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Isvara Does Not Have an Agenda
Nick: Hi, Arlindo.
I hope all is well and that you’re having a great holiday season!
I have a follow-up question about Isvara, the Creator. My whole life I’ve naturally felt a strong connection with “the field” and mostly in a loving way, knowing it’s looking after me on some level. But then I read certain things in satsangs that make me question it. On one hand, Isvara is handling all of our “getting and keeping,” so I thought that meant there was no need to worry about the jiva, because it’s being taken care of?
Arlindo: Hello, Nick, good to hear from you again. Isvara indeed provides us with everything: the physical body, the pranas (vital energies), the mind, the intellect, etc. plus the field of action with all kinds of seemingly attractive objects for us to play with. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: “With the heart that knows no otherness, keep your mind in me alone, and I will take care of your getting and keeping.”
Krishna is not saying, “I will fulfill all your needs and desires regardless of the nature of your thoughts and actions” – or “I will provide you with punya karma even if your actions are in violation of dharma.” No, Krishna rather reminds Arjuna, a dedicated qualified inquirer with a great value for dharma, that the only source of security, joy and true satisfaction is to be found in Self-knowledge, in “Krishna,” a beautiful symbol of the Self.
Isvara is not going to take “good” care of the jiva unless jiva takes “good” care of itself and the field. If jiva truly understands Isvara, he/she will “conform” its mind and actions to Isvara’s natural laws (dharma), and by doing so will develop an attitude of love and appreciation for the gift of life. In return, Isvara as the dharma field will take good care of the jiva – and that does not mean that jiva will be granted only favorable karma. But the trick is that when the mind is resolved in Isvara and/or the Self, all is good; it is good when it is good and it is good when it is not good, just like Ramji often says.
Nick: But then I read it’s completely impersonal, only looking after the needs of the total and does not care about our personal likes/dislikes. Then maybe I need to get cancer so that jobs are created for doctors? If that helps more people than it hurts?
Arlindo: Yes, Nick. Isvara is an impersonal system. It is a conscious, intelligent being – it is the reflection of pure consciousness on “sattva-pradana-prakriti.” In simple words, Isvara is made out of pure knowledge-intelligence (sattva). It contains the knowledge to project, maintain and recycle all universes. It is all-knowing. But Isvara is not a super jiva; it is not an experiencing entity. It is a system, a living, self-conscious computer program.
And if we get cancer, it only means that, from the perspective of karma, it is perfect for us to get cancer (someone must get it). Isvara’s intelligence makes no mistake, and Isvara’s computer will never be afflicted by a virus or any other malfunctioning, and this is not blind faith, but pure logic based on the understanding of the laws operating in mithya.
If we look at things objectively, we will accept that more people need to die these days – we are too many on this planet – so Isvara keeps producing new viruses, bacteria and deadly diseases as an attempt to bring our population back into balance again. That’s what it means to be impersonal and in favor of the overall needs of the total.
Nick: Even though I’m trying to learn to take a stand in awareness as awareness, with the understanding the jiva isn’t actually real, I still wake up in this skin every day. So while I’m developing the necessary dispassion, I still do care what happens to the jiva, which I’m witnessing 24-7. I have a “like” for being relatively happy, relatively safe, relatively healthy, progressing spiritually, protecting my family, my artistic output, etc. and I thought God was looking after me, maybe even guiding me at times to help keep me intact? I thought prayer had some real power?
Arlindo: There is still some mutual superimposition between satya and mithya in your understanding. You had better make a stand in awareness as awareness, but then you need to think and act as a “wise jiva” and in mithya, of course. It is the realization “I am awareness” that makes the “apparent” jiva wise.
The jnani awakes in the morning and allows the jiva to go about performing actions according to its dharma, BUT from the platform of Self-knowledge. The Self-realized has its preferences, but it is not really concerned with having things his or her way but having things according to the will of the Lord.
Yes, prayer and dharmic actions dedicated to Isvara are very powerful indeed. They will effortlessly and naturally produce spiritual growth.
Nick: But if Isvara the Creator is completely indifferent to our likes/dislikes, then God’s grace only exists if you have good karma? And any kind of prayer or devotion would just be a powerless exercise? Otherwise, if you were a jerk in a past life you’re just a sitting duck waiting for Isvara to dish out the pain?? Am I missing the point here? How do I then let go and let Isvara drive my life if it’s not actually looking out for my jiva’s life on any personal level? That sort of increases my attachment to the jiva, like I better look out for Nick if nothing else is.
Arlindo: All results of actions are God’s grace, or “prasad,” because Isvara does not have an agenda; it is not interested in rewarding or punishing anyone. If prarabdha karma is adverse to one’s likes and dislikes, that is Isvara delivering our prarabdha and signaling the jiva that something in his understanding and actions needs to be revised and adjusted. If adversities come due to some past deeds, so be it. We all need to pay our debts, even if it goes back to a past incarnation which we do not remember. The most important thing is what I can do now in order to pay my debts, to purify my mind, to grow.
Your questions are genuine, Nicky, and your mind is good. To understand Isvara and jiva and their relationship in relation to jagata and pure awareness is the key to liberation. This is all very subtle discrimination and usually requires a little time and some good work.
Jiva is only a sentient object among an infinity of others in mithya – all governed by Isvara. But jiva is not separate from Isvara.
Isvara is the macro reflection of pure consciousness – jiva is a micro reflection of pure consciousness. Isvara is all-knowing and omnipresent. Jiva is limited by knowledge, time, space and qualities. Jiva exists within the scope of Isvara’s “apparent” existence. Jiva and Isvara both exist within the scope of pure consciousness, the only reality. Jiva, Isvara and awareness are intimately intertwined. It is not very easy to separate them in our understanding, but it is doable and absolutely necessary for moksa.
Nick: I’ve had some satsangs with Sundari as well; she thinks I might still have a bit of a Christian overlay in my understanding of Isvara. This might be true, but I really don’t look at God as something separate from me, nor have I ever, even before I stumbled on Vedanta. And I never did believe the way most Christians view things. I have been recently hired as a guitarist in a black church, and if you’ve ever experienced it, it’s pretty wild. People getting “saved,” speaking in tongues, the whole nine yards. Beautiful music though!! As much as I think it’s kind of a big show, I’ve been trying to see it as a sort of bhakti. After all, I guess they are worshipping the Self, just in the form of Christ. But I guess I’m trying to bridge my understanding and to have real devotion or faith in Isvara. I’d hate to think it’s completely indifferent to my jiva’s well-being?
Arlindo: Keep doing the good work: reading, studying, reflecting, contemplating the teachings of Vedanta. The more you give into it the more you will profit. Isvara gives us everything! The miracle of life itself is Isvara’s gift: our body, mind, intellect, etc. are all gifts from the Lord. And Isvara provides us with “free will” so that we may choose to get properly educated, take responsibility for our actions, grow up, grow wise and grow out of samsara. It is all a very well-designed play.
Nick: But since my jiva is Isvara’s instrument, it would be logical to think it does care about and look after me? Does it only look after our primal basic needs, like food/shelter? What about protecting us from awful tragedies that would stand in our way of doing our dharma? Is it just wishful thinking to believe God is a protector?
Arlindo: Isvara is only the living “knowledge system” designed to provide us with a field of action in which we work our karma so that we can grow in peace of mind, love, and understanding of the true nature of reality. Is that not a benevolent being?
Nick: And I do understand it might be tough love sometimes, like you need a knock on the head sometimes to grow. But if it’s totally based on karma, it sort of feels like we’re all “sitting ducks.” I hope I’ve worded this the right way. I really do want to work on my devotion/love toward Isvara, but I have an intellectual temperament, so it needs to feel logical. I’m sure it’s possible I’m projecting my own fears onto the teachings.
Arlindo: You just need to do a little more work, my friend. I am inclined to believe that you have a devotional temperament, but like me, you are not interested in blind faith. You are a good thinker and with a good heart – and we are not like “sitting ducks,” we are not powerless or helpless. We were given free will, the scriptures on Self-knowledge, our intellectual faculty and, most importantly, we are enlivened by pure consciousness, our independent, limitless nature/identity. We have got everything going for us, Nick. Contemplate, and please, feel free to stay in touch. I hope it can be of help.
~ Much love, Arlindo