NDM: Did you ever formally study traditional Advaita Vedanta?
Ramesam Vemuri: I should at the outset say that other than as a matter, perhaps, of curiosity, me or what I did is utterly inconsequential; it need not to be considered important. I never studied Advaita formally under a Guru-sishya sampradAya (tradition) nor did I pursue any particular teacher or Ashram. In fact, I feel repulsed to “follow” any organized system that upfront demands obsequious obeisance, dictates a belief structure, creates a hope and promises a distant carrot.
My spiritual inquiry, if I may use that term, has been more like the pursuit of research in science – define the problem as it arises, do a literature search, then investigate, check and cross check to the extent possible and so on. In this process I was exposed to Zen, a wide variety of teachers in Advaita (from traditional to Direct path to Neo) and also bits and pieces of other systems. Undoubtedly there is a greater influence of Advaitic thought of the ancient Indian texts on me simply because they are some of the finest philosophical texts based on logic and were also the more readily accessible resources for me. I am truly indebted to each one of them and also to the innumerable people who helped me in arriving at a clear understanding.
NDM: Is there any particular method or study out of all these various ways that clicked with you over the others?
Ramesam Vemuri: Never give up questioning even in the face of an apparently convincing answer. Keep wading through the jungle (of information) until a clear meadow is in sight and you begin to feel the fresh breath of air just like that at the daybreak after a stormy night (sorry for the mixed metaphor; but hope you got the picture!).
NDM: Why exactly do you feel repulsed to follow any organized system that demands obsequious obeisance exactly?
Ramesam Vemuri:: A Philippine friend of mine used to quote a proverb. If you want the bird in your hand to fly high, you have to loosen the grip of your fist. There cannot be free inquiry when you are already told to fall in line with a system. An open wondering mind is a pre-requisite for new discovery.
Let me quote from Scientific American, July 2010 about a recent research paper :
“[T]hose with questioning minds were more intrinsically motivated to change. They were looking for a positive inspiration from within, rather than attempting to hold themselves to a rigid standard. Those asserting will lacked this internal inspiration, which explains in part their weak commitment to future change. Put in terms of addiction recovery and self-improvement in general, those who were asserting their willpower were in effect closing their minds and narrowing their view of their future. Those who were questioning and wondering were open-minded—and therefore willing to see new possibilities for the days ahead.”
Supplication or obedience to an authority or subjugation or deference to a power is a poor translation of the surrender that happens with the collapse of an individuating ‘self.’ One cannot impose by force upfront the lakShaNa (quality) that automatically comes with the attainment of lakShya (goal), particularly in this peculiar situation where lakShya and lakShaNa are one and the same!
Any extraneously imposed discipline requires a rigid disciplinary structure, an adjudicating authority and a policing mechanism. These systems then acquire a life of their own and struggle for their survival and perpetuation. They adopt all the tricks of the ‘ego’ in creating a “personality” for themselves, ultimately proving to be counterproductive and detrimental to the very ‘death of ego,’ the ostensible purpose for which they have come in the first place!
NDM: Have you read the Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by the way? Here is a short pdf from a chapter from this book. Assault on Reason.
Ramesam Vemuri: Thanks John for the Link. I have not read the book. I do vibe with questioning any authority, however spiritually high it is rated to be – not out of derision or disrespect but not to be impeded in my own search by second hand wisdom handed down with a diktat to follow.
Most of the Gurus whatever color robes they come draped in – black, orange, white, pink, yellow and so on – are concerned with human ‘relationships.’ Some of them treat Oneness as a theory from which societal ‘apps’ can be derived and in the process they build up empires of their organizations, expand with imperialistic ambitions, develop loyal colonies and be lost in a plethora of monetary and material problems – all in the name of transcending those problems. Advaita teaching is not aimed at groups. It is an individualistic inquiry, deconstruction of one’s own imaginary world sublating into an ineffable Existence-Consciousness-Infinity.
(To Continue … Part: 9/12)