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My Wife Doesn’t Appreciate Self-Inquiry
Sundari: Hello, Martyn. James has asked me to reply to you, as he is very busy. He has checked my reply and given it the Ramji Vedanta clearance!
Martyn: My desire – yes, desire, still – is to further my knowledge of self, more so now than before. To be blunt, my wife does not like this new path I am on. Religion used to be the common ground we started a family on. I talk excitedly about Vedanta and your book, but it’s disdainful to her. It’s now the source of most our contention and it’s only getting worse the more interested I become in it. Nothing else in my life has suffered since becoming less attached to things and objects. The thought of being attachment-free of relationships is hard for her to grasp, even though I explain it doesn’t mean I won’t be there for the family. Is this a common problem? Is my duty to family heavier than, as she calls it, my “selfish quest”?
Sundari: This is a common problem for people who still have karma in the world and it is why James encourages people who have a burning desire for moksa not to pursue relationships. However, you are married and have a family, so this is what you have to attend to. The only way to keep practising self-inquiry (jnana yoga) and to keep your obligations to your marriage intact is to do your duties with the karma yoga attitude. Consecrate your actions to the self, know that the fruits of your actions are not up to you and take the results that do come as holy food (prasad).
Your wife is right in that your duty is to follow householder dharma and to take care of the needs of your family. If she does not understand and is threatened by your “selfish quest” (as she sees it) you need to take her feelings into account. We know it is not selfish, but she does not understand. She does not realise that self-inquiry will make you more calm and peaceful and more inclined to do your duty. Don’t try to explain too much, as she may not be ready to hear it. Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, “Let not the wise unsettle the minds of the ignorant.” If you are following dharma and practising karma yoga she should be appeased. Above all practise karma yoga when you argue with her. You will undoubtedly not get the result you want. ☺ Perhaps she thinks you think her beliefs are inferior to yours. Remember, Vedanta is not about being right, it is about the discovering the happiness that you are by understanding your true nature. Choose to be happy rather than right and allow her to worship the self in her religious style. The self is self-aware, it does not mind in which way it is worshipped. It sees her as it sees you and returns the results of her worship to her in the way that is best to make her faith strong. Respect her views.
This does not mean that you have to abandon your sadhana. Instead, make your devotion to your family part of it with the practice of karma yoga. Allow this attitude to purify the mind and moderate your likes and dislikes. Karma yoga is worship, bhakti yoga. See your wife and family as God, symbols of the self, and give your love and devotion to them. Practise the yoga of the three gunas. See the way they arise and subside and what effects they have on your subtle body. This is the best tracking device to monitor your likes and dislikes (vasanas) and to establish what unresolved emotional/psychological issues you may still have.
There is no easy way to realise the self, even though it is obvious and always present. It is just you. You have to work with your mind and its ideas, there is no running away from it. Even though it is all a dream and only apparently real, life is here to stay. Deny it at your peril.
Having said that, your wife also needs to understand your needs, and if she does not feel threatened or diminished by the intensity of your inquiry, she will probably eventually appreciate the value of your pursuit. We have a friend who had known who he is for many years but whose wife is only starting to realise who he is after seven years! People get locked into their beliefs about reality and it is very difficult to change them. But don’t get discouraged.
~ Om and prem, Sundari