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How to Teach Love in Vedanta
Tod: I’m having a small problem when I try to explain why the self is love. You can certainly say consciousness/awareness IS the essence, but to then equate it to “love” simply because love exists… I think you might want to invoke satya because love and consciousness both qualify as real by their inclusion as satya, correct?
James: When you teach Vedanta you have to prepare the student’s mind a bit before you launch into a sophisticated teaching. So the argument that the self is love because there is only the self and love exists is an introductory gambit. I agree that it is a weak argument because basically nobody sees reality as a non-duality and nobody understands the equal but unequal relationship between satya and mithya. If you use it, which is not necessary, you need to present the whole teaching. You can present the whole teaching to intermediate and advanced enquirers directly.
Satya, the self, is satchitananda. Sat = existence, chit = consciousness and ananda = love, i.e. prema. The self is parama prema svarupa, of the nature of non-dual prema. Prema is more than love as we understand it, but love is good enough for beginners. If prema is satchitananda, we can’t tell the whole story out front; we have to work up to it. Satya is pure non-transactional love. But that doesn’t mean anything to an ignorant person, so we point out that it appears in the world as attention, which is an easy sell. Once we have established a (not entirely accurate) connection between satya and mithya, we can proceed to set up the discrimination between the self, whose nature is love, and the objects.
Tod: Also, that awareness – the one awareness we are and know – isn’t even “ours” in the first place. Not only didn’t we “create” it, it does not originate with us. It’s God’s “awareness of us in us” and everything else, but we think it’s “our” awareness, right? Isn’t there a better explanation offered by this realization? What is the Sanskrit word you use that means “reversal”? I think there might be some juice in using this term to explain the nature of non-dual love.
James: Viparaya means reversal. The reflected self, the non-eternal jiva, “borrows” awareness/existence/love from the self. It can only do that if Maya has reversed the relationship between the jiva and the self. It thinks it is the subject and love is an object that it doesn’t have, so it always wants it, when in fact love is its nature and the objects are devoid of love because they are just inert matter vestures.
If you get love from someone, you are just getting the experience of the love that you are. She isn’t loving you. It seems like she is so it makes you okay with yourself, so you relax and start consciously experiencing your own existence/love/consciousness. When you want love from somebody, you put your self in debt to them, which manifests as the anxiety that always accompanies transactional love. Vedanta proves that you are love, which reverses the reversal and cancels your debt because you don’t need love anymore. Your financial troubles are non-different from your love troubles. A self-actualized person is indifferent to human love. He or she appreciates it for what it is, but it has no impact on him or her, because he or she is the essence of love. Dualistic love is painful and almost impossible to shake because it hides your real nature, prema, the love that makes love loving.
Tod: If awareness is “God’s,” then how could it be anything other than loving/lovingness? So “attention” is the non-dual portal for God’s love to activate in our being? Something like that?
James: Got it in one. We need to make a connection between something we experience and something we experience but don’t know we experience, so attention is it. Vedanta just moves your attention to the self, until it stays there.
Once you are clear what it is, you won’t have problems anymore, because all the transactional stuff is clearly seen to be a dream.
~ Love, James