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Inspiration and Devotion to Isvara
Mike: Hi, Arlindo, I hope that you’re doing well and enjoying the summer! As you suggested, I’ve done more study of the scriptures and tried to go over the teachings a little bit more thoroughly. I’m still struggling with a couple of core concepts, so I thought I would run them by you. I appreciate your help! Sorry if my questions are seemingly redundant.
The idea of God/Isvara still trips me up. On the one hand, we are told to dedicate all our actions to the field, and to perform them with an attitude of gratitude and love toward God, since all is a gift. Yet we also learn that Isvara is not real, only an idea appearing in awareness. So doesn’t that make God “as good as non-existent”?
Arlindo: Hello, Mike, good to hear from you again. The ultimate truth is that “mithya” is not “really” real but a persistent appearance, and what is mithya but Maya/Isvara, jiva, and jagatha (the universe)? There is no contradiction between karma yoga and jnana yoga, between satya and mithya. Karma yoga and its spiritual/religious aspect, devotion and reverence to Isvara, is mainly designed to prepare/purify the mind so that it understands jnana yoga, the knowledge that mithya is in truth only satya, the only reality.
Having said so, Isvara 2 (the apparent creator, maintainer and destroyer of the apparent universe) is of fundamental importance in this process of mental purification, since above all IT is the karma phala data (that which delivers the result of all actions of all apparent jivas).
Jiva is not “really” real, but it exists and unless it gains an apparent “hard and fast” self-knowledge, it for the most part suffers its apparent experiences. But the good news is that Isvara 2, having realized that the apparent jivas have no way on their own to free themselves from self-ignorance and psychological suffering, IT revealed to us the complete Vedic knowledge in which jnana yoga is presented, but “only” at its very end.
God indeed exists in mithya as mithya, and God is pure intelligence and knowledge made manifest, It is totally good, although It is fundamentally not “really” real, since pure consciousness, or awareness, is the only reality, the fundamental independent essence of mithya. Without God, the jiva has no way to come out of the labyrinth we call samsara. All scriptural Vedic knowledge was created by God/Isvara, and for the human jivas alone. It is the only way out.
Mike: Or should I look at pure awareness (brahman) more as the ultimate God? How do you feel gratitude and love for something that’s as good as non-existent? If all is awareness and I am that, aren’t I just feeling gratitude toward myself? In that case, is gratitude a purely false dualistic idea that doesn’t have any basis in reality? It feels somewhat uninspiring. At the same time, it seems like this idea of real versus non-real takes a lot of “credit” away from the miracle of Creation that we get to participle in. Or am I attaching unnecessary negativity to the idea of mithya/Maya/Isvara/God? I know the jiva is going to exist there no matter what.
Arlindo: The ultimate bhakti is the bhakti for the Self as your own self. Ramji refers to it as non-dual love or non-dual bhakti. We may also call it jnana bhakti (devotion to self-knowledge). To answer your question, yes, pure awareness is the ultimate God, or in other words, Isvara 1, the fundamental essence of the apparent Isvara 2.
As far as not finding inspiration to love Isvara 2 goes, you may be surprised to know that all inspiration you enjoy, including the one for your musical performances, comes from Isvara 2. The Lord is the source of all inspiration, and yet you say that you find no inspiration to love and appreciate God. How strange! Such is the power of Maya.
Love and gratitude for Isvara 2 is only “half” of the equation of karma yoga. The first half is “knowledge” (Isvara-knowledge), the knowledge of Isvara and the laws by which the Lord governs the entire universe, and most importantly to us, the experience of all jivas.
The second “half” is the religious attitude of love, reverence and devotion to Isvara without which the ego and its sense of “control” and “doership” will not allow the development of the necessary qualifications for self-knowledge. Knowledge and devotion to Isvara 2 are the two sides of the coin – it is the key to self-knowledge. Karma yoga is not optional but compulsory.
And you answer your own question when you say, “Or am I attaching unnecessary negativity to the idea of mithya/Maya/Isvara/God? I know the jiva is going to exist there no matter what.” Yes, jiva will always exist in mithya, the apparent reality. It continues to exist even after self-knowledge is firmly established in his/her intellect. Therefore there is no point in negating mithya’s existence. After all freedom is freedom “for” the jiva. The self is always ever-free.
Mike: When you say all is a gift, are you speaking only to the jiva? To awareness nothing is really a gift, right? Because everything is just me? And I’m supposed to be taking a stand in awareness as awareness. So where is there room for pure love/gratitude other than just as an exercise? I think what’s happening is in my inquiry I’m left with a feeling of dullness toward life and the world, and I’m sure that’s not what it’s attended to do. So I feel I might be missing a core understanding. I know dispassion is good, but dullness, non-appreciation I’m sure is not.
Arlindo: You got it, Mike. The dullness (tamas) is coming from your non-understanding of the distinction between satya and mithya, reality and the apparent reality. In most cases, the apparent jiva can only realize its “real nature” once it fully understands mithya.
Taking a stand in awareness as awareness is the final step, karma yoga is the preparation for that step. Once you understand Isvara 2 and stop struggling with IT, all is going to make sense to you and the dullness you experience will be replaced with love and gratitude for your apparent life as a jiva.
Mike: Also, with karma yoga, is mindfulness a big piece of the puzzle? I understand it’s performing action with detachment to the results. I understand it’s performing the action with real love and gratitude toward God and my surroundings (which also relates to my first question). But when it’s mindless tasks, like going for a walk, reading a book to my son, driving a car, watching a movie, listening to music for enjoyment, is it part of the puzzle to do just that action alone without falling in to past or future? Is this mind control? Even when the action is purely intended for enjoyment? My mind often goes immediately to desire, work, rajas sometimes, unless I make a point of being mindful. Are their any mantras for karma yoga you suggest to acquire more stillness and appreciation? How to have the karma yoga attitude while taking a stand in awareness as awareness and seeing the world and everything in it as not real and as good as not existent?