the limbs together, remaining like a bolt,
limb owner envelops as vaporous being;
this reason, “that man” and “this man” arise in this way—
that man believes, due solely to the weakness of non-discrimination.
Self that owns the body bolts all the limbs together and animates it with a
vaporous stuff. Once having become identified with the physical body, one loses
right comprehension and fancies a separate reality for each person.
All limbs suppressing and standing as a bolt
The limb-owner mere vapour enshrouds within;
‘This’ man he takes different from ‘that’ therefore
Owing to the weakness of unwisdom alone.
often find that something seemingly random in the preceding week makes a
significant contribution to the class, and this time there were several.
Reading up on a new and promising approach to cancer (see http://www.atavisticchemotherapy.com/
) I encountered this from Herman Hesse, in Magister
Ludi, I believe about the monks in the curious monastery the Magister
Each man had only one genuine
vocation – to find the way to himself…. His task was to discover his own
destiny – not an arbitrary one – and to live it out wholly and resolutely
within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at
evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of
one’s own inwardness.
assured, then, we aren’t the only ones to pursue such a strange agenda! Again
and again we encounter the exhortation to take this subject (our Self)
seriously, to really get into it—our “genuine vocation” is easily obscured by
all the available distractions. Narayana Guru’s “weakness of non-discrimination”
in the verse refers to our inability to separate the wheat from the chaff,
barring a significant effort. As Nitya puts it in his commentary, “Narayana
Guru is lamenting the weakness which makes it difficult for us to go beyond the
darkness and see the wonder of all this.” We all agreed that the small and
modestly dedicated loose-knit community of seekers we create each Tuesday gives
us a big boost in this area. It is much easier to dig beneath the surface when
we sit together and ponder words of wisdom. This was particularly evident last
night, a warm and glowing evening in which Susan’s open admissions led to some
keen insights for all of us.
in the week, Susan had expressed interest in a favorite analogy I added to my
exegesis of Herakles’ twelfth labor (which coincidentally also bears a nodding
resemblance to Verse 26). Psychologist Leo Zeff, who used LSD as a therapeutic
tool for many years, described the impact of a psychedelic trip in a similar
way to Herakles’ entry into the underworld I had just described:
Imagine a castle, a huge castle,
very large. Many rooms, many turrets, many levels of it. There's only one way
to get into this castle, and that's the front door. The front door is solid steel.
Impregnable. You can knock on that door all you want. You can do
everything you can to tear it down. You can't get it down. Every now and then
you might somehow or other move it a little bit to get a glimpse of what's
behind it, but that's all. There's no way, and you've tried every way possible
to get into that castle. Which is yourself.
What happens on a trip is by some mysterious magic means
this door is dissolved, and you have the opportunity to go in and explore that
castle. Any place you want. You go in and you look around, and you find many,
many wonderful places, strange places maybe, scary places and all that. You can
go to the top and you can go to the bottom and you get a sense of what the
totality of yourself really is like. As you come down, what happens is that the
door somehow or other gets back up there. But that's all right, because you
have a memory of what possibilities are there and what you've experienced. The
biggest experience that it brings to you is that it connects you with feelings
that you've never been connected with before. They are now open to you. Not on
the level or the intensity that you had in the experience but certainly much
more than they ever were before…. You have really expanded your awareness.
comment there was “Zeff’s steel door analogy closely corresponds with Kerberos
[the hell-hound who guards the entrance], though it fails to convey the terror
that effortlessly turns us away from the gates and sends us back to make the
best of our mundane but relatively comfortable existence. Terrifying or not, both
are insurmountable barricades that must somehow be overcome to gain entry into
the mysterious realms.” Compare this with Nitya’s commentary:
soon come to a dark chamber and stand outside its door, unable to penetrate
into it to know the secret of how this [neural] agitation is manifesting…. Our
knowledge is coming and standing at the portals of this wonder, unable to
penetrate beneath the surface. Beyond lies a great darkness. The greatest of
all wisdom, all knowledge, is happening behind that door and in that darkness.
It keeps the whole universe proliferating and multiplying endlessly. What a
great wonder it is!
third foreshadowing of the class this week provided a ready answer to a
question Bobby brought up that he’s been pondering for a long time: what impact
does the awareness of unity have on the individual? He means, partly, is it
practical? The Sunday NY Times featured an article I had just read on
meditation. It included a report on an experiment comparing the level of
compassion in newly trained meditators with a control group. In this instance,
the measurable level of compassion—bound to be fuzzy, of course—was three times
greater in the novice meditators compared to those who didn’t receive the
is a paradox here. Our culture trains us to look outside and solve problems, to
think of the other and serve them. Even many gurus advocate “selfless service”
as the goal of yoga or spirituality. Oddly, this mentality creates a boomerang
effect of retreat, perhaps because the core self is starved from lack of
attention. We don’t have enough compassion left over for our selves. Yet if we
turn inward, we (fairly quickly) come to know a universal mystery residing
within us that is the true source of compassion and the loveful delight in
existence everyone unconsciously craves. By feeding or connecting with this,
the world around benefits much more than if we altruistically set out to fix
is actually extremely important in Narayana Guru’s wisdom teachings, and we
will be working on this in the months ahead. Our situation is more like the
exact opposite of Zeff's analogy: we are trapped inside a castle and the whole
world awaits us beyond the portal. We are all living within barricades,
fortresses, from which some of us dare to make sorties occasionally into the
outer darkness. We think, I’ll help my friends to come out of their fortresses
so they’ll be much happier, and that will make me happy too. But action
originating from a fortress has an alienating effect, no matter how beneficial
it is on the material plane. What the gurus of That Alone are recommending is
for us to learn how to come out of our fortresses and act freely on our own. If
we can do it, we and everything around us will benefit. The coming out
communicates something everyone secretly craves, and has largely forgotten. It
animates the cliché of harmony to become something more than lip-service.
Harmony does not have to be created, it is our true nature. We fall out of
harmony the minute we strive for it, but fall back into it when we let our
surface intentions go.
wondered what life would be like if society was organized around sharing
wonder, around what was really important? Oddly, that has almost always been
the initial impulse of human societies. People are motivated to share their
best experiences, like parks, museums, schools, recreational facilities, not to
mention the basic necessities, but there is a shadow side to it. Good
intentions turn less ideal when they’re organized into fixed programs. Over
time the wonder is replaced by duties and obligations, and the spirit drains
the paradox, baldly stated. When we act intentionally selflessly, there is a
kernel of selfishness in it. That doesn’t mean the corrective is to act
selfishly, as many people seem to believe, because that’s equally an arbitrary
construct. Both positions are inherently selfish. Opening to the Self, by
contrast, is neither selfish nor selfless. It is the dialectical synthesis of
worry, there will be much more about this as we proceed.
of worries…. Susan’s brave admission was that she is obsessed by worries, and
she decided to check up on just how much. One day she kept a list. Every time
she noticed a worry she wrote it down. In the first two hours she compiled 25
worries. That was really something to worry about!
usual, everyone in the class was quietly relieved to find out that someone else
shared their problems. We normally maintain silence because we assume (like
everyone else) that only we have faults, and everyone else is a paragon of
virtue. But as Mick said, that’s humans for you. We are worrying machines,
designed to stay alive by worrying about all sorts of things—even though worry
itself can kill us. Jake remembered being shaken out of his own complacency
about worries by a friend one time. He was talking to him about another friend
who was dying of cancer, and said he was worried about him. His friend asked
him pointedly, “Do you think you’ve worried enough?” It blew Jake’s mind. It
revealed to him what a waste the worrying was. It did nothing for the sick
friend, and made him unhappy and potentially ill himself. Hmmm. Being a
lose/lose proposition, why is it we get so addicted to it? Why are there so few
noticed the quietly explosive point Nitya makes about this. Neurologically
speaking “there is no difference between your knowledge of comprehending the
Absolute and having a pinprick. At the nervous level it’s all useless,
superficial agitation.” He later adds, “Our little pains are so very important
to us. Our life is not ruled by wisdom but by pain: little, little pains and
agitations.” He is ferociously trying to redirect our attention to the
magnificence we call the Absolute, but which is a wonder that transcends the
triviality of names and forms: “When we look at it this way this very earth on
which we walk is the great mother from which all this has come. How many times
should we kneel with gratitude that all this was made possible from mere dust!”
Bobby lamented that we tend to focus on problems rather than the good things.
But that is how our brains have evolved so far. Atmopadesa Satakam is inviting
us to evolve further.
important idea is that we need a master interest to absorb our attention. If we
have not yet reconnected with our inner drive, we cast about for it in all the
wrong places. This course in Self instruction is an aid to regaining our
many people, including Susan, raising children is an overwhelming interest for
a big chunk of their lives, but as the children become adults and move on, a
new interest has to replace the vacuum they leave us with. It doesn’t have to
be an exteriorized interest, either. Curing and healing the self could be a
worthy exercise in its own right. After that who knows? The sky’s the limit.
But whatever it is has to be a full-fledged effort—half-hearted dithering
doesn’t bring up the ananda we need to maintain our interest and get over our
anxieties. Worries have to power to keep us distracted, if we let them. As
Nataraja Guru often said, there is a heroic element that has to be brought to
bear in spiritual life.
filled with wonder is all well and good, but how to we get over this
obsessiveness, generated as it is by deep-seated and repressed traumas? The
technique implicit in Vedanta and Yoga is the dialectic neutralization of
opposites to produce a higher synthesis. The class really focused on what this
means, on how to do this.
of all, we have to recognize our barely-noticed thoughts, worries, and
impulses. Susan’s intentional list making was exactly right for bring her
semiconscious predilections more into her awareness. Normally we simply try to
suppress unwanted mentation, which drives it underground where it can wreak
havoc. So we have to recognize and acknowledge it first. Then we consciously
counteract it with an opposite assertion, which allows us to drop both the
worry and the assertion and sit for a moment in a neutral zero, until the next
worry (mental modulation) comes along. Usually we don’t have long to wait….
in the opposite premise is tricky business. In the past we’ve given Nitya’s
very valuable example of whenever he was complimented he would recall a fault
or two, and when he was criticized he would pair it with a worthy aspect of his
nature. This time the class used an “easy” example of Susan’s. Whenever she
passes a certain closet and sees how her family has left it messy, it initiates
a chain of worries. Messiness means uncaring. Her son especially leaves messes
all over. How can she teach him to clean up? Won’t he fail in life because he
doesn’t have basic sanitation skills? Why doesn’t anyone care about Susan’s
feelings? And so on. You know.
course, in training a child (or husband) those things need to be considered.
But if we’re trying to cure ourself of obsessive worries, it’s a different
problem altogether. We could simply think that a dirty closet doesn’t really
matter in the overall scheme of things. Mick went a step farther: why not be
charmed that the mess is the mark of your son? A clean closet is sterile, but
that mess says “Peter” loud and clear. This is especially good because the
worry is more an emotion that a rational thought, so it is best corrected with
a countervailing emotion. We often fall short because we try to neutralize a
huge wave of emotion, laden with unconscious fears, by using a simple slogan.
Just repeat a mantra. Just tell yourself it’s okay. I’m sorry, but that’s not
real yoga. You have to see what you’ve got going and intelligently find its
contradictory position. (Helpful sayings can be efficacious at times—see Part
talked about reading Krishnamurti, and that there’s a lot of neutralization of
opposites in his writing. The idea is not to simply take a contrarian position
(we’re all pretty expert at that!) but to pit one side against the other so
they resolve into thin air and blow away. He has used the technique to resolve
family issues that used to bother him a lot. He's replaced anger and resentment
with understanding and compassion, and found it easy to then forgive past
transgressions. Along with Mick, he agrees we should take our self like a baby
in our arms.
are much greater than our thoughts, and we aim to access more of that greatness
by sloughing off our attachment to our thinking. In fact, as Nitya says, we
know virtually nothing. We are titanically ignorant. Admitting that is one way
to open the steel doors of our inner landscape. But we’ve been forced to
maintain the fiction that we are very knowledgeable, so as to get employment
and social respect. Yes, we had to do that. No one can be hired (or loved) if
they proclaim they don’t know anything. But in our meditations we can admit the
truth: we are absolutely clueless. We have no idea what’s going on here. Like
Bob Dylan’s Idiot Wind, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourself. It’s a wonder
we still know how to breathe. If we can dare to admit that, it’s the beginning
of wisdom. One last quote from Nitya, “In the Kena Upanishad it says one who
does not know claims that he knows, and one who knows keeps quiet. The wonder
is too much for him even to acknowledge what he knows.”
winding down our “quiz” on unity versus multiplicity. It’s not too much of an
exaggeration to say that the mindset you decide to inhabit makes all the
difference. I highly recommend reading Nataraja Guru’s comments this time (in
Part II), even if he’s ordinarily too tough a nut to crack. They’re quite good.
last thought from me about universal unity. I have been musing for years about
paying for a DNA analysis of my family history, because we suspect a lot of
interesting elements in it. While everyone is unique, we all agree I’m even
more unique than average. I do know I’m 1/16 Native American (Kiowa). So
recently I looked into it. What I found is that within a very few generations,
pretty much every strand of human ancestry is present in everyone. You can pick
whatever history you want, because it’s all there. The people who peddle DNA
tests can make an exciting story, working in Genghis Khan or Cleopatra, but
it’s meaningless because we’re all related. Everyone
has Cleopatra in their ancestry. Moreover, the genome work done recently
confirms that every living organism on Earth is related with us: bacteria,
fungi, yeasts, plants and all. There is only one lineage here, but consider the
amazing diversity it is capable of. It takes your breath away.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
human beings, there are no two people exactly alike in body, mind or
personality traits. The fingerprint is considered to be unique. The formation
of the skin on the pad of the thumb is considered by criminologists to be very
important for the identification of a person who tries to conceal his true identity
behind a mask. Fingerprints, however, won't help reveal one's true beingness,
for that we need a unifying principle, not a differentiating one.
at the bodies of gymnasts or boxing champions, their muscles are like steel.
If, for some reason, they choke and fail to breathe for four or five minutes,
their bodies will crash to the ground with irreversible consequences. Should
the breath leave the body completely, it will first stiffen, then inflame and
finally fall apart. The skeletal system, the muscles, all the bodily functions,
the sensory and motor systems, memory, reasoning, the will to act, and action
all depend on the autonomous function of breathing.
The first function we performed on coming out of our
mother's womb was to breathe, thereafter we do not stop till death claims our
last breath. Nobody knows who has the agency of keeping the respiration going.
We may say it is the living principle in us; but what is that? And when and how
did it originate? According to biologists or natural scientists, the life that
pulsates in us has flowed continuously through many structured organisms over
millions of years. The rules of our life not only go beyond the human race, but
they have a unified origin even in the kind of stuff that has evolved into the
present solar system. This elusive principle called life, which keeps our
hearts pulsating rhythmically and makes our lungs expand and contract, has
performed the same functions millions of times before in organisms of varying
shapes and states of consciousness.
search for this principle will reveal not only a kinship with the people of our
neighbourhood or humanity at large, but will also take us beyond the pale of
vegetative life to consider salts and minerals as our next of kin as well. When
our universal relationship with the rest of the world is such, how shameful it
is for us to live only within the confines of the selfish interest of one
we carry this body around as our most intimate instrument from the day of
birth, our understanding of it is pitifully meagre. Even a ninety-year-old
person can remember his childhood days with great clarity. Who is keeping all
the impressions of life intact in the mythical engrams of the so-called “black
box” of the mind? And who supplies those memories to consciousness, without
even one second of delay, when there is a need to recall them? Pondering on the
mysteries of life separately will only bring us to even less familiar regions
and will close us off to the secrets that would make us stand in awe and
bewilderment. Even after knowing every detail one is still compelled to ask,
“What is all this?”
confusion that ensues from the plurality of chaotic configurations causes
distrust and fear of even the nearest of kith and kin. Peace and joy come when
one sees the boundless extension of one's life flowing in all directions and
mirrored, or even sometimes sculptured, in the lives of others.
need to bring Will Shakespeare in here, because Nataraja Guru is going to slyly
refer to this (justly!) famous speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V Scene
1. I think our class musings have thrown a lot of light on what the Bard is
saying, especially if you substitute rope and snake for bush and bear:
- Hippolyta - 'Tis
strange my Theseus, that these
lovers speak of.
- Theseus - More
strange than true: I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
- Hippolyta - But
all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.
Guru gives Verse 26 his close attention, and goes so far as to claim that
equality is a fait accompli of the
modern world, at least theoretically. I think he passes our quiz with flying
PETER may be said to be different from Paul, but for one
primarily interested in the
religious value they represent, there is no substantial or essential difference
between them. Even in a more matter-of-fact scientific sense a man might have a
fingerprint that is different from another, but his personality might be
fundamentally the same as that of any other human being.
However, in the context of contemplation or wisdom,
this kind of difference has
no importance at all. All are made in the image of God, as the saying goes.
What we call the soul within the body of man is a neutral and impersonal
entity at its very core,
although it might carry peripherally, as accretions, all sorts of impressions
or conditionings which are incidental to the life of any individual.
The modern democratic idea of the equality of man
recognizes this verity
sufficiently. It is not necessary in our time, therefore, to insist on this aspect of the
of all beings. All individuality or difference of detail belongs to the
extraneous world of actions and reactions which do not touch the deep-seated
self in man, just as the winds and the waves leave unaffected the deep waters
at the bottom of the ocean. Wisdom is concerned primarily and solely with the
pure and absolute content of the individual. Contemplation takes place best in dark-room conditions
when the sense-impressions
which make for differences and multiplicity are effectively effaced.
The Guru here compares the residual core of the unconditioned
Self to mere vapour which is enveloped, as it were, by an outer covering or veil whose tissue or
stuff is none
other than ignorance. As the Gita puts it very directly,
‘Wisdom is enveloped by
unwisdom; therefore beings are deluded’ (V. 15). Characterlessness is to be treated
as an attribute
of the pure or absolute Self, although in ordinary
life, to call a person ‘characterless’
might be considered derogatory. In an ordinary textbook of ethics it might be
more correct to ask a person
to try and add some character to his personality. This contemplative text, as we
have said, is
not to be taken as an ethical code. Its only aim is to throw
light on the absolute Self,
and it is thus proper, therefore, that the Self here should be described as
having no mark, even of individuality. The pure unconditioned Self tallies with
the notion of the Absolute, which can be said to be existing and non-existing
at the same time. The existential side of the Self here is compared to an
upright bolt and the conceptual Self which is a phenomenological event in the
mind is compared to the vapour of empty characterlessness. Both together
abolish individual specificity, which is a myth to be abolished.
There is here reference to the limbs which are aspects of the
physical personality or individuality. The ‘limb-owner’ may be said to be a
psycho-physical entity as seen from this side of reality, from which as common
human beings, we envisage reality. The physical body, which has limbs, has some
agent or owner within which is able to order the limbs at its will. Whether
that is the same as the absolute Self or not is not a question that should
arise, because this relative Self is only a postulate used to affirm the
the non-dual Self is what is to be taken as real. Various suppositions have to
precede the conviction. As we press towards this culminating notion in which
the Self is compared to an airy nothing or vaporous something, we have to pass
through an intermediate notion of the ‘personality’ or universal individual
phenotype which is here compared to a bolt that stands upright or erect in
perfect vertical poise. As a
tree is supported by a stem, the limbs of man are held up by a principle which
keeps them straight or erect and gives unity and coherence to the parts of the integrated whole. The
whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because it belongs to a unitive
order by itself.
Even such a notion of a unitive Self could further be resolved
into an entity that has no tangible content and which could be called a void as well as intensely
As in the case of pure space it could be thought of as highly unyielding as
well as letting all things live and move within its flexibility. These
contradictions are apparent and should not be taken seriously by one who knows
the double-sided approach to axiomatic truth, which can use the a priori and
the a posteriori together without contradiction. Self and the Absolute are one
and the same, both perceptually and conceptually. (See for clarification our
The latter half of this verse lays down the dictum that it is
foolish to discriminate between man and man. Equality is perhaps the highest
contribution of modern civilization, and this notion is reiterated here and
related to its proper context of non-dual philosophy. This philosophy thus
becomes suited to the aspirations of all mankind treated as one.
an excerpt from an interview I gave to Lifepositive Magazine in 2007, bearing
on the subject of unity:
How can we apply Sree
Narayana Guru's philosophy to
attain unity in
diversity, and for the uplift of the
India and the world increasingly
religious, caste and ideological divisions?
for us mortals, the unity is always there. It isn’t something that needs to be
obtained. But it is something that
needs to be recognized.
speaking, we have always to restrain ourselves first. Everyone wants to correct
the other person and think of themselves as not needing correction. So we have
to examine all the ways that we are partisans of limited groups, such as
nations, religions, castes and so on. We may think, “If everybody did yoga or
meditated, the world would be better off,” or “if everybody would just be nice
to each other, what a great world
this would be!” Thoughts that imply a right and a wrong way of doing things, or
even a better or worse way, are the subtle beginnings of divisions among
people. So we should be sure that we aren’t setting ourselves up as superior to
others. In my experience, very few people have even taken this most basic step
toward unity and peace. They are mostly excited about other people’s faults.
The Guru’s suggestion, in the light of the Gita, is to attune first to the
Absolute and then you will see its light in the hearts of all. People as people
may be hard to love but their essence is very easy to love.
next step is to practice kindness and just plain friendliness. Have you ever
noticed how when you are nice to people they respond by being nice, and when
you are in a bad mood people want to argue with you? There really is a kind of
electromagnetism between people, invisible but potent. So work on making your
dynamo hum with peaceful, loving thoughts.
changing the world “out there” is very difficult, but changing it right in your
heart is profoundly simple, and much more effective. Whatever you learn and put
into practice in your own life will radiate to everyone you encounter. If you
are an evangelist for unity, you could then go out of your way to meet
different kinds of people and befriend them, but it’s not necessary. What you are
is already meeting them.
to the underprivileged, Nitya wrote in his autobiography, Love and Blessings, that Nataraja Guru never liked the idea of
calling someone poor or pitiable. “We are as poor as anyone else and really
pitiable,” he would say. Of course, he was speaking as a sannyasin, but the
point was for everyone. Nataraja Guru also distinguished between abundance and
opulence. Nature is abundant, providing enough for all, but people have become
opulent in their lifestyles. Opulence entails taking more than your share and
hoarding it, which means someone else will necessarily have less. We have
reached the point where Mother Earth may recycle the whole human species due to
our untempered appetites. We have to turn to the Absolute for our happiness,
instead of searching for it in material goods. Then we can be satisfied with
mere abundance and eschew opulence.
What do you think was
the Guru's message when he
consecrated a mirror
great dictum Tat Tvam Asi (That thou art) is not mere idol chatter. Everything
and everyone is the Absolute through and through, and realizing this is a great
leap forward according to Narayana Guru. Devotees are always reminded that the
siva lingam or whatever statue is the focal point of a temple, is an indicator
of the truth, not the truth itself. All are waves on the ocean of the Absolute.
But we continually fail to keep this in mind, and so become partisans of
Krishna or Siva or Buddha or Christ.
Guru blew everyone’s mind when he installed a mirror in a temple. Look: right
there in the mirror is one of the Absolute’s most magnificent expressions. You.
it sacrilege? Not at all. It is a great wisdom transmission from one of the
world’s greatest mystics. Is it idolatrous? By no means. It is a way of
expanding consciousness by reflection, and the mirror is not to be worshipped
as if it were a divine object in its own right. Narayana Guru is asking each of
us to have reverence for what we see in the central icon: ourself. We need to
sit before that image and ask ourself just how am I the Absolute? Am I the best
it can do? Yes. And can it be better? Yes, sure, why not?
everyone could accept that they were a spark of the Divine, just as everyone
else is a spark too, they would be empowered to live up to at least some of
their vast potential. Then they would never allow themselves to be beaten down
as something worthless. There is no danger of becoming egotistic either, if
everyone is the Absolute, only if you believe some are saved and some are not.
We are literally one gigantic family. But when we think of gods we
unconsciously defer our own independence to those “wiser” beings. We may
rapidly stop valuing ourselves if we don’t remember our central role in the
neutrality of the mirror is very important. It cannot be mistaken for the icon
of any particular religion. However beautiful is the symbolism found in
temples, synagogues and churches, it unintentionally excludes anyone who
doesn’t grasp its significance. On the other hand, a mirror reflects everything
that comes before it, and in exactly the same way. It does not pass judgment.
It is a highly refined witness. And no one can claim it belongs only to their
a secondary level, it is hard to look at yourself in a mirror honestly and
without shame. We should be able to, but we hide from ourselves in so many
ways. Narayana Guru wanted us to live so that we were never ashamed of our
actions. And who knows what those are better than we do ourselves? So look at
yourself squarely in the mirror once in awhile, and keep yourself honest.
are any number of other implications to the mirror that readers can divine for
themselves. It was a most inspired idea for the Guru to substitute it for a
more localized icon.
a longer version of the psychedelic analogy that appeared earlier. Leo Zeff is
bring my analogies in here at this point. When I'm talking about a trip to a
person who hasn't tripped and they want to know, “What's it like?” It's hard to
describe what it's like but I have a couple of analogies that I use.
is, imagine that you're on a stage, a very large stage, a round stage,
circular. You're standing in the center of the stage. Around this stage is a
huge curtain, very, very high and it's closed and where the curtain comes
together there's about say three feet of space, of an opening. You're standing
in the middle of that stage and you're looking out through that opening.
Everything you see is the totality of your experience of yourself.
happens on a trip is by some mysterious means the curtain very gradually is
pulled back. Very gradually. It's pulled back until it's pulled all the way
around the back and you're given the opportunity to see everything that's been
there all the time but you couldn't see it before because there was a curtain.
All the different levels of experience that it's possible to have, you have.
All the different truths, all the different things, you have. You experience
it. Then, as you start to come down, very gradually the curtain gets pulled
back around until you're all the way down.
When you're all the way down, the difference is that before,
you had about three feet of space that was open to look through. You now have
about fifteen feet of space. You have really expanded your awareness, which is
what they call these materials, awareness-expanders.
The curtain might have even gotten a little transparent.
Yeah, (laughs), that was what I was going to follow with. In addition to that
you have a lot of memory of what you did experience before. So in a sense
that's true, the curtain has become almost transparent. You don't remember
everything, you don't need to remember everything. You don't need to. You
remember everything you need to remember.
another analogy that I use, too. It's similar to that. That is, imagine a
castle, a huge castle, very large. Many rooms, many turrets, many levels of it.
There's only one way to get into this castle, and that's the front door. The
front door is solid steel. Impregnable.
You can knock on that door
all you want. You can do everything you can to tear it down. You can't get it
down. Every now and then you might somehow or other move it a little bit to get
a glimpse of what's behind it, but that's all. There's no way, and you've tried
every way possible to get into that castle. Which is yourself.
happens on a trip is by some mysterious magic means this door is dissolved, and
you have the opportunity to go in and explore that castle. Any place you want.
You go in and you look around, and you find many, many wonderful places,
strange places maybe, scary places and all that. You can go to the top and you
can go to the bottom and you get a sense of what the totality of yourself
really is like. As you come down, what happens is that the door somehow or
other gets back up there. But that's all right, because you have a memory of
what possibilities are there and what you've experienced. The biggest
experience that it brings to you is that it connects you with feelings that
you've never been connected with before. They are now open to you. Not on the level
or the intensity that you had in the experience but certainly much more than
they ever were before. That gives them an idea. “My God!” they say. “How soon
can I have one?” (Laughter.)
The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of
the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement
Myron J. Stolaroff
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
in life especially, or if we’re not dedicated to an intensive course of
self-correction, repeating slogans, poems, wise saying or mantras can be
helpful, a kind of hypnosis program. Michael mentioned a poem to Susan as she
walked out of class last night. He said it got him through a lot of hard times
and worries when he was younger. He suggested exchanging the word “fear” for “worry,”
which I think she’s done for us:
LITANY AGAINST FEAR
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
sent a touching and very appropriate response:
what a great verse
made me cry
how ignorant we all really are ...
all unique children of Gaia
only real contribution one can make is to live with love (when
everything is similar to a pinprick)
thoughts, always trenchant:
his World as Will and Idea, Schopenhauer
spent several hundred pages articulating his notion of the pervasive and
all-powerful will to life, that life force driving all manifestation to
continually evolve, unaided by and largely out of any human capacity to do
anything about it. This perception
is the beginning point of the Guru’s 26th verse. In our physical
form, Nitya writes in
his commentary, breath itself is the vehicle for that “living entity” that
permeates all manifest forms, most notably those associated with what we
usually classify as having life.
It is the stuff of the Absolute informing everything and making our
body’s animation possible. Without
breath, as an example, our bodies would very quickly die and begin the
decomposition process in spite of all our efforts to eat properly, exercise,
and avoid toxins. Breathing, per
se, is also largely an autonomous affair that we become aware of only on
occasion. We don’t have to worry
about forgetting to do it.
there is that works through our scheduled breathing in all our states of
consciousness, including deep dreamless sleep. When we add all the other automatic systems of the body to
this key function we can, and scientists often do, use the computer analogy
with its various programs all running simultaneously in order to explain
it. Just who the programmer might
be is an unanswered question for many, especially for those of us immersed in a
fear-based transactional reality.
As Nitya points out in his commentary, it is this focus on necessity and
the very operations of this body system that contribute to our weakened ability
“to discriminate” or sort out what is happening as it happens.
An analogy, I think, may be found in our failure to
productively respond in certain situations and, say, “over-react” when, after
the fact we recognize the limits we placed on our selves in the midst of the
event. Recognizing an event wholly
while being a part of it is, in general, not a “normal” position, a claim that
can be illustrated by way of its counterpart: having a self-possessed awareness
during an event, especially one in which survival is at stake, is universally
applauded as illustrating, Hemingway wrote, a “grace under pressure.”
addition to our individual experiences of this vaporous life force, continues
Nitya, we are products of a chain of evolutionary manifestations stretching
back beyond the capability of any mental capacity to conceptualize them. Our
lives did not come from nothing but
directly from our parents.
Re-tracing that biological chain far enough, we get to the pre-human and
beyond. And through all of
it—throughout the cosmos—pervades the living force. The enormity/complexity of this totality (that exceeds any
total), both internally and externally, indicates our relative powers of
discernment. We operate in a
cosmos of systems within systems within systems into infinity that we know next
to nothing about, and our perceptions of that world, in turn, are further
diminished by our “normal” internal state. As Nitya clearly points out, “We are weak so we cannot
discriminate. Since we can’t
discriminate, we can only take into account the immediate changes within this
one system”—as we are capable of knowing it (p.186).
(our ego-selves) don’t know we don’t know, so we toil mightily to inflate the
importance of what our minds are capable of reasoning. To illustrate the issue,
to the nihilism that can come about by our taking western science too
seriously. For the scientist,
knowledge itself must be measurable in order to qualify as knowledge. Once so
established, chemistry, or chemical changes, can then be used (by those so
inclined) to explain the brain’s “thinking.” Changes certainly do take place in the brain and can be
measured in terms of electrical/chemical activity. Unfortunately, impulses derived from sense stimulation,
arithmetic efforts, meditation—just about any cause—result in the same activity
relatively measured. The questions
of who or what is in charge and of who or what is making the discriminations
are left unanswered (and unasked if the source is assumed to be the chemicals
themselves). We come, inevitably,
writes Nitya, to the point of the great unknowable, “the greatest of all
wisdom, of all knowledge” (p.186).
The entire cosmos wheels on infinitely, far beyond our mind’s capacity
to comprehend, but we continue to mistake our immediate world for that totality
of which we are a tiny part.
his closing few paragraphs, Nitya refers to the Kena Upanishad in which our
position vis-s-vis the cosmos is condensed into a few words: “one who does not
know claims that he knows, and one who knows keeps quiet. The wonder is too much
for him even to
acknowledge what he knows” (p. 188).
One could add to the foregoing (for the scienticians) the biblical
injunction that “pride goeth before a fall.” In both cases, the mystery and
magnitude of the cosmos, of our own bodies, defy our mind’s capacity to reason
through, but we remain with one useful and constructive option we would do well
to observe each day: assume the position of the silent witness and observe as
part of a web of life within a web of life. “Retire” (p.187).
The drop of water, the river current flows into and is
a part of, the ocean that receives the river, the cloud that becomes the
rain that becomes the drop of water.....endless. Equality and inequality and separateness-and-equal and
separateness-and-not-equal are part of a process. It takes the
knowledge and practice of one to understand the practice and knowledge of the
other. I am a terrible dancer -
but in that I have tried, I appreciate the ballerina, the fine footwork of the
likes of Rogers and Astaire. I am
not their equal there. But
they are only superior because I, the poor dancer dancing, say they are because
I am comparing them to me. If
there were no other dancers but Astaire and Rogers - they would simply be crazy
people kicking and swirling around, needing medications to calm down. I
am not sure that equality
matters - but there is a linear evolution - or so it seems - in the notion of
Solzhenitsyn has a great discussion of justice in volume on of the
Gulag. Everything of value
in that tome is in the footnotes, by the way. I recommend reading it when
you've had your wisdom teeth extracted or are in pain - the story
line will make you feel grateful to be alive and free and the pain will lessen.
seems to me Nitya’s Preface to his autobiography, Love and Blessings, should stand on its own as a masterwork.
Because it throws light on everything we are doing, I reprint it here. If
anyone ever asks for the essence of the Gurukula and Nitya, this is a fine
place to direct them:
PREFACE: WHAT LIFE
HAS TAUGHT ME
this book is ostensibly my autobiography, it is really about my journey within.
To be honest, I must admit that I haven’t been traveling alone: I have been
moved by an unseen hand from city to city and country to country, from one
state of mind to another. I have also traveled in the minds of hundreds of
people, even some I’ve never met. It is as if all the events of my life have
been very carefully choreographed by the Mysterious Wizard, who is ever the
fashioner of life.
have always lived my life like a gentle breeze, or a clear stream that is ever
flowing, with the only purpose of just being. For such a lifestyle I wanted to adopt the attitude of a
poet, an artist and a writer, dedicated to stirring, stimulating and raising
the consciousness of my fellow beings in a gentle, dignified and joyous manner.
Because of this my life has been full of many major happenings, including
teaching in universities in various countries, writing and publishing books in
two different languages, attending international conferences and workshops,
organizing the different centers of the Narayana Gurukula Foundation in various
countries around the globe, and founding the East-West University of Unitive
in its entirety is a learning process. I don’t think we ever get to a point
where we can confidently say we have come to finalized wisdom. However I would
like to jot down here a few points of which I have become somewhat sure:
live a spiritual life correctly we need a contemplative orientation. Just as
the route of a ship has to be charted correctly in order to continue on an
intelligent course, so the self has to be guided in relation to its proper
alignment in contemplation. Trouble is avoided and favorable paths are found
through the establishment of active bipolar relationships. Even when we have
understood how to reduce the self to its proper proportions, to discriminate
the true from the false, and to distinguish what is scientifically valid from
what is only mythologically apparent, a guru or teacher is of inestimable
thing I have learned is that there are countless millions of beings who also
have a right to be here. They should all get a chance to express themselves,
enjoy the attention of their fellow beings, and communicate on very many
levels. So I should be sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and generous in
giving others a chance even when it appears it will push me out of the scene.
It is by sheer blessedness that
have realized that many are living only at a level of physical identity.
Although more evolved beings identify themselves with the social ego, only a
few are mature enough in their spirit to appreciate that their body, senses and
mind are tools in the eternal process of creation. Only one in a million has
the realization that they are co-creators sharing with God the very precious opportunity
of envisioning God’s own dream—or plan—of creation. It is this insight which
makes life the most adorable gift a person can have.
the whole, the bargain of life is not bad. The pleasure and pain of each day is
somewhat balanced. Several are the nights that you crawl into your sheets with
a deep sense of gratitude and fulfillment. The cumulative pleasures with which
you pass a restful night are such that when you wake up you are almost reborn,
with well-orchestrated sensibilities. To your own surprise and delight, you are
inspired from within to turn your thoughts, musings and actions into a symphony
of good taste. This enables you to stand out amongst your peers, applauded for
having contributed yet another dimension to the glory of mankind.
manifestation of life on earth is neither an isolated incident nor a mere event
with a simple beginning and end. The alchemy involved in life and death
involves a complex process of interchanges between existence and essence. In
the matter of progress in spirituality, the inner world has to come into
agreement with the outer.
world is not a haphazard and chaotic conglomeration of things. It is evolving
or transforming according to definite laws. The innate Law that governs
everything, from a sub-atomic particle to a galaxy, and from the simple
pulsation of thought to the amazing historical growth of civilization, is what
I understand as The Word of God—cidvilasam.
Such a belief gives me confidence that my life is also within the grand scheme
of the universe, in which my playmates are the sun, the moon, the stars, the
wind and waves, and the busy bees going in search of honey from the flowers
blooming in my garden, as well as the countless autonomous selves that give
unity to my own self. It is this sense of unity that assures me everything is
secure until I run out of my meaningful physical, vital and social existence in
All through life the Sun comes
faithfully each morning to keep us company. With its benign energy it
illuminates the entire world for every one of us, giving freely to all and
sundry. It also witnesses our daily activity and helps us remember what has
occurred as if it was recorded on a calendar. How can we have a better
companion than the Cosmic Persuader to sit with us and watch not only what we
do but also to guess what transpires in our minds, even before we voice it in
words or execute it in action?
are cherished as well by our Mother Earth. She shares with us the moist air,
which is transformed into the fires of our vitality as soon as we breathe it
into our body. This magical alchemy introduces us to the favor of all the
elements of nature. The rivers are delighted when the Moon’s sheen caresses the
shadows of playful fish under their ripples. The trees that stand firm, tossing
their heads among the clouds, are not merely inert matter, they are the
victorious spirits of ancient life. The lush vegetation of the forests and
riverbanks eagerly watches to see if we are in league with the terrestrial and
cosmic forces set to make our sensibilities more keen and accurate. Nothing
stands apart from the poetry of life and the dream of the Creator.
Moon and other heavenly bodies
are not our only persuaders to live correctly, meaningfully and
enthusiastically. We are also inspired by several immortal earthly exemplars
who have appeared throughout the millennia in the caravansary of life. While it
is true that each of us is led to think that we are walking alone, there are
founts of spiritual, moral and aesthetic wisdom which are like heavenly rivers
flowing into the oceanic spirit of our lives, succoring us with their cool
sweetness. The percolation of the living voices of the wise-of-all-time
improves upon what we have achieved. We don’t always keep to the beaten track,
as there is enough space and time to discover new and purposeful paths in which
to walk and make fresh discoveries.
a reverent sense of gratitude
to everything, I, borne by the winds of Fate, made my journey.
- Nitya Chaitanya Yati