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Paul: Hello, James and Sundari!
I’ve been reading your books and watching your videos for two or three years now.
Thank you for unfolding these teachings. What a great service!
If or when you have the time, I have a couple of doubts that could use some clarification.
Alright, here it goes:
1. On the relationship between subject and objects
I am limitless conscious existence – and while the world is created from this existence that I am, it is neither limitless nor conscious. Therein lies the difference between the two orders of the non-dual Self.
Would you say the statement above is correct? Or do you think there’s a better way to word it in order to properly contemplate the satya-mithya relationship?
Sundari: The ability to discriminate between satya and mithya 100% of the time is moksa, and it is very subtle and counter-intuitive. Understanding the relationship between consciousness, Isvara/Maya and the jiva is the key.
The statement of yours above is correct, talking as the Self. You cannot say that the Self is conscious, because to say something is conscious implies an object that it is conscious of. Since the Self is non-dual, it is not conscious, because there are no objects for it – it “sees” only itself, pure consciousness. Yet without the presence of consciousness, no sentience/consciousness is possible. The Self is limitless – but you need to understand what limitless means. Limitless means consciousness does not modify to experience, i.e. never changes, is never affected by what happens to the jiva.
However, if you are talking as the jiva, Isvara is pure consciousness plus Maya. When Maya is operating, there is something for consciousness to be conscious of, i.e. the Creation. At this point consciousness apparently surrenders its status as consciousness and becomes a conscious Creator. So from pure consciousness/existence’s point of view, Isvara is just Maya, an inert mirror (pratibimba) in which all created objects appear – the reflected medium in which jivas can experience their karma. But from jiva’s point of view, Isvara is the conscious, intelligent designer, creator, supporter and destroyer of the Creation.
When Maya appears, rajas and tamas are suppressed, and consciousness appears as pure intelligence endowed with the blueprint for the Creation and all the powers necessary to construct the apparent reality according to the specifications of the blueprint. It wields Maya just a potter wields his or her idea of the pot to create a pot. When tamas comes to the fore, the material world evolves, and when rajas comes to the fore, the myriad jivas appear.
The jiva is awareness plus sattva, rajas and tamas. And because the light of consciousness shines on the jiva, it too appears conscious, but it too is reflected consciousness. But because tamas and rajas predominate, the jiva is ignorant of its nature and takes itself to be one among many. So the jiva is under the spell of Maya, whereas Isvara controls Maya and is never under its spell. Speaking as Isvara, Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “By my Maya, I delude all these beings.”
Paul: Is Isvara only capable of stealing one-third of my nature (existence) to conjure up his nonsense?
Sundari: This statement makes no sense at all. How can Isvara steal your nature when your common identity as a jiva is consciousness/existence? There are no parts to the Self/consciousness/existence, so how can existence take up a third? A third of what? Those three terms are synonyms, not three different things.
The individual jiva is created by Isvara, but its essence is the same: consciousness. The definition of jiva is consciousness with a subtle body. Jiva is a principle, a tattva, not a specific person. It is actually pure consciousness, paramatma.
The point is, who is asking this question? Are you asking as the jiva identified as a person or as consciousness? Clearly, it’s the former.
There is essentially no difference between Jiva and Isvara except in their capacity to create. Because Isvara controls Maya, it creates the objective world, and jiva creates its subjective world, its world of thoughts and feelings – which also come from Isvara, the gunas. Isvara 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.
Isvara is not a person with likes and dislikes like the jiva. And neither Isvara’s Creation nor jiva’s creation hides consciousness. It is always present prior to the Creation and prior to the birth of individuals. You can’t have a macrocosmic Creation without consciousness. Something had to exist before Isvara could “bang” the Creation into existence. That something we call paramatma, pure consciousness, free of both Isvara and jiva. If this is true, which we know it is, then we can eliminate both jiva and Isvara as real and take ourselves to be consciousness – the Self.
Consciousness (me) is never affected by Isvara’s Creation or by jiva’s creation. It is the knower of both.
Or you can look at it this way: it is clear that jiva is conscious; it is also clear that Isvara is conscious because the Creation is consciously designed. Inference tells us that, and inference is a valid means of knowledge. We do not have to meet Isvara in person (not that Isvara is a person) to know that it is conscious. So if the jiva’s consciousness depends on Isvara’s consciousness and Isvara’s consciousness depends on paramatma, pure consciousness, then both jiva and Isvara are pure, limitless consciousness. If you don’t depend on the world or on the person, you certainly can’t be either one of them. An effect (jiva) is just the cause (Isvara) appearing in a form.
We can’t apply the same logic to Isvara except loosely, because consciousness does not “cause” Isvara. Isvara in association with Maya, Beautiful Intelligent Ignorance, is something altogether different. Isvara is not an effect but it is a cause with reference to the Creation. As you correctly stated in your first statement, there is only one consciousness out of which everything arises and depends upon. But consciousness is always free of the objects. Consciousness is adjata, unborn. Vedanta is the path of the unborn because it reveals that although there appears to be a creation, nothing ever really happened, from consciousness’ point of view.
The world we know is called “apparently real” because it is not always present and always changing – it is mithya. As long as the apparent entity or the jiva is still embodied in the apparent reality, enlightened or not, it is subject to Isvara, the Creator. We know the world is not real because when you analyze it, it resolves into empty space, and space resolves into consciousness as far as you cannot know space without consciousness. It is an object known to you. There is just you, consciousness, in which the jiva, or person, appears in a particular a priori environment, i.e. Isvara.
The jiva looks out through the body, identifies with the senses, perceives a world and thinks that it is seeing what is actually there. It knows it didn’t create it, but it sees itself as separate, incomplete, so chases objects to complete itself.
Paul: I understand the Self is not made up of parts, and limitlessness/consciousness and existence are the same thing. But this framework seems helpful in understanding how objects are the Self, but how the Self is forever free from objects (I can’t recall if I got it from James or read it in some other Vedanta text – I may also have gotten it wrong).
Sundari: I am not sure which framework you are referring to, because you are not clear about consciousness nor the relationship between consciousness, Isvara and jiva as is clear from some of your statements above. However, that the Self is forever free of objects is Vedanta 101, and indeed you would have heard that from James if you were paying attention.
Paul: 2. On love versus Self-knowledge
What does love have to do with Self-knowledge? Isn’t it just an object appearing in me, like every other emotion?
Sundari: It depends what you mean by love. If you know that love is your nature, then it is not an object of knowledge but your essence – that which cannot be removed or changed. If you think love is just a feeling, then it is an object appearing in you, like all feelings, subject to change.
Most seekers are unable to connect the idea of the Self as consciousness and the Self as love. There is a logical connection: if reality is non-dual consciousness as Vedanta contends and if love exists – which it does – then there can be no difference between love and consciousness.
The simple, practical connection between love and consciousness is attention. To say that I love my child means that I pay attention to him or her. I feed them, cuddle and think about them constantly. If I do not pay attention to my child, my husband or wife, he or she will not feel love but neglected, unloved. Attention is consciousness directed through the Heart toward an object.
The fact that I am always paying attention to something means that I am always loving something. But we are conditioned to believe that love is a special state of feeling, although it isn’t. It does not come from objects, because it is my nature, although come objects invoke it.
Love is the natural attraction of the mind towards objects which it believes are a source of happiness. I “love” chocolate because it gives me happiness. In the case of material objects, we generally use the word “like,” whereas in the case of living beings we use the word “love,” but there is no difference.
There is nothing “wrong” with loving objects, particularly if the love is informed with the knowledge that all objects are the Self. But love of objects without Self-knowledge is defective, because you will believe that the object can make you happy, give you something you do not have, which no object is capable of doing. Love of objects is not eternal and prone to its opposite, duality being what it is.
The definition of love from the jiva’s point of view is “mental attraction to an object that is a source of joy.” Attraction to objects is object-love. Attraction to one’s Self is non-dual love. Ignorance of this fact causes us to project love onto objects, believing they will make us complete. The feeling of completeness we feel through an object is actually the experience of love, your Self. The knowledge that your completeness is not dependent on objects is liberation. It is the acute realization and appreciation of the fact that “I am love and need nothing to complete me.”
Paul: To me, love implies that there’s a doer involved and, to make matters worse, it is heavily attached to an object. Isn’t that the very opposite of moksa?
Sundari: See above. It all depends on who you identified with and what you are seeking. If you are running after an object to complete you and you think you are a doer, this is the opposite of moksa.
If you love love, you love the Self because the Self is love. Passion for an object, particularly a person, is not love, even though desire is a form of love. But if you look into it you will discover that when you love someone or something it is your Self – the love – in the object that you love. You do not know that when you contact the object that you are only contacting yourself, THE Self. The object invokes the love you are.
The joy is never in the object. Because of ignorance of this fact, you become attached to the idea that you need the object, usually a living being of some sort, to complete you. This kind of “love” is thought to be love, but it is ignorance masquerading as love – and yes, you would be wise to avoid this trap.
Paul: If the above is true, then shouldn’t a jnani, to use a favorite expression of mine, run from love like a bat out of hell? I just don’t understand this one!
Sundari: Yes, it is clear that you do not. How can you run from love if it is your nature as the non-dual Self? If you are identified with being a jiva, then what you need to run from is the IDEA that you need an object to complete you, because you will never find satisfaction that way. Your confusion is your lack of understanding of who you are as the Self and who you are as a jiva, i.e. satya-mithya confusion. It’s a tough one! Have you read James’ book The Yoga of Love? I highly recommend it, along with all his other books. Inquiry into Existence is the book to read in order to understand Isvara/Maya/jiva. It is an advanced text and must be read slowly.
~ Love, Sundari