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Not Ready for Self-Inquiry
Cynthia: Dear James, I hope you had a safe trip back – so nice visiting with you! The main thing I am remembering is “choosing peace above all else.” I will take your book with me to California.
James: I am glad that the reminder was useful, although it seems rather strange that you could forget – but then those pesky vasanas lead us into uncomfortable territory often enough. For someone with considerable rajas it is good to always keep the goal in mind at all times. Then it is easy to see if a particular situation is in harmony with it – or not. If you are not clear what you are actually doing here in this human body, it is possible to take the maya world seriously and to see your attempts to make it bend to your will as reasonable endeavors. It is not here on earth that we are seeking, but within ourselves.
Cynthia: Sorry you saw such an emotional side of me.
James: Oh, I have known about it ever since I met you, Cynthia. I love you in spite of it. Anyway, there is nothing you can do about it – or you would have already – because it causes you so much suffering. It is not you. It is your program – your “chart” – but you identify with it.
Cynthia: Our conversation the next morning after “battle” with the neighbors showed me how easy it is to misunderstand another person. Although it seemed to you like I was putting you down, I wasn’t. I do have a hard time when someone tells me what I mean instead of believing me when I say it is something different than what they thought or experienced, and that happened with you. I know what I think better than the person talking with me. I do want to know how you are understanding (or not), so I am glad you shared with me.
James: Well, Cynthia, when a person is emotional it is not always clear to others what is meant. It is really not a matter of me believing you. It is a matter of my direct experience. I do not say this with anything specific in mind, but very often what people believe about themselves is not actually the truth about what they are. When you are in an emotional state, you are not always aware of how your words are being interpreted. I can only interpret what happens in light of who I am, so it is the duty of a communicator to keep in mind how his or her words will affect the other person. It is largely for this reason that I often do not respond to you at certain times. I can’t come up with a way to communicate what I feel for fear that it will be misunderstood. It is my experience that because of your self-esteem issue your clarity about yourself is not always up to the mark.
Cynthia: Also, about the satsang on the road and the interruptions – you act like nothing ever really bothers you, so I was surprised when you said, “What about me and what I am feeling?,” or something like that.
James: It didn’t really bother me, Cynthia. It was a minor irritation at best and was to be expected. I don’t think you understand what self-inquiry actually is. It seems to me that you think it is an intellectual exercise meant to teach you some fact about yourself. There are no facts about you. You are not the person you are studying.
The methodology of Vedanta is quite sophisticated. It involves three stages. The first is called “hearing” and it is a lot more than just hearing words and interpreting what you hear according to your vasanas. It is listening. For it to work you need to have a very quiet mind and to keep it on the topic until there is a breakthrough – until you gain some some deep insight into your true nature. I can lead you to an experience of yourself if you surrender your mind to me, but if your mind has a lot of other things in it, your attention will be diverted and you will lose the train of thought. Quite honestly, Cynthia, you should be calm and composed when you do inquiry with a teacher. I have observed that we only have a good satsang when there is a lull in your otherwise very busy life.
I am a professional in this inquiry business. I follow the dharmas of self-inquiry, and that situation was not conducive to it. I am amazed that you actually did want to ask some questions, considering how agitated you were. But the situation was totally inappropriate. I am not surprised that you were insensitive to my feelings. I also think that you do not really understand that I am just a person like everyone else. I am not some kind of superhuman who is “beyond” everything. I am as sensitive as you or anyone else and I have the same wants and needs as everyone. I was on that walk to “be there” for you as a friend when you were suffering and to get a bit of exercise. It is good, however, because it gives you an opportunity to discover how self-inquiry works.
Cynthia: I am glad you let me know that. You kind of gave mixed messages. Because we had so many interruptions, I wasn’t going to answer the call, but you said to go ahead. Why? It could have waited and I had planned to put it off, but you acted like you didn’t care.
James: That is only superficially true. You were disturbed at a much deeper level, Cynthia. A lot of things came out during that episode that revealed a great deal about your psychology. You could not see them, because your attention was riveted on your feelings and your reactions to your feelings and to obtaining the outcome you wanted. But because I was uninvolved, I could see them very clearly. I could see the whole story of your life from childhood playing out there.
Cynthia: Maybe I don’t understand how satsangs work, but for me, I can pick up where we started from, and I guess I thought you did too. Now I know better. Probably it is best to sit down and refrain from phone calls. I realize that satsangs do require concentration. I only answered because it dealt with the fence (sorry to mention that lovely word!).
James: It is not just “probably” better, it is definitely better. Self-inquiry only works when you are composed. It is for contemplative people. It does not work for rajasic people. So rajasic people are advised to do karma yoga. This situation would have been ideal for karma yoga, Cynthia, but you did not approach it that way. You wanted a certain outcome from the beginning and you did not surrender the results (before they happened). And even when it should have been clear that the outcome you envisaged was not going to happen, you were drawn into the conflict like a moth to a flame.
If you practice karma yoga, you will become contemplative, Cynthia. Then self-inquiry will work. You are really too busy trying to get results in the world to be dispassionate and discriminating enough for self-inquiry to work. This is not to say that you are not making some progress since you left California. But it is slow going.
To be quite frank, Cynthia, you are still talking about how you need to be “inward.” To me this means that you know quite well that you are “outward.” It has been the same all these years. You resolve to turn within, but in reality it almost never happens. And then you feel bad about it. And when it does and you get some peace and some insight, it is not the result of carefully cultivated self-inquiry vasanas. It more or less just happens by grace. If you were as committed to your inner life as you are to your outer life and if you understood self-inquiry properly, you would make rapid progress.
Having said that, I don’t think that you can do it with a conscious decision. Your extroverted vasanas are just too strong. I think you have to work things out in this world. No blame, Cynthia. No blame. That is just where you are at.
Cynthia: Anyway, I want to apologize for putting you through all of that. I do appreciate your help and I feel like I learned a lot from the incident in regards to myself, plus it made for some good satsang material.
James: Well, there is no need to apologize, but I accept it. It is probably better to think things through first and save yourself the trouble of apologizing, but I admire you for eating humble pie and letting it go. With you I actually expect drama, so I was not surprised. I am always a bit wary around you because I never know when you will snap at me or insult me in some offhanded way. But to your credit you get over it quickly. I apologized to myself for being foolish enough to think I could help. When we pulled up in the drive and that woman came out, I assessed the situation – your state and hers (yes, I know, you had only good will for her and apologized earlier, etc. as befits the saintly person who wrote The Gospel According to Cynthia, but you had not really forgiven yourself and them) – I knew it was going to turn out badly. And yes, there were moments during that whole ridiculous episode – it was over such a petty thing – when I swore to myself to write you off again, but wisdom and love prevailed – as it does – so we are still friends.
Cynthia: I do hope you enjoy your adventures and whatever is going to make this change in your life – romance perhaps? Sounds like you have some women after you.
James: There are always women who are interested in me for one reason or another. I would like to have a companion, but it seems Bhagavan is still winnowing out the prospects insofar as I am very fussy. But if it is going to happen Bhagavan should get off the dime because time is running out.
Cynthia: Please send me some other satsangs that you think pertain to me if you think about it. I really appreciate all that you have shared with me!
James: Okay. But I suggest that if you want some help spiritually you give up on all the other things and just concentrate on Vedanta. It has everything you need and is head and shoulders above every other path. If you studied my website carefully for half an hour a day – not with reference to Cynthia, but just to see what non-duality and Vedanta is – I think you will be benefited. But no matter what you do, I love you just the same. You do not have to be anything other than what you are at any moment.
Have a lovely trip and I am sure our paths will cross again in the not too distant future.
~ Much love, James