man,” “this man”—thus, all that is known
this world, if contemplated, is the being of the one primordial self;
each performs for the happiness of the self
be conducive to the happiness of another.
is known as that person or this person, when carefully considered, is the one
undifferentiated form of the primeval Self. Whatever one does for the happiness
of one's own self should also include the happiness of others.
What here we view as this man or that
Reflection reveals to be the Self’s prime form;
That conduct adopted for one’s Self-happiness
Another’s happiness must also secure at once.
we even began, I received this note from online participant Pratibha, who lives
OH SUCH BEAUTY OF TRUTH AND EXPRESSION,
THIS VERSE 24! MAY ALL WHO READ
THIS VERSE KNOW IT, AND READ IT, AND SHARE IT!
my thanks for having the privilege to
receive this verse,
Kinda warms the heart, eh?
class too, worked our way into resonance with the profoundly compassionate
motivation of Narayana Guru. As we sensed in the last verse, he was heartbroken
at the unnecessary cruelties inflicted by humans on each other, not to mention
on the “lower” animals. Nitya recounts a story from Word of the Guru, in his In
the Stream of Consciousness:
When the great poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore, came
to pay homage to Narayana Guru, the poet was overjoyed by the great changes
brought about by Narayana Guru in the socioeconomic setup of the country.
Commenting on that, the poet complimented the Guru on the “great work” he was
doing for the people.
The Guru’s reply was not delayed, “Neither have we done
anything in the past, nor is it possible to do anything in the future.
Powerlessness fills us with sorrow.”
Despite being saddened by the tragedies he
witnessed on all sides, Narayana Guru was not one to be immobilized by a sense
of helplessness. He was making a profound point: we don’t accomplish anything
through mere willing, through making plans and carrying them out.
Intentionality is a stumbling block, an infusion of duality into a unitive
event. Whatever remained of his ego was dedicated to simply being
available—present—to the situation. He might have wished passionately that he
could bring about what so plainly needed to be done, yet he knew it was out of
his hands. He held his desires in check, and in so doing became one of the most
effectively transformative humans ever to walk the planet.
most of us discover we are helpless, we give up. We say it’s God’s problem, or
is otherwise out of our hands, and turn our backs. But “God” has only us to
work with. Narayana Guru demonstrated how we can surrender our intentionality
while remaining available, making us highly effective. He also knew the minute
you think “I am accomplishing something good” it sabotages the whole business.
The subtlety of this verse’s import is that we must act and not act
simultaneously. Such an attitude can’t be crafted, it has to be gentled into.
We call it a dialectic synthesis, but it’s very difficult to implement.
gave us a good example, without necessarily trying to. She has known a certain
family since it formed, and the father since he was a child. In talking to
their 11-year-old son she realized that he was not getting the care and
attention he very much needed. The mother was no longer present. Brenda took
the father aside and had a heart to heart talk with him, about what a child
needs in such a situation. Because she wasn’t threatening or didactic, he
really listened to her, and resolved to be more caring. She gave him some
practical steps he could easily implement.
others might have thought “It's none of my business,” Brenda cared too much to
turn her back. Nitya often said we have unlimited liability. We matter. Brenda
adults retreat when they are in pain, imagining that no one wants or needs
them. They erect a defensive barrier and remain inside it. This is particularly
egregious in parents. In addition to oppressing their own soul, it’s a
protolanguage instruction to the next generation how to erect their own
barriers and imprison themselves. It’s also very effective at forcing friends
to keep their distance. But Brenda, partly inspired by the last verse of Atmo
and partly by her well-developed compassionate nature, did not stay away. She
knew that a child of that age, if ignored, spirals down into all sorts of
hazardous emotions and addictive behaviors. Their negativity is a cry for help,
not the rejection it appears to be. So she waded in and made a positive
contribution to getting the father more involved.
have observed on many occasions when a well-meaning person was met with
hostility, they quickly gave up and pulled away. We have to at least try to get
past the lions guarding the gate before letting it be. Getting it just right
requires real expertise. Too much or too little effort and the person’s
defenses will easily defeat us. Brenda made it clear she was acting out of
love, and so was invited into her friend’s inner sanctum.
was also touched by Nitya’s passionate outburst from the last verse. He was
deeply moved by Nitya’s outing of those who claim to live a spiritual life but
in fact don’t care for each other. It brought up something he would have said
to his parents as a child, when they were divorcing, about how it would hurt
their children. It was a healing insight for him, even though it came too late
to affect the original gestalt.
talked about how he’s resolved his feelings of not being loved as a child. It’s
been a long learning curve, but he has been able to forgive his family’s
lapses. His efforts epitomize the work of this study, which I’ll summarize at
the end. It’s too bad we weren’t loved as much as we’d have liked, but we are
the ones who can reverse the trend, by intuiting that pretty much everyone
feels unloved and wishes it were different. Scotty is becoming an uninhibited
beacon of love himself.
are expert at framing their selfish behaviors in altruistic window dressing. Of course
we do everything we do for the
very best reasons. Unfortunately, we are routinely deluding ourselves. Our
purported high-minded motivations are actually excuses tacked on at after the
fact. Which is another reason for Narayana Guru to admit his powerlessness. We
shouldn’t take credit for our successes any more than we should deny our
reminded Brenda of something Mick said last week: we should do good in secret.
We don’t set out to do good, and we certainly shouldn’t have any expectations
about what we can accomplish. But we do offer ourselves to the occasion. And we
do our best to not distort the salubrious unfolding around us.
reprised Nitya’s point that if you really understand your connection to the
whole you cannot behave in a bad way or be hurtful to others:
put forward the claim that knowledge need not necessarily be a virtue. Socrates
said knowledge is virtue. Protagoras replied, “No. A man who knows truth can
also distort it.” Socrates said, “In that case he does not know truth. If he
really knows, he has to be virtuous. A man who says he knows and is not
virtuous knows only one part of it.” In the Upanishads this is called knowledge
that walks on only one leg. For the Self to walk on two legs it must have
knowledge and also love. Love for what? For itself. Nature reveals itself in a
human self so that it knows it is all, or that it belongs to all. If you are
concerned with the happiness of the Self, that binds you to commit yourself to
live always for the happiness of all.
class wrestled with this core idea, and we have an assignment of sorts for next
week to proclaim the unity of life in a way that those who don’t see it might
begin to accept. After all, it’s the central precept of spiritual life, which
in Vedanta means all life. How do we communicate that we are connected to
everything, when the primary knowledge base of the present day is about
separation and isolation? Just saying we’re connected doesn’t get through. But
it seems as if the very survival of the planet hangs in the balance. If we
continue to treat it as consisting of isolated grains of sand, that’s what it
will wind up being.
Guru demonstrated the power of oneness even as he proclaimed his powerlessness.
Rita also felt that we communicate the truth of oneness by how we live it: the
more we experience it, the more it radiates to those around us. She lamented
that humans require proof, and that in a way this blocks our inner vision of
oneness. But that’s what we’re trained to, and it has a certain value in
steering us away from manipulation by others.
has been discovering unifying truths for hundreds of years, but it hasn’t had
much impact on our default setting of isolation, probably because the heart has
to learn along with the intellect. Not only are humans genetically one family,
but now we know that all life has descended from a single progenitor—we are
distant cousins of coral reefs, yeast, plants, and even microbes. Something
inside us knows this, although our egos don’t see it. It’s a hugely
we are cruel to children, they viscerally learn defensiveness and isolation, so
abstract knowledge about unity doesn’t penetrate very far. This is a very
important idea. We have to communicate—resuscitate—love and kindness, or the
tides of separation will continue to dominate, with their consequent
environmental and social degradation.
asked about the overall scheme of our study, so here’s my best attempt. We
start out for what seems like eternity in a comfortable womb, with no demands
and few if any disturbances in our blissful ease. After we are born, we begin
to experience challenges in greater or lesser amounts. We have to gradually
take over meeting our needs, and we receive a variety of mental and physical
injuries. We begin to erect psychological barricades to protect ourselves from
a seemingly hostile world. By the time we’re teenagers we have a full fortress
erected around our core self, with a popular persona painted on the door. Soon
we identify with the persona so much that we abandon the core. Since the core
is our true self, this is an extremely serious loss, leading to all the ills
that flesh is heir to. But society is filled with cheerleaders and bartenders
who tout the false self as the important one. So only rare birds downplay their
defenses. Everyone else celebrates them.
adults we no longer need some if not all of the barriers we erected in
childhood, but they are solidly built and don’t go away on their own. They have
to be consciously dismantled. Unfortunately there is not much call for
self-restoration, and the process is often painful and nerve wracking. So we
would rather leave the barriers in place and pretend they don’t exist. It sort
of works, but they wall us in as they wall others out. Part of us resents being
caged, and it’s hard work to suppress our vitality. Our class is for those who
want to let their souls run free again, who are tired of keeping themselves
then, the Atmo study we’re engaged in is to recover our authentic self. Two
simultaneous motions are invoked: an inward exploration back to our core, our
vacated home, combined with expanding our protective barriers to include more
and more of the world inside them. It’s not too hard to make them more
spacious, if we want to. Narayana Guru tells us we are enlightened to the
extent that we allow the other into our personal territory, and so our
enlightenment grows as we become more inclusive. Knowing our core self helps
make us brave to extend our boundaries. Nitya gives the classic example of a
mother who identifies with her child, but there are infinite possibilities.
True enlightenment means finding a place for everyone and everything, making
our boundaries so vast they include all, as if everyone was our own dear child.
was a beautiful class, happily free of the quibbling that sometimes pops up
around this subject: “does this mean you believe that things like rape and
murder are okay?” No, that’s not it. All those selfish, cruel acts are
manifestations of separation and isolation. Self-aware openness is their cure.
This is all about restoring our own integrity. our wholeness, not worrying
about other people’s faults. There’s plenty of that going on already, and it
accomplishes nothing useful. Quibbling is the ego finding yet another excuse to
avoid the hard work of healing ourselves in the light of this extraordinary
gift, the Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction. Its absence is a fine mark that
we have already made great strides in this exceptional endeavor.
This Nor That But . . . Aum:
is the purpose of my life? This is a question which many people want to answer
for themselves. To eat and drink, to mate and multiply are the common lot of
all living beings, and on this count man is not different from all other
makes man human? Man is the only animal who counts and calculates, writes
poetry, fabricates a language with several thousand different intonations with
which to express his ideas, and who builds schools and universities and takes
pride in founding national libraries. The realization of a purpose is discerned
by looking at the nuclear value of its motivation. The purpose of a pen is to
write, if it fails it is no longer a pen and it can be thrown away. The central
value of man is that he is capable of knowing and sharing his knowledge with
his fellow man. In essence, he is knowledge.
and self are not two. The operational efficiency of knowledge is evident when a
person says “yes” or “no.” To say “yes,” one should know what truth is and how
what is presented conforms to the requirements of truth. The word “no”
proclaims dissent. Without a normative notion, genuine or defective, one cannot
agree or disagree. Truth determines everything.
truth that governs the knowledge of man is not something private or personal,
it is the one principle that covers every specific item. The basic element of
the material world is hydrogen. A hydrogen atom is structured with one electron
and one proton. There is determination in it: it does not vary. That uniformity
can be seen in the structuring of the atoms of all elements. Even when the atom
of one element combines with the atom of another, its basic structure does not
change. For example, water, which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, does not
show the qualities of either hydrogen or oxygen, but the atomic structure
continues to be unchanged even when combined into the molecules of water.
the hydrogen atom to the monkey, we see that the evolutionary process in nature
is governed by certain natural laws that are universal and predictable. These
laws decide all the functional properties of organic and inorganic bodies, but
they are not revealed to lower forms of life. Man is the consciousness of
nature. It is as if nature, in its entirety, has within it an insight that
easily merges with the faculty of human reasoning. When man introspects and
goes to the very source of the truth that enunciates all the laws of the
universe, he does not think that he is a stranger in this world. The labyrinth
of the inner secrets of the universe is like a parental home for him. He claims
knowledge of it as if he has a right to know what he has inherited, and nature
hands over to him the keys of one secret after another as he proves himself
worthy of receiving those truths.
when man finally establishes himself as the immortal indweller of the cosmos
and the custodian of his knowledge, he does not see anything as alien. In such
a state he is not one embodied person looking upon another as a stranger, he is
the Self of all and he recognizes it.
nature of the Self is a transparency of its awareness and the freedom from the
aches and pains of ignorance. To a person who has realized this truth, the
suffering of another person is a blemish in universal consciousness. He
recognizes his unlimited liability to cleanse the world consciousness of its
smudges of impurity. This commitment to perpetuate universal goodness makes
compassion the central motivating force in his life.
an artist or a musician of exceptional ability loses the capacity to express
his talent because of old age, we continue to honor him as a musician or an
artist. Such kind of favoritism is never shown, however, to a good man. A good
man must always be good, his past virtue will not give him license to show
caprice afterwards. A person's realization does not confer upon him any
lifelong guarantee of wisdom. The transparency of his vision of universal
oneness and goodness should prevail as a fact of life to the very last moment
of his life. For this reason a realized person is always dedicated to the
welfare of all sentient beings and is a responsible custodian of truth.
THE principle viewed above from the social and ethical
standpoint is here restated in terms of Self-knowledge. The duality that is
apparent between the interests of two individuals can be viewed unitively as
referring to the self-same central or neutral Self conceived in the context of
The Bhagavad Gita (V1.32) alludes to this way of establishing
‘sameness’ (samam) between the Self and the Cosmos. It is not according to the
ordinary laws of thought, which admit of contradiction and an excluded middle
that this kind of unitive vision of the Self, which is all-embracing, is to be
The equation of the Self and the non-Self, has implicit in it
the dialectical method known to ancient wisdom the world over, but
lost in later philosophies. Remnants of it are to be
found in different degrees
of rationalized versions in Kant,
Hegel and Fichte. Modern phenomenology has this way
of thinking implied in it.
Looking at the verse in a common-sense way, we could
derive the simpler principle
of human equality from it. When the poet Burns writes ‘A man’s a man for a’
that’, the principle of equality which is at the basis of Western
civilization and variously
named democracy, socialism or communism is implicit, in spite of the closed
forms that interested political bodies might have given
to it. Perhaps only
exponential differences of degree or intensity might distinguish them. Treating
thy neighbour as thyself implies the equation of the Self with the non-Self.
has said that he has more work to do on the verse, but his achievement to date
is nonetheless admirable. It’s the nature of the subject to be somewhat like a
morass, easy to get into deeper and hard to find a way back out of:
contemporary America, and in the developed West generally, those with the
greatest intensity (as Yeats noted years ago) frequently trumpet the moral high
ground they assume they occupy as they demand “social change” of various
kinds. On the opposite side of the
fence are those who found a “return to basic values” on the same
principle. They, too, believe
wholly in an ethical value system that they use to guide their decisions in the
public sphere. Human history seems
to speak to this perennial condition, one that manifests as a constant battle
between an endless series of foes, all of whom are convinced that they do the
right thing. As an enormously
monstrous example, consider Adolf Hitler who dedicated his life, he claimed, to
elevating the human race and sold his view on a national scale. His acolytes
also had right on their
side as they went about designing their new world order—the extent to which the
Third Reich succeeded was not possible without a guiding ethic.
this verse, the Guru (and Nitya in his commentary) dives directly into the
belly of the beast. Because
morality/ethics is solely a social phenomenon, it can easily become isolated in
that domain and thereby devolve into one big category error—the category itself
cannot be an element in the category.
In the case of ethics, to evaluate social behavior in terms of social
behavior leads to an endless sliding of premises because nothing is
stable. Conditions continuously
shift. We are monotonously faced
with new “crises” and unexpected emergencies that demand original remedies
designed specifically for them, and technological progress offers a trendy
rationalization for attaching to this assumption. By the same token, remedies founded on experiences based on
an archaic social behavior automatically fail to meet the litmus test of
“unique” contemporary conditions which continue to change.
Nitya’s commentary, he exposes this circular farce for what it is—a procedure
through which we guarantee more of the same non-sense by clinging tenaciously
to our profound ignorance, by insisting on remaining stupid. The marvelous quality
assessment is that Nitya is not offering a judgmental statement wrapped in an
arrogant hubris, all designed to elevate his ego. On the contrary, his balanced and plain-spoken explanation
clearly illustrates one of the guru’s central tenets: “Know and let know,
rather than argue and win” (p xxiii).
opens his commentary by thoroughly anchoring his premises in what is. Nature and every form in which it appears is controlled by
precise laws that act to organize all forms of matter in specific ways. The further
up one proceeds on the
evolutionary scale, the more complex the organism and the more opportunity for
choice is open to that organism.
Human beings, for example, operate on a far more open field than do
fungi or dogs.
choice comes options and ultimately consciousness, and it is at this point that
Nitya briefly follows Aristotle and what he has to say about life’s purpose in
his Nichomachean Ethics. Being the
most complex of organisms,
humans also face the questions of purpose and ethics. Concerning the latter, Nitya’s Aristotle begins with the
linking verb is. When the term is used,
it connects two
elements, so when one uses the phrase is
good that which is internal must be able to discern an existence. In Nitya’s
view, this element is the
internal eternal light. Acting on
what that light perceives as good
constitutes the term’s definition.
Otherwise, it is meaningless.
This discernment of Self, says Nitya, is the self-evident truth at the
core of ethics; knowing thyself is
the necessary foundation for the proper approach to social relationships and
for living that truth which is the good,
and it is the same individually and collectively. The boundaries between the self and the other disappear for
the realized person who lives for the Self’s happiness which is identical in
all of us.
balance between these two spheres (if held in balance) leads to moral health
which, like physical and mental health, can also become unbalanced and lead to
illness. It is in these varieties
of imbalance that war, pestilence, poverty, etc., are born because of the
holonic character of ourselves, the world, and the cosmos. Individually we are
part of a social
circle in a world of necessity, and that social circle is part of a larger one,
and on and on. Likewise, our
biological bodies are a composite of organs and systems that, if functioning in
balance, produces health, but if out of balance leads to an infinite number of
maladies (all functioning in a pre-determined life cycle). If an organ is out
of balance and
ceases to function, that failure can terminate the entire organism. The cancerous
lungs will destroy the
innocent kidneys—and all the rest in the process.
of nature’s holonic processes, its natural harmony is that same knowledge that
manifests as our consciousness. As
Nitya puts it, “We who are the knowers of nature are really nature knowing
nature” (p. 172) and that factual rational knowledge, in and of itself, contains
no ethical dimension until it is used in some public way. Splitting the atom,
as an example, can
serve both constructive and destructive purposes. Driving the choice is our realization or our ignorance of
our Self love, our identification with the Absolute and nature—as the knowers
knowing nature. Self-love and
happiness are identical and universal and is our true nature that requires our
constant fidelity. If we love the
Self and do not privilege the ego-self as all-powerful (but as useful in its own
domain) we have no alternative but to include all as parts of that
Self-love. This ultimate and
foundational conclusion—and at the same time premise—is the very definition of good,
the character of which will
constitute the purpose of our moral public and holonic universe: “Realization
and doing good are not two separate things, they are one and the same” (p.
24 atmo response by Paul:
hate missing class!
book has such a great message to share with us carbon based life forms.
is my take (in what I can figure out over the last 7 years or so) on Verse 24.
False deification of the small self displaces an actualization of the Greater
The small self is the UN-Realized Greater Self
has become adept at dividing the One into the many. Now we must learn to remember the Many as The One. It is evident
that human perception
(intellect & experience) are all acts of inherent disassociation (duality)
we tend to mislabel as real.
Mislabeled knowledge displaces Truth. Perception itself is utilitarian in nature & inherently
effective only within the boundaries of nature.
crutch I employ is to distinguish transcendence as likened unto considering our
transience as a state being asleep & dreaming--while 'remembering' that you
are in a dream. Remembering that
you are dreaming--when dreaming--has the potential to break the bonds of
servitude unto our conditioned intellects (ego). To demote the ego from master to servant has the positive
effect of illuminating our tendency to deify illusionary dreams as personal
knowledge is Spirit. To actualize
Spirit in nature is to realize the Universal Nature of Spirit (with nothing
left out). Spirit seeks It-Self
within the nature of Spirit. We
all are within Spirit's Nature (even the small self) as testament to our Being
(Nature’s Spirit). We are the
Consciousness of God. We are the
To liken transience unto a ‘remembering’ that we are dreaming a dream of a
transactional nature, offers potential in breaking the bondage of
self-lordship, thus enabling the dissolution of the small self (ego) into the
Universal Solution of the Greater Self (God) ~
this is not my-self ~
this is not my-universe ~
All is the Unified Self of God manifesting Consciousness ~