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Knowing and Being Aware Are Mithya
Don: Greetings, Sundari.
I thought that if you like Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow you and James might find this Ted Talk interesting in light of scripture.
Sundari: Thanks for the link, Don, I have not had time to listen to the whole thing, but from what I have heard, it has some good points and seems closer to the mark than much of what is out there, scientifically or otherwise. Still no teaching or methodology of course, and no satya-mithya teaching, without which you are pretty much up the creek without a paddle. I will listen to the whole thing soon and let you know if there is anything else noteworthy.
Don: While I am emailing you, I would appreciate some clarification on statements you and Ram have made regarding Isvara. In an email to me you wrote that “the jiva is in Isvara’s creation 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.”
Now earlier in the same email you said, “Isvara is not a person with likes and dislikes…”
James says on page 88 of Inquiry into Existence, “It is Isvara’s will that my liberation contributes to the dharma field like everything else in the apparent reality.”
These statements to me suggest that Isvara is being understood much like the personified Christian God that has likes and dislikes versus what I understood Vedanta’s rendering to mean, a creative principle, a conscious principle (page 107), or moral principle or creative mechanism appearing as conscious agent and real by the power of Maya working on or through consciousness/awareness. I can understand that because all is non-duality, Isvara can be understood either way, but for teaching purposes these statements are confusing.
Sundari: The statements are only confusing if you are not discriminating correctly, which is why the teachings must be unfolded and taught. There are apparent contradictions which resolve as they are all only apparent, not real, contradictions. Understanding this point depends on the qualifications, subtlety of intellect and maturity of the student.
We need to understand the definitions of Isvara gradually and systematically until we can see the full vision, the whole Mandala of Existence. The way in which I define Isvara depends on my level of understanding and will determine my bhakti. In the first level of understanding, my devotion will be to a personified deity: a personal God. In the second level of understanding, I will worship the Lord in everything, including nature. In the final stage of understanding, I see God as the formless essence of all, both manifest and unmanifest. The final stage does not negate the previous two; it simply completes the full picture. When we appreciate Isvara as both form and formless, we can happily worship the Lord/God/Isvara as a personified deity, as the totality of nature and as the formless essence of all things. Just as quantum physics does not displace Newtonian physics, both understandings are valid at their respective levels.
Don: Another issue; on page 106 of Inquiry into Existence, the text says, “If existence is limitless, it cannot be anything but awareness, because awareness is limitless. But existence is not aware, unless Maya is operating on it.” Page 96 of Inquiry says that consciousness appears in matter as the existence factor, and on page 52 of Inquiry it states in point (6) “existence alone is pure consciousness.” I’m a little unclear here. Maybe I am equating awareness and being aware as the same.
Sundari: Yes, that is your problem. Awareness, consciousness and existence are non-different. But awareness/existence/consciousness is not aware unless Maya is operating on it, because there are no objects for awareness/consciousness/existence to be aware of.
Don: Further confusing the picture for me are statements on page 87 of Inquiry, “Eight ‘planes’ of experience or classes of objects have been unfolded. (1) Existence (sat), (2) Maya… etc.” Existence having been earlier in the text equated with consciousness/awareness (chit), how can it here be equated to an experience or class of objects?
Sundari: The eight planes are not equated with consciousness; consciousness is the knower of the eight planes.
Don: And further on the page, “Consciousness [seemingness – my addition] has one property, existence, and Maya has two properties, seemingness plus existence.” This again suggests that consciousness and existence are not synonymous, that existence is subordinate to consciousness. I did not think consciousness had properties or attributes. I might have said that consciousness has existence as its essence or existence has consciousness as its essence. I think seemingness and existence are the same.
Sundari: Consciousness is not seemingness. Consciousness is without properties, but when we add Maya we provisionally assign a property to consciousness – existence. When Maya appears, you have existence plus “seemingness,” or mithya. When space appears, you have existence plus seemingness plus space, etc., etc. with the addition of each element.
Don: Another point: in your last email to me you say that “it is not, strictly speaking, true to say that awareness is conscious.” (I’m here equating conscious and consciousness but as I look now at the word “conscious” I’m seeing it as a verb while I see consciousness as a noun. Maybe that is the source of my confusion with your statement.) You go on to say, “Awareness is without qualities. Awareness is that which makes consciousness possible in that consciousness is reflected awareness.”
This suggests that consciousness is dependent upon awareness. I have been equating the terms consciousness, self, awareness, existence, but then statements are made that suggest this is not correct. My understanding is that whatever is dependent upon awareness is mithya, is an object, is knowable and therefore not real, not self, not limitless. Your comments, please?
Sundari: Knowing and being aware or conscious is dependent on the presence of consciousness/existence, so knowing and being aware are mithya, but consciousness/awareness/existence is satya.
Don: So, in the case of Isvara (2), because it is dependent on awareness, it is known as an object, but it appears conscious because it is reflecting awareness. Am I mistaken thinking this?
Sundari: You are correct.
Don: Understanding seems to arise and then as I read and listen more, words and how they are used seem to confuse the understanding. There arises this idea that “I” am just re-asking the same questions over and over. It all appears as semantics and intellectual, but if I am correct in my understanding, it is necessary in order to make the knowledge fast and firm, rendering binding vasanas non-binding by that knowledge and which, dare I say, appears to be happening.
I suspect you only have so much time in a day, how do you and Ram cope with people like me; will you just stop responding?
Sundari: We will keep responding, with patience and forbearance…