J: I am still searching for freedom in the world. I can’t stay dedicated to inquiry and I get wrapped up in my daily life and pursuits. I am finding it very hard to appreciate the value of knowledge and really what it can do for me.
Vishnudeva: Honestly, I don’t want to pitch you the value of Vedanta because it makes it seem like I’m selling a product (and since Vedanta is just about yourself, I can’t sell you what you already have). But if I must, the value of knowledge is moksha, permanent freedom from all forms of limitation and suffering. Personally, that always motivated me to seek it.
J: I feel like happiness really is having things go my way and getting what I want.
Vishnudeva: Then I’m sorry but you aren’t ready for self-inquiry, plain and simple. Because in order to undertake self-inquiry you have to see that all pursuits in the world are impermanent and therefore fraught with fear and anxiety. When you know that, you give up trying to seek them and go directly for understanding the truth of who you really are (brahman).
J: I don’t know what to do. I am fearful and all I can do is seek pleasure. Could you please help me on this? What is an inquirer supposed to do?
Vishnudeva: An inquirer is supposed make self-knowledge their number one goal and then inquire non-stop. At all times, an inquirer should discriminate the atma (self) from the anatma (not-self), until they directly realize that they are the self. Then no more inquiry is required.
J: How can I make the mind see that it wants freedom and not a particular result in the world?
Vishnudeva: You use the mind to investigate whether or not pursuing objects in the world gives you what you really want (Hint: It doesn’t). But this is something you either see or you don’t see. If you can’t see that pursuing objects doesn’t give happiness, fulfillment etc., you have the following two options.
Option One: Take the scripture’s word for the fact that what you really want when you pursue objects is actually freedom and not the objects themselves. Then continue your sadhana until you see for yourself that what the scripture says is true.
Option Two: Put the Object Happiness Theory to the test by trying to gain freedom through objects. Put all of your time and effort into getting everything you want and avoiding what you don’t want. Get as much money and pleasure as you can. Get a great job, a spouse, a house, a nice car, kids etc. Try to accomplish all of your worldly goals.
You might think I’m kidding but I’m not. If you can’t see that objects won’t give you freedom and you can’t take the scripture’s word for it, then you have to go find out for yourself. As long as you follow dharma, there is no shame in this approach. This is what most people have to do anyway. Trust me, the world is a much better teacher on this matter than I will ever be: It will mercilessly chew you up and spit you out. Then you will be good and ready to seek freedom through knowledge.
Or maybe you won’t. It’s always possible that you’ll be satisfied with the amount of temporary happiness you gain through your dharmic efforts. Then the question of gaining permanent freedom becomes irrelevant. So the problem is solved by either gaining permanent freedom through knowledge or by getting enough temporary happiness that you no longer care about seeking permanent freedom (for the time being). I know many relatively happy, well-adjusted people that fall into the latter category. Again, there is no shame in being this kind of person. When you are good and ready, you’ll pick up your search for knowledge once more.