Ted: Hi, Sanford.
Sanford: What can I say but that I could not be happier with the blessing of your clear and insightful explanation into the nature of things. I read it few times already, maybe I will have to read it again.
Yes, I agree about the fear or any other emotion whatsoever, it is just an energy, a motion in subtle body. But it is carried or shall we say perpetuated by a thought, conditioning, an idea, (vasana) which keeps it there and is responsible for its reappearance. This pulls can get strong, and are many times instinctual, unconscious.
Ted: Yes, the vasanas are for the most part so deeply ingrained that they out-picture unconsciously. They are both the impetus that compels you to seek fulfillment or happiness in certain objects (i.e. physical objects, circumstances, encounters, events, interactions, relationships, mental states, transcendental states, etc.) and also to interpret the objects you do encounter in a subjective way that may or may not directly reflect the ‘reality’ of the object.
For instance, I may have a desire for a blonde, blue-eyed, big-breasted woman, which compels me to go the local pick-up joint and subject myself to an atmosphere characterized by extroverting elements such as loud music, flashing lights, shallow and suggestive talk, flirtatious body language, excessive drinking, self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing thoughts, and manipulative scheming. Furthermore, once I find myself in this context, my likes and dislikes, desires and fears will color my interpretation of these various stimuli. I might like the music or think it sucks. I might get angry with the bartender because I feel he short-poured my drink or if the bartender happens to be a she who is blonde, blue-eyed, and big-breasted I might get aroused thinking of her as a potential sex partner. I will interpret myriad stimuli throughout the night and suffer or enjoy the resultant emotions according to the way my vasanas dictate.
In this regard, it is important to understand several things about the vasanas.
First, because the vasanas reside or are stored in the causal body, which is subtler than the intellect, we can never see our vasanas directly. For this reason, it can be said that the actions that compelled by their pull or directives are instinctual or unconscious.
Second, the way you become conscious of your vasanas is by observing your likes and dislikes, your desires and fears, your attitudes and behaviors, and your mental and emotional reactions to various objects. These are all rooted in and influenced to a greater or lesser degree by your vasanas.
Third, in order to neutralize the binding vasanas (i.e. those vasanas that compel you to act in self-debasing, self-deprecating, and self-depraved ways and to thus violate dharma), it is necessary to cultivate a predominately calm, peaceful, discriminating, and dispassionate mind (i.e. a sattvic mind), for this quality of mind provides the clearest mirror by which to see, identify, and objectively evaluate these tendencies in terms of the values required to reach the goal of self-realization/liberation.
Sanford: We can say that it runs in the family, as my parents consciously or unconsciously, knowingly or unknowingly instilled their fears and the sense of caring what other people think. I know that I need to disassociate with my parents as you say, at least for a crucial period of this period of intense sadhana.
Ted: Though disassociating with all influences that run contrary to your sadhana is advisable, it is equally advisable that this disassociation be executed with a sense of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Your parents and anyone else for that matter can’t help being the way they are any more than you can help being the way you are. They are simply products and purveyors of their own conditioning. So harbor no blame. You may hate the sin, so to speak, but don’t hate the sinner. Still, you should do what you need to do for yourself in order to break the cycle of ignorance and realize your truth as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness. Whether they ever get it or not.
Sanford: If I understand correctly, this unconscious seeds that are the cause for our irrational worries and fears, can become conscious by making the mind more serene, more pliant, and more wise, so it can therefore use more of it’s energies and focus on knowing who Am I really.
Ted: Yes. Refer to the third point of understanding regarding the vasanas made earlier.
Sanford: To just give you one example, when talking to someone under spell of fear, it shows as dithering and trembling voice and when I notice that that person might have noticed, it only keeps the irrationality alive.
Ted: It’s okay, Sanford. Go easy on yourself. It is great that you notice this now and can use it as a prompt for self-inquiry. This means that the tendency is no longer unconscious. Now you can see it in the light of day and know it for what it is. It will eventually exhaust itself. Just stay vigilant and resist reacting to the pull of the vasana as best you can.
Truly speaking, there is really nothing you can do about the vasanas. They are not you. You didn’t choose them. All the vasanas are Isvara’s vasanas. This doesn’t mean that you cannot manage them and should not work on neutralizing them. Their eradication, however, will not ultimately be due to will power on your part. Even if you were able to get rid of them through personal will, doing so would not remove the essential culprit in their formation and so new vasanas would simply spring up from the ruins of the old.
The vasanas are the offspring of ignorance. They are born of the erroneous belief that you are incomplete and inadequate, that you are a separate individual person who is ill equipped to navigate the rocky and treacherous terrain of the dualistic and inherently competitive world.
Self-knowledge is therefore the only viable and lasting means of cancelling the doer or limited ego and rendering the vasanas non-binding.
Sanford: I guess my good habit vasana for self-inquiry is not strong enough, it doesn’t kick in straight away.
Ted: Well, the way to develop any habit is to keep at it. Keep monitoring your thoughts and emotions. Keep reminding yourself of who you really are. Eventually, this habit will become hard and fast knowledge in which you stand with full and unshakeable confidence. This is why the path requires courage. Don’t give up.
Sanford: Need to crack up the practice. I heard James mentioning technique of Byron Katie, what is your view on it?
Ted: I agree with James that this method is a valuable aid to sadhana. It is an entry-level technique you might say because it gives more credence to the individual identity than it deserves, but that is okay. You’ve got to start somewhere. Despite what the half-baked neo-advaitans say, you can’t just drop your identification with being a person on the spot. After so many years (lifetimes?) of conditioning, it is a rather hard habit to break.
So, as long as you see yourself as a person, my advice is to practice karma yoga and implement the Byron Katie technique along with continuing to expose and re-expose yourself over and over to the teachings of Vedanta via James’ book, website, and video talks. And, of course, our satsangs.
Sanford: You gave me a lot to think about the svadharma, momentarily it all looks like a mess, little bit of this and little bit of that, what do I really want is still in an infancy and that is probably also part of the problem of insecurity, of not doing the vocation of this lifetime. If someone would ask me what I would like to do, or ‘be’ some time ago, I would answer a musician, be involved in creative work, then later on I would say that I want to help others in my best abilities, so I can study psychology, get instructed for care taker, start volunteering at the hospice, shelter, etc.
Ted: These are beautiful and potentially dharmic ambitions, but just be sure to help yourself first before running off the save others.
Sanford: Hope it makes sense what came through in this email, I also feel quite often the hesitation what and how to write, as trying to be ‘perfect’, probably ruining the flow of spontaneity.
Ted: Fuck trying to be perfect, Sanford. You already are perfect. And there is nothing you can do about it. This is the most essential teaching of Vedanta. The only reason you don’t recognize your perfection is because your belief that you are not so. Keep practicing as advised and the dragon of this belief will be slain by the knight of self-knowledge.
Thank you, Ted, thank you for handling this persona of Sanford so well and giving your precious help.