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Suffering Fills the Gaps
Henry: Hi, James. I started writing a whole big thing about the shortcomings of the Neo teachings based on my experience, but I’m going to just bullet-point my main thoughts. I don’t want you to think I’m criticizing my teacher. She is a wonderful person and free in some way, probably because she knows who she is, but she just could not close the sale.
James: All these Neo teachers picked up their ideas here and there in the soupy miasma of Western Advaita with occasional forays into New Vedanta. They had some experiences, then read Nisargadatta and Ramana but had no idea what was behind them, how they related to or did not relate to the great Vedanta sampradaya.
There is nothing personal about it. We are all thieves. I openly admit that I got every idea from Vedanta. There is nothing original or personal in anything I say. The Neo world – like every other world – the legal world, the political world, the sports world, the art world – is a tightly-knit, incestuous world. It is a clique, a club, all of them keeping an eye on each other via the internet, DVDs and books. None of them really inquire as to the source of their ideas – or really care. Somebody reads Ramana or Nisargadatta or went to a Papaji satsang and heard something that struck a chord and it became Truth du jour for him or her. It gains a bit of currency as it is passed around here and there, and one day it is taken as wisdom.
What keeps this world alive is the belief that the words of anyone who is enlightened or says he or she is enlightened is somehow gospel. Enlightened people say dumb things. Swami Dayananda, who is one of my gurus and for whom I have the greatest respect and is about as enlightened as a human being gets, said Barak Obama was a Muslim, much to the consternation of his devotees. It is clear that he is expressing his opinion, as the scripture does not make statements on the religious beliefs of important persons. If such a great man can say something patently untrue, then what about the pigmy minds of the Neos? The Neo teachings contain truth, half-truth and ignorance. And nobody knows which is which.
When someone reads or hears something that fits with his or her beliefs or encapsulates a bit of his or her spiritual experience, it becomes his or her “teaching.” And it is passed on without shame. The vanity of these people knows no bounds. It is typical of the American mentality: “I am wonderful and I said it, so it must be true.”
Henry: Anyway, James, here are some observations based on my years in the Neo world:
1. The Neos welcome and perpetuate an anti-intellectual bias and demonize the mind because this way they can dismiss the Vedanta scriptures, which have the dangerous habit of exposing and debunking the enlightenment myths on which the Neos feed. Tony Parsons said Vedanta is rubbish, as you know. If he had actually been taught Vedanta he would understand that his “teaching” is rubbish.
2. They do not understand that there can be a structured teaching that is not “concepts about the self” but is a means of self-inquiry.
3. They do not offer any means of self-inquiry, leaving the inquirer without any tools.
Without a valid means of knowledge they are forced to rely on experience. Here is a “teaching” I heard recently: “Just realize in this moment that you are the awareness, and then experience that this is what you are!” Have you ever heard of a more lame teaching? It is so pathetic I can’t even bother to critique it.
4. They are against effort and preparation because they have done no sadhana or they did it and didn’t know that was what they were doing. And they don’t dare tell anyone that he or she has to do anything to prepare the mind for enlightenment or they would have nobody to teach, because this crop of seekers are after McEnlightenment, fast-food enlightenment.
5. They have no understanding of mithya, apparent reality, at all. This is the one drawback that ties all the rest of them together. Mithya is just completely denied in its entirety as being “conceptual.” So there’s no way out.
Addressing mithya was the part that appealed to me so much when I finally stumbled across your website (though I didn’t know what it was yet). I remember first hearing you say that there was a beautiful “mandala of existence” that Vedanta would reveal, and I almost cried. I knew all of this appearance had to be addressed, and in my former discipleship I kept having to work so hard to ignore it. And of course “ignoring” is ignorance!
The trick was supposed to be to keep noticing that awareness is what I am. But what I also noticed is that suffering was what filled in the gaps between those moments of remembering!
I knew there had to be a way to uproot that suffering. My former teacher never talked about the ignorance that kept me believing in the separate self. She talked about the misidentification, but not about the ignorance that produces it. The nature of the ignorance was not discussed at all. She claimed that the misidentification would end by… are you ready?… stopping it. Just stop misidentifying. Know who you are. This was the extent of it.
James: It would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.
Henry: I heard something wonderful in your Bhagavad Gita recording this morning, when you said this: “We already know we are the self. But self-inquiry is to find out what it means to be the self; in other words, what would it be like to be the self and be here in this body?” What a cool way to look at it. What a perfect question for self-inquiry.
I would have formerly been told there is no body, the body is a concept. Rather than learning that all things in appearance are me and never stopped being me, I learned that all things in appearance do not exist at all, except as concepts in the mind. So many unanswered questions are in that statement! What is the mind? Where does the concept come from? What controls the birth of the concept? Etc., etc. They just do not think things through.
Anyway, James, these are just my thoughts. If you care to comment, please do.