Shining World

Maya is Hacking Your Mind

Doug: In the last weeks I experience an impasse. A feeling of total loneliness, desperation struck me. I think it is a big vasana that likes to trigger me. Well I don’t, but at the same time it is a gift from Ishvara.

Sundari: Aloneness is the presence of the Self – ALL ONE.  It is the opposite of loneliness, which is the (apparent) absence of the Self. The Self can never be absent, but if we are under the spell of Maya, we do not know that, and the crushing nature of duality can break the spirit.

Doug: For years I did meditation in different traditions. In those years I get in touch with Zen (after Tibetan Buddhism, there is a lot for sale in the spiritual market). Within Zen I was particularly interested in engagement. In how to live a meaningful life with the knowledge that I am. Except zazen I was caught with the beautiful mystic phrases of the Zen masters. It appealed to me, maybe because they linked it with Christianity (which are ‘my roots’) and in particular mysticism and devotion to Maria. Last six years I follow logic, I listen, read, contemplate Vedanta (the Gita and Upanishads etc) at a daily basis.

Meditation never went away. I just ‘completed’ the Bhagavad Gita for the fourth time. (First James, then Swami Dayanada HSC, again James and then Swami Tadatmananda). There was a wave of doubt, back into the past, back to the ‘zen’ years. I ask myself where is the compassion in Vedanta? Is knowledge enough? Don’t I have to do something? Is it that ‘easy’? Don’t I have to work hard and be disciplined to ‘get it’? It is overwhelming. Is this my so-called spiritual ego? Is this a wake-up call to leave scripture and assimilate the teaching? Or did I take the wrong turn to Vedanta?

Sundari: You have been trying so hard ‘to get it’, but the problem is that the one who wants so desperately to get it is in the way, the doer who thinks working hard and being disciplined is enough. But the doer, the ego, can never free you of ignorance. Your ‘spiritual ego’, as you call it, along with all the other teachings you have invested in over your seeking ‘career’, is the problem.

Doug: I know the jiva in me that wants to know. So I began searching again, reading again. Doing comparisons between Vedanta and Buddhism. It is fruitless. It is the battle between those two giants. The battle I don’t want to get involved with. But the jiva is running away with it. It drags me down the drain of my memory. Of all the books I read, All the teachers I spoke to. They yell at me like  fishwives on the market. Do I have to turn back to Zen? Do I take refuge in the Buddha, join a Sangha and a sesshin. ‘Because that is always what you wanted’ says the voice in me. Friends say the same, you always wanted to do that. Why not? Go for it!

Sundari: It’s not the jiva in you that wants to know, Doug. It is the Self in you that DOES know. The jiva is just an idea appearing in you, the Self; it seems sentient because the light of Awareness shines on the mind. The sentience belongs to the Self. The jiva is the Self apparently under the spell of ignorance, so it identifies with the body/mind (objects) and suffers. If you understand the value of Vedanta, you will know that no other teaching compares with it.  You can compare other teachings with Vedanta, and you may find some common ground because nonduality is not a religion or philosophy, but Vedanta is that which underpins all teachings.  Anything that does not fit with Vedanta must go, because it will be at best, ignorance mixed with knowledge.

This is why faith in the teachings is such an important qualification. If you have no faith in Vedanta, it will not work to set you free of ignorance. And you will tie yourself up in knots trying to figure out who speaks the truth.  Then you will have all those ideas screaming at you like fishwives – good analogy!

Doug: But what is it that I want to do? In my environment there is nobody that is interested in Vedanta. And when they are, they want a quick fix. There is no sangha (except online). It is a lonely road. And I did take it very cognitive. Only knowledge can deal with ignorance. But this is at the same time the problem. I know, but I don’t know. I can talk like a parrot repeating the knowledge from scripture. But knowledge isn’t moksha. It is a path to moksha. It is only the mind, not heart, at least for me.

Sundari: You are right – only Self-knowledge can remove ignorance. Parroting the teachings won’t help, though. What matters is the assimilation of what the teachings impart, and putting the teachings into practice. If you are truly ready for Vedanta, it is highly unlikely that you will have many people in your environment on the same wavelength.  It is a lonely path, if all you are after is companionship. But it seems that you don’t understand the essence of the teachings, because if you did, you would know that the central message is that Self-knowledge=love. Love is knowledge, and it is your nature.  It is not a feeling, nobody gives it to you or can take it away. Feelings come and go. Self-knowledge does not. Perhaps you do not understand the value of Vedanta?

Doug: So after six years, here I am. Knowing less, doubting more. I can tell who I am, but when I tell it, it isn’t true, because not a single word, a single scripture can. It is only a finger pointing to the moon. Nothing gained, nothing lost. 30 years of meditation didn’t do it either. I know there is not a big lasting event, a satori. So why should I bother myself with Zen?

Sundari: Nothing will ‘do it’ Doug, other than an independent means of knowledge capable of removing the hypnosis of duality from your mind, such as Vedanta. It is true that all teachings, including the methodology of Vedanta, are in duality. They are the finger pointing at the moon. But the difference with Vedanta is the knowledge it reveals with the removal of personal ignorance, that your true nature is the nondual Self, is not in duality.  The means of knowledge it offers are the only tools for the qualified inquirer to step out of the dream of duality. Nothing else does it. You can meditate until you die of old age, but you will remain a meditator seeking freedom. The meditator, or doer, is there, stuck in duality, trying in vain to fix itself.

Doug: For now the only thing I can do is stay with it. Staying with the knowledge that I don’t know. In silence, without books, without scripture. All I can say is that I see the struggle of my mind that wants to know, but finally can’t know (, what it already knows). Somehow it opens up, but at the same time it is terrifying

Do you have any further suggestions to deal with this impasse?

Sundari: Who is it that sees the struggle going on in your mind, that is terrified? Identify with the knower of the struggle, not the struggler. Silence will do nothing for you, because it is not opposed to ignorance. You do need to be properly taught by a qualified teacher. You cannot read your way to moksa. I don’t know if you even understand what true self-inquiry really entails. Do you?

Yes, indeed there is a lot on offer in the spiritual supermarket. If you have the qualifications for moksa and self-inquiry (and you DO you have to have them), then you need to forget about every single other teaching you have taken on, all your opinions and ideas, including the idea that you are someone who is at a ‘spiritual impasse’. Anything that is not in line with Vedanta must go, at lease until you are satisfied with your investigation.  If you are not, you can always take your own ideas and opinion back, if you prefer them

It is not wise to give up on Vedanta because it removes your ignorance of your true nature as the fullness of the nondual Self, and destroys the idea that you are a limited human being with a name and a story. That is very difficult because ignorance (the hypnosis of duality) is hard wired and very tenacious. For Self-knowledge to work, you need to surrender to Vedanta as the boss. You cannot ‘do’ your way to moksa because as stated, the doer who is feeling despondent and lonely, is in the way. 

You may have fallen into the pit of the void, which happens to many inquirers when the truth of life being zero-sum sinks in. Self-knowledge is not firm yet, so it happens that they ‘hit the wall’ so to speak, once they realize that there really is ‘nothing out ‘there’. We call it ‘the void’ because all objects are seen to be devoid of substance and meaning, which of course, they are. In particular, when the person they once took themselves to be is revealed to be no more than a construct, a mirage, a guna-generated program.

What to ‘do’ when you realize the pointlessness of all doing and you are not the doer? Knowing that we are the Self does not magically translate into the disappearance of the jiva with all its stuff. That can take years and years for some in the last stages of self-inquiry. Nididhysana is the purification of the remaining vestiges of mental/emotional patterns once Self-realization has taken place. Only when this stage is complete does Self-actualization take place naturally. But the good news is that you are never not the Self, so take heart in that!

The ‘all is emptiness’ stage is created by tamas, which presents another Self-actualization problem that usually, but not always, affects older self-realized people who have had families and/or careers. Jobs and families solve the problem of financial and emotional security, but they don’t take care of the doer problem, so the tendency to act has no place to go when you realize the zero-sum nature of life. The risk here is that the doer slips into a depression because you cannot in good faith distract it with the mindless samsaric pursuits that previously occupied it, i.e., jobs, entertainment, sex, sports or endless family events, etc. Recently the chaos of life has made this much worse because things on the world stage can seem pretty gloomy looked at through the lens of tamas.

What all serious inquirers dedicated to the last stage of self-inquiry, nididhysana, are aiming for is to transition directly to perfect satisfaction – tripti. Unfortunately, this can only take place if you are totally qualified when Self-realization takes place. I.e., all the jiva’s binding conditioning (mental and emotional patterns) have been transformed into devotion to the Self, meaning rendered non-binding. This is seldom the case when Self-realization takes place, which is why nididhysana, is for most inquirers, the most difficult and the longest stage.

Swami Paramarthananda, calls nididyasana ‘requalifying.’ You never know when, during the manana phase, firm Self-knowledge will take place and you never know how long nididyasana will take. In fact, if Self-knowledge makes you a perfect spontaneous karma yogi, it doesn’t matter because time doesn’t exist for you. So, if you don’t experience perfect jiva satisfaction when Self-knowledge is unshakable, you need to remain humble and keep up the practices that qualified you for understanding as they will eventually remove the obstacles to limitless bliss.

Jivas are a flawed bunch and there’s not much that can be done about it. We are all a mixed bag on that level knowing how the gunas work conditioning the mind. Nobody is doing anything, so there is no blame, either. Our jiva program plays out the way it does, and we are either tied to it or not. At the same time, being free of it does not mean we stop thinking and feeling; all that changes is the import we give to our thoughts and feelings, and how they impact us. To be truly free I must be free to be sad, upset, disappointed, angry, etc., as well as happy and peaceful. 

But if negative feelings loom large and take up residence in the real estate of my mind for longer than it takes to recognize that they are there, I am clearly, not that free. Freedom means I see my thoughts and feelings as they arise and the knowledge kicks in instantly to dissolve them. It is good that you seem to be objective about the bad feelings appearing in your mind and thinking the opposite thought, even though they keep returning.  Nobody said freedom from and for the jiva is easy.  It is not, which is why faith in the teachings is such an important qualification.  If that fails you, Maya is right there waiting to take over the mind.

Hold fast to the knowledge and keep discriminating.  This stage passes when you finally realize that you are the fullness observing the apparent void, and the apparent emptiness or loneliness of life. Life under the spell of duality, Maya, is hard and heartbreaking, Maya is relentless in its daily grind.  Nothing is permanent, everything in life is always in the process of decay, of entropy, of leaving us, which is why freedom from dependence on objects for happiness is the only true salvation. When you are free then you can see that life is actually benign and inherently beautiful because you are.  You never change, your fullness never begins or ends. Then, there is nothing to fear or be sad about.

As my Italian mom used to say, forza e coraggio. Be strong and have courage.  You have the only security that matters in this life, and that is Self-knowledge. You can trust it.

Next Satsang

Doug: I replied that I hesitated to write, I think you hit me on the right spot, so thank you very much. I like to receive more punches to get it absolutely clear. Because I am sick of it, sick of this pathetic jiva. So I give it a try. Enjoy reading and kick me again when necessary.

Isn’t it bizarre how the mind can play tricks, how maya can delude. The Self-knowledge was steady and (seemingly) firm for about two years I thought. Discriminating was easy, until that moment. That nasty little bastard in me was complaining and suggesting all kinds of practices. While I know that the nididhysana phase can be a long one, the doer in me thinks it can speed up the things. But it can’t. It takes the old habits and create a trap. A helpful thought for me in this is that the knowledge already set me free and that I, as the true Self, doesn’t need anything or  need to do anything. But it isn’t probably firm enough.

I think you’re right about the zero-sum. Especially the last part. I more and more realize the pointlessness of all doing. I did realize that I am not the doer. But that sinking in, deeply understanding that it is pointless, because I am not the doer, is very subtle. It is so hardwired. I realized that it is also the point of view I take. From the jiva’s point of view it is very disturbing and a frightening process of disappearing. It is struggling for its life. But from the point of view of the Self there is nothing happening, only some thoughts that are passing by like a cloud on a breezy Sunday morning. The latter is an indescribable trust and depth of peace and easiness. While the first is a real depressing struggle. It is indeed a pit of the void.

It is interesting to read that ‘all is emptiness’ stage is created by tamas. I can now picture better that the jiva is in rajas to get it elf out of that emptiness, and want to do anything to get rid of that tamas. While in fullness, in sattva, the jiva doesn’t need to do anything. Thinking about that it seems to be also a shift in perspective. When I step back, taking a stand in awareness as awareness then I see both. The jiva in rajas struggling to get out of tamas and the jiva in sattva (struggling to not fall back in to rajas and eventually in tamas). All is happening in me, but I am not that.

It is true that I have many people in my environment that are on the same wavelength. I am not after companionship. I think I do understand the value and the essence of the teachings. It is the ONLY teaching that is clinging to me and has mesmerized me for 6 years every day. I know I am Satchidananda Atman, I know that I am Brahman. I know that all I can say is I am… and all things added are apparently real, are continuous changing, are relative, not absolute. Everything I see, hear, feel, touch, etc. are in Me, but are not Me, not only external of the body, but also internal, the complete body-mind-senses, everything.

I know that I can’t read, meditate, drink, eat, dance, sing myself to moksa. And I can’t do anything to become, because I am it already. Self-inquiry, continuous discrimination between Satya and  Mithya, between the Self and not-self. Between I, as effortless, consciousness, unborn, nondual awareness and the limited Jiva. And I know that all my limiting ideas and fears are in the way of moksa. But I also know that the mind is tricky, hard wired and vasanas can even pop up after a while. And that happened, for a moment.

Maybe I was too fast to email you, but I am glad that it happened. Ishvara/maya is playing along and give the vasanas the Jiva deserves/earned. And that heritage of religion is a big one for my jiva.

And on Self-knowledge = Love. The Self is everything, is all including. Knowing the Self is just like knowing Ishvara. Ishvara is the whole. Is me, you, the horse, the peanut butter sandwich, the planets, everything. When I know the Self, that I am That, then I know there are no boundaries, that I am complete, fullness, limitless, consciousness, awareness, beingness. There is nothing but Me, Brahman, the Self, then there is nothing to love, because everything is Love.

Sundari: Excellent!  Your understanding is very good. Relax in the firm knowledge that you are on the Vedanta bus, it will take care of what you need to know, and what you need to let go of. It will not take you anywhere though, because you have always been the Self.  Only Self-knowledge itself can do the work, and it will if you stick with it.  You already are the Holy Grail, you are never not the Self. You cannot lose or gain what you already are. Go easy on ‘that little bastard’ in you. Understand it comes from Isvara, and can only cause agitation and suffering if you identify with it.

The guna teaching gives us the tools we need to understand its psychological make-up, and where it originates from: Maya, beginningless ignorance.  It is not personal though it feels like it is. As I said, Nididhysana is the purification of the remaining mental/emotional patterns that still disturb the mind, so that they become ‘burned ropes’, with no power to bind. But the jiva is made the way it is made. Life improves a great deal for it as Self-knowledge becomes firm, no doubt about that.  But moksa is not about overhauling or perfecting the jiva, just understanding it in light of Isvara/Self-knowledge. 

Take it easy!


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