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Negation Doesn’t Equal Denial
Daniel: I had quoted James at my website. Below is the conversation between a reader, Rod, and me.
“You cannot withdraw from the world. The world is only a thought in your mind. As long as you think you are ‘in’ the world you will suffer. The world is ‘in’ you, meaning it’s a ‘thought-object’ in awareness. As an object you can treat it any way you like. You should see it as yourself and love it as it is. You should act in it knowing that you are not of it.” ~ James Swartz
Rod: What about ailment and pain? I remember James talking about his heart surgery and how depressed he felt afterwards. Is there a way to see pain and ailment differently? I mean I see myself as awareness, which is illuminating the subtle body of Rod, but there is still ailment, isn’t there?
Daniel: Nice question, Rod. The jiva will always suffer from decay/ailment/pain, etc. This is just life and applies to all jivas. But we can reduce suffering profoundly with self-knowledge. There are two aspects to suffering: (1) gross/physical pain and (2) subtle/mental pain. A person who is self-ignorant (one who identifies as the limited body-mind) will suffer both physically and mentally. It’s actually the identification, the thought “I am the decaying body” which tends to cause more suffering than the actual gross/physical pain.
A person who is equipped with self-knowledge sees the suffering jiva and the experience of suffering as an object. He/she does not identify as the suffering jiva, but rather as unconcerned awareness. Even though the gross/physical pain may occur, subtracting the weight of mental identification offers great relief.
I can’t speak on behalf of James, but I do know that he often talks as the jiva in certain satsangs for teaching purposes. Of course there were emotions arising in his jiva, this is the nature of being human, but his IDENTIFICATION with the jiva is totally neutralized, meaning he saw James and his pain (physical or mental dullness) as mere objects arising in him, awareness.
In addition, when we understand prarabdha karma and the science of totality, and act with the karma yoga attitude, then a much lighter relationship towards life is experienced.
Rod: Great reply!!! I suppose this is the same at times when we face a terminal illness, experience grief, see death, see people depressed or dying, climate change, poverty… We just realize that the jiva is suffering, see it as an object arising in awareness. This helps a lot!!! Thank you so much!
Daniel: That’s correct, Rod. Existential suffering simply boils down to a mistaken identity crisis. When self-knowledge/discrimination is “firm” you then remain identified as unconcerned awareness, understanding that you are free from whatever arises. An object is anything other than you, awareness.
Remember, freedom is not for the suffering person (object), but rather FROM the suffering person. Contemplate that sentence.
Rod: Another question, Daniel: Economic recession or abrupt climate change and similar stuff are just the apparent material outcome of the gunas + vasanas (= prarabdha karma), right? What is the relationship between prarabdha karma of individuals and of societies?
Daniel: Prarabdha karmas are the actions slated to play out through the vehicle of the mind-body/sense-mechanism. Once exhausted, the jiva’s gross body dies. The gunas are called macrocosmic vasanas, i.e. they belong to Isvara, or the total, the creation, not to the person. Each jiva has his/her prarabdha karma which will play out.
Societies/cultures may be seen as a group of jivas who share similar vasanas/tendencies. The topic of karma is only applicable if you identify yourself as a jiva. As enquirers of liberation we’re not concerned about karma, but rather on how to be free of karma, free from the jiva.
Shift your attention from karma to that which knows karma. Karma (recession/climate change/old age, etc.) are all objects that arise in you, awareness. These are objects known to you. What you know cannot affect you.
Vasanas/samskaras belong to the causal body, not to you. It only seems like they belong to the jiva because there is always a corresponding story that comes with them. The gunas belong to Isvara, and have nothing to do with awareness or with the person. The person has a story and has suffered; there is no escape if you are a jiva. Identification with the limited person results in suffering. The only solution is self-knowledge.
Another good point to add to our conversation is this: negation doesn’t equal denial. In other words, when the jiva receives unpleasant experiences, he/she does not deny (like the Neos do) its existence, but rather negates its reality, meaning he/she knows very well that it is mithya.
Liberation is simply discriminating objects (mithya) that arise within your limitless nature, awareness (satya). Another important point that links to this is this: though existence/experience/mithya is not real, it is not non-existent. Many spiritual teachings and teachers attempt to ignore the apparent reality, which leaves the jiva stranded in the swamps of samsara without a complete methodology to get out. In traditional Vedanta we equip the jiva with knowledge of both mithya and satya.