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Stuffed up Trying to Unstuff
Tony: Dear Ramji and Sundari, I hope you are both doing well and that you’re enjoying the Spanish springtime. ☺ I’ve been meaning to send a little email for a while but was trying to figure out what I wanted to say. First of all, I wanted to thank you for the webinar last weekend, and for releasing the new chapters of your book in the newsletter which are beautifully written with shining clarity. I’ve already shared them with a couple of people as I think they are the perfect introduction to Vedanta. I also enjoyed watching the Berlin seminars on YouTube. It was great to see you on such amazing form, Ramji! I intend to give a donation as thanks, but have been tightening the belt the past few months so I can come to see you in Berlin next month, so I will give a donation then. Really looking forward to it. ☺
I had a choppy couple of months after I last saw you. I don’t know whether this was a good idea or not, but decided I needed to clear out the subtle body as I had a number of experiences from the past, including some from the past year that I don’t think I’d really assimilated. So I spent several weeks doing an intensive vipassana-style meditation for bringing up, sitting with and dissolving emotional pain. It definitely worked, just by bringing attention into the emotion. But the more I went on with it, the more there was to deal with – it seemed never-ending! I’m not sure if I was getting anywhere. I don’t even know how much of what was coming up was “my stuff” or just macrocosmic human suffering. But in fact, it gradually became clearer to me that none of it was really “my stuff.” That’s the cosmic joke, I guess? ☺
Ram: That an astute observation, Tony. There is no end to “stuff.” The more you dwell on it, the more you get to dwell on. You weren’t getting anywhere. Yes, indeed, the joke is that it’s not “your” stuff until you lay claim to it. I say let sleeping dogs lie and when they wake up and growl, then deal with it. Keep the mind on the self instead. You just get all stuffed up trying to unstuff.
Tony: Then I got fairly depressed for several weeks. It wasn’t a nice experience even though I realised that the depression wasn’t “me” – it was a passing weather-front appearing in me. I don’t know whether this was tied to the fact that I’d finally realised (not just intellectually, but with the entirety of my being) just what a huge waste of time samsara is in terms of seeking… anything.
Ram: All depression boils down to the sad fact that there is nothing “out there” that can make you happy. You’re still a bit young, so the objects will jerk your chain once in a while. No blame. But several weeks? That’s too long. Try to cut it down to minutes.
Tony: The basic formula for samsaric life seems to be: chase + obtain + lose = suffer. Or chase + fail to obtain = suffer. It doesn’t matter how long or short a gap there is between the obtaining and the losing, this seems to be the rule without exception. (I know you’ve been saying this all along, but I guess a tiny part of me still thought there might be exceptions.)
Ram: No exceptions, Tony. Isvara is a hard-ass.
Tony: That realisation has pretty much eroded any ambition I had left in the world, which I think would be very easy for others (samsaris) to misinterpret, but for me has felt very liberating. I realised I had nothing to prove and nothing to add to myself. Even lifelong dreams and ambitions no longer seem important to me; maybe still kind of nice, but hollow and not necessarily worth the blood, sweat and tears.
My (gross body’s!) health has been an issue for a long time, since I was a kid, actually. It comes and goes a bit but all my attempts to fix it up to function “normally” have failed and caused a lot of frustration, as doctors can’t offer anything except potent neurological drugs that don’t do much except make me into a tamasic zombie. I finally had to let go of trying to change what right now is unchangeable and just let it be. Same as with the subtle body – Ishvara is the guy responsible, not me. In fact, the health stuff paved the way for a kind of sannyasi existence, forcing me to step outside of the game – without it I’d probably be a full-time samsari and the moksa would be a little hobby on the side.
Realising this, I’ve kept my head down and spent as much time as possible focusing on self-knowledge. It’s amazing how much of a difference that has made. I now see that for the jiva, the solution to the problem isn’t on the level of the problem, but in transcending the problem and discriminating the real from the unreal, sathya from mithya. I knew this already, of course, but I wasn’t fully living it – I think a streak of rajas had kept me trying to “perfect” the imperfect jiva instead of just seeing through it and accepting its non-reality.
Life seems a lot simpler as a result. I don’t have any big goals anymore, only projects for the jiva to keep him out of mischief, which I endeavour to do as bhakti and karma yoga, which changes the energy everything. Self-knowledge is getting clearer and more effortless – it’s easier to recognise which gunas are in play and recalibrate accordingly. Many days I’m very clear that I am just awareness, and the jiva recedes into the background, quite the thing, just ticking away like a wound-up clock or some other mechanism.
Then there are days when something will pull me back into jiva-identification. Sometimes I can see this happening on the spot and stop it, whereas other times I get sucked into the old samsaric gravity for a while. If I stop and focus, I can actually isolate this samsaric energy in me. I often feel it in my belly as an often subtle but deep tension – a tension that’s been there a very long time – an inability to let go, a kind of fear/lack/inadequacy. It’s like it has the gravity of a black hole, an inward pull with the ability to suck me in (whoever the “me” is in that case – awareness under the spell of ignorance, I guess). If I can isolate that tension and relax it, it ceases to pull me in. Then, I do some shikantaza-style meditation which I’ve found really helpful, as it’s a totally objectless style of meditation, with no goal, no method, no manipulation, just letting awareness rest as awareness. The mind then gets quite sattvic – unless it’s a heavy tamas day, and even that’s okay.
I wonder if this is the firefly stage you mention? I was wondering if you had any tips for solidifying self-knowledge at this stage? I actually don’t feel like I’m seeking anything spiritually anymore, because the knowledge is there, and when the mind is still I taste that complete wholeness and stillness and bliss, and I know there’s nothing I could ever add to that, to myself. It’s more like it needs to stabilise and it somehow wants to stabilise, but it’s bumping against a very ingrained tendency to identify as an inadequate, limited, useless little jiva. It can be hard when everyone in the world around me sees me as that jiva (even if they happen to like that jiva), because it reinforces the jiva-ness. I can understand why sitting in a cave might help at this stage, but that is not an option in this cold climate. ☺
Anyway, I didn’t mean to write so much. Believe it or not, I don’t generally like speaking about myself to people; I guess because awareness has nothing to say and I try not to take the jiva shit too seriously. Besides, I’m actually a pretty boring jiva. I guess I’m looking for a little feedback to see if I’m on the right track here. I know you’re extremely busy and would actually be happy to wait until I see you for your reply. ☺
Hope you are keeping well! Thanks again for everything! I once read that Arthur Schopenhauer had called Vedanta “the consolation of his life,” and I feel very much the same way. Like a little voice in the middle of a dream telling you not to worry or fear, because it’s just a dream. ☺
~ Love and best wishes, Tony
Ram: Hi, Tony. Lovely to hear from you. I read your email with interest. It is very truthful. It is kind of perfect summary of a life of self-inquiry, a template really. It is the self speaking – the clarity, the dispassion. I was sniffing for some ignorance but couldn’t find any, so no need for advice. You are on the right track. As you say, you have the knowledge. Now just live and look at what happens in light of it. Things get easier and easier as you go if you don’t try to change or resist. It may be a little difficult living without a goal but it is great once you get the hang of it. You just wake up every morning and dispassionately do what is in front of you. The sun shines, the birds sing, the traffic hums and the mind thinks. It is good.
~ Much love, Ramji
Tony: Hi, Ramji. Thanks for the email, I always appreciate hearing from you. What you said was actually really beautiful and helped a lot. I think I just needed to share where I was at, so to speak, and to know whether I was on the right track. The advice just to live and look at what happens in light of self knowledge really hit home. I think the knowledge is getting more established, little by little. I noticed today that I woke up and one of my first thoughts was the thought “I am awareness” – and it’s a thought that came with a noticeable sense of relief – ha, ha. It doesn’t change anything because I’m no different than before, but it seems to take the pressure off everything. Life is simpler and I am much more relaxed because I’m taking it less seriously – not deliberately so, it just seems to be happening. Part of me feels stripped down in a way – not really sure how. The seeking part of me seems to have slunk into a corner and gone very quiet. My mind is still tending to regurgitate the same old habitual stuff, but the realisation that I can just let it is pretty liberating. Self-knowledge is cool. ☺ It seems to work its own subtle magic, quite independently of “me.”
Thanks again for your email and support, and for sharing the teachings with such exceptional clarity, kindness and humour. I appreciate it more than I can say. I look forward to seeing you in Berlin.