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Is the Object There Because the Individual Sees It? No
Hugh: I just wanted to ask about something regarding jivas and God. Let’s say there is an object. Jiva sees this object. God sees this object via jiva, jiva being a creation of God.
Shams: That’s right, but let’s establish that, as you know, God (Isvara) is not a person who sees through another person (jiva). Isvara is the Creator and the Creation. Although we say that Isvara is the doer, we say it because all the apparent action is just Isvara “happening.” God doesn’t act like a person, so it doesn’t do any specific action, like watching an object. On the other hand, the jiva is neither seeing nor not seeing – the interpretation of action is just that, an idea about a doer, the identification with action. The object appears in the mind of the jiva, the little mind being a perspective of the mind of Isvara. The object depends on the big mind, not on the little one.
Hugh: All of this happens in awareness. Jiva doesn’t see the object because it’s there, but the object is there because jiva sees it.
Shams: That’s not true. The appearance of objects depends on Isvara, not the jiva. And all of that is dependent on awareness. Making this mistake is part of superimposing mithya onto satya. In reality jiva is just an object in you, like any other object.
Hugh: However, maybe there is also a different jiva looking at the same object. I guess that I (jiva) and another jiva are looking at this object, but really we don’t see it because it’s there, it’s there because we see it.
Shams: At the [empirical] level of the world, any object would still be there, whether a jiva is there to look at it or not. Because it’s Isvara. You, your friend and a stone, the three of you appear in Isvara. The three of you are objects too because you are seen. We could say that you are perspectives (little ones) of Isvara as the Creation.
Hugh: But, this other jiva, other than me as a jiva, is known to me. That jiva’s there because I see it, not that I see it because it’s there.
Shams: That is true only if that “you” is awareness. The other jiva is known to you, awareness, as the jiva called Hugh is also known to you. How can you be sure about it? You can look at it on your own. When you are in company of other people, anything you perceive appears in your mind. The jiva that you are seeing appears in your mind as a visual stimulus, then the intellect interprets it as a person. But actually, you don’t perceive “the other jiva,” i.e. you don’t perceive the ego, the mind (you can’t perceive other minds and, even if that were possible, any experience would still be appearing in your mind). So the person that you see is a series of stimuli interpreted in your mind as another jiva. Is it there because you see it? Or do you see it because it’s there? Well, the other person (as any other object) doesn’t depend on your vision and totally doesn’t depend on your perception. At the level of the world, it is there because of Isvara. So Hugh saw another person because it was there.
At the level of the self, you can say that the object “another jiva” appeared in you, awareness, as your own mind appeared in you. Awareness is not perception. Perception appears in awareness as an object.
Hugh: So if that other jiva is there because I see it, then doesn’t that make that jiva dependent on me, and therefore not able to perceive me?
Shams: Of course, but only if you are talking as the self. As the jiva, that is completely untrue. You could maybe extend your inquiry into the use of the verb “to see” because actually that is only a metaphor, as the self doesn’t do the action of seeing. Awareness is free of it. To see is exactly the same as any other experience. And experience is always subject-dependent. The act of seeing appears (and dissapears) in you, and you are free of that. The world that apparently appears is a dynamic chart on which you apparently appear as a jiva, the jiva being just a small part of the whole object, called Creation.
Hugh: I think I’ve heard James say that there’s only one jiva, yet he also sometimes says that there are many jivas.
Shams: Sometimes it could be confusing to call Isvara a jiva. By definition, jivas have bodies and egos (jiva means “embodied being”). But Isvara doesn’t have a body or an ego. So to refer to Isvara as a jiva could make Isvara sound like a big person, which it isn’t. This understood, we can also say that there is only one jiva because there is only one awareness appearing as many apparent jivas, or individuals. We could call it Isvara sometimes, but let’s stay with the first definition of the jiva, which is the part that depends on Isvara.
Hugh: There seems to be fear of these jivas out there, who are capable of harming me as a jiva. Instead of relaxing, thinking that it’s all under God’s control, that I’m not a doer, I think that there are all of these dangerous jivas out there in the world. Even though they can’t hurt me as awareness, they can hurt me as a jiva.
Shams: It seems that you are applying the right thinking to the question. Nothing can hurt you as awareness, but it’s also true that anybody can hurt you as a jiva. Moksa will never change that. You don’t look for liberation in order to become a more secure jiva, but to know that you are free of the jiva. The fear related to physical menaces to the person is an evolutionary tool that should be heeded and used in life, like any other tool, with the help of intellect. The truth is exactly as you said: (a) all is under God’s control, (b) you are not a doer and (c) there are all of these dangerous jivas out there in the world. The fear is the way that God says to the person that it would be an unwise decision to walk into a Yakuza bar at midnight. That’s part of Isvara’s perfect order, and you should trust in the Lord by hearing and taking action after rational fears. So then you can relax.
If you were dominated by fear, then that would mean that tamas is predominant in the mind, and it would be a good idea to examine the motivations of the mind. A sattvic mind doesn’t repress fear, but knows how to react according to dharma and the situation. A person that knows the self understands this and keeps looking after the jiva, even when he knows it to be just an object.