Search & Read
Where Does the First Jiva Come From?
Martin: Hello, Sundari.
I appreciate that you are extremely busy, so there is no need to reply until such time as you can fit it in. I have gone over the self-inquiry video (Berlin) many times plus the monthly conference course and both books (How to Attain Enlightenment and The Essence of Enlightenment).
To structure the teaching, I am now starting the advanced course.
I would be grateful for some clarity on the following in Tattva Bodha. Dealing with the gross body, the text states, “…it is born as a result of meritorious actions of the past…,” and then dealing with the subtle body, the text states, “…it is a result of good actions in the past…”
Sundari: Both the microcosmic subtle and gross bodies are the results of “good” or “bad” karma for the jiva. It is auspicious to be born with a human body, and also a body that is strong and healthy. The body depends on the mind, and not the other way around, but a healthy body which is well taken care of nonetheless makes it easier for the mind to be peaceful. A mind that is suffering as a result of illness or poor health has difficulty doing inquiry.
A human body is better than an animal body if moksa is what you are after because the jiva cannot attain liberation without a human body. An animal is entirely ignorant, whereas humans are in the twilight zone with half-knowledge (spirit) and half-ignorance (matter). The subtle body has an intellect which reflects consciousness, but although an animal has a subtle body which also reflects consciousness, it does not have a developed intellect capable of self-reflection. Animals have no power to analyse or think other than in terms of their desires, whereas a human subtle body, having an intellect, can analyse and do inquiry. Because of this, ignorance can be removed from the mind by self-knowledge.
The subtle body has a similar relationship to the gross body as consciousness has to mithya (the apparent reality) – there is an interdependence from the jiva’s perspective – but not from awareness’s point of view, because they exist in different orders of reality: mithya, or that of the apparently real (not always present and always changing), and satya, the real (that which is ever present and never changes) – and without which the apparent reality could not exist.
1. Although both the subtle body and the gross body arise from consciousness, are made up of consciousness and depend on consciousness to exist, consciousness does not depend on anything to exist – or to know itself, as it is self-knowing. Consciousness is prior to objects and does not require a body, but a body does not exist without the presence of consciousness.
2. The body/mind/intellect (gross and subtle bodies) is not self-knowing and is an object known to awareness. While the intellect is far subtler than the body – which is just meat – it is capable of thinking only because the light of awareness shines on it. A good analogy for this is the sun and the moon metaphor: while the moon shines brightly it has no light of its own and “borrows” its light from the sun.
3. Both the subtle and gross bodies are eternal principles. Although both have a common identity as awareness and it appears as if there are many, there is only one eternal subtle and gross body appearing as many.
4. The jiva is pure awareness plus the subtle body, a material instrument that makes knowledge possible. The jiva is satya, and the subtle body is mithya.
5. The subtle body pervades the gross body (other than hair and nails), but the gross does not pervade the subtle. However, even though the gross body does not pervade the subtle body, it can affect it. For example, if the gross body gets sick, depressed, has a headache or an unhealthy lifestyle, it can take actions to remedy this, which will affect the subtle body, making it dull (tamasic), extroverted (rajasic) or clear, calm and peaceful (sattvic).
6. The gross body is the lower, and the subtle body is the higher principle. The gross body depends on the subtle body but the subtle does not depend on the gross body. The subtle body is made up of very fine matter, or prakriti, and is subsumed into the causal body after the gross body dies. The gross body is made up of grosser matter, the five elements, and returns to them after death. If the conditioning, or vasana/karma load, that incarnated the jiva has not been resolved at death, the subtle body “reincarnates” as another jiva until the conditioning is rendered non-binding and the karma is resolved by self-knowledge.
7. Identification with the gross body is inseparable from identification with the mind/intellect because the gross body exists only as a thought in the subtle body. When your attention is on a thought or a feeling, the gross body does not exist for you. It only exists for you when you pay attention to it – or when it feels pleasure or pain. The gross body is “within” the subtle body and the subtle body is “within” awareness – you. There is no way to understand this or discriminate awareness from the objects that appear in you unless you to step out of maya with self-knowledge, i.e. discriminate between satya and mithya.
Martin: As the self/awareness is actionless, and the basis of action is the body/mind/sense complex, i.e. the gross and subtle bodies, where do the actions come from that result in the creation of these bodies? Presumably, the causal body can only create vasanas (good and meritorious) based upon actions, which cannot take place without the subtle and gross bodies.
Sundari: This is the chicken-and-the-egg story – which came first? Consciousness or matter? Where did the first body/mind/sense complex come from – and, if there was a “first” jiva, how could it have accumulated vasanas or karma?
Although the jiva, the vasanas that condition it and the actions that result from them seem personal, they are not. They arise from the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas, which are what make up maya – the dharma field, or creation. The gunas give rise to the jiva, the vasanas and their results (karma).
It is impossible to put a timeline to this logic, because as principles the gunas, jiva and the vasanas cannot be separated, as they exist “out of time,” in infinite potential within the causal body, which is infinite. However, one can say that, from the perspective of Isvara (consciousness in the role of Creator):
1. The individual jiva comes before the vasanas (a baby is born innocent and “pure”);
2. Then come the vasanas producing fear and desire (the baby grows into the adult conditioned by both its inborn nature and its environment (vasanas) – both of which are produced by the gunas;
3. Lastly come the actions which reinforce the vasanas.
To answer this question fully, one has to look from both the perspective of the jiva and that of awareness, i.e. the points of view of duality and non-duality.
A. As the jiva you are stuck in karma, i.e. action/doing. The dharma field is a field of action and exists for the jiva to work out its karma, given to it by Isvara. The jiva cannot not act. Even non-action is an action. Vasanas produce action, and actions produce karma – and more vasanas. Without self-knowledge, there is no escape from this cycle, called the “wheel of samsara,” or ignorance. From this perspective, the body-mind (and the world it exists in) seems real, appears to have a beginning and an end, is limited, bound to objects and suffers accordingly.
B. From the point of view of awareness, which is unborn and never dies, the creation is uncreated – there is no creation – and yet awareness is the unlimited, ever-present and unchanging, uncaused cause of creation. The scripture reveals that when maya manifests, consciousness “assumes” the role of Creator (Isvara) and the subtle body (containing the gross body) appears. Maya is the power in awareness to delude so the self under the spell of ignorance identifies with the objects and believes it is something other than awareness. Because of maya, the creation has an apparent existence which is neither real nor unreal, “real” being defined by “that which is permanent and unchanging,” which can only be ascribed to awareness. Moksa is the ability to discriminate you (satya), awareness, from the objects that arise in you (mithya) at all times.
This is what James has to say about this very subtle teaching:
“Sometimes Vedanta says that awareness is independent of creation and sometimes it says that awareness and the creation are mutually dependent. Which is it? The self stands alone. It is independent and free (satya). It is self-existence. It exists prior to the creation. There was a time when there was no creation and there will be a time when there is no creation. The self is existence. It is not created. For it to be created, there would have to be something other than it to create it, but it is a matter of experience that there is only one existence.
“The world is created out of existence. So it is dependent (mithya). But when you look at reality from the point of view of the creation, the self and the creation are mutually interdependent. You cannot have a creation without consciousness and you can’t have a creation with maya, i.e. matter.
“Maya, the creation, is a very difficult concept to understand because, although reality is non-dual consciousness, consciousness and matter are not the same. Non-duality does not mean sameness. Matter (prakriti) is the self, but the self is not matter (sat-asat vilakshanam). They are in different orders or dimensions of the one reality. So they are the same but they are different! It is a logical impossibility. How can there be one reality with two (or more) dimensions? Yet this is the way it is. If it weren’t this way, there would be no suffering and no liberation. Liberation (moksa) is understanding in which way they are the same and in which way they are not the same. Once this is clear you will never confuse the subject – you, consciousness – with the objects (not-you, the body/mind/world) and you will be free of attachment to objects.
“The problem is that the intellect exists in duality, the mithya dimension of reality. It thinks in either/or, not in both/and. The teaching on satya and mithya explains the relationship clearly. All that is required, once you know what is satya and what is mithya, is to observe this paradoxical relationship in your own experience.”
I hope this resolves your doubt. Feel free to write if it does not.
~ Love, Sundari