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The Essence of Enlightenment
Manny: Dearest James, my own Self, it seems that the self disguised as this jiva has developed a sense of fascination towards itself as Ramji, the teacher. How funny! This is indeed an unexpected event.
Before meeting you, I had definitely noticed a growing sense of admiration, gratitude or even reverence towards you and the scriptures you so well represent. But once I got to be in your physical presence it has developed into this sweet feeling of love and devotion in which the mind of the lover knows to be the beloved, and also knows that there is nothing to be gained through this apparent infatuation since the self’s confidence in its non-dual nature is firm. If anything, the only apparent gain seems to be this joy, the bhakti, the nectar of anand, which is the very nature of the self once in full association with itself. In other words, with great joy I think of you often!
My dearest, let me put aside all this mundane sentimentalism – after all, we are people of knowledge – ha, ha, ha.
James: It’s natural to fall in love with people you respect. I’m just glad you didn’t try to get it on with me. I think you are a romantic at heart.
Manny: As I have briefly mentioned to you a few days ago, over the past 12 months this incredible science called Vedanta has been shedding more and more light of understanding on what has happened to me a few years back. Among others, the most fascinating aspect is related to the relationship between experience and knowledge.
My long-term association with gurus such as Nisargadatta, Ramana and Papaji, most of the time [whose] teaching [was] a direct approach to self-realization by “understanding” rather than by yoga, has produced a firm belief in me that my yoga or temperament was the one of knowledge. However, since I got to study Vedanta under you I began uncovering hidden levels of misunderstandings derived by this deeply-rooted notion that liberation is a subtle form of knowledge/experience, a notion which, according to my later readings, even Swami Chimayananda here and there seems to express in his commentaries of Gita.
It seems that the mix-up of the language of identity with the one of experience is pretty much all-pervasive in the spiritual world, with the exception of traditional Vedanta. The notion that a certain experience has to take place in order for self-knowledge to occur is an idea well-planted in the subconscious mind of every jiva’s causal body.
By now, a year has passed since I began listening you saying over and over again that liberation or self-knowledge comes with a click of understanding which is a by-product of the removal of ignorance of one’s true nature. Yes, it always sounded perfect, BUT, deep inside I remained with a question mark: How about the experiential element which seems to always be side-by-side with self-realization? Somehow it sounded to be too dry or mental, this notion of a simple click of understanding in the intellect! The good news is that I am no longer confused about that. It also seems that I have understood what happened to me at the time of self-recognition and its subsequent development.
James: I am glad that you are clear, Manny. The experiential notion dies hard. I don’t recommend the teachings of my guru unless a person has sorted out the experience-knowledge issue because they add to the confusion. Getting clear the relationship between experience and knowledge releases the energy necessary to move confidently in the direction of knowledge. We do not discount experience – how could one, insofar as the experience is the self? But self is not experience. Seekers rarely realize that they are always experiencing “enlightenment.” They don’t realize that wrong notions are the issue.
Manny: The event followed a sentence discriminating the experiencer from the object of experience. It was like a subtle experience in which, from within myself, there was a subtle flow of light revealing itself to be the pure consciousness illumining all objects of experience, and I knew that I was the light. The knowledge “what I am is the light of consciousness” was well assimilated, but somehow it was slightly mixed up with that subtle phenomenon experience. That experience freed me from most of everything, and did put an end to a 30+ years of seeking for the self, but deep inside, due to the long term subconscious vasana of experience, I was still entangling myself – awareness – by the association with that subtle experience of presence of light.
Now I see clearly that even the light in that experience was an object appearing in me, and the understanding is that the subtle epiphany was but a container in which the knowledge “what I am is the light of consciousness” was extracted. But a container (experience) is not “absolutely” necessary for this knowledge to take place because knowledge and experience belong to different realms of reality. Knowledge alone is, and knowledge alone realizes its own non-dual nature with no need of a vehicle because it is self-knowing. Knowledge is the subtlest of all, its existence, its isness is, before, during and after Maya comes into operation. Knowledge can even include experience as an aspect of itself, but an experience has no business claiming itself to be knowledge. Experience belongs only to this grosser realm of duality in which knowledge appears to split itself as the knower and the known.
James: Good for you, Manny! These statements are clear and powerful statements of truth. I love this email!!!
Manny: Also, it begins making sense to me the reason why most seekers realize their true identity with the aid of an experience. Because we live in this grosser realm of thoughts and feelings, we project a phenomenon experience which vibrates in harmony with our mind. We live in this world governed by experience and therefore we often use an experiential apparatus or epiphany (a kind of a subtle means) in order to capture the reflection of the knowledge of our own existence which is altogether from another realm before/beyond creation, and experience.
James: Yes, indeed. Many people know who they are, but rarely do these people understand the importance of language in communicating the essence of enlightenment. It is almost always couched in experiential language, which is hugely misleading. To an experience-oriented person, the language of identity seems effete, colorless and uninspiring.
Manny: And since Vedanta firmly rejects experience as a means of self-knowledge, Vedanta alone seems to be the most subtle and the only direct means to revel the non-dual nature of existence, consciousness and fullness, which is knowledge.
James: Vedanta is the most subtle and powerful teaching there is. This is not to denigrate other teachings, only to say that if you are a mature qualified person, it is the fast track to freedom because it is so comprehensive and sophisticated. In a way, you don’t need it because moksa is just pure knowledge – which can come in other ways. But if you want to communicate what you know effectively and be truly helpful, no teaching begins to compare to it.
Manny: Dear James, please shed some of your wisdom on these thoughts.
James: No light is necessary, Manny. These thoughts are wisdom. You seem to have assimilated the essence of enlightenment. It has been a pleasure reading this email. In a few days, when I get the final copy of my new book, I will email it to you so you and your friend can get to work on it. It was a pleasure meeting you and your lovely wife.
~ Much love, James