Shining World

The Self Instructions for Self Inquiry

Hello Sundari. Firstly, I want to thank you and James to share this priceless teaching to truth-seekers like us with your generous heart. Also, I want to apologize if my English cannot express my situation clearly and I may write a little long mail to you. I have been seeking happiness in objects for a long time and I found it but didn’t last. So, after university, I understood what I was seeking is not an object or kind of respectable status. Because none of them made me feel content deep inside and I definitely understood what I was seeking was causeless permanent peace no matter the conditions. I had big frustration the first time I understood there is nothing in this world to make me happy. I felt isolated from normal life, everything that I believed seemed a big lie and I could see people’s and friend’s bogus behaviours including mine.

Sundari: Most people who have the good grace to find Vedanta have seen the futility of life in the world and have at least some of the qualifications required. And one of the most important is a burning desire for permanent peace of mind, which it seems you have. I am busy replying to the questions in your email, but before I send it to you, I would like to know more about your spiritual practice since you have found Shiningworld. You said you have read and contemplated almost every other spiritual teacher without success, but the requirements to succeed at Self-inquiry are very specific.  Have you read the advice we give in this regard on the home page of our website?  It is important that you do so.  We have thousands of satsangs available on every question you could think of, organized according to keywords, and we have thousands of hours of video teachings.    We offer three free courses, from beginner to advanced, and books on every step of the stages of self-inquiry. What have you read?

To progress in your self-inquiry, assuming you are requesting to be taught, which is why you wrote to us, it is extremely important that you follow the steps correctly or Self-knowledge will not work to remove ignorance and we will not be able to teach you. We are happy to assist you with your self-inquiry, and it is good that you have written to us.  But before we begin, you need to understand what is required of you as an inquirer, because Vedanta is unlike anything you have encountered before.

In short, the most important facts to know about beginning self-inquiry are the following:

The bottom line: Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge to remove the ignorance of your true nature as whole and complete, non-dual, ever-present, unchanging Awareness. We tell you upfront that there is nothing wrong with you and your only problem is a knowledge problem. Vedanta does not give you anything you do not already have, other than tools to help you understand what stands in the way of freedom from limitation and suffering.  Enlightenment is not something you gain because the Self is not an object of experience, i.e., you are already what you seek. But to appreciate this fact there are clear requirements, which are:

1. Qualifications.  These are clearly explained in many of our teachings, you must make sure you understand what they are.  If the mind is not qualified, i.e., not purified and prepared, it will interpret the teachings according to its preconceived ideas.

2. Understanding the three stages of self-inquiry and total commitment to applying the teachings to your life. I have recently posted a satsang on the steps of self-inquiry online, please make sure you download it and contemplate it carefully.

3. The inquirer must have the teachings taught by a qualified teacher or the teachings will be interpreted according to your ideas and beliefs picked up from many other sources.  At the same time, the inquirer must apply themselves to the methodology of self-inquiry and do the work.  The teacher cannot answer every question though it is important to write if you get stuck.  The teachings provoke questions, which they also answer.  Vedanta can be difficult because it is counterintuitive to a mind conditioned by duality. If you do not push the mind to think and contemplate on the teachings and expect the teacher to answer every doubt that appears, you will make slow progress. It is not our job to do self-inquiry for you.  The resources on Shiningworld are so extensive and freely available, there is everything you need to succeed at Self-inquiry at your disposal. We are here to assist you every step of the way, so do write if you need to.

Mark: Thank you so much for your reply. It feels good to have contact with a qualified teacher. Yes, I read the advice on your website and I am re-shaping my spiritual progress and trying to dismiss my misunderstandings that came from other teachings according to your teachings for about one month. Also, in my free time, I’m reading your satsangs.  If you want, I can also give you the list of teachers I have been related to. Even if I couldn’t succeed to be free, I learned many things from them, and this led me to Vedanta. I dropped seeking enlightenment as an experience like before. Also, I had success in meditation enjoying a peaceful still mind whenever I sit for meditation and my favourite method was Wu Wei. After Shiningworld I saw very systematic and reasonable map for moksha which is perfectly suitable for a person like me and while I’m clearing misconceptions about enlightenment which I learned in the past I am re-shaping my lifestyle according to Vedanta radically. Now I am practicing self-inquiry on discrimination of satya-mithya and karma yoga since I found Shiningworld and also applying sattvic lifestyle for a pure mind and slowly I get better. Also, I started to read ”The Essence of Enlightenment”(which helped me on having a clear vision of what am I seeking), ”How to Attain Enlightenment” by James Swartz and will read ”A Manual of Self Unfoldment” by Swami Chinmayananda.

Sundari: You are very new to Vedanta and I am happy that you have contacted us because it shows that you understand the need to be properly taught. There is no need to inform me who you studied with as it is irrelevant.  We call other paths ‘leading errors’. Although they cannot free the mind of ignorance, they lead sincere inquirers to go beyond them and find the teaching that can do that, which is Vedanta. It also really helps that you have learned practices to purify the mind and prepare it for self-inquiry.  Mediation and a sattvic lifestyle do not equal moksa but they are an essential precondition for it. What is important is that you are committed to self-inquiry, you have a sadhana, and understand what is required of you.

Mark: I wrote you because as I said earlier it is the first time, I trust a teacher and I was all alone in this journey. Nobody in my environment has even heard about moksha, I think. I don’t want to make this spiritual surgery without the assistance of a professional anymore because I only suffered more by misunderstandings. I don’t have any more questions and don’t want to waste your time, I just want a strong and right foundation to build my spiritual life progress and don’t look back while striving for liberation. Because my only goal is freedom. I discarded many unnecessary things, relationships, teachings, habits, and made a decision to devote myself only to Vedanta while working on my career with the karma yoga attitude. I know I need to learn and contemplate your teachings more than before in order to understand the essence of the Self.  Thank you for your kindness, attention, and sympathy

Sundari: You are wise to realize that other paths have given you all they can and blessed with the good grace to understand the value of Vedanta. You are not wasting my time if you have valid questions and are dedicated to your sadhana.  We are committed to helping all inquirers as an act of love and service to the teachings. What we need to establish with an inquirer is first that they understand what self-inquiry entails and that they are committed to it. If not, then they are wasting our time because the teachings will not stick.  Clearly, this is not the case with you.

Mark: I’m now 23 years old and since my childhood, I was so interested in philosophy and the mysteries of existence and I was successful as an adolescent in school, career, and relationships while being confident and calm in many aspects of life. I worked while studying in school joyously. But since my seeking journey, everything became chaotic in my mind, and all my self-image disappeared, and fear-anxiety showed up continuously because I was confused about who am I and lost contact with my authenticity. For a year, my body is like a car hard to control which has engine problems. Even little things started to be enough to make this poor little jiva panic. Maybe these fears were always there, and I just became aware of them while not knowing how to deal. You know it is painful to hide it from the people you come across. Only in meditation, I become still. I’m not sure if it is normal in spiritual progress. But anyway, Vedanta is having a really beneficial impact on these problems slowly while I learn about the science of consciousness. I am learning again about my true nature while learning to drive my body/mind vehicle after Vedanta reset.

Sundari:  Yes, what you describe is normal for many inquirers. The ignorance that conditions the mind is beginningless, but it is not endless because Self-knowledge can remove it for you.  But it only works on a mind that is prepared and qualified. Very often, the inquirer finds themselves alone in this as the people they are associated with are not qualified.  It can be lonely because it is difficult to relate to people who are completely identified with the body/mind/world when your mind is breaking away from that conditioning.  There is no language to share about this, it’s like you are from different planets.  And you are in many ways.  The fear that runs samsaris is universal, it comes from the Causal body and affects everyone who is deluded by Maya.  We call it free-floating anxiety. It’s a very deep samskara that plagues the human condition. There is no solution for it in the world and it affects the body, causing much mental and physical suffering.  The physical body is part of the Subtle body, so of course, what goes on in the mind and intellect affect the body. 

Your description of your body like a car breaking down is very apt. Everything is connected to everything else, and the individual jiva seems to have a unique story, but in mithya, there is in truth only one story, and all jiva’s share it.  It is the story of fear and desire, just fill in some seemingly personal details.  Only Self-knowledge can remove it permanently. When Self-knowledge starts working on the mind, the ego can feel very threatened because everything it thinks it knows is being challenged.  So many paths go on about ‘ego-death’, but Vedanta makes it clear that there is no need to kill the ego because it is an object known to you, the Self.  The important thing is to understand what the ego is and how it functions, what it conditions to, the gunas, which you must have some knowledge about if you are reading James’ books.

I am glad to hear that you are committed and following the prescribed methodology for self-inquiry as set out by the sampradaya. Understand that it is not our recommendations necessarily, though we have clarified and simplified the process to assist inquirers.  There is only one way to succeed at self-inquiry assuming you really want freedom from limitation more than anything else, and that is to surrender to the teachings 100%.  If you do not have the requisite faith, you are not going to progress, it’s as simple as that. There is no fine print to this for everyone, no exceptions.

It is also to your advantage that you understand the importance of going slowly and not jumping ahead. You are young and very bright so the tendency to grasp things quickly and get impatient is one you must be cognizant of and manage.  It is not that this is bad, quite the contrary.  But if you do not build a strong foundation from the beginning, you will get stuck later on.  We have inquirers who definitely know they are the Self and have an encompassing knowledge of the scripture.  But somehow, they missed something important. Usually, this is because they never addressed an unconscious binding vasana and thus did not hear an aspect of the teaching, so it never assimilated. So, they get stuck and do not progress to Self-actualization.  

This is not the kiss of death because Self-realization has already rendered their lives relatively free of suffering.  If one is happy with just this, there is no problem.  But the problem is that Self-realization is not the end of the line, it is the beginning. If you have gotten that far, you do have a problem because you know something is missing even though you know who you are, which is why the last stage of self-inquiry, nididhysana is so difficult and takes the longest. Many Self-realized inquirers must go back to the beginning to requalify. There is no shortcut to enlightenment, and it entails cleaning up the jiva’s act and understanding it fully.  It may not be real, but if you are not fully free of it you are not free, and it still suffers.

To be free, as explained, you must follow all the steps of self-inquiry which will take you through all the subtle layers of the jiva-Isvara identity, and what shapes it, the gunas. To negate all you must first understand all. Very importantly, even if you do not yet understand or appreciate the importance, devotional practice is essential.  For karma yoga to truly work in transforming the jiva’s life requires an attitude of gratitude and consecration to Isvara.  You may be beyond Isvara the creator as the Self, but you are not as a jiva. Enlightened or not, as a jiva you are subject to Isvara and the natural laws that run the Field of Existence. To live in peace and be happy in the world requires living in harmony with these laws. And it requires gratitude, which means devotion to Isvara.  See attached satsang on the importance of devotional practice.

It is not that Isvara requires your gratitude because Isvara is a principle and not a person.  But the jiva requires gratitude to be happy.  And never forget, moksa is for the jiva because as the Self you are and always have been free.  But if you do not understand what that means for the jiva, you can never be free of it, and it will never be truly satisfied.  There is no lasting satisfaction as a jiva identified with the world because the jiva and the world are not real. Nothing lasts here.  But as the jiva and world are a reflection of the Self they are the Self. But the Self is not the jiva nor the world.  Both depend on the Self to exist, not the other way around.  Please see satsang posted online on this issue.

Mark: Now I am on the pathless path in Vedanta bus and the destination is the Self while feeling unending excitement to know Thyself. 

Sundari: You are not on a journey to the Self because you are already the Self and already free.  The destination is where you are right now. You just don’t yet understand what it means to be the Self or what freedom means for the jiva. Self-inquiry does seem like a journey for the jiva but in truth, it is only the removal of its blindfold, the hypnosis of duality.  You do not gain Self-knowledge you only lose Self-ignorance. Freedom is not about succeeding at self-inquiry or parroting the teachings. Once Self-knowledge is firm you no longer need the teachings because you know you are the teachings. 

The steps to ‘get there’, to where you are now but do not know it fully yet, are the qualities of being there.  Contemplate that. Develop a strong vasana for satya-mithya discrimination and apply it to every thought/emotion, word, and deed consecrated on the altar of karma yoga. Practice the opposite thought, take a stand in Awareness as Awareness, one thought at a time. Love Isvara with your whole heart and mind. Write if you get stuck, we are here to help you.



Your Shopping cart