Roadmap To Freedom

Vedanta – A Valid Means of Knowledge

The information below is a summary of teachings on the methodology of Vedanta offered by Ramji (James Swartz).

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.17.52 AM1) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

  • “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki
  • When beginning the path of Vedanta, it is recommended that we set aside our notions of enlightenment, for a time. Essentially, we have provisional faith in the teachings, pending the results of our investigation.
  • Once the teachings have been fully received, compare what we have learned with what we knew prior and determine if what we knew prior still holds water.

2) The Fundamental Problem

  • The belief that we are this body, mind, sense complex, and the reality is a duality.
  • This leads to a sense of limitation and inadequacy.
  • This problem is the root of all other problems.

3) What Do You Want? Freedom from limitation.

  • The Four Pursuits (Purusharthas) or human goals – security (artha), pleasure (kama), virtue (dharma) and freedom (moksha).
  • The first three pursuits are really iterations of a fourth pursuit – the desire for freedom (moksha) from limitation. With security, I am seeking freedom from insecurity, with pleasure I am seeking freedom from feelings of lack and with virtue, I desire not to feel unworthy or bad.
  • What we want, is freedom from the limitation we feel that comes when we are identified with the body, which then leads to seeking happiness in objects and experiences.

4)  Happiness is Not in Objects

  • Definition of an object: Anything but me, as awareness. Anything perceived.
  • Objects include experiences and have a beginning and an end.
  • As the subject (awareness), if I can be aware of an object, it’s not me.
  • Objects can be external such as a bottle or chair, or internal such as sensations, emotions and thoughts.
  • Why can’t limited objects provide lasting happiness? Because objects are always changing, my desires are always changing and my sensory faculties are always changing. This creation (jagat) caused by Maya, is a realm of change.
  • Happiness is not in objects, it is my nature as awareness. The more I chase joy outside myself in objects and experiences, the more I obscure it.
  • If happiness were in objects, the same object would provide the same happiness to anyone who obtained it but it doesn’t. My son loves high top basketball shoes but my mother doesn’t.
  • As soon as I obtain the object of my desire, I then desire another object or experience. If happiness were in objects, then as long as I had an object, I would be happy but this is not the case.
  • When I obtain the object of my desire, and desire is relinquished, like a shutter on a camera, opening for a moment in time, I am flooded with the fulness of true self.

3435906_xxl5) Life is a Zero Sum Game: In Maya, the realm of duality (subject and object), for every loss there is a gain.

  • I am lonely so I seek intimate relationship but once I am in the relationship, I have less independence, more anxiety and need to work to keep the relationship.
  • I want a better job but once I get it, it requires more responsibility and effort.
  • I want to buy an object and I am happy when I get it but I now have less money and need to care for it.
  • I want a big house and lots of things but once I get them, I have to spend time, talent and treasure maintaining them.

6) Non-Dual Nature of Reality

  • Locations of objects teaching – the object is apparently out there but I experience the knowledge of it within my mind. Photons of light strike an object, enter my eye (sense organ) and then my mind takes the shape of the object. So how far is the chair from my mind and how far is my mind from awareness?
  • There is actually no separation between the subject and the object, even though it’s contrary to experience. How can I separate the object from my experience of it?
  • The deeper I go into objects, they break down into smaller and smaller parts. I eventually end up with space, which appears with awareness or consciousness, the substrate of all that is.

7) Experience vs. Knowledge

  • Line diagram example. Experience (sensory input through my eyes which is processed by the brain) tells me the two lines below are different lengths, knowledge (a tape measure) tells me they are the same. Knowledge is that which is true and lasting. Experience is by its nature constantly changing.
  • The snake and the rope metaphor (see picture at top of this page). In the twilight, I mistake the well rope for a snake and I feel afraid. This example shares the concept of superimposition (adhyasa), where a false attribute is overlaid upon something.
  • Satya (the truth) & Mithya (the apparent reality). Satya is that which never changes – awareness. Mithya (Maya) is the realm objects and experiences which are in a constant state of change. By superimposition, we take Maya, the realm of objects and experience to be real but it’s overlaying and dependent upon awareness.

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8) Action (Karma) Can’t Set You Free, only knowledge, which removes ignorance, can.

  • When we first realize there is something more to this life than meets the eye and begin to walk on the spiritual path, we mistakenly use the same methodology for obtaining things in conventional life to obtain freedom.
  • But karma or action can’t lead to moksha (freedom), because we are already free and the more we chase freedom through experience, the more we obscure it.
  • Since we already are that which we seek, Vedanta teaches that we don’t have an action problem, we have a knowledge or ignorance problem.
  • Only knowledge can remove the ignorance of our true nature. The jiva (embodied soul), the action of the jiva, and the object or experience are all limited. So how can a limited entity, taking a limited action, to gain a limited experience, create limitlessness? It can’t. Only knowledge can remove ignorance and reveal the self.
  • We can however convert the desire for objects (experience) into the desire for freedom which greatly serves understanding.
  • While action in the form of spiritual practice (sadhana) cannot set you free, it is beneficial in that it prepares the mind to assimilate the knowledge of self by reduction emotional disturbance and neutralizing binding vasanas (likes and dislikes) in the form of fears and desires which are based in past karma.

9) A Valid Means of Knowledge – Vedanta

  • We can’t sense or perceive self/awareness because we don’t have adequate tools of perception. Our organs of perception, were designed to interface with the five elements of maya, and
  • The self isn’t an object or an experience that can be perceived, it’s formless.
  • However, we can see the reflection of awareness in a sattvic (pure) mind.
  • The mind (subtle body) can be purified through certain actions: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana (knowledge) Yoga, Triguna Vibhava (Three Guna Yoga), and meditation.
  • This purification prepares the mid to assimilate the knowledge of self.
  • I am already free, full, and aware though I am ignorant of my true nature.
  • Only knowledge removes the ignorance (not-self) and reveals the self as awareness.
  • Vedanta is a time tested valid means of knowledge distilled through the ages by countless sages. It does what it purports to do, provide knowledge which removes ignorance, revealing the self which is always present.

10) I am…

  • Limitless, not modified by experience, free from experience, full, a part-less whole, pure, good, non-dual, unconcerned, content, confident, ordinary awareness.

11) Are You Qualified for Moksha (Freedom)?

  • If you are still identified as a Jiva (ego/do-er) versus identified as the self, and still have binding likes and dislike, desires and fears, and…
  • You are unable to assimilate the knowledge that you are whole, complete and good, or that you are limitless, conscious existence, then…
  • You need to qualify (prepare) the jiva for moksha. It simply won’t happen until you have adequately purified the subtle body – mind (emotions), intellect and ego.
  • If you can’t assimilate the knowledge, it does not mean there is something wrong with your teacher or the teaching (though it can), it most often means you are not yet qualified.

12) Qualifications for Enlightenment

  • Discrimination: between what’s real and unchanging (satya – the self) and what changes, all the objects that appear in the self (mithya).
  • Dispassion: Indifference to the results of my actions. It’s all up to the dharmic field.
  • Control of the Mind: Not controlling thought but observing the mind from the place of awareness. We can’t control thought as it is born from past karma but we can control our relationship and response to thought.
  • Control of the Senses: Right action including speech. Aligning our action with dharma.
  • Svadharma: My duty to myself and the field of dharma. “It is better to do a third rate job with your own dharma than a first rate job with someone else’s.” Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Stop trying to change the world and other people. Let go of wanting to be like someone else. Love and accept yourself.
  • Forbearance: There will be challenges along the way,  meet them head on with courage, confidence and acceptance. Learn from the challenges.
  • Ability to Concentrate: Keeping an eye on the prize, the knowledge which leads to freedom.
  • Faith: In the teachings and a teacher pending the results of my investigation. As experiences confirms the teachings, faith is converted to confidence in the knowledge.
  • Burning Desire for Liberation: A vital qualification. The ignorance of Maya is all pervasive and requires great dedication and effort.
  • Once Isvara (the creative force and the dharmic field) sees that you are qualified through your actions, a teacher and teaching will appear and work its magic. You don’t need to seek a guru, the guru will find you.

13) A Qualified Teacher is one who:

  • Is established in self-knowledge.
  • Acts in accordance with dharma.
  • Is free, though a teacher who is not free but understands this methodology and can communicate it properly, can greatly support a student in becoming free.
  • The inverse also holds true, a teacher who is “enlightened” but doesn’t understand the methodology and cannot teach it may not be able to help a student become free.
  • Is kind and compassionate.
  • Treats you as an equal.

14) Yoga – Neutralizes Vasanas & Reduces Emotional Disturbance, which prepares the subtle body for Moksha.

  • Karma Yoga: for the do-er. An attitude of gratitude. Consecrating one’s actions to the field. Taking action in alignment with personal dharma and the greater dharma in a timely manner and with no attachment to the results of action. Results are then received with gratitude as a gift from Bhagavan/Isvara, the creator. The good is enjoyed, the bad is learned from. Neutralizes the ego/do-er,  binding vasanas and emotional discord. Karma Yoga is the best practice to begin with.
  • Jnana Yoga: the practice of self inquiry (atma vichara). 1) Shravanam – immersion in the teachings – the Upanishad, Bhagavad Gita, and subsidiary texts, 2) Mananam – offering up one’s doubts/questions to a qualified teacher, and 3) Nididhyasanam – applying the teachings to every facet of one’s life. Employing the qualifications, taking a stand in awareness.
  • Tri-Guna Vibhava reveals a sattvic (clear) mind by regulating the three gunas (qualities of consciousness) – rajas (projection/creation), tamas (denial/covering) and sattva (clarity/purity). Inquiring into which actions led to which results. Taking those actions which reduce rajas and tamas, revealing sattva.
  • Bhakti (devotion) love. A practice for the emotional body. Converting emotional energy to devotion for knowledge, freedom and God. Acting with gratitude and devotion in service to all creation.
  • Meditation, a form of bhakti which focuses attention on the reflection of the self, awareness, within the subtle body. Meditation practices like Vipassana, neutralize vasanas (likes and dislikes that become binding desires and fears) and prepare the mind for self knowledge. For the Vedantan, meditation is contemplation upon the self.

15) The Value of Values

  • Values are rarely mentioned in the spiritual world, yet they are vital for moksha.
  • Think of values as our inherent dharma, covered by the ignorance of Maya.
  • Values like Qualifications, can be used as spiritual practices to purify the body, mind, sense complex and prepare the mind to assimilate the knowledge of self.
  • Some examples include: Absence of Conceit, Absence of Self-Importance, Non-Injury, Accommodation, and Commitment to Self-Knowledge to name a few.
  • Visit the article The Value of Values, posted here on this site.

16) Enlightenment – It’s Just the Beginning

  • Knowledge reveals who I am, who I have been and will always be.
  • Our vasanas (likes/dislikes, desires/fears) are still present but are rendered non-binding.
  • We still apply knowledge to daily life and live a life in alignment with dharma, as there is no reason to ever take a short cut. We are already whole, complete and good.
  • What we do on a daily basis, may or may not change but we now have understanding of what is real (sattya) and what is apparently real (mithya) and we realize that our happiness is not dependent on objects or experiences (dispassion), it’s our nature as awareness.
  • We are free to live our dharma and enjoy this apparent reality.

“Next to good manners (dharma), enlightenment is the next best thing.”

Deep gratitude to the teachers, teachings, and lineage of traditional Vedanta.

Thank you Ramji who lays this all out so beautifully in both “How to Attain Enlightenment,” and “The Essence of Enlightenment.”

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