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Evil Is Caused by Ignorance of Isvara
Nirmal: Namaste, Sundari Devi. My humble salutations and thank you for the reply. I will try to absorb your advice regarding nurturing children. I have been trying to impart the values you advocate to the best of my abilities.
Another question – please tell me if you get bothered by my questions or already have the answers at your website.
Sundari: We are happy to reply to you, although all the answers are at the ShiningWorld website.
Nirmal: I now understand at least intellectually that I am the pure awareness. I try to reinforce this through daily reading, contemplation and assimilation of the wisdom at ShingWorld, the Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita. As you advise, constant diligence will chip away at the layers of ignorance.
Next, I try to base my actions in my daily life to my utmost using the question, “Am I acting in the capacity of a spiritual soul or in the capacity of a lust-seeker?”
I understand that when I am ready, both teacher and Grace will happen.
Sundari: The process of chipping away at the jiva and its stuff is essential. Discriminating you, awareness, from the objects that arise in you is the essence of moksa. Instead of asking yourself, “Am I acting in the capacity of a spiritual soul or in the capacity of a lust-seeker?” ask, “Am I responding as the self, awareness, or as a person identified with being a person, filled with desire?”
Remember this: there is really only one person, or subtle body, appearing as many; it appears as if there are individuals who are all different. However, the one individual appears as basically three types of individuals, or jivas:
1. The jiva who thinks it is a person with a name, a history and an address. This jiva is called the doer, or the human being, the one identified with objects (including all experience).
2. There is the jiva who knows about awareness, but it does not know what it means to be awareness. This jiva has indirect knowledge and is often called a self-realised jiva. This jiva has had an experience of being awareness, but has not actualised self-knowledge, so the knowledge is not firm and ignorance is still present. This is the one who re-identifies with objects or still seeks experience because the vasanas are still binding and doership has not been fully dissolved.
3. And finally, there is the jiva who has permanent direct knowledge because he/she knows that their true identity IS awareness andthey know what it means to be awareness – while still apparently manifesting as a jiva, or individual. This means that self-knowledge translates fully into ALL aspects of the person’s life. This is the jivanmukta, the self no longer under the spell of ignorance, or the self-actualised jiva, or person.
Being fully self-actualised means that you know that the apparent reality is not real, only you are, so you no longer seek objects to complete you and you no longer seek to change yourself or the world. If you do make changes it is from the standpoint of peace of mind, not because you are looking for more, better or different. You are already whole and complete. An object is anything other than you, so your contact with objects is all that changes. You no longer do anything for happiness. You do what you do happily because you are already happy, and to maintain peace of mind, your primary goal. This does not mean that life is always wonderful or great; it is often not. It is what it is and how it is, is not up to you as the person, even when you know that you are really awareness and unlimited. Your life as a person belongs to Isvara, and Isvara’s creation continues as “before” your enlightenment. Prarabdha karma will still play out; people get sick, have accidents, disappointments and the body will one day die. As awareness you take what comes as prasad, dispassionate about results because you are not identified with being a person and you know that Isvara (awareness plus maya, or the gunas) takes care of the Total, not the person and not pure awareness, paramatman. You are at peace, irrespective of what is happening or not happening in the jiva’s life.
When you know you are awareness duality does not disappear; it is just known for what it is: a superimposition onto non-duality. It is like the mirage on the desert floor – still seen even when you know it is not real. You are no longer deluded by maya and you enjoy the objects for what they are: sources of temporary and temporal happiness. You do not expect them to give you what they are incapable of giving you (lasting happiness), because you no longer need anything. You know that the joy is in you, awareness. I have attached a satsang I wrote on the eight stages of self-inquiry.
Nirmal: Where I am unable to reconcile is the injustice, corruption, social evils in our society. I cannot wash my hands by stating that this is unreal. How does this all fit into the search for self-realisation? And honestly, I don’t even know what I could do to fight against these apparent evils. On one hand we have Ramana Maharshi who, per me, at least in this apparent world did nothing to combat the evils that were prevalent in India, and on the other hand we have social reformers like Shankara who revived Advaita and challenged many of the rituals.
I trust in advanced spiritual souls like you to guide aspirants like me in this journey.
Sundari: I am not an “advanced soul,” because there is no such thing. I am awareness, like you are. I know who I am and as such self-knowledge makes everything clear as daylight, so I understand everything that unfolds in this apparent reality in the light of self-knowledge, not through the limited understanding of the jiva, meaning “my” conditioning, or vasanas. This does not mean “my” mind is omniscient, because only Isvara knows all the facts. It means that I understand the essence of everything because I see everything as me, awareness. This has to include the so-called “good and evil.”
When maya appears, Isvara in the form of the Creator appears and the creation apparently manifests. The creation is made up of and originates from the gunas, rajas, tamas and sattva. They are impersonal forces that shape the way duality (samsara) plays out. There is no duality in my mind, so I do not see events as personal.
From the perspective of the jiva who is identified with being a jiva, this playing out is seen as personal and has all kinds of thoughts, emotions and actions associated with it. From one’s personal to global view, how we see the world and what happens to us – and it – will be interpreted by how the mind is conditioned by the gunas, i.e. the vasanas, which are also generated and coloured by the gunas.
Even though I know I am the self and not the person, the apparent person lives in the apparent reality. Of course from this perspective I see these horrific actions the same way you do: as injustice, heartbreaking and mindless. But the difference is I know that there is nothing to be done about it. “Evil” will always be present in the apparent reality. It is rajas and tamas at their worst, if they could be personified, which they cannot.
Evil is caused, not by Isvara, but by ignorance of Isvara.
It is difficult to accept this and it is soul-destroying if you get drawn into crusading against the dark side of life. However, Isvara’s creation is playing out as it has to. Karma is impossible to understand from the jiva’s perspective because the jiva can only look at what takes place in the apparent reality from within the framework of the apparent reality. This perspective will always be limited. The apparent reality will always be limited. The only solution is to see it from the point of view of awareness.
Evil, adharmic acts and all their many manifestations are abominations and one cannot but denounce them if dharma and peace of mind are what you value. But to get involved in value judgments and become emotional about this topic is to forget the most important fact: it is not awareness that causes such horrible things. Awareness is not a big person with desires and fears. Awareness is limitless consciousness. Because it is limitless it has every conceivable power, including the power for so-called good and evil – ignorance. If ignorance is excluded from awareness, awareness becomes limited, which when we investigate we know is not possible. The evil that one sees is a result of ignorance. We know this because individuals who understand their nature as awareness do no evil. And even those who don’t but understand the nature of Isvara/maya don’t do evil, either because they are not to blame for their ignorance of Isvara, which is what creates good and evil.
This is why Christ said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Maya (apparently) makes awareness think it is an individual who does not know that it is actually whole and complete awareness. When awareness is under the spell of maya it does actions that cause suffering to it and to others.
At the same time there is as much good in the world as there is evil. Maya also makes awareness realise its nature as awareness, follow dharma and do many wonderful things. There are more people who are called to healing and helping than there are perpetrators of evil deeds.
So is awareness responsible for the good and the evil? Awareness is the witness of (apparent) good and evil. So it cannot be either good or evil, because both good and evil are objects known to you, awareness. You are never what you know.
Maya, or ignorance, is “responsible” for good and evil, not awareness. Maya is not real. We know this because it disappears with self-knowledge. If maya is not real, then the effects of maya – good and evil in the apparent reality created by maya – are not real either. Suffering is taking something that is not real to be real.
When we say the world is perfect as it is we mean that it cannot be anything other than what it is. If the world could be different, assuming maya “thought” that it was not serving awareness, it would make the world a different place. But it never does. So it must be that there is a good reason for suffering. And indeed there is. Although it makes awareness appearing as jivas seemingly dull and evil, it also makes them sensitive and awake, which provides them with indirect knowledge of their nature as awareness, thus motivating their quest for direct knowledge.
Some people respond to this knowledge by saying, “If one cannot change anything because it is not real and it is perfect the way it is, why bother trying to help anyone?” But Vedanta says, why not help if everything is perfect? Your helping is also perfect. If it is your nature to help, you will help. If not, not. If it is your nature to sometimes help and sometimes not, then that is the way Isvara created you. Ramana did not crusade against injustice, because he understood that the world is the way it is and it will always be that way. “Do-gooders,” as we call them, are not that popular with Isvara. This is because this kind of mind usually believes that it knows better and sets out to “save” the world or people. This is not a good motivation for doing anything to help, because you are assuming you know more than Isvara does in delivering karma.
Even if these arguments are not convincing to you, what use is suffering because of the suffering you see? It not only does not change the suffering, it adds a bit of suffering to the total. We jivas have no control over results. If you want to help, help. But it is a thankless task, so let it be an act of service without any thought of changing things or making them better or different. Examine your motives for doing anything; see if it is to make yourself feel better, superior or to give you a purpose in life. Often do-gooders have a hidden agenda which is really about them rather than the people or situation they purportedly serve. Many have low self-esteem and “helping” is a way to feel better about themselves. Take action to help because it is your nature to do so – or just because you can – with the karma yoga spirit and leave the results to Isvara. You cannot beat the system. Karma yoga is the only way to peace. We all want the world to be a better place, but it is what it is.
~ Much love, Sundari