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Converting Self-Knowledge into Freedom
Arlindo: Hello, Jim. Sorry I did not see your question till now. You are most welcome to ask me questions at any time. Usually I answer them very promptly. You say: “I understand I am not my body and that instead I am awareness, but I am not always firm in this knowledge.”
Excellent, Jim, this is very important knowledge. The very purpose of Vedanta is to reveal to the jiva his/her true identity as awareness. As you probably know, it seems simple, but it is not really easy, unless first jiva’s mind was made subtle by the ripening process that brings about the necessary intellectual purity. Only then the understanding that you are not in control of circumstances, events in your life, as well the firm conviction that everlasting happiness is not found on objects will not be possible. Only then is the satya-mithya discrimination is effective. Only then it fructifies as self-knowledge and moksa.
The way we work at this final stage is by the use of a method called “negation and superimposition.” The body-mind phenomenon we call jiva is a superimposition on awareness. Once we understand that the gold ring is a superimposition on gold we will have the undoubtable knowledge of the essential nature of the ring as gold, the only independent reality which is not subjected to change. The gold will still appear as a gold ring unless someone decides to melt it to make a new ornament, but you will not be deceived by the name and form of the ornaments. In other words, the ring has to be negated first before we can “see” it as pure gold.
Likewise, the essential free nature of the jiva is non-dual, formless and limitless awareness, but unless one analyzes one’s own non-examined experience and understands the clear logic presented by Vedanta that proves that this apparent reality called the universe “does exist,” but only as a projection or superimposition on your very essential nature as sat-chit-ananda, one will remain trapped in the endless cycles of samsara: the apparent subject endlessly chasing and getting attached and dependent on objects.
“However, the part about not being the doer and not existing is difficult for me to understand.”
This is very important point to be understood, Jim. The jiva = awareness + Maya + Isvara + subtle body + physical body. A jiva is an appearance produced by Maya. Just like a wave in the ocean appears as different and separate from the ocean, so the jiva under the spell of Maya appears as a separate entity seemingly becomes a doer/enjoyer. It is programmed by its ignorance to act as a means to remove its sense of incompletion and limitation; such is the nature of the apparent jiva.
But the fundamental question is, is the jiva real or unreal? Are the waves on the ocean real or unreal? Jivas definitely exist, but are they “really” real? Yes and no. Yes, if we look at the ocean as if made of an infinity of parts. And no, if we look at the ocean as one single phenomenon made of water, its fundamental independent nature. The ocean is a great metaphor because it is full, whole and complete. It does not depend on rain and rivers or any other sources to enjoy its limitless nature as “purna,” fullness. Likewise, as awareness, jiva is already always whole, full and complete, and no action will be able to add or subtract to its fullness.
The manifest universe in which jivas appear as conscious beings making apparent choices about their apparent actions does exist, but just like in the case of a mirage, it is not real. From the standpoint of the apparent jiva owning their thoughts, actions and experiences due to self-ignorance, as well as due to ignorance of Isvara as the Lord governing and conditioning its experiences, jivas “do exist” and whether they know it or not, they are subject to the karmic laws operating in the dharma field.
They are accountable for their actions, which will always produce either a good karma (a vasana conducive to a peaceful and contemplative mind) or a bad karma, which will disturb the mind with all kinds of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Therefore jiva must act! It must exercise its free will, either intelligently or not.
The ultimate goal behind all goals of life is to live a happy life free from psychological suffering, and the first step in that direction is to understand and assimilate the karmic and dharmic laws as presented in our scriptures. If our goal is self-realization and moksa we must begin by “conforming” our actions to dharma, we need to act in harmony with our fundamental goal, which is freedom from suffering, which is only possible by the removal of self-ignorance. We must act in the karma yoga spirit in order to develop enough purity of mind to understand the highest truth: there is no jiva-doer, no Isvara-Creator and no Maya. Consciousness is all there is and “I am That.”
Actions belong to the dimension of the “waves,” and a jiva must begin by doing appropriate and timely actions before his mind is prepared to understand that jiva is in truth limitless, formless, actionless, universal awareness, always whole, full and complete.
Vedanta does not say that jiva does not do actions or that jivas do not exist. Vedanta simply reveals that jivas are in truth (their fundamental nature), pure, limitless awareness, and that the “jiva” as the seemingly, small, limited and inadequate experiencing entity is but a thought – and a self-insulting, uncomfortable one.
I suggest you to contemplate these sentences and come back to me with more questions, as/when needed. Meanwhile, I will send you another email with other satsangs covering this topic.
Which of James’ books did you read? The Essence of Enlightenment? If so, I would suggest you to begin reading it again.
~ Love and best of luck