Ted: Hi, Trent. Good to hear from you.
Trent: Thank you very much for your response to my message. It was great to hear from one who could provide some re-assurance for what has been going on mentally, regarding the pursuit of this knowledge. I hope you’ve been doing well.
Ted: Glad I — or rather Vedanta — could help. And, indeed, I have been doing well.
Trent: The videos by James Swartz on Vivekachudamani have had a lot of impact, and in the last one, he was talking about how if you’re no longer interested in the world, it indicates that something is right with you, rather than wrong.
Ted: That is definitely true! And I understand the context and the general intent of the comment, which is entirely valid. It is good to bear in the back of your mind, however, that from the point of view of the self there never is anything “wrong” with you.
First and foremost because you are the self, pure awareness. And since there is nothing other than you, all comparative dualisms are rendered moot.
Second, the apparent individual that is labeled Trent is entirely Isvara’s — God’s, the universe’s — creation, and thus the relative, dependent “you” is nothing more than an “avatar” playing out its programming at the behest of the Great Gamer God.
This second circumstance, however, neither negates your apparent free will as an apparent individual nor your responsibility for living in accordance or suffering the inevitable consequences for not doing so. In other words, though Trent — as well as Ted and everyone else — is essentially, to extend the metaphor, a high-definition computer graphic an integral part of “your” programming is the function of free will. Within the context of the virtual (apparent) reality, “you” seem to have the ability to objectively assess situations and deliberate over the plethora of data “your” perceptive organs have presented to you and ultimately decide how to respond to any given circumstance. And it is a condition of the game design that “you” will make such decisions. Thus it will seem to “you” as though you are perceiving and deciding, doing and enjoying according to “your” own independent volition. If we were able to examine the deep structure of “your” psyche (i.e. the programming of your character, or the store of vasanas in your causal body), we would be able to see that all of “your” interpreted perceptions, decisions, and responsive actions were the offspring of your vasanas (i.e. likes and dislikes, desires and fears).
Moreover, because “you” are programmed the way “you” are, “you” will make decisions and execute actions that are for the most part either dharmic or adharmic. In other words, “you” will act either in alignment with the fundamental moral laws that govern the apparent reality — or, in terms of our analogy, that are the rules of the game — or act in ways that violate those laws. The results that “you” then suffer or enjoy are the wholly impersonal consequences of “your” actions and how they impact the flow of energy through the field of experience (i.e. the apparent reality) rather than rewards or punishments doled out by some personal God for “good” or “bad,” “virtuous” or “sinful” actions respectively.
According to Vedanta, there is no personal God. The Great Gamer to whom I referred earlier is simply a personification of the field of experience.
Isvara — the Vedantic name for God the Creator — is simply pure awareness wielding its inherent power of Maya (i.e. ignorance). Though there is no rational explanation for why whole and complete, limitless, actionless awareness would wield such a power, suffice it to be said that if omnipotent awareness did not have the power to apparently delude itself it would not be all-powerful. Nor would there be any apparent “creation” in which we could find ourselves floundering about trying to figure out who we are. What a barrel o’ fun, eh? This is most likely where the idea that the apparent reality is God’s lila (i.e. dance or sport) comes from. Romantic as it is, this theory can, of course, be nothing more than a myth, based as it is on the initiatory circumstance of a personal God desiring to alleviate its boredom, none of which would be reasonable nor could be possible given that pure awareness is attributeless and therefore inherently actionless.
The point of my digression is simply this: though free-will, from the absolute point of view, is pure fantasy, it is nevertheless a built-in function of the apparent “you,” and therefore “you” must execute it wisely in accordance with both the design of “your” character and the rules of the game.
That said, I wholeheartedly second James’ idea that a dissipating interest in the world indicate something is “right” with you — assuming you are a serious seeker seriously seeking moksha (i.e. liberation or freedom).
When you realize that the apparent reality has nothing to offer in terms of lasting happiness, you naturally lose interest in it. The only reason the apparent you was interested in it in the first place is because the accumulation of vasanas that have “created” you — for who are “you” other than the package of likes and dislikes, desires and fears that constitute “your” personal identity? — sought a field in which they could roam “freely” and hopefully find fulfillment and permanent happiness. Much to the chagrin of the little cherubs, they found the pursuits of worldly security, pleasure, and virtue to be as insubstantial as cotton candy. Delicious as it promises to be, it dissolves into a sickeningly sweet slime the moment you bite into it that fails to satisfy and leaves nothing more than a bitter aftertaste in its wake. We no longer hanker after experience once we know it to be hollow.
Trent: I’ve been going through some depressive states relating to not having any interest in the world, other than relating to Isvara’s natural world. We have two dogs, a beautiful yard which has a wonderful canopy of trees, wildlife that also live there.
Ted: I understand. The depression has a two-fold cause.
First, we have invested so much faith in the idea that the world can fulfill us that it is a bit unsettling to finally realize that it cannot. She looks so beautiful, but once we pull a Scooby Doo maneuver and rip the mask off we find she is nothing more than a common criminal, a scoundrel conning us into believing we are limited little needy worms rather than reveling in our true nature as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, all-pervasive, non- dual awareness.
Second, what appears to be depression is actually a kind of existential boredom. We have occupied ourselves for so long with the daily “to do” list of actions that we hope will bring us happiness that we don’t what the hell to do with ourselves now that we know there is nothing we can do.
And regarding the joy you are finding in “relating to Isvara’s natural world,” it is interesting to note that since no mineral, plant, or animal in it suffers the curse/enjoys the blessing of free will — all animals other than humans behave according to their programming, which is why all members of any particular species look and act almost exactly alike — nature operates completely in harmony with dharma (i.e. natural law). You are probably intuitively tuning into the natural order of things. And, once again speaking in terms of our gaming analogy, since your character’s mind is no longer extroverted by its desire to defeat it opponents and advance to the next level, so to speak, “you” can appreciate the exquisite beauty and awesome majesty of the game’s graphics as they are spread out around “you.”
Trent: Other than that, Vedanta seems to be the only interest that I have presently. I realize that it requires patience, and discipline to hang in with the pursuit. I don’t really have any questions; I guess I’m after some comments regarding this type of reaction to the teaching. Maybe you experienced something similar? It seems strange, since I used to have a great amount of enthusiasm about music; have a degree in it and all that; now it really seems like nothing, compared to the pursuit of the hard and fast realization of who I really am.
Ted: All I wanted to be when I was a kid was a major league baseball player. I worked out 4-5 hours a day, year-round hoping to fulfill that dream. Later, after it had collapsed, I put the same level of enthusiasm and focused effort into acting, art, and writing. None of that worked out either.
The “pay off” of these efforts, however, was that I learned patience and discipline, and when I applied those virtues to self-inquiry under the guidance of a qualified teacher, rapid progress ensued.
Count your blessings. It may be that after you become fully established in your true identity that you will again seek to express yourself through music. If not, then the discipline you developed through studying music will serve you in rediscovering the true source of the joy you were looking to find through music all along.
Trent: The knowledge really seems to be intermittent. If I listen to a talk it has a great impact, but the next morning, it seems like I’m back to being this person who has to go to work and do the usual stuff.
Ted: Yep. That’s how it is, folks. For everyone. As James says, you build this house brick by brick. There ain’t no shortcuts. You are overthrowing the tyranny of erroneous, self-debasing notions that has held power in your mind for lifetimes. As you said, it takes patience, discipline, diligence, and a deep, deep, deep desire. Just stick with it. Keep listening to the talks, keep reading scripture — especially James’ book, and keep in contact with me — or any other qualified teacher — when you have questions. Don’t give up.
You’re on the right track at last.
One tip — although Vedanta has a whole arsenal — is to ask yourself who is seeing “you” “being” this person who has to go to work and do the usual stuff. You, pure awareness, are never not present, so the answer is always an immediate “experience” of your own presence. You, pure awareness, is watching this Kent character do his thing. Enjoy the show, while always remembering that you, pure awareness, remain untouched by it.
Trent: Anyway, it would be great to hear from you again regarding what I’ve put down here. Hopefully it makes some sense!
Thank you; all the best,
Ted: All the best (which is always what is) to you as well. Take care, mi amigo.