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Self-Knowledge Negates the Jiva
Inquirer: Hi, Arlindo. I hope you are well. Thanks to you and especially to James and Sundari for so generously sharing the teachings of Vedanta. I feel very blessed to have had it come into my life! I have read several of James’ books (The Yoga of Love; The Yoga of Three Energies; How to Attain Enlightenment) and Sundari’s The Yoga of Relationships, and go back to them often. I’ve also read many of the satsangs and continue to do so, as well as watching James’ videos on YouTube. Recently, I’ve started a more regular Vedanta study and am now reading Tattva Bodha.
Arlindo: Hello, dear inquirer. These are all good practices – especially the videos. The more you expose your mind to the teachings the more rapidly your Self-knowledge will grow. Clearing your doubts with the help of a competent teacher is also a very important part in one’s sadhana. We are all blessed to have come to Vedanta, the highest spiritual teachings available to the jiva. It is our good merit that attracted the teaching and the teacher to us.
Inquirer: I keep having confusion about some areas, which I know are dealt with in the books I’ve mentioned above, but some misunderstandings are just persistent! I’d be very grateful if you could help me untangle my thoughts about the following. I’ve put some quotes from Tattva Bodha and the questions which arose for me after reading them. Apologies for the repetitive questions. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to make an effort to try to “understand” or just take it certain things on faith.
From Tattva Bodha:
“While the gross body absorbs awareness like a brick wall absorbs light, the subtle body is reflective and the Self can be apprehended in it.”
My question is, who apprehends the Self? Who knows one is the Self?
Arlindo: This is a subtle question. The sattvic purified intellect is the knower who apprehends the reflection of Self in its own subtle body. The jiva is the reflection of awareness on the subtle body. The subtle body is inert – it is not sentient. It is the jiva (the reflection) that is a sentient being embued with the “light” of awareness, its conscious-existence nature. So it is important to differentiate the subtle body from the jiva, the knower-experiencer entity.
The moment the jiva-knower apprehends its true nature as awareness it automatically owns and claims it as its true identity. In this sense, who realizes the Self? Jiva or the Self?
Jiva, once realizing that he is the light of “awareness” “becomes” awareness. The notion “I am the jiva” gives way to the knowledge “I am awareness.” Jiva is negated with Self-knowledge. It is not really the jiva who knows, because Self-knowledge terminates the jiva on the spot.
Therefore it is awareness knowing itself “with the aid” of an apparent subtle body. Of course jiva does not really “become” awareness in the same way the snake does not become the rope. The rope was never a snake. The snake cannot become the rope. The rope does not become the rope. There is only rope, through and through.
Whence we can say that it is the apparent jiva, by eventually “negating itself,” who realizes its true/real nature as awareness to “become” awareness, because there is only awareness?
Or philosophically speaking, from the perspective of awareness, we can say that awareness alone removes its apparent Self-ignorance superimposed by Maya, and realizes that it is not a limited jiva.
Inquirer: “The way to do this is to understand that what one knows about oneself is different from the one who knows.”
My question: If reality is non-dual, how can the Self “know” anything, since that would mean there is something other than itself to be known?
Arlindo: That is why we say that the Self “apparently” forgets its true nature and imagines itself to be jiva and in due time it inquires and eventually “removes” its “apparent” amnesia and “remembers” its limitless nature. Nothing in mithya is real. The Self knows only itself in duality as well in non-duality. There is not really two, but “one” appearing like a mirage of names and forms. Mithya and its objects of knowledge-experience are just a play or superimposition produced by Maya.
Inquirer: “Although one commonly hears that the Self cannot be known, only the Self can be known with certainty, since it is the only thing that is always existent, always present and never changes.”
My question: Who can the Self be known by? [Already answered.]
My question: Permanence is real (satya); is there a difference between existence and impermanence (mithya)?
Arlindo: Yes, the difference is that mithya is not satya. Mithya is bound by time and does not enjoy an independent existence, therefore it is said to be not real. Mithya appears, but only to disappear in time, it is not permanent. Satya is “That” which is always ever-present. It is the only factor with independent existence. Mithya is impermanent and depends on satya for its “apparent” temporary existence.
Inquirer: “As one meditates on the Self in the mind one should think clearly about what it is and how it relates to the subtle and gross body, all the while keeping in mind that what one is experiencing is not other than one’s own Self – although it may seem so. The purpose of all Vedantic teachings is to help the individual realize its identity as the Self.”
My question: What one is experiencing is not other than one’s own Self: so both what one is experiencing and the one who is experiencing it is one’s own Self? Can the Self “experience” anything (see the question about non-duality above)?
Arlindo: Yes, the Self experiences itself in the same way light illuminates itself, it is self-luminous. Whenever Maya operates, the Self illumines itself as well the “apparent” cosmos and experiences the world of objects. It does so through its jivas. All “apparent” experiences in mithya are only the Self “apparently” experiencing itself. You are only experiencing your own Self. Understanding this is liberation.
Inquirer: Other questions: Is the answer to this in the notion of a “Self-realized person” later in Tattva Bodha? Or like the spider and its web?
Arlindo: A Self-realized one (jnani) knows the true nature of reality. He/She knows that there is only the non-dual Self. The jnani plays in the apparent duality but without forgetting that it is only the self at play with Maya. Therefore the jnani is free from fears, desires, anxiety, frustration, depression, anger, etc.
Inquirer: “The practice of Self-knowledge involves keeping it in the background during one’s daily transactions. It is difficult if you have a lot of karma, because the mind is easily lost in dealing with it. It is constantly reminding the mind that one’s jiva and the world are both mithya and that the jiva is only a contributor of action while Isvara is the controller of the results.”
My question: Is it the jiva that identifies with the gross and subtle bodies or the Self that identifies with them? Or the jiva, illuminated by the Self, thinking it is the gross and subtle bodies?
Arlindo: Both, from the jiva’s (reflected consciousness) point of view, jiva mistakenly identifies with its three bodies and other levels of experiences and suffers from a sense of limitation.
From the Self’s point of view, consciousness/awareness mistakenly identifies with jiva and apparently experiences ignorance of its true limitless non-dual nature. But the Self, does not have a point of view – it does not hold any concept of bondage or otherwise. These are all jiva’s projections.
Practically speaking, although freedom and bondage are not real, only the “apparent” (not real) jiva can inquire and free itself from the not-real identification with the “impermanent” and the psychological suffering that comes with it. Jiva’s sense of bondage is a notion superimposed on satya – jiva needs to contemplate on its limitless nature as presented by the scriptures until the bondage notion is neutralized by the sat-chit-ananda notion. Ultimately, freedom is freedom from all notions.
Inquirer: Thank you very much for your time.
~ Warm regards, an inquirer