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Love Is My Nature
Patrick: Is this understanding possibly correct? Love is my nature. The firm knowledge of this fact would be a “by-product” of actualized self-knowledge.
Sundari: The highest form of love is self-knowledge, which is your true nature. Firm knowledge of this fact is freedom, self-knowledge, so how can it be a by-product? It is the whole deal. The effect of this knowledge when actualised is living as the self, accepting the jiva unconditionally, following dharma and living peacefully. This love is not a feeling; it is pure and steadfast self-confidence that everything is as it should be, no matter what is going down for the jiva. This is called the bliss of self-knowledge, which is totally different from experiential bliss because it does not depend on any outside factor.
Patrick: That love can (and almost inevitably is) then expressed via the jiva vehicle?
Sundari: Moksa is for the jiva because as awareness you are already free. Awareness does not need self-knowledge, because it is self-knowing, self-effulgent. This means you know yourself whether or not objects are present – you do not need anything to know yourself. Self-knowledge, like ignorance, is an object known to you, awareness. This is why we say self-knowledge is your true nature because that is synonymous with love. Indirect knowledge is knowing you are awareness, but not knowing fully what that means. Direct knowledge is “I am awareness” and knowing what that means – for the jiva.
Who else is going to express self-knowledge/love if not the jiva, who is really the self? The point of self-actualisation is that self-knowledge translates into every aspect of the jiva’s life, or what good is it? It makes no difference to awareness or to Isvara if the jiva is enlightened or not because awareness sees only the self. But the jiva never leaves the apparent reality, even when it knows who it is. The one goal of liberation is permanent happiness – for the jiva. Permanent happiness is not possible through experience. It is only possible through knowledge.
Don’t confuse happiness or peace of mind with always feeling blissful. This is a big enlightenment myth. The bliss of self-knowledge is very different from experiential bliss. When moksa has obtained in the mind one may and usually does feel experiential bliss regularly, but one does not depend on it, because you know you are the bliss. Experiential bliss is an object known to you and you are always blissful, whether or not experiential bliss is present. In fact you could be sick, in pain and half-dead, broke, jobless or stuck in a situation you do not enjoy but cannot change – and be totally blissful because who you are is not influenced by what is or is not going on around you. You feel blissful regardless of what is going on in the mind.
This is expressed through the jiva as fullness, satisfaction, confidence, patience, humility, compassion, dispassion (non-attachment to results), quiet and abiding joy. But the jiva may even be in a bad mood and be totally happy. This is why Vedanta teaches that it is almost impossible to tell just from looking at a person whether they are enlightened or not. The enlightened jiva may even act in ways that seem totally contradictory to your idea of what an enlightened being should look like and behave. James often gets this because he does not care what people think of him, is totally confident and always behaves true to his nature. The only common thread with enlightened beings is that they value non-injury as their guiding principle and always follow dharma.
When this love is directed at an object, like a child or a lover or any object, it comes in the form of loving attention and full acceptance of who they are as the self, without a need to hold on or fear of loss. This love is a kind of worship or devotion because one knows that one is worshipping the self, you. One does not love what one does not pay attention to. One can even be very attached to a love object with total dispassion. A friend of ours recently challenged James and me because of this. His point was how could we be free if we are in a relationship and attached to each other? What he did not understand is, firstly, we are not in a relationship, it is in us, as we are not looking for moksa; we are moksa. And secondly, if you know you are attached, are you attached? The litmus test here is whether or not the attachment is based in fear or in knowledge. One is only ever attached to one’s self, even if you think the object of desire or love is other than you. There is no such thing as “the other.” The jiva no longer under the spell of ignorance does not depend on objects, but this does not mean that the jiva with their particular character and nature is not loved and valued as they are. Interacting as jivas is fun because the jivanmukta is never not aware of the play. The need to change anything simply does not arise and the relationship is honoured with its own dharma, which is based on the value for freedom. This can be applied in any transaction with objects as a jiva.
Here is the teaching on the different kinds of love:
Desire Is Not Love
Worldly love is called kama and its nature is desire. A worldly lover (kami) loves an object with desire and does not worship the object. He or she wants something from the object, which produces limiting feelings caused by the behaviour of the love object. Kama is a high-maintenance kind of love and amounts to a sense of ownership. Owning an object makes the lover feel secure. Kama is called love, but it is actually its antithesis of love because real love is free and subject-dependent. The object is loved for its own sake, not for how the object makes the subject feel. Real love wants nothing and fears nothing. It is self-satisfied. Desire feels like love because when its needs and conditions are met the mind is settled and blissful. When its needs and desires are not met, it is a veritable sea of storms. Kama, desire, is the coin of the realm of samsara.
Two Kinds of Spiritual Love
Bhakti, devotion, from the Sanskrit word “bhaj,” means to worship. It is more than a prayer, a supplication. Its desire is to serve and worship. It does not want worldly things. But like kama it is object-dependent, not subject-dependent. It appreciates the goodness in the object – a child, a family or God – and desires to serve, not possess. Bhakti is a feeling of gratitude born out of the understanding that one is privileged to experience love. It manifests in three ways.
1. Guna Bhakti: Guna means “quality,” so guna bhakti is worship according to the qualities that condition the instrument of love: the mind and heart. If the heart is dull (tamasic), superstition and fear inform one’s worship. For example, fear-based religious worship. If the heart is passionate (rajasic), desire informs one’s worship. The devotee wants something. If the heart is pure (sattvic), the bhakta loves for the sake of the object and for the sake of love itself.
But even a pure mind sees the beloved as an object. Guna bhakti and kama have another thing in common: there is a doer, a lover. This doer/lover loves something or someone other than his or her self, even though in both cases it is for the sake of the self one loves. A mature devotee knows that he or she is the self and worships it, but a tamasic or rajasic devotee is unaware of this fact. A kami feels incomplete and needs a love-object to feel complete.
A devotee also feels incomplete and loves an object (God or some other symbol of divinity) because it makes him or her she feel more secure, more complete, more “happy.” With guna bhakti and kama there is always a sense of separation from the object.
The advantage that a guna bhakta enjoys over a kami is that the object of worship (God, in whatever way it is conceived) is always available, whereas a person or a thing is not. Another advantage is that the object of a kami’s love is not always available to reciprocate, but the lover of God is never far from the beloved because God is consciousness and consciousness is responsive. No matter how the self is invoked, it responds lovingly because consciousness is love. It does not matter whether consciousness is seen as a religious God or as another kind of symbol: an idol, a person, nature, a practice or ritual – or as life itself. Consciousness does not discriminate, because it sees everything as itself.
In the discussion on love it is always difficult to understand the equation between awareness/consciousness and love. This is because awareness is free of feelings, whereas love seems to be a feeling quite separate from awareness. But there is actually no difference, because reality is non-dual and feelings are never apart from awareness; they arise out of awareness and are made up of awareness, like the spider’s web is made up of the spider.
2. Parabhakti: “In” parabhakti, love is known to be you, your true nature – meaning consciousness. It is having all you could ever want and knowing that it will never leave you. It is love loving itself. It is limitless satisfaction – parama sukka is the word used in the texts. The nature of the self, awareness, or consciousness, is parama prema svarupa. Parama means “limitless”; svarupa means “nature” and prema is “the love the makes love possible.” It is the nature of awareness. In its presence even spiritual love comes alive. Spiritual love, no matter how pure, is dualistic, a transaction between a subject and an object, a feeling of love, for example. When I know I am awareness, I am prema, limitless love. This love is knowledge because awareness is intelligent. Prema is only known when the doer has been completely negated by self-knowledge.
All three gunas are always present in the apparent reality or one could not experience anything, but parabhakti, prema, exists prior to rajas and tamas, which have yet to sprout from the causal body. It is an experienceless experience. At this “level” experience and knowledge are one because one is experiencing at the very heart of creation, before the gunas have differentiated. What is knowledge? “I am awareness/I am love/I am pure bliss.” What is experience? Awareness/love/bliss.
Who needs a devotional practice, and why?
There are three stages to devotional practice:
1. Karma yoga: When self-inquiry begins, the main purpose is to negate the doer. Karma yoga is consecrating to Isvara all thoughts words and actions on a moment-to-moment basis, knowing that the results of those actions are not up to you. It is taking the results as prasad. This is the most basic devotional practice. Companion practices such as prayer, chanting, japa, meditation, keeping an altar with symbols of the self, lighting a candle, etc. are very helpful ways to purify the mind and negate the doer.
2. Sanyassi yoga: A sanyassi, or self-inquirer, essentially understands that he or she is not the doer but still needs to render binding vasanas non-binding. Self-inquiry is the highest form of devotional practice. But for it to succeed, it should be practiced along with prayer, japa, chanting, meditation, etc. These are excellent means to gain the peace of mind in which love flowers.
3. Parabhakti, the yoga of no-contact: Once self-knowledge has permanently removed the ignorance of your true nature as whole and complete, non-dual awareness, you are pure love, parama prema svarupa. Your entire life is an outpouring of love, an effortless devotional practice and everything is a reflection of you, awareness. This does not mean that you no longer pray, meditate or chant, but that your life itself is a prayer, a meditation, a song of love. Devotion is the self, a spirit of joyful union with all.
The self-actualised jiva, whose nature is parama prema svarupa, still apparently exists in the apparent reality, the domain of Isvara. However, even though its personal ignorance (avidya) has been removed by self-knowledge, it willingly submits to the universal laws that govern the apparent reality.
~ Love, Sundari