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A Mandate from God
Gary: Dear James, your advice means everything to me. I am lost without Isvara.
Today in my morning meditation I read in Swami Dayananda’s Home Study Course, Chapter 5/10, that karma yoga is dharma yoga and what is called bhakti yoga is actually karma yoga, as you wrote in The Yoga of Love also. To offer my actions to Isvara means to understand that dharma is Isvara; all my actions depend on the field, the field/existence depends on dharma and dharma and the field is Isvara.
James: Yes, the field in which we live is a conscious moral matrix, owing to free will. There is dharma for sentient beings – although not animals and plants – because they are blessed or cursed as the case may be, with choice. So all actions involve moral considerations.
Gary: He goes on saying that one either takes dharma as a mandate (master-servant relationship) or as Isvara. That’s how one becomes a devotee – the dharma or the mandate is non-separate from Isvara. But isn’t the danger of a mandate that one can follow it without understanding what one is doing and sooner or later that leads to resistance because who wants to be pushed around without understanding the reasons?
James: It depends on your knowledge of Isvara. If you understand that the force that put you here is a benign, compassionate power that knows best, you gladly accept what happens. If you think life is a threatening place and that you are solely responsible for your safety, then you are going to be full of anxiety because you are playing God, usurping Its function. Isvara knows everything, jiva knows very little with reference to the totality of life. The point, however, is that nobody understands Isvara’s thinking, because Isvara isn’t a big jiva in the sky with likes and dislikes. It creates the world and the populates it with conscious beings and leaves action in the hands of conscious beings. It has one more function: it delivers the results of individual’s actions, which jiva doesn’t control, but which jiva influences by the type of action and the intention behind it. So if you have resistance, your trust in Isvara needs work. I just do what I’m told. If Isvara says jump, I ask “How high?” My life is extraordinary, fantastic actually, solely by the grace of Isvara. People whose love of Isvara is imperfect don’t necessarily suffer much but their lives – such as they are – are more or less boring and conventional. Yes, they have a leg up on samsaris who have no love of Isvara and who live lives of quiet desperation, but they more or less just bumble along worrying about stuff they needn’t worry about.
Gary: I am still mostly in the listening and reminding phase, at the same time the contemplating phase cannot and need not be avoided, the urge of putting two and two together and see how and where the knowledge applies in my life, this jiva’s daily experience. The assimilation also happens slowly and I guess because completion of the first two phases is responsible for the momentum of the assimilation; is that more or less correct?
James: Yes. Karma yoga and jnana yoga are not mutually exclusive practices. You are always acting and you are always thinking. If you act with dharma in mind and have full faith in Isvara and you discriminate properly in every moment, you are doing as well as you can do. Remember, karma yogis are planners. They are interested in reducing their karmic load so they are always thinking about how to simplify their lives so that their attention stays on Isvara, the goal being to think of nothing but Isvara, in which case they rapidly burn down the house that ignorance built. If they still want worldly stuff or are too lazy to clean up their karma, then they progress slowly.
~ Much love, James