Search & Read
James: Dear Mark, well, I read your story. It was worth the read. It is familiar, in fact it is just the story of the self as it struggles to free itself. It happened to me. It happens to many people, although in your case it had a happy ending. However, life goes on after the ending. But your story is a little different from most – in the telling of it. The telling is remarkably clear, precise, elegant and literate, Zen-like. If a normal person read your story, the questions at the end do not make a lot of sense. You suffered, you got happy. You have all the worldly stuff and you have enlightenment, so what’s a little bit of ignorance? This is how a normal person would think.
But I am not a normal person and I understand your question. Ostensibly, it has to do with teaching. You are a smart guy and you seem to at least have figured out that being “enlightened” is not a license to teach. Your criticism of the Neos – you couldn’t have picked two more Neo Neos than Tony Parsons and Karl Renz – is correct. These people are not real teachers. They had some kind of “awakening” and they talk about it in stilted and conventional ways. At best they can help you get rid of some wrong notions, but they have no way to reveal the self. In any case, I will not use this letter to get on my soapbox and take the piss out of the Neos, although you have given me some more ammunition. Swami Dayananda, Swami Paramarthananda and others in the Dayananda/Chinmayananda lineage are teachers. So Dennis steered you in the right direction.
My first question is, why do you want to teach? I get the impression from your letter that it is not a burning desire, that somehow people wanted to know about your experience and you obliged. Most of the teaching that is out there is motivated by unpurified doership. A person realizes he or she is the self and somehow that is not enough. There is still someone there who wants to do something with this knowledge. So they set out to “teach.” It is as if the doer needed to justify its enlightenment or is just bored and wants a new career. In any case, I am not sure that your question has to do with teaching, although I can tell you that if you want to be a good teacher you need a methodology that is completely divorced from you.
And secondly, you need to have teaching dharma. Even if Tony and Karl and many of the other Neos who pose as teachers are fully enlightened saints and God’s great spiritual gift to humanity, they do not have teaching dharma. By that I mean they do not have the nature of teachers. A true teacher is a very rare being. Not only should he or she have this nature and an impersonal proven methodology, he or she should appreciate the fact that teaching takes place by both precept and by example. You can be very brilliant and entertaining in front of a crowd of fools and people will love you and be impressed and you will make a nice living, but the real teacher knows that power of a teaching is ninety percent rooted in purity and nobility of the teacher’s life. Anyway, I get the impression that you are a humble person because you are so clear-minded. I feel that your question is not about showing you how to teach. Is that correct?
You ask me to examine whatever ignorance you have and destroy it. Okay. I will try to do it if I can figure out what the problem is. I have my suspicions, but it is best to get you to see it yourself and tell me.
So now that I have heard your story and enjoyed it, your first job is to answer my questions and tell me what ignorance you want Vedanta to destroy. Remember, I do not destroy ignorance. Destruction is not my cup of tea. I am a lover, a nourisher and a builder. I make beautiful things. We will let Vedanta do the destroying. I find the idea that a teacher is meant to bust ego silly and childish. If you get the import of Vedanta, it will destroy the ignorance automatically. Neither you nor the teacher needs to do it.
Mark: Dear James, I am very grateful that you took the time to answer.
1. Why do I want to teach? You’re right, I do not want to teach, because I do not feel that for the moment I have any adequate means of really helping people on the topic of self-knowledge.
It seems that the people are recognizing truth in the words that come out of my mouth (they are not my words and it is not my truth, as you know), but that alone is not sufficient, especially if I now see how logical, stepwise and full of depth the teaching styles of real Advaita teachers like Swami Dayananda are. Before Dennis pointed me to Swami Daynanada, I knew “Advaita” only from Neo-Advaita teachers. What a difference!
However, in my day job as a senior manager in a consulting firm I love to teach as a friend, enjoying that others benefit from my experience and my many mistakes. But there I had trainings myself and have a good idea how I can convey the “message,” so to speak. So initially it was probably out of that instinct that I said I will do that. I saw what Tony Parsons and Karl Renz are doing and I thought I would do it the same way, maybe also to confirm my own understanding by being challenged through questions and watching the answers come out of my mouth. Maybe also as a kind of confirmation for “the enlightenment”?
But I think it is a flawed method, just answering questions. And if a teacher is in need of disciples, then he is a mere prisoner.
James: This makes things more clear for me. It is natural to want to share what you know, and you are a humble and good person, so you would not consciously mislead anybody, but if you want to be effective you have to be professional in what you do. You have invested a huge amount of time learning your profession and you are undoubtedly good at it. It should be the same with teaching. The Neos by and large are good people, but they are not professional at all. The “hot seat” method is a big joke. It is totally easy and requires no methodology. The teaching should be structured and logical and slowly take away the person’s ignorance step by step. If you apply yourself to the study of Vedanta you might become a good teacher, but I think there is another problem before you even consider it.
You make an interesting statement at the beginning of this letter. You say, “It seems that the people are recognizing truth in the words that come out of my mouth (they are not my words and it is not my truth, as you know).”
I do know what you mean, and it is true as you state it, but I think there is a small problem with your enlightenment. I will let you try to figure it out and if you can’t I will tell you – if you like. Here is another question: Who do those words belong to?
Mark: 2. Coming closer to the question: lack of confidence?
James: Yes. But why is the confidence not one hundred percent?
Answer: there is a flaw in your understanding. After you answer my question above I will tell you if you cannot figure it out. And probably you can’t. But give it a try. You are at a stage where you need Vedanta and it seems the self has figured this out and sent you to me. We are always good at figuring out other’s issues, but less good at figuring out our own.
Mark: I think my real question is based on my surprise that although the search for enlightenment has ended without a shred of doubt since 2006 – frustration, anger, even envy, still arise and fade away.
James: Well, the end of the search is not necessarily enlightenment. Enlightenment is knowing the reason why it ended. I think you are not clear on the why. Everything you say does make it look like you are enlightened – if it is at all possible for Mark to be enlightened – but there is something missing. By the way, have you read my book How to Attain Enlightenment? I think you should read it before you study Dayananda, etc. I think it will clear up the remaining doubt or doubts you have.
Mark: And although I am what I am, the “external” pressure clearly creates different levels of frustration, anger or sadness. I have realized that I am also still a very human being. And that the work of “being a decent human” never seems to end.
James: The problem is that the doer, the human being, has not been negated by self-knowledge. And you can never become a better human being. You only get better if you accept yourself as you are, warts and all. There is no perfection on that level. It seems to me that you are as good as it gets as a human being. I suggest you not try to get any better. There is just something that you do not understand about yourself.
But the solution to this problem of being enlightened but still being affected by the vasanas is related to lack of clarity about the relationship between the self – you – and Mark. There is still another step before you can say that you are enlightened, I believe.
Mark: It is strange that on one hand there is no doubt that the search has ended and that feeling of being a prisoner and incomplete is gone. I am free.
James: Now you are getting to the point! Good for you, Mark. Yes, it is contradiction. I think you must read my book carefully. I think it will be very helpful. You need the big picture. Right now you are looking at enlightenment from Mark’s point of view. It is mostly okay, but – to repeat – you need the big picture.
Mark: But on the other hand, in the beginning of this year there were so many things putting pressure (I built a house, pending lawsuits with workers and architect, frustration in my job), that I was sad and “mildly depressed.”
James: I don’t want to sound like those silly Neos, but they have a point – which they picked up from Ramana: Who built the house? Who put the pressure?
Mark: Is that symptom not telling me that there might be still a shred of a “doer” left that identifies?
James: Yes, indeed, Mark. You have a very good intellect. I should have read on to this point and saved myself all the talk above. ☺ Now the question is, how to get rid of that shred?
Mark: Or is it just human to have a mild form of depression when there is stormy and rainy weather in life?… which has also faded away now.
James: It is human, but are you human? The jury is still out on your enlightenment, but the answer lies in the relationship of the self and the doer to the vasanas. You really must read my book. You can get it at Amazon.com. Take your time and make sure you can sign on to the logic at every stage. If it does not clear up your remaining doubts, you can write to me again and I will try to help you.
Mark: After pondering over my last response to you, I believe that this is the answer: it is just human to be sad or even depressed sometimes when there is stormy and rainy weather in life. It is human to have “healthy” or “unhealthy” habits.
James: As I said above, are you human? But, yes, if you know that the human being, Mark, is merely an object appearing in you, awareness, and you understand that that object is subject to all the forces in the field of life, some of which are painful, and owing to this understanding you do not try to interfere with Mark’s feelings, then you are enlightened.
Mark: Whether someone knows who he really is or does not know does not matter for the habits to be.
James: That is true, but you seem to have a doubt about it. Actually, it matters and it doesn’t matter. If you know who you are, your identification with the feeling/thinking/experiencing entity will become almost completely non-existent over time as self-knowledge neutralizes the binding vasanas. So if after some time there is still an unacknowledged identification with the human part of the self, it means that self-knowledge has not taken place or if it has it is not steady.
Mark: The weather of life will make its mark and sadness or joy will just appear and disappear.
James: Yes, on whom will it make its mark on?
Mark: I am who I am. Freedom. Love. That will be always. The rest will wither away to be reborn somewhere, sometime and in some form.
James: True, but it seems this knowledge has not rooted out all your doubts.
Mark: Thank you so much for listening, reading and answering.
~ With sincere love, Mark
James: You are welcome, Mark. First read the book, and yes, come to Westerwald.
~ Love, James