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If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
James: Hi, Martin. Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been doing a retreat in South Africa, out in the country where there is no internet, and am getting quite famous, so there is always a long queue of emails to write.
Martin: As I watched your interview at Buddha at the Gas Pump yesterday, you said that for Vedanta you need a healthy mind, basically being a happy person, when starting out. I wonder why would a healthy, happy person have a “burning desire for freedom”?
James: Because happiness gets boring after a while. There is more to life than just being happy, but I am sure you will settle for happiness first. Trying to help you is difficult for me because most everyone who writes is already happy and just wants to solve the “who am I?” question.
Martin: In search of relief from my suffering, I visited Neo-Advaita speaker Paul Hedderman in San Francisco last year. Suffering was intense and the mind was very unhappy. When I met one of his “disciples,” he said to me after a while, “Boy, you really strike me as melancholic. Are you unhappy or something?” He then gave me a look of utter amazement, like he was very surprised because he “caught” me being not spiritual. I wondered very much; is this spiritual thing just a hobby for people, just like any other intellectual interest or being part of any club?
James: Yes, indeed, Martin. Most of the Neo scene is just a middle-class parlor game, a quasi-sattvic lifestyle, a spiritual enlightenment club. Honestly, I hate it. It is so smug and pretentious. I feel a rant coming on, so I will let it be for now.
Martin: If I go to Alcoholics Anonymous and tell someone about my suffering, they instantly have the solution: you are selfish and afraid and nothing but a dry drunk. Think about others, help others, lead groups, start new groups, “share” your story endlessly, do what others tell you to do, read The Big Book every day, go to meetings every day, totally immerse yourself 24/7 in AA. This I’ve done for 10 years, but the basic factor of intense fear and suffering is still there. My quest is to resolve this for good, if possible.
James: AA is good to get you clean and sober, but that is just getting back to where you were before. It is not progress. The next stage is sorting your psychology. I am going to go out on a limb here and say something that may be difficult to hear, but I think you should stop trying to fix yourself. It is clearly not working. I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill. You seem to be functioning in society pretty well and by your admission the suffering is not constant. See if you can find a way to accept your suffering, even love it. You are not fucked up. You are very fine. There is just some pain and suffering. I think all the energy you are investing in it is making it into an obsession, a story, and adding another layer of stuff on top of the original stuff. It is too much about Martin. AA’s solution is not valid either, because by helping others you do not remove the helper, Martin. See if you can’t look behind it to your self.
Martin: James, thanks for writing, I’m glad to hear you are becoming famous (I hope wealthy as well). ☺
James: Famous is good enough, but I won’t complain if rich happens.
Martin: Thanks for going out on a limb. I’m definitely obsessed with fixing myself and others, always trying to “improve” everything. I see it more clearly than ever. It’s the security issue in a very thwarted, compulsive way. To the best of my ability I will try to accept whatever is.
I’ve had so many mind-blowing “god experiences” over the years, really crazy stuff where everything seems to “disappear” but is still here and immersed in the bliss of “This.” In those momentary glimpse I see that everything we do as humans is an avoidance of “This.” It’s the way it is. Thanks for doing what you do anyway. Maybe I will contact you later on and be just one of those happy fellers who wants to solve the “I am” riddle.
~ Much love from your sometimes unhappy Dutch disciple, Martin
James: Martin, we have a saying in America: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You are fine. You are trying to solve a problem that is not there. And if it is, it is there because of your past actions, and it will stay until Bhagavan sees fit to remove it. So put your attention elsewhere. You won’t regret it. It will be hard because you have a strong “fix it” vasana. But you will prevail. Good luck.