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!