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Knowledge Brings Conformity
Tony: Anyway, in Part 10 you were talking about sravana and manana. You mentioned that many people, even though they understand the teaching, don’t realize complete liberation as a result of the knowledge and that further assimilation is necessary in nididhyasana. You mentioned that Shankara said that non-conformity with dharma is an obstacle to assimilation of the knowledge, implying that conforming would be the remedy. That’s the set-up for my question.
Since awareness is not a doer that can conform or not conform and is free of it all anyway, and since the jiva is insentient, not conscious, and also not able to conform or not conform, who the hell is it that can apply Shankara’s remedy? It seems that all that is really happening is that the knowledge slowly brings about conformity in those areas where non-conformity is the tendency. It also means that any non-conforming going on is all Isvara’s, which means that complete liberation where non-conformation is a problem is solely up to Isvara. Therefore the only thing to “do,” if anything at all, is to continue to discriminate and stay with the knowledge. Is this a correct assessment?
James: Hi, Tony. If there is no doubt about the knowledge, then the jiva need not worry about conforming, because, as you correctly state, “the knowledge slowly brings about conformity.” The statement that “complete liberation is solely up to Isvara” is a tricky one. If Isvara means “time,” then yes, eventually there will be conformity. But Isvara can be encouraged to hasten its compliance timetable by jiva if said non-compliance is disturbing jiva’s mind. This brings up the question of whether or not the vasana producing the agitation is binding or non-binding. If it is binding – impacting negatively on jiva’s enjoyment – then jiva will have to work on it. That’s what the nididyasana phase of Vedanta sadhana is all about. It is not for additional self-knowledge, only for removing obstacles to jiva’s appreciation of freedom. But there is no clear line between samskaras that are so deeply embedded that they have to work out solely according to Isvara’s timetable – the Gita gives the examples of a fetus in the womb; it will come out in its own sweet time – and samskaras that yield to inquiry (dust on a mirror). In the case of dust, a resolution (sankalpa) to increase one’s vigilance to nip the vasana in the bud before it manifests as action and reinforces the samskara is required. In other words, one needs to apply the teachings consciously. Often people realize the self late in life when a particular tendency is so well entrenched that it is not worth the trouble to work on it insofar as it is likely that they will die before it is cleared, so the only option then is to take it as Isvara’s prasad and love it. If self-knowledge is firm, even the unpleasant stuff is mithya and as good as non-existent. Moksa is not a state of behavioral sainthood. If the knowledge is firm there is good reason to love one’s jiva warts and all, and thus accommodate the tendency.
~ Much love, James