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Why Did He Produce the Suffering?
Hugh: I’m currently reading James’ The Yoga of Love.
As far as this jiva goes, it does seem to be the case, using the terminology that James uses, that “I” am self-realised, but not self-actualised.
Shams: A self-realized being knows his or her true identity. For a self-realized person, the search for knowledge is over, although there are still some vasanas obscuring the manifestation of the self in ordinary life.
Self-actualization happens when most of the vasanas have been removed by knowledge so the true identity shines on the jiva without any obstruction. Generally, it takes a lot of time and application of knowledge to “become” completely self-actualized. In truth, that is not a goal: there is no doer anymore, so it simply happens as a result of knowledge.
Someone who knows his or her true identity cannot be interested in becoming more actualized, because he or she is not identified with the doer anymore, but with the self, and although some (or lots of) non-actualized vasanas still appear, the jnani knows them to be just objects.
Hugh: James speaks of “experiential assimilation” (anubhava), which is unshakable self-knowledge. Maybe jiva isn’t quite there yet.
Shams: You are still limitless awareness. The jiva has the means of knowledge and, as long as doubt still arises, you can keep applying the right thought until every doubt is gone.
Hugh: It’s been a really rajasic year for jiva, and there is some confusion/doubt regarding that. One year ago I was telling you about my job situation, starting a new job. The cycle continues, and again I am on the verge of potential change. One year ago I was trying to follow dharma as best I could by leaving a job that was too adharmic. That led to the job that I do now, which seems to also be adharmic, although there are dharmic elements to it. Sometimes I really wonder what I’m doing as a jiva.
Shams: You are not doing anything as a jiva. Isvara is doing it. The jiva is just a sum of elements, a result of karma in time and space. Everything just happens in you, the self, managed by Isvara, which is also the self (plus ignorance).
The jiva isn’t in control of any result, it is just only (apparently) in control of its attitude towards results.
Hugh: How is it that someone like me, with my different interests, varied education and work history, with “spiritual” inclinations, is now working such a job that I do now. It’s tiring. It’s very rajasic. There are too many people lacking decent values. There are even rumours (that are likely true) that someone higher up in the company was caught bribing a government official.
I sort of don’t understand why, even though I made a dharmic move, things have got so rajasic, and that I’m always around individuals with values that don’t match mine.
Shams: You were never in control of any result, not as a jiva and not as the self. The jiva appears in determinate situations thanks to karma, but you could never be sure if you will like or dislike the next result. That is not up to you. What is partially up to you is your response.
Knowledge of the self doesn’t directly change your karma, but it changes the way you are related to it. How? Well, the jiva is not moved anymore by its likes and dislikes, because there is the comprehension that any situation, as is the jiva itself, is an object.
Our attention should be more on our attitude than on the events happening outside. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep making decisions and acting for more sattvic situations or environments, but if you are still feel moved to complain and feel unhappy with the given results, then there are still things to understand and work to do. Maybe you made a dharmic move, but there is a violation of dharma when you are attached to results and forget being grateful for every detail in your life, good or bad.
It’s not that the dharma field will punish you for complaining, but the very act of it means that there are some qualifications of the mind waiting to be developed and that there are things that the knowledge could actualize in that area. “Why me?” is always the ego talking, not even the whole jiva, but a structure of identification with just some characteristics of it. Complaint lowers the power of the jiva and obscures its perspective. So it’s not just mithya, but mithya into mithya.
If we want to follow dharma properly, we should start from our attitude. Little by little the situation outside will become clearer. Or not! Nobody is in control of that, but we can set goals and ask for God’s favor. Most of the time it becomes better, but it takes time, ironically, because our attitude is the great obstacle. So if you want better results you can start by training your mind to not to care about the results. Not by a bitter dispassion, but by a grateful one.
Hugh: Speaking of individuals, I have heard it said before, and as James writes in The Yoga of Love, that “It seems as if there are many unique individuals, but in fact there is only one human individual with assorted peculiarities.” (page 14)
Shams: Isvara is the only human individual, as She/He/It is the only living being. The separate beings are just perspectives of the same object.
Hugh: I don’t think I quite understand what that means. Sometimes it seems like there is only one jiva: me. Other “individuals” seen are just observed objects, with me doing the observing.
Shams: Well said. And every object that appears in you as a jiva is Isvara, and Isvara is also the jiva. The difference between the main jiva and the individual jiva is just the perpective. Isvara is omnipotent, omnisapient and omnipresent, while Hugh is exactly that without the “omni” part. It seems that there are lots of us, but, as knowledge showed you, there is only one self and everything else is forms and names, objects to you.
Maybe this satsang fragment will help:
Jeff: Also, you used the terms “Isvara 1” and “Isvara 2” to help me appreciate the difference between jivatma and Isvara: just to clarify, I take it to mean that by “Isvara 1” you are referring to the original pure awareness (“brahman,” “satya”), and “Isvara 2” as that awareness in association with the original subtlest matter, or maya (taken together to be “the Lord”). I understand you steer away from the term “brahman” in your teaching because of a lot of wrong associations and “baggage” around it. Is there any further subtle distinction that I’m missing here?
James: This is basically right, but the teaching is a little more nuanced. Isvara 1 is pure, limitless, original consciousness. This is called nirguna brahman, the self without qualities. It is free of objects. When or where the power of maya appears in pure consciousness all the objects, gross and subtle, are instantaneously fashioned out of Isvara 1. The gross and subtle objects are the three bodies. Isvara 2 is pure consciousness associated with the whole Creation. It is called saguna brahman, awareness with qualities. Isvara 1 is also called atma or paramatma, indicating its limitlessness, and Isvara 2 appears as jivatma, an eternal individual, owing to its association with the three bodies. When the jivatmata knows that it is atma, it does not identify itself with the three bodies and is called a jivanmukta. When it does identify with the three bodies, it is called a samsari, an ignorant person.
Hugh: James talks about different individuals though. For example, we say that some people are self-realised, while others are self-actualised, while even others aren’t either one. So who are these individuals if there is only one individual?
Shams: That is because we talk from different levels of understanding. On the level of the individual there will always be different individuals, otherwise you would be crazy. But that level of interpretation is not against the understanding that those individuals are apparent, because they are just parts of one total individual. And we also could say, from a higher level, that the main jiva is just an object, happening in you, and therefore it’s not real.
Hugh: Although it’s a basic principle that I learnt when I first started with Vedanta, or possible even earlier, I was thinking lately about how “the joy is never in the object,” and how great that is if it’s really true. For example, I saw this really sexy girl the other day. My mind was on her, knowing that I would likely never see her again. Yet if the joy I felt when I saw her actually isn’t tied to her, then it’s perfectly fine that I never see her again, because that joy is actually in me. That’s a comforting thought, although it is not a consistent thought. This seems to point again to not being self-actualised. I get the logic, but I don’t always behave as if the logic is firm.
Shams: Yes, this part of knowledge is not actualized when the mind is still thinking that the joy is in the object. But it’s not very useful to start looking for labels to put on the state of the mind, as every state is impermanent and just apparent. You’d be better to point your attention towards the self, i.e. the knowledge of who you are, so the mind can understand that every experience happens in you and it’s independent from the object that apparently created it.
Hugh: Again, with individuals, I wonder why I feel agitated by my workplace/workmates, and the people that live above me, for example. James quotes from the Bhagavad Gita in his new book: “All experiences enter the mind of a wise person through the senses, but they create no agitation, because he is full in himself, just as rivers pouring into the ocean do not disturb it. Because he is full, he is not a seeker of experiences.” I guess this jiva isn’t so wise (yet).
Shams: As you see, that clear and unshakable mind is the result of the application of knowledge, not just intellectual understanding. That mind is not a goal in itself. It’s only a by-product of knowing your true identity.
For the knowledge to become firm, the mind should actually be reasonably clear and mature, as a prerequesite. When the self is known, the doer is known to be an object, so you stop being disturbed by situations in the world. While the self is not completely actualized in the jiva, there will still be likes and dislikes, but even then (when the self is known) there is no identification with them, and therefore there is always the option to react or not when the stimulus appears.
Hugh: If reality is non-dual, if objects just seem to be “out there,” but aren’t; if jiva and God are the same, then why would jiva/God/maya produce suffering?
Shams: Why not? Everything is the self, so it would be very unfair to exclude suffering from it. Also, excluding something doesn’t sound very non-dual to me. So suffering is not only not excluded from Creation but it’s the meaning of Creation, and it is what you certainly will get if you think that Creation is real and can affect you.
I think that you give the answer in your question: if reality is non-dual (so objects are not out there), then suffering is not real. Maya equals suffering, as it is the sense of being limited. Moksa is knowing that maya is an object in you, and that you are free from it, not limited by anything. That’s why we call it the end of suffering. This end of suffering doesn’t mean that the mind and its senses will always be in touch with the things that you like, far from the things that you dislike. No. It just means that you are no longer identified with your mind, so you are unattached to your likes and dislikes.
As I explained above, the individual jiva is not the same as the total jiva. This distinction should be always in our minds in order to not expect that the jiva will have control over anything. On the contrary, the teaching about Isvara is for you to understand that you are not in control of anything. Isvara is the giver of results, and a mature mind should be trained on gratefulness and non-attachment, always aware of its small place in the world. And that’s not a limitation. That is just the way things are: the object will always be limited, but you are not the object. You can’t expect the object to experientially overcome its limits, because every experience is a limit. Liberation is understanding that you are free from experience.
Hugh: Why do I produce adharmic people that I dislike?
Shams: No, you did not produce anyone, Isvara produced the object called Hugh, with his likes and dislikes, and also created other people. Not you. All of them are in the dharma field, that is, Isvara, playing their roles, obeying their likes and dislikes. Hugh has nothing to do with this. And he has only two options: to look for experience or to look for knowledge.
Hugh: I can understand that people are just objects, and objects are just consciousness, and therefore people are just me, yet I still feel dislike for certain people and situations. They’re just me.
Shams: Well, it takes a lot of time to change our likes and dislikes. We just let them happen while we watch them as the witness. Other people are just objects in you, but your dislikes are also objects in you, as your own mind is only an object in you. Recognize them as objects.
That is what knowledge does, it changes the way we are related to the world, but it doesn’t necessarily change you into a better person. Yes, you must be a reasonably dharmic and mature person in order to be able to apply Vedanta, but it doesn’t mean that the mind will only have nice vasanas.
So don’t try to stop “hating” people. Repression or egoic control of the mind will never be the way. It’s better to understand that you are not related to the childish reactions of the mind, as you are not the creator of your karma. So give thanks to Isvara for that and wait.
After all, disliking people is also a manifestation of love, because you love something and they represent the contrary to your love. That is of course a dualistic love because non-dual love is knowing that you are love, so all objects are equally loved by you. Someday, maybe, if you keep applying the knowledge of who you are, it will be clear that they are not separated from you, and that they are not even them, as there are no others. And it will be clear that you already loved them.
Hugh: This is linked with trusting God/leaving things up to God. I don’t even know how to do that. I was praying recently, “Dear God, I give up trying to figure what my svadharma is to you, even though I don’t know how to give it up to you.”
Shams: Don’t do it. Just know it. What is not given by God? What is not dependent on God? Nothing, as everything that happens is the Total happening. Everything belongs to God. So there is not much to do, just something to understand.
Hugh: Back to apparent individuals always around “me,” James says that, “If at all we have something to say about ungodly adharmic people, we pray that their minds become purified,” (The Yoga of Love, page 46). I’d rather that MY mind is purified, and they simply disappear from my life.
Shams: But your mind is not separated from their mind, as there is only one mind. If your mind were pure enough, you wouldn’t be bothered by them.
Praying for them is just recognizing that, even as an individual jiva, you are always related to everyone, especially to the ones that you don’t like. If you don’t want the best for them, also it would be a good idea to watch your feelings in the light of knowledge, especially the obscure ones. When the mind gets used to certain feelings, it most likely will seek environments where those feelings are promoted, even when the feelings are tamasic or rajasic. So it is a good idea to inquire into those feelings, that are always backed by thoughts, incorrect thoughts in this case.
Hugh: I know that experiences/states come and go, but it does seem that being self-actualised is experiential. I wish this jiva could just be more relaxed on a more consistent basis.
Shams: Yes, self-actualization is experiential, so I recommend that you forget about it and stick with knowledge.
There is a sense of limitation in your words, so I suggest that you to keep the practice until you clearly realize that you are free from any experience, including the bad ones, because you are limitless awareness. As we have repeated in other emails, if the knowledge is not getting firmer, that is due to a lack of sattva in the mind, so it’s recommended to keep making adjustments in life without mixing up levels.
If your knowledge is firm, I don’t completely get what is the problem, as you are free from this thing that is apparently bothering you. You shouldn’t be thinking that this jiva with his likes and dislikes is real. If you don’t like the movie appearing in front of you, you take some action. If you don’t get the desired results in the movie, you analyze your strategy and take other actions. Are you still getting undesired results? You analyze the strategy again and take action again. You fall again? You try again. Or – you give up. I mean, it’s not a Nike commercial and you are not really bothered by anything. It’s just a movie!
The only constant in any case (firm or not firm knowledge) should be the right attitude, otherwise you would miss most of your shots, distracted by useless thoughts and complaints. So we better be thankful for the things we receive from the Lord, and recognize it as perfect. ☺
Hugh: Anyway, thank you for your time. I hope you’re doing well. I think you’re lucky if you get to talk with James sometimes. I like it when I read in the scriptures about having a “guru” and to think that James is that guru. Thank you for your part in this.
Shams: Yes, James is our guru. Also, he always says that every guru has feet of clay, and that you, the self, are the real guru. But, yes, he’s a great symbol of the self, and it’s a good thing to develop an intelligent (not a blind one) devotion to him, as he is the one who is displaying this incredible teaching for us.