Exchange Concerning Vasanas, Samskaras, Reincarnation, and Moksha

The following dialogue begins with my response to an inquiry that had been submitted to the website, Advaita-Vision, and the subsequent series of exchanges that took place between the site master and myself.

 

 

MY ORIGINAL RESPONSE

 

 

Self-Knowledge: Is It Worth the Fuss?

 
Thomas: At the end of the day, what does knowledge of self give us?

 

Ted: It frees one from suffering.

 

Thomas: It does not help answer the burning question of why the appearance/dream/maya that we are experiencing as humans or animals exists.

 

Ted: True. There is no reason for experience. There simply obtains the existential irony that inherent in pure awareness is the deluding power of maya, ignorance, which makes pure awareness appear to be something that it’s not, a circumstance that upon further consideration nullifies the “why” question altogether since nothing is actually happening since, given the fact that reality is non-dual, nothing other than awareness exists and thus no essential change in the nature of reality is possible.

 

Thomas: I am not clear on this one, but it appears that even though one attains knowledge of self in one janma, he/she can actually become a cockroach in the next due to karmic effect, i.e., we are not really liberated from the birth-death cycle.

 

Ted: Actually, one who attains self-knowledge realizes that he is not the apparent individual person he appears and had formerly taken himself to be. Rather, he knows himself to be atma, pure awareness, which is not subject to birth and death and, thus, does not reincarnate.

 

Moreover, the idea that the apparent individual person reincarnates is a mistaken understanding of the concept of reincarnation. The apparent person one seems to be does not transmigrate to another body. Rather the vasana-bundle that was associated with the apparent individual’s subtle body migrates to another subtle body that can serve as a suitable vehicle for any vasanas remaining in the karmic account from which that vasana-bundle originally came and continues to be associated.

 

Following the logic of the previous explanation leads to the inevitable conclusion that the vasanas are not personal. Though they associate with and express through the mind-body-sense complex that constitutes a particular individual and, moreover, can be reinforced, neutralized, or even generated by means of the apparent choices and actions of that apparent individual, the source of all vasanas is the macrocosmic causal body, which is personified as Isvara, and thus are essentially Isvara’s tendencies manifesting through the vast array of apparent individuals whose mind-body-sense mechanisms serve as vehicles for their expression.

 

Regarding the concept of reincarnation, therefore, we can say that on the one hand the notion is completely erroneous, or to paraphrase Krishna’s comments in the Bhagavad Gita it is an explanation intended to provisionally satisfy the minds of the ignorant.

 

On the other hand, it is true that the jiva or apparent individual person is never free of the cycle of birth and death. In order to properly understand this circumstance, however, we must realize that the jiva is a universal entity. Though it looks like there are innumerable jivas, there is in reality only one, for all jivas are essentially the same. The gross bodies of all are made of the same five elements, the subtle bodies of all are constituted of the same component functions, and the causal bodies attributed to all are actually portions of the same universal causal body. Moreover, maya is a power inherent in pure awareness and will forever serve as the conditioning agent by means of which the apparent reality is projected time and again through an interminable cycle of manifestation and dissolution. Hence, the universal jiva will continue to manifest indefinitely despite the eradication of avidya, personal self-ignorance, in any given individual jiva.

 

Thomas: The only benefit I do see in a janma where one attains knowledge of self is that they might lead a life devoid of misery in the mind as they sail through good and bad times even though they may experience physical pain.

 

Thomas

 

Ted: This is the point of self-knowledge. While pain and pleasure persist, suffering ceases. That’s a pretty powerful consequence.

 

But you are right. As long as you don’t mind suffering, self-knowledge is not necessarily worth the fuss.
All the best,

 

Ted

 

 

EARNEST’S RESPONSE

 

 

Hi Ted,

I am happy to post your answer as written, but if I do presumably you will not mind if I interpolate a comment regarding your statement about universal jIva?

“Interpolation (Earnest): Sorry to butt in again here, but this is not my understanding. Causal bodies are on a per jIva basis and there are (from a vyAvahArika perspective) many jIva-s. The concept of a ‘universal jIva’ makes no sense. Ishvara ‘allocates’ bodies to reincarnating jIva-s according to accumulated karma of that jIva. See my essays on this at Advaita Academy – ‘Between Lives’ and ‘The Fires of Reincarnation’.”

Alternatively, you could reword if you prefer.

Best wishes,
Earnest

 

 

 

MY REVISED RESPONSE

 

Note: my added comments are those in bold type.

 

 

Self-Knowledge: Is It Worth the Fuss?

 
Thomas: At the end of the day, what does knowledge of self give us?

 

Ted: It frees one from suffering.

 

Thomas: It does not help answer the burning question of why the appearance/dream/maya that we are experiencing as humans or animals exists.

 

Ted: True. There is no reason for experience. There simply obtains the existential irony that inherent in pure awareness is the deluding power of maya, ignorance, which makes pure awareness appear to be something that it’s not, a circumstance that upon further consideration nullifies the “why” question altogether since nothing is actually happening since, given the fact that reality is non-dual, nothing other than awareness exists and thus no essential change in the nature of reality is possible.

 

Thomas: I am not clear on this one, but it appears that even though one attains knowledge of self in one janma, he/she can actually become a cockroach in the next due to karmic effect, i.e., we are not really liberated from the birth-death cycle.

 

Ted: Actually, one who attains self-knowledge realizes that he is not the apparent individual person he appears and had formerly taken himself to be. Rather, he knows himself to be atma, pure awareness, which is not subject to birth and death and, thus, does not reincarnate.

 

Moreover, the idea that the apparent individual person reincarnates is a mistaken understanding of the concept of reincarnation. The apparent person one seems to be does not transmigrate to another body. Rather the vasana-bundle that was associated with the apparent individual’s subtle body migrates to another subtle body that can serve as a suitable vehicle for any vasanas remaining in the karmic account from which that vasana-bundle originally came and continues to be associated.

 

Following the logic of the previous explanation leads to the inevitable conclusion that the vasanas are not personal. Though they associate with and express through the mind-body-sense complex that constitutes a particular individual and, moreover, can be reinforced, neutralized, or even generated by means of the apparent choices and actions of that apparent individual, the source of all vasanas is the macrocosmic causal body, which is personified as Isvara, and thus are essentially Isvara’s tendencies manifesting through the vast array of apparent individuals whose mind-body-sense mechanisms serve as vehicles for their expression.

 

Regarding the concept of reincarnation, therefore, we can say that on the one hand the notion is completely erroneous, or to paraphrase Krishna’s comments in the Bhagavad Gita it is an explanation intended to provisionally satisfy the minds of the ignorant.

 

On the other hand, it is true that the jiva or apparent individual person is never free of the cycle of birth and death. In order to properly understand this circumstance, however, we must realize that the jiva is a universal entity. Though it looks like there are innumerable jivas, there is in reality only one, for all jivas are essentially the same. The gross bodies of all are made of the same five elements, the subtle bodies of all are constituted of the same component functions, and the causal bodies attributed to all are actually portions of the same universal causal body. Moreover, maya is a power inherent in pure awareness and will forever serve as the conditioning agent by means of which the apparent reality is projected time and again through an interminable cycle of manifestation and dissolution. Hence, the universal jiva will continue to manifest indefinitely despite the eradication of avidya, personal self-ignorance, in any given individual jiva.

 

This topic is actually a perfect example of how Vedanta is not an “either-or” proposition, but rather a “both-and” understanding that is dependent on one’s ability to navigate between the relative and the universal perspectives, to understand experience from not only the apparent individual’s point of view, but also those of Isvara (i.e., the macrocosmic mind) and Brahman (i.e., absolute, non-dual awareness), though technically speaking Brahman, limitless conscious existence, has no particular point of view or definable scope of being.

 

From the jiva or apparent individual’s point of view within the context of the apparent reality, the jiva does seem to be a discrete entity whose subtle body is on a transmigratory journey through a series of gross bodies that afford it the appropriate circumstances through which to express, experience, and eventually exhaust the vasanas stored in its causal body. As long as the jiva takes itself to be a karta, a doer, it reaps the results of its karmas, actions, in the form of punya, merits, and papa, demerits. Essentially, these merits and demerits take the form of vasanas, impressions, that add to or reinforce those already stored in the causal body and inevitably enter the subtle body when the appropriate circumstances for their expression present themselves either within the context of the jiva’s present incarnation or a subsequent one, where they manifest as raga-dveshas, likes and dislikes, that compel the jiva to act (i.e., think, speak, behave, and pursue particular objects) in an effort to satisfy them. No limited object obtained or limited action executed by a limited entity (i.e., the jiva) can produce a limitless result, however, and, thus, no object or action is capable of providing the jiva with the permanent peace and happiness that is the essential, albeit usually unconscious, goal of all the jiva’s deeds. Hence, all of the jiva’s vasana-driven endeavors only cause suffering and the accumulation of more vasanas that eventually must find expression. In this way, the jiva remains bound to the wheel of samsara, the cycle of birth and death, from which ultimately only self-knowledge, the understanding that nullifies the erroneous notion of individuality along with its twin aspects of doership and enjoyership and thus closes the jiva’s karmic account, offers emancipation. Harboring no more karma that requires circumstances in which to fructify, the jiva’s journey ends with the dissolution of both the subtle and causal bodies into pure consciousness.

 

From Isvara’s point of view, the jiva’s journey never ends. That is, any particular apparent entity’s transmigratory journey to self-realization or quest for moksha, ultimate inner freedom or liberation from all sense of limitation, ends with the eradication of avidya, the microcosmic aspect of maya that takes the form of personal ignorance. However, due to the fact that it is an inherent power in awareness and as such is unborn or beginningless and hence endless, maya itself persists indefinitely and will continue to condition pure awareness and make it appear to be something it is not by projecting “upon” it the appearance of the apparent reality, replete with innumerable jivas, each of whom owes their personal character to the constellation of vasanas he or she has drawn from the universal pool of vasanas that is the macrocosmic causal body or, in personified terms, Isvara. For this reason, jivas will continue to manifest as apparent entities until the time of pralaya, universal dissolution. In this sense, there is no end to what might be referred to as the “universal jiva,” the archetypal apparent individual entity.

 

From Brahman’s perspective, of course, there is nothing other than pure awareness, and therefore the whole notion of reincarnation is a moot point, for nothing is actually happening, no essential change has ever occurred. No entity was ever bound, and no entity need be freed.

 

Thomas: The only benefit I do see in a janma where one attains knowledge of self is that they might lead a life devoid of misery in the mind as they sail through good and bad times even though they may experience physical pain.

 

Thomas

 

Ted: This is the point of self-knowledge. While pain and pleasure persist, suffering ceases. That’s a pretty powerful consequence.

 

But you are right. As long as you don’t mind suffering, self-knowledge is not necessarily worth the fuss.
All the best,

 

Ted

 

 

EARNEST’S SECOND RESPONSE

 

 

Hi Ted,

I’m still mystified by the second para “From Isvara’s point of view, the jiva’s journey never ends.” This gives the impression that an individual can never gain mokSha and will always be subject to saMsAra. Do you mean to say that ‘there will always be jIvas’ (because new humans are being born from ‘promoted’ vegetable and animal jivas)? The traditional view is that, when a person gains Self-knowledge, the body-mind continues until the prArabdha is exhausted and then that body-mind (person) ceases to exist as the jIvAtman attains videha-mukti. That surely signifies the end of that jIva’s journey.

I have also not encountered the idea of a ‘universal pool of vAsanA-s’.  Surely each jIva’s vAsanA-s are determined by the accumulated, unfructified saMskAra from the previous lives of that jIva (not anyone else’s). How does ‘universal pool’ fit into the theory of karma?

puruShottama is not a term I use. I know it occurs in the Gita but I confess that I am not all that knowledgeable on the Gita! I would use the term paramAtman or, less confusing from a vyAvahArika perspective, Ishvara.

Best wishes,
Earnest

 

 

 

MY RESPONSE TO EARNEST’S SECOND RESPONSE

 

Note: My responses are inserted into the body of the text of his email.

 

 

Hi Ted,

I’m still mystified by the second para “From Isvara’s point of view, the jiva’s journey never ends.”

Ted: Thank you for your critique in regard to this statement. I agree it is a little misleading. The point of the statement is as you surmise that there is no end to the generation of jivas—until the pralaya, the cosmic dissolution. And even then, jivas will again be generated during the next cycle of manifestation. What I am trying to explicate is the fact from a broader perspective, the idea of individuality is nothing more than mithya, apparent, that the seemingly independent, volitional entity I erroneously take myself to be is nothing more than a puppet whose every action is empowered solely by the will of Isvara. As Krishna, speaking as the self, tells Arjuna the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, “The Lord remains at the seat of the intellect of all beings, Arjuna! causing all beings to move, revolve, by (magic of his) maya, (like) those (figures) which are mounted on a machine (are made to revolve)” (18.61, trans. Swami Dayananda).

Having said that, I do agree with your next comment…

Earnest: This gives the impression that an individual can never gain mokSha and will always be subject to saMsAra.

Ted: I did try to clarify that the jiva’s journey does end with the eradication of avidya, personal ignorance. Thus, the apparent individual can gain moksha, liberation.

Earnest: Do you mean to say that ‘there will always be jIvas’ (because new humans are being born from ‘promoted’ vegetable and animal jivas)?

Ted: Yes. The point is that jivas do not cease to be. And that actually, whether I am incarnate or not makes little difference in terms of moksha, for essentially moksha is the understanding that I am not the apparent individual person I seem to be, but rather atma, which is Brahman, limitless awareness. Thus, while I may still be associated with a mind-body-sense complex, I am not identified with it.

Earnest: The traditional view is that, when a person gains Self-knowledge, the body-mind continues until the prArabdha is exhausted and then that body-mind (person) ceases to exist as the jIvAtman attains videha-mukti. That surely signifies the end of that jIva’s journey.

Ted: Exactly. Such is the result of the eradication of avidya, personal ignorance. And this is the end of the jiva’s journey. This explanation, which is scripturally sanctioned as a provisional understanding for those who still take themselves to be jivas, nevertheless begs the question, “What does it mean to cease to exist as the jivatman?”

In order to answer this question, however, we must first consider the question, “What exactly is the jivatman?” If it is the pancha-koshas, the five sheaths, then it will not cease to exist because the pancha-koshas are the impersonal constituents of all jivas, and will continue to be so until the time of the cosmic dissolution. If it is atma, pure awareness, then it will not cease to exist because Brahman-atma, limitless awareness, is the eternal reality, the very essence of existence itself. The jivatman must, therefore, be nothing more than the notion of ownership-doership-enjoyership that is assumed with regard to the vrittis, mental activities, that arise within the subtle body of the apparent individual due to the particular bundle of vasanas, impressions and impression-based preferences and interpretations, conditioning it.

It would seem, then, that ceasing to exist as the jivatman is primarily a matter of ceasing to identify with the mind-body-sense complex, which in turn nullifies the need for the vasana bundle informing the mind-body-sense complex with which it is associated to inhabit any subsequently generated mind-body-sense complex. Thus, once the jiva’s prarabdha karma has been exhausted (i.e., once the bundle of vasana-inspired desires slated to play out through the vehicle of the mind-body-sense mechanism presently inhabited by the jiva), the jivatman ceases to exist.

But, again, what exactly is it that ceases to exist? The mind-body-sense complex that “housed” that gave form to the jiva was made of the same five causal, subtle, and gross elements as all other mind-body-sense complexes, and since energy (which is essentially what the elements are) cannot be destroyed, these elements will simply return to the universal pool of elements, which will continue to generate jivas for as long as maya conditions Brahman, and thus it will not technically cease to exist, although the elements that constituted it will obviously cease to assume any of the unique variations of its basic archetypal form that they had previously assumed. And, of course, atma, awareness, will not cease to exist, for it essentially is existence. Hence, only the notion that I am a jiva, my identification with being an apparent individual ceases.

From the jiva’s point of view, the journey through innumerable mind-body-sense complexes comes to an end. Moksha, freedom, is attained.

From Isvara’s point of view, one of its components realized its true identity, so to speak, but the grand mechanism of the manifest universe continues to function as it ever has. Or, to employ another analogy, so ends another subplot within the major plot of the cosmic dream.

The question of where the material for the mechanism or the fodder for the dream comes from leads to subject of your next comments and subsequent question concerning karma.

Earnest: I have also not encountered the idea of a ‘universal pool of vAsanA-s.’

Ted: Not in those terms, perhaps, but you have encountered it in the form of the concept of Isvara.

Isvara is the personification, so to speak, of what in technical or impersonal terms we might refer to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is the totality of all microcosmic or personal or individual causal bodies. As such, Isvara is the “universal pool of vasanas.” In this regard, we can liken Isvara or the Macrocosmic Causal Body to the program for a video game in which are contained all possible moves. Within the mind of Isvara or the Macrocosmic Causal Body abide all possible vasanas, impressions/ideas, in a dormant state. These vasanas constitute both the initial “blueprints” for all objects/experiences, the most basic of which are the three gunas, and the consequent impressions that are accumulated by the jiva through his or her encounter with them. In other words, Isvara’s vasanas (i.e., ideas) are the basis for the projected apparent reality, and these projections in turn leave their mark on the jiva, which is itself a vasana/concept, who interacts with them. Furthermore, the jiva’s subjective interpretation of these vasanas (i.e., objects/experiences) is rooted in the jiva’s vasana-influenced values, which determine the jiva’s raga-dveshas, likes and dislikes.

In view of this analysis, we see that the apparent reality is essentially a stack of vasanas. Isvara’s vasanas are the basis for the projection of the manifest universe in its vyavaharika (i.e., gross-universal-transactional) aspect, including the mind-body-sense apparatus of the jiva, and also provide the archetypal possibilities inherent in its pratibhasika (i.e., subtle-subjective-internal) aspect. By means of his or her interactions with Isvara’s vasanas, the jiva then accumulates vasanas that become associated with the particular subtle body informing that jiva, and these vasanas consequently become what we think of as the jiva’s personal vasanas. These vasanas then influence the jiva’s values, determine the jiva’s preferences, and depending on the degree of their intensity inspire or compel the jiva’s actions. As long as the jiva remains self-ignorant, he or she will invariably perform actions through which he or she cultivates new vasanas or reinforces those already cultivated.  Those vasanas that are sufficiently strengthened through repeated indulgence begin to control the jiva, at which point the jiva can no longer resist their influence. Such vasanas are said to be “binding,” and they compel the jiva to pursue the particular desirable objects, which only further fortifies the vasanas and thereby sentences the jiva to a life characterized by suffering.

As mentioned, the gunas are the basic constituents or primordial vasanas of which all objects are made. As such, the gunas determine the quality and character of the jiva’s subtle body. In turn, the jiva’s subtle body or mind interacts with the vasanas it encounters in the form of the objects constituting vyavaharika satyam, the transactional reality. Though these objects are essentially sattvic, composed as they are of Isvara’s vasanas, and are thus neutral in terms of such polarities as good/bad, right/wrong, desirable/undesirable, etc., the jiva superimposes upon them a subjective interpretation or evaluation that is based on the quality of the vasanas influencing his or her psyche, these subjective interpretations/evaluations are the vasanas or impressions of the experience that are stored in the portion of the Macrocosmic Causal Body that is associated with and contains the vasana bundle associated with this particular jiva, which is what we might call the microcosmic causal body or the personal unconscious. These vasanas inevitably manifest initially as likes and dislikes in the jiva’s subtle body and subsequently as behavior carried out through the vehicle of the gross body that is compelled or at least influenced by those vasana-based preferences and proclivities.

At this point, the cycle continues to play out indefinitely through the microcosmic causal, subtle, and gross bodies that comprise the jiva until such time as the jiva assimilates self-knowledge and gains moksha, freedom from its identification with these three bodies, the inherent sense of incompleteness that accompanies this identification, the consequent pursuit of objects that the jiva erroneously believes will provide him or her with permanent fulfillment and lasting happiness, and the inevitable suffering that ensues when the objects fail to meet the jiva’s expectations.

The underlying truth is that ultimately the vasanas cannot be personal, for the jiva is not the creator. Though they seem to be personal because of their association with the jiva and their apparent cultivation, reinforcement, and eventual neutralization through the jiva’s actions, the vasanas must have their source in a far more powerful and pervasive being that is responsible for the projections that take place via the vehicles of the myriad jivas inhabiting the apparent reality, which are, to reiterate the words of Krishna, nothing more than figures mounted on the grand machine of the manifest universe who are caused to move by the magic of Isvara’s maya.

Accordingly, if the nullification of the doer-enjoyer and the closing of the jiva’s karmic account are effects of understanding rather than exhaustive action, then to whom do the vasanas belong? “Maya,” we might answer. But Maya is ignorance, and ignorance is not an entity, as such. Ironically, ignorance is Isvara’s creative power and, thus, Isvara’s essential character as the creator. It is in this sense that all vasanas belong to Isvara.

As a final note, the fact that Isvara can be equated with what is referred to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body, the total of all causal bodies, is supported by the distinction Vedanta makes between Isvara and prajna. Atma in its association with the jiva is referred to as prajna, whereas in its association with the total it is referred to as Isvara. Simply put, Isvara as the creator is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent and, thus, by definition must be the cosmic source of all the possible ideas, which we might call “original or creative vasanas,” that manifest as experienceable objects as well as the universal reservoir all the possible impressions, which we might call “resultant or consequent vasanas,” that are the remnants of the experience of those objects.

I understand that referring to vasanas as “impressions” suggests that vasanas can only be the result of an action or experience, but in this regard it bears pointing out that the literal meaning of the word vasana is “fragrance.” And while a fragrance is a phenomenon that can linger as an aftereffect, the scent itself is an direct emanation from a causal source.

Earnest:  Surely each jIva’s vAsanA-s are determined by the accumulated, unfructified saMskAra from the previous lives of that jIva (not anyone else’s). How does ‘universal pool’ fit into the theory of karma?

Ted: The Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is the “universal pool of vasanas,” is like a bank that contains all the money. Just as each client of the bank only has access to the money in his or her account, so each jiva only has access to his or her associated bundle of vasanas.

Earnest: puruShottama is not a term I use. I know it occurs in the Gita but I confess that I am not all that knowledgeable on the Gita! I would use the term paramAtman or, less confusing from a vyAvahArika perspective, Ishvara.

Ted: Your references are completely valid and in harmony with what I have been saying. In this regard, Isvara is simply the personified (deified?) term for what I refer to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body. By whatever name it is called, this phenomenon is the “pool of pure potentiality” or the “universal ocean of all possible objects/experiences.” Thus, it is the storehouse of all vasanas, and it is out of this storehouse that are projected the particular vasana bundles or constellations that inform each jiva in accordance with the jiva’s karma. Since Isvara is the creator, from what else would the vasanas originate? By whom else would the vasanas be allocated to the jiva? From where else would the jiva draw his or her vasana load?

Best wishes,
Earnest

 

 

EARNEST’S 3rd RESPONSE with MY RESPONSE TO IT

 

Note: Earnest’s previous comments are indicated as Earnest 2, and his new comments are indicated as Earnest 3. My previous comments are indicated as Ted 1, and my comments in response to those comments indicated as Earnest 3 are indicated as Ted 2.

 

 

Hi Ted,

 

Earnest 3: Apologies – I had posted the responses to the question before I received your latest email. It did not seem right to withdraw it then but of course you can amend it or add to it if you want.

Earnest 2: I’m still mystified by the second para “From Isvara’s point of view, the jiva’s journey never ends.”

Ted 1: Thank you for your critique in regard to this statement. I agree it is a little misleading. The point of the statement is as you surmise that there is no end to the generation of jivas—until the pralaya, the cosmic dissolution. And even then, jivas will again be generated during the next cycle of manifestation. What I am trying to explicate is the fact from a broader perspective, the idea of individuality is nothing more than mithya, apparent, that the seemingly independent, volitional entity I erroneously take myself to be is nothing more than a puppet whose every action is empowered solely by the will of Isvara. As Krishna, speaking as the self, tells Arjuna the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, “The Lord remains at the seat of the intellect of all beings, Arjuna! causing all beings to move, revolve, by (magic of his) maya, (like) those (figures) which are mounted on a machine (are made to revolve)” (18.61, trans. Swami Dayananda).

 

Earnest 3: Yes, because the essence of the jIva is the same as the essence of Ishvara: Atman = brahman. Not because Ishvara is the ‘will’ behind every jIva. The ‘will’ of the jIva is surely the identification of Atman with ideas in the mind (subtle body of the jIva) and the subsequent ‘enpowering’ of that body-mind. Ishvara does not will that someone should commit murder. The traditional teaching allows the jIva free will to choose to seek mokSha and follow a notional path to achieving it. Otherwise, what is the point?

 

Ted 2: I agree with your comment. It should be understood that all my comments concerning Isvara’s will are simply metaphorical explanations of the impersonal functioning of the grand mechanism of the manifest universe (i.e., apparent reality), whose operation is inviolably governed by the law of karma or cause-and-effect. If you’ll notice, the word I used to express Isvara’s involvement was “empowered,” not “directed” or “orchestrated.” When the “light” of awareness illumines the mechanism of the manifest universe, the mechanism simply functions according to its “programming” or “design,” which is otherwise known as dharma, the set of physical, psychological, and ethical laws inherent in the projection of the apparent reality, that is cast by means of maya, ignorance.

Ted 1: Having said that, I do agree with your next comment…

Earnest 2: This gives the impression that an individual can never gain mokSha and will always be subject to saMsAra.

Ted 1: I did try to clarify that the jiva’s journey does end with the eradication of avidya, personal ignorance. Thus, the apparent individual can gain moksha, liberation.

Earnest 2: Do you mean to say that ‘there will always be jIvas’ (because new humans are being born from ‘promoted’ vegetable and animal jivas)?

Ted 1: Yes. The point is that jivas do not cease to be. And that actually, whether I am incarnate or not makes little difference in terms of moksha, for essentially moksha is the understanding that I am not the apparent individual person I seem to be, but rather atma, which is Brahman, limitless awareness. Thus, while I may still be associated with a mind-body-sense complex, I am not identified with it.

Earnest 2: The traditional view is that, when a person gains Self-knowledge, the body-mind continues until the prArabdha is exhausted and then that body-mind (person) ceases to exist as the jIvAtman attains videha-mukti. That surely signifies the end of that jIva’s journey.

Ted 1: Exactly. Such is the result of the eradication of avidya, personal ignorance. And this is the end of the jiva’s journey. This explanation, which is scripturally sanctioned as a provisional understanding for those who still take themselves to be jivas, nevertheless begs the question, “What does it mean to cease to exist as the jivatman?”

 

Earnest 3: jIvAtman, in my understanding is virtually synonymous with jIva. It means Atman identified with a body-mind, the ‘personal Self’ if you like. As you say, once an individual gains mokSha, this identification (mostly) ceases so that there is no longer a jIvAtman (or at least only a very ‘attenuated’ one); there is only Atman and the jIva-body-mind surviving until death. ‘Ceasing to exist as the jIvAtman just means gaining mokSha and realizing that you are Atman.’

 

Ted 2: Precisely.

Ted: 1: In order to answer this question, however, we must first consider the question, “What exactly is the jivatman?” If it is the pancha-koshas, the five sheaths, then it will not cease to exist because the pancha-koshas are the impersonal constituents of all jivas, and will continue to be so until the time of the cosmic dissolution. If it is atma, pure awareness, then it will not cease to exist because Brahman-atma, limitless awareness, is the eternal reality, the very essence of existence itself. The jivatman must, therefore, be nothing more than the notion of ownership-doership-enjoyership that is assumed with regard to the vrittis, mental activities, that arise within the subtle body of the apparent individual due to the particular bundle of vasanas, impressions and impression-based preferences and interpretations, conditioning it.

It would seem, then, that ceasing to exist as the jivatman is primarily a matter of ceasing to identify with the mind-body-sense complex, which in turn nullifies the need for the vasana bundle informing the mind-body-sense complex with which it is associated to inhabit any subsequently generated mind-body-sense complex. Thus, once the jiva’s prarabdha karma has been exhausted (i.e., once the bundle of vasana-inspired desires slated to play out through the vehicle of the mind-body-sense mechanism presently inhabited by the jiva), the jivatman ceases to exist.

 

Earnest 3: Clearly we agree on this!

Ted 1: But, again, what exactly is it that ceases to exist? The mind-body-sense complex that “housed” that gave form to the jiva was made of the same five causal, subtle, and gross elements as all other mind-body-sense complexes, and since energy (which is essentially what the elements are) cannot be destroyed, these elements will simply return to the universal pool of elements, which will continue to generate jivas for as long as maya conditions Brahman, and thus it will not technically cease to exist, although the elements that constituted it will obviously cease to assume any of the unique variations of its basic archetypal form that they had previously assumed. And, of course, atma, awareness, will not cease to exist, for it essentially is existence. Hence, only the notion that I am a jiva, my identification with being an apparent individual ceases.

 

Earnest 3: Agreed

Ted 1: From the jiva’s point of view, the journey through innumerable mind-body-sense complexes comes to an end. Moksha, freedom, is attained.

From Isvara’s point of view, one of its components realized its true identity, so to speak, but the grand mechanism of the manifest universe continues to function as it ever has. Or, to employ another analogy, so ends another subplot within the major plot of the cosmic dream.

The question of where the material for the mechanism or the fodder for the dream comes from leads to subject of your next comments and subsequent question concerning karma.

Earnest 2: I have also not encountered the idea of a ‘universal pool of vAsanA-s.’

Ted 1: Not in those terms, perhaps, but you have encountered it in the form of the concept of Isvara.

 

Earnest 3: You certainly present an elaborate and well-thought out system for the Ishvara-jIva interaction. But it is not one I clearly recognize. This is almost certainly in part due to the fact that you do not seem to use the concept of saMskAra at all, conflating this with the one of vAsanA-s. Although I am familiar with both terms, the former seems to be used more frequently in discussions of karma and the latter hardly ever.

 

Ted 2: You’ll have to clarify for me what exactly the difference is between vasanas and samskaras. My understanding is that vasanas are discrete impressions, while samskaras are constellations or bundles of vasanas that form particular archetypal personalities, such as those associated with astrological signs or enneagram formations.

 

Earnest 3: I would have said that it sounds like sAMkhya, rather than advaita, except that they do not accept Ishvara. It is their system, as I understand it, which claims that things are ‘constituted’ of the guNa-s in various proportions. prakRRiti is regarded as an entity separate from puruSha (i.e. it is a dualistic system). Perhaps it is Yoga? (They are effectively sAMkhya + Ishvara!)

 

Without attempting to comment on all aspects of your explanation, there does seem to be one glaring problem, which I think is addressed by Shankara in his attacks on vRRitikAra in BSB I.1.4 (I may be mistaken in the reference here. I know I have come across it fairly recently and this has been by most recent mp3 entertainment on my exercise walks!)

 

The problem is that brahman (Ishvara) cannot be responsible for allocating saMskAra to jIva-s because this would mean He would be open to accusations of partiality. They have reaped it during past lives and have to carry it forward in one form or another to future lives until it is exhausted, or until they gain mokSha. You cannot say that the jIva’s subtle/causal bodies cease to exist because the scriptures say they go on to kailAsa/vaikuNTha or the other place. They can even be enlightened by brahmA through heavenly discourses (krama mukti). It is only the gross body that they pick up in a next life (which is not necessarily a human one).

 

Ted 2: I do not equate Isvara with Brahman in this context, other than in the broadest sense that there is nothing other than Brahman, which of course is a perspective that renders our entire discussion moot. By Isvara, I mean the creator, which is Brahman conditioned by maya upadhi.

 

Having said that, as I mentioned earlier and believe I make clear within the explanation we are presently critiquing, Isvara is not a volitional entity with a personal agenda. Thus, Isvara does not allocate samskaras to jivas. Isvara is simply what we might refer to as the realm of pure potentiality (i.e., “universal pool of vasanas” or the Macrocosmic Causal Body) from which all jivas draw the vasanas that are associated with their particular subtle bodies as a result of their apparent actions.

 

Concerning the dissolution of the subtle body—or, in more precise terms, the vasana bundle (i.e., the constellation of impression-based preferences and proclivities that is traditionally conceived of as the subtle body or soul) that finds expression through a series of innumerable gross bodies during the transmigratory journey of the jiva, which in this case is essentially equated with the ahamkara, to self-realization or moksha—it as you say does not occur until the jiva that they constitute or are associated with gains self-knowledge and thereby attains moksha.
Ted 1: Isvara is the personification, so to speak, of what in technical or impersonal terms we might refer to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is the totality of all microcosmic or personal or individual causal bodies. As such, Isvara is the “universal pool of vasanas.” In this regard, we can liken Isvara or the Macrocosmic Causal Body to the program for a video game in which are contained all possible moves. Within the mind of Isvara or the Macrocosmic Causal Body abide all possible vasanas, impressions/ideas, in a dormant state. These vasanas constitute both the initial “blueprints” for all objects/experiences, the most basic of which are the three gunas, and the consequent impressions that are accumulated by the jiva through his or her encounter with them.

 

Earnest 3: I’m familiar with the concepts of prAj~na and antaryAmin-Ishvara, and taijasa and hiraNyagarbha. And of laya and pralaya, manifest and unmanifest. So yes, of course all of the waking and dream worlds are held in unmanifest condition in suShupti at the vyaShTi level and pralaya at the big crunch. But it does not make any sense to me to talk about ‘pools of vAsanA-s’. It would be like saying that all possible desires are held in Ishvara. Surely it is rather Ishvara’s laws that determine that when a jIvAtman identifies with a particular idea in relation with a particular object, then a (new) desire is formed at that time. It is not that this desire was already present in Ishvara and was somehow ‘pulled out’ when the interaction took place.

 

Ted 2: The “blueprints” of all desires exist within Isvara or God, the creator. From where else would they originate?

 

But, as I mentioned earlier and as you basically recount here, it is through the jiva’s identification with a particular desire that the desire impacts his or her subtle body. Of course, if we really want to bottom-line the issue, then we have to say that the jiva is not a sentient entity in that the gross, subtle, and causal bodies are composed of insentient matter, which only function when illumined/enlivened by awareness. Thus, the apparent individual only appears sentient and is not really making choices or actively identifying with particular ideas in relation to particular objects or harboring desires. All such occurrences are only apparently happening due to the apparent conjunction of the three-bodied mechanism identified as the jiva and pure awareness or atman.

 

Ted 1: In other words, Isvara’s vasanas (i.e., ideas) are the basis for the projected apparent reality, and these projections in turn leave their mark on the jiva, which is itself a vasana/concept, who interacts with them. Furthermore, the jiva’s subjective interpretation of these vasanas (i.e., objects/experiences) is rooted in the jiva’s vasana-influenced values, which determine the jiva’s raga-dveshas, likes and dislikes.

 

Earnest 3: From where does Ishvara get his ‘preferences and dislikes’, that He can be said to have vAsanA-s? For whom is the ‘projected reality’ ‘apparent’? Are you suggesting that Ishvara is deluded by his own mAyA?

 

Ted 2: As I pointed out, Isvara’s vasanas are not likes and dislikes, but simply the “blueprints” for all objective phenomena. In this regard, Isvara doesn’t get “his” vasanas from any source outside “himself,” but rather Isvara (i.e., the Macrocosmic Causal Body) is the “pool” of all possible vasanas. The vasanas are the names and forms superimposed on Brahman or pure awareness when it is conditioned by maya and having seemingly identified with the three-bodied mechanism that comprises the jiva apparently forgets its true nature. The jiva’s identification with his or her experience and subjective interpretation of the objective projections of Isvara’s “blueprints” are what we think of as the jiva’s personal vasanas.

Ted 1: In view of this analysis, we see that the apparent reality is essentially a stack of vasanas.

 

Earnest 3: No, I can’t buy this. The world IS brahman; there is no creation or manifestation. It is ‘apparent’ to the jIva because of avidyA and adhyAsa and the ‘naming of forms’. I accept that the tendency of a particular jIva to give specific names to specific forms may be influenced by that jIva’s vAsanA-s.

 

Ted 2: Fair enough. What you say is true. I was speaking in terms of the apparent reality that is projected by maya. In other words, I was speaking not in terms of the essential nature of the apparent reality, but rather in terms of its conditional appearance as a projection or dream.

 

Ted 1: Isvara’s vasanas are the basis for the projection of the manifest universe in its vyavaharika (i.e., gross-universal-transactional) aspect, including the mind-body-sense apparatus of the jiva, and also provide the archetypal possibilities inherent in its pratibhasika (i.e., subtle-subjective-internal) aspect.

 

Earnest 3: Are you saying here that Ishvara ‘dreams’?! (I confess here that I don’t have any affinity for the concept of hiraNyagarbha.)

 

Ted 2: Due to the “magic” of maya, the apparent reality is projected, or the metaphorical dream of the manifest universe arises within the scope of pure awareness.

 

Ted 1: By means of his or her interactions with Isvara’s vasanas,

 

Earnest 3: how does this happen?

 

Ted 2: It happens through the jiva’s apparent interaction with the apparent objects that comprise the apparent reality.

 

Ted 1: the jiva then accumulates vasanas that become associated with the particular subtle body informing that jiva, and these vasanas consequently become what we think of as the jiva’s personal vasanas. These vasanas then influence the jiva’s values, determine the jiva’s preferences, and depending on the degree of their intensity inspire or compel the jiva’s actions. As long as the jiva remains self-ignorant, he or she will invariably perform actions through which he or she cultivates new vasanas or reinforces those already cultivated.  Those vasanas that are sufficiently strengthened through repeated indulgence begin to control the jiva, at which point the jiva can no longer resist their influence. Such vasanas are said to be “binding,” and they compel the jiva to pursue the particular desirable objects, which only further fortifies the vasanas and thereby sentences the jiva to a life characterized by suffering.

As mentioned, the gunas are the basic constituents or primordial vasanas of which all objects are made.

 

Earnest 3: This is definitely sAMkhya as mentioned above.

 

Ted 2: I guess you’ll have to clarify for me what Vedanta points to as the source of all matter. It is my understanding that Vedanta includes the concept of the gunas. At least one whole chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is dedicated to describing the gunas as the fundamental constituents of the apparent reality and detailing their influence on various aspects of it.

 

Ted 1: As such, the gunas determine the quality and character of the jiva’s subtle body. In turn, the jiva’s subtle body or mind interacts with the vasanas it encounters in the form of the objects constituting vyavaharika satyam, the transactional reality.

 

Earnest 3: How can inert objects have vAsanA-s?

 

Ted 2: I’ve explained this point previously, but again the vasanas constituting vyavaharika satyam are not vasanas in the sense of preferences, but rather the “blueprints” or what we might metaphorically refer to as “Isvara’s ideas” for all objective phenomena that have manifested as objects due to the power of maya.

 

Ted 1: Though these objects are essentially sattvic, composed as they are of Isvara’s vasanas, and are thus neutral in terms of such polarities as good/bad, right/wrong, desirable/undesirable, etc., the jiva superimposes upon them a subjective interpretation or evaluation that is based on the quality of the vasanas influencing his or her psyche, these subjective interpretations/evaluations are the vasanas or impressions of the experience that are stored in the portion of the Macrocosmic Causal Body that is associated with and contains the vasana bundle associated with this particular jiva, which is what we might call the microcosmic causal body or the personal unconscious. These vasanas inevitably manifest initially as likes and dislikes in the jiva’s subtle body and subsequently as behavior carried out through the vehicle of the gross body that is compelled or at least influenced by those vasana-based preferences and proclivities.

 

Earnest 3: I’m sure none of this has anything to do with advaita. Maybe Swami Chinmayananda had partially one of his sources the same source as that of Shantananda Saraswati. Although (for a time) one of the Shankaracharyas, he nevertheless confused advaita and sAMkhya and sphoTa vAda, producing a mish-mash which confused me for years.

 

Ted 2: Could be. But I would say that it does have to do with advaita in the sense that what is described here is nothing more than an apparent circumstance arising within the scope of non-dual awareness. Moreover, I’m not clear on how the concept of Isvara, the “creator,” manifesting the apparent reality by means of the projecting power of maya has nothing to do with Vedanta. The Vedantic texts I have studied, such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Panchadasi, Aparokshanubhuti, and Panchakarana, as well as Swami Paramarthananda’s teachings have all accounted for the projection or manifestation of the apparent reality along these lines. I admit, they haven’t used the term vasanas when referring to the fundamental conceptualizations of objects within “Isvara’s mind” or the Macrocosmic Causal Body, but all attribute the “creation” to Isvara, the creator.

Ted 1: At this point, the cycle continues to play out indefinitely through the microcosmic causal, subtle, and gross bodies that comprise the jiva until such time as the jiva assimilates self-knowledge and gains moksha, freedom from its identification with these three bodies, the inherent sense of incompleteness that accompanies this identification, the consequent pursuit of objects that the jiva erroneously believes will provide him or her with permanent fulfillment and lasting happiness, and the inevitable suffering that ensues when the objects fail to meet the jiva’s expectations.

The underlying truth is that ultimately the vasanas cannot be personal, for the jiva is not the creator.

 

Earnest 3: My understanding is that saMskAra result from the actions of each jIva. These are stored in the subtle/causal body  (I never remember which) and the ones that are going to fructify in this life effectively give rise to the tendencies to act in particular ways (vAsanA-s). So the saMskAra-vAsanA-s effectively ARE personal, even though of course the entire process takes place, if you like, according to the laws of Ishvara.

 

Ted 2: Your comment accords entirely with the points I have been making throughout my explanation. It simply depends on which perspective you are viewing the circumstance from. If you look at it from Isvara’s point of view, the vasanas and samskaras are impersonal. Considered from the jiva’s standpoint, they are personal.

 

Ted 1: Though they seem to be personal because of their association with the jiva and their apparent cultivation, reinforcement, and eventual neutralization through the jiva’s actions, the vasanas must have their source in a far more powerful and pervasive being that is responsible for the projections that take place via the vehicles of the myriad jivas inhabiting the apparent reality, which are, to reiterate the words of Krishna, nothing more than figures mounted on the grand machine of the manifest universe who are caused to move by the magic of Isvara’s maya.

 

Earnest 3: So you also do not accept that there is any free-will?

 

Ted 2: From Isvara’s point of view, everything is happening spontaneously according to the impersonal and inviolable law of karma. From the jiva’s standpoint, there is apparent free will. That is, the jiva seems to have a choice concerning whether or not to act on the desires arising within him or her. But the relative intensity of these desires essentially determines the choice the jiva will make.

Ted 1: Accordingly, if the nullification of the doer-enjoyer and the closing of the jiva’s karmic account are effects of understanding rather than exhaustive action, then to whom do the vasanas belong? “Maya,” we might answer. But Maya is ignorance, and ignorance is not an entity, as such. Ironically, ignorance is Isvara’s creative power and, thus, Isvara’s essential character as the creator. It is in this sense that all vasanas belong to Isvara.

 

Earnest 3: This seems to be just a half-way house to saying that everything is brahman. Of course this is so from a pAramArthika perspective, but if we are talking about how things appear/operate at the empirical level then you have to give explanations at that level. If you accept the existence of jIva-s, then you have to allow them to have vAsanA-s.

 

Ted 2: Actualizing self-knowledge within the apparent realm of experience requires the ability to navigate between the viewpoints of the real and the apparent. So, yes, what you say is correct.

Ted 1: As a final note, the fact that Isvara can be equated with what is referred to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body, the total of all causal bodies, is supported by the distinction Vedanta makes between Isvara and prajna. Atma in its association with the jiva is referred to as prajna, whereas in its association with the total it is referred to as Isvara. Simply put, Isvara as the creator is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent and, thus, by definition must be the cosmic source of all the possible ideas, which we might call “original or creative vasanas,” that manifest as experienceable objects as well as the universal reservoir all the possible impressions, which we might call “resultant or consequent vasanas,” that are the remnants of the experience of those objects.

I understand that referring to vasanas as “impressions” suggests that vasanas can only be the result of an action or experience, but in this regard it bears pointing out that the literal meaning of the word vasana is “fragrance.” And while a fragrance is a phenomenon that can linger as an aftereffect, the scent itself is an direct emanation from a causal source.

Earnest 2:  Surely each jIva’s vAsanA-s are determined by the accumulated, unfructified saMskAra from the previous lives of that jIva (not anyone else’s). How does ‘universal pool’ fit into the theory of karma?

Ted 1: The Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is the “universal pool of vasanas,” is like a bank that contains all the money. Just as each client of the bank only has access to the money in his or her account, so each jiva only has access to his or her associated bundle of vasanas.

 

Earnest 3: But why would this be necessary? The jIva is allocated a new ‘minute body’ at the time of death of the old body, and is then ‘cooked’ in the pa~nchAgni of Chand.U. V.3-10 or Brihad. U. VI.2.  The saMskAra remain associated with the jIva until such time as they are allocated to a new gross body. After all, the nature of the body which is to be allocated is determined by past karma.

 

Ted 2: I don’t understand how your comment is in conflict with my explanation. The statement that the samskara remain associated with the jiva (i.e., the subtle body) throughout its series of incarnations equates with the analogy that the jiva only has access to his or her associated bundle of vasanas.

Earnest 2: puruShottama is not a term I use. I know it occurs in the Gita but I confess that I am not all that knowledgeable on the Gita! I would use the term paramAtman or, less confusing from a vyAvahArika perspective, Ishvara.

Ted 1: Your references are completely valid and in harmony with what I have been saying. In this regard, Isvara is simply the personified (deified?) term for what I refer to as the Macrocosmic Causal Body. By whatever name it is called, this phenomenon is the “pool of pure potentiality” or the “universal ocean of all possible objects/experiences.” Thus, it is the storehouse of all vasanas, and it is out of this storehouse that are projected the particular vasana bundles or constellations that inform each jiva in accordance with the jiva’s karma. Since Isvara is the creator, from what else would the vasanas originate? By whom else would the vasanas be allocated to the jiva? From where else would the jiva draw his or her vasana load?

Best wishes,
Earnest

 

 

 

EARNEST’S 4th RESPONSE

 

 

Hi Ted,

It’s getting too complicated now to make further comments in-line so I will just add a few further remarks here.

Firstly, with your additional clarifications, I can see that our essential views do not differ after all. As I guessed, it was your exclusive use of the term vAsanA that principally confused me. Here is how I described the difference between that and saMskAra in Book of One:

Behavioral tendencies


These are called vAsanA-s in Sanskrit, literally meaning ‘wishing’ or ‘desiring’ but used in Advaita in the sense of the sub-conscious or latent tendencies in one’s nature that will have their way eventually, like it or not. (Note that we tend to add ‘-s’ to an ITRANS representation of a Sanskrit word when we want it to be in the plural. Obviously the actual plural in Sanskrit does not end in an ‘s’.) Edward de Bono, of ‘lateral thinking’ fame describes a model that is helpful in thinking about this (Ref. 53). If you take some jello (jelly), solidified and turned out onto a plate, and you trickle very hot water onto the top, it will run off onto the plate and leave behind a faint channel where the hot water melted the jello. If you now pour more hot water, it will tend to run into the same channels as before, since these offer the line of least resistance, and deepen the channels. If this is done repeatedly, very deep channels will form and it will become difficult, if not impossible, to get the water to run anywhere else. The equivalent of an entrenched habit has been formed.

This tendency to act in a certain way, in a given situation, is called a vAsanA. The less aware we are at the moment of action, the more likely it is that we will act in that way. If we are alert in the moment, with our intellect able to discriminate between alternative courses of action, then it is possible that the innate tendency may be overcome. Just as the channels in the jello have been formed by the earlier pouring on of water, so our vAsanA-s are formed by our past actions.

samskara


The motives behind our current actions affect our future ones by way of saMskAra-s (remember that the ‘M’ is usually pronounced as ‘n’ – see Appendix 3). When we perform an action with a desire for a result, this generates saMskAra-s that will affect future actions. They give rise to the vAsanA-s already mentioned. At any given moment, we will tend to act in the way that is determined by our vAsanA-s, which in turn depends upon our saMskAra-s.

(The terms vAsanA and saMskAra are, to a large degree, used almost interchangeably in this book and elsewhere. Correctly speaking, vAsanA refers to unconscious impressions, knowledge derived from memory, desires and longing, mistaken inclinations and so on, i.e. there is a generally negative interpretation to the term. In the case of saMskAra, there is a sense of cleansing or purification – the root saM means ‘auspicious’.)

etc. (There is lots more related stuff about the different types of saMskAra, karma, free will and so on, but you get the idea!)

Also, Martin asked some questions of Sadananda, regarding the last Science and Vedanta post and Sadananda’s response included a usage of ‘global vAsanA-s just like yours! So it looks as though you are right and I am wrong! I guess I missed out on some key text somewhere.

Regarding guNa-s, my understanding is that Advaita’s use of the terms relates to attributes or properties, in the same way that we talk of name and form. After all, it would not make sense to speak of actual substances, since there is no actual substance at all in Advaita (other than Brahman), whereas as I said, sAMkhya do have a prakRRiti separate from puruSha and this is actually constituted of the guNa-s.

But I think that maybe my understanding of this is also awry! (I guess my tendency has always been to go for the jugular of absolute reality and ignore the interim explanations to some degree.) Here is what D. Venugopal says on the subject:

“The components of mäyä are three fold. They are (i) sattva or intelligence, knowledge and purity; (ii) rajas or desire, energy and action; and (iii) tamas or ignorance, grossness and inaction[1]. These are called guëas and every manifestation has all the three cohering in differing measures. They are not qualities but components of mäyä, which bind ätmä to the body[2]. Sattva leads to the experience of the pleasure (sukha) and makes the experiencer identify ätmä with the experiencer and say, “I am happy”. Rajas gives rise to a more deeply entrenched sense of bondage through similar identification of ätmä with the likes and dislikes and the actions arising from them. Tamas binds through the inability to acquire discriminative knowledge and the incapacity to do what is to be done.”

So, the overall comment seems to be that we mainly agree but, on those topics where we disagreed, you are probably correct – my apologies! It just goes to show the value of having a number of us responding to the same question.

Best wishes,
Earnest