Shining World

Who Is Attached to the Body

I can’t seem to figure this one out. As always, I’d really appreciate your help. 

You mention that consciousness is the one factor that cannot be negated, because in order to do so, one would have to be conscious. I understand this, at least on some level. 

Sundari: This is the central teaching of Vedanta, not my contention or mention. It is the argument that scientists cannot fathom when they try to prove that consciousness arose from the brain: how is it possible if without consciousness the brain is inert matter? You know that is true because without Consciousness the body is 6 ft under. You cannot negate Consciousness because it is the only factor that has to be present in order to know anything, including the fact that ‘I am conscious’. The question is, who is conscious? The hard part is taking Consciousness as your identity. Therein lies all the teaching of Vedanta.

Franco: But wouldn’t that same logic also apply to the body? Is it not true that in order to negate anything I must have a body in the first place? If this is true, then wouldn’t this logic extend to the whole creation itself—as in “In order to negate anything, the entire creation must be”? 

Sundari: Maya has you fooled here, and it is very good at doing that. You are super-imposing duality (mithya) onto non-duality (satya). It is called adhyaropa and is caused by the reversal that Maya imposes on the mind, resulting in the erroneous cognition of reality as a duality (the snake is taken to be the rope), making the changeless appear to be changing.

There are two types of superimposition:

i.) Unconditioned superimposition is where the jiva is completely under the spell of avidya, duality.

ii.) Conditioned superimposition is where avidya or personal ignorance has been removed by Self-knowledge, so the imposition of duality onto nonduality is known to be false, a trick of Maya. In both cases, duality (the snake) is there. The samsari takes it to be real, and the jnani knows the snake is just a mirage and is never again deluded by Maya. Therefore, you can equate moksa with the removal of viparaya and unconditioned adhyaropa. 

Ask yourself who is the ‘I’ asking this question? From the point of view of the body (duality) it is true that you cannot negate anything if you as a body/mind and the creation did not exist. I.e., I see the creation because I and it exists. But as the Self, the jiva and world exist because you see them, not the other way around. You are nondual, the Self-effulgent witness or knower of the dream body/creation, caused by beautiful intelligent ignorance, or Maya. All objects need you to exist (including Maya), but you need nothing because you are what gives rise to EXISTENCE. You are the essence. There is only you, the knower of the known, the unknown, and that which makes knowing possible. But you are not really a knower or ‘seer’. Knowing/seeing is a function of Maya because for the Self, there are no objects to see or know. There is only you. Seeing and knowing only happens when Maya projects apparent objects to be known or seen.

This is a tough one. Here the atheists and objectors say: well, there is no proof that consciousness exists when or if you remove all objects, like before the creation appeared or when the body dies. However, the Big Bang had to bang from somewhere, nothing comes from nothing. But you cannot prove that from the standpoint of duality because outside of or before the BB there is nothing to reason from. Apart from the obvious fact that you cannot negate Consciousness because to do so, as you have stated, you have to be conscious, we do have inference, and inference is a valid means of knowledge. We can infer that there must be a creator because the creation is intelligently designed. Anyone who denies this is just foolish because it is patently obvious. So there must be something it arises from. And that can only be Consciousness.

This takes us to the difference between the cause and effect and the non-origination teaching. We have discussed this before. Here is the teaching again:

The cause and effect teaching in Vedanta is an entry-level teaching and not that complicated, but it is subtle. In some ways it fits the religious narrative: there is a creator and a creation subject to it, and the creation is intelligently run by natural laws which cannot be transgressed without consequence, i.e., cause and effect. However, the Vedanta perspective on cause and effect, of course, differs in important ways.

Isvara, the impersonal creator, is Consciousness wielding Maya, not a personified deity. Unlike the religious creator, Isvara does not punish or reward but is simply the facilitator of karma. So, in truth, as Maya is the three gunas, it is these three forces that bring everything into manifestation, including the jiva construct or Subtle Body—i.e., the individual and its field of experience. There is no actual creator except beautiful intelligent ignorance. The creation seems conscious, intelligently designed and run because the light of Consciousness shines on it. In reality, it has no light or intelligence of its own. 

The first stages of self-inquiry requires investigating and understanding the creation, meaning the creator (Isvara), the person (jiva or Subtle body), and its field of experience (the world- jagat). Not to perfect the person in order to attain salvation for it in some hereto perfect heavenly world beyond the imperfect material world, but to negate both the person and the world in light of jnana yoga (Self-knowledge). To take a stand in Awareness as your identity and develop devotion to Isvara (as the Self, not a deity), to whom the jiva entity (person) owes everything.

But that is not the whole story because if this is a nondual universe, which we know it is, the cause and effect teaching is duality and Vedanta is about nonduality. The two never meet. Vedanta provisionally accepts duality because it meets the beginner inquirer where they are coming from – duality. It is a radical paradigm shift from duality to nonduality, so the teaching slowly builds the foundations for that essential liberating leap that the inquirer must take to progress to the next stage of self-inquiry: understanding the Isvara – jiva identity.

Unlike religion which places an all-powerful deity infinitely above and beyond the mere mortal, Vedanta reveals that as this is a nondual universe, there is essentially no difference between Jiva and Isvara except in two ways: in terms of the field of existence, Isvara is omniscient and the jiva only knows the objects it has contact with. Secondly, in their capacity to create. Isvara creates all objects, subtle and gross, the objective world, and Jiva creates its subjective world, its world of thoughts and feelings—which also come from Isvara, the gunas.

The next all-important question to be answered arises here, which is: if Isvara and Jiva are both Consciousness, what is real, and what is not real? As stated many times, Vedanta defines real as that which is always present and never changes, which cannot be used to describe the creation because we can negate it with Self-knowledge. The definition only applies to Consciousness, the one, and only non-negatable, invariable, ever-present, unchanging witnessing factor. Vedanta calls the creation apparently real, which means it does not stand alone but owes its existence to Consciousness. Which means, we can dismiss both Isvara and Jiva and take our identity as Consciousness.

Therefore, what, not who, I AM  is at the heart of inquiry, not as a subjective notion but as an identity issue. The whole point of self-inquiry is to discriminate satya, nonduality/Consciousness, from mithya, the effects of Maya, duality. Vedanta is a progressive methodology so by eliminating all the inconstant variables, the common identity between Isvara and Jiva can only be Consciousness, so the person is an object known to Consciousness, and you cannot be what you know. Thus, the cause and effect teaching forms the bridge for the next step: The much more difficult non-origination teaching, which is about as subtle as any teaching can be. 

Assimilation depends on whether the inquirer has the requisite qualifications, is properly taught and has a thorough foundation in the first stages of inquiry. Though the inquirer may well have understood that they are the Self at this stage, as we often say, Self-realization is where the ‘work’ of self-inquiry begins. A common occurrence among inquirers is that they jump ahead before completing some of the important foundations for self-inquiry. This always catches up with them and holds them up in their quest for freedom from limitation and dependence on objects for happiness.

The completion of the steps of self-inquiry means assimilation, not being able to parrot the teachings. Some inquirers who think they must ‘learn’ Vedanta, miss the point that Vedanta is purely a means to an end: moksa. Once you know you are the Knowledge you no longer need the means. Others, like the Neo-Advaitins, deem the first stages irrelevant and just skip mithya entirely, heading straight to satya.  Sadly, it does not work to impose satya onto mithya. To kill the beast of duality one cannot pretend that it does not exist. It does exist because you experience it; the question is, what is it?

If there are still the remnants of a doer lurking (which there almost always are) it will stand in the way of an independent mind free of the suffering caused by duality. For moksa to attain, duality must be negated entirely, and to do so we must understand what it is, there is no other way to establish your identity as Existence (capital E).  Only then can assimilation of the non-origination teaching take place, without which Self-realization remains an intellectual understanding, and not actualized.

Thus – As I am the Self, I am non-dual, limitless. whole and complete, without parts, without beginning or end. Anything other than me is impossible because non-dual means just that: nothing other than, no divisions, no parts. But as I am limitless, I contain all powers, even the power to apparently limit myself: Maya – beginningless ignorance—the cause, which makes me, the causeless, ever-present non-dual Self, appear to cause, to change, and to be many. I.e., it makes the impossible possible and seems to make me ‘become’ the effects of ignorance, Maya.

This is not an actual change like milk becoming cheese, which is irreversible.  It is an apparent change because I, the Self, cannot cause or become anything being a partless changeless whole. To do so would mean I have to become something other than me, which is impossible. There is only me. So, I never enter into the apparent creation, the effects, even though the apparent creation only exists because of me.

Think of it like this: Just like a movie director/producer and cast do not enter into a movie on screen, even though the movie exists because it was produced/directed and acted by them: they ‘caused’ the movie, the ‘effect’. But the movie is not real; it is just a projection, a trick of light on a screen. It cannot affect (modify) anyone other than psychologically. It’s all in the mind, as the saying and the teaching goes, which of course, is where everything ‘happens’! 

I, the Self, am not your mind, which, like all effects, is an object known to me. Nothing affects or modifies me. So, though the Maya movie is me, I am the producer/director/actor, the apparent indirect ‘cause’ of it, but I am not it. Confusingly, unlike the producer/cast of the movie, I am not the actual cause of it. There is no cause in me because there is nothing other than me. You can’t get something out of something that is incapable of modification–this is how the logic of the non-origination teaching destroys duality I mentioned it in our last exchange, it bears repeating because it answers the logical question: 

How can Sat, Consciousness, be the basis of the material creation if it is non-dual Consciousness? The material creation is not material. It has no actual substance; it is a mirage. The deeper you delve into it, the further it recedes.  Just like a movie, the creation is a projection caused by Maya, which is not the same OR not different from Sat, Existence/Awareness. Very important distinction, not the same and not different, essential to nondual vision, i.e., discriminating Satya from mithya.

Who then, is the witness, the knower of the creation, you may ask? I, the Self, am also called the non-experiencing witness or knower of the effects of Maya (ignorance): the Subtle body, or jiva/experiencing entity and all objects. But in truth, I am not a witness to anything as there is only me to ‘witness’ me. I am only a witness with reference to the witnessed when Maya is operating. When Self-knowledge removes ignorance of me from the Subtle Body (mind), there is no Maya for it. Non-dual vision is permanent. Self-knowledge is not an object to obtain, it is who I am, so once moksa obtains, both ignorance and knowledge are then just objects known to me.

Cause and effect are, therefore, words to describe Isvara (me plus Maya), and the doer, the effect (me apparently under the spell of ignorance…note apparently). Both Isvara and Jiva share their identity with me, which is real, but neither the Isvara nor Jiva construct is real, though as stated the cause/creation appears to exist just like the movie onscreen.

When Self-Realization is not indirect intellectual knowledge but a DIRECT experience of Existence As Your Identity, i.e., as knowledge, Self-actualization obtains and you see everything as just ISNESS, the Self.  You. There is no longer the need to take a stand in Awareness because you are Awareness, there is no ‘stander’ left. The reality of Maya, ignorance/duality, is no more, though duality still apparently exists, and you can enjoy it for what it is, it is as good as non-existent. As Maya no longer deludes, you never confuse ignorance with knowledge again, confusion and suffering for you are over. Mithya ‘becomes’ satya because there is no other option.

Franco: Maybe I’m misunderstanding what “negating” means. Is it not “recognizing I’m not (only or limited by) this”? 

Sundari: Negating means discriminating you, satya/the Self, from mithya (body/mind/creation). The ability to do this automatically 24/7 is called moksa – freedom from and for the apparent person. And it is far from easy because ignorance is so tenacious and subtle. Maya can flip the mind right back into ignorance with its power to delude.

Franco: I have faith in the scripture and trust that I cannot be the body, since I’m the eternal unchanging Self and the body changes. I also understand that I didn’t create the body. But how is it that the body is not a prerequisite for negating anything?

I’m still attached to the body on some level, as you can see. Faith in the scripture seems to be the only solution, but I also want to fully understand the logic.

Sundari: Fully negating the identification with the body/mind is very subtle, and it takes as long as it takes. Like other physical objects, the gross body seems to have a very real and substantial existence.  You can see it, touch it, hear it, taste it, and feel it.  It appears to be so there. But even though the physical body seems substantial and real, it exists only as a thought in the mind.  It is not ‘real’. This is clearly demonstrated whenever your attention is elsewhere, like when your focus is on another thought or a feeling (which is most of the time), the physical body does not exist for you. 

And, neither the mind nor the body exists for you in deep sleep.  The body remains in the world of objects for others to see, but Consciousness, which animates the body, seems to have ‘morphed’ into another state, the deep sleeper. I use the term ‘morphed’ advisably because, in fact, Consciousness never morphs as not only does it never change, nor is it ever in a ‘state’ of consciousness, but it also never enters anything. How could it be so if all objects exist ‘within the scope of Consciousness’, not the other way around?

Consciousness is the knower of all states of consciousness, of which there are only three available to all sentient beings: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.  In the deep sleep state, the body is no longer experienced because the mind is withdrawn into the Unconscious, the Macrocosmic Mind, or the Causal Body. The body only exists for us when we are awake, when we pay attention to it, or when it is ill or in pain.  Then, perhaps, we are too aware of it. As the physical body exists ‘within’ the Subtle Body, the Subtle Body exists ‘within’ Consciousness. In truth, we only experience peace of mind when we are unaware of the body. And we are unaware we have a body when we are not identified with it, or the body is healthy and pain-free. 

Although it is seemingly the center of the show in material reality, the body is in a perpetual state of flux.  Even a cursory knowledge of physics informs us that things are not what they appear to be on the surface. Everything “inside” the body as well as everything “outside” the body is engaged in a dynamic interactive exchange of particles.  A dance danced since the dawn of life, a constantly changing tableau of color, a trick of light, a holographic projection brought about by Maya, the hypnosis of duality.  An apparently random energetic structure of varying intensities and densities, but if you look carefully, you will discover that the substance actually has no more substance than smoke on the horizon.

Vedanta does not focus on the body because from the perspective of Consciousness, the body is just another object known to me. It is something that appears in front of us one fine day, as a baby.  The baby grows up, matures, ages, and dies, but the Consciousness observing it remains the same.  It is the same ‘you’ that is seeing out of your eyes today as it was the baby, the teenager, the adult, the old man, or woman. No matter what is going on in your life, it is the same Consciousness aware of what objects you are/were experiencing, without ever being affected, always present and unchanging.

The Subtle Body is a term that refers to the mind, intellect, and ego, as a unit and contains the physical body, not the other way around. It pervades every atom of the physical body except for the hair and nails, which is why you can cut them without feeling any pain. The physical body includes the organs of action, the five sense organs, and the five prana or energies (breathing, digestion, circulation, excretion, and the force that expels the Subtle body from the Gross at death). Most of us experience permanent and unconscious identification with the mind and physical body. To say to someone identified as a person that they are not their mind, or their body would sound absurd to them.  Even the scientist and the atheist typically see the body and mind as one ‘mechanism’ which they believe to be who they are.  

Just as there is only one mind constantly recycling through individuals governed and conditioned by endless permutations of the three gunas, there is also only one body appearing as many, also governed and created by the gunas.  The body is made up of the same elements that everything in the environment is made up of, namely the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. The physical body is just food. It follows that the body needs these 5 elements in the correct proportions to maintain balance, or homeostasis.  Everything in the natural world functions on this principle without exception. Isvara’s creation (The Field of Existence) is amazingly diverse and intricate and yet the basic building blocks for everything are very simple and universally consistent. The creator of the Field is very creative, ingeniously efficient, the master of expediency, and the ultimate equilibrator.

Your inquiry is progressing very well, and the teaching gets progressively more subtle. I hope this helps. We can talk about it if you need it unfolded.

Franco: I cannot thank you enough for all the time and love you continue to give me with the teachings. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I’ll definitely take the time to process this one, although the following resonated with me instantly:

Assimilation depends on whether the inquirer has the requisite qualifications, is properly taught and has a thorough foundation in the first stages of inquiry. (…)  A common occurrence among inquirers is that they jump ahead before completing some of the important foundations for self-inquiry. This always catches up with them and holds them up in their quest for freedom from limitation and dependence on objects for happiness.

My mind keeps wanting to rush straight to the more advanced teachings. This is not helping me much, or rather, not as much as consistent work on the foundations/qualifications would. 

I’ll stick to the basics for now: karma yoga and guna management, along with my meditation and devotional practices. 

This has happened to me a few times already, as you might recall from previous emails. But I believe this desire to rush things has been reduced greatly because of two factors. 

First, faith. Since the scripture points out I’m eternal, there’s no need to hurry. (Also moksha is clearly out of my control). And second, now that I’m beginning to assimilate “The value of values”, which you shared with me, the value of steadfastness is slowly becoming a personal value. I can also feel dispassion growing in me, and feel great when there’s no inner conflict in me, i.e., doing what’s right with the karma yoga spirit, whether I like it or not. 

Thank you, Sundari. I really value all your help and having you as my teacher. I’ll take my time with the incredible response you sent me.  

With love and gratitude,

Sundari: You are so welcome Franco, it is always a great pleasure to assist you with your inquiry. As you say, there is no need to criticize the mind’s tendency to want to rush. It’s just rajas, and coupled with the burning desire for moksa, it is understandable. The main thing is to be aware of the mind when it conditions to rajas, and reign it in with knowledge. Exactly as you are doing.

Just trust the scripture as it will not fail you, and remind yourself that you are never not the Self. The steps to get ‘there’ are the qualities of being there. Not that there is a ‘there’, but you know what I mean!

You are on the Vedanta bus going nowhere 

Much love


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