bottom or top, from the bottom to the crest where it terminates—
is known vividly is turiya
matter does not know; having understood this,
that what is said to remain in between is not knowledge.
That which has no beginning and no end and clearly sees
everything from bottom to top is turiya,
transcendent consciousness. The other extreme is the inert body, which has no
knowledge. That which appears to exist in between, articulated as the output of
cogitation, is ignorance.
Bereft of bottom as of top, from bottom to the crest
What transparent awareness has, that is turiya-consciousness;
The inert no knowledge has: what it cogitating tells
From in between, is no knowledge at all, do mark!
vibrant group, never the same twice it seems, was treated to a perfect twilit
evening, with the Coast Range mountains glowing beneath a radiant sky, made
even more luminous by a rising full moon that by the end of class “gave a
luster of midday to objects below.” It was almost too easy to sink into a
profound reverie and remain blissfully silent.
commentary is so perfect that we had relatively little to add, and yet it is
deceptively amusing, because we are being asked to call into question our
entire life. Being an expert dialectician, Nitya would often laugh and joke
when delivering the most fearsome teachings, because otherwise they would call
up our well-built defense mechanisms. We readily let in humor, though, and then
it works on us from the inside if we are alive to it.
those who miss the serious implication of this verse, Nitya makes it explicit:
Now we come to a very difficult
situation where we must go around a curve, so to speak, in our understanding. All
the conditionings which we have so far called learning are no better than the
salivating of Pavlov’s dogs. All the rewards and punishments which you have had
so far in the form of education help you only to salivate when the bell rings.
Don’t you want something better than that?
Well, no, we keep hoping our educated conditioning is going
to somehow produce a miracle, and free us. It’s only when we get impatient
enough with its false promise that we cast about for something different.
was a master at drawing illuminating examples from the ordinary objects that we
routinely take for granted. In this case he spoke of the white foamy blobs that
covered the ground at that time of year, spit bug spittle being an uncanny
reverberation of Pavlov’s salivating dogs:
I like to compare the individual to
a common insect, the spit bug. The spit bug is very tiny, smaller than a
coriander seed. All the time it spits out a kind of foam all around itself.
When you go for a walk in the morning, you can see its spittle all over the
leaves and grass. It looks just like spit, but if you examine it you will find
this tiny bug concealed in it.
Like that, individuation goes on
spitting out constructs all around it. The tiny, fearful ego continually spews
forth clouds of obfuscation in order to conceal its sense of insignificance,
but its delusory images of glory appear to be no more than unwholesome
excrescences to passersby. This is also what the single cell of the fertilized
ovum is doing. It goes on spitting out more and more cells until it becomes a
fetus. Then the fetus becomes a child, and the child a grown-up. We are still
creating spittle all around. We spit out potentials; those potentials in us can
be actualized at any time. Our daily wakeful experiences are expressions of
motivations which lie buried in what is spewed out of an original program.
The point of the verse, and indeed much of Atmopadesa
Satakam, is that we “insignificant bugs” identify with the seemingly
significant constructs we throw up to hide our delicate natures, to such an
extent that we forget who we are. It’s not that we shouldn’t be spitting out
(read: actualizing) our potentials; that’s what the whole game is about. It’s
just that once we are firmly ensconced in our “excrescences” we lose our heads
over them. We are willing and eager to fight over things that we should be
laughing about: the more or less ludicrous fictions that are our common
can hardly be blamed for taking ourselves so seriously, since everything in our
social environment urges us to adopt a persona and accept that we are nothing
else. It is undoubtedly an essential stage of development, to become something.
But that should not be the
end of the project. Deep down we know that our projected image is false, or
only partially true. We are much more than that. We need to revive the
memory—the living reality—of our true nature. In a world where everything
militates against authenticity, it takes a brave soul to maintain a measure of
detachment from their superficial identity.
thought of an example last night but didn’t mention it. Many years ago a friend
of mine was reveling in his identity as a gay man, delighted to talk about it
with me as a nonjudgmental person. It was in the early days of the gay pride
movement, and coming out and accepting yourself as gay was a huge issue, not to
mention seeking acceptance from the broader society. There was an immense
release of pent up energy, of boundless giddiness, in the air at the time. I
offended him by (rather tactlessly I suppose) asserting that the catchword of
that era, “identity,” was a stumbling block to self-awareness. I’m not sure
he’s ever quite forgiven me, though we’re still close friends. But his reaction
made me realize that at an early stage of development, identity does have a
value, even though it’s true that any partial identification is bound to be an
impediment to full self-awareness in the long run. Once the giddiness, the
blessed relief of released identity dies down, you can just be yourself again.
Oppressed people—meaning all of us in one way or another—have to first stand up
for ourselves and acknowledge the limitations foisted on us by our oppressive
surroundings. But if we insist we are only the one single aspect that is
inviting the oppression, we are dooming ourselves to unending harassment. It’s
the same with racial or caste identity: there is a measure of benefit to
initially thinking of yourself in limited terms so you can find common ground
with your community, but ultimately it is essential to cast off all limits and
expand your self-image to the utmost.
offers us a “secret hint” of how to integrate our unitive core with our
necessary extension in actuality, which is to see life as a kind of fantastic
zoo or department store featuring many different animals or goods, but to not
feel any obligation to identify with any particular aspect. Since all awareness
is partial, we don’t abandon ourselves to it, we accept its limitations. This
could cause tremendous angst unless we are grounded in something more real,
because our true nature longs for solidity. The mistake we make is to try to
make our temporary constructions appear permanent, instead of going around a
parabolic curve, as Nitya puts it, where our horizontal fascinations are transmuted
into vertical aspirations. The horizontal world of percepts and concepts is a
chimera, a perpetual shimmering fog that forever eludes our grasp. The common
lot is to keep grasping, but the Vedantic solution is to turn away from the fog
and seek within for our satisfaction.
world we live in has a tendency to fix us in place, to make us feel like a
caged animal on display. We draw more visitors if our cage has a neat label
with our name and habits explicitly spelled out. The image recalls Verse 9,
where a contemplative sits under a tree covered by clinging vines, taking care
not to be caught by them. If we momentarily drop our guard, the vines could
bind us fast. So we watch them carefully, even admire their beauty and
cleverness, but take care to keep out of their grasp.
Bill described it, Verse 27 tells us that existence is a kind of magical
display, and Verse 28 is about not getting caught up in the magic. We can watch
the performance and be entertained by it, but shouldn’t be fooled. Of course,
as Michael said, living in a cage often seems safer, because you can close the
door and you can have a keeper. Ideas and life are neatly partitioned, so you
don’t have to worry about them. That’s a temptation most people readily succumb
to. The magic show convinces us that someone else is in charge and we buy into
it, thereby surrendering our initiative and independence. It’s the universal
also twist every lesson life offers us to fit our preconceived notions. Jake
talked about sharing the zoo and store analogies with a church group he
attends. That particular church is basically a pragmatic institution aimed at
impacting the material world, and there is no spiritual feeling in it. Jake was
amazed that everyone loved the analogies, but they took them exactly the
opposite of how he understood them. Not realizing they themselves were firmly
identified with their roles, like animals in a zoo, they saw themselves as
trying to liberate the animals. And of course that’s another valuable lesson: we
identify with really excellent visions. We are really “good.” We do what’s
right, and we want the best. Obviously we aren’t going to imagine that that’s a
limiting identity—it’s a liberating identity. The spittle we dress ourselves up
with is really beautiful stuff, nicely sculpted. It protects us so well because
it is above criticism.
suppose that’s why a legitimate guru criticizes you right where you believe you
are invulnerable, and why only a rare seeker dares to listen to them. Of course
they’re wrong to criticize your best features!
zoo cage is a polite term for a prison, after all. Paul grew up in a church
where they were quite sure that everybody else was in prison. They were the
liberators. They knew God, and if people would just listen to them they would
be saved. Otherwise they have no chance. Burn, baby, burn!
of us are like Procrustes, the ogre who invited visitors into his home, but
then chopped them down until they fit in his too-small guest bed. We don’t
really see the guest on our doorstep, we see what we expect, what we want to
see. We mangle them to fit our world view, and in the process kill them. It is
so tempting to imagine our partial view is absolutely correct, and to wreak
untold damage as a result.
lesson here is that everything is partial and therefore subject to revision.
Only the pure witness, the turiya, the perfect transparency of vision,
approaches absoluteness. Any reaction, pro or con, yanks us firmly back into
the provisional world. It’s only our fear and insecurity that makes us impute
absolute values to relative matters. True believers are those who are secretly
aware they don’t know anything, and cannot bear to have their weakness be
revealed to others. Some might even kill to keep their shameful secret hidden.
followed Nataraja Guru’s suggestion in his previous verse commentary to notice
the link between Verse 10 and the present, and she read us out the last
paragraph of Nitya’s commentary, as it makes the connection perfectly clear.
I’ll add a bit more, as it’s so germane:
In the Isavasya Upanishad, we are
asked to become familiar with the secret of ignorance, where I consider ‘you’
and ‘I’ as two. We are also asked to become familiar with the secret of wisdom,
that ‘you’ and ‘I’ are the same. If we do not know these secrets, we can be led
into ridiculous situations. Unitive understanding does not mean you can jump
out of the transactional world and become something else. The world does not
evaporate away when you realize the one ‘I’ that pervades everything. It
continues to be there, so you have to come to terms with it.
All the same, the truth is that
there is no world other than the one you construct out of your own concepts. It
is something like a novelist or playwright who makes characters out of his own
imagination, and then discovers after a few chapters that he is bound by the
limitations of his creations. He has become so committed to the characters that
he can’t make any changes. The members of the cast refuse to allow any
enlargement of scope or vision by the author. It is his own creation, but the
creator has become fully dominated by his creations. In the same way we create
our own world and then we become afraid of it, or we get caught up in it and we
don’t know how to deal with it. It is an enigmatic situation.
The meditation that one should
engage in with this verse is to see the oneness, which you know through the
witnessing consciousness, and also the curious way in which the world created
by you makes things difficult for you.
brought us to the close with one of her favorite images. We are standing over a
bubbling spring of vibrant living consciousness that is constantly feeding us,
rising up in a gushing fountain and flowing away, never becoming dusty or
frozen. We cannot hold onto it. It is ever moving, like the wave mystics just
open their heart to.
that note we closed with a meditation that could have lasted forever. The
mutual support and fellowship of the greater Gurukula was palpable in the room.
It is so tenuous, so subtle, yet that is one of its greatest strengths. There
is no heavy organization, no fixed rules, no duties. Everyone is free to have
their own perspectives and lifestyles, and we simply and lovingly help each
other to refine our understanding. Why is that so unusual? It is the motivation
in every heart the world over, but it so often gets stymied, lost in the chaos.
It is delicious to knit it back together, as we did last night, and just allow
ourselves to be. No one was required to proclaim their identity. Everyone was
just what we are, undefined, unburdened. Aum.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
bottom or top, from the bottom to the crest where it terminates—
is known vividly is turiya
matter does not know; having understood this,
that what is said to remain in between is not knowledge.
has some knowledge of something. Mostly the knowledge we speak of is
information of things, people, events and interrelations of properties. Now and
then we come to a point where it is natural for us to say, “I do not know.” In
a previous verse the Guru defined the self as the knowledge which shines by its
own light in an otherwise all-enveloping darkness. What is the darkness he
speaks of? Is it the ignorance we are recurrently confronted with? The
recognition of ignorance itself is an act of knowledge. When a person says, “I
do not know,” it implies two factors. One is the experience of a void, an
impasse, a psychological block and a sense of helplessness, and the other is
the dissatisfaction of not having experienced a postulated or hypothesized
well-known discipline with which to seek and find knowledge is science. In
spite of the enthusiastic pursuit of many truthful seekers in this field, those
who have mastered it, like Einstein, Max Plank, Rutherford, Heisenberg,
Schrodinger, Sir Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell, have stepped down from
the claim of absolute knowledge to a modest and humble stand, then told the
world not to expect from the scientist a final answer to any ultimate question.
All they can assure us of is a statistical approximation of what each observer
finds from a particular angle of vision, which, in all probability, must be
coloured with the state of mind of the observer. Even though the basic
teachings of the rishis of the Upanishads, the Chinese sages, the Buddha and
Christ are looked upon as the echoes of perennial truth, there is a need to
follow up the latest revisions in the field of science, so as to keep oneself
acquainted with the natural laws that are newly discovered and the earlier
findings which have proved either incorrect or inadequate.
makes it so difficult to have absolute knowledge of things? Nature, to which
our mind and body also belong, has in it inertia as one of its main qualities,
so it is no wonder that our mind is subjected to blockages caused by its own
inertia. The claims of tangibility and verifiability by direct perception have
two major disadvantages. Almost all perceptual experiences are lived within the
frame of reference of our dreams, without having to use the external organs of
sense. The so-called immediacy need not be attributed only to the wakeful
moments of perception; the certitude from within, during the dream, is as strong
and clear as we perceive it in the wakeful state. If the wakeful state sublates
the validity of the dream state, the dream state also sublates the experience
of the wakeful. Secondly, the universality of sense data is arrived at by the
common consent of what is otherwise confined to each person’s private
darkness which the Guru speaks of covers the state of the wakeful, the dream
and deep sleep. The experiences of these three states come under the category
of the gross, the subtle and the causal. The Self mentioned in the previous
verse is the dispassionate witness of all these states, and it is mentioned in
the Mandukya Upanishad as the fourth state, turiya. Non-cognition of duality is
the mark of turiya. No amount of information makes that knowledge better or
worse and it is never more clear or less clear. It is not relativistic, it is
knower of the Self calls knowledge only that which is non-differentiated,
although within it there is the negative sphere which accounts for all
differentiations. When we look at the Self this way, we can say that the world
consciousness is the darkness which resides within the consciousness of the
self and operates as the proliferation and actualization of all incipient
memories. It is like a dark shadow caused by a bright light; it should not be
treated as knowledge.
that fills the pages of voluminous encyclopedias is to be considered only as
information that the little mind of man has arrived at by making shrewd guesses
of what the senses have perceived and the mind has tabulated. To a knower of
the Self only the realization of the Self is acceptable truth.
THERE are two aspects of consciousness within, as given to
the contemplative vision. They are to be understood as
dependent and independent;
as the physical and the psychic or the psycho-physical aspects functioning
has a transparency and clarity, filling the whole of being as from within,
without any remainder, spreading from our consciousness of the soles of the
feet to the top of the head.
The other kind of awareness is not total, and like the
reflex-action in the muscles connecting them with the central nervous system,
functions transversely, hesitating and using halting syllogistic reasonings
which are only probable and indirect in their nature and weak in their
degree of certitude.
On the other hand, single or partial stimulus is translated
into total responses by the transparent consciousness. This latter is to be
recognized as the ‘turiya’ consciousness as opposed to the consciousness
dependent on the physiological aspect, which is here called inert, and which,
by its very nature, is against the notion that life’s totality represents. The
vertical axis is the dynamic, and the peripheral bodily responses are static.
These two antinomian aspects make up the whole of the consciousness as the
interlocking psycho-physical factors, both dependent and independent of each
other, and what is more, the physical has an inhibitory effect on the other.
Between them, they could represent knowledge and nescience.
The Guru here leaves out of account the usual classification
of consciousness into four as in the Mandukya Upanishad:
jagrat = the waking,
svapna = the dreaming,
sushupti = the sleeping,
and turiya = the ‘fourth’.
In the Guru’s Darsana Mala, as in the Mandukya Upanishad, the
fuller description is given. Here, conforming to the necessities of the context,
the Guru selects
only the ‘jagrat’ and the ‘turiya’ (the clear inner all-pervading consciousness)
for the sake of contrast. The intermediate ones of the four ‘limbs’ are implied
in the two others selected for mention here. The omitted limbs refer to the
dream-world and that of deep or dreamless sleep.
The definite reference to the limits of foot and head here is
not to be understood in a mere physiological sense but in a neutral psycho-physical
sense. As in space understood as a reality here and now in modern physics, the reference
to bodily limits gives to the Absolute Awareness of ‘turiya’ a fully real
status as a concrete universal entity.
not only attended the class, but submitted a report:
Paean to the Atmo class, August 20, 2013
Most times I sit on the other side of the world and follow
the Portland Gurukula’s Atmo class through Scott’s class notes and appendices,
all the time wishing I could have been there, too. Last night, wishes came true. On-line classes can give a lot on many planes, but there is
nothing quite like real physical presence, sitting in the bosom of a
kindly group, focused on the same subject.
My sister and I drove up to Skyline Blvd as the sun was
getting low in the sky. We
discussed Verse 28 on the way, and I filled her in on the main ideas and key
words: spitbug, agitations, the
A-U-M-turiya axis, not real knowledge
vs definite knowledge, the limitations we are ensnared by and how we
can keep ourselves outside of that prison.
We arrived at The Place, entered to meet old and new
friends, were served hot tea (mine was from Ooty!) and sweet cookies. The
sun had set when 13 earnest people
gathered in the lower living room looking out on Blue Hills that took me
back to the Nilgiris, with golden sky on turquoise
background, lighting up the backdrop. The ancient chant began to vibrate from throats around,
ending om shanti shanti shanti.
Scott proceeded to read out Nitya’s whole commentary for Verse 28,
which was a good grounding.
A discussion and commentary ensued.
We were a group of “older” people, 6 women,
7 men, and
as such, certain bodily deteriorations are in progress. Eyeglasses had to be
fetched. Aging skin needs to be tended.
Soft cushions are welcome to sit
on. Some good points and moments
of levity were missed (by me) due to impaired hearing. The very senses
that bring information
to our minds, which help to form our perceptions, memories and concepts, are
declining in acuity. Even this it
is beneficial to sit back and observe.
The blue coastal range became black and faded into the
darkening sky, and a bright star shone down from above. As the final words and
sounded, it was around 21:30, and my thoughts were with Wendy in Brixham,
probably up for her cup of milky tea and early morning meditation. I
just knew she was with us, then and there.
My own thoughts on Verse 28 may have gone a step
further than we touched on last night.
Nitya’s story about the zoo, and the man who entered the cage and became
part of the zoo instead of merely an observer, made me think immediately of
when Thoreau protested an early American war by refusing to pay taxes to
support it, and so he was jailed.
His good friend Emerson came to visit him, and asked, “What are you
doing in there, Henry?” The answer
he got was, “What are you doing out there, my dear Ralph Waldo?” I
found myself questioning
the actions of being involved vs being the detached observer. The whole
scenario of Srebrenica came
up in my mind, of the UN observers from the Netherlands who did nothing to
prevent a massacre of 7,000 men and boys.
So what are we to do?
The answer came in my last on-line class with Nancy on
Patanjali’s yoga sutras, and I had time to think about it on the plane ride
over the ocean. To put it in my
own words, in a way that makes sense to me, it is important to be involved in
our daily lives, just as it is important to be able to step back and take
in the bigger picture. Both the involvement and the
detachment should take place many times each day, in the wink of an eye,
so to speak. It’s the
proverbial ”counting to 10” when angry to regain composure. And
so, it is all right to enter
that cage in the zoo, or to go shop in the department store, if at the same
time we can leave the cage, leave the store, and go hang out in that
corner of the operating room that so many near-death patients have
occupied, when they watched all that was going on to save them, yet were
transcended above it. I see
it as a Dance of Life, back and forth between involvement and transcendence,
moving as simply and easily as possibly.
It was dark as we drove away from Scott’s and Debbie’s,
and the full Green Corn Moon was on the rise, and the night was
young, and people were both going to sleep and rising to meet the day, all over
Love to you all, and looking forward to seeing many again at
Gurupuja at Nancy’s.
I am having a hard time with this verse. Some how the
contradiction of the dialectic creates a “polylectic” to me
And what is and isn’t become one
Instead of sending me into a personal crisis
I feel joy
Which is welcome at this moment
hazarded a response:
Unresolvable conflicts can do that, in a non-threatening
atmosphere especially. You don’t need to reduce your “polylectic” to a
dialectic—it just means you’re looking at a variety of angles. Life is a very
complicated business, as is only fitting. If we could reduce it to a simple
formula, it wouldn’t be worth the bother. Happily, we can’t.
28 can be seen as an extension of the previous one in which Nitya presented the
word-contradiction describing our condition vis-à-vis the Absolute: “What is is
not known; while what is not is known.”
In his continuing exposition, Nitya clarifies the matter in practical
terms making what appears to be a mutually exclusive statement difficult for
even the most dedicated materialist to deny.
the first section of his commentary, Nitya describes our daily condition in
space and time that constitutes our awareness during the awake and dream
states. Sense perception and mental
constructions fashioned out of them are the stuff out of which we make our
worlds. Those impressions, in
their place, are limited to the capacity of the organs that create them but can
be enhanced to some extent by way of various instruments. Microscopes, telescopes,
and so on
extend our senses for awhile.
Mathematical structures act in the same way, allowing those
representative symbols to replace the descriptive functions of the senses,
thereby allowing the mind to predict the odds of some kind of result—again for
a while. In both cases, however,
limits are reached and the sense/mind fails to comprehend. Nitya cites an ordinary
watching a rocket blast off into space.
At a certain point we lose sight of it and then resort to instruments that
can reach so far. Our individual
reality is always limited to our position; the horizon is ever-receding
regardless of how far we advance.
Likewise, he says, as we move through our daily lives, our memories of
what we experienced fades almost instantaneously while our accuracy in
predicting what will happen is anything but certain.
both space and time we are therefore adrift while attempting to make a
coherence out of that which continuously appears in our experience. Because cause/effect
seems to be at
work in these encounters we assume it is a universal constant and always true,
but this unexamined epistemology as a basis for reading everything, writes
Nitya, very easily comes undone when followed to its logical conclusion: the
world and everything in it is an effect of a cause that in the final analysis
can have no cause. God, the Prime
Mover, whatever, is cause-less thereby undermining the theory totally.
As we live, we experience what our
bodies and minds are capable of experiencing, but we have an extremely limited
range both internally and externally.
Chemical changes within the body occur continuously triggered by forces
we can’t recognize. To show this
internal condition, Nitya follows the geneticists in order to examine
biological evolution. Chromosomes
carry our information that is duplicated in each cell, thereby building our
biological selves automatically and autonomously. This system, “self-agitated,” responds to stimuli in
different ways, and it is the studying of this process of agitation-response
that constitutes what we commonly recognize as knowledge (science, medicine,
etc.). In other words, elaborating
on these agitations, explaining them, is the gigantic project of western education
in its pursuit of “knowledge” that Narayana Guru, writes Nitya, says “is not
worthy of being called knowledge” (p. 199).
Confined to “the world of
of the nervous system,” this version of the pursuit of knowledge, it seems to
me, is limited to the “unreal world” which “is” the continuously
manifesting/dissolving ever-present arising that never ceases—as waves on
water. In this relativist world
still made up of the wakeful, dream, and deep-sleep consciousness, the fourth
state (turyia)—the Self (the eternal
unchanging observer witnessing the other three) can be denied while at the same
time assumed. That which allows us
to stand aside observing phenomenal manifestation requires a place separated
from that which is being observed.
By being unaware of such a distinction, we can maintain the illusion
that what is observed as form is of the same “stuff” as that which is
observing, a condition taken as fact by the materialist. When both the observer
and the observed
are made solely of sense-based emerging/dissolving fabric, the question of
value must likewise conform to the same mandate so how becomes the equivalent of why.
Knowing, for example, how the
circulatory system operates and how it might be altered in order to delay death
in specific cases translates into knowing why it operates.
The persistence of the why
question suggests its source may
stand outside the phenomenal, but in a practical sense, spending time with this
kind of inquiry into meaning has no value for those married to the world of
necessity, where the gene, as some leading atheists have said, controls life’s
direction. Indeed, for this
worldview, wasting one’s efforts considering the question of life’s purpose
could quite possibly be an obstacle to survival. (As a corollary to this rationalizing—if the Self were the ego-self
only, it could be aware of nothing more and inquiries into the Absolute would
never come up.)
in the Absolute, that which is and
therefore is not (phenomenal), the
Self, Nitya points out, transcends “the triple states of deep sleep, dream, and
wakefulness” (p. 199) beyond cause and effect. This fourth state is where knowledge/transcendence resides,
where the conditionings we’ve mistaken for knowledge become seen for what they
are—”rewards and punishments . . . in the form of education [that] helps you
only to salivate when the bell rings” (p. 200).
his last few paragraphs, Nitya offers advice on how we can best deal with this
daily condition which moves us between the world of ignorance and that of
enlightened knowledge. First of
all, he points to the Isavasya Upanishad
where the Rishis note that those who rejoice in either world as superior live
in darkness and that “those who know the secret of the world of ignorance
transcend death” (p. 200). In
other words, appreciating both for what they are allows us the balance we need
as we careen daily between enlightenment and ignorance. Nitya uses two analogies
the point, one is about the zoo and the other concerns a department store. In
the first example, Nitya discusses a
zoo visitor who gets so caught up “experiencing” the zoo that he climbs in a
cage and refuses to leave. In the
second example, the shopper lives the same attachment; in this case, there are
just too many interesting items in the store for him to let go. The hypnotic
power of the phenomenal
creates amnesia for the inmates who cling to the phenomenal as the one true
faith. Buddha, Christ, and others,
says Nitya, periodically offer methods for over-coming this “zoo business”
while at the same time offering us a way to live in it as it truly is, a point
repeated by others in a variety of languages and philosophies:
The nature of intelligence is not
to identify itself passively and as it were blindly with the phenomena which it
registers but, on the contrary, to reduce these to their essences and thus to
come in the end to know That which knows.
(Schuon, In the Face of the
Absolute, p. 237).
I love this verse...it’s like a clanger
a wake up call to all of us who are drifting in sweet
we really do imagine that if we are ‘good’ we are
that the Universe has its ways of working & we can wait
for it to show us the way
Now... the clanging is in my head
you’re saying I’m responsible
I’m the creator of my world & my circumstances...I
that to a certain extent
Surely am not wholly soully responsible
I come with my vasanas so half my life I behave like the
After which I start recognising my behaviour
And behaving more like a human than a dog
But even then the ‘good’ is still a caged reaction
And the fact that I have observed this change...is possibly
Cant wait to read the rest…
I’ve written something to go out to the class. Will wonders
Among the many wonderful things said during last night’s
class, it was Debbie’s comment near the end that struck me the most. She talked
about needing to be vulnerable and open. Thinking about these words helps me to
make the leap that Nitya is asking us to make in his commentary – to go around
the “curve” from the horizontal to the vertical. When I become ensnared in the
horizontal world, when I start feeling anxious and grasping about hanging on to
the world I have created (my spittle), it helps me to remember about being
vulnerable and open. Those words unlock some kind of fortress in me. These
days, I find I am very concerned about the positive outcomes I want for my
children. Peter and Sarah are now 17 and 20 and still I am hoping to give them
the bits of wisdom that will assure their safety and happiness. But of course
they don’t want to hear what I have to say anymore. They are beginning to live
their own lives now and I really need to let go and be open to what might
happen. It’s very difficult. I remind myself that I have given them lots of
love and support. I have to trust what I have given them and I also have to
allow myself to be vulnerable in this situation. For me, this means that I may
feel uncomfortable because I am stepping off of what I perceive to be solid
ground. I am accepting that I am not in control. Instead of putting all my
attention toward my children, I can sink into myself in a way that I often
forget to do. As Scott mentioned in the notes, the solution is “to turn away
from the fog and seek within for our satisfaction.” I could spend the rest of
my days worrying about my children and trying to control so many aspects
of my own life, but ultimately I know this is a kind of barred enclosure. When
I do let go and open to the possibilities, I am turning to that cloud of
unknowing, the vertical aspect, the Absolute. Though this is undefinable and
mysterious, I can say that it is indeed satisfying. It is wonderful to be free
of the cage and to dive into a “place” that is so alive and honest and rich. I
am thankful to have our class and Nitya’s commentaries to remind me about being
open and vulnerable so that I don’t become too comfortable in my various cages.
presently reading Vision from the Margin:
A Study of Sri Narayana Guru Movement in the Literature of Nitya Chaitanya
Yati, by George Thadathil, and plan to submit a review for the next issue
of Gurukulam Magazine, (which is also the last from Portland). Discovering it
was quite a nice surprise, as I think it’s the only English language book
expressly about Nitya. George is a Catholic priest from Kerala, now teaching in
Darjeeling, who I met at the Kochi conference this summer. He seems to have
read everything Nitya wrote. Anyway, the following paragraph popped up a few
hours after I wrote the bit about identity in the class notes. Narayana Guru
was born into the Izhava caste, Kerala’s largest, and his social reform efforts
are often framed in respect to it:
pedagogical project… to transform the self… aims at resolving the tension between
identity and equality. Identity speaks up for uniqueness, for specificity and
subjectivity, whereas equality stands for sameness, egalitarian treatment and
citizenship. The two are contrary ideals and harmony requires both—equality at
[the] experiential level of mutual relationships and identity at the
experiential level of qualifying the complementarity of relationships. The
Izhava history with which we are grappling reveals how there is a possibility
of transcending caste identity in the process of claiming or demanding
equality. It is a movement in the direction of being oneself and more, not
less. In other words, the transcending of the pejorative sense of caste is
possible by acquiring the privileged identity resulting from a superior
(heightened) consciousness. A consciousness provided by and built upon advaitic