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One but Two
Ram: Your statement “Then the knowledge of unity should be experienced by the self and know itself in all that exists” is not correct.
The self ever experiences itself as one and knows itself without the aid of anything other than itself. It is self-knowing. So there is no time when it will “experience the knowledge of unity.” The problem is that Ravi does not accept the scripture’s statement that he is the self. So the statement “I am the self, limitless awareness,” needs to be contemplated until Ravi can say with conviction, “I am the ever-experienced self. I am everything that is.”
Ravi: Please don’t misunderstand me, but I am only trying to comprehend and understand the knowledge of Vedanta correctly. From what you say then, it would just be a belief of unity, and not knowing and feeling the reality.
Ram: The conviction that I mention is not a belief but solid knowledge based on the results of an inquiry into your experience of yourself.
Ravi: For example, if I know sugar is sweet because I have experienced the sweetness. I agree that I know why it is sweet because it is an object known to the self. I needn’t believe that it is sweet.
Ram: That’s correct, Ravi. It is a matter of direct experience. Experience confirms knowledge and knowledge confirms experience.
Ravi: I don’t have to believe that I exist, because I know I exist as the feeling of “I.” I don’t have to believe it, so in the same way the oneness with everything should be known and not believed; am I right?
Ram: Yes, indeed, Ravi. However, until you know it, you should believe it. If you don’t believe it, why would you investigate to see if it is true? You need to know indirectly that it exists and then investigate until you directly know/experience it.
Ravi: I want to clarify what is meant by Krishna saying to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita:
yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham
paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya cha duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge
“Many births have passed for both of us, Arjuna! I know them all but they are unknown to you. Even though I am the unborn Lord of all beings and my Self-knowledge is unshakable I seemingly come into being through the power of my own Maya. Whenever there is a decline in right living and people become addicted to corrupt ways I assume a physical body and appear in the world to establish dharma by encouraging and protecting those committed to it and destroying those who violate it.”
If the self is not separate from God and self is only existing truth, then what exactly does Krishna Bhagavan mean in the verse above, that I come into the world to destroy adharma? If each and every one of us is self and self only, then Arjuna, Bhishma, Bhima, Drona, Karana and all that exist is him already.
James: This is true from the point of view of the self (paramarthika satyam). But remember, by the time Krishna makes this statement in the fourth chapter, it is clear to him that Arjuna does not understand what the self is. So he has to present himself as Isvara, the Creator (jagat karanam).
Ravi: By saying, “I come again and again in every yuga,” does he mean he is separate from the self?
James: Good thinking, Ravi. You have honed in on Vedanta’s core teaching, the distinction between satya and mithya, the real and the apparently real. Understanding it is equivalent to moksa.
Obviously, if the self is everything that is, it cannot incarnate. So in this verse the self, Isvara, is speaking in its role as maya, the Creator. So the answer to your question is both yes and no. Isvara as maya is sat-asat vilakshanam, which means that it is not the same as pure original consciousness (paramatma) nor is it different. The example you give explains the relationship between Isvara as pure limitless consciousness and Isvara in conjunction with maya. You say, “Does it mean, for example, that sun and sunlight are not separate, but light itself is not the sun but the sun is the sun and the light too? So we as the self are like the sunlight and the supreme self is the sun and the sunlight?”
The answer is YES! There is no actual difference between one ray of sunlight the sun itself.Both are just light. But there is a difference because one ray is not the sun. The ray is limited and the sun is limitless. So, you – limitless, unborn, original consciousness (the sun) – are not the jiva(’s) ray but the jiva(’s) ray is you. Ravi is the same but different from you. This doesn’t mean that these are two “yous.” There is only you, limitless consciousness, appearing as small jiva by the grace of maya.
I like to speak of Isvara 1 and Isvara 2 because it is easy to misunderstand when you read Vedanta because the commentators often don’t understand the satya/mithya teaching or, if they do they fail to mention it, so it seems like consciousness is both formless and with form. It is, but this idea causes confusion, since consciousness is non-dual. If it is non-dual, then how can it be dual? So we need the teaching on maya to explain how one can seem to be many.
Ravi: He also tells Arjuna, “I remember all my previous births and everyone else’s.” What does he mean by this?
James: In this statement he is speaking as Isvara 2, Jagat Karanam. Conciousness can’t create without maya and maya contains the knowledge of every object in creation. The word “remember” makes the verse difficult because it makes pure consciousness seem to be a person when obviously consciousness has no memory. So it is not Mr. Harry Krishna, the friend of Arjuna, that makes this statement. It is Isvara 1 speaking as Isvara 2 that makes it. Since Arjuna doesn’t see his friend as the self, he is confused.
Ravi: I hope I have explained my question clearly, and hope to get a true and correct answer to destroy my doubt with real knowledge.
James: Yes, you have explained yourself very well. I hope these teachings were helpful.
~ Om and prem, Ram