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Why Is Isvara Pure Sattva?
Question: You said that awareness shines on the sattva of the causal body first, then on rajas and tamas. Also, that the problem of evil does not belong to awareness but is due to ignorance (rajas and tamas). I’m paraphrasing and maybe I didn’t fully get your drift as this went by quickly and was not elaborated upon. But isn’t the causal body made of the three gunas, as it is itself the direct result of ignorance (i.e. maya)? So why would awareness shine on sattva… first?
James: It doesn’t, really. You have to remember that the purpose of the teachings are to remove ignorance of the self, not to give a description of an object, the causal body, for example. Yes, the causal body is the three gunas but it is more, not that there is anything more than the gunas when you are discriminating awareness from experience.
But this teaching is not for discriminating awareness from experience. Although the creation appears all at once because it is just ignorance, for teaching purposes we speak as if there was a sequence because the inquirer understands things in terms of the apparent reality where time is operating. So we need to have Isvara appear as pure sattva before rajas and tamas emerge to avoid the problem of blaming Isvara for collective evil. Of course if any blaming or explaining is necessary, which it isn’t – “evil” is just ignorance of the nature of reality – Isvara as the three gunas is to blame. But the very idea of creation is ignorance insofar as reality is actually only non-dual pure consciousness.
The teaching that Isvara is pure sattva is meant to point out that the creation is pure knowledge, uncontaminated with rajas and tamas. Rajas and tamas too are just knowledge in the hands of Isvara but when they show up in the subtle body they apparently delude awareness and it thinks it is a jiva and it subsequently suffers projection and denial. The idea is a setup to convince the jiva that it needs to manage rajas and tamas for moksa since sattva, the substance of the subtle body – where ignorance is located, jiva-wise – is required for moksa. It should not blame Isvara and do nothing. You would be surprised how many so-called “spiritual” people won’t do sadhana because they believe that the effects of ignorance – their conditioning – which stands in the way of the assimilation of knowledge, cannot be changed. Usually, these people think that just knowing the self changes their conditioning automatically, confers some kind of special “state” that solves all problems.
From the relative perspective, jiva and Isvara share more than just their identity as pure awareness, sat. Their upadhis intersect or overlap in such a way that certain jivas, those with a high degree of sattva, i.e. relatively less rajas and tamas, also “wield” rajas and tamas to varying degrees with reference to the bit of Isvara, i.e. the life-stream – read: environment – they inhabit. They are “little” Isvaras (avatars), meaning they have a greater impact on their environment than ordinary jivas, who do not have rajas and tamas under their control. Of course they do not manage macrocosmic ignorance, just their personal ignorance.
Question: As well, isn’t so-called evil inherent and therefore inevitable in maya? I mention this because it sort of came off that evil in the world could be otherwise. Like, if everyone knew they were awareness, evil wouldn’t exist. We both know that is not going to happen. Could you clarify when you find the time?
James: Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by evil. It is ignorance of Isvara, i.e. dharma. If you understand that you are awareness in more than a purely intellectual way your jiva will appreciate Isvara and align itself with the dharma field (Isvara) in such a way that unnecessary conflict will disappear. Unnecessary conflict is conflict born out of gratuitous likes and dislikes. It does not serve the evolutionary needs of the total. Of course conflict will not be eliminated, because creation does not work without rajas.