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Can the Jiva Be Improved?
Seeker: I have one question from your letter, however. When you said, “But once the jiva program is totally dismantled, one continues nididhysana purely for the edification of your own mind, not because there are any remaining binding vasanas. And there is definitely no need to improve the jiva.”
What do you mean by “there is definitely no need to improve the jiva”? Isn’t that what Christian’s [Leeby] Calm to the Core is all about… improving, or as Ramji said, “polishing the jiva”?
Sundari: When you are able to discriminate satya from mithya 100% of the time, you never again confuse the jiva with the self. But all the same, even though you are trigunaatita and have transcended the gunas, Isvara’s creation carries on as it always does. The aim of self-inquiry is to enjoy life, therefore although you do not need to improve the jiva, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. So you keep the mind polished and pure because a healthy, sane and happy jiva is a great contribution to the total, to life, to your life, to everyone around you – and of course, most importantly, to yourself.
It is pointless to try and change the jiva. How can you change something that is unreal or for that matter, something that is real? The jiva is made the way it is. There is no need to improve it (although self-knowledge does improve it), because it belongs to Isvara. But that does not mean that it is comfortable to live with it when it has binding vasanas that agitate the mind and it believes it is the doer, both of which are the root cause of all suffering. To be free of the jiva means that you first have to understand its conditioning in light of the gunas, in other words, in light of Isvara. This is no easy task and where all the “work” of self-inquiry really takes place.
Christian’s course is excellent for this, as will be our books on the gunas. A happy life for the jiva is all about guna management, which boils down to thought and emotion management, as well as management of lifestyle factors of course. How you live is terribly important, if peace of mind is what you are after. If your life does not conform to dharma, self-knowledge will not obtain, as the mind will be agitated and/or dull.
When you have seen and understood “your” conditioning, you still get to live with the jiva, as there is not too much you can do to change your Isvara-given personality – and history. But you can definitely see it as only apparently real, just a bunch of thoughts. So when the jiva arises, you dismiss it. It’s the thinking Christian sets out in his course, to consciously choose the thought/feelings you have and adjust and train the mind accordingly. It means choosing the Isvara-thought over the jiva-thought. This is the essence of karma yoga, the most vital practice to render the vasanas non-binding and negate the doer.
Once you have realised the self you will have gone through the manana stage, which is the contemplation of the teachings to remove all doubt. Karma yoga has negated the doer and the binding vasanas. Although the aim is not to improve the jiva, being free of the jiva’s conditioning does mean that the jiva will be a “better” jiva – meaning happier. Here you could start enjoying the fruit of self-inquiry, which is moksa – but, usually, there is still some hidden “jiva stuff” that needs to be cleaned out, as I explained to you happened to me. So you have to requalify for moksa and return to do your sadhana, but this time not to gain self-knowledge but to actualise it.
A self-actualised jivanmukta by definition will have resolved all its conditioning through contemplation, assimilation of the knowledge and transformation of its habitual patterns (vasanas/samskaras/pratibandikas, i.e. its conditioning) through self-knowledge. This is the essence of nididhysana. Nididhysana replaces karma yoga, although karma yoga is still practised, but not to negate the doer, because there is no longer a doer to negate. It is practised because it is common-sense knowledge and the only sane way for the jiva to live. The steps to “get there” are the qualities of “being there.”
Once you have self-actualised, there is no nididhysana for the self, but as jnanis we are ever mindful of the apparent reality. Like I said in my last email, moksa does not magically change the jiva or transform its karma, except indirectly over time through the way you relate to objects (the jiva) and to karma, which is no longer as the jiva, but as the self – who has no karma. Nididhysana means the jivanmukta takes the jiva and Isvara into account at all times, but is not conditioned by either.
Remember that while it is true that once self-knowledge has obtained in the mind there is a definite “shift” in how one sees life and relates to objects, the jiva will always be limited, even though its essence is known to be the self and not the jiva. The jiva lives in the apparent reality, interacting with the field of existence, which is also limited and always changing – and the jiva has no control over it. Macrocosmic ignorance does not end when personal ignorance (avidya) ends.
Many people are confused about this, and it is a very subtle and difficult teaching to fully assimilate. But it is vital that you do.
This is a subtle and very important point I made in the newsletter:
Dismiss the Jiva!
Even though I had realised the self, my problem for a long while was thinking that, as the jiva never disappeared, it had to be catered to, as it is. This may be true – the jiva will remain as Isvara made it, for the most part – even with moksa, and we must love it unconditionally. Nevertheless, satya and mithya is duality if you think the jiva is as real as the self. Taking a stand as the self means the jiva is as good as non-existent. You are self. You are not The Self and the jiva. So when jiva appears, dismiss it. This final realisation only fully sank in recently, and what a tremendous relief it is. It really is true that nididhysana never ends for the jiva. Self-actualisation is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure! Facing the small, less-than-fabulous part of the psyche Isvara equipped us with is not easy. It requires a great deal of courage to face the world as the jiva, and it takes even more courage to face the demons that awaits us in the causal body so as to free ourselves of the jiva. When we do, we see the demons for what they are, just paper dragons. Not real at all.
I hope this helps!
~ Love, Sundari