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The I-Thought and Nididhyasana
Roger: I will read your book again and pay more attention to its knowledge. It is a bit clearer indeed, but ignorance it’s really hard! Every time I think I understand the nature of myself there is always more to discover.
Sundari: Indeed, ignorance is very tricky and tenacious, no doubt there. For non-dual vision to obtain requires a complete reversal of how thejiva understands its reality, which is why so few manage it. Maya is the master of deception and eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
Roger: It seems freedom from the jiva is a never-ending process, isn’t it?
Sundari: Freedom from the jiva is not a never-ending process if Self-knowledge actualizes, which only takes place when the last stage of Self-inquiry (nididhyasana) has been completed. It is the longest and hardest stage. We call it the “5/10/15 rule,” and here is the teaching:
Vedanta is a three-stage process. You must go through all three stages if you want to be radiantly happy. If you skip a step or only partially assimilate its knowledge, Isvara will send you back to the previous level until you work it out. The three steps are hearing (sravana), reasoning (manana) and Self-actualizing or assimilating (nididhyasana).
Stage 1 involves several steps, which roughly conform to the chapters in The Essence of Enlightenment. The first step of stage 1 is assimilating the knowledge that life is a zero-sum duality. It involves the realization that nothing you can do in this world will solve the problem of suffering.
When the full impact of this realization hits, disillusionment is inevitable, a “dark night of the soul” that may last a year or two. It is particularly difficult if you are prone to epiphanies, glimpses of the reality beyond the world, because they give you hope and dash it at the same time. The second step of the first stage involves anther particularly galling fact: enlightenment – liberation from the world – is not a special kind of experience. Until you understand that it isn’t, you are basically condemned to the same frustrating merry-go-round that you experienced at step 1. Your experience of the Self, which you imagine is out of time, comes and goes because it is not out of time at all.
This realization also produces disillusionment and frustration. The rare realization that happens in the third step of stage 1 involves accepting the idea that you have an ignorance problem, not an experience problem, and the fourth step of stage 1 involves accepting a valid means of knowledge, i.e. Vedanta. Each step is increasing more difficult than the preceding step. Consequently, a burning desire for freedom and a lot of good karma is required to work your way through the steps of understanding. To help you we present the three stages in the form of the 5/10/15 rule.
The 5/10/15 Rule
A lot of people think that the end of seeking caused by firm Self-knowledge – otherwise known as direct knowledge (“I am limitless, ordinary, unborn, ever-present awareness”) – is the end of the jiva’s spiritual work. It is, but only if the jiva is perfectly satisfied with itself when Self-knowledge is firm. This state is extremely rare.
However, it is commonly believed that Self-knowledge, or Self-realization if you prefer, is the end of seeking, inquiring, ego, doing, teaching, etc. On the basis of this unexamined notion – which is grist for the mill of the next stage, nididhyasana, most Self-realized people declare themselves “finished,” “cooked” or “enlightened” and set themselves up as authorities on the topic of liberation.
The stage after firm direct knowledge is called nididhyasana. Vedanta is very clear about the importance of this stage, as it removes residual desire (rajas) and fear (tamas).
We see many people who gain direct knowledge infected with the seemingly benign desire to teach others. Usually, their spiritual tendencies (vasanas) kept them away from deep commitments to the world – careers and families – and they just got by doing odd jobs, living off family money or the dole and/or taking up short-term relationships for emotional satisfaction and abandoning them when they proved difficult, etc.
Sometimes they complete stage 1, hearing, and stage 2, removal of doubt, and gain direct knowledge, but ignore stage 3, Self-actualization, or assimilation, usually because they have not done proper inquiry on the idea “I am free.”
The Self will never make this statement. It only means something to a jiva. If the idea “I am enlightened” has not been removed and the jiva has been led to Self-inquiry without having properly succeeded or failed in the world, the temptation to achieve worldly success behind the idea “I am enlightened” often arises, which shows that the doer has survived Self-realization.
If a seeker is properly qualified when firm Self-realization happens, the doer is negated. Negation means that the doer’s unresolved issues are laid to rest once and for all. They do not remain and subliminally influence its decisions going forward. Self-realization presents a particularly difficult problem for the Self-realized doer who does not appreciate the importance of the third stage, Self-actualization, because it has the capacity to use the teachings of Vedanta to suit its purposes. Unfortunately, it wants the same things all jivas want: security, pleasure, power, status, etc. Nididhyasana addresses this issue and prevents this phenomenon.
These three stages are meant to be presided over by a living guru because the jiva has a built-in tendency for self-deception, i.e. denial (tamas). Along with the “I am enlightened” idea comes the belief that I am an authority in my own right and therefore I don’t need a guru anymore. So we see that a Self-realized ego with unfulfilled ambitions is happy to get rid of his or her guru when it is convenient. Usually it is convenient when the guru doesn’t give you what you want or tells you something that you don’t want to hear. It is particularly difficult to hear that you are not finished with your spiritual work when you realize the Self.
Vedanta’s basic formula is encapsulated in the 5/10/15 rule. Of course it varies from individual to individual, but thirty years is not too long to commit yourself to Vedanta. Five years for sravana – hearing the complete teaching with an open mind and appreciating the logic of each step. Ten years for resolving doubts (manana) created by the teaching and fifteen years for getting rid of jiva-hood, i.e. the sense of doership. The goal of Vedanta is tripti, compete jiva satisfaction. An apparent jiva remains but it has no desire whatsoever for things to be different, inwardly or outwardly, from what they are at any moment. It is called Isvara pranidanam, surrender to Isvara, or non-dual devotion (bhakti). Of course it is quite possible to dismiss your ambitions as non-existent because you are the Self, but you are fooling nobody but yourself.
Swami Paramarthananda, a guru bother, calls nididhyasana “requalifying.” You never know when, during the manana phase, firm Self-knowledge will take place, and you never know how long nididhyasana will take. In fact, if Self-knowledge makes you a perfect spontaneous karma yogi, it doesn’t matter, because time doesn’t exist for you. So, if you don’t experience perfect jiva satisfaction when Self-knowledge is unshakable, you need to remain humble and keep up the practices that qualified you for understanding, as they will eventually remove the obstacles to limitless bliss.
Enlightened or not, the human mind needs to be committed to something other than the doer and its projections. It needs noble work until its dying day. Serving the world should fill the gap that serving the doer formerly filled. If you want to know more about the nature of non-dual devotion and the stages of spiritual development explained by Vedanta, please read The Yoga of Love, as it makes clear what a non-dual devotee is and the reasons for keeping up one’s sadhana once Self-knowledge is firm.
Roger: Because as long as my jiva lives I can get free from it a bit more every day, right?
Sundari: Look at what you have written here carefully, from a non-dual perspective. Train yourself to see duality in your thoughts and words. Do you see it here? Who is the “I” referring to? If it refers to you, the Self, you were never bound, so how can you get free? If it refers to Roger, the jiva, he was never bound either, because he is actually the Self too. Maya has created the illusion of a sentient person under the spell of ignorance, the egoic small-self, the “I” wrongly associated with objects. Neither the person nor ignorance are real, they are just a superimposition onto the Self, non-duality.
Self-knowledge removes the spell so that the jiva is free of ignorance/Maya – meaning free of its conditioning which it now understands to be impersonal. Once Self-knowledge is firm, you still live as if you are a jiva, knowing you are actually the Self. The jiva is as good as non-existent, as its programme is no longer binding. Here is a brief teaching on the use of the word “I.”
Teaching on the I-Thought
The use of the word “I” when correctly identified with the Self is not a problem. When I say “I” and I know it unites me with the whole universe and encompasses everything, then I know that I am the “all-pervasive reality” – TAT VAM ASI. I am nirammkar – without ego or identification with the doer. But if I say “I” and it separates me from everything, alienating me from Isvara (Total Mind) and the world or Creation, then I am ahamkara – identified and bound to the doer – limited, small, fear-based and inadequate.
Remember that doing never stops for the jiva, it’s only the identification with the doer that is a problem and causes suffering. Let me explain the problem. The idea that the ego (the doer) is a problem for moksa when it is present and not a problem when it is gone is ignorance (avidya), i.e. duality. It is only a problem if the mind is confused about non-dual thought – which it seems yours is. Reality is non-dual consciousness, i.e. you (satya). By the grace of Maya, it appears in two orders: satya and mithya.
The ego, the “I-sense,” is in the mithya dimension. Anything in the mithya dimension does not affect or negate satya, just as the table in a wooden table does not negate the wood. If you weigh the wood and subtract the weight of the table, the weight of the wood is the same.
Satya, you, are always free of mithya, so there is no reason to get rid of mithya, the “I-sense.” Hear this and do not forget it: it is impossible for satya and mithya to meet. They never do, because if they did, awareness would not be non-dual and there would be no escape from duality.
The problem is due to a confusion of the word “I-sense” and ignorance. The “I-sense” is an effect of ignorance that remains when Vedanta reveals the fact that you are limitless awareness. Although it remains, it is as good as non-existent because it has no effect on you, as I mentioned. The “I-sense” is an essential component of the subtle body because you can’t do actions unless they are motivated by a thought (“I want” or “I don’t want,” for instance); that’s the way Isvara has set it up.
~ Much love, Sundari