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Removing the Gunk from the Think Tank
Mary: Dear James, I’m writing mainly to tell you how profoundly grateful I am (sounds so weak and insufficient) for your gift of awareness and the great ways in which you pass it on. I have true respect and love for your presence in the world.
I’ve been listening to your teachings since October and have cleared much gunk from the think tank. I do not yet experience myself as the limitless, actionless, eternal awareness. I have several seeming obstacles to moksa, as I see it.
James: Appreciation is much appreciated, although I don’t do what I (apparently) do for the appreciation. Yes, Vedanta does what it purports to do – removes the gunk from the think tank – consequently cleaning the emotion and actions downline. If I may guru you a bit, it is not correct to say that you do not experience yourself as awareness yet. There is no experience of awareness waiting to happen because everything that is is awareness, including the apparent Mary-experiencer. Awareness is the one that knows that thought “I do not yet experience myself” – the non-experience of awareness is only a thought in – guess what! – you, awareness. But I think I know what you are trying to say: that Mary, the apparent you, does not feel completely free. I don’t feel free of this toothache that has been bothering me for a couple of months after a root canal and another dental surgery. But I know that I am free. The one that feels will always feel pleasant and unpleasant sensations. Freedom is knowing that whatever you feel/experience is you, but you, as awareness, are free of the feeling. I think you already know this but I think it is important to observe the way one formulates important statements relating to the I and experience insofar as the essence of enlightenment is the clear distinction between knowledge and experience.
Mary: First is my young one, the great joy and light of my life, but ever-present and all-consuming. I don’t expose him directly to your teachings but he hears you on my MP3 player when he gets in my car and will often ask to keep listening. He calls you The Good Talker. He especially loves to hear you chant. But I am wary of trying to direct him too much toward the teachings. Better that he find them on his own, ya?
James: Yes and no. It is good to try to find words that he can understand and gently continue to communicate on the topic lifelong but not to expect comprehension just yet. He will have to go through what he has to go through before it all makes sense. The best teaching is the peace and happiness that you feel now that you have a legitimate means of self-knowledge. And you should try to slowly introduce him to the idea of desire and the results of action – i.e. karma yoga. Although they are almost completely identified with desire they slowly become aware that there is not an inviolable relationship between what they want and what happens. They should be taught that it is the same for everyone, always, including so-called enlightened people.
Mary: I also work and have a father with Alzheimer’s whom I help oversee the care of. I know that you’ve said FORGET IT and it won’t happen if we are not able to devote our full attention to the knowledge and the practice of karma yoga. But there’s no choice for me except to keep listening, reading your book and exposing my mind to Vedanta.
It is The Last Stop.
James: No, this is not exactly what the teaching says. It says to see your father and the Alzheimer’s as the self and serve him according to your nature. In this way your service to him purifies you. What we have to do in life does not stand in the way of who we are. See yourself free as you serve, leaving the result to Isvara. Whatever your attention – read: love – is going to, is you. We say forget the belief that freedom is something that is going to happen and serve the self in the form of the duties that Isvara thrusts on you every day.
Mary: I thought I hit it about 18 years ago. I was 25 when I found the Gangaji lineage, went to satsang with her in Maui, went to Tiruvannamalai and sat in Ramana’s cave, meditated in Papaji’s bedroom, thought I was pretty cool.
But Gangaji’s brand of enlightenment always irked me. Just say what it is for Christ’s sake! I never felt like she was being straight; “If you don’t get it, dear one, it’s simply because there’s nothing to get.” Um, okay… thanks? There’s nothing to do with Nothing to Do. So I dropped out.
James: Gangaji and the Neos don’t have a clue how to teach because they were never taught. Papaji was obviously unenlightened – although he had the power to induce epiphanies – which he incorrectly labeled as enlightenment. This is why their teachings are so vague. They have the right words (and a healthy dose of denial with reference to the world) but they don’t know what those words mean. They are not bad people – most are quite nice – and you can get a certain idea of what you seek, but mostly the modern teachings are useful precisely because they are not useful, forcing you to soldier on until you are ready for a proper teaching. One never “hits it” because you are the one that (apparently) hits. How do you hit the hitter?
Mary: Fast-forward to last fall: my friend Jessica, whom you’ve heard from (an artist that sent you a card during the time of your surgery which you told her you kept in your pocket), gave me a Zip drive with your teachings (I made a donation to your website for this gift).
James: Yes, she is a lovely soul.
Mary: Finally, I’m also writing just to be on your radar and would like to be counted as one of your sheep. I am working steadily at karma yoga and will continue to listen to the teachings. As far as moksa goes, it is up to Isvara, but I sincerely hope it will be in this lifetime.
James: Okay, sheep it is. Your bleating is music to my ears.
Mary: I also hope to see you in person. I had written Sundari to see if you might come to New York to do some satsangs. Please let me know if you may be on the East Coast at all this year. I know you’re not planning to be as of now.
James: We had to cut down the East Coast appearances owing to concerns about my health but I think we will probably reinstate them, if not this year then next year.
Mary: Thank you, James, for all of the time and effort you put into your teachings. I hope to repay you by attaining full self-knowledge one day. In gratefulness and love.
James: You can repay me every day but taking the karma yoga attitude toward everything and rededicating yourself to your self with every thought word and deed. You are a great soul, Mary. I wish you all the best. May our paths cross one day soon.
~ Love, James