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Mark: Hi, James. What exactly is the jiva?
James: The jiva is awareness in form. It is whole and complete. Its nature is bliss. When it takes its desires and fears to be real its attention goes to the objects associated with them. When it sees that there is no need to want or fear things its attention goes to the self and it enjoys the self.
Mark: That helps because it corrects an idea that jiva-hood is basically a pathology stemming from a core sense of woundedness or lack. And it also helps to clarify that when the creation is enjoyed, it is the self and not the objects that brings the satisfaction.
James: The woundedness is a consequence of identifying the jiva with a tamasic/rajasic subtle body which psychology calls the “self.” The word “jiva” is also used in Vedanta to refer to the subtle body alone, so there is often confusion about it.
Mark: So as long as the mind is here, we are looking through jiva’s eyes?
James: I think I know what you mean; you are equating the jiva with the mind. But the jiva is pure consciousness associated with a mind. When jiva is ignorant of its nature it takes the relationship to be real. When it knows it is the self the relationship remains, but it is known not to be real (mithya).
Mark: The work for me is to not identify with the mind. When the jiva is not ignorant of its true nature, is that a form of indirect knowledge? That this is not knowing as the self, but that there is a self.
James: If the jiva is not ignorant of its true nature, it is direct knowledge. Direct knowledge is “I am limitless awareness.” Indirect knowledge is, as you say, not knowing as the self, but knowing that there is a self.
Mark: Does knowing as the self mean that the jiva mind is totally circumvented?
James: Yes, but “circumvented” is a difficult word because it implies that there are two knowers. Who is going to circumvent what?
Mark: Or is it the jiva mind that also enjoys direct knowledge?
James: Yes. It has to be the jiva mind because the self doesn’t need direct knowledge. It knows without a mind. It illumines both types of knowledge, direct and indirect.
Mark: My guru writes, “standing as jiva only means being caught up in the person, standing as you only means the jiva mind seeing you. Honestly, they are both from jiva because that’s where experience comes from.” Is there anything you would add to that?
James: I am not sure what “they” refers to. If it means that both perspectives, i.e. the perspective of the self and the perspective of the jiva are required to produce experience, then no, nothing to add; it is correct. I would phrase it this way: you, the self, minus the jiva, only experience yourself. With the jiva, you experience the jiva-object and the objects in jiva’s karma stream.
Mark: As long as we are in a body, we must experience a jiva-object, but even a jiva-object can directly know itself as awareness? Maybe another way of expressing the inquiry is whether an appearance can have direct knowledge.
James: Here’s the tricky part. There is only one consciousness, one knower, so all knowing is only consciousness knowing. In the absence of objects it knows itself and in the presence of objects it knows itself plus the objects.
The jiva mind is a reflection of consciousness/awareness. It seems to know, but it actually doesn’t. So when you think you know awareness as an object you actually know awareness as the subject – yourself.
~ Love, James