Cultivating a Clear Mind for Discrimination


Q:
I'm sure this probably goes back to knowledge vs. experience, but I would like your comments:
 
Besides just being enjoyable by the jiva, is there any argument for the value of the samadhi [meditation] experience in order to momentarily enhance the "beautiful clarity of the vision of non-duality" for the jiva when the jiva's mind is not clear? For instance, when the jiva is caught up in the world? Or, first thing in the morning, just to set the tone for the day? 
 
A: Absolutely!

Let’s make sure you’re clear on what the “knowledge vs. experience” argument is. That refers to Vedanta’s definition of enlightenment (the
knowledge that I am awareness) vs. the generally-held belief that there is an experience or state of enlightenment. We’re not saying that experience doesn’t matter, that it should be ignored, or that it doesn’t have value. We are just saying that enlightenment is not an experience.

You are talking about cultivating a sattvic (clear, peaceful) mind, and yes, that has great value. It is in a sattvic mind that an accurate reflection of awareness can be seen.

But I think you asked me this question based on your recognition that you are awareness, and as this, all things appearing are of equal value. Awareness is beyond the three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas. I awareness do not need to cultivate a sattvic mind.

But because duality appears, and Vedanta is dealing with you in duality on the jiva level (since enlightenment is for the jiva), there are always two answers to every question at first: a relative one, and an absolute one. You can't just go to the absolute one as the only "true" one, because they are both true, and jiva has to be brought along. One part of the teaching encourages lifestyle changes that cultivate sattva, which is what you're basically talking about. So yes, cultivate that. It's good. 
 
Q: I'm assuming the answer is still no – just as I do not have to remind myself of gravity at the outset of the day or when I'm absorbed in Maya: Knowledge is knowledge and the jiva's momentary ignorance – whether it is ignoring its true nature or ignoring gravity – doesn't change the fact of either truth.
 
A: Your instinct about this is correct, on an absolute level. You're very good at sorting the real from the false, and this is a valuable asset. But don't be quick to leave jiva behind. This is the fatal flaw in the Neo-Advaita teaching. That teaching denies the existence of the person, and so it is a whole cut-off aspect of experience that is never addressed. It sounds appealing – eliminates a ton of work – but it fails ultimately because the jiva/person was not brought along to get the knowledge that it is really awareness by nature. Since enlightenment is for the jiva, if the jiva fails to get the knowledge, then enlightenment doesn’t take place.
 
Just to repeat: Vedanta does not deny experience. It is only saying that enlightenment is not an experience. 
 
Q: Another thought regarding the value of samadhi is that it seems like a possible form of discrimination; or better stated, I'm using samadhi as the quiet backdrop to practice self-inquiry/discrimination.

A: Samadhi isn't a word in my lexicon so I'm not really comfortable commenting on it. It sounds like you are talking about what Vedanta calls sattva. And yes, when the mind is in a sattvic state, discrimination is easy. 

Regarding "value," again, it's an issue with two answers. Yes, sattva has great value for jiva in Maya. But for me-awareness, everything is of equal value. 
 
Q: In other words, it is like I'm "practicing" the vision of non-duality, but knowingly using reflected awareness. I see passing objects appearing in me, I see that I illuminate them, I see that I remain untouched, and continuous, as they come and go. In this coming & going, I see their dependence upon me and my non-dependence upon them. 

A: Beautiful! 
 
Q: I realize this is technically an error since I can't look at (or experience) the true subject I-Awareness directly. 

A: Exactly. 

Q: The I that "sees" in the sentences above is the I of reflected awareness and is an object.

A: Yes. Good! But the real “I” is pure awareness, making the "seeing" possible. You make the knowing of reflected awareness possible. 

Q: So would this "practice" in reflected awareness perhaps serve to inappropriately reinforce the identification of the "I" with the jiva? 

A: I understand your point, but no, it’s not a problem: You are asking me if cultivating a sattvic mind for the purpose of discriminating, and creating a mental environment conducive to an accurate reflection of pure awareness, could possibly be reinforcing your mis-identification. No, that’s actually the perfect thing for the jiva to do (as long as the jiva thinks it is a doer), because in your discriminating, you will be reinforcing your correct identification with the Self. With a sattvic mind, you will be able to say, “I am the awareness in which these thoughts and practices appear.”

Now, if you are asking me if you should quit “doing,” in order not to reinforce the idea that the jiva is a doer, the answer is no. As long as jiva thinks is it a doer, it should do the things you are talking about.
 
Q: Is samadhi "close enough" to I-Awareness to be of discriminatory "value?" 
 
In referencing "close enough," I'm referring to the sattva aspect of samadhi, and looking at James' diagram, noting that sattva is just under the dotted line at the border of Awareness. Samadhi/sattva-based discrimination seems to be (apparently) pulling me in the right direction on the diagram! 

A: Yes, I agree. The apparent “me” you are talking about here is pulled in the right direction, chipping away at the apparent ignorance.
 
Q: I know, I know, I'm already and always ABOVE the line on the diagram! :-)

A: :-) 
 
Q: I realize that I'm back into action & experience (even though I'm calling it discrimination), and any action you do in the world is limited and who you are is unlimited.

A: Good. There is no action that can lead the jiva to freedom, because the jiva is by nature limited. Only knowledge that you are already free and unlimited can do that.

Q: Yet, self-inquiry/discrimination is not action (seeking), but is the application of knowledge. So, is samadhi, in a sense, helping the jiva to apply the knowledge?

A: Self-inquiry and discrimination are actions for the purpose of eliminating ignorance. When the ignorance is gone, the knowledge reveals itself in a sattvic mind. Jiva can't really apply the knowledge, because the knowledge says that he doesn't exist. But self-inquiry and discrimination are needed while they are needed. All the tools that Vedanta offers are helpful in getting rid of the ignorance.

If we just replace “samadhi” with “sattvic mind,” I would say that a sattvic mind is necessary for the knowledge to take hold.
 
Q: Please let me know if I'm getting off track and just need to keep it simple and clearly see the no-value in all experience! 

A: You are right that there is no value in all experience. However, you can't put all your eggs in that basket. For the jiva, there is value in experience. It's that "two right answers" thing again. It drove me nuts at first because I wanted there to be one answer! But as long as jiva still operates, there is an answer for the jiva, and that's okay.

This thing is not a straight line. It's not possible to take one idea to stand on and build on that, because it's in Maya and will shift under your feet. There is a whole mandala of existence, as James says. Vedanta reveals the integrated picture as a whole. The vision of non-duality comes into clearer and clearer focus. Keeping both jiva-correct answers and awareness-correct answers in your mind, and seeing the difference – this is basically what discrimination is. 

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