Ted: Hi, Sanford.
Sanford: I have been meaning to ask you about the spiritual practice and psychological work.
When would you say it is vital to address first the emotional issues, to gain more stable and confident mind to inquire more efficiently? I heard about this so called spiritual by-pass, trying to skip the traumas with higher knowledge. They say it does not work. Swami Dayananda was surprised how many western students were suffering low self-esteem, which is major hindrance to successful spiritual work. I kind of see myself in that group, had major depression 5 years ago, which catapulted me onto this search, but left a sense of aloofness, detachment, which in a way is great thing, but at the same time the sense of relating to fellow humans dwindled.
Ted: It is important to acknowledge emotions and emotional issues as they arise. It is equally important not to judge them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but to simply see them as appearances within awareness and thus remain unattached to them. You want to stay away from saying, “I am sad” or “I am mad” or “I am glad” or what have you. Always remember that you (i.e. Awareness) are never any of these feelings. They are you in the sense that they appear within you and you experience them, but you are ever free of them. It is best to simply watch them as you would a good movie. If you stand with conviction on the platform of awareness and view the play of emotions from there, it can even become fun and entertaining. You can get to the point where you can observe your anger for instance and think to yourself, “Wow, what an intense expression and how deeply felt it is. This is truly a five-star anger. Sanford surely deserves an Academy Award (or the British equivalent) for that incredible display. What a convincing performance. Bravo!” Responding in this way kind of takes the piss out of the emotions.
Regarding psychological work, Vedanta doesn’t really prescribe a process of digging into the remote past and sorting through all the dramas and traumas that have produced any present emotional reaction or state. The root issue in all such past experiences is simply that someone or something made you feel that you were incomplete and inadequate. Vedanta counters this erroneous conclusion with a score of teachings that directly demonstrate your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, non-dual awareness. Rather than picking through the puddle — or pond or lake or ocean – of mental and emotional vomit looking for what exactly it was that made you sick, we say it is better to simply examine your experience of life using the logic of Vedanta and in that way come to terms with your true nature. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, self-knowledge in the best purifier.
In fact, continually dwelling on past events, experiences, encounters, and interactions actually serves to sustain your identification with the very person from whom you are seeking to be liberated. It is best to let the past go.
Moreover, Vedanta says that you really don’t have to dig into the past to find out what’s bothering you anyway. All you have to do is look at the present situation and see that the whole issue revolves around you not getting what you want. And the most effective means of dealing with this predicament is to identify what it is that you want but are not getting and then to inquire into why you think you need that thing, what you believe you are missing without that thing. Consider your desire for the object (i.e. any physical object or circumstance or feeling or experience or whatever) in terms of the teachings of Vedanta and in light of what you know about who you really are. Once you see that you are already whole and complete, all- pervasive awareness and that you are the very source of the joy or peace you are seeking through the object, then you can more readily let go of your desire for the object and the consequent ill feelings you are experiencing in response to your not having it.
This is not to say that you should deny the emotions as they arise. On the contrary, acknowledge them and allow yourself to feel them fully if you wish, but refrain from blaming someone or something else for their existence. It might feel just to blame someone else, but this is detrimental to your spiritual growth. If you truly desire enlightenment or freedom from dependence on objects, then you have to be willing to give up the blame game, which includes not blaming yourself. The emotions are there, so be it. See them, but don’t be them if you know what I mean.
I hope this helps, Sanford. Please let me know if you need further clarification or have further questions regarding this issue or any other.
Thank you and bless you.
Ted: Love to you as well.