NDM: When you say “he clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect relationship and other such mechanisms and patterns conceived by the mind,” are you also referring to saMskAra-s and vAsanA-s and can you please explain what these are?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is right. Jivanmukta understands the unreality of samskAra-s and vAsanA-s too.
Let us see what these words stand for.
samskAra-s and vAsanA-s are the learned behaviors. If I wish ‘Good Morning’ to Mr. X, my samskAra (culture) expects an appropriate response from him. If I run away in disgust at the sight of a rotting carcass giving off unbearable stink or if a baby cries with fear on seeing a dark scary spider, it is as per the blueprint (vAsanA-s) of the learned behavior stored in the genes.
Suppose the strong smelling spice asafoetida is stored in a container. Even after the spice is used up completely, its flavor (in Sanskrit vAsanA) clings to the container and lingers on, even after the container had broken. The learned behaviors (the lessons drawn, the results of prior actions etc.) are called ‘vAsanA-s’ comparing them to the asafoetida smell left in the container. Very roughly speaking, we can view the stored ‘impressions’ of samskAra-s and vAsanA-s to be the ancient technical terms indicative of what in modern biology are phenotype and genotype.
[Paraphrasing from various sources: Phenotype is the outward, physical manifestation and behavior of the organism. Genotype is the internally coded, inheritable information carried by the organism. To explain these terms with an illustration: Differences in the genotypes can produce, say, cats to have normal ears or curled ears. The pinkness we often see in flamingos is not encoded into their genotype. The food they eat makes their phenotype white or pink.]
The mind views its own imagined characteristic of “pattern recognition and development of conceptual models” as an effect of something and looks for that cause somewhere ‘outside’ itself. Pop comes the answer ‘samskAra-s and vAsanA-s’ as the cause. This answer may not have come to ‘my’ mind; it may have occurred to some mind and handed down to me as a meme! Thus the words samskAra-s and vAsanA-s have come as appeasements for a mind that is searching for a cause for its own behavior. They are just lollipops.
The most basic point to remember is that in order to talk in terms of vAsanA-s and so on, one has to first believe in the ‘reality’ of the existence of a cause, the effect and a relationship between the two.
Looked at from the position of a Jivanmukta, there are no different entities, one as a cause and another as an effect and a third entity called a formula which expresses a relationship between them. The entire thing is One. And that is the only Truth. Not so many different things and their inter-relationships which are all mere imaginations.
NDM: Do you believe it’s possible to be a Jivanmukta and still be “acting out” on negative saMskAra-s and vAsanA-s? Such as lusting after objects, money, selfish ambitions, fame, spiritual reputation, worldly success and so on? Or to have aversions of any kind? Fear, anxiety and so on?
Ramesam Vemuri: May I first make explicit the assumptions behind some of the terms in the question?
“Acting out”: You have put very aptly “acting out” in quotation marks. For a ‘me’ – positioning myself as an aloof observer, a separate distinct individual – a Jivanmukta may ‘appear’ to act. But a Jivanmukta does not act. Actions just happen by their own force. There is no sense of doership, a motive for action or expectation of an outcome on his part. The supernova explodes, the sun shines, the earth rotates, the ocean waves. A Jivanmukta acts. Things just happen.
Negative: Classification of positive/negative or desirable/undesirable or sin/merit and so on requires an a priori standard in relation to which we can compare and judge the things (in terms of positive/negative etc.). Who and what for does one set these standards? Are the standards not highly contextual, local, artificial and subjective? Does qualifying anything – vAsanA-s or actions – based on such purely judgmental aspects have any holiness? A society’s imposition of rules and regulations, howsoever high may be the value and whatsoever may be the morality and nobility, does not have Absoluteness. They may have a societal sanction but they lack an intrinsic Sanctity. Who to say right or wrong or good or bad? Things just exist. Nothing is positive or negative until a ‘thought’ interferes.
Osama is as much a part of the world as Obama is! Perhaps I should even omit “a part of” because Oneness does not have parts in it. It is simply indivisible. Non-duality is not exclusive. It does not sieve out, winnow or filter. It is all inclusive.
I shall now try to answer the question in the light of the above disclaimers.
Perchance I should answer at three levels: (i) from that of a Jivanmukta; (ii) from the position of his body; and (iii) from the viewpoint of the rest of the world.
(i) From the position of Jivanmukta: Jivanmukta is brahman. He does not carry any individuating ID. He does not “act out” or even act. Brahman is immutable, actionless and utterly stable. He is complete and has no lack. He does not have to seek or run after so called good things, name, fame, wealth, lust or status. Nor has he to avoid undesirable things. It is a ‘choiceless’ life with no likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions, acceptance and rejection.
The Jivanmukta’s body works just for its bare maintenance until it meets its natural end. He has no ‘fears’ including the fear of death. If we, say, try to push his body into a burning fire, it may because of its inherent nature resist the push. But there may not be a sense of ‘fear’ felt by Jivanmukta. Or he may even jump into the fire. Who knows?
From the position of Jivanmukta’s body: A Jivanmukta carries the same physical body that he had before his mukti. Externally there are no visible changes in it either in its appearance or normal functions. But does Jvanmukti bestow a license on his body for a free run of all whims and fancies as per its so called vAsanA-s?
The answer is an emphatic and unambiguous NO.
Then what happens to the samskAra-s and vAsanA-s? They are all there only in form but totally ineffective. Vedanta offers two metaphors to exemplify the ineffectiveness of samskAra-s and vAsanA-s in a Jivanmukta. They will be like roasted seeds that cannot germinate even if all other conditions (water, soil etc.) are favorable. They will be like a burnt out rope that retains the shape of the plaid of its strands but has no strength to pull.
If we extend the analogy of phenotype and genotype, can we expect changes in the genes or neuronal connections in the brain of a Jivanmukta’s body? We do not have any scientific data on this point. This is completely a virgin area of research that needs to be actively taken up.
We normally notice that as one stays more and more with Self-inquiry, many of the usual temptations and desires diminish. One does not hanker after power, prestige, privileges etc. Mundane desires and pursuits automatically drop down.
From the view of the rest of the world: Though it is all One world including me, you or any observer, we do see the Jivanmukta ‘acting.’ It is so because we view the world through the filter of our mind. Our mind first conceives us to be distinct entities separate from the body of Jivanmukta. Next it imagines motives for his actions and judges the motives with reference to our anticipations. So it is we who see those actions on the part of Jivanmukta.
(To Continue … Part: 3/12)