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The Effectiveness of Vedanta
Greg: Dear James, warm greetings from sunny California to you and Sundari. I hope you are both in good health and have plenty of time to enjoy one another’s company. I write without any particular questions for you or even the expectation of a response. I simply feel drawn to communicate, and if any helpful words occur to you to share with me, they would be greatly appreciated.
My life has been a continuous flow of good fortune and this pattern has of course included the realm of “spirituality.” In the past year or so, both my wife Theresa and best friend Marlon have attained self-realization through their interactions with you. As a result, I have no doubts at all concerning the effectiveness of Vedanta as a means and I have total confidence in you as a qualified teacher. As I understand it, what remains is for me is to work on my own qualifications as I live out my karma.
Based upon my meager knowledge at this point, I see at least two areas that may affect my ability to become self-aware: (1) a past focus on “experience” and (2) attachments to body-based desires.
James: I am not sure what you mean by your statement “…my ability to become self-aware.” Do you mean for Greg to be more aware of Greg or do you mean for Greg to become more aware of the “real” Greg, awareness? If the former, Vedanta won’t help. Psychology might be useful. If the latter – which I think you mean – then Vedanta can help.
Greg: 1. As a child of the ’60s, I quickly gravitated to experiential modes of approaching spirituality, including numerous non-recreational trips on substances such as mushrooms, peyote, LSD, etc. This approach was fruitful in terms of producing life-altering epiphanies, but of course was lacking in terms of permanency. June and I then became deeply involved with the infamous Muktananda and successors and their very experience-based approaches, spending over eight years living in their ashrams. (For this reason, I thoroughly enjoy your humorous comments on their shenanigans. In the process of our departure from the ashram, they actually had a sort of trial for me with different friends testifying about my being disconnected from Gurumayi’s “shakti.” Chidvilasanda even begin an ashram-wide course on delusion in my “honor.”)
James: Yes, I remember you and your lovely wife. You came to Golden. I didn’t realize you had been involved in Siddha Yoga. It is all experiential, a rajasic shakti sadhana, which isn’t necessarily bad, but this one turned into a cult. It’s good that you escaped with your sanity. It seems a few others did so too.
Greg: 2. After reviewing The Value of Values and your How to Attain Enlightenment book, and bearing in mind the potential for self-delusion in these matters, my sense is that while there is most certainly work remaining in numerous areas of my life, my most profound weaknesses are attachments connected with biological impulses, specifically sex and food. As I age the sex issues seem to be lessening and I am slowly finding myself in better control of my tendency to indulge in food. Still, much work remains.
James: There is no particularly reason why these vasanas need to be a problem, Greg, unless you are obsessed with them. You should enjoy life. Self-knowledge does not mean renunciation of activities and desires, unless as you are obsessed. Sin intelligently and occupy your mind with self-inquiry.
Greg: Thus far, I have enjoyed two of your weekend workshops, read your book twice and continue to page through it regularly. I also greatly appreciated The Value of Values book that you recommended. After our Siddha Yoga experiences it is refreshingly joyful to savor your work. Thanks so much. Again, no response is needed.
James: Just keep at it. Your desire for liberation will grow.