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Erik: Hi. I have been studying the Gita for a year now, hours upon hours per day, no job, no life too, ha ha!
Sundari: Hello, Erik. The best way to live is with your attention on the Self, and as the Gita is a handbook for living as the Self, you have the best life!
Erik: All these versions of the Gita are from bhaktas who always seem to change the meaning of words to suit their devotion to Krishna and by doing so they remove Brahman from the book.
So it is hard for me to understand some things and I hope you could help me out by explaining the differences.
Sundari: Bhaktas are generally not knowledge-seekers, usually quite the opposite. Most often, their sadhanas are experience-based; they are after the feeling of sattva that devotional practice and ritual brings, which is where they differ so much from inquirers. An inquirer is also someone who seeks peace of mind (sattva) but who is not after merely an experience, because experience is always changing. An inquirer wants to understand the true nature of reality, that which never changes. There are four levels to bhakti, explained in detail in the e-satsang I have attached. Please read it.
Vedanta is extremely specific about the words it uses to unfold the teachings because all words have an implied and ostensible meaning, which is why so many inquirers get confused. There are also apparent paradoxes, which the teachings remove if properly taught. Vedanta says that it is only through Self-knowledge and not experience that ignorance of our true nature can be removed. It does not deny experience but states that for an experience to be truly valuable, its true meaning must be assimilated. The true meaning of any experience is that you are the knower of the experiencing entity, that which is always present and unchanging, the non-experiencing witness of the experiencing entity.
As all experiences happen in time, they change and end. But Self-knowledge never ends, because it is the truth of who you are. So, to begin with, you need to understand the essential differences between the levels of devotion because, in truth, an inquirer is also a devotee of the truth. There is no greater devotion than devotion to Self-knowledge. BUT, although an inquirer also has a devotional practice, the main focus is Self-knowledge, not experience.
Erik: It’s about Krishna, Parabrahma and Brahman. I think they are all the same, just different words for different types of people, i.e. the devoted action yogi or the jnana yogi.
Sundari: The names do not refer to people, they refer to the Self, with some important distinctions. See more below.
It is true that there are basically three types of seekers in the spiritual world and all three levels have several levels within them:
1. Bhaktas: those seeking spiritual bliss through devotional practice, not knowledge-seekers.
2. Secular karma yogis: these are people in the world, also not knowledge-seekers and not going for moksa. As a karmi, one uses the knowledge to accomplish things in the world and get what one wants.
3. Sacred karma yogis: people actively engaged in self-inquiry, jnana yoga. They surrender the results of actions to Isvara in an attitude of gratitude, consecrating each thought, word and action on a moment-to-moment basis to Brahman/Isvara. It is managing thoughts and emotions, and taking all results that come as prasad. This is the only way to negate the doer.
The different meanings of the words ascribed to consciousness/the Self are explained in the e-satsang attached. Briefly, Krishna, Parabrahma and Brahman are all names for consciousness, the Self, with subtle differences in meaning, depending on context. Krishna means that which is always auspicious, meaning the Self; Parabrahma also refers to pure consciousness/Self; and Brahman (or Isvara) refers to consciousness in the role of Creator, wielding Maya. So they are all the same because of course reality is non-dual, but the subtle differences in the meanings need to be unfolded for teaching purposes.
As stated above, most bhaktas have a dualistic devotional sadhana, seeing themselves as different from, lesser than or in supplication of Krishna/Brahman/Isvara as greater than they are. As inquirers, we worship Isvara with an attitude of gratitude and karma yoga because life is a great gift that requires reciprocity, taking all results as prasad. The whole point of inquiry is to negate the notion that we are doers. The inquirer is taught that the jiva is also the Self, therefore it has the same identity as Isvara, consciousness. There is no separation, only apparent separation, which the teachings of Vedanta remove. Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge for consciousness capable of removing the ignorance of jiva that prevents it from understanding its true nature as the Self.
Erik: They keep talking about how Brahman is only the light of the sun (Krishna) and that it is lower. Yet in another text, they say they are the same. Everything seems so contradictory, and I think these Krishna followers don’t even understand Brahman yet they write translations of the Gita. Can you clarify?
Sundari: Yes, the bhaktas usually lack proper teaching of the texts or they seek teaching from teachers who themselves do not understand the proper meaning of the texts. Typically, bhaktas do not understand the teaching on satya/consciousness (that which is real, always present, never changing) and mithya (that which is only apparently real, not always present, always changing.) They confuse the two because their thinking is dualistic and they interpret the texts according to their ignorance. They do not understand the difference between ignorance (duality) and self-knowledge (non-duality) and take ignorance to be self-knowledge.
As I said above, Brahman, or Isvara, are both terms for consciousness, the Self. They are just words, a finger pointing to the moon, but we must understand what they are pointing to. To do so, we must understand who or what the jiva is, what Isvara refers to and why, what is different and what is the same about both, i.e. what is their common identity. For Self-knowledge to translate into the life of the jiva, mithya (the effects of ignorance) must be understood in light of Self-knowledge, not in light of our own subjective or limited understanding (see satsang attached).
Erik: Also, I am not getting jiva, atman, individual soul, super soul in the above picture. (Krishna/Brahman).
Sundari: This explained more comprehensively in the e-satsang I attached. Briefly:
1. Jiva: Jiva is consciousness plus a subtle body. There is only one eternal Jiva appearing as many apparently unique individuals, or non-eternal (personal) jivas. Although it seems like the personal jiva lives for a moment “in time,” in truth it is indestructible because the non-eternal jiva is consciousness too and is always present, just not always as a subtle body, or person. And as a subtle body, it is an eternal principle in awareness, either unmanifest or manifest.
Isvara and the universal eternal Jiva are never annihilated; they are both eternal principles (or concepts) in consciousness 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 comes from Isvara, the gunas. Isvara is omniscient, creates all objects, subtle and gross, and the jiva only knows the objects it has contact with. It cannot create a flower, the sun, the moon and the stars.
Here is one of the greatest of all great sayings in Vedanta because it captures the essence of the teachings: Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Bramaiva Na Parah.
Memorize it. It means: I, the Self, am limitless consciousness and Jiva is non-different from me.
This is the essence of what Krishna is trying to teach Arjuna in the Gita, but he first must unfold the teachings to him, speaking to him as a person because he does not yet understand what it means to BE the Self. He thinks he is a person, a doer, and that Krishna is above and “beyond” him. So Krishna must teach him at his level of understanding until eventually he assimilates the teachings and understands that he and Krishna are one and the same Self, once Self-knowledge has removed his ignorance (duality).
Unless you are qualified for self-inquiry and have the teachings of the Gita (which is Vedanta in story form) unfolded properly for you, you will more than likely interpret the meanings incorrectly, according to your level of ignorance, or your conditioning to duality.
Erik: 2. Atman?
Sundari: Pure consciousness, the Self.
Erik: 3. Individual soul?
Sundari: The soul is the Self, the Jivatman. It is one but has three parts: original pure consciousness plus the subtle body, or eternal Jiva (reflecting medium), plus the reflection, the non-eternal, or “personal,” jiva.
Erik: 4. “Super soul” within Krishna/Brahman?
Sundari: There is no “super soul” within consciousness; consciousness is all there is. Vedanta never uses hyperbolic words like “super” to refer to the Self/consciousness. There is only one principle in reality and that is the Self: consciousness. There is nothing above beyond or greater than it. All is within it. Although Isvara, consciousness in the role of Creator, and Jiva have a dependent existence of consciousness, pure consciousness is always free of both. It is self-existent and present whether or not Maya is manifest, and with it, the Creator of the apparent Creation and the Jiva.
Erik: I think these devotees of Krishna are missing knowledge and they only follow their emotions/heart, while I do the opposite.
I have a lot of trouble understanding Krishna…
Sundari: Yes, clearly. They miss the whole teaching in fact! I explained why above. Krishna is the Self, consciousness.
Erik: …or even Durga (demigod). I have this amavasya fish in my chart and needed to do mantra and Punjabi Indian to get the blessing so that error is lifted from my natal chart (jyotish); in the end it failed (more like a curse that week, as everything went sideways, big time).
Sundari: I am not surprised this did not work for you. The only protection you need from “evil” forces is Self-knowledge. There are no real evil forces. There is only ignorance. The Hindu religion is full of amazing and astonishing gods and goddesses, but most of them are misunderstood, even by traditional Hindus, who do not know the difference between satya and mithya, what is non-duality and what is duality. They take duality literally; they do not see that it is merely a superimposition onto non-duality and can be negated as such by Self-knowledge. Only those who are qualified for Vedanta understand that all symbols point to the one Self, consciousness, nothing else. The use of all these gods and goddesses is a clever way to explain how the Creation functions, Isvara’s psychological order. They are a means to an end, understanding that you are beyond all gods and goddesses, even beyond Isvara, the Creator, as the SELF.
Erik: Later I heard that I didn’t do it right, that I didn’t do bhakti which is correct. I have a hard time doing that kind of yoga if I do not understand what I’m doing or what’s going on. Brahman is more my way to the same point, if I am right.
Sundari: You are a knowledge-seeker, Erik; these kinds of dualistic rituals won’t make sense to you or work for you. So what if you have a whatever in your natal chart? Are you the jiva or are you the Self? The Self is unborn and undying, and has no chart. Why bother trying to change the jiva when it will always be imperfect? Vedanta is not about perfecting the jiva, only understanding it, negating doership and rendering binding vasanas non-binding.
Concentrate on self-inquiry into who and what the jiva is so that you can be free of it. If you are a true inquirer, which I think you are, then drop all teachings other than Vedanta. All other modalities are based on duality and will never remove your ignorance, astrology included. All it offers is knowledge of mithya, never knowledge of satya. It cannot remove your ignorance. All it serves to do is provide you with an insight into your personality, but so what? As an inquirer, you want to be free of your ego personality, not more bound to it. Surrender it to Isvara, Brahman. Give back to Isvara what belongs to Isvara and be done with it. As the Self you have no individuality or personality as such: you are the knower of the apparent personality called Erik. Take a stand in awareness as awareness and practice the opposite thought, with the karma yoga attitude. Study the scriptures with the help of a qualified teacher.
Please make sure you follow the instructions we give for self-inquiry to work for you. You cannot work it out for yourself; you need to be properly taught and start at the beginning. If not, you will get confused and sidetracked, as it is clear you have. The teachings of Vedanta are presented as a very defined methodology which will address all your doubts at every level of inquiry. Please let me know if you have read James’ books, watched any of his teaching videos or read the thousands of pages of e-satsangs on our website.
~ Om Tat Sat, Sundari