Stay Anchored in Truth

Hi Ted,

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

Sanford: Once again your clear and encouraging answers were on the spot.

Can we possibly go back to the issue of fear, the irrational, the unwholesome fear, the one that is labeled as hindrance to spiritual growth. I was thinking about it, why is it so that Sanford is experiencing it in such a large quantities and for quite a prolonged time. One way of explaining it is that ego is resisting its transmutation, its major metamorphosis, since it would not be in charged no more. Another possibility is that there is a fear of not getting the desired goal of unalloyed peace and happiness, so it is masked desire. Or just unresolved subconscious past traumas that are percolating out through fears. Or is it just ‘normal’ for jiva to be fearful, as life itself is fleeting, unpredictable and insecure. And maybe most probably a combination of all of those.

Ted: From the jiva’s perspective, it is probably a combination of all those contributing factors. The real question is whether or not the fear is you. Is the fear you or are you the one witnessing the fear? Really, the fear itself is not an issue. I know that might sound crazy. But the fear is just energy in motion (e-motion). It is only a problem because you judge it as undesirable and wish to be rid of it. The individual fears themselves and indeed the general feeling of fear that arises in awareness and is associated with certain objects are products of the vasanas. That is, they are simply responses evoked by your likes and dislikes, which are rooted in the residual impressions of your past experiences. They are essentially just old habitual reactions to phenomena. Moreover, the experience of fear is nothing more than just that — an experience. Like all experience, it is only temporary. You don’t have to get carried away by it. You can simply watch it come and watch it go and realize that neither its appearance nor its disappearance had any real affect on you as pure awareness.

Sanford: But I sense that, maybe not yet fully, only way to fearlessness is to realize non-dual Awareness, the eternal, changeless Self.

Ted: Right on, brother. You know who you are, so when the fear arises, do your best to stay anchored in what you know to be true. Each time you do this the fear vasanas will exhaust without being reinforced, and one day they will completely drop away. This is sadhana.

Sanford: There is also another thing I would like to humbly ask you for your counsel.

As mentioned, I recently came back from a year trip in India & Nepal. That was great, for the lack of better words, it was Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. It is in a way disturbing to be back in the West, and back with all the baggage of the past, living with my parents. There is an inclination to leave again, that is, I spent 6 years in the UK, not really feeling to be in my home country. I am questioning, is it escaping, or is it just natural to be more for myself, more on my own, more in solitude, simple as it can go. Simply I just want to earn enough pocket money for a year in India and sadhu my self there.

Ted: It is wise to simplify your life as much as possible. You can progress much faster if your mind is less agitated. That said, you should not run off to India solely because you believe that the Self can only be found there. You can just as well do sadhana in the UK. The real issue here is the one faced by Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. What is your temperament? If you are truly a sanyassi (i.e. renunciant), then heading to India and living an austere existence might suit you. But if you are rajasic, extroverted, are identified with being a doer, then trying to achieve liberation through dropping all your worldly endeavors will serve only to agitate your mind more because those rajasic vasanas will still seek expression but have no outlet for such. If that is the case, then it is better to stay in the world and perform your duties as karma yoga. It sounds like you perhaps have the temperament of a sannyasi, but only you can know for sure. Be honest with yourself. In either case, a trip to India doesn’t seem like it could hurt. You’ll know soon enough if it doesn’t suit your needs.

Sanford: May you be well Ted, thank you thousand-fold.

Ted: May you be well as well, my friend.

With love,

Sanford

Spiritual Practice and Psychological Work

Hi Ted!

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

Sanford: I have been meaning to ask you about the spiritual practice and psychological work.

When would you say it is vital to address first the emotional issues, to gain more stable and confident mind to inquire more efficiently? I heard about this so called spiritual by-pass, trying to skip the traumas with higher knowledge. They say it does not work. Swami Dayananda was surprised how many western students were suffering low self-esteem, which is major hindrance to successful spiritual work. I kind of see myself in that group, had major depression 5 years ago, which catapulted me onto this search, but left a sense of aloofness, detachment, which in a way is great thing, but at the same time the sense of relating to fellow humans dwindled.

Ted: It is important to acknowledge emotions and emotional issues as they arise. It is equally important not to judge them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but to simply see them as appearances within awareness and thus remain unattached to them. You want to stay away from saying, “I am sad” or “I am mad” or “I am glad” or what have you. Always remember that you (i.e. Awareness) are never any of these feelings. They are you in the sense that they appear within you and you experience them, but you are ever free of them. It is best to simply watch them as you would a good movie. If you stand with conviction on the platform of awareness and view the play of emotions from there, it can even become fun and entertaining. You can get to the point where you can observe your anger for instance and think to yourself, “Wow, what an intense expression and how deeply felt it is. This is truly a five-star anger. Sanford surely deserves an Academy Award (or the British equivalent) for that incredible display. What a convincing performance. Bravo!” Responding in this way kind of takes the piss out of the emotions.

Regarding psychological work, Vedanta doesn’t really prescribe a process of digging into the remote past and sorting through all the dramas and traumas that have produced any present emotional reaction or state. The root issue in all such past experiences is simply that someone or something made you feel that you were incomplete and inadequate. Vedanta counters this erroneous conclusion with a score of teachings that directly demonstrate your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, non-dual awareness. Rather than picking through the puddle — or pond or lake or ocean – of mental and emotional vomit looking for what exactly it was that made you sick, we say it is better to simply examine your experience of life using the logic of Vedanta and in that way come to terms with your true nature. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, self-knowledge in the best purifier.

In fact, continually dwelling on past events, experiences, encounters, and interactions actually serves to sustain your identification with the very person from whom you are seeking to be liberated. It is best to let the past go.

Moreover, Vedanta says that you really don’t have to dig into the past to find out what’s bothering you anyway. All you have to do is look at the present situation and see that the whole issue revolves around you not getting what you want. And the most effective means of dealing with this predicament is to identify what it is that you want but are not getting and then to inquire into why you think you need that thing, what you believe you are missing without that thing. Consider your desire for the object (i.e. any physical object or circumstance or feeling or experience or whatever) in terms of the teachings of Vedanta and in light of what you know about who you really are. Once you see that you are already whole and complete, all- pervasive awareness and that you are the very source of the joy or peace you are seeking through the object, then you can more readily let go of your desire for the object and the consequent ill feelings you are experiencing in response to your not having it.

This is not to say that you should deny the emotions as they arise. On the contrary, acknowledge them and allow yourself to feel them fully if you wish, but refrain from blaming someone or something else for their existence. It might feel just to blame someone else, but this is detrimental to your spiritual growth. If you truly desire enlightenment or freedom from dependence on objects, then you have to be willing to give up the blame game, which includes not blaming yourself. The emotions are there, so be it. See them, but don’t be them if you know what I mean.

I hope this helps, Sanford. Please let me know if you need further clarification or have further questions regarding this issue or any other.

Thank you and bless you.

With love,

Sanford

Ted: Love to you as well.

Practice Karma Yoga to Purify the Mind

Namaste Ted.

Ted: Namaste, Sanford.

Sanford: First of all and again thank you, again and again.

Thus far can we say that vasanas are likened to what is in psychology known as the sub-conscious or sometimes un-conscious, but without taking aboard previous incarnations, being a storage house for all karmas.

Ted: The causal body is the sub-conscious, un-conscious (though this is a misleading term given that consciousness/awareness is never not conscious of itself — even when the mind is not aware of objects, as in deep sleep), or storage house. The vasanas are the impressions of past experiences that are stored in the causal body. These impressions give rise to tendencies. These tendencies are one’s proclivities, one’s likes and dislikes, which in turn give rise to one’s desires and fears and consequent attitudes and behaviors. Technically the vasanas are just the impressions themselves. But, of course, those impressions inevitably sprout as likes and dislikes, desires and fears, and consequent attitudes and behaviors, so when we speak of vasanas those things are what we mean by the term. This is a bit like splitting hairs, but since you are becoming a somewhat advanced student at this point, I thought you might like a more precise breakdown of the matter.

Sanford: Is it that samskaras are basically the same notion, or is the difference in intensity of a sort.

Ted: You are on the right track. Samskaras are similar to vasanas. Indeed you might say that they are vasanas that have become more deeply ingrained than the average vasanas. In terms of this understanding, you might think of the distinction between vasanas and samskaras in the following way. Vasanas are scrapes and cuts that have left their mark, require you to administer minor first aid, and compel you to modify your behavior in order to expedite healing and avoid pain. Samskaras are the deeper lacerations that require stitches and may very well leave a scar — which is not to say, however, that samskaras cannot be neutralized or ‘burned away’ in the same way as vasanas, but just that they cling to one (or more accurately one clings to them) with a bit more tenacity.

Another way of understanding the distinction between vasanas and samskaras is in terms of personality traits versus complexes.

Each singular vasana is what we might call a personality trait. For example, I like chocolate ice cream, I have a dry wit, I dislike aggressive people, I prefer to be alone, and so on and so forth.

Samskaras are clusters or bundles of ‘complimentary’ vasanas that form certain personality complexes or archetypes. For example, the abused spouse, the ‘alpha dog,’ the ‘sex kitten,’ the ‘spiritual’ person, the ‘sensitive artist,’ the ‘momma bear,’ and so on and so forth. There is no single vasana that defines any of these types, but there are a specific collection of traits that coordinate to create and manifest as them. These complexes are identified and analyzed in various ways by various systems, such as zodiacal signs, enneagram numbers, etc. They are basically the program for our persona.

Sanford: Can you please say bit more on cultivation of calm, peaceful, predominately sattvic mind, what are the best approaches you would advice.

Ted: Though we can never see the self directly since the self has no attributes and is thus not an object, we can see/know it indirectly by means of its reflection in a pure mind. It is therefore essential to cultivate a predominately sattvic mind because it only in such a mind that one can see an accurate reflection of the self or pure awareness.

The means for purifying the mind are what we call yogas. The word yoga means ‘to yoke’ or ‘to connect.’ Yogas are practices that serve to withdraw one’s attention from its extroverted focus and redirect it ‘inward’ toward the self. The fruit of this discipline is that it enables one to subsequently discriminate between the self and the not-self, the real and the apparent. As long as one continues to chase objects believing they will bring one lasting security, pleasure, and virtue, one has not yet cultivated the skill of proper discrimination. Though the understanding of the distinction between awareness and the objects that appear in it can register in the intellect, it cannot be said that one has fully assimilated it until one no longer seeks happiness, fulfillment, or peace through the acquisition and enjoyment of objects. In other words, a pure mind is one unfettered by desire for it knows its true identity as whole and complete, limitless, non- dual awareness.

The fundamental practice for cultivating a pure mind is karma yoga. Though there are several yogas prescribed by Vedanta (i.e. bhakti, jnana, triguna vibhava, and meditation) that serve to increasingly refine the mind and thus prepare it for the assimilation of self-knowledge, none of these will work until one has effectively implemented the practice of karma yoga in their daily life. Such being the case, what follows is a basic outline of karma yoga. If you want to discuss the other yogas later after you have karma yoga firmly in place, we can do that another time.

Karma yoga is essentially an attitude that you take towards action. It is based on the premise that while you have the right to act – indeed action cannot be avoided since by virtue of awareness illumining the three bodies every aspect of creation is constantly changing and thus in action at every moment — you have no right to the results of your actions.

I’ll say that again. Though you have the right to act, you have no right to the results of your actions.

You have no right to the results of your actions because the results are not up to you. You are only one small factor in a huge field of cause and effect. Though you do contribute to the ultimate outcome generated by your actions, you by no means bear sole responsibility for that outcome.

Putting aside the whole issue of whether you are actually a doer in the first place and assuming for the moment that you are such, let’s logically examine whether or not or to what degree you actually determine the results that ensue from your actions.

Let’s say you are going to wash the dishes. First, in order for there to be a person who will wash the dishes, dishes that need to be washed, food residue that needs to be washed off, soap and water, a sink, etc., you need the gross elements. Second, you need eyes to see that there is a pile of dirty dishes that need to be washed, so the perceptive organs are needed. Third, you need a mind that coheres the sensory data and relays it to the intellect so that it can decide whether or not washing should be done. Fourth, you need an intellect in order to make the final decision that the dishes should be washed. Fifth, you need the vasanas to advise the intellect about what to decide based on previous experience. Sixth, you need an ego that will accept the intellect’s decision and assume the responsibility for doing it. Seventh, you need the emotional energy to ignite the active organs. Eighth, you need the active organs to move the body so that it performs the washing. If you take away any of these factors, not to mention the myriad other factors needed to maintain the functionality of these factors as well as the field in which they function, no washing will get done. In short, the execution of any action requires the compliance of the entire field of experience.

The best you as an apparent individual can do is to act in an appropriate and timely manner. And even that doesn’t guarantee that you will get the result you desire. For instance, let’s say you want to buy a ticket to an upcoming rock concert. If you go to the grocery store to purchase the ticket, you will be out of luck because they don’t sell tickets to rock concerts at the market. If you go to the ticket outlet, but arrive at a time of day when it is closed you will also be out of luck. If you do make it to the ticket outlet at a time when it is open, but the concert has already sold out you again will get no ticket. Even if you do get a ticket, there is still no guarantee that you will see the show. Your car could break down. You could get mugged and have the ticket stolen. You could lose the ticket.
You might decide to sell the ticket or give it away. You could get sick and be unable to attend the show. The concert might be cancelled because the lead singer got sick or overdosed. The list of factors that might prevent the fulfillment of your desire is virtually endless. Given the intricate web of factors that influence the outcome of any action, it is ludicrous to think that you are the doer.

But if you are not responsible for the results of your actions, then who is?

Isvara or Bhagavan. Or, if you prefer a less religious term, the universe. That is, the entire field of experience — which is what is personified by Isvara or Bhagavan — is responsible. Contrary to the chaotic and unpredictable mess it often appears to be, the apparent reality or the field of experience is actually an elaborately designed machine that functions according to precise rules or laws that govern its preservation.

In other words, the universe functions in such a way that it absorbs and processes whatever actions are executed within it and consequently manifests in the form of whatever results are in the best interests of the field as a whole.

If, therefore, your desires and actions are in harmony with what is best for the entire field, you will get what you want. If not, you will not. This being the case, it is foolish to worry about the results of your actions.

The best course to take is to simply offer whatever you do to Isvara or The Field and then, knowing that in spite of how it might look at any given moment in time Isvara unfailingly doles out whatever results are ultimately most beneficial for all, accept whatever results ensue as prasad or a gift from God (i.e. Isvara or The Field). You might think of your actions as a manifestation of what you think is best for the field and the results as Isvara’s affirmation or modification of that thought. It is nothing personal, though if you really inquire into the true identity of both yourself and Isvara you will see ‘they’ are one and the same awareness. You as an individual entity seeing the world through the extremely limited lens of your ego think you know, but because your scope as Isvara is much broader in terms of both time and space, you can always trust that you as Isvara know best. This understanding allows you to gladly accept whatever results ensue whether they be what you as an individual had originally desired/intended or not.

If consistently applied to every situation in life, the practice of karma yoga will eventually cancel your sense of doership and neutralize your vasanas. Your mind will consequently grow more calm, quiet, and peaceful, and you will be able to see without subjective judgment awareness manifesting as all that is. Such a purified mind will ultimately allow you to see the entire apparent reality as you, and yet know that you as awareness are ever free of it. This is liberation.

Sanford: Regarding my parents, I must say that I was holding a grudge against them for not teaching me better, but thankfully realized the futility and forgave and accepted them as they are, knowing that they always did to the best of their ability and with love and dedication. Next week I am moving away from them, to a far place, Ireland to be exact. This is to their dismay, but little by little they are accepting and understanding it.

Ted: It’s best to give up grudges and practice forgiveness. As you say, your parents did the best they could. Certainly they passed on to you certain erroneous notions about the nature of reality and your true identity, but they couldn’t help it. They were conditioned to believe these things by their parents, and their parents by their parents, and their parents by their parents, and so on. It’s ignorance all the way back to the beginning or all the way down to the present, whichever way you choose to look at it. No one is to blame.

Besides, the vasanas that constitute you migrated to the circumstance most appropriate for their expression, so in that sense you could say that you chose to be conditioned the way you were conditioned, though this is not actually the best way to put it given that neither the vasanas nor you for that matter have any independent volition.

The best way to look at it is that the vasanas are as they are because that is the way it is — call it Isvara’s will if you like the personal flavor of that metaphor — and thus you are the way you are because that is the way it is, but none of it actually has anything to do with who you really are. It’s all just the costume you are wearing to the grand masquerade ball.

So leave your parents, yes, but love them just the same, for they are nothing but a reflection of the false self you yourself formerly took yourself to be. As Christ purportedly said while hanging on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Sanford: And yes, you are right, f–k what other people thing, f*** trying to be someone, fuck it, and just be, be what it is.

Ted: Yep. And the day you no longer have to fuck what other people think or fuck trying to be someone is the day you’ll know you are free….and have always been free. It is only because you think you are Sanford that you feel the need to get free. But actually freedom is not for Sanford but from Sanford. When you ultimately realize and stand in your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness you won’t care what people think of Sanford or even what Sanford thinks of Sanford for that matter. You will stand free of Sanford as yourself.

Sanford: Your prescriptions are noted and are put into practice, as much as I can, sharpening the axe of self-knowledge, cutting down the branches of this tree of life.

Ted: Might I add that if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a huge, huge, huge favor and buy a copy of James’ book How to Attain Enlightenment. It step-by-step walks you through the whole process of self- inquiry. It is in my opinion the best book on ‘spirituality’ written since Adi Shankara graced the planet in the 8th Century. It has much to say about the other yogas I mentioned. Please know that I am happy to field any questions you have and to continue our correspondence, but I really think you would benefit by reading and re-reading James’ book. And if you can afford to purchase any of the videos of his talks, I would highly recommend investing your time and money in that as well.

Blessings Ted, Hari Om

Ted: Blessings to you, Sanford. And best of luck with your move!

Make Your Life Your Spiritual Practice

Hi Ted,

Thank you again for your wonderful, insightful comments. I will be a bit short and quirkier this time.

I as a jiva is suffering under the spell of ancient habits of being scared of what might be around the corner, what might they think of this poor fellow, and what might become of me, which big scary void is trying to devour. However I as Atman will do its best to step back and watch the show and not get entangled in it.

Ted: Good strategy. Make your entire life your spiritual practice. Every time a fear arises, remind yourself that not only is the fear simply an appearance arising within you, but the trigger (i.e. person, circumstance, situation, belief, etc.) is as well. Nothing can touch or hurt you (i.e. awareness). And in general, unless we are talking about extraordinary situations, you can pretty much trust that the Self will take care of you. Sure, there are times when you might suffer embarrassments or discomforts, but nothing so great as to spell doomsday for you. The bottom line is that there will have to come a point when your desire for liberation is so strong that you don’t really give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks. You’ve got to do what is right for you. Vedanta calls this svadharma. You have arrived on the scene (i.e. in this world) for a purpose. If you identify that purpose, prioritize it, and pursue it, you will live in harmony with yourself. Otherwise you will suffer. You might please others, but at what cost to yourself? Remember, about 99% of the people you encounter in life are steeped in ignorance. If you are seeking truth, their values and judgments might not be the ones by which to guide your journey.

Sanford: I wanted to talk to someone about hearing the voice. I received some answers in my mind the other day, it felt that I am talking to God. We had a nice chat, and he encouraged me and said He is always here, even if I do not see or hear Him. What is your view on this, many people would immediately think of schizophrenia?

Ted: Refer to the last two sentences of the previous comment. Many a revered mystic heard the voice of God (many a madman, too, but you don’t strike me as crazy). Remember, God (what Vedanta calls Isvara), is you, Sanford. It is not you in the sense of being the same as the person you take yourself to be, but it is nothing more than a power within the scope of awareness. What you are hearing is your own Self speaking to you in the guise of an entity to which you can relate. Think about it, doesn’t it sound like your true self reassuring you that you are on the right path by which to rediscover yourself?

With OM kindest regards,

Sanford

Ted: All my best to you.

How Do I Practice Self-Inquiry?

Hi, Ted.

I’ve read quite a few times you mentioning that a person needs to inquire to find the truth. I know that Vedanta is self-inquiry. I just don’t think I assimilate well this process, because every time I think of it its like I need to use my mind and it’s like I have someone narrating inside my head. It’s still like that annoying voice that lives with me as long as I can remember.

Ted: You seem to have quite a vendetta (not to by confused with Vedanta) regarding your mind. In other words, you seem to have a rather strong dislike for it (or at least whatever kinds of thoughts you feel are plaguing you). I understand this sentiment. It can sometimes seem like the mind is somehow covering or hiding the self. The good news, however, is that the mind is not your enemy. In fact, in terms of enlightenment, which you seem to at last accept as a matter of knowledge/understanding rather than experience, it is your greatest friend and ally. Permanent enlightenment is not some perpetual ‘feel good’ emotional state nor is it some eternal thought-free state of emptiness, blankness, void, or light. Nor (and this is the big NOR) is it even a state in which only nice, pleasing, kind, affectionate, loving, compassionate, warm and fuzzy thoughts arise. If you expect any of these states to be the way your mind should be or to ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘good’ or ‘bad’, then you are setting yourself up for continual disappointment and continued delusion. All such states of mind or nothing more than experiences, and as you have correctly concluded yourself no experience is going to last. The best we can hope for in terms of experience is that the knowledge we gain from experience (provided we are alert enough during the experience or process it correctly following the experience to gain said knowledge) will stick and transform our understanding to such a degree that even when the particular emotional and/or intellectual qualities of the experience are absent we still remember who we really are, which is never the experience itself, but the awareness in which the experience appeared. Really, your mind is only an enemy to the degree that you identify with the thoughts arising in it. Think about it.

Do your thoughts negate you? No, you don’t cease to exist when thoughts — ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — arise in your mind. If you did, how would you know the thoughts? Do your thoughts hide you? No, beyond the fact that you are not an object that can be hidden and that, given this is a non-dual reality, the thoughts themselves are actually made of you (awareness), the truth is that the thoughts appear within you, for you are the ever-present awareness that witnesses the thoughts, and you cannot be covered or hidden by something that exists within you. It only seems like the thoughts cover you because you think that awareness is some discrete experience that is blocked by the thoughts that are presently appearing within you.

But you are forever beyond and unaffected by your thoughts. They can arise — and will continue to do so as long as you associating with a body — and you can notice them, but you don’t have to identify with them. The choice is yours. This is why enlightenment is a matter of knowledge rather than experience. The macrocosmic causal body coupled with the ever- changing nature of this apparent reality will continue to generate an endless parade of thoughts of varying quality, but once you stand in the hard and fast knowledge that you are awareness no thought has the power to disturb or trouble you. You always know that you are free of the thoughts.

Candice: It is quite clear to me that I don’t need an experience, because I can lose it, so what’s the point? I know that I need knowledge, I need to know something.

Ted: You simply need to know that you are whole and complete, limitless, action-less, ordinary, unborn, non-dual, self-luminous, self-dependent, self- evident, unchanging, unconcerned, ever-present, all-pervasive awareness. I realize that this string of terms may make awareness sound grandiose and extraordinary and incomprehensible. But take note that included on the list is the characteristic “ordinary”. This might seem odd at first glance. But it is important to carefully consider the implication of this term, which is that this great and glorious self/consciousness/awareness is nothing more (or less) than the awareness by which you are already experiencing every moment of your life, including those moments, such as deep sleep, when you are seemingly not experiencing anything. Due to the language of hyperbole (exaggeration) that runs rampant through the spiritual world, we have come to expect that the self/consciousness/awareness is some mind-blowing, transcendent, three-dimensional light show presented in ultra- high-definition-digital-surround-sound. And, moreover, that enlightenment makes this experience permanent. But this is not the case. Amazing as that may be, such an experience would be just that…an experiences. And as you well know, no experience is permanent. When you consider the ordinary awareness by which you know what you know and you know what you don’t know, however, you find that it (i.e. you) has never not been.

Think about it. Has there ever been a moment when you ceased to exist?

No! If you answered ‘yes’, then let me ask you this…how would you know you had ceased to exist unless you were there to experience and, thus, directly perceive that you did not exist? The long and short of it is that you (i.e. Awareness) has always existed (though strictly speaking it is beyond the parameters of time and space) and is ever present. No matter what is appearing within it, awareness is always there as that which is aware of the appearance. Moreover, the object or appearance is dependent upon you/awareness for its existence (for something can only be said to exist if it is observed or known), but you are not dependent upon any object. As that which simply observes them, you are ever free of all objects. Which further illustrates how gratuitous or unnecessary is your extreme aversion toward your thoughts. Your thoughts can’t touch you. They are nothing more significant than silly YouTube videos flitting across the computer screen of the mind.

Candice: I can recall that when I had a clear mind, I was completely impartial of what’s was happening. And it was like I was blind. I couldn’t neither did I want to know what was coming next. I was perfectly happy in the moment.

Ted: This sounds curiously like the karma yoga attitude that James suggested you practice in one of his replies. I’ll discuss this more in regards to your question about what you can do when undertaking the self-inquiry process.

Candice: Now, this self inquiry process I don’t think I am quite sure of what I am supposed to do…not that I have to do anything, but I think you know what I mean.

Ted: You are right that you can’t ‘do’ knowledge, Candice. Nevertheless, the process of self-inquiry does involve some doing in the sense that there are some specific steps you need to take in order to imbibe the teachings of Vedanta and ultimately assimilate the knowledge of the self.

Before we delve into process of self-inquiry, however, it seems worthwhile to point out a particular theme or idea that colors most of the commentary and questions you expressed in your previous e-mail exchanges with James.

Over and over, your words imply that you do not like this character that you take yourself to be. I wonder if Claudia has self-esteem issues. As James plainly stated, however, self-inquiry will not work in a mind that is continuously disturbed by thoughts of self-deprecation and dislike. This dislike is in large part rooted in your association with the negative thoughts that incessantly badger you. This being the case, the first thing you can do is to deeply contemplate the nature of thought as explained above. Realize that truly speaking your thoughts have nothing to do with you and, therefore, cannot touch you. And if that is too much, then at least understand that you were not in control of developing the thought patterns that are currently parading through you. Parents, teachers, preachers, and myriad other creatures — that is, society in general — conditioned you with its ignorance and there was nothing you could do about it. Until now. Now it is time to lay down your self-loathing and accept yourself as you are — warts and all, as James says. Admittedly this is easier said than done, but there is a matter worth considering that might serve to help you relax your self-condemnation and negative judgments about your mind.

It would be very helpful to read chapters 6 and 7 of James’ book and then to deeply contemplate how the vasanas compel our actions. Pay special attention to the fact that we did not create these tendencies, which manifest as our desires and fears, likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions. Yes, a person may like chocolate ice cream, but did that person decide to like chocolate ice cream or was that fancy already part of their character. Obviously, though we can do things to reinforce or deny them, our proclivities for objects, actions, and experiences are not chosen by us.

Isvara (or God the creator) is responsible for their presence. Truly assimilating this understanding alleviates one’s sense of responsibility for and guilt concerning one’s habitual behaviors — both ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Initially, you may be reluctant to accept this fact (most people don’t want to think of God as being equally responsible for both the ‘bad’ and the ‘good’), but it is true. The things you don’t like about yourself were put there, so to speak, by Isvara (for who else could be responsible in a non- dual reality?) and are not inherently ‘bad’, but are only as ‘bad’ as you interpret them to be. The bottom line according to Vedanta is that you are fine just the way you are. Moreover, despite the common belief that one has to have a saintly demeanor in order to be ‘spiritual’, you don’t need to be a better person in order to get free. Spiritual freedom, liberation, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it, is not a matter of becoming a better person, but rather of realizing that you (the true you) is not a person at all. It is a matter of knowing with full confidence that you are pure awareness.

That said, your initial focus should be on preparing your mind or rendering it peaceful, open, and focused enough to effectively engage the process of self-inquiry. This is where yoga comes in. The most important thing that you should do at present is practice karma yoga. This is the perfect practice to compliment your contemplation of the vasanas, for it calls upon you examine your sense of doership in light of the nature of the field of action and to then act appropriately (and with an altogether different attitude than you are currently) in response to the demands and dictates of the field. In order to do this you need to first understand that you are not the doer in the sense that there are too many factors influencing the outcome of any given action for you to be in control or solely responsible for the results of your actions. This understanding allows you to release any guilt you might feel over having performed actions you judge as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ that may be contributing to your feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. It allows you to see that, though you may have learned valuable lessons from and choose not to repeat certain actions, you did your best at the time given the limits of your knowledge and the dictates of your vasanas, which to reiterate are actually Isvara’s vasanas. You can, thus, let go of the past and embrace the present, coloring it with a peaceful mind undisturbed by regret. Truly speaking, as you seem to already understand, no action has any bearing on who you really are anyway as this dualistic, apparent reality is ultimately nothing more than a dream appearing within consciousness/awareness/you. Knowing this allows you to offer whatever actions you feel are appropriate (including those you might judge as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’, but feel powerless to resist expressing) in any given situation to Isvara, and then…and this is a huge AND THEN…accept whatever results ensue with an attitude of gratitude, seeing them as Isvara’s prasad, which means that you see them as a gift from God.

This attitude of gratitude is the key with which the practice of karma yoga unlocks the door to a peaceful mind that is ready to embrace freedom. It is based on understanding that Isvara is taking care of the whole and is orchestrating the absorption of the actions offered to It and delivering the results that are appropriate in order to maintain the harmony and well- being of the whole. Though certain specific results may be interpreted as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ from a particular individual’s or group’s point of view, such judgments are only so in terms of that individual’s or group’s vasanas and consequent values to which they give rise. In this way, you realize that you really cannot do anything ‘wrong’ from Isvara’s perspective because Isvara (or the field of existence if you want to think of it impersonally) absorbs and integrates whatever actions are offered to It in such a way as will protect and serve the best interests of whole.

As mentioned, the practice of karma yoga is the foundation for all further inquiry. But this does not mean that you cannot expose yourself to the teachings until you have fully cultivated the karma yoga attitude. Yoga and self-inquiry like two hands working together to wash away the film of ignorance that cakes the mind. This being the case, what follows is a general overview of the process of self-inquiry and some practical suggestions for engaging in it.

There are basically three steps to self-inquiry: hearing or listening (shravanam), reflection (mananam), and meditation or contemplation (nididhyasanam).

Since Vedanta is a means of knowledge that employs words to reveal the truth, hearing the teachings is the first essential step in the process. This hearing is better referred to as listening because one needs to take in the teachings with an open mind, one that has at least for the time being set aside its accrued beliefs and convictions about worldly life, the spiritual path, and enlightenment. If one’s listening is continually impinged upon by previously developed notions about the matter at hand it will not be able to follow the logical methodology through which one’s ignorance is removed.

It is only after first hearing the teachings and gaining a clear comprehension of their progression that one can then measure one’s previously held beliefs and convictions in light of them. This is the stage during which one seeks to resolve all lingering doubts concerning the nature of reality and the self. The time one spends in this stage depends entirely on how many doubts need resolution. It is important during this stage that the student be completely honest with himself or herself rather than trying to appear more spiritually advanced or knowledgeable or enlightened than he or she is. It is also important that one have complete faith in the teacher and the teachings themselves. If the student is not getting it, then he or she must take a fierce moral inventory and assess what qualifications he or she might be lacking that is impeding his or her understanding. I won’t go into the qualifications here, but the entire fourth chapter of James’ book is devoted to a thorough explanation of them and is definitely worth rereading several times.

The third step in the self-inquiry process is meditation or contemplation. Meditation here does not necessarily refer to sitting quietly with your eyes closed and silently chanting a mantra or visualizing a deity or simply enjoying the silence. Though formal sitting meditation is a valuable practice for calming the mind and delving deeply into the nature of the one meditating, here meditation is a matter of practicing the knowledge that you have intellectually accepted as a result of the first two steps.

Understanding and accepting the logic of the teachings is one thing, implementing the teachings throughout one’s daily activities is another.

One must continuously practice the knowledge; one must use the knowledge as a lens through which to see one’s every thought and action, applying it over and over, again and again until the knowledge is fully assimilated and one’s conviction regarding it unshakeable. It is in this stage that one makes the final subtle transition in understanding from knowing awareness to being awareness.

Your e-mails appear to indicate that you are in what James’ often refers to as the ‘firefly stage’ of the process. This means that the knowledge that you are limitless, non-dual awareness flickers on and off and has not yet become hard and fast, meaning that you are not yet standing with unshakeable, rock-solid confidence in your true identity as the self, consciousness, the Light. You have heard the teachings and are now in the process of simultaneously rooting out your doubts and becoming more and more convicted about your true identity as awareness. You are right on track.

In order to continue your progress, I highly recommend that you do the following:

  1. Take James’ advice and purchase either the hard drive that contains his talks on everything the aspirant needs to know for a full comprehension of Vedanta, or if that is too pricey at the moment at least purchase the stick with the Toronto talks on it. Though his book is great, I can attest to the fact that there is nothing better than hearing the teachings straight from the teacher’s mouth.
  2. Read and reread James’ book over and over,carefully signing on to the logic of each chapter IN THE ORDER THE CHAPTERS ARE PRESENTED. It is vitally important that you imbibe the teachings step by step, and they build upon one another. There is no way to truly understand what comes after until you have understood what came before.
  3. Diligently follow the teaching of applying the opposite thought as much as possible — to every thought if possible — throughout your day. This practice will be especially helpful to you because it will reprogram your mind with the truth and establish new thought patterns that will replace the old ones that have been pestering you. This is the only legitimate way to change your mind. And this is where the ‘doing’ comes in, for you’ve got to be vigilant and diligent in applying the knowledge. Since your mind is such a pesky devil, call the demon on its shit. Whenever it makes even the slightest suggestion that you are in some way small, inadequate, or incomplete, stop and correct it. Don’t allow it to get away with its self-sabotaging behavior even a moment longer. And if you are not yet fully convinced that you are whole and complete, limitless, action-less, non-dual, ever-present, all-pervasive, perfect awareness, then as James’ says fake it ‘til you make it. Over time, this practice will purify you mind and set you free. Have faith in the process. Vedanta has withstood the test of time because it is a proven means of knowledge and method of liberation. Besides, you know deep down that you are the Light, so stand up and stand in that knowledge with conviction. Once this becomes your habit, the mind will cease to hold any power over you and it won’t matter what thoughts arise in it for you will know without a doubt that no object can touch you, no thing can enhance, diminish, or change you in any way whatsoever. You are That which transcends all. Claim the prize you already possess!

Candice: When you have some spare time, and if you want to, I would be happy to hear from you.

Love, Candice

How Do I Practice Knowledge on My Own?

Hi, Darin.

My name is Ted Schmidt. I am one of several Vedanta teachers who have been recently endorsed by James to conduct e-Satsangs. James’ forwarded your e-mail to me and asked that I respond to you. I hope you find the responses helpful.

Hi James.

I have read your book, twice, and listened to most of the audio I have downloaded from your website. I understand the teaching, but I am not ‘finished’. I don’t seem to get it in any way that makes a difference. I am still seeking, still suffering, still dissatisfied. I feel I need something more, but I don’t know what that is.

Please can you point me in the right direction?

Ted: Understanding the teaching is the first big step. It will more than likely take some time, however, to fully assimilate it and to stand with rock- solid confidence in that understanding. Your yearning to get it is a good sign. In order to withstand the pressure of the conditioning you have received throughout your life and the ignorant dualistic perspective spouted by the media, according to which 99% of the people you most likely encounter on a daily basis see, process, and interact with the world, you need to really want to get free. To be honest, your desire for liberation needs to be your top priority.

Darin: Thank you for your swift reply. My seeking has taken two main forms: enlightenment and a partner. At 65, I am in the process of giving up the search for a partner. Enlightenment is all I really want now. Nothing else has worked in my life. When we talked on Skype, you said I had no karma. My ‘life’ hasn’t worked in any conventional way: relationships, jobs, social life: nothing has been satisfactory. I am now alone in a radical way. I spend most of my time alone. I go the Brighton Buddhist Centre to spend some time and meditate with people who might have similar interests. I sing in a choir. Apart from that, I have little contact with people.

Ted: Your decision to give up seeking a partner is a sound one. I don’t mean to suggest that Vedanta is in any way against relationships, just that seeking a relationship is no foundation for enlightenment. Vedanta defines enlightenment as freedom from dependence on objects for happiness. Because the nature of the apparent reality is change and all objects in it are, therefore, necessarily limited by this inherent attribute of impermanence, no object can ever give you permanent joy, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, or peace. So if it is true that enlightenment is really all you want now, then you find yourself in a very conducive situation to focusing all your attention on contemplating, assimilating, and applying the teachings on a moment-to-moment basis. You have an opportunity that is rare among those living in the world to closely monitor your mind and root out all the ignorant ideas that arise within it. I won’t kid you, this can be a somewhat uncomfortable, even downright painful process at times depending on how identified you are with your mind and/or how tenaciously you resist giving up that identification. It sounds like you have been alone for some time, so perhaps you have already been attending to your thoughts with such an acute degree of scrutiny. If so, that might be why your suffering and dissatisfaction persist. It could be that as you are rooting out the erroneous notions of limitation, incompleteness, and inadequacy, those notions are recognized are brought into focus and seen or experienced in a more pronounced way that ever before. Whatever the case may be, the important thing in terms of enlightenment or liberation is to cease identifying with the notions of lack and limitation and consequent feelings of discontent and suffering that arise in your mind. Always ask yourself, “Am I this thought/feeling, or am I the one witnessing it, the pure, limitless, ever-present, impervious awareness in which the thought/feeling is arising, abiding, and subsiding?”

Darin: From my 20s, I was reading books by Ram Dass, Paul Reps, Shunryu Suziki, Alan Watts, CG Jung. I have been doing TM for 20 years. Spiritual literature is the only thing that really makes sense. I am currently nearing the end of reading I Am That, by Nisargadatta, which definitely ‘floats my boat’. I feel that I am on the verge of enlightenment, but can’t quite get that last piece in place. I understand that I am unlimited awareness, and that everything is arising in me, but I feel like I am this limited, unhappy, separate entity. Perhaps I am in a similar position that Eckhart Tolle describes as the moments before his ‘enlightenment’ experience, that decisive moment that changes things.

Ted: You articulate your predicament (which, by the way, is a virtually universal predicament for those who are about ready to ‘pop’) very clearly and succinctly, Darin. You say, “I understand that I am unlimited awareness, and that everything is arising in me, but I feel like I am this limited, unhappy, separate entity.” At this point, then, it seems that your understanding is intellectual, but anything we understand intellectually must be rooted in some degree of experience. In other words, you understand that you are unlimited awareness because somewhere down deep (or perhaps not so deep at this point) you know (different from ‘understand’ as I am using it here) that you are so. When you witness everything arising within you, you directly experience the fact that you are different from and unaffected by such experience, for the subject (you) cannot be the object (whatever thought or feeling is arising). This experience, however, is different than a discrete experience such as one might experience during an epiphany and subsequently use to define enlightenment and try to recapture and maintain indefinitely. This experience is automatic, natural, ordinary, and continuous. Think about it. When are you not aware? Even in deep sleep you are there. If you were not, how would you upon waking up that you had slept soundly? And now for the kicker, this experience is the epitome of joy, happiness, contentment, peace, and…confidence. Contemplate this. Really take a close look at yourself. Can any experience really make you feel good or bad? Have you ever experienced something in a positive way that another experienced in a negative way, or vice versa? The bottom line, as you yourself articulated it, is that you are always outside of experience. In other words, all experience arises only within the scope of your awareness. And so you are always free of experience. And though this knowledge is ever untainted by any particular emotional state it does translate into a qualitatively different experience for the one who knows. Just as the joy is not in the object, but floods forth from within ourselves when we cease desiring the object, so it is with self-knowledge. Once you rest in your essential independence, you will more often than not find a natural joy or sense of peace pervading your being. But even when the emotion of happiness or contentment or satisfaction is not there, you will still stand with rock-solid confidence in your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

That said, the feeling that you are limited, incomplete, unhappy, separate individual will persist until all your doubts have been completely removed and the aforesaid knowledge has become unshakably established in your intellect. But no worry. The remedy is to simply keep applying the teachings over and over in every situation, with regard to every thought and feeling. And if the knowledge isn’t firm yet, then as James’ often advises, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” This type of faking isn’t like bullshitting yourself, however, because, as was mentioned before, deep down you know it is true. You simply have to keep reminding – get that, ‘re-minding’ as in re-training the mind how to think correctly or in alignment with reality rather than the way things appear to be – yourself of who you really are until you become fully convicted of the truth and stand with full confidence in your true nature.

Even at such a point, however, there is no telling what kind of crazy thoughts might still flit through the mind. The appearance of thoughts is not under your control, for they come from the causal body and their character is determined by the vasanas. And thoughts will continue as long as you have prarabdha karma yet to play out. What is under your control is whether or not you identify with these thoughts and their consequent emotions. Truly speaking, you would do well to never say (i.e. believe, not refrain from using the words), “I think this” or “I feel that”, for you as awareness are never thinking or feeling anything. Just witness the thoughts and feelings floating through you as clouds float through the sky. And realize that just as the sky remains ever unaffected by the clouds, so you remain ever unaffected by the thoughts appearing within you.

Darin: Something has to give, but ‘I’ can’t make it happen.

Ted: It is true the you as Darin can’t make enlightenment or liberation happen, but it is also true that you as Darin have to exercise your free will and do the practices that will purify the mind and apply the teachings that will reorient the mind toward the truth if you are ever going to get free. That is how it works in the apparent reality. Of course, the truth is that you as awareness are already free. Enlightenment is for the mind. So what has ‘to give’ as you put it is that you have to undertake a rigorous program of retraining your mind to think in alignment with the truth that you are whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn (note this, for as awareness you are not the mind-body-sense complex with which you identify and refer to as David), non-dual awareness. In the irascible spirit of Nisargadatta, any other thought is a bunch of bullshit. Throw it out!

It should be noted, moreover, that self-knowledge does not produce or help you attain or acquire the self. You already are the self. The teachings of Vedanta simply remove the ignorance that blocks one’s appreciation of their true nature. So just keep in mind that ‘getting it’ is a matter of understanding, not experience. Once you fully ‘get it’ it won’t matter what kind of experience you are having, for you will know that no experience, either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, has anything to do with you nor can any experience enhance, diminish, or change your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

Darin: The difficulty for me is applying the knowledge moment by moment: the thought, ‘I am unlimited and nothing is separate from me’. I find this very difficult, because, as you say, I get sucked into identifying with the feelings and I forget to apply the knowledge.

How do I ‘practice knowledge’? I feel I need a course of some kind, a step- by-step training in this. I suppose that this is why people live in an ashram. But how do I do it on my own?

It’s as if I’ve learned a foreign language from a book and I’m facing the question, ‘How do I actually speak the language in real life?’

Ted: This is really a great analogy, Darin. The way you ‘practice knowledge’ and ‘speak the language in real life’ is the same way you learn to speak a foreign language. BY REPEATEDLY DOING SO. Over and over again, re-mind yourself of who you really are and what your true nature really is. Sorry (or ‘happy’ depending on how you look at it) to say, this is the way! Despite what the shaktipat gurus would have us believe, no one is going to transmit enlightenment into you. The closest vehicle for that is scripture and the teacher. Keep exposing yourself to the teachings (in fact, if you can afford it or haven’t done so already, purchase James’ self-inquiry videos and his talks on the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures at watch them over and over again) and do your best to apply the teachings in the way that has been discussed above. And when you hit a glitch, write James or me so we can help you sort it out.

Darin: I’m very grateful that you’re here and taking the trouble to answer my questions. I have no doubt that life has provided me with the right teacher. The difficulty is asking the right questions and practising the answers!

Love, Darin

Fear of Facing the Music

Dear Ted,

I came across your email through Shining world, and wanted to write to you if you are willing to help.

To say briefly about me is that I am more seriously involved in spirituality, with the search of the Self, for the last 2 years. I studied Bhagavad Gita first with Nathan Spoon over the internet, then with Ram-ji in Tiruvanamalai 2012 and in Rishikesh with Swami Atmananda. I also got involved with Buddhist teachings of Zen, Tibetan and Burmese. I was also reading variety of teachings, some traditional, some not. It seems like I was trying to hoard all of these valid teachings, I stumbled into the spiritual materialism block. Last year I spent traveling through India, went to Nepal and came back again to India. Now after being back home, back in Slovenia, Europe, it seems and feels that there is more insecurity, more fear and confusion. It is the fear of facing the music, fear of just going out and being myself, of who I really am.

Just wondered if you have any thoughts and possible advice for me.

I thank you for your time to read my email.

May you be happy.

Hari OM,

Sanford

Hi, Sanford.

Nice to meet you. I can relate to your zeal for knowledge. After my initial encounter with Vedic and yogic spirituality, I too explored many different paths. What I found was that fundamentally they were all saying the same thing and that the various teachings were all pointing toward the non-dual awareness that is both the fabric of the creation and That which transcends it all. And most importantly that it is this same awareness that is one’s own true identity, one’s very own Self.

It wasn’t until after over 20 years of spiritual seeking and practice, however, that the teachings of Vedanta and the methodology of self-inquiry finally set me free.

The reason I mention this is not to impress you with ‘my’ accomplishment, but to impress upon you the validity of Vedanta as a means of knowledge that leads to liberation. Whereas the various other traditions I explored pointed to the truth and offered numerous practices I could perform and through which I could experience certain states of euphoria and/or expansion, none ever clearly defined what exactly enlightenment is or mapped out a practical route I could take to ‘get there.’

Of course, the truth is that enlightenment is not a discrete or particular state, and you really can’t ‘get there’ because you/awareness/the self is nowhere else but right here. Where else could it be in a non-dual reality?

The bottom line is that enlightenment, or more appropriately knowing who you are is not a matter of experience but of knowledge or understanding, for as you might have already understood through your study with Ramji you cannot get something you have already got.

To be clear, then, Vedanta is not a path that leads you somewhere else or triggers some transcendental state in which you need to become permanently established. Vedanta is simply a means of knowledge that removes the ignorance you have about who or what you already are, which is whole and complete, limitless, action-less, non-dual awareness. Moreover, there is nothing you have to do to become what you are; you simply need to understand what you are and stand in that knowledge with unwavering, rock-solid confidence.

Which brings us to your concerns about the current state of insecurity, fear, and confusion you are experiencing upon having returned to Slovenia.

You mention that ‘it is the fear of facing the music.’ I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this statement, but I’m guessing it might have something to do with the basic issue of having to deal with the matters of daily life within a context where so few people understand the nature of reality and the truth of the self. Perhaps this type of interaction seems threatening in some way, as if such an ocean of ignorance could just swallow you up and drown any degree of understanding you have cultivated through the self- inquiry you did in India.

On the other hand, you say there is a ‘fear of facing the music, fear of just going out and being myself, of who I really am’, so perhaps you mean that you find the world unreceptive to and out of tune with the spiritual insight you have gained and that because of its ignorance it continually slaps down any attempt you make to act in accordance with the truth as you now know it to be.

Either way, it is worth contemplating who it is that is feeling insecure, fearful, and confused. Is it you or is it Sanford (i.e. the body-mind-sense complex with which you/awareness are identifying at the moment)?

The essential methodology of Vedanta as a means of knowledge is what is called atma-anatma-viveka, or the discrimination between the real and the apparently real. As you probably know already, Vedanta defines ‘real’ as that which does not change and the ‘apparently real’ as that which is impermanent. Essentially what it boils down to is the fact that you/awareness is the only ‘thing’ (though it is not a thing or object) that is real, and that everything, everything, EVERYTHING that is perceived and experienced is only apparently real. This includes the external world, the body, the sensations, the emotions, the thoughts, the preferences, even the apparent emptiness or void of deep sleep or profound meditation. All these objects, whether gross or subtle, are only apparently real because they are constantly changing at various rates of speed. And all these objects are appearing where? In you! You are the awareness in which all these objects appear, and moreover you are the awareness out of which all these objects are made. It is, therefore, you/awareness upon which all these objects depend for their existence.

Though all objects depend on you, however, you do not depend on them. Whether they appear or do not appear has no bearing on your existence whatsoever — and of course the ‘you’ to which we are referring here is not the apparent person Sanford you commonly take yourself to be, but the true you (i.e. Awareness). The bottom line, therefore, is that you are forever and completely free of all the objects apparently appearing around and within Aleksander, for even Aleksander is only a notion appearing within you/awareness.

That is the kicker. Ultimately, the identification with being the person on your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, whatever, will drop away. And once you cease to identify with being Sanford, you will understand that you have always been free and that no apparent object can in any way or to any degree threaten your being.

Until that understanding solidifies, however, there is some work to be done by the apparent person you take yourself to be.

Bearing your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, action-less, non-dual awareness in mind at all times and applying it in all situations in which you find yourself identifying with the thoughts and emotions that suggest that you are incomplete and inadequate or that there is something other than you, something that could threaten your well-being, diminish you in some way, or separate you from yourself by some means is one of the fundamental methods of assimilating self-knowledge.

Having been exposed to the teachings of Vedanta, you now know who you are.

That is not I the issue with which you are struggling. Standing in this knowledge, however, requires vigilant effort. It ain’t a walk in the park. It takes time and patience and courage and concentration. You’ve simply got to keep reminding yourself of who you really are until one day you are totally convinced. In conjunction with this method of inquiry, I strongly suggest that you get a copy of Ramji’s book, “How to Attain Enlightenment,” and read it over and over, taking your time and signing on to the logic of each chapter as you go. Each time you read it, it will affect you more profoundly and will be a great aid to fully removing any vestige of ignorance that clouds your understanding of your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, action-less, non-dual awareness.

Give these suggestions a try, and please feel free to get back to me with any further questions you might have.

All the best to you, Ted

Do Your Duty to Yourself

Hi Ted,

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

Sanford: How incredibly lucky I am for the blessing of this Satsangs, they are valuable points and lessons in here.

It became clear to me that to be really peaceful and content, I need to be in alignment with the way things are, finding my mission. The quest for svadharma is on for a while, however I could not find any clues, and honestly I do not know a way of tracking it, besides asking a question, “What Am I suppose to do?”

Ted: While it is true that the bundle of vasanas that constitute the person identified as Sanford does most likely have a practical contribution to make to the field of existence that is related to or reflective of a specific aptitude or talent for which that particular mind-body-sense complex is a vehicle, your ‘real’ mission is to remove the ignorance of your true nature through self-inquiry and realize your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

You don’t really have to quest after your svadharma. Your natural way of being — how you behave, what you think, how you express your feelings, what you are passionate about — will shine forth on its own when you are no longer worried about what other people will think of you or whether or not you are acceptable if you act, think, feel, or pursue your interests in the way that feels right to you.

This is not a license to act compulsively, indulgently, and without regard for the well-being of others. You should exercise self-restraint and discretion with regard to your conduct. But you should also realize that you cannot nor is it your responsibility to please everyone else at the expense of what you feel called to do. There is a balance to be struck, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your duty to yourself, which is essentially what svadharma is.

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself in this light is “Which self am I serving?” It is, of course, ultimately true that there are not two selves. The self is the self. When, however, the self identifies with a particular mind-body-sense complex it apparently forgets itself and takes itself to be that individual and feeling incomplete and inadequate as such seeks to complete itself by pursuing objects. This pseudo-self is an insatiable task-master, for no matter how much it acquires, consumes, and achieves, it will never be satisfied, for its fundamental identity is based on the notion of scarcity and lack. When you know this, as I think you do Sanford (though you do not yet stand fully confident in this understanding), you cease or will soon cease the incessant scramble to satisfy this beastly boss.

The point of all this is simply that it might be a good idea to get really clear about who you really are before devoting so much time to worrying about whether or not you are following your svadharma. You might find that the you you thought you were is not the real you. And wouldn’t it have been a shame to have spent so much energy trying to find the appropriate mission for an entity that isn’t even real?

To reiterate, yes, it is true that the apparent person does have a svadharma inherent in its nature, so you will be drawn to pursue certain interests and endeavors that are in alignment with it. But this will happen naturally. To use an analogy, the banana tree doesn’t have to quest for whether it should produce bananas or get a job selling stocks.

Sanford: Maybe I still did not suffer enough, to kindle that fire of intense longing for freedom.

Ted: Maybe. I’m not exactly sure if you are saying that you hadn’t before or that you still have not. In the latter case, the question is quite simply, “Have you?” You seem to know you suffer when you chase joy in the world. So have you had enough of this, or would you like to continue banging your head against the wall….er, sorry, didn’t mean to sound judgmental….or would you like to continue playing? The choice is yours, but I bet I know the answer given that we have been engaging in these satsangs for some time now. It is important to know, however, that self- knowledge will not really take hold until you make it your top priority.

An Enlightened Drunk?

Hi Ted!

For almost 3 years ago I had contact with Vedanta. Through the teachings of Ramana Maharshi I have understood the implications of them. To me the world and everything in it is Nirvana. I accept everything as a manifestation of God.

Ted: So far so good. It is, however, worth pointing out that though Ramana was without a doubt a realized being, he was not a very effective teacher. That is, he never really laid out the full teaching of Vedanta in a systematic way that followed a logical progression and thereby offered a practical means for a seeker to free himself from the whirlpool of samsara (i.e. the inevitably fruitless pursuit of seeking lasting peace and happiness through the enjoyment of objects). But, again, the vision of non-duality revealed by Vedanta does see — i.e. know — everything as a manifestation of awareness. The question to consider in this light is whether you know yourself to be that awareness within which the entire manifestation including Jorge and God are appearing and of which it is made. There is only one self. And though God is its ‘highest’ manifestation, God is still no more than the macrocosmic creative power within awareness.

Now concerning that curious object called Jorge…

Juan: I’m a drinker. I drink and I have fun. Always have. So I dedicate
my Fridays to Samsara, to God, to joy. I know that everything is the light. I’m the light as well as you, the trees, even the bottle of sake or wine. I like the world.

Ted: Nothing wrong with enjoying the world. In fact, Ramana said something to the effect that for the jnani (i.e. self-realized being) there are only bhoga (i.e. enjoyment) vasanas (i.e. Inclinations or tendencies based on likes and dislikes, desires and fears). This means that the one who knows his true identity as awareness knows that he is whole and complete as he is and that he needs nothing in the world to complete him or make him happy. He is happy however things are because he knows that the happiness is not a product of the object (i.e. material object, thought, emotion, encounter, experience, circumstance, or situation) but is his very own nature. In short, the jnani does seek happiness in the world, but enjoys his own happiness through the world.

With this in mind, you might contemplate whether you drink to have fun or have an experience of fun while drinking. If it happens to be the latter, then you might ask yourself why drinking is even an issue. Why not forget the drinking altogether and go straight for the unadulterated fun that is your true nature? I’m not saying that drinking is bad, but to be honest there is no scripture that advocates drinking as a valid means of cultivating lasting happiness. A predominately pure, clear, and alert mind is needed to fully assimilate self-knowledge, and alcohol is a substance that has a dulling effect on the mind.

Moreover, if you are a sincere seeker of truth, why do you ‘dedicate’ — this is a pretty strong word — one day a week to samsara? If you are truly seeing God in the booze and babes (or whatever is involved), then it wouldn’t be a samsaric endeavor.

To be honest, this is a really fine line we are walking here. Because I don’t know you, I cannot say what your motivations are regarding drinking and partying. And it is true that there have reputedly been reputed realized beings who partook in what might be interpreted as less-than-saintly behaviors (e.g. Nisargadatta Maharaj chain smoked). But that is not to say that such behavior is advisable for one seeking liberation.

If you are already free — and only you know that — then there may be drinking and partying vasanas that are part of the residual prarabdha karma that has yet to play out through the mind-body-sense complex that is identified as Jorge. But using an erroneous claim to enlightenment as an excuse to indulge binding vasanas that stand in the way of liberation is just another way in which the ego can co-opt enlightenment and continue to bullshit itself into believing that freedom is for Juan rather than from Jorge.

That is, the ego will entice Juan into believing that enlightenment means he can do whatever he wants rather than being free of wants — to the degree that they are binding desires that control one and compel one to act at their behest — altogether.

Ted: You will have to ‘man up’ and take a fierce moral inventory if you want to settle this issue for yourself.