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Maya Makes the Impossible Possible
Derek: I’m sorry to keep bugging you with these emails. You probably want to swat me away at this point. I understand if you choose not to respond. I was talking to a friend of mine who also frequents your site, and we were comparing experiences, so she popped over this email to me with a link to one of your satsangs. To be honest, it really threw me off a bit. I’m going to paste the short part where I am referencing. You were talking to someone about “Isvara” and the macrocosmic mind and how “creation” comes about. This is what you wrote in the satsang:
“You verify this by investigating any object. You see that every object is made out of thought and thought is made out of energy and energy is made out of awareness and is non-separate from awareness.”
The part that is throwing me off, obviously, is where you indicate that “every object is made out of thought.” My understanding of this is that the material world appears in awareness to us. It is not the individual mind that “creates” it, but the macrocosmic mind… from the standpoint of creation. It is only the “individual” mind which is based on vasanas that interprets the world in a certain way and creates a seeming “personal reality” for each individual before they have the realization that, “I am awareness.” Obviously, that reality is an illusion when “self is realized.”
I understand that thought creates the idea of “past and future” as there is only the present thought that thinks this, the same way that we give labels and such to objects… via thought, the same way that our “ideas and beliefs” shape our own interpretation OF objects appearing before us.
However, with that said, how can every object actually be made out of thought?
James: Understanding the relationship between pure awareness, pure awareness in its role as Isvara, and jiva will make your confusion clear. We always start from the fact that everything is awareness/consciousness. So everything associated with Isvara and jiva is consciousness. Isvara creates in such a way that to jiva everything seems as if it is not consciousness. Isvara does not see the creation the same way jiva sees it. Isvara sees it as itself in the form of knowledge only.
Owing to the power of maya this knowledge – the programs that create gross and subtle matter that make individual living beings possible – evolves from the subtle (ideas) to the gross (physical matter) which to jiva, under the spell of maya, appears to be solid, substantial and “out there” standing on its own.
It is not “out there” and it does not stand alone. Jiva, which is awareness ignorant of its nature as awareness/consciousness, identifies with the body and when this happens the material world seems to be “out there” standing alone. If you assume that you are the body, then the objects are out there – for you.
When you analyze perception, i.e. experience, you see that the material objects and the sensations invoked by them are actually made up of thoughts, i.e. knowledge of the objects. You see a tree and you know a tree. You never jump out of your body and experience the tree. The tree appears in you. You never jump out of yourself, consciousness, and experience your body either. It appears as an object, like a tree, in you because it is in the same order of reality as the tree. It is gross matter. So what is the experience/knowledge actually made of? Does it float in from some outside source, some parallel universe, and present itself to you? It does not. It arises in you. It is created by Isvara/maya out of you, consciousness, yourself. Leave the individual jiva out of it. There is just you, awareness, and the objects appearing in you.
This is the subjective approach, what is called idealism or solipsism in the West. You can also arrive at the same conclusion by an analysis of the objects themselves. It should be easy to see that thoughts are made of awareness. It is not so easy to see the physical objects are made of awareness but if we investigate matter scientifically, it breaks down into particles and space and the knower of particles and space, i.e. you, awareness. Material science cannot make the obvious connection of matter and awareness because it relies on perception and inference as a means of knowledge. It does not realize that perception is an object known to consciousness in the form of the scientist and that perception is consciousness. Maya makes it seem as if consciousness is an object when it is actually the subject.
Maya also makes the individual jiva think that it is a unique entity, separate from all other entities and objects. But jiva is not what it seems either. Jiva is actually awareness – as is matter. So the relationship between the three seemingly separate factors, jiva, Isvara/maya (which creates the material world out of awareness) and pure consciousness – you – needs to be understood.
If you look at the creation, where does it exist? Have you ever actually seen a creation? No. You have only experienced the objects that appear to you at any moment and these objects are not separate from the thoughts that make them up. Creation is only an idea, a thought. When that thought appears in you, the mind imagines the totality of objects by inference but those objects are never directly experienced. All that is directly experienced is you, awareness and objects. The only issue left to resolve is whether or not awareness/consciousness or matter is primary. Which came first? When we use the world “first” we mean which stands alone? Does matter exist prior to consciousness so that we can still have matter without consciousness? No. You cannot separate an object from the consciousness of the object. In other words, objects are not conscious. They do not know themselves or other objects. Consciousness is conscious when Isvara is operating and it knows objects. Consciousness is “prior” to matter in the sense that matter depends on consciousness. Consciousness stands alone. It is the first “principle” out of which everything arises.
Finally, you cannot get something out of nothing. So if matter depends on consciousness it has to come from consciousness. The effect (matter) is just an apparent transformation of the cause, awareness. It is not an actual transformation because if it were, consciousness would have lost its limitless nature when it transformed into matter. It would have become limited, bound by time and space. That matter (subtle and gross objects) arise in you, awareness, tallies with your experience. This is where Greg Goode and Rupert Spira are coming from. They are right, but they do not have a complete means of knowledge at their disposal that takes Isvara (maya) into account and delivers the big picture, the vision of non-duality. At best jiva will have some kind of idea that it is awareness but it will still be in the dark about the nature of objects, i.e. Isvara and how maya creates. So to understand what they are saying you have to have an epiphany and understand what the epiphany means. They try to induce non-dual epiphanies with their methods – which is not the kiss of death– but without a complete means of knowledge the jiva will have to keep on seeking because experience does not guarantee knowledge. And even if knowledge does happen during an epiphany, ignorance about the nature of reality will return because ignorance is hardwired. It is persistent. It will sweep away the knowledge. So you need a means of self-knowledge that takes experience into account but is not based on experience. And you need to employ said means of knowledge, i.e. Vedanta until the relationship between all the factors in reality are clear. Moksa is the freedom that comes from complete knowledge. It is total dispassion and limitless satisfaction.
Derek: This sounds very idealistic and perhaps solipsistic, and I feel I am completely taking what you’re saying out of context. It very much resembles the “Direct Path” teachings of Greg Goode and Rupert Spira which never worked for me, because they have a very idealistic approach to non-duality. I am obviously misinterpreting what you have written and that’s why I’d love to get your opinion on this.
Once again, I incredibly value your time as a teacher and understand if you choose not to respond.
James: It is fine, Derek. I like your mind and your attitude. Even though I am very busy I will teach you. I think you are ready to hear Vedanta. What I said above should relieve your doubt. Vedanta is a science. The modern teachers are coming from personal experience only. Occasionally this approach bears fruit for a highly-qualified individual. This is why you can get enlightened outside of the Vedanta sampradaya, but as far as teaching a person to freedom, i.e. removing their ignorance, modern teachings don’t work. We know something these teachers don’t. You don’t need any particular experience to gain freedom because you are already free. No experience is going to change that fact. The problem is only ignorance because the seeker is already experiencing awareness because he or she is awareness. I teach quite a few people and most of them have been through Greg and Francis Lucille and Rupert and others – and are quite grateful to them for the help; they are all good guys – but moksa is understanding the big picture. It is more than the knowledge that I, the individual, am consciousness. How that individual, knowing it is consciousness, relates to Isvara, the objects, gross and subtle, needs to be known. If it isn’t, you end up with a person who has enlightenment sickness, an “enlightened” individual whose ego has co-opted the knowledge and who is prone to violating dharma because he or she does not understand what freedom means. Enlightened or not, all individuals exist in the context of the Total (Isvara) and are subject to Isvara’s rules. This is not a problem for a someone who understands what it means to be the self in the context of his or her environment; he or she completely respects dharma. But it is a problem for someone whose enlightenment happens outside the tradition because they don’t understand Isvara as dharma and feel that as individuals they are not subject to dharma. Anyway, this is another topic and I have gone on too much already.
Derek: Thanks for your incredibly detailed response. It seems that everything you’ve said here already makes perfect sense to me, and I think (as I initially suspected) I was taking what you said about “thoughts” out of context. It made it sound as though objects are created by “thought” but I think what you’re saying… and correct me if I’m wrong… is that objects are only appearing as actual “objects” from the standpoint of an apparent “individual” who sees objects as “separate” from themselves in “thought.” But ultimately the physical structure of a tree is going to be there regardless, it’s just the identification in “thought” of a “tree” that we label it as a separate object when instead the objects are obviously appearing within us (awareness) and are most certainly not separate.
With that said, you’ve indicated in the past that the physical world does not rely on the “apparent” individual mind and is available for experience regardless if an “individual” experiences it or not. In your book, on page 229, you indicate the same: “Is there a world without someone to see it?” Then you basically said the same thing: “There is a world, if that someone is the individual.” I’ve taken this to mean that the “world” exists regardless of whether there is “sensory perception” of it.
James: Yes, trees, etc. are created by Isvara/maya by a process of splitting and combining the five subtle elements which are also created by the power of maya. It is a totally counter-intuitive process because consciousness cannot be changed in any way. But maya makes the impossible possible and generates the appearance of a tree, and also the senses which make it seem to be real and to stand alone “out there” on its own.
Derek: Granted, it’s not “out there” but can only be experienced in consciousness. This goes along with everything else you’ve taught and what Dennis Waite says as well. However, it seems that Greg Goode is implying that an “object” only exists if there is “sensory perception” of it, and when there is no sensory perception there is no object, meaning if there is no perception of a “tree” then that tree doesn’t exist. Doesn’t this coincide with your teaching? It doesn’t seem to take into account the limitations of “sensory.” I’d love to get your take on this because I find it confusing.
James: Doesn’t exist for whom, Derek? Greg is wrong if he thinks that the individual’s perception creates the tree “out there.” If that were true then when an individual went to sleep in a tree, he would fall down because the tree disappeared when he went into deep sleep. But trees are created by Isvara/maya. They have an empirical reality apart from individual’s perception of them. If this was not true science would not exist. All the objects are created by Isvara, maya. The only “creation” that individuals do is to add some kind of interpretation about the objects that appear based on their conditioning, to own the projections and to think they are real.
The tree doesn’t exist for awareness, except on that “portion” of awareness on which maya is operating. Isvara is awareness plus maya. On that portion awareness sees a tree, but it knows that the tree is only an appearance.