'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
Questions. Maximum three. That was the aim of the last fourteen days on this exploration of inquiry. Vedanta requests...nay, demands… that it's students have an enquiring intellect. Also that the intellect is best served by being in charge, not drowned by the mind - that mighty river of thoughts.
When in active study groups with Chinmaya Mission, it is often found that, whatever the text, questions will inevitably fall back to pertinence of the themes in daily life. Depending on the text, the queries and doubts may be about the logic or science being investigated and just how relevant the information is to spiritual pursuit… endless varieties, really (reference the post back on Sept. 11th).
Often, questions don't get asked because the enquirer has a concern that their question is rather mundane. When they do ask, it will be prefaced by, "… this is gonna be a stupid question, but…"
Rest assured, if the question has arisen for you, it is not stupid. Just because others have (apparently) understood a point or accept a premise doesn't mean that you have or must do so. To sit with doubts and unasked questions when on the path of philosophy will serve you ill. It is a pitfall of 'adulthood' that we tend to put it on ourselves that we ought to know everything which pertains to living life and it can be very difficult to accept the possibility there might be an alternative way of approaching things.
Then comes the point at which we have to deal with the responses. Very often we ask questions with some level of expectation that there will either be a simple and straightforward answer (1+2=3), or at least a response that will satisfy immediately and not require too much further input or effort from ourselves. In philosophical discussions, however, whilst there may be succinct and to the point responses, they may be of the sort which are very left of field to what we thought we were asking; other responses are likely to be involved and raise as many questions again as the point which brought about the initial query. The eager student will release all expectation regarding responses and will wait with an alert and fully focused intellect so that, whatever the response of the teacher, there can be a shift in understanding, however subtle. This can sometimes entail major shifts too.
Ultimately, reading any spiritual philosophy, but particularly Vedanta, the difference has to come about within the seeker. When we formulate our questions, they ought to demonstrate that we have given thought to them. It is often a ploy of the Guru to turn the question back on the asker and get them to explain what prompted the question and what analysis they have done for themselves on the matter.
Indeed, some teachers, if they feel it entirely within the capabilities of the student, will not answer at all. The alert student must not be offended by this, but accept that there is something which has been missed and thus go back over all the readings and find their own answers.
Having given an appropriate amount of review and analysis to your questions, do doubts and queries still remain?
|Purchase your dedicated notebook |
from OM YAM-yum!
The important questions, the ones which you feel you cannot answer yourself at this point and level of learning, if they pertain specifically to Vedantic techniques, terminologies, tenets, ought now to be written in the back of your note books… remember the note book? … it is perhaps becoming clear there was good purpose for it. The workbooks are not just for important jot notes and introspection, but useful to keep such questions.
Keep the questions to hand. It is not that they cannot now be asked out loud, but that you can use them to back track in another six months or years and notice how you were thinking now; they are another benchmark measure for you to self-assess your progress.
Further, it is amazing how often it is that, on reading a certain passage of text, a query or doubt will arise, then in very short time, the text itself will clear up the confusion and doubt. When this happens, we can tick that question off.
Back to the main exercise. Having withdrawn the 1-3 key philosophical questions, what is left on your page/s of workings? These are no less important - for you. Spend the 15 minutes a day with these now and really get the intellect attacking them; now is the time to get stuck into whether you truly feel any one of these has merit of its own or is just camouflage for another, or prompts something as yet unasked. … this is where it can feel more like a therapy session, but stick with it. Notice if you are avoiding the task. If you are, then you are not yet ready to 'get real'. That's okay. Leave it for a few days. Either you really are not ready and don't return to the exercise at this time… or you find that you miss the daily check-ins with yourself and return to it with more determination to be your own 'excavator'.
It is important to note here that by applying the techniques of Vedanta - especially the saadhana chatushtaya - you have a scaffold ready made, tried and tested over millennia, within which you can do your inner rebuilding with minimum strain or pain. If you choose to take it up (and again you are reminded that this 'scaffold' can be used within any other religious structure - it is wholly portable!), you cannot fail but to observe life changing for the better. Coping mechanisms are shored up; fears lessen; desires subside; objectivity is restored…
Continue to utilise this focused question charting for those times when the mind floods you. It is a useful adjunct to the introspection tool. In going through this a couple of times, what happens is that one can start to watch one's mind in the moment of reading/listening to a teaching and straight away notice appropriate questions and points of doubt. The idea is to unclutter the mind of all extraneous and unhelpful questions which block the intellect from its task. A fortunate side-effect is that we can get a handle on what we are truly feeling. It's a win-win!