Babaji Bob Kindler answers questions from students
About that nondual teaching that Vedanta proposes first and foremost, mainly ‘God is real, the world is unreal’ — if one understands that properly, what does it do to one’s actions and responsibilities in the world? How can one function?
Vedanta states emphatically that “Brahman is real and the world is unreal” — Brahman Satya, Jagad Mithya. Though an enigmatic statement, and one that gives both room for pause and reason for reaction, this affirmation is a sort of mental mantra for the soul struggling in the world. With it in mind we can work with detachment, as you are finding out, and still keep our compassion intact — even develop a more mature and practical compassion. Then, helping the unreal (transitory) world and its living beings becomes both easier and a means for individual purification of mind so that one can both move beyond the need to embody out of ignorance/desire, and experience the bliss and presence of Brahman while embodied.
In short, one does not have to beat oneself up mentally because one has lost interest in the daily dramas and little superficialities of this world. That is a natural occurrence that has happened to many a maturing soul. If one finds out the ephemeral and ultimately unstable nature of life, worlds, and mind, one can then effectively go about lifting these curtains of subtle delusion from the minds of others. Helping beings with suffering on all levels is a part (not the entirety) of that higher process, and as long as that is kept in mind — along with that mental mantra of Brahman Satya, Jagad Mithya — then all will proceed as it should, for the highest good of all involved. All concerns are then placed in proper relation to Ultimate Reality, instead of improper relationships with relativity.
In a recent excursion into the realm of Yoga in the West, while attempting to find resources and locations where it is taught, practiced, and written up, I was horrified to come up very short, finding that everyone — teachers, students, and spiritual centers — are all preoccupied only with asanas, yogic postures. Sometimes I found a little breathing exercise being done, and a tiny modicum of time at the end of each session was occasionally given to what they called ‘meditation’ (which was nothing but a sort of free-form, free-for-all shorn of any true guidance or depth) but nothing akin to spirituality and its true aims. Am I wrong or mistaken in assuming or thinking that there is more to Yoga than this?
You are neither wrong nor mistaken, but rather made aware and alerted to the puerile and painful predicament that the revered term, practice, and philosophy called “Yoga” faces in this day and time. And it is only predictable that if you bring to a body-oriented culture like America a system that has as a part of its content some body strengthening and purifying exercises, they will seize on just that aspect and make of it the whole, forgetting the rest; just like if you try to transplant an originally honorable system like Tantra in the West, the sensualists-masquerading- as-aspirants-and-instructors of that culture will select from its many helpful practices the only two that fit their fancy and titillate their desire — mainly, sexual intercourse and the imbibing of intoxicants — and make them their emphasis. And it is not just power and pleasure that is vainly sought in the name of spirituality, it is wealth. As Swami Vivekananda remarked when he came to the West:
It will take a long time for the Westerners to understand higher spirituality. Everything is money to them. If a religion brings them money or health or beauty or long life, they will all flock to it, otherwise not. This is a thoroughly materialistic country. The people of this Christian land will recognize religion if only you can cure diseases, work miracles, and open up avenues to money, and understand little of anything else. To the people of the West, ministering to the body is a great thing: they would trim and polish and give their whole attention to that. A thousand instruments for paring nails, ten thousand for hair-cutting, and who can count the varieties of dress and toilet and perfumery. They are a good-natured people, kind and truthful. All is right with them but that enjoyment is their God. It is a country where money flows like rivers, with beauty as its ripple, and learning its waves, and which rolls in luxury....
I am trying to keep my spiritual practices in focus along with a full-time job, a new relationship, family and household obligations, and starting a freelance business on the side, but my meditation practice and spiritual reading has lost its rhythm. My life is disorganized and in flux at present, and I am feeling a related sense of strain. Should I just wait for things to even out, settle down and balance out?
Part of the “waiting for things to balance out” is inevitable in today’s world, but the other part is an often futile assumption that they will. Sadhana, spiritual discipline itself, is that which will eventually (depending upon how much time one invests in it) “even” things out and allow one to function in all matters of life in a calm, detached and balanced way. Therefore, be sure that your spiritual studies and religious life do not suffer under the excuse of “I will get to them when my life calms down or gets better,” for it is precisely these spiritual studies, brought into your life by your good karma and devotion, which will both calm your mind down and make life successful in the end — and in the ultimate rather than the relative sense. Put another way, life may get better without disciplines, but that “better” is to be judged by the fact that “better” always gets “worse” — and then “better” again. People go on in the flux of such dualities like this until the body drops from fatigue, and what is worse is that the mind has not, at that time and through it all, gained its salvation or its peace. People on the path need to know this, and need to hear it often so that what they are doing and gaining by way of studies, worship, meditation, and japa does not get relaxed one iota, but if anything gets increased. Stem the tide of worldliness by adherence to sadhana. All actions will then be done and get accomplished in God.
Some worship the Spirit while others nurture the body. These seem to be two polarities. But another way is to see God as manifest in the body, and the body as a temple, worthy of nurturing and optimizing the health of. What do you think?
Good, but only as far as it goes. The body is a temple for as long as the temple stands. When it falls, no one will want to worship there. Further, the worshiper is not the temple. Think well on this. The real Temple is the Atman, and it, the only refuge too. “Optimizing health” is both futile and a waste of precious time. One may even strive to keep the body in good health so that realizing the Atman will be possible, but this draws the mind out and away from the purpose of human existence and sends it on a potentially dangerous sidetrack. The major events in our lives are predestined — birth, marriage, death. If a yogi comes to know the time of his death, will he then spend all manner of time catering to the body’s health? Why would he, knowing it will be gone soon? Would he instead not bend all efforts to realize his divine nature? Or use the body for the good of others? We are always and ever the Atman, it is true, but the purpose of this life is to realize that Truth amidst the diverse conditions of life. Optimizing the body’s health — how absurd! One disease after another will come to that one who thinks on the body and its health and pleasure, for the opposite polarities of illhealth and pain only stand by waiting. On the other hand, that one who focuses upon God/Reality remains strong against such dualities, even invisible to them, and thus outreaches cause/effect (Karma), time (Kala) and death (Yama). There are those lines to a famous song of India:
....Karma, Kala and Yama may go looking for him, but they will never find him.
It seems to be the opinion of some great thinkers that God is not involved in our daily lives at all, and that all that occurs is simply our own mental projection. Then, one hears people say that they are consulting God or their inner Self — the expression is ‘I am getting that I should do such and such...,’ or ‘My inner guide has told me to...,’ etc. And these so-called tunedin persons get their answer back in seconds — as if God, the Almighty and Transcendent Nondual Reality without a second, is simply standing by for their convenience, awaiting their counsel on any mere mundane matter or traumatic emotional situation! What is the truth of this?
The truth is, that due to Brahman’s uninvolved nature, one has to transcend life and mind in order to consult That which is beyond them. And that takes time. As well, the decrees that come from such a “Place” are harder to work into everyday understanding, and so must be filtered and applied methodically and carefully. An adept takes days to comprehend the Lord’s Will; others take longer, even lifetimes. Thus you find the authentic yogis and luminaries spending greater amounts of time “There,” in supernal contemplation, especially before transmitting any results to others. Those who “get” answers or “consult” their inner guide and so forth are for the most part pretenders who deceive themselves into thinking that what they “get” comes from “on High,” when it usually comes swiftly and directly from the ego-mind complex. In the case of such as these, how could it be otherwise? Is Truth a game of guess and tell?
If God and Divine Mother are not involved in our lives then how are we to understand statements such as ‘May Mother do with me what She will,’ and ‘May God’s Will be done’?
First of all, it is the transcendent aspect of Brahman that is uninvolved in everyday life; otherwise, It would not be Transcendent. Beyond that, one could also make a point for the idea that Brahman and Shakti are very connected in our lives — but from the standpoint of They are we and we are Them. That is, they are not evolved, as most think, but subtly involved. Sri Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad Gita that God does not create cause and effect and various other phenomenal happenings, but that nature does all that — an important teaching to comprehend. Still, nature obeys the supreme laws of the Lord — the Cosmic Laws. In this way is nature and all that abides in it connected with Brahman but not Brahman. For Brahman can never be objectified, being the Eternal Subject. It is a great wonder that all can move, act, and think by the presence of the Absolute, yet It remains unmoved, inactive, and inconceivable. This alone is grounds for a transcendent meditation, or at least a very deep contemplation.
And in the case of the Divine Mother, She is something far more and far less — far more profound and far less comprehendable than beings can imagine or conceive of. If I involve Her in “money matters,” for instance, or matters of everyday concern, She is supremely uninterested and not amenable to such suggestion. That is why Sri Ramakrishna could not ask Her for anything. Not only His own conscience would not allow it, but She cannot be attracted there anyway. So we read that it was Sri Ramakrishna who gave the young Naren and his family the desired boon of food and clothing, while Mother Kali remained aloof. They do not call Her “Detached Witness Consciousness” for nothing.
There are those, however, who though She does not answer in mundane ways, imagine that She does, and project their own will and ego in terms of hopes and expectations over all life situations. Then it becomes “God told me,” “God blessed me,” and “God granted me,” etc. His word, His blessings, and His boons are already permeating everything — particularly in the form of negative experiences — yet people feel that they have to take this original material and shape it into what they most desire and want. In the end we see these people unhappy, and blaming God for what happened to them in nature, in maya, in relativity. For He only “gives” what we need, not what we desire (unless the desire is in accordance with what one needs). That is why Sri Krishna tells Arjuna to seek not what is evil or pleasurable, but what is beneficial. And it takes discrimination to know the difference — what is best for oneself, rather than what is merely good for the ego.
Further, do parents get a special award for raising their children? Do they give them birth and then expect the neighbors to bring them up? In like fashion, God does not need to be lauded for all the good that happens to us, because His mere detached Presence provides for everything — even the “bad,” as I stated. And if the Truth be known, His detached Witness Presence is a sign for us to merge with Him, whereas we instead become attached to the “creation” — our own projection — and enjoy and suffer there in delusion. And then we praise and blame Him for that? At least let me take responsibility for my own doings, all the while knowing this Lord and Mother to be supremely transcendent of such dualities. We are to read and study the scriptures, learn about the dvandva-mohena — the deluding pairs of opposites in maya — and then somehow deludedly assign them to the Nondual Reality? I don’t think so. Therefore we find Swami Vivekananda stating cogently: “Instead of materializing the Spirit, i.e., dragging the spiritual to the material plane, convert the matter into Spirit and try to live in it day and night. Seek not, touch not with your toes even, anything that is uncanny. Let your souls ascend day and night like an unbroken string unto the feet of the Beloved whose throne is in your own hearts and let the rest take care of themselves, i.e., the body and all else. If there be glory in keeping the machine in good trim, it is more glorious to withhold the soul from suffering with the body — that is the only demonstration of your being ‘not matter’ by letting the matter alone.”
Still, there are many of Mother’s smaller powers — shaktis — that oversee the functions of the universe in space and time. One simply bides with them, watching, letting them dictate and trickle down the decisions and outcomes pertinent to daily life. Thus one learns to live like “a blown-off leaf in a gale.”
How can something not be God? That is, how is the ego separate from God as it makes it’s unwise choices? Is it not part of Maya, or Ishvara, and isn’t it all Brahman?
What is real is real; what is unreal is not real. To put it in Sri Krishna’s own words, “The unreal never is; the real never ceases to be.” Is the reflection of the moon in a puddle the real moon? It is not. But it is part of Brahman nevertheless — a part of Brahman’s maya. A snake in a rope, a man in a post, a hornedhare, silver in the shell, the son of a barren woman — all these are not actual. A dream is not real; only the dreamer is real. But so long as the dreamer dreams he will be thinking his dream to be real. He needs to awaken in order to see what is real, the Reality. And when he awakens all the fantastic projections of his vibrating mind, aided by the deft machinations of Maya, will fall away, leaving Brahman revealed. This is what we call Samadhi. There may be other moods, bhavas, bliss experiences, but these are only murmurings of the mind/ego complex that senses inwardly something much more immense beyond its pale. That is why the lower samadhis, as described by both Buddhism and Yoga, are accompanied by bliss. The higher ones are permeated by equanimity, transcendence, and all-pervasiveness.
A question I have been pondering lately is what is the interaction of samskaras vs. karma; what is their relationship? Causal? Can you have one without the other? For example, can someone ‘clear/neutralize their karmas’ but still have ‘negative’ samskaric patterns in their mind?
Karma (repercussions from actions done) and samskaras (mental impressions formed by one’s experiences) go together. You will find some excellent information on these two and their interaction in SRV’s new book, An Extensive Anthology of Sri Ramakrishna’s Stories. There I have likened them to a waterfilled barrel containing many new and rusty nails. The mind is the barrel, the water is the realm of karma, and the nails are the samskaras/mental impressions accumulated and stored up there.
In order of manifestation, roughly speaking, the karmas (sanchita) must appear first, before the brain has been formed by nature. Later on, the karmas (prarabdha, agami) then further formulate and condition the mental layers over a series of rebirths. When actions are perpetrated in the cause and effect atmosphere of relativity, they store up as mental impressions in the subconscious and unconscious mind — like a workman throwing extra nails into the water-filled barrel upon completion of this and that odd-job. If these karmas go unresolved, they will eventually form into samskara-skandhas, which are whole collections of mental impressions, massed together like a clump of rusty nails these samskara-nails remain separate, while others attach themselves to others to form groups. These latter samskaras usually form around one major thought-impression that impacted the mind heavily, positive or negative. When you have a problematic person or a person with problems, the samskara is one of pain, suffering, violence, etc., and when you have a positive person, the samskara is often one of pleasure, success, prosperity, and the like. Both bind.
Now, “unresolved” samskaras are more or less understandable, but “resolved” is crucial for our understanding. One who acts on the field of relativity must not fight merely with only one sword (action), but must deftly incorporate a second sword (wisdom/ knowledge) in the process. This second sword is useful in destroying karmas as they arise, and/or keeping them from forming in the first place. Yet some karmas may get through nonetheless, and for that there is a third sword. This third sword is called sadhana, spiritual efforts and exercises, which enables one to sense or intuit the presence of subtle karmas in the mind, locates them, and subjects them to neutralization. It accomplishes this in accordance with the capacity and ability of the mind in question, conjoined with the nature of what the particular karma or samskara consists of. If the karma is of a gross nature, allocated to the physical alone, a change in the mind’s awareness around work and activity is enjoined (karma yoga). If the samskara or single karma abides in the intellectual plane, tied up with issues of egoism, narrowness, and blocks of that type, a good infusion of study of the science of Self-Knowledge (jnana yoga) is needed.
Then there are samskaras and karmas of a very subtle nature, that do not necessarily impede life overall, but which nevertheless will impede the full and ultimately desired attainment of spiritual realization. Here is where your second question comes into play. One can clear basic karma, and even purify the mind to a great extent, but the subtle samskaras that cause rebirth in ignorance can still persist, unbeknownst to the seeker. Here is where meditation and the higher yogas like jnana and dhyana play a crucial part. Meditation, practiced and guided properly, and implemented into a well-rounded spiritual life and regimen — “all constantly cultivated” — will get to the subtlest root of samskaric presence in the mind, destroying them all completely.
It is to be kept in mind that we are living in and talking about an age (Kali Yuga) where beings have very little original knowledge of their true Self left in awareness, and also where they have already lived a series of lives based upon root-ignorance. Most beings in this day and time are ignorant coming from the womb, are ignorant of their divine origin, remain ignorant throughout their lives, and go to an assumed death still in ignorance. Conventional religion does little to help, and even those who are “saved,” though they may have gained some “salvation,” are not liberated. They only pile back into relative existence again in droves of souls (samsara prag-bhara) to fill the congregations of fundamentalists, dualists, and the societies of moralists and religious elitists. Thus, from the maternity ward to the tomb, beings engage in dream-travel, dragged from birth to death and death to birth never knowing that birth and death are both unreal and self-imposed. God, The Reality, stands back uninvolved. If It had eyes and a mind It would be shocked at what root-ignorance, originally provided to allow for a playful sense of separation, had evolved into at the hands of spiritually stunted human beings. Ironically, human beings even teach Mahamaya some new twists on the principle of ignorance.
To destroy this mind-barrel full of the waters of relativity/karma, to dissolve the nails of stodgy and limiting mental impressions and the rusted crystallizations of multiple nails symbolic of compacted mental impressions, one will need to secure the sharp and strong metal cutters of sadhana by the grace of God and Guru. The strong-arms of family and friends, the screwdriver of conventional religion, and the pliers of therapeutic counsel will all be ultimately ineffectual to the real task at hand. This barrel of ignorant mind is covered with an air-tight cover, nailed shut by mental and egoic misconception. What is inside is seldom ever admitted, or even seen. Approaching the mind-barrel with the metal cutters of well-guided spiritual effort, the sincere seeker will then cut in twain the metal bands of cosmic laws that bind the well-fitted boards of collective and individual human-dreaming together, and the barrel will burst wide open, spilling its contents upon the ground of sobering self-exposure. Then, as the waters of relativity and karma leak away, leaching back into the soil of maya from which they sprang, the aspirant can easily gather up all the individual nails of immediate karma and dissolve them in the vat of acid called Nondual Truth. Finally, with the hammer of deep meditation upon Absolute Reality, the fortunate seeker can smash the compacted conglomerates of rusty nails lying about, symbolizing samskara-skandhas,breaking their crystallized hold on the mind once and for all. This is the path to true Freedom which all must and will follow, to one degree or another, some time or other.
What happens to our senses as we evolve in spiritual understanding?
They become purified, which means that they gravitate more and more towards seeking refinement and leave behind gross preoccupations having to do with passions and base emotions. Moreover, they come to deify everything they see, touch, taste, smell and feel. This is a major step forward along the path of seeing God in everything, which Sri Ramakrishna called the highest attainment possible in this world. But there are attainments that go beyond this world, too....