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Thinking It’s Not Over When It Is
Gary: Hi, James.
You said, “Okay. You are in charge of your sadhana. But you need to know that you can’t read or practice your way to moksa if that’s your goal, because of the mind’s tendency to self-deception.”
And I agree. There is the tendency of the likes and dislikes of the mind to interpret the scriptural teachings, and thus hinder the enquiry and removal of ignorance. But this happens in any situation, listening to a teacher in a seminar or at home reading the scripture.
James: Well, it doesn’t happen in a seminar if the person knows how to listen. Listening is keep one’s attention on the words of the teacher and simultaneously dismissing the mind’s reaction to what is being said. A professional is someone who knows the difference between what he or she thinks and what he or she hears. It is very difficult when the mind is rajasic. A rajasic mind hops from thought to thought so you miss some logical steps, which are necessary to know. In Vedanta hearing (sravanna) is called dhyan, focus on one thought or one train of thoughts. The qualification is called samadhana. If you have that skill, you will get Self-realization very quickly by listening to a qualified teacher.
Gary: You also said, “When a qualified person is firmly convinced that ‘I am ordinary, ever-free, unborn, ever-present, unconcerned awareness’ is often obscured by unresolved emotions developed in childhood.”
This sentence does not make sense, James. A qualified person should have resolved emotions from childhood, otherwise this person cannot be considered qualified. A qualified student should have mastered the mind and enjoy a peaceful mind free of likes and dislikes; if not, then the whole term “qualified” is obsolete and we might as well discard it.
James: That’s true, but only if you don’t know what you are. It’s not true, because many people know “I am the Self” but don’t experience a steady current of satisfaction all the time, in which case they have to requalify. The mind can be confident that it is the Self so it removes thoughts to the contrary, but the samskaras that are generating the thoughts, which are basically childhood patterns, often remain. So nididhyasana is required if you want the fruit of Self-realization (tripti).
Gary: You also said, “…and overlooked during the listening and reflecting stages of the teaching. Vedanta attracts intelligent people, who often assume they know more than they do.”
You know more about this than I do, but the word “intelligent” does not make sense in your above sentence. If a person assumes to know more than they do, then they are by definition arrogant and prideful, and thus lack intelligence. From my own experience, Vedanta attracts people who enjoy hiding behind the intellectual understanding and do not want to do the hard work of removing likes and dislikes.
James: Well, they are intelligent enough to protect themselves from hard work. ☺ In fact both statements are true. If you can’t tell me why, it means that your intellect is still stuck in the bipolar mode. If it was properly refined it would be able to resolve the contradiction without summarily dismissing it as untrue. The teacher is always right because he understands what is apparent and what is real and knows that one does not contradict the other. But most people don’t think their thoughts, which are based on “their own experience,” to quote you, are asat, unreal, i.e mithya. They take their thoughts to be true and real. They don’t realize that they should question them, particularly dogmatic thoughts. They don’t realize that everything they derive from their experience is subject to error because the experiencer itself, the Gary guy, is an error.
Gary: You also said, “Mistakes in the reflecting stage are a consequence of improper hearing. So it is incumbent that a dedicated inquirer go back to the beginning and listen again.”
I am not sure if just going back and listen again will help. From my own experience, the likes and dislikes that interfered with the hearing and reflection previously will also interfere with listening and reflection two years in the future. Thus the removal of likes and dislikes is essential.
James: See the reply above: This is true if the person doesn’t know how to listen.
Gary: And you said, “Even when the hearing stage is completed correctly, failure at the reflecting stage is commonplace because of the mind’s tendency to delude. Mistakes at the reflecting stage carry over to the actualization phase. Because self-deception is the nature of ignorance, all three stages of Vedanta need to be practiced under the tutelage of a qualified teacher.”
Yes, the mind’s tendency to delude is active at every stage. But I don’t understand how a qualified teacher might help with it.
James: A qualified teacher will point out the problem and give the solution, which someone who thinks their own views are right will never figure out. You wouldn’t be studying Vedanta if your own knowledge of what you are was correct. So you can’t teach yourself. You can’t memorize your way to freedom. This is the common mistake that Western people particularly make. It’s one of those beliefs left over from early childhood when you were trying to separate your ego from your parents’ egos. If they say yes, you say no. The child is saying, “I’m the authority here. I know best,” which is patently absurd. The child knows nothing. Well, it knows what it wants, but that is all. So it says “no” so many times that it becomes a habit. When you get into the school system you are only asked to memorize things, not to inquire into the thinker. Schoolteachers are not your parents and are not supposed to satisfy your desires. You think you are the thinker and you have unconsciously convinced yourself that you are always right because “right” for you is getting what you want. You may learn mathematics or Vedanta, but you won’t practically know what you are.
Gary: As far as I understand, removal of impurities is quintessential for attaining a clear mind, but this cannot be done by somebody else, like a teacher. In order to eliminate the impurities, sadhana in form of meditation, values and service work is required. So simply listening to a Vedanta teacher or reading the scripture by oneself is not enough for moksa, because of the impurities. Sadhana in form of meditation, values, prayer and service work will remove likes, dislikes and restlessness. Once these have been removed, listening and reflection become natural and effortless.
James: This is true, but the impurity that is causing the impurities cannot be removed by spiritual practice. So how are you going to get rid of it? Until it is removed, you will remain as a doer till the day you die. So the person becomes a professional lifestyle doer/inquirer believing that the are not free.
Additionally, your thinking about moksa is incorrect. If it is your nature, not an event, a pure or impure state of mind is not going to solve the problem, which is thinking that the one who does sadhana is going to get moksa. Liberation is only knowledge, which is only gained by removing ignorance of what one is. The Self is the only knower. I recently posted a satsang called Smiling Ever Since and two others called The Self Is the Only Knower and The Only Knower. There aren’t two knowers, a jiva and the Self. This is true because the jiva is inert. How can it know anything? It is a conceptual, not a real, entity. Only hearing the words of Vedanta and having them contextualized by a teacher is going to set you free. Why? Because you are already free. There is absolutely no connection between action (mithya) and Self knowledge (satya).
Gary: As far as I understand, the need for a teacher is present as long as there are questions and misunderstandings of the scripture. Once these has been removed, I don’t see what else the teacher can do.
James: This is not true. The teaching is only optional once the final nididhyasana phase is complete. You can very well imagine that you are Self-actualized when you aren’t. If you have a teacher, you won’t make that mistake.
Gary: In my eyes, his job is done once he put the student on the right path and solved all questions on the scripture. The final job of removing the likes and dislikes cannot be done by anybody else but the student himself.
James: Yes, but I’m talking about what happens when the likes and dislikes are non-binding enough to permit Self-knowledge (jnanam). How are you going to know when your mind is sufficiently pure without help? Some people believe they haven’t assimilated the knowledge when they have, so they keep thinking that they aren’t pure enough when they are more than qualified. Once I point out what Self-knowledge actually is, they realize that they were Self-realized already; they realize they were free all along.
Gary: Let me know what you think about my disagreements on your statements above.
James: It’s a pleasure.