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Facts about Jiva and Moksa
1. Jiva is a principle, a tattva, not a specific person. The definition of Jiva is a subtle body illumined by consciousness, called chidabasa. It is actually pure awareness, paramatma. The word “jiva” has two meanings; one is pure awareness, associated with a subtle body. Second, the conventional meaning for jiva is a person or individual – jiva with a small “j.” It is important not to confuse the two. When people say “individual,” they often think that awareness belongs to the person, not to awareness. Of course it cannot belong to the person, because the person comes and goes (think deep sleep). Awareness is the only permanent, constant factor.
2. The eternal Jiva has three levels of knowledge:
i). The jiva who thinks it is a person with a name, a history and an address. This jiva is called the doer, the one identified with objects (including all experience). Jivas who don’t know about awareness are called samsaris because they are caught up in the web of samsara, the apparent reality, or the hypnosis of duality.
ii). Second is the jiva who knows about awareness, but it does not know what it means to be awareness. This jiva has indirect knowledge of the Self and is often called a Self-realized jiva. This jiva has had an experience of being awareness but has not actualized Self-knowledge, so the knowledge is not firm and ignorance is still present. This is the one who re-identifies with objects or still seeks experience because the vasanas are still binding and doership has not been fully dissolved, therefore nididhyasana has not been completed.
iii). And finally, there is the jiva who has permanent direct knowledge, because he/she knows that their true identity IS awareness and they know what it means to be awareness, while still apparently manifesting as a jiva, or individual. This means that Self-knowledge translates fully into ALL aspects of the person’s life, no fine print. The Self no longer under the spell of ignorance or the person whose vasanas have been neutralized by Self-knowledge is said to be liberated or enlightened. The Bhagavad Gita says it is a person with “steady” Self-wisdom. We call it a Self-actualized jiva, or jivanmukta.
3. The eternal Jiva also manifests as three “little” jivas according to the state that it experiences:
i). As viswa, the waking-state entity. In this state, its mind is totally extroverted. It is hypnotized by duality. It chases and consumes experiences. Viswa appears in two forms: (a) free of identification with objects (a jivanmukta) or (b) as a doer (karta), or “person” identified with objects (a samsari)). Both a jivanmukta, a liberated person, and a samsari, a bound person, have a common identity as awareness
ii). As taijasa, the “shining one,” awareness with a subtle body, illumining the dream state. In the dream state the subtle body is turned inwards, facing the causal body, the vasanas. The experiences the dreamer has are just experiences of the vasanas. Jiva is not present in the dream state in the same way that it is present in the waking state. In the waking state, Jiva identifies with the doer so the doer is not seen as an object. It is thought to be the subject. In the dream state, there is also identification but the doer/ego can also appear as an object illumined by taijasa, awareness reflected on the subtle body. For instance, in the dream you can see the waker going about its business, walking, talking, eating, etc. The doer/ego is a dream doer/ego similar in some respects to viswa but with unique powers (like flying, being in two places at once, etc.). These powers are inherent in the dream state and do not belong to taijasa, although in normal dreams it identifies with them. The doer/ego and the events appearing in the dream are just waking-state events that have become vasanas that outpicture as dream events.
The dream state has two aspects: waking dream and sleep dream. It is called the pratibasika state, the subjective state of reality. It is jiva’s creation (sristi). It is an individual jiva’s interpretation of reality. In the dream state (whether the jiva is awake or asleep) vasanas influence how reality is interpreted by the jiva. Isvara provides the raw material for the interpretation, but not the interpretation itself. Ultimately it is all Isvara, but to get to that understanding (which is tantamount to moksa) the jiva must understand its oneness with Isvara and its difference from Isvara so that it can be free of both itself and Isvara.
iii). As the sleeper, prajna, in the deep-sleep state. Prajna means “almost enlightened.” It is almost enlightened because it experiences the limitlessness and bliss of awareness but lacks knowledge of what it is experiencing, because the intellect is not present in deep sleep – that is why the deep-sleep state is called blissful. Consciousness identified with the causal body is called prajna, or consciousness operating as the jiva, experiencing the macrocosmic causal body, i.e. the deep-sleeper. Prajna refers to awareness experiencing its own nature or bliss, i.e. the absence of objects because all vasanas are dormant in deep sleep, so there is no mental activity. The only objects present in deep sleep are ignorance and nothing, which are experienced and known through inference when the deep-sleeper wakes up. We use the three-states teaching to discriminate the Self from the jiva by removing all inconstant, variable or impermanent factors, revealing that the jiva is not real, because it is not always present and it is always changing. The waker disappears and becomes a dreamer; the dreamer disappears and becomes a deep-sleeper; the deep-sleeper disappears and becomes a dreamer or waker – etc. The only constant unchanging and invariable factor is the knower of all three states: consciousness.
Dreamless, or deep, sleep is known as the bliss sheath: ananda-maya-kosha. In moments when there seems to be no doer/experiencer, there must have been a witness who knows the joy/bliss. If not, how would the jiva, or deep-sleeper, know joy/bliss was there in the first place? How can the jiva say that it did not know anything while it was asleep unless awareness was there to witness the absence of knowledge? Therefore the deep-sleeper cannot be the lack of knowledge, or ignorance, the experiencing entity. Deep sleep is called experiential bliss because it ends like all experiences do. The bliss one is after if one is seeking moksa is the bliss of Self-knowledge, which never ends (anantum), because it is one’s true nature.
The subtle body (mind/personal subconscious) disappears in deep sleep state, as does the microcosmic causal body (personal subconscious); only the gross body remains. The personal subconscious belongs to the jiva and produces the jiva’s karma. The deep-sleep state is defined as “a state with no mental activity.” It is the same for everyone because the personal subconscious is subsumed into Isvara, the macrocosmic causal body. The macrocosmic causal body, another name for Isvara, is the deep-sleep state. Deep sleep is the presence of tamoguna alone. Rajas and sattva are dormant. There is no sense of individuality (ahamkara) in this state, because the subtle body of the individual is not there to be conditioned. The ahamkara belongs to the subtle body, therefore the deep-sleeper is called “almost enlightened”; there is a subtle vritti, called prajna, in deep sleep that makes the experience of bliss possible.
4. Although the nature of both the jiva and Isvara is awareness, both the jiva and Isvara are inconstant factors with reference to awareness. Isvara in the role of Creator is eternal with reference to the jiva but not with reference to pure awareness, paramatman, the constant factor. So Isvara is not real with reference to pure awareness, which is always present, whether the Creation is manifest or not – and even if it is, there is no Creation from awareness’s point of view, because being non-dual means just that – awareness sees only itself. It is the unchanging substrate, making the knower – Isvara as Creator – and the jiva, the apparent creation, possible. Jiva is inconstant, because it changes from state to state and because Self-knowledge removes the notion that it is a limited entity, revealing its nature to be pure awareness. Isvara in the role of Creator is inconstant, because logic and scripture, which is just science, informs us that it disappears at the end of the Creation cycle; whatever is created will be destroyed.
5. Therefore neither jiva nor Isvara as the Creator is real in that neither of them is always present. Although there is essentially no difference between the jiva and Isvara, because they share a common identity as awareness, there is a big difference in their capacities. As Creator, Isvara, is therefore only relatively real with reference to the jiva because although it is not modified by ignorance (the gunas), it only is manifest as long as there is an “apparent” reality. Though the Creation is not eternal, it lasts for an untold length of “time,” whereas the personal jiva exists but for a brief moment in “time.”
6. Jiva is a product of the three gunas, which arise from prakriti, the eternal blueprint of Creation which Maya activates to bring forth the Creation. Jiva is thus a mixture of sattva and tamas, spirit and matter, knowledge and ignorance – which equals rajas. Therefore consciousness plus rajas equals avidya, personal ignorance. If jiva came from pure sattva, it would be omniscient, like Isvara. If it came from pure tamas, it would be totally ignorant. The subtle body originates from sattva, the gross body from pure tamas. Without rajas to transform and activate the jiva blueprint, there would be no jiva.
7. As a result of rajas, limitless awareness/Self appears as a limited being, or jiva. It is the eternal individual, or Jiva, also called “the son of God,” or “soul,” as some people know it, though it appears as seemingly many unique jivas/egos. Deluded by Maya, the Self under the spell of ignorance, it identifies with the subtle body, the reflected medium, instead of itself, awareness. It thinks objects contain happiness and are separate from it. It suffers by chasing objects trying to complete itself through them.
8. The individual embodied Self, or jiva, is apparently conditioned by avidya, personal ignorance, or the jiva’s vasana load, which gives rise to the individual’s karma. It is multifaceted and complex due to the infinite combinations of the three gunas and the five sheaths that have many parts. This complexity gives rise to the unique personality of each jiva.
9. There is only one eternal Jiva, not infinite unique individuals. If jivas were truly all unique, Vedanta would not work to free anyone, as everyone would need a unique scripture just for them and duality could not be dismissed.
10. All jivas know they exist and are conscious, but unless Self-knowledge obtains they believe they are limited because of avidya, personal ignorance of their true nature.
11. Deluded by Maya, jiva is always confused by ignorance and knowledge, never knowing the difference between them. Everything becomes a problem.
12. Worry and fear of what will happen is the nature of all jivas because the jiva is not in control of the objects or the Field of Existence, and both are always changing. Jivas worry even when there is nothing to worry about because its destiny is not in its hands, although it thinks it is.
13. Because the jiva is driven by fear and desire, it develops binding likes and dislikes, which cause great suffering.
14. Driven by fear and desires, jiva is always running towards or away from something.
15. The jiva seeks happiness and wants to feel good because it knows happiness is natural to it. When it gets what it wants, it feels happy for a while, but it never lasts. Desire is painful, so jiva performs actions for results, to obtain or avoid objects, keeping a perpetual cycle of external seeking going.
16. Because the jiva is driven by rajas and tamas, it looks outwards into the ever-changing, unpredictable matrix of the Field for solutions instead of inwards to the ever-present, unchanging, silent Self – jivatman.
17. Because the mind is extroverted by rajas or dulled by tamas, when it does not get what it wants jiva acts to correct the situation instead of correcting its thinking.
18. Jiva has free will, so can perform right and timely action in keeping with dharma, maximizing the chances of getting what it wants. But without the knowledge that it is not the doer and results are not up to it, it will still suffer, even if it gets what it wants or avoids what it does not want, because no object/experience is capable of giving lasting happiness.
19. If the jiva becomes a proper karma yogi and lives dharmically, it can achieve a reasonably happy life even without Self-knowledge. But it can never be totally free of limitation and bondage to objects (moksa) without firm and direct Self-knowledge.
20. When the body dies, the subtle body is subsumed into the causal body, just as it is during deep sleep. If the karma and vasana load of that jiva (its psychology) are not resolved at death, it remains with the subtle body, but the personality of the jiva dies with the death of the body. The subtle body is jivatman, and it is eternal, whereas the body is just inert matter and returns to Isvara when it dies, to be recycled in some way. That particular subtle body may or may not transmigrate into another incarnation, which will have the same vasana load/karma but not the same personality. There will be no continuation of memory. But when we talk about reincarnation, the question we must ask is, who is it that is reborn? The Self never incarnates, is never born or dies, so it cannot be the Self. Vedanta says that rebirth is simply identification with vasanas, which also come and go. The subtle body is called the traveller because it is believed that it transmigrates “between lives” as the vasanas that are stored in the causal body sprout due to the karma of that particular vasana load. Identification with objects can only take place when awareness has a aubtle body. No thought happens without the subtle and gross body being present. Outside of the dharma field there is no causality and no influence of the gunas, as all is in seed form waiting for the right moment to sprout. And the right moment is determined by the dharma field and all the forces and laws that run it. Therefore all that gets “reborn” are the eternal vasanas.
21. Moksa is only for the jiva who lives in the apparent reality; there is no moksa for the Self, because it was never bound by ignorance. When we say moksa is for the jiva, it means freedom from and for the jiva, i.e. moksa is the ability to discriminate the Self from the jiva.
22. A common myth in the spiritual world is that enlightenment is another object to obtain, and when it is, the jiva will be different, better. It may or may not be. As the jiva is a product of the gunas, which are forever changing, it belongs to and is always subject to Isvara. The jiva is never going to be perfect. It is pointless to try and change the jiva. How can you change something that is unreal or, for that matter, something that is real? The jiva is made the way it is. But that does not mean that it is comfortable to live with it when it has binding vasanas that agitate the mind and it believes it is the doer, both of which are the root cause of all suffering.
Although moksa is not about improving the jiva, Self-knowledge does improve it as a natural “side” effect. But removing ignorance of your true nature does not mean that you change as a person or that you must become perfect or “holy.” The person is fine the way they are; they just have an ignorance problem. They do not need to be perfected. All that must be purified are the binding vasanas and the sense of doership that stand in the way of permanent peace of mind obscuring access to firm Self-knowledge. Isvara does not need perfecting either; the world is perfect the way it is, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. When Self-knowledge is firm and discrimination between satya (the ever-present, unchanging Self) and mithya (the always changing and not always present jiva) is automatic, you accept Isvara as dharma and adharma, and understand that “evil” is caused by the misapprehension of Isvara, by ignorance alone and not by any person, by Isvara, or by “God.”
23. To be free of the jiva you first must first understand (not own) its conditioning in light of the gunas, in other words, in light of Isvara. This is no easy task and where all the “work” of self-inquiry really takes place.
But as awareness you are always free of the jiva; you know it arises from and depends on you and not the other way around. With Self-knowledge life makes sense and it is possible to see beauty all the time, even when things are not (apparently) pretty for the jiva. The aim of self-inquiry is for the jiva to enjoy life; you keep the mind polished and pure because a healthy, sane and happy jiva is a great contribution to the total, to life, to your life, to everyone around you – and of course, most importantly, to yourself.
24. When moksa does obtain, which means that Self-knowledge has removed all ignorance, the jiva will still have its Isvara-given character and tendencies, but they will not be binding. They will be like burnt ropes with no power to bind. This does not offer immunity to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The jivanmukta still feels joy, pain, loss, grief, etc. but it will not be fractured by them. The jiva can still project its subjective reality (pratibasika) onto Isvara. The difference with a jivanmukta (liberated jiva) is that it knows when it is projecting, instantly dissolves the projection in the knowledge and so is instantly free of it. This is how to manage the gunas so that we maintain peace of mind, sattva. In this way, we do not create any new karma but keep it like a little dog on a very short leash, right in front of us, no karmic drag, ever, no unfinished business or drama. Every moment of every day is complete. There is never another person involved in our interactions and transactions in the world of objects/experience. The jivanmukta knows in the moment that it is transacting only with itself because there is no “other.” There is only awareness, the Self.
25. A big problem in the spiritual world is that seekers believe that Self-realization or enlightenment (moksa) will make the person limitless. It will not. The liberated person, the Self-realized person and the samsari have a common identity as awareness.The person never leaves the apparent reality and the apparent reality is limited. As awareness, you are and always have been limitless. As the person, you are and always will be limited. Knowing this takes so much pressure off the jiva because there is no need to make it conform to some silly “spiritual” ideal. It is just known and loved for what it is: a reflection of the Self in a mirror, which is also the Self.
26. The jiva does not change “after” moksa. When you can discriminate satya from mithya 100% of the time, you never again confuse the jiva with the Self. But all the same, even though you are trigunaatita and have transcended the gunas, Isvara’s Creation carries on as it always does. However, the fine print on the enlightenment certificate (that many don’t read) is that there really is no “post”-moksa stage for the jiva, even though as awareness you are moksa and not the jiva. As Vedantins we never stop “working” on the jiva even though we do not censure it or expect it to change. We unfailingly follow dharma, personal and universal, without question, but not because we want to improve the jiva but only because we want to enjoy the priceless benefits of a peaceful mind.
27. What does change with moksa? We never stop experiencing but once Self-knowledge is firm, we know that all experience is mithya, the “good” and the “bad.” There is no experience, no matter how exalted, that lasts. All experiences end, therefore are not real. We know that as samsaris deluded by Maya, jiva does not experience objects. Jivas only ever experience their vasanas. When Self-knowledge has removed avidya, we no longer chase experience, because we are not bound by “our” vasanas. We know the futility of this because we know objects are incapable of giving us what we really want. What’s more, the belief that something outside of us will give us what we want and complete us will strip us of what we do have (self-confidence, self-esteem, peace of mind, etc.), leaving us empty and suffering. Self-knowledge will not change our experience except indirectly over time, because we no longer identify with it or need a “particular” or “special” experience.
28. While it is true that once Self-knowledge has obtained in the mind there is a definite “shift” in how we see life and relate to objects, it is also true that the nididhyasana stage never really ends for the jiva, because it is always changing and interacting with the Field of Existence, which is also always changing. The price of freedom for the jiva enlightened or not is eternal vigilance. Macrocosmic ignorance (Maya) does not end when personal ignorance (avidya) ends. The jiva is always limited by Maya (although no longer conditioned by it) even though its essence is known to be limitless awareness. If this were not true, the jiva would become Isvara “after” moksa, which clearly and irrefutably is not the case.
29. Duality does not disappear when you know that it is just a superimposition on non-duality, like the mirage on the desert floor, even though you know it is a mirage (you can still see it), but you don’t take it to be real. Duality or ignorance is only a problem when you don’t know what it is, taking ignorance to be knowledge.
30. Self-aggrandizement of any kind cannot exist for the jiva if moksa is to obtain. As soon as the ego takes the credit the doer is back and so is limitation and bondage. We call this enlightenment sickness, and it is common. The ego can survive moksa, and when this happens it is always a case of ignorance in some form still present in the mind, usually in the form of deeply rooted and unconscious patterns of behaviour (samskaras or pratibandikas). A mind that “gets it” very quickly may not have mastered all the qualifications for moksa to obtain permanently in the mind. A humble mind dedicated to Self-inquiry that carefully and steadfastly plods along, diligently subjecting the mind to the scripture and practising nididhyasana often “gets there” sooner. Of course there is nowhere to get to, because you are already there and Self-inquiry is not a journey.
Once the mind is purified of duality, humility is its natural response to everything in its environment (Isvara) because it understands there is only itself, awareness. It no longer sees “otherness” even though it observes the jiva still apparently experiencing it. Duality is understood and appreciated for what it is – enjoyed even. But as it is not expected to deliver something it is incapable of doing, i.e. happiness, duality is never a problem for the jivanmukta.
31. Moksa does not mean experiential bliss. When moksa has obtained, one may and usually does feel experiential bliss regularly, but one does not depend on it, because you know you are the bliss. The bliss of knowledge does not feel like anything. Experiential bliss is an object known to you, and you are always blissful, whether or not experiential bliss is present. This bliss has nothing to do with how the jiva feels. In fact you could be sick, in pain, half-dead, broke, jobless or stuck in a situation you do not enjoy but cannot change and be totally blissful because who you are is not influenced by what is or is not going on in your environment. You feel blissful regardless of what is going on in the mind.
32. Nididhyasana, Self-actualization, living the knowledge as a free jiva, is quite another matter from Self-realization, which is the experiential realization of awareness. Moksa, or non-dual vision, is complete and permanent understanding of how the Field of Existence operates – the forces that create it, the gunas (and how they govern the creation of all vasanas) and the natural laws that run it: samanya dharma (big picture), visesa dharma (how the individual relates to big picture/Isvara) and svadharma (inborn nature and tendencies of individual). A jivanmukta by definition will have resolved all its conditioning through contemplation, assimilation of the knowledge and transformation of its habitual patterns (vasanas/samskaras/pratibandikas, i.e. its conditioning) through Self-knowledge into devotion to the Self.
33. And finally, what does dismissing the jiva entail? The jiva never disappears and will remain as Isvara made it, for the most part – even with moksa – and we must love it unconditionally. Nevertheless, satya and mithya is duality if you think the jiva is as real as the Self. Taking a stand as the Self means the jiva is as good as non-existent. You are Self. You are not The Self and the jiva. So when jiva appears, dismiss it.