Search & Read
Isvara Is Permanent and Impermanent
Roger: Hi, James. Just as I was admiring my enlightenment certificate, I read one of Sundari’s satsangs titled Isvara Is the Intelligent Cause and Its Effects. The following is a passage from it:
“Although Isvara is not conditioned by maya and is conscious, and the jiva is conditioned by maya and is not conscious, both Isvara and the jiva are reflected awareness and make up the apparent reality. Therefore neither Isvara nor the jiva are real; real is defined as ‘that which is permanent.’”
This makes me ask questions: Is not Isvara awareness seeing itself as it is not? Therefore how can you say it is not conditioned by maya?
James: Isvara is pure awareness plus maya. It is the Creator. But when maya appears, rajas and tamas are supressed, and awareness appears as pure intelligence endowed with the blueprint for the creation and all the powers necessary to construct the apparent reality according to the specifications of the blueprint. It wields maya just a potter wields his or her idea of the pot to create a pot. When tamas comes to the fore, the material world evolves and when rajas comes to the fore, the myriad jivas appear. The jiva is awareness plus sattva, rajas and tamas. But tamas and rajas predominate, and therefore the jiva is ignorant of its nature and takes itself to be one among many. So the jiva is under the spell of maya, whereas Isvara controls maya. Speaking as Isvara, Krishna says, “By my maya I delude all these beings.”
Roger: If Isvara is reflected consciousness, how can it be said to be conscious while jiva, which is also reflected consciousness, is NOT conscious? (I GET that jiva is not conscious.)
James: This is a tricky one, Roger. You cannot say that awareness is conscious, because to say something is conscious implies an object that it is conscious of. Since awareness is non-dual, it is not conscious, because there are no objects. It is just consciousness. But when maya is operating, there is something for it to be conscious of, i.e. the creation. At this point it apparently surrenders its status as consciousness and become a conscious creator. So from pure consciousness/awareness’ point of view, Isvara is just maya, an inert mirror (pratibimba) in which all created objects appear. But from jiva’s point of view, Isvara is the intelligent designer, creator, supporter and destroyer of the creation.
Roger: It is said that Isvara is impermanent because scripture talks about “creation cycles.” I don’t believe creation cycles can be confirmed, therefore they are a BELIEF and can’t be cited as proof of Isvara’s impermanence. (Or can they?)
James: It depends on what you need for confirmation, Roger. Perception cannot confirm it, although inference, which is a valid means of knowledge, can at least confirm the destruction of a particular cycle, insofar as we know that the creation is subject to entropy and will eventually not exist as perceived objects. However, with a bit of logic, it can be confirmed insofar as everything in the creation itself – the individual objects – appear and disappear only to reappear again. Science teaches that matter cannot be created or destroyed, that it just cycles endlessly though certain forms. So it stands to reason that if the creation is eternal consciousness appearing and disappearing on the microcosmic level, it would be behaving in the same way on the macrocosmic according to the axiom “As above, so below.”
However, it does not matter to us whether or not it can be scientifically proven, because we are not interested in the creation. We are only interested in awareness/consciousness because knowledge of the self as consciousness is moksa and we want moksa. For knowledge of it we rely on the Vedas, i.e. the Upanishads, which say that the macrocosm appears and disappears only to reappear again, ad infinitum. At the same time it is always present – eternal – as a potential creation (the “night” of brahman) or as the actual creation (the “day” of brahman).
As to the question of Isvara’s permanence, it is beginningless, not impermanent. Beginininglessness looks like permanence insofar as Isvara is always potentially present in awareness, but Isvara disappears when we look at the creation from pure awareness’ standpoint. Anything that can be dismissed is not permanent. In fact no one ever experienced Isvara, apart from the experience of his or her individual upadhi, which is definitely limited. And even revelations of Isvara are just temporary experiences in an indivdual’s uphadi subject to jiva’s beliefs or opinions, which can easily be negated. Remember, all that is required for moksa is to discriminate the subject from the objects presenting themselves to it. Isvara is a thought-object, as is jiva. I am the one that knows Isvara and jiva. I am free of the creature and the Creator. By my grace Isvara creates and jiva suffers and enjoys.
Roger: Thank you, James. Yes, some of this is pretty tricky. It was seeming to me that Isvara was being described as a separate entity, and since understanding Isvara is essential, I was curious how to resolve this matter non-dualistically. Jiva can’t directly know Isvara, because the effect cannot apprehend its cause. But it can conceptualize it from inference, and that is all that’s necessary to dissolve self-ignorance, which is also conceptual. Jiva, which is the understanding agent, needn’t resolve itself into Isvara, because they both co-exist in the realm of duality. They can both be separate in the apparent reality. But jiva must resolve itself into awareness because reality is non-dual, and it would be a lie for jiva to have a separate identity from awareness. Jiva is awareness plus subtle body, not Isvara plus subtle body.
This is how I make sense of it, and you’ll correct me if I’m in error. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, I know you’re very busy. I hope your toothache has vanished. I’m delighted for you and Sundari having such a splendid home in Oregon. It makes me think of the two of you as Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge and gained the Garden of Eden from an approving God!