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Seeker: Dear Ramji, how are you? I hope that all is going well. I heard of you through my yoga teacher. Since then I’ve listened to all the audio material that is available at your website and I’m now going through your book How to Attain Enlightenment. Can I thank you wholeheartedly for sharing the Vedanta knowledge? When I was a young girl, I bought some books, like the Bhagavad Gita and Maharishi’s explanation about the self. Unfortunately, I did not understand the meaning of these texts. So when I started to listen to the satsangs and your elaboration of the Gita, I was thrilled. I had waited so long for it.
I also have to say that I’m not the most qualified person to learn about the self, but I’ve started it and there is no way back because I’ve had it with my old ways.
I’m in the beginning stage of self-inquiry practice, but already now certain patterns are unveiled, one of them being that I’m somehow caught up in situations where someone else is getting what I want. Apparently, I’ve not assimilated my experience during childhood when I was obstructed by my niece to pick the mangos on the trees of my grandparents’ land. I would not have thought that such a silly thing could have such an impact on my life. Strange…
I’m sure that more “scars” will show up on the surface. I hope you don’t mind, but I have a question; it seems that this experience and probably others as well resulted in a consistent and engraved “I don’t want” thought. I’m so tired of this avoidance behavior. It’s wearing me out. What to do to get in line with what the field has to offer?
Much obliged for your attention.
Ram: Sorry it took so long to write, but I have been very busy lately.
You say, “It seems that this experience and probably others as well resulted in a consistent and engraved ‘I don’t want’ thought. I’m so tired of this avoidance behavior. It’s wearing me out. What to do to get in line with what the field has to offer?”
If we go back to your statement, “…somebody else is getting what I want,” we can find the root of the problem. In the first place there is the issue of want itself. Why do you want anything other than what you already have? What do you want to avoid things? Wanting what someone else has is called envy or jealousy. The cause is low self-esteem. You don’t value yourself highly. Why? If you value yourself properly, you will not want objects or if you do want things you will not care if others have the objects you want.
The next issue is whether or not there are actually any “others” out there. I think the word “others” is an excuse for not looking at your wants. There are actually no “others” out there to have what you want. The “others” are just ideas in your mind. So what are you actually saying when you say “others” have what you want? It seems that you are saying that you do not have what you want. People have things because of their karma. If they do the appropriate actions it is possible to get what they want. It is not guaranteed, but it is possible – if your wants are in line with the needs of the world around you – the dharma field – or if your wants are in harmony with what you really want – freedom from want.
In any case, let’s get to the immediate problem, avoidance behavior. I am not sure how the event in your childhood is connected to avoidance behavior. In Vedanta we do not explain mental and emotional agitation with reference to the past. It does look like certain behaviors started with a particular event, but it is not so. There is always something in the present that is the cause of suffering. And in this case it is (1) the idea that getting what you want from the world is going to make you happy and (2) the belief that there are “others” who can deprive you of what you want.
The truth is that there is only you. The wants and the “others” are just sensations and ideas appearing in your mind. They are manufactured out of your consciousness, out of you. Vedanta says that what you really want is you. I know that sounds silly from the perspective of a person who lives in duality, so it will require some contemplation to understand what that means.
It means that the happiness you seek in objects is actually in you, so you should be looking at yourself differently if you want to be happy. You should investigate yourself to see if the self is not already happy. Don’t believe your desires. They are leading you astray.
The things I said above will help in the future, but the fact is that the “scars” are there and they bother you, so how can you deal with them? The way to deal with them is to understand that they are not there through any fault of yours. You did not create that event in the past and you did not consciously interpret it in the way you did, so you cannot take responsibility and blame yourself for it. We say that “Isvara” did it. Isvara means some factor that works on you but which is not known to you. It is an unconscious factor. So if you did not create this situation or the interpretation – why would you interpret it in a negative way when you could have interpreted it in a positive way or even not interpreted it at all? This unconscious factor, Isvara, is also called the three gunas. The guna that interpreted it was tamas, fear. Aversion is a modification of fear.
In any case, because you were not in control of your life or the way you see your life, it just happened to you. At the same time you think it is “your” life and “your” mind and “you” want it to be different. You think “you” lived it, that “you” were the doer that created it.
The only way out of this is to accept the scars as they are. You cannot get rid of a physical scar, but you can get rid of a psychological scar by refusing to own it, by not identifying with it. This is of course easier said than done. It requires constant vigilance. Whenever you feel jealousy, envy or resentment you need to think through the logic of Isvara as I have explained it – and accept it. It is common sense. Then you will give yourself permission to not identify with the feelings that come up. At the same time you should look into the ideas in the first part of this letter, the idea that desire can fulfill you and that there are “others.” This is more difficult because these beliefs are totally supported by the world around you. But it is not true that there are “others” or that getting what you want will make you happy.
I hope this is helpful.
~ Love, Ram