Thursday, July 17, 2014

Clarity from Advaita

Sri Ramakrishna taught, in the spirit of the Advaita tradition that we all go through stages in our spiritual development, from dualism to semi-non-dualism and eventually to pure non-dualism. This kind of concept is right in line with the Course's emphasis on not skipping steps.

As I have covered in a recent blog, the Course's version of the "creation myth," (how did the impossible happen?), for many people may offer certain advantages in clarity compared to the Advaita tradition. The Course posits that the tiny mad idea (the separation thought, the ego), was our (the Son's) idea, and that the problem was not having the idea, but taking it seriously. The Course then appeals to our innate ability to change our mind as a straightforward "way back" to our Home in Heaven. This "change of mind" (Greek: "Metanoia,"), is the core teaching of Jesus, both what remains of his teachings 2000 years ago, and in ACIM today.
This particular aspect of the Course's explanation of our current predicament, is psychologically extremely powerful and helpful to us in returning to our mind where the problem is, rather than trying to fix the outcomes in the world, where the problem isn't and thus cannot be fixed either. It helps us in taking responsibility for entertaining the separation thought seriously, and now enables us to start to doubt our choice, and help to undo it, for which the Course offers us a stepwise training program, centered on "forgiveness," which properly understood is not dualistic forgiveness of someone out there (the Course would call that "forgiveness to destroy,") but forgiveness of myself for projecting my guilt on someone else, and taking it back to let the Holy Spirit be the judge for me instead.
The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream.
This single lesson learned will set you free from suffering, whatever form it takes. The Holy Spirit will repeat this one inclusive lesson of deliverance until it has been learned, regardless of the form of suffering that brings you pain. Whatever hurt you bring to Him He will make answer with this very simple truth. For this one answer takes away the cause of every form of sorrow and of pain. The form affects His answer not at all, for He would teach you but the single cause of all of them, no matter what their form. And you will understand that miracles reflect the simple statement, "I have done this thing, and it is this I would undo." (ACIM:T-27.VIII.10-11).
In The Disappearance of the Universe, Gary Renard through the voice of Arten, proposes a similar developmental path from duality, to semi-dualism, to non-dualism (such as Vedanta), and finally pure non-dualism as represented by Jesus, in the sense of the total reunification of the Father and the Son (see DU, pp. 30-37). non-dualism is realizing that the world is an illusion, as indeed the Advaita teaching of lila (the godhead playing a game of "who am I" with himself) and Maya does. Pure non-dualism is reflected in the Course in the notion that "there is no world." (ACIM:W-132). Realizing that all these steps are a necessary part of the process is important, and is in-line with the Course's notion that we should not skip steps, lest we trip ourselves up. This is an evolutionary process while you are in it, and you need to respect your attachment to seeing things a certain way, until experience shows you that you are not giving up anything, but rather confining yourself to a constrained point of view, and you can't help but let it go.

Lately, I have been talking with Dutch teacher Jan van Delden, whose path was via Advaita in the tradition of Sri Ramana Maharshi, but who lately realized why A Course in Miracles often is so helpful to people because the forgiveness process teaches us gradually to turn to the Holy Spirit, and incrementally to let go of our ego attachments, in the context of our normal daily lives. Recently, Jan has shifted to teaching the Course for that reason. I already reported how his Advaita teacher at the end of his life had agreed with Jan's personal intuition that the origin of Maya (the life we dream), is our idea of separation, not a game of God, for that would impart some degree of objective reality to the world again. Much later, after the death of his teacher, Jan then found the Course via the work of Margot Krikhaar. However, his Advaita background, along with his in depth study and understanding of the spiritual metaphor of Homer's Odyssey, in turn help him explain the Course in a vibrant, new and different way.

Via Ken Bok I recently became aware of Mooji, and I have been taking in some of his material, which is also quite wonderful and helpful exactly because the language is different from the Course. Interestingly, Ken's interview with him sort of shows that transition, where at first the difference in terminology seemed to be a hurdle, but gradually better and better communication happened, until it ended in an experience of total surrender for Ken, which he has also shared with us, here.
One of the many things I found very helpful in Mooji's presentation was his reaction to the death of his guru, Papaji:
A month after returning to London, Mooji received news that the Master had passed away. Of this Mooji declares: "That Principle that manifests as the Master is ever HERE NOW. The True Master never dies, it is the mister that dies. The true Master, that Sat Guru* within, alone is the Real".
(http://www.mooji.org/biography.html) 
Interestingly, with the Course we are first being pointed to the existence of an "Inner Teacher," and gradually learn that he may show up for us in various manifestations through people, places and things, as we learn to tune in to the Voice more and more because engaging in forgiveness process would gradually lower our resistance, our defenses.

And again, the language of Advaita is different from the Course, but Mooji's approach to questioning our ego is quite interesting, and could be helpful to people:
So unsparing is his scrutiny and uncompromising stance, that the 'I' concept is inescapably exposed as a mental construction, when viewed from the formless awareness we are. 
(http://www.mooji.org/biography.html)
Yet another Advaita teacher caught my attention recently: Tony Parsons. His way of talking about True Empathy (his term: Compassion) versus False Empathy (his term: Complicity), is quite instructive, and really in synch with the Course, except I like the words even better - in particular the word complicity, for that's what it means to play into the ego's conspiracy, which is always about tempting the son of God to believe he's a body, in other words the conspiracy is about making the world real at all costs, and suffering and sacrifice does a great job of that.

In the end all ways lead to Rome, and it won't matter which way you came. The Course respects all paths, but simply suggests that you "stick" to yours in terms of being consistent in your practice. Skipping around on the buffet line is simply another ego stalling tactic. But simply listening to other ways of saying the same thing helps deepen our understanding, and can sometimes bring to light issues we had not been clear on for ourselves, for hearing it in different words, requires a more intent, conscious listening effort.
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