Shining World

Free Will or Not?

G: Dear Sundari, I have been wondering since I last spoke to Ramji about choice and coincidence. Do we have any choice? Who chooses? If I am not my thoughts and feelings and I know clearly now that I am not, then who in me has made these choices about how I live my life. Isvara? If there is a satsang or somewhere in one of the books I could read about it, please let me know.

Sundari: Yes, all the ShiningWorld teachers have dealt with this question. My take on it is at the bottom of this email.

G: As I said before, it has been a sort of mind-shattering realization that I am not the gunas, or the doer; a relief and maybe a numbness where not much is going on, until I get poked by something, and then it is not very dense or long-lasting like it used to be. I am not sure how to describe it.

Sundari: No need to describe it, I know exactly what you mean. Negating the last vestiges of the jiva program, all its emotional/mental conditioning, is extremely subtle and cannot be rushed. Hence nididhyasana being the longest and most difficult phase of Self-inquiry. You are technically no longer a seeker, yet the seeker/reactor program is still active, even if it is much reduced. At this stage, you cannot forget who you are, but it is possible to lose access to Self-knowledge temporarily if you get sucked into the jiva program. Mostly what is felt is a new lightness of being, for want of a more original phrase. The ego feels a bit naked, like it must be missing something or getting something wrong, a kind of imposter syndrome. It passes.

G: And then of course there is love, but I am reading The Essence of Enlightenment again on love. But I have not been feeling at all loving most of the time, not what I expected! But maybe I confuse the feeling of loving others and being open-hearted and connected as opposed to love being just what I put my attention on.

Sundari: Love is not a feeling or a thought. Thoughts/feelings are just the reflection of love, they are not actually love, just like your reflection in the mirror is you but is not you. Non-dual love has nothing to do with what’s going on in the mind, or jiva program. Love as your nature means you are whole and complete and need nothing, it does not involve another. Love may be expressed as a feeling to “others” whom you know to be non-different from you. The object is loved for its own sake, not for how the object makes you “feel.” Real love wants nothing and fears nothing. It is self-satisfied.

In the discussion on love it is difficult to understand the equation between consciousness and love, because consciousness is free of feelings, whereas love seems to be a feeling quite separate from consciousness. But there is actually no difference, because reality is non-dual. Feelings are never apart from consciousness; they arise out of consciousness and are made up of consciousness, like the spider’s web is made up of the spider, but feelings are not real.

G: Please don’t think I am complaining; it’s been rather marvelous, but so strange.

Sundari: I don’t think that you are not the complaining type!

Free Will or Preordained?

The dharma field is like a computer game: all the possible moves are programmed into the game before you play it. The question to ask, always, is: Are you the Self or the jiva? As a jiva, although it appears as if you are making independent moves and playing the game to win or lose; in actual fact it is already predetermined, as you can only make the moves that are already in the programme. Isvara, or the dharma field, is playing the game, which is why karma yoga is such an important teaching and the only way to negate the doer. It is the most sensible way to live because it relieves the pressure of getting the “right” result or any particular result, for that matter, because you understand that the dharma field is out of your control. Only Isvara has knowledge of all objects and controls the Field for the good of the Total. You get the results that are best for you at any given time. There is no way to step out of the dharma field as a jiva other than through Self-knowledge, moksa, which is liberation from the person, not for the person.

If you think you are the doer (the person, or ego), you have limited free will in that you are seemingly free to choose one thing over another, according to your nature or conditioning. The dharma field operates according to certain laws, and if they are understood and followed, it is possible to achieve success from the standpoint of the jiva. If that were not the case, moksa, or freedom from the apparent reality, would never be possible. The apparent reality is not real, so it is possible to “take action,” i.e. Self-inquiry, to be free of it. If it were real, no one would ever be free of it. So if one applies this rule and takes the appropriate action at the appropriate time, desired results are usually, but not always, achieved. There are no guarantees in the apparent reality, because Isvara runs the dharma field and takes care of the needs of the Total first.

The problem is that, although most people’s choices seem to be volitional and individual, they are usually predictable and repetitive. This is because most people, who have none or very limited Self-knowledge, behave like automatons, although they don’t think they do. They think that they are doing the choosing, but actually their conditioning (vasanas/gunas) is doing the choosing. Still, it does look like one has free will, and, in a way, the person does. From this platform, free will gives the person the choice to “make the best” of their lives, and relative success is thus possible in the apparent reality. We do have free will to respond to what Isvara dishes out, and how we respond either creates unpleasant or pleasant circumstances/karma. If our vasanas are doing the responding (which is most often the case), we tend to get more of the same back, unless we are mature people with good values and always follow dharma. If we are not, “free will” is not free at all. We are just programmes responding to our unconscious programmes creating more karma, which will either manifest quickly or “down the line.” But it will fructify, just as a bullet fired from a gun will hit something, even if not necessarily the target.

When Self-knowledge has removed ignorance and you know that your true nature is whole and complete, non-dual awareness, there is no karma for you. This means that the doer has been negated and the binding vasanas rendered non-binding; as a jiva you unfailingly follow dharma, so never create unpleasant circumstances. Samsara no longer exists in “your” mind, and you see everything from the perspective of the Self, which means that you have non-dual vision and see everything as non-different from you. What is there to choose? It is all you, the Self, and it is all good. You take everything as prasad, even if unpleasant circumstances present themselves. You see it all as the movie it is. It does not touch you, even though Self-knowledge is not a magic bullet for the ego, which must still must transact with this world.

~ Much love, Sundari

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