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Vedanta Is Not Graduate School
Christopher: Hello, Sundari. In my rush to respond, I neglected to let you know that I am looking into all the elements you mentioned in your email to me and to Wayne. Over the weekend, I will be researching the following:
• gunas, rajas, tamas, savikalpa samadhi, ananda, anandamaya kosa
• Isvara-jiva-jagat aikyam
• yogas: jnana yoga, karma yoga, triguna vibhava yoga.
I know I may only be able to develop a basic familiarity with these concepts before we speak again. But I look forward to contemplating how I can integrate everything as I move forward.
I am very grateful!
Sundari: Hello, Christopher. I am glad that you are taking your sadhana so seriously and have jumped in boots and all and taken it by the bit! Remember though, it does not work to rush this. Vedanta is not for the faint-hearted; it is the most rigorous and challenging material available and will challenge everything you thought you knew about the person Christopher. It is not something you “get” overnight. This is why it appeals to so few people; only a mature and pure mind is capable of assimilating self-knowledge. This is why Vedanta is so adamant about the qualifications. Make sure you understand what they are and track yourself on them on a daily basis.
It will take a while to train the mind to think differently and logically along these lines. Christopher’s conditioning is hardwired, so go slowly. You sent me a long list of terms you want to understand and it read a bit like a shopping list. ☺ No offence intended, Vedanta is not something you can study, Christopher. It is not a course you can take and get good results.
You need to assimilate and understand the logic every step of the way to get the “big picture.” It is not a course, a philosophy or thought system; it is about YOU, who you really are. You are inquiring into yourself, the self.
Take it easy, you will be doing self-inquiry as a way of life for a long “time” once you are fully on board. Even though I no longer need self-inquiry, I continue with it because I love it and it is really the only game in town, so it’s not something to “achieve.” There is no certificate at the end. You don’t gain anything except understanding, which is what makes all the difference to how you, as the person, live in this world. In fact it’s about losing something, which is ignorance of your true nature.
I have a very long list of people who write to me and, unfortunately, I have to stick to it, so I will get to your recent replies in the next week. I am also busy with ShiningWorld’s newsletter at the moment, so my workload is particularly heavy right now. Please be patient, continue your self-inquiry and I will get back to you ASAP.
I will reply to the query in this email but what I also want to say to you is that we advise people to first do their own inquiry by reading James’ book, the e-satsangs and watching the videos before writing to us. You will find that as you dedicate yourself to self-inquiry as a way of life, self-knowledge reveals the answers to you. This is because self-inquiry means that by exposing the mind to the scripture, the knowledge itself does the work of removing the ignorance. It is not about having everything given to you on a plate; you need to think it through yourself because only you can remove your own ignorance through self-inquiry.
We can’t “do the work for you.” It is not possible.
All the answers are there for you at the ShiningWorld website; there are tons of material available, most of it free. In the e-satsang section you will find the answers to every question you could come up with and then some. There are over 2,000 pages of the highest level pure Vedanta in the e-satsang section. If you do not have the videos, I strongly suggest you order the complete set of Vedanta teachings and start from the beginning, watching at least 30 minutes daily. You are very fortunate indeed to have found James and ShiningWorld; it is grace and grace is earned.
Once you have really thought things through, I or any of the excellent people who write for ShiningWorld will gladly help you.
I strongly advise you not to jump ahead too fast though; you need to build up your foundation solidly as your understanding – “what stands under you” must be very firm if you want the knowledge to stick.
Following is the basic outline for self-inquiry; there are three stages to it. Providing the qualifications for self-inquiry are present, they are:
1. Sravana – Listening or hearing the scripture. This requires that you leave everything you previously believed or thought you knew temporarily on the shelf. You can take it back if self-knowledge does not work for you. But for now leave it on the shelf. This is very important; if you keep comparing Vedanta to all your beliefs and opinions and try to make it comply with them, forget about self-inquiry. It will not work, so go back to whatever you were doing before; you are not ready for moksa if this is the case. Vedanta is a radical teaching, it is counterintuitive; expect it to challenge everything you thought you knew.
It all depends what you want most; if you want freedom and an end to suffering, then this is the only way to achieve that. If you want experience, nothing wrong with that, but then Vedanta is not for you.
2. Manana – Reasoning, contemplation. This is thinking about what the scripture is saying, examining the unexamined logic of your own experience. At this point, you look at your beliefs and opinions in the light of what the scripture says, NOT the other way around.
3. Nididhyasana – Applying the knowledge to your life; taking a stand in awareness as awareness.
I have answered your question in point form below.
Christopher: I just had a thought related to the imperfection I mentioned in the world vision I have when I relax into my “self” state with a clear mind.
Sundari: I have not had time to read through the email you previously sent, so this is out of context and we are jumping ahead with the logic here, so I want you to work this out, think about this and then email me if you can’t find the answers:
Who is it that had a thought related to the imperfection of the world vision? There are many “I”s in your statement; who do they refer to? Who “relaxes into” “my” “‘self’ state”?
Who does “I” refer to?
The self is not a “state”; why is that?
You can’t relax “into” the self; why is that? What is Vedanta’s definition of what is real?
Christopher: If it is indeed true that we project onto the world, that which we ourselves feel, could these other people, still (apparently) stuck in their ego (with flashes of their consciousness piercing through occasionally), be merely a reflection of myself?
Meaning, would others appear to me as being fully enlightened if I was? If this is true, it would still only be apparently, right?
Sundari: This depends on who you take yourself to be. As the person Christopher, identified with “his” body/mind/intellect, believing himself to be separate and limited, there are apparent others “out there” just like him. This is called samsara, the belief that reality is a duality.
Freedom from the limited identity called Christopher means inquiring into the nature of reality, which means learning to discriminate what is real from what is only apparently real, in other words, discriminating the self from the not-self. First, the mind needs to understand that all objects (which include the idea of who Christopher is, the body/mind/intellect) are value-neutral and are not conscious; that is called negating all the objects. This means that you have fully assimilated the knowledge that the joy is not in the object. All the objects are known to you and you know without any doubt that YOU are the source of the joy. You do not need the object to complete you; because you are already whole and complete, nothing can be added to you. If you want a short definition of what this discrimination boils down to:
You are conscious; everything else is not.
Once you see that all the objects are empty and have thus negated them as not you, awareness, you can then see that everything is made up of you, arises out of you and dissolves back into you. This includes all your thoughts and feelings. There is only you, awareness. It is like the wave and the ocean are both H2O but they need H2O to exist, whereas H2O exists without the wave or the ocean.
When you really get this, it means that self-knowledge has done the job of removing ignorance. You then realise that by simple deduction you can only be awareness. However, there usually is still work to do to be free of the doer, Christopher. This means that Christopher’s conditioning still has to be understood in the light of self-knowledge, therefore his binding vasanas (deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour) must be rendered non-binding through the practice of karma yoga and triguna vibhava yoga.
As the jiva, or individual, you still live in the apparent reality; it does have an apparent existence and you do experience it. Moksa means that you know that the experiencing entity is not real; however, to be free one has to live free, because even though you have negated the doer he does not disappear; enlightened or not, the jiva never leaves the apparent reality. You just understand that neither the jiva or the apparent reality are real, they are not you, awareness.
So it is imperative to understand what it means to be self-realised in the apparent reality. The effects of ignorance are very persistent. This is where “the work” comes in. Self-realisation is the easy part; it is obvious, after all, that you must be awareness. Self- realisation is not moksa. It is also an experience, and so will end unless the knowledge of what it means is assimilated. To be free of “Christopher” you need to understand what “his” conditioning is, where it comes from. You have to understand how the dharma field operates, what it is made of and, very importantly, its relation to you as the person (jiva) and as the self.
We know of many people who run around thinking they are enlightened because they have understood that they are awareness. It is an intellectual understanding. But they have not understood what this really means in terms of the apparent reality. We call that “enlightenment sickness,” because the ego has co-opted the knowledge and the doer is still very much in residence.
It is also very common for seekers to confuse indirect knowledge (“I know the self”) with direct knowledge (“I AM THE SELF”).
You are obviously very intelligent, have a very good mind and can think logically. Be careful of this trap. Track Christopher at all times, press “pause” every time you hear him use the word “I” and ask: “Who is speaking here? Is this the person identified with the person, the person who ‘knows’ the self or is this the self speaking?”
Once you have fully understood that the apparent reality arises out of you, awareness, you see that it is perfect the way it is. Apparent “others” who are still caught up in samsara (the illusion of duality) will go about their business as usual. Enlightenment, which means you have realised you are the light and reality is really non-dual, does not transfer to apparent “others.” “Others” will remain as they are. The difference will be in how you see them, which will be as the self. You will know that they are really the self under the spell of ignorance and as such are stuck in their conditioning. They cannot see themselves any other way and they cannot see you other than through their conditioning. This is because maya, macrocosmic ignorance, is operating and has deluded “others” into believing that they are separate and small. Self-knowledge can only remove your ignorance, not theirs. And as the self, you will be fine with this and see it all as perfect. You will definitely not think that you are superior, because who would you be superior to? There is only you! You are everyone “else,” you are what gives rise to the field, the macrocosmic mind, total mind, the dharma field (whatever name you want to give it).
However, as stated, as the jivanmukti (liberated individual) you still live in the apparent reality – and the dharma field is not under your control, enlightened or not. Duality does not disappear when you have negated it; it is not a problem for you and you can enjoy everything for what it is: apparently real. You do not chase objects, as you do not need them to complete you. You are full, purna. Duality, or ignorance, is not opposed to knowledge, or non-duality; it is only a problem if you don’t know what it is. A good analogy here is the famous mirage metaphor: you see the mirage on the desert floor, it apparently exists, but you know it is not real. This is called “conditioned superimposition.”
The enlightened individual only has knowledge of the objects he or she has contact with; enlightenment is not some mystical state of omniscience. That is New Age mumbo jumbo. Only Isvara, or the macrocosmic mind, has knowledge of the total and all the names and forms of all the objects in it. The total mind is always taking care of the field, giving everyone exactly what they need, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. There is no need to save it, change it or improve it. The same applies to the individual. It is not necessary to be any other way than the way you are; you never made yourself, Isvara did.
The apparent reality is a lawful universe and operates according to certain principles. It is made up of the gunas which run everything, hence karma yoga; make very sure you have a full understanding of this practice. Without this you will not negate the doer.
Karma yoga negates the doer, and is the most sensible way to live because it says that although you cannot not act, the results of your thoughts, words, actions, are not up to you. So you dedicate every thought, word and action on a moment-to-moment basis to Isvara, or the Total. You do this as a consecration, with a devotional attitude, knowing that it is all you, awareness, and then you take whatever results that do come as prasad, a gift.
I have attached an email that I wrote recently to an inquiry, entitled How to Practise Self-Knowledge. I think it will help. I have also added the extended version of the short email I sent you yesterday, which I told you to think about. Here it is:
Your lady friend is the source of inspiration for self-inquiry, which is very good, if you see it as such and if your motivation for self-inquiry is to understand who you really are. If your motivation is to be more like her or worse to have a relationship with her, you have a problem, not because relationships are bad, not at all; if you want a relationship, go for it. It depends what it is you desire most. If moksa is what you want, then Vedanta teaches that moksa, enlightenment, is freedom from dependence on objects because you have negated them as value-neutral and you know that the joy is in you, awareness, not the object. If you desire the object because you see yourself as lacking without them – well, you see the problem.
With regards to your friend’s advice to “be more present”: while this may help to calm the mind temporarily, it is not a teaching and at best it will get you to revise some of your attitudes to life and help you to be less self-absorbed and to pay more attention to what is going really going on. It cannot set you free of the person, which means it cannot put an end to existential suffering.
This is because you cannot be more present. You can only realise that you, awareness, are the only thing that is always present and never changes. There was never a time when you, awareness, were not present because if that were so Christopher would not be here, or he would be six feet under. This is because you were present before Christopher appeared as a body/mind/entity, and you will be here after he is gone. You were never born and you never die. Which is why Vedanta calls awareness “ordinary,” because it is always there, all the “time.” You never change, are never not aware and never not present. Freedom from the doer/person/Christopher is understanding this.
Let me know how it goes but do some groundwork first, okay? I am very happy to assist you with your inquiry if you need help.
~ Many blessings and much love, Sundari
Christopher: Thank you so much! I had thought I may have been close. However, your words, as well as the incredible experience I had on Friday ending, made me realize there is much work to do. I will pursue self-inquiry with vigor. Thank you for everything! Your feedback has been priceless and the areas where work needs to be done is now clear. I will purchase the videos soon and dedicate myself to study and work towards constant application.
I know now how premature my writing to you was and I apologize for taking your time. However, please know you gave me just what I needed.
~ All my best, Christopher