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Ram: Hi, Helen. Sorry for not writing sooner, but I have gotten famous and there are so many people and so much to do that I make mistakes – forget things, misplace things, etc.
Helen: I don’t REALLY understand the thing that, when self-realized, the karma is nullified; it’s like burned rope, as you write, it does not bind any longer. Still, even after enlightenment we keep on living and maybe even be ill or have preferences due to the body. This is… karma in a way, is it not? This part I just find hard to relate to.
Ram: Karma is just how you interpret and relate to what happens, not what happens. What happens is going to happen as long as you are alive. You have no choice about it. How you see what happens and how it affects you is REALLY what happens. If you think you are Helen, a limited individual with likes and dislikes, you will interpret what happens according to the nature of your likes and dislikes. But if you understand that you are the self, limitless awareness, you will not suffer.
For example, why did you suffer from the love affair? Because you had certain expectations that were not met. If you had known that you are the self there would have been no suffering. You would have gone into it with complete dispassion, expecting nothing. What he was or did would not matter to you, because you would understand that he could only be what he was – he had no choice about it. And you would have loved him as he was without qualifications, whether or not he gave you what you wanted, whether you were with him or not. You would have seen him as the self, as perfect, whole and complete. This is what it means to be karma-free.
Helen: Also, I wanted to ask a question about a statement you made about Amma, that she is a shaktipat guru and cannot give you enlightenment.
James: Nobody can give you enlightenment, Helen. You are the self. It is already enlightened. Enlightenment is knowing that you are the self and knowing what it means to be the self. If the knowledge is hard and fast, it frees you from karma and it frees you from Helen. Enlightenment is not freedom FOR Helen. It is freedom FROM Helen. For enlightenment you need self-knowledge, and for that you need a teacher and scripture. You need to be taught how to discriminate yourself from Helen, your reflection in the subtle body. Amaji transfers energy into people and awakens their faith in God. She does not teach. She talks about moksa indirectly in general, but she is not adept at showing you how to remove your ignorance of yourself. She takes you as the person that you think you are and she communicates to you in that way. But you are not actually that person. You are actually the self, limitless awareness. I have met hundreds of Amaji devotees over the years and none of them knew who they are, except intellectually. Generally, after getting prepared by their relationship with Amaji, they move on and become inquirers suitable for teaching. Or not. I met quite a few who just gave up on the spiritual thing because they did not get what they thought was enlightenment.
Helen: Every year since 20 years now I meet her and always feel very lucky that she wants to answer some of my questions and lets me sit near; last year (after it all happened, as I told you about the affair) I went to her and could not help but cry, and she asked me to sit next to her chair in the midst of all the business around her and tapped my chin with her hand to in a way ask me, like, “What’s up? Why are you crying?” And I got to ask her a question about the situation (why I got caught up in this love affair and that I felt very sorry) through one of her swamis. First she looked angry and then she smiled at me in the most loving way, and the answer was, “Amma will say a special prayer for you and bless.”
James: Honestly, Helen, what is the difference between her behavior and that of any kind person? “Say a prayer for you and bless you”? Why didn’t she ask you why you were looking for love in a relationship when love is your nature? Why didn’t she tell you that you had the wrong idea of who you are and then reveal the self to you? A guru is someone with whom you can communicate directly about who you are. He or she is not there to take away your pain and make you feel good without helping you to understand WHY you are not clear about what you really want – FREEDOM from Helen – and why you believe that a love relationship with someone is going to make you happy and free. Amaji is like a deity, an icon that you worship and pray to to make your faith strong, which may help you get prepared for moksa, but she is not a qualified guru. That is not her role. This is not a criticism of Amaji. She is a great soul and does only good for the world.
Helen: During the years I had many such moments with her, our house is very near to the hall she is visiting every year and so her clothes are washed at my house every year, which always gives a special energy to the house, and every time these moments get me to be deeper in love with who she is, what she does and the way she touches the heart of people.
James: The point, however, Helen, is that if she is a proper guru, over the years you should be going deeper in love with you, not who she is. How is loving her any different from loving anyone else if it does not bring freedom from the need to love someone? Yes, she touches the hearts of people, but so what? Moksa is about you touching your own heart. It is more than that really. It is knowing that you are parama prema svarupa, unconditional love. She is an example of that, but that knowing does not transfer into you or you would not be writing this letter. Amaji is not doing anything to be what she is. She simply knows that her nature, which is the same as your nature, is pure awareness/love. But she cannot show it to you directly, because she does not have the tools. She can only show you that it is possible and transfer the energy of love – which is not moksa – into you. Shaktipat does not set you free. It gives you an experience of freedom, but the experience does not last, because it is just an experience. You really need to read my book very carefully, Helen. Take it very slowly. Don’t move forward until you understand each and every idea. You are not clear about what you really want. The book will make it clear.
Helen: I feel as if she is working with me, letting me make my sometimes very stupid mistakes and learn from it and inviting me to look deeper.
James: You don’t need Amaji to make stupid mistakes, Helen. You need to know what a stupid mistake is before you do it. It is stupid to think that you can find lasting love in a relationship. If you know that you are lasting love, then being in or out of a relationship is of no interest to you. And what does “look deeper” actually mean? I am not trying to be hard on you, Helen, but I think you need a bit of straight talk. It is not stupid to want a relationship or to be in one. It is stupid to expect something from the outside to solve a problem that is between you and yourself. You need to love yourself. But you cannot love yourself if you do not know who you are. When you realize you are love/awareness, you have no choice but to love yourself. A guru shows you who you are, not who he or she is. It does no good if I am enlightened unless I can show you how to enlighten yourself.
Helen: I am reading a lot of her books now also, and I can’t find in them anywhere that she is not a guru that can give you enlightenment. How do you look at this?
James: It depends on what you mean by guru and what you mean by enlightenment. I explained it above. Nobody can give you enlightenment. It is not an experience. It is your nature. You are the light already. You are the light, you always were the light and you will always be the light – long after Helen is dead and gone. It is a matter of understanding who you really are, not trying to get enlightenment from some person. There is a lot more to this enlightenment business than just hanging out with a famous shaktipat guru and waiting for something to happen. If you think about it logically, how can Amaji actually enlighten you? She is too busy hugging people and setting up social service programs and managing her vast wealth and influence to actually take the time to teach you patiently who you are. She is good to get you started on the spiritual path, but you need more.
Helen: Are there different spiritual practices for different people?
James: Yes. There are certain practices to purify the mind to get you ready for moksa and there is self-inquiry for moksa. Karma yoga and bhakti yoga are for doers, and self-inquiry is for sanyassis, contemplative people. I think the reason you are writing me is because being with Amma has been good for you and has got you thinking, and now you want some clear answers. Vedanta will give you clarity.
Helen: What does it really mean to study Advaita, the path of knowledge, and to inquire into the mind (as I thought I did with the teacher I had) and see that in fact I am the self, when still… when it comes down to my vasanas, they are still going on and some of them blindly, and then teaching me that I still am not fully clear about myself.
James: It means that you are not your vasanas. When you understand this you do not take them seriously and expect them to solve life problems for you. You have a laugh at them and let them die on their own – which they will do if you do not indulge them. I think you are starting to become a little dispassionate. It is good. Dispassion is one of the most important qualifications for self-knowledge.
Helen: When I look at this with clarity, awareness, I can see how it is, still… to became a complete transparent human being, that asks from me to integrate all this knowing in my daily living and how I act or not act with people, and preferably NOT having an affair with a teacher because of unresolved love stuff.
James: You will not be a completely transparent human being until you understand that you are not a human being. You are awareness, the knower of Helen. Helen is fine as she is. Let her be who she is and make her mistakes and do what she does. It is fine. Don’t try to change her.
Inquire into your nature. Understand what it means to be awareness. This is where the transparency, the clarity, lies. When you understand that you are awareness you will not be bothered with Helen. Her vasanas will dry up automatically. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “There is no purifier like self-knowledge.”
Helen: I hope you understand my question. Jai Ma!
James: I hope you understand my answer. ☺ Ananya Jai Ananya!