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Different approaches and practices
Dennis Waite responds to questions
Q. I wonder if you are familiar with subliminal technology (innertalk.com). I ask because I am a seeker (or in the process of becoming one) and am using 'subliminal spiritual awareness' CDs. It has barely audible messages like, for example, 'I am unconditional love', 'I am Consciousness', 'I am awakened', 'the kingdom of God is within me', etc., to target the subconscious mind in order to accept these messages without the conscious mind censoring them.
I was wondering if it will hinder my progress spiritually? I find the subliminal CDs my only hope to help my sisters who have serious OCDs [obsessive compulsive discorders] and they seem to respond well to them. I am taking lessons at Chinmaya and I heard that you endorse this approach.
A. There are no shortcuts to enlightenment, I am afraid. You have to follow the due process of mental preparation, karma and/or bhakti yoga and then the key practices of shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. Subliminal messages, hypnosis, autosuggestion, etc., may well be very helpful for psychological conditions but they can never provide Self-knowledge. This requires scriptures and, ideally a qualified teacher, accompanied by attention, listening, discrimination, reasoning and so on. And it will take however long it takes. I dont suppose recorded messages will do any harm but they wont help either so why bother? If you are attending Chinmaya regularly, with a good teacher, you will get there eventually!
Q. Thank you very much for your answer. Do you suppose that if I study your books, The Book of One and Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita I can get there? I have trouble understanding the Indian accent and Sanskrit and it took me a very long time to be able to accept that praying to a statue of Krishna or Ganesha is OK (I still feel awkward because I used to be a Christian, who was told that praying to idols is evil and against God).
A. After many years of reading, discussion and study, my considered view is that only traditional advaita has the variety of techniques and teachings available to enable any suitably qualified seeker to become enlightened. Neo-advaita may tip the balance for someone already well versed in the subject. Direct Path may offer a suitable route for a certain type of mind (very intellectual!) but again, I feel that adequate preparation is needed first. Since you are already blessed by having access to a traditional path, I would really advocate sticking to it and not looking elsewhere.
A teacher is really needed there is no one to ask questions of when you are reading a book. It would not do any harm to read books which are in keeping with the traditional approach, whilst still attending Chinmaya, but there is a danger of encountering conflicting ideas if you read outside the tradition and this will only bring about confusion. The second edition of Book of One is due out in April and this is now entirely in keeping with traditional teaching (the first edition was not).
Praying to statues is not an essential part of advaita. But I wouldnt get hung up about it. The statue represents an aspect of the Self (which you are); it is largely a means for focusing the mind and for taking the ego out of the equation. For those to whom it appeals, it can be very helpful indeed. But if it really does not appeal to you, can you not drop this aspect entirely? If it is bringing about resentment or rebellion in you, this is obviously the opposite of the desired effect so is not helpful!
Q. I will definitely continue Chinmaya, knowing that I am blessed to have it 40 minutes away from my home. I guess it's natural to get hung up with idols since present-day Christian ideas were instilled in my mind and it's time to get rid of them to arrive at the ultimate goal. Lord Krishna said it's easier for one to reach Him through form and yet it's difficult to go to Him through the formless.
I was initiated into kuNDalinI by the Parajonthi Mahan group, which brings up the energy from the first chakra to the eyebrow chrakra. I tried to surrender to the Lord but sometimes the pulsation at the eyebrow starts on its own! I asked two swamis from the Chinmaya Mission: one said Consciousness should not be limited to that one spot, while the other said even this kuNDalinI could lead me to brahman.
I don't know what to do. I know if I meditate on the ajna chakra, I feel blissful with a peaceful mind and it sometimes happens on its own when I am at a swami's talk and concentrating on their discourses. Of course, if I can observe the kuNDalinI, it can't be the unmanifest unconditioned brahman since I as brahman cannot observe my Self as the subject but only as a projected object.
What's your view? The other reason why I still sometimes do kuNDalinI is it relieves my asthma and I see radiance and peace (a halo effect).
A. Im afraid that the only thing I know about kuNDalinI is that it has nothing to do with advaita! Enlightenment is about removing the ignorance in the mind that prevents Self-knowledge. You are already the Self, which is not other than the non-dual brahman. You are not the body, nor the mind, nor its habits or inclinations. You really should not get hung up about those things. Giving attention to them means that you are not giving attention to shravaNa, manana or nididhyAsana. Sense control, mind control, stillness of mind, etc., are all important practices as preparation.
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