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Guru Is Not a Career
Mark: Dear James, when I recall my desire to seek “a deeper understanding” of life nearly a year ago I am struck by how fortunate I really was to discover Vedanta through both you and Isabella.
A couple of months ago I had the desire to renounce the things of the world. I realize now that true renunciation is abandoning the desire to change it in any way. The conditions of life are wholly irrelevant to our nature as the self. The desire to renounce is still based on the belief that things should be different.
James: That’s right, Mark. The world is not the problem. It is what it is. It will always be what it is now. Freedom from the world is only in the way one understands it.
Mark: My thoughts are often now of doing my dharma. These are new thoughts, as I had always chosen to live as a bit of an independent and a rebel, and perhaps even a bit arrogant. Now I am playing with living in harmony with the expectations and needs of those around me.
James: It is very important to take into account one’s environment. We call it Isvara, the “field” of experience in which one’s body and mind play. Having said that, it is equally important to exercise one’s discrimination with reference to the demands of others. Every demand does not require a response in harmony with the nature of the demand. You can say “no” and not break dharma. It is important to be sensitive to the world around and contribute to it but never to become a slave to it.
Mark: That said, something you have mentioned, James, rings very true for me: “If people don’t expressly ask for help, in writing, begging on their knees…” – okay, I improvised a bit there: “do not seek to ‘help.’” ☺ It seems every person is doing what they need to do and even if I tried to interfere the odds of it actually benefiting that person are nil. We learn when we are ready.
James: This is the truth.
Mark: That said, I’m not sure how you knew your role as a guru was your dharma. I am yet to really evaluate what “my nature” is and what I “should be doing.” For now, I feel that I am doing it. ☺
James: Guru is not a career, Mark. I never set out to be one and I don’t think of myself as a guru now. I just always shared what I know with others. That is all I am doing now. On the jiva level I am a communicator. It is my svadharma.
Mark: James, I hope you are feeling better. Thank you, Isabella, for all the time you have taken to write. I hope I can see you both someday on another retreat.
PS: I recently acquired the life’s work of Swami Vivekanada. It is amazing one person could both illuminate so many complex ideas as well as organize the development of such a large organization in so few years. If either of you ever want to borrow the books, please let me know.
James: You need to read Vivekananda with discrimination, Mark. He does not teach traditional Vedanta. He is the father of what is called “New Vedanta.” You will find certain corruptions in his writing. His book Jnana Yoga set me on the path but as I became more sophisticated I realized the limitations of his “teachings.” For the limitations of New Vedanta see the article at my website entitled What is Advaita Vedanta?
Mark: Best wishes and thanks again!!
James: You are most welcome, Mark.