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The Value of Vedanta
Chad: Dear James, it’s going to be almost a year since I last made contact with you. A spate of events transpired between us, which regrettably took an unfortunate turn. But nonetheless, I am surprising myself by writing to you and realizing with such depth about all that I learnt from you. I just wanted to thank you once again for your teachings and this time my appreciation has greater depth and value because I have come back to your teachings after surveying many other teachings.
After the last time we made contact I took up Buddhism and studied all its myriad branches: Zen, Dzogchen, Madhyamika, Mahamudra and Vajrayana in particular. I even went in greater depth into Krishnamurti’s teachings.
But the more I went into them the more I came back to Vedanta, its simplicity and its beauty. After a year I see how Vedanta manages to address every single aspect of human experience. And your book How to Attain Enlightenment remains one of the most lucid and comprehensive books on Vedanta I have come across. It has got everything in it. I say this after reading not less than hundreds of books on non-duality and browsing hundreds of websites.
I also realized how well I had learnt from you and your teachings, particularly the dialectics between knowledge and experience. After a year your teachings have started glowing in me, having gone through the furnace of life’s experiences.
I trust you are doing and keeping well!
James: Dear Chad, lovely to hear from you. Anyone with discrimination who really understands the value of Vedanta, who has been taught properly and who has had a tour through the modern spiritual scene, cannot leave it or if they do they will come back sooner rather than later. It is not just another path, another teaching. It is a pathless path, the knowledge behind each and every path. A predominantly rajasic mind is never satisfied with what it has… it seeks more, better, different. When you understand your nature, the intellectual restlessness stops and you settle into a simple life, content with yourself alone. I stuck with Vedanta because there is nothing better. It will make you understand and it will purify your mind. As Krishna says, “There is no purifier like self-knowledge.” There is nothing left to know, nothing left to do. Take it easy.
Chad: It is lovely to hear from you too. Thank you for your mail and for your words. They fall on my ears as if there was never any break!
You are right about the predominantly rajasic mind wanting more, better and different. And I did take a tour of the modern spiritual scene. I was fortunate to have been taught by you before I started the tour, otherwise I would have reached nowhere. I have a student who has accumulated such a mass of disparate concepts through his internet wanderings that it is all the more difficult for us to rid his half-baked concepts.
Also, I have settled for the simple life, content with myself, though I would like to have more unstructured time on my hands than what I am having at present.
Coincidentally, the base note that remained through all my wanderings was the statement you have quoted from Bhagavad Gita: “There is no purifier like self-knowledge.” What I have come to realize is that even after self-knowledge, the illusion of experience (rajas and tamas) tend to obscure self-knowledge. One has to apply the knowledge again and again, to be patient… and this process may continue for years.
But I have reached an undoubted certainty that there is nothing to do and nowhere to go as everything is always whole and complete awareness, no matter what one’s experience tends to say.
Even saying that there is an illusion that obscures awareness is actually a dualistic statement from the viewpoint of awareness. From the viewpoint of conditioned reality, it is true. In fact negotiating this paradox proves to be one of the trickiest aspects.
I just wanted to ask you whether there is a discrete point where the illusion drops so completely that there is no possibility of obscuration even from the perspective of the conditioned realm.
I really appreciate the fact that you replied despite your busy schedule. ☺
~ Love, Chad
James: Yes, definitely.
Chad: Dear James, thank you once again for your reply. I would be grateful if you could elaborate on this discrete happening. Is this not the point which should be called moksa from the conditioned reality perspective? How does one describe this experience? Is it a state of continuous bliss? In other places people have described this as a collapse of the illusory distinction between subject and object. What do you have to say to this?
James: It is not so much a happening as complete certainty that you are no longer influenced by desire/fear. Thinking in terms of what you personally want from objects finally dissolves. We call it “self-actualization,” meaning you are actually the self, not a person who knows the self. It is moksa. But from the time that you realize who you are until this point you experience an increasing sense of freedom/bliss.
To say it is the “collapse” of the distinction between the subject and object depends on the reason. It is only moksa if you understand why the distinction between subject and object does not obtain. The “collapse” is the result of knowledge, nothing else. The distinction between subject and object collapses during epiphanies but “uncollapses” when the epiphany ends. It is the complete confidence that comes from hard and fast knowledge – from the intimate appreciation of one’s wholeness.
“Collapse” is a dangerous experiential word that invokes implications that are not always accurate.
Chad: Thank you so much for this explanation. I have been seeking this explanation from many people and books but I have not got it as clearly and beautifully as you have mentioned in this mail. Yes, I agree that the word “collapse” is a dangerous word with experiential implications, which may be true for epiphanies but not for self-actualization.
Actually, I have never had any epiphany and that is the reason why this has been an area of unknowing. I feel that I am missing out on something. Of course after all my wanderings I have realized that this sense of missing out on something is the mother of all illusion. ☺ And self-knowledge is a great purifier for this illusion!