Thanks, Samadhi. You have a nice way of explaining this.
I think in me there is some resistance to learning this type of knowledge because of the intuitive feeling that human freedom cannot possibly require the learning of such specific knowledge as vasanas, gunas, sheaths and so on. There are plenty of examples of people who have freed themselves who did not require this knowledge, and I'm sure there are just as many examples of people who have been aided by vedantic understanding.
Yup, I totally understand what you mean.
I'll try and explain vedanta's view on this, see if it makes sense. Liberation/self realisation/enlightenment is seen as basically the hard and fast knowledge that we are pure awareness and not the objects that appear in awareness; not the thoughts, beliefs, conditioning, or any of the other elements that comprise the 'person'. There are some people, such as Eckhart, Byron Katie and Ramana Maharshi who undergo this shift of identification from the limited to the limitless in a spontaneous manner - it just happens. They don't even need to have any spiritual inclinations or knowledge, it's just kind of like they're struck by a bolt of lightning from the heavens!
Generally they're in the minority. The rest of us don't tend to experience the instant enlightenment phenomenon and I know some people who have been pursuing enlightenment for decades - good, sincere people, too! They may have experienced a number of epiphanies and spiritual highs over the years, but each time the high passes and the pendulum starts to swing again, the old mental/personality/egoic structure reasserts itself and it's back to the drawing board. We might intellectually know what we truly are - and what we truly aren't - but we're still bound by the same old programming and limitations. James Swartz notes that in most cases, if we were able to attain liberation on our own, we would have done so long ago. There's no shame in that, and although instant enlightenment is seemingly much easier I don't imagine the hare is really any better than the tortoise - they both get where they're going at the right time for them.
But this is where a tried and tested methodology such as vedanta comes in. I apologise if I sound like a vedanta salesman, lol, I'm really not trying to sell anything. I just love it and have found it so immeasurably helpful
After a year's study I'm convinced it's as complete a science of consciousness and enlightenment as there is. And it's been around for millennia and virtually every enlightenment tradition borrows from it, although arguably
none have improved on it. Most spiritual teachers are trying to reinvent the wheel to put their own stamp on it, but the wheel's just fine as it is, and does the job perfectly.
As vedanta evolved, there was great study into the reasons why some people get enlightened and some don't. It was realised that there have to be certain qualifications in the 'seeker' in order to be able to assimilate the teachings. The qualifications include a dispassionate mind, ability to discern, focus, discipline and a burning desire to be free and to know the truth. The 'practise' involved in true vedanta (worth noting that neo advaita muddies the water by often scorning spiritual practise - but that's another story) is about balancing and purifying the mind, cultivating a peaceful and still (sattvic) state of mind in which we can assimilate and fully realise the teachings...in other words, so we can once and for all shift our locus away from the little ego self and back to our true, original nature and thus attain liberation from it. Again, some people are just inherently 'ripe' for enlightenment and they perhaps only need a little exposure to spiritual teaching in order to fully assimilate it. Or they might spontaneously attain liberation without any teaching at all, simply because something 'pops' in them. But for, I would guess the majority of people, myself included, it takes persistent effort to overcome the gravity of the mind/ego/conditioning and really start to embody the truth that I am simply awareness and not the objects that appear in it.
The fact it actually takes work puts a lot of people off traditional vedanta, which is why neo advaita often seems more appealing, because it tells us that we don't need to do anything because 'we' don't even exist (and that's right on one level - the absolute level. But on the relative level, we don't yet GET that we're pure awareness -- not truly -- and are still being pulled hither and yon by our conditioning, so the words alone are meaningless).
And so I feel that freedom is nothing more or less than the absence of fear and its effects, and the realization of freedom does not require this knowledge or any kind of practice--but I am not certain of this, and so I continue to explore.
Thanks for your explanations.
Liberation from fear seems to be a byproduct of knowing what we truly are. The practises offered by vedanta, such as karma yoga, are simply to prepare the mind for the knowledge that we are simply pure awareness, unborn and therefore untouched by anything in this apparent reality. The teaching itself is just a tool to help us discriminate between what is real and what isn't, between what we are and what we are not. We lay the groundwork, get ourselves 'qualified' (as in the criteria mentioned above) and then the knowledge does its work and we can drop the tools. We don't need them any longer. Again, some lucky people don't need all this stuff. But I was one of those that did and, having been wandering lost amid the spiritual marketplace since I was sixteen, I'm so grateful I found vedanta. It felt like I was coming home. It all made such perfect sense. I willingly opened myself to it and set aside my pre-existing spiritual beliefs and notions, as you really have to, otherwise you just cherry-pick the parts that match up with your existing schemas. But I didn't just accept anything, I worked with the logic of it and found it pretty irrefutable. It all makes so so much sense. To me anyway.
Sorry for the long reply, hope it didn't sound preachy. I like speaking about it to people who are genuinely interested and open-minded and they can take from it what they will