Thanks for getting back to me so soon. You’ve given me a lot to chew on and I appreciate you taking the time to write back.
I agree that I have been seeking an experiential epiphany in the practices I’ve been doing. I just read Ch. 2 of James’ book tonight which has cleared up many misconceptions I’ve had. Defining it as a knowledge problem is something I’ve never heard from any other teacher. I’ve heard the injunction to stop seeking, but it seems until the mind clears up its ignorance, the gnawing of seeking will continue in some shape or form.
Ted: This is true and is why the modern teachings don’t work. They do speak the ultimate truth, but they provide no means of assimilating it. It’s like telling a kid in high school physics to just stop studying and get string theory. Probably ain’t gonna happen.
Porter: It seems like the only answer is to use the tools that Vedanta provides at clearing up the ignorance.
Ted: Sound conclusion. There may be other ways, though I’ve never found one, but even if you were to discover one, my bet is that the basic principles and practices for purifying the mind would essentially equate with those prescribed by Vedanta. Of course, as many modern seekers assert, since you are not a doer and it’s all up to Isvara anyway, you could simply wait around for grace. The fly in that ointment, however, is that Isvara’s “will” — which is actually an erroneous way of putting it since Isvara is simply a personification of the dharmas — i.e. the impersonal physical, psychological, and ethical laws that govern the spontaneous operation of the apparent reality — rather than some grand god orchestrating the universe according to some personal agenda, and his/her/its “will” reveals itself through the apparent choices and actions of apparent individuals. In other words, as James often says, grace is earned (at least from the apparent individual’s perspective).
Porter: I usually use the I Am in my mind to keep it from spinning off into stories. Is this the same as saying I am whole, unlimited, complete awareness?
Ted: Depends on your understanding of I AM. If you equate I AM with somehow being Porter, then no. If the I AM is some subtle object, which the placement of the word “the” directly preceding it suggests, then no. If I AM denotes you, the awareness of which all objects — including Porter — are made, out of which they all arise, in which they all abide, and back into which they all subside, and you know this awareness to be nothing other than yourself, then yes.
Porter: I’m eager to get the f*&% out of Ohio for the winter to study this stuff. I was at a Sivananda ashram for a yoga teacher training about 5 years ago and thought that may be a good place to be to go further with this stuff. What are your thoughts? I like how James is able to Westernize Vedanta in a way that is much more accessible than what I got at Sivananda (although it was useful in many ways).
Ted: Though I am not thoroughly familiar with the way Vedanta is taught at the Sivananda ashram, I do know several people who have gone through the yoga teacher training and spent extensive periods of time in the ashram. And since none of them know who they are, I’m guessing that Vedanta is not taught effectively there. The only teaching lineage — at least in America — I have come across that teaches it properly is that of Swami Dayananda and the swamis he has trained. Even James says that his chief influence as a teacher is Swami Dayananda. Swami Dayananda has an ashram in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania called Arsha Vidya Gurukulum. There is a link to its website on the Recommended Sites page on the Shiningworld website, or you can just Google it. If you want to spend time in an ashram, then that is the place I would suggest.
Porter: Do you keep your mouth shut about Vedanta unless someone is genuinely curious?
Ted: Yep. Years of experience have taught me that there is no point it talking to someone who isn’t interested. I may throw out a few ideas to test the waters, so to speak, to see how someone reacts, to see if their ears perk up. But Vedanta is really the last ditch effort for most people. In most cases, the world needs to wear one out before one is ready to listen. Which is fine. We are not out to save the world. The world is perfect as it is. Some of the prisoners . . . er, partiers, however, are ready to call it a night and are seeking a reliable ride home. Their memory being a bit foggy due to the intoxication of extroverting tendencies, such people may have a few questions concerning how to get there. These are the ones to whom you can offer some help.
Porter: I’m certainly not evangelical, but there is an urge to share this…mostly, to explain it to my girlfriend as it helps my own understanding. Do you attempt to explain to family/friends what you’re interested in?
Ted: If they are interested. To be honest, however, other than when I’m teaching high school, I spend as little time as possible around those who are not interested. I don’t think such people are bad or wrong or that they should be interested. They are awareness just as much as me. There is no difference. They are the self now, whether they realize it or not. But that doesn’t mean I need to distract myself with the same petty concerns with which they choose to distract themselves.
Porter: Anyway, my mind is pretty exhausted from reading tonight. But, thanks again for your response to me. I really appreciate it. I will sleep on what you’ve said and I’m sure I’ll have questions as I go.
Ted: The pleasure is mine.
Take care and be well…