Shining World

The Pitfalls of Tamas

Mathew: I do my very best to follow the teaching and the words of Ishvara. If I just could take “everything as prasad” not matter what, I guess that this will set me free. Thank you for providing that deep knowledge for my poor jiva, being so available also at corona times, I am full of gratitude over here!

Sundari: Taking things as prasad is the essence of karma yoga. It is not freedom from ignorance but there is not freedom without it. It is the antidote to the misery of desire which is a lot. For some, that is enough to be happy.  However, it is easier said than done, especially when life is challenging, which it is for many these days. It’s been a crazy year, but here we are, and nothing has happened, really. Shining as Existence/Consciousness we face everything Isvara unfolds with equanimity, the good and so-called bad. It’s all the same ultimately in this dream. How fortunate we are to have Self-knowledge. May sameness of mind in the bliss of the Knowledge be the bedrock of all experience for you as you face the difficulties of your life, especially as you are on the frontline of the pandemic.

A Vedantin friend of ours wrote this, it describes the daily jiva journey well:

Feeling love, feeling this fleeting precious life. Synchronicities in abundance, the suffering of human life, the unfathomable journey of the soul. Giving thanks for the sun and the moon, the eyes of God watching over me bonding my will with thee. Accepting my faith and leaving no trace of desire, like footsteps upon the sand as the tide washes it clean with every turn. Listening to my breath in the silence and preparing myself for battle in the name of love once more in the morning. 

Mathew: Thank you, that is very, very beautiful, touching! Your words are deep also, in fact so far Ishvara always was holding his hands over me all the time since we have corona. I always have work, a place to sleep and so far, I am in good health, even when I work with corona sick people at hospital, it’s really like Ishvara makes me immune against Covid19. But I am really by myself for many, many years now, and struggle to not have a real svardharma, but I learned to take it as prasad now and this takes away a lot of pain and useless thoughts. 

Sundari: Your svadharma is what is in front of your right now.  Many people feel as though they should be doing something else, but if that were the case, the opportunity to do so usually presents itself.  These days life makes it much more difficult because our choices are so restricted.  If you really feel that you are in the wrong profession, you can consider your options to change when the time is right.  But if you do not know what it is you want to do or change, then continue doing what do in the karma yoga spirit, dedicating it all to Isvara on a moment-to-moment basis.  Ask for guidance on any changes if you still feel they are necessary and make the asking a consecration in the karma yoga spirit.

Mathew: But when I am in Tamas, this is the main topic, because I am not very happy with my job, and my many years loneliness, but there is no other way at the moment.

Sundari: Remember that you are never ‘in’ tamas.  Tamas, like rajas and tamas, is an object known to you, the Self.  It has nothing to do with you. But when tamasic thinking takes hold of the mind, it becomes very difficult to get out of it longer it continues. All the gunas build on themselves and you will get more depressed with time if you cannot manage the tamas with reference to maintaining sattva. Tamas distorts perception, inhibiting the assimilation of experience and it produces delusion. It gives rise to fantasies and fabrications, which in turn cause distrust of oneself, others, and ‘the world’, or life in general.

I am sure you must have read James’ book on the three gunas?  It is essential to your sadhana as understanding and managing the gunas is what it’s all about if you want a happy life and peaceful jiva. In short, when the Subtle Body is predominately tamasic, the self, masquerading as the ego feels totally stuck.  The feeling of ‘stuckness’ is a failure to see and appreciate what we need to in any situation, what life requires of us, and a lack of will to take the appropriate steps to accomplish what is required, even if we do.

Often the problem is not a lack of Self-knowledge. It is just that tamas clouds the mind of the self-realized person and so it avoids appropriate action. Meaning cleaning up their act, looking objectively at their vasanas, and getting their actions and lifestyle to conform with dharma. We have a tamasic self-realized friend who avoided backing up and cleaning her computer until it blew up and she lost years of work. That’s typical tamas, too lazy to do what is necessary.

Tamas inhibits the assimilation of experience as efficiently as rajas does, but for different reasons. Under its influence, the Subtle Body, though seemingly quiet and calm (you can fool yourself into thinking you are sattvic when you the mind is tamasic), is dull. Efficient evaluation of experience requires mental clarity.  Perception is distorted when a stagnant veil covers the Subtle Body and assimilation is compromised. When the intellect is dull, it has difficulty connecting the results of its actions with the thoughts motivating them, causing uncertainty with respect to what it must and must not do. It cannot respond appropriately to the Field and pays the price. The bad news is, when the Subtle Body is predominately dull, you are negotiating the ocean of samsara in a rudderless ship, adrift at sea. ‘Where should I go? What should I do? What’s going on?’ ‘I don’t know. I cannot decide. I don’t want to know’ are some typically tamasic thoughts and responses. The undigested experiential backlog brought on by a tamasic mind causes the ego to dither and procrastinate. Alternatively, if you have a highly rajasic lifestyle and feel constantly exhausted, rajas inevitably causes tamas. Although rajas is the antidote to excess tamas, tamas is always the price to pay for excess rajas.

Tamasic people usually have a lot of personal and lifestyle problems because they avoid cleaning up their mess and keeping adding to it with the constantly accruing blowback karma.  Because they continually indulge themselves, they do not accumulate good karma.  In fact, they collect bad karma or simply spend whatever good karma stands in their account until it is gone.  They are perpetually in debt, if not financially then definitely energetically. Often, both.  Life is a huge weight, a millstone around the neck dragging them down.  They neither grow nor stay the same.  They devolve.   If we want to live a happy, healthy life, there is no avoiding cleaning up our lifestyle.

Tamas is inertia and although it takes more time to destroy than rajas, destroy it will.  To overcome it, you must act.  Rajas is about obtaining things and tamas is about keeping them.  Even maintenance requires energy.  If you don’t take care of the details, they will eventually take care of you, but not in a way you will enjoy.  Tamas wears you out.  You become fatigued; a sense of failure and despair will overcome you.  Depression sets in and your self-esteem plummets.

Examine your life dispassionately to see if any of this applies. The solution for excess tamas short term is to do something rajasic without overdoing it, like exercising or cleaning your house. Drink a cup of strong coffee, eat something rajasic. The long-term solution is to take dispassionate stock of your health, what you eat, how you exercise, where you work, who you are in relationship with or associated with, how you handle spending and making money, sex, etc. Make a list of what you value most and least. Track yourself on the negative values you wish to change and the positive values you want to instill. Change what you can (without shirking your duty) and accept what you can’t change with the karma yoga attitude. Stop making excuses for self-insulting habits and commit to peace of mind. Become a disciple unto your own good self.

Find something noble for the mind to do—like reading or writing scripture, reading inspiring books about people who have made a difference to the world with their contributions.  Become a knowledge seeker in all areas of life— research and compile your own records about things that interest and excite the mind.  While the news these days is not very uplifting, to be dispassionately informed about what is going on in the big picture of life adds gravitas to our lives. It is possible to focus on the great things that are happening on the planet, which are always there, even in these tough and bleak times.  There is always an upside to every downside. Focus on the positive, life is about perspective. Turn your mind into a good friend because if you don’t tamas will eat you up.  Boredom and low self-esteem are the inevitable results, dragging the mind into self-destructive and self-insulting thoughts and actions, despondency, and depression.

Fear runs highly tamasic people, so they hang onto everything. Get ruthless and clean out those unwanted things that clutter and bog down your life—whether they are physical objects, a messy house, psychological issues, or unresolved karma with people.  It is extremely cathartic to clear up our mess in all respects. Everything one holds onto or puts off facing becomes so much worse in the mind, keeping us stuck in fear—but all fears are just paper dragons once faced head-on.

Mathew: The loneliness is also because I prefer to stay in solitude before having bad company with samsaris. This is a massive phenomenon, so many people struggle with loneliness, navigating through life like robots.

Sundari: These are definitley interesting times we live in, and those who are dependent on others for distraction, happiness or security are very challenged. But seeking out people because you are lonely and needy is almost a guarantee that you will end up lonelier and needer than you already are. Lonely needy people have nothing to give, they are looking to get something from you. Freedom is freedom from dependence on objects for your happiness. As much as possible, it is very wise to avoid needy empty people like the plague. Social distancing makes that easier for some, and harder for others who are forced into spending more time together. Tamas is highly contagious and if you spend time with tamasic people, before long, you will find tamas creeping into your mind, making you dull, tired, and depressed.  Negative or needy people are like psychic vampires sucking the blood of sattva. It is much better to be lonely and inquire into the source of the loneliness. As the Self, you are never alone, and you are always alone because there is only you.

Mathew|: I try to do my best every day and to take it not too seriously. Maybe it will change by the grace of Ishvara.

Sundari:  If you apply yourself to the teachings diligently, which it is clear you are, they will work to remove ignorance. But remember, self-inquiry is about applied knowledge.  If the teachings do not translate into how you live your life, nothing will change. If there are changes you are supposed to be making but are not, Isvara will assume you are happy with that. The saying ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is true.  God sees you and as perfect as you are.  For the jiva to be happy, our lives must serve the truth, not the other way around.  Karma yoga does not work when we are avoiding or denying making the changes life is asking us to make. Many people try to rationalize the karma yoga approach in situations like work, relationships etc., that are unworkable and require changing.  Truth is impersonal—we cannot make it fit our idea of what we want it to be.  Isvara does not care one way or the other because Isvara does not have a problem with duality.  It is up to the jiva to choose peace of mind and balance the gunas by taking appropriate knowledge-based action.

Self-knowledge is not about changing your life or changing the jiva, though that will happen by default.  Self-knowledge simply removes the ignorance standing in the way of your full appreciation of who you are.  When you do appreciate your true nature, loneliness and dissatisfaction simply disappear.  They are no longer possible because you know you are the fullness that requires nothing.  Should the jiva still experience residual feelings of dissatisfaction or loneliness, which it usually does during the nididhysana stage of self-inquiry, you simply observe the feelings as objects known to you. I have attached a satsang on the stages and requirements of self-inquiry.  You are probably aware of them, but it will not hurt to brush up on them.

Mathew: I found the real teaching now, and I will stick to it, I am sure a lot will change, it just needs a bit time and a lot of work. The unexpected fall away from my cannabis addiction made my faith much stronger now! Tried to get rid of it so many years, and then Ishvara just took it away from one day to the next…

Sundari:  Yes, you are very blessed to have found Vedanta, it is the Holy Grail. And it is working, so well done!

Much love


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