Search & Read
The Wonderful Apparent Realness of Everything
Pierre: Hi, James. My understanding of svadharma (the duty of an individual to respond to life appropriately) in your sentence, “I define my svadharma as Isvara’s will,” is precisely what I was trying to express and what I meant by not wanting anything for me, except what the total wants for me. Not having many desires may seem odd to you – I don’t know. But I’m not trying to play the role of a saint or anyone else. I’m just presenting things the way they come up for me. In fact I don’t always particularly like not having many worldly desires. But that is how Bhagavan seems to have set things up, and so that is how I see his will. Am I deluded in seeing things this way?
James: No. Everything is Bhagavan’s will, including the way you see it. Even if you are deluded and you know it, are you deluded? Even if you have a doubt about whether or not you are deluded, are you deluded if you know it? Even if you are not deluded, are you not deluded if you know it?
Pierre: Concerning Sundari’s comments that I seem to be “advanced,” I consider myself neither advanced nor not advanced. I get that I am awareness, but it is not a great achievement. Maybe I’m wrong, but this whole enlightenment business is a lot of hot air. It is a big deal for the seekers that have many erroneous notions about it – until they get it. Until they do, they think that if they are enlightened they are God’s greatest gift to humanity.
In terms of karma yoga I still have more to learn, which is precisely my point about why it is so important. Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but I see it as part of the knowledge and the approach towards relative life. I’m referring to more than the practice of consecrating everything to Bhagavan. I mean the understanding it grants in terms of the relationship between the apparent individual and life itself… as Bhagavan… in the awareness that I am. All the talk about self-knowledge is nice, but our apparent lives exist and need to be lived fully… even though they are not real.
In my mind, there is self-knowledge – the hard and fast knowledge of who I am – and the knowledge of the relationship of the individual to life (that I see as the knowledge behind the karma yoga approach)… that appears in self-knowledge. Is this correct?
James: Yes. That is how it is. What you just expressed is self-knowledge, i.e. moksa. It is knowledge of the real, satya, and the apparently real, mithya, and the relationship between them. It is a shame that the custodians of enlightenment these days are quick to dismiss the world as non-existent and (supposedly) content themselves to revel in the self alone, as if life was something apart from the self. Life exists and it is the self, although the self is not life. Just knowing “I am awareness” is not enough, although it passes for moksa these days. I know a number of “enlightened” people whose lives are far from satisfying, simply because they have dismissed the world as a void or the emptiness. You may be self-realized when you know that you are the self, but you are not self-actualized until you grasp the relationship between the self and life. Doing so allows you to live fully and dynamically here, not just sit in your ivory tower and imagine that you are above it all.
I shared this email with Sundari, and this is her excellent reply. It is not an excellent reply because she is my wife and I don’t want trouble at home, but because it is an excellent contribution to this topic. It is addressed to me.
Sundari: Hello, love, I don’t remember if I said I thought he is advanced, but I meant that he is self-realised, which to me means freedom. It is the only achievement worth anything. If he felt differently he would have enlightenment sickness, which he clearly does not have. The so-called spiritual world is more packed with poseurs and self-deluded morons than anywhere else. I agree with you, give me an ordinary good person just following dharma over the spiritual ones any day.
I like his take (and your replies) on karma yoga and svadharma. It is the way I understand them too – why would he think himself deluded for not wanting anything though? Surely, it is the other way around? We delude ourselves in wanting and “having” things. There is nothing to get or have; things just pass through us. Nothing is real, so how can you have it? I already am all that I could possibly have, but that does not stop me from enjoying the apparent realness of everything. It feels great to be an apparent human from that perspective – the desires that are not opposed to dharma, beautiful – the sex, the food – all of it.
I have found the relationship between satya and mithya very easy to get since we have been together. I am living Vedanta with you, so I am blessed, but even if we had not come together, these two aspects of Vedanta svardharma/dharma and karma yoga are for me most crucial in really getting Vedanta and therefore freedom. It is all very well and most essential to meditate on the self, but if one does not “do” the work, freedom ain’t gonna be that free. There is no other way to negate the doer and its likes and dislikes – and no other way to understand one’s psychology and what runs it.
Because I was hanging out in emptiness when I first encountered you and Vedanta, I can relate to what he is saying. If what he feels is anything like I did, it is important to really get the connection between the real and the apparent as the self (satya) apart from experience and as the self apparently experiencing the bliss in all of it (mithya). I was feeling disconnected from the experience of life because I had not fully recognised myself as self – and the understanding of svadharma, dharma and karma yoga were not firm – although I was, for the most part, living them. When I got it, the emptiness evaporated like smoke on the horizon; it was never really there. It is just a concept. There is no emptiness. The mistake is thinking that an absence of “things” or even the absence of wanting them equals emptiness. It does not. One can be totally empty and totally full with all the things one could imagine, and one could also be more hung-up on things while apparently renouncing all of it or even not wanting it. To my understanding, there is no such thing as emptiness, because both sides of the canvas are painted, and they are one.