The Advantages of Vedanta

Q: I guess I've assumed that Non-duality has its roots in Vedanta, so it would be natural, or completely possible, to learn about Vedanta with some understanding of Non-duality.

A: Yes, that’s correct.
Q: I spent several months emailing with a non-dual teacher and got very close to being done, so to speak. I saw what he was pointing to and it lent a new clarity, but it didn't stick. It felt non-integrated to me. I didn't know how to live with that seeing. So, I stopped seeking and just lived life. I pushed the questions back for the time being.
So, with Vedanta it doesn't seem like anyone else is really teaching it in the states as far as I can tell, and that
James Swartz is doing the heavy lifting. Have you found anyone else? I'm not exactly sure what is drawing me towards the topic. It could be deeper level questions that need answers. I found that I've had to sort of create my own teaching through different videos, writing, and teachers. Each person has a little bit different explanation, or some small insight that got me clear or unstuck. Maybe I'm just used to looking for new information and can't ever stop?!
James seems very critical of others who teach Non-duality. I understand there's a lot of bad information out there, but I don't see the point in discussing it. It makes me a little hesitant to go see him in person. I'm just interested in integration and being clear as possible.
A: It's cool that you found Vedanta. It's a great teaching and it's the source of all the others. It comes from the Vedas and it's been around for thousands of years. You could call it the science of non-duality. So, where it differs from, say, John Wheeler's method is that the main point is still "I am that" – period – BUT then there is also this whole experience of being a person, which is what the lion's share of Vedanta is about. As opposed to the “direct pointing” method, which basically negates that person and that experience without understanding it, understanding how it comes to be, what it's made of, and HOW to negate it, through knowledge of what it is. 

So when you see James criticizing (which is a very small percentage of his content!), he is only saying that the teachings which say "there is no you" are wrong. There is a perceived you, an apparent you, and that one needs to be addressed. It cannot be denied or ignored, or else it will simply pop back up into existence later, in the form of returned suffering or some other ego problem. That apparent person needs to be addressed, and that is what Vedanta does in an organized progression of information, totally logically laid out from beginning to end.

James' series need to be listened to from start to finish – I don't think his YouTube snippets are very helpful because they are not in order, where one thing builds on the last. That's why reading his book and/or listening to a whole series is best. You said that group you followed for a while taught you about how thought assigns experience to an identity – Vedanta is teaching the same thing, but does it in a very structured and time-tested way, leaving no stone unturned. 

Yes, James is doing all the heavy lifting LOL! There are others – even long residential courses you can do with various outfits in the US – but for clearly presenting this information in an accessible and engaging way, James is it. Luckily he's got a couple of disciples that seem to be about ready to take on the mantle. James has been doing this for about forty-five years!

Q: What did you mean by this: "But I needed something that addressed the experience of the human being, which the direct pointing did not do."?

A: The direct pointing of the "neo-Advaita" teaching simply says I am not this person that I appear to be. But here is this persistent experience which includes feeling separate and suffering, and direct pointing never told me anything about that other than it's not real. That's not helpful. As long as I think I am that person, it is real to me. And the moments of "I know I am awareness" (even if they are returned to over and over again) are not enough to quell the underlying sense of separation. And that sense can only be eradicated with an understanding of what this apparent person is made of, why it appears, how it gets confused about its nature. You have to give the apparent person the knowledge it needs, even though that person is not "real." This is how freedom is gained. And the direct pointing never addresses any of that. Vedanta addresses it all.

Q: I really appreciate you getting back to me. I sometimes feel like I'm going through something that is very difficult to talk with other people about. I find all this knowledge very interesting and I have loved seeing a community open up relating to some version of this understanding around Non-duality and Vedanta. Still, I feel like I'm walking around in a different dimension sometimes with some difficulty of relating to others! So, yes, it's great to meet you!

A: I totally understand the feeling of not being able to relate to anyone in the general population about the issues of deepest significance to you! I think we all go through this. It can be a little frustrating, but you will always find support when you need it. 

Q: I have been watching/listening to a series of videos that seem to follow a progression of teaching on Vedanta. It has been very helpful, and now that some understanding has sunk in, I see how helpful James is, and yes, his criticisms are very helpful as well. I guess it takes some time to get a feel for someone. I totally agree about what you say about how far Non-duality can take you.
I remember feeling fine with the idea that everything is just happening and it may or may not be preferable all the time. But, then I would question why is it that I also don't think everything is fine and want to have a solution. If I do not understand that I am awareness, then I need to understand how to act and understand what I am. Like you say, the person will keep popping up and asking questions from the deepest portions of doubt.
A: Yes. It's really nice to know that ultimately, there is only one core confusion, and that is mixing up me – consciousness – with the object/body/mind/person that appears. So really, there are not a bunch of different things one has to learn or figure out, there's just the one. Which is great in its simplicity. But there are myriad factors that cause the confusion to take place, and that is what Vedanta sorts out for us. So yes, it's a process, and it can take a while. The good news is that the results of the work produce more and more ease and peace as you go along – life really gets less complicated as the dramas are dismantled by knowledge. 

Return to Q&A Index