Taking a Stand As Awareness

Hi Ted.

I recently went on my first retreat with James, for a week, in Germany. I really enjoyed it.

During one of the breaks, Sundari suggested I take a stand as awareness. I recently emailed her to ask her what she meant by that. I would very much like to know what your response would be.

Regards,

Derek

Hi, Derek.

It’s great to hear that you got the opportunity to spend time in the company of James and Sundari. Both are marvelous teachers.

Taking a stand as awareness simply means to assume your true identity. And to interact with the apparent reality from this platform. This means that with regard to both the “inner” or subtle realm and the “outer” or external world, including the body with which you, pure awareness, are associated and have erroneously identified, you, pure awareness, assume the point of view of the pure consciousness that you are, the witnessing awareness that remains untouched by any and all experience. This awareness, of course, is not something which you can locate as an object in awareness nor is it Derek’s thoughts and feelings about the objects in relation to which the apparent individual person referred to as Derek is the subject. You, pure awareness, transcend all such objective phenomena.

Taking a stand as awareness means that you no longer identify yourself as being the mind-body-sense complex known as Derek. This is not to say, however, that Derek will cease to exist. Derek will simply be understood to

be nothing more than an intricately designed component functioning according to its programming within the vast computer of the manifested universe. Moreover, part of this functioning will feel like free will. This is due to the fact that the subtle component of the intellect, which is nothing more than inert subtle matter, is illumined by awareness and, thus activated, carries out the particular functions of deliberation, discrimination, and deciding according to its design.

For all practical purposes, when you, pure awareness, view your manifested self, the subtle and gross body/universe, through the lens of the mind- body-sense complex referred to as Derek, Derek (“who”, to reiterate, is actually only you, pure awareness, identifying with a particular mind-body- sense complex) will appear to sense and see, doubt and discriminate, deliberate and decide, act and enjoy. This whole process, however, takes place of its own accord. There is no Derek doing any part of it, nor is awareness executing any action. In other words, awareness simply illumines the three bodies and, as they say, shit happens.

Taking a stand as awareness means that you trash the bashfulness that is basically just a brand of bullshit humility rooted in conditioned fear and, as James would say, “man up” and own your true nature. Admit who you are. When you understand that the pure awareness that is the essence of your existence is simply the sense of being that is the ever-present screen upon which is projected the cinematic extravaganza of the apparent reality, which includes every moment of Derek’s experience, you will realize that it is really no big deal, nothing to get all swelled up with pride about “possessing” for every apparent person is the same pure awareness both within and without. That is to say that everyone, everything, all that is whether subtle or gross is the same one substance through and through. Nothing exists that is not consciousness/awareness. The true assimilation of this understanding leaves no room for arrogance, not only because you realize that it is nothing “special,” but moreover because the implication of arrogance is that there exists something to which you are superior and you know that truly speaking there is nothing other than you. You, therefore, understand that you are the embodiment of love.

Taking a stand in awareness, however, does not mean that from here on out you refer to the apparent entity of Derek in the third person. This is simply another type of tomfoolery in which the ego engages when it attempts to co-opt enlightenment and claim it as an accomplishment of its own.

The irony is that when the intellect associated with the apparent entity of Derek realizes it true nature, the intellect itself is not actually making the realization at all. It is actually pure awareness that sees its own reflection in the mirror of the purified mind/intellect (i.e. antahkarana). The realization that registers in the machine of the mind so to speak is, “I, pure awareness, am not now and never have been Derek. I am whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, ever-present, all- pervasive, non-dual awareness.” Hence, the liberation (moksha) that constitutes enlightenment is not freedom for Derek, but freedom from Derek.

Taking a stand as awareness, therefore, is not something Derek does per se (though in the initial stages of this practice it will most likely feel as though you as Derek are the one taking the stand), but is rather a reawakened recognition that develops into an unwavering, unshakeable conviction about your true identity as pure awareness.

Once again, taking a stand as awareness does not mean eradicating Derek. It simply means ceasing to identify yourself as Derek and instead resting in your true nature as pure awareness, the silent witness of all that is and is not, while at the same time enjoying the play of the apparent reality through the eyes of one of its apparent actor/characters performing within it.

That is the basic idea.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Much love,

Ted

Simple, Ordinary, Everyday Awareness

Hello Ted,

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

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

Avril: 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, Avril. 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.

Avril: 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.

Avril: I’m very new to this, but one question has immediately come up for me, and I’d 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, whilst 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.

Avril: 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 Avril. 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.

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.

Avril: 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, Avril. 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. Avril 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.

Avril: 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.

Avril: 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!!

Avril: 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?

Avril: 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.

Avril: As its the human doing all the ‘thinking’, ‘experiencing’ and ‘doing’, emailing you, and what I really am can’t be experienced, then is my job, experiencing Avril, to just chill out? Learn all I can about how Avril functions, watch it, and relax?

Ted: You’ve got it. If you really want liberation, however, relaxing doesn’t mean doing nothing as Avril 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.

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

Avril: I’m thinking and writing as Avril 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’ / Avril 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,

Avril 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?

Avril: 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.

Avril: 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.

Avril: 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.

Avril: 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.

Avril: 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 Avril, but you, for even Avril — her body, her emotions, her thoughts, the entirety of her experience, both gross and subtle — is only an appearance in you (i.e. Awareness).

Avril: 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,

Avril

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

Kind regards in return,

Ted

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 ‘Avril’ is the one identity, and ‘Avril’s brain’ creates the dream worlds for me (Doctor would argue this). OR is it that ‘I’ slip out of ‘Avril’ 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? ‘Avril’ and all her memories is born only as I come into waking. So when I say ‘I’ do I mean ‘Avril’ or that which comes in and out of ‘Avril’? 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’ translation and explanation of the Mandukya Upanishad that is posted on his website at www.shiningworld.com. 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.

Realization Versus Actualization

Hello Ted,

Ted: Hi, Mark. Nice to meet you via cyberspace.

Mark: Your responses to questions on the Shiningworld website, were great, and it prompted my writing you. I wanted to write someone who has “walked the walk”, so to speak, as my goal is moksha, and up to this point have not contacted James Swartz. I don’t have a question per se ; but wanted to write you and get an assessment of what you read. I’m curious to know if the knowledge is doing it’s work, since it seems to me that it is.

Presently, I’ve been studying James’ “How to attain enlightenment” book, listening to his Vedanta set of video lectures, (I consider him my guru, even though I’ve never met him), reading Swami Dayananda’s Gita home study course, and commentaries on the Upanishads. I’ve been practicing meditation twice per day, and trying to practice the karma yoga attitude, and inquiry whenever possible.

My background was in music, and presently work full-time as a physical therapist, which I’ve done for 22 years. The reason I mention the music, is that after getting seriously involved in Vedanta, I totally lost interest in practicing any instrument, or performing. It felt like discrimination/dispassion, due to not any longer having interest in temporal pursuits, or in feeding the ego, which seems to me was a component of that scene. I also avoid gratuitous socializing, because I can’t stand talking about myself, or meaningless chatter. I guess work provides all the social interaction.

Ted: You sound like a true mumukshu (i.e. one with a burning desire for liberation) to me. I can relate to everything you are saying. The degree of commitment that you describe is exactly what is necessary to not only gain self-knowledge, which it sounds like you have, but moreover to become unshakably established in it.

Mark: Finding that I’m the awareness in which the objects arise, is something that seems present more than not, but there are times when I realize I’m reacting to things as this individual body-mind-intellect complex instead. This ignorance seems very “hard-wired” as James Swartz says in the videos, and I’m not sure if there’s more I could be doing to stabilize the former.

Ted: It is important that you understand that when I say “become unshakably established in it” I am referring to the intellect developing rock solid conviction in its true identity. As you probably already know, you do not need to become established in or attain anything you do not already have. You are awareness. Simple as that. And awareness is already established in itself, already knows itself, is already limitless, is already free. The character named Mark with whom you are identifying, however, may still need a boost in his confidence regarding his knowledge of his true identity as limitless awareness. Or it may be that there remains a subtle degree of ignorance to be removed. Either way, you are definitely, as James would say, “on the bus” and can rest assured that if you continue to diligently apply self-knowledge to every situation, circumstance, encounter, and experience of your life, you will gain liberation.

The “you” to whom I am referring when I say “you will gain liberation,” however, is not Mark, but you. And since you are already free you will not actually be “gaining” liberation. The mechanism of the intellect, which resides in the subtle body associated with Mark, will simply understand that its true identity is awareness and neither the inert gross matter that comprises Mark’s physical body nor the inert subtle matter that comprises Mark’s subtle body (i.e. soul). This is a subtle point, but the subtle body is not actually conscious. Though it houses the mechanism of the mind (i.e. antahkarana or trinity of mind, intellect, and ego) and thus performs various cognitive functions, it does so only because it is illumined and thus set in motion by awareness (i.e. you). So, while you as awareness actually already know yourself, this knowing is not consciously recognized by the intellect until one realizes the self through understanding. Thereafter, the consistent practice of self-inquiry is the means by which the intellect progresses toward full self-actualization. In other words, once the intellect has glimpsed its true nature (i.e. realized the self), the intellect utilizes the tool of self-inquiry as the means of establishing an unshakable conviction in its true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual, all-pervasive awareness.

The strange irony that underscores this whole process is that it begins with Mark seeking liberation for himself and leads to the understanding that the liberation is not for Mark but from Mark. In other words, through the mechanism of Mark’s mind, you, limitless awareness, apparently re-cognize who you really are and cease to identify with the limited entity referred to as Mark. Notice, mind you, that I said you will cease to identify with the limited entity referred to as Mark. This is different than ceasing to associate with Mark. Just because you realize — or even, for that matter, when you stand with full conviction in — your true identity as limitless awareness Mark will not suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke or merge with the cosmos in a flash of white light or whatever. Mark will still apparently be Mark. Just as the wave remains a particular form within the vast ocean but is essentially the same water as the entire sea, so Kent will still seem to be defined by a limited mind-body-sense complex but will know that his true identity is limitless awareness.

I did want to ask you if you are aware of the Douglas Harding “experiments”? I did find some of that helpful.

Ted: I’m acquainted with Douglas Harding’s “experiments,” but to be honest I haven’t tried many of them. I do get the idea of having no head and peeing upwards and whatnot. I do think the experiments can be helpful. If you like this kind of “hands on” contemplation, I highly recommend Greg Goode’s book, “The Direct Path: A User’s Guide.” Greg is perhaps the most sophisticated Westerner in terms of teaching the non- dual nature of reality. The “direct path” is not traditional Vedanta, but is a very close approximation arrived at and disseminated by Sri Atmananda. It is ruthlessly logical and based on a close and conscientious examination of one’s own unexamined experience. James endorsed Greg’s teachings, so they are a nice compliment to the traditional Vedanta prakriyas (i.e. methods of inquiry) that are explained in James’ book.

Mark: Things do seem to really flow of late. There was a two year period in which I didn’t have any communication with my father, for some reasons involving the family, but out of the blue, after returning from a trip to California, the strong thought arose to send him an email about our trip, to re-establish contact. This turned out to directly precede my mother’s falling and fracturing a hip, getting an infection and passing away 6 weeks later. We were able to be together in all that, and are presently seeing each other on a regular basis. That initial idea didn’t seem to come from me, but I acted on it out of a feeling that it was dharma which could not be ignored. Not having any contact with him was creating disturbance during meditation practice on a regular basis.

Ted: Your last line defines precisely the litmus test for dharmic action. Beautiful.

Mark: That is one example of what I’m trying to say. Other less significant things have happened, indicating a flow has somehow been tapped. I hope this is making sense.

Ted: ‘Tis. Yet another testament to the efficacy of karma yoga and letting Bhagavan do his business through the apparent individual you.

Mark: Anyway, I didn’t want to take up a lot of your time, but did want to write you. I would very much appreciate hearing from you.

All the best,

Sincerely,

Mark

Ted: Much love bouncing back, Mark. Feel free to contact me anytime.

Let Karma Yoga Be Your Comfort

Hi Ted.

I have found out this week that my sister is dying of cancer and may have less than two weeks to live. She lives 300 miles from me, but I am hoping to be able to go and see her after Tuesday. Shirley is 68 years old and is a devout Catholic.

Ted: Hi, Jack.

This is certainly the kind of news that puts things in perspective. I do hope you get a chance to see her and say goodbye.

Jack: How can I support her and the family through this difficult time?

Ted: The best thing you can do is simply be there for them. Hopefully, your practice of self-inquiry and understanding of the difference between the real and the apparent will enable you process whatever experiences arise and deal with them in a caring, compassionate, yet unattached manner. I know that may sound somewhat cold to someone without an understanding of Vedanta, but I’m guessing you know what I mean.

“Let not the wise unsettle the minds of the ignorant,” Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. It is important to bear this counsel when dealing with your sister and the family. Unlike you, they may very well not have inquired into the true nature of reality and be quite bothered by the situation as are most people living under the spell of Maya (i.e. Ignorance). This is understandable and should be met with an attitude of understanding and an appropriate degree of forbearance. Vedantins are not evangelists, so there is no need to try to quell all the emotional disquietude others might be suffering. It is advisable to simply offer unconditional love, and if the opportunity presents itself and those involved seem open to it you might offer some guidance and/or solace based upon your knowledge of the self and the nature of reality. Often it is at a moment of “crisis” that one is open to new understanding. You never know.

On a practical note, you can help both your family and strengthen your spiritual practice if you act throughout this ordeal with the karma yoga attitude. Offer your actions to Isvara/God/the Universe and accept whatever results ensue as prasad (i.e. a gift from God), knowing that the dharma (i.e. code of physical, ethical, and moral law, which is actually what is symbolized by the personified figure of Isvara or God) that governs the universal machine of the apparent reality absorbs all actions and reconfigures the components functioning within it in whatever way will serve the best interests of the whole. Bearing this in mind, understand that you are not in control of events and their emotional tenor. Do your best to comfort and serve, but allow people to react, respond, and process as they will.

Along these lines, be compassionate with yourself as well. Depending on the particular temperament of your apparent persona and the degree to which you have assimilated the teachings of Vedanta, you may be fairly impervious to the negativity, fear, anxiety, anger, and anguish that often accompanies the news of a loved one’s imminent demise. When my father died, for instance, I felt virtually no sorrow. Sure, I was going to miss his company, but I didn’t see anything tragic about the reconfiguration of gross and subtle matter that would be taking place. I love my father to this day, but when it was time for that particular mind-body-sense complex to pack it in I happily sent him on his way. Perhaps you will process your sister’s death in an equally unattached manner. Or not. The apparent individual referred to as Jack may likely have any number of emotional responses to this situation. If or when emotions arise, allow yourself to feel them. It’s not as though Vedanta says emotions are bad. Actually, you can feel an emotion and remain unattached to it at the same time. You simply watch the emotion express through you. But whether you feel closely associated with it or not, use the opportunity to practice atma-anatma-viveka (i.e. the discrimination of the real and the not-real or apparent). Know yourself to be the unchanging, ever-present witness and watch what changes — which is everything else — change. Let the film of the apparent reality flicker away as it will. You watch it, and perhaps even weep at it, but resist getting caught up in it by remembering your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, all-pervasive, non-dual awareness. Jack: How can I practice in the period leading up to her death and after?

Ted: As mentioned, keep up self-inquiry, apply the teachings of the truth to every event and experience (both internal and external), and adopt the karma yoga attitude.

Love, Jack

Ted: My love and prayers are with you, my friend. Please contact me if you have any further questions. Take care.

Experience Does Not Define Your Nature

Hi Ted,

I want to thank you for your reply and for emphasizing the importance of correct language in this pursuit of understanding and expressing the Truth that I already am. I can see that one word wrongly used can create smoke where there in fact is only clarity.

Ted: Yes, language is the cornerstone of Vedanta’s effectiveness. Due to our conditioning, the overwhelming majority of seekers are expecting self- realization to be an experience. No blame, as it is only natural. And, moreover, due to the fact that language can never capture or comprehensively describe the self, even the language of the scriptures is often experiential — i.e. it speaks of “merging” with the Supreme and “attaining” the self and whatnot. In many places, however, the scriptures make it clear that self-realization is a matter of knowledge. Even Ramana Maharshi, who despite being a self-realized being was not an effective teacher, said that it was by knowledge alone that liberation was gained (and notice how even that statement makes it sound like the self is something to be gotten). But think about it logically, how can your self be something other than you (not Annie understand, but you, awareness)?

James has a e-book available on the shiningworld website that deals extensively with this issue. It would be definitely worth your while to read because this issue is one of, if not THE biggest hurdle to overcome for virtually everyone. Even when we intellectually understand the idea, the conditioning still runs deep, so the expectation for some kind of experience — even seemingly ordinary experiences like being happy or feeling light or thinking only pleasant thoughts — is one of the most important tendencies to monitor. It’s not that a peaceful mind, positive emotions, and/or pleasant thoughts are bad — certainly not — and they are obviously great aids to self-inquiry, but they sabotage freedom when we believe them to define self-realization — that is, think that we are only “in touch” with the self when we are having such experiences. As you are probably catching onto by now, it is the adamant contention of Vedanta that such is not the case. Experience does not define your nature. You are the self even when you feel like shit. You are the self even when you are pissed off and depressed. You are the self even when you think bad things about yourself and others. Your experience may not be as pleasurable and, moreover, may not as clearly reflect your true nature as when you are peaceful and happy, but you are no less the self.

Amelia: Even though I know my true identity is pure awareness, I still detect a sense of I-ness associated with it, hence the expectation of feeling peace and happiness.

Ted: There will always be a sense of “I”-ness. The “I”-ness is the ego, which is a necessary function within the subtle body if you are going to inhabit a body and play a character in the drama of life.

There is a stupid notion that has assumed a position of great prominence in the spiritual world that one has to kill the ego in order to get enlightened. It seems to suggest that if one retains any association with being human, then one is definitely a dim-witted spiritual poser. Some even go so far as to speak of themselves in the third person in order to demonstrate how detached from the ego they are. Pardon my French, but it’s a bunch of fucking nonsense. Actually, when one is putting on such an act, it is a sure sign they don’t know who they are and that, in fact, the ego has co-opted their “enlightenment” an is claiming it for itself, as if the person — which is the ego — has achieved something. Truly speaking, enlightenment has nothing to do with the person at all. Self-knowledge, which is what “enlightenment” really is, is liberation from the person, not for the person. In other words, enlightenment is not a matter of somehow ceasing to exist as a person — for the show must go on! — but rather a matter of no longer taking yourself to be the apparent character that you seem to be playing. The character is still you, so to speak (an appearance in and made of awareness), but you are ever free of it and thus untouched by its antics.

Besides you can’t “kill” the ego. Who would be performing the execution? The ego. But the ego is not going to kill itself. Why? Because the only reason the ego does anything is in order to enjoy the fruits of its actions, and if it kills itself it won’t be around to enjoy those results. So, hey, let’s give the subtle body a little credit where credit is due. It’s capable enough to navigate the apparent reality and even create things like planes, trains, and automobiles, computers and great works of art; it can probably figure out the logical inconsistency of killing itself.

Amelia: I may be oversimplifying things, but from what you tell me, from the Vedantic view most of my apparent problems are based on wrong identification, on both a gross and subtle level. I can see that I have identified myself as conditioned by the past and that has prevented me from really examining and accepting the falseness of that belief, in light of what I really am.

Ted: Essentially, yes, this is true. Like I said, however, I am not a clinical psychologist and don’t know to what degree the disorders which the apparent you suffers can be managed and overcome simply by the application of self-knowledge. Remember, you have to be qualified to fully assimilate self-knowledge. Maybe therapy or chemicals are even necessary to balance the system. I don’t know. You strike me as being a mature and qualified seeker, but I don’t really know you on a personal level at this point, so you will have to judge for yourself whether or not you need supplement your practice of self-inquiry by any such means. But at a fundamental level, all suffering is rooted in only one cause — ignorance of one’s true nature. When you know you are not any of the things appearing within the scope of your awareness, then you are free.

Amelia: I hadn’t made the connection with my alters and the three gunas. That was very insightful and helps me see that “I” have the upperhand so to speak if I can maintain a sattvic approach to dealing with the other gunas.

Ted: Yes, this is the one sliver of free will that you do have. Though you can’t choose what happens “to” you and you can’t control what the result of your actions will be, you can choose to act in accordance with what you know to be the truth about yourself. This is actually all that really matters anyway, because when you know that you are the source of all joy, then it doesn’t matter what happens to you or whether your actions produce the results you desired or not. Because your happiness is not based on a happening, you will remain happy — read this to mean peaceful, content, confident in your true identity, calm, and perhaps at times even overtly joyful rather than superficially giddy and giggly — no matter what happens.

Amelia: In the past they would temporarily take over until “I’ was able to return to equilibrium. I will read the chapters on that subject in James’ book and do what I can to maintain calmness, focus, and clarity. I have maintained a sattvic lifestyle for many years, being a vegan, meditating, and practicing hatha yoga. But I can see now that the mind hasn’t been disciplined. I am motivated though to use my mind in the correct way with the correct view and will keep reading Vedantic literature to support that view.

Ted: Excellent choice, my dear!

Amelia: This brings me to a question. Does it help to have people around you who are also practicing self-knowledge through Vedanta or is it a situation where he who travels alone travels the fastest? The reason I ask is because I have head of self-inquiry intensives involving small groups of dyads where there are claims of much improvement in realization as compared to doing it alone.

Ted: Yes, the company you keep is quite important and can be a great aid or distraction to self-inquiry depending. Of course, essentially the “journey” is to be taken alone. But, if you truly think about it, how many of you are there? That said, my suggestion is to cultivate solitude as much as possible, but don’t cling to it. A supportive group can be a great aid. Be careful, however, because though their are a lot of people spouting non- duality these days and many who claim they are “practicing” Vedanta, there are very few who really know what they are talking about. Most are caught up in the Neo-Advaita movement, which simply says that neither you nor the world exists so you are already enlightened and free to do whatever you like. This is, at best, a misinterpretation of the teachings by a lazy person who doesn’t want to have to do any spiritual practice to purify the mind so it can assimilate self-knowledge, and, at worst, a misrepresentation of the teachings in order to justify adharmic, or immoral, selfish, or otherwise questionable behavior in the name of spiritual truth. This is actually what constitutes true blasphemy.

Vedanta respects people and does not have a litany of “thou shalt nots” to seekers have to adhere. So you are free to do spiritual practice in any way that you find beneficial. My advice, however, would be to stick with the understanding of Vedanta that James (and shiningworld) presents because it is in full accord with the scriptures and has come from an impeccable tradition that stems back to the beginning of time. Other great teachers are Swami Dayananda and Swami Paramarthananda. I especially recommend reading Swami Dayananda’s nine-volume Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course. There is a link to his website under the “Publications: Recommended Sites” heading on the shiningworld website if you want more information about the course.

Amelia: Thank you for being such a good mirror for me Ted. You are an excellent teacher. If I am wearing you out with all my questions please let me know and I will stop.

Ted: You are not wearing me out, Amelia. This is what I’m here for. Contact me anytime you feel the need.

With much gratitude and appreciation,

Amelia

Om and prem,

Ted

Destroy the Mind with Understanding

Dear Ted,

What a lunch. I have come home and opened some of my favorite books and had a wonderful time reflecting on and writing about some of the questions that arose. And I found a couple excerpts from “Day-by-Day with Raman Maharshi” that I want to share.

Martha: About experiencing pain on page 9 end of first paragraph: “And once when I was concerned over some physical pain of his, he told me he feels that pain i.e. it was a passing and faint experience like that in a dream. These are clue to the sort of life Bhagavan leads in our midst, seeming to act and move and feel as we do, but really living in a world of his own where the things we experience don’t exist”.

Ted: As you suggested, Ramana’s mind was so purified that he probably was not as troubled by physical pain as one who was still attached to the body and identified with it as being ‘me’. It is important, however, to keep in mind that all reports concerning Ramana’s state of mind or responses to questions are second-hand reports. I do understand that apparently Ramana responded to the question concerning his pain with the words recorded in the passage, but we can never be exactly sure what he meant by those words. It might be worthwhile to keep in mind that this was a person who was capable of bearing enough physical pain that he could withstand insects eating away at his flesh and local bullies chucking rocks at him while he was meditating. It seems that pain did not bother him that much. Whether this was due to a naturally high threshold, an intense desire to stick to his practice, or that he lived in a perpetual transcendental state we won’t ever really know.

Martha: About self-enquiry as Ramana’s teaching, pg. 344″The enquiry, “Who Am I” means really the enquiry within oneself as to wherefrom within the body the “I”-thought arises. If you concentrate your attention on such an enquiry, the “I” thought being the root of all other thoughts, all thoughts will be destroyed and then the Self or the Big “I” alone will remain as ever. You do not get anything new, or reach somewhere where you were not before. When all other thoughts which were hiding the Self are removed, the Self shines by itself.” Lovely!

Ted: This passage begs the same question I put to you this afternoon: What was Ramana’s teaching methodology? This passage presents a pretty bare-bones suggestion concerning how to practice self-inquiry. Though it might suffice for someone who is ready for that particular guidance, it also contains what could be considered a fundamental flaw from another point of view. What I mean by that is that while the advice to ‘enquire within oneself as to wherefrom within the body the “I”-thought arises’ is perhaps sound advice for someone whose attention is mostly extroverted and thus distracted during meditation, it also suggest that the “I”-thought is something that originates within or emanates from the body. The real question, however, is “Within what are both the “I”-thought and the body appearing?”

Moreover, what exactly is meant by the “I”-thought?

If it refers to the notion of being an individual ego, then there will be a problem getting rid of it. Since the Self as pure awareness is not a ‘doer’, it (which is not an ‘it’) is not going to do the trick. And the ego is not going to do it either. If you inquire thoughtfully you will see that the only reason the ego does anything — even the most self-less acts — is for the enjoyment it hopes to experience as a result of doing it. So given that if it were to get rid of itself it wouldn’t be around to enjoy the fruit of having done so, how likely do you think it is that the ego will ever get rid of itself?

Elsewhere, however, Ramana refers to what is called the akhandakara vritti, which is the notion that I am whole and complete, limitless, non-dual awareness, the self of all, which arises in a mind that is sattvic enough to pierce the haze of ignorance that normally clouds the mind. This thought effectively annihilates all other thoughts in the sense that all other thoughts from that moment on are recognized as nothing other than subtle phenomena appearing within and made of awareness. No longer are such thoughts identified as separate, independent entities; they are known for what they are…manifestations of awareness, consciousness, the Self, me.

The destruction of thought to which Ramana is referring is effected through understanding rather than the eradication of all chitta (i.e. mind stuff).

One final note to consider regarding this passage concerns the assertions that once the thoughts that were hiding the Self are removed, the Self shines by itself. Again, in one sense this idea is true, but it can be confusing. It seems to suggest that only after all thoughts are removed will the Self shine. But the Self is already shining; It is never not shining. In fact, it is only by virtue of the Self shining upon the causal, subtle, and gross bodies that I experience myself as a body and its associated sensations, emotions, and thoughts. The Self shines whether thoughts are appearing or not. It is only due to the light of the Self (i.e. Awareness) that I see my thoughts. Moreover, if the removal of thoughts is what constitutes enlightenment or realization or perfection or whatever you want to call it, then we are all already enlightened because experience 4, 6, 8 hours of the thought-free state of mind each night when we enter deep sleep. And yet we still wake up as the same ignorant jerk we were before we hit the pad the night before. And one more thought worth contemplating before entirely extinguishing them all is how Ramana was able to conduct his daily affairs if his mind was literally empty. He read books, he listened to the radio, he held discourses with seekers. How was he able to do all of these things without the aid of thought?

The issue at hand is not the eradication of thoughts, but the clear understanding of the essential nature of thoughts and the reduction of agitating and erroneous thoughts that prevent one from doing proper inquiry, which is essentially as Ramana has said elsewhere holding one’s attention on the pure awareness that is the witness of all the thoughts appearing within it.

Martha: And one more just because I am feeling inspired and hopefully not too much for one sitting: pg. 266: “There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self and that the ego is non-existent.”

Ted: The ego is not non-existent. It is not real, but it definitely exists in that it is experienced. If it didn’t exist, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, for no one would be seeking to get free of it.

Martha: “The other way is to kill the ego…”

Ted: You (i.e. the person you take yourself to be — the person on your driver’s license) can’t kill the ego for the reason previously mentioned. In fact, there is no ego — as a separate entity, that is — to be killed. The ego is only a notion, the thought of being an individual doer and enjoyer. And an ignorant notion can only be ‘killed’ by knowledge, or through the acknowledgment and acceptance of another notion that more accurately points to the truth.

Martha: “…by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one’s helplessness and saying all the time: “Not I but Thou, oh Lord”, and giving up all sense of “I” and “Mine” and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Surrender can never be regarded as complete so long as the devotee wants this or that from the Lord.”

Ted: Vedanta calls the cultivation of this attitude karma yoga. Despite it usually being pitched as selfless service, karma yoga is actually an attitude taken in regards to action and its fruits. What it basically boils down to is the following ideas assimilated and put into practice.

To begin with, one has a right to act — indeed has to act as long as the body is alive. But one has no right to the fruits of one’s actions. Now in regards to this first notion many people think that because one has no right to the fruits of one’s action, it means that one should have no desire or intention for a particular result when acting. Again, here is where common sense has to play a role. The only reason I act is to get a particular result. Moreover, how likely would it be that I could accomplish anything in life — including self-realization — or carry out my dharma or duty (i.e. Living a peaceful and loving life for instance) if I don’t guide my actions by the beacon of an intended result? The point here is that desire, despite its infamous reputation throughout the spiritual world, is not a problem itself. The problem associated with desire is the next issue.

Though I must act and, indeed, can even do so motivated by desire, I must recognize that I have no control over the results of my actions. True, free will does afford me a sliver of influence upon the field of innumerable factors influencing the outcome of my actions. That is, I can choose to act in a timely and appropriate manner. But the eventual outcome of my action is determined by the dharma or laws governing the field of action (i.e. the universe), which in Vedantic terms is Isvara or God. Given this fact, the only logical choice to be made is to surrender my actions to Isvara, the Lord, and realize that I am helpless to singularly effect any result that occurs. The field of existence is a vast machine that functions according to its own rules. If my actions are in accordance with that functioning I will get what I want; if not, I won’t. I can fight against the field, but how likely is it that I will win?

The only appropriate response in light of this circumstance is to accept whatever results ensue from my actions as prasad or a gift from God. The reason I accept results as such is that I understand Isvara to be the laws that govern the field in order to maintain its well-being, balance, and harmony. Or in more personal terms, I understand that Isvara takes care of His creation in the way that is in the best interests of the whole. And while certain effects don’t always appear to be what’s best or what’s most just I understand that the field absorbs all input and has to reconfigure or adjust itself in the way that will most effectively calm the waters so to speak.

Knowing this to be the reality behind the appearance of the world leads me to the next step.

The last piece of the karma yoga puzzle is the attitude of gratitude with which I respond to whatever situations and circumstances I encounter in life. Practicing karma yoga is like saying with my actions that I think this is what will be best for me (and ideally for the whole of creation as well), and then accepting any other result — whether simply unexpected or altogether undesired — as Isvara offering a correction, showing me that actually whatever is happening now — whether I like it or not or whether it seems to make sense or not — is actually what is best. I am, therefore, grateful because I know that whatever is happening is ultimately in the best interests of the whole, and since I am a part of the whole whatever is happening is what is best for me. In short, I know that I am always taken care of and so I am grateful.

The purpose of karma yoga is to purify one’s mind by neutralizing the binding vasanas (i.e. our likes and dislikes, desires and fears formed from the impressions of our past actions) that control one’s mind and compel one to act in ways that are not conducive to the cultivation of a peaceful mind with which one can effectively do self-inquiry and in which one can behold an accurate reflection of the Self or one’s true nature as pure awareness.

Martha: “…True surrender is love of God for the sake of love and nothing else, not even for the sake of salvation.”

Ted: True to the understanding undergirding the practice of karma yoga and reflective of the attitude of gratitude that is its consequence, one knows that all results are up to Isvara.

Martha: “In other words, compete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through Self-enquiry or through Bhakti-marga.”

Ted: Rock on, Ramana!

Thank you. I am inspired to begin again to read Day-by-Day. All the best to you.

Love,

Martha

Ted: Thank you for sharing these passages, Martha. Ramana was an amazingly pure soul.

Om and prem,

Ted.

Damned By Devotional Dualists

Hi Ted,

Hope you are all right, it is nice to get back in touch with you.

Just came back from my two-week visit to ISKCON farm community on the beautiful small lake island, where the deer and peacocks roam freely, where prasadam is sumptuous and where there is a strict routine and observance of Vedic codes and regulations.

My main reason for this visit was all the signs and signals telling me to go through this experience for the purpose of developing and building-up devotion and humility.

Ted: I remember you deliberating quite a bit over the decision to make this visit. At the time, it sounded like you were deciding to move away from your familiar surroundings in order to get away from people and an environment that were unsupportive of your sadhana (i.e. spiritual practice). Your present comment concerning the true motivation being to develop and build-up devotion and humility, however, sheds new light on your decision. It is important to bear in mind that while devotion and humility are necessary qualifications for successful self-inquiry and Vedanta prescribes various methods of spiritual practice (i.e. yogas) that help one withdraw the mind from “external” distractions — i.e. thoughts, feelings, and sensory experiences — and redirect its focus “within” or toward the ever-present witnessing awareness in whose scope all objects appear as a means of cultivating these qualities and generally purifying the mind in order to prepare it for the assimilation of self-knowledge, in a larger sense devotion and humility cannot be established within one’s being through an act of will. In fact, the attempt to impose these qualities upon one’s nature is in one sense the antithesis of the qualities themselves. Though devotion is often perceived as a form of emotionally-charged supplication, Vedanta teaches that it is actually a matter of knowledge. True devotion is rooted in the understanding that the essence of all form, both subtle and gross, is awareness and that the entire apparent reality is governed by an impersonal code of physical, psychological, and moral law (i.e. dharma) that is personified as Isvara or God the Creator. Realizing that the universe is fundamentally benign and that dharmic law/Isvara/God is taking care of the creation according to what is in the best interests of the whole, one naturally honors the presence of God in all situations, circumstances, conditions, and encounters with humility and an attitude of glad acceptance. Devotion and humility, therefore, are not objects that the individual person identified as Aleksander has or can acquire inasmuch as aspects of your true nature as pure awareness that manifest through Anton’s attitudes and actions in moments, which occur with ever-increasing regularity as he “progresses” on the spiritual path, when you realize your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, all-pervasive, non-dual awareness. When you understand that you are the only being that is, you will rest in your natural humility for you will know that there is no other compared to whom you can be better, and you will love yourself unconditionally (i.e. direct your full attention “toward” yourself at all times and embrace yourself with complete acceptance) for you will know the non-dual truth that is the essence of love. The point here is that since God is present throughout every aspect of the creation and the self is the substratum of both existence and non-existence, it is not necessary that one seek out particularly challenging or otherwise conducive circumstances in which to specifically cultivate the qualities of devotion and humility. Once knowledge is assimilated, its application in any and all circumstances is a naturally humble expression of devotion or love.

Anton: I am quite easy going and was willing to adjust to rules of the ashram, but I was first taken aback by the super strict rules of cleanliness and then soon I was flabbergasted by the probing and diminutive attitude towards all the so called impersonalist and nihilistic philosophies. I never heard the words mayavadis, rascals and contaminate being so frequently used, in many cases in the same sentence. Even though I never professed my advaita views, they quickly caught it in my expressions, terminology and the like. It all seems like there is huge and open opposition towards the philosophy of Shankara, going so far as to say, “These rascals who are claiming that they are the same as God are taking along all their followers to hell, and they are worst kind, worse than nihilist, Buddhist, and atheist.” That is a paraphrase, but not exaggerated.

Ted: Sounds like the same brand of fear-based judgment that characterizes the worst religious fundamentalists of any tradition. Always this threat of eternal damnation or at least a slow roasting in the fires of hell. And for what? Recognizing the very omnipresent nature of God that is described in the very scriptures they so vehemently defend as being the authoritative word of God. It is all so nonsensically ironic.

Perhaps this tamasic (i.e. dull, dense, dim-witted) approach to spirituality is the result of a fundamental error regarding Vedanta that is voiced in this paragraph. I don’t know if it is the ISKONer’s mistake or your own, but it needs to be cleared up in order that you can proceed with confidence in your practice of self-inquiry.

Vedanta is not a philosophy.

Much less the philosophy of Shankara.

A philosophy is a theoretical postulate that is cooked up by human beings. In other words, it is their best guess about the nature of the given subject matter, which they then attempt justify through elaborate argumentation as well as trial and error. Vedanta, however, is revealed wisdom that comes directly from the self or absolute awareness and was “seen” or “heard” by the ancient rishis (i.e. spiritual seekers) as the result of thorough and conscientious inquiry into the nature of experience. Rather than being based on a particular person’s concept, belief, or discrete experience, Vedanta is the distillation of the experience-based testimony of hundreds or even thousands of self-realized beings over a long period of time. It has been stripped of all extraneous personal bias and experiential criteria and stands with inviolable strength as the essential self-knowledge that removes one’s ignorance and liberates one from the seemingly interminable cycle of samsara (i.e. the ever-repeating succession of birth and death, joy and sorrow, desire and fear that characterizes the dualistic apparent reality). Vedanta is, therefore, not something in which to believe, but rather a scientific investigation based upon the logic of one’s own experience to reveal the truth about the essential nature of the individual, the universe, and the absolute as well as the relationship of each to the others and the underlying identity of all three.

And as far as Shankara is concerned, though his genius served as a guiding light within the context of the teaching tradition of Vedanta and was the vehicle for clarifying the teachings in a way that basically resolved all apparent contradictions and eradicated all erroneous interpretations, even he himself said that none of the teachings were his and that he was only a link in the chain of the sampradaya (i.e. teaching tradition).

Anton: I painted dark picture, however they are loving and kind monks residing there, desiring to reach the same goal, that of liberation, but for them it does not stop there, pure bhakti is already liberation, they want to reach the abode of spiritual Vrindavan or Vaikunta, sporting with Krishna Himself.

Ted: The ISKONer’s are basically a group of bhaktas (i.e. devotional worshipers). Good for them. Bhakti, however, is not a viable means of liberation, sorry to say, for the simple reason that in order to practice of bhakti one must maintain a dualistic vision. One worships an object that represents the awareness that is the essential nature of existence, but almost invariably the deity worshipped — Krishna in the case of the ISKONer’s — is seen as an entity separate from and superior to oneself.

While this practice is a valid method of transforming one’s emotion into devotion as well as withdrawing one’s attention from worldly concerns and craving and redirecting it toward a “higher” purpose, unless it is complimented with self-inquiry and the assimilation of self-knowledge the essential sense of separation from one’s chosen deity that characterizes it only serves to solidify one’s sense of smallness, inadequacy, and incompleteness.

Anton: Besides that, japa mantra does great job on stabilizing the mind and focusing it on the Lord.

Ted: Admittedly, japa mantra (i.e. mantra repetition) is one of the classic methods of purifying the mind and preparing it for the assimilation of self- knowledge. As such it is an indirect means of self-realization. The direct means, however, as stated by scripture is knowledge.

Anton: I heard Ram mentioning dualists on few occasions, but just briefly, what is your understanding on that?

Ted: Refer to my comments on the perspective that characterizes the bhakti path.

Anton: Can you comment on this different view of the same scriptures (i.e. Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, and Upanishads), and can you tell me little bit about the paramparas, which they say is of utmost importance for the pure transfer of teachings.

Ted: First of all, understand that the Vedas basically consist of two sections. The section that constitutes the major portion (at least three- quarters) of the Vedas is called the karma kanda. This is the section in which are described all the rituals through which one can fulfill all of one’s worldly needs and desires. Quite obviously, this section is rooted in a dualistic view of reality.

The second section of the Vedas, which accounts for at most only a quarter of total scripture, is called the jnana kanda. This is the section in which is revealed the underlying truth concerning the non-dual nature of existence.

These scriptures are also referred to as the Upanishads.

The Bhagavad Gita is basically an exhaustive encapsulation of the essential teachings of the Upanishads delivered by a personification of pure awareness in the form of Lord Krishna to his devoted disciple Arjuna.

Any dualistic interpretation of the Upanishads is baffling given the mahavakyas (i.e. great statements) that express the essential message of the scriptures and the quintessence of Vedanta. The four best-known and most important mahavakyas are the following:

  1. “PrajnanamBrahma”–“ConsciousnessisBrahman.”(from Aitareya Upanishad, Rig Veda)
  2. “Tattvamasi”–“Thatthouart.”(fromChandogyaUpanishad, Sama Veda)
  3. “AyamAtmaBrahma”–“ThisSelf(Atman)isBrahman.”(from Mandukya Upanishad, Atharva Veda)
  4. “AhamBrahmaasmi”–“IamBrahman.”(from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajur Veda)

Each of these mantras is a mantra of identity rather than supplication. Each equates the individual and the absolute.

“Prajnanam Brahma” (“Consciousness is Brahman”) declares that the consciousness or awareness that illumines the three-bodied mechanism of the universe and thereby enlivens the individual person is the absolute or Brahman. In other words, the same singular awareness is the substratum of both the microcosm and the macrocosm. Just as the same electricity powers a light bulb, a fan, a heater, a microwave oven, a computer, an mp3 player, and countless other electrical devices, so the same one consciousness not only illumines the innumerable components of the apparent reality, but also constitutes the very fabric out of which it is made.

Moreover, the moniker “Brahman” comes from the Sanskrit root “brih,” which means “to expand” or “greater than the greatest.” Hence, Brahman denotes the limitless, all-pervasive, non-dual awareness that is the essential nature of existence. Since reality is secondless, the individual and the absolute are one.

“Tat tvam asi” (“That thou art”) employs the equation of two pronouns to convey its profound meaning. “That” is Brahman, pure awareness; “thou” is jivatman, the apparent individual person. This mantra unequivocally states that the two, Brahman and Atman, are identical.

“Ayam Atma Brahma” (“This Self (Atman) is Brahman”) asserts the same essential singularity of Atman and Brahman as “Tat tvam asi” by means of slightly more precise terminology. The word “ayam” means “this” and signifies the self-effulgent awareness that is the substratum of the five sheaths or bodies that comprise the apparent individual person and which constitutes the true self. This self is the very same Brahman that illumines and enlivens the entire apparent reality.

“Aham Brahma asmi” (“I am Brahman”) is the most powerful declaration of the essential non-dual nature of reality because it is made from the perspective of pure awareness itself. This mantra reflects the full assimilation of self-knowledge. The word “aham” means “I” and refers to the pure self within, not the limited apparent individual person. This “I” is the same as the absolute Brahman that is limitless, all-pervading, non-dual awareness.

Though these mahavakyas express the non-dual nature of reality with crystalline clarity, the Upanishads do contain other references to the truth that upon first glance are admittedly not quite as transparent. Because absolute awareness is attributeless and therefore cannot be objectified, it is difficult — if not impossible — to express with words, which are essentially sound symbols that represent inherently limited concepts and are thus fundamentally incapable of conveying limitlessness. Words can only point to pure awareness. For this reason, figurative language is often employed as a means of describing awareness and explicating/illustrating “its” relationship to the apparent reality. Examples of such are the following:

  1. “Omisthebow;theatmanisthearrow;Brahmanissaidtobe the mark. It is to be struck by an undistracted mind. Then the atman becomes one with Brahman, as the arrow with the target.” (Mundaka Upanishad, M 2, Ch 2, V 4)
  2. “Whentheseerbeholdstheself-luminousCreator,theLord, the Purusha, the progenitor of Brahma, then he, the wise seer, shakes off good and evil, becomes stainless, and reaches the supreme unity.” (Mundaka Upanishad, M 3, Ch 1, V 3)
  3. “Thefifteenpartsgobacktotheircauses,andallthesensesto their deities; the actions, and the Atman reflected in the buddhi, become one with the highest imperishable Brahman, which is the Self of all. As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their names and forms, so a wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Purusha, who is greater than the Great.He who knows the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman. In his family no one is born ignorant of Brahman. He overcomes grief; he overcomes evil; free from the fetters of the heart, he becomes immortal.” (Mundaka Upanishad, M 3, Ch 2, V 7-9)
  4. “Asgoldcoveredbyearthshinesbrightafterithasbeen purified, so also the yogi, realising the truth of Atman, becomes one with the non-dual Atman, attains the goal and is free from grief.” (Svetashvatara Upanishad, Ch 2, V 14)
  5. “InthisuniversetheSwan,theSupremeSelfaloneexists.Itis He who, as fire, abides in the water. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death; there is no other way to reach the Supreme Goal.” (Svetashvatara Upanishad, Ch 6, V 15)
  6. “Beyondthesensesisthemind,beyondthemindisthe intellect, higher than the intellect is the Great Atman, higher than the Great Atman is the Unmanifest. Beyond the Unmanifest is the Person, all—pervading and imperceptible. Having realised Him, the embodied self becomes liberated and attains Immortality.” (Katha Upanishad, Ch 3, V 7-8)

Repeatedly throughout the Upanishads there are references made to the seeker attaining, reaching, becoming, and merging with Brahman, the Supreme Self, the Unmanifest, the Purusha, and various other names denoting pure awareness. In all cases, however, such references to experiential achievement should be understood as figurative representations of the attainment of self-knowledge. Any reasonable consideration of the context in which such experiential imagery is used and to what end leads to the inevitable conclusion that knowledge is the only means by which ignorance can be removed and that understanding is the essence of permanent liberation. As is stated in the Mundaka Upanishad, “He who knows the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman,” and in the Svetashvatara Upanishad, “Only by knowing Him does one pass over death; there is no other way to reach the Supreme Goal.”

While figurative language and comparative imagery can be effective in pointing to the ineffable nature of reality, the figurative language used in scripture has often been misinterpreted as testifying to a separation between the individual (i.e. Atman) and the absolute (i.e. Brahman). Beyond the obvious duality that characterizes any comparison of objects, the chief means through which this erroneous concept of separation is expressed is what we might call the “language of experience,” whereby it is implied that the apparently separate individual person must somehow merge or unite or yoke himself or herself to the absolute pure awareness, which is characterized as some sort of “Supreme, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All Pervasive Person,” or attain and thereafter sustain some discrete experiential state of perpetual grins and smiles and giggles and laughs. The latter is basically the experiential state of bliss in which the ISKONer’s hope to establish themselves while they rock out with Krishna, “Live in Vaikuntha.”

Quite simply, this whole issue boils down to the question, “Who is that knows all this — the apparent separation, the means of knowledge, the devotion, etc.?”

That ever-present, non-dual awareness is the absolute Brahman that pervades and is thus identical with the entire apparent reality, including the apparent individual person. Provided one is qualified to assimilate self- knowledge, self-inquiry, which is the conscientious investigation of the nature of existence using the logic of one’s own experience rather than the blind acceptance of faith-based assertions rooted in tamasic emotions such as fear and guilt, proves the identity of the individual and the absolute awareness beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Regarding the paramparas (i.e. the teaching tradition or lineage of gurus that extends back to time immemorial), the ISKONer’s reverence for the teaching tradition seems self-contradictory. If sheer devotion is all that is necessary for the highest attainment, which is apparently sporting with Krishna in some heavenly realm, then what knowledge need be taught and why is a teacher necessary?

According to Vedanta, self-realization is not defined by a particular state of experiential joy that can be induced and permanently sustained by even the most intensely devotional practice, for it is the very nature of experience to constantly and continuously change. Only knowledge can reveal the eternal and immutable truth of one’s being.

Because, as earlier mentioned, Vedanta is revealed wisdom that has been culled from the direct experience of myriad seekers and polished over a long period of time into a purified jewel of knowledge, however, it is not an understanding that can be easily derived from one, two, ten, or even hundreds of discrete epiphanies. Though the knowledge of the essential non-dual nature of reality and the inherent identity of the individual and the absolute is available through such epiphanies, it is often not gleaned because the individual, who is as yet under the spell of ignorance, is so overwhelmed by the experience itself that he or she fails to assimilate its message. A person under the spell of ignorance is also not able to accurately decode the often rather enigmatic utterances of the scriptures or properly interpret the figurative language employed in them as a means of illustrating points vital to a sound understanding of the self. For these reasons, a qualified teacher is invaluable in guiding one through the process of self-inquiry and unfolding the teachings in a way that makes them accessible to a degree that effectively removes the student’s ignorance and facilitates his or her assimilation of self-knowledge rather than leaving one lurching through a woodland of mere intellectual understanding or, even worse, a forest blind faith.

Vedanta would, therefore, agree that the validity of the teaching tradition and the legitimacy of its teachers is of utmost importance, but the reason for this is rooted in the fact that self-realization is a matter of knowledge rather than experience.

Anton: Thank you dearly.

With love.

Anton

Ted: Love to you as well, my friend.

Apply the Teachings as Preventative Medicine

Hi Ted,

I am new to Vedanta, new to James Swartz, new to computers, and new to shiningworld, but only blessedly so! I am going through a second reading of “How to find Enlightenment”. I confess to reading it the first time like inhaling chocolate, but this time am savoring the fine details. I am already hooked on Vedanta as I was completely unaware that a scientific study had been made of consciousness in such a complete and thorough manner. I read Shankara’s “Crest-Jewel of Discrimination” about 20 years ago and even though I found his writing compelling, I foolishly rejected him as an anomaly of human nature, not realizing that his findings were based on the illustrious foundation of Vedanta.

The reason I am writing is because I have post-traumatic stress disorder and a mild dissociative disorder. I know intellectually, that they are mere appearances and that is not who I am, but when they rear their ugly heads, they can be overwhelming, sometimes more than others. Thankfully, my mind is normally fairly quiet and I am able to practice then. I am wondering if you might have any tips for how to maintain conscious awareness during stressful periods. I have no one to support me in my practice, except for the precious knowledge that I am the one on whom I do depend and that gives me great courage!

Thank you for your time,

Amelia

Hi, Amelia.

Nice to make your acquaintance via cyberspace (since you’re new to computers, that’s a cool term for through the computer that makes it sound like we’re convening about a covert operation or some such affair 🙂

. . . and that’s a smiley face to let you know that I’m making a joke and most likely being less “professional” than you imagined a Vedanta teacher would be). So, okay, down to business.

First, let me say that if you’re looking for moksha (freedom), you’ve definitely found your way to the right place. James’ book is a lifesaver. And your approach is commendable. It sounds like you are a mature seeker who knows that mystical visions and transcendental states — amazing and perhaps even inspirational as they may be — are not the answer. Vedanta is a science and the object of study is you. The weird part about it, however, is that you as awareness are not object you can see. All you can do is set the cat of knowledge (i.e. Vedanta) loose in your mind, and let it kill the rat of ignorance that has been gnawing away at your peace and happiness. But you know this.

The reason I use the cat and mouse analogy is to emphasize that ignorance is not the big, scary monster we sometimes fear it to be and almost universally treat it as. In other words, it is not some insuperable opponent that we cannot overcome. We need to wield the right weapon, however, that is suitable for delivering a deathblow. And, for us Vedantins, that weapon is knowledge. So it is great that in light of the challenges you are facing in the form of PTSD and mild dissociative disorder, you at least draw your chariot onto the battlefield armed with the intellectual understanding that the “moods” these conditions inflict upon you are nothing more than appearances in you, awareness, but have nothing to do with who you really are.

I am not familiar with the symptoms of mild dissociative disorder, but I know from my experience with people suffering from PTSD that the intensely negative emotional states that it can provoke are difficult, if not altogether impossible, to quell while they are occurring. The best advice I can offer is to maintain constant vigilance with regard to your state of mind. When you come to Chapter 12 in James’ book, pay special attention to the various methods he describes through the application of which you can enjoy a direct reflection of your true nature as limitless, ever-free awareness. Also pay close attention to Chapters 10 and 11 in which he discusses the ropes (gunas), which are the three basic qualities that constitute all of creation and color our experience of it. Cultivating a clear and balanced mind and a healthy body can be very helpful in preventing the chemical imbalances that manifest as the symptoms of the disorders with which you are dealing. Probably sounds like common sense, but to be honest that is basically what a lot of Vedanta boils down to. We use common sense to cultivate a clear mind that is capable of assimilating the teachings concerning our true nature that are quite honestly counter- intuitive (e.g. The world really seems like a dualistic array of various objects even though the truth is all of the objects are nothing other than you . . . though you as awareness are not the objects in the sense that all the objects are made of you, consciousness, and appear in you, consciousness, but you are ever free of them in the same way that a dream world appears in you and seems quite real to you, the dreamer, while you sleep but upon awakening you, the waking state entity, find yourself untouched by the events of the dream).

In order to transform your intellectual knowledge into direct or immediate knowledge, you need to consistently dwell on and apply the teachings. There really is no other way. The more you think from the perspective of the self, the witness, which is quite honestly the ordinary awareness in which all Amelia’s experiences, both “inner” and “outer,” and indeed Annie herself appear, the more confident you will become in confidently, unreservedly, and fully assuming it. It is after all your true identity. This will take some time — or not — depending upon how ripe you are, but you just have to stick with it. As James’ often urges, you’ve got to fake it ‘til you make it. Though this advice may sound a bit flimsy, I assure you it is not. The truth is that is simply an exercising the very trick whose effects you are currently suffering. That is, due to its own self-imposed apparent ignorance (for the self has never actually forgotten who it is), the self — you, not Amelia — have faked being Amelia for so long that you have come to believe she is who you really are. But in the same way that you know the emotional turmoil that roils your mind due to the disorders is not you, so you can come to know through the repeated application the teachings of Vedanta to your daily experience that you are not the apparent individual you have taken yourself to be but rather the pure awareness that witnesses all objective experience, both in the “surrounding” apparent reality and within the mind, but remains ever untouched by it.

The more you remain conscious of your true identity when you in a balanced state of mind, the more you will prevent negative symptoms from arising and the better you will be able to deal with them if/when they do. It is a matter of prioritizing what is most important to you. If what you want is liberation, lasting peace and happiness, then the price you will have to pay for it is to remain vigilant and if you find yourself in stressful circumstances either extricate yourself from them or, if that is not an option, apply the teachings to the best of your ability within the situation. Practice discrimination (separating what’s real — you — from what isn’t — all the objects appearing in you as awareness) and dispassion (letting go of the results of your actions and accepting whatever comes as a gift from the universe). I realize the dispassion bit might sound bizarre, especially if it would be asking you to consider a PTSD symptom, for instance, as a gift. But the truth of the matter is that you have no control over what happens to you. You only have control over your reaction or response to whatever happens. And this is where the teachings come in. Let the teachings respond for you. Amelia’s tried long and hard enough, seemingly to no or very little avail. Why not take a load off and let a ten-thousand-year-old science of self-knowledge do the work for you?

And feel free to contact me at any time if you have any further questions.

All the best to you, Amelia.

Ted

A Simple Shift in Perspective

Dear Ted,

I am a student of Ram and Sundari and a great lover of Vedanta.

I started with Maharishi Mahesh when I was a kid (16). It was a good start and it lit the fire. Though my destiny was to have a big family, the fire never died. I am sixty now. I still do a daily sadhana. I’ve had several other teachers, but meeting Ram was like an explosion. Everything opened up.

That’s some background info for you. I got your email from the last Shining World newsletter and would like to ask if you are available to help me clarify my understanding? I have decided not to engage Ram and Sundari because they no doubt have their hands full. I have never had one on one coaching with them, but I have benefitted tremendously from sittings. Here in Portland for the last two summers, in Trout Lake, and India last year. I don’t have a lot of questions. It’s more like fine tuning. But it’s very important to me.

I have a number of considerations, but will start with just these at the moment. Feel free to direct this inquiry in anyway that might be helpful.

1). If one sees that awareness stands prior to — and is present for — all experience, and that all objects arise, have their existence, and disappear in awareness, can one continue to suffer psychological pain? Is it due to vasanas?

Ted: I’m not sure exactly what you mean when you say ‘suffer psychological pain’, but if you mean that even with said understanding negative thoughts and emotions can still arise within awareness, then the answer is yes. And again yes they are due to the vasanas. Once you know who you are you cease to identify with the limited person whom you had taken yourself to be and that effectively closes the karmic account for that person assuming that the knowledge is hard and fast and that it has cancelled the doer and neutralized (which is different than eradicated) the vasanas. The caveat, however, is that your prarabdha karma (i.e. the actions your character is still scripted to carry out and all the preferences that have been programmed into that character due to the vasanas) still has to run its course. A good analogy for this is a fan. After having unplugged a fan the blade does not come to an immediate standstill. It takes some time to wind down. It is the same with realizing the Self. Once you know who you are, which your comments seem to indicate you do, the old thought patterns and emotional reactions will continue for a time. As you witness them you will find that their strength gradually dissipates until they drop away altogether. The key to peace of mind is to understand that they have nothing to do with you.

Daniel: 2). And if suffering continues intermittently could this be feedback that the understanding is not firm?

Ted: I think the previous response pretty much covered this doubt, but if it did not let me know and I’ll address it then.

Daniel: This also brings up the risk of self deception. Of having the understanding intellectually, but not fully owning it. To me this is one of the big dangers on the path of knowledge.

Ted: Good point. Here are the ways you can tell if you’re bullshitting yourself.

First, if you still believe you are a person. When you are fully confident in who you are as pure awareness, you will cease to identify yourself as the mind-body-sense complex that you have always taken yourself to be. This doesn’t mean that your body will disappear in a blaze of white light or that you won’t feel like there is a body that it feels like you can operate and a mind with which you can make decisions or that you won’t carry out your daily duties just as any normal person would or that you have to start referring to yourself (i.e. The Daniel on your driver’s license) in the third- person or any such daffy shit as that. It simply means that you know that you are the awareness in which the mind-body-sense complex and all its functions as well as the entire created world appears. It is both a subtle and dramatic shift. Everything will appear the same, but you will know it for what it really is instead of what it appears to be. It’s like a mirage in the desert. Once you know it is a mirage, it doesn’t cease to appear, you simply won’t run after it believing it to be a reservoir of water at which you can slake your thirst.

Second, if you still want things. When you are fully confident in your identity as whole and complete, limitless, non-dual awareness, you won’t want anything because you’ll know you already have everything. That doesn’t mean you won’t still have preferences or that you won’t need to eat or bathe or exercise or want to participate in various activities or enjoy various experiences. It simply means you’ll know that you don’t need any of these things to complete you. You’ll know that no matter what happens, nothing can enhance, diminish, or change you (i.e. you as pure awareness) in any fundamental or essential way. You as awareness are untouched by experience. For this reason you can enjoy your true nature as happiness within the context of experience, but you won’t seek joy from the experience.

Only you will know when you are no longer bound by these two things. You just have to be honest with yourself. As mentioned vasanas will still arise, but vasanas themselves are not really the problem. They are only a problem if they get in the way of you knowing who you are and reveling in your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, action-less, non-dual awareness.

Daniel: The fact of the matter is, after 40 plus years of spiritual practices (and psychotherapy at times) I still have a pretty rajasic mind. It’s gets very fiery and passionate. By Ishwara’s Grace most of the binding vasanas seem to have subsided. I live a dharmic life. But inwardly the mind continues to spew up grumpiness and general negativity…which brings up self doubt. This is probably the main reason I’ve stuck with my sadhana all these years (morning and evening Agnihotra and meditation).

Ted: Sounds beautiful, Daniel. It sounds to me like you know who you are. Relax a bit perhaps. Witness the vasanas and remain vigilant in not allowing them to push you around. Other than that, keep on keepin’ on. If you don’t feel you have ‘popped’ yet, then just keep steeping yourself in the teachings and applying the knowledge to each and every situation and trust that realization will become solid sooner than later.

Daniel: I want to also clarify my understanding of the unity of subject/object relationship.

The fan analogy you used is one that I sometimes pondered through this whole process. It made good sense. The seeking came to a halt when I met Ram. I finally could acknowledge this only recently. It happened so naturally that I barely noticed. But this inner fire has continued burning.

Thus some confusion persisted. And you can imagine after 45 years of seeking! But…even though I realized the seeking had stopped, and with this came the understanding that there really is no such thing as “personal” effort anyway, still I was not confident in who I am.

Ted: True, there really is no personal effort in the ultimate sense, but until you are standing with rock solid confidence in the knowledge that you are whole and complete, limitless, action-less, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness, you need to keep exposing yourself to the teachings, practicing karma, bhakti, jnana, and triguna vibhava yoga as well as meditation and apply the knowledge in every situation of your life. Of course, you as David are not doing this, but on the other hand you as David should maintain a focused effort. It doesn’t have to be a stressful, agitated effort that is so lauded in the Western world; it is simply a calm vigilance that serves to slowly erode old fallacious thought patterns and erroneous identifications.

Daniel: Having said this, I am not convinced even now that I am firm in the knowledge of who I am. Here’s why. It’s interesting that in the first pointer you gave about how to tell if you’re bullshitting or not (i.e. still believing you are a person)…this was exactly what I wanted to discuss with you right off the bat. But I chickened out. I was gonna wait a little while. So let me just say this: I still feel very human. All the normal emotional responses are intact. In fact, I am probably much more sensitive than the average male. And I feel very much alive and curious about things. So the reason I myself wanted to bring this very issue up is that Ram brought it up to me in India last year. It was in a large group question and answer. I confessed to him that there was just no way I could admit to being the doer of my actions. That when I look back at my life, and right up to the moment, I don’t feel the slightest responsibility for anything. It’s all just happening, and being operated by some force beyond me. I didn’t even decide to become a seeker! It just happened! He looked at me attentively as he has before and said: then you’re enlightened. And I retorted: no I am not, because I still feel like a human being! He just shined it on, like he always does and continued taking questions. But what happened inside me is that I began to wonder if perhaps it was just my perception of myself, or concept of myself that needed to be adjusted.

Ted: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! You’ve got it, Daniel. It’s a simple adjustment, a shift in perspective. That’s all. The sky is not going to fall or burst into flames nor are you going to dissipate like a cosmic smoke bomb. You simply see from the perspective of who you really are. You still have a body that feels sensations (actually its the mind that perceives such, but…), a heart that feels emotions, and an intellect that thinks. That’s the consequence of the residual vasanas that need a vehicle through which to express/exhaust. In one sense, you won’t cease to feel like a human being, but in another sense you will know you are not one and will cease to identify with the feeling.

Daniel: And so this is what I wanted to address with you. But I felt it was just too deep to discuss immediately. Anyway, you brought it up! Thank you.

The second thing you mentioned probably ties in here: there’s no more wanting anything. Yes! This I can relate to. Desires continue to arise (which is why I still feel human) but there’s no sense that their fulfillment will add anything to me. I don’t seem to hanker after anything. I still enjoy certain things… But never from a feeling of lack or the hope or thought that they can add anything to my life. I don’t have the slightest thought that anything or anyone has a thing to offer as far as this goes.

Ted: Sounds to me that the response Ramji offered you in India was spot on. Only you can answer this for yourself, but if my previous comment allays your doubt about whether you can still ‘feel human’ and be enlightened and your previous comment about the degree of dispassion you feel toward objects is true, then you’re done. I’ll be happy to discuss any further doubts that may arise for you, but you should really look at yourself and take an account of what you know to be true about who you really are despite what the old tapes recorded (or I guess I should say ‘the old CD’s burned’ to be in keeping with the modern world) by the ego when you were mired in ignorance are continuing to say.

Daniel: So this second one I can relate to without a doubt. The first one I just have to sit with.

And one other thing: I definitely have the sense that the whole world, even universe, is born out of my awareness. Sometimes I am amazed. It’s a feeling of wonder and vast curiosity and surprise. And I don’t do anything! There’s absolutely no effort in this whole operation. Ted, you’ve got me going here; I feel like I am making a confession.

Ted: Good for you. Maybe your finally just being honest with yourself.

Daniel: I still want to address the thing around the knower and known being one. Is this because both share the same source in consciousness or awareness? And is the knower here, consciousness? Or is it the mind? As in, the mind being an instrument of knowing for awareness. Anyway, if you could clarify this for me I would appreciate it. Feel free to comment on anything discussed so far.

Ted: The realization that the knower and the known are one can be understood in a couple of different ways. The first is that which you mention. If you take the knower to be the individual person (i.e. Daniel), then the knower and the known are one because they share the same order of reality. That is, both the person and the thing known are objects in and are essentially constituted of awareness. The second way of considering this issue is with the understanding that in a non-dual reality, which this is, there is only awareness. BUT while the entire creation is awareness, awareness is free of the entire creation. That is, the entire creation depends for its existence upon awareness, but awareness remains ever independent in that it requires no object for its existence. The self is self-dependent and requires no object in order to know itself. Despite how it seems to the mind, in the total absence of objects the Self still remains fully aware of itself. This is why you enjoy deep sleep. The mind thinks it knows the self, but actually the mind is inert and knows nothing. It is simply a machine that functions and produces thoughts and whatnot when illumined or enlivened by awareness. The bottom line is that there is only awareness, so either understanding simply serves to help one reconcile both its manifest and unmanifest forms and to appreciate that it is the witness of both and remains essentially unchanged by any appearance it assumes and that seems to take place within it.

Daniel: I was very vulnerable about starting this process with you. But I am so grateful now.

Ted: I’m glad you feel more comfortable now, Daniel. I enjoy dialoguing with you so feel free to contact me anytime you wish.

Best, Daniel

Ted: Best to you as well.

Ted,

Thank you for the clarity.

I’d like to refer to a statement you made: The mind thinks it knows the self but actually it’s inert and knows nothing.

This is a good lead in to another consideration.

Scripture and Guru teach me (with the instrument of intellect) that I am not this time bound, experience bound, helpless, and inadequate jiva. That in reality I am unbounded, unconditioned, unlimited, pure awareness. The very source of all life and life eternal. Somehow, through my inquiry I manage to accept this. I recognize that indeed this awareness that I am seems to be without qualities, yet it must be full because I observe countless objects arising out of it. And It’s unlimited in the sense that nothing defines it; no matter how big an object (like the sun) awareness always outshines it. Awareness depends on nothing, yet everything depends on it. Finally my inquiry reveals to me that this must be who I am. Awareness is always with me. The one constant in every bit of experience, even sleep. Such intimacy do I feel with this awareness that I come to the conclusion that I Am That!

Now this conclusion was arrived at through the intellect, I think. Or was it?

Ted: Yes, the conclusion was arrived at through the intellect. Make no mistake, enlightenment or realization is for the intellect. The self already ‘knows’ who it is, so it doesn’t need to be enlightened, for indeed it is the Light. And it doesn’t need Daniel to realize it either because Daniel’s ignorance really has nothing to do with it. Ultimately, the realization is that there is no Daniel and never has been. Daniel is simply a bundle of vasanas (i.e. desires based on a collection of likes and dislikes formed out of the impressions of your past experiences) that are presently seeking expression through the mind-body-sense complex that has been labeled “Daniel” and serves as a lens or holographic puppet with which you (i.e. the self or awareness) identify when under the spell of delusion or ignorance.

At some point what began with an intellectual understanding became direct experience. Maybe experience is not the right word.

Ted: Experience works as long as you realize that the experience of yourself is not an experience of an object. You don’t experience yourself because you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell it. You know yourself because you are yourself. You know you exist because you exist. It is direct knowledge, which requires no means by which to be apprehended.

Daniel: But the understanding shifts out of the head into something that is embodied. Perhaps we could say it moved into the heart. Can you speak to this?

Ted: You are on to something here, but look carefully again at your ‘experience’ of yourself as awareness. Does your knowledge of yourself really shift out of the head into something that is embodied? If you look attentively, laying aside all assumptions about and conditioning concerning how experience happens, you will notice (1) that you are not in any way separate from your understanding (for knowledge take place in and is made of awareness), (2) that knowledge (i.e. awareness) was never encapsulated in the head at all (for awareness is not an organ like the brain, not to mention the fact that, though it might seem tangible, is nothing but awareness itself), and (3) that the knowledge hasn’t therefore shifted from one confined location labeled “head” to another confined location labeled “heart”. Knowledge/awareness/you (these are synonyms — a fact with which you should become comfortable and an understanding in which you should stand confidently, by the way) is not ever embodied in the sense that it is attached to or confined by a body. Due to ignorance, awareness (i.e. you) identifies with the limited vessel of a particular mind-body-sense complex, but it is never confined solely within that apparatus. Given that awareness is all-pervasive, it is more appropriate to say that the body, the head, and the heart all appear within awareness. Look and see. Verify this through your own experience and tell me if it isn’t true. That said, you might say that metaphorically the knowledge moves to the heart in the sense that it is recognized as the unconditioned, attributeless ‘core’ of your being, which is at the same time the vast ocean of awareness within which Daniel-the-body appears.

Daniel: Regarding your statement about the mind being inert, would this also not apply to the intellect?

Ted: The term ‘mind’ was used in that statement as a reference to the entire antahkarana (i.e. subtle body). Vedanta does distinguish between the mind (which carries out the functions of perceiving, cohering/integrating, doubting, and emoting) and the intellect (which carries out the functions of perceiving, deliberating, discriminating, determining, deciding, and directing, not to mention that technically the ego’s notions of being a separate, independent, limited doer and enjoyer fall under the jurisdiction of the intellect as well), but I was simply referring to what we might call the whole ‘thinking machine’. So in answer to your question, yes, this applies to the intellect also. Just as the gross body is nothing more than a cohesion of the five elements and is in itself inert (one look at a corpse will verify this), the intellect is nothing more than a cohesion of inert subtle matter.

Daniel: Can the intellect ever know the self? It seems not.

Ted: Well, yes and no. This issue is pretty subtle and a bit of a mind- blower, so get ready for a bit of a wild ride. As mentioned, the intellect is nothing more than inert subtle matter, so technically it can’t/doesn’t know a damn thing. Sounds crazy, I know. Truly speaking, the entire antahkaranah (i.e. subtle body) is nothing more than a subtle machine whose function is to think. Kind of takes the piss out of the star, doesn’t it?

But here’s why it seems like the intellect is so intelligent. When awareness illumines it, the mechanism of the subtle body is set into motion and the functions referred to earlier that we assign to mind, intellect, and ego simply happen because that’s what the machine is designed to do.

Unromantic as the notion is, it is little different than plugging a computer (the subtle body) into a wall socket through which it is ‘enlivened’ with electricity (awareness) and then functions according to its design (mind, intellect, and ego perform their various tasks). It seems like the intellect thinks on its own, but it is totally dependent upon awareness for its existence and ability to execute action (i.e. think). From the individual jiva’s perspective, it seems like the mind and intellect and ego are carrying on at the behest of their own volition, and that free will is alive and well, but the truth of the matter is that the antahkaranah is simply a well-oiled machine that is managed by the vasanas and governed by ignorance or the will of God (Isvara or the dharma of the field of existence).

Daniel: But somehow there is recognition.

Ted: Yes, indirectly. The reflection of awareness appears in a pure (i.e. sattvic) mind. This is you recognizing yourself through the instrument of the intellect.

Daniel: And there is peace for the jiva that follows. A sense of separateness is removed. The weight of doership is lifted. I am no longer defined by objects. Is this all that is meant by moksha? Liberation?

Ted: Yes, provided this understanding cancels the doer, as you say, and neutralizes the vasanas. Then the jiva is no longer dependent on objects for happiness, not to mention the fact that the apparent entity realizes he is not a person though he still seemingly inhabits a person’s mind-body- sense complex and will continue to seemingly do so until his prarabdha karma is exhausted and there remain no more vasanas requiring a body through which to express.

Daniel: When I make the statement I Am That, where is it coming from? Is the jiva making this proclamation from the knowledge gained by the intellect?

Ted: Again, yes and no. Who is the jiva? Contemplate this.

Daniel: And in the recognition here, it surely must not confer the same status onto the jiva as the self or we would be supermen!

Ted: Be clear about this: the jiva is the self, but the self is not the jiva. In other words, the jiva depends upon awareness for its existence, but awareness is completely independent of the jiva. Consider deep sleep.

When the jiva has completely disappeared in deep sleep, awareness remains. If it did not, how could you report upon waking that you slept soundly? There is, however, a distinction between the jiva and awareness as Isvara. The jiva is an upadhi (i.e. a limiting adjunct). That is, the jiva is a limited ‘lens’ with which awareness identifies due to the power of ignorance. As long as it identifies with this ‘lens’, it’s vision/experience is limited by the scope of that ‘lens’. And though the jiva can awaken to the knowledge of its true nature, such knowledge doesn’t allow it to break free from the limitation of the ‘lens’, for the jiva is nothing more than the assumed identity of the ‘lens’. If awareness were to actually ‘expand’ beyond the ‘lens’, the jiva would ‘break’ so to speak and cease to exist as a jiva and, therefore, would no longer experience itself from that point of view, which would in effect nullify the question because there would cease to be even an apparent jiva to put it forth. Whew! Quite wordy, but hopefully you get the picture. In short, self-knowledge won’t afford the jiva’s limited mind-body-sense complex the same universal powers as those wielded by Isvara. The drop will know it’s nature is the same as that of the entire ocean, but that doesn’t turn the drop into the entirety of the seven seas.

Daniel: Thank you for this clarification.

This understanding pertaining to the relationship between jiva and awareness is extremely helpful. And also the lay out of the subtle body, which, if my understanding is correct, is all programmed. Awareness shines on the subtle body and it kicks into gear; the “I” notion arises, along with a sense of doership, and all other mechanisms.

What is the connection between the subtle body and the causal?

Ted: The subtle body is a product of the causal body. From a macrocosmic perspective, the causal body is the universal ocean containing all the vasanas that sprout on a subtle level as the universal subtle body replete with all its machinations. From a microcosmic perspective, the causal body contains amidst the universal ocean of all vasanas the particular ‘package’ that sprouts as the subtle body of a particular jiva when awareness identifies with that upadhi as a result of ignorance.

Daniel: And the causal with Isvara?

Ted: The macrocosmic causal body is Isvara. Isvara is the anthropomorphic identity we assign to awareness associating with or illumining and, thus, ‘wielding’ (though paradoxically it is not a ‘doer’ and has no desire-driven volition) its power of ignorance to both create and govern the universe. The set of impersonal physical, moral, and spiritual laws by which the vast machinery of the universe runs is referred to in Sanskrit as dharma. It should be understood that Isvara is not an entity residing in some astral realm who creates the universe and doles out positive results and negative consequences for actions performed by individual jiva’s based on the purity of their intent. As mentioned, the concept of Isvara is simply a personification of the impersonal set of laws which govern the functioning of the vast machinery of creation. If one acts in accordance with those laws — that is, if one acts in a manner that is timely and appropriate in terms of gaining a particular desired result — one is more likely to get the result desired. The ego struggles to assert its dominion over dharmic law, but the jiva has no more than a sliver of influence concerning the consequences of its actions. So many factors influence the outcome of any action executed that it is impossible for the individual jiva to control them all in order to ensure that he will get what he wants. To the jiva, therefore, it often seems as if any attempt to get what he wants is a crapshoot. But from the universal perspective the entire field of experience is seen as a well-oiled machine churning out the appropriate results of a complex yet predictable chain of cause and effect.

Daniel: And if the causal body is the storehouse for the vasanas, what is their origin? Where did they come from?

Ted: The vasanas originate from ignorance. In terms of the macrocosm, awareness for some unknown reason apparently forgets its true nature and apparently succumbs to the influence of ignorance, which causes awareness to apparently believe it is incomplete and to, therefore, apparently create (by means of its assumed apparent identity as Isvara) an entire field of experience in which it might find fulfillment. Concerning the question of why Isvara’s vasanas are what they are, Vedanta says there is no answer. The design of the creation is just what it is. In terms of microcosm or the individual jiva, the vasanas are basically preferences based on the residual impressions of pleasant and unpleasant past experiences. These vasanas, too, are rooted in the individual’s ignorance of his true nature as whole and complete, limitless awareness. Because the individual feels incomplete and inadequate, he seeks fulfillment through objects, and his preferences for which objects are seemingly worth pursuing and which are seemingly better to avoid and what actions should be executed to obtain or avoid those objects are based on past experience.

Daniel: And how do they inform the subtle body?

Ted: The way the vasanas inform the subtle body is best described in terms of the process through which individuals interact with the field of experience. This process begins when the sense instruments come in contact with their respective objects (i.e. The person hears, feels, sees, smells, and/or tastes something). The sense organs, which are actually located in the mind, perceive these sensations and immediately the mind registers this data. The mind then ‘wants’ to make sense of this object. We refer to this initial response as ‘doubting’ because the mind has a doubt about what the object is and how the person should respond to it. In order to clarify these issues, the mind sends the collected data on to the intellect, which is in charge of discriminating and deciding. During its deliberation concerning the object, the intellect seeks a way to resolve the issues before it by consulting the causal body, which is the record of past experience and serves as the storehouse of all the vasanas formed from those experiences. The vasanas basically tell the intellect what has been done before when an object such as the one currently under consideration was previously encountered. Based on this information, the intellect then decides what should be done and directs the ego to mobilize the active organs to respond accordingly.

Daniel: Our dialogue has led me to want a deeper understanding of Isvara’s role in all this, and where he resides. Is he also programmed?

Ted: Isvara is not a programmed entity, but the program itself. Residing in (i.e. constituting) the macrocosmic causal body, Isvara is a personification of the dharmic law that governs the entire process by which the machine of the universe operates, and as such is not limited to the locus of the causal body but is more accurately defined as the entire creation or field of experience.

Daniel: And my wife asked such an innocent question: who created Ishwara? Our children asked a similar question long ago! I came up with something for our kids, but for her I said that I didn’t know, but that I bring it up with you.

Ted: Isvara was not exactly created in the sense of being an entity that has been brought into being. Isvara is the name given to the creative force that results when awareness associates with and wields its power of ignorance, which admittedly is a somewhat perplexing way to describe this subtle phenomenon since awareness and ignorance, ultimately speaking, are not two different things. Ignorance is a power within awareness. Paradoxical as it may seem, awareness has to have the power of forgetting itself, for if awareness did not have this power it would not be unlimited and all- powerful. And yet ignorance cannot be said to share the same order of reality as awareness, for while ignorance depends upon awareness for its existence (i.e. something has to be aware of ignorance in order for ignorance to exist), awareness is completely independent of ignorance and all of its apparent effects.

Daniel: So when, through the intellect, I consult the causal body to inform a decision I need to make, I am essentially consulting Ishwara. Is this correct?

Ted: Yes, this is correct. But that doesn’t mean that you just do whatever arises from the causal body. Remember, Isvara is everything that is, both subtle and gross. Isvara is not some cosmic life coach who gives personal consultations. Isvara is dharmic law; ‘He’ is the set of rules that govern the entirety of the apparent reality that serve to maintain its overall balance, well-being, and harmony. The closest we come to receiving personal guidance from Isvara, you might say, is through the built in sense of dharma that we all have, which is reflected in our conscience. For instance, all human beings know that it is adharmic (i.e. not dharmic) to inflict harm on another. Though it is impossible to avoid injuring others entirely (i.e. on all levels of being and to any degree whatsoever), but when we do hurt someone we feel guilty. Another example is the act of thievery. No one believes deep down that stealing from another is a justifiable action. Even thieves lock up their stuff to keep it from being stolen. If they didn’t think stealing was wrong, why would they care? Dharma is a complex topic because, as you could probably tell from the first example, it is impossible to uphold or adhere to the ideal principles that constitute universal dharma in all situations. For instance, it is adharmic in principal to verbally abuse someone, but what if harsh words are the only way to get the person to listen to the hard truth concerning some issue and their attendance to that issue will be beneficial to the person or what is best for the whole in the long run? It is adharmic to hurt someone physically, but if a rapist is advancing upon a potential victim should the person not use the pepper spray at their disposal against the attacker? These are kind of ‘no-brainer’ examples, but if you carefully contemplate many situations with which you are confronted in life you can begin to see that the adherence to and application of dharmic sensibility is a rather tricky issue. Essentially, there are two kinds of dharma: universal and relative. Universal dharma consists of the ideals that govern which serve as our guiding light within the field. Relative dharma is our interpretation and application of the universal principle within the context of a specific situation with which we are faced.

The point of this mini-lesson in dharma in relation to your comment is that messages we receive from our causal body cannot be taken as the word of God, so to speak. The causal body is the storehouse of all vasanas and within that huge arena there exists a small file box for each jiva that contains that person’s ‘personal’ vasanas, which are the cluster of vasanas that are playing out through the upadhi or mind-body-sense complex that is recognized as that particular individual. Many of these vasanas were formed in past lives, some of which are being reinforced by present actions, and new vasanas are being created in this lifetime. It is this collection of vasanas that is being ‘consulted’ when the intellect must make a decision.

Some of these vasanas are beneficial in terms of one’s goal — which for us would be self-realization — and some are detrimental or what we call ‘binding’. Binding vasanas are those vasanas that are so powerful that they compel us to act at their behest, often in ways that serve only to veil our vision of our true unlimited nature and keep us bound to the wheel of samsara or suffering. That is, they keep us seeking joy in objects rather than resting in the knowledge that we are already whole and complete. Obviously, the nature of such vasanas is not conducive to freedom. The bottom line, then, is that the intellect shouldn’t just indiscriminately follow whatever advice, guidance, or orders it receives from the causal body. The vasanas should not be considered mandates. This is where free will enters the picture. One has to take into account what one’s goal is and then act in the way that will be most helpful in reaching that goal. If after careful consideration, the course of action ‘suggested’ by the vasanas seems beneficial, then one should seek to fulfill that desire; if not, then not.

Daniel: Technically, it sounds like there is no personal causal body.

Ted: I think we’ve covered this point.

Daniel: When it comes to the subtle body, it appears at least, that I have my own subtle body. Astrologers read people’s karmas registered in the subtle body. Each chart is unique. So this seems to imply different subtle bodies. But I am also not sure if this correct. Perhaps there is only one subtle body as well, with different data pertaining to different mind/ bodies? I am unclear. What is the proper view for inquiry?

Ted: Since this is a non-dual reality, there really is only one universal subtle body. As with the causal body, however, this one great subtle body gets apparently divided among the innumerable jivas inhabiting the gross and subtle planes of existence. An analogy that might help is to think of the apparent reality as a giant ocean and each of the jivas within it as singular aquariums. This analogy would work even better if you could consider even the glass walls of each aquarium to be somehow made of water. At any rate, though each aquarium is nothing but a small piece of the same ocean, each might contain different fish or seaweed or rocks or garbage or whatever. The apparatus of the subtle body is the same for each individual, but the appearances generated within it are different for each.

In any case, the most important thing to remember in terms of inquiry leading to moksha is that while the bodies are you (i.e. Awareness), you are none of these bodies and are ever untouched by the appearances that arise, abide, and subside within them. You are always free.

Daniel: The intellect cannot know the self. Not as an object. But somehow a shift happens and we get identified with self. I experience this as a stable ground. An inner detachment or lack of concern for events happening around me. I still get pricked by things, but the pain does not last. Is it accurate to say that the intellect is resting on the self? Is this what is meant by “resolute intellect”? i believe I’ve read this statement in Gita.

Ted: Because your understanding is at a very advanced stage, I’m going to nitpick here. Yes, it’s true that from the apparent individual’s point of view an apparent shift happens. BUT in the non-dual reality that is you, what is shifting to where? And who is it that is experiencing this ‘where’ as a stable ground?

I get what you mean, and you as an apparent individual are expressing it as well as it can be expressed by a limited individual using the limited mode of expression that language is. HOWEVER, it is important that you as awareness start to own yourself and stand with confidence in your true identity.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that you walk around talking about yourself in the third person and enacting all the bullshit behaviors associated with what we call ‘enlightenment sickness.’ I’m just clarifying a subtle point with regard to the ‘inner’ shift or shift in perspective that you are experiencing.

So now you see — or if you don’t already, this is the next step — Daniel get pricked by things and feel Daniel’s pain, but you no longer identify with being the one getting pricked and feeling the pain. Daniel is an appearance in you, but you are not Daniel. Daniel is a program that will continue to play out according to its design and you will witness and, given the genius of “Isvara Holographic Sensaround Home Entertainment System,” even experience David’s dramas. But you will know that you are untouched by whatever appears on the screen of your consciousness.

Along the same lines, a second nit worth picking is that of the intellect resting ‘on’ the self. Neither is there any object other than the self that could rest upon it nor is the self an object upon which anything could rest. You yourself are both the apparent ‘rester-uponer’ and that which it is resting upon.

Again, I get what you mean, but the use of language for you is crucial at this point. It would be more appropriate to say that you as awareness are abiding in your true nature. To the degree that this is an experience, you would say that you are seeing/experiencing the reflection of yourself in a pure mind. But when you understand who you are then it no longer matters what appears ‘in’ awareness, for you know you are the ever- present, all-pervasive awareness that is the substratum of the appearance just as the rope is the substratum of the apparent snake.

Perhaps you meant that the intellect is focusing attention on the self rather than on apparent objects. In this case, the same comments hold true, but, yes, that focused attention is what is referred to as a “resolute intellect.” It is concentrated and remains unfettered in the face of any apparent disturbances. Moreover, the knowledge informing it allows it to resolve both itself and all objects appearing within it into the pure awareness that is its true nature.

Daniel: It seems to me that this whole process is quite subtle. As if something that was always in the background is shifting more into the foreground… When I was young I remember being aware of this “me” inside that never got any older.

Ted: I totally get you. This was exactly my experience.

Daniel: And it was always with me. I tried to tell my parents about it, with the understanding that this must be true for everyone. When I started TM this became even more evident. Is this also what is referred to as the I Am? Is I Am same as Atman? Ted….ha ha, a few more questions for you!

Ted: Yep, this I Am is the Atman. Notice how Daniel is it, but it is not Daniel. Notice how Daniel began at some point (i.e. he appeared within awareness or Atman), but Atman was already ‘there’ in order to notice his beginning. Notice how you are that Atman and that that Atman is not over there somewhere but is the you that is noticing yourself, that knows yourself, that is your self.

Finally, notice how you don’t have to try to be yourself. You are Atman. And you couldn’t not be if you tried. In fact, don’t take my word for it. Try it. See if you can not be yourself as awareness.

Daniel: I’m contemplating on it…it stops the questioning dead in its tracks.

It must be Ishwara, or Grace that gives the final nudge because at this moment there’s just nothing more to be done…I’ve been done. I can acknowledge I am awareness. But it sounds funny and totally unnecessary to say it. I would be very hesitant to ever say it aloud. Like saying: I’m alive. Or telling someone face to face that I’m white. It would be silly. Does there come a point where one says This Is It? And when you say enlightenment is for the intellect, does this mean jiva. Jiva is the whole package of individuality yes? It seems like realization for the jiva simply means canceling of doership and relaxation. This comes through simple understanding of me as awareness. Correct?

Ted: Isvara does give the final nudge, but who is Isvara? And what is grace? Grace is both the effort Daniel put into his sadhana and the fruit of self-knowledge that he is now enjoying. Grace is earned from Daniel’s perspective; from your’s it is your very nature.

Ted: Along these lines, it might be more appropriate to say that Daniel has been done. Or even more to the point, Daniel is done. Though that is not exactly true either, for Daniel never began. He was only a mask you donned and then identified with so strongly you forgot who you were. But you were the one illumining the puppet and watching it play out its prarabdha the whole time.

And on that note, yes, it is completely unnecessary to announce enlightenment. Truly speaking, to whom would you be announcing it? There is no one else. And also truly speaking none of the other apparent entities really give a rat’s ass. They are too busy running on the hamster wheel of samsara to give any value to such a subtle understanding anyway – unless they could figure out a way to market it. Hey, ever thought about going on tour? Just kidding.

This is not to say, I don’t appreciate hearing about it. I’m thrilled that Vedanta has chalked up another happy customer. It is truly an infallible means of knowledge for those, like Daniel, who are qualified.

Enlightenment is for the intellect, the jiva, the whole package of individuality because you, awareness, already knew who you were all along, didn’t you? True, the mind didn’t know, Daniel’s mind didn’t know, but you knew. Nothing has changed except that — depending on the perspective from which you view it — either Daniel knows who he really is or you know you are not and have never been Daniel. Either way, it boils down to the knowledge “I am whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual, every present, all-pervasive awareness.”

So Daniel will carry on, but you can relax.

If the knowledge is hard and fast and you stand firmly and fully convicted in the knowledge “I am awareness,” then this is it.

Daniel: Haha… Aye Aye Aye…

The jiva is simply Atma under the influence of ignorance. And this ignorance being rooted in the intellect of the jiva, needs knowledge to correct the mistake. It basically boils down to this. I’ve read this and heard this many times, but I seem to be grasping it freshly. I am a bit embarrassed to need your validation (and clarification) because you have been saying the same thing in every dialogue from different angles. I feel stupid, like running around looking for my glasses, when I am wearing them! But there is a refinement happening here. And tremendous gratitude.

Ted: Please don’t feel stupid at all. This is the process. We all go through it. It takes hearing it over and over and over again. It’s so simple on the one hand. The conditioning is so strong on the other. Just keep vigilant, keep applying the knowledge, keep refining. Remember, as

James often reminds people, Ramana sat in the cave for 20 years after he got it and then spent the rest of his life reading scripture in order to refine and revel in the understanding.

Daniel: It’s amazing, concepts I’ve carried after all these years that turned out erroneous. Despite all my previous study, I still assumed this enlightenment would be marked by some significant life changing event out front in time. It turns out it is simply correcting the intellect, and making obvious what has been present from the get go. When you wrote the other night that the jiva (Daniel) was simply another object in awareness and that he is dependent on awareness, but awareness is never dependent on it, everything opened up. Of course doership is neutralized. How much say does a water molecule have in determining its direction? The jiva is basically just along for the ride. I’ve actually felt this for a few years at least.

Ted: You said it, brother. I kept waiting for the goddamned Blue Pearl to show up, envelop me, and then explode and bathe the universe in blue light and only God knows what then. Then one day, lo and behold, I realized that would just be another object…and I already had enough objects. I was a collector with a warehouse…hell, a whole world, in fact a universe…full of ’em…and that moreover the I I took myself to be was another one among the millions (oh, but what an important one — ha,ha)…and then pop went the weasel.

Daniel: Feel free to adjust my thinking if needed.

Ted: You are right on the money, Daniel. Just keep up the inquiry. Indulge that vasana until it withers away from its own exhaustion. And feel free to keep in touch.

Love,

Daniel

Ted: And love to you.

Your Vasanas Are What You Are Not

Hi again Ted.

Ted: Hi, Sanford.

That was really clearly explained, thank you for that.

Yes, acknowledging the emotions, or whatever else it arises and just let it be, not jumping on that wagon.

Ted: Exactly. Remember always that you are not ‘your’ emotions; the emotions or whatever else arises are simply objects appearing in you. Truly speaking, they have nothing to do with you. They are you (i.e. appearances in and made of awareness, like a dream), but you are ever free of them. The problem of agitation and suffering arises only when you lend these appearances meaning and thus power to affect you. For instance, if you can remain dispassionate and carefully observe the feeling of fear when it arises, you will see that it is nothing more than a physical sensation. If you simply feel the sensations and let them pass through you so to speak there is no problem. It would be like experiencing the sensation of ‘losing your stomach’ during a drop on a roller coaster ride. The problem arises when you begin to layer judgment upon that feeling. “I shouldn’t feel this. It is uncomfortable. I am a weak person because I feel fear. The universe is against me and _______ (fill in the blank with the catalyst) is a threat to my security and/or comfort.” It is the story that we build upon the simple sensation that causes the suffering and produces the vasanas that create more suffering and more vasanas and on and on and blah, blah, blah. You can feel the breeze, smell the smell, hear the sound of this wagon, but resist the temptation to hitch a ride.

Sanford: And there is a desire, a burning desire to be free, to just be me, no more hiding, no more pretending. But there at the same time I am noticing a desire to run away, to be in ‘spiritual conducive’ environment, where the conditions for realization would be auspicious. I heard James say that your parents are not your friends, not in a wrong way, but as being the hindrance to spiritual progress. One book it reads ‘leave your home place, be in solitude…’. It strikes a note. What is your take on it?

Ted: This is a great question. It brings up the issue of doing one’s duty in accordance with one’s temperament or what Vedanta calls svadharma. What this means is that it is imperative that you behave according to your programming. I realize that sounds a bit mechanistic, but the reality is that we all are simply programs (i.e. bundles of vasanas — likes and dislikes, desires and fears) that express through our mind-body-sense complex. These programs are what we refer to as our individual personality or persona. And, frankly, there are actually not that many different programs functioning through the inhabitants of the apparent reality. The number varies slightly depending upon the modality used to identify them, but any system there are no more than a dozen or so. Astrology, for instance, identifies twelve basic programs or complexes. The enneagram identifies nine. Though there are innumerable variations on the basic programs or complexes due to past and present actions (i.e. karma), the essential nature of each are readily identifiable.

More than simply being a cool method of categorizing and perhaps more effectively understanding oneself and the remainder of the human herd, however, familiarity with these programs can play a vital role in helping one determine the appropriate actions to take in terms of both worldly life and spiritual practice (i.e. sadhana). These vasana bundles are basically the likes and dislikes, desires and fears that gravitate to a mind-body-sense complex (i.e. person) appropriately suited for their expression through it. In other words, your vasanas are essentially what brought you here. This being the case, you cannot simply deny their presence or avoid their influence. If you take this tack with regard to the vasanas, they will only fight harder for your attention and at best their incessant badgering will continually agitate your mind or worse they will eventually find expression in inappropriate and/or even deviant ways. The vasanas therefore must be dealt with and ultimately neutralized through knowledge.

Though they seem to define who you are as an apparent person, it is important to understand is that, ironically, your vasanas are actually what you (i.e. the true you that is pure awareness) are not. This being the case, denying or avoiding vasanas robs you of the opportunity to confront and dispel the erroneous notions you have about yourself — basically your belief that you are incomplete and inadequate — in which they rooted. Understanding vasanas for what they actually are allows you to use them in an effective way to purify the mind.

Employing the ‘refraining from jumping on the wagon’ method discussed earlier, you observe the process that you go through when you ‘get your buttons pushed’ and a negative thought or feeling arises. First, identify what seems to be ‘the button pusher’ (i.e. the person, event, circumstance, etc., that disturbed you). Once you have done this, then it is essential — if you want to make spiritual progress — to let it go. In other words, you need to admit that whatever external object seems to be the issue is not really the issue, that the issue is in fact that a particular vasana-driven desire is not being satisfied (i.e. either you are not getting what you want or you are getting something you don’t want). Next, without judging yourself and the vasana/desire and consequent feeling as good or bad, allow yourself to feel it while at the same time refraining from any inappropriate outward expression of it. In this way, the vasana is acknowledged and given the freedom to express without being reinforced by association with it and further judgment about it, and because its energy is spent without being restored it will eventually burn out. Each such observance will lighten the vasana load and decrease the pressure the vasanas exert upon your mind and their power to extrovert it. Consequently, you will be able to more effectively practice self-inquiry, more readily experience the reflection of pure awareness in your mind, more soundly assimilate the knowledge of your true nature, and more confidently assume your identity as whole and complete, limitless, non-dual awareness. It can thus be seen that only by acting in accord with your nature can you effectively neutralize the vasanas that stand in the way of your liberation.

Though it might have seemed a bit broad in scope, a clear understanding of the reason why one should act in accordance with one’s personal nature is essential in order to properly address your question concerning what environment would be most conducive for your spiritual practice.

It is true, as James wrote, that your parents (i.e. the conditioning influence they represent) are not your friends in terms of your spiritual growth toward understanding and assuming a confident stance in your true nature. This is not to say, however, that you need necessarily cut them out of your life. It is probably best if you have the financial means to get out from under their roof, and it might be helpful to reduce your contact with them for a period of time, for it is important that you find your own footing as a mature and independent individual in order to build both confidence in yourself and to bolster your faith in Isvara’s benevolent hand. Whether this means moving into an apartment across town, spending time abroad in India, or retreating to an ashram or Himalayan cave is a matter you will have to settle for yourself.

In contemplating which alternative is best, keep in mind that Vedanta acknowledges two valid paths to self-realization/liberation: that of the householder and that of the renunciant. For one with very few vasanas and a temperament that can maintain total focus on self-inquiry 24/7 the life of a renunciant is the way to go. For one who still harbors a far share of vasanas and feels that there are experiences to have and/or responsibilities to uphold in the world, the path of the householder is better. If one simply retreats from the world out of fear without having neutralized one’s vasanas, one’s mind will be riddled with agitation in the form of desire for denied experience and/or guilt for having shirked one’s responsibilities.

In this case, it is better for one to stay in the world and use every experience and encounter as a means of practicing karma yoga.

Unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt — and I repeat beyond a shadow of a doubt — that you are ready for a life of renunciation, I suggest you stay in the world and do your inquiry there. Only about 2% of the population is ready for renunciation as a lifestyle. Furthermore, true renunciation is not a matter of fleeing from the world anyway. Rather, it is an inner attitude of detachment from objects and dispassion regarding the results of your actions. When you no longer see the world as the world but instead realize its essential nature as awareness, then you have become a true renunciant.

Ted: Having said all this, it is worth reiterating two points. First, it is important that you cultivate a sense of independence and a healthy disregard for what others think of you or what is best or right for you. This is your life. What is best for you is for you to decide. Second, it is vitally important to cultivate as simple and quiet a life as possible in order to do effective self-inquiry, so you should take the measures necessary to let go of relationships and break attachments to objects that interfere with maintaining your focus on your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

Thank you Ted, once again.

With love,

Hari OM

Sanford

Ted: Love to you too, Sanford.