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Cannot Superimpose Satya on Mithya
My personal quest began a few years ago when I had some epiphanies and also periods of deep peace and tranquility. I started to dig the so-called spiritual world. After some time, drama and anxiety came back, my personal problems were haunting my mind and I wasn’t feeling free at all. It was a huge relief to stop pursuing experiential enlightenment and begin to rather understand something than experience it.
I’m very thankful for teachings, and most of it make perfect sense. There are, however, some doubts. Therefore I’m writing to you.
It seems that there is inconsistency in the teaching or I misunderstood it.
I know that James insists on following dharma and purification of the mind and body to prepare the subtle body for moksa.
Sundari: Hello, Brian. If you have doubts or misunderstanding, it is not because there are inconsistencies in teaching or the way James teaches Vedanta is incorrect, but your understanding needs work. There are many seeming contradictions and paradoxes in the teaches which all dissolve once Self-knowledge obtains.
Brian: Moksa is defined as freedom from objects appearing in subtle body, generated mostly without control of the individual by the causal body. But if I am limitless, ever-free awareness, then why should I bother myself with dharma or purification? I don’t want to sound arrogant here, but enlightened or not, individuals keep living in apparently dualistic samsara and have some duties towards existence in general (this is what dharma is about). But how can one be free and have duties at the same time?
Sundari: Once Self-knowledge is firm, the jiva continues to live in the apparent reality, but there is no samsara for you, because you know you are the Self.
Moksa is defined as the permanent ability to discriminate awareness, yourself, from the objects that appear in you. Even though you see the objects as unreal, you know all objects dissolve in you. To understand and apply the teachings, you need to understand that they are never either/or but always both/and. Yes, as the Self there is nothing but the Self for you and you are ever-free, so a moral order in mithya does not apply to you.
But as the jiva appearing in the apparent reality, to be free of both, you need to understand the natural laws that run the field and abide by them, understand what makes up the apparent reality (the gunas), why it operates the way it does, how the gunas condition the jiva and how to negate duality in light of Self-knowledge. Moksa is for the jiva, not the Self, because you are and always have been free. But how does this help the jiva if it does not know what it means to be the Self? What use is Self-knowledge if it does not translate into your life?
Just because you know you are the Self does not mean that you can jump over mithya directly to satya or superimpose satya onto mithya. It does not work that way, because of the deluding power of Maya, beginningless ignorance. Mithya may not be real, but Self-knowledge must first negate mithya for the jiva to be free of it, as stated above. And for Self-knowledge to do its work, the inquirer must apply the teachings (dharmic values, karma yoga, taking a stand in awareness as awareness, practising the opposite thought, triguna vibhava yoga, mind management, etc.) to the jiva for moksa to obtain.
Self-realization is where the work of self-inquiry BEGINS. Therefore Vedanta provisionally accepts duality and then sets out to deconstruct it with a valid, independent and logical methodology. You need to understand and work carefully through all the steps and apply the teachings as they unfold, diligently and faithfully, to your life. It does not happen overnight, because ignorance is hardwired and highly tenacious.
Brian: Another issue concerns morality. If the number-one moral law is non-injury, then how could it be that nature itself is (or seems to be) harmful and cruel for human beings. Nature dictates conditions for living beings and it seems to force us to compete for survival and prosperity. If all injury inflicted on other people is only apparent as the whole natural world (samsara) is, then why should I bother myself with moral laws? In my lifetime experience it looks like nature generally promotes adharmic behaviour and attitudes over do-gooders in worldly existence.
Sundari: This is a purely samsaric (dualistic) view, but understandable. It is impossible for the jiva to understand the mind of Isvara, because we cannot see the whole picture and only Isvara is omniscient. But this is a perfectly ordered and intelligently designed universe. It runs on natural laws that cannot be contravened without consequence, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Nature is not cruel at all; it is simply totally dispassionate. It does what it needs to do to sustain life for all living and non-living objects by taking care of the needs of the total before the needs of the individual.
Nature must to do this or the game of life would be chaotic. It contains dharma and adharma because of the way the gunas function. If the gunas only expressed their positive aspects, the game would be over. For jivas to have a field in which to work out their karma, this is the way it must function, there is no other way. Life/nature/the Field only appears to be bad, cruel or evil because people do not understand Isvara or the Self.
In fact nature/Isvara is endlessly compassionate, but not in the emotional, bleeding heart way that jivas tend to be. Isvara has a moral, psychological order, which you are free to ignore or break. But you will suffer the consequences and experience neither peace of mind nor freedom from the apparent reality or the jiva. The only freedom from the gunas/Maya possible is through Self-knowledge – assimilating the teachings that nothing in this world is real – meaning always present and never changing. Only awareness fits that definition.
Brian: At my level of understanding, it seems more accurate to say that I’m a psychocentric manifestation of formless awareness than just awareness. Because if I’m unconcerned awareness, then why should I care about anything? I assume that even if I know that I’m not the subtle body, but the subtle body is an object appearing in me, to enjoy a happy life I still must take care of habits located in the causal body and this ever-changing game of stimulus-response process which happens in my subtle body?
Sundari: Yes, if the knowledge that you are unlimited, always present, unchanging and unconditioned awareness was hard and fast, you would not be concerned about anything. You would not need to worry about the causal body, because you would have rendered all binding vasanas non-binding and negated the doer: there is no “causal body” for the Self. You would be free of duality (samsara) and living as the Self permanently. You would never confuse yourself with Brian ever again, but you would enjoy and love him as he is.
But the jiva (duality) does not disappear when you know who you are; macrocosmic Maya is unaffected by your enlightenment. Duality is only a problem if you don’t know what it is; in other words, ignorance is mistaken for knowledge. The jivamukta still lives in the apparent reality but in a very different way. It no longer chases objects for completion or happiness, because it knows that this is a zero-sum game and there is nothing to gain in the world of objects. As the Self, you are full and whole, needing nothing. And very importantly, because the jivanmukta understands that all life is one with itself, it would never break dharma or injure any part of life, because it would only be injuring itself.
Brian: I know that James underlined that knowledge and ignorance are sitting side by side, and I may just not see ignorance that happens in my mind. That’s why I’m writing to you. For me it’s hard to discriminate what is true in the foregoing considerations.
I’ve written this message honestly and in reference to my actual understanding. Excuse me for all linguistic mistakes, but English is my second language.
Once again, thank you and hope for a clear answer.
Sundari: Your doubts are normal and reasonable, Brian. Everyone’s understanding is a mixture of knowledge and ignorance to begin with. And your English is very good as a second language. Self-inquiry is learning to think as the Self; it takes training and can be very challenging. In fact our in-built body-mind identification (ignorance) makes it highly counter-intuitive to think both as the Self and as the jiva, and to understand the difference between the two. Keep up the good work!
~ Om and prem, Sundari