'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
Questions, questions, questions. Life takes turns; sometimes we float along with nothing too much stirring our pot; other times we find we are filled with doubts, insecurities, worries… any amount of disturbance which is likely to cause us to question.
In the early stages of undertaking spiritual/philosophical study, it is usually prompted by one of two things; either we have strong intellectual curiosity… or a strong need for answers to our daily conundrum. The spectrum of reasons will almost always fall under one or other of these categories. There are rare exceptions of people who have some level of sainthood or other significant spiritual strength in their praarabdha (destiny) and thus spiritual pursuit is their intrinsic nature. Majority times, we have to have something external to trigger the internal.
In the first category, it may be that we are simply interested in cultural influences outside of that with which we are familiar. It could be that we are not satisfied with intellectual approaches within our own spirito-philosophical backgrounds and are seeking to fill the gaps from another 'well'. It may be that, to strengthen our own base, we seek the opposite in order to justify or deny certain things…. The intellectual reasons for researching scriptural and doctrinal literature are plentiful. It is a fair bet, however, that many undertaking such are seeking ways to understand the human condition as it pertains to society, so there is a macrocosmic perspective to the enquiry.
In the second category, the vision is more microcosmic and the forays into philosophy/religious study are to prop up the individual; it is an emotional need. There can be any number of reasons for this, but the point is they are still seeking to understand the human condition as it pertains only to themselves and their immediate connections.
Whichever prompt is behind the questions that arise, the important thing is to make sure the questions get asked and that there are open hearts and minds prepared to hear the answers. It is a very common thing in all philosophical schools to find that the questioners phrase their enquiry such that a certain answer is expected or desired… "isn't it such that…", or "if I do this or that, do you agree… " and other such structures are used in an attempt to lead the teacher to the answer which is wanted. This is generally done at a subconscious level. There are those who actively seek to manipulate Q&A, but overall, most folk really are just curious but unaware of their underlying needs and motives. Intelligent beings, we are adept at couching things at what we believe to be intellectual levels (logic), when in fact we are stuck only in mind (heart). Most of us, at one point or another will have had the experience of discussing something aloud or asked a question and, only as it took voice, hearing something we hadn't actively thought… "..ooh, where did that come from?!" Certainly this is the sort of thing which happens in the heat of arguments - underlying tensions or other such feelings will surface.
This is particularly the case where the mind has become full of daily transaction and not been given a chance to process and dump the useless, the unnecessary and the harmful. Dreams will often take on a more turbulent quality during such times. Frequently dreams just happen and we don't recall them, we just know that we had them. When there is intense disturbance, though, dreams will be remembered; forget all the symbolism and mysticism surrounding 'interpreting' dreams. They are simply our vaasanas and worries expressing themselves in the only way they can in order to prevent a major waking-state emergency. However, eventually, if things are truly building up, even dream state cannot help - and deep sleep is totally out of the question at such times - it begins to affect the waking state. We start to feel tired, drained, lethargic and more, on the physical level. On the mental level we express stress, patience grows thin, we become confused and lose sight of what we actually want… so many things to go wrong! Then, when asked to try and explain why we are in such a state, there is so much detritus in our thinking that we cannot explain ourselves.
Regardless of where you think you are coming from in terms of your current questioning style, the number of questions, how many are 'weeds' and so on, the little exercise you have been asked to undertake of late will, it is hoped, be starting to act like a mirror for you.
Having been asked to make a more judged sorting in stage three, you will ideally now have rather less questions and much more focused ones. If you started out with categories, in going through the stage three process, any further, lurking tendency to be asking the same question in different formats will have come to attention.
This whole exercise is to assist the intellect in regaining control of chaotic thinking. In the event that very few questions came out at first, going through stages two and three is likely to have brought more questions to light and at the same time eliminate them if 'samey' or prove to be stronger questions than the initial one or two. This type of exercise is to kick-start the intellect and get a level objectivity, even on subjective matter. Becoming a self-observer in a truly objective way is an enormous step forward for any seeker. We have to keep ourselves honest.
"What has all this to do with Vedanta?" may well be a question which has arisen now! Only when we are free of the detritus in our mind and the intellect has regained its rightful place in the driver's seat can we start reaching for the Higher. Philosophy, religion, is of no use whatsoever if it doesn't address the fundamental aspects of human living first. The error would be in thinking that this is its sole purpose. Vedanta is a very practical discipline which knows the different levels of aspirants and encourages, from the very beginning, that questions and doubts be aired. No question is too basic, no doubt too personal. If one person has a thought on a matter, it can be guaranteed there are a hundred others with the same thoughts.
Go back over your refreshed and condensed questions. Across all of them, attempt to narrow it down to a maximum of three pressing questions. It would be wonderful if they were of high philosophical enquiry… but the odds are not high on that. They will almost certainly be about application and practicality of the philosophy as it pertains to our life. Don't pick the questions you think 'are the right sorts of questions', but the ones you genuinely want to discuss. Perhaps there will be only one burning question at this time, perhaps there are several demanding equal attention. If the latter, keep stepping back then returning to reassess. Three is the maximum you are aiming for over this next stage. Whether you hit on them in the first few days, or whether it takes till the fourteenth day will be an indicator as to how clarity is developing. On a fresh page, write out the question/s. Leave all the others to the side for now. Focus on the questions you have picked.
Now apply what you have learned and understand from Vedanta until this time. Do not have the attitude that you 'know'. Rather, ask "what do I know - and how can it help me assess this question?" There is possibility that as you break open the question under the laser of Vedanta, a response will indeed reveal itself. Note down any pertinent points which arise.