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If You Know It, Is It You?
Derek: Hi, James. I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from reading through your teachings on Vedanta. After so many years of reading and listening to teachers telling me to self-inquire by asking myself, “Who am I?” or “Who wants to know?” (but not offer much more in terms of advice), to finally find something based on a “proven tangible methodology” (for lack of a better description) has been a blessing and helps things make “sense.” While the teachings I have received to date have led to a life-altering, awakening, spine-tingling kundalini experience, plus experiences as the witness of Oneness, it is now clear those were just all states or experiences which come from the self, but are not the self (i.e. me), so will always just come and go if just seen as an experience versus known as Truth. It also tells me that these other teachers really have no idea how they became enlightened (although I do not question most of their sincerity).
What I seem to be struggling with is an ongoing sense of a separate individual who is suffering because I care about what others think of me (I’m a pleaser). While I appreciate that caring can be a natural state and not something that I should fuss about or look to “fix,” I do sense that a “me” caring about what “others” think implies there is a belief that a separate me thinks a separate them can have a bad opinion or be upset with me (which can lead to feelings of anxiety or fear). I inquire into who this “me” is that thinks they are being thought of poorly, but can’t seem to find “him.”
I do not fight the arising thoughts or try to repress/deny/judge these feelings and I give them space to play out so I can then question/inquire into their origin. I’m wondering if this is a vasana that needs to be “purified” or perhaps it is rajasic or tamasic energy playing out through the subtle body (feels more like the former than the latter).
I would appreciate any guidance/pointer you could provide to help dispel this feeling/ignorance of this belief (that there is a separate suffering “me”).
James: Let’s leave the energy idea alone. If it is not an acceptable vasana then it needs to be purified. The “vasana” that needs to be purified is the idea that you are not lovable. It is difficult to purify because you have been indulging it for a long time. It is a self-esteem problem. I think you care about people’s opinions of you because you don’t love yourself properly. If you loved yourself you would not care what others think. Your own good opinion would sustain you and these feelings would not happen. How do you purify this idea? Expose your mind to the teachings of Vedanta because they reveal your nature to be whole and complete, non-dual love (parama prema svarupa).
To love yourself means to pay attention to yourself in whatever way you conceive of yourself. If you feel bad about yourself, try to figure out why. Then examine your assumptions and see if they are true. If you are really honest, you cannot come to a negative conclusion about yourself. All negative views are lies based on lack of clear thinking about who you are. You are obviously paying attention to the negative self-concept you have or you would not be writing to me. This is good. It shows that you actually do love yourself because you want to give yourself good feelings, not bad feelings.
I can tell you that you are fine, but what good will it do? The scriptures say you are fine. But these bad feelings still persist. So you have to investigate.
Here is an investigation that you should do. You say that you struggle with a “sense” of a separate individual. Okay, but if it is a “sense” it is obviously known to you. If it is known to you, it cannot be you. So this “sense,” this idea, actually has nothing to do with you at all. Why give it any meaning? If you look at the one to whom this idea appears, you cannot find anything but pure awareness. This is who you are. If you investigate awareness you cannot find that it is apart from anything. So you are not actually separate. It is just a belief.
Derek: I greatly look forward to sitting with you in May when you come to Toronto. I have enjoyed discussions with Paul Newton, as both he and I are kindred spirits that seem to have followed like paths.
~ Thanks and much love, Derek