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Taking a Stand as Awareness: Little Jiva Has to Take Its Place
Hugh: I’ve really come to enjoy time by myself. Although I’m sociable at times, generally I avoid socializing and prefer to spend time alone. I haven’t had a girlfriend in a long time. Although I’d like one, I am not compelled at all the way that I used to be to have a relationship like that. As an individual I think I’m also being more protective of myself. (Why bother myself with all of the emotional confusion?) I’ve been living a pretty simple life and if something happens, it will happen, but even when people introduce me to single women, I basically keep myself from getting involved.
Shams: The sex vasana is probably the strongest one in most humans, but it seems that it’s not a big trouble in this case. Good.
Hugh: Vedanta is also something I keep to myself. Nobody around me knows how much I’m into it or that I’m into it at all. My family and friends don’t know anything about Vedanta, and I don’t say anything about it to them, although I am sure that it has influenced the way I see things and therefore how I interact with them and other people.
Shams: That’s the way committed students live Vedanta. They know it’s not necessary to create a new personal image around Vedanta. At the same time, self-knowledge allows the purification of the ego.
Hugh: I always seem to be the most sattvic person around, so I hardly ever run into people who are relatively sattvic. It seems difficult to meet people who aren’t overly rajasic/tamasic, not that I’m really looking. I’ve been living in Japan for about the past two years, and I think this country is generally more sattvic than Canada, where I’m originally from.
Shams: The guna teaching is very useful, as you see.
Hugh: Okay, so looking at my unhappiness with my employment situation, for example, jiva might say, “I’m unhappy with my job. I need to change it. There are too many things that are just not right, and it’s wrong for me to just stay here when I know it shouldn’t be like this.”
But I could stand as awareness and say, “I am awareness. I don’t have a job. I’m not upset by anyone. I exist with or without work. I’m totally immune to everything. Nothing bad at work effects me in the slightest.”
I guess this is where I (jiva) get confused. I understand both viewpoints. As long as I’m upset, do I just keep on going back to the self’s viewpoint, which is the real viewpoint?
Shams: You can always stand as awareness but it will be better if you stop using it as a way to solve all the problems and avoid negative emotions (the self includes negative emotions too). It’s useful to remember that you are the self, but if you go trying to convince yourself that because you are the self nothing can harm you (which is true for you, but not for the jiva), one can suspect that you are using it to escape a harmful situation instead of letting the jiva do its job. You stand as awareness as a way of inquiry: it’s an action applied by the intellect with the intention of substituting the false ideas with the truth. However, that won’t make the jiva automatically happy since there are a lot of karmas created by years of ignorance. The Gita says that there are three kinds of desires (and desire is the source of karma) that obscure the self: (a) like smoke in the air, some desires are removed just by looking at them; (b) like dust on a mirror, some desires need some cleaning work like inquiry or karma yoga; and (c) like a fetus on a womb, there are desires that have to be lived. These ultimate kinds of desires are the binding ones and are related to life situations that need acting to be overcome. Arjuna also tried to escape his duty by getting the knowledge but Krishna made it very clear that wasn’t gonna happen.
If it wants to be happy, jiva has to follow dharma and act according to it. Standing as awareness won’t help with that. Maybe if you had the knowledge it would, mind you, and you could stay in the annoying job without caring about it, swimming in a sea of tamas knowing at the same time that you are not it. However, most jnanis would chose to act. But again, this is not your case (you don’t know who you are yet): while the jiva hasn’t removed the ignorance of its mind, it has to do things in order to develop a qualified mind.
If you are trying to avoid getting upset by reminding yourself that you are free of it, there is clearly a confusion, because you believe that as a result of that reminding the jiva will be free from getting upset. When you take a stand in awareness, you are remembering that you are free both from the work and from the jiva. That is knowledge. Knowledge makes you free from suffering, sure, but you have to take into account that (a) the use of that is not to make the jiva free from pain and “bad” situations and (b) you actually don’t have the knowledge while you are just practicing it, which is faking it until it makes complete sense, so you can’t ask for it to relieve you from actual suffering.
Even a jnani (someone who knows the self) has to take care of the jiva, and inquiry is definitely not always the best response since it’s just another action among the actions and sometimes karma forces you to act in multiple ways. Here, the jiva will never be free. Little jiva has to understand its place. It also has to understand that freedom is not an experience. It is you, the eternal witness, not the witnessed.
Hugh: I know that jiva is upset sometimes. And I also know that the self isn’t upset. Jiva has applied for a couple of jobs. Awareness doesn’t apply for jobs.
Shams: Yes, and this teaching is for the jiva. The jiva has to act, to follow the rules, to let the means of knowledge remove ignorance, etc. The self is always okay.
Hugh: Speaking of which, I have some questions regarding this from How to Attain Enlightenment… I was reading over pages 107-109. Basically, James says that there are five factors needed for action: a body, ego, subtle body, prana and the whole of existence.
Jiva/ego seems to take this as, “Great. I have one-fifth of a say. I better work hard and make my case,” or conversely, “Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? I’m that one person in a group of five that nobody ever listens to.”
Shams: You are speaking as if ego or jiva were conscious but you are the conscious one and those are only your apparent instruments. Plus, jiva doesn’t equal ego. Jiva is awareness under the spell of maya, identified with the subtle body. The subtle body is the sum of ego, intellect and mind/emotions. Ego is just one of the components of the jiva. In this quote, ego appears apart from the subtle body because, in this case, “subtle body” is referring only to the five perceptive organs. Simplifying, the ego is just a function. Which function? Putting the phrase “I am…” before some sentences. Ego doesn’t feel, as you said, as a part of a group. Ego doesn’t feel anything because it’s not conscious. It’s only a notion.
Hugh: As a jiva though, even with this explanation, it seems like maybe I have three-fifths of a say. The body is mine, ego is mine and the subtle body is mine. Prana is from elsewhere and “the whole of existence” isn’t me.
Shams: The one that says that is the ego. It is what is for saying and believing “I, me, mine.” Without an ego, the jiva wouldn’t think that, because the other parts of the jiva are just emotions and ideas that have to be owned, so this idea “I am” is needed. Nothing conscious there. So yes, the part that says, “I am… this body… this mind… these emotions,” is the ego, the function of saying it and believing it. The jiva HAS three-fifths? I don’t think so. Jiva is formed by that three-fifths, maybe, but that makes it completely dependent on its parts. It doesn’t “have” anything. You could think that you own your body (again, just an ego dream), but it’s clear that you can control so little of it (if you analyze it you will conclude that you control nothing). The same goes to the perceptive organs because it’s impossible to stop seeing or to stop smelling just by your volition, for instance. That just happens. And the ego? The notion called “ego” is just an idea, so it couldn’t posses anything. It’s like a chair or a table, an object, only more subtle. It seems like you “do” things and enjoy results but if you look close enough you won’t find a doer, just an idea of doing and enjoying: ego, ahamkara.
While ahamkara is taken as a subject, the self is seen as an object. Obviously, the real identity of the ego and anything else is just you. This is the use of the thought “I am the self” to induce the recognition of the self as self. So you are recognized as the subject, the self looking at the self in the form of the ego.
Hugh: On page 109, James writes: “They imagine dire consequences if they fail to fulfill their desires through action.” This brings me back to my work situation. Jiva agrees with this quote and is scared that by either not doing the right thing or by doing something wrong, that he’ll have dire consequences.
Shams: If you think that the joy is in the object, the mind will imagine “dire consequences” (i.e. absence of joy, which is the same as saying absence of the self) when the jiva can’t connect with its object.
Obviously, jiva could have pleasant or unpleasant results, and that’s the use of being scared: paying more attention and making a suitable choice in life. Nobody knows what result Isvara will give you. We, as jivas, can always get “dire” consequences in the world of experience but never the “most dire” of all which is losing the self, the real, the eternal. When you know who you are, you are ready to accept any result with a rock-solid confidence and dispassion because you are sure that the most dire of consequences just couldn’t happen.
Hugh: As awareness, I’m not the doer, but the doer is me. The doer is like a wave but I’m the ocean. James even writes that “there is no doer.” It seems that there is though, and it’s this thing called Isvara, the total.
Shams: When we say that there is no doer we say it in order to negate that the jiva is a doer, although at the same time we can show that the doer is the field of existence (Isvara). But at the absolute level, we can also say that there is no doer, because the only reality is awareness, which is free of action and manifestation.
Hugh: Regarding sadhana, currently I am reading through the satsangs at the ShiningWorld site (thanks for the search tip). I am also re-reading How to Attain Enlightenment (this is probably about the tenth time in the past couple of years).
I’ve always got something going on like this. I usually have little things too, like keeping a certain statement in mind like “I am awareness” while I’m doing something.
Before re-reading How to Attain Enlightenment and reading the satsangs I was reading Greg Goode’s book Standing as Awareness: The Direct Path. There was an interesting exercise in that book that was a good practical example to show that everything is awareness. It’s a small book, so I’ve read it several times. I wasn’t really sure if it was Vedanta and didn’t want to get too far off track (he’s got another book or two that I was thinking of reading but decided to just stick with Swartz for now).
Shams: James recommends Greg’s books only to advanced seekers (like you) as a way to continue inquiry (the book The Direct Path: A User Guide is very useful), so if you read it you must pay attention because sometimes he uses experiential language which could be a source of confusion. It is not directly Vedanta (it doesn’t give you a complete picture of the seeking) but it is very related to some of the Vedanta teachings, particularly self-inquiry. Although Greg Goode’s books and exercises are quite honest, intelligent and enjoyable, I wouldn’t leave Vedanta. You have all the information needed at the ShiningWorld website. If you want to read something more, Swami Dayananda and his swamis are always a great option. Vedanta is a complete meal.
Hugh: About two years ago I bought and started watching Swartz’ Vedanta Set video series (self-enquiry, Bhagavad Gita, Vivekachoodamani, Aparokshanubhuti and Atma Bodh). It took me a few months but I watched every single video in that series. I’ve watched/listened to the full Bhagavad Gita videos at least three times and have really enjoyed the Vivekachoodamani videos, so have listened to that set several times in full.
As far as changing my life situation goes, I was learning how to fly (small airplanes) in Canada. That started some years ago. I got in a lot of debt over the years. I started working as a flight instructor. It was interesting but my employers decided to stop paying us properly, so I couldn’t afford it, especially with all of my debt. I then moved to another city and worked as a flight instructor again. Again, there were problems at work and the money situation was not good at all. I decided it was best to head back to Japan, where I had lived before. I just needed to make more of an honest living, so I went back to teaching English full-time. I worked hard, I got paid all right. I started pulling myself out of debt (with help from family earlier too). (Sorry, lots of jiva-talk…)
Shams: No. Thank you for sharing this. It helps me to see a more complete picture about your karma. And it’s very interesting too. I see that you have the temperament of sanyassin and that your desire of moksa is very strong.
Hugh: So basically, about two years ago I started this new/old lifestyle, working, getting out of debt. While keeping life relatively simple, I’ve been reading/listening to/watching Vedanta (mainly through James Swartz). A few months ago there were big changes at work. The work itself up until then also wasn’t really “kosher.” It seems like there’s been a bit too much adharma, and so I think it’s time for a change work-wise. There’s not much of a future in what I’m doing (for the jiva). Jiva’s not particularly happy in the current situation.
So I did make adjustments two years ago, and I’ve spent a lot of time with Vedanta since then. Now it’s time to keep my eyes open for new work opportunities and make adjustments again. There’s a job that I’m interested in. I know that would be a more rajasic job than what I’m doing now, but for some reason I also think it would give me more peace of mind doing it, even if that’s the case.
Shams: Sometimes rajas is very helpful to get us out of tamasic cycles, so it could be fine. I recommend you to put all your confidence and intentions on Isvara, and He/She/It will ease your way. Sometimes devotion is underestimated among us inquirers, so we tend to forget that inquiry is just another kind of devotion, another manifestation of love. Praying to the Lord (asking Him/Her/It for nothing more than the Lord Himself/Herself/Itself) is an excellent practice that helps in many ways.