What is known is not that in which all qualities inhere,
only the qualities;
as this, in which all qualities are said to inhere, is not
earth and all else do not exist;
remember that there is only a form in knowledge which supports.
What we know is only the attributes and not their source. As
universal abstractions cannot be perceived, it is incorrect to say that earth
and all such are factual realities. They are only compositions of modes.
It is not the inner agent but the expression
That we know; since the said agent of expression remains
Do remember the earth and all else is naught:
While the supporting outline of awareness is all there is.
of you will be very happy that today’s class notes are going to be short, as we
used the commentary for a guided meditation rather than a topic of discussion.
I recommend you try it. I could say a lot, but it’s much better if you use this
as a personal springboard.
there is a world of difference between reading quickly through a talk like this
one and taking the time to let each of its concepts sink in. In the original
class, Nitya was in deep meditation, fully tuned in to the reductive process as
he described it to us. It’s especially powerful to have someone present with
you who is demonstrating the technique. Even though it is invisible, it is most
definitely intuitively perceptible. But even on our own, reading from a book,
we have had enough preparation that it seemed there was real profundity in the
turned the lights down low, and for once no one could follow along in the book.
There is another world of difference between reading along while a commentary
is read out and listening intently with eyes closed, or at least deemphasized.
Though I frequently recommend carefully listening, the general habit is to read
along, because it is much easier to follow the train of ideas. I suppose the
difference is equivalent to the distinction between ordinary mentality and
meditation. Last night was all about meditation. On his way out later, visitor
Andy described it as sublime.
launching into his directed meditation, Nitya made sure we realized that even
meditation was something largely incomprehensible to us:
What we call our meditation is
meditation at all. It is only certain body postures; it is being self-conscious
about many of our physical aspects such as breathing, sitting in a certain way,
or imagining a certain part of the body. We think that directing the mind inward
means actually looking inward at such and such a place, which is essentially an
action. Thus we are doing an exercise, not meditating. Sankara asked, “Why do
you call it meditation? It is fun. It is some physical exercise. At best it is
a psychological exercise. Even so, it has nothing to so with the Self.”
Susan noted, the verse is a demonstration of the neti neti technique. Whatever
we think we know has to be thrown away. Our explicit knowledge is static, where
the Absolute is dynamic. Nitya draws us away from our fixed concepts by saying,
“Real meditation is not very easy. First you must drop from your mind all the
names that you know, including your own. Drop not only the names of persons and
things but also names of ideas, such as compassion, patience or whatever.” This
is why Gurukula students are unable to give a pat answer when asked what we
study: the minute we define it we feel we have falsified it.
any case, we could have spent the whole evening pondering a single category,
such as the dropping of nomenclature, but moving along is another way of
dropping. We took enough time to conceptualize the gist of each category and
begin to neutralize it, before sweeping ahead to the next. The commentary lends
itself perfectly to such an approach.
final paradox is that, even after giving up the last item on the list, the urge
to act in response to the compulsions of necessity, it does not mean we should
stop acting. We still act, just not with superficial motivations. Mick
proffered the Catholic paraphrase, in the words of St Francis: “preach the
gospel at all times and only use words when necessary.” Nitya closes with a
being caught up in action is not an excuse to be lazy. Please try to understand
what the Guru is saying here. It is almost impossible, since for at least the
last one hundred years in European universities the poor minds of every man and
woman have been put on the anvil of conformity and beaten into the shape of the
empirical religion. This verse looks so simple, so innocent, but in a way it
makes all the difference. So at least for a fraction of a minute, enjoy the
great freedom of your own Self by throwing out all this garbage called name and
form, cause and effect, obligation and society.
It’s astonishing what an impact even a brief respite from
conformity can have—it begins to break the grip of a monolithic ignorance we
have hardly ever even doubted, or else doubted in a clumsy way that only
reinforced its hold on us. Glimpsing another possibility convinces us of the
value of “disaffiliation from the context of suffering,” as Krishna puts it in
has had some keen insights recently about this essential idea, and kindly wrote
them up for me. I’ll include her paragraph in Part III, but the gist is that
she has been noticing how other people are rigidly bound by their cultural
orientations, and she quite rightly thought to turn her musings back on
herself. It is always so much easier to see how others are caught than how we
are! But if we presume we must have some of the faults we notice in other
people, we can redirect our indignation to throw light onto our own ignorance.
This is precisely the looking inward so often spoken of and so rarely attempted
in spiritual life.
is excited that what we're learning helps get our garbage out of the way so we
can more easily do what we're meant to do. Once we reestablish our connection
to the true self, it helps us live with more passion. Paul agreed that it was
like we are a conduit of the pure potential that is God or the Absolute.
Following his idea, I imagined God as Potential creating these extremely
complex, intelligent and creative beings to manifest its potential, and then
watching in dismay as they crashed into each other, wandered up blind alleys,
became seriously confused and otherwise failed to manifest much of anything
worthwhile. Are we manifesting our potentials, or helplessly boggled by their
apparent vastness compared to our ability to express them? If we can stop
gyrating haphazardly, perhaps we can recover our authenticity and “enjoy easily
happiness that is ultimate,” to quote the Gita again.
of the website of interviews about Ramana Maharshi and his environs I sent out
last week, we talked about his lovely corner of the universe. Michael noted how
one interviewee was always wondering if he was making progress (becoming
“spiritual”) and that Ramana convinced him he was already there. Since progress
is an illusion—because we are already the Absolute—it is good to not make any.
This is a common theme in the interviews, as well as Gurukula thought.
Spirituality is not about becoming someone else, but becoming ourselves, what
we already are in essence. Ramana had the ability to draw people into that
space effortlessly, and even after he died the effect seems to linger on his
beloved mountain, Arunachala. I think he felt the mountain was the real guru,
and he merely its gatekeeper. I’ll resupply the link and include a nice
response from Brian in Part III.
could, but won’t, write a long essay on each of the numerous categories Nitya
mentioned that we meditated on, because they need to be personally unfolded.
This is a place to do it for yourself as an exercise. You know enough to work
your way into the stillness by cancelling the chaos, if only for a short time
in ideal circumstances. As we proceed, its depth will grow in direct proportion
to how you relate with it.
was a decided air of deep centering as we hugged goodbye and made our way
calmly out into the moonlit night.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
body gives rise to the experience of many fictitious entities that have a
transactional validity, such as names, forms, time and space. Like
self-generated automatons, we breathe, think, speak and engage in many
activities. There is a faculty in us called consciousness which questions,
remembers, makes decisions and assumes roles. Actually, these are only properties
of the living organism; they come into being with the body and with the body
us suppose that we dismiss from our mind all names and forms, also give up the
orientation of belonging to a place at a certain time, give up the agency of
action, give up identifications such as “I,” “my,” and “another,” and don't
bother to find out what is cause and what is effect. All these are functions of
the mind, which is nothing but a phenomenon. Knowing this, give up the mind
also. Even if one should succeed in doing all this, a persisting awareness will
unconditional light has an existence of its own. There are no divisions in it
like “before,” “now,” and “hereafter,” it does not give rise to any kind of
inductive or deductive inferences, also there is no distinction of self and
non-self. One does not arrive at this knowledge by meditating upon it. It is
all by itself and for itself. The true nature of that is called dhyana.
the body still controlling the breath, concentrating on synergic centres,
observing various kinds of dietetics, fasting and praying may all help one's
mind to be disciplined, but none of this will guarantee the emergence of pure
consciousness in its most unconditional and pure state. All that we can say
about it is that it is. It is not an act of knowing, not an object of
knowledge, not even knowledge of knowledge. Any attempt to describe it will
only falsify it. All that one can do about it is not do anything. It is and
that is all.
THE type of reasoning adopted in this verse is called the
‘sad-karana-vada’, i.e., the way of reasoning that gives primacy to the cause
and not to the effect. Philosophy may be said to be the research of basic
verities as opposed to knowledge based on mere appearances. If we should give
primacy to the effect rather than the cause, the chain of effects with their
future possibilities would lead us to the specific multiplicities of phenomenal
life till philosophizing itself would have endless multiplicity to pin its
faith on, which would be impossible and absurd. The research for reality is for
some firmer basis, and thus proceeds from effects to causes rather than
inversely. The multiple effects have no philosophical status as reality at all,
and are thus here referred to as consisting of nothingness, or of no
The supporting outline of awareness is the resultant of the
meeting of the two movements in consciousness referred to in the previous
verse. A priori knowledge has to be understood in terms of the a
posteriori aspect of the same event in consciousness considered without psychic
or physical prejudice, as it were, neutrally. The outline is the geometrical
notion of a point that occupies no space, or a line that is meant to represent
length only and have no breadth implied in it. On final analysis it is a result
of consciousness, wherein various pure events could take place. The stuff of
the events is neither mental nor material but belongs to that unitive ‘stuff’
which has to be distinguished as above duality and thus belonging to the
When we say that a table is two feet by three feet by two
and-a-half feet, the complete significant notion that results is the resultant
of the meeting in the consciousness of two different sets of reasonings which
are of the two broad divisions referred to above. ‘Two plus two equals four’ is
pure reasoning, and the table is what is given to the senses posteriorly. Both
these meet in the significant or meaningful notion of the table as it enters
into the reality of our lives.
The Guru emphasizes in the verse here the correct
methodology implied in all knowledge. After various aspects of the subject of
Self-knowledge have first been examined in the earlier part of the work, the
Guru thus enters into more fundamental epistemological and methodological
problems from the previous verse onwards. This section may be said to give
place to an even more penetrating analysis after verse 36.
is Susan’s insight of the week:
Several experiences recently have made me see more clearly
how I am trapped in my own "anvil of conformity" and how I am so
close to freedom. I just spent several days with a Japanese friend who is very
conforming to his culture. I also last week observed some Japanese girls in a
café talking. In both cases I could see how restrained they were in an
atmosphere that is not (seemingly) restrained at all. People here tend to be
more open and relaxed. Of course this is not to say in any way that our culture
is superior, only that I could see the strong difference between adhering to
artificial rules of conduct and the wide expanse of possibility and potential
that seems to be (the best part of) our culture. In this same way I could see
how I have my own conditionings and rules of conformity that keep me from the
wide expanse of the Absolute and from being who I really am.
link to the Ramana Maharshi reminiscences is on the site New Lives: 54
Interviews with Westerners on their search for spiritual fulfillment in India.
This will set you down in #36:
people sent nice responses to receiving this. Brian’s is particularly worth
Thank you Scott for this link, truly a treasure trove that
will be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and after dinner. At first I was a bit
confused as I was reading the mention of David Godman, and I've been reading
each night David Godman's biography on the life of Papaji, three volumes titled
Nothing Ever Happened. Great read of a great contemporary saintly teacher of
Advaita though without sutras or slokas or scriptures.
Nitya and my first teacher Swami Satchidanada both had
visited with Ramana and it was their personal stories that has been my guide
and constant lover of self inquiry. In 2011 we had the good fortune to visit
Ramanashram and I too was struck in the chest with such a force of blissful
light, that I couldn't walk as my legs became rubber, my heart filled with
light, and tears flowed like a spring shower. My arms reached over to the
granite railing around Ramana's shrine, as the mind was surrendered to the
heart, though more likely mind was put in it's rightful place of servant of the
heart. This experience was a physical phenomena though treasured, it was just a
temporary state. As normal functioning returned after a while yet what remains
is the joy of being awareness that is undivided as self and Self. That was
quite the morning of our first day in the Ashram. Lisa had a similar experience
while sitting on the marble floor having breakfast. Ramana's photos were in
front of us, and his gaze was enough to reinstate the bliss of his grace. Lisa
and I were consoled by an Indian man who sat next to Lisa, that this was normal
here and to be expected. We were blessed by Arunachala, Ramana, and the masses
of seekers of truth who have come before us.
commentary relates the verse to politics:
In the Eighteenth Century, David
Hume brought into focus (for us in the West at any rate) the distinction
between what is and what ought to be. The facts of the matter, regardless of the matter, are what
they are—the earth is a sphere, it circles the sun, people are born and die,
and so on. On the other hand is
the notion of what ought to be, that the world should be other than it is in
some way, that people should, for example, share their property, should accept
direction from their “betters,” should dedicate their lives to some cause.
Arriving at a clear understanding of what is indicates a major step in our
being able to operate rationally in a world of necessity. Knowing “what
is going on” can
facilitate enormously our skills in making life decisions. (One could say this
goes a long way in explaining the purpose of psychotherapy.) Hume was struck
by the consistent
frequency with which people he talked with so casually confused is with ought, how easily they moved from fact to projection thereby
obliterating in the process the distinction and firmly establishing their
assertions on the shifting sands of illusion.
consequences of this mental sleight of hand show up at all levels of discourse
and form (I think) the core argument we now see surfacing once again as forms
of government become a public issue in America. On the right is the Eighteenth-Century American
Constitution, a document that contained as its basic tenet the assumption that
people are first and foremost self-serving. In a world of material scarcity, this founding document
reflected the then-common understanding of human nature in a world of
necessity—the way it is. A few
years later, Karl Marx offered his alternative founded on what ought to be and assumed
that the mass of
humanity, the repressed workers of the world, did not share that drive for self
interest so common to the capitalist.
(A false consciousness hid
this virtue from those on the bottom of the economic pyramid.) The Communist
Workers Paradise was
possible in this world of becoming because the overwhelming majority of the
exploited would not exploit or take advantage of others given the power to do
so. They were and are virtuous by
definition just as the capitalist is the antithesis. The fallacies of this assumption were thoroughly illustrated
in the model of the old Soviet Union and its natural consolidation and abuse of
power in its bloated state bureaucracy, but the seductive quality of ought persists
in a world of material
inequality thereby encouraging a collective amnesia concerning Marx’ fallacious
this thirty-second verse is a direct suggestion on how to deal with this
general problem that just won’t seem to go away. At base, social arrangements are constructions that concern
the ego-self in a transactional world.
Nitya divides our knowledge of that world into experience itself and the
cause of the experience. What
happens is not the same thing as why it happens—what is is the domain of experience, and why it is is something else.
In his explanation of this distinction Nitya follows two parallel lines
of thought, one from the East (Sankara) and the other from the West
(Kant). Both speculative
philosophies made a distinction between what is and why it is. Narayana Guru,
combines the thinking of both these great minds “drawing a line between dharma
and dharman, between ground and what is manifested on it” (p.
224). As Nitya does so, he offers
readers a brief overview of Western and Indian philosophical histories: “Kant
started where Berkeley left off.
When he wrote he had Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke, Hume, and
Berkeley. Sankara had before him
the Purva-Mimamsa people” (who located the basis of manifestation in sound and
so developed an elaborate mantra discipline) who were followed by the
Buddhists, then the Sankyans (who identified the Parusa/Prakriti principle),
and finally the logicians. Both
Sankara and Kant followed an assortment of thinkers who had dealt with
impressions or the nature of experience, and both came to a conclusion that
those thinkers all suffered from the same malady—their arguments were all
filtered through their bodily consciousness and ego to begin with.
very point was later “discovered” and distorted by our late Twentieth-Century
post-modern literary theorists in an attempt to undermine rational logic
generally. The result of their
reductive simplicity can be seen in the politically correct assumptions held by
many in their elevation of the non-rational over the rational. In this vision
nastiness of hierarchy, the pre-rational infant or tribal cannibal is placed in
the same space as the trans-rational mystic: both are virtuously non-rational
and therefore trump the rational.
The equating of the two acts as a vehicle by which the history of
humankind can be re-written on the basis of what ought to be. The fact that the
dominated human culture for the vast majority of its existence and gave us such
wonderful institutions as human sacrifice, slavery, cannibalism, and the divine
rights of ruling classes the world over, are all now selectively air-brushed
out of the story and replaced with a pre-rational Nirvana we can once again
attain if only that nasty rationality (which we now know is bad) can be discarded. [For a much more complete discussion of this subject, see
Ken Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality:
The Spirit of Evolution.] In their misapplication of both Kant’s and
Sankara’s insights, the post-modernists essentially follow the tried and true
path of mistaking their own distortions as true, as free of the fundamental
influences of mind, body, and ego.
They exempted themselves as they accused others of committing the sin
they were guilty of.
As long as we insist in prizing
manifest reality as the sole reality, there is no other choice. In the corruption
and simplifying of
Kant’s and Sankara’s insights into life and the key to overcoming the mind and
ego, we turn our attention to that which is not and will not last. As long as
we keep circling back into
manifestation as the ground on which to stand as we analyze that ground, our
conclusions will be more of the same, variations of the same ground that lead
back to that domain of the body consciousness and social ego. Re-focusing on
the light within and not acting creates the open space in
which we can stand apart from the world of necessity, and it is this meditative
re-focusing that Nitya spends the last few pages of his commentary
discussing. In these pages, he
notes just why true meditation is so difficult and how it is distorted and
misapplied by most who claim to practice it: “Real meditation is not very easy”
(p. 228). In order to do so “you
must drop all names, including your own, . . . names of ideas. . . . and
memories . . . all directions [north, south, etc.] . . . the duality of cause
and effect, and the distinction between ‘I’ and ‘the other.’. . . In short, all
the injunctions I have been giving you are not to do anything, but to do away
with everything” (p. 229). As
Nitya points out, concentrating on body posture, breathing, or anything for
that matter may prove to be excellent exercise but they have no bearing on
arriving finally at that “impenetrable place” where your awareness exists (p.
229). It remains always but is so
buried under our focus on the extraneous that we go on as if that world of
ego-mind and body actually exist and will endure on its own. Reaching our transcendent
that we unlearn the methodology we’ve been so thoroughly indoctrinated into
accepting without question as a matter of survival and social advancement. That
training always leads us in a
circular path forever re-creating the wheel: “at least for a fraction of a
moment, enjoy the great freedom of your own Self by throwing out all this
garbage called name and form, cause and effect, obligation and society” (p.