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Understanding the Jiva
Samantha: Hello, to you both. I just felt the need to connect, and in fact ask a question. But first, we hope you two are doing well after a fabulous satsang at Trout Lake. Thank you for providing such a wonderful six days of complete immersion in Vedanta. I wonder if I was immersed in that way every day how quickly would all of this knowledge seep into my little jiva-mind.
Sundari: Yes, if one could subject the mind 24/7 to self-knowledge and not have to deal with the world at all, inquiry would move along much faster – but understanding the world and how the jiva relates to it is the crux of liberation. What good is knowledge if it does not translate to the life of the jiva? It is very easy to live as awareness with no distractions; living as the self in the world, especially as a householder, is much more heroic!
Samantha: Okay, speaking of little jiva-minds, here’s my question. If jiva “Samantha” knows she’s ever-present, unchanging, non-dual awareness, and back in the order of maya-reality something happens that would produce a “negative” feeling in “Samantha”-jiva, but upon discrimination she holds fast to the knowing that she is awareness, would jiva-“Samantha” still suffer those feelings or, by giving up those feelings to Isvara would she neutralize the “negative” feelings and hence not be confronted with jiva-suffering? After all, isn’t this the prime motivation for knowing my true nature? I hope I’m clear with my question.
Sundari: This is the million-dollar question of course, and one which many inquirers get stuck on. This is the Isvara-jiva identity that is at the core of self-inquiry. It is also called discriminating satya (ever-present, unchanging awareness) from mithya (not always present, always changing jiva). First off – it is not “jiva-Samantha” that knows she is ever-present, non-dual awareness – Samantha does not know anything. It is the light of awareness shining on Samantha making it appear as if she is conscious and aware that knows that Samantha is really ever-present, unlimited, non-dual awareness. Samantha is an object known to you, awareness. When maya is operating, the self (apparently) under the spell of ignorance appears as a subtle body, or jiva, and believing it is something other than awareness, identifies with the subtle body and its life story, thinking that awareness is something to gain. This is the cause of all existential suffering.
We have to address the jiva and its conditioning to be free of it. To address it, one must understand what creates it (Isvara) and what governs its vasana load (the gunas). Isvara and the gunas can also be referred to as the causal body, or System 1. The jiva and its microcosmic causal body, or unconscious (vasana load), is System 2. Unless the jiva understands System 1 it cannot make changes to System 2 that will permanently change how it relates to System 1, i.e. for moksa to obtain, the jiva-conditioning needs to be rendered non-binding and the doer negated.
While it is true that there is a definite “shift” in how one sees life and relates to objects once self-knowledge is firm, it is also true that the nididhysana stage never really ends for the jiva. Nididhysana is the constant contemplation/assimilation and transformation of negative emotions/psychological patterns in the light of self-knowledge, not in the light of one’s own beliefs or opinions.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Macrocosmic ignorance (maya) does not end when personal ignorance (avidya) ends. Duality does not disappear when you know that it is just a superimposition onto non-duality, like the mirage on the desert floor, even though you know it is a mirage and you can still see it, but you don’t take it to be real. Duality of ignorance is only a problem when you don’t know what it is, taking ignorance to be knowledge.
Even when moksa obtains in the mind the jiva is always limited by maya (although no longer conditioned by it) even though its essence is known to be limitless awareness. The fine print on the enlightenment certificate is that there really is no “post”-moksa stage for the jiva even though you are moksa and not the jiva. A common myth in the enlightenment game is that enlightenment is another object to obtain and when it has been the jiva will be different, better. But it won’t be. It will still have its Isvara-given character and tendencies, it will still be a pain in the ass sometimes and it will still suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, feeling joy, pain, loss, grief as well as the constant bliss of self-knowledge.
Secondly, to answer the next part of your question, if jiva-“Samantha” knows she’s ever-present, unchanging, non-dual awareness, and back in the order of maya-reality something happens that would produce a “negative” feeling in “Samantha”-jiva, but upon discrimination she holds fast to the knowing that she is awareness, would jiva-“Samantha” still suffer those feelings or, by giving up those feelings to Isvara, would she neutralize the “negative” feelings, and hence not be confronted with jiva-suffering?
Self-knowledge is not a magic pill for the ego. The difference is that when moksa has obtained the jiva does not identify with the thoughts/feelings, because it knows they are not real – i.e. not always present and always changing. Only the knower of the thoughts and feelings, you, awareness, is real. Knowing this makes all the difference because the mind does not suffer over the suffering. It has a way to objectify suffering, knowing it passes, as do all things in samsara. So, yes, definitely, in responding to all situations as they arise in the mind as awareness and not as the jiva, the suffering is ameliorated, although events will still play out.
As awareness one does not need the experience of bliss or happiness to be present, because one knows that you are the happiness, the bliss. And the bliss of knowledge does not feel like anything (even though it makes feeling possible). So you can be happy and blissful not matter what is going on for the jiva. Knowing this one does not try to change Isvara – System 1. Even knowing that as awareness you are beyond Isvara does not alter the fact that the jiva is subject to Isvara. What makes the world of difference to the jiva’s experience is the hard and fast knowledge that none of it is real: not the empirical world as it is (Isvara srsti) nor the jiva and its subjective world of experience (jiva srsti).The jiva never stops experiencing, but when it is not longer under the spell of ignorance, what changes is how it relates to objects and its field of experience (Isvara/System 1). Self-knowledge reverses and ends the experience-experiencer (subject-object) split.
Inquirers still identified with the body-mind (ego) think that awareness is something they will experience “one day” when knowledge obtains. As a finder you know that you are here and now the non-experience witness, or awareness, making it possible for the ego (Samantha) to experience awareness – 24/7. Life in the apparent reality is all awareness apparently under the spell of ignorance, experiencing itself but ever-free of experience, full stop. There is only one experience seemingly broken up into many discrete experiences. There is only one eternal jiva, and it never leaves the apparent reality. Awareness gives rise to and enlivens all objects, but is always free of them.
As Vedantins we never stop “working” on the jiva even though we do not censure it or expect it to change. Of course we follow dharma, personal and universal, without question, but not because we want to improve the jiva. We follow dharma only because we want a peaceful mind. All the same, jivas enlightened or not can still get up each other’s noses! James and Isabella irritate each other at times, but they know they are not doing anything.It’s just how the jiva is made, no doer doing anything. Although accommodation is the key issue in relating to objects because to be free you have to manage likes and dislikes and serve the total, one cannot change the fundamental nature of the jiva.
So one could wait forever to take a stand in awareness as awareness if you are waiting for nididhysana to end. Ask yourself when an issue arises for the jiva: If the jiva is projecting, and I know it is projecting, is it projecting? The subjective reality is always operating for the jiva. It will always have its particular way of relating to Isvara which will be unique to its vasana filters. The difference will be that a jivanmukta knows when it is projecting, instantly dissolves the projection in the knowledge and is instantly free of it. Thus it does not create “new” karma. It keeps its karma like a little dog on a very short leash, right up front. No karmic drag, ever. No unfinished business, no drama and no existential suffering. There is never another person involved in its interactions and transactions in the world of objects/experience. The jivanmukta knows in the moment that it is transacting only with itself because there is no “other.” There is only awareness.
Samantha: It’s rather funny I haven’t yet thought of this question before, as it seems so elementary. Anyway, off to bed now. And just to put it in writing.
Sundari: Understanding the jiva is where all the teaching takes place. It is easy to understand that you are awareness, after all – it is obvious that you are aware. But understanding what that means to the jiva identified with being a jiva is the hard part. Ignorance is hardwired and tenaciously resistant.
~ Much love, Sundari