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Satya and Mithya, Principles for Teaching
Don: Thank you, Sundari, for your email of October 30. Your comment on my question on compassion reinforces my understanding of Isvara and how compassion is to be understood. However, when I read, “Its ‘job’ is to take care of the whole field of existence first,” I still get the sense of “personality” associated with Isvara, whereas I understand Isvara to be a principle and the physical and moral order of existence, but I can see compassion now also.
Sundari: You are right, Isvara is a principle and not a person, but we need to use some words to describe its function and “brief,” so to speak. The important thing is not to get hung up on the terminology but to understand the teaching. In essence, satya and mithya are principles used for teaching purposes. For the Self there is no satya and mithya. I think we have had this discussion before, but let’s just run through it again:
Satya and Mithya, Principles in Consciousness
The Creation teaching is confusing and extremely subtle. The main purpose of the cause-and-effect teaching (as all other prakriyas adopted by the Upanishads) is not to make you believe in causation or the Creation. It is to reveal the truth of the Self being attribute-free, limitless, partless, beginningless and endless consciousness – and that the Creation is neither real or unreal, but has a dependent reality on you, consciousness. The aim then of the Creation teaching is to eliminate all the variable non-essential factors (vyatireka) which leave the one invariable essential factor (anvaya) – the Self, consciousness. The proof works because it is a result of knowledge – only. Experience is a secondary factory, though it is self-evident and cannot be denied that consciousness is the only factor that can never be negated, no matter how materialistic the investigation.
Therefore, since the Self does not undergo any change ever, the karana karya prakriya (cause-and-effect proof) is meant to unfold the fact that not only is the Self limitless, you are non-separate from it.
Why James says that the prakriya is a set-up is that, once you understand the cause-and-effect teaching, the next step, the non-origination teaching in the Mandukya karika, makes sense. The Mandukya karika is the most advanced and subtle of all Vedanta teachings, as it explains why the cause-and-effect teaching is not the whole truth.
It answers the logical question: How can sat, consciousness, be the basis of the material Creation if it is non-dual consciousness? The material Creation is not material. It is a projection caused by Maya, which is not the same OR not different from sat, existence/awareness. You can’t get something out of something that is incapable of modification. Sat is not the cause of anything. How could it be? If it were, it would not be non-dual.
The Mandukya also points out that the Self implies not-Self. When you know you are the Self, there is no satya and mithya nor Isvara-jiva, for you, anymore. They are just concepts/principles used to teach you that you are the Self, and can be discarded. They are teachings designed to reveal your true nature and to destroy the notion of doership. Mithya “becomes” satya because it was satya all along. You see everything as just IS-NESS, a direct experience of existence as your identity, the Self.
So you do not have to understand the whole cause-and-effect prakriya by heart, as long as you understand the common identity between consciousness, Isvara and jiva to be sat, the Self, you. Knowing all the details verbatim is not necessary, especially if you understand the non-origination teaching. And if this understanding allows you to discriminate that the existence of all objects belongs to consciousness, that all objects have a dependent existence on you. Then Maya is no problem, you understand the principles that run mithya and live free of it.
Don: As for the idea of good and evil, like the idea of the body-mind, I see it as a strongly rooted vasana.
Sundari: A tough one for everyone because it is heartbreaking to witness suffering of all kinds. The only way out of it is to remember that neither death nor life is real.
~ Much love, Sundari