Verse 2 – beforehand
of class, Moni told a sweet story of the first meeting of what was to become
That Alone, back in 1976. A number of people were living in a small house on
Hall Street in Portland, and the rest of us made a pilgrimage early morning and
evening for the classes. After the evening sessions, Nitya would ask Moni to
bring him some tea or oatmeal, and they would talk. She remembers him one time
asking her what she thought of that day’s class. She told him how special it
was, and how important, and how much everybody loved what he talked about. He
looked at her and quietly said, “I also heard it.” Moni knew what he meant,
that he was listening to the words as they flowed out of him, but he didn’t
feel that he was inventing them. They were coming from somewhere else, and just
passing through him. He was as much a witness to the class as we were.
remember Nitya saying something similar in his very first class in Portland, on
the Bhagavad Gita in 1970. He pointed to the light fixture in the ceiling and
said, “I am like that light bulb. By itself, it doesn’t give off any light, but
it does have that potential. It has to have electricity passing through it, or
it remains dark. Like that, by myself I don’t give off any light. Nataraja Guru
is my electricity. When his wisdom flows through me, it becomes a light that
can be transmitted to you.”
much of Nitya’s instruction was to help his disciples become properly mentally
attuned so that they could detect and eventually even amplify the wisdom that
is the very fabric of the universe. If we think of it as ours it is no
different than rejecting it: we unintentionally shut out the light-giving
energy. Instead, we are to assume the pose of empty vessels awaiting the favor
of being filled by wisdom. As he sat every morning in the living room of Hall
Street house, speaking words of enchanting beauty and insight, Nitya was very
well prepared to transmit wisdom from the universal profundity. And as he sat,
he listened to his own words just as we did, and was thrilled by them, honoring
them as if they came straight from his guru. The lesson was as much for him as
for any of us. In his humble way, as he said to Moni, he also heard it.
actually followed Nitya’s suggestion that “You can profitably use this verse to
detect your latent urges, hidden propensities, and even your basic drive,” an
excellent starting point for self-instruction:
As I read
and pondered this verse, I became aware of how the four aspects of
consciousness: questioning, recollecting, reasoning, and being affected, create
my perceptions, and when the senses, body and mind all come together they
create the confection of my different worlds and a call to action, dominated by
the major drive or urge that dominates that particular moment in life. How
these worlds of interest lead one to the next, and how they arise from latent
urges. It has been a very interesting process to step back ‘from the heart of
the situation’ and to focus on the dynamics in play. This led into looking at
next on how the dominating interests, ones which reoccur over and over, make up
my major drives. And how they have their roots in past life vasanas. Plus all
the samskaras I have collected in this lifetime.
It was very
early morning and I was enjoying a cup of tea [I went through the stages] and
decided that my most major drive of all is the longing to know the nature of
life, the Divine. The home from which I came. As a small child I loved the
hymn:’ There is a happy land far, faraway, where saints in glory stand, bright,
bright as day.’ I so wanted to go there, to return home. So all of my life I
have thirsted after esoteric books, courses, groups etc to seek and learn. Jon
and Vangellis: ‘Somehow I’ll find my way home’ has been my theme song. I dwelt
in the beautiful world of crystals for several years [where I met my partner,
Karel] My greatest joy was being
led to Guru Nitya who became my dearest teacher and friend.
way to India and Ooty was challenging in those early days, but when ones major
drive is aroused, everything becomes possible.
drives appeared in my mind: Freedom. Letting go of fear. Reaching out to
unknown. Love of perfection, beauty and order. A drive for a father figure, to
wrap me in warmth and strength. To be taken care of. A drive to aloneness.
Being happiest off on my own as a child for a day on my bicycle, with a
sandwich, apple and notebook. The pleasure of peddling and finding a peaceful
spot in nature. Later in my life canoeing and exploring.
to run away when life became oppressive. Fear of containment.
to understand love. Learning to live in a family, to care, to be of service.
dominant drives are:
to the Divine.
not being tied down.
A place of belonging.
these drives has always been a knowing that I am being taken care of by grace.
My mother told me I was born under a lucky star. When I am still and quiet I
know that everything will be alright in ways I cannot imagine.
of our garden. It is a good metaphor.
overgrown after years of neglect when I took it over. My task was to create
beauty and order within its natural structure. This has been achieved over 12
years. During this time it has had many changes as it evolved. Karel and I have
created a Zen meditation garden area, filled with Ferns, Bamboos and dwarf
conifers. So many shades of green.
I love colours, shapes and spaces. So many scents too.
feels like myself. Flowering, dying back, re growing. Removing inner weeds etc.
Pruning here and there. Living through the forces of change.
through the exercises and came out with the drives I have mentioned. I also
love creating a lovely home with plants, light and colour and music. I love
reading. I love and value my family connections and friendships. Precious old
memories. I will add that Karel is generous, kind, courageous, silent,
appreciative and loving. So I aspire to all these qualities, sometimes falling
short when I feel tired and can’t reach my preferred standards. Then I feel
lost and unsure. This is when I have to see myself as one with everything, which
is why I love this book. It brings
a link we’ve shared a year or two back for another TED talk, explicitly related
to the first verse, but not in any way limited to it. A visual feast of the
beauty of our world and a reminder to keep loving it:
echoes Taira’s comment in the previous notes that we draw much inspiration from
what we see and feel, which is very true. And yet, sensory stimulation is only
the outermost layer of our very rich cosmos of mental functioning. As we
proceed in our study, we’ll be turning the arrow of our intention the other
direction: from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Since our state
of mind modulates the perceptible world much more than the reverse, we’ll be
digging as deep as we can into the inaccessible regions of our being.
How can I
know which state of consciousness I’m in? I sort of know after the fact - like, I was just
remembering, or I was just aware of .....
If I become
self conscious, I stop being conscious. Does that make sense?
brought this up. You may be confusing two things called self-consciousness. The
more familiar one is an embarrassed or threatened ego trying to throw up a
defense or a diversion, and you’re right: doing that makes a person much less
conscious. It shrinks the psyche down to “me versus the world,” only interested
in immediate rewards. This is the self-consciousness of the battlefield, the
same one that Arjuna the seeker insisted on getting away from in the Gita.
self-consciousness that is the goal of the hundred verses of self-instruction
is something else entirely. Here ‘self’ has a global sense, inclusive of as
broad a view as we are capable of. You are correct in realizing that we
routinely mistake the first type for the second, a grandiose delusion that
allows us to go about our business untroubled by doubts, but prone to a
different set of tragic errors: forgiving ourselves our sins even as we commit
more and more of them.
philosopher, though, those doubts are essential. They are messages from our
greater self that we are leaving out important information, and we ignore them
at our peril. The chaos and misery rampant in the social sphere is the logical
outcome of self-delusion, often referred to as ignorance in Vedanta.
The danger is
that in confronting our doubts we can also become mired down in them, and if we
do it also shrinks the psyche to a painful smallness. This is another rampant
state of mind in modern humans.
So we are all
assailed by doubts and fears. On the one hand we try to ignore them and cover
them up, and on the other we face them but get sucked into a kind of mental
quicksand from which escape seems impossible. Neither horn of this dilemma is
acceptable. The study we are undertaking is to discover the synthesis of this
dialectic, to attain a “higher ground” above the battering of escapism and
confusion. I’m pretty sure the reason so many find solace in this book is that
it leads us very effectively to this higher ground. Narayana Guru and others
call this unknown territory the Self, and the shorthand for this dilemma is the
contrast between self and Self. Our aim is to make that initial ‘s’ bigger and
bigger, until the Self is All. It’s an exciting prospect.
Yes, the mired down and sluggish trip that happens in a self
conscious place of the first sort.
I totally grok that.
Is there any
place in the four steps of conscious where one can see a roadsign to get out of
self conscious number one and march up the higher road to self consciousness
Your question hits the nail on the head. It’s precisely
kind of thinking that leads a person deeper into the subject instead of
cruising along on the surface. Very good.
of all, there are no road signs here (or there are many conflicting signs
pointing every which way, which amounts to the same thing), and that is why
this little known system is definitely The Road Less Traveled. It’s mysterious
why some people are drawn to independently ponder the meaning of life, and yet
gratifying that they do. And while the four stages of thinking described in
Verse 2 have a kind of logical sequence, they are not so much linear as
simultaneous and interpenetrating. We stretch them out and pin them to a board,
so to speak, so we can study them. That’s the transformative factor here.
people go through life like a leaf in a windstorm, blown across the terrain by
a combination of many outside forces, both helpful and unhelpful. It works
adequately, up to a point. We’re often encouraged to simply “go along to get
along,” and it works. Then again, becoming a cog in a gigantic wheel can make
us feel like we have lost our personal integrity, and we’d prefer to hold onto
we happen to feel that simply Blowin’ in the Wind isn’t for us, we stop and
think, trying to make sense out of the apparent chaos. Here is where a study of
consciousness has its effect. Where we once took the surface imagery of our
life for granted, we begin to see the mechanism behind it, we begin to learn
about the inner structure of our mind that both binds and liberates. Then we
can resist the bondage and support the liberating tendencies in us. Our efforts
may be small in respect to the whole system, but they do have an effect, and it
gains momentum with practice.
will see that the Atmo study starts with some heavy going: a handful of verses
to lay out the general structure of our situation from a psychological
standpoint, but then it takes wings. We can soar with it because we have become
cognizant of several pitfalls that have been hampering our journey, and now we
can avoid them. I’ll leave spelling these out for later, as the Guru introduces
them. Here in Verse 2, the fourfold aspect of consciousness shows us how we
register a scene, compare it to what we know, label it, and decide whether we like
it or not. While helpful and even essential, can you see how this is also the
basis of prejudice and intolerance? We are always limiting ourselves to what we
decided previously, often erroneously. If we are going to learn to fly, we have
to be able to provide new input: we have to add another dimension to this
of the words we’ll be reading are like magic seeds that go deep into our
psyches, where they sprout into new possibilities. Each person is free to
decide for themselves if they are attracted to this form of transformation or
not. There are lots of others. The ones who stay with it are those who gave it
a try and found it lifted their spirits. In the final analysis, that’s the only
road sign we have.
In a way, this rather brings to mind a long conversation I
had with Ursula Le Guin regarding the Tao Te Ching. She maintains that if you get the first poem, meditation,
thought form, whatever it is - that you don’t even have to read on for
clarification. If you don’t
get it, the other verses continue to provide roadsigns, but if you aren’t
there, you don’t necessarily speak the language the roadsign is in and you
don’t get it and have to keep on.
I wonder, are the delineations of the thought process
therefore not roadsigns, but more like a storyboard in the Hollywood studio -
one can move them around into different orders, still have the same movie - and
here’s the thing, but different?
No, they’re in a very logical sequence, which wouldn’t
shuffled. Do you care whether or not you like something before you know what it
is? Or can you identify it before it appears? No. And these are not road sign
for some other destination, they are exactly how the mind operates, in a
general sense. Knowing how our mind works allows us to be a conscious fellow
traveler with our Self instead of a sleeping hitchhiker just along for the
ride. The road signs we pass are mostly commercial billboards trying to sell us
something we don’t need, and we’d do better to admire the scenery instead of
fixating on them....
And yes, if
you get it, none of this is necessary. Narayana Guru and Nitya provide 99
implications, or really a thousand and 99, in case we didn’t think of them
ourselves, and by golly! we didn’t. Or we won’t have. Those guys did our
thinking for us, which is great because we didn’t. That’s why they are called
teachers. Teachers show us what we should have thought of, but didn’t, but at
least we do recognize it when they make it clear to us.
I love this. I
laughed out loud about the billboards telling us about things we don’t
need. How full of
distractions so many signs are, indeed!!!
A perfect thought for this evening. And teaching is always leading -
even if you are trying not to, it ends up being that. I have personally found that when I teach my courses
at PSU, if I lead my students to the conclusions of the course material, they
“get it,” versus just memorizing it, passing the test, and actually forgetting
it by the end of the term, and not really getting it. So I appreciate what you are saying about teaching,
Scott - a great deal. It took me
about ten years to figure out how I could teach - that is, lead.
Okay - so the steps of the mind are a fixed sequence. Good to acknowledge. I asked just to be sure. It is good to have some things
that are in a sense axiomatic, because you can build on those. Maybe axiomatic
is the wrong word. Hmmm, help me here someone.
Just curious - and I hope I’m not being a pest. Vasanas are instinct or more like the
newer theories about epigenetics - which, and I probably don’t understand this
correctly, state that there is some kind of memory or chemical mechanism with
DNA, as yet unmapped or unseen, but has consequences that are visible - i.e. -
a generation comes from Ireland that has been subjected to severe famine, their
next generation is healthy and well fed, but the next generation shows the
cellular deterioration commonly found in victims of famine - or more
recently, one generation exposed to irradiation from nuclear testing, the next
generation reasonably healthy, and the next generation showing a lot of autism,
adhd and the like.
I love teachers, incidentally. Well, maybe not Mrs. Buzzel, but about all the others.
And I got a LOL out of yours, thank you. Beauty is as beauty
Karanam is not
quite axiomatic, which would mean it is a core assumption, unprovable but
necessary. We often treat the fourfold consciousness as axiomatic, as it’s the
ground of our way of thinking, but here we are challenging the axiom, parsing
it out to see how it functions in practice. A lot of its presumptions turn out
to be erroneous. It will still function similarly if and when we upgrade the
data base and discard the garbage.
Right on about
vasanas, the old name for what we now think of as genetic processes.
wrapped it up with a “Memory Stick” for the karanam:
“What where how who when?” asked young Ms.
“As I recall,”
started young Mr. Cittam
“Is this memory device relevant?” interrupted
“Now I get it,” said old gray Ahamkara
psychic dynamism, the senses, the body,
many worlds known by direct perception--
the glorious embodiment of the sun that shines
the sky beyond;
should be realized through relentless search.
a relentless search one should realize that the inner faculties, the senses,
the body, and all the worlds of our interest are but transformations of the
glorious substance of the Sun shining in the void of the Absolute.
it’s fairly straightforward, the several versions of this verse are remarkably
similar, so these two will suffice.
hearty group assembled, featuring some fresh new faces that are adding much to
the mix. Deb started us off as usual with an excellent summary, and she even
was kind enough to write up the gist for me:
In the opening, first verse we
are immersed in a quiet, intimate feeling, even though we are bowing inwardly
to the karu, the karu that shines both within and without. That reverence gives
way in the second verse to a stronger, more outward-seeming stance. We
acknowledge the sun that shines in the outward firmament… again, though, it is
a light that permeates all, in both inner and outer worlds. Here our approach
is one of relentless search. We are moving from a silent, even humble,
recognition of brilliance, to a rigor of self-analysis. In both verses, though,
there is a pervasive light (karu or metaphysical sun) that illuminates and
unifies our world.
a former news reporter, took notes and also supplied them this morning. (As I
start my writing with an apparent empty slate, I am eternally grateful for
these helps, and hope that others will take pity on me as well.) She wrote down
Deb’s most important point: The relentless effort is meant to “sort out
compulsions from insights,” one of the most critical points in all of spiritual
life. Much of the class was spent mulling over the significance of the
relentless effort involved, but first we focused on the “psychic dynamism,” the
fourfold process the brain employs to determine the meaning of everything it
Guru’s advice is to relate everything we encounter to an underlying unity, and
we are instructed to make this a determined habitual choice. He well knew that
we are mesmerized by appearances, that unity is not a visible item, and if you
didn’t bring it in with your intelligence you were consigning yourself to a
fragmented world, desolate and harrowing. His compassionate soul was convinced
that regaining the Karu or supreme sun in our hearts was the antidote for the
emptiness and cruelty that plague our species. Verse 1 directs our attention to
this all-encompassing reality, and Verse 2 asks us to relate it diligently to
everything that we can and do perceive.
our psychic dynamics happen so fast that we are hardly aware of them. It’s
truly amazing how quickly and unconsciously we characterize the elements of our
world, based on our previous experience. We take the result for granted, and
that generally works fine in respect to our survival. But awake adults begin to
suspect we are doing damage to our environment, unintentionally reducing it
from a marvelous living garden to a mummified reproduction of one. If we want
to go beyond a life of bondage, we have to realize that basing our life in
terms of what was established in the past is deadening. Boring, too.
memories that we draw on to determine the meaning of everything and what we
should do about it are at best limited and at worst severely twisted. So the
yogi stops and takes a good look at the way they react, digging down into the
depths, comparing their reactions to a more enlightened model from a favorite
source of wisdom (for which Atmo is admirably suited, of course).
offered a simple example of how this can work. Most of us experience some level
of humiliation in school, and come to have a guarded attitude about anything
resembling a classroom situation. It is processed into a feeling that has no
conscious connection to the original misery we once suffered. The Gurukula
class is a friendly and supportive, easygoing, informal gathering, but
newcomers bring with them the guarded, worried attitude they carry without even
knowing it. To their conscious mind, they are simply being alert, because the
ego is ignorant of the baggage it carries. It treats its attitude as pure and
direct, but it is in fact colored by those old wounds. It is registered as
fear. Gradually, though, the warmth of the setting promotes a transformation,
and the old defenses can be dropped, again mostly unconsciously. The newcomer
just feels like it’s okay now. This is a microcosm of how we relate to the
world, and it could be a terrific opportunity to expose those negative
samskaras (memories) that blunt our experience. Very often, though, the
reaction is to just go away. It is a relief to not sense our old traumas. Most
people go through life in avoidance mode, never curing themselves, simply
seeking out the least stressful settings. It takes a measure of bravery to
realize that the discomfort can serve as a window into who we are. By facing
our stress we can reduce it, where by avoidance it maintains its grip—one of
the classic paradoxes of having a human brain.
brought up an important issue at this juncture. On the one hand we’re asked to
open up to the inner flow, but suddenly we’re being cautioned that what we
think is the flow isn’t. How do we distinguish the legitimate inspiration from
the managed version that our unconscious is presenting to us? This echoes Deb’s
initial question of how to separate insights from compulsions.
is actually a very important distinction. Our brain is an expert at knowing
exactly how to manipulate us, to convince our ego that it’s in charge,
basically keeping it fat, dumb and happy. It has fine-tuned this game for our
whole lifetime. Obviously, we don’t want to become opposed to our inner self,
and split in two, because that’s dangerous. And yet, we do want to penetrate
behind our delusions and stop having them. So what’s the best way to thread
is where outside assistance is invaluable. Being experts at self-delusion, we
need feedback from outside sources to show us where to leverage the changes we
want to make. Most outside sources are as flawed as we are, or worse. So we
look for ones that are better, and that does not mean serene, necessarily.
Serenity can be an escape as much as any other. It has to be something that
speaks to the best part of who we know ourself to be. When we find a suitable
source of feedback, we should resist the urge to flee that comes up whenever
our assumptions are challenged. Instead we should ask ourselves if the
criticism is justified, and even give the critic the benefit of the doubt,
because we’ve been cheating in our favor for a long time. We need to regain
high points of transformation in my time with Nitya were when he made some
stinging comment that hit home. It’s one thing to nod in agreement with a teacher’s
ideas, but some of them produce shock and disbelief. Those were the ones that
hurt! They blasted past my defenses and opened up some dark regions to my
awareness. Because of my respect for him, I was (grudgingly) able to accept the
corrections, and to incorporate them into a new personal and world view.
Eventually I was able to ease the humiliation back into neutrality, by no
longer identifying with the faults I didn’t even know I had, but he could
clearly see. I had to consciously relinquish them, but then I could let them
go, which is not the same as ignoring them. I have mentioned some of these in
the past, and since many of them are associated with the Atmo study, I may
reprise them at relevant moments. Rest assured this study has some intense blasts.
It can be read lightheartedly or worshipfully and that’s fine, but if you take
it seriously there are many opportunities for drastically upgrading your whole
being. When Nitya said at the outset, “we are now entering an intense spiritual
discipline,” he wasn’t kidding.
the same time, as Deb and Bill pointed out, if we can sink into the emptiness
of an unmodulated mind, it can have a curative effect also. We will be bringing
that in more at a later stage of the study, because it’s trickier than it sounds.
At this early stage, the intentional aspect is being stressed. We have to want
it, work for it, and be relentless, or no change is going to happen. Leaving it
to God or Fate is not different from abandoning the search. I suppose you could
say it’s the first trick of the ego to derail the self-examination, but later
on surrender to a higher power may be turned into a useful tool.
of the class was spent examining the meaning of relentless, a concept that has negative connotations in our
society, which is oriented toward idleness and ease, where vacation is the
ideal state. Right-wingers are relentless, lefties are mellow. So what does it
mean for all us mellow types?
said that because the class we are in made her a more loving and happy person,
she kept coming to it. If it didn’t, she wouldn’t. It’s as simple as that. Her
relentlessness is very gentle, and based on an attraction of the heart. It’s
very touching to know that a friend feels that way.
reiterated Shankara and Narayana Guru’s definition of yoga: continuous
contemplation on the true nature of the self. When we get tied up in all of the
disparate aspects of life, we need to draw a mental line between them and their
core, where all lines join. Remembering our true nature (as a postulate) helps
us to not slight anyone or anything.
version is more activist. I know that our lazy default setting can very easily
masquerade as spiritual. How convenient! If ignoring important issues is
divine, I must be awesome! I suppose the problem is that I have run that con
game so often that its ragged edges are showing. Now I retain a measure of
caution about my own vast propensity for self-delusion.
testing has revealed what the rishis have been saying forever, that we
routinely make up a plausible story to excuse our behavior, and we do not
behave in the ways we insist we do. Our brain is like a consummate magician,
spewing a line of distracting patter while it plays tricks on us. So I’m not
comfortable taking it lying down. I want to sweep aside that self-befuddling
aspect, where what we think we think is apt to be a bluff covering up the
things we don’t want to see.
told us about the intensity he maintains in his spiritual quest. He is driven,
and has done some amazing things, but at the same time he isn’t quite sure
where the motivation is coming from. He’s like several of us, inspired and
motivated, but not for any apparent reason. Which is good, because our supposed
reasons are likely to be false anyway, as was just noted. That’s always a
fascinating aspect of a relentless search: finding out what impels it. Why do
we care, when so many people are allergic to caring? Are we pressing forward
for the reasons we think we are, or are we chasing shadows? What’s really going
on here? The Atmo study should help focus our intensity by weeding out the
conditioned and imaginary aspects while leaving the idealistic fervor intact.
thing I wanted to mention last night but never found time for, thanks to yet
another highly gratifying level of participation by everyone, is that
neuroscience also provides insight into the need for relentless effort. It is
now known that we can rewire our brain’s neurons, altering our abilities and
even our outlook, but it’s a slow process. We have to overcome our current
neural wiring, and grow a new set of connections. It takes substantial time and
repetitive effort, but when we change our activity and maintain a new program,
our wiring slowly converts to support it. If we want to go from selfish and mean
spirited to generous and loving, we just have to set our sights on it and act as if
we felt that way. Eventually we
will. While essential for physical rehabilitation, this is particularly
important in combating addictions of all kinds. (Our ordinary mentality itself
is a kind of addiction, by the way.) Simply wishing for change and then
continuing our unhealthy behavior, imagining things will be different in the
future, does not work. We have to intentionally change our lifestyle, and then
fight off the habits that keep trying to convince us to reactivate the old,
outmoded one. The momentum builds as the new wiring is aligned, but the old
pathways remain in place for a long time. It’s not advisable to listen to the
excuses that keep popping into our head, no matter how convincing they seem,
because our psyche knows exactly how to fool us. Determination is the key.
Patience and persistence.
Guru was particularly stringent about this aspect of the study, and I’ll add in
a few paragraphs from his commentary as Part II. I’ll try to find time to type
up his highlights and include them. They are wonderful, but I don’t have a
digital version of his commentary. He is a hard read, so I think we should keep
closed with a tacit acknowledgement of a shared journey with supportive
friends, one of the greatest feelings life on earth has to offer.
are Nataraja Guru’s Verse 2 highlights, hard going but worth a measure of your
positive and the negative items of this series could always be equated and
understood one in terms of the other. “The supreme Sun risen in the void” would
represent the extreme positive counterpart of the inner organ, which is the
first item of the ontological aspect of reality. The main equation is between
the inner organ as next to the thinking substance or Core we have seen in the
first verse, and the supreme Sun in the void postulated here. A form of pure
mathematical reasoning is involved here which a scientist, whose very language
is mathematical, should not question. If mathematical predictions of events
such as eclipses are possible and permissible, this a priori induction here, which equates the poles of reality as we
can experience them, arrived at by hard introspective cogitation on the part of
the contemplative seeker of the wisdom of the Self, should not be dismissed as
unscientific, dogmatic or superstitious.
can attain this view or certitude, the Guru warns us, only by very hard
thinking of a certain kind, whose nature will become clearer as we proceed.
Meanwhile it would be worthwhile to note that the “inner organ” which is the
basis of the attributes of ego or individual consciousness such as the mind,
reason, relational mind, and sense of individuation, is strictly the correct
contemplative counterpart of the Sun in the void. Any empirical stigma attached
to these starting counterparts in the mind of the student will have to be
progressively discarded as the discussion attains to subtler inner factors
which must constitute the subject-matter as well as the object-matter of all
contemplative philosophizing. (17-8)
saw in the first verse that the “Core” that he referred to admitted of no
duality. In the very next verse we find him referring to many worlds and to the
counterparts of these many worlds, to be thought of in a certain graded order
and brought together as the terms of an equation.
inner organ is to be the dialectical counterpart of the Sun in the void
postulated by him. If pure non-duality is the doctrine of the work as a whole,
the Guru has to develop his subject by using a certain method. Methodological
and axiological requirements thus make him come down from the platform, as it
were, and explain more intimately to the student that the way to arrive at
non-duality finally is, first to find the counterparts that belong to the unity
and then to bring them dialectically together for being resolved in unitive
terms. Such apparent duality is not to be mixed up with doctrinal duality. It
is rather a methodological suppositious requirement only.
contemplation must needs have a human purpose, however pure or abstract. (20)
has to do violence to one’s own nature in the practice of dialectical
reasoning. That is why it has been called in Sanskrit tapas or the burning up by oneself. A form of agony and a vertical
ascent is implied in this intellectual effort, which resembles the working of
the faculties of a pure mathematician like Eddington with his sedenion
algebraic formulae, his equations and constants. No armchair philosophizing
will suffice here. Bergson in his Metaphysics
refers to it as a form of “intellectual auscultation” as when one hears sounds
from within oneself by stopping and reversing the process of normal thinking.
Dialectical ascent and descent are also known to philosophers from classical
times. The cogitations of Descartes and the use of intuition as known to him
and to Plotinus or Bergson, involve a pure mathematical way of negative or
positive induction which involves special effort on the part of the
contemplative. The true end of contemplation is not to be attained by any lazy
attitude, but involves vertical though not horizontal effort. (21)
graciously sent a nearly exact reprise of what he said in class last night, an
important matter which we skittered away from rather too quickly, I’m afraid:
My perceived conflict between Patanjali’s Equanimity &
That Alone’s Equanimity:
Is our balance best positioned midway between the
transcendent and the transient? Or
is proper balance maintained in the transient by our being placed in (or our
identification as) the transcendent?
The transient or transactional part of being is
addictive. In that addiction, most
(if not all) people, restructure God’s perfection of the Real transient (the
Absolute manifesting as Transience) into a transactional prison reflecting our
fears and untruths (genetically and socially).
If man falsifies the transient (maya), it is only in the
Transcendent Absolute that we see the crimes committed by the abused ego to the
otherwise Holy Phenomenal. It was
my understanding that Patanjali’s Yoga (Equanimity) required the
restraining (sacrifice) of the five senses prior to attaining a
balanced state. That balanced state is an immigration of our
(true) identity into the phenomenal world based on our citizenship or
identification within the Transcendent Absolute. The intellect has a boundary. Belief (and identity) has no
borders. It is the intellect that conceptually sees the currently experienced
phenomenal world. And it is also
the intellect that sees the transcendence of the phenomenal. But for the intellect
to cross the
boundaries erected by the intellect, the intellect must be sacrificed (the five
senses withheld). I’ve heard
it said that, “God is Everything that
you are not”.
The sensual interpretation that constitutes the mind is a
required tool for transacting the phenomenal. But like using a hammer to fix a delicate watch, the
intellect is an ineffective tool – and must be Self-limited - to negotiate
identification as the Transcendent Absolute. We - as the Transcendent Absolute - are the Holy
manifestation of God being as the Imminent-Self.
So, is equanimity like a pinball game where we - as the ball
- bounce relentlessly back and forth between the two bumpers of the imminent
and the transcendent? Or is
equanimity the pinball game itself, where we identify as the Whole Game
(Absolute) and are only witnesses to the random bouncing of our balls (sorry).
going to offer a few ideas, and invite more from the rest on this central
paradox. This is a good question to settle right at the outset.
off, Patanjali is somewhat dualistic while Atmo is unitive. Still, it’s
impossible to say anything about unity without acknowledging the apparent
separation of knower and known. This tends to be a murky area deserving of
your terms, Paul, yes, we are best positioned right in between—or in the middle
of—the transient and the transcendental, because there is only one thing going
on that we are seeing from two different angles. Perhaps we should call it the
Transiendental? The fatal flaw is when we divide up the One Substance and then
reject (or undervalue) the transient in favor of some hypothetical Beyond, some
ideal of perfection, it drains the life out of our experience. Narayana Guru
and Nitya will affirm over and over that this world is It: the transient itself
is the Eternal. What we are doing is
appreciating it more and more, not trying to sweep it out of the way.
gets it just right near the end of his commentary: “We have to see karanam,
the psychic dynamism, as a
gracious modulation of the primordial light which has transformed into this
universe.” It’s not some glitch in the system. God is not only everything you
are not, but everything you are, too. By using our intellect wisely, we aren’t
so much falsifying as interpreting. In this we do the best we can, continually
refining our understanding while remaining aware that it will always be an
imperfect assessment. That prevents us from getting a swelled head.
definitely does give the impression, shared with a number of religions, that we
have to get away from Here and end up somewhere better. Nitya’s commentary
struggled to portray it in a way that minimized the duality, and he did a fine
job, but without that level of care it can easily play into the hands of the
dualists. He will have no such struggle in explaining Atmopadesa Satakam!
transient, manifested beings, we will never be fully identified with the
Transcendent (Unmanifest) Absolute. But we can still take it into account as
the necessary Core or Ground of all manifestation. At least then our intellect
will be more expansive than if it is busy deciding who is saved and who is
damned, who gets it and who doesn’t, who is right and who is wrong. In the
ultimate analysis, those are all beside the point. We are very much caught up
in that mode of thinking, however. These days as a species we are using the
hammer of our intelligence to smash the delicate watch of our planet rather
than repair it. But again, the world doesn’t need fixing, it’s already perfect.
We ourselves are what needs some tinkering with, and that’s what we’re about in
gave an example that many of us can relate to, which I just didn’t squeeze into
the notes on the first go around:
had been talking about how authority was essentially an imaginary state of mind
that we are trained to submit to from our earliest childhood, one of those
unhelpful memories lodged deep in our psyches. One day, after mulling it over
based on Vedantic principles, I realized that everyone was an imposter, not
just me. Authority figures were just as confused and clueless as I was, but
they had learned a role that gave them power over the rest of us. I suddenly
saw their position was baseless, and it was like the lifting of a heavy boulder
I had been carrying all my life without realizing it. I could actually feel the
weight dispersing, and found myself laughing out loud with relief!
has been struggling with the medical establishment for many years. She began
the way all good people are brought up: she was meek and submissive, prepared
to do whatever the doctors recommended. But also like many patients, this led
her into blind alleys, where doctors who hid their uncertainty behind a mask of
unquestioned superiority made semi-educated guesses that missed the mark. Then,
rather than try something else, they blamed her for not responding to the
faulty prognosis. Jan knew she had to take a more active role or face dire
the years Jan has become more assertive, and because of people like her, there
has been a measure of loosening up by medical authorities in response. Not
much, though. She told us about one physician she has been seeing, who seemed
very supportive of her assertiveness, but then suddenly threatened to drop her
as a patient if she didn’t accept his dictate on a certain matter. She was
shocked, and rightly so. It wasn’t that the course she had chosen was inferior;
it was in all likelihood superior or at least equal to his. Luckily, Jan is
confident enough to stand her ground and not let herself be pushed around. But
not everyone has that strength of character, and inferior care is sometimes the
are bound to encounter resistance from people in positions of authority, but in
my experience if we treat them as equals it actually obviates many potential
problems. We have to get past the fortified wall they are standing behind, but
if we can, it changes the whole equation. In this case, Jan felt she had been
admitted behind the barricades, but something changed and she found herself on
the outside once again. Knowing Jan, she will not surrender—nor should any of
a lighter note, this is more from John, with my response, continuing our
I wish there were a better term or phrase for “duality”
also for “dialectic.” Even
“generation of opposites” doesn’t quite hit it, but maybe it’s closer? I don’t know.
As for learning - yes, it can be very hard to accept
something not acceptable from experience and memory. Memory always trips me up because 1) it plays tricks
and remembers something that didn’t exactly happen the way the memory has embellished
it and 2) it becomes sort of a dogma.
As an appraiser, I am continually confronting and getting tripped up by
the “M- Factor,” as I call it.
I remember when a book was worth this price or that, and now, it’s not
worth anything, or conversely, it has suddenly become collected. It’s
not that the memory is
necessarily wrong - it is what it is - but it’s what I do with the memory that
counts. Can I have the
presence of mind to place it in an appropriate data base and say, hmmm, things
have sure changed, or do I put it in the wrong database and say, no, the new
facts are entirely wrong because I want them to be.
Of course, maintaining the latter course does generate
I’m afraid duality will have to do.
It has a long history and is exactly right, too. Take a blank sheet of paper to
represent oneness, and draw a line down the middle to divide it in two. You
really haven’t taken anything away, but now there’s the appearance of two sides
superimposed on the underlying unity. That provides the stage for all sorts of
things to happen, conflicts and congresses, and pretty soon we are taking
sides.... Kinda clever, really.
else would you suggest? Two-ness? Isn’t that the capital of Tunisia?
for dialectic, the better term is yoga,
but since that word has a wide range of meanings, I like to refer it back to
its original concept of a way to regain the underlying unity by treating the
two sides as separated-at-birth twins. Hence dialectic, which generally means logic, but we use in the sense of
synthetic logic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, because
the parts are actually related.
analogy. Or is that a
simile? Anyways - as I understand
it, we are trying to reach clarity by defining the one as two so we can
delineate parts of the process, or wholeness? Or the one-ness or wholeness is dividing itself like a
zygote to create.
Tunisia would be fun to visit, but so would Triple Lee.
Scott (subject line: zygote):
the spirit! Make it fun to visit the actual world. Duality is not an enemy,
only an opportunity. The problem is we forget the unity, and so get a little
bent out of shape. We just need to add it back in. It takes two to tangle, as
my mother used to say, before I was old enough to know what her play on words
It was no
accident that Nitya describes the Karu as an egg.
finally for Verse 2, a brief exchange about Jan’s point. John wrote:
So Karu has an element of telos - which is an Aristolean
term and therefore highly debatable just exactly what he means - but if I
understand Ari correctly, it's the purpose that's built into the thing/person
whatever. Like that old joke I
read somewhere about the proud grandmother who introduces her toddler grandson
as: "my grandson, the
Or, am I way off base on this? Throw Aristotle in there and there's a chance that the
stew will become soup.
Authority - Jan is so right. It brings to mind some of the better chapters of Eric
Fromm's "The True Believer," and how we play act until we become what
we play act - the purpose of military uniforms, for example, besides knowing
which side you are on, is to change you from you so you aren't you, because you
wouldn't ordinarily go to the front lines of anything and shoot at people.
Imposters - yes.
Because argument based on authority is an informal, but true, fallacy.
Cool input here.
Yes, why have an egg if nothing is going to come of it?
Recall Nitya's last paragraph from Verse 2:
There is an instrumentality which
decides the division of a cell and then governs its development from a fetus to
a mature human being. Without this instrumentality, nothing can manifest. The
same continues in a person as the ego. We have to see karanam, the psychic dynamism, as a gracious modulation of the
primordial light which has transformed into this universe. We are using the
term 'transformation' rather than 'evolution', because we are aware of the
conceptual limitation that is now imprinted on that word after the advent of a
theory of evolution which does not attribute to the cosmic principle of
transformation an intelligence that is ontologically universal and
I think it's fair to subtract all our projected meanings and purposes in a scientific spirit, because
many of those have led us astray in the past, but we should permit ourselves to
notice such things when they appear of their own accord. The magnificent,
infinitely complex universe is its own argument for purpose, even if it isn't
This is beautiful.
In a way, my imagination serves as a kind of sense - like
vision or taste, etc. The ability
to conjecture based on [observing] the possible manifestation. And I don't
necessarily like, say, a speculative story, such as a science fiction story,
though that's not outside my intended use of imagination. The point
for me is to be clear that I am "imagining" vs. actually observing a
future manifestation. If I don't
clarify, I end up future tripping.
That's a weird mental maze to get into, let me tell ya.
One last bit from Susan, who like many Americans practices
I was just thinking that when you're in the first three
parts of the psychic dynamism, you are not the knower. In ahamkara, you really
become the knower. Also, sometimes we get stuck in the second part, cittam --
something sparks a question and we are thrown back in time and we linger there,
whether in a pleasant, sad, or frightening memory. Then we may forget how we
got there and never make it to buddhi.
As far as my observations in the last few days, I have
discovered mostly how focused I am on outcomes. I have been doing many errands
this week and so my discoveries about my psychic dynamism are mostly driving
related. I come to an intersection with a stop light and many cars and my mind
is clicking away — How long until the stop light turns green? How fast will the
other cars move? Is that car next to me going to try to cut in ahead of me?
Then I am bringing in all my memories of other intersections and drivers. Then
I am predicating all this and figuring out what is going to happen. This is the
point at which my muscles tighten up and my cortisol levels rise and I am
thinking only of getting through the intersection as fast and efficiently as
possible. I was amazed to find how often this happens — there are so many
opportunities! The crazy thing is that I toned down my driving stress years ago
(probably when I was going through Atmo the first time) and I thought I was
such a calm driver. It's true that I no longer assume that other drivers are
malicious, stupid, or crazy. I see that we are all the same — in a hurry or
distracted or forgetful. This has really cut down my road rage. But now that I
have observed my karanam, I can clearly see the stress that comes up again and
again when I drive. I should note that if I get into my car 5 or 10 minutes
early when I am going somewhere, the stress part doesn't happen. I still go
through the steps of trying to figure out how to maneuver through cars but it
is more of an enjoyable and artful game in this situation.
I do different things during those 5 or 10 minutes. I
longer getting to places because I don't feel the push and
when I arrive, I sit for a bit and collect myself (meditate) or I check my
email and text messages (the opposite of meditation). Sometimes, I wish that I
had remembered to bring a book. All in all, it's a very pleasant interlude, for
which I am always happy.
Jake has been scrutinizing these verses for some time, and
will be sending us his analysis regularly. Because of its length and density,
I’ll generally put it last and delete the verses (which we already have), but
it serves as an excellent review with helpful new insights, for the more
philosophically minded among us:
with the fundamental equivalency previously established, the oneness of the
internal and external light, the guru now gets personal and examines our
interior processes through which we experience experience and so easily lose
sight of that one reality. The
system he here describes connects our personal psychology with a cosmological
universe having meaning beyond the mind’s capacity to hold it wholly, but we
never cease trying to work out parts of the puzzle by way of a process that is
for the vast majority outside awareness but is at the same time common to all
and understood by both western and Vedantin psychology.
this verse, then, is a blueprint for psychotherapy and introspection regardless
of one’s prejudices concerning either process. By way of this model, you can begin to “know thyself” by
first accessing the awake state and working backwards, so to speak. In his commentary,
Nitya Yati opens by
outlining the four categories or stages of wakeful consciousness. He begins by
narrating the transition
we all begin with upon waking from the dream or deep sleep states. Upon waking,
the mind begins its
questioning (manas) as if on automatic pilot: what to do, how to go about it,
etc. To address the question, the
mind then fits the query onto what it already knows, placing it in the memory
bank of existing thought (cittam) which is then judged by one’s reason (buddhi)
as to its value. With that third
step immediately follows the fourth (ahamkara): the application of one’s
feeling about the decision to be thrilled, indifferent, afraid, and so on.
general pattern continuously and instantaneously occurs, and as it does leads
us to some sort of reaction to act in some way (which includes not
acting). It is at the point of
action that what follows is largely pre-determined for those unaware of the
process, for it is at this juncture previous and out-of-awareness patterns
assert themselves. Talk therapy is
largely concerned with bringing into view those patterns so that a cause/effect
can be made apparent and some kind of adjustment in the present can be
effected. Home of origin issues,
for example, are often re-played out of awareness continuously throughout one’s
life in an effort to “make right” or repeat what happened decades earlier but
the fix is then applied to the present situation. One’s parents hold the power of life or death for everyone
when they are children, so adjusting to whatever these gods require is a more
than reasonable adjustment to reality.
Applying the same technique to one’s spouse 30 years later is to address
an illusory unreal conflict and, for the most part, to distort the present
motivated behaviors, these patterns for acting embedded in the present life,
are known as samskaras in Vedantin psychology, and they form the basis of
vasanas, impulses and compulsions that are carried from one life cycle to the
next. In both the DNA and psychic
dimensions of the vasanas, they in conjunction with the continuously emerging
samskaras present us with the contexts in which we “decide” to act in any
particular condition. When out of
awareness, these vasanas/samskaras manifest as compulsions and establish the
range of choices available.
you examine the choices you make, the redundancy of their character, and the
irrational force driving you to choose that redundancy, you have an excellent
starting point for taking control over your life and creating genuine choice in
it, concludes Nitya. (In my own
life I have always managed to narrow my “choices” to a select few and then
rationalized them as the only reasonable ones available. By so doing, I’ve managed to re-work
old vasanas endlessly and always in a circular manner.) Putting new endings on repetitive
conditions allows the possibility of choice rather than compulsion dressed up
as choice, an alternative path for exploring those issues that monotonously
appear and re-appear both within us and without us in the culture generally. This small start at attaining conscious
awareness opens the door to possibility,
and that, like the mathematical precision with which the cosmos operates,
speaks to an absolute we are both part and all of.