There seem to me, to be three stages of Vedanta studies; the beginner, intermediate and advanced. And the ones’ who graduate, – all doubts are gone, the knowledge is firm, operating 24/7 and are free.
I am a nicer guy now
The beginning stage I found easy, exhilarant and inspiring. What a relief to find knowledge where finally nothing is missing and to discover Self-inquiry as a sharp sword of discrimination, after doing time for almost 40 years of spiritual searching. For me basically yoga, years of ashram life, more years as a yoga teacher and firmly believing in the dualistic model of spiritual mountain climbing up the Himalayas of enlightenment. Well, I had not reached the top yet, but I was beyond basecamp. There were still a lot of figures I could look up to in the spiritual hierarchy, but many more I could look down on. Although I was modest about it, secretly I felt superior. I was a mini-guru and a spiritual snob. To let go of this by getting to grips with non-duality is a relief. I am a nicer guy now.
When the rubber hits the road
In over two years I have been listening regularly to James Swartz many videos, reading his books and following his advice that Vedanta is not just a read through, but require that I immerse myself. I have entered the intermediate stage. This is where the rubber hits the road and maybe where most Vedanta students find themselves and for the longest period of time. The beginner stage is demanding intellectually, but now the demands goes much deeper, realizing I have entered a one way road, and there is no turning back to the old ways of the world. As a beginner it was possible to have both worlds, but as ignorance gets removed less of the old world remains. When the full impact of that there is no joy in objects hits me, it does have consequences for a lot of choices, values and priorities. It can actually feel a bit lonely, and I have to go, as deep into this aloneness until I realize that I am not alone and empty, but full, whole and complete. To get there I will have to give up my old ways of thinking about myself, the world and everyone in it. It is a crisis. Dark night of the soul, sounds cool, but for me exaggerated, but still a small crisis. The intermediate stage is when I cannot avoid taking Vedanta seriously, not just intellectually, but existentially, wholeheartedly, fully and completely. Immersion, – is the word.
Vedanta sadhana for me becomes important. That is checking up on the qualifications, cultivating a karma yoga attitude and refining the gunas making rajasic choices over tamas, and sattvic over rajas. And then there are all the vasanas, which I think particularly japa and different moderate pranayamas and meditations, chanting and devotion are tools to clean up the hard-drive on a subconscious level and overall cleanup of all aspects of my life, including lifestyle, food, exercise and other (bad) habits.
Burning desire for liberation
When I first read and heard about a burning desire for liberation I thought it did not apply to me. And at least not when it was compared to a drowning man’s need for air or a fish out of water. That sounds as for the advanced stage? Although I could not recognize it at first I realize when I see through the back mirror, I have since my late teens desperately been looking for existential answers to the questions of what is really going on? It got me into years of philosophy studies, later yoga and if there were any new spiritual direction, teacher or method I did not try, it was only because I had not heard about them. I definitely do have a burning desire for liberation, but the fire has been slow, but with Vedanta it grows as the knowledge kindles it.
Enjoy the Ride
The Vedanta landscape seems to me having its ups and down, small crisis under way, but on the whole a gentle ride, which takes me to the destination in its own time. Except that I already am the destination, – I still enjoy the ride.
PS. More information about Vedanta: www.shiningworld.com