power of knowledge is endless;
end of all this can be marked as “sameness” and “the other”;
in this way, there are two divisions; in this,
the other with sameness, one should remain awake to that clear state of being.
are the powers of knowledge. They can be mainly categorized as two: 'sameness'
and 'the other'. One should awaken to the clarity of vision in which all forms
of 'otherness' merge and become one with 'sameness'.
The powers of wisdom are many; all of them under two
The ‘same’ and the ‘other’ could conclusively be brought;
Merging into that form which makes for ‘other-sameness’
To clarity of vision one should awake.
I’m legitimately accused once again of being a “broken record,” (an obsolete
term for endlessly repeating the same phrase) because I’m certain that this
is the best section of Atmo. It’s
the nuts and bolts part, the repair manual, where Nitya elucidates Narayana
Guru’s pithy koans on just how to bring about the transformation he has so
painstakingly laid the groundwork for. If we have been paying close attention,
the next seven verses, and for that matter the rest of our lives, should be one
continuous Aha! moment.
commentary is so rich that I’ll only be able to touch on a few highlights in
these notes. Hopefully they will act as an invitation to all of you to revisit
the verses and bring them into your heart, where they can do a lot of good.
Guru spent years in ardent contemplation, which included boiling down the
manifested world into its essence. His distillation is described here as sama
and anya, sameness and otherness. If you reduce the mesmerizing complexity of
life to its primary differentiation, this is what you end up with. We began the
study of Atmo acknowledging the original unity, the Karu or Core of all.
Floating in its amniotic fluid, so to speak, is a generative duality from which
endless worlds are produced. When we get caught up in their impact, we wander
far and wide, and lose our self. If we become motivated to restore our
grounding in our authentic being, we can universalize the situation, and
realize we were never really lost, just out of touch. To get back in touch we
have some serious, though highly rewarding, work to do.
endless arguments of various belief systems hinge on partisanship to either
sama or anya: either everything is related and interdependent, or it is
splintered and unconnected, and thus available for endless selfish
manipulation. The wisdom of the teaching is that truth can never be one or the
other; it must include both together. Instead of the neat linear definitions of
simple reasoning, it requires a subtle, dialectical intuition to penetrate into
the mystery, and so it is likely to remain the road less traveled.
his commentary, Nataraja Guru equates sama and anya with the vertical and
horizontal axes, respectively. And as in that analogy, while it’s easy enough
to analyze them separately, they don’t really make sense unless both are
present. Our task is to integrate them. You can’t chart anything beyond the
simplest concepts on a single x or y axis, but when you put them together at
right angles a universe of graphic imagery becomes possible. Meaning appears.
a world captivated by anya, the need is to reinfuse the whole with sama. Anya
we’ve got; sama we’ve for-got. All we have to do is start with it as a premise,
we can build on it until it becomes a living reality in our life. It’s effort
well spent. As Nitya concludes, “It is a very joyous way of accepting life and
a wonderful way of living it richly and beautifully.”
Guru cautions us that we shouldn’t rely on someone else explaining sama and
anya to us, we have to take the bull by the horns:
clarification of the implications of these broad categories is given in the
later verses of this section of seven verses. It is not easy to analyse the
events in consciousness and refer them to their normative axes of reference.
Such analysis is the result of extreme introspective research, and the Guru has
given us the result of his meditations here in a very precise and succinct
manner, which it would be wrong to try to elaborate in any way. All the
clarification legitimately necessary is already given by him. If the reader
does not still understand the full import of what he says with such
crystal-clear precision, it must be because the philosophical problems that the
subject-matter presupposes have not had a chance, so far, to arise and assert
themselves in his own thinking.
that as it may, the well-considered insights added by Nitya and Nataraja Guru are
extremely helpful and germane. I’ve found that not much arises and asserts
itself when I’m strictly on my own, but stimulated by the insights of these
rishis the connections do start to bubble up and burst into significance.
main focus of the class was on the ego. Since the ‘I’ seems steady and
unchanging, we associate it with sama, while the not-I, the anya, strikes us as
different and potentially hostile. It’s very hard to accept that our I-sense is
an impostor, but it is. It only seems to be the Absolute. That’s why Narayana
Guru is always asking us to bow to a greater reality. Our I-sense is the tip of
the tail of the dog, and as long as it imagines it’s in charge, the legitimate
impulses from the core of the system will be effectively blocked. Allowing them
to flow again and only be monitored by the ego restores the whole system to
health, wiping away the regret and anxiety that energize an untethered ego.
a lifetime of enduring psychological insults we have effectively walled out the
anya and walled in the sama. Yet if we peek over the barricades, we might very
well see that not all is as terrifying as we fear. After all, the anya is
wholly within the sama. We could adjust our defenses to be more inclusive, and
in the process give ourselves more breathing room. The process is catching:
once we feel the relative freedom of expanded terrain, we will take delight in
enlarging it even more. Soon we notice that the defenses are bulwarks against
our own mental projections, with little correspondence to outer conditions. We
are defending ourselves from things that don’t exist, imaginary assailants. We
can and should continue to avoid real dangers, but we now are assessing things
on their actual value, not on the false values we were once comfortable with.
That’s how we learn to act more appropriately, and have more fun in life.
both neuroscience and Vedanta the ego is the final stage of assessment of the
other. In the Indian scheme, manas or mind asks, “What is this?” when presented
with something new. Citta is the memory banks where a match is sought with
previous experience. When an acceptable correspondence has been ascertained, the
intellect, buddhi, labels the new in terms of the old. Finally, ahamkara, the
ego or I sense, weighs in with a personal preference. Empirically, there is no
way around such a process in a sentient being. It has an important role to
play. The downside is that we aren’t really meeting the world on its own terms,
but on the limited and often faulty terms we have developed in the past.
only that, but we fool ourselves better than we fool others. We spin a persona
out of whole cloth, and soon we decide what to say and do based on the demands
of the fictional being we have imagined ourselves to be. We effortlessly lie to
others, since it tends to be much more plausible and palatable than the truth,
and buy into it without a second thought. In a study like this, where the ego
is threatened with a reduction in its vainglory, it diverts us into other areas
of superficial attraction. It might be years—if ever—before we think, “wasn’t I
doing something terrific back then—what was it? Oh, well, never mind. Doesn’t
matter.” But it does.
realized person manages to suppress—at first forcibly and then with increasing
naturalness—the instinctive responses programmed by millions of years of
survival orientation and dressed up in the emperor’s new clothes, so as to be
fully present. This is sama at its highest, identical with self-realization. We
all have greater or lesser piles of baggage we carry. The difference is whether
we can put our burden down so it no longer prejudices our viewpoint.
subject is so critical we will be spending the rest of the year on it: six more
classes. It really is the practical essence of Narayana Guru’s revolutionary
gift to a suffering planet. Once again, you are invited to share you thoughts,
the things that have arisen and asserted themselves in your own thinking.
in my talks with spiritually-minded people I bump up against an escapist streak
of one kind or another, and in the heat of the moment I can never remember any
of the places where Nitya deftly refutes that familiar mentality. I hope to
settle it into my dim brain that one of the best is here, at the end of Verse
Guru is not asking us to run away from the particular to the universal, but to
transcend the duality and live and accept both these games together. Then we
will be living in our beingness and also allowing every little aspect of
becoming to come to pass. In an earlier, very beautiful verse, the Guru said
that knowledge, in order to see what it could be, becomes all this. This is
what we are doing all the time. We don’t relish eating the same food every day.
The elements may be all the same: flour, sugar, rice, vegetables, but we make a
new composition and serve it in a new way each time. So a new aspect of
knowledge is revealed by the specific expression as it unfolds. It is placed as
part of the universal, and the universal lives on through the particular we
Although some have interpreted it
this way, we are not advocating the negation of life and the running away from
it. We do not say any of the luxuries of life are stumbling blocks to
realization. Nothing is to be thrown away. Rather, everything is to be seen
with a new attitude. That new attitude is the old attitude that you know
everything is One. It is a very joyous way of accepting life and a wonderful
way of living it richly and beautifully.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
When we hear the English word “knowledge” what comes
mind is a passive idea, such as that of a reflected image in a mirror. Guru,
however, is not using the word arivu
(knowledge) in such a passive sense. It is both passive and dynamic. Words like
awareness, consciousness and knowledge refer only to partial aspects of that
great dynamic whole which includes within it the conscious and the unconscious,
the potential and the actual, the transcendent and the immanent, the creative
and the created. In the present verse knowledge is to be understood as all
this. In that sense, what is there other than knowledge?
simplest form of knowledge is the awareness of the I- consciousness. When a
person says “I am,” what he really says is: “I know that I am.” In this
sentence “I” comes twice. Is the first “I” different from the second “I”? And
what is the difference between “I am” and “I know”? The first “I” is a
postulate to be examined. The examination is performed by knowing it. Knowing
is a process. The culmination of the process is restated as a verified “I.” The
verification is that it exists. Its existence is emphasized here as “I am.” The
awareness of the I-consciousness is a very simple pulsation of an idea, there
cannot be anything more simple than that, yet in that simple act of awareness,
there is a presentation, a scrutiny and a judgement.
Irrespective of all these movements or modifications of
consciousness, there prevails a pure knowledge which is at once transcendent
and immanent. If this is recognized, then there is only knowledge. It is
possible to postulate the existence of this world without our ever knowing it,
but even for that negative postulation, one has to exercise knowledge. It is
knowledge that reveals to us that we have no knowledge of certain things and we
have knowledge of certain other things. Knowledge hides itself and experiences
forgetfulness or ignorance. Like a magician, knowledge restores what is
forgotten and reveals what seems not to have been known before.
projects a whole world of name, form, and intense activity. With the same ease
it pulls that world aside as a chimerical dream. From the day of our birth,
knowledge has flowed in from all sides, like rivers flowing into an ocean. Just
like the ocean that never overflows, knowledge remains unfilled and there is
plenty of room to receive more and more knowledge. It is never satiated, nor is
it ever tired of producing variegations.
When, as ignorant persons, we listen to others, we only
understand if we are told words that correspond to concepts that already exist
within ourselves. No new knowledge ever comes from outside, but by making
permutations and combinations of our innate knowledge, we are led to believe
that we know new things every day. Knowledge is a magician showing a grand
magic to itself. It is both baffled and gratified.
knowledge, we cannot desire anything. We need knowledge to know the means to
fulfill our desires. The right knowledge to fulfill is experienced as the
dynamics of action. This action and knowledge are not two things. The
propensity of motivation, the power of comprehension, and the dynamics of
action are all to be understood as a power of infinite magnitude. In its
collective and universal nature it is called sama, the same. We live that knowledge at the transactional and
empirical levels. Empirical experience comes through the senses. We see
different objects with our eyes, we hear different things with our ears; in the
empirical world one knowledge is differentiated from another. There the knower
becomes the subject and the known becomes the object of knowledge, thus
knowledge becomes compartmentalized. This aspect of knowledge is called anya, the
contemplative should learn to transcend both the sama and the anya. When
we see a garland we notice the harmonious structuring of the flowers that make
it a whole. We can appreciate the colour, fragrance and the beauty of each
individual flower, and we can also see the garland as a whole. It should be the
same in life too; we can be in the thick of it, enjoying and experiencing every
detail of it, and all the same, we can also experience the most serene
unchanging inner beatitude of the supreme knowledge which is providing for all
Guru’s commentary is once again exceptional:
BEGINNING with this verse and ending with verse 42
(inclusive) we have a very valuable analysis of the
of consciousness, with two main axes of reference which are
classified under the taxonomic nomenclature of two symbolic
expressions, which are the words ‘same’ and ‘other’.
The clarification of the implications of these broad
categories is given in the later verses of this section of seven verses. It is
not easy to analyse the events in consciousness and refer them to their
normative axes of reference. Such analysis is the result of extreme
introspective research, and the Guru has given us the result of his meditations
here in a very precise and succinct manner, which it would be wrong to try to
elaborate in any way. All the clarification legitimately necessary is already
given by him. If the reader does not still understand the full import of what
he says with such crystal-clear precision, it must be because the philosophical
problems that the subject-matter presupposes have not had a chance, so far, to
arise and assert themselves in his own thinking. Dictionary meanings might be
given, but the import might still remain elusive. The reader has been warned in
the very first verse of the work that the subject-matter of the composition has
to do with higher wisdom and not with everyday knowledge of practical utility.
The present commentator has developed in his writings a
frame of reference consistently applicable to many branches of contemplative
wisdom, theological, cosmological or psychological. The taxonomic categories of
the ‘same’ and the ‘other’ refer to the vertical and the horizontal axes of the
frame of reference that has been developed. Even in the Guru’s writings this
frame of reference is implied in more than one place. In his Daiva Dasakam (ten
verses devoted to the topic of God) we find that the Guru equates the
depth-aspect of the ocean with the Absolute, God or Reality. The surface-aspect
of the ocean in the fourth verse of that composition is meant to be analogous
to the collective and overt aspect of the consciousness of humanity, conceived
as a unit, while the depth of the ocean is there compared to the Absolute or
God. Translated the verse reads:
Like the sea and the wave, the wind and the depth,
us within us see
Ourselves, Maya, Thy Power and Thee Thyself
Here there is a tacit plan of reference in which the dimension
called depth represents what is of value contemplatively. The individual selves
of each member of humanity, thought of collectively, tend to be quantitative,
and thus with the rival claims of each member, there is divergence instead of
unity. Inwardly understood, however, the same Self could be conceived unitively
and contemplatively as participating qualitatively in the unity of the
Absolute Self, which is that of God. This same way of analysing consciousness
has been consistently kept up in all the writings of the Guru and constitutes
his contribution to Advaitic or non-dual thought, which is of no small
importance. The importance of these aspects of the Absolute Reality has been
insisted on in the Bhagavad Gita, which devotes the whole of its thirteenth
chapter for the purpose, as significantly stated in verse 2:
Know Me also as the Knower of the field in all fields, 0
Knowledge in respect of the field and the Knower of the
According to Me, constitutes (veritable) wisdom (itself).
The conflict implied between these two is a subtle one,
which has to be clarified in various contexts, as the problems present
themselves. The intersection at right-angles between these two aspects of the
Self, understood in the absolutist context of total consciousness, will be
justified as and when occasions arise, in the rest of the work. Confirmation
will be found in other works, not only of the Guru, but in wisdom-literature
generally, for which the keen student of Self-knowledge has to keep vigilant watch
before the whole living picture gets filled in with the clear content of the
Absolute given to a clarified vision.
In the present verse, after indicating the two categories of
the movement or the functioning of higher reasoning or wisdom, the Guru indicates
summarily that the goal of the contemplative is not to give primacy to the one
or the other of these rival aspects, but to transcend them both through the
neutral point of intersection of the two axes of reference, which he names as
‘anya-samya’ (the other-sameness) aspect.
By giving primacy to one limb or the other, whether the
vertical or the horizontal, the negative or the positive aspects of
consciousness, one tends to lose clarity, however much the accentuation of one
aspect of knowledge might be necessary or laudable in a particular instance.
The normal and normative picture of the Self has first to be conceived in its
neutrality and harmonious symmetry before other value-accents could be added to
the basic picture.
got mail! John wrote:
When I took some film courses at Portland Community Media, I
experimented by taking some of my favorite movies and de-synchronizing them. I
was seeing what would happen for its own sake. The lesson I learned was nothing less than one of those
famous "ah-ha" moments - not a religious experience, mind you, but
one of those experiences where I gained tremendous self insight. I learned
that my perceptions and
mind will actually go out of their own way to try to interpret reality and that
there was something within the "whatever is me department" that could
actually discriminate the modulation of tones and light coming in at me. I
had sort of known that this was true - but then and there, I got it. That
my inner me wasn't just a
collection of perceptions because these could, if left to their own accord, try
to manipulate an interpretation of what is. That there is a deeper level.
sent some images I’ll have to attach, and this:
this verse. I just love following the kind of detailed analysis Guru Nitya
gives us here. Indeed - all along I have been wrestling with semantics. So many
of the words we are learning have a wonderful wealth of meaning and resonance
that we do not have in English. I think ‘arivu’ is the richest and most complex
yet. I ended up equating it to wisdom
which I understand to be based on empirical experience, theoretical knowledge
and intuitive ideas. I think I will go through the text now before I read it
again and cross out the word ‘knowledge’ and substitute ‘arivu’ because I need
my mind to stop making its customary assumptions about the meaning of the word
‘knowledge’ as I read.
I did for this verse is an extension of my meditating on the meaning of
‘arivu’. It represents two very different perceptions of an object. I wonder to
myself, ‘The original object invited all sorts of associations, emotions and
thoughts when I bought it. Then I worked on the image and so experienced its
intuitive significance for me in a deeper and richer way. So my ‘arivu’
of the graphic which I have
called Ways of Perceiving, now encompasses most of the things Guru Nitya writes
about in this verse. At least it does for now!
missed class again, but she did her homework:
I enjoyed the notes. Thank you. I agree with you about this
verse. I read it yesterday and was very blown away. I really liked this:
"When sama and anya, sameness and the other,
interrelate in this harmonious way, it brings the quality of the highest kind
of inner peace and calm to our life. When life is so protected with an
integrated wisdom, there is no dissipation of your energy. It is all conserved.
It is hard to even comprehend this state unless you are already established in
it. But I assure you it can be attained. You can do this. You can be what you
are, going on with all your games of life, and yet be detached from it. Deep
within you is that aloneness which is not of the individual. It is the
aloneness of the universal, the aloneness of God, the aloneness of substance,
the aloneness of the real. Nothing happens to it. By retaining that aloneness,
you can be the many."
I love the way he uses aloneness here. I remember you
talking about the "all oneness." which of course makes sense but I
like to think of it as aloneness in the sense of that deep inner light which I
suppose it to mean. I don't think I really get this yet -- not enough to
describe how the aloneness leads to the many but I am drawn to it and I have
faith in it.
The place I feel I need to work is in my judgments of myself
and others. I am hard on myself, which can lead to burdensome and needless
guilt and I can be hard on others in a way that goes beyond the kind of
discernment that is healthy and helpful. When I am in judgment mode, I am
definitely in untethered anya. I have lost touch with the inner light. I see
faults and problems and I am trying to fix them, either in my mind by dwelling
on some remedy or when I am talking to another person and sometimes making
suggestions and working out solutions when these are not wanted. Why do I make
nasty internal judgments about the drivers who don't use their turn signals or
the people who walk across the street while typing text messages or my family
members when they put recyclables in the garbage? This kind of thinking is very
separating. I'm not sure why I do it and I'm not sure how to stop but I'm
having faith that this journey through Atmo and my inward attention through
meditation and writing will lead me (back) toward an integration of sama and
Like all of us, you judge because you were judged, and you
internalized it. Long, long ago. We actually talked about that quite a bit in
class, the way kids form cliques to sneer at other cliques, the worship of the
best sneerer or the best swaggerer. One way or another we fell for it, without
realizing how toxic it was.
I'm sure the
journey through Atmo will help. Implied in Nitya's words is the quest to
understand. Don't just criticize people for their faults, but see how we all
become detached from a meaningful relation to our world, and how it plays out
in all these ways. It can be quite fascinating, as well as frustrating. Then
turn it around, gently, and see how we do it too. We compensate by being extra
careful and judgmental, but that doesn't fix it. Something else is required.
What can it be?
asked if I could pass her note along, and Susan added:
Yes, I meant to mention that of course I do all the things
that I criticize others for. I intended that to be for public use if you saw fit.
Otherwise, my examples would have been much nastier. :)
I see what you mean about how it all gets internalized.
These days it seems even worse with the current put-down culture. So much humor
is based on put downs and judgments disguised as wisdom and discernment. I see
this in novels, movies, etc. Of course there has always been humor based on put
downs -- Archie Bunker and his ilk. But this kind of humor seems to have
replaced genuine emotion and thoughtfulness. Perhaps I'm just getting on a
soapbox. I think I was pretty shocked by the many videos for kids when Sarah
and Peter were little that used so much nastiness.
our contemporary culture, in the realm of public discourse at any rate, we are
generally offered two broad points of view, both grounded in a duality
propagandists of neither party specifically articulate as they fervently engage
in public policy disputes. On the
one hand are those who locate what needs to be fixed squarely in material
objects, a redistribution of which would lead to a perfect society. On the other
hand are those convinced
that those same manifestations represent barriers to divine realization and
that such a state can be attained only once the world of necessity is denied
and overcome. In both arguments,
the world of immanence is a distortion to be “corrected” either immediately or
in a world somewhere beyond the one we experience as embodied entities. (Oddly
enough, in the latter case, the recognition
of that altered state is still dependent on the mind/sense dualities for
definition. Ignored is half of the
duality required in order for anything to qualify as anything: heaven is an
earth of virtue unencumbered with vice in a construction where no such thing
can exist on its own.)
in manifestation, our current American culture wars illustrate a profound
ignorance of knowledge and the limits of language. As metaphors, words and the concepts they assemble can never
become the thing in itself (as noted by any number of philosophers). The
hope that they can, however,
casts such a magical spell that the illusion itself has become irresistible in
spite of its always failing to deliver results.
is in this basic subject of knowledge itself that the Guru and Nitya discuss in
verse 36. Knowledge, writes Nitya,
begins with our recognition of ourselves.
In “I know I am,” “I know” requires our identification with the
awareness: The act of awareness is in knowing the state of awareness,” a
condition that leads us to an infinite regress of “our awareness of an
awareness. . . . ad infinitum” (p. 278).
The complete statement, “I know I am,” combines the former state of
knowing with a state of being, an existence of some kind. But no matter how we
existence, a consciousness of being remains the same. That transcendent ground, writes Nitya, is the base on which
we construct our existence.
goes on to note the objectivizing character of what we manifest. In order to
identify an it, we must
isolate it from its surroundings by way of the senses and in so doing analyze
the thing or person or whatever so that its characteristics are peculiar to
it. This objectifying is necessary
in order for us to get by in the world, and, as Nitya concludes, we’ve made a
gigantic industry out of doing so.
I, as the subject (knower)
dissect and analyze the world of objects (field of knowledge) in order to
determine their relative empirical value, and there is no limit to the scope of
general condition boils down to a situation of “knowledge knowing knowledge,” a
recognition of that which is manifest by that which is transcendent. That
the two are the same is at
the core of this dynamic dialectic, one that suggests an answer to the question
of what determines our motivation to act as we do. With each of us re-discovering the cosmos, each of us carves
out our own route by transforming our knowledge which, says Nitya, is also of a
oneness, analogous to the whole of the physicist’s universe. Energy may
change form but its supply
is everywhere constant. In
manifestation we can tend to miss that dimension and get all balled up in the
particulars. And it is with this
danger that Nitya concludes his commentary. Only in learning to live in the world of particulars as it
arises before us while maintaining our stabilizing core on the unchanging
oneness of the Absolute can we arrive at our true nature. As the world of activity
continues on around us, as we engage in dialogue with other’s particulars, we
need to harmonize that outward reality with the aloneness of the One Absolute
out of which the activity arises. Holding fast to this “integrated vision” can
help us put a new ending on a very old dilemma: “We do not say any of the
luxuries of life are stumbling blocks to realization. . . . Rather, everything
is to be seen with a new attitude” (p. 254).