Search & Read
Kay: Thanks for your last response, and sorry for taking so long to acknowledge that.
You have cleared up those points for me very well. It’s funny (not) how the ignorance creeps back in and one has to keep going over it until self-knowledge is established. I suppose it’s right to say that until I no longer lack the discrimination (vis-à-vis getting atma anatma vivekaha), I’m still doing sravanna, manana and nidhyidhasana.
James: Yes, indeed. However, “getting it” is the constant application of it to the thoughts that arise in the mind until there is such a binding atma/anatma vasana that the discrimination is effortless, i.e. it is firm knowledge.
Kay: Anyhow, my next question concerns the very important topic of doing one’s duty, seeing as that is what the rest of life is about now that searching is over: I think that I totally get what karma yoga is about and I am committed to it as best I can. I’ve taken to reading a chapter per day of the Gita (Swami Dayananda’s translation at the moment), and praying to Isvara as a means of neutralising some old victimism vasanas and for developing a grateful attitude. And even if I don’t get the fully ascertained self-knowledge quickly (which I pray I will), this makes me a more happy and pleasant person on the relative level anyway.
James: This is a good sadhana done with the right understanding.
Kay: So my questions are these:
The karma yoga attitude broadly means “handing over” to Isvara and grateful acceptance of whatever results, but in any particular dilemma a decision has to be made (even if that decision entails “non-acting”).
James: Yes. Karma yoga is (1) just the pure knowledge that Isvara is the doer and the giver of the results of action. This results in an effortless, positive, contributory attitude with regard to action, which destroys one’s likes and dislikes. (2) A conscious practice, a decision.
Kay: Who is making the choices about “the right thing to do”? Aren’t I just witnessing the buddhi deliberate, according to its relative power?
James: The jiva is making the choices. Its actions are not spontaneous, because it thinks it is a doer. It has a doubt. Yes, the self witnesses its deliberations.
Kay: Is it the case that self-knowledge (the self as non-doer) means that the buddhi is more objective and able to “rule over” the ragadveshas and thereby make the most appropriate decision (which is then handed off to the will and down to the lower organs)?
James: No. Self-knowledge is identification as consciousness/awareness. It has nothing to do with the condition of the buddhi, although when there is no doubt that “I am consciousness,” the intellect becomes more objective. In fact, however, gaining an objective buddhi is a prerequisite for establishing the self-knowledge. The second stage of inquiry, upasana yoga, which follows karma yoga, the first stage, is all about knowledge of Isvara Knowledge of Isvara depersonalizes the buddhi, which in the karma yoga stage is still personal, i.e. it is making its choices based on the idea that the jiva has something to gain or lose by choosing. It doesn’t know that the choices have been made before it makes them.
Kay: So the greater the level of self-knowledge, the more skilful the operation of the buddhi?
James: Yes, but no. There is no “skill” involved in self-knowledge, because self-knowledge is tantamount to “I am not a doer.” To be skillful you need to be a doer. The self is not skillful There actually are no “levels” of self-knowledge, only the application of it to the mind on a moment-to-moment basis if you think you are a doer. In this case, there is “skill,” meaning how steady the doer is in keeping the idea that Isvara is the doer in mind. Karma yoga at this stage is difficult or easy depending on one’s vasana load. If the vasana load is heavy, the doer usually forgets that Isvara is the giver of the results and experiences a lot of emotion.
Kay: What does Vedanta have to say about what is called “conscience”?
James: Conscience is just the innate working of dharma in the intellect. If the vasanas are too strong, jiva will violate dharma and will feel guilty.
Kay: This question plays out in a practical sense for me daily (and relatively) as a wife and mother of seven – so, yes, generally a rajasic household. :-) It is very difficult to know sometimes what the dharma is asking – Isvara may be the doer, but jiva is the instrument and has some range of freedom (relatively speaking). Sometimes not taking action in a particular circumstance would appear to be best, but then the doubt arises that I’m shirking. Conversely, sometimes a particular course of action seems prudent, but then the doubt arises that I’m letting rajas rule and that “letting go” is best on this occasion.
How (if at all) am I the self involved in any of this deliberation and willing – or is “I” just the light that lights it up?
James: The self is not involved at all. It simply witnesses the jiva’s confusion. It is a fact, however, that there is no way for jiva to know beforehand whether an act is in harmony with dharma. This is why karma is always mysterious. The self doesn’t care about dharma and adharma. When you know you are the self, your actions automatically conform to dharma or not; no thought is involved. It is true that sometimes adharmic actions have dharmic consequences and sometimes dharmic actions have adharmic consequences. One never knows. What happens should not be important to a jiva seeking moksa, i.e. it should be dispassionate. This is where the prasad concept comes in. You will naturally be grateful when you get results you want, but you won’t when you get results you don’t want. Prasad means that you gladly accept Isvara’s idea of what you need.
Kay: Should the attitude just be “well, seeing as I care about these other beings, I’ll take the course of action that seems to be most to everyone’s benefit (whether it is pleasant to me or otherwise), deciding within the obvious limitations of my intellect. With this attitude, God will take care of my limitations.” Is this a karma yoga approach and will it neutralise the accrual of further karma?
James: Yes. Karma yoga means that you are limited, i.e. you think you are a doer. Even if karma yoga does neutralize your karma you are still a limited entity with neutralized karma, which is better than being a limited entity with non-neutralized karma. But you are still a limited entity. When you have neutralized your karma with karma yoga, you are ready for self-knowledge, i.e. jnana karma sanyass, the understanding that you are the witness and that insofar as action is happening, Isvara – the gunas – is causing it.
Kay: It seems to me just a lack of confidence perhaps?
James: Yes, you feel responsible and want to do everything right by everybody. You have eight people plus your jiva to look after, and you are identified with being a mother. It is enough that you have this feeling insofar as it is appropriate to mother dharma. But it is not real. They are not your wife and kids – they are just Isvara appearing as the wife and kids. In the fullness of time it doesn’t matter if you fuck up – it will all work out for the best for all concerned. This is the best attitude.
~ Much love, James