happiness of another--that is my happiness;
own joy is another’s joy—this is the guiding principle;
action which is good for one person
bring happiness to another.
What is dear to another should spell endearment to me also.
This is the correct policy. Therefore, whatever good one does should be so
intended as to be beneficial to others also.
The other man’s interest, that is even mine; what to oneself
Is beneficial is so for the other man also; such is the
Discrete conduct; all acts aiming each man’s Self-happiness
Must spell at once the happiness of the other fellow-man.
get the most out of this section on ethics, all that we have learned so far
must be brought to bear. It’s almost like an end-of-semester exam. There are a
couple of perennially challenging ideas that only give up their secrets when
understood dialectically and grounded in Self-realization. Fortunately we have
two more powerful verses that will help us along in this matter.
first idea that Narayana Guru takes for a baseline is that everyone is seeking
happiness all the time. The end of the first half of Atmopadesa Satakam makes
this explicit, in Verse 49:
beings are making effort in every way,
the time, for the happiness of the Self;
the world, this is the one faith;
on this, without becoming subjected to sin, be controlled.
We resist this because the bizarre ways many people seek
happiness strike us as actually seeking unhappiness. Their happiness would be
our unhappiness, and vice versa. What fascinates us bores them to death, and
what they are obsessed with strikes us as ridiculous. Nonetheless the universal
pursuit of happiness is the key to understanding all behaviors.
have to give up the egotistical fixation that our idea of happiness is the
right one, and other people’s are wrong. We aren’t trying to assign criminality
here, so much as to understand. The criminality comes in when the other’s
legitimate happiness is transgressed. But when that is taken care of, where do
we find our own happiness?
second idea brings this into focus. Our true nature is experienced as
happiness, ananda, but we have been diligently trained to refer it onto objects
and processes outside ourself. Because of this, instead of realizing our
blissful nature, we associate it with selected things and associate its absence
with other things that interfere with what we want. Our preference for certain
conditions has divided us against ourself, made us poor. We are impoverished
because no amount of external activities can restore our blissful being. They
produce little dollops of bliss here and there, for which we have to compete
with others for the limited supply.
why many people were vying for the Guru’s attention at Hall Street: it seemed
like he was the source of their bliss. Being with him was blissful, being away
from him was not. He would laugh at our folly and refuse to be caught, knowing
that we were missing the point. His presence was meant to remind us of our own
bliss, not to deliver it to us straight from the caves or jungles of India. As
long as we identify our happiness with something external, even including great
teachers or our dear children, we will sell ourselves short, and in the process
do a lot of mostly unintentional damage.
class did not accept the radical teaching of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad that
engagement with your loved ones was on a par with the pursuit of wealth, or for
that matter, of anything else. Nitya paraphrases it thus:
The reason God created the
universe, if you believe in that, is for God’s own joy, not for anyone else’s.
This is why in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is said: “No husband loves
the wife for the sake
of the wife, but for the sake of the joy of the Self. No wife loves the husband
for the sake of the husband, but for the sake of the joy of the Self. No parent
loves the child for the sake of the child, but for the sake of the joy of the
Self. No man loves wealth for the sake of wealth, but for the sake of the joy
of the Self.” In none of these places is the reference to the ego as the self;
it is to the universal Self, the Self that is in all.
The rishis want
us to recover the bliss within, and then our every action will be blissful,
whether good, bad or indifferent. But the class was drawing a thick line
between certain dubious kinds of pleasure, like the pursuit of wealth, and the
obviously legitimate love for our spouses and offspring. As
Nitya points out, we have to
learn to distinguish between the self and the Self, the ego and the soul.
fourth Brahmana of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has the famous conversation
between Yajnayalkya and Maitreyi that Nitya was referring to in his comments.
There the list is much more extensive, including not only husband, wife, child
and wealth, but social status, nature, gods, beings, and ultimately, all.
Anything and everything you love is based in the love of the Self, and is a
mere reflection of it. So don’t pursue reflections, enter the loving ground,
and all things will be added unto you. B.U. 1.4.8 provides the bare scheme,
central to Vedanta:
That self is dearer than a son,
is dearer than wealth, is dearer than all else, since this self is nearer.
If of one who speaks of anything else than the self as dear,
one should say, ‘he will lose what he holds dear,’ he would indeed be likely to
do so. One should reverence the self alone as dear. He who reverences the self
alone as dear—what he holds dear, verily, is not perishable. (Hume translation)
That’s why this is a study of Self-instruction. We are
regaining our Self, and it is regaining us. We are cashing in our temporary
pleasures for lasting happiness. It doesn't mean we should stop doing what we
like, but only realize the true source of the interest, the joy.
related how painful it is to misunderstand this. When she was in love, once
upon a time, Nitya quoted this to her. “You don’t love that man. You love your
Self.” She was devastated. Loving your Self sounds like loving yourself, even
though it is not the same. People think they are loving for the sake of the
other. The mother loves her child dearly, and thinks there is something wrong
with it when she hears these supposedly wise words. So this isn’t something to
take casually. It has to be understood correctly or it spoils the game.
idea is to bring more love to bear, to heighten it, universalize it. Right in
the middle of the love you are having for your child. The child is the
reflection to show you your own true nature as love, as bliss. It’s a double
affirmation. But it is a double negation if you think, oh, I shouldn’t be
loving this, I should be loving some abstraction called the Self. Don’t laugh:
that’s the way it is often taken. That's why people rush off to monasteries and
caves and remote mountaintops. They close off their love, in hopes of finding
love. If they had better discipline or a less challenging environment they
could discover it right in the midst of their transactional life, but it isn’t
easy. With all the confusion, it’s seldom a simple proposition. So going away
seems perfectly plausible.
was a lot of disdain in the class for the pursuit of wealth, but the Upanishad
wasn’t aiming at the obsessive money lust that’s glorified today. Most everyone
enjoys a level of comfort from having their basic needs met, and when they
aren’t met they become anxious. The advice doesn’t necessarily mean we should
forego meeting our basic needs, as it is again often taken. It means that as we
meet our basic needs, the comfort and pleasure we feel can be seen as a
reflection of our inner being, and then it won’t seem so precarious.
Guru’s and the Upanishad’s wisdom is the exact opposite of the religion of
selfishness that has come to dominate the modern world. Ayn Rand et al.
unleashed the raw ego in people and anointed it as the true messiah. In their
view, selfishness has a magical ability to determine the optimal path in
transactions. The heartlessness and destructiveness of it should be obvious,
but we can always make excuses, blame our problems on unbelievers. Narayana
Guru wants us to recognize that we are all in this together. We could say that
true selfishness includes the other, because we are all one Self. His is a
philosophy of connectedness, in contrast to the atomization that is the result
of selfishness. That means we have to take all aspects into account. We have to
look into the impact of what we do. A certain course looks very profitable, but
it erases an ecosystem, so I’ll refrain from the temptation. There are
literally millions of examples on all sides of how selfishness causes permanent
harm, so it seems pointless for me to list a few. Selfishness is beginning to
look literally and globally suicidal.
wondered if it is acceptable to pursue wealth because that’s what makes you
happy? (Again, the class was taking pursuit of wealth as a crime, not an
honorable activity.) Hers was a gentle version of, “Well, we can’t judge
others, so is raping okay, since it’s someone pursuing their idea of
happiness?” Or as Michael Moore asked a corporate executive espousing the same
thing, “If it’s all strictly about profits, why don’t you sell cocaine then?”
If we believe morality has no role and short-term gain is everything, then
selling fabulously expensive and addictive drugs is the ne plus ultra of
business. Let’s get it straight. And yes, Rand wrote glowingly of someone who
murdered a young girl, because it showed they were free of social restraint.
we even have to wonder about this?
we can make serious headway if we put our brains to the task. We need to really
hone in on the subject. This is a fertile field for intense examination, for
clarifying our vague ideas. I gave an “assignment” to the class to come back
next week with a more developed sense of what’s going on here.
affirmed that the core principle is to do no harm, and that’s one aspect for
sure. Deb said that in pursuing your happiness it can't be on the backs of
other people's unhappiness, that your happiness has to be partly based on other
people’s happiness. We talked about some of the trivial forms of amusement
people are entranced with. The thing is, each of us finds our interest
captivated by something unique to us. We can respect that, if it does little or
no harm, but also use it to remind ourself that the joy resides in our hearts,
not in the objects we chase after.
core idea is this: we are the Absolute, and our nature is absolute bliss. We
have lost contact with our true nature, and instead of turning back to our
inner light, we keep looking all around for little pleasures to fill the void
we sense from the loss. We become partisans for what we like, and come to fear
that others may take it away. This is especially virulent in religion and
politics, where some are willing to kill for their home team. The Hundred
Verses of Self-Instruction are aimed at restoring our connection with our
authentic Self, the true source of peace, love and joy. Since we are That, it
cannot be truly lost. When we are restored to it, everything we come in contact
with will reflect the joy, not just a few selected items. The rishis believe
this is the cure for what ails us, and by implication all other cures are quack
medicine, temporary fixes.
comments may seem a little bit odd because this is one of those verses where he
was covertly addressing the people in the room. It’s subtle, but you can sense
it. There was a doctor prominently involved, and Nitya was striving to make
these ideas clear to him, and of course hoping we would all translate the terms
to our own vocations. A true healer recognizes the reciprocal relationship of
doctor and patient, while another type may operate as a technical expert but
keep a thick line between themselves and their patients. It is hard not to
think of the rewards, the pay and time off, the admiration, and so on, even the
skill with which the treatment is rendered, but Nitya wanted to emphasize that
it is the bipolar relationship in every endeavor that makes it worthwhile,
richly satisfying. The pursuit of wealth and power, because they aren’t
reciprocally related to something positive, are empty. They fail to satisfy, so
we have to always try for more and more. It’s a tragic treadmill. Of course,
we’ve gotten so used to it that we probably like it. That’s why so few even
care about Narayana Guru’s heartfelt wisdom. You have to lose a measure of
faith in the little pleasures, and we have decided they're good enough for us.
So it goes.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
the wriggling worm in a ditch to the philosopher in meditation, all are seeking
happiness. Every movement of the body and pulsation of the mind is in search of
happiness. Most people think that happiness comes by pampering the senses or
pleasing the mind. Our senses do not know what is painful or pleasurable. A
sensation becomes painful or pleasurable only when the sense organs are in
contact with the mind.
is it that pleases the mind? Two factors gladden our minds. One is explicit and
the other is somewhat concealed from our gross perspective. Let us first
consider the explicit cause. In our mind there are many latent urges and
unconscious desires which seek gratification. When we place ourselves in an
environment and then move from that environment to another, opportunities arise
for one desire or another to relate itself to an external factor in which the
possibility of its gratification is visualized. An effort is then made to
exploit that situation so as to derive gratification. If the attempt succeeds
it brings pleasure and if it fails it brings frustration. In addition to
desires, there are also hidden fears of pain-giving situations. Some of the
moves we make are to avoid such situations. If we are successful, we experience
a sense of security and consequent happiness.
instances of search for pleasure and gratification of desire involve us in some
action. We can in fact say that all actions are motivated by the desire for
happiness. When we are in pursuit of pleasure we seem to think that the object
of pleasure has the ability to produce pleasure in us. Mostly we are infatuated
with that expectation.
we only knew that happiness is a state of mind and it has come from within us,
we would not be so rash in making our pursuit blind and aggressive.
let us consider the more subtle and concealed cause of happiness. The true
nature of our Self is its self-founded existence in pure consciousness. It is
free of all kinds of miseries and is at peace with itself. A mind that is
running after sense objects thinks of the Self as an unknown alien entity which
is difficult to know and realize. Although mind has no light of its own other
than what is derived from the Self, with the aid of the senses it converts,
like a kaleidoscope, the light of the Self into many structured patterns of a
natural law of homogeneity fuses existence with existence, knowledge with
knowledge, and happiness with happiness. When two people come together without
effort, they recognize each other's existence. They do not hinder the free flow
of their consciousness with private motivations, and their knowledge easily
mingles as they take to each other with great ease. Without any apparent reason
this sense of belongingness brings peace and happiness. Separative notions such
as “I” and “you” disappear from their minds and they think of themselves as two
persons bracketed into one. Thereafter they spontaneously refer to themselves
using words like “us,” “ours,” and “we.” Here a person that was at first
apprehended as the other has been transformed into non-other. This kind of
togetherness is experienced between lovers, husbands and wives, parents and
children and between dear friends. This effortless union is effected by the
natural happiness of the Self and by effacing the apparent duality that is
caused by physical conditions.
the outward zest for pleasure and its source are seen more and more within the
Self, ego boundaries become effaced and compassion flows more easily in all
directions. Such an attitude makes life joyous as we find the union of
everybody's happiness through continual acts of sharing.
Guru’s commentary is particularly sublime:
The other man’s interest, that is even mine; what to oneself
Is beneficial is so for the other man also; such is the
Discrete conduct; all acts aiming each man’s Self-happiness
Must spell at once the happiness of the other fellow-man.
AS we have said, this verse completes and resolves the
complication referred to in
the previous verse. The Guru takes particular pleasure in playing on the
strings the same note or melody. By this he only wishes to underline the law of
human relations and conduct
which is here enunciated in keeping with the correct dialectical approach.
Desires can come into conflict when treated unilaterally and
horizontally, but are resolved into the harmony of unity when both the
counterparts of the relational situation are brought together through correct Self-knowledge.
This way of confronting the problem of evil which otherwise
puzzles theologians and philosophers equally, is the prerogative of the
dialectical, as against the merely rational approach. Steeped in scientific or unilateral
philosophers in the West have forfeited their more ancient heritage of wisdom. In what has
called the ‘Nichomachean
Ethics’ of Aristotle (named after Nichomachus, the classical philosopher of Greece), the
West had the beginnings of this way of looking at moral problems. Rationalism,
as with Voltaire, found no explanation for evil, and suggested no remedy that
took man beyond good and evil. Theologies retained a God who could punish and
excuse sin and thus help man to transcend evil, but the roots of theology in
the reasoning faculty of man were overcovered by myth or by pseudo-science. The
identification of one’s own best interest with that of one’s neighbour, who, in
principle, represents one’s own dialectical counterpart among human beings with
whom one comes into daily relationship, is the secret and time-honoured
way of peace on earth and good-will to all mankind, which is the philosophical basis of human
ethics as directly derived from wisdom through Self-realization. The fatherhood
of God and the brotherhood of Man contain the same ethical law.
The equation of the Self and the non-Self which is the
essence of dialectical wisdom, implicit in the ethics
presented in this and in the
previous verse, has its philosophical echo in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter VI,
verses 5 and 6:
‘By the Self the Self must be upheld; the Self should
not be let down; the Self
indeed is (its own) dear relative; the Self indeed is the enemy of the Self.’
‘The Self is dear to one (possessed) of Self, by
whom even the Self by the
Self has been won, for one not (possessed) of Self, the Self would be in
conflict with the very Self,
as if an enemy.’
Here two sets of selves are juxtaposed unitively without
conflict and also put
together horizontally with conflict entering into their relations. The ambivalent aspects
of the same
Self can be conceived unitively or dualistically, the
former resolving conflict
and the latter accentuating it.
ALL ACTS AIMING EACH MAN’S SELF-HAPPINESS,
MUST SPELL AT ONCE THE HAPPINESS OF THE
OTHER FELLOW-MAN: These words from the latter
half of the verse have an
apodictic finality of form, and enunciate correctly and succinctly the whole
foundation of the
ethics on which the Guru’s idea of human relations are
based. The law of all
morality is stated here in unequivocal terms. This law is conceived strictly according to the
Science of the Absolute, whose method is dialectical and not merely rational.
It should be noticed here that the ends and means of morality and the
subjective and the objective aspects of it are brought together in a way which
is in keeping with the Science of the Absolute. The personal and moral factors
or elements involved have to be submitted to a dialectically-valid operation to
yield correct results.
One classical example of making wrong use of dialectical
reasoning is contained in the Bhagavad Gita (II.5) where Arjuna shows himself
as a person capable of dialectics but, as when a telescope is turned the wrong way, the
certitude that he arrives at becomes vitiated by a certain negativism whose
fallacy requires a master dialectician like Krishna, the Guru of the Gita, to
put into relief in the chapters that follow this verse. We should not linger over
the subtleties involved here
for fear of a long digression.
The use of dialectics is for double affirmation, as double
negation cancels each
negation by its positive and unitive import of a highly imaginary order. When we say, for
example, ‘darkness has no
existence apart from light’, the double negation of darkness involved in its denial in
absolute terms, brings into being an absolute notion of light in a double
sense. This verity is implied already in grammar and in mathematics where
dialectics is tacitly recognized. The good of man must be understood as
belonging to the context of the Absolute; and what is good for humanity and what
is good for the individual, both subjectively and objectively understood, must
all point to the absolute human value representing the good of each and all at
once. No act can be considered ethically valid if it is only of partial
It is often thought that religion and ethics depend on the
person concerned and are
therefore relative to the individual. This is not the way to look at truth. It has to be
from both its
aspects of self and non-self. Correctly speaking, morality,
though personal, cannot
afford to connive at error in the furthermost corner of the world. Each man is his
One man unjustly treated anywhere in the world calls for retribution from the
whole of humanity with one voice. It is in this sense that slavery is immoral,
and that a mere mechanical equality is not desirable either. The dialectics of
the one and the many involved here has to be kept in mind if the full
implication of this law enunciated here is to be understood in the spirit
intended by the author.
has been following the class since very early on, but has finally sent a very
important critique. The next three verses especially deal directly with a
definition of good versus bad, if you will, so it is good (sic) to bring these
questions up just now. Very timely! (And to me, evidence of the Absolute at
would say the main question boils down to one shared by many others: how can we
accept the Self (Absolute) without compromising our healthy skepticism? Isn’t
it a matter of faith? Corollary: is postulating the Absolute even necessary? I
will throw this out to everyone before I add my thoughts:
“The core idea is this: we are the Absolute, and
nature is absolute bliss.”
Thus begins the penultimate paragraph of the Class Notes
relating to Verse 22. Subsequent part of this paragraph illustrates or
elaborates the essence behind this sentence.
The reading of
this paragraph left one with a lingering doubt about the correctness, or even
incorrectness, of the case made out. This person, therefore, raises a hand
seeking some clarification.
One has no basis yet to say that “We are the Absolute”
that “our nature is absolute Bliss”.
The fact is that this person has not realized the Absolute. This ‘self’
has not Known the one spelled with capital “S”. The issue, therefore, is how
far would the point made be appropriate?
another related aspect that may require examination. Way back, when one read
Ayn Rand’s books, doubts similar to that of Joanne, or the one brought up by Michael
Moore, arose in this person’s mind too. One remembers clearly, how the
philosophy propounded by Ayn Rand agitated this mind. Ultimately the issue
became the need for defining criteria for evaluating ‘good’ versus ‘bad’. It
occurred that whatever is ‘life supporting’ could be considered as ‘good’ and vice
versa for ‘bad’. This is so because the ‘self’ cannot be a particular part
of the ‘whole’. The ‘self’ has to be seen as a random part of the ‘whole’, the
whole consisting of everyone and everything around. Once this criterion is
devised, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of ‘objectivism’ made sense then. If a person
acts in a manner that harms anyone else, it is bound to result in complimentary
response, firstly, within the person himself or from the other as also from the
collective group – the person, the clan, the society, the law, etc. Unless one
supports the life of the other, one cannot hope to be similarly supported. .
The reason for going into these details was not to justify
Ayn Rand’s philosophy but to suggest that perhaps the definition of good or bad
as attempted then can also be used to interpret this Verse. It may become
easier to understand the Verse, despite the fact of one not having Known the
Absolute, as pointed out initially.
(This is the first time that one is seeking entry into an
ongoing discussion in the class. One does so with some degree of hesitation and
a sense of humility. If any flaw is to be found, one would be grateful to be so
has provisionally completed his That Alone commentary, so we can look forward
to having it as a weekly addition:
say that “happiness is the main goal of life” (p. 156) is to repeat a truth
common to all religious/philosophical traditions. But it is in his commentary on this verse that Nitya
demonstrates what I find fundamentally spectacular about That Alone: a drilling down into the truths that for the most part
are passed over as beyond human understanding. Happiness may, indeed, be a life goal, but without reasoned
support, the statement becomes platitude.
Nitya’s purpose is to erase that quality as he explains the guru’s
his opening few pages, Nitya explains the first of two causes of happiness: the
senses and the mind. Everything we
do or think is designed to ease our condition in some way, from eating to
sitting to coughing and so on.
These kinds of trivial adjustments qualify as happiness under its larger
umbrella (as do physical pleasures) and indicate the enormous number of forms
happiness can take. What we eat,
where we eat, and so on, indicate the highly stylized and personalized
dimensions that our happiness can assume.
Of particular note at this point is the nature of this kind of
happiness. In order to be
satisfied in this domain, we locate objects external to us and quite naturally
transfer our desire for them to the thing itself (the chair, bed, food dish,
etc.). In a strictly physical
context, the thing becomes the prized and necessary item in order for the
happiness to be actualized. Our
skills of projection, in other words, we develop long before we know we are
doing so, and happiness becomes possible only through acquisition of that
this urge, this priyam, writes Nitya
citing the Guru, leads us to all kinds of confusion. We desire something because of latent pre-rational urges
that lead to desires then to will then to action. Complicating this model still further is the fact that
others in our social circle are involved along the way, especially when the
desire is directed at another person, such as is the case of lovers. In each
situation, however, others are
involved in one way or another, and it is in these collateral arrangements that
the first series of unintended consequences arises. For in each case an effort is made to a more or less degree
to make the happiness a common experience and thereby to unite the
participants. Nitya uses the term svakiya
priyam as a label: “Let my own
happiness be your happiness; let your happiness be my happiness” (p. 158). In
this connection a bi-polarity is
established which is foreign to the brute who seeks only his own sensory
satisfaction. (The possibilities
for miscalculations are legion.)
hidden cause of happiness, its true source, is the “self-luminous light” of the
Absolute out of which all forms arise and recede. Because of our early and consistent training to survive in a
world of necessity, we easily lose sight of this fundamental reality. The Self,
not the ego-self, is that
which remains always constant and is that which translates all our existential
experiences (such as those involving a gift object) into phenomenological
experiences (detecting love in the gift) even though the two operate in
different domains. The happiness,
because it is at base an essential element of an “all embracing consciousness
of knowledge” is of that single one reality (p. 160). Happiness in any form in which it is pursued or realized is
ultimately a universal—“That thou art.”
Because each of our Selves is that universal happiness in its purest
form, the other does not exist as all
boundaries are erased in a cosmic love, an “all in all” that John Milton
positioned as the true form of God’s oneness.
concludes his commentary by noting that realized souls who operate always in
this oneness do so as a “spontaneous expression of Self-love” quite distinct
from an egoic self love always aimed at aggrandizing that construction built by
the mind and senses and anchored in an attachment to manifestation those organs
can identify. The distinction
between Self-love and self-love makes
Nitya’s comments about
husbands, wives, children—all people—comprehensible. When he notes, “no parent loves the child for the sake of
the child, but for the joy of the Self,” or that no man loves anything for the
sake of the thing, he is standing on the firm ground of transcendent/immanent
bi-polarity. The statements appear
to be celebrations of narcissism only for those embedded in an egoic worldview
where love is attachment and the other is always feared.
is my response to Rajen. For easy reference, I epitomized his questions as how
can we accept the Self (Absolute) without compromising our healthy skepticism?
Isn’t it a matter of faith? Is postulating the Absolute even necessary? I think
we can leave the question of good and bad for the next couple of verses, which
really do address them head on.
of all, I want to commend you for using penultimate
correctly, meaning “next to last.” Not too many get it right. It sounds like it
should mean “really, really, absolutely last,” but it doesn’t.
Guru has made a compelling case, I believe, that we are the Absolute, but a
part of us routinely rejects it as facile. There is a reason the rishis have
given “I am the Absolute” and “The Absolute is you” as fit subjects for
perennial meditation: there is nothing self-evident about it. It takes a
profound experience to convince us, and when that occurs oneness is the first
and most compelling fact, but until then our doubts linger.
the meantime we want to maintain our healthy skepticism, and that’s fine. I
have a suggestion that might help with the doubts, based on yoga. Please let us
know your further thoughts on this subject.
most of our life most of us have been consciously and unconsciously chanting
the mantra “I am not the Absolute.” We have been busy noticing how we don’t fit
in, how we are different from our surroundings, unique. Although perfectly
true, this has created a lopsided state of mind that demonstrably produces much
heartburn and environmental chaos. A yogi should notice this and decide to
chant the opposite mantra for awhile, so as to come closer to a neutral state
of balance. “I am the Absolute” and “The Absolute is everything” are the corrective
mindsets to try on for size. Once we have corrected the imbalance we can drop
the whole subject. We are what we are, and our theoretical definitions tend to
separate us from whatever that might mean. The whole point of Self-Realization
is to become what we are, which would be ridiculous and unnecessary if we
hadn’t lost something critical. (See Paul’s response below.)
our negative mantras with positive ones isn’t so irksome if the Absolute is
taken to be the totality of existence and nonexistence, which must necessarily
include us, but humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize even brahman, and thereby
have also pondered the holographic universe theory of physics, which postulates
that each monad of the universe contains the whole. The rishis liked the image
of dewdrops, each of which reflects the same sun from its unique perspective.
the introduction to my upcoming book, The
Path to the Guru, I have included an explanation of the Absolute which you
may find helpful:
Absolute is a philosophically rigorous term that has fallen on hard times due
to linguistic confusion, but is centrally important in Indian thought. It sums
up the unitive position that all is one, and is used in place of more limited
terms like God or Nature because it is impeccably neutral, whereas there is
always a temptation to imagine some things are not God, for instance, or are
abhorrent to nature.
which is another matter entirely, has given the Absolute a bad name. Absolutism
is when a political belief is considered to be absolute and its acceptance is
forced on everyone. Where the Absolute is all-inclusive, absolutism is harshly
exclusive. A seeker of truth must clearly distinguish these two utterly
different principles with similar names.
the postulation of an Absolute, which keeps consciousness properly oriented and
is common to all systems, whether philosophical, religious, or scientific,
there is no such thing as absolute realization. Anything realized has to be
relative, less than the whole, which means there is no absolute right or wrong,
or any last word. Whenever the mind goes beyond its accustomed boundaries, it
undergoes an expansion that feels like liberation or realization, but no one
has yet ascertained any end to human potential. Greater expansion is a
of this, there is always more to be discovered. Once we realize that our
knowledge is inevitably partial, we will know that learning never ends and
there is no ultimate panacea. Anyone claiming finalized answers is in fact
seriously deluded, and is most likely intending to manipulate others for their
personal benefit. In any case the idea of finality brings growth to a halt.
the Absolute is imagined to be a fixed item that can be disdained or rejected,
it is not the Absolute. Nataraja Guru emphasized this frequently, asserting,
“The notion of the Absolute has somehow to transcend all paradox, and even
vestiges suggestive of it. This is an utterly necessary position, epistemologically
speaking. Ultimate truth cannot be thought of as having a rival or be ranged
of the confusion, let’s set forth a definition, from the Encyclopedia of
The Absolute is a term used by
philosophers to signify the ultimate reality regarded as one and yet as the
source of variety; as complete, or perfect, and yet as not divorced from the
finite, imperfect world. The term was introduced into the philosophical
vocabulary at the very end of the eighteenth century by Schelling and Hegel….
In 1803…Schelling argues that philosophy, as concerned with
first principles, must be “an absolute science,” that it is therefore concerned
with what is absolute, and that, since all things are conditioned, philosophy
must be concerned with the activity of knowing rather than things or objects.
“Philosophy,” he writes, “is the science of the Absolute,”
and the Absolute is the identity of the act of knowledge and what is known.
Schelling gives the name “Absolute Idealism” to the philosophy in which this
identity is recognized. The exponent of Absolute Idealism, he argues, seeks out
the intelligence that is necessarily embodied in nature, and he achieves by
means of “intellectual intuition” a grasp of the identity between knower and
Indian philosophy predates these Western philosophers by at
least two millennia, but the concept is identical.
central claim of Vedantic philosophy, as presented in the Bhagavad Gita and the
Upanishads, is that each and every person is a manifestation of the Absolute,
and our challenge is to come to remember that truth in a world where objects
and events constantly distract us from it, often even intentionally. This not
only gives us unlimited hope, it empowers us to do our best. We are accorded
the highest possible respect in advance. If everyone and everything is sacred,
then there is no possibility of sacrilege. We have no need for divine
intervention, because we are already miraculous. Life is a continuous “divine
intervention,” so what more could be needed?
this reason, students of Indian wisdom are instructed to meditate that they are
the Absolute and the Absolute is everything. Seekers start out imagining the
goal is somewhere else. They are not realized, are not worthy, and so on. These
are all fictions that evaporate under scrutiny.
Guru once said that to know that the wave and ocean are not two is the goal of
spiritual search. The starting point of our search is usually to see God or the
Absolute as separate from the world. The truth of the matter is that they are
one. Realizing this is all that matters, but it’s far more than an intellectual
exercise. It has to become a living reality at every moment. That takes a
little digging for most of us.
we are so brainwashed and have forgotten who we are so thoroughly that we shy
away from even the prospect of seeking for our true nature. Instead of daring
to be our cosmic selves, we have learned to reduce our expectations to just
making the best of a bad situation. To restore our normal courage the rishis
recommend meditating on the phrase tat
tvam asi, “The Absolute is what I am.”
in mind that anything that has an opposite is not the Absolute, it cannot be
said that the Absolute is big or small. Obviously, if we define the Absolute as
unknowable and indefinable, and we equate truth with it, then truth is going to
come in as indefinite and unknowable. Curiously, the claim of Vedanta is that
we CAN know the Absolute, by participating in it via mystical intuition and
surrendering our partial vision for an overwhelming participation in the whole.
Many religions offer the assurance that such an experience is valid, not
delusory. We are invited to judge for ourselves.
Paul’s contribution. I’m sure Rajen is hoping to hear from a few more of us:
RE: The demise of
healthy skepticism in the postulating of (or faith in) an Absolute.
I was glad to see your e-mail Scott sent out yesterday (I
miss our philosophical discussions on Speaking Tree). I hope you are finding
challenge in Scott & Deb’s Atmo class. I find it out of the ‘ordinary’ that for every question I
believe resolved, that single resolution creates ten more questions. I am learning
that maybe there is
wisdom in valuing the questions as much as their apparent resolutions.
You pose a collective apprehension that I would like
to contribute my two cents worth.
RE: “I would say
main question boils down to one shared by many others: how can we accept the
Self (Absolute) without compromising our healthy skepticism? Isn't it a matter
of faith? Corollary: is postulating the Absolute even necessary? I will throw
this out to everyone before I add my thoughts:”
First, I must preface a realization that I deeply value a
healthy skepticism, but no
faith is required. If it were not
for skepticism I would still be indentured in servitude unto a deceptive
self-manufactured reality. For
forty years my conception of god was that of an old guy sitting in heaven
writing down everything I did in one of two columns labeled “right” &
“wrong”. If I did more right than
wrong, I went to heaven. If I did
more wrong than right, I went to hell.
Fear and guilt were my only behavioral motivators. Looking back, what
terrifies me most
was not the prison walls of my self-construction, rather the fact that I
learned to love my incarceration as a self-sanctified divine intervention. It
was the angel of skepticism that
made me question the perceptual false-reality of my experientially limited
truth. Within skeptic questioning
the Absolute (through proper reasoning or dialectic thought) became more
empirically valid than my ego’s distorted version of my conditioned truth. It
is through healthy skepticism
that the Absolute becomes a Self-evident Truth. As Truth became
Self-evident, I then needed faith to postulate the validity of my
conditioned transience to be labeled as my personal reality or truth
(maya). What I previously believed
to be ‘real’ became a not-so-subtle form of insanity. And what I used to
believe as Un-Real now became the only rational & logical identity of Self
as Absolute Truth. The Absolute is
not conditioned or conditional. I
(the ego) am conditioned and conditional.
Absolute Truth is single by nature. Relative truth is multiple
faceted within nature (Prakriti).
Absolute Truth is pure in its singularity & potential. Any other version
of that Single Truth
is form of miss-truth (duality).
That single Truth (Spirit or Purusha) envelopes both the
un-manifested and manifested aspects of our Being. When I remember that I
am That, the false
separation of self (ego) from the Greater Self (God or Absolute) is unified
with and as the Whole.
~ All is One ~
~ we are paradox wherein dualities loose definition ~
few more helpful ideas have occurred to me regarding Rajen’s questions.
the elusive matter of unity and oneness, Nitya’s Foreword to That Alone is
well worth revisiting.
After struggling to write something coherent about the subject, I’m left in awe
once again of his seemingly effortless ability to express the inexpressible, a
tribute to the wedding of his poetic soul and lofty intelligence, seasoned with
humor. You can almost hear him chuckling as he told the initial story. It’s
well worth checking back in to this masterpiece every so often.
audio talk, Coming Back to Ourselves:
Finding Authentic Direction in the Chaos of Being, provides a different
angle on the puzzle. The authenticity in question is the Absolute, which is our
core nature, and I talk about very familiar and noncontroversial aspects of our
life in respect of it. It’s available for download from wetwaremedia.com.
rather elusive these days, but a well-executed psychedelic experience almost
always features a compelling sense of unity, accompanied with amazement that
you could ever have forgotten such a thing. There’s nothing foreign about it,
that’s for sure! It feels exactly like who you really are. It clears up the
doubt very effectively and permanently.