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Self-Realized or Self-Actualized?
Violetta: Dear Ram, I find life is being lived according to the wisdom and knowledge of the Vedanta teachings. This is absolutely necessary. Moment to moment is being observed and the mind adjusted as apparently disturbing thoughts arise, only allowing “I am the limitless self” to prevail through all apparent fluctuations. This is richly rewarding, and listening to more words will not produce anything greater.
Ram, you’ve always encouraged frankness in your relationships, and I would like to tell you my thoughts on the tone and some of the content in your blog. Having full confidence in your strong sense of dispassion, I know that you won’t take anything I say personally and will objectively view and consider my thoughts. Who knows, perhaps you won’t even reply to this. But you are someone I have always been able to speak my mind quite plainly and openly with and this has opened up vistas of space in my mind for which I am forever grateful. So I’m doing it again now.
I read your blog the first time I received it, and apart from feeling frail and unable to properly voice my feelings, my first impression and reaction was one of disappointment. It seemed to me you were using Vedanta to justify the fact that you are in love with someone and have chosen to marry her. I don’t understand why you found this long explanation necessary before you got to the point of telling your readership that you are married. To my knowledge nowhere in the Vedanta teachings does it prescribe non-marriage to a teacher of the subject of self-knowledge (albeit, as you repeatedly say, a hobby). Who cares? Vedanta is, as you well know, an impersonal teaching and does not require embellishment from any individual being. Impersonal, accurate unfolding, yes.
I also found your phraseology quite saccharine-cheesy. The title, Rise in Love, most unfortunately, smacks of angelic mysticism. Soaring and soaring, rising and rising, ever in the process of deeper and higher feelings. You so often reminded your students about the transitiveness of sensation which always inherently holds its equal and opposite. You so frequently addressed the subject of romantic or love relationships by stating, “What’s the problem with that? It doesn’t last.” This may or may not be a spot-on, accurate viewpoint, but my question is, why is your love relationship so different that it necessitates so many words before you simply let everyone know that you are in love? What kind of person would wish to deny you the pleasure and joy of that? I have to say these things, as it really sounded as if people out there needed some justification for your sudden rising in love.
You say that your wife loves you unconditionally. How can you possibly know that for sure? Is it intuition? Do you know something about the human condition that others don’t know? To my way of thinking, unconditional love means no object – animal, mineral or vegetable – is loved more than another. There is no difference between a piece of gold and a lump of turd. Unconditional love, as Vedanta teaches, is the nature of the self. The self is all there is, so nothing is exempt from unconditional love. So why is it particularly pertinent in your case? Are you suggesting that you and your partner are enlightened while most others are not? Lord, I can only aspire to unconditionally accept all that is taken in by the senses! Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, victory, loss, defeat, triumph, etc., etc.
If you are still reading this, here are some isolated points in your blog which I simply couldn’t let pass without bringing your attention to them.
Ram: (I did not respond to these points, as they were trivial and I felt she was just venting her anger.)
Violetta: There! I had to tell you these things. However, I would have preferred it if, right off the bat, you had said that you have met someone you love dearly and have married. This would have been more to the point, subtle and discreet. Hey, that’s just my take. I know not everybody thinks like I do.
Despite all the above, I’m very happy for both you and sincerely wish you all the happiness in the world.
~ Always with lots of love, Violetta
James: Dear Violetta, yes, my dispassion is quite good. I found your email quite amusing, to be honest. In all my years I have never been called an angelic mystic! I didn’t know they had a word for it but, yes, I definitely do feel angelic and mystical. Love can do that to a person. It is very good. I also found the idea that I used Vedanta to justify falling in love amusing. I am sure you know this, but in case you have forgotten, the thing about love is that it does not require justification. It justifies itself, particularly when it comes unsolicited. Some of your other statements were pretty funny too, but I don’t want you to think I am taking the piss out of you. I think you completely misunderstood my blogs. It is always funny when reality is one thing and it appears to be something else, like the self and maya. I call the self the fourth guna, the humor guna, because when you look at maya from its point of view everything in it looks very funny, including this whole situation. I am sure you know what I mean.
If I was identified with the person your email was aimed at, I think I would have appreciated (yes, I know the way is difficult for the one with expectations) your reaction to be more in line with the one-hundred-plus joyful responses I received from my many friends around the world. But it is fine. Really. I am not bothered.
The reason I was eager to visit you and stay with you was because I love you and consider you one of my best friends. Consequently I wanted to spend as much time with you as possible. I have the rest of my life to spend with Sundari, and she is very eager to see that the news of our marriage does not disrupt my relationship with you because she knows how important it is to me.
Evidently, she is more in tune with some of the women’s feelings than I am because she told me our marriage might impact negatively on some of the women in the satsang. I pooh- poohed it, thinking – evidently wrongly – that people who come to hear Vedanta come to hear Vedanta, not to get themselves involved with the personal life of the teacher. The agitation seems to be exclusively a woman’s issue because I have not received one negative comment from a man – quite the contrary. Perhaps I am a bit naive, but I cannot imagine what possible relevance my marital status has to do with my ability to teach Vedanta. I am sure that going forward my teaching will not only continue to be effective, but I believe it will benefit from my marriage.
I know you have had your negative feelings about me all along – others told me about them over the years (and some of the gossip has reached my ears) and I can read between the lines – but I must say I was somewhat surprised by your reaction to the news of my marriage. It certainly wasn’t friendly, although I suppose you were being honest. If I was inclined to be uncharitable in my thinking I might have interpreted it as a lack of respect for my judgment, but I didn’t. It is okay. It does seem a bit of a stretch, however, that someone who has served the Truth with such dedication for so long and who is highly respected suddenly goes soft in the head on account of a pretty face. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. One thing that puzzles me, however, is how to reconcile the sheaf of emails from you praising me highly with your attitude in this letter. I would have thought that you would have taken it gladly as prasad in keeping with your sadhana.
One thing you asked me was how I know that my wife loves me unconditionally. I know she does because she loves herself unconditionally, thanks to the fact that she has assimilated the teachings of non-duality. I am copying in a letter she wrote the other day. Try to discount your personal feelings. Be open-minded and fair and see if this is not someone who knows who she is.
Sundari: My initial feeling about explaining anything to anyone about what has transpired between Ram and myself was simply that it has nothing to do with anyone. I was concerned about its impact though because I do care a great deal about how the teachings are received and did not want to cause any disturbance for anyone. We deliberated about how to go about this, but in the end we decided on full disclosure, as neither of us conduct our lives in any other way than with total openness. Ram published his first blog in this spirit and the response worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive.
Ram has been quite open about his feelings towards relationships as they are conducted in samsara and it is no secret that he holds that model as inherently flawed. When we first started rising in love, one of my first questions to him was: Why would a self-realised being even consider a relationship with a particular other, what for? After all, there is only the self, so how is it even possible for there to be an “other”? His reply was: “With me, you don’t get a particular other, you get the self.”
You could then argue: What would I need that for, as I am already the self? I know that human love is only a problem if you don’t know who you are, i.e. the self. When you do, the other ceases to be other and you rise in love with yourself. There is no separation, no projection. The confusion that exists is simply this: if you are seeking moksa, you cannot make a relationship with another your goal; it will prevent you from attaining freedom. Once you have attained freedom and you know who you are, you know there is nothing outside you, so you can experience any and all of it as self. You will know that although all experience is the self, the self is not experience. In other words, you are no longer a “you,” a doer, and you are not an ego experiencing the self. You are the self experiencing the ego. It is a very big shift, although it seems like semantics.
This love came to reside within us because we were not in its way. There was no gender, no identity, no doer, no seeking or wanting involved. We had both sought this all our lives and had both given up believing it existed. It is love that loves through us, as us. It does not belong to us, there is no difference between us and anyone or everyone. This love is as much every one of you as it is us. There is only one principle, only one love.
James: These are her words, not mine.
In any case, one never knows what the results of one’s actions will bring. If my state of mind depended on public opinion I would be more inclined to base it on the overall response to my wedding and the blogs announcing it. Think what you will about me personally, but these documents are of considerable spiritual value. I have received about one hundred enthusiastic emails about my marriage and the blogs, and so far only three, including yours, were less than wildly positive. It would be churlish of me to reproduce any of the positive ones here, but if you don’t believe me I am happy to send them on. I am not saying that perhaps the hundred weren’t right and the three weren’t wrong, but it does make one wonder.
Sometimes the mind projects. I know mine does when I get tired or am stressed in some way. If you are convinced, I can’t see that a reply to your specific questions or statements would constitute anything other than an argument. You have come to your opinion honestly or believe you have, and I have come to mine honestly or believe I have, so we are both right. Unfortunately, we have divergent views.
There are other ways to see this and I hope that in the fullness of time your mind will revisit the blogs. I do not think that in a year or two from now you would have the same opinion. In any case, my feelings for you go way beyond what you think about me – dare I call them unconditional love? I will say again, however, that I believe you completely missed the point of the blog.
Since you are quite happy to test my dispassion, may I test yours? You can think of what I am about to say as a little enlightenment quiz. I am sure that, since you know who you are, you will pass the test with flying colors. I think the reason you were (are?) upset by this turn of events is because you have never properly processed some of the negative feelings from your marriage. You shared them with me in great detail when we first met and I still remember the conversation. Yes, you did work with a psychologist and resolved enough of them to get yourself back on your feet emotionally, but I always had the feeling that there was more work to do in this area. You were born before the relationship era, and many men and women gave up on love and marriage when the first big one failed. Sometimes it was true renunciation based on self-forgiveness and sometimes it was just fear-born resignation; one does not want to go there for fear of it turning out badly once more. Nowadays, it is quite rare for people to walk away from love after a single failure. These days, most people pick up the pieces and get on with the next one until they either make a mess of several, end up bitter and cynical or actually learn how to love intimately and properly – or they just tire of it and enjoy living on their own. In any case, your reaction does not seem quite right to me, considering your spirituality. Perhaps I represent something about love and relationships to you that was brought into question by my marriage to Sundari.
And I think at some point you decided that a love relationship with another person was contrary to your desire for freedom and you went for freedom – which is what I have been saying all along in my Vedanta teachings. A love relationship is not in conflict with freedom – if you know who you are. In fact when you do know who you are, all relationships are love relationships because the self is love.
However, I generally don’t teach people who know who they are, although lately I am getting questions from people who do. I basically only teach people who don’t. So maybe in your mind you think that love and marriage are somehow contrary to self-knowledge? I am not saying that you do not know who you are, only that if you don’t clear up samskaras before you know, you will have to clear them up once you know. Is it possible that this marriage business is just Isvara’s way of asking you to look at your attitude toward relationships, although, considering your present karma, it is quite reasonably the farthest thing from your mind? I certainly did not marry Sundari to teach anybody anything. I did it for me and me alone. And this issue is just a tempest in a teapot. Most everyone has processed it and is back to getting on with their lives now. It honestly has nothing to do with me. And it really shouldn’t have anything to do with our relationship. Sadly, it seems that it does.
In any case, apart from what I have said so far I am, for once in my life, at a loss for words. ☺ So I will just have to take my cue from you about the way forward in our relationship, should you wish it to continue. I am happy to accept your invitation to dinner. The human part of me feels sad that you think this way, but I will not allow your opinions to rain on my parade. Bhagavan has blessed me mightily and I am very happy. Life will go on and the Vedanta as I teach it will continue to uplift and fulfill many lives. Thank you for your well wishes. They would mean more if they were not qualified by unkind words. Whatever comes of it, I wish you all the very best with everything and I hope that you will regain your health quickly.
~ Love, Ram
Violetta: Dear Ram, thank you so much for writing at such great length. My feelings are turbulent right now and it’s going to take time to digest everything you wrote.
Mostly I feel the durability of our friendship very strongly and a huge tenderness towards you. You have always been nothing but absolutely good to me. I cannot write a reply right now. There are certain things I still maintain, but underlying all of this is a love for you that has grown over the years.
About my marriage, yes, I think you’re absolutely right about not having worked totally through it all. I wouldn’t even know how to begin doing this. And is it necessary?
Ram: In answer to your question about your marriage, the answer is yes. If these vasanas are not exhausted you will never be completely self-actualized and fulfilled in love. Self-realization is the first phase and self-actualization is the next. You are self-realized. When the pratibandakas, the binding vasanas, are removed, a person is self-actualized. Self-actualization means that awareness/love flows unobstructed into the world. Obstructed love is personal love, awareness conditioned by the vasanas built up before self-realization.
Unobstructed love, parabhakti, is impersonal. It flows freely to any object that appears within it, including objects that the mind deems unacceptable. Likes and dislikes still operate, but they do not affect the flow of love. In a worldly person love is completely controlled by the likes and dislikes. He or she loves what is in harmony with the likes and does not love what is disliked. A self-realized person is aware of the operation of the likes and dislikes and will not create new ones, but owing to unexamined and therefore unexhausted prarabdha, finds his or her love still conditioned by them to some degree. If you are self-realized you will not develop new obstructions, but those still in the karmic pipeline will continue to play out. The technical term for them is prarabdha karmas. Even Swami Dayananda, who is as self-actualized as is possible to be, has his likes and dislikes. It is clear he dislikes Christian conversion of Hindus. About three years ago he famously said that Barak Obama is a Muslim. Evidently he has few charitable feelings for Islam. But these dislikes do not destabilize his mind. He is aware of them and manages them, making the odd negative comment here and there.
The way you see love is a pratibhandaka, an obstacle that prevents the easy flow of love to all objects, i.e. people, events, activities, etc. It flows to some and not to others. I do not know exactly how your mind formulates it, but somehow your idea of the behavior of an enlightened person (I am not saying I am enlightened nor am I saying I am unenlightened, I am saying I am Love) was called into question by my marriage and it made you angry. Anger is love, but it is unpurified love. It is love conditioned by a dislike.
Self-knowledge is such that if you don’t clear up the unconscious stuff before you realize who you are, it will get cleared up later. There is no way that obstructing vasanas can stand the light of truth. It may take a long time for the obstructions to see the light of day, but eventually some event will expose them if your inquiry is not directed toward them. You expose them by asking why you feel the way you do when the feelings arise. You may have to work your way through a maze of rationalizations, but at bottom you always come back to the same point. You think, “I feel this way because I don’t love myself properly. And why don’t I love myself properly? Because I do not feel worthy of love. And why don’t I feel worthy of love? Because I have the wrong idea of who I am. I think I am not lovable.” But this is not true. You are lovable because your nature is love.
In your case, your mind is quite tamasic, and the most salient characteristic of a tamasic mind is denial-based avoidance. Denial is by nature unconscious. The ego does not know it is happening. It just responds. It avoids what it does not like rather than confronting it and working through it. Your marriage was very painful and you did not forgive yourself for it, probably because rajas caused you to project the lion’s share of the blame on your husband. From the samsaric point of view, there are always apparently good reasons why a particular person is at fault – cheating is the most common one.
But from the spiritual perspective, the blame always lies closer to home because the husband or wife is only a thought in one’s awareness – unless you are completely clear, you are never dealing with a real person out there, which is only the case with very advanced souls. The person you are married to is just your likes and dislikes appearing as a thought of the person.
Once a relationship has ended, you develop other vasanas, like your spiritual vasana. Your focus is elsewhere, but the old pattern remains – until it is exposed. It is like anger, for example. You cannot just get angry. It requires an event to trigger it. The prarabhda karma is like a sleeping seed. It will not sprout without provocation.
I think what happened is Isvara’s way of pointing out where your sadhana should be heading. I am not saying that you should actively do inquiry on it or seek help with it until your health and your lifestyle is stabilized. You should settle into a new routine and find the leisure to think about it in some months.
To repeat, you already know you are awareness, but this knowledge will not deliver the freedom that is tantamount to pure love until the binding vasanas are purified. As long as I fit into your idea of a spiritual mentor you can love me, but when I don’t, the love becomes something else. Anything less than full freedom is not freedom.
The other things that you need to look are related to the love issue. If you are able to resolve it, I think you will be very happy and the other things will fall away automatically. It all goes back before your marriage to your childhood and ultimately to the samskaras that brought you into this life. You should not take it personally. It is just the result of beginningless ignorance. Everyone has to deal with this stuff in one way or another.
I have never called your attention to it for two reasons. First, it is not my job. I am not a psychologist, although I could be. I more or less quit dealing with people’s psychological stuff a long time ago. It is time-consuming and not very rewarding. I reveal the self using the Vedanta pramana. If a person is purified, this revelatory knowledge becomes firm almost immediately and there is a permanent shift in orientation. You no longer know the self or meditate on the self or experience the reflection of the self in the mind.
You become the self. That is to say you experience the ego as an object and you are fully aware of its psychology. Had this happened with you, you would not have written the letter you did. If this had happened there would be no need for sadhana, in your case the adjustment of apparently disturbing vrittis. There are no disturbing vrittis, apparent or otherwise, if you are the self. There are no adjustments to be made. Everything is adjusted for good once this shift has happened and cannot be reversed. Who you are adjusts everything automatically.
Your statement “moment to moment is being observed and the mind adjusted as apparently disturbing vrittis arise, only allowing ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ to prevail through all apparent fluctuations. This is richly rewarding, and listening to more words will not produce anything greater” reveals your spiritual situation.
What I am about to say may be a bit difficult to take on board and you are free not to reply. I feel the time is right to help you move to the next level – but only if you want.
I am not compelled to say anything. I basically only offer teaching when I am asked. With my best friends I have an open invitation to point out hidden things that need to be known. But some people do not want others digging around in their unconscious mind, bringing unresolved samskaras to light, so I let them be. Unless it is solicited, helping people with unresolved issues is very difficult for me because Shadow content contradicts one’s own good opinion of oneself and if what comes up is too disturbing for them, I get blamed. I knew what was troubling you all along, but I kept my mouth shut. I see the agitation that my marriage provoked in you as an opportunity to deepen our friendship, but it is entirely up to you. If you want to let sleeping dogs lie, it in no way affects the love I have for you.
Anyway, I am going to give you something to think about. Please contemplate this with reference to your statement above.
You are brahman. There is no knowledge that needs to prevail. Aham Brahmasmi simply means “I am free.” What does it mean to say you are free? It means that you are free of doership. In your case, the doer writes to me that she is observing, adjusting and allowing.
Brahman – you – never does that. It does not observe. It is what makes observation possible. It does not adjust, because everything is adjusted all the time. The doer adjusts. The doer allows.
These are not just words, Voiletta. These are statements of fact that need to be assimilated. Brahman, you, never allow. Everything – insofar as there is something other than you – is already allowed or, as the scriptures say, already accomplished. It is known not to be real. And finally, the doer, not you, is richly rewarded. No karma comes to you. You are the reward.
To say you are the reward means you are love. You do not have love or feel love nor do you love. Love is not a verb. You are love. Being love means that you see no difference between yourself and others. Knowing this is not about getting unconditional love for Voiletta as if it was a special kind of love opposed to desire. It is the hard and fast understanding that you are love. Even if I was totally deluded and trying to cook up a spiritual justification for what happened to me, you would love me even more if you knew this. Every event in the apparent reality is met with love. I could have been pissed off at you for raining on my parade – which would have been the normal reaction – but I took the care to craft a very loving letter.
Voiletta: I’m still sceptical about this unconditonal love part. Only time will tell.
Ram: Time is not involved, Voiletta. Only inquiry will reveal it. It has nothing to do with me and Voiletta. If she runs off with the milkman or my head is turned by a prettier woman, everything that was said is true.
You are skeptical because you do not have unconditional love for yourself and you do not have faith in me. You do not have faith in me because you do not love yourself unconditionally. You still have some unkind self-judgments. If you did love yourself unconditionally you would see that it was the self, not James, that was speaking about marriage in that blog and that it is the self appearing as James that has been your friend all along.
The blog is a teaching on the value of non-dual love. There is no justification in it. It sheds light on me as the self experiencing non-dual love and sharing it with the world. It is a gift, not an excuse. Why would you view it the way you did if it were not for the fact that there is negativity around your own unresolved emotional issues? The whole point of the article is to enlighten those who are confused about the nature of the teaching of Vedanta on relationship, those who think Vedanta is only intellectual. That blog makes it clear that the self is love and Vedanta is love. It offers help to those who are confused about how to be in relationship and to pursue a genuine path to moksa. As I mentioned, only three of over one hundred readers that I heard from missed the point.
Unconditional love will come once you have resolved the wounds from the past. I am not asking you to trust me. I only ask that you think about my analysis of your statement above and the words of the blog because they are pure Vedanta. You need only have faith in scripture if you do not trust the teacher. Unfortunately, you need a teacher to get the import of the teachings. Without faith in the teacher you are at the mercy of your own mind. You will avoid teachings that are challenging and follow those that aren’t.
I love the symbol of Jesus on the Cross. If you notice, he is always portrayed with a wound in his side, near the heart. This wound is directly connected to his realization of his nature as God, as Love. It is through this wound – the resolution of his unresolved stuff – that impersonal love comes. His love is impersonal, for sure. He has every reason to take personally what is happening to him. His guards are tormenting him. But he forgives them because they know not what they do. This is how you would see my marriage if you had resolved the love issue. I did not know what I was doing, because I was not doing anything. I was just me – awareness – and this event happened. It was God’s grace. I can be forgiven because I did not choose it. The desire was there. but the fulfillment of it was not up to me. I did not react to it. I embraced it without effort. This is how knowledge works. It neutralizes the reaction. Acceptance is automatic. This love will last because it has nothing to do with James, the doer. James just gets to enjoy it. This is why Ramana says that there are only bhoga (enjoyment) vasanas for jnanis. I am not James or Ram or whatever. He is in me, but I am not in him.
Voiletta: The rest of this year will be a time of self-reflection and contemplation for me. I’ll be focusing on mundane things like helping the family and getting myself settled into a new home, etc. I wish for silence. All the physical pain and hospital experiences has somehow made me quieter than I’ve ever been. It’s all been a great shock, and quietude is what I need to realign the psyche. It’s as if I have shifted off my axis and need to maneouvre back into place again. I don’t think this mean I’ve gone nuts or anything, but the system has had a severe shock.
James: No, you are not nuts. You are handling it very well.
Voiletta: This is also by no means an excuse for anything I’ve written. I’m also sorry you heard negative reports about my attitude towards you because this in itself could be inaccurate, but without knowing the facts there’s nothing to be said right now.
James: It does not matter if it is accurate or inaccurate, Voiletta. The point is that no matter what you think or do, I love you.
Voiletta: One thing I want you to know though is that I am sincerely happy for your happiness. I’ll write again.
Ram: Thank you.
~ Love, James
Voiletta: Dear Ram, I’m very grateful for your in-depth and thought-provoking reply. Yes, there is a lot in my past which arises lately and makes me quite sad, especially the childhood part. I will certainly enquire into this over the next months, but somehow I just don’t think this kind of thinking will dispel the demons. A strange vulnerability prevails at the moment. I feel fragile like I haven’t felt for absolutely years. I would like to be able to deal with this to clear the psyche once and for all. I know I am the self, yet this ancient vasana thing is strong at the moment.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a lengthy reply. I will take your words to heart and work with them. In a way I rather wish you had brought all this up long before. I would not have taken it amiss. In fact sometimes I wondered why you didn’t talk about some of this with me. You have helped so many others in the way of examining their motivations, past experiences, etc. I always felt you thought I was above such deep-seated unresolved issues from the past. I thought I was, but doubt always lingered and I tried to live up to the thought that it’s all in the past and really cannot matter. Clearly, it does, as it now saddens me more than ever. I feel kind of weepy a lot of the time.
I only hope I can find the right way to enquire into all this “stuff” and render it redundant once and for all.
Thanks again for your kind response. Much love always.