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The Essence of Inquiry: Manana
Dan: Dear James, hello again. I hope that you are well.
Sorry this turned out to be a lot longer than I first intended. Hope you find some amusement in it at the least.
I’ve been quite absorbed in Vedanta in these few weeks, listening to the Westerwald recording, as well as the Gita teaching at Tiru and reading your book How to Attain Enlightenment. I also went through again the video of Dayananda on YouTube, “The Nectar of Non-Duality.” I find that I am quite frequently asking myself these days, “Will this complete me?” when a desire arises, and then being able to drop it without effort (or to pursue it, but without being bound to pursue it).
I must say that I think I have understood more in these few weeks than all of my efforts over several years trying to “get” Ramana and Nisargadatta on my own. Thank you so much for bringing your method and approach that makes Vedanta so much more accessible to those of us in the West with no or little background in Vedic philosophy, and the source languages, of course. I think I’ve heard you make the knowledge-experience distinction enough times now to never forget it. : -)
I should probably save my questions until I’ve fully read your book, but there are a couple of “foundational questions” that are plaguing me. I wondered if you wouldn’t mind responding – or you might suggest I wait until I’ve at least finished the book! And since time is in me, awareness, this jiva should learn some patience. So here goes anyway (sorry for being so wordy):
Are you saying that Vedanta starts with the premise (as an assumption) that reality is non-dual, and maintains the assumption until such is known to be the case as an outcome of the inquiry?
James: Yes, definitely. It is actually wrong to say that it is an assumption because reality is non-dual. But since we are teaching individuals who see reality as a duality, we invite them to assume that it is non-dual until such time as their inquiry – guided by the teachings – proves otherwise. We say, “Fake it until you make it.”
Dan: Or is there no assumption required, and Vedanta sets out to prove non--duality by exhorting inquiry (certainly only inquiry is the means, but must one begin with the assumption)? Is that what you mean by “fake it till you make it?”
James: You don’t have to assume that non-duality is the truth of reality if you have complete faith in the teachings and expose your mind to them in a disciplined way, as they will reveal the non-duality of reality. But really, faith is an assumption.
Dan: I ask this because you often preface an assertion in the argument with the statement, “If reality is non-dual…” Does the final conviction itself then of reality as non-dual only arise together with the hard and fast knowledge “I am the self”?
James: Yes. Then you see that duality, which you thought was the truth, is only a belief. However, you continue to experience duality once you have the hard and fast conviction that reality is non-dual. However, you are not caught up in it as you were before. Here is an email from a friend who realized who he is that came in today along with your email. You can take the word maya to mean the experience of duality:
“Good to hear from you, and thanks for the reply. Life is rather boring for me after enlightenment. Since I was kid, enlightenment was all that mattered, and after finding it seems like “the wind is gone from my sails” in manner of speaking. I keep thinking of the movie Groundhog Day; every day I try to do something different to keep myself from being bored out of mind. Something ‘new’ is not going to help. Meditation sucks because I
don’t see the point of it anyway and I have given up trying to fix my life because I don’t see the point. I am happy as I am. : -)
“I had an interesting insight about maya. For a long time, I thought maya is separate from enlightenment and some how enlightenment will make maya go away. Unfortunately, maya is always going to remain whether one is enlightened or not. Maya arises in awareness and as long as you are alive maya will continue to be with you whether you like it or not. In a higher sense, seeing maya for what it is would actually constitute enlightenment. Many people have this mistaken notion that somehow maya is bad or needs to go away but I think it is wrong. Because maya arises in awareness, without maya there would be no enlightenment. Actually if you think about it, maya is what makes the world go around.”
“James: Ha! You think you are bored. What about me? I’ve known who I am for 44 years. I used to long for endarkenment but Isvara won’t give my ignorance back. Sad story. It taxes one’s ingenuity to come up with something meaningful to do. You make a very valuable observation when you say that maya doesn’t go away when you are enlightened. Only one’s individual self-ignorance (avidya) goes. It is eternal, like awareness. It makes the world go around. I will publish this on Shining World.”
Dan: And until then is it provisionally held (believed to be true) for the sake of the inquiry? So the seeker-experiencer will “disappear” at the same time as the knowledge “I am the self, I am all there is” arises? I just wanted to confirm that you are asking the student to hold something to be true provisionally, rather than setting out to prove an assumption as a first premise and that that is what is meant by shradda, trusting the teaching and the teacher?
James: Yes. It is good you put the word “disappear” in quotes. It is an apparent disappearance. The seeker-experiencer remains but has been “neutralized” by the knowledge. It goes on about its merry way but is known to be just a puppet on Isvara/maya’s string.
Dan: The other question concerns the meaning of the word “world” in Vedanta. This is one I have struggled a lot with also in Ramana and Nisargadatta, because they seem to be saying that the “world” is not when I am the sleeper.
James: There are two “worlds”: Isvara’s world and jiva’s world. Isvara’s world exists when jiva sleeps but jiva’s world does not exist.
Dan: Who is the sleeper? Isn’t it the jiva who goes into the sleep state, which is a “doing.”
James: No. The jiva doesn’t “go into” the sleep state although it seems as if it does. The jiva is eternal. It is present in all states because it is awareness. The jiva appears as three “sub--jivas”: The waker, dreamer and deep sleeper. The waker is the sub--jiva that we take to be ourselves. It dissolves when Isvara changes the waking to the sleep state and is reconstituted as the deep sleeper, a subtle vritti that make it possible for awareness to experience experiential bliss. Sleep is not a doing of viswa, the waker. It is a doing of Isvara. Jiva just creates the conditions for sleep and the waker dissolves. As long as jiva is trying to sleep it can’t sleep.
Dan: How can the jiva going to sleep affect the ontological status of the “world”? The jiva is sleeping in the world. Well, perhaps the jiva is only apparently sleeping in the world anyway, and it is only Isvara appearing to be the doer; surely the substantive world and the “other jivas” continue in the thoughts of Isvara while this jiva appears to sleep?
James: Yes. Good for you! I should have read on before I explained Isvara and jiva’s “worlds.” You reasoned it out on your own. You get a gold star and go to the head of the class. : -)
Dan: I understand that from my limited perspective “my world” of thoughts is “projected” from me, at the causal on account of the vasanas, undergoes modifications on account of the gunas, and is resolved in deep sleep in seed form.
Dan: But is the physical world of objects, including this body, a result of Isvara, not the projections of my mind (from the limited perspective)?
James: Yes, indeed. This is the teaching that Ramana and Nisargadatta do not make clear, so the jiva is left believing that it is creating Isvara’s world and that as long as Isvara’s world exist, the jiva is not enlightened.
Dan: When I say that “all of this” is me, that is from the limitless point of view (i.e. reality).
Dan: From the limited point of view, I have no control over Isvara’s “world” and I simply project my private world onto it.
James: Yes. But you actually don’t “project” although the meaning of your statement is true. Projection is by nature unconscious. So what jiva takes to be its projection is Isvara/maya projecting.
Dan: Are there two levels of mithya – my limited subjective projection onto Isvara’s projection of the objects? (Ah!, that’s the “snake on the rope.”)
James: Yes. There is Isvara’s projection and jiva’s projection.
Dan: Oh, but is my projection of the world done by Isvara anyway, since he is “doing everything”?
James: Got it in one, again, Dan. Good for you. Two gold stars; you are already at the head of the class. : -)
Dan: That makes more sense, actually, that Isvara is doing everything in the field, including my projecting of thought onto the substantive world, and I am just the ordinary awareness of it all “happening” – therefore Isvara is projecting everything, including the apparent existence of this seeker, who thinks he’s conscious…
James: Yes, indeed.
Dan: Sorry for the convoluted nature of the question; I tend to get myself tied up in a knot on these points. Probably I just need to keep going over first principles till I “get it.” I find that even just trying to articulate the question tends to an answer one way or another!
James: Don’t apologize. This is an excellent email. It is not convoluted at all. It is a perfect example of manana, the second stage of inquiry, teasing out the truth with logic. Your logic is impeccable. I was waiting for you to mess up but you didn’t. You came to the right conclusion. When you read the teaching of the Mandukya Upanishad, later in the book it will confirm your logic. I enjoyed this satsang. Keep reading the book and thinking about it. You can’t go wrong.
Dan: Excellent! Thanks, James – you gave me a good laugh too. That has cleared up a lot – I no longer have to wait for the world to vanish to “reach enlightenment,” nor worry that everybody disappears when I sleep. : -)
James: That’s right. And an added bonus: You get to keep your ego.
Dan: After emailing you last night, I got a strong sense that Isvara is “operating” everything that I have hithertofore taken as “myself” and that it’s me, as awareness, that makes it a conscious experience. I very often had the sense in the past of the world being a dream or a stage play, but I never did include myself as one of the characters, nor think about who was dreaming/operating it.
James: Not including yourself is the essence of duality. No jiva is apart from any other jiva or from Isvara. And you – awareness – give Isvara the power to create, sustain and destroy the world.
Dan: Now that I am beginning to understand that absolutely everything in the field of duality is operated by Isvara, including my seeking and finding, I next have to connect that with the understanding that it is all actually non-dual, the limitless self, me.
James: Here’s a clue: You never saw jiva or Isvara because they are only ideas in awareness. An idea, i.e. the knowledge of anything, is only possible because awareness illumines it. So are jiva and Isvara anything other than awareness? You see/know jiva when you are conscious of jiva. You see/know Isvara when you are conscious of Isvara.
Dan: I’ll keep on with the book. Your statement that the “jiva is eternal” threw me off a bit – unless you meant eternal in relation to the person, rather than eternal in relation to the self.
James: I attached a PDF entitled The Definition of a Jiva. It should help.