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Karma Yoga Refined
Bryan: Thank you, Ramji, for your response, which I have spent some time thinking about.
You discerned my situation or dilemma very well when you said, “Yes, you feel responsible and want to do everything right by everybody.” I supposed there is a fear of judgment, which will be neutralised as I realise more firmly that there is no one to judge me. The truth is that all “my responsibilities” do not stand in the way of me, the self, since they are all mithya. So there is no reason to “unload” them or resolve them either nor worry about how things will turn out.
Ramji: Yes, they are all mithya. However, if the doubt arises that they are real it is an opportunity to apply a bit of satya/mithya knowledge and strengthen your satya/mithya vasana – which is moksa. So you are on the right path.
Bryan: I’m practising karma yoga in one sense (recognising Isvara as the doer and dispenser of results), but still concerning myself with whether the decisions made are the correct ones. That is why your comment, “It is a fact, however, that there is no way for jiva to know beforehand whether an act is in harmony with dharma,” clarified the situation very well. I think part of the confusion was a hidden assumption that (a) knowledge of the self makes it easier to know what to do – but this is silly of course because there is no doing as far as the self is concerned, and (b) the jiva is somewhat “improved,” which is even sillier, seeing as self-knowledge is freedom from, not for, the jiva. Your clarification has put me more at ease now and also helped me sense that freedom inherent in the self.
Ramji: Karma yoga is consecration of actions before you do them. Consecration means that you understand that once you have acted you can legitimately jettison the worry because you understand that the results are definitely in Isvara’s hands. If you feel anxiety for results, you don’t understand that they don’t belong to the jiva. All the factors in the field cause action and produce the results. The idea of doership is just one small thought in the whole process. As a doer all you can do is do your best.
You say that you are concerned with whether or not the actions are the right ones, but jiva is not Isvara. Jiva’s knowledge is always limited. It can never know what the result will be when the action is performed. A successful karma yoga process requires an unconditional acknowledgement of this fact.
Maybe this is just a self-esteem issue. Maybe you take your duties too seriously. You can be too conscientious.
Bryan: But how is it that self-knowledge makes the apparent actor more spontaneous and free in acting?
Ramji: It makes the apparent doer free of anxiety, so subsequent actions are not colored by bad judgments.
Bryan: With the advent of self-knowledge, where are the decisions made?
Ramji: Isvara makes them, i.e. jiva does not feel that it is making decisions when it is making them.
Bryan: Or is it the case that, seeing as there is no longer any doubt about non-doership and there is dispassion with respect to likes and dislikes, the jiva is able to see more clearly and freely what is “to be done”?
Ramji: Yes. When you understand that the dharma field creates the results, your likes and dislikes gradually go away and the mind remains in the present. A mind situated in the present is more likely to make intelligent choices, owing to an absence of concern about what will happen.
Bryan: Or is it as simple as saying that because I know that everything and everyone is me, I’m inclined to act in the interest of the total (aligned with Isvara), revealing my nature as self-loving?
Ramji: Yes. This is the knowledge approach. The needs of the field come first. In this way the doer/ego is gradually sidelined.
Bryan: In terms of the operation of the buddhi, I see that I phrased my question poorly, but you provided the answer that I anticipated – I meant that the sadhana of karma yoga and contemplation producing a relatively purified and steady mind should contribute somewhat to its “more effective” operation (and this is what I meant by “skilful” also). You are right of course, the self as actionless does not operate the buddhi, skilfully or otherwise.
In fact contemplating this during the week, I’ve had a much clearer sense of the actionlessness of awareness and the fact that Isvara is the doer and source of all actions (which is all mithya anyhow). But I still see myself as the doer when it comes to making the decision about what is to be done. It’s not really a problem, because I also often see that I’m just playing a role here in this little drama of Isvara’s. So having “made the decision,” I see more objectively the actions just happening by themselves. I just need to see through the delusion of thinking I am making the decision, since I am awareness.
Ramji: Good. This is what I was trying to explain above when I said that the doer acts knowing it isn’t acting.
Bryan: Krishna says in the Gita that the wise person performs the enjoined actions and refrains from the others not enjoined by the Vedas. Are such persons always acting without any sense of personal responsibility and simply performing what is to be done for its own sake and for “providing an example” (as Krishna also mentions)?
Ramji: No. They just want to make sure that their actions are scripturally sanctioned to avoid errors. So they are still (small) self-concerned.
Bryan: It seems to me a little more complex in our times where we do not have highly regulated and structured societies, centred around a scriptural teaching, as in the Vedic period. I wonder if the possibilities of self-deluding attitudes and moral licence, as is seen with some of the modern Neo-type teachers, are increased due to this. But that’s an academic point, I guess.
Ramji: Yes, our societies are dharmic, but they give a lot more leeway to individual choice, so there are many violations of dharma. The evolutionary spiritualists think that scriptures don’t apply, because we are more highly evolved than the ancients! Scriptures enjoining action are intended for dull and passionate people who lack common sense and are prone to sacrificing dharma for desire.
Bryan: I know that I am just ordinary, actionless awareness, and know too that the whole of mithya/experience is That-plus-gunas, and I know also that I still see myself sometimes as the doer, but I know that this is a delusional thought. The problem, and there isn’t really a problem, is getting to the point of seeing the delusional thought *before* stepping in the mithya caca. ☺
Ramji: The “I am the doer” thought does not actually disturb you, awareness, so, as you say, there isn’t really a problem. Maybe a seeming problem, but no actual problem. You’re doing fine.
Bryan: I’ve noticed a pattern now, a cycle, in which I (identified as the jiva) become overly emotional and “swamped” by rajas/tamas. Everything becomes about “what I want” and “my responsibilities,” “my duties,” etc. (when all I really want of course is peace/freedom): it’s all restlessness and anxiety for results (even in the realm of self-knowledge – “I want freedom now!”). It cycles around to a more sattvic state for a time in which I am more reflective and able to more readily recognise my true nature, and I easily get insights. I started to think the poor fellow was a manic-depressive ☺ and he also has to deal with that existential dread: talk about a shit-load of papam!
The trick, as you suggest, is to strengthen that vasana for satya/mythya discrimination so that it can operate when the storms set in. I’m also beginning to appreciate more fully that absolutely everything depends on the Lord when it comes to “Bryan.”
James: I love the clarity of thought in this email. This is a perfect synopsis of samsara, its effect on Bryan and Bryan’s response to it, which, when you think about it, is only an object known to you, the self. As far as Bryan is concerned, he has drawn the correct conclusion – keep up the sadhana – and soldier on. It gets better and better as time passes. As the rajas and tamas ameliorate under the impact of your inquiry and sattva increases, your appreciation of Isvara will increase as well. Ramana said that appreciation of Isvara’s control of events is tantamount to freedom because it allows the Bryan guy to completely relax. The Lord has our back, front and all sides. Keep up the good work.
~ Love, James