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The Reflection Teaching
Martin: Hari Om.
When Ramana Maharshi (or a jnani) says, “There is only Self,” or, “I am Self,” is that statement referring to reflected awareness (eternal Jiva) or original awareness (satya)? And what is the logic for whatever the answer is? What is the purpose of the reflection teaching (pratibimba vada)?
James: It’s a good question and a very important teaching, but I’m not going to explain it to you, because a lot of context is required to understand it and I can’t reply to people who are not already familiar with Vedanta. I don’t want to discourage you, but I think you need to read the rules for contacting me, which are on the website. At a bare minimum, you need to have carefully read The Essence of Enlightenment. There is a course of suggested reading on the website that starts with the basics and works up to the more advanced texts. Once you are familiar with the basic teachings but still have questions, I am happy to reply. Vedanta is very popular these days and I am extremely busy teaching and writing scriptural commentaries, so I can’t start out at the beginning with each person who writes. You must to your homework. I don’t know your spiritual background or how you conceive of self-inquiry, but you might benefit from Panchadasi, which is called Inquiry into Existence and is available in the ShiningWorld shop in both eBook and paperback versions.
Martin: I’ve been with Vedanta full-time (10 to 15 hours per day, nothing else since have a home business) for 1.1 years. But 15 years full-time (10 to 15 hours per day) spiritual study went down the drain, once the James+Vedanta combo manifested.
I understand 75% of the teachings easily. Panchadasi is also easy. I listened to Tiruvannamalai 2017, all 66 videos, three times over. I made mind maps for each with detailed notes for each session, examples attached. I read The Essence of Enlightenment, How to Attain Enlightenment, several Upanishads and have studied Sanskrit for two years so far. I engaged in Chinmaya Vedanta online courses also. I also bought nearly every book/video series at ShiningWorld, scheduled for learning.
Yet I’m a beginner till my last breath.
I would like to know still the original question, as I don’t have anyone else to ask.
James: Sorry. I get a lot of people who want me to teach them the basics. It’s amazing how lazy seekers are.
The problem with Ramana is that he was not properly taught Vedanta, although he was a jnani. He never claimed he was a teacher. He read and picked up a lot on his own by satsanging with mahatmas, but he didn’t make certain important distinctions clear, although he knew the difference between the reflection – the eternal Jiva – and the original, paramatma. For instance, he never clarified the the important distinction between knowledge and experience.
In any case, he meant original pure consciousness – paramatma – not reflected consciousness, jivatma. Jiva is a reflection of paramatma brought about by the presence of Maya. You need the complete teaching because the jivatma and the paramatma are the same, but they are different.
They are non-different with reference to existence, awareness (paramatma), but different with reference to Maya. There is no difference between one drop of water and the whole ocean from the water’s level. There is no difference between a ray of sunlight and the sun, but there is a difference. The ray is the sun, but the sun is not the ray. The Jiva is paramatma but paramatma is not jiva. So if you meditate on the “I-sense,” the reflection, you will feel like a jiva who knows the Self. This is true, but it is not moksa, because the Self is not an object. You will actually be meditating on the reflection. You will not be happy, because the reflection is limited! People get stuck in the “I-sense” teaching because they don’t realize they are meditating on the reflection alone. We call this stage indirect knowledge. It is the fifth stage of enlightenment.
The reason the scripture adds the word “param” to atma is to indicate the difference between the original and the reflection, the jivatma. Usually when you realize the Self as an object, your identity doesn’t shift to the paramatma, except perhaps intellectually. You still experience from the jiva level but you think you are limitless. There is a difference between thinking you are limitless and actually experiencing yourself as limitless existence/consciousness, i.e. paramatma. This final stage is called tripti, perfect satisfaction, or paramasukka. So after Self-realization, you need to do nididhyasana to convert indirect knowledge to direct knowledge/experience. On the paramatma level knowledge and experience are non-different. But on the Self-realization level, the jiva’s experience has not yet caught up with the knowledge “I am limitless bliss.” There is still some identification with the reflection and dissatisfaction because the reflection is limited. So taking a stand in awareness is required until you actually stand AS awareness and not as a jiva that knows awareness. At that stage, the jivatma disappears because it was never there in the first place. The memory of jiva-hood remains in the subtle body perhaps, but the subtle body and its thoughts are never thought to be different from awareness.
I hope this is helpful.
~ Om and prem, James