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What Does It Mean to Identity with the Self?
Sarit: Hi, Sundari!
I’m listening to Ramji’s July satsang in Colorado and I have a question. He says that moksa is not only when you can discriminate between experience and the knower of the experience but when you identify with the knower (consciousness). He also says that it’s most difficult to switch your identity from the jiva to awareness. I’m not understanding what “identifying with awareness” means. I know it’s not a lightning-bolt experience. Is it simply knowing that you are awareness? What does that concretely look like? Your help is most appreciated.
Sundari: When Self-knowledge is firm, there is no need to identify with awareness or discriminate between experience and awareness because you are awareness. The knowledge is automatic, requires no thinking and cannot be lost or forgotten, therefore discrimination is the default position. It is always there because you are always there. Self-actualization means you see reality as it is, non-dual. That it is all you, but you are not it. In other words, you reflexively see everything first as the Self and second as the jiva, who must respond appropriately to its environment. You have compassion for all life, the good and the bad, but you know it cannot be any other way than it is, duality being the inevitable play between dharma and adharma. It’s all Isvara and all good, whether jiva likes it or not.
You see that satya and mithya never meet and you never confuse the subject, you, with the objects, ever again. It means you spontaneously feel satisfied, peaceful and content regardless of external circumstances. It means you are free of the jiva story permanently; even though your inborn nature remains the same, it is as good as non-existent and is instantly dismissed. You are no longer conditioned by anything in mithya. The mind is completely free of dependence on objects for happiness. Thus you are free when you are more identified with awareness than with the body-mind.
Although a truly free person always stands out because they have such self-confidence and peace, the scripture says that is very hard to tell an enlightened person from an unenlightened person, because they do not necessarily behave differently, on the outside. From the outside, the person remains as Isvara made them, with their inbuilt nature. The difference is all internal, not outwardly visible. A free person, being unlimited, is free to feel and do anything or freedom would not be unlimited – this is why Ramji is so often criticized. But he is free to be James; there is no problem with that, because he is free of the James program. There are no rules regarding the behaviour of a free person. Discrimination, not behaviour, is the mark of a free person. It is always in the motivation. A free person, as Ramji likes to say, does nothing for happiness but does everything happily. What is visible is that a free person never breaks dharma, neither personal nor universal, and always responds appropriately when it comes to situational ethics, which is what connects the two. Free people automatically follow dharma because they are dharma.
Enlightened people also differ in the nature of their karma. You will be able to see that their lives are simple, unemotional and drama-free, stress-free and peaceful, no matter what is unfolding in the mithya world. Take, for instance, the situation James and I are in regarding being together in Spain. We have this new home waiting for us for months now, but we cannot take action to live there yet, because we must first attend to the karma involved in doing so. This could lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction on our part, but we consecrate those feelings to Isvara, forego the desire to be together and get our lives there started. No desire, no problem, no karma. Isvara takes care of the details and we will get there when we get there. In the meantime, we are happy, whole and complete wherever we are, together or not.
For a free person, karma yoga and nididhyasana are no longer practices as such, just knowledge which spontaneously translate into how you live in this world. But if nididhyasana is not yet complete, as there are remaining attachments and impurities in the mind even though Self-knowledge is firm, suffering will not end, due to fructifying karma. But even so, the jiva is still inwardly free during the nididhyasana stage. If a Self-realized person seems dissatisfied, it is because they continue to act according to their jiva program, but that does not necessarily mean that they are dissatisfied, unless discrimination is temporarily lost. Most actions are motivated by dissatisfaction, but the truly free have desires that are in harmony with dharma, i.e. beneficial and creative.
Before Self-actualization, when taking a stand as awareness, what makes things tricky because ignorance is so subtle is the split mind watching itself. It has a slippery tendency to claim to be awareness. But is it “unfiltered” awareness (meaning not subject to conditioning) or is it a delusion tainted with ego, the jiva program? How to know and how to deal with that? Taking a stand is done with the mind and can lead to a kind of self-hypnosis that makes the jiva think it is the Self without the full understanding of what it means to be the Self. Of course, based on logic alone (is there an essential difference between one ray of the sun and the sun itself?), the jiva can claim its identity as the Self – but only when its knowledge of satya and mithya is firm.
The practice “I am awareness” does not give you the experience of awareness or make you awareness. It negates the idea “I am the jiva.” When the jiva is negated the inquirer should be mindful of the awareness that remains because negating the jiva only produces a void. Nature abhors a vacuum. Many inquirers get stuck here and depression can set in if they cannot take the next step, which is understanding that the emptiness of the void is an object known by the fullness of the Self, the ever-present witness. Or, at that time, many inquirers “start” to experience as awareness and make a big fuss about it even though you have only ever been experiencing as awareness all along! So the discrimination between jiva’s experience of awareness and the Self’s experience of awareness is essential.
The reason people get stuck in the claim of enlightenment is that it generates sublime emotions, i.e. bhakti, which makes you attractive to others and to yourself. It is true that if you think you are enlightened you more or less feel pretty good about your jiva self all the time, which is definitely preferable to the time when your happiness depended on intermittent situations of validation. Jiva self-esteem is enormously enhanced by the “I am awareness” practice, which is a good thing.
But the downside can be that your ego gets so big you imagine that you are superior to everyone. Sadly, for little jivaji, “I am enlightened” doesn’t mean “only I am enlightened” or “I am more enlightened than others.” In fact claiming it usually means that assimilation of the teachings has not taken place.
The inescapable fact is that while it is fairly easy to say “I am the Self” as the jiva and quite another to say it as the Self. The Self’s experience of itself is qualitatively different from the jiva’s experience of the Self as an object or as objects. This realization may well be a painful moment for inquirers who are very convinced that they are enlightened without knowing that they are only enlightened as a jiva, not as the Self.
I hope this answers your question.
Sarit: Thank you for taking so much time to answer my question. Yes, it does help and it does answer my question. I keep reading it over because there are so many layers and loops. I like the concrete examples you provided about James and your current situation.
Sundari: Even though being the Self sounds easy and is pretty obvious if you are even slightly qualified, Self-actualization is far from easy because of how subtle ignorance is. Even when Self-knowledge is hard and fast, the last vestiges of the jiva hang in there tenaciously. Hence nididhyasana is the longest and toughest stage of Self-inquiry.
~ Much love, Sundari