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Awakening, Karma and Renunciation
by Colin Drake
I recently wrote an article entitled Why Do Anything? in reply to a reader of Beyond the Separate Self who was asking:
If I identify as awareness. I don't understand how anything can be done.....why would I want to brush my teeth through wanting to have a career. Why would I not want to just sit around all day doing nothing?
The gist of my reply is that when one is awake, that is identified with awareness, one sees that physical embodiment is a way for Awareness (Consciousness at rest) to experience, interact with and enjoy its own manifestation (Consciousness in motion, Cosmic Energy). Therefore anything that reduces this enjoyment is counter-productive to this purpose. So that we need to keep our bodies in good shape, fed and sheltered.
This reply in turn prompted the following comment, in which I have inserted my own comments in italics:
I disagree with this reply.
The logic is internally inconsistent.
Some people have karma that prevents them from keeping the exteriors under control. If we follow your logic, then they can never achieve any peace, which I believe is true though more in line with sociology than nondualism.
My reply was dealing with the awakened state. Once one is awake one is beyond the power of karma, or to put it in Vedantic terms it is only the Jiva that is bound by karma, the Atman is ever-free. I am sure that it is quite possible for anyone to awaken and thus achieve peace, as awakening occurs in an instant of seeing, which can be facilitated by investigating the nature of ones day-to-day momentary experience. See chapter two of Beyond the Separate Self entitled Investigation of Experience.
To quote a former teacher of mine, when it comes to the ego, it's all or nothing.
I agree that its all or nothing, that is why after ones first awakening one has to stay alert to avoid letting the ego resume control. As this will undoubtedly occur one needs to continually re-investigate and discover that at the deepest level one is pure awareness and ever-free.
Unless we have karma that easily takes care of worldly concerns (and some people do), then we have to decide if we choose the world of form, or the world of peace.
Not many people can truly accomplish this. Eckhart Tolle did: He was homeless and in a state of grace.
This is in keeping with the old paradigm that only very few people can awaken, and those that do have to overcome their ego by renouncing the world of form and concentrate their efforts on the inner life. However, in the last fifty years this paradigm has been completely overturned by the vast numbers of people that have awakened to the truth of nonduality, mainly due to the method of self-inquiry that was developed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and spread by his direct disciples and their followers. The direct result of this has been that many have discovered the ease of awakening and that this can be achieved whilst living a normal worldly life.
This can only be sustained if one cultivates this awakening by regularly investigating the nature of reality by repeated inquiry, as one readily nods off again by re-identifying with the body/mind. Sri Ramana Maharshi said that self-realization is easy, but only the beginning, after that the practice begins! For when one nods off then ones old thought patterns, which could be called karma or samskaras, reassert control and this needs to be countered by establishing oneself in awareness of, and identification with, awareness.
Awareness itself is totally unaffected by anything occurring in it and thus when complete identification with awareness takes place karma is powerless! That is to say that although these old thought patterns continue to come up one will no longer be compelled, or constrained, by them. They will just appear as clouds scudding across the sky of awareness leaving it totally untroubled, for in this case one does not identify with them or take them as indicators of who, or what, one is. In the same way experiences which could be attributed to ones karma, good or bad, lose their power to affect ones underlying equanimity.
This cultivation does not require that one renounces the world and its enjoyments just that one returns to awareness of awareness regularly throughout the day. Mental suffering is the main symptom of re-identification with the body/mind, so this then should be used as a wake up call to the fact that we have nodded off again. All that is needed is to see that one is effortlessly aware of this suffering, thus awareness is a constant presence in which this suffering comes and goes.
I agree with the comment that one needs to decide, but not necessarily between the world of form and that of peace. Rather, if one decides to value the world of peace more, then this actually enhances our appreciation of the world of form. Here is my comment on this from Chapter 15 of Beyond the Separate Self, which is actually entitled All or Nothing:
At this stage one needs to come to a decision about which one values more: the objective level of thoughts/sensations or the deeper subjective peaceful level of pure awareness. If one chooses the former then life will just continue with its highs and lows, suffering and anxiety, and obsession with the separate self. One will also continue to see everything through the distorting filter of the mind, its opinions, judgements and self-interest, which lessens ones perceptions as if seeing through a darkened window. However, if one chooses the latter then all perceptions are heightened by seeing things clearly, as they are, for when nature is seen as it is it is much brighter, more vivid, more stunning than when seen through the minds filter. So by identifying with pure awareness the objective level of sensations is enhanced, and thus becomes more valuable in its own right. This gives the lie to the idea that sinking into the deeper level of being means that one enjoys the world less; in fact the reverse is true!
It may be true that one can continue to value the surface level of thoughts/sensations more, and occasionally sink into the deeper level of pure awareness for a brief respite from the troubles of daily life. However this does not tap the full potential of identifying with, and as, this deeper level completely beyond the separate self, and experiencing things as they are in their absolute immediacy and totality. In this mode there is no concern for the future, and the past completely loses its hold, thus all worrying comes to an end. For this to occur one has to completely let go of my story and see everything in the past for what it is, totally gone and in the past.
This is truly a case of all or nothing for once any exception is made then this is the thin end of the wedge as it sets a precedent for other past experiences to be held on to. It has to be completely realised that nothing that has happened in the past, or will happen in the future, can possibly affect the deeper level of pure awareness.
I have heard many people who have glimpsed this deeper level continue to argue for the value of working through past experiences, and in this they are totally dishonouring that which they have glimpsed. For the only way that you can completely work through past experiences is to totally let them go, and not buy into them when they reoccur in the mind or body. They will continue to come up but any attention that is lavished on them only feeds and strengthens them; when ignored they are starved of attention and their reoccurrences will slowly peter out. By ignored I do not mean suppressed, for this will also strengthen them, but just allowed to come and go with no weight being given to them. As soon as you start telling yourself a story about what they mean, or how they have affected you, you are back at the surface level of the ego. If the physical feelings are too strong to ignore they can be defused by going completely into them, without any story, and noticing that they are just sensations which have arisen and will subside quite naturally. It is the telling of the story that prolongs, feeds them, and invites them to reoccur.
This is not a matter of renunciation of the world of form, just of our personal story of who we are.
Summing up: Awakening is easy, instantaneous, readily available to all, but is quickly countered by nodding off again when old thought patterns reassert themselves. So we need to continually reawaken by investigation, resulting in becoming aware of awareness and re-identifying with this deeper level of our being. This requires that we value awakening more than the world of form and, when awake, our appreciation of this world is enhanced by seeing everything as it is rather than through the filter of the ego and all of its judgements, self interest etc.
 C. Drake, Beyond the Separate Self,
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