Meditation, Dogma and Drugs

This is my first satsang in quite some time.  I encourage anyone who reads it to contact me HERE if they need any further clarity on the following points.

Dear Vishnudeva,

It has been almost a year since our last e-mail exchange. How have you been? Are you still not teaching?

V:  Hi F.  I’m doing well, thanks for asking.  I am back to teaching but I’ve been preoccupied with working my day job and recording music.

F: Honestly I am totally of Advaita Vedanta, the more I get to know it and know the people who represent it the more I see how dogmatic it is. So I am glad that I did not travel to India or commit to it. Sorry, I do not mean to offend you.

V:  I’m not offended….unless you count me as one of those dogmatic teachers 🙂  I do agree with you that Vedanta can be dogmatic. However, all spiritual paths, religions and philosophies have teachers/believers who are dogmatic.  So it’s best not to disregard everything Vedanta has to say because of some dogmatic teachers.  It’s the teaching that is important, not the teachers, not the students.  All the same, I know many teachers and students that are not dogmatic at all.

Regarding India, I didn’t think it was a good idea for you to go anyway.

F:  I just cannot condone how arrogant the Advaita Vedanta crowd is. They thrive mostly on memorized knowledge and find fault in every other teaching other than theirs, which is a fault in itself.

V:  I think this depends on what part of the Advaita Vedanta ‘crowd’ you spend time with although I don’t disagree that there can be some arrogance.  But arrogant teachers and students do not negate the truths that are contained in the teaching.  Vedanta doesn’t need defending but I know the things I learned from Vedanta opened my eyes to the truth of reality and changed my life forever. It would be a shame for you to miss out on those things because of some bad teachers and students.

I’ll say this too:  only those who have not understood the truth of Vedanta for themselves thrive on memorized knowledge.

F:  From what I understand Advaita Vedanta is the end of the path and it’s to be taken separately and taught in a retreat.  It is the end of the path when the mind has ripened and matured.

V:  No, it need not be taught in retreat.  Vedanta can be taught and studied in many different settings.

Yes, your mind needs to be ‘ripe’.  But ‘ripe’ just means that your mind needs to be relatively focused, clear and objective.  Nothing more.  A mind like that is required for success in almost anything.

F:  But it now seems Vedanta has become a path by its own right. It is imparted to everyone regardless of if they are ready to receive it or not which creates further confusion in the mind and dismantles its intended purpose.

Regards,

F

V:  These are the days of the internet F.  Now any teaching is available to anyone, anywhere and this is both a good and bad thing.  It’s a good thing because it makes the teaching more accessible to people who are ready for it.  In the past, you couldn’t just email a Vedanta teacher and get an instant answer.  You’d probably have to travel to India and wander around until you found a teacher, who may or may not have been willing to accept you.  And it’s a bad thing because it makes the teaching more accessible to people who are not ready for it.  But this is no fault of Vedanta.  The teaching can’t help the fact that it has become more accessible to unqualified students through the internet.  However, even this isn’t really bad because you can’t tell if a student is qualified or not unless they’ve had access to the teaching in the first place. So actually, everything is fine.

Anyway, I’d be interested to know why you chose to write to me.  I know I made some comments but I didn’t really see you asking any questions.  What’s on your mind?  What happened since we last spoke to make you feel the way you do?

Hi Vishnudeva,

I wrote because I needed to share with someone who knows the truth so I can get clear through the interaction. I find the best satsang is when one is able to share with another and reflect back to each other.

V:  Yes, me too.

F:  Well I think I entered Advaita Vedanta from the wrong door which is xxxxx xxxxxx and his students, so this gave me a twisted impression of Vedanta. I am sure there are many great Advaita Vedanta teachers out there who are real and humble.

V:  Yes, there are.

F:  Yes I do agree the teaching holds great Truths.

I do have periods of clarity that I am not this body mind and this body mind is contained within me but these are fast fleeting glimpses. I am working on purifying the mind and soon will do a 10 day Vipassana retreat to further this purification.  I want to be able to reflect deeply into this false knowledge that I am trapped in this body mind as a separate entity with a past present and future.

V:  So do you have a regular meditation practice?  Thirty minutes twice daily, everyday?

F:  I have been watching Swamini Svatmavidyananda videos and enjoying her way of teaching.

V:  I met her a couple of times when I lived in Oregon.  She has an ashram there.  She seems to be a humble and genuine teacher.

F:  As I told you earlier I think that only direct interaction and exchange can bring forward the teachings.

V:  Yeah, me too.  Feel free to ask me questions.  I am happy to help.

F:  How can one abide and live as truth without the confusion of identifying as this body mind or in other words this I sense being trapped in this structure.

Regards,

F

V:  Through long, hard and continuous practice.  You need to get it completely clear in your mind that that mind and body are merely appearances that do not affect you.  After that, it doesn’t matter if you sometimes identify with them.  That is going to continue to happen no matter what.  But at those moments when you think you are the mind and body (assuming these thoughts are causing you mental distress), you need to be able to recall what you clearly know to be true:  that you aren’t the mind and body.  Because even once you see that clearly, your mind will continue to think otherwise.  At those moments, you simply apply what you know to be true.

And here’s something that might help.  One traditional Vedantic way to inquire is to ask, “If my body and mind are known to me, how can they be me?”  But another way to look at it is simply to ask, “If my body and mind are made of parts that are constantly changing, and not always present (such as in sleep), how can they be real?”  Because that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Thinking the mind and body are real.  Only a real body and mind can cause you real problems since that is what all of the problems are centered on.  That and the external world, but it also constantly changes and disappears so it also cannot be real. So if the body and mind (the person you think you are) and the world aren’t actually real, then there are no real problems, are there?

Feel free to ask me further questions.

Vishnudeva,

No I do not have a regular meditation practice.  I used to but I stopped. I hope to incorporate meditation into my daily life after the Vipassana retreat to purify the mind.

V:  If you are interested in purifying the mind, then I highly recommend that you re-start your meditation practice.  Consistency is the key.  I meditated twice daily for several years before, during and after studying Vedanta.  I still meditate.

F:  I also use The Work of Byron Katie to purify the mind it helped me a lot to get clear on so many issues. I also used Ayahuasca with real shamans to help purify the mind and it did magic. I might do more if I am able to travel back to Ecuador.  I have a plan to move there to establish a cleaner more balanced normal life.

V:  I used drugs recreationally for years.  But I gave that up when I got serious about understanding my real nature.  They were clouding my mind. The only thing I learned from drugs was that your mind can make you believe anything.  And that at least gave me a clue that reality wasn’t exactly how I thought it was….

So out of curiosity, what did ayahuasca teach you about yourself?

F:  I do understand the logic behind the Vedantic approach in asking sucg questions like: “If my body and mind are made of parts that are constantly changing, and not always present (such as in sleep), how can they be real?”  I do not resonate with this approach.  I feel when I do ask such questions they are superficial and do not penetrate much.

V:  I strongly disagree.  These are precisely the kinds of questions that are needed to arrive at the truth.  Your mind and body cannot be ‘transcended’ unless they are seen to be unreal and other than you. These are not superficial questions at all, because they are precisely designed to penetrate below the surface of appearances and reveal what is actually happening (which is the opposite of superficial).  If the questions do not penetrate, it is because you aren’t considering them carefully enough or considering their implications.  I know this from personal experience as well as from teaching for several years.

F:  I believe such questions should arise naturally after the mind has been purified properly. I do not have many questions, I feel all what I can do now is more mind purification and listen to the teachings.

V:  People often think this is a process done step-by-step.  Step One is purification.  Step Two is inquiry.  This isn’t true.  You are supposed to inquire while you purify your mind.  Why?  Because inquiry is the greatest form of purification.  The Gita says, “Knowledge is the greatest purifier.”  I don’t believe that just because the Gita says it.  I know that from my own personal experience and practice.   If you truly investigate your mind, your body, and the world around you and see them to be the transient, hollow, unreal objects that they are, your mind automatically purifies.  Why?  Because your mind, body and the world are causing your problems:  your fears, your desires, anger etc. i.e. your ‘impurities’.  Objects are what distract you.  Objects are what bother you.  Objects are what make you afraid.  Thoughts do the exact same thing.  If you see through them, meaning you truly see that they are not real, then you have less and less fears and desires etc.  You have less ‘impurity.’  And when you realize that you are not you at all, you have no impurity at all.  Because impurity itself is a false appearance.  It does not belong to you, pure being.

Aside from inquiry and meditation, there are other everyday methods of purification I can teach you if you are interested.

F:  I believe the company of realized beings is very important.

Regards,

Faisal

V:  The company of realized beings can be inspirational, but just for the record, it’s not all that important.  I didn’t personally meet one until after “I” was one myself, assuming you actually believe me when I say that, because the problem is that you can never tell if someone is a ‘realized’ being anyway since you can never know their inmost thoughts. It’s really helpful to remember that.

The point?  That you can do this Faisal.  Right now.  Right where you are.  Right with what you have.  Just get to work like nothing else matters and everything else will fall into place.   Purify your mind but don’t get hung up on it.  Why? Because understanding your true nature is the point, not purity.  Purity is good.  But knowledge is better.  And the bonus is that knowledge leads to further purity.

Vishnudeva,

First I want to thank you for taking the time to read and reply. I am grateful. Inline image

V:  No problem, you’re welcome.

F:  I 100% agree about the meditation practice.  I am going to the Vipassana retreat to learn the method of S N Goenka.  Have you heard of it?

V:  No, I’ve never heard of that method. But vipassana is a meditation where you sit and witness your mind is it not?  If so, that is basically the kind of meditation I do and the one I think is the most helpful.  Granted, I think all meditation must be good for focusing the mind, but watching your thoughts is the most helpful in negating the doer, working with your psychological junk, and most importantly, gaining knowing or removing ignorance, whichever way you want to look at it.

F:  May I ask what kind of recreational drugs you used?  Because I also did use some drugs like MDMA, LSD and marijuana but I have stopped as the desire for them has vanished.

V:  I drank and smoked a lot of weed.  I dabbled in hard drugs too.  Coke, pills, hallucinogens, ecstasy, opium and maybe some other stuff I don’t even remember.  I had some fun but it was stupid, dangerous, a waste of time and detrimental to my health.  I was not on a spiritual path at the time (quite the opposite) but hallucinogens did clue me in to the fact that reality may not be exactly as I thought it was, that my mind could make me see and believe anything as if it were real.  That was a helpful insight when I got back on the spiritual path and started to investigate the reality of objects.

F:  Ayahuasca is not in any way shape or form a recreational drug, it can not be. It is a medicine.

V:  That’s what all drug users say 🙂  Cocaine, heroin, opium, MDMA, LSD have all been prescribed medicinally.  Now, as seen in the US, weed is too.  I’m not saying they have no medical value whatsoever, but they are certainly drugs.  Anything that alters the normal functioning of your mind and body is a drug.  Maybe you didn’t know, but the active component of ayahuasca, DMT, is now a street drug.  Kids I work with use it just to get high, not for spiritual reasons at all. It’s just another LSD or psylocibin to them.

F:  It’s a ceremonial medicine taken under the guidance of a well-trained Shaman. Lots of preparation is undergone before taking it because it could kill you, if for example if you have recently taken MDMA.

V:  That’s not a good advertisement for taking ayahuasca 😉

F:  It helped me in resolving deep rooted issues that I was not able to process no matter what I did. It is the greatest tool I have encountered in my life. No wonder it is called “The Vine of Death”. It simply opens up the subconscious and it eradicates the vasanas from the roots. I have taken it only four times but I might take it more. A vasana that could take a life time to clear up could be cleared in one or two ceremonies.

V:  Well, I’ve never used ayahuasca, so perhaps it does eradicate vasanas (I doubt it).  But it sounds like, similar to other drugs, it can create another vasana:  the vasana for doing more ayahuasca, which as you’ve said, is dangerous (The Vine of Death, right?).

I certainly don’t judge people for using drugs because  I used to use them.  And certainly, you don’t need my approval to do anything.  But you are coming to me for advice on the spiritual path.  And in that regard, take it or leave it, I do not advocate the use of drugs (or medicine as you say) on the spiritual path.  AT ALL.  And I’d say the majority of spiritual paths and spiritual teachers agree with me on this.  Why?  Because of the physical side effects.  Because they cloud your mind.  Because while they may seemingly clear up one problem, they create another.

There are no shortcuts.  The process of cleaning up the mind is a hard fought, day-to-day process of meditation, spiritual practice etc.  It is a lifelong process that has no end, because whatever can be cleaned can get dirty again.

That’s the catch about purification, which is why I said earlier not to get too hung up on it.  People seem to think they will purify themselves, get rid of their habits and hang ups and then stay pure forever.  Because the mind never stops changing this isn’t possible.  So you have to keep cleaning up the mind again and again.  Otherwise you will not enjoy the fruit of the knowledge gained from Vedanta, which is peace of mind.

F:  Aayahusca is a full path on its own. It purifies the whole structure and it teaches you from the inside out. It is said the process of purification could take somewhere between 4 to 20 ceremonies. This path requires total commitment and dedication if I choose to do it.

V:  What do you mean by ‘full path’?  For me, a full path is not one that only helps to purify the mind.  A full path is one that shows you that ultimately you are pure because you are not the mind.  What are your thoughts on that?

V: (from previous email)  Aside from inquiry and meditation, there are other everyday methods of purification I can teach you if you are interested.

F:  Yes. Please do.

V:  OK.  As the Gita says, there are two methods:  knowledge and action.  We’ve talked about the knowledge part somewhat already.  The idea is that when you investigate external objects (people, places, situations, possessions etc.) and internal objects (thoughts, feelings etc.) you see that they lack any inherent value, are transient and have no actual reality.  Since objects have no inherent value (meaning they are not inherently good or bad because good and bad are just ideas we superimpose on them) and not real then we desire them less and fear them less.  There’s finer details to this but that’s the basic idea.

That leaves action, action meaning how you live your everyday life.  Our minds get disturbed by action because 1) We think we are the doers of actions and therefore feel responsible for everything we do or don’t do  2) We worry about whether our actions will get us what we want or not 3) We don’t get the desired results from our actions.

The solution is still knowledge, but it is a knowledge that informs how we perform action.  And by performing action informed by this knowledge, it calms and purifies fears and desires.

And that knowledge is 1) You are not the doer.  The idea of “I” (the doer) is just that, an idea.  It is a transient thought that can’t be real.  And action is a complex process made up of many parts (your mind and body) and dependent on many factors (the external world, other people etc.), none of which are you or make up a permanent, real ‘you’.  2) You have no idea what will happen when you do an action.  So there’s no need to worry about it 3) No result of your action will ever make you permanently happy, or permanently sad for that matter.  Even what makes you happy now won’t make you happy later.  So no getting what you want is not a big deal.

Going about your daily business with the mindset can transform your every action into a practice for purifying your mind.  And more importantly, it leads to greater peace of mind, which is the goal anyway.  Again, there’s finer detail here but that’s the basic idea.

F:  Is not realization the evaporation of the false knowledge, “I am this separate ‘I’ that is identified as this body mind”? And does not this freedom reflect on the body/mind?

V: Yes.  There are other points as well.

F:  Does not realization eradicate the source of fear, anger and the rest of the negative emotions?

V:  No.  It merely lessens fear, anger and negative emotions.  Even if you understand your true nature, the mind is still transient and continuously changing.  It is also subject to forces beyond its control:  the unconscious and the external world.  So even though you can remove ignorance regarding your true nature, the mind can never be fully purified.

That being said, knowledge of your true nature is the best purifier you can get for your mind because it helps the mind to re-orient itself to the way things actually are.  And it is the greatest purifier in general because it shows you that you are not the impure mind in the first place.

The idea that ‘realized’ beings have no fear, anger or negative emotions is present in scripture and perpetuated by some teachers.  At best, this idea is hyperbole, an exaggeration.  At worst, it is pure fiction.  There are actually many very angry sages in the scriptures.  I’m not saying that anger is justified in any way but  ‘realized beings’ are still human beings, albeit human beings that know they are not human beings, if that makes sense.  I’ve never met a single ‘realized being’ who never gets sad, mad, afraid etc. And I actually know several people who are not interested in non-dual teachings whatsoever who are better adjusted and nicer than some of my ‘realized” friends.  My wife and father are good examples.  It’s true that my ‘realized’ friends get upset much less than your average person.  But when they do, the difference between them and the average person is that my ‘realized’ friends clearly understand that it doesn’t matter that their mind gets sad, mad, afraid etc., because they are not the mind.  That doesn’t make them any better than anyone else, but is a BIG difference.

F:  As you said true knowledge is the greatest purifier. So I am assuming that if one truly knows who they are it should reflect on their body mind, in their actions and attitude.

V:  It does.  When properly applied, it changes your actions and attitudes for the better.

F:  How did this realization effect your life!!

V:  I’m more objective.  I’m more calm and relaxed.  I feel more connected to the world around me.  I see the deeper truth behind the appearance.  All of this has a positive effect on my so-called life.

But ‘I’ still have a bad temper.  ‘I’ still have a very busy mind.  ‘I’ still have fears and desires. However, I know that the ‘I’ is not me, that those negative mental states are not real and that they don’t say anything about me.  So ultimately it doesn’t bother me that they are there.  This in no way excuses the behavior but I’m okay with who the apparent Vishnudeva is.  Self-acceptance is great for peace of mind.

On the other hand, you can continue thinking you are the apparent person and get bent out of shape about how that apparent person is.  Or you can understand that that person isn’t real and stop worrying about it.  Since the apparent person will never be the exact way you want them to be, the second option is the much wiser choice.

A caveat:  For instance, while I feel fine about who I appear to be, I do understand that anger is bad for the body and mind and problematic for my personal relationships.  So although I do not feel personally responsible for it, and I’m not overly concerned about it, I still make efforts to work on my temper.  I continuously apply self-knowledge to it in an effort to alleviate it.  If it works, fine.  If not, fine.  That’s peace of mind.

F:  Did it penetrate all aspects of your being?

V:  Yes.  What you know permeates everything you think and do.

F:  Why do you still meditate?

V:  Because it’s a good healthy practice.  It calms and focuses the mind and provides an excellent mental environment for me to contemplate and dwell on my true nature.

My good friend likens it to exercise.  You don’t just exercise for a little while and quit.  Exercise is a lifelong practice that the body always needs and that is always good for the body.  Likewise, you shouldn’t just meditate for a period and then quit.  It too is a lifelong practice that the mind always needs and that always benefits the mind.  For the life of me I do not understand why people think that self-knowledge has to end meditation, as if they only reason to meditate is self-knowledge.  Meditation is in fact an aid to self-knowledge.  But in and of itself, it is an amazing tool for focus and peace of mind.  Why someone would not want those benefits is beyond me.

Vishnudeva,

Here are some replies to your previous responses.

V:  (from previous email)  No, I’ve never heard of that method. But vipassana is a meditation where you sit and witness your mind is it not?

F:  Yes, Vipassana is basically that.   The retreat will be to sit for 10 hours a day for 10 days to just watch.  There will be breaks in between for sure.

V:  Cool.  Sounds intense.

V:  (from previous email) That’s what all drug users say 🙂  Cocaine, heroin, opium, MDMA, LSD have all been prescribed medicinally.  Now, as seen in the US, weed is too.  I’m not saying they have no medical value whatsoever, but they are certainly drugs.  Anything that alters the normal functioning of your mind and body is a drug.  Maybe you didn’t know, but the active component of ayahuasca, DMT, is now a street drug.  Kids I work with use it just to get high, not for spiritual reasons at all. It’s just another LSD or psylocibin to them. 

F:  All the substances you have mentioned above are either pure chemicals manufactured in labs or some plants which went through a heavy chemical process to produce the final product like cocaine, heroin, opium and DMT.  Ayahuasca on the other hand does not go through any chemical process in a lab like extraction, bleaching, altering etc. Yes I know that DMT is being extracted to be smoked but again I tried that too and it has nothing to do with Ayahuasca really. It is like coca leaves that are chewed by the people of the Andes to give them energy to be able to climb the mountains but when these leaves undergo the chemical process to become cocaine, you will have a destructive substance at hand. My take is that anything could be used for or against oneself…

V:  I disagree because living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself cannot be used against you.  On the other hand, plants or chemicals that get you high are very likely to be used against oneself.  And others as well.

F:  (cont. from above) …even the highest teachings [can be used against oneself].  The ego can turn these teachings into objects to use for reasons like fame or money.  We can see this in the whole Neo Advaita movement.

V:  Yes. I truly despise that sort of thing.  Not Neo Advaita, but using the teaching for fame and money.

F:  I might drink Ayahusca again.  Or maybe not.  I am not really attached to doing it as it is a very tough process and requires full dedication and immersion.

V:  Well, you know my thoughts on this. But I’m not the kind of teacher to try to tell you what to do.  You’re a grownup.  I’m just giving you what I’d like to think are well-informed opinions, in the same way I’d sit and discuss spiritual stuff with my friends, with whom I don’t always agree and often have heated debates.  So even if I give you some grief, I’m doing it in the spirit of two buddies having a chat over a cup of coffee…or perhaps ayahuasca 🙂  Just kidding, just kidding, I couldn’t resist.

V:  (from previous email) What do you mean by ‘full path’?  For me, a full path is not one that only helps to purify the mind.  A full path is one that shows you that ultimately you are pure because you are not the mind.  What are your thoughts on that?

F:  What I mean by a full path is it helps you remove ignorance from the inside out by uprooting the cause of every delusion until one is ready enough to know their true identity as pure being. It is like the Vedas.  They reveal all the details of how to live life in all its shades and when ready one immerses oneself in the final stage that is Advaita Vedanta.   Shamanism is like that, a complete path unto itself and Ayahusca is a part of it, a very powerful tool that purifies.

Regards,

Faisal

V:  Thanks for elaborating.

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