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Nididhyasana and Teaching the Gunas
Erin: That’s really what I want to do for the rest of my life. Dedication to my sadhana, through learning and teaching Vedanta.
Sundari: Excellent. As you know, there is no superior teaching to Vedanta. It is the end of the road, and it does not work to adapt Vedanta to fit into other modalities. It has to be the other way around. With regards to the guna yoga though, it is possible to uncouple the basic teaching from the doctrine and present it in more secular format. We are confident you will do this very well.
Erin: I can understand this point of view and am not planning to alternate the knowledge, rather on the contrary, I want to sharpen my own understanding and assimilation to make sure that what I transmit sticks to the original. And I’m sure I need your coaching for this in my learning process, so thanks for being ready to support me!
Sundari: Everyone needs coaching to teach Vedanta properly. I am still learning, Ram still hones his understanding. If anyone thinks they can do it alone, the ego is in play. We never stop learning, because Isvara never stops teaching. Teaching according to the methodology and not through the filters or our own ideas is not a point of view; it is a non-negotiable prerequisite for anyone who wants to teach genuine Vedanta. If the ego co-opts or interprets the knowledge in any way, it is does not work. We have seen your dedication to self-inquiry and your single-pointed focus. We have no doubt that your motives are sincere and your intention is to honour the scripture. We are both happy to coach you in your understanding and in how to teach Vedanta.
Erin: The only question I have about it: Don’t we need to adapt the vocabulary and the amount of knowledge transmission to the public you are talking to? Could it be a mission to inspire so-called “new to inquiry” to inquiry, and therefore serve them on a plate only what they are able to digest at that time? This reflection seems to be the content of the story of The Mystery Beyond the Trinity, where Hemalekha is very aware of what Hemachuda is ready to hear, and therefore adapts her language and the knowledge-load to him, revealing it very slowly and step by step, until Hemachuda himself comes back with questions.
Sundari: Yes, definitely. The most important part of teaching is to understand the mind you are teaching and its level of qualification. James has been so successful in the West because he simplified the teachings and removed the unnecessary Sanskrit without ever modifying the meaning. However, Vedanta is extremely fussy about the language.
Vedanta is an oral tradition, a means of self-knowledge using words, called a sabda pramana. It can produce direct knowledge of your eternal nature through the use of the right words. In spiritual circles, this will be generally criticized with the argument that the eternal self, consciousness, is beyond words and indescribable. Therefore the conclusion is that it is impossible to get direct knowledge and know your “real” self through words. Vedantic scripture (sruti) agrees with the fact that the self is not describable by words, nevertheless it gives you direct knowledge of the self, your true nature, by the implied meaning of words when they are unfolded through a specific methodology called the sampradaya.
Here is what I said in the last newsletter:
“What is becoming clearer to me by the day as a teacher is the importance of the language used by Vedanta, the methodology and how the teachings must be taught. The basic message of Vedanta is very simple: you are whole and complete, non-dual, actionless, unlimited, unchanging, ever-present, ordinary awareness. But the teaching involved in unfolding what this means for the jiva is vast. To connect all the dots correctly and have the ability to be a clear channel for Isvara takes a considerable amount of work. The mind must be purified, refined and very lucid. If you want a nice garden, you can’t reserve a spot for weeds. Unless you like weeds of course! To teach Vedanta, ignorance must be replaced by knowledge, no fine print.
“Although we all add our own flavour as teachers, the language and methodology is as old as time and cannot be changed, if it is to work. It must be unfolded correctly, in the manner that the student (assuming qualifications) is ready to hear. Teaching properly is as much about delivering the teachings flawlessly as it is about understanding where the student is at in their understanding.”
Although Sanskrit is not necessary for moksa, there are some terms that must be understood and applied, as there are no good alternatives in other languages, and it also lends gravitas to the teaching. It is important for you as a teacher to learn the terms we use, which are not that many. I have attached the glossary we have at our website. The best thing is to compile your own list of the essential terms as you read what we write and learn them by heart.
You must decide how you want to apply the teaching on the gunas. If you want to combine it with the enneagram to help worldly people make the world work better for them and attain some peace of mind, then you do not need to teach the doctrine or use Sanskrit. In fact it would not work to do so, because qualifications for self-inquiry are most likely lacking. As I said previously, the guna teaching can be uncoupled from the doctrine and adapted to a secular teaching, such as the enneagram. Like astrology, the I Ching and even traditional and non-traditional psychological methods and therapies, the enneagram as a spiritual or secular modality is reasonably accurate in revealing Isvara’s psychological order. It helps samsaris understand their conditioning and to function better in the world with objectivity about their subjective reality. All of these practices take the world to be real, and they cannot and do not produce self-knowledge (moksa), because none of them have the teaching about satya and mithya. All these modalities are capable of is describing the world of subtle objects, thoughts, feelings, experiences and how they play out in the person’s inner and outer world.
None of these practices explain what the jiva is, what Isvara is or the forces that run the field of existence, so cannot therefore reveal the identity between the jiva, the creation and Isvara, meaning consciousness, awareness, or the self. Likewise, the guna teaching uncoupled from the doctrine cannot produce moksa, but only objectivity about the person and how “the world” and “their world” function. This is no small thing for most people who have no objectivity and are clueless about the programs that run the mind and the field. It is does produce substantial peace of mind and is fifty per cent of the way to moksa, but it is not moksa.
Unless we also understand the doctrine behind the gunas as well as practise karma yoga, this is as far as the mind can go. The other fifty per cent of ignorance can only be removed by self-knowledge, which requires that the mind is qualified, subjected to a valid means of knowledge for awareness (Vedanta) and a qualified teacher to unfold it. We emphasize the doctrinal teaching behind the gunas (jnana yoga or triguna vibhava yoga) because it is so essential for moksa, and of course for teaching self-inquiry. The doctrine behind the guna teaching is very subtle, which is why it comes at the end of the Bhagavad Gita. After establishing the required qualifications, values and motivations for self-inquiry, the teaching methodology of Vedanta starts off with karma yoga, which is the only practice that will make jnana yoga stick in the mind because it negates the doer and renders the binding vasanas non-binding. Vedanta methodology progresses on to bhakti yoga and then jnana yoga, but all the yogas work together, not separately. It’s not like you achieve completion in karma yoga and then proceed to bhakti yoga and then jnana yoga, which is what Vivekananda seemed to teach with his “multi-path” confusion.
To repeat: Vedanta cannot be interpreted. It is a radical teaching which will strip the mind of everything the ego is identified with and holds onto or it cannot work to produce moksa. The jiva does not get to keep any of its stuff, even though we accept the jiva as it is and do not try to change it. By this I mean that all of its binding conditioning must be seen and dissolved in the knowledge. An inquirer can realise the self but never attain moksa, because the ego can survive self-realisation, with binding vasanas and doership still conditioning the mind. This is why so few are ready for self-knowledge. It cannot be taught to people who are not interested in, and therefore not qualified for, moksa.
If you only want to teach the gunas minus the doctrine in combination with the enneagram, this makes things much easier for you. Adding the basic non-doctrinal knowledge of the gunas will make the enneagram teachings more effective and substantial. When we refer to the gunas in this way, we call them the three energies or forces governing and creating the field of existence and we then describe the qualities – actions/thoughts/feelings – associated with them. You will find there is a crossover of information on the qualities of the gunas as described by Vedanta with the enneagram, astrology, psychology, etc. because these qualities are universal and known or are at least understandable by most worldly and spiritual people and paths. The qualities of the gunas are not specific to Vedanta. Only the doctrinal teachings behind the gunas are specific to Vedanta and not known by most.
But Vedanta is not a path. It is the knowledge than underpins all other paths and knowledge. For you to be free of Erin or if you want to become a qualified Vedanta teacher, you need to assimilate and articulate the whole enchilada, as James calls it. You could do both of course. Even a little self-knowledge goes a long way to reducing suffering and making life in the world easier for the jiva, if that is who you think you are. The guna teaching can be used to great effect and be of benefit to you in your business life.
As Vedantins we are not interested in the world or making it work for us. We know it is a zero-sum game and not real. We aim for total (100 %) peace of mind for no reason other than that little jivaji has a truly great life because we do not like suffering.
Erin: So this morning Isvara brought me sitting at my desk… compiling a PowerPoint presentation, assembling the content of the guna course of this weekend. The attention flows, and I will send you by the end of the week the result of this work…
It could maybe, or maybe not, support you in the further teaching of this beautiful topic; it will for sure help me in the understanding and assimilation of the gunas.
Sundari: We look forward to seeing what you come up with and what it reveals about your level of understanding. From our contact with you and your recent replies, it is clear you are doing well but still have gaps in your understanding, which is totally normal.
I hope you take it easy with that enormous desire you have to “get it right and get it all down” – even though I fully understand that drive! Desire is desire, even if it is dharmic, and it takes its toll. Rajas must be managed if we want moksa because moksa cannot obtain in a mind that is driven and full of desire. The greed for knowledge is a binding vasana, as much as any other, as is the desire to get it “right and perfect” an egoic, samsaric need with regards to any other kind of relative (worldly) knowledge and especially with regards to self-knowledge, Vedanta. Typically this kind of mind puts enormous effort into studying Vedanta.
While it is true that it is important as a function of self-inquiry to read as many texts as possible and to understand and retain the teachings, one cannot really study Vedanta; it is not memory per se that provides the ability to know. Memory is just stored and recollected information; therefore studying Vedanta is not always helpful, because unless we assimilate the meaning of the teachings, they will not free the mind. It is not helpful for moksa to have the ability to parrot the teachings; anyone can do this with enough determination.It does not require qualifications. We need memory because we cannot experience what we don’t remember, but memory is a only a tool for evaluating experience and recording information. It is not capable of producing self-knowledge. Experience happens, followed by knowledge, and then memory (retention) happens or not. If it does, it does not guarantee assimilation of meaning. It is awareness in the form of sattva that provides us with the ability to know, but what we know depends on the purity of the mind, which is conditioned by all the gunas/vasanas. Self-knowledge is not a function of memory, because it is who we are. You cannot forget self-knowledge once the knowledge that you are the self is firm. If the self is an object of memory (indirect knowledge) you can forget who you are because object-knowledge is subject to memory and memory is fallible, subject to interpretation and no guarantee of truth.
We need to trust Isvara to reveal what we need to know as inquirers, and to teach through us, as teachers. Vedanta is The King of All Teachings, it is so powerful that it is quite possible for the ego to get seduced by the thought that “knowing it all” makes it superior. Almost everyone we teach who has the binding desire to “get it right,” no matter how much of the teachings they grasp, does not progress, because the doer is alive and well.
Erin: Do I understand it well that you point out this still binding vasana I have to “get things right” and that this desire is driven by rajas, and therefore needs to be managed?
Sundari: Yes, this is your biggest hurdle. Rajas is like a wild horse; it has to be tamed carefully and with great determination because if it is not it will definitely run away with you. Of all the gunas, it is the hardest to bring into balance and the most potentially destructive to peace of mind. It is like the rat sitting at the feet of Ganesh. Instead of a small rat at his feet, untamed rajas is like a big fat rat sitting on top of you, always gnawing, always hungry, always full of desire, running the mind. Ram calls rajas the disease of the twenty-first century because it is so prevalent. This is one of the reasons why you do not sleep. As far as the creation exists rajas has always been around and has always functioned the same way. It only seems like there is more of it around now because there are so many stressed jivas around driven by so much desire. It is a great energy if you harness it by bringing it into balance with sattva and tempering it with tamas when necessary (which is essential for finding the sleep-thought), but very dangerous if not. Excess tamas also destroys, but it takes longer to see the effects, wheras rajas is immediate, chronic and often devastating.
You have rationalized the fact that you don’t sleep to be the result of the bliss of knowledge, which could also be true. But too much sattva produces a greed for experiential bliss, which binds as much as does too much rajas, and is as potentially limiting. It is both highly rajasic and sattvic thoughts that pull the mind away from sleep; it is only tamas that takes the mind towards it. The causal body, or the deep sleep state, is tamoguna alone. To enter it, both rajas and sattva must be suppressed. The fact that you can only sleep when you take medication is a clear indication that your mind rejects tamas. Perhaps it is afraid of the unconscious, the causal body: What lurks there? Or the doer is afraid of death, losing control? Only you will know what the fear is. I can understand the aversion for tamas because I also find it a difficult energy to develop, although I only have sleep problems when travelling. Tamas is painful for a mind that is predominantly sattvic/rajasic. As tamas is the energy of dull, stupid minds, a mind that is like quicksilver and very bright tends to steer away from it like the plague.
But if you want to have a balanced and happy life, you need to balance all three gunas. This is why I have a glass of wine at night; it helps me to align with the sleep-thought and sends a signal to the mind that activity, whether rajasic or sattvic, must come to an end, as it is time to rest. For people like us, we need to encourage tamas as much as possible because we have so little of it. Obviously I am not promoting drinking alcohol in excess. For me, the evening glass of wine is a the finish flag of the day to the mind. As Ram said to you, moksa is not worth losing a night’s sleep over. The mind must have natural sleep; it is essential for spiritual, physical and mental health, not to mention peace of mind.
From what we have seen, you are identified with sattva and the experiential bliss that comes from this “state.” Sattva is the subtlest manifestation of sat, the true nature of the mind. We cannot gain more of it, we can only bring the excess rajas and tamas that obscure sattva into balance with it. Sattva is the mode of knowledge (which is why you love it) and is the guna springboard for moksa. It produces experiential bliss, ananda, which feels great, but like any other experience, it ends. A vasana for experiential bliss is as binding as any other vasana. The bliss you want to aim for is anantum, which is non-experiential bliss, the bliss of self-knowledge, ever-present and dependent on nothing but you, the self.
I have written a great deal about the downside of sattva in the guna book. It is called the “golden cage” of sattva for good reason. All the gunas have an upside and a downside; sattva is no exception. The hunger/desire for knowledge (while essential for self-inquiry, up to a point), coupled with the need to “get it right and perfect,” is not the same as mumukshutva, the desire for moksa. Mumukshutva is total surrender to the scripture, knowing with humility that it is only with faith in and dedication to the scripture that the grace of self-knowledge obtains in the mind and removes ignorance. The whole point of self-inquiry is to negate the doer, the one with so many beliefs and opinions, so hungry for knowledge, and who believes that by gaining it, it reinforces its idea of itself as competent, intelligent, superior, more spiritual or more whatever. I am not saying this is your problem, but the intellectual arrogance of many highly intelligent people is very difficult to dissolve because brilliant people are very attached to their own ideas. We find that they are often the hardest to teach.
Erin: This is indeed an aspect of this Erin-jiva I’ve been bumping into in the last year, which became more and more obvious, and which is a kind of a hardwired thistle. The attention of my karma yoga goes to it since then, and I could already see an evolution into this vasana management: it was a tendency I handled in all the aspects of my life; it now shrinks to all the “moksa-supporting” actions… but still, you’re right to point it out; there is still some work to do on it.
Sundari: It is clear to us that you have adjusted your lifestyle, and your present karma allows for a more sattvic life. But as you have acknowledged, excess rajas is still a binding vasana and a powerfully motivating force in your life, as is the desire for sattva. You need to do inquiry into that all consuming desire for knowledge that relentlessly drives your mind, as well as the need for experiential bliss and the avoidance of tamas.
Along with the addiction to sattva, you have what we call the perfection/doer vasana, and it is a tough vasana to break, I know, especially to the degree you still have it where it is so intense; not sleeping is a lifelong chronic condition as a result of it. It could be prarabdha karma, the momentum of past actions resulting in the unresolved pressure of karma/rajas from previous lives playing out in this life. It is definitely linked to deeply buried unconscious content, which needs to be seen and dissolved in light of the guna teaching or jnana yoga.
In this life it was most likely reinforced with your parents’ unrelenting expectations for and of you, which have become your own unrelenting expectations of yourself as a jiva. From what you shared with us about your parents, especially your mother, they were and are both convinced of their superior intellectual prowess and social standing. I could be wrong, but it does not appear that you were acknowledged or warmly loved as a child, and possibly for who you are as an adult. This is so often the case with people who are destined to find Vedanta; the world does not acknowledge or accept them, and so often they do not find the love they seek. We have to see that we are the love, and stop seeking it. It is suffering that leads us to seek freedom. We have seen the beauty and kindness that accompanies a very refined, cultivated mind and the purity of your soul. You are indeed very lovable!
I am also not sure how well you understand karma yoga. I have attached a FAQ of mine to read, but make sure you read all that James has to say about it in his books and writings. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is. Karma yoga is the standard approach to life in every aspect for an inquirer; it has to be, if we want to release the pressure of the vasanas and negate the doer, which will not happen without it. It is not something we bring our attention to with certain issues or “do” every now and then. It is the way we approach life 24/7, full stop. A jnani also still applies karma yoga every moment of every day, but as binding vasanas are no more and there is no longer a doer to negate, it is just common-sense knowledge.
Moksa does not make you Isvara, even though you are beyond Isvara as the self. It just means you no longer project the jiva’s subjective reality onto Isvara. The jiva never leaves the apparent reality, and moksa is for the jiva and not the self, because as the self you are, always have been and will aways be ever-free. In your case, I think the doer is still pretty strong; it is so much a part of Erin’s life strategy, perhaps because she is so efficient, capable and intelligent; this is her coping mechanism and maybe her protection, her shield. And because you see this desire-driven drive as sattvic, you maybe believe that it is a good thing. It is not.
Erin: Also, my “desire for moksa” seems too binding… and it seems important to let go of even this now and trust that moksa is there, and that right action will happen, without getting “Erin” doing anything.
Sundari: Yes, indeed. It is the desire for moksa, but what underpins it is the desire for knowledge, possibly to give the doer the edge or to protect it. Read the above. I recommend that you read up on the seven stages of moksa in Inquiry into Existence. The desire for moksa is the most subtle desire to negate and it is the fourth stage of self-inquiry, indirect knowledge. You are still in the indirect stage of knowledge because you still want moksa. In the fourth stage you know that the self exists but the knowledge that you are it is not firm. The fifth stage is direct knowledge, 100% confidence that I AM SELF, and the knowledge is firm, unshakeable. But if you do not get the fruit of self-knowledge, in other words if you are not totally satisfied with yourself as the self and as the jiva/doer, it means there is still a doer, with binding samskaras or vasanas. So the sixth stage is nididhyasana, going back to requalify and remove doership and binding samskaras, what we call self-actualisation. The seventh stage is tripti, perfect satisfaction.
There is one thing that we would like to point out to you. We heard you say in several conversations that a person was “in this or that guna.” What this reveals is that you identify the jiva with the gunas. The gunas are principles that govern the creation of all objects, subtle and gross. They are neither self nor jiva. They are Isvara/maya, meaning sat-asat-vilaksanam, not-self, or mithya (not real and not unreal). They exist, but they are apparently real, like all objects. Isvara is called saguna brahman (with qualities) because in association with maya, it brings about the creation. But Isvara never becomes the creation, is never affected by the forces that run it (gunas) and always stands apart from it. The gunas are maya, which does not affect the Creator, Isvara. The self is beyond the gunas (trigunaatita), without qualitities, and is called nirguna brahman.
Erin: Like the spider and the web?
Sundari: The self plus the reflection and the reflecting medium is the jiva, both eternal and non-eternal. The reflection and the reflecting medium (subtle body) are made up of matter (prakriti), and so are the gunas.
Erin: Does that mean that the gunas = reflection = maya?
Sundari: No. The reflection comes from the self, not the gunas, and it reflects off the reflecting medium, maya, which is made up of the gunas. See the chart I sent you yesterday.
Erin: And so: self + guna + subtle body = jiva. And therefore: self + maya + subtle body = jiva.
Sundari: Yes. Self plus maya (gunas, or reflecting medium) plus the reflection (subtle body) = the jiva.
Sundari: So when the gunas change, it seems like the subtle body changes, but it does not. It’s like different colours of the rainbow reflecting on a mirror seem to make the mirror change colour, but the mirror never modifies to the colours. Identifying or associating the gunas with the self or the jiva is ignorance. The gunas only ever “belong” to Isvara, meaning maya.
The jiva and its conditioning seem personal, but there is actually only one Eternal Universal Impersonal Jiva appearing as many. But there are two “types” of jiva: the eternal jiva, Jivatman, and the non-eternal jiva, the ego, “I-sense,” doer, or ahamkara. The eternal jiva has no qualities, because it is really awareness. The non-eternal jiva (inasmuch as it exists) has qualities (sattva, rajas and tamas), as it is part of the reflecting medium, appearing in it as a thought. It is not real. Since all thoughts originate from Isvara/maya and appear in the reflecting medium, all thoughts have gunas, or qualities. If I am identified with the thoughts, I think I am (or someone else is) rajasic, tamasic or sattvic. The identification is caused by avarana, confusion (tamas), also called dravya shakti (inertia), which produces moha (delusion), seeing something as other than it is. Projecting qualities onto the “I” is adhyasa, superimposition. This is why we need self-knowledge to remove ignorance.
Erin: This teaching really refines what I had started to understand. It makes it more and more clear and will help me for sure to use the appropriate vocabulary. When I read that I often say “a person is in this or that guna,” I have a laugh about my own words because I actually don’t mean that! The understanding is somehow there, but not yet well enough assimilated to let the words express the understanding, resulting in faulty shortcuts. I’m grateful that you point this out because it stimulates refining the understanding and the conditioning until the formulation becomes right.
Sundari: There are no shortcuts to moksa, Erin, faulty or not faulty. Self-realisation is the easy part. Self-actualisation is the tough part, and it may never happen for some if all binding vasanas are not dissolved. Customs is very strict when it comes to moksa; there is no way through unless all jiva-baggage is left behind. It takes a while for Isvara to refine the intellect in order for it to become a clear instrument for the knowledge so that it can obtain permanently in the mind. The explanation I gave you above is the most subtle part of the guna teaching, and it is very important to understand, both for your own sadhana and to articulate the teachings for others.
Erin: I just wanted to share too that Ramji’s answer to Marcus’s question about what happens at death with the subtle body made a big shot inside, all what I had been reading about it on the website, suddenly fall into place and created peace and understanding. It was easy to relate that answer to the guna/vasana teaching. It was a short and sharp answer. Also therefore thank you!
Sundari: The teaching on reincarnation is an important teaching, not for the reasons many think it is, as some way to prolong the life of the ego. The subtle body is also referred to as “the traveller” because it is only the psychology (vasana load) of the jiva that “transmigrates,” not the personality (ego). The personality ends with the death of the body. All vasanas are universal and not personal either. This teaching is important to negate the personal jiva and to discriminate satya from mithya.
Erin: Exactly, that’s what was becoming clear! Ramji talked about the “subtle body that transmigrates.” And until then, I didn’t really understand the sense of it. I didn’t get that actually the “subtle body” = the vasana load. Is my understanding true that if the subtle body is the vasana load, a jiva who has come to terms with the binding vasanas and desires at death only renders back to the universe a load of non-binding sattvic vasanas, no longer creating a need for incarnation in the field of Isvara/maya?
Sundari: Firstly, the jiva does not “come to terms with its vasanas and desires.” It renders the binding vasanas/desires non-binding and negates the doer by subjecting the mind to the scripture and applying karma yoga to every thought, word and deed. If the mind is qualified and by the grace of Isvara, only self-knowledge removes ignorance, not the jiva. Many inquirers don’t see that it is the doer/ego “trying” to negate the doer. It does not work.
Secondly, as all vasanas are eternal and not personal, they are not rendered back to the field as such, because they where always part of the field and did not belong to the jiva. When self-knowledge removes the “personal” ignorance (avidya) of that particular subtle body, it is no longer bound by ignorance. But maya, macrocosmic ignorance, continues unchanged. Your question implies that there is something to be gained for the apparent reality if the jiva “gains” moksa. But firstly, as the self you were never really bound, so you cannot gain something you already have; you can only have ignorance of this fact removed by self-knowledge.
And secondly, the apparent reality and the jiva are not real. Therefore the jiva does not and cannot impact Isvara. The jiva can project its subjective reality onto Isvara, which is what causes suffering, but it has no effect on Isvara. There is a mistaken belief in the spiritual world that we can make a difference or change the world by becoming a “better person.” Vedanta cuts straight to the core of the ignorance and says that, as neither the person or the apparent reality is real, how can either be improved or changed? All moksa does is end existential suffering for the jiva so that it can live free of the jiva as the self, while still (apparently) “in” physical form.
Isvara’s creation does exist because we can experience it, but that does not make it real, and it continues unchanged “before or after” moksa. Isvara (in the role of Creator) is also not real, but with reference to the personal jiva, it is relatively real because it is relatively permanent. But Isvara and the creation are not real with reference to the self, who is permanent and unchanging. The creation is withdrawn at the end of the creation cycle, only to appear again when or where maya manifests. This is why we say that maya is beginningless and an eternal power (shakti) in awareness, because awareness is eternal, meaning always existent. If the jiva could affect Isvara, the whole show would fall apart. It has to run the way it runs because it is the only way it can run as a dharma field for the jiva to work out its karma.
Thirdly, a free jiva, the jnani, or jivanmukta, is the self. What does it matter if the subtle body of a jnani returns after death? There is nothing to gain by being here or not being here as a subtle body, for the self. There is no karma for a jnani, the self, incarnated or not. If the subtle body of a jivanmukta should return, it would be born to circumstances that correspond to its lack of karma, perhaps just to contribute to the whole. It is impossible to know. Isvara is karma phala datta, the deliverer of karma, and only Isvara knows.
Erin: A self-realised jiva is thus not more than a perfectly free thought in maya…
Sundari: No! A self-realised jiva is the ever-free, unlimited self, the knower of maya, the knower of the jiva, free or not – and the knower of the perfectly free or bound thought appearing in maya.
It sems you still have a satya/mithya confusion. You are imposing qualities that belong to the self onto the jiva, satya onto mithya. There is some misunderstanding regarding what is real (always present and unchanging), or satya, the self, and what is only apparently real, not always present and always changing, mithya, or the jiva. This is pretty common error, as the teachings are extremely subtle, so don’t feel bad about this. I think you think that peace of mind equals moksa, but sattva is an object known to you. As the self, you are beyond all the gunas, including sattva.
Erin: …whereas a jiva, who’s still under the spell of rajas/tamas and binding vasanas, and renders to the field a load of rajasic/tamasic vasanas, automatically resulting in the transmigration to a new jiva-thought in Isvara/maya, where the subtle body (vasana load) will continue to act out its karma through a new personality-thought.
Sundari: Yes, this is correct. But it is not possible to know the mind of Isvara, as the jiva and as the self you see it all as you, the self, so what does it matter? There is no time, space or linear cause and result in mithya. Time is a construct, an object known to you, awareness. It is the interval between change and lends the illusion of sequential experience. It is not real. In reality, the only time (states of experience) available for the jiva are waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Arjuna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “On the subject of karma, even the sages are perplexed!”
Very important: there is never more or less of any of the gunas, even if the jiva’s personal ignorance (avidya) is removed by self-knowledge. Remember, the gunas are concepts or principles; they are not real, just like the jiva. Ignorance is not endless, because self-knowledge can remove it, but it is beginningless and eternal because it is a power in awareness. If a particular jiva dies with ignorance still conditioning the mind, that subtle body may or may not transmigrate to the particular circumstances that will allow it to work out its karma. We don’t know, because it is impossible to know and it is not relevant to moksa.
Erin: In this understanding there are only apparently different jivas, but in reality the jivas are only the product of the gunas (vasanas) governing the creation. There is nothing personal in this maya field, and it’s not up to a person to “free himself” of the binding vasanas, since it’s Isvara + maya (vasanas or gunas) who bring about creation.
Sundari: Yes, essentially correct. No action taken by a limited entity will result in a limitless result like moksa. But although self-inquiry is also an action, the fruit of self-inquiry is self-knowledge, which is limitless.
It is by the grace of Isvara that the mind is suitably purified (qualified) for self-inquiry. All the same, if the inquirer does not value moksa and does not take appropriate action, such as self-inquiry with a valid means of knowledge, freedom will never obtain. Our free will may be only apparently free, but it does mean that we can take appropriate action to achieve certain results. If this were not the case, it would be impossible to achieve anything. To be free, we need to “do the work” of cleaning up the jiva’s conditioning. Yes, it is all Isvara and by the grace of Isvara, but it is also up to the jiva. Knowledge is not going to fly into the mind of its own accord. The mind must be subjected to the scripture with humility and great dedication, as ignorance is tenacious, subtle and hardwired. And, as awareness/Isvara does not see the jiva as bound in the first place, it makes no difference to awareness if the jiva is bound or not. The jiva’s ignorance only affects the bound jiva, the self under the apparent spell of ignorance. It never touches you as the self.
Erin: The only thing a “person” can do, as far as it exists, is to gain “peace of mind” through knowledge of the self because this is the only thing that truly matters for a jiva; all the rest is up to Isvara.
Sundari: Yes, peace of mind (sattva) is the main aim for the jiva if moksa is its highest value. Moksa, freedom from the jiva AND for the jiva, will not obtain if the mind is run by rajas and tamas. Peace of mind (sattva) does not equal moksa though. You can have no interest in moksa and have peace of mind because you follow a dharmic life and understand the laws that run Isvara’s creation. This is why we say you can uncouple the guna teaching from the doctrine and teach it to worldly people. And conversely, you can be totally free and experience bliss, turbulence or dullness in the mind as sattva, rajas and tamas pass through it, but you no longer modify to the gunas as the self. You are the knower of the gunas and all experience created by them, “good or bad.” Moksa is not an experience or a feeling. It is the ever-present, hard and fast knowledge which gives the jiva non-dual vision; it is the self witnessing the apparent reality through the lens of the jiva.
As the self you do not resist Isvara, you flow with whatever life brings you. The jiva never disappears, and you are free of it, which means you are not the self AND the jiva. Moksa means that the jiva is understood, dissolved and accepted as it is, with no binding vasanas and no remaining sense of doership. When it arises, which of course it does, it is instantly dismissed as mithya, which is why as the jivanmukta you experience peace of mind as your ground of being, no matter what is or is not happening in the mind or in your environment (dharma field, or field of existence). The jiva no longer affects you at all. If it does, you are not free of it, no fine print.
Erin: This brings about a big relief to the Erin-jiva, to no longer be concerned about whether or not “I will have to reincarnate.” The only thing I can do is to do my svadharma here and now, not being concerned about the results, not wanting to be right and perfect (LOL!) and even letting go of the strong desire for moksa, and thus leaving it up to Isvara whether he decides to create out of the vasana load that will be delivered to the field at death, when Erin’s gross body will cease to exist. Vedanta = the knowledge that stops the need for searching = and thus creates peace of mind!
Sundari: This is a good attitude, but ask yourself: “Which I is talking here?” In fact make this a constant practice by pressing “pause” every time you use the word “I.” Ask yourself: “Is this the jiva identified with being a person, is it the jiva who knows about awareness or is it awareness speaking as awareness?”
Speaking as the self, how can you reincarnate if you never incarnated in the first place? You are the self, not the jiva/subtle body. There is no before or after for you. You were never born and you never die. The jiva Erin is a thought in you, awareness. She is Isvara’s creation and perfect the way she is. Her only problem thus far has been her identification with the body-mind, thinking she must do something to be someone who does everything perfectly and brilliantly. “Her” vasanas do not belong to her. They belong to maya/Isvara, and she cannot give them back, because they have never belonged to her. None of it is real. Everything in the apparent reality is mithya.
And please note, there is no such thing as the “field of death,” unless you are speaking as a jiva identified with the body. As the self, nobody and nothing dies. All the elements of the Field of Existence are eternal, endlessly creating the same movie on the screen of awareness.
Suggestions: read through what is written here carefully and slowly, make notes on things you are not clear about. Do not write back too soon, let Isvara guide you to what you need to clarify.
Concentrate on nididhyasana; go back and requalify so that all remaining binding samskaras are dissolved; don’t be in a hurry to jump ahead.
Self-actualisation, living the knowledge as a free jiva, is quite another matter from self-realisation, which is the experiential realisation of awareness. James says slow and steady wins the race. As I said previously, what often happens with very intelligent minds capable of grasping things quickly is that the ego co-opts the knowledge, believing unconsciously that it is somehow “special,” which keeps the mind stuck and limited. We call this enlightenment sickness, and it is common. The ego can survive moksa, and when this happens it is always a case of ignorance in some form still present in the mind, usually in the form of deeply-rooted and unconscious patterns of behaviour (samskaras or pratibandikas). A mind that “gets it” very quickly may not have mastered all the qualifications for moksa to obtain permanently in the mind. A humble mind dedicated to self-inquiry that carefully and steadfastly plods along, diligently subjecting the mind to the scripture and practising nididhyasana, often “gets there” sooner. Of course there is nowhere to get to, because you are already there and self-inquiry is not a journey.
Moksa, or non-dual vision, is the complete and permanent understanding of how the field of existence operates – the forces that create it: the gunas (and how they govern the creation of all vasanas) and the natural laws that run it: samanya dharma (big picture), visesa dharma (how the individual relates to big picture/Isvara) and svadharma (inborn nature and tendencies of individual). A jivanmukta by definition will have resolved all their conditioning through contemplation, assimilation of the knowledge and transformation of their habitual patterns (vasanas/samskaras/pratibandikas, i.e. their conditioning) through self-knowledge. This is the essence of nididhyasana.
Keep up the good work and forget about getting it right or doing it perfectly. It is an impossible task, because you can neither change what is real or what is apparently real. You can only know the difference between the two apparent orders of reality and never confuse them, because you know that you are the all-seeing “I” of the self. And remember, duality does not disappear when we know what it is. It is not in opposition to non-duality, because there is really only the self.
~ Love, Sundari