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You Are the Stateless, Not a State
Johnson: Three years ago (after years of listening to Neo-Advaita teachers – I am only 25), I gladly found James on the Web, read his book and for the first time had real clarity about the Self and experienced its effects in my life.
Arlindo: That says something about you, Johnson; at such early age, and you are already in contact with Vedanta and a highly qualified Vedanta teacher. Great punya karma!
Johnson: Vedanta says that I am already whole, complete, ordinary, timeless, limitless, ever-present consciousness. This I have seen clearly many times – which produced immense joy and fulfillment in my body-mind (the reflected self, I guess).
Arlindo: The mind is a mirror-like principle that produces the “reflected self” commonly known as jiva, the experiencing entity. The body-mind construct is Isvara’s instrument to experience joy, fullness, limitlessness, etc. Self-knowledge indeed produces a subtle but constant underlying experience of joy, fullness, confidence, contentment, satisfaction, love, etc.
Johnson: It was such an immense relief for me: knowing that I am already the love, the joy, the bliss, the completeness that I am searching for in the world! I really had such a strong faith, trust and knowing of the scripture of Vedanta and saw clearly its effects.
Arlindo: All is great and there is no need for a “but.”
Johnson: “But” now I am very confused after reading a book by Ken Wilber. He says that there are four different transcendental states: first the psychic, then the subtle, then the causal, and at the end and pervading all of them the non-dual state (which is not a state but more the field, consciousness, spirit, in which everything appears).
Arlindo: Maybe he wants to rewrite Isvara’s Vedic teachings to call it his teaching. Many people do that. It is not enough for them to simply unfold the teachings in their purity and integrity.
There are three suborders of reality within mithya: the causal, the subtle and material/phyisical (at least to jiva’s perceptive organs). These suborders of mithya can be experienced by the jiva in its three states as: vishwa, the awaker; taijasa, the dreamer; prajna, the deep sleeper. The three apparent jivas “ordinarily” enjoy their respective apparent worlds.
However, there is a “factor” which is “not” a state of experience, which pervades and enlivens the jiva and its three mental “states.” This factor is called awareness, or consciousness. Awareness is not transcendental, and much less transcendental are jiva’s three mental states. There is no question of transcendence in spirituality. All is only ordinary jiva’s daily experiences. “Transcendental” is a bad word, which some people like to use to impress others and sell them the idea that they should “do” something to be “transferred” or moved from bondage to freedom. Furthermore, states are objects; you are the subject, the “knower” of all states.
Johnson: Wilber also says that one can have glimpse of the non-dual awareness. But after that one still has to go through all stages of the transpersonal and integrate them. This is what – in my opinion – contradicts Vedanta and what really confuses me.
Arlindo: You said it! His language is not clear and therefore conducive to misleading notions. Jiva cannot experience non-duality. The only game available in mithya is duality. Even nirvikalpa samadhi is an experience in duality. A glimpse of the non-dual awareness as an object is an experience; however fleeting it may be, it is still an experience. Self-knowledge is only possible by the means of knowledge alone, not experience.
One may have sattvic moments of clear apprehension of the non-dual nature of the Self “as oneself,” but this conviction of knowledge may not be present at some other times. In this case we say that Self-knowledge is not yet hard and fast (firm and always present).
Usually what prevent the mind retaining Self-knowledge at all times are one’s mental impurities or, in other words, one’s binding vasanas. Most of us have direct Self-knowledge, but in order to be able to appreciate and enjoy this knowledge at all times we need to keep up with our shravana, manana, nididhyasana until Self-knowledge grows roots into the three bodies and the three states.
Johnson: Also, many traditions say that one has to have a solid understanding and integration of the three states before one can know about the non-dual. Wilber says that in many traditions one has to already have integrated the psychic, subtle and causal before even thinking or mentioning the non-dual state. This also contradicts Vedanta. Which one is true?
Arlindo: You tell me. On which knowledge do you want to build your life? Isvara’s revealed knowledge or jiva’s independent personal philosophies (knowledge mixed up with ignorance)? Again, you are not a “state.” You are the stateless, changeless, actionless, limitless, timeless, ordinary, pure consciousness in which all states (modifications) occur. You are “nirvikaraha,” not subject to modifications, or states.
You only need to understand it clearly, and with full conviction retain this knowledge with the same certainty you have that you are a human being and not a chair. Naturally, some hardwired, beginningless, ignorance-based vasanas will create a bit of trouble at first and insist on “suggesting” that you change, etc.
You – pure, limitless consciousness – are not an experiencing entity with a special state of consciousness. Only the mind goes through different states depending on the various combinations of the gunas and the elements. My advice is that you stay away from independent philosophies, especially the one’s presenting Brahman/awareness as a transcendental or transpersonal “state.” Such dualistic notions invariably keep the seeker bound to what we may call “spiritual samsara,” the world of ever-changing subtle objects of experience.