Search & Read
Half-Open Third Eye
Bradley: Hello, James. I have written requesting a Skype satsang for myself and a friend, whom you met in Florida last year. Anyway, before getting into a Skype-satsang-type of deal, I thought it best to introduce myself and where my inquiry is at.
Rewind about 15 years to my epiphany; I had taken some LSD about 12 hours before with a friend: we had a nice ol’ time and were lying in bed next to each other when I felt a tingle on my forehead; I let it grow and enter my body where it lit up my heart.
It continued to go flow down my body into my stomach, where it lit up my whole body and a pure light emerged that could only be described as divine. It seemed to be emanating from behind me, from a presence just out of sight, but one that was radiating infinite, unconditional love.
I took this to be God, and it intensified in reaction to being recognized. I said, “Hi, God,” and I heard, “Hi, Bradley,” back. I was told not to worry, that everything was going to be okay from now on and that I am loved. As I left that morning everything was different, illuminated, alive, conscious; there was no difference between me and everything else, a sense of oneness and love pervaded everything.
I then became a man on a mission to get this connection to God back, to live in the presence of the divine light, to fill with the energy and let it flow through me. I didn’t know much about anything though and just sat for days on end smoking weed and searching my body for any sensation I could work upon to get me back to that state. I found it inside my head, a little buzz of something, and I worked it until it became a flow of energy. I thought it would work its way out through my head and reconnect to God. But it didn’t, it got stuck in my head, a great pressure built up that felt like it was going to kill me and I became very scared.
It was out of control. I could not find any “off” switch, the energy was always in my awareness, pushing out on my skull, twitching behind my eyes, flowing around all over my body, causing great physical pain, visual hallucinations like the “Matrix” kind of lights you get on acid.
I went to the doctors; tests came back okay. I went for acupuncture and did Qi Gong. It got me out of an addicted mindset and feeling a lot better, but it never touched the core of the energy; still, it was enough that I studied acupuncture and have now been practicing for four years.
I’ve been meditating now for over 10 years; it hurts like hell most of the time, but I stick it out. I’ve done three retreats of up to 14 days (mahamudra and vispassna). I do yoga and Qi Gong. Sometimes the energy feels nice, but then it goes back to being an intense pressure, but I can’t say my life is hell. I have an amazing wife and beautiful son. I work as an acupuncturist and enjoy helping others immensely, but all the time this energy is pushing around inside me.
About three months ago my friend recommended your book, so I bought it and it blew me away; the description of awareness is exactly as I experience it, the rajas energy flowing around, sometimes resolving into sattva, more often pressing down into tamas and feeling like I’m going around and around on this never-ending cycle of suffering.
But the shift to non-dual awareness is breaking that. I can perceive briefly this state that is behind all experience, the non-dual state I had all those years ago. I get glimpses of it now, whilst I’m holding my baby, sometimes when I’m meditating; it becomes all diffuse, the dense moving energy in awareness resolving into light with a “3-D” kind of mirror-like quality, hard to describe but it seems more real than reality!
Then back as the mind grasps at the experience. I guess my question for you is, can you relate to what I have described?
James: I am not sure what you mean by relate, but I understand your situation and sympathize. Everything makes sense. You are a good observer.
Bradley: I was wondering if what I describe sounds like a genuine experience of vasanas. In the book you speak of the pressure one can experience when talking about the grooves the emotions make in the subtle body, the vasanas, as I understand it; this seemed to me to be exactly what I am experiencing; does it sound like it to you ?
James: Everything you experience every minute, good and bad, are vasanas – literally, everything. The vasanas are not a special experience. A spiritual vasana caused this experience and created a vasana, a tendency, for more.
Bradley: If it is vasanas, what form should inquiry take to lessen the pressure and transform the rajas and tamas energy?
James: Inquiry in the form of karma yoga. It is the only way at the beginning. But rajasic and tamasic vasanas are driving you, and you need to clean them up.
Bradley: What form should my inquiry take?
James: Ask yourself why you are doing all this spiritual stuff. Study the second chapter of my book. Try to understand the knowledge-and-experience argument. Tell me what you think enlightenment is.
Bradley: Experience seems to happen in awareness, but is subject to time. I experience something good and I grasp at it; bad, and I try and move away from it. I am constantly trying to improve my experience, make it calmer and more enlightened. But the negative mind states keep coming, so I try and detach from them, let go, just be with them. But it is hard to let go of overwhelming experiences, as they seem to dominate the awareness.
James: The problem is clear. You are trying to manipulate your experience, get good experiences and avoid bad ones. It is impossible. You need to take another approach. You have to let Bradley be.
There is a sense self-criticism operating behind this attempt to change yourself. There is nothing wrong with Bradley and nothing needs to be changed. I have copied at at the end of this email a satsang that deals with this topic. Read it carefully. Then you should inquire into why you think Bradley needs to be changed.
Bradley: So I read your book and get a shift in awareness. It’s like I am the ground that contains the experience, not the experience experiencing itself, but something separate yet containing the experiences, the vehicle of it maybe, the reality that contains everything. From this perspective it seems easy to let whatever is happening just happen; it doesn’t matter if the experience is good or bad, as it is not me, it’s just stuff happening in my field of awareness.
James: Good. This experience is the experience of the real you. If you want to solve the Bradley problem, you have to look at Bradley from this perspective. Bradley and his experience is a problem because you are looking at Bradley from Bradley’s perspective, not from your perspective. Bradley is an object known to you. He is not you. He is just a bundle of mostly rajasic vasanas. If you want to do Bradley a favor, you need to put him to work doing karma yoga. It will take care of his rajasic vasanas.
Bradley: Then I feel something good and feel that’s it and identify immediately with the object and snap back into normal awareness.
James: The mistake is that you do not rest in awareness. You get identified with what arises in it. You have an idea about enlightenment being something amazing brought on by your epiphany and you can’t shake it. You are always trying to get it back. Even if you got the experience back, it would go and you would be back to where you started.
Bradley: I understand, I think, that the way to transform experience into awareness is to apply knowledge. This then allows understanding to take and transform the position of dualistic object/subject experience into one of non-dual awareness.
James: No. You can’t transform experience into awareness. It is already awareness. The knowledge just returns you to awareness, the knower of Bradley. See Bradley’s point of view. He is always trying to do something, to fix transform or change something. It means he is dissatisfied with himself.
You need to inquire into why Bradley is dissatisfied. Bradley can’t fix anything, transform anything. Bradley can only be known and appreciated for what he is. You are barking up the wrong tree. If you want me to teach you, you have to give up the idea of transformation. If you hear what I have to say, you will be transformed – by the knowledge. Bradley will have nothing to do with it.
If you insist on being Bradley, then you need to do karma yoga and inquire into why you want someone who is already perfect to be better.
Bradley: Until recently I would have said my idea of enlightenment was that of a sadhana, all the chakras open, kundalini energy flowing out uniting the bodies in a micro- and macrocosmic orbit, resting in the higher self, illuminated by the divine consciousness, one with it and all things. I had something approaching this experience; I just thought with more understanding, clear energy and a calm abiding mind, I would live it permanently.
James: It’s a good thing you said “until recently.” I am glad your idea has changed because this idea is a pure fantasy. When you have an orgasm, do you expect it to last more than a few minutes? Expecting a spiritual experience to last forever is like expecting a physical orgasm to last forever. That was a very cool experience, but look at all the trouble it caused you. It contained a message but you did not extract the message so it sent you on a wild goose chase.
I am not saying that Bradley cannot get an abiding mind and rest in awareness and experience many of those symptoms, but trying to get a permanent experience of awareness associated with all those fantastic symptoms is the wrong way to go about it. You have to look at Bradley’s lifestyle and gradually remove the rajas and tamas so that the mind becomes a clear reflector of awareness. In a clear mind, many of these experiential symptoms manifest.
Bradley: Now I see that this experience I had has been lost in the mists of time, the truth of it clouded by all the books I read.
James: Ah, yes, the books. Spiritual books are like the porn sites on the internet, masturbatory fantasy factories. The writers want you to think they are special because they have extraordinary experiences, and your small ego wants to be special and extraordinary so it allows hyperbolic descriptions of epiphanies to get it all hot and bothered. I want the cosmic orgasm, the light of a thousand suns! I want it! I want it!!
Bradley: I need to get back to “beginner’s mind,” ordinary, non-dual awareness, complete, whole, limitless. So enlightenment is resting in awareness, not an experience of energy, light or any one “thing,” but the awareness that is the container of all that is.
James: Got it in one, Bradley. This is exactly what has to happen. But it is not resting in awareness, although that is good for now. It is resting as awareness. You can only do this when you know that you are only awareness. Right now you still think you are Bradley, an experiencing entity. It is okay. We have teachings for Bradley too. So not to worry, we will sort you.
Bradley: And how best to structure my practice?
James: I think you should probably stop all spiritual practices except inquiry. Do normal everyday things instead: play with your baby, take up fishing or bowling. Later on, when you are clear what enlightenment is, then maybe I can suggest some practices. It seems you are messing up your mind with your practices.
The practice now is to listen to what I say and think about it. I am not telling you what to do. I am a teacher of Vedanta. We do not tell people what to do. We give them knowledge and they figure out what to do from the knowledge.
How old are you? Do you still smoke weed? Any other drugs? What is your diet? Do you get along well with your wife? Do you understand the karma yoga concept as explained in my book?
Bradley: I am 38. I have not smoked or drunk anything for the last month (just to prove to myself I can take a break)…
James: I hope you see the irony in the statement that you are proving that you can take a break. ☺
Bradley: …otherwise, I drink socially, once or twice a weekend, and smoke about the same, maybe a little less. I enjoy the weed; it gives me insight into things or so it seems…
James: I am glad you added “…or so it seems.” Most dopers actually think the dope is giving them insights.
Bradley: …also, I love to just put the headphones on, listen to music and float away.
James: Into what? You can’t float away from you.
Bradley: I can tune into my energy and have some fantastic experiences!
James: This only happens when your mind is sattvic. You can also tune into rajas and tamas and have some pretty awful experiences.
Bradley: And I grew up in a pub, so I love a micro beer or two. My diet is pretty good. I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years, eat good home-cooked food, but also enjoy ice cream and chocolate!
I love my gorgeous, amazing wife more than I can have ever hoped for; she’s my true soul mate and our marriage is great… real happiness… our son is 12 months old and just started walking; he blows my mind every day. I understand karma yoga, I think, and try and practise it. I treat about 40 people a week and try and meet each one as a blessing for me to give them something and ask nothing in return… of course they are paying me… but the attitude is one of service. I try anyway! I also teach Qi Gong to seniors once a week for free and really enjoy doing it.
James: This is not exactly karma yoga, but it is good for now. The key for you at this stage is karma yoga. You need to take care of those rajasic vasanas.
Bradley: Is it possible to resolve the mind into a more pleasant state, stable and conducive to inquiry, or is it a matter of seeing past the experience of the mind as non-existent from the standpoint of ultimate reality?
James: It is possible and it is necessary, assuming you want freedom. From reading this and reading between the lines, I think you have gotten ahead of yourself spiritually. We should probably have a Skype chat so I can get more information. I can’t tell for sure from this letter, but I think you have the wrong idea of what you are seeking.
In any case I don’t think you are capable of seeing past the mind right now – the glimpses are good, but just ignore them and don’t try to get more. I see an encouraging sign in your statement “…but the shift to non-dual awareness is breaking that.” What kind of shift is it?
Bradley: Thank you for your amazing work in transmitting Vedanta and your generosity in freely giving these personal teachings. I feel more hope than I have for years and look forward to hearing from you soon.
James: You are most welcome, Bradley. Answer my questions so I can try to figure out if I can help you.
Bradley: Okay. I hope that has helped you understand where I am at. If you think I am ahead of myself, I think you are probably right. My third eye seems to be open and I can feel qi and have vision of the inner space, but I need to open my heart; my son is helping me do that.
James: Yes, it helped. Yes, your third eye is open, but is about half-open. Think about what I have said and get back to me. Read the email below that my wife sent to a person with the same issue. I substituted your name for his because you both have the same problem – inability to distinguish the individual from you.
~ Much love, James
Sundari: Hello, Bradley. When you told me yesterday that that you want to be different and to have better experiences, this is what you need to consider. Bradley can’t be different. He did not make himself that way, Isvara and the gunas did. It is Bradley’s nature to be this way, and if he could be different, he would be. The thing is not to see Bradley as defective or needing to change; accept and love him the way he is. If Bradley owns the conditioning, which is just the vasanas created by the gunas and do not belong to “him,” he owns suffering because the doer is there. All existential suffering is a result of the illusion of doership.
To be free means that you are free of Bradley and Bradley’s stuff, meaning his conditioning and his “story,” Bradley is the self under the spell of ignorance. With self-inquiry and the application of self-knowledge, ignorance of Bradley’s true nature is revealed, which is the self. The mind/ego/jiva ( i.e. Bradley) is an object in you, awareness – and will never be enlightened. It is inert, like all other objects. It has an apparent existence in the apparent reality because the light of the self, YOU, shines on it. Without you, there is no Bradley and no objects. This is why Vedanta says you, meaning the jiva/Bradley, cannot gain enlightenment, because you already are the light. Self-knowledge is the only means available to remove the ignorance which prevents you (meaning the self under the spell of ignorance), from seeing your true nature as awareness.
It is not the ego that experiences the self; it is the self that “experiences” the ego – ergo Bradley and his conditioning. It is the self that frees itself, not the jiva – and then lives free as a jiva. Moksa means the apparent jiva lives free in the apparent reality. It sounds like the greatest contradiction, but it is not a real one, only an apparent one.
You cannot get rid of the apparent reality or the jiva, they exist and function in their own ways. It just means that you know that the jiva is not real and not you, although it arises out of you. This is what it means to render the vasanas non-binding and to negate the doer. Freedom is freedom from the doer, not for the doer.
Do not waste energy trying to change Bradley. Keep up the self-inquiry and Bradley will be just fine. There is no purifier like self-knowledge; let it do the “work.”
~ Much love, Isabella