In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the great teaching stories of both action (karma) and knowledge, Krishna (as consciousness) is driving Arjuna’s chariot, playing the role of teacher and friend. Arjuna, as student and warrior, has a very difficult decisions to make. Does he go to war with his former guru and friends in order to take back his rightful kingdom, taken by the evil Duryodhana (a metaphor for ignorance)?
In the beginning of their friendship, Krishna offered all the teachings of Vedanta to Arjuna, the complete knowledge of self (Jnana Yoga) but it went right over Arjuna’s head because he want not prepared. So Krishna said to Arjuna,”let’s begin with Karma Yoga,” a practice of right attitude and action that reduces one’s vasana (karma) load, quieting the mind enough to assimilate more subtle and advanced teachings. This story of Krishna and Arjuna unfolds in the Bhagavad Gita, one of three primary Vedantic texts/scriptures, providing a beautiful road map for right action in the world.
As we continue to immerse in the knowledge of Vedanta, understanding deepens. Vedanta is an advanced topic, that follows a logical sequence, each piece of knowledge building upon the previous. This path is usually not discovered until others are exhaustively studied and found to be lacking. There are many offerings in the spiritual marketplace as you well know. However many present a mixture of knowledge and ignorance, making it difficult for the student to discern truth from myth – the snake and the rope analogy. I myself spent 10 years studying Advaita (non-duality) Vedanta (path of knowledge) in the lineage of Papaji and Ramana Maharshi, with great teachers but they could only inspire as they did not have a valid means of knowledge necessary to take their students from A to Z, with Z being moksha (liberation).
With one path after another falling short, sometimes painfully, I took off my seeking cap and waved my white flag. However, I just couldn’t get Advaita Vedanta out of my head. Every once in a while, my browser would find itself on an advaita blog. Long story short, a few books and articles later, my present and final teacher, James Swartz appeared. I read his book, How To Attain Enlightenment and just new I had struck gold.
Two years later, with daily immersion into teachings of traditional Vedanta, my life continues to improve. What does this mean? I just feel happier and less attached to the comings and goings of objects and experiences, which is my karma. When things go south, which they still do, it’s shallow and short drop into suffering. This path is not for everyone and it may not be for you and that’s perfect. We each need to work the process that calls to us and most every path does have serious gold nuggets. However, in my study of a various disciplines over 30 years, I have never found such a complete teaching.
What has my process been like? First I was ready to end my suffering. Readiness is a key ingredient. (James has a chapter on the qualifications necessary for enlightenment as well as a chapter on values). The teacher and the teaching appear when the student is ready. Second, I continue to immerse in the teachings, letting previous information about the spiritual journey go. Fresh eyes are required here. Third, I practice every day both formally and informally. The idea is not to just spend 30 minutes a day meditating on a cushion, our whole life becomes the alter, every moment, every experience an opportunity to discriminate the truth (Satya) from the apparently real (Mithya). From the Vedantic perspective, we are not this body, mind, sense complex. It is merely an object/instrument that appears with us – existence, consciousness, limitless-ness. We are the truth, everything that appears within us – sensations, emotions, thoughts, objects and experiences, are not real but they do exist. Fourth, I bring my doubts to a qualified teacher who is further along the path than I until my doubts are neutralized. Fifth, I apply the knowledge to every aspect of my life (which goes back to the second point, practice).
Where is the best place to begin? Without a doubt, Karma Yoga. Regardless of whether or not you desire moksha (freedom), karma yoga is a powerful practice that leads to a happy and good life. The practice: 1. Meet life with an attitude of gratitude. For everything we have, from our bodies to objects and experiences, has been given to us by the field of creation. 2. Take dharmic (right) action, while releasing attachment to outcome. We don’t control the results, only our actions. 3. Accept the fruits of action as prasad (a gift). 4. Enjoy the good, learn from the bad. Karma Yoga is a high level ego and karma neutralizer.
I am so deeply grateful for this opportunity to learn more about and share this ancient technology of consciousness with you. But Eaden, don’t we need a new practice for these new times. Absolutely not! Consciousness (our true nature) has never and will never evolve. We are an action-less, part-less whole with nowhere to go. Yes the jiva’s spectrum of knowledge versus ignorance evolves but only in Maya, the apparent reality. Yes technology has evolved but the jiva of today has the same parts as the historical jiva. The jiva has three bodies (gross, subtle and causal), five sheaths (anna, prana, mano, vijna, and ananda-maya-kosha), and three states (waking, dreaming and sleeping). Vidyaranya, a 14th century sage and vedantan, shared the teaching of reduction in the Panchidasi, whereby you negate all variables (objects that change) leaving the constant. That which cannot be reduced any further is – sat/chit/ananda – existence/consciousness/limitless-ness. Thoughts, feelings and experiences come and go, and this body is continually changing, all within us as, space-less, time-less, non-dual love.
In Gratitude, Eaden Shantay
Nothing I have said above is mine, it all belongs to the sampradaya (lineage). Thank you to my teachers, James Swarts, Ted Schmidt, and Christian Leeby and the teachings of Vedanta.
Opportunities for Exploration:
Dharma Talk: A Vedanta Study Group. 1st & 3rd Thursdays, noon at True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, CO.
Meditation, Mantra and Vedanta – every Wednesday night. Sometimes I come with a topic, most times, it’s just informal. Bring your questions, doubts and experiences with the teachings. www.truenaturehealingarts.com
Sweat Lodge: Sunday, September 18th, 10am. Influenced by the Lakota tradition but infused with Vedanta for sure. www.sacredceremony.wordpress.com