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Say No to the Inner Sheeple
Tony: Hi, James. I hope this email finds you well! It’s funny, it feels like I hear from you every day because I always without fail watch some of your video talks or listen to the audios. I can honestly say your Vedanta teaching (and I know it’s not yours but you’re the guy who has taught it to me and made it accessible) has been one of my life’s saving graces. ☺ I am so immensely grateful. I emailed you back in October, and you said to give a shout if I had any questions. I hesitate because I know how crazy busy you are. This is probably just a minor one anyway, I feel I need some clarification – not so much about the teaching but about my current situation and dharma.
For the past few years I have had some chronic health issues and it’s meant I could no longer work a “proper job” or have much of a social life. I became a sannyasi by default. I’ve tried so many things to get my health back to par, spending a ridiculous amount of money on different treatments and approaches. It’s not something conventional medicine could help with but I’ve found traditional Chinese medicine has actually been able to clarify what’s wrong, and the treatment of a skilled acupuncturist and herbalist is definitely getting me going in the right direction.
I can now see that this condition was really Isvara’s way of taking me out of an inauthentic life and giving me the space to find and actually LIVE Vedanta, which for me is synonymous with Truth. I have been provided for materially and haven’t had to worry about money (I’ve even had some surprise inheritance money lately). I have been living with my parents during this time. They have helped and supported me a lot while I’ve been healing… it’s given me a sattvic environment for which I’m grateful. I feel a large part of my dharma is to write and to share the wisdom I have been given by the grace of Isvara, and I have been doing that.
I sometimes start to doubt whether I should really be here though. The values that seem natural to me – needing to have a peaceful space to delve into enquiry, to endeavour to fully realise the truth of my nature and to find creative ways to share that with others – are not values that are shared by those around me, or by society. Some friends and family don’t understand the health constrictions I’ve had (probably my fault; I do not like telling people the details, I keep it under my hat and just try to make the best of it)… and they wouldn’t say it in such a brutal way, but they think I’m just lazy or a waster, that I should not be living at home in my early thirties. I certainly don’t intend to be here forever, but the truth is I would not currently be able to afford to pay full rent and eat at the same time.
I guess my question is – how can I know am I in the right place, the place Isvara wants me to be? I always intuitively believed that I was; it’s not what I’d choose but nothing in my life has worked out as I’d choose. Occasionally, doubt creeps in and I wonder if other people are right, that maybe I should be more determined to do whatever I can to make a “success” of myself in the world, that the whole “spiritual” thing is a vanity, and that trying to make a living from writing and making art is a pipe dream.
If circumstances were different and I was in India I probably would be a sannyasi, and that would be respected as a viable life path. I have always struggled in this society a bit; it’s inherently alien to me (someone just the other day told me I was quite alien but he meant it in a good way, I think). I don’t watch TV or read newspapers or trashy fiction, I dislike most the music people listen to, I literally can’t stomach the food that most people stuff into their faces, I hate shopping malls and nightclubs, I’ve lost the ability to engage in small talk and gossip and forced, pointless social interaction. Oh, dear. Is this bad? It’s bad by society’s standards because society really wants uniform conformity.
This little conflict has been kind of causing disturbance and interfering with meditation and focus on the self. My feeling is just to let go of what people think and take my circumstances as prasad and use this sattvic space for healing physically and assimilating the knowledge of Vedanta – and I do truly get it, I just haven’t fully GOT IT! yet. When Isvara is ready for me to move out into the world He will orchestrate the circumstances, right? Or is that being lazy and fatalistic on my part? Not that I really seem to have much control over my health/body. How much am I, or should I, be in control of my circumstances?
I guess this conflict is trying to reconcile two very different sets of values and understandings of the world? I think I’ve maybe lost confidence in whether I’m following dharma or not. Any word of advice or encouragement would be very much appreciated.
Thank you again. Keep up the amazing amazing work. With deepest love and gratitude.
James: Hi, Tony. Lovely to hear from you again. I often think of you and wonder how things are going. Yes, a lot of people write me and want a bit of wisdom, and I have found more often than not that they answer their own questions. So it is easy for me to guru them. In your case, you hit the nail on the head: it is a conflict between two value systems. You are in the right place and you are doing the right thing according to your nature, i.e. getting your health together and practicing self-knowledge.
I was reading your letter to my wife, and she said, “Join the club.” We are all misfits, Tony. Isvara made us this way, and there is nothing to be done about it except accept it. Accepting it involves not listening to society’s voice. That voice is good for sheeple. It is the dharma of sheeple to mindlessly go about doing what they are “supposed to” do. It is good. For every one of us there are millions of unthinking morons, turning the wheels of commerce and industry, making wars and pollution and heaven knows what else. God bless them. Somehow Isvara sets it up that way. Think of how many seeds a tree has to spew out to get one decent offspring.
I think the first time I recall the word “weird” applied to me was in the first grade. People, except my parents, who were good people – told me there was something “wrong” with me from the beginning, but I was really lucky – maybe just terribly egocentric – and thought that there was something wrong with them. I could not see what they were talking about. Life was full of magic for me. I did go through a period where I tried to live the American dream – well, sort of – but that ended in disaster and I found myself much more comfortable in my role as an outsider.
I suppose, being English, the conformity business is more ingrained than in America, although England does love its eccentrics. In any case, you need to fight the good fight and dismiss that silly inauthentic voice that makes you doubt yourself.
You are right where you need to be. Take it as prasad and when the time is right Isvara will move you on to more conducive circumstances.
~ Much love, James