I have just ordered a copy of “How to Attain Enlightenment” – waiting for it to arrive.
Began reading the 1st kindle chapter given by Amazon with my order and I AM HAVING SOME FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS.
I would classify myself as an Ex-Meditator and now seem to be stuck in a mess of attachment, disillusionment, fear and old belief systems attached to an organisation, cult, guru, etc – namely the Brahma Kumaris (BK Raja Yoga).
A teacher with knowledge of the BK’s would be helpful, but I’m certain I can get out of this rut with the help of anyone who is placed in front of this email.
MY PROBLEM / BLESSING ???
Is after beginning a life devoted to mediation, knowledge, karma yoga and the virtue, at the age of 18 (note – this body is now 48) I had a near death experience (at around 33). I drowned and passed over, was rescued and passed over again.. and the third time I willed my own passing over before an ambulance crew could arrive.
The resulting experience was highly spiritual, enlightening and revealing.. With everything supporting the fact that:
- There was a higher, purer, presence beyond the bodily experience and I was ‘of it’ or made of the same stuff, the same consciousness (we can call that God or Shiva, etc)
- I had no identity with THE body, (the traumatic, spluttering and unpleasant experience of what the body was going through post drowning, was completely contrast and oblivious to the very, very, very pleasant, peaceful, loving, blissful experience every time my awareness shifted between body and Self.)
- I was still a self observing this more subtle experience and could even observe my own attachments in the material world, without attachment to them.
- And that even beyond the body there was a projection happening from myself onto what was to be experienced. (Or what was presented to me IN DEATH was being filtered through my experience so I could relate to it)
An example for the later being that “I saw Jesus”, BUT just before I could get all hallelujah, the Subtle figure transformed into my Brahma Kumaris Guru…
This awareness left me believing that a Christian will see Christ upon death, and therefore for him.. Christianity (at that moment) will be true… But for me.. that BOTH are untrue and true.
NOTE: My main two spiritual influences during my life thus far was a self found Christian youth (alter boy) and then a self found BK Raja Yoga adulthood (Hindu monastic).
Happy to give a full account of the near death story, but guessing it’s not required. So… to cut a long story short, the following weeks after the Near Death Experience were quite profound.
For many days after I was seeing this reality as if matter had been simply lifted off.. and that all my previous projections inward to a GOD (Shiva) had still been projected OUTSIDE the universe and that God.. While the truth was that IT is all actually right here, right now. No need to struggle to transport the soul out to some bodiless experience, just lift all the veils!
Ted: Yes, this is a non-dual reality. Awareness is both the nimitta karanam, the “substanceless substance” that is the material cause of the manifest universe on both its subtle and gross levels, and the upadana karanam, the intelligent “cause” of the universe. In its aspect as intelligent cause, however, awareness should be understood as simply the illuminating factor in which all objective phenomena are known. Given that pure awareness has not attributes, it has no capacity to perform any action and, thus, is neither the “knower” of objects in the relative sense of being the knowing entity within the knower-known duality nor the “projector” of the manifestation. All projection of all nama-rupa, names and forms, is a result of the vikshepa shakti, the projecting power, of Maya, or macrocosmic ignorance. Thus, the illumination by means of which all objects are known—and, hence, “caused”—is not an action on the part of awareness, but simply its svarupam, its intrinsic nature. Just as the sun doesn’t do anything to illumine the world, so awareness doesn’t do anything to illumine experience. Awareness is, and thus objects are known—including the subtle body of the apparent individual person. Hence, in terms of the apparent individual, the subtle machine of the mind that performs the function of thinking is illumined by the “light” of awareness and consequently the vrittis, thought-modifications, that arise in the mind by means of perception, imagination, or memory, become known objects to the relative knower subject that is the person.
The point is that, just as you say, awareness is the ever-present adhishthanam, substratum, of all objects, and, therefore, one need not transport the soul (i.e., subtle body) to some bodiless experience. You, awareness, are already bodiless. The body—not to mention the entire manifest universe—is simply an object appearing within in the scope of your being.
Quentin: I saw life as Light.. even colour was lifting away, everything around me and especially everyone appeared as bodies of subtle light, distinguishable not by their looks or their matter, but by their energetic flavour.
Ted: So you were tuning into the subtle bodies rather than the gross. Because they can be “seen” or experienced or identified, both are nothing more than objects appearing within you, pure awareness. Though objects, both subtle and gross, are made of awareness, no object—or event the entire array of all objective phenomena taken as a collective whole—can comprehensively define or delineate that which is limitless and, thus, without characteristics or edges by which it can be distinguished.
Quentin: This was followed by some pretty prophetic visions… Powerful and almost beyond my understanding.. but very real. and I still feel the connection to the group of souls/angels/spirits who showed me their plane and their spiritual work..
Ted: Again, profound as these visions may have been, the entities you encountered were nothing more than objects appearing within you, awareness. As you alluded to earlier through your insight that a Christian will see Christ upon death, the subtle imagery that we encounter in dreams and mystical visions is simply a product of our conditioned beliefs and concepts. That is, we see images that represent our beliefs, desires, fears, concepts, etc.
Quentin: The result of all this.. was a crossroad. I could accept this new level of enlightenment / awareness…
Ted: Please don’t take this as a personal affront, but this wasn’t really “enlightenment” for two fundamental reasons. First, no experience qualifies as moksha, which means “freedom” and connotes liberation from dependence on objects/experiences for happiness, since freedom is by definition limitless and all experience is time-bound (i.e., has a beginning and an end). Second, no knowledge of the non-dual, limitless nature of reality resulted from the experience.
Quentin: …learn to convert the experience into a more stable Self Knowledge.. become a student and a teacher of it….
Ted: This is actually the proper use of experience. Experience itself is simply a decaying time-capsule that contains knowledge. As such, its only real value in terms of spiritual growth is the knowledge one gleans from it.
Quentin: …OR… Thrust myself back into as many gross, physical habits as possible.. drinking, drugs, sex, adultery, ego, fame, commercial success.. Knowing full well that the MADNESS would go away…
Ted: Well, obviously, it didn’t go away in the sense that it was not resolved through understanding into the pure awareness that is its substratum and essential nature. If such had taken place, you wouldn’t still be experiencing a fundamental problem.
Of course, it only stands to reason that the assimilation of self-knowledge does not occur through an extroverted mind that is pre-occupied with objects. Because pure awareness is non-objectifiable it can never be known as an object. But because pure awareness is the fundamental reality of the entire manifestation and the apparent individual is part of that manifestation, pure awareness can be known as one’s very own self. In fact, since it cannot be objectified, pure awareness, the fundamental reality, is only available for recognition as one’s very own self, the eternal subject behind the relative subject (i.e. the apparent individual person).
Hence, while the “madness” of the apparent reality is in a constant state of flux and so any particular object or experience will inevitably end, and the whole affair may come to a relative end for the apparent individual upon the eventual demise of his body, and the entire manifestation might even seemingly cease altogether at the time of pralaya, the cosmic dissolution, all such ends constitute only the temporary disappearance of particular objective forms within the eternal “light” of awareness.
Quentin: I chose the later. 🙁
Ted: Obviously not in that it didn’t resolve the fundamental problem of the underlying sense of incompleteness and inadequacy that is the cause of existential insecurity and suffering.
Quentin: I have always said that it was for the sake of my family and young children (of that time).. all attachments which had been stretched and then snapped by the Near Death experience.. I went that far into the death experience that I still vividly remember those strings or bonds to my children breaking.. and returning to them, still ‘knowing’ they were my children, but feeling like they were strangers.
In truth.. Quentin was scared!
Scared of being judged a loony or a weird hippy prophet by my non-spiritual ‘performance career’ friends.
Scared of being labelled even more of a Weirdo, by my dysfunctional non-supportive family.
Scared of being ostracised by my spiritual organisation for daring to have insights beyond their cemented dogma.
This body was born in an outback Australian town and into a family with absolutely no experience with Yoga.
I was introverted, bullied, labelled and eluded as a child. I was highly spiritual from birth and had absolutely no spiritual support. I was awkward and far too intense as serious as a teenager.
I clung to the Brahma Kumaris because they provided a spiritual family I never had, even though I was never IN the inner circle.. I always felt at home and loved and welcomed no matter which city I arrived in, around the world.. Strangers quickly became family, as long as I didn’t share my doubts, and made double sure to stick to the script!
And to top it all off I have recently become disillusioned with my old guru (who claimed to be channelling god Shiva’s words), in that it has only just come out the official fairy story version of his sudden enlightenment and purity was actual made up and heavily edited upon his death. And a few sexual discrepancies thrown in. 🙁
Ted: So, spiritually speaking, the “same old, same old.” All the gods have feet of clay. Hopefully, it has become obvious to you that any organization or religion or tradition that asks you to “stick to the script” is not valid.
In this regard, though Vedanta does have a traditional teaching methodology based on the truths contained in the scripture, it does not require you to believe anything. In fact, it discourages mere belief and adherence to dogma. It does ask that you extend provisional faith in its teachings to the effect that you listen to them with an open mind in order that you actually hear and understand what is being said. Beyond that, you are only to accept that which you have personally verified through a scrupulous analysis of your own experience in light of the teachings. Moreover, it encourages you to raise every conceivable question you can muster until every last doubt concerning the veracity of the teachings has been removed, for only when all doubt has been laid to rest will mere belief be truly transformed into unshakeable knowledge.
Quentin: So here I am…
In the last two years I have found the most wonderful, loving, supportive and spiritual partner. The hot girlfriend I always wanted when I was a troubled teenager, balanced with a beautiful spirit – dedicated to daily ‘I Am’ inquiry, mediation and yoga (and she’s free from any cult or organisation). 😀
Ted: Good for you…and her.
Quentin: So Why Can’t I Meditate?
Every time I sit in any of my previously mastered states of awareness and SELF…
Ted: I’m going to stop you right there. The self is not a state. It is the awareness in which all states appear and are experienced. All states prevail for a longer or shorter period of time, but all, as your own experience clearly reveals, inevitably end. All states are nothing more than objective phenomena appearing within you, awareness. So it really doesn’t matter what state you seem to be in, for the reality is that any and all states are actually in you. From a Vedantic viewpoint, meditation is a platform for self-inquiry. While any traditional meditation technique is valid as a means of quieting the mind, the ultimate value of meditation is the opportunity it affords for one to recognize the one who knows the objects appearing in the mind and who continues to obtain even in the absence of all objective phenomena (i.e. in the space between breaths or repetitions of the mantra, or simply as the ever-present “witness” of all the phenomena arising and subsiding in the “theater” of the mind).
Quentin: I get tangled in old dogma, anger, apathy, confusion and attachment and loyalty to my old spiritual family… I know longer know what to believe.. What’s my knowledge and what’s not?
Ted: Knowledge is not something that belongs to you. Knowledge is you. That is, you, awareness, are of the nature of pure knowledge. As previously explained, you are not the relative knower of objects. Rather you are the “light” of awareness or knowledge-as-such by means of which objects are illumined and knowing takes place in the mind.
Moreover, a possession is something that can be obtained and lost. Knowledge, however, is your very nature. And you cannot lose yourself. Think about it. Can you identify a time when you were not? Has there ever been an experience for which you were not present? Even were you to say that you were not present before you were born, there has to have been an awareness of the fact that you were not yet born, and who is it that knows that? Sure, the person you appear to be has not always been present, and there will inevitably be a time when this person is no longer present. But there has never been a time when you, awareness, were not present. All objects depend for their existence on awareness—for how else would their existence be confirmed?—and, therefore, you, awareness must always be.
Quentin: Every time I get close to that observer awareness, all the old blocks that I put up during the near death experiences come flooding back.
Ted: Who’s observing Quentin and all the old blocks? You cannot be any object that you “see” (i.e. perceive, conceive, or experience in any way whatsoever), and thus you are actually neither Quentin nor the blocks that “come flooding back.”
Quentin: My partner does a simple “I Am” Deepak Chopra mediation/chant daily, and I have trouble even doing that because it feels so basic and westernised for my taste. I get all righteous about MY ((albeit discarded) knowledge of ‘OM’ and the Vedas and Upanishads – My ego feels like a master who’s been put back in kindergarten. Even though its probably? exactly what I need to be doing? And in fact have started doing daily regardless.
Ted: There is nothing simpler or closer to the truth than the knowledge “I am.” Understanding what I am, what the true nature of “I” is, is the important part. You can affirm the fact that you “are” till you are blue in the gills, but unless you understand what you are, the repetition of this self-evident fact won’t make any difference. Assimilating self-knowledge is the point of Vedantic self-inquiry. And self-knowledge is the only means of resolving the fundamental problem.
See, the problem is not that you have to attain the self. You already are the self. You simply don’t know what the true nature of the self is. Thus, the point is not to attain and sustain some particular state of mind or becomes permanently established in some particular quality of experience. The point is to gain an understanding of your true nature. The problem is not incompleteness, inadequacy, or separation. The problem is ignorance. And the only remedy for ignorance is knowledge.
Hence, the only solution to the fundamental problem is to discover the true nature of the self is by means of self-inquiry under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Because you (i.e., all seekers) are under the spell of ignorance, you cannot interpret the wisdom contained in the scriptures correctly on your own. Your conditioned ignorance will invariably cause you to misinterpret the intended meaning of the words. For this reason, it is imperative that one engage in self-inquiry under the guidance of a qualified teacher who knows how to properly unfold the teachings in such way as to enable the student “see” (i.e., understand) the truth, and thereby “gain” moksha. In this way, rather than indenturing the student to a life of dependence on some “great spiritual master” or “world savior,” the teacher ultimately liberates the student from dependence on the teacher and, moreover, from all objects whatsoever and enables the student to abide in the freedom that is his true nature.
Quentin: There is part of me that wants to just pick up where I jumped off the ship, but that old boat has moved on without me or sunk.
Do I wipe the slate and start from scratch?
Quentin: Can my ego even stomach doing that – lol
Ted: Who cares? Do you really have a choice? If you want to solve the problem, then the answer is, “No.”
Quentin: Am I even qualified for Vedanta?
Ted: If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have the slightest interest in it. Once you read “How to Attain Enlightenment” you can make an assessment of you degree of qualification and then proceed from there. The great thing about Vedanta is that it doesn’t kick you out on the curb. It does say that you need to be qualified in order to do effective self-inquiry. But it also has a variety of means of developing any qualifications you may lack.
Quentin: Should I go back to some exercises? Kundalini Yoga?
Ted: No! Read “How to Attain Enlightenment” before you “do” anything else. And be sure to read it from start to finish in order. The book provides an overview of the entire process of self-inquiry and unfolds it in a very logical and systematic way. It needs to be read slowly and mindfully. You need to understand and sign on to the logic of each step before proceeding to the next. If you read the book in this way, many (if not all) of your questions will be resolved, and you will see exactly what practices are appropriate for the further cultivation of any of the qualifications necessary to cultivate the quality of mind necessary to fully assimilate self-knowledge.
Quentin: I think I’m pretty immune to guru’s, but I could really use one right now. 🙂 Preferably one who’s not just going to rain the knowledge down on me. I need someone to come and pick me up… I need a jump start! 🙂
Ted: You’ve come to the right place, my friend. READ THE BOOK, and then if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any other qualified teacher of traditional Vedanta (as opposed to Neo-Advaita—you’ll know what this term means once you have read the book).
Regards and deep respect,
All the best,