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No Perfect Teacher, No Perfect Jiva
Carlos: Lately I have become more acutely aware of negative/dysfunctional tendencies in my personality. Especially since I wanted to teach, I really wanted to make sure I was doing what was needed to clean these tendencies up. What I wanted to ask you was: What is the best way to do it? For instance, the scripture says that knowledge is the greatest purifier. Sometimes this sounds like you just sit back and the understanding that the tendencies have nothing to do with you clears them up. However, seeing as certain teachers end up having problems, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Then of course you have triguna vibhava yoga. Is this real the way to do it? I think this is a great yoga, although I am not always sure I am applying it correctly. In other words, I am not always sure what activities or actions are the appropriate response. For instance, I noticed that my very common (mental) response to many things is anger, irritation and even blame. I also noticed a sense of dissatisfaction. This all seemed like rajas. So I have been trying to do more sattvic activities (meditation, worship, japa) and avoiding some of the rajasic ones (getting too busy, watching certain movies, eating certain foods, etc.). I also have also started consciously applying the karma yoga attitude again.
Sundari: What do you mean by “best way to do it”? Who is doing anything? All you have to do to teach or to realise the self is get out of the way. Dealing with Carlos’s psychology or teaching Vedanta is not about perfecting the jiva any more than it is so for self-realisation. It means that Carlos has acknowledged what “his” binding vasanas are, that they do not belong to him and that they do not work for moksa, which is freedom from Carlos, as you know. Self-knowledge does do the work, but that does not mean that Carlos does not take appropriate action. He just knows that he is not the doer. You are talking here as Carlos and then as the self, vacillating between the apparently real and the unreal, or self and not-self. You know all the answers to all of this or you would not be objectifying it. I was going to answer everything point by point but I don’t think it is necessary. The article that Ram wrote and my qualifications are guidelines; one does not have to be and cannot be a “perfect” teacher, no more than one can be a perfect jiva. It is not necessary; you must have noticed by now that Ramji makes a point of making his failings known, even exaggerating them so that people don’t put him on a pedestal. He wants to come across as a person with his quirks, not as some idealised version of what a teacher should be. You will find your voice and your feet as a teacher by teaching and you will gain the confidence as you go along, there is no other way.
As the self, there is nothing to do and you are what is real. As Carlos, is he the self under the spell of ignorance or is he the self no longer under the spell of ignorance? As the former, he will be identified with his likes and dislikes and take them to be real. As the latter, he will not be identified with the likes and dislikes and know that they are not real, only he, awareness, is. He will know that they do not belong to him and in order to make them non-binding he simply needs to acknowledge how they operate and either choose a counter-action (i.e. manage either too much rajas or tamas or both) or no action, but either way he will know action in inaction and inaction in action. In other words, it is all Isvara. Anger, irritation, dissatisfaction, blame, all belong to rajoguna, as you correctly point out. You are the knower of these feelings. “Choosing” sattva as the guna springboard for a pure mind is simply following your nature as the self, which means following dharma.
Karma yoga is just knowledge. It is understanding awareness and the apparent reality from the jiva’s point of view. It is totally pragmatic and the most sensible way for anyone to live because it is observably true and there is no denying the fact that no one is in control of anything. This is where Vedanta differs from other paths. Vedanta is both a means of knowledge – a pathless path – and a path of action, meaning that it provides tools and the instructions how to use them, which when applied rigorously and with dedication will remove ignorance and its effects. It will set you free. Once the knowledge is firm, you no longer need to apply karma yoga because you are it; karma yoga is for doers. To teach it you need to understand what it is, which you do. The same applies to triguna vibhava yoga: once you know what the gunas are and how they function, knowledge does the work; you are then trigunaatita, which means beyond the gunas. This does not mean one does not take appropriate action as a non-doer. This is simply identifying that rajas and tamas cause suffering and making the changes necessary for a sattvic lifestyle.
Carlos: I noticed in the newsletter it talked about Suddhananda not facing his vasanas. I just wondered: How do you not face a vasana? Or rather, how do you face a vasana? Is it just not ignoring it? For him, it was sexual. I guess that would be rajasic. Did he just need to cultivate more sattva or was it something else?
Sundari: It is not a question of doing something to get some desired effect; it is the understanding that what you are doing, i.e. indulging the vasana, does not work. It only causes suffering. Suddhananda never examined this because his need for love was too great and the vasana controlled him. Yes, you face a vasana by staring it in the face, knowing it is not you, but that it will condition the subtle body until such time as the samskara that holds it in place is released through self-knowledge. This sounds like a doing but actually it is not; seeing as Carlos never put the vasana there in the first place and did not create the gunas. Carlos cannot take it away, only Isvara can. Once the appropriate actions have been taken for peace of mind, such as lifestyle adjustments, examining of values, etc., then you will be following dharma. Meditation and prayer definitely helps and is part and parcel of karma yoga.
It seems to be such a contradiction because you did not make Carlos the way he is, but without acknowledging the way Isvara made him you will never be free of Carlos and the vasanas that condition him and cause suffering. It is not a real contradiction, as it resolves itself when you fully understand the Isvara/jiva aikyam, the identity between the real and the apparently real. You need to get this one straight to teach it, as it is what confuses everyone the most. You need to understand the distinction between Isvara referring to paramatman and Isvara referring to maya; the sameness of jiva/Isvara and the difference between Isvara/jiva, in other words, discrimination between satya and mithya. In teaching this you will have to define the jiva, Isvara and awareness and discuss in which ways they are different and in which ways they are the same.
In Suddhananda’s case the desire was huge rajas and the denial of course, tamas. He was busy with the ladies for over 20 years and organised such elaborate schemes to get away with it, it boggles the mind. If he had been able to identify the gunas and therefore this vasana honestly through self-knowledge, knowing that he did not put it there and it was not “his” and most importantly, it did not work but only caused suffering, he would have stepped down as a teacher and cleaned up his act; this is following dharma. He should probably have been a householder first before becoming a teacher. His ego walled off this vasana and somehow the denial (tamas) remained in place for all those years to conceal and deny the rajas: unfulfilled desire that became all-consuming raging desire which eventually spiralled out of control and took him down.
Carlos: Furthermore, I have also noticed some manipulative tendencies, a tendency to be furtive about things and to try to hide some of my negative qualities and present a certain face to people.
Sundari: This is tamas. So what? If you know this, is it really you? As jivas we are all mixed bags, no matter how enlightened or not we are. The point is in knowing that these qualities do not belong to you but loving Carlos unconditionally all the same. Don’t waste time wanting him to be different or “pure.”
Carlos: So in the spirit of facing that and going against it, I wanted to say a few things.
Sundari: What do mean “going against it”? Who is going against what? Carlos only has an apparent existence and he definitely cannot go up against Isvara. As the self there is nothing to go up against because you are Isvara. So it is Carlos’ nature to be a bit manipulative and furtive (tamas). Okay, if that is harming you or anyone else then take a good look at the value that underpins that guna and drop it. What does Carlos think he gains from that behaviour and why does he need it? Be vigilant when it rears its head again (which it will) and keep dropping it. Consecrate it to Isvara. This is following dharma. If it is no big deal and just part of Carlos’s apparent personality, see it when it appears and make a joke about it, say, “Oh, there’s tamas, the jiva is feeling insecure again, what a bore,” or something like that. We jivas are a funny lot, really. Quite entertaining, really. Ramji and I have our quirks and rag each other about them all the time, no big deal. So we laugh about it. It’s okay to be human as a jiva. This place would be seriously boring without a bit of duality!
Carlos: First, a while back I became aware that I was feeling some ambition about this teaching thing, because (1) I felt it was actually worth doing and I loved it, (2) I didn’t especially care for my job, (3) I don’t have an interest in anything else. I was hoping that I would be able to do the teaching thing full-time and not do anything else. I never thought about charging people for the teaching but I was hoping that in time I’d be able to teach enough classes or write enough to be able to support myself. But about a week or two ago the ambition thing pretty much wore off, but I wanted to mention it all the same.
Sundari: Who is talking here? Are you identified with Carlos? If you knew that you were being manipulative, furtive and ambitious, were you really being these things? Again, remember that it is not about perfecting the jiva in order to teach Vedanta. Vedanta is just about teaching others to discriminate between the self and the not-self. You can make it clear to people that knowing who you are does not mean that you are a perfect. If it is your nature to teach and Isvara is prompting it, you will find yourself with the desire to do so and not much else will satisfy you. This is your svadharma. It is natural for the ego to have something to say about it because it is worried that you won’t be good enough at it or be able to make a living at it. That’s okay too, just surrender those thoughts to Isvara and allow him to do your life. It is much easier.
Carlos: Secondly, I notice a sense of superiority, as if self-knowledge were special. This isn’t extremely strong but I don’t want to even project that on a subtle level.
Sundari: Vedanta is the most powerful tool there is as far as self-knowledge goes. It never belongs to the jiva, but it if the ego is insecure it can and often does try to co-opt the knowledge, causing spiritual vanity. It is natural for the ego to feel a bit superior when it starts to “get it” and climb on board with the idea that self-knowledge is a good thing. If you know that it is doing this, it is not a big deal. Like I said in my newsletter, a touch of enlightenment sickness is not a problem if “you” know that you have it. It will go away because you are too sincere and too honest for it not to.
Carlos: Yesterday as I sat and talked to my friend about Vedanta, the full import of the responsibility and integrity it requires to teach became ever so clear.
Sundari: It is scary to start out teaching this stuff because the ego gets performance anxiety. This lineage is so vast, so old and so unassailably powerful, the knowledge so irrefutable, it does feel like a huge responsibility to the little ego. Once the knowledge is firm and the ego no longer feels so vulnerable, the confidence that comes with the knowledge allows it to take anything on, and the ego then gets it that it is simply a conduit for self-knowledge. It is not doing anything. Teaching happens. Before you open your mouth to share anything with anyone, say a prayer and offer it to Isvara, asking that Isvara teach through you. You are a karma yogi as a teacher and you are sacrificing your knowledge for the world, for Isvara. It is in service to love, which is you.
Carlos: While I know that the person can only be relatively pure, I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row. I want to polish my mind as clean as possible. If you have any comments on what I said above or any pointers on how to work it out, I would appreciate it.
Sundari: Who has to be pure? You are the self, remember, you are purity itself. Carlos does not need fixing, he is fine the way he is. He is not a monster or likely to harm anyone in any way. Your ducks are in a row, they are just a bit quacky and jumpy, they will calm down, not to worry. Your knowledge of the scripture is excellent, you are totally dedicated and committed to the scripture and love it more than anything. Things can’t be that bad. Just remember this: being self-realised is not a magic pill for the ego. It will take time and patience to burn off the effects of ignorance. You know I had a sign up in my home before I met Ramji, only to find that it was the exact saying that Chinmaya used repeatedly: “The price of freedom is constant vigilance.” Self-inquiry does not end with moksa; this is what actualisation is about.
Carlos: Thanks a lot. You and Ram are great.
~ Love, Carlos
Sundari: Thanks, we think the same of you!
Carlos: Dear Sundari, thank you, your response cleared everything up. Rereading my email, I can see that I used some imprecise language and didn’t frame my questions very clearly. I think I could have summed most of it up with the question: How can I become self-actualized when I am not a person or a doer? Of course I can’t be self-actualized because I am actually the self. And because of that, what apparently happens in mithya neither affects me or concerns me. However, the apparent person remains, making apparent decisions and performing apparent actions. Addressing his unhelpful tendencies may have some relative value rather than ignoring them. That being said, how does one “do” that as a non-doer?
Anyway, I think you answered this question very comprehensively. I really appreciate it.
~ Love, Carlos
Sundari: Hey, Carlos, I am glad my email helped; however, you say it answered all your questions but you are basically asking the same question again.
Answer: Carlos does not do it, Isvara does. To repeat: one has to acknowledge the vasana, the value that underpins it and the guna that governs it while disidentifying with it as not belonging to the jiva but to Isvara. Then you decide what action is right for you as a jiva, assuming peace of mind is your goal, and then just follow dharma. Do the action or not and leave it up to Isvara. It is very simple: if you want a sattvic mind, you need a sattvic lifestyle. To achieve this, “you” (Carlos as the self no longer under the spell of ignorance) have to address rajas and tamas in whatever form they manifest in Carlos’ life. If you don’t address them, Carlos will suffer. Like I said in my email, it is a seeming contradiction, because as Isvara made the jiva the way it is, only Isvara can change it. The jiva being really the self under the spell of ignorance, self-realisation means that you know that you are not the jiva, therefore ignorance of your true nature has been removed. Nonetheless, the jiva remains in the apparent reality as the apparent individual. Isvara srsti (the world) still obtains as before, even though you know that you are beyond Isvara. This is the whole thing with the jiva-Isvara identity: everyone gets hung up on it because it takes some understanding to get your head around it. Like you say, how can you actualise when you are what is actually real? I like that! The answer is again simple: self-realised and self-actualised or not, the jiva remains the jiva and mithya remains the apparent reality. Duality apparently still remains, although one no longer buys into it, because ignorance is gone. This is the thing with mithya: like it or not, it does not go away. Ignore it at your peril. It does not work to impose satya on mithya. It is a whole lot more fun to be self-actualised than not.
The thing is not to make a mountain out of a molehill. Carlos will never be perfect, if there is such a thing, which there isn’t – in the apparent reality. Imagine – a perfect person? – how boring. You need to accept the things that you cannot or need not change about Carlos and love him the way he is. Like I said, we are all mixed bags as jivas and that’s fine. What we cannot avoid addressing is the rajas and tamas – the vasanas that cause suffering. Ramji has had criticism aimed at him over the years because he does not conform to anyone’s idea of who he “should” be as a person or as a guru. Firstly, he knows he is not the person, secondly he loves himself unconditionally because he knows the person is really Isvara, and thirdly, he has rendered the binding vasanas non-binding, he is truly free of James. He is fine with James being James and is really very fond of the funny man. But he made a decision when he realised the self over 40 years ago to adjust his likes and dislikes to achieve AND maintain a sattvic lifestyle. He has kept to it to this day. This is why he hardly ever gets sick and has not had a bad day for 40 years. He was ruthless with rooting out rajas (mostly) and also tamas.
~ Much love, Sundari