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I've sent you a few emails over the last year or so. You might remember the last one where I raised the topic of incorporating the vichara into some kind of 'training' context rather than a spiritual one. And that's the reason for my email today.
Firstly, I'd just like to confirm that the practice has profoundly changed my life (for the better!). When I first stumbled across you on youtube and started working through all the podcasts, I had been involved with a spiritual organisation for 30 odd years, grappling with a kind of hybrid 'advaita vedanta for westerners'. Self-enquiry allowed me to move on from all that, to my great relief, as I finally found what I had been looking for--a direct means to be rid of the fear and anxiety in my life and become self-reliant--to live a simple and natural life.
The change of context that the practice brought, from believing myself to be trapped to seeing directly that I am in fact free, changed everything, as I'm sure has been reported to you by numerous people. Now, the last couple of podcasts brought to the fore an idea that has been bubbling away in my mind for some time. On hearing the December podcast in which you consolidated your entire teaching to 6 points, it felt like this was the one I'd been waiting for--a distillation of 100s of hours of conversation!
And then your subsequent conversations with 'David from Philly' in particular, Derek from Madrid and the chap on 31 Jan (also Derek? from Canada?) who spoke about self-reliance, plus your hints of a groundswell of enthusiasm for getting the word out to the public--all this has prompted me to contact you immediately!
So here goes: My background is in adult education and marketing, so I see things in terms of presenting material to people in ways that they are able to hear it. So I agree with David that anything that smacks of the 'spiritual' will turn people off. But people these days are very open to doing short courses to improve their lives in various ways so I think that's the market to be targeted.
Although we know this practice reveals that we don't actually need 'self-improvement', the people who will come are those who are dissatisfied with their lives and want change. What I'm thinking of is a one-day introductory workshop based on the six points you outlined in December, ie:
1. Human life as we know it does not provide lasting satisfaction.
2. All of our endeavours as human beings have been to try and solve this problem and all such efforts have failed
3. There have been certain people throughout human history who found a way to solve this problem but we cannot rely on them to help us--we have to find out for ourselves.
4. None of the teachings about the nature of reality have ever freed anyone from the fear of life
5. Since birth we have lived in fear and believed ourselves to be at the mercy of our lives. We spend all available energy trying to protect ourselves in various ways, eg create a new identity to in order to suffer the 'slings & arrows of outrageous fortune', find different ways to 'take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them', attempt to withdraw from life in order not to get hurt, etc, etc... (excuse the Shakespeare references).
6. The practice--just look at yourself.
The looking solves the problem as the the false belief is about you. The ultimate effect of the practice is to dissolve the belief that we are trapped in our lives and the associated fear and anxiety gradually fade away. One's context changes from being subject to vicissitudes of life to enjoying the wonder of life.
The workshop will be 'experiential' in nature, i.e. very practical with emphasis on the looking itself. Lots of encouragement to practice during the day and opportunities for discussion and feedback. The outcome of the one-day workshop is for attendees to understand the importance of the practice directly for themselves as well as the need to continue with it (which is inevitable anyway.)
As an introductory workshop it demonstrates the utter simplicity of the looking. People who complete the workshop might be invited to join a regular group which meets, say, monthly where people can discuss their experience of the looking in their own lives. So the aim is to get the practice out to the 'person on the street' and out of the spiritual ghetto, where it has to be said is still languishing to some degree.
So maybe it should be marketed as something like a workshop in self-reliance--a less 'spiritual' term, and the practice itself referred to as insight which is innocuous enough. (Actually I always liked 'self-enquiry' but it has been rather sabotaged by Ramana's devotees). These are just labels of course, but they do need to be chosen carefully in order to head off preconceived ideas by the public.
So what do you think? I'd be interested to hear whether others are thinking along similar lines. I think you mentioned someone had suggested some kind of week-long forum but in my opinion, your average Joe Blow (I think you yanks say John Doe) won't give up this amount of time whereas he might come on a Saturday out of curiosity.
John, maybe we can line up a phone conversation one day to discuss this further (when you've settled into you new digs!) I could call you one evening your time which is morning over here. If I get a proposed session outline together I'll send it to you.
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