer: If I am identified with thoughts in my mind and I am not in aware presence, if my thoughts are so strong that they are creating impulsive behavior, which can still happen with me and I get dragged into something; then I feel that I am not qualified.
James: You mean you are not presently aware of your thoughts, now?
Inquirer: I am aware right now while we are speaking, but very often I am not.
James: What I am picking up is that you are not the Self now. Is that right?
Inquirer: Yes, that’s right.
James: Why do you believe that? Who told you weren’t the Self?
Inquirer: I would say it’s the conditioning of years of being in yoga, where I had to attain “something” other than me.
James: I think that’s right. It’s the basic idea in yoga.
Inquirer: And I haven’t broken with that thought.
James: So you will only become yourself when you let go of that thought? What can you do to be you?
Inquirer: Be aware of who I am, know who I am.
James: Let me ask you this: Did anyone ever tell you that you are aware?
James: Why not?
Inquirer: It’s natural. Awareness is my nature.
James: That’s right. It’s self-evident. So that means you are the Self right now. And are you are doing anything to be aware now? Of course not. You are just aware of this conversation, my words and my image appearing on your computer screen. This awareness that is present right now is you, the Self. So how are you going to seek that?
Inquirer: There is no possibility of seeking it, because I am right here, right now, aware.
James: I agree that you believe that you are not the Self, but it is only a belief, not a fact. If you understand Vedanta, you cannot think of yourself as a seeker, because the jury is not out on who you are. Scripture is very clear about that. Even right now, here, you can see that you are aware. There is not some other awareness being aware of you. You are just aware.
Inquirer: Correct. Yes.
James: So there is really nothing to seek, is there?
Inquirer: So seeking is a belief system.
James: Yes. Do you have to qualify to be aware?
Inquirer: No. Curious. No.
James: You don’t have to qualify to be aware, because you are already awareness.
Inquirer: It’s so subtle, so obvious.
James: Yes, in the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the Self is called the “royal secret.” It’s hidden in plain sight, so obvious that nobody sees it. Consequently, anyone can – and everyone does – easily believe that that are something other than what they are.
Inquirer: Thank you. Of course, I know this.
James: But you just said you didn’t know it; you said you are seeking the Self, which is absurd. So why do you persist in saying that you are seeking? Are you afraid to say, “I am awareness”?
Inquirer: Yes. It is probably some fear of arrogance or self-importance, more of what I don’t want.
James: Yes, it seems you have a fear of claiming something that makes you look different or special or enlightened. It is a common fear in the spiritual world, although there are many who are quite eager to claim it without really understanding what it means to be awareness in terms of this world.
Inquirer: That is very helpful. I see it.
James: To say, “I’m awareness,” is not a special statement, because it is true of everybody. Of course you won’t go out on street and tell someone.
Inquirer: I need to tell this to myself. I need to know that.
James: Yes, you do. Instead of telling yourself you are a seeker and that you need to qualify for enlightenment, you need to affirm it to yourself. It’s a thinking problem.
Inquirer: Yes, it’s a problem. I am seeing it very clearly now.
James: You started from the position that you’re ignorant of who you are. Nobody is ignorant of who they are. Because knowing who you are has no obvious worldly utility, people ignore it. In this context, ignorance means to ignore something.
Inquirer: It’s very dualistic to say that I am a seeker seeking who I am, so I said it on purpose. I wanted to get right to the problem with you. But it was still hard to admit.
James: Okay. Now you have admitted it. If you are awareness, then what practices do you do?
Inquirer: My key practice is not to identify with a role. When I find myself identifying with a role, I notice how my thought processes is about “being somebody.” Right now, I am trying to free myself from the big idea that I’m a mother.
James: That’s a very deep conditioning fraught with many joys and sorrows. But if you are awareness, do you need to practice?
Inquirer: I need a certain amount of vigilance so that I don’t identify with the mother role.
James: That may be true, but does awareness have a problem with motherhood? If it doesn’t, then you don’t need to do any practices, do you?
James: Awareness is whole and complete as it is, so a person who knows “I am awareness” doesn’t do any practices. They just act spontaneously. Why don’t they practice? Because they know that any actions they do will not make them any more complete or less incomplete.
Inquirer: And I understand that intellectually. I get that, totally. I feel I’m taking this in right now, into my heart.
James: Great! Don’t look down on “intellectual” knowledge. All knowledge is intellectual. It’s definitely “intellectual” to think you think you are a seeker or a finder. It’s intellectual if you are taking something into your heart. These are important ideas, but they are just ideas.
Inquirer: (Laughs.) Okay. I know that the Self is not an idea. I know it’s reality. I know that.
James: So what does that mean in terms of the most fundamental idea “I am awareness”? To repeat, it means “I’m whole and complete.” That’s where the seeker is going. It’s the destination of all human beings.
“I am whole and complete.” As what? As existence, as awareness. There is nothing missing and nothing to be gained. There is nothing to be done. You know that from scripture.
Inquirer: I do know that. Something is occurring with me while you are saying this with me, which I would like to bring up. When I am “in truth” listening to you, listening to truth, I do get an awful lot of prana movement in my body. The shakti is so strong. And I say this because it is a little bit of a problem for me, not because I am gloating or proud of it. When I am “in truth” I start to get so much shakti up my spine. I don’t like that.
James: But, if you are awareness, what’s to like or what’s not to like? It’s just shakti up the spine, only a finite experience/event taking place in awareness. So, if you view it from awareness’s point of view, there is no problem with it in terms of liking or disliking, is there? And if you are awareness, you know very well that this experience of being “in truth” doesn’t last.
Inquirer: It is impermanent.
James: This whole energy business that spiritual people are so obsessed with is just another ho-hum object, a feeling object, an experiential object that really doesn’t have anything to do with you, awareness.
Inquirer: It’s been such a problem for me since I was in the ashram with a shaktipat guru in my late twenties.
James: And you started valuing the experience of the shakti. Is that right?
Inquirer: Yes, but I don’t value it anymore. I don’t like it.
James: Well, I can understand why you don’t like it. Mind you, there is not anything “wrong” with energetic experiences. But identifying with them is a problem, because I think you have been taught that it is a valuable experience.
Inquirer: Yes, with no reasoning behind it. It is a big problem for me. Is there anywhere in Vedanta scripture where shakti is talked about as something valuable?
James: No. Shakti is just considered the “not Self.” It is just an ephemeral experience that comes and goes. It causes as many problems as it seems to solve.
Inquirer: As quickly as possible. It is meant to be dismissed as not real or seemingly real.
James: Absolutely. But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, because shakti is great. But even when it’s happening, going up and down, modulating, it’s a an energetic, guna-driven state. So you shouldn’t identify with it, because it’s not going to last and you will be disappointed when it does.
Inquirer: It’s interesting because it brought up so much emotion, because it’s been such a problem for me for so long.
James: Yes, I knew you have had this issue all along.
Inquirer: I think there is some hesitation on my part to be free, because I’m afraid that the shakti is going to come with me.
James: The shakti is always going to be present in one form or another. It is the life force because reality is satya and mithya. So, as long as you have a body and mind, there is going to be shakti present. So how are you going to get free without the shakti? You are going to get free with the shakti by understanding that the shakti is not real. Life is full of unpleasant experiences. So what?
Inquirer: They are all unreal (mithya).
Inquirer: That is great! Just to frame it that way helps me so much.
James: How you think about it makes it an issue or a non-issue. Yes, you experience it, but it is as good as non-existent because it is unreal.
Inquirer: I really like that. That is so helpful. Very helpful.
James: You shouldn’t try to gain anything or worry about losing anything, because gain and loss is under Isvara’s control. Both positive and negative experiences are generated by Isvara. The Self doesn’t have anything to do with it. It just observes it. And the jiva doesn’t actually have anything to do with in terms of control. It is “being done” by Isvara, which is to say it is receiving its experiences from Isvara. So you are really helpless to do anything about it, except to see it as mithya, meaning what?
Inquirer: It’s impermanent. It comes and goes. That’s great. It seems to have a life of its own. But it doesn’t. It is a dependent factor.
James: If you are a karma yogi or jnana yogi, you take whatever experiences Isvara hands out as prasad. If not, you are going to whine when you get experiences you don’t like and be ecstatic when you get experiences you do like, and that is going to increase your bondage to your likes and dislikes.
Inquirer: Got it. That’s great. You just saved me a lot of problems.
James: Contemplate it. Self-inquiry is applying knowledge. When you come to Vedanta, the word “seeking” should to go away. Shankara calls it “jnana abhyasa,” applying knowledge. It is strange to say “practice knowledge,” but a mechanic, an artist, an athlete, a hummingbird – everything is practicing knowledge. Everything here is knowledge working. For an inquirer, we are practicing the knowledge that we are okay.
Inquirer: That is so beautiful because I love to chant. I love japa. I have always loved devotional practices. I love to chant. If I can frame it as I am “practicing knowledge” rather than thinking I am “seeking,” it helps.
James: Yes. Good for you.
Inquirer: So, I can still chant and do japa, and do what I love!
James: Did you read my book The Yoga of Love? It says that a person with non-dual knowledge can worship in a dualistic way as enjoyment, pleasure.
Inquirer: Which is what I do.
James: It’s a pleasure to enjoy yourself in a meaningful activity, like worshiping the Lord. Dualists don’t want to be the Lord, they want to worship the Lord. So they keep opting for the experience of the Self, the shakti experience. And they wrongly believe the experience of devotion is somehow the opposite of their own existence, their being, or the Lord. But there is no duality between satya and mithya. There is no contradiction. Duality is not the opposite of non-duality. Duality is just an apparent subset of a greater order, non-dual reality. So worship till your heart is content. Just don’t think you are gaining something by doing it.
Inquirer: I don’t. I just love it.
James: That’s right. It’s unmotivated. The love is its own reward. Being who you are is its own reward. There is nowhere to go.
Inquirer: So that is reframing for me that “I love to do it,” whereas I thought I must still be a seeker if I love to do all of this.
James: That’s the thing about doing. Doers do for results. We don’t do for results. We do because we are happy.
Inquirer: Love it. Thank you.
James: It’s all just a matter of establishing your thinking in fullness rather than starting your thought process from lack.
Inquirer: I feel like I live my life like that, but there are these little pockets of doubt where I am freeing myself up.
James: All you can do is take a stand in awareness rather than in the doer/enjoyer entity.
Inquirer: I feel like that is what I needed. Thank you.
James: I knew you already knew this. I didn’t have to work very hard.
Inquirer: I needed to hear it from you.
James: The truth in you hears these words as the truth. But you need to hear it from yourself. You have to be your own guru. You don’t want to depend on a guru, because then you aren’t free. A Self-actualized person is somebody who doesn’t have crutches, doesn’t lean on anyone for emotional support.
Inquirer: I love that you are making yourself personally available. It’s so powerful.
James: My life is settling down. I have my own internet connection, a chair and a house. My wife and I are really happy here, with a nice, settled routine. It’s easy to speak to people.
Skype Satsang with James or Sundari
Vedanta doesn’t work properly without the help of a qualified teacher. While qualified inquirers will definitely benefit from the books, videos, website and seminars, occasionally questions arise that can only be resolved by personal contact with the teacher. Now that we are settled in Spain, ShiningWorld is pleased to offer donation-based Skype satsangs with James/Ramji and Sundari.
“You don’t have problems; you are the problem.” – Swami Chinmayananda
If you are new to Vedanta, you need to know that Vedanta only works for mature people who know that fixing the ego’s problems is not a solution. Only when an individual entertains the right self-concept are psychological problems resolved. We are happy to briefly hear your story to get an idea of your qualifications but only offer suggestions in keeping with the teaching itself.
Keeping in mind that we are situated in Spain (European Standard Time), we are available between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm and from 8:00 to 10:00 pm most days. To schedule, contact Sundari at firstname.lastname@example.org or James/Ramji at email@example.com. Once we agree on a date, make a donation at the website.