You Have Always Remained the Same

Hello Ted,

My name is Annie. I’m 26 from the UK. I saw your email on James Swartz’ contact page. I hope its okay to get in touch.

Ted: It is definitely okay. I am here to serve.

Annie: As a brief background I was a practicing Shingon Deshi for several years in my early 20s. I later joined Treeleaf Zendo, the online Zen Sangha. I moved then to Neo-Advaita after reading a book on Ramana Maharshi, and later to Robert Adams, Edji and Rajiv Kapur. I was inspired by Osho’s answer to a question on aloneness, but having a suspicion there would be criticism of Osho elsewhere I ended up discovering James.

Ted: I can relate to your quest, Annie. Mine involved a bit of exploration of various gurus too. In fact, I did the Edji thing not long before I found James. Though I encountered many great insights into the truth, the problem with all these paths was that none ever offered a road map out of samsara. They stated what the Truth is, but any realization of the Self was always expressed in experiential terms. That is, I was always left waiting for that one big explosive realization that would zap into a state of oneness or enlightenment or whatever. But no matter how many experiences I had, none would ever remain to stay. This is the essential problem with thinking that enlightenment is some type of feeling or state. Any such experience is no more than an object, albeit a subtle one. In other words, any experience is no more than a fleeting appearance within awareness. It may linger for a longer or shorter length of time depending on who knows what exactly, but due to the ever-changing nature of the apparent reality (i.e. the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ universes) no object ever remains permanently. The good news is that enlightenment is not a matter of experience, but a matter of knowledge. And Vedanta is a time-tested means of knowledge that provides a practical roadmap that can guide you out of delusion.

Annie: The past few days I’ve been reading James site, whilst waiting for his book to arrive.

Ted: Good for you. You’ve come to the right place. James’ book is the really the only modern English text that explains the methodology of Vedanta in a way that is faithful to the scriptures. It is not necessarily a ‘feel good’ read because he has to deliver some pretty frank truths in order to disrobe one of ignorance, but it is inspirational and provides a clear methodology through which you can understand the teachings and know how to apply them in your life in order to purify your mind and realize your true identity as the Self or pure awareness.

Annie: I’m very new to this, but one question has immediately come up for me, and id like to ask about before I begin James book, is what right now in my experience is ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’? When I saw these words used by James my heart sank because I’ve really struggled in the past to understand not their definition, but what they really really refer to in my direct experience.

I get trapped in the mental picture of their concept, and was hoping you could guide me to see exactly what they are, whist I’m sat here at the laptop.

Here is a paragraph ill take as the example to show how I look for them:

“Awareness is very simple. It is that because of which you know and feel and experience things. It is both the things you experience and the awareness in which your experiences take place. This is why it is called non- dual. That limitless light of awareness is what we really are, not the body or the limited person we believe ourselves to be. To see yourself as a limited being is called duality.”

Ted: Another way of saying this is that awareness is simply that because of which you know what you know and you know what you don’t know.

Ironically, the problem with understanding who you really are as awareness or what awareness really is is that awareness is so familiar to us that we don’t even notice it. Truly speaking, there is never a moment in which you are not awareness. It is because of awareness that you know you exist. Because awareness (i.e. The Self) is so often referred to using such grandiose terms as ‘supreme consciousness’ and ‘parabhraman’ and ‘beyond the beyond’ and say that it is more effulgent than a million suns and all that we tend to think that it is something we can never know or experience, or that it is some ‘other’ experience that we have to cultivate or achieve and then maintain. But the truth is that THE awareness to which all such hyperboles refer is nothing more (or less) than the simple, ordinary, everyday awareness in which all your thoughts, feelings, sensations appear.

And what do you have to do to acquire, experience, and maintain that?

The fact is that you can’t do anything to acquire, cultivate, or maintain awareness because awareness is simply what you are. The only thing you can ‘do’ in regard to awareness is recognize it for what it is and thereby remove your ignorance about your true identity as awareness. Vedanta is the means of knowledge that arms you with the tools that enable you to do this. It doesn’t produce enlightenment; it simply removes the ignorance that clouds your appreciation of your true identity as awareness.

Annie: What’s happening right now is I’m sat on a chair in a room with lots of objects. By ‘I’m’ I mean this body, I always feel in a body behind eyes, because it seems to be the centre whenever there’s waking.

Ted: This is because you as all-pervasive awareness is identifying with the limiting adjunct of the body-mind-sense complex that constitutes the character of Annie. In Sanskrit this limiting adjunct is called an upadhi, and it can be demonstrated through the following analogy. Image that I am holding a green-colored glass that contains water. If I were to ask you what color the water is, you would say based on your direct observation that the water is green because that is how it appears when viewed through the ‘lens’ of the glass. So, even though awareness has no shape or color or sound or smell or taste, when it identifies with the upadhi of the body it appears to assume the characteristics of that body similar to the way the Invisible Man appears in the form of the clothes he wears (not a perfect analogy, but hopefully you get the idea) AND it also is seemingly limited by the scope of the ‘lens’ of that particular body (i.e. What it is able to perceive and feel and know through that particular mind-body-sense complex). Weird that unlimited, non-dual awareness would assume such a limited sliver through which to experience, but that’s what it does.

Annie: If I wanted to find/feel/intuit ‘awareness’, what exactly am I looking for?

Ted: You don’t have to find, feel, intuit, or look for it in the same sense that you observe an object or feel an emotion or identify a thought because pure awareness is not an object that can be seen or known through the senses. Of the terms you suggest for the way in which awareness might be indirectly apprehended by a pure mind, the closes is ‘intuit’. As mentioned, awareness cannot be seen because it is not an object and has no attributes.

You can, however, know it to exist because you know you exist and that existence is nothing other than awareness.

Annie: If awareness is the things I experience, can for example I look at this lamp, the laptop, or my cat, and intuit it? I always thought things were made of matter. Is matter the same as awareness? Or is it more I’m walking around in a big hologram, and the whole thing is like a lucid dream? When I look at my cat, is that myself as a cat looking back?

Ted: Good thinking, Annie. The answer is ‘all of the above’. In a way. What is essential to understand is that everything in creation, everything that you experience is you (i.e. Awareness), but that you (i.e. Awareness) are not any of it. In other words, all objects depend upon awareness for their existence, for if they do not appear within the scope of awareness they cannot be said to exist, BUT awareness (i.e. You) are independent of all the objects in that awareness (i.e. You) not limited or defined by any of them and awareness’s (i.e. Your) existence does not depend upon their appearance within it (i.e. You). Consider the state of deep sleep, for instance. When no objects are appearing in awareness, do you cease to exist? No. Annie does, yes, but you (i.e. Awareness) does not. If you did, you would not be able to report upon waking that you slept soundly.

Annie: A sticking point I always have is that if everything is made of gold, and I’m really the gold, how come the body is always in the centre, and I can only see the front of everything else, not the back? Experience in waking always seems to be a human body experience. If I was everything else too, why do I only ever get a human body perspective?

Ted: This was covered above in the explanation of the limited adjunct of the mind-body-sense complex and how it conditions the absolute awareness due to the power of ignorance.

Annie: There does seem to be another way of considering things, that the body/mind/thought phenomena is just another object right now.

Ted: Right on!!

Annie: In which case my ‘always from the human perspective’ issue is solved in a way, because I could say that there is a human perspective arising here.

Ted: Yes, carefully consider the following question: Are you are the individual mind-body-sense complex through which you are experiencing life, or are you the awareness observing life through the lens of the mind- body-sense complex?

Annie: Life loses its importance then, it could be of no importance, just arising.

Ted: Yes, it is just an arising. That doesn’t mean, however, that it has to lose its importance, if by importance you mean that it is something that doesn’t matter and needn’t be bothered with and whatnot. True, life doesn’t matter in that it is nothing to get your undies in a bunch about (i.e. Stressed out by), but once you know it to be nothing more substantial than a dream you can still revel in the enjoyment of it. The difference from the way you experience life before self-realization and after is that you are no longer compelled to act because you believe something in the dream can complete or fulfill you, for you understand that no appearance in the dream brings anything more than temporary happiness but that your very nature as awareness is happiness. A more full explanation of why this is the case is explained in the first chapter of James’ book. Read that over and over until you fully understand why joy cannot be found in objects.

Annie: As its the human doing all the ‘thinking’, ‘experiencing’ and ‘doing’, emailing you, and what I really am cant be experienced, then is my job, experiencing Annie, to just chill out? Learn all I can about how Annie functions, watch it, and relax?

Ted: You’ve got it. If you really want liberation, however, relaxing doesn’t mean doing nothing as Annie to gain the knowledge that removes the ignorance that keeps you currently thinking you are not free. Keep exposing yourself to the knowledge and diligently apply the teachings.

Every moment of every day. Stay vigilant. When you catch your mind thinking that you are a small, inadequate, incomplete, individual person, remind yourself of who you really are, which is whole and complete, limitless, action-less, ordinary, non-dual awareness.

Annie: Am I going to keep waking up into ‘Annie’, until the body dies? Ted: Yep. Unless you change your name, that is:).

Annie: I’m thinking and writing as Annie right now, but I’ve got to be honest, I think one day ill live as the Self instead, that’s not right though is it? The Self is already here, and this entire ‘I’ / Annie phenomena is no problem for it at all. So without tinkering at all with sensations of ‘I’, what’s experiencing it? Would that be right, to isolate it?

Ted: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘isolate it’, but your spot on about the rest. You won’t one day live as the Self because, as you say, you are already the Self. You don’t become the Self by way of the spiritual path and all its practices. The practices are only meant to purify the mind, meaning to rid it of all its erroneous notions about who you are. Understand, however, given how deeply and for how long those notions have been ingrained in your mind, it may take some time for them to die out, so don’t freak out if they continue to rear their ugly heads for awhile. Just observe them for what they are — appearances in awareness. Nothing more. When the villain appears on the movie screen you don’t feel threatened as a member of the audience because you know that it is just a character in a film and moreover is of a totally different order of reality and so cannot touch, taint, enhance, diminish, change, or affect you in any way. You can verify this by examining your own direct experience of life. Despite all the changes your body, emotions, thoughts, circumstances, etc., have undergone, have you, the one witnessing all these changes ever been affected or changed? Yes, Annie has morphed a million times, but isn’t there that aspect of you — the essential you, the self, the one you really mean when you say ‘I feel’ or ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’ or ‘I know or don’t know’ — that has always remained the same?

Annie: The Self. If it can’t be experienced, why has it got a name, the Self? It makes me think it’s a new thing, or a new super body.

Ted: True, the Self is not experienced in the same way you would experience an object, but it can be experienced in the sense of understanding that it is the only experience you actually ever have. In a non-dual reality, which this is, there is only the Self, and so everything you experience 24/7 is the Self.

Annie: In my head I’m pretty sure it has its own persona, like God.

Ted: This is not correct. The Self is pure awareness and, thus, has neither attributes nor a persona. Furthermore, the Self is beyond God. God is simply a concept appearing in the Self, for only by awareness is the idea of God known. How’s that for a mind-blower. Not exactly what the church has to say, eh? But think about. According to Vedanta, God is the creative force and in fact the whole created field of the universe. And where does the creation appear? In awareness.

Annie: Can I confirm, the Self isn’t a thing at all; enlightened people still wake up in bodies? What then is ‘the Self’ referring to?

Ted: That the Self is not an object is hopefully clear by now. The Self is nothing other than whole and complete, limitless, action-less, ordinary, non-dual awareness. But, yes, enlightened people still wake up in bodies.

This is due to what Vedanta calls conditioned superimposition. The analogy of a mirage in the desert clearly illustrates this phenomenon. Just because you know that the lake appearing before your eyes is not real doesn’t mean that it disappears. You will not rush toward it thinking it will satisfy your thirst, but you will still see it. This is how enlightened people see the world. They know it is only an apparent reality that no object in it will bring lasting happiness, but they still enjoy its appearance.

Annie: I’d like to rid that phrase of the idea it’s a thing. The word ’emptiness’ doesn’t inspire this ‘is a thing to become’ effect quite like the word ‘Self’.

Ted: I understand your inclination to rid the Self of its association with being an object, and if the word ‘emptiness’ helps you do that then by all means use it as a tool. Understand, however, that the Self is not empty.

This is a common notion held by the Buddhist traditions, but with all due respect it is not correct. The Self is, conversely, completely full. In fact, this fullness is what is symbolized by the giant belly of the laughing Buddha.

The Self is that in which all exists and of which all is made.

Annie: To be honest I struggle so much with wording and the mental pictures and concepts they bring up I’ve taken to skipping words such as awareness or Self with my eyes when I read so I can intuit what it the rest is referring to rather than imagine it all in my head. James wrote something along the lines of ‘it arises out of you’, and that felt quite direct, because sat there on my chair it was like he was saying all this right now is arising out of me. That was quite powerful to consider just sat in a chair.

Ted: But what James says is true. All is simply appearing in you. Not Annie, but you, for even Annie — her body, her emotions, her thoughts, the entirety of her experience, both gross and subtle — is only an appearance in you (i.e. Awareness).

Annie: I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking now, that’s a lot of individual questions. This particular struggle with understanding what I’m reading in my own experience has been going on for so long, the questions have backed up and become jumbled.

My basic question is: Is there a technique whereby I can read James book and instead of reading it like a picture story, see -exactly- just sat there in my kitchen, what it means directly? My fear is words such as awareness, consciousness, Self and God, are so conceptual to me I’m going to miss the point right here and now, and get frustrated again. Is there an acceptable list of alternative words for example, so you can use the ones that rattle you most?

Ted: Hopefully, a careful consideration of my responses will help you overcome any hang-ups you might have about the words ‘awareness’, ‘consciousness’, ‘Self’, and ‘God’. You can use other words if they work for clarifying your understanding, but don’t get too hung-up on the words you use to point to awareness or the Self. Once you understand what awareness is, then whatever word you use will be an effective pointer.

Kind Regards, Annie

Ted: Please feel free to keep in touch if you have any further questions, Annie.

Kind regards in return,


Ps. I suffer from sleep paralysis and getting stuck in lucid dreams, I have done since I was a child. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the wrong bed and go about my day as vivid as waking several times, before waking up in waking in the right bed. So it’s quite easy for me to recognize the fleeting nature of identity, memory, and environments to wake up in. This isn’t mentioned much, if at all, in books. If you knew of any resources where I could read more about that, I’d be really interested. I’m interested to know if waking body and waking universe is indeed the primary real one, and the rest are just my brains attempts to create waking for me (when I’ve woken up but my body is still paralyzed). In which case ‘Annie’ is the one identity, and ‘Annie’s brain’ creates the dream worlds for me (Doctor would argue this). OR is it that ‘I’ slip out of ‘Annie’ and into ‘World 1’, ‘World 2’, ‘World 3’ etc, each new world taking on a new life story, memories, and identity. See what I mean? ‘Annie’ and all her memories are born only as I come into waking. So when I say ‘I’ do I mean ‘Annie’ or that which comes in and out of ‘Annie’? Why then do I always come back to waking, it must be primary? …I’m just awareness though right- all this phenomena is experiencing itself?

Ted: The best piece of advice I can give you concerning these questions is to read James’s translation and explanation of the Mandukya Upanishad that is posted on his website at This scripture thoroughly examines the three states of experience — the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states — and clearly distinguishes these from ‘the fourth factor’ (i.e. Awareness) that is the ever-present witness of the three states while at the same time remaining completely untouched by them. You will find this text if you go to the Publications page on the website and then scroll down to the bottom of the column on the far left side of the page and click on Mandukya Upanishad.

You Don’t Need a Tragedy

Dear Ted,

Please accept my pranams. I am very grateful for your teachings. There is not a lot to say, nothing to argue about. You put it all so clearly back on white. It is now on me to apply it in my daily situations. Starting a day with a insightful message, can conviction of my real nature last quite a bit. Fear and desires that go through me are better be befriended; keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer they say. They can teach you the most. So they say. And Ramji goes on to tell that we need to convert emotion into self-inquiry. Everything, every opportunity needs to serve as a trigger to practice this investigation into the Self, discriminating between the objects, thoughts, emotions and the subject, satchitananda swarupa. I remember I used to thing and wish that something bad would happen to me, to my body-mind complex, as accident or disease, that would serve as a springboard to take this investigation super serious, fully dedicated and convinced to not stop.

I guess I don’t need something like that to happen to prioritize my attention.

Just hard work clearing out the weeds that took deep roots.

Thank you for bearing with me.

With love,


Hi, Sanford.

You sound very clear. That is great. And, you’re right, you don’t need a tragedy in order to propel your inquiry. It’s just a matter of how much you want to be free. It’s not like being free is ‘good’ and being bound by mvasanas is ‘bad’…except in terms of suffering. So go easy on yourself, but be vigilant and as dedicated and focused as your desire to be free mandates. And if any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Much love and all my best to you, my friend.


You Cannot Produce Liberation

Hi Ted.

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

Sanford: Wonderful, really wonderful all of this, Vedanta is brilliant when it is wielded properly.

Thank you again for your time and in-depthness, I get the vasana-samskara terms and how they operate.

Honestly I am realizing that I haven’t been doing karma yoga properly, or at least not sufficiently enough. It is great that you pointed it out. It seems that I took it like ‘yeah, sure, easypeasy, what is next….’, but then I came back to it through Vajrayana Buddhism, where the practice is that you are doing it for the sake of others, brushing your teeth for example, you do with thoughts and feelings that you are brushing away all the impurities of yourself and all other sentient being, which is a way tallies with Karma yoga. Same goes for other activities.

But I think I should do all dedications and surrendering in Vedanta way, that is my work now.

Ted: Good idea. And there is a distinction worth making between the Buddhist style of surrender and that taught in Vedanta. The idea of offering your actions to Isvara (i.e. the field of experience) is the basis of karma yoga according to Vedanta, but not necessarily the idea that you are doing your actions for the sake of others. There are two reasons for this.

First, Vedanta says there are no others. There is only the one self. Certainly from the jiva’s or individual’s perspective there appear to be all these other jivas running loose, but ‘they’ are only upadhi (i.e. apparent entities similar to different glasses that all hold the same substance called water). So really you are only playing with yourself. What you do for so called others, you are really only doing for yourself. Even on a more mundane level, you can by way of a little honest analysis see that this is true. Even if you identify with the independent doer you appear to be and you offer your actions with the intentions of helping someone else, you are really doing this because you feel good to do so. Perhaps it makes you feel good to think you put a smile on someone’s face or alleviated their suffering to some degree. Or perhaps you just like seeing people happy. Or maybe you think helping others will score some points with God and get you into heaven if you believe in that sort of thing. Or it could be that you believe it makes you more ‘spiritual’ or Christ-like or whatever. There could be any number of reasons. But the bottom line is that there is only one self, and that self acts in its own self-interests so to speak. I know this sounds selfish and unspiritual, but just inquire into your experience and see if it isn’t true. There is always a payoff for the doer. The punch line, however, is that the doer isn’t real as was explicitly shown in the previous email. Not even the self is the doer. The self illumines and all this shit happens. It is awesome and worth enjoying and worth feeling grateful for and worth offering a contribution to insofar as there is an apparent doer that you apparently do through. But let’s not get all selfless or self- righteous about it (not saying that that’s what you were doing, just making a general statement in this regard).

Second, even if there were others, it’s not your business to save them. Vedanta is not an evangelical religious path. We don’t see the world as being in need of saving. The world is perfect just as it is. What else can it be? It is simply the self with three bodies. Though from the limited perspective of the limited individual things may seem fucked up, from Isvara’s perspective the whole machine is running smoothly and accommodating whatever acts are offered to it in whatever way is most beneficial to maintain its overall harmony and balance. And from the self’s perspective, neither is anything happening nor is there even any creation. Since the entire apparent reality is nothing other than an elaborate object appearing in and constituted of awareness, there is no essential change by which such a happening as creation could be defined. Eternal, unborn awareness simply is. From either Isvara’s or the self’s perspective, therefore, there is nothing to fix, heal, change, enhance, or god-forbid convert. When people have played out their hand and come to the realization that no permanent peace or lasting happiness is to be found in the apparent reality, then they are ready for Vedanta and Vedanta shows up in their life. Until that happens, let people experience the vacillation of their vasanas. That’s the ride they’ve purchased through past experience, so let them enjoy it to their heart’s content…or actually until it breaks their heart. They’ll let you know loud and clear if they want your help to pick up the pieces.

Sanford: One of the best opportunities to do it for me is when eating, reminding myself of who is eating what, that is the Brahman enjoying eating the Brahman, offering it to the fire of Brahman, reciting the shloka 4.24 of Bhagavad Gita with its meaning. I understand everything I do and experience should be taken with this attitude, all doing as offerings to Bhagavan and all that comes as the prasad, attitude of gratitude as they say, as everything was given to me, nothing is mine.

Ted: Right on.

Sanford: As much as it would be great if my parents would understand that by leaving them does not mean not loving them enough, not caring for them and home country, but quite the opposite, that by doing all this, following the heart, going for discovery of my dharma, and ultimately realization, I love them even more, I care even more, because by accomplishing the real goal of life is to bring light to them as well.

Ted: You can’t really love anyone else until you love yourself, for who are those ‘others’ but yourself. Be the light and let the light shine through them as it will. Again, you don’t have to bring the light to them because they are the light already. Just be yourself, offer them love and respect in a way that is true to your nature, and let Isvara work it all out as it will.

Sanford: Ted, today I read Swamiji answer to a question about Buddhism, which was quite surprising for me, so I would like to ask you for your point of view if you please, “Vedanta can make progress even without speaking of God. Buddhism and Hinduism tally at that point and there is not conflict. We also know that all rituals are imbibed from Buddhism. From Mahayana Buddhism, temple worship, Utsavas are absorbed in toto. Present day Hinduism contains 75 percent of Buddhism. Only the name was removed as it had stigma. Some were nihilists. Name was thrown but not the principles. That was due to the genius of Sankara.”

Ted: To be honest, I’m not sure I understand completely what Swamiji (Dayananda? Tadatmananda?) is saying here. It is my understanding that Vedic culture preceded Buddhism by thousands of years. Vedic culture was centered on rituals that would produce all the results sought by humans (i.e. all forms of security, pleasure, and virtue) by means that were in keeping with dharma. In fact, Vedanta refers to Buddhism as a chip off the tooth of the Vedas. Furthermore, it seems that the Buddha himself was a Hindu who broke off from the tradition as a reaction to the corruption of the caste system that he saw enacted by so many of the Brahmins or Vedic priests of his day. Shankara later came along and defeated the Buddhists in great debates concerning the nature of reality and liberation, and this is one of the main reasons the Buddhists left India. So I’m not really sure about the idea of rituals coming from Buddhism.

Concerning what is the most important issue in this passage in terms of self-knowledge, it is true that one can ‘progress’ on the path of knowledge (i.e. Vedanta) without speaking of God in the sense that God is interpreted by vast numbers of seekers around the world. Contrary to the beliefs of such seekers, God is not some great Person in the heavens somewhere who watches over creation with a judgmental eye and saves/rewards the do- gooders and condemns/punishes the do-badders. Moreover, God according to Vedanta is only the ‘highest’ manifestation of awareness, but is not pure awareness ‘itself.’ In order to gain moksha or liberation, one ultimately has to realize that the Creator is only an object appearing within oneself.

Sanford: Yes, I have a copy of ‘How to Attain Enlightenment’, we are so indebted for it, and I am going through it daily bit by bit. Also I got this dvds of Atmabodh and few other audio teaching of Ramji which are played on my walks at surrounding hills. Besides that I study Swami Tadatmananda’s Bhagavad Gita audio classes, which he presents really lucidly and it is easy to follow and comprehend. There are also quite few other Vedanta and other books on the shelves, which was all greed, but it can turn out to be useful one.

Ted: Great! These are your lifelines. Keep reading, listening, and viewing. By virtue of focused concentration and repeated exposure to the teachings, the knowledge sinks in over time. The repetition is necessary because the conditioning has been so strong for so long that it takes a lot to uproot the weeds and nurture a new garden to full maturity.

Sanford: I would also take this opportunity to ask you if it is wise to try to analyze past epiphanies and or samadhis, or let it be and the connections and understanding will come by itself? I am not sure if it is the samadhi, the savikalpa sort that preceded the depression that followed, or was it the state of ananda, causal body being temporarily without negative load, feeling like ‘owww yeaaa, I am the king of the world! Everything is possible, really every-thing is possible. Just put your mind to it. There is no fear. I feel the richest in the world, with few pounds in my pocket, that being not the real richness. I don’t know what other people will thing when they will see my so euphoric, but I don’t care, I am happy as I have never been before. Life if great.’ etc. going on for few weeks and leading to depression as mentioned.

Ted: I’m not a licensed psychotherapist, of course, but my advice from the standpoint of Vedanta is to not worry about or try to analyze past epiphanies and/or samadhis. These are not experiences that need to be repeated in order to establish you in a state of experiential enlightenment. Enlightenment is not experiential. You were just as much the self when you were depressed as you are now or ever will be. The self is that which sees both the highs and lows and yet remains ever untouched by either. What you are describing sounds more like the ever-fluctuating nature of the gunas. Specifically, the highs are the effect of rajas stepping to the center stage while the lows result of tamas taking over the show. I don’t mean to make light of clinical depression, for which you would really need to be treated before any serious self-inquiry could be undertaken on your part, but it sounds like this might be more a matter of a sensitive, spiritual type reacting to the vicissitudes of life without really having a strong enough sense of his true identity to weather the storms swelling from the mixture of old habits and beliefs coming into direct conflict with newly acquired knowledge. The calming of these storms is the very reason to cultivate the sattvic mind that we have previously discussed. The karma yoga attitude coupled with continued self-inquiry will eventually settle the tempestuous inner atmosphere and allow you the clear sky of mind that will allow you to see and fully appreciate the light of awareness that is always shining in all its pristine glory.

Sanford: Yes, I need to be, just to be and let it happen to me, being that which is the source, substratum to all that happens, ever is, gives light to all there is, and is me.

Ted: Stop right there, Sanford. Think about what you just wrote.

You do not ‘need to be’ nor to ‘let it happen.’ These are actions. They will not — indeed they cannot — produce what you already are. You do not ‘need to be’ because you already are. You do not need to ‘let it happen’ because it (i.e. Ignorance or creation) is already happening….because you are illumining it.

I realize this may seem like mincing words, but Vedanta is a shabda pramana or a means of knowledge that is based upon sound (i.e. words). It matters a great deal how we use words because words are what form our thoughts and thoughts are what manifest as our knowledge/experience. One’s thoughts and the condition of mind are vital to the individual’s liberation because the whole business of liberation is essentially for the mind. The self already knows itself. It’s only the mind that is mired in ignorance.

You, Sanford, cannot produce liberation. Nor will you, Sanford, become liberated. What will ‘happen’ is that you as awareness will one day cease to identify with the notion of being Sanford.

What you as Sanford (as long as you to even the slightest degree take yourself to be a person/individual/doer) can do, however, is practice yoga in order to purify your mind so that you can eventually assimilate self- knowledge and stand in your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

Thank you!



Ted: OM and prem to you, Sanford.

Vedantins are Not Evangelists

Dear Ted,

My initial response to your email was WoW, I thank and bow to you, namaskar, I bow to divinity in you!

I read and reread your response few times and I would like to follow it up in more details.

You were quite right dissecting the reasons for the fears I am experiencing. It is more of a mixture of not being interested in worldly stuff, trivial talks, and all sort of stupidities which are plentiful in our societies. I would just like to be focused on the Divine, the Self, Iswara or anything in connection with.

Ted: I completely understand. Once the fire of self-knowledge is ignited, it will burn away all the unnecessary dross from the pure gold of awareness. Unless you are going to be able to live in an ashram or flee to the Himalayas (which is actually not recommended unless you have the temperament for it, for it will either drive you crazy or only serve to repress the vasanas and thus maintain them rather than allowing them to play out while maintaining a watchful eye and discriminating attitude in regard to them), however, you still have to live in the world. This being the case, it is best to proceed with discretion. Stay focused on the self, on your true identity as pure, non-dual awareness, and cultivate a simple lifestyle that allows you as much time as possible for self-inquiry and the various yogas that will help purify the mind. And when the dharma field (i.e. The world) does require you to interact, use those interactions as a means of developing the qualifications and practicing karma yoga. Offer the interactions to Isvara and respond to each person as if they were Isvara in disguise, which is exactly what they are.

Sanford: Deep down in me there yearns an aspiration, sincere wish to explain the truth to all, but how can a blind man lead another blind cross the street. So it seems that I am trying to rush things, that I too many times fantasize of being fearless, calm and happy, being liberated and offering anyone a hand, or a shoulder and/or a teaching if being ready for it.

Ted: It’s great to want to help others gain self-knowledge, but as you point out it is best to not rush the process. Make sure you are full cooked as they say. You want to make sure that you can unfold the teachings in a logical manner that is true to the methodology of the Vedantic tradition. The fault of too many teachers today is that they get a glimpse of the truth, but haven’t fully assimilated it and aren’t standing wit complete confidence in that truth. When you are ready to blossom as a teacher you will know. Until that time, however, you can still offer help to anyone who seems in need and expresses an interest in your insight concerning why they are suffering and what they might do to alleviate it. But be cautious about just running amok, spouting Vedanta to every Tom, Dick, and Harry you deem to be in need. Most people are not ready to hear the teachings for whatever reason. They haven’t hit bottom yet. And they have every right to continue on as they have been until they themselves have decided to seek a way out. It is not your responsibility to save the world. Feeling that it is (not saying that that is what you are feeling) is often just ego-driven zeal for power.

Sanford: Sanford is the one who needs to snap out of it, being under the spell of vasanas, various emotions. But you know Ted, the fear has also to do with fearing the humiliation, being mocked and scoffed, if I go on talking about the Truth.

Ted: As far as that goes, who gives a shit what other people think (pardon my French). You’ve got to be true to yourself, to what you know.

Sanford: Otherwise what can you do, should you act out, like nothing happened, like you don’t know ‘more’. Knowing it, but wearing the mask to people who show no inclination, or worse, are anti-spiritual.

Ted: Vedantins are not evangelists, so flying under the radar is not a bad idea. You know what you know, you offer help if asked, but other than that stick to your own sadhana. Clean up and maintain your own backyard rather than trying to tidy up everyone else’s. The reason for this is not a lack of compassion, but is based on a simple principle. Sticking your nose in others’ affairs most often only serves to agitate the mind.

Sanford: I sense that I lack confidence, obviously I do not stand on the firm ground of Jnana. It is not spontaneous.

Ted: Maybe not yet, but don’t get discouraged. That is the sadhana or practice. Just keep focused, keep exposing yourself to and applying the teachings — over and over and over again, 24/7. One day, the penny will drop. As James’ says, you’re on the bus, so just trust that Vedanta will deliver you home.

Sanford: Another thing, I need to consider of letting all other teaching aside, for time being, in order to assimilate Vedanta fully, in order to give it a field to blossom. What is your view on that, would it be wise to continue with lets say Vipassana, or any other practice, and maybe any other teaching on the side, to concoct it together in a customized and personal teaching.

Ted: My advice would be to let all other teachings go and focus exclusively on Vedanta. The other teachings were valuable for getting you here, but in my opinion nothing beats Vedanta. It is a complete teaching that covers every step of the path. So there is no need to cloud your mind with other ideas. This is not to discredit any other path, but just to say that Vedanta offers the full enchilada. Besides, what happens when you get too many cooks in the kitchen? Chaos and agitation. Choose your path and stick to it. And by all means do not concoct your own personal teaching. If you were able to do it on your own, you would have already done it. You need the teachings and a teacher to unfold them (not saying it has to be me, just that you need a qualified teacher of Vedanta) because otherwise the ignorance that is now operating in you to whatever degree it is operating will erroneously interpret the teachings according to its ignorance and you’ll just remain stuck where you are.

Sanford: I have Ramji’s ‘How to attain enlightenment’, which I bought before going to India last year, however I only read it once and a half. I am delving it again.

Ted: Read it over and over. A hundred times if you can. Your understanding will deepen with each reading. Also, there are various videos available for purchase in DVD or MP3 format on Ramji’s website. I would highly recommend purchasing any or all of those if your finances allow.

Sanford: Thank you again Ted, I am glad to meet you.

With love,


Vedanta for a Variety of Topics

Hi, Ivan.

My name is Ted Schmidt. I am one of James’ students and am being endorsed by Shiningworld to teach Vedanta. James and Sundari have asked me as well as several other new teachers to reply to your email. My comments have been inserted into the appropriate spots in the text of your email as follows.

Dear James Swartz,

Ivan: I’ve been going through videos of your talks for a while now. Thank you for it all. I’m curious about a few things though. You mentioned something about a past life and seemed quite sure when you mentioned it. How were you so sure that you had that past life?

Ted: Though I cannot speak for James’ experience and knowledge of a particular past life, I can say that one’s past lives — at least their essential nature — can be known in the sense that the residual vasanas of any previous life are those that continue to seek expression in the context of one’s current incarnation. Usually one’s memory of particular circumstances, relationships, and events is wiped clean in the interval between incarnations, but sometimes the wash job isn’t complete and when one reenters a body there remains some dirt behind the ears, so to speak, from the last go-round. In conjunction with this, however, it is important to understand that it is not exactly a person transmigrating from one life to the next. For instance, I once heard James mention that he had been a highly evolved yogi in a past life. Perhaps this is the past life to which you are referring in this email. At any rate, let’s use that as an example. We tend to think that there is this person, James, or at least a particular subtle body or soul that constitutes the sentient aspect of this person, and that this person/subtle body moves fully intact from one life to the next, perhaps learning lessons and growing spiritually along the way, until one fine day it completes its journey and merges with the absolute or whatever. This makes for both a reasonable explanation that we can wrap our minds around and a romantic notion that allows us to retain our personal identity. Though we tend to find this notion highly attractive, it insidiously serves the ego in its ongoing quest for survival and thwarts the understanding of our true identity as non-dual, objectless awareness. It is more accurate to say that particular bundles of vasanas with a common ‘purpose’ or inclination are drawn to a particular body that is so placed within a particular worldly circumstance to allow for those vasanas to play out. In James’ case, his causal body — which is actually only a tiny sliver you might say of the macrocosmic causal body in which all the vasanas for the entire manifest and unmanifest worlds reside — housed a great number of vasanas for spiritual practice and self-inquiry, and so they have expressed through the mechanism of his current body and ‘created’ a sagely greybeard who wields the Vedantic teaching methodology with great skill and is able to help free seekers from the wheel of samsara. Such vasanas are the products of previous actions that shaped and colored them done in previous lives, yes, BUT it was not exactly the guy we think of as James this time around doing it then. Strange as it may seem, the vasanas are impersonal. They shape the personality that plays out through the subtle and gross bodies that one most often takes to be oneself, but they in themselves do not constitute a particular person. So it is not like there are innumerable distinct subtle entities floating around somewhere in the ethers, incarnating in one body after another after another. The vasanas are essentially the apparent impressions generated by ignorance and emitting from the macrocosmic causal body, which find expression through the apparent subtle and gross bodies that constitute the apparent dualistic reality. It is all nothing more than Isvara’s (i.e. God, the creator, maya) dream.

Ivan: Is it helpful to know about a past life?

Ted: To be honest, not really. Though it might be entertaining, it really serves no useful purpose in the quest to understand one’s true identity as the self. The only real value of any past life is the quality of the vasanas that remain from it, and those are readily apparent in one’s current state.

Knowing the details of any past life with which I might associate might even cause suffering for the person I currently take myself to be. For instance, if I were an individual living in highly affluent circumstances in ‘my’ past life but who had either created or hadn’t exhausted a store of vasanas that mandated a more severe circumstance in which to manifest, and now I find myself toiling away at a job I can’t stand, barely able to pay my bills, I might feel the pain of such a circumstance even or acutely and fall prey to the inclination to bewail my situation and wallow in self-pity or, even worse, self-condemnation rather than get on with the spiritual-inquiry that will ultimately free me. If it is important that you know something of one of ‘your’ past lives, Isvara (God the Creator) will make it known to you.

Despite the penchant of some spiritual seekers who feel the need for ‘spiritual’ experiences, there is no need to seek out knowledge of past lives.

Ivan: I know that through DNA I am somewhat of an incarnation of my grandfather, and my life has a lot of strong parallels with his too even though he died before me and I never got to meet him. Sometimes I think I may something more than just DNA/vasanas passing through the generations.

Ted: You are right on, Ian. You, the real you that is pure awareness and not the body-mind-sense complex that is so often mistakenly taken to be you, is more than just DNA/vasanas in the sense that awareness is wholly beyond the DNA/vasanas. As mentioned above, the DNA/vasanas are extremely subtle objects to the self that reside in the causal body and find expression through a body and environment conducive to their particular proclivities or nature.

Ivan: When you talk about people complaining about the world, I think about all of the people around me who are like that. When you talk about people in Portland, Oregon just sitting around in the coffee shops complaining about life and not enquiring, I see that around me where I currently am, in Vancouver. I think there is a very similar culture here.

Ted: There is a similar culture everywhere. As Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, there are only a very few souls that are inclined to seek the knowledge of their true identity. This is a testament to the delusive power of Maya or ignorance. But it is as it is. It will all turn out okay in the end.

This is how the machine works. Beings manifest and wander the world under the spell of ignorance. Little by little, experience-by-experience, they begin to suspect there is something more going on than meets the eye and that there is something lurking behind the shadows that can account for it all. Count yourself blessed that you are at the point where you are no longer accepting the party line, so to speak, and are seeking a way to break the spell of ignorance. As for others, see them as they are: the self in drag.

They haven’t yet reached their limit and still believe that the bullshit being served for dinner is going to somehow provide nourishment. See them with compassion, but not pity. Know they are no different from you; they simply don’t know who they are.

Ivan: I want them all to shut up. They’re complaining about the world, so I complain about the world because it contains them. Why do I complain about complainers?

Ted: It is natural to complain when you begin to see the beauty of reality and how complaining doesn’t serve as a viable means to break the spell of ignorance and consequent suffering. And since you want to get on with breaking the spell, you feel the itch to get away from the negative tendencies in which you used to indulge and which are obviously still expressing albeit from a more ‘evolved’ point of view. The real reason you complain, however, is because you still believe on a deep level that the complainers are separate from you and that it is ‘bad’ to complain. This apparent separation is true from the ego’s point of view, but does not accurately reflect the non-dual nature of reality. It is also true that it is ‘bad’ to complain in the sense that it doesn’t serve the purpose of purifying the mind in order to facilitate self-inquiry and the assimilation of knowledge. Complaining, in itself, however, is neither good nor bad; it is simply a happening occurring at the behest of vasanas that were originally created by Isvara and are playing out in the field of ignorance. From the point of view of the self, it is Isvara complaining, odd as that may seem. So why get your undies in a bunch about it? This is not to say that you should fully embrace complaining as an acceptable action for you. If you truly want to cultivate a pure mind in order to facilitate inquiry and realize the self, it is best to refrain as much as possible from complaining. It all depends on your goal.

Ivan: Also, what about all this other behavior that people display that’s not dharmic? It seems that every time I hear you say something about some sort of ignorant behavior, I see it plainly with family and friends. How can the world be perfect if these people behave this way?

Ted: The world is perfect because in a non-dual reality, which this is, there is nothing other than awareness and so no apparent happening or behavior can stain that purity in any way or to any degree. The functioning of the apparent reality will never appear perfect from the individual person’s perspective. Because the apparent reality is dualistic, there will always be tension and conflict between the pairs of opposites — good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, dharmic and adharmic, etc. — but these tensions and conflicts are no more real from the self’s point of view than those that take place on a movie screen. It all seems so real for the time that we suspend our disbelief and absorb ourselves in the movie, but ultimately it’s just a bunch of flashing lights.

Ivan: Speaking of complainers and adharmic (?) behavior… You mention certain types of people that it’s better not to hang around. My mom comes to mind, as does my sister. What happens when these people are your family? I can barely stand to be in my mom’s presence sometimes. It’s not nice to say, but she’s very vulgar, she has a complete victim complex, she can be racist, she blatantly accuses people of doing the things that she does herself, she has addictions, she blatantly ignores her doctor’s advice, etc.

I’m going to be moving to a different country, and I’ve lived away from her a lot. Part of me just wants to completely forget her, but part of me feels there are obligations as her son to see her often and listen to her, despite hating what comes out of her mouth, feeling like I’m being complacent by listening to it.

Ted: As I mentioned previously, it is important to view such behavior and your response to it and willingness to engage with it in light of your goal. I agree that the fact that these are family members does add a new dimension to the issue. It is not your responsibility, however, to take care of another at the expense of your own well-being. You can see the situation in light of the comments I made earlier, and perhaps that will allow you to detach from your judgments about it. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to spend a lot of time around your mother or sister. They need to take care of themselves. To the degree that you feel your assistance is vitally important, you can offer help, but there is no need for you to feel guilty because you no longer wish to wallow in the warm manure of the pigpen. When you do offer help or simply attention to such people, it is advisable to do so with what Vedanta calls the karma yoga attitude. Karma yoga, according to Vedanta, is an attitude with which you perform action in the world. Since you cannot avoid action as long as you are in a body — even doing nothing, ironically, is doing something — Vedanta says to go ahead and act. Just realize, however, that the results of your actions are not up to you. There are so many factors in the field of existence that play a role in determining the outcome of any one action it is impossible that you as an individual doer are responsible for the result.

This being the case, you can engage in action without guilt and accept with dispassionate faith whatever results take place as Isvara’s will/grace, as what is best for the whole of creation, since Isvara is essentially the dharma of the field that serves the purpose of maintaining its balance and overall harmony. In short, love your family, respect you family, serve your family when there is true need, but protect yourself and don’t pander to the whims of weak-minded people.

Ivan: Regarding ancestor worship, lately I’ve given a hard look at my family tree, doing some research, finding graves, thinking about these people and their lives. On the one hand it seems respectful, but on the other it seems to tie me to an identity in maya.

Ted: You seem to have a good understanding of this issue. Family history might be intriguing for the ego, but it isn’t a determining factor in who you are. Neither as an apparent individual nor as the self. The apparent entities of your ancestors did provide a context in which your vasanas could find a body through which to express, but these people and their personalities do not have a binding influence over the choices you make to foster your own growth toward self-knowledge. As you imply, your true identity has nothing to do with your ancestors.

Ivan: Sometimes I also don’t get the basic idea that happiness is my true nature. I don’t understand why happiness gets to stay with awareness, yet other things are just maya. Why isn’t happiness just part of maya too? If happiness was my true nature, then wouldn’t I always be happy because I’m always awareness? My experience seems to show otherwise. I’m not always happy or content.

Ted: It seems you might be confused about what happiness is. Happiness, according to Vedanta, is not the emotional state of being positive and hopeful, jubilant and full of mirth. Happiness is rather the rock-solid confidence in your true identity as whole and complete, non-dual awareness. When you take a firm stance in this knowledge, you are essentially unflappable because you know that while the entire universe is you, you are not it. That is, the universe depends upon you for its existence, but you do not depend on it for yours. You are ever free and nothing can enhance, diminish, or change you in any way or to any degree.

When you truly know this, all fear vanishes and with it all suffering. Painful emotions may still arise within the apparent individual whose existence continues, but you no longer take those things to be real or ultimately meaningful. They are just objects appearing and disappearing within you, and you remain untouched by them. This perspective does give rise to an overall sense of well-being, a more positive attitude, and a jubilance that is often experienced as the emotional state we call happiness, but the emotion itself is only a reflection of the light of pure awareness as it illumines a purified mind.

Ivan: Regarding the body being an object, why can I feel my body, but can’t feel what it’s like to have someone else’s body? If my body is just like anyone else’s body, an object in maya, what is this special connection to this one specific body about? I sit here and feel my body, yet watch other bodies pass by. I don’t feel those bodies, except maybe sometimes when I feel empathy.

Ted: This is a common confusion among seekers. Though the individual person or jiva and the universal Lord or Isvara are essentially the same awareness, they are not the same in terms of what we might call the scope of that awareness. When under the influence of ignorance or maya, pure awareness is limited to a greater or lesser extent by what Vedanta calls upadhis. An upadhi is a conditioning adjunct. This concept can be understood by thinking of a blue-colored glass that contains water. If I ask you what color the water is, you will say that it is blue (if you base your answer strictly on what you directly perceive with your eyes, that is). Thought the water is actually clear, it appears blue because of the conditioning of the glass. In terms of the identity between the individual and Isvara, it is essential to understand that in each case pure awareness is being conditioned (i.e. limited) by a different upadhi. When looking through the eyes of the individual, so to speak, pure awareness, due to its identification with that particular ‘lens’, sees and experiences a limited sliver of the whole. Isvara’s upadhi (for even Isvara is only an object, albeit a big one, within limitless awareness), on the other hand, is seemingly limitless and includes everything — gross and subtle — within its macrocosmic causal body. So, when the individual realizes that both he and Isvara or the macrocosmic whole are the same pure awareness, it doesn’t mean that suddenly the individual will see the creation from Isvara’s perspective and with the full breadth of Isvara’s scope.

Ivan: Regarding the Intellect and the Mind, I don’t quite get the difference.

Ted: The mind and the intellect are two aspects of the subtle body. They each perform different functions. The mind perceives the data coming in through the senses; coheres that data into one whole perception, thereby creating a singular experience out of the data provided by the five distinct sense organs; doubts or questions what it (i.e. the individual entity or person associated with it) is to make of this data (i.e. whether the object perceived is something desirable, something to be avoided, or something neutral in its implications); and emotes (i.e. expresses emotions and is sort of the energetic impetus for responding to the object. The intellect is basically the second tier in the process of perceiving and responding to sensory experience whether gross or subtle. After the mind has perceived sensory data and cohered that data into objective experience, it then finds itself, so to speak in a quandary over how to appropriately respond to this object. At this point, then, it sends the cohered data to the intellect. It is the intellects function to determine what the data means and decide how to respond to it. Essentially, the intellect is the thinking mechanism. It is the seat our rationality as human beings. The intellect, however, is only the second step in the process of discrimination and decision-making. The intellect consults the causal body before making its final decision concerning any action or response. The causal body is the storehouse of the vasanas or the impressions of past actions. These convey to the intellect what has been done before and what the effects were (i.e. whether they were pleasant or unpleasant) and in this way influence the decision that the intellect makes. It is for this reason that it can be said that we are really under the control to a greater or lesser extent of our vasanas and why it is important to learn how to deal with them in a way that supports our goal of freedom.

Ivan: I was also wondering about living a dharmic life as a gay. I’m not gay, but I have gay friends and it seems that gay marriage is becoming an issue in North America lately. You mentioned that there is a basic model for straight people to follow, but what about gays?

Ted: All beings are essentially the same awareness. Dharma is dharma, and in behavioral terms essentially boils down to the Golden Rule. There is no different dharma for gay people. Identities such as gay, straight, male, female, white, black, yellow, green, conservative, liberal, intelligent, dumb, etc., ad infinitum, all fall within the realm of the apparent reality and, thus, are nothing more than objects within awareness that have no reality beyond their appearance. Yes, different personalities and occupations and whatnot have varying natures and duties, but in this case we are speaking of human beings universal rules of conduct. Despite what some people think, Isvara has not limits about who is worthy of love. All beings are awareness, and thus all beings are essentially love itself. From the perspective of pure awareness, it doesn’t matter what type of bodies are involved in the expression of love. Awareness remains untouched by any of it. As long as people are not hurting one another, it is all fine within the scope of dharma.

Ivan: Thank you for your help.

Ted: My pleasure.



The Path Requires Courage

Hi Ted.

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

Sanford: What can I say but that I could not be happier with the blessing of your clear and insightful explanation into the nature of things. I read it few times already, maybe I will have to read it again.

Yes, I agree about the fear or any other emotion whatsoever, it is just an energy, a motion in subtle body. But it is carried or shall we say perpetuated by a thought, conditioning, an idea, (vasana) which keeps it there and is responsible for its reappearance. This pulls can get strong, and are many times instinctual, unconscious.

Ted: Yes, the vasanas are for the most part so deeply ingrained that they out-picture unconsciously. They are both the impetus that compels you to seek fulfillment or happiness in certain objects (i.e. physical objects, circumstances, encounters, events, interactions, relationships, mental states, transcendental states, etc.) and also to interpret the objects you do encounter in a subjective way that may or may not directly reflect the ‘reality’ of the object.

For instance, I may have a desire for a blonde, blue-eyed, big-breasted woman, which compels me to go the local pick-up joint and subject myself to an atmosphere characterized by extroverting elements such as loud music, flashing lights, shallow and suggestive talk, flirtatious body language, excessive drinking, self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing thoughts, and manipulative scheming. Furthermore, once I find myself in this context, my likes and dislikes, desires and fears will color my interpretation of these various stimuli. I might like the music or think it sucks. I might get angry with the bartender because I feel he short-poured my drink or if the bartender happens to be a she who is blonde, blue-eyed, and big-breasted I might get aroused thinking of her as a potential sex partner. I will interpret myriad stimuli throughout the night and suffer or enjoy the resultant emotions according to the way my vasanas dictate.

In this regard, it is important to understand several things about the vasanas.

First, because the vasanas reside or are stored in the causal body, which is subtler than the intellect, we can never see our vasanas directly. For this reason, it can be said that the actions that compelled by their pull or directives are instinctual or unconscious.

Second, the way you become conscious of your vasanas is by observing your likes and dislikes, your desires and fears, your attitudes and behaviors, and your mental and emotional reactions to various objects. These are all rooted in and influenced to a greater or lesser degree by your vasanas.

Third, in order to neutralize the binding vasanas (i.e. those vasanas that compel you to act in self-debasing, self-deprecating, and self-depraved ways and to thus violate dharma), it is necessary to cultivate a predominately calm, peaceful, discriminating, and dispassionate mind (i.e. a sattvic mind), for this quality of mind provides the clearest mirror by which to see, identify, and objectively evaluate these tendencies in terms of the values required to reach the goal of self-realization/liberation.

Sanford: We can say that it runs in the family, as my parents consciously or unconsciously, knowingly or unknowingly instilled their fears and the sense of caring what other people think. I know that I need to disassociate with my parents as you say, at least for a crucial period of this period of intense sadhana.

Ted: Though disassociating with all influences that run contrary to your sadhana is advisable, it is equally advisable that this disassociation be executed with a sense of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Your parents and anyone else for that matter can’t help being the way they are any more than you can help being the way you are. They are simply products and purveyors of their own conditioning. So harbor no blame. You may hate the sin, so to speak, but don’t hate the sinner. Still, you should do what you need to do for yourself in order to break the cycle of ignorance and realize your truth as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness. Whether they ever get it or not.

Sanford: If I understand correctly, this unconscious seeds that are the cause for our irrational worries and fears, can become conscious by making the mind more serene, more pliant, and more wise, so it can therefore use more of it’s energies and focus on knowing who Am I really.

Ted: Yes. Refer to the third point of understanding regarding the vasanas made earlier.

Sanford: To just give you one example, when talking to someone under spell of fear, it shows as dithering and trembling voice and when I notice that that person might have noticed, it only keeps the irrationality alive.

Ted: It’s okay, Sanford. Go easy on yourself. It is great that you notice this now and can use it as a prompt for self-inquiry. This means that the tendency is no longer unconscious. Now you can see it in the light of day and know it for what it is. It will eventually exhaust itself. Just stay vigilant and resist reacting to the pull of the vasana as best you can.

Truly speaking, there is really nothing you can do about the vasanas. They are not you. You didn’t choose them. All the vasanas are Isvara’s vasanas. This doesn’t mean that you cannot manage them and should not work on neutralizing them. Their eradication, however, will not ultimately be due to will power on your part. Even if you were able to get rid of them through personal will, doing so would not remove the essential culprit in their formation and so new vasanas would simply spring up from the ruins of the old.

The vasanas are the offspring of ignorance. They are born of the erroneous belief that you are incomplete and inadequate, that you are a separate individual person who is ill equipped to navigate the rocky and treacherous terrain of the dualistic and inherently competitive world.

Self-knowledge is therefore the only viable and lasting means of cancelling the doer or limited ego and rendering the vasanas non-binding.

Sanford: I guess my good habit vasana for self-inquiry is not strong enough, it doesn’t kick in straight away.

Ted: Well, the way to develop any habit is to keep at it. Keep monitoring your thoughts and emotions. Keep reminding yourself of who you really are. Eventually, this habit will become hard and fast knowledge in which you stand with full and unshakeable confidence. This is why the path requires courage. Don’t give up.

Sanford: Need to crack up the practice. I heard James mentioning technique of Byron Katie, what is your view on it?

Ted: I agree with James that this method is a valuable aid to sadhana. It is an entry-level technique you might say because it gives more credence to the individual identity than it deserves, but that is okay. You’ve got to start somewhere. Despite what the half-baked neo-advaitans say, you can’t just drop your identification with being a person on the spot. After so many years (lifetimes?) of conditioning, it is a rather hard habit to break.

So, as long as you see yourself as a person, my advice is to practice karma yoga and implement the Byron Katie technique along with continuing to expose and re-expose yourself over and over to the teachings of Vedanta via James’ book, website, and video talks. And, of course, our satsangs.

Sanford: You gave me a lot to think about the svadharma, momentarily it all looks like a mess, little bit of this and little bit of that, what do I really want is still in an infancy and that is probably also part of the problem of insecurity, of not doing the vocation of this lifetime. If someone would ask me what I would like to do, or ‘be’ some time ago, I would answer a musician, be involved in creative work, then later on I would say that I want to help others in my best abilities, so I can study psychology, get instructed for care taker, start volunteering at the hospice, shelter, etc.

Ted: These are beautiful and potentially dharmic ambitions, but just be sure to help yourself first before running off the save others.

Sanford: Hope it makes sense what came through in this email, I also feel quite often the hesitation what and how to write, as trying to be ‘perfect’, probably ruining the flow of spontaneity.

Ted: Fuck trying to be perfect, Sanford. You already are perfect. And there is nothing you can do about it. This is the most essential teaching of Vedanta. The only reason you don’t recognize your perfection is because your belief that you are not so. Keep practicing as advised and the dragon of this belief will be slain by the knight of self-knowledge.

Thank you, Ted, thank you for handling this persona of Sanford so well and giving your precious help.

With love,


The Individual Cannot Transcend the Individual

Hi Ted.

Because I’m such a visual person, I find myself thinking that I’m looking out through my eyes. I can think I’m awareness, and that this body called Michael is arising in me, but I feel like I’m the body whose eyes are looking at the world.

Ted: Yes, this is how everyone feels. This is why you should not trust your feelings. Just as the sky appears to be blue but in reality is colorless, so we appear to be looking out through these eyes but that is not the reality. Or let’s put it another way. Who is it that is looking out through these eyes?

The eyes themselves, of course, are not looking in a conscious sense because they are inert matter. The mind/intellect/ego complex or subtle body are not looking because they are only objects in awareness not to mention the fact that they are also inert as subtle matter. The causal body is not looking because it doesn’t look; it is inert subtle matter as well that takes the form of ‘formlessness’ or so-called nothingness or blankness or limitless bliss which is as well nothing more than an object in awareness.

So who is the one looking? It can only be awareness. And this awareness is you. All else is known to you.

The fundamental trick that ignorance (i.e. maya) plays is to effect the very identification with or feeling that one is the body by which you are presently challenged. The body is what is called a limiting adjunct (i.e. upadhi). An example of an upadhi is a green glass in which there is water.

If I were to ask you to tell me what color the liquid was based only on direct perception, you would say it was green even though in reality the water is clear. When for some unknown reason awareness identifies with this body, it takes on the limited perspective of that body. You might say, this is one of the laws (i.e. dharmas) of the apparent reality governed by maya/Isvara.

Michael: It’s a bit easier to know I’m awareness when my eyes are closed, because I don’t have the distraction of sights. But this visual thing, this sense of ‘I am looking at the world out there’ is really binding for me. It’s as if, in order to know that the body is arising in me, awareness, I would have to be able to see the whole body from the back or the front, as I see other people’s bodies.

Ted: If you want to really embrace what is called ‘the direct path’, which is a highly advanced (i.e. extremely subtle) method of inquiry, then you might ask yourself how you know that you have a back side. The appearances that you take to be other people have apparent backsides. But do you really ever see a back side per se? Aren’t you always seeing the front of whatever you are seeing? True, those appearance seemingly turn around in space, but is some independent object actually turning around or is the image on the vast flat screen of the apparent material world simply shifting and changing the way clouds billow and thin out and shape shift on a movie screen?

If that is too subtle at this point, then think of the body as a particular lens that awareness limits itself to while under the spell of ignorance. The mind-body-sense complex is a whole package (i.e. All three components work in conjunction with one another to create the illusion of a separate individual navigating within the context of a dualistic world), so even though the mind might realize its identity as awareness its perspective remains limited to and its scope remains limited by that of the body. The person, in your case Michael, will never not feel like it’s ‘in’ a body because were it to surrender that identification the person would dissolve. This is in effect what happens in deep sleep. In short, you can’t experience unlimited awareness and the body at the same time. You can know you are unlimited awareness (i.e. which is why knowledge trumps experience in terms of enlightenment or realization), but you as Michael will always feel like you have a body.

Michael: And why can I see this body all the time? Why am I ‘with’ a particular body year in and year out?

Ted: The body identified as Michael’s body remains your perspective all the time because it is the body with which, for whatever reason, awareness has chosen to identify. Really, Michael is nothing more than a particular bundle of vasanas that have collected in this vehicle of the apparent mind-body- sense complex because its apparent physiology, emotional demeanor, and intellectual capacity as well as the circumstances within which it finds itself situated in the apparent world provide them with the ideal field through and in which to play out. Moreover, the body along with all the objects in the apparent reality are Isvara’s creation. This aspect of creation has a certain staying power. It provides the field upon which the game of life is played so to speak. The individual’s experience of that field and the game played upon it is created through his interpretation of the components of the field and the actions that are executed upon it. This interpretation is based on one’s vasanas or likes and dislikes. This is what accounts for people’s vastly differing accounts of and attitudes toward situations, circumstances, objects, and encounters.

Ted: Getting back to your initial question concerning why you see this body all the time and why you are with it year in and year out is that the body is like a car. It’s the vehicle that apparently gets you around (or from which you navigate the road) until it wears out and is gotten rid of.

Michael: Surely, if I really knew I was awareness, I would see this body from the outside, alongside other bodies, or not see it at all, since as awareness I would be free of this particular body?

Ted: Nope. Not how it works. Though some do experience epiphanies in which such perspectives are experienced. But this isn’t going to be your normal daily experience. Being free of the body doesn’t mean that you don’t experience it. It simply means that you know that you are not ultimately confined to or defined by this body.

Another puzzle piece that will help you see the bigger picture of yourself is that, as mentioned earlier, the mind is inert. What this means is that the person, Michael, is not truly speaking a sentient being in itself. You as awareness illumine the mind and thereby enliven it and enable it to think.

It’s like you are the electricity that enables the toaster to toast or the heater to heat. You need the mind to know things, but you are forever free of the mind. As long as you are experiencing thought or body sensation you will be doing so from the perspective of Michael, but as in the case of deep sleep you are always free of the mind-body-sense complex.

Michael: This is so difficult to express, but the viewpoint of my eyes looking out is a real conundrum for me.

Ted: It’s a tricky business in the sense that the individual with whom awareness is identifying cannot transcend the individual.



Love it is,


The Cat’s Out of the Bag

Hi Ted,

Ted: Hello, Sanford.

Sanford: How wonderful this satsang-style emailing, I am loving it. Ted: I enjoy it as well.

Sanford: I will do as you say. I need to get back into regular Bhagavad Gita audio classes of Swami Tadatmananda, as well as listening again Ramji’s and Ram Dass Gita lectures. There are also Ramji’s mp3 downloaded, and video lectures of Atma Bodh on DVD, which got in Tiruvanamalai. And leaving all other teachings aside for later.

Ted: Wise decision.

Sanford: I am convinced that only Truth shall set me free, when whole teaching gets assimilated, however we both know that in order to do that mind needs to be quite pure, predominately sattvic.

Ted: Though it is probably what you meant given your follow-up statement concerning a sattvic mind, be clear that it is Truth in the form of knowledge that will set you free. Truth (i.e. Awareness, consciousness, self, you) is not going to set you free because Truth is not a doer. Truth is fine with you exactly as you (i.e. Sanford) are right now. It already ‘knows’ (not that it is actually a knower) you are it and doesn’t have a problem with ignorance because to it there is no such thing. This is a bit nitpicky I realize, but it’s a good practice to be as precise as possible when it comes to language. Language, after all, is the vehicle of knowledge and so the words we use become our experience. Along these lines, you should also understand that the fundamental reason Truth will not set you free is because you are the Truth and you are already free. The only problem is that you think you are Sanford and that you are not free.

Though this is the truth, I do realize that it is not so easy to just drop the identification with being Sanford that has become so deeply ingrained in your psyche. But over time and through the repeated and constant application of the teachings to the circumstances of your daily life, you will eventually stand with full confidence in your true identity. Have no doubt about this.

Sanford: What is your viewpoint on repeating a mantra, doing a japa as a form of purification.

Ted: Mantra repetition can be an effective tool provided it is done right.
It will do no good — other than perhaps producing some hypnotic state of relaxation and bliss — if you simply mindlessly repeat the mantra. You need to know what it means and what that means. By that I mean you need to know the meaning of the phrase and you also need to know what that means in terms of your true identity. I recommend using a Vedantic mantra (i.e. aham brahmasmi — I am limitless, non-dual awareness) rather than many of the devotional mantras that are commonly used (i.e. om namah shivaya — I bow to the inner Self). While at first glance there might not appear to be much difference since both seem to be honoring the Self, there is an important distinction worth noting. The Vedantic mantras are direct affirmations of one’s true identity as awareness whereas the devotional mantras are dualistic in nature and imply a separation between a person and the Self.

While both types of mantra can serve to purify the mind, a Vedantic mantra strikes me as more powerful — provided, again, that you are repeating it with proper understanding (i.e. In the case, for instance, of ‘aham bramhasmi’, you understand that you are not equating Sanford as the limited mind-body-sense complex you normally consider him to be as That which is unlimited, but instead are affirming that you as the Self are limitless, non-dual awareness).

Sanford: I want to add that it is difficult maintaining this awareness, just because old habits are so deeply entrenched in the psyche, doing many things under some impulse or semi-automatically. But then just being aware of what is going on, being mindful as they say in Buddhism, does not use much energy, it is not the same as being focused, concentrated on particular subject, but just noticing the big picture. However still, any strong force, that is rajas or tamas quickly overtake the sattvic build-up. This fear is of the tamasic nature, there must be still vestiges of doubt, uncertainty, not being able to connect all the dots, and besides ego tries its sneaky ways to sabotage anything that threatens its thriving existence.

Ted: Yes, this is the strong pull of the vasanas. The more you acknowledge them yet resist allowing them to carry you away the more their grip will weaken and eventually they will let go and drop away. Just stay vigilant and counter their bullshit with the teachings of Vedanta that you know to be true, or in the case that you lack 100% conviction then ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ as is said. The only way to rid the mind of erroneous thoughts is to replace those thoughts with other thoughts that are steeped in the knowledge of the Truth. It is hard work, but what else are you going to do? The cat’s out of the bag, so you can’t go back to being an idiot now, right?

Thank you for your time and kindness,

Ted: My pleasure.

With love,


Stay Vigilant and Let Vedanta Do the Work

Hi there Ted,

I felt a need to contact you again.

Your answers are giving me some extra confidence, stability, and are deeply appreciated.

Ted: Glad to hear it. Confidence in you is the key. You know who you are, so the task at hand so to speak is standing with conviction in what you know to be true despite the old deceitful mantras the mind might still be uttering.

Sanford: I remember explaining the issue with the right use of language to folks, how important it is that we really know our words, what exactly they point out, but myself being quite sloppy at times, thanks for pointing it out.

Ted: That’s how it is until the knowledge is fully assimilated. Just stay vigilant and let Vedanta do the work.

Sanford: From the relative or apparent point of view it looks that I, Sanford needs to be saved from the heavy curtains of ignorance, of fear and suffering.

Ted: See, there you go. You’re getting it. It’s only from the apparent point of view that there seems to be this big heavy burden to be lifted. But you are the one that knows that, not the one who feels enshrouded. So be mindful of how you use the word ‘I’. Not that you should go around speaking of yourself (i.e. Sanford) in the third person. But you should be aware of what ‘I’ is being referred to whenever you say ‘I’. Either be sure to separate the real ‘I’ (i.e. Awareness) from the apparent ‘I’ (i.e. Sanford), or understand that Sanford is just the name for the sliver of universal awareness that sees through the mind-body-sense complex that serves as one small lens through which the apparent reality is perceived.

Sanford: Someone asked what we are more focused on, the sounds or the silence in between sounds, the movement or the stillness, the stuff or the context. It is a great practice to try.

Ted: Well, in the meditation technique that Ramji teaches we use the breath is used as a tool to become aware of the silence that is the ever- present background to the sounds (as well as the sights, smells, tastes, and touch sensations). But the point is actually to realize that you are the awareness, which witnesses both the sounds and the silence and yet remains untouched by either.

Sanford: Great to hear your advice on mantras, you are right, mindlessly repeating set of words without knowing the meaning, without reflection, as well as still being dualistic in nature cannot do much except induce stillness, and some sort of temporary bliss. I heard that there exists a prescribed number of japa-s to be done, which would set you free, that number being in millions. It does not make any sense, but hey who I am to judge. It apparently set free Papa Ram Das, Yogi Ramsuratkumar and others.

Ted: Maybe. I wonder if it wasn’t so much the incessant repetition of the mantra as the purified mind that took place through the withdrawal from worldly distractions that was a natural consequence of their intense spiritual focus, the karma yoga attitude with which these guys approached life by virtue of their total surrender to Isvara’s will, and their understanding the meaning of the mantra.

Sanford: I would like to ask you about different issue, which has to do with energies. It is this whirling sort of warm energies of sort that appeared, or became noticeable 2 years ago, and are recently constantly present, mainly manifesting at solar plexus and chest area. I believe it is linked with the chakra system, can you shed a light on this, is there anything to do with it?

Ted: This sounds to me like a kriya or purificatory experience. Sometimes such experiences are had when one embraces sadhana with serious intent; sometimes they occur spontaneously. I’ve heard it said that such experiences are due to vasanas burning up or being eaten on a subtle level.

Sounds cool, but who knows. The chakra situated in the solar plexus is associated with the egoic energy of personal power. The chakra situated in the heart is associated with spiritual rebirth and unconditional love. In fact, this is the locus of the symbolic virgin birth that plays a role in many of the spiritual traditions around the world and the reason that the Buddha is said to have been born out of the side of his mother. Anyway, it would seem to make sense that these two areas would be ‘activated’ by your present inquiry into your true nature. It’s probably a sign that the focus of your attention is moving away from worldly concerns and toward a deeper understanding of who you really are as awareness. You might say your soul is undergoing a sex change of sorts. In any case, Vedanta doesn’t really care much about spiritual experiences and energy and epiphanies and all that. Not that it’s bad, but it’s only an experience. And experience is always temporary. Experiences can be valuable pointers if you can glean the knowledge they have to offer about your true identity as awareness. But they more often than not become distractions to self-inquiry because the person gets all into the feeling of the experience and yearns to re- experience it again and gets hooked on such experiences thinking that such unusual or transcendental experiences are what constitute enlightenment or and ‘advanced state’. It’s best to observe the experiences just as you would observe your thoughts and feelings. They are nothing more than temporary appearances in awareness while you are that whole and complete, limitless, action-less, unborn, non-dual awareness by which they are illumined.

Sanford: And yes, there is no way of going back, of just forgetting it and pretending nothing happened.

Ted: True. That’s what’s great about knowledge. It remains even after the experiences go.

Sanford: I guess it would be then best to work also on the worldly act as well if you want to function per society standards of normality.

Ted: True again. This is called upholding your dharma. That is, living in accordance with the physical, moral, and spiritual laws that govern the creation. When anthropomorphized, this law is called God or Isvara, and when you abide by this law you are said to be carrying out God’s will. Ramji devotes a whole chapter of his book to dharma and karma. I would highly recommend reading it. When you know who you are you still live in the world, but you are no longer really of it. In other words, you are no longer caught in the whirlpool of samsara. Life becomes a grand costume party and you have no need to blow your cover (unless you choose to, but then just be ready for any possible fallout and accept it with gratitude as a gift from God). Instead, you enjoy the world, but no longer seek joy from it. You know you as awareness are the true source of all joy.

Sanford: Thank you again Ted.

Ted: As always, it’s my pleasure.

Much Love