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Who Is Following Dharma?
Chris: Hello, Isabella. I had a dialogue with Ben from Australia, and I very much enjoyed our dialogue and we shall continue so.
Sundari: Hey, Chris, good to hear from you and I’m very happy that your connection with Ben was positive.
Chris: I had a question about myself in terms of doing my dharma. One of the main questions I presented to Ben was about my procrastination. He presented the notion that I should seek the self in comparison to the not-self… the doer from the non-doer. And this is wonderful direction. I was hung up over my relationship with the doing that reflected the ego. I wanted to “win” in other people’s eyes… and it’s all my own bloody eyes! It’s all me!…
Sundari: Ben’s answer is correct insofar as the dharma of a seeker of moksa is to put aside seeking completion through objects, as one has determined that they are value-neutral and incapable of providing permanent fulfillment. One suspends one’s own beliefs and opinions and submits to the scripture, having faith in it as a means of knowledge.
Procrastination and putting off doing anything for lack of a real incentive to do anything is tamas operating in the mind, even though it might just be the wisest thing to do at the time, which would make it sattvic tamas. When in doubt, it is best to do nothing. However, dithering or making excuses to not “do” anything because you are not the doer is what we call the advaita shuffle, using Vedanta to the doer’s advantage because it is plain lazy or confused. There is nothing wrong with doing; we will all be doers until the day we “kick the bucket”; the point is not to identify with the doer. For truth to work for the jiva it has to serve the truth, not the other way around.
Wanting to win in “other” people’s eyes is rajas, the need to gain something – to be better or superior. It is desire dressed up as superiority, based on lack of self-esteem (tamas), the belief that you are inadequate as you are.
Ben’s advice is excellent. I would take it one step further back though: Who is it that is seeking the self as opposed to the not-self? Being “hung-up” in your relationship with the doing is the doer talking. All doing reflects the ego, the doer. The question to ask is not whether the doing is valid or not; one cannot but do as a jiva; even non-doing is doing. The right question to ask is: “Am I the one who thinks he is doing or not doing?”
If your statement “…it is all my own bloody eyes…” means that you understand that everything you see with your eyes is you, arises from you, but you are not it, you are on the right path. You are the knower of what you see. The eyes are a good metaphor for the jiva, as even though eyes make seeing possible, they cannot see themselves – and without a functional mind behind the eyes, no seeing takes place. The knower and the known cannot be the same thing, because they exist in different orders of reality, that of the real (awareness is that which is always present and never changing) and the apparently real (all objects are not always present and always changing).
Just as your reflection in the mirror is you, arises from you and would not exist without you – but is not you, because it is not conscious.
It is all very well to seek the self, and of course this is part and parcel of self-inquiry. But let us not forget that you are the sought, so there is nothing to seek, really, is there? There is only ignorance of this fact that needs to be rooted out of the mind, which is the purpose of self-inquiry. As you say, it is all you – but the important thing is to understand what that means. This is the ability to discriminate between the real – satya – and the apparently real – mithya. The ability to do this is tantamount to freedom, moksa.
Chris: My question is, how do I know my dharma? It is to me that there isn’t a corner of “Chris” that isn’t based on impressing others… I can see it. I am not troubled by it in the same way. I love the freedom Vedanta has shown me… or that my attention to my true self is where my love should be… if that makes sense…
Sundari: If you can see Chris bent on impressing others, then you know you are not Chris but the one observing him and his need for validation. This is the freedom of self-knowledge. The point is though, if you really want to be free of Chris then set him free of the need to be anything. Who is there to impress anyway? There is only the self, who are you kidding? Love is the nature of the self; when you know this you do not have to remind yourself to pay attention to it, you are it, all the time. Self-knowledge is not based on memory, because it is your true nature obscured by ignorance. When self-knowledge has removed ignorance, you live as the self at all times. Dharma, which is appropriate action, flows from this knowledge.
Chris: So how do I honour the dharma? I enjoy being idle, playing computer games and being a geek. I don’t need it though. Another part of me reflects a talent. If there were such thing as a God’s gift, mine would be for drawing. I can draw your portrait like it was a photograph… or… I could not-draw… all my last girlfriends placed so much pressure on my doing something with my art, it burned me out of creativity. Sorry that I think I am dumping on you. Vedanta has opened a path to me only few I can talk about and to.
Sundari: No apologies necessary. Dharma is a tricky topic because on a personal level dharma, or appropriate action, is different for everyone. On a personal level, if doing or not doing something causes agitation or dullness/denial in the mind, you are not following dharma for you. Your primary dharma now is the dharma of a seeker of moksa, which is dedicated self-inquiry and the application of self-knowledge to all areas of the jiva’s life.
On a universal level there are laws, or dharmas, built into the nature of the field of Life which cannot be avoided or contravened without consequence. The results of all actions, whether through appropriate action (dharma) or inappropriate action (adharma), are called karmas. No matter what religious or non-religious views one enjoys, these laws, or dharmas, operate the same way for everyone.
On a personal or microcosmic level these laws, or dharmas, are laws of proper conduct, the law of non-injury, for instance, the highest human value. This is an expectation we all hold, and if contravened we feel unpleasant effects, as do others. It is our experience that “as you sow, so shall you will reap.” Whether or not we abide by these laws, we all know what they are. They are built into the very fabric of our being. How dharma plays out is different for everyone, even though the fundamental laws apply to everyone. Although dharma is one because reality is non-dual, it can be understood in three ways.
1: Samanya dharma, or universal values, are (1) moral laws governing the field of existence that apply to everyone personally, like non-injury, honesty and fairness, and (2) the macrocosmic laws of physics, like gravity and thermodynamics, etc. On this level you had better not say no to Isvara. There is no point in rubbing up against Isvara when it comes to universal dharma, whether it regards moral or natural laws; you will not win.
2: Visesa dharma is how the individual interprets the universal rules and applies them to their lives in lifestyle, diet, money, how one relates to people and the environment one lives in.
3: Svadharma with a small “s” is an individual’s conditioning. This is the nature and the predisposition with which each person is born. To be happy, the individual needs to act in accordance with his or her inborn nature or he or she will not be following dharma. For instance, if it is an individual’s nature to be an artist, it will not work for him or her to take up accounting.
All dharmas are based on common sense and logic. But unless one understands what they are and how they function one can make decisions that cause great agitation, suffering and discomfort to the mind and body, making peace of mind impossible. On this level you can say yes or no to Isvara. Isvara does not care if you are enlightened or not; “your” conditioning does not belong to you, so Isvara does not see a problem. If you wish to be free of the jiva, however, you had better pay attention to the jiva’s conditioning if you want to be free of bondage to it.
As the jiva, enlightened or not, you are subject to these laws, even though as the self you are free of them. Nonetheless, eternal vigilance is required because rajas and tamas, being the sneaky devils they are, can still cause trouble for the jiva, although not for awareness of course. Moksa is not about perfecting the person, it is freedom from the person AND freedom for the person. It is a both/and because the jiva never leaves the apparent reality; moksa is for the jiva, as the self is already free. So yes, one has to accept one’s conditioning with dispassion because Isvara gave it you and it is pointless fighting it, but on the other hand one has to render it non-binding to be free of it.
Freedom means understanding “your” conditioning in the light of self-knowledge (understanding the gunas and the identity between the jiva and Isvara) and taking appropriate action in every situation, with the karma yoga attitude. This means consecrating every thought word and deed before you act on them to the field of existence, Isvara, in the spirit of gratitude. Karma yoga cannot be emphasized enough, especially for those who still identify with the doer. We are free to act and indeed have to act, but we are not in charge of the results. Knowing this takes the pressure off needing a specific result, no matter what one is doing or not doing. The important question to have the right answer to, no matter what the issue, is: WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THIS?
Why does Chris need to impress others? Following dharma means non-injury to yourself and all “others” because if you do not do this you will suffer. This means doing what you need to do without fanfare, excuses or procrastination so that your life is congruent with your knowledge. Failure to do this causes agitation (rajas/tamas): lack of peace (sattva).
This is why we stress the need to render the binding vasanas non-binding as an essential part of self-actualisation. It is not possible to be free of the person or for the person to live free as the self without rendering the binding vasanas non-binding, because the vasanas cause agitation through adharmic action (or non-action). It is all about peace of mind. If you can honestly maintain sattva without rendering your binding vasanas non-binding and never break dharma, well and good. But it is highly unlikely. This is an excuse the ego likes to use to avoid cleaning up its act. One has to use common sense because, as stated already, obviously there are things about your character (conditioning) that you will not be able to change. As it is all Isvara, as long as you do not identify with it, and observe it as the self with great dispassion, sattva can be maintained. There is no right or wrong about what you do or do not do; it does not matter at the end of the day.
But there is still agitation and dullness in the mind, there is still “work” to be done to free the mind, and/or dharma is not being followed.
Chris: I shall leave it there. I think I am at the layer of glass before the next bottom.
Sundari: Well put. Just keep subjecting the mind to Vedanta, trusting that it is working to remove all the apparent glass layers – and you will find that there really is no bottom, as there is no top, inside or outside.
Chris: I hope your holidays were filled with awesomeness.
Sundari: Thank you, I am off to India to join James.
~ Namaste, Sundari