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No Satya in Mithya
Hilary: Thanks for your reply, Sundari.
A wrecking ball it is!
I’d read what you wrote (and the poem too) when you published it, but it only makes sense now. I understand the difference between forgiving and letting go, that the forces (gunas) playing out in me are the same that are playing out in him (and everywhere else), as this is a non-dual reality and there is no one doing anything; there is only an apparent me and an apparent him – only ignorance. I see how we keep the duality alive when we’re trying to work things out “with the other person/role,” how that is not standing in our fullness but reinforcing our limitedness.
Sundari: That’s excellent, Hilary. The jiva and its karma may not be real, but neither can it be circumvented or denied. Self-actualization requires that we dismiss the jiva as not-real, but all the same, it must be understood in the light of self-knowledge or we will never be free of it. We must clean up all of its karma or it will follow us like a shadow, never ceasing to cause trouble for us. While it is true that feeding the drama with tamasic/rajasic thoughts and emotions only makes things worse, denying or failing to understand “our stuff” in light of the knowledge will as well. The guna-governed thoughts and emotions they give rise to may not be real, but we still must take cognizance of them and accordance with our svadharma to dismiss our tendencies through karma yoga and jnana yoga, guna-knowledge.
It is when times get tough that we see how identified we are with our story and if self-knowledge translates into our lives. This is when it counts. What use is self-knowledge to us otherwise? Self-knowledge can give us total knowledge of how reality functions and is absolutely up to the task of negating all the jiva’s issues as only apparently real. Therein lies freedom from suffering, nowhere else.
When traumatic life circumstances arise, they never happen in isolation. As you know, marriage difficulties are never one-sided, both parties participate, and blame is useless. It is tough karma, being a householder and a seeker, trying to marry the two is often a challenge. But it is a great sadhana. It offers plenty of opportunity for nididhysana, transforming your mental and emotional patterns, or conditioning, into devotion to the truth, the self. Nididhysana is the most important (and often the toughest) stage of inquiry for all inquirers to go through. You cannot just jump over it to the self, it does not work, and customs are very strict!
Hilary: It’s a tall order, not to pay heed to the jiva. And it is so hard to do. “Feeling like a fraud” doesn’t even start to describe the fear! It is fear. I can’t even say what the fear is of, because at this point it’s not like anything (circumstances) could get worse. It is irrational… very primitive. At first it felt as if someone or something had died and I thought it was about our relationship, the disappointment… and partly it was that. But now, the more I “do the work,” the more it feels as if something fundamental was dying.
Sundari: I have written an extensive satsang on fear in my recent posting of satsangs. Here is a brief version: Fear is rajas, and the kind of fear you felt or feel is a universal vasana. All jivas are born in fear because they are born in ignorance. This is the original sin that religion talks of. The ego is a fear thought born of the belief in separation. This fear is the “wound of humanity,” as I sometimes call it. It is the king of all vasanas, also what we call primordial, beginningless ignorance, another name for maya. The more user-friendly term for this vasana is “free-floating anxiety,” which, if self-knowledge is not firm, causes a non-specific, unnamed, existential fear, or dread. It is the fear that causes knots in the solar plexus. It is sometimes called the fear of “being and becoming,” what the Christians call “original sin.” It is always present, yet hidden in the causal body, and it is looking for objects to attach to (rajas/tamas). It is related to “others”; it is the ultimate experience of duality, or “otherness.”
Not everyone experiences it directly and acutely as you are at the moment, although many do, without even knowing it much of the time. The skyrocketing number of people experiencing anxiety attacks is testament to this. In most samsaris it works out in petty mundane and indirect ways all day long, year after year, a death by a thousand cuts. You can see the accretions in the faces of samsaris as they age – the exhaustion of existential suffering, the weight of the vasanas etched in faces inured to delusion. The fear-thought is reinforced at every turn in our society, though advertising, the media (only bad news sells after all) and of course through “entertainment.” The more violence or threat of violence in a book or a movie, the more it sells. It seems jivas are addicted to fear and are drawn to it like moths to a flame.
You will notice that this ignorance is called “beginningless” ignorance. The implied meaning of this phrase is that it is not endless, because self-knowledge ends personal ignorance (avidya) for good. However, the nameless fear samskara is one of the last to go for most inquirers. Self-realization is no guarantee that it has been rooted out. For most people, it disappears for a bit, then reappears, from which we can determine without doubt that fear is not real. Unfortunately, self-realization is often not enough to slay the fear dragon for good. There is no quick easy fix if fear is playing out in the mind. The only solution is to apply self-knowledge when it arises and see it for what it is. For most people, fear is so ever-present that it goes unnoticed because it is considered “normal,” even smart. Cynicism and lack of trust are the mark of a “worldly person.”
The ever-present but often unseen anxiety is a by-product of very deeply rooted samskaras which have their origin in ignorance of course. It is macrocosmic, or universal, rajas (projection), and it is part of the dharma field. Everyone who is identified with being a person is affected by it to some degree. Usually the vasanas will exhaust themselves after a while, even though they inevitably return, but this one, this unnamed fear, is constantly “on.” As the self, it doesn’t bother you at all of course, and for those who are self-realized but not self-actualized, this unnamed fear will come and go.
The road to freedom is not easy for the poor jiva. The ego feels like a fraud because it is a fraud when it is in the service of ignorance. We need a functional ego to operate in the apparent reality; it gives us our “I” sense and is supposed to function as a messenger from our “inner” world, the self, to the “outer world,” the apparent reality. But as maya is inscrutable and impossible to determine what it will dish out to us from one moment to the next, most often the ego is rooted in fear. The “I” thought becomes wrongly associated and identified with objects, so it is always afraid, always worried because it is not in control of the objects or results of action. Only Isvara is in control. When something we are strongly identified with is challenged, Isvara unleashes its wrecking ball in our lives; it does feel like a death for the ego. It is the death of illusion, that there is anything to gain in this world, that we can shore up “future” happiness through people or situations. It can bring about the dark night of the soul. But with death always comes new life.
Hilary: There is peace when doing the work in silence, in the quiet. But when the voices appear in the middle of the day, in a conversation… all the demons race back, and they don’t look like paper dragons. Samsara is such a great show! How not to trust the only experience (memories, feelings, sensations, thoughts) we know? And yes, distrust you should this experience, alone because life shows that it hasn’t served you well. But then the mind speeds up to find blame, guilt… and solutions: to seek/create new (better) experiences. What a trap! The ropes that bind us to samsara…
Sundari: Indeed, we should mistrust our feelings. They may be the relative truth about what we are experiencing on the guna level in the moment, but they are certainly not good indicators of the truth about who we are. In fact feelings (and intuition) are the least reliable means of knowledge available to us because they are always only relative knowledge based on subjective knowledge, pratibasika.
Self-knowledge is always good because it depends on the nature of the self – which is always present and unchanging. Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of objects (subtle or gross), which is object-based, not subject-based. Self-knowledge is not based on knowledge gained through personal experience or opinion, although it may confirm both, depending on our level of maturity as an inquirer. No other knowledge can negate self-knowledge. Lastly, self-knowledge is true in all three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is the one constant factor, whereas object-knowledge – which is based on experience, feelings, beliefs and opinions, is always changing. There is such as a thing as immutable knowledge within mithya, even though even that can be negated as only apparently real.
Our subjective interpretation of experience is not knowledge, unless it stands up to three immutable factors:
1. Object-knowledge stands independent of our experience, feelings, beliefs, opinions.
2. Knowledge of objects (subtle and gross) is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. If it is “my” knowledge, then it is my interpretation of an object (pratibasika/subjective reality, or jiva srsti), which is not necessarily knowledge. Ignorance (or my point of view) causes me to see or experience objects in a certain way because of “my” conditioning. People believe that ignorance is knowledge because they believe that what they experience is knowledge. It may be knowledge, but it may not be.
3. Object-knowledge is true in all three phases of time, past, present and future.
The only objects that these three factors are true of are Isvara’s immutable and universal laws, like thermodynamics or gravity. These laws function the way they function regardless of our subjective interpretation of them. ALL other object-knowledge falls into the subjective realm, and therefore does not qualify as knowledge. As I said above, maya is inscrutable. It is impossible to know anything for sure in mithya, other than Isvara’s laws and of course self-knowledge, which is not in mithya but the knower of mithya.
If you take yourself to be the person and your reference point is the body, then any object (like a tree or a person) will seem to exist outside of you. If you know that you are awareness, you still perceive the object (seemingly outside of you), but you know it appears as a thought in the chitta, mind, as object-knowledge.
HOW objects are experienced depends on whether the jiva knows its true identity as awareness or not. If the jiva has self-knowledge it will not confuse its subjective creation (pratibasika/jiva srsti) with Isvara’s creation. Through self-inquiry, discriminating the self from the objects appearing in it, self-knowledge negates all objects and reveals that they are only apparently real. Therefore moksa is freedom from dependence on objects.
The thing about duality is that it can never deliver what we think it should, happiness “in the future,” as I said above. We can only be happy by experiencing the love we are in the moment. You will never be any happier than you are right now. Nothing can give it to you and nothing takes it away. This is a tough one for most people to take on board. When our jiva lives crash, it sure feels like someone is taking our happiness away and is to blame for our sadness, disappointment and regret.
There is no solution to anything in the mithya world, objects cannot make us happy or give us what we think we need to be safe, happy, full. They can give us temporary happiness and security, but they will fail us, they must, sooner or later, because all objects are value-neutral. Only we can make ourselves happy. It’s nobody’s fault, nobody is doing anything, just the relentless playing out of the gunas.
Hilary: So the hardest part is to see there’s no duality between satya and mithya, or, as you put it, that “you are not the jiva and the self” but only the self. It’s one thing to see the non-duality within mithya, i.e. to see the jiva(s) as a part in the big machinery of samsara, which is painful and humbling enough. Another thing is to step out of it altogether.
Sundari: I know what you mean here, but it is important to get it clear that non-duality is not in mithya, as I said above. It is the knower of mithya. Freedom is absolutely dependent on being able to discriminate yourself, satya (that which is always present and unchanging), from the objects that arise in you, mithya (that which is not always present and always changing) – 24/7, no matter what is going on for the jiva, and to never confuse satya with mithya again. Or never to superimpose satya onto mithya again either.
Mithya is not real, it is an effect of the misapprehension of the true nature of reality as non-dual. The jiva is actually awareness, as are all the objects we see. They arise from us, the self, and dissolve into awareness because reality is awareness, there is nothing else. Duality is nothing more than a trick of light. Samsara is not a place or a thing – it is a mirage. It is a drug-induced hypnosis caused by maya’s power to delude. When self-knowledge obtains in the mind, there is no samsara, maya or mithya, for you. You see samsara operating in the minds of other people who are the self under the spell of ignorance, and you see it all as you, even though you are not it, a big distinction, a big difference in experience. Firm self-knowledge is the only way to “step out” of maya and its effects, mithya, permanently.
Yes, we must use our discrimination also to determine relative truth in mithya, such as what is true for us on the jiva level, but we must never confuse this discrimination with discriminating between satya and mithya – what is real and what is only apparently real.
Hilary: The trap seems perfect. The way out of suffering, the path to true strength, seems to involve denying everything we know, that which makes us suffer and that which we’ve trusted in order to find peace and joy “in the future.”
Sundari: This is true for the jiva who lives in time and believes the past and the future exists, and who is so invested in objects to bring them what they believed they need to be whole and happy. As I explained above, on the jiva or mithya level, most of what we think we know is ignorance, taken to be knowledge, and it does not serve us. The only true strength comes from the total confidence in the knowledge of who you are as the self, nothing else. There is no strength or security in mithya. Nothing lasts there, nothing is stable. Everything is always changing. It’s a dream world. There is no way to reassure the ego that it is safe, because of the nature of the field in which it lives.
Hilary: I’m not saying experience, etc. doesn’t have its utility in our lives, it’s just that we think that that was precisely our strength when pursuing our goals, whether security, pleasure or peace. And yet, being as it is that “we” don’t step out of anything but only keep applying the knowledge until… until what? Until “it becomes actualized.” The trap does seem perfect.
Sundari: Vedanta is not against experience, because our life is one long series of experiences. In fact you could say that life is experience, therefore experience is the self, but the self is not experience. The trick is to gain the knowledge that experience is designed to impart: you are the non-experiencing knower of the experience and the experiencing entity. Maya is very powerful and very intelligent, and the world is set up to delude and entrap. But there is a solution, and you have it. You have Vedanta – you have the map out of the maze, the antidote to the powerful drug of duality. There is nothing for you to gain in mithya.
Hilary: I have to remind myself of James’ saying “freedom from the jiva is freedom for the jiva.” Hilary can’t understand that. Actionless I am. Knowledge alone can set me free. Know that. Trust that. Keep at it. “In the meantime,” it rains, the wind blows, daffodils bloom, the kids grow up… time seems so meaningless and so precious, cruel and beautiful. The price of freedom; the prize of freedom.
Sundari: Beautifully put, Hilary. It is so strange that it is so hard to negate duality, but there it is. Ignorance is truly hardwired and so tenacious. What is meant by “freedom from the jiva is freedom for the jiva” is simply that freedom only means something to the jiva who lives in the apparent reality. As the jiva is and always has been the self, its nature is freedom. But under the spell of ignorance, it is bound and suffers. As the self, you are and always have been free, unaffected by knowledge or ignorance. When self-knowledge actualizes for the jiva, duality does not disappear and the jiva can enjoy it for what it is, without getting sucked into it again. Duality is pretty cool when you know what it is and do not take it to be real.
A happy life for the jiva is all about thought-and-emotion management. You have a range of thoughts/emotions available to you, from negative to positive. Thoughts appear in you but actually have no effect on you, awareness. If you identify with them, however, they take over the mind and control your life as a jiva. They neither belong to you nor originate from you, not as awareness or as the jiva. They “belong” to or arise from beginningless ignorance, maya.
The mind is our primary instrument for knowing anything. It is so powerful it has the unique capacity to convert heaven into hell and hell into heaven. A person with every convenience can feel miserable and tortured, and a person weighed down with so many problems can feel totally happy and peaceful. The quality of our life is dependent on this powerful organ, the mind. And most of us do not understand the first thing about how to manage our thoughts or even that we can and indeed must manage our thoughts and emotions – if we want to be free of the torture the mind can produce for us.
Thanks to Vedanta, you now know that you are the knower of this instrument, not the instrument itself. But although Isvara has given us an exquisite instrument with which to experience life, it has a serious drawback inherent in its nature which prevents most people from experiencing the joy of their true nature as awareness.
The serious drawback of the mind is that without our permission it generates continuous involuntary thoughts we have no control over. With or without our involvement, the mind, which is supposed to be our instrument – we are the owner – acts on its own, of its own volition. The mind is supposed to, and can, produce deliberate thoughts of our own choosing, but unless we understand it and know how to manage it, its nature is to produce and churn out thoughts continuously. It is simply a machine, and this is how it is made. There is no off button, but you are one of the lucky ones who have, by good grace that is not your doing, stumbled upon the manual: Vedanta. This manual contains not only all the operating instructions, it also explains the nature of the mind, what it is and the forces that run it, the gunas.
The mind run by the gunas is a very serious problem for the jiva, with many adverse consequences. When involuntary thoughts kidnap the mind, it means the mind is not available for our use in self-inquiry or for much else. As you know, to add to the trouble these involuntary thoughts create, they also produce toxic emotions, like worry, anxiety, fear, depression, regret, hurt, guilt, sadness, despair, hopelessness – and many more. These thoughts encroach the mind, they take it over. The intellect, whose function it is to think, is run by these emotions. Even when we ask these thoughts to go, they don’t go away.
Managing the mind means managing the gunas – and vice versa. There’s no magic to Vedanta. Vedanta shows us that the mind is our primary instrument for experiencing, realizing and actualizing ourselves in this world. It all boils down to owning your mind as your primary instrument, and repeatedly and consistently reconditioning it with thoughts that are true – in other words, that produce peace of mind. Any seeming failure to realize or actualize ourselves or to have a peaceful life is only due to lack of knowledge and incorrect thoughts that dominate the mind/emotions/intellect. The simple solution is reconditioning the mind with chosen thoughts that are aligned with the truth and based in self-knowledge. This is called volitional, deliberate thinking.
When skilfully managed, the mind will produce peace of mind and allow us to express and enjoy the beauty that we are in our day-to-day life, no matter what life dishes out to us. When you feel bad or afraid, for any reason, you can convert your emotional distress/fear and mental agitation into gratitude and peace through managing the gunas with volitional thinking. This watching out with hawk’s eyes for the habitual emotional thought patterns dominating your mind and creating your negative state of mind and suffering – and transforming those thought patterns into new thoughts of your own choosing.
We have a brilliant course, available free at ShiningWorld, Christian Leeby’s 5 Step Formula to Mastering Mind Control. I recommend it. I have taken the liberty to adjust and flesh out this simple guideline for managing the mind below.
Seven-Step Formula to Effective Mind Management
1. Own your mind as your primary instrument.
2. Clarify your highest values by conducting a fearless moral inventory.
3. Take responsibility for every experience you have; it comes from your thoughts, not the world.
4. Your thoughts/emotions don’t come from you; they come from the three gunas. Make sure you understand what they are.
5. Monitor your every thought and the emotion it produces, see the guna behind it.
6. Discriminate the habitual emotional thought patterns that compel you to act against your highest values creating pain and suffering.
7. Evaluate your daily actions to discover those that do not support your highest values.
8. Change those thoughts and the actions they produce by conditioning new chosen thoughts into your primary instrument.
7. Relax and enjoy as your primary instrument automatically serves your highest values in your day-to-day life.
I know it sounds easier than it is, but if we want to be free of suffering there is no other way. Don’t give up, Hilary. Vedanta offers you the complete knowledge of reality along with moksa. It may not be a magic pill for the ego, because it does not inoculate the jiva from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but it does free us from identification with the suffering jiva, which makes all the difference in the world. You are on the Vedanta bus, trust it to take you where you need to go, remembering that the steps to get “there” are the qualities of being there, and there is no there to get to.
With regards to salvaging your marriage, assuming that is what you both want, there is way to renegotiate the conditions under which you are both available. I am busy with a book on relationships, which is a compilation of both our contributions to this very difficult jiva topic. Here is a small bit of input:
A committed relationship, whether it involves a legal contract or not, constitutes a marriage. Other words that can be used to describe a marriage are union, alliance, a merger. A traditional marriage is a state of being uniting two people of the opposite or same sex in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. If you see yourself as the authority in your life, whether or not a relationship is recognized by law is irrelevant. A committed relationship of whatever nature is an agreement that the individuals in the relationship abide by certain rules that support each other and the relationship, so it is a contract. However, many people who enter relationships do not consciously establish what the individual and shared values are that form the basis of the relationship. Many think it is not romantic or it is too “businesslike” to discuss the rules of relationship, which is why so many relationships suffer from mild to extreme, highly repetitive conflict, which seems to have no resolution.
This is what Bernard Shaw had to say about marriage: “When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal and exhausting condition until death do them part.”
It does not have to be this way. The solution to the insanity of conflict in relationship is in what we call “the art of marriage.” It is a different kind of contract, based on healthy, consciously shared values and discrimination, not on emotionality. For the contract to work both parties need to commit to it unequivocally. If these conditions are to be respected, it is crucial that the shared and individual values are met without rancour or resentment – and revised as time goes by.
The Court of Higher Appeal
When both parties agree to sublimate their likes and dislikes to the entity called “the relationship,” a higher court of appeal for the good of both people and the health of the relationship comes into play. The relationship itself has its own agreed-upon dharma which must be respected by the people involved. When there is conflict or an issue of whatever nature, it is taken to the relationship and not given to egos to fight over, which makes it much easier to eliminate conflict. It is the dharma of the relationship to resolves issues. The relationship itself becomes an inbuilt fair, just and wise elder.
For this to work, both parties must be prepared to forego their egoic needs for the good of the relationship. Regardless of whether one or both parties has self-knowledge and is committed to self-inquiry, the only sure way to surrender the ego is through karma yoga. All actions within the framework of the contract are surrendered to the Field of Existence and the results taken as prasad.
The main aim and value above all is peace of mind, and to achieve this both people must give and take while living within their dharma AND the dharma of the relationship. The contract is revised regularly, which can take the form of a devotional ritual at agreed-upon intervals, such as monthly, every six to twelve months, or simply as an open discussion on a regular basis.
The Conditions of the Contract
The contract is an agreement whereby both parties get to the following conditions:
1. What is most important regarding personal values as well as the inborn nature or character of each person. In other words, what is dharmic for both as individuals.
2. The values that work for the relationship, both non-negotiable and negotiable.
3. Universal values. Examples of these are: accommodation, renunciation, personal responsibility, service, self-respect and respect for the other, generosity, humility, honesty, non-injury, fairness, courage, do unto others as you would have done unto yourself (equality). At the top of this list is respect for the freedom of the other.
There is much more to this. The book should be available soon. I wish you the best solution possible for peace of mind and happiness.
~ Much love to you, Sundari