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Taking a Stand as Awareness: Right Use/Wrong Use
Hugh: I thought that if I stand as awareness as much as possible that eventually that will “trickle down” to jiva. It seems that James says that we need to always take a stand as awareness. Also, if I’m feeling bad, I thought that is supposed to be a reminder to take a stand as awareness, like negative emotions are a signal that my identity is with jiva, not awareness, so I better get identifying with awareness.
Shams: It’s totally true that negative emotions are a signal of your identity with the jiva and that the jiva will feel better if you remember your true identity. So it’s appropriate to stand always as awareness as a practice. But as I wrote: some karmas have to be lived. On the contrary, you could wait forever. Karma doesn’t care what you know. Remember: (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. And I will repeat it: the specific use of standing as awareness is to remove the wrong ideas (ignorance about the self), replacing them with the main true idea (I am awareness). The main finality of that is getting free of suffering, i.e. understanding that you were always free of it. Getting free of suffering is not getting relief from pain. Getting free of suffering is knowing beyond a shade of doubt that you were always free of suffering. That won’t necessary change your karma. Emotions and ideas will follow their course and will always keep changing from pain to pleasure to boredom to more pleasure and pain. There are only the gunas at play.
Now while you are a seeker of knowledge, it’s your duty to purify those ideas and emotions in order to remove ignorance, using a suitable practice. If I discover that the screwdriver can’t remove a nail, it doesn’t mean that the screwdriver is useless. It means that I should get a hammer and discover the specific use of the screwdriver. You have lots of tools in your Vedanta kit. If you see that standing as awareness is not working for this particular target (and it’s not working), you should try another tool. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should stop standing as awareness.
Hugh: Jiva sees he’s upset and doesn’t want to be upset, so tries to do something about it. It might be doing [Byron Katie’s] “The Work” to see a negative thought in a different light. It might be an “attitude of gratitude” (karma yoga), trying to see the positive in the situation. It might be “standing as awareness,” thinking that “Jiva’s upset but I’m not upset, so just let jiva ride it out,” and hopefully this knowledge of who I am (awareness) will change the way that jiva thinks and feels about it all.
Shams: That’s right. Hopefully, knowledge will change the way jiva thinks and feels. However, as I told you, there are three kinds of karmas, so in the third case, you could wait for a long time. Standing as awareness in order to remove strong vasanas is the same as using a fine brush to clean a room when you need a broom or a vacuum cleaner. The broom is the attitude of karma yoga and the vacuum cleaner is taking action, living the karma. If you choose to use only fine tools (inquiry tools) to confront heavy karmas, you will have to wait many years, or lifetimes. Do you get the point? No karma is a problem when you know who you are. But when you don’t know it, it is necessary to remove the karmas that prevent your mind from getting pure and able to get the knowledge.
Hugh: This is tricky. Jiva feels conscious. Here “I” am apparently doing things. I’m writing and thinking. I’m reading. I’ve got advice to take or reject. It seems that I’m here being asked to do certain things. I like the “three states” teaching. It puts the subtle body into perspective. I don’t experience it in deep sleep, so it’s not real.
Shams: Jiva doesn’t feel conscious. You feel conscious. The one that is talking and feeling that is you, awareness. You feel the jiva, because the jiva appears in you. Look at it. If you can perceive your emotions and ideas, are you that? If you perceive the idea “I am doing things,” are you that? If you perceive the doing, and the perception itself, are you it? How can you be something that is witnessed? Nonsense.
Hugh: I, as an individual, don’t really trust Isvara. I’ve had a life full of working hard and doing well at things only for them to fall apart: school, relationships, work. It seems that trusting Isvara amounts to being like Arjuna and trying to avoid what needs to be done.
Shams: The three steps of Vedanta are (1) listening, (2) discussing and (3) applying. When you listen you have to put your thoughts and beliefs aside while you are getting the whole picture as a coherent teaching. Then you can bring back your thoughts and beliefs in order to contrast them with the teaching so you can solve your doubts and question the teaching. You can only question a Vedanta teaching when you know it well. When you are done with the listening and discussing (with the help of a teacher), then you can apply the knowledge to your mind.
So I encourage you to investigate the Isvara teaching and while you are doing it, keep your beliefs in another room. The teaching about devotion and Isvara is just that, a teaching, with a specific use. Vedanta is a science. As it happens in math, if you want to learn how to solve an integral equation it’s not important how you feel or if you trust in the knowledge. The Isvara teaching is very important for the jiva, for it to understand its place and how it is related to the whole manifestation.
Hugh: If I leave things to Isvara, it feels like not doing what I have to and giving responsibility to something that isn’t there, so I end up in a bad situation and it’s my fault because I thought some imaginary power would help me out but, of course, there is no imaginary power.
Shams: That is the consequence of the same confusion that makes you use the standing as awareness practice to avoid acting. In that case, you assumed that inquiry meant to free the jiva (not getting free from it). In this case, you assume that putting everything in Isvara’s hands equals stopping action.
You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. No doubt. But you have two options: taking the right attitude, or not. It’s the same with everything. The right attitude includes UNDERSTANDING that everything is due to the field of existence. The things the jiva gets and the things that the jiva gives become to the field. Jiva itself becomes completely in harmony with the creation. I think there is no doubt about it. A logical consequence of this understanding is giving up every belief about doership. There is no necessity to think about an imaginary power, it’s enough to pay attention to all the things that sustain you: the air that you breathe, the light of the sun, the animals and plants that give their lives for you. You can look at the subtle world of thoughts and feeling and see how the world is a big, complex web of everything that somehow still works.
If you think that the field of existence owes you anything, then you are not getting the whole picture. So I recommend you to inquire about the real place of the jiva. This is very important because the mind needs to be full of gratitude in order to be qualified to the knowledge.
Hugh: I don’t know what asking the Lord for the Lord means.
Shams: The true identity of Isvara is you. Isvara appears as the manifestation of everything thanks to its maya, the power that allows Him/Her/It to appear as if there were a subject and an object when in fact the reality is non dual. When you ask the Lord for the Lord, the little mind is asking the whole (the big mind) for knowledge. And the whole will answer according to that.
As James explains, putting attention on anything is devotion. Why? Because it’s just you, the shine of you. So when you pay attention to the television, you are not looking at anything else than you. The field of existence will respond, giving you more of that, so you will get more interest in television, knowledge of television and maybe a new television.
If you choose to focus your attention to the idea of Krishna, om or any symbol of the self, as with any other action in the world, you will get the consequences. We call it devotion because its nature is love. Love is not a feeling but it’s yourself, as you should have read in How to Attain Enlightenment.
Hugh: Anyway, I’ll try to understand Isvara more. I’ve just started reading satsangs at the ShiningWorld site that mention Isvara. Even though I say I don’t trust Isvara, I do pray to God sometimes. I don’t know what I’m praying to though.
A few weeks ago I went to a quiet place in the mountains and stated my case for a new job to “God.” I just laid out all the dharmic and adharmic things about the whole situation and asked God to consider it.
It’s hard to know how to picture Isvara. It seems to be an intelligence overseeing everything, like an all-powerful individual that can’t be located yet is hiding out there somewhere.
Shams: Isvara is not a mystery. It’s just you. It could help you to think of it as the field where the jiva lives and that is the jiva itself. As evidence shows us, it’s an intelligent field. Beautiful, intelligent ignorance, as we say at ShiningWorld. It’s not hidden. It’s here, reading this email, thinking these thoughts. Of course, you (as the jiva) are not all-powerful, all-wise, etc., for that belongs to the field. The little jiva is a part of the big jiva (the field), and the big jiva appears in you as well as the little one. Big or small jiva are just points of view from you, the witness.