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The Three States of Experience
Questioner: We’ve heard some Vedanta teachers saying the gunas do not condition prajna jiva, the deep-sleeper. But how could prajna jiva exist, if not affected/conditioned by the gunas? Even in deep sleep the body breathes, the heart beats and blood carries oxygen throughout the body. I understand that the primary instrument, the subtle body, is not active during deep sleep. But doesn’t the prajna jiva enjoy the bliss of the reflected self while deep-sleeping? How could all of this happen if it were not for the gunas? Isn’t prajna jiva an apparent part of Maya, and therefore conditioned by the gunas? Or are we in the land of the paradox? Prajna jiva results from but is not conditioned by the gunas?! Please expound.
Arlindo: Great question! The prajna jiva is equal to “not knowing” (total ignorance). It definitely is conditioned by the gunas. The viswa jiva needs some knowledge in order to intelligently and successfully transact in mithya during the waking state. In the dream state, as taijasa, jiva projects its subjective mental-emotional content with the aid of sattva and rajas to create the “dream world.” The prajna jiva is also an experiencing entity, and its object of experience is limitless tamas, which absorbs awareness to produce an absence of objects of knowledge/experience. But that is also an experience.
On a daily basis, in order to get rested and revitalized, viswa jiva needs to forget all knowledge. The sleep experience is vital for recharging the body-mind complex with vital energy. Whence the viswa jiva sooner or later “becomes” the prajna jiva, the deep-sleeper.
The dream state produces the taijasa, the dreamer entity. The reflective “mirror-like” medium (subtle body) projects jiva’s vasanas to create a purely subjective reality, which is but the very content of jiva’s subconscious mind. The dreamer (taijasa) is the jiva turned inwards to experience its own mind. The waker (viswa) is the jiva turned outwardly to experience Isvara’s macrocosmic mind. Taijasa and viswa both shine with awareness, whereas prajna jiva absorbs awareness like a wall of brick absorbs light.
In the deep-sleep state the prajna jiva is mainly conditioned by causal tamas, and therefore it doesn’t reflect subtle, much less gross, objects. The bliss that the prajna jiva experiences is derived from the limitless nature of undifferentiated tamas (not-knowing). The saying “ignorance is bliss” well illustrates prajna jiva’s condition: no thoughts, no objects, no need to respond, and therefore no experience, no knowledge, no trouble whatsoever, because there is no sense of duality for the deep-sleeper. It is a state of total ignorance, a whole, full and complete ground of “pure tamas” – a mental state, which to my understanding is “not equal” to the bliss derived from Self-knowledge or even from getting what you want. Eventually we need the subtle body “turned on” (the awaking state), and with a hard and fast Self-knowledge in order to experience “real” bliss, which is but a sense of joy, contentment and ease derived from the confidence in our ultimate nature as pure limitless awareness.
Important to notice is that prajna jiva is made up of pure tamas energy in its causal formation/dimension. It is neither the grossified tamas (matter) we encounter in our physical world nor the subtle tamas we encounter in the subtle objects in our mental subjective states. The thought energy we call prajna jiva is conditioned by “causal tamas.”
Questioner: Thank you, Arlindo. Nice work. I just have a few subtle questions/comments.
If, as you say, the three gunas are present in prajna jiva but dormant (not operative), what then allows prajna jiva to become vishwa jiva? Wouldn’t rajoguna have to operate to wake up the sleeper? If so, what is the mechanism? So prajna jiva is an experiencing entity even when its primary instrument (subtle body) is dormant?! Though a very subtle experiencer?! I believe that there must be some sattvaguna operating for reflection/experience to occur. Or is the absence of all objects equal to the fullness of the Self?
Saying awareness is an experiencer (doer) is a tricky business. I guess I prefer to say awareness just is.
Isn’t the jiva alone, per Maya, that which experiences the Self as the subject, “I am”?
Thank you again, Arlindo. This inquiry into the jiva and the gunas is providing a lot of clarity.
Arlindo: The difficulty in analyzing the causal body is due to two facts. (1)The causal body is subtler than the mind, and therefore it cannot be objectified by the mind. (2) It exists, but it is almost like non-existent, since it does so as potential – its existence cannot be experienced directly by the waker but inferred by logic. The tree exists in the seed, but at same time it does not exist, since it does so only as potential. You are right, jiva’s causal body, like anything in Maya, must be composed of the three energies and the five elements, otherwise it would not be able to modify to “become” the dreamer and/or the waker according to the proportional combination of the tree energies.
Once jiva’s state of deep sleep begins modifying, dormant rajas awakens and jiva’s vasanas begin projecting their content. Prajna jiva suddenly “becomes” the dreamer or the “waker.” These energies “awaken” to immediately project the world of multiplicity with countless names and forms. All energies/objects are composed of the three gunas and the five elements in their causal, subtle or gross expressions.
The Self is always fully present through all of jiva’s three states as the only witnessing conscious principle (subject). All objects depend on the subject because they all “spring” from the macrocosmic causal body, which fundamentally is the Self under the spell of Maya.
Awareness is not an experiencing entity, but it also IS, since all is but the Self in the apparently manifest order of reality we call the world. The ultimate truth is that jiva’s mind, the world of objects of experience, etc. is but the Self. This beautiful “dream” we call samsara is but the Self, manifest as Isvara, the Lord.
It is only for the sake of discriminating/separating the Self (subject) from the objects appearing in it that we call all objects of experience the “not-Self”. But in truth there is no such thing as “not-Self.”
You say, “I believe that there must be some sattvaguna operating for reflection/experience to occur. Or is the absence of all objects equal to the fullness of the Self?” The Self is always full, whole and complete, regardless of Maya’s projection or no projection of objects. In truth, the absence of objects is itself an object. It is called emptiness, or samadhi, and it is experienced not by the waker, but by the Self with the aid of the prajna jiva.
And you also ask, “Isn’t the jiva alone, per Maya, that which experiences the Self as the subject, ‘I am’?”
Yes and no, depending on your perspective – that is the trick Maya plays; it makes the subject to appear as an object, and the object (jiva) as the subject. The highest truth is that there is only the Self, “apparently” experiencing itself 24/7. All apparent experience is the Self “apparently” experiencing itself. The apparent subject “I-thought” (jiva) is in truth the Self.
It takes some contemplation to understand that jiva is an object, and that it is the Self that seemingly “experiences” the jiva, although the Self is not an experiencing entity. Tricky business, as you said. ☺ Self-realization is the clear and firm apprehension that jiva is the Self. Do the ocean (Isvara) and the wave (jiva) really exist as independent entities? No. The waves resolve themselves into the ocean and the ocean into water. All there is is H2O mistakenly perceived as the ocean and the wave.
Questioner: Arlindo, you have a point when you asked me, “What do you exactly mean by ‘Isvara is not controlled by Maya’?” Indeed, to all extents and practical purposes Isvara and Maya are the same thing. I had in mind that Isvara is not controlled by the gunas. It can be confusing when teachers use the terms Isvara, Maya and the gunas as meaning the same thing. It is indeed a subtle business in following the context in which the terms are used.
Thank God that the finer intricacies of the sleeper are not necessary for moksa! Addictive discrimination exercise though! Anyhow, thanks for digging deep into this hair-splitting subject, not for moksa, but for passionate exploration of Vedanta.
Arlindo: Very good point, my friend. But although not absolutely necessary, these discussions are conducive to Self-knowledge. They are very subtle “satya-mithya” discriminations. To discriminate/separate the Self from the causal body is the subtlest of all intellectual work. It is easier to dismiss the physical and the mind as “not-Self,” but the causal body?!
Questioner: Do you have any further thoughts about the causal body and prajna jiva?
Arlindo: The causal body is also known as “anandamaya kosha.” That is the state in which we experience peace, rest and satisfaction during our deep sleep, as well as whenever we obtain what we want and/or avoid what we don’t. The relationship between the bliss of deep sleep and the bliss of obtaining our desired objects is very simple.
The waker (vishwa) is fundamentally constituted by its vasanas. Vasanas are nothing but one’s desires and fears stored in the causal body manifesting in the conscious mind on a moment-to-moment basis. In other words, the waker comes into existence by the activation of its desires and fears. When the waker enters into dreamless sleep-state, its desires and fears, which constitute its conscious mind, subsides or becomes dormant, suspended, and the waker (vishwa) disappears, but only to reappear as the deep-sleeper (prajna). Prajna temporarily enjoys a sense of freedom and limitlessness because its vasanas (desires and fears) stop projecting objects. No desire, no fear, no world of objects – total ignorance – and in this case, ignorance equals limitless, undifferentiated tamas, i.e. “bliss.”
But whenever the waking jiva obtains what it wants, a similar phenomenon occurs, but slightly different. The mind ceases to project desired objects for some time, because it is free of its binding likes and dislikes. Likewise, the jiva feels satisfied, peaceful, complete, but the two experiences are not the same. There are two distinctive factors. (1) The waker still holds its conscious mind, with its intellectual discriminating function, which means that it can discriminate and obtain knowledge, which is not possible in the deep-sleep state. (2) The waker’s bliss is not the limitless bliss produced by undifferentiated tamoguna of the deep-sleeper, but produced by the dominance of sattvaguna in the waking state.
The waker does not experience the undifferentiated tamasic limitlessness. All three gunas are present and conditioning its experience. The waker’s mind is conditioned by sattvaguna during that window of time between getting what it wants and the next object of desire occupying its mind, hence we could say that the bliss of the waker is superior to the bliss of the deep-sleeper because it has the potential for Self-knowledge. The fleeting blisses of the waker (whenever it gets what it wants) reveals the limitless “nature” of pure awareness, which can be permanently realized by Self-knowledge.