whose range on the internet is vast and deep I read the reflections of Cynthia Nielsen
on the continuing struggle of St. Augustine to maintain his new sense of himself after his conversion. How different it is from the advaitic (non-dual) sadhana. It is true that each has its own snares, gins and pitfalls. Augustine’s way can induce extreme battle fatigue particularly for an intellectual fixed on the illusion of an ego that requires eternal maintenance. The advaitic sadhu has likewise the gnostic lure of feeling that one is already there, home and dry with a cup of cocoa. My penny catechism reminds me that presumption is ‘a foolish expectation of salvation without making use of the means necessary to obtain it’.
Conversion, though of great psychological importance for the seeker, changes nothing. Nature (the Gunas) is still acting, ancient inclinations (vasanas) are operative and there is no definitive final experience qua experience that resolves quandry. Even among the advaitins there is discussion about what the scriptural description of the man of steady wisdom entails. Must the body be shed or is freedom (mukti) available for the living sage. I believe that there are perfect masters for whom the struggle is over and only the inertia of their actions is operative. They are jnanis (knowers of the truth). Their physical presence is like a scorched rope that has not the power to bind.