Bede Clifford, Wednesday, July 22, 2015 7:30 am

Listening (1st Phase)

The study of Traditional Vedanta is a method of enquiry which consists of listening to a qualified teacher, who holds up the scriptures as a mirror in which a clear and doubt free vision of the self is available. The subject matter of this enquiry is yourself – what you are in reality, as opposed to what you experience yourself to be.

When a mind is exposing itself to the Vedantic vision, the impact on it is a growing clarity in which we see ourselves, others, the world and God in an entirely different light. This developing clarity is not a result of our experiences, our thinking, our efforts or an act of our will; rather, it is a spontaneous emergence arising out of an understanding that results from listening to a qualified teacher unfolding the scriptures.

This growing clarity, which is the fruit of listening to the unfoldment of the scriptures, is the transformative factor. Unless this arises in your mind, the daily emotional suffering, which consists of our subjective psychological reactions to ourselves, others and the world, will find no real resolution.

Please note that we are talking about a clarity of vision, in the presence of which emotional suffering can’t possibly exist. We are not talking about an understanding that sits in our head like psychology or philosophy or theology (including spiritual ideas); rather, we are talking about a growing clarity of vision which, when active in us, transforms how we think, how we feel and how we act. This is not something esoteric or mystical, it is something which can become evident existentially: a possibility which can become evident in our daily existence. If a spiritual practice doesn’t transform us existentially (our way of being in the world, the quality of our lives), it has no real value.

Traditional Vedanta has an existential (pertaining to existence) impact in that it transforms the quality of, and the way we live our daily lives. We know when we are studying Vedanta in the right way, this is easy to see. We get lighter and lighter about ourselves, others and the world. This is because the vision of ourselves, others and the world undergoes a change.

So the first step in Vedanta is to listen to the unfolding of the scriptures for a length of time. In this way, an understanding (a different way of seeing self, others and the world) will be established in you. It is important that it is firmly established in such a way that it can be recalled. We can easily lose sight of the understanding when we are caught up in an experience of some form of human suffering. These human sufferings are many and varied but always involve some form of friction with ourselves, others or conditions we find ourselves in.

It is a very remarkable thing that whilst we are in the midst of some upset, we can bring to bear on it the clarity of vision which has been established within us, through our listening to the unfoldment of the teaching for some length of time. The interesting thing about the Vedantic understanding is that it is recallable and when it is recalled, it becomes active again. When it becomes active, its impact on the troublesome experience is immediate and evident. This is important, particularly when you are caught in subjective emotional reactions and the vision is lost sight of.

Reflection on experiences that are contrary to the Vedantic vision, need to be seen in the light of our established understanding. This is vital for the assimilation of that same vision in our every day life. This blog entry is really by way of an introduction or a setting of the context for a practical understanding of what we mean by reflection in traditional Vedanta.

There are only two disciplines in Vedanta: Self-Enquiry and preparation. Self-Enquiry goes into the reality of what we really are. Its subject matter is the simple unqualified awareness which is right here, in which all appearances are coming and going. The discipline of preparation is the process of moving from a subjective view of EVERYTHING that happens to a relatively objective view of EVERYTHING that happens. This is freedom from emotional reactivity.

It must be remembered that the Vedantic vision, which culminates in a doubt free vision of the self (which I don’t yet feel really qualified to talk about) also sheds a very objective light on the everyday events of our lives (which I do feel qualified to talk about). Only a mind which is relatively free of subjective distortions (which are mainly unconscious and are not seen as such) and can look at the existential factors of our lives in an objective way, is capable of self-enquiry.

It was a big thing for me to SEE, to really SEE, that when I am upset with my wife or anything else I am upset with, it is not her or it that I am suffering from; rather, I am suffering from a doubt concerning the Vedantic vision. And whilst these doubts are active in me, this vision is not available to me.

I have come to see that every emotional painful experience (anger, loneliness, fear, envy, inferiority, sadness, jealousy, longing for love, holding grievances, etc.) from a Vedantic perspective, are all doubts in the form of experience. The ramifications of this are extraordinary. The removal of the doubt removes the painful experience. The practice of removing doubts is called reflection in Vedanta. It is a practice which is very efficacious in setting aside all the various emotional sufferings in daily life as they come up. This practice of reflection has been an extraordinary find for me. It is this practice I really wish to unpack and make very clear.

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