Spiritual Heroes


I just burst out laughing when I read your e-mail. Thank you very much!

I may need more time to collect my thoughts and send you a proper response. But thank you and thank you once again:).

V: You’re welcome K. My pleasure.

K: I guess it feels almost like Awareness is present even before the intellect is taking the stance “I am awareness.”

V: Yes, it is, because consciousness must already be present for thinking to occur.

K: I guess the ego-Self finds this pretty hard to believe that this kind of “knowledge” cannot be manipulated to ‘gain’ something.

V: Indeed. The ego cannot gain consciousness because at its essence, the intellect already is consciousness. Furthermore, it can’t gain consciousness because consciousness isn’t an object. However, the ego can gain an understanding of its essential identity with consciousness which, when used to root out ignorant notions in the intellect, can improve the everyday experience of the jiva.

K: I guess there is also some kind of resistance in me; I am not ready to believe that “This is IT; This is all”” that the great sages like Shankara, Jnaneshwar, Ramana, Buddha etc knew. We were made to respect these Mahatmas as special people and there is a huge aspirational quality in the Indian mind towards these giants…..

V: These people should be revered, but maybe not for the reasons you think. The great saints and teachers represent knowledge. So they are just symbols of your true nature, meaning awareness. Seeing them should always bring your mind back to the knowledge of who you are.

Being inspired by them as people is just fine, but this too should be for the right reasons. You do not need to think they are special because they got enlightened. Enlightenment isn’t exactly widespread, but it’s more common than you think. Besides, enlightenment is just realizing you are the self. Since everyone is the self, this is not a special accomplishment. And realizing, “I am the self” is the exact same conclusion every enlightened person has come to, even the ones you’ve never heard about, so Shankara’s, Ramana’s, or Buddha’s enlightenment was not unique in any way. They realized who they were. So what? Many people did that before they did and many have since.

No, the real reason to revere these people is not that they got enlightened, but the degree to which that knowledge transformed their minds and actions. They are proof positive of the empirical value of moksha. Ramana and Buddha were not great because they were jnani’s (self-realized people). They were great because they had such pure hearts. Shankara was not great because he was a jnani. He was great because his intellect had been so purified by knowledge that he was able to expound Vedanta with a clarity that has never been matched. In other words, we revere these people for the same reason we revere any other people: for the purity of their hearts and minds. It’s true that this can be accomplished through other means such as yoga, but as the Gita says, “There is nothing as purifying as knowledge.” Why? Because knowledge shows you that as the self, you are ever-pure.

Kartik: …but again this is the ego-ME “feeling this” while the Awareness-Me is illuminating the feeling.

V: Exactly! Good discrimination.

Kartik: Somehow I do not still feel very ‘Jesus’ like or ‘Shankara’ like with this kind of knowing.

V: Like I said, directly knowing without a doubt that you are the self is the exact same knowing that Shankara—and perhaps Jesus—had. If you’ve got that, then—putting incidental details such as time, place, and personality aside—you are the same as Shankara or any other enlightened person for that matter.

A natural appreciation for spiritual people is a wonderful quality of Indian culture, one that is sorely lacking in the Western world (even for Indians raised in the west). But the potential drawback is thinking you cannot get enlightened because your life and personality is not the same as the spiritual heroes you idolize.

V: Maybe I am still not seeing the complete implications of such a “knowing” Also Swamiji in his talk spoke about Jnana Phalam (the fruit of knowledge) taking time but Jnanam (knowledge) being immediate etc and that perhaps explains something- maybe I have to get established in this knowledge to “reap its benefits”


V: Normal knowledge is ‘mediate’ meaning it is mediated by the mind and senses. It is based on perception and inference and is completely object oriented. But jnanam, the knowledge that you are the self is ‘immediate’ because it is not based on perception or inference because the self is not an object. In other words, you realize you are the self without having to perceive the self or think the self. Because it is existence and consciousness itself, it is self-evident and self-proved.

So the word ‘immediate’ does not indicate time but the fact that knowing the self is not object-dependent.

However, once the self is realized, it does take time for the mind to adjust to the implications of, at its essence, being the self. Imagine how differently you would think and live knowing that you are limitless, full, unchanging and non-separate from everything? This is the fruit of knowledge that occurs over time, assuming you continue to dwell on the knowledge until it destroys any residual binding vasanas.