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Elenora: Dear James, thank you for your response. I took some time before replying because I wanted to test my understanding through a few ons/offs of Elenora’s cycles.
And, yes, what I am is not affected by experience. I am now going to express something that I have understood, and if this is correct then I can say that everything has fallen into place.
It has to do with the difference between pain and suffering. This is taking into account the fact that the self doesn’t need enlightenment, so enlightenment is for the apparent individual, to free itself from the suffering that comes with its apparent individuality. We as individuals suffer because what we truly are, the self, doesn’t fit into this limited entity that we call the person. Trying to limit the unlimited is suffering. But with knowledge, we realize that we are not limited and have never been limited by anything. The experiencer will still have all kinds of experiences, pleasant and unpleasant ones, joy and pain, including the experience of limitation, but the way knowledge affects the mind is by causing suffering, which is the belief that the limitation is real and defines who you are, to disappear. That is the freedom.
James: Yes, indeed. In your phrase “the way knowledge affects the mind” I think you mean the knowledge of the self causes your sense of limitation to disappear. It is erroneous knowledge that the self is limited. True knowledge is “I am limitless.” With the former thought you suffer, without it you are free. It is the idea that one is limited that is producing the suffering, nothing more. It is very difficult to accept that suffering is only due to the way I see myself. This is why experience is so important for most people. They chase blissful experiences to relieve the suffering, but it does not work.
Elenora: The experience itself doesn’t change at all. You are not “happy” all the time, in the normal sense of the word, you don’t “feel” unlimited necessarily, although it might happen at times, you just don’t believe anymore yourself to be the limited experiencer. If all this is correct, then you are right, it is really subtle and easy to miss.
James: This is correct and your conclusion is correct; it is very easy to miss for the reason you stated.
Elenora: There is so much being said about the peace and bliss that will result from all this… and it is only understandable that one will take it to be peace and bliss for the experiencer, a sattvic state of mind. I have personally heard the claim from people that consider themselves enlightened about how happy and peaceful they feel, which has been quite misleading… maybe some human beings do get the experiential non-stop peace and bliss as well?… but focusing on it seems to be a big source confusion. What I do see is that there is a lightness that accompanies the loss of that false belief; everything stays exactly the same, but loses solidity, as it were.
James: You express it very clearly and beautifully. When you say that “everything loses solidity” it means you are seeing maya as the self sees maya, as a dream, a superimposition. Let’s talk about two blisses: experiential and experienceless bliss of the self.
Bliss by Default from Self-Knowledge: The Individual’s Point of View
Experience is the result of the vasanas. If you want to be blissful experientially, you can sit still with the knowledge “I am awareness” and slowly the vasanas that are producing non-blissful experiences will dry up because you know that there is no lasting bliss to be gained from samsaric experiences. If you do, eventually only sattvic samskaras will remain and you can have up to 90% blissful experience. You can’t control the other 10%, because you can never get rid of rajas and tamas completely. In the long run the knowledge of the self will purify them for you, and you will become increasingly blissful experientially.
This approach is good, but it is more or less bliss by default, which is by no means the kiss of death. But there is another stage which is not a stage.
Immediate Bliss by Knowledge: The Self’s Point of View
This is where the discussion on bliss stops making sense and enters the world of paradox. Nonetheless, I will try to make sense of it. Having spoken about bliss by default, this talk about the bliss of self-realization is also true. With reference to the world, knowing “I am fullness” gives you an incredibly powerful experiential positivity – irrespective of your vasanas – because the ego is the self. In other words, the bliss comes directly from the knowledge alone and does not rely on the gunas at all. It is the self enjoying its own nature without the mind, although to say “enjoy” implies an experiencer and objects of experience.
When I first met my guru I could not understand his tamasic and rajasic habits, habits that he had maintained all his life. I thought they should have eventually disappeared with the knowledge. But what I didn’t know until it happened to me as a result of the complete assimilation of the knowledge was that the self experiences itself as bliss irrespective of the mind. If you really ARE the self and not just jiva that knows it is the self, then you get what you might paradoxically call the experienceless experience of full-on bliss. It is experiential but it isn’t. It is happy but it isn’t. You can’t really discuss it further than I have done here.
Having said that, it is nothing to strive for. You might read this and think, “Oh, damn, just when I thought I was okay, there is more to do.” This is a mistake because, as you say above, it is just striving for something you think you don’t have. Just stick with the knowledge and see that your life is in alignment with it and enjoy, and as things unfold you will understand what experienceless experience of bliss means if it is not clear to you already.
Aligning your life with the knowledge can be passive or active. If you just sit back and let the knowledge do the work, it may take a while for the experiential bliss to increase. If you are greedy like me it is also possible to clean up your karma proactively. You just take the bull by the horns and finish all those sticky relationships with activities and people that take the edge off your bliss. There is nothing wrong with samsara and samsaric relationships per se when you know who you are. But from the jiva’s point of view there can be a lot more – if you want it. You can actualize your full potential for bliss as a jiva. Just sitting still as the self is perfectly fine. You see through everything here and you know that nothing ever happens.
But there is no reason why you cannot enjoy total freedom here in samsara. So you just go for it. The self is the desire that is not opposed to dharma, to paraphrase the Bhagavad Gita. So this desire is fine. And how to you maximize the bliss without sitting around waiting for your karma to clear? Mind you, it takes balls to do this, but it will not seem like balls to you, because you really know – I mean really know that you cannot be touched by sorrow. You pour gas on your life and burn down the house that ignorance built. And you stay alert, keeping an eye on those pesky vasanas. This is my style. Every day there is an opportunity to settle down and enjoy easy street, but I am not willing to suffer the constraints it implies, so I refuse to commit myself to anything. I like waking up in the morning not knowing what to do – or where I have made certain commitments, knowing that I will undertake them joyfully as an expression of the bliss of myself as long as they obtain.
Elenora: Once again, thank you for all your help and for your thoughts about impersonal love. I’ve enjoyed them immensely.
James: You are most welcome, Elenora. Best regards to David.