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What Gets Destroyed with Self-Knowledge?
Diana: With enlightenment vasanas get destroyed, so the vasanas associated with that apparent person don’t take birth again as a new body. But I ask, what gets destroyed? Is this only then answerable from paramartha view? As well, there is no “unique person” existing inherently apart from its vasanas. So the apparent person is a formulation of vasanas, not the vasanas formulated BY the apparent person. Can’t have an apparent person without vasanas. They are synonymous?
Arlindo: Vasanas do not get destroyed by self-realization and enlightenment – what happens is that with self-knowledge the vasanas are rendered impersonal and therefore non-binding. Vasanas remain there, but the jivamukta does not claim them to be “my” vasanas, “my” thoughts, “my” actions.
Once the jiva owns what belongs to Isvara, he is trapped in the apparent wheel of samsara and the thought “I/me/mine” will have a strong hold on maya’s impersonal phenomenal experience. The delusional thought “I/me/mine” is what reincarnates – it is also what constitutes jiva’s erroneous identity as an apparent separate and independent individual.
What gets destroyed is only the ignorance of one’s true nature/identity, as well the ignorance of the non-dual nature of reality. The whole manifestation is a product of vasanas. If there are no vasanas (the causal realm), there will be no subtle realm, and no physical creation in which the individual erroneously personifies Isvara’s experiences.
Manifestation of vasanas (creation in its causal formation) is a play of maya/Isvara. Jiva is only a superimposition on Isvara’s mysterious “subject-object” phenomenon called “experience.” Self-knowledge will interrupt jiva’s sense of ownership of vasanas-thoughts-actions, and therefore chances are that the “jiva-thought” will not gather enough energy to pull off another apparent independent birth.
Diana: How is it that some sages still had what appeared to be binding vasanas? For example, food, snuff, smoking? Were they just not identified with their actions?
Arlindo: Yes, you have already answered your question. Such vasanas belong to the body – it reminds me of Nisargadatta saying let what belongs to the body stay with the body every time people would challenge him about his smoking habit. Apparent vasanas belong to Isvara first, and to the body-mind second if jiva still believes itself to be the thinker, feeler, doer.
As to the self-realized sage, biding vasanas will represent a problem for himself and his devotees/disciples, mainly when they are in violation of dharma because it will create papa karma for the teacher and distrust in the mind of the students. The sexual vasanas are the most troublesome. Generally speaking, a firm self-knowledge together with a mind purified to a certain extent will dissolve or at least turn binding vasanas into non-binding ones.
That is what we call moksa, or freedom, but in truth there is no such a thing as 100% freedom/purification for a jivamukta – some traces of deep and long-lived habitual desires may still surface from time to time. Not a big deal, since the jivamukta knows his true nature to be of nirguna brahman (free of qualities and attributes). His firm knowledge and his willpower to say “no” to binding vasanas not in harmony with dharma will determine the degree of his/her freedom.
Diana: Where is the “line of discrepancy,” so to speak? The jivamukta finds no concern with “getting involved” to purify, say, smoking bidis or drinking an excess of alcohol. Should he merely “witness it”?
Arlindo: It is a fine line, Diana – and pretty much up to the jivamukta to look after his mind– if he does not take care of his adharmic binding vasanas, he will have to deal with the karma (the result of his adharmic actions). Take the case of Nisargadatta, for example: we could say that his habit of smoking was in violation of his svadharma – and in fact he died of throat cancer. To follow dharma is optional for the jivamukta, but in any case, he will not escape the karmic laws operating here, meaning that if he wants to live a peaceful and happy life he will keep up doing his sadhana. Depending on the nature of his mental construct, his dispassion may even induce him to wish to leave the body altogether! ☺