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What Is Knowledge?
Manju: Hello, James. Thanks a lot for your answer, every answer generating so many new questions… And this is how inquiry is sustained… curiosity being one of the rajasic drives operating in the existence of Manju. Thanks for offering material for reflection through your generous being!
In my questions I had made some shortcuts from object to awareness, and your answers explain the process from one to the other.
I also grasp from your answer to question 1 that again the words “conscious,” “consciousness” and “awareness” are very tricky; and these words deserve a clear definition, as much as words can be clear…
It feels like somehow the knowledge was already clear inside of me but the expression of the question made ambiguity of words arise!
But I’m still not at peace with what belongs to the category of direct knowledge and what to the category of inference.
Is it right to say that in maya?
James: No, direct knowledge is not sense-organ knowledge, experience. It is called pratakshya. It is not suitable for self-knowledge. It only gives knowledge of mithya, the apparent reality.
Indirect knowledge is inference, reasoning (anumanam), which is based on direct knowledge. I see smoke. I know there is fire even though I can’t see it. I see the world. I know something created it. Therefore there is God. You can’t see God physically but you know that it exists.
Vedanta is called apta vakya, the testimony of a competent witness, the “witness” being the teachings revealed by the Vedic seers. It gives both direct and indirect knowledge. It is a word means of knowledge, not direct perception, because the object of knowledge, the self, cannot be perceived through the senses. Indirect knowledge is “There is a self” and “I know the self.” Direct knowledge is “I am the self.”
Knowledge is what cannot be negated, what is always true.
Manju: It seems that everything becomes “direct knowledge,” depending on the level a person has removed ignorance and re-actualised his self-knowledge, because the limitless awareness being the all-pervading truth, the One without a second, at a certain stage everything becomes “direct knowledge.”
James: The self reveals itself to itself and since everything is the self, the knowledge is direct. From the point of view from with you are speaking – the jiva – knowledge is always indirect: knowledge of objects depends on the senses and the self is always an object to the jiva because the self lies beyond the scope of its instruments of knowledge, the mind, intellect and senses.
Manju: The less a person has knowledge of the self, the more he uses “inference” in his discriminative reflection process.
James: Knowledge “of” the self is always indirect. It is dualistic. If you are an inquirer, you don’t supply your own logic. You use the logic that Vedanta supplies. Your only job is to understand the logic. Once the logic is understood, there is knowledge because the logic removed the ignorance.
Manju: This is why it is important first to “work” on the qualifications, making a person ready for knowledge. Does this logic hold stake?
James: Yes, although there is some lack of clarity at some of the steps. Please memorize the definitions I gave above. An inquirer’s mind cannot always understand the logic of the teachings because it is too dull or too active. So the mind needs to be prepared to understand.
Manju: Here is a little more personal reflection about the results of the self-inquiry process: The more I dedicate my life to Vedanta, the more the inner joy grows and the desire for liberation burns, the more it becomes easy to disconnect from events life presents to my existence. It becomes much easier to handle so-called “difficulties.” Real fears and desires diminish. And along with this process I observe and experience a kind of “void” in the heart area which expresses itself in a “decreased motivation towards worldly things” but also in a strong feeling of "gratitude and surrender.” It makes me look the rajas tendency right in the face because the nature of agitation is still there, but the need to act out (and run) diminishes. This process is nothing but fulfilling and stimulates the joy of being “on track,” according more time to what seems essential to me, reducing the professional activity to the minimum required income, avoiding as much as possible mundane activities and just enjoying life as it comes, whatever comes…
James: I am very happy for you. You are indeed blessed. Owing to your good karma and your dedication to Vedanta you are gradually experiencing the fruit of self-knowledge: peace of mind, gratitude and dispassion toward objects.
Manju: But from the outside, the perspective of my family and friends, this evolution is called “disinterest,” “negation,” “depression,” “laziness,” “unreliable”… They can see I am happy inside but can’t accept or understand the way I proceed to this “state”; they try to “warn” me, and indeed I tend to “step back” from their way of functioning and isolate.
I have read your book Mystic by Default and believe I have a bit of a similar “default.”
James: It is always that way. The world does not understand. It is not up to you to try to make them understand either. They are fear-oriented and perhaps there is some envy: people resent the happiness of others. It is quite perverse. Let them say what they have to say, agree with them and slowly wean yourself away from them. If you need friends, Isvara will send people who are on the same wavelength when the time Is right.
When I was an inquirer I just avoided people who were not capable of understanding – as I do today – and only associated with people who were on the same wavelength. But some contact with worldly people is inevitable. I sometimes get visitors from my distant past and it is always agitating to spend time with them because they just do not have a clue about who I am. I have become a good actor, keeping my feelings to myself and just playing the role the situation calls for cheerfully.
Manju: Do you have any suggestions about how to integrate the sadhana life of a mother in an environment which is not so sadhana-minded yet combining responsibility, mother-instinct and self-inquiry in the flow of dharma?
James: Karma yoga is the only way. Take pleasure in doing your dharma as a mother. Where possible, slowly educate the friends and family that are “concerned” about you. Make them understand that you have complete confidence in what is happening and have no intention of going back to the old way of life. Eventually, they will give up and maybe even become positive toward your sadhana. It is never easy until your mind is quiet and your karmic load is reduced to a minimum.
Manju: Thank you so much! Indeed these definitions bring light from another perspective. I misunderstood that point completely. Reading this suddenly brings a mind-shift. I will read these definitions and teachings over again until the understanding settles!
Thank you for your motivating words on how to handle with the family and environment. In a way it feels natural and in accordance with what happens already; in another way it’s so good to know it’s recognisable!
Thanks, thanks, thanks.
~ Om and love, Manju