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Are You Correct?
Ravi: Dear James, thank you so much for you quick replies. I know you have many emails every day and I really appreciate your quick replies. Thank you too for your suggestions and explanations; I have pondered over them. I use the Sanskrit lingo because the words in Sanskrit are succinct and accurate. The English equivalents are cumbersome.
Could we please start again, and please bear with me. You say:
“When the atman is under the spell of apparent ignorance (avidya) it thinks it is limited. So it suffers…”
1. What do you mean by “apparent,” as in “apparent ignorance”? Before your enlightenment, weren’t you under the influence of ignorance, like anyone else? Was the ignorance at that time apparent? Was the suffering at that time apparent?
James: It was apparent because it is gone now. If it was real there would be no way to get rid of it. Yes, it was apparent that I didn’t know what enlightenment was; that’s why I kept seeking it. :-) At the time the suffering was not apparent, but so what? It just goes to show that ignorance is not real.
Ravi: 2. …it thinks… it suffers… (i.e. experiences suffering). Yet you have said atman does not do anything, that it is beyond doing, thinking, experiencing, witnessing. Is there a contradiction? Who thinks? Who suffers? Who experiences? Who witnesses?
James: The self under the spell of apparent ignorance – maya – thinks it is an experiencing entity. When the ignorance goes the suffering stops.
Ravi: The self apparently thinks, etc. Even if thinking exists… which it does… and there is a thinker, which there is from the jiva’s point of view, but not from the self’s point of view… and the thinking, etc. is real, it can only be thought by the self. As Isvara it has all powers, including the power to apparently delude itself and to apparently think.
James: I think you don’t understand the relationship between satya and mithya, the self and the objects (thinking, suffering, etc.) appearing in it. I think you are confusing the self with its role as Isvara – maya shakti. As Isvara the self creates an apparent creation in which apparent jivas (the self plus the subtle body – or the five sheaths) appear. These jivas take the world and themselves to be real because of the veiling and projecting power of the maya shakti.
Understanding the distinction between the real and the apparent is moksa. Brahma satyam, jagan mithya is the essence of Vedanta. Evidently your teacher has not unfolded this teaching properly or you are not ready to understand it. Have you read my book How to Attain Enlightenment? If you haven’t, you should because all these questions are answered there.
Ravi: 3. Atman is pure awareness. How can pure awareness come under a spell and become unaware?
James: That is what maya does, Ravi. It makes the impossible possible. You intellect seems to be stuck in a bipolar mode. It wants an either/or when there is only a both/and. You have to relinquish Ravi’s point of view to get it. To do that you have to understand awareness and maya.
Atma can apparently be affected by avidya. The answer to your question lies in the distinction between satya and mithya – atma’s ignorance is only apparent ignorance, not actual ignorance.
Ravi: Could you please explain the distinction between satya and mithya as applied to this context?
James: See above. Read the new satsangs at the website for the last six months. A significant fraction of them explain satya and mithya in various ways.
Ravi: “…he kills ignorance (I am small, inadequate, incomplete, etc.) little by little as it arises, gradually freeing atma of its apparent limitations.”
Compare that statement with: “There are no degrees of ignorance. There are fewer or greater effects of ignorance, i.e. ideas that are not in harmony with the nature of reality. Avidya goes all at once.”
Are the two statements contradictory, “little by little” versus “all at once”?
James: Yes and no. Yes, from the level of the intellect apparently caught in ignorance. No, from the level of the self, keeping in mind that there are only apparent levels. Vedanta is not religion, Ravi. It takes a subtle intellect to reconcile a thing and its opposite. The whole point of the basya literature, the commentaries by the sages, and the teaching itself, is to resolve apparent contradictions of which satya and mithya is the granddaddy.
Ravi: Atman + upadhi = jivatman atman + upadhi + avidya = jiva, I, self, consciousness, me, myself. Atman + upadhi avidya = jivanmukti, I, self, vonsciousness, me, myself.
I am born as jiva. Through jnanam, avidya disappears. Vedanta is the pramana.
I, jiva, awaken to the fact/recognise that I am atman.
Isn’t this the process of awakening? Are the above “equations” correct?
James: Correct for whom, Ravi? They are correct when they are understood properly. You cannot just memorize a formula and expect it to remove your doubt about yourself. Vedanta is about you, Ravi, not about Vedanta. It is a throwaway, once the understanding takes place. How about making this personal? What difference does it make to you if these statements are true? If I say they are true your doubt about yourself will not go away. You will just have the satisfaction of being right. What is behind these doubts?
I can’t tell for sure, because this is an email conversation, but I think you are trying to evaluate Vedanta in terms of your own understanding. It doesn’t work. If you are qualified for Vedanta you understand that you are meant to evaluate your understanding in light of the teachings. But you can’t do this unless you have been taught properly and you cannot be taught properly if you are not qualified to be taught. I am not saying that you are not qualified or that your teacher is not skillful at wielding the means of knowledge.
I am not sure what you mean by “awakening,” Ravi. Awakening is not a process, although it seems like one when you view reality from the mithya perspective, which you apparently do. These equations are meant to be understood. There is no process involved, except contemplation. If I say the sky is not blue and you do not know what that means after it has been explained to you, because you believe your own experience, then you need to think about it until you understand. The understanding is not an awakening. It is a shedding of ignorance, which I suppose you could call an awakening. But “awakening” is a bad word, because there is only consciousness and it never slept. Moksa is jnanam, knowledge. You want to know if these equations are correct, but the real question is, is Ravi correct? Ravi is not going to be correct when he knows that his equations are correct. He is correct prior to the questions and the equations.
The real question is: “Am I whole and complete as I am?”
~ Om and prem, James