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Isvara and Jiva Are Both Awareness
Shiva: Dear Sundari, towards the end the teachings in Tiruvannamalai recently James made the statement that the jnani is superior to Isvara (2).
Upon questioning whether it was the jiva or the atman of the jnani that is superior to Isvara (2), the answer came that it was the atman of the jnani that is superior since the capacity of the jiva is limited and the capacity of Isvara (2) is unlimited.
However, since Isvara (2) is equally “possessed” of the same atman as the jnani, then the only area of difference between the two is in the phenomenal expression as Isvara (2) and as the jiva of the jnani, and therefore the case for the superiority of the jnani over Isvara (2) seems to be mistaken and if anything then the reverse would seem to be the case.
Sundari: As is always the case in self-inquiry, the answer to your question depends on which perspective you are asking it. Isvara and the jiva (whether we are talking about the impersonal, eternal Jiva or the small, personal and non-eternal jiva) are both awareness. Isvara and jiva differ chiefly in their capacities to create. But a jnani is a jiva whose ignorance has been removed, therefore it is no longer bound by the gunas (ignorance) and its identity has completely shifted to the self, atman. However, as it remains in the apparent reality, the jiva’s capacities remain the same and will never be superior to Isvara. All the same, as the self, the jnani is “beyond” Isvara. See below.
Shiva: If we say that the atman is superior to Isvara (2), then the same is equally true of the atman in relation to the jiva of the jnani, and so again we find no basis upon which to assert the superiority of the jnani over Isvara.
Sundari: Yes, the self is superior to both the jiva (awareness under the spell of ignorance, conditioned by the gunas) and Isvara (awareness plus the gunas, or Maya). However, as stated above, a jnani is a self-realized jiva, so it can no longer be called a jiva, but the self, atman. Isvara 2 is always only the self, it is never deluded by the gunas, even though it wields Maya. Therefore the question of superiority is moot. We can only compare Isvara and jiva in terms of their capacities because in truth it is not correct to use the term “superior,” as both the jnani and Isvara 2 share the same identity as the self. The self cannot be superior to itself.
Summary of how Isvara and Jiva are the same and different:
Isvara (as in Isvara 2 = awareness plus Maya in the role of Creator) and the universal Jiva are never annihilated; they are eternal principles (or concepts) in awareness which manifest whenever Maya manifests, which is also an eternal principle or power in awareness. There is essentially no difference between Jiva and Isvara except in their capacity to create. Isvara creates the objective world, and Jiva creates its subjective world, its world of thoughts and feelings – which also come from Isvara, the gunas. Isvara is unlimited, omniscient, creates all objects, subtle and gross. The jiva is limited, it only knows the objects with which it has contact. It cannot create a flower, the sun, the moon and the stars, and it cannot know anyone else’s thoughts.
Isvara is conscious because it is the self plus Maya, the creator of jiva. The jiva appears to be conscious because consciousness shines on the subtle body, which is why Vedanta says Isvara and jiva are “essentially” the same. Isvara is not a person with likes and dislikes like the jiva. And neither Isvara’s creation nor jiva’s creation hides consciousness. It is always present prior to the creation and prior to the birth of individuals. You can’t have a macrocosmic creation without consciousness. Something had to exist before Isvara could bring the creation into existence. That something we call paramatma, pure consciousness, free of both Isvara and jiva. If this is true, which we know it is, then we can eliminate both jiva and Isvara as real and take ourselves to be consciousness – the self.
Consciousness (me – or “atman,” to use one of many names for the self) is never affected by Isvara’s creation or by jiva’s creation. I am the knower of both.
Or you can look at it this way: it is clear that jiva is conscious, albeit indirectly, like the moon which receives its light from the sun. It is also clear that Isvara is directly conscious because the creation is consciously designed. Nothing comes from nothing, no matter how hard the scientists try to prove that it does. Inference tells us that and inference is a valid means of knowledge. We do not have to meet Isvara in person (not that Isvara is a person) to know that it is conscious. So if the jiva’s consciousness depends on Isvara’s consciousness, and Isvara’s consciousness depends on paramatma, pure consciousness, then both jiva and Isvara are pure consciousness. If you don’t depend on the world or on the person, you certainly can’t be either one of them. An effect (jiva) is just the cause (Isvara) appearing in a form.
We can’t apply the same logic to Isvara (2) except loosely, because consciousness (Isvara 1 = pure awareness) does not “cause” Isvara – and neither does pure awareness directly cause the Field of Existence. Isvara in association with Maya, Beautiful Intelligent Ignorance, is something altogether different. It is the uncaused cause of everything. Isvara is not an effect, but it is a cause with reference to the Creation. There is only one awareness out of which everything arises and depends upon, but awareness is always free of the objects. Awareness is adjata, unborn. Vedanta is the path of the unborn because it reveals that although there appears to be a Creation, nothing ever really happened, from awareness’s point of view. All objects are made up of awareness and dissolve back into awareness in that they appear in the mind and the mind appears in awareness. The mind/jiva (subtle body), like all objects, is an object known to you, awareness. The thoughts that appear in the mind belong to the gunas: Isvara.
The world we know is called “apparently real” because it is not always present and always changing. We know the world is not real because when you analyze it, it resolves into empty space, and space resolves into consciousness as far as you cannot know space without consciousness. It is an object known to you. There is just you, consciousness, in which the jiva, or person, appears in a particular a priori environment, i.e. Isvara.
Isvara creates, sustains and destroys the whole universe. Within Isvara’s creation are innumerable jivas, individuals: plants, animals, humans, insects, etc. Jivas are living beings with gross, subtle and causal bodies. Human jivas have an intellect which makes them self-aware, self-reflective. This means that they can interpret their experiences. The way that a jiva’s subtle body interprets its experience is its “world.” Its interpretation is its “creation.” When Vedanta says the world would not be there without the mind (subtle body), we mean jiva’s interpretation, its projection, would not be there, not that the material world, the senses, the five sheaths or subtle body and the vasanas would not be here. We call the jiva’s creation “pratibhasika satyam” or “jiva srsti,” the subjective reality.
Although we can say there are two jivas – the non-eternal, “small” or personal jiva, and the eternal, impersonal Jiva – as this is a non-dual reality, there is only one eternal Jiva, who manifests as many individual jivas who seemingly see things a certain way owing to their conditioning. Isvara’s creation is called “vyavaharika satyam,” the objective world. This is the world of science, the objects and the laws which are not under the control of any jiva.
We need this teaching so the jiva does not confuse its creation with Isvara’s. As long as the jiva is still embodied in the apparent reality, enlightened or not, it is subject to Isvara, the Creator, and is required to respond to it. This is called dharma, appropriate response. If it responds appropriately to what Isvara wants, it will be in harmony with Isvara, the Creation, meaning its environment. But if it is living in its own world, gets a request from Isvara and responds according to its fears and desires, likes and dislikes, it is quite possible that it will run afoul of Isvara (its circumstances) and suffer. Thus this teaching makes it aware of the difference between the subjective and the objective realities. If it is clear which is which, it can choose to follow dharma, not its own desire in case they are different. There is no problem with jiva’s desires as long as they conform to dharma.
The jiva looks out through the body, identifies with the senses, perceives a world and thinks that it is seeing what is actually there. It knows it didn’t create it, but it sees itself as separate, incomplete, so chases objects to complete itself. The saying “the world is there because I see it” is true from the point of view of awareness, not the jiva’s. The jiva, which is actually awareness, can’t perceive a world unless Isvara has already done its job as Creator. The jiva is seemingly responsible for its external creation as far as it doesn’t exist (for it) unless it perceives it. However, it should be clear from the example of deep sleep that the jiva doesn’t create the world, because there is no world for it when it is asleep. Yet the world is there for other waking jivas. That shows that some other factor, and we call it Isvara, is the creator.
Shiva: Aside from this small playful point, I am finding the teachings as presented by James/Ram to be very helpful, particularly the insight that enlightenment is not an experience since the experiencing apparatus is itself illumined by the Light of That Existence-Consciousness, and therefore trying to reach to enlightenment as a permanent experience is akin to trying to make the moon always remain full.
Sundari: It is not a “playful” point to understand the identity between Isvara and Jiva. It is central to moksa. Trying to reach enlightenment as a permanent experience is like trying to gain something you already have and always have had because it is you. It can’t be done. The self is not an object to be gained. The thinking that you can gain the enlightenment is born of the ignorance that you are always have been enlightened, full, always only experiencing awareness, nothing else – and you are the light which makes the moon appear to be full, to shine.
Shiva: So my question: Is there any flaw in the logic of the point I have put forth on the superiority question? Is Isvara (2) not also fully aware of the self-nature?
Sundari: Isvara is always aware of its self-nature, the jiva is not, until moksa obtains, after which point the identity of the jiva “becomes” the jnani, or jivanmukta, as the examination of what makes Isvara and Jiva the same and different reveals.
~ Love, Sundari