Breaking the Bad Habit of “Me”

Hi Ted:

Thanks again for your detailed reply to me.

Ted:  My pleasure.  Hope it helped.

Porter:  Your last title for our e-satsang reminds me of Douglas Harding’s “On Having No Head” which I used to be into at one point.

Ted:  I used to love his experiments, and in fact I still reflect on the one that proves gravity is a subjective experience every time I notice myself pissing upwards :-).

Porter:  Just got finished watching Tattva Bodh today.  Good stuff…I love James’ rants…

Ted:  Me too.  Believe it or not, however, there are more than a few in the “spiritual” world who think that such “soap box soliloquies” disqualify James’ from “enlightened” status, for no discriminately-dispassionate-and-detached-yet-unconditionally-compassionate-and-caring soul could, would, or should ever utter a harsh word or make a critical comment.  Bunch of lily-livered thin-skins in my book, but ya gotta love ‘em.  Granted, politeness (i.e. dharma, or ethical law) is the most appropriate response in most cases, but that doesn’t mean that a good rant isn’t called for in some.  As James points out, the truth needs to be defended against idiots.  And often, if not invariably, a hearty dose of satire is more effective than the harsh swordplay of angry words.  The bottom line is that there is nothing personal when James’ pokes fun at the erroneous notions and eccentric behaviors of “spiritual” seekers.  First of all, he is the first to admit that he tried all of the same daffy tactics himself.  Secondly, he is simply pointing out the illogical nature of such notions and behaviors and, thus, their ultimate futility in granting permanent freedom.  Isn’t this actually more compassionate than supporting an erroneous belief that serves only to sustain and even strengthen one’s ignorance of the truth simply because one “shouldn’t” ever hurt another’s feelings?  I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the measure of compassion doesn’t equate with having become a mindless sheep.

Okay, end of rant :-).

Porter:  Is there or was there a point for you, where you were done and you knew it?  In other words, the click happened, ignorance was dispelled, seeking ended, and you had no more questions?

Ted:  Yes.

There did come a point at which I no longer had any doubt whatsoever about my true identity.  It must be understood, however, that I didn’t gain anything from this realization that I didn’t already have.  I simply understood that I am limitless awareness.  It became crystal clear that no object — and by “object” I mean any apparently existent phenomenon, gross or subtle, objective or abstract, including even the concept of non-existence — had any independent existence “outside” me or, for that matter, was anything other than me.  I realized that there is no realm “outside” me, for essentially there is nothing other than me.  No matter what Ted saw, heard, felt, tasted, smelled, felt emotionally, thought, remembered, conjectured, imagined, believed, didn’t believe, knew, didn’t know, desired, feared, loved, hated, etc., all such experience was simply an appearance made of, arising from, abiding within, and dissolving back into me, pure limitless awareness.  While all these phenomena come and go, I remain ever the same, untouched by any of them despite their quality and any judgment Ted may have about them.  And, what’s more, I realized this had always been the case.  Ted’s entire life has simply been an appearance within me.

Now, just to be clear, that does not mean that Ted’s entire life has simply been an appearance within Ted.  Ted is an appearance within me.  Just as Porter is an appearance within me.  Just as James, Jesus, the Buddha, Hitler, Charles Manson, MLK, Abe Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Babe Ruth, Magic Johnson, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Madonna, Oprah, Elvis, and Cher are all appearances within me.  When under the apparent spell of ignorance (maya) and thus conditioned by the limiting adjunct (upadhi) of the mind-body-sense complex, the scope of my awareness becomes limited to that of the given apparent individual from whose perspective I am looking, and so I, having assumed the identity of the apparent individual, don’t appear to see and know everything from that particular perspective.  Indeed, it is impossible that I enjoy omniscience, omnipotence, or omnipresence from this perspective because the very existence/appearance of each mind-body-sense complex is necessarily limited in character and scope, for otherwise it could not be identified or defined as an apparent individual.  Hence, I, as any given apparent individual, only seem to know that which is known by that particular individual.  This is why no apparent individual can get inside the mind of another apparent individual.  From the apparent individual’s perspective, each apparent individual’s mind is limited to the parameters of the particular mind-body-sense complex with which he or she is associated and by which he or she is defined.  However, when I as pure awareness temporarily forfeit my identification with the apparent individual in periods of dreamless sleep or thought-free meditative states, I experience my true limitless nature.

Porter:  James talks about the firefly effect…was that part of your experience?

Ted:  Yes.

From what I can tell, this pretty much happens with everybody.  It is simply due to the fact that the conditioning that leads one to believe that one is an individual person is deeply ingrained in one’s psyche and it takes time to recondition the mind to think in accordance with the truth.  It is like breaking any bad habit.  At first it requires great effort to resist the old behavioral and thinking patterns.  In the case of self-inquiry, this is not effort in the sense of practices that produce specific experiential states, but rather the repeated application of self-knowledge that eventually eradicates ignorance.  Once you have reacquainted yourself with your true nature enough times, so to speak, you eventually gain full confidence in your true identity and your tendency to identify with the apparent limitation of the mind-body-sense complex ceases once and for all.  You simply know better and can no longer buy into the bullshit that you are anything other than limitless awareness.  You break the bad habit of the apparent “me,” and acknowledge the fact, “I am ever free.”

Again, just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that the apparent individual suddenly evaporates in a blinding flash of white light and merges with the universal pool of non-dual existence.  The apparent world continues to appear just as it does now and the apparent transactions within it continue to carry on just as they do now and the apparent individual continues to perceive, feel, think, and act just as apparent individuals do.  The difference is that you know it is all essentially a cosmic dream rather than reality, and hence you no longer suffer in the face of the inevitable ups and downs of life in the same way as when you believe them to be real and to have an impact on you one way or another.  Now you know that no apparent object or event can enhance, diminish, or affect you in any way whatsoever.  You as pure limitless awareness remain untouched, unsullied, and unchanged no matter what happens.  And this fact you no longer have to take anyone’s word for.  It has become your experience due to knowledge.  You simply “see”/understand/realize that nothing ever has or ever will affected you. No matter what has happened, how you have felt about it, or what you have thought about it, you have never changed.  All such phenomena have simply appeared within you, pure limitless awareness.

Porter:  I can see continuing to study Vedanta after realization especially if one wants to teach, but if one’s goal is freedom, would continued study be necessary after the firefly effect has passed?

Ted:  No.

Once realization has liberated you, nothing more is required or necessary. You are free to do, not do, or otherwise do.  In other words, freedom means you are free from Porter altogether, so Porter can and will do whatever his karma dictates.

It is advisable, however, to continue to monitor the mind until you are sure that the ego hasn’t co-opted your “enlightenment.”  Always remember that “enlightenment” is not for Porter, but from Porter.  In other words, Porter the apparent individual does not become “enlightened.”  You, the self, limited awareness, realize you are not Porter.  You might find that Porter — i.e. the ego — is a pesky bastard, however, and it may take some time to put an end to his sense of propriety.  Hence, it is said that the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

Porter:  Your new site looks great!  You’ve put a lot of work into it and it feels really complete.  Hope some of our exchange will be useful to others in Vedantaland.  I, for one, really enjoy reading the e-satsangs on Shining World.  I’m still making my way through the book sequentially.  On the chapter about love currently.

Ted:  Thanks for the kind words.  I hope others can benefit from our exchanges as well.  I know that the satsangs on Shiningworld played an invaluable role in my sadhana.

Porter:  Anyway, hope you’re having a good weekend.  Take care and be well…


Ted:  I am and hope you are too.