How to Get Liberated

Someone sent me a link to a video of Rupert Spira, and she told me she was confused by it, and it seemed to contradict other things she had learned. This is my response to her:

This video of Rupert is very clear, and he is saying the truth. But the problem is, he is not telling you how to come to this conclusion 
for yourself. And unless you come to this conclusion for yourself, having it told to you doesn't do you any good. There is no benefit, you are not any closer to the freedom that you want. 

I am really strongly recommending that you start studying Vedanta. Vedanta is systematic, not just random bits of knowledge which are all over the internet and are very confusing. I have to say, Rupert is really clear and he knows he is free, but he doesn't have a complete teaching to offer. This is the drawback of all the contemporary teachers we see all over YouTube. They may be clear themselves, but they have no structured way to teach
you to become clear. 

This is what Vedanta does. Just try
this video: This is the cutest, most engaging Swami teaching the first in a series called Aparokshanubhuti, which means "Direct Experience of the Absolute." Yes, this is what Vedanta teaches, and it takes some patience and diligence, but it is complete and it finishes the job, if you stick with it. You have to have the whole teaching explained from beginning to end, or else something like this video from Rupert will never make sense. Vedanta teaches you HOW to come to this knowledge YOURSELF. 

People do come to this knowledge other ways. Some people have more of a spontaneous understanding, through grace, and then they can talk about it, but they can't show anyone else how to get that same understanding. This is why Vedanta, taught in a systematic way, is such a gift for us seekers. Rupert was never taught the complete teaching, and so he doesn't know how to teach it. 

I can't emphasize enough how fortunate we are for having the availability of this ancient teaching, on the internet, in English, taught by fully-realized Swamis who have been studying this their whole lives. This is a blessing beyond belief that we don't have to go to India, find a guru, etc etc etc. We can sit in the comfort of our homes, and the means of liberation is passed to us for free! 

this Vedanta video I linked, it starts out boring and dry, but please give it a few minutes. By 10:00, it starts getting interesting, and by 20:00, you won't want to turn it off. It really gets good. Swamiji does throw in some Sanskrit but he always translates it. 

This is what I recommend. If you have not already started with a course of Vedanta, this is the way to go, truly. This will answer ALL of your questions. You are a perfect candidate for it, and you are well-prepared. 

Be Here Now?

What does "Be Here Now" or "be in the now" mean?

There is no other time that you can be besides now, so it seems like it doesn't need to be said. But we hear it in the enduring spiritual literature, and so it must have an important message.

It is useful to be reminded to simply keep your mind on what you're doing. Just something as mundane as sweeping the front porch can take on the most blissful quality when that's ALL you're paying attention to.

But the mind isn't satisfied with this at all. It says, "You should be doing something more productive, hurry up now and finish this sweeping so you can do one of the items on your To-Do list." Sound familiar?

Or your mind wants you to take a simple enjoyment and spin it into an ambitious future plan, like playing the guitar becomes "should take lessons, should watch YouTubes, should start a band." We're always finding ways to ruin a perfectly wonderful experience with "shoulds."

Every experience already has everything in it that is needed for joy, peace, and contentment. It doesn't even need to be labeled "good" or "bad" — that's just more of the mind's way of doing things. Nothing is intrinsically good or bad. Washing the dishes can be heavenly Happy

Be here now….since you already are anyway….and enjoy the only thing that is actually, really here — IS-NESS, immediately available. This vast radiance. This ocean of bliss. If a thought arises, the ocean doesn't even register it.

There isn't even an "I" in the immediately available radiance, present right now. Even the "I" thought is not ever going to disturb the vast radiance that is.

"Be in the now" becomes "Don't be anything or anywhere or any time — just be."

Nama Rupa Thinks It's Me

Nama rupa apparently thinks it is me.

It calls itself “I.”

Let me define “
nama rupa” before I go on. Nama rupa literally means “name and form” in Sanskrit, and is used in Vedanta to illustrate that all this which appears as “world” is nothing other than Brahman – pure non-dual essence – appearing to mind as forms that we have given names to. The form really means nothing without the name, and likewise the name means nothing without the form. It is all simply one substance appearing as a plurality. This trickery is the wonderful illusion that makes up our apparent experience of a world.

All interaction is just one
nama rupa interacting with another nama rupa. The mind (also nama rupa) makes a world and a life out of these interactions. And I, pure non-dual essence, am – timeless, formless, nameless. I alone am.

nama rupa is just what it is. Other nama rupas are just what they are. They seem to interact with each other. Interactions have nothing to do with me. All nama rupas are illumined by me, and therefore there can be no “other,” no object of love or hate or fear, no independent thoughts or actions “out there” that are threatening to me. All apparent others are me, with names and forms.

This makes the whole idea of transacting so much easier. There isn’t any real transacting. The names and forms are here for transaction, but they are fictional and here only for that purpose, not for any transcendent purpose.

I just am, being without form. So when this form goes about its day today, there will just be
nama rupas interacting. I don't have anything to do with any of that. It's fine. However they act, including this one, is not my concern. This one doesn't need anything at all. It's only a nama rupa, why should it need anything?

When referring to the body/mind – this programmed
nama rupa who seems to think it is the real me – using “I” is not correct. When I say “I,” it is not referring to the nama rupa. It only means this transcendent one.

Who’s doing this (any action)? Is this me doing this? Or is that
nama rupa, and I am looking on?

Who is having this thought? Is this me having this thought? Or is it
nama rupa, and I am looking on?

Nama rupa is enjoying sitting by the fire with a cup of tea. I look on. I am not the enjoyer of that, and it’s not at all important that nama rupa enjoys that, because enjoyment comes and goes all the time.

Enjoyment of senses isn’t something that I need.
Nama rupa has enjoyment sometimes and sometimes not; sometimes it’s repulsion of what’s coming in through the senses. But either way, it’s not something I need to enjoy, or need to avoid.

nama rupa apparently thinks it is me. So here in this nama rupa apparent world, it seems that “I” refers to this nama rupa. And all the problems come from that one mistake alone.

When I say “I,” it’s not
nama rupa – it’s ME! That “I” refers to me, the one essence, resolver of all problems and worries.

“I” is me.

“I” am this illuminer, untouched, unbroken, unchanging. The entire world and universe and all the bodies depend on me. All the
nama rupas depend on me for their being.

I am even the illuminer of Maya!

So if I am mindful of the tendency of this
nama rupa to claim “I” as itself, just noticing this, slowly it will dawn that it is quite impossible for a name and form appearing in me, witnessing consciousness, to be anything other than a small and unreliable reflection of my true glory, my non-dual essence.

Just More Story?

Sometimes I get an email from someone asking me if Vedanta isn't "just more story." The question, fleshed out, is: Aren't all words, teachings, and concepts just reinforcing the false idea that I am a separate person who needs something in order to be what I already am? Isn't that counterproductive?

There is a "story" in our minds of a separate person, and the more it is investigated, the more we can see that the notion of a separate person apart from the one consciousness is mere folly. So there seems to be logic to the idea that if you get rid of the story, you get rid of the separation. And if one is following this logic, he would want to throw out Vedanta because it appears in the story of "me." After all, I am already just the one pure consciousness, I am already what I am looking for, the logic says. And since I am already this, but can't see it, it must be the ongoing story of "me" that is to blame. But is this true?

No, actually, it's not true. The ongoing story of a separate me is not a problem at all. In fact, it will never go away. Duality is here to stay. So what's the answer, then?

Within the story, this teaching of Vedanta appears. Vedanta is information. While most information — the sciences, psychology, history, etc. — tells me about the world, Vedanta tells me about myself, the very knower of the world. Vedanta gives me information of a different sort — it gives me information which allows me to discriminate what is real from what is unreal. This is liberation. Knowing that I alone am real, and all that appears is unreal, I am free of all that appears.

Once this information is heard, understood, and assimilated by the apparent mind, its job is done. Now, there is no more confusing myself with the apparent mind, the apparent person. I know I am this unbroken consciousness alone, unaffected by duality which appears within me. The apparent person continues to appear and to have a story, and there is no problem with that. Vedanta continues to appear but it is not needed anymore. I do not need to keep learning that I am pure consciousness. Once it is known, apparent bondage no longer binds.

So no, Vedanta is not "just more story." It is not in the same category as other information because it teaches this all-important discrimination between what is real and what is not. Is it conceptual? Yes, everything in duality is conceptual, and duality is not a problem. The only problem is that I take myself to be something (this person) which is experienced, but nonetheless is not really existent.

Vedanta shows us how to stop making the mistake of believing that I am this person which is being experienced right now. And when that job is done, it's pretty obvious that the "person" doesn't need it anymore. The person still appears, but there is no mixing up my identity with that appearance anymore.

The Thought of What I Am

You can’t think a thought that’s not in your mind. You can’t think somewhere outside of your mind, so you’re always thinking in your mind. But you can think the thought, “I am not the mind, I am the witnessing consciousness, I am awareness.”

The thought is in your mind, and the mind is not you, nor is the thought you. But that doesn't mean that it's categorically untrue. The thought “I am the witnessing consciousness”
happens to be true. It's a true thought appearing in your mind. Just because a thought is in the mind doesn’t mean that it’s not true. The thought that you actually are the witnessing consciousness accurately reflects non-dual reality and reveals your true nature.

It's okay to think “I am the witnessing consciousness”
and not worry that it's just the mind making up fairy stories. The thought of your true nature has to appear somewhere, and the mind is the tool for that. It's where self-realization takes place.

Of course this is not to say the mind can now claim, “I, the mind, am the witnessing consciousness.” The mind is
not the witnessing consciousness. You are. The mind is appearing in you. It is not even a thing of its own.

Brahman Playing at Being a Mind

As I sit and look at my mind, I have to wonder, what's really going on here? Is it that I am sitting here with my mind, working away at getting it still, focused, and able to entertain the thought that I am really Brahman?

Remember the story of the tenth man? That's a useful story here. Ten guys cross a raging river, and when they count heads on the other side, they all only count nine, and they fret. A wise man comes along and points out their error, and they are greatly relieved to find, "Oh! I am that tenth man!"

How does this tie in with my meditation? It simply points out how easy it is to forget to look in the most obvious place — right here, at myself. While the mind is struggling away, picturing itself as something separate and very important in its purpose, it has in fact been Brahman all along.

I think of Brahman playing at being all these objects. We know from our Vedanta that none of these objects (mind, thoughts, things) exist independently of Brahman, consciousness. All these apparent things arise out of Brahman, and appear for a time, but they never separate from Brahman and become something else. They are always Brahman through and through.

It's like gold, playing at being a bracelet. There is no reason that gold should not enjoy its existence in all kinds of forms. For a while it seems to be a bracelet, and that form appears, but it never stops being gold. And it doesn't have to try to be gold, or even to know that it is gold. It's just gold. It doesn't have "selfness."

Our minds don't have selfness, either. They are like baubles that Brahman is playing as, for a while. Our minds are completely made of Brahman, like the bauble is made of gold. As much as we like to think of the task the other way around — as my mind trying to "catch" Brahman somehow — really the mind is already fully permeated by Brahman, so much so that it has no existence of its own. Brahman doesn't skip spots — it doesn't go around my mind and reconnect on the other side.

Brahman is playing at being the mind, which then sits down very seriously and tries to find itself. Which is quite funny when you think about it!

Dan the Man

A big "Thank You" to Dan McCann for resolving my website issue. I'll be able to start posting again! Thanks, Dan!

What Are We Seeking?

What is it we are seeking in our spiritual quest? Aren’t we really just seeking the rock solid, permanent understanding that we are one with the divine? Don’t we just want that confidence, that inner freedom from all the endless thinking, planning, worrying, desiring, and fear that comes along with feeling separate and cut off from our source? Don’t we want to just know that everything is okay, just as it is, and be able to relax and enjoy it all?

Understanding. Confidence. Knowing. Why isn’t the word “transformation” used in the above description? Or “becoming,” or “merging”? Or even “transcending”?

Transformation of our being is not what we are seeking. We may think it is, because we feel flawed as we are, but the truth is, we need no transformation at all, because we already are nothing but divinity. There is nothing but divinity. Nothing else exists. So we aren’t seeking to transform into anything, nor are we are seeking to transcend this mundane existence and live as a special kind of being. We are simply seeking to know what we already are, to interpret correctly our conscious experience and all this that appears in our mind. It is this correct interpretation of our ordinary experience that is what we are seeking. Even though we may not realize that for a long time!

Why are we seeking a correct interpretation of our ordinary experience, and not a transformation, transcendence, or becoming? Because it is through this correct interpretation – clarity about what is real – that our true, non-dual nature is revealed. Revealed where? In a prepared, uncluttered mind. This preparation of the mind is the job of

The metaphor of “going home” is an appealing image for seekers. Returning to one’s true self. Imagining that the wandering can stop at last, that one can put one’s feet up in front of a warm fire and relax. But we don’t have to go home – we are already home. This comfy abode is already where we live, we just don’t realize it.

We don’t recognize that there is no separation between any of this that we experience as daily life and the ocean of being-awareness-bliss, divinity, the Self — even though this is the truth of what is. Every feeling is the ocean of bliss, every thought, every pain, every sensation, every object appearing, is completely made of the ocean of bliss. There isn’t anything else.

There is no need to join all the separate things to the ocean of bliss. There's no border, and there's no space between them. The snake is already the rope. There is nothing here but rope. There is no need to try and turn the snake into rope with your mind. It only needs to be recognized for what it already is. There is nothing that needs to be joined to the ocean of bliss, nothing that needs to be transformed. There simply is no separation in existence at all. There is only one. And you know that must be you, because you are always present. You — this very consciousness — are all of it, the entire ocean of being-awareness-bliss.

The snake isn't anything but rope through-and-through. The pot isn't anything but clay through-and-through. So there is no need to take one and permeate it with the other in our mind. That's already a fact. No going anywhere to get it. No moving off this very spot or taking any action. And here you are; you are present, you are already all of this, as this very consciousness. Just to see that, just to know that, is enlightenment. Here you are, one with God.

This is an interpretation of your everyday conscious experience. It happens to be the correct interpretation, which becomes evident when the tricks of the mind are uncovered and invalidated. How are the tricks uncovered? And how does the mind become prepared and uncluttered, so that the truth can be revealed? Through the logic of

We can try to figure it all out on our own, but that way has pitfalls. And there is also no need to waste all that time reinventing the wheel. This work has already been done for you. We are so fortunate to have this ancient Indian teaching available on the internet, in English. It’s really quite remarkable that we do. Between the Vedanta lessons given by
James Swartz and Swami Sarvapriyananda, there is all you need to be free. It takes time, repetition, and patience. But slowly, little by little, it takes shape.


We're Using It For Everything

I want to share this excerpt from Swami Sarvapriyananda with you because of his wonderful take on the "diamond in your hand" idea — not just that we already have a diamond in our hand, but that we are using it for things that are far beneath its glory and value. This that we are using for mundane things is that very same priceless diamond.

“If you say it’s right here, then why am I so miserable? …

“The glory is in accessing it. The glory is in recognizing it. Then you realize, oh my God, what have I been missing all this time? Anybody who has ever realized God has realized it where? Here. Right here. In this life. Within oneself. In everything that they experience. What we experience as the world, what we experience as me the person, the enlightened person experiences as God.

“So the glory lies in recognizing it. I gave the example of the washer man and the stone which finally turned out to be a diamond. He thought it was a stone, and he used it to scrub clothes. ….He took it to a diamond merchant who said, I’ll give you ten million rupees for it.

“You always had that diamond. You never knew its glory. You always have it. We have it right now! So where? We have it and we are using it to scrub clothes. How? We’re using it! I’m using it to look at people, and to desire certain things, to hate other things, and to say that I’m miserable, I want to be happy, and life is so awful – I’m using the same consciousness, which is Brahman. I use it for my prejudice, for my hatred, for my littleness, for my fears, for my anxiety – prejudice, fear, hatred, anxiety – all of that is an awareness in the same consciousness, which is Brahman. We don’t recognize it.”

This is a transcription from Swami Sarvapriyananda, Aparokshanubhuti lesson #22, available on YouTube here.

Another Great Vedanta Teacher

I want to recommend a Vedanta teacher. If you have not yet come across Swami Sarvapriyananda, spiritual leader of the Vedanta Society of New York, I suggest you check him out. He has a large selection of lectures on YouTube.

He is engaging, organized, and has an incredible amount of knowledge. He addresses the challenges of the individual person — the seeker — without ever letting the true, pure non-dual message of Advaita Vedanta be muddied.

He is currently posting an in-depth series on
the introductory text Aparokshanubhuti (Self-Realization), which is a great place for beginners to start, as well as for seasoned Vedantins to gain deeper insight. I also enjoy his open question and answer sessions. Of course, this is all material you are familiar with, if you have been studying Vedanta with James Swartz or another teacher. But sometimes just a slightly different wording or a different example can make a new connection in your mind.

Vedanta really does what it promises to do. It offers a means to liberation through preparing the mind, so that the knowledge of non-dual reality can appear. When the knowledge appears in a prepared,
sattvic mind, all doubt is vanquished, and suffering ends.

Who Gets Enlightened?

There is a question about “who” gets enlightened that seems to devolve into illogic. But there is an explanation that resolves this problem. (This isn’t my explanation, by the way – it’s all strictly Vedanta. I’m not making this up.)

First of all, “who” are we talking about? Not awareness. Awareness doesn’t get enlightened, since awareness is all there is, unchanging, and already complete and full. Nothing is going to change there. Awareness is who I am, and nothing about that changes with enlightenment.

So it must be the apparent person who gets enlightened – the one who feels bound and is suffering. In the apparent intellect of an apparent person, there is a knowledge that is gained whereby the identity, or location, of the “I” is seen or known to be identical with awareness, and not with the apparent person or intellect.

I’ll say that in a simpler way: The person figures out that it is not really a person, but is really awareness.

Now here’s where it seems illogical. If a person figures out that its existence is unreal, and its being is really awareness, then who remains to know this? It seems on the surface that the realized person would be “gone,” the intellect would be gone. These things have become subsumed or dissolved back into awareness where they came from, leaving no one here to be enlightened.

Here’s another way of saying this: How can this dissolving be known? There has to be an intellect here knowing the dissolving, but how can that be, if the intellect has dissolved? There seems to be an error in the logic.

But leave it to Vedanta to sort it out.

The solution is simple: The apparent person doesn’t go away! The person and intellect that appeared
before this knowledge took hold continues to appear after the knowledge takes hold. Enlightenment, or the knowledge that I am awareness, does not remove the apparent world.

The knowledge informs the apparent intellect about its true place in the scheme of things. That's its whole job. The intellect gets clear on the fact that it is not actually real (since only awareness is actually real), and that therefore any idea of “I” must not belong to it. It is apparently known in the apparent intellect, or reflected awareness, that the “I” can only possibly belong to awareness alone.

So this realization does not wipe out the apparent person, it only shifts the identification of who I am to the real one, away from the false one. The false one remains, with apparent knowledge.

I hear this question all the time – who is left to be enlightened? The question casts doubt on the whole idea of enlightenment, seeming to suggest that there is no such thing, or that it’s impossible – that anyone claiming to be enlightened is lying. But if you look at the question through the lens of this knowledge, you see that it’s only a conundrum when we are stuck in the notion “I am this person.”

The shift in identification is what enlightenment is. It is knowing with certainty that I am unchanging, unlimited, unbound awareness, and that all these objects appear in me.

How is this shift made?
Vedanta! Vedanta explains all the ins and outs of how this is done. Please see my Vedanta page for more information.

I Am Awareness


I don’t know where I am
I am just this awareness noticing, seeing
I can be anywhere, it doesn’t matter

I’m nowhere and everywhere
The body and mind want to play with objects
But it’s getting tiresome
Now they would rather just go home

They turn to me
And I have been here all along

How am I known?
I am all there is, so it’s pretty easy
I am known by myself

The mind can go out to an object
And I am here
I did not move
None of that happens outside of me
None of that is other than me

Are You a Person?

Are you really a person? With a continuous life, with a history, with a future? With problems, worries, fears? Joy, love, satisfaction? Accomplishments, opinions, righteousness? Is that you?

Most people think of themselves this way, and that's fine. But if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance this presents a problem for you in some way. There is something that doesn't feel right about the "separate" aspect of being a supposed person, and you've been inquiring into this issue for some time.

The inquiry leads to freedom, ultimately, so don't give up. And the freedom is from the idea of yourself as a person. You experience the freedom of being what you are, which is non-separate from the one undivided awareness, which is all there is. There is a happy ending to this story — always remember that. It's already here now, actually.

Can you ever really experience yourself as non-separate? Well, by definition, no, you can't. But what you can experience is a freedom from the thought-prison of continuity, which leads you on a moment-to-moment basis to keep creating the idea of a person in your mind. It really is possible to stop creating that idea of a person in your mind. Then who will you be? You will be what you already are, which is non-separate, non-dual, just this awareness here, with perhaps the current thought passing through. Nothing more.

The bondage and suffering comes from taking a current arising thought and attaching to it a habitual chain of other thoughts, which your mind is conditioned to follow. No arising thought, by itself, is ever a problem. Look for a thought now, and see if its arising in awareness creates any problem. It doesn't matter what the content of the thought is — you will notice it there, not disturbing anything, until you attach the rest of the "plot" to it. This is the habitual chain, and it is what I mean by "continuity."

Look into continuity and see if it is actually real. Is there any connection between this moment and the next? Really? Do you have any proof of that? Do you know for a fact that whatever is worrying you now even exists in the next moment? The beauty of reality is that it is completely unhinged from time. It is independent of causality. Your mind is free to drop whatever thought comes now, because any continuity or causality that you are attaching to it is just a habit of conditioning, not reality.

Bring up a thought right now that seems to always be troubling you — a worry, a doubt, it can even be a physical pain. And then do a little reality check on it. Do you notice that even though you say "this is on my mind all the time," it really isn't? Notice how often your mind will flit away to something else, and then where did that constant worry go? It wasn't there for a moment. The things we say are constant — they aren't really constant. Nothing is. It may be that a very small percentage of your time is occupied with that thought, and yet the thought arises, "It's on my mind all the time, causing me pain" — but before
that thought arose, it was not present! So we can deduce that that thought is not true. All of your thoughts will eventually reveal themselves not to be true.

We base our lives on the idea that things are constant and continuous, but neither of those things is true. You can look and see for yourself. We put so much pressure on ourselves to fix the problems, work on them, plan for them, be a superhero around them all, all day, every day. When in reality, we really don't have to do any of that. All of that only ever appeared in thought, in the idea that I exist in a continuous, constant flow of thought, and I have to work hard to keep that "life" working properly.

But the truth is, that is not your existence. You know this. You feel it in your bones, in your heart. You don't have to work to be. Keep coming back to awareness and notice how little impact those passing thoughts have on you. Remember that for next time. And after a while, you just won't think of yourself as a person anymore, because the whole person-creating mechanism will have been seen through.

Between and pervading all those passing thoughts of personal needs and cares — there is just you alone — just awareness alone. This is the happy ending that already is.

Nothing is Conditioned

I recently answered a question about whether it is necessary to address the conditioning, when inquiring towards liberation. I said in my answer that Yes, it is necessary to address the conditioning. But I have to qualify what I mean by that.

Addressing the conditioning, in self-inquiry, does not mean going to the therapist and digging through every hangup you have acquired since the moment you were born. Now, I'm not saying
not to go to the therapist — therapy can be really useful and sometimes even urgent, as things are unfolding and as you are facing your ego.

But the kind of "addressing the conditioning" we talk about in self-inquiry is different. It is not digging through the infinite pile of reasons you got so screwed up in the first place. Instead it is seeing how the mind tricks you into believing that that screwed up person is you.

There are many layers to this kind of
discrimination — that's what it's called in Vedanta. It is called discrimination because you are applying your intellect to tell the difference between you and the apparent person you take yourself to be. And there are many layers to it because this false idea of a personal self pervades your apparent being, from the grossest layer — the flesh of the body — to the most spiritual and subtle layer — the sense of "I am." And everything in between.

Vedanta helps you see how many layers you identify with as an apparent person, and how the deception is accomplished. Little by little, layer by layer, by applying your intellect and the tools of Vedanta, discrimination between me and apparent-me is complete.

Conditioning is not personal. Because you (might) feel that your conditioning determines what you do, think, and feel, you mistakenly assume that the conditioning is your
personal conditioning. But there is no personal conditioning. Conditioning is (apparent) matter, acting as it must act, based on everything in the universe that came before. It knows no person. Matter appears, and the universe happens. Bodies appear and actions happen. Thoughts and feelings happen. But nowhere in there has a person been created.

Conditioning isn't even the right word for it. Conditioning is training, and there is nothing being trained. We're just talking about a life as you see it unfolding, and appearing to be acting out certain learned behaviors and thought patterns. Maybe it would be better to call it the unfolding. There is truly nothing personal in the unfolding of the universe.

What is conditioned? Nothing. There is nothing to be conditioned. Okay now I'm sounding like John Wheeler! But John is correct — there is no separate person, there is no cause and effect. I've never argued with John's impeccable logic. I've only offered that there is a way, a method, that you can come to recognize this for yourself, and that is with the tools of the teaching of Vedanta.

Addressing the conditioning, then, in my view, means inquiring into what is underneath
all of it, and seeing, bit by bit, layer by layer, that there is a false picture of a person who is trained to do this or that. Seeing that the picture is false is liberation, and the means to liberation is discrimination between you and the not-you.

Keep Coming Back

Keep coming back to the things you know:

1) There is only consciousness. This consciousness is all there is. Any personal story that appears on top of that consciousness is, let's say, artificial, and does not need to be monitored in order for you to be. You are free in every moment to simply be this uncomplicated consciousness. How nice is that? How lucky are you to know that?

2) Nothing in the world needs to get fixed. There is no amount of fixing, for your own personal life situation, or for humankind, that ever accomplishes anything. There will always be, in life, good things and bad things. If a good thing occurs, great, but the rule of life is that a bad thing will occur sooner or later. The world is not the place to look for any permanent goodness.

As seekers, we have a tendency to think that there is a permanent solution — that other people may have their lows and their fears, but we aren't supposed to have that, we're supposed to have the ticket out. So I think that hard times in life are particularly hard for seekers. Non-acceptance of life's ups-and-downs seems to be built in to our seeking equation. So be easy on yourself in this regard — life is tough for you!

There IS a permanent solution, but it's not in the world. The world has nothing to offer. The world can't provide freedom from the pain of living, NOR can it provide the lasting, unshakeable freedom that we seek in our spiritual inquiry. We're not going to find either of those freedoms in the world. So it's time to remind ourselves once again: the world has nothing to offer.

We might find great joy in life, and be passionate about wonderful things, like grandchildren, or service, or work that we love. But just don't confuse passion with freedom from the duality inherent in that passion.

3) What you think of as yourself is just conditioning. Inquire into your actions, your thoughts, your feelings, and see for yourself. Is there any real "you" there that is independent? Look and see how deep it goes — see if you can find anything that is not conditioning. The layers get very thin and hard to spot, which is the advantage of using the tools of Vedanta to help you spot them. Once you peel all those layers away as "not-me," what remains? Consciousness. You.

4) There is no continuity in time. There is no connection between the "you" of your story right now and the "you" of your story a moment from now. There is nothing happening now that "causes" something to happen next. So anything that is troubling you now can be dropped right now. In consciousness, there is no law which says that a thing appearing now will still be appearing in the next moment. In consciousness, limitlessness is the name of the game. Spontaneous healings, miracles — everything is possible.

5) Ishvara (God) is taking care of the world. You don't need to worry about it. The universe is benign, and you are being taken care of. Whatever is needed, Ishvara will provide. Ishvara never screws up. Ishvara smoothes out the road ahead of you. You can relax.

These are only a few of the things that you know. I suggest you keep coming back to them, and whatever else you have in your personsal toolbox, whenever you find yourself caught up in stories of separation and pain. You will find that the more you bring yourself back to what you know, the easier it will get, and the less time you will spend wandering in the dark.

This is really true — I guarantee it!

Tired of Not Being Happy?

Is it that you are not happy now, and you want to be? If you want to be happy, that must be sometime in the future that you are talking about, right? But what about now? Don't you want to be happy right now? Maybe you already are.

Is there really anything here that you can call unhappiness? Look what is here in this moment — right now, there is peace, there is stillness. There might be some movement on that stillness, and that movement might be a thought that refers to some other time — the past or the future — but that movement doesn't actually MOVE the stillness, does it? Look in your experience and see.

Isn't the stillness still here?

Are you tired of feelings of anxiety? Let's look at those. A fearful thought can arise out of the blue. A little squeeze of anxiety might hit you in the gut somewhere. And what about it? We are all remembering that feeling, right now. And we don't want it to happen anymore. But in this very moment, isn't there a stillness, a peace? Anxiety can only be in the future or the past, but it can't be right now.

"But when I'm in it, it's awful! I run a whole story out in my head and it gets so bad!"

I'll tell you why there is only peace and stillness here, and not anxiety. It's because you are beingness, you are awareness, and your nature is peace and stillness. When anxiety appears, it's just like anything else that appears — it belongs to the story.

Yes, it can be painful and it can be convincing. But it's not in reality. You are the only reality, and you are by nature peace and stillness, aware, being.

The story is self-perpetuating. It's job is to self-perpetuate, and it can do that because of your thoughts. You create a story that is not really there. A whole world of story! As soon as your thoughts are pulled from the story, where is it?

It is nowhere. There is only stillness.

So look for things that only belong to the story. This is what
Vedanta calls discrimination. It's knowing what is real and what is story. As you do your inquiry, you will learn more and more things that are only in the story, and you will learn that things in the story have no power to hurt you, to make you anxious, or to make you unhappy.

Each time an anxious or unhappy thought appears, ask about where it is, where it lives, what it refers to. Does it refer to itself only? Its own story of itself, and the other components of the story? Yes, I guarantee, that thought of the story only refers to the some other part of the story. And you do not live in the story. You do not exist anywhere in the story. Your being is totally independent of the story.

And so….you are free. Now, and all the time. If this isn't how it is for you, it's okay. It's nothing you need to get in the future. Just be present, think of stillness, and it is here.

Free by Nature


I am awareness.

I alone am real.

When I think, "I can't find me right now," that
is me. I am always present. A thought cannot appear without me.

I can never be lost. I can never be hidden.

The insentient thoughts appear in me, and the "I" mistakes itself for that. But only sentience — me — makes that possible.

Whatever is going on in the mind does not distract the mind from me.

Mind appears in me. Mind comes and goes. I am, free of mind.

Experience appears in me. Experiences come and go. I am, free of experience.

I remain pure, as an ever-changing world in thought appears on the movie screen of my mind. The world in thought appears, but is not real. I am the only reality.

Everything I know and experience, as an apparent person, is known because of me — awareness — the singular reality.

Whatever thought appears, how is that thought known? It is known because of me, awareness.

The thoughts are free to come and go. The awareness they appear in is ever-pure, never touched by a thought.

This awareness is who you are.

You are free.

Inquire and learn what can be negated as not real. What remains — you, awareness — is revealed as the one and only reality, free by nature.

Check out the
Vedanta page for my recommendations on how to accomplish this inquiry.

Understanding Ishvara for Liberation

Who is working “you”? Are you the operator of “you”? Are you doing your actions and thinking your thoughts? Is it “you” suffering?

If you have been studying
Vedanta for a while, or are a follower of any non-dual teaching, you know that all there is is awareness. There is only one reality, and a little investigation reveals this reality to be consciousness. The bottom line of Vedanta, and any non-dual teaching, is “I am that,” or “I am awareness.” Since awareness alone is real, and you know you are real, how could you be anything else?

But where the bulk of the self-inquiry work comes in is actually taking the sense of “I,” your normal, everyday sense that you exist, and understanding that this “I” is pointing to awareness and not to the individual being that it feels like you are.

This is where
Ishvara comes in. Ishvara is a term in Vedanta that describes that which operates the field – “the field” meaning the entirety of that which appears, commonly called “the world.”

The field is only apparently real. It isn’t
really real, because only awareness is really real. But undeniably, stuff appears, and the stuff that appears is apparently real. But even though the field is not really “real,” it still operates under a totally consistent and logical system of laws. The field does not behave in a random fashion – actions are followed by reactions, and they’re usually pretty predictable, even just by casual observation.

Ishvara operates the entire field. That includes you. That means your body, your mind, everything. We think we control our body and our mind, but Ishvara actually does that, down to every last detail. There is nothing in the appearance that is not totally Ishvara’s realm.

So there is no actual “you” that exists in the apparent world! Would you still call this entity “I” if it were clear you had no control over it at all? It’s Ishvara’s job to keep you thinking that entity is you – to keep the dance of duality going, to keep you involved and playing along. But unfortunately, this role-playing robs you of the knowledge of your true identity as inherently free and limitless awareness. The real fruit of self-inquiry is putting an end to the mistaken placement of the “I” sense onto a body and mind that is appearing in the field. Goodbye and good riddance to the apparent bondage!

If you were actually controlling the body and mind, then it would make sense to have your “I” attached to that. And that’s what we generally keep thinking, for years and years, even after we have heard and assimilated the knowledge “I am awareness.” There is a tendency to try to keep both identities afloat – both “I am awareness” and “but I’m still in a little bit of control here in the body, I’m still in a bit of suffering, I still need to fix things here,” etc.

There is a reluctance to let go of the idea that I am the person appearing in the field, because it’s not readily apparent how the suffering is going to finally end unless I stay here in the world and get rid of it myself! But you can’t get rid of the suffering by arranging things in the world – not in a million years. Only the understanding that the “I” you actually are is already free ends the suffering. That means knowing without a doubt that the “I” appearing in the world with a body and a mind is not you.

So when we say “I,” there are a few tests to run through your mind to challenge your thinking. It’s just a habit of yours (Ishvara’s habit!) to associate the “I” with the person. But if you have looked into it, you have seen how there is really no control there on “your” part. Thoughts come without your willing them. Feelings arise in response to the thoughts. Actions happen based on the thoughts and feelings. Physical laws are obeyed. There isn’t any choice about any of this. It’s all just happening, according the rules of the apparent matter, and we call that Ishvara.

So if Ishvara is running the body and mind you think of as “I,” that takes away the “doingness,” doesn’t it? Not thinking, not feeling, not acting – not doing anything at all. Just being. And I’m still here, even though Ishvara is running the body and mind. Knowing that Ishvara is in charge does not take away the “I,” does it? So then, what
is the “I”? If there’s no doingness going on, and yet there is beingness, what am I?

There is only one possible “I” – it is the awareness within which all this activity appears. I am awareness. There is nothing I have to do in the appearance to make myself more full, more safe, more satisfied. The appearance will never provide the mind with a sense of safety and fullness, because the mind is a duality machine, operated by Ishvara. The job of Ishvara is to keep this appearance going. Ishvara gives your mind a duality banquet every second, and for every step towards liberation in the appearance, there is a step away. As long as your “I” is planted there, you believe you are not free.

Place the “I” in the right place – that’s all! The beingness you know right now, just pure beingness, conscious presence – take this, see the logic in taking this non-doing, non-controlling beingness as the real “I.” This is liberation.

* * *

As always, I recommend checking out
James Swartz’s Vedanta website, Shining World. My deepest gratitude to James and his tireless work of teaching Vedanta for forty years.

Is Your Freedom a Feeling?

You are already free. This you know from all your spiritual literature, from Vedanta, from your own insights and epiphanies. You, awareness, are already free. So why do you not feel free?

Is it that you have not attained
moksha yet? And that you will feel free when you have attained moksha?

What if you’re never going to feel free? What if it’s not about feeling free?

What if the “free” that you already are has nothing to do with feelings, or with anything else that you usually associate with the word “free”?

The freedom that we are used to thinking about is the one that we find in the dictionary. It’s a noun – a thing – and it is defined relative to other things. But nothing about the Self can be put in relative terms. All relativity is duality, and the Self is non-dual, not made of parts – there is no duality in reality. So the dictionary definition of freedom is not applicable to the Self.

A person can feel free – that’s possible, of course – but only relative to other things. A feeling of freedom comes from all kinds of experiences we can have in the world. Which means that the objects, the circumstances, the thoughts, all have to line up a certain way, and this causes a feeling of freedom. This isn’t a very free freedom, is it? When I have to make sure that all the objects in my experience behave according to plan, and then I’ll get my feeling of freedom for a little while, until the objects move on and don’t line up anymore? That sounds like a lot of work and aggravation for a small payoff that doesn’t last. And that certainly can’t be what
moksha is.

So what about
moksha, liberation, the freedom that the rishis talk about? What kind of freedom is this?

It’s a freedom that doesn’t involve objects at all. And it doesn't involve feelings. Nothing in the world has to be – or even can be! – lined up to produce this freedom. It is already the nature of reality, the nature of you, the Self. There is no way to draw this freedom closer to yourself, since it is already the essence of everything. There is no way to increase it, and no point in even trying. And incredibly, it's not something that you feel. You cannot feel this freedom. It is more subtle than your feeling apparatus, and is beyond the reach of feelings.

It is difficult to conceive of this indefinable freedom – impossible, in fact. Freedom, being a word we associate with objects, is not an accurate word for it. There is no accurate word. Nothing about the Self can be conceived of or put into words, or even known by the mind.

And yet, this is what you are.
Moksha is very simply the knowledge that this non-relative, eternal, unchanging limitlessness is your true nature. This knowledge removes the compulsion to try to make freedom happen in the world, and removes the bondage to chasing a feeling of freedom. Removing this bondage leads to a nice experiential state for the jiva, but this is due to a loss of false belief, not a gaining of "freedom." Moksha is a dropping-off, not an adding-on.

Just knowing who you are – not feeling it, not experiencing it, but
knowing it – reveals the ever-presence of this “freedom” which is no kind of thing you’ve ever thought of with your mind, nor can you. And yet, here it is.

How to get this knowledge?
Vedanta and James Swartz! And self-inquiry, of course.

What Makes Me Think I'm Not Free?

We have heard that the Self is described by the Sanskrit term satchitananda – a compound word consisting of three parts: sat, meaning “beingness” or “existence”; chit, meaning “consciousness”; and ananda, which is usually translated as “bliss,” but Vedanta teacher James Swartz defines as “limitlessness.”

The good news is, we don’t need any help knowing that we are two out of the three! We already know that we exist, and we already know that we are conscious. Those two parts are self-evident. But we have a harder time with the third: it is not immediately apparent that I am limitless – that I am free.

You are free, but you don’t know it. Something in the appearance – the apparent objective world appearing in your consciousness – is telling you that you are not free. It’s not your existence telling you that, and it’s not your consciousness telling you that. It’s something that appears to you – appears
in you, consciousness – that is telling you that you are not free. Does an object appearing in you have that power over you? Does an apparent object (be it a thought, feeling, or belief) have any power to limit you? To tell consciousness that it is not free? Can a limiting thought downstream actually limit anything upstream from it?

So it’s only the idea that your consciousness is limited that needs to be sorted out. If you follow the logic, which tells you that you are already free since you are the Self, then you have a platform from which to launch a good line of inquiry, using questions such as the ones above, or any question that is meaningful for you.

As James Swartz says, Vedanta offers a lot of different teachings. But understanding the truth of just one of them will set you free.