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Nothing Special or Unique
Mike: Hello, Ram. Since receiving the hard drive I’ve been diligently watching and listening to the Berlin lectures, which are clear, logical and above all fun. Frankly, I wish I could have attended in person. I hope the opportunity will present itself to meet you one day. Until then I will avidly take advantage of the material you’ve so kindly provided in your book, on the hard drive and at your website.
I want to congratulate you on your marriage, which I read about on your blog. It’s nice to see evidence not only of love, true love, but of Vedanta as a life-embracing means of knowledge. I have to admit that something about these teachings has made me a little more tamasic than usual, so reading that you have found a partner (and a beautiful one) brought me a lot of happiness and hope.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressive or despairing in any way, but perhaps there comes a phase of re-evaluating certain aspects of life and parsing and paring others, and maybe that’s where my (mild) lethargy is coming from. So it’s inspiring to read of your happiness. In my gut I believe that any religion or philosophy worth its salt must be life-enhancing or else… well, what’s the point?
Ram: Thank you for the congrats, Mike. Yes, the more clear and happy you are the more attractive you become and the less demanding you are of others, so it is easy to communicate positively all the time. The whole point of Vedanta is to make your life full and rich.
Mike: Now on to my questions. I’m definitely still in the assimilating phase, so I hope you don’t mind if some of these are a little odd.
I know you get this one often in different forms (which I’ve read in your satsangs), but somehow I need to phrase it in my own words and hear your response to truly have it settled for good.
We are infinite awareness, but since my awareness is not aware of your thoughts or feelings, is there not a limit to it?
Ram: The limitation does not belong to awareness but to the instrument though which it is expressing. Formless electricity becomes heat when it passes through a heater, light when it passes through a light bulb, sound when it passes through a radio.
Mike: Or to change terms, if we are all consciousness, is it not possible that we are fragments of consciousness that have a special relationship with a given body rather than “infinite”?
Ram: You cannot fragment consciousness, because it is not made up of parts. In fact there is no special relationship between consciousness and the forms that are made out of it, except in the sense that the forms depend on consciousness and consciousness, you, do not depend on the forms, i.e. Mike.
Mike: After all, there must be a special relationship between awareness/consciousness and my given body, mind, emotions, gunas, etc.
Ram: What do you mean by “special”? In fact there is nothing special about anything. There is one consciousness operating through the three bodies which are forms of consciousness. We all have the same three bodies. Reality is non-dual consciousness made to appear as a bunch of unique and special objects by ignorance. Taking the appearance to be reality is the problem.
The relationship between awareness, you, and your body is one of subject and object. You see the body-mind entity, but it does not see you. This is difficult to realize owing to the fact that you identify with the body-mind entity. From the point of view of an apparently unique individual everything seems special and unique. But nothing is actually different from anything else. The body, for example, is just food. Food is just matter. Matter is consciousness in a certain vibratory pattern. The mind is the same in everyone. Even the thoughts come from a universal pool. If I get angry, is it any different from your anger? Everyone is just experiencing the same things in their consciousness. The experiences seem unique, but they are just consciousness transforming itself without compromising its basic nature.
Mike: The first serious meditation I did was Transcendental Meditation and it worked incredibly well in terms of feeling blissful – but the lack of philosophy behind the bliss made me feel stupid, confused and quickly turned me off. Then I did a lot of Buddhist-style breathing meditations, which were also nice though perhaps not as experientially effective. Again, the philosophy just wasn’t quite there for me. I’m wondering if now that I have a solid philosophical foundation if I should return to TM and use that as a prep for calming the mind before self-inquiry. Does that seem wise? Do you have any specific suggestions when it comes to meditation apart from the kind taught in your book?
Ram: Yes, it is wise. Meditation is to make the mind sattvic and turned inward so that inquiry becomes spontaneous and not intellectually forced. Any meditation that produces sattva is good. But remember to turn your attention away from the bliss to the knower of the bliss.
Mike: I ask because I find that there is a kind of deeper inquiry that takes place when the mind is truly settled, but I sometimes have trouble getting there.
Ram: Take the karma yoga attitude toward meditation and revisit it. I think it is a very good idea.
Mike: As I believe I mentioned to you once before, my most sattvic moments come during long walks. But I’d love to re-embrace meditation now that I know what it is I’m trying to find.
What text would you recommend reading after having just finished your translation of the Bhagavad Gita? I want to be a little systematic about this and not just randomly choose sacred texts.
Ram: Why not read my Atma Bodh? It is at the website. When you have finished it, I recommend Vivekachoodamani by Swami Dayananda. You can get it from his website. It is excellent.
Mike: Thanks so much for all your help. Your teachings are unquestionably informing every moment of life.
Ram: Cool. You are very welcome, Mike.