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Vedanta and Psychotherapy
Frank: I watched some YouTube by James Swartz, and I have a question re spirituality and therapy. Can you help me find information on this issue on the website, please?
Sundari: Vedanta is not really about spirituality per se, at least not in the way that it is understood in the many-pathed spiritual world. Vedanta is not a path but the knowledge that underpins all “paths.” Vedanta is not therapy either. It is not designed to resolve psychological issues, though it does if the inquirer is qualified and properly taught. Vedanta is the science of consciousness, an independent and valid means of knowledge for removing ignorance of yourself as non-dual consciousness. The means of knowledge it employs is a tried and tested methodology that works to remove ignorance IF the inquirer is qualified, dedicated to Self-inquiry and taught by a qualified teacher. Nobody can figure out the methodology on their own, because the mind will interpret the teachings according to its own ideas and beliefs, which are more often than not a mixture of mostly ignorance and a little knowledge.
If an inquirer has psychological issues, it may well be unqualified for Self-inquiry because the mind is either too agitated/extroverted (rajasic) or dull/unfocused (tamasic). One of the primary qualifications for Self-inquiry is a purified sattvic mind, which means a mind that is clear enough to hear the teachings without mental/emotional interference. Vedanta is a radical teaching because it tells you up front that there is nothing wrong with you, that you are the non-dual Self and not the messed-up small person you think you are. It reverses what most people think is the truth about life and themselves. Understanding what this means for the messed-up person is where all the teaching takes place, which is why the inquirer must be qualified and properly taught.
If you have psychological problems to address and you can find a good therapist, therapy can be very useful for preparing the mind for Self-inquiry. It can help to clarify to some degree the components of the mind and help develop objectivity about your conditioning, the world you live in and your karma. This process is an essential precondition or qualification for Self-inquiry. Therapy can never equal or take the place of Self-inquiry, but it is an aid to it, one we recommend for people who have a lot of mental and emotional “stuff” to clear up that impedes Self-inquiry. If all the qualifications for Self-inquiry are not present, they can be developed with perseverance and guidance. However, serious mental health problems disqualify the mind for Self-inquiry.
Psychotherapeutic counselling can be used most effectively in tandem with the teachings on the three gunas, though it hardly ever is, unfortunately. This is probably why many people spend years in therapy trying to figure themselves out without much success in removing existential suffering. Some never do. Many others get invested in therapy to maintain and maximize payoffs from their wounded personas, which they have no intention of giving up. The guna teaching is clearly laid out in my husband’s book The Yoga of the Three Energies. I recommend that you read it, though it should be preceded by reading The Essence of Enlightenment, also by James Swartz, because the guna teaching is fairly advanced.
If you need help with Self-inquiry, feel free to write to us, but please make sure that you read the recommendations we give for Self-inquiry on the home page of our website, ShiningWorld.com.
~ Om and prem, Sundari