is known as many is the other,
that which shines forth as one is sameness;
known the state, which is going to be spoken of, and attained
dissolved and blended in the state of sameness.
What is known distinctively as separate and specific
entities is the 'other'. What shines forth as the indivisible whole is
'sameness'. This is going to be elucidated hereafter. Having known these
states, verticalize knowledge and learn the art of unifying consciousness in
the inclusivity of 'sameness'.
What appraises manifold variety, the ‘other’ that is;
And the ‘same’ is what unitively shines;
Thus understanding the state aforesaid, into that state
That yields sameness, melt and mix and erect sit.
this verse Nitya underlines the need for practical engagement to attain release
from bondage. His conclusion sums up how the transformation is brought about:
meditation of this verse is to watch for the many tendencies to close down or
become narrow in your vision. Instead, enlarge your boundaries and thus find
your release. Only then will the functional reality of seeing oneness become a
persistent way of life.
the words of the mystics strike us as meaning we should just turn off our
relation to the world and all will magically be set right. Nitya recognizes
that there is much more to it than that. We are firmly tangled up in the way
our brains have become wired and conditioned over the course of our life, and
we can gain much by altering the narrative that guides us, to one which
gradually rewires our neurology to a more harmonious orientation. Sure, there
are rare occasions when a blast of energy from the Karu surges through our
system and instantly deprograms it, and those are highly covetable. It produces
the rare visionary. Yet that type of experience is exceedingly uncommon. In the
meantime, while laying the groundwork for it, we can incorporate the wisdom
others have gained and passed on to us, which has a salubrious effect also. In
other words, there is much we can do to make our lives more worthwhile, short
of a total explosion.
we adopt such an attitude, every encounter is an opportunity to learn and grow.
We aren’t simply trying to find a path where nothing goes wrong, we are open to
whatever comes, and instead of taking it as a personal affront we can use it as
a way to liberate ourselves.
all agreed that we can have a wide range of interpretations and reactions to a
stimulus, and to a great extent our reactions are based on how we frame them in
our mind. When we enlarge our sense of unity, we move from victimhood to
participation. Doing so frees some of our vast potential. It’s stimulating and
expansive, rather than deadening and restrictive.
talked about the tendency to satisfy our egos with snap judgments instead of
admitting we don’t really know the whole story. We routinely label a person
based on their outward appearance, and that reinforces our prejudice. Instead
if we made an inquiry and listened more carefully, our prejudices would be
sent a link to a video advertisement for a hospital that gives a good practical
demonstration of how this can work. The camera pans over a number of people
moving through the building, giving a moment for us to experience our normal
reactive judgment—remember, this is how our brains have evolved to function, it
is utterly normal—and then provides a sentence about each one’s very human
concerns and needs. Doing so instantly melts our stereotyped view and invites
it to become more empathetic. It’s quite effective, and should prove familiar
to anyone following this Atmo study. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDDWvj_q-o8
often effective to provide a countervailing narrative to offset our habitual
viewpoint. That’s what Nitya means when he says:
When a certain interest develops
from the center of your being, it enlarges and becomes a whole field of
interest. As a function, this aspect of the self is called kala. If you are looking for differentiation, the kala will be seeing
everywhere. If you are looking for unity, then you will find a hundred reasons
for seeing all as the same. One has to cultivate the kala of sameness as a functional reality, not just as an idea.
are being instructed in this study to infuse anya with sama, the perception of
otherness with sameness. Not to replace
anya with sama, but to saturate it with it. This is a subtle endeavor that
calls for a top-notch effort on our part. As Deb put it, there is a common
source of identity that we all share. We have to reclaim it. Michael agreed,
adding that rather than responding in terms of the selfish ‘I’, we have to be
willing to set that aside. He has found that doing so opens him up to
meaningful conversations with friends and family, where previously there was
paraphrases the Bhagavad Gita’s sixth chapter for supportive material
throughout his commentary. He was an interpreter of the Gita without equal, as
exemplified by his whirlwind analogy here, which inspired us a lot. He is
expanding on these four verses near the end of the chapter, on dhyanam
(meditation or contemplation):
33) Arjuna said:
yoga you have outlined as consisting of sameness, O Krishna, I do not see for
this any stable foundation, owing to changefulness.
34) The mind is changeful indeed; it is agitated, forceful,
and imperative (in character); like the wind, I consider its control difficult.
35) Krishna said:
the mind is difficult to control and changeful. By practice and by dispassion
it can be held together.
36) By a Self uncontrolled yoga is hard to attain; such is
my opinion; but by a Self which is its own support, endeavoring, it is possible
to reach through the means (indicated).
Here’s how Nitya fleshes it out:
bring about oneness through wisdom, compassion and fellowship. At this juncture
in the Gita, Arjuna says to Krishna, “This all sounds very fine, but I have to
actually live it. My mind is not under my control. Like a wild wind it comes.
Sometimes a ship lying quietly on the sea will be caught by a wind which drags
it away and batters it and breaks it to pieces. This is exactly what my mind
does to all my decisions and good intentions. I take a good resolve, but like a
typhoon the mind comes and whips it away and wrecks it. What can I do?”
Krishna agrees. “That is so, my dear
Arjuna. Mind cannot be forcibly controlled. Sometimes it is like a whirlwind.
But don’t you see that the mind is not a whirlwind all the time? Your mind may
be restless for a little while. It may smoke and fume. But after some time it
calms down, and when it does you have access to it. That is the time to show it
the right way. When the mind is sitting calmly, show it there is no need to
boil. Your true nature is divine, and everything is a manifestation of the
Divine. Don’t feel agitated. Deep down the mind understands. The next time it
raves, somewhere it will know that this is not the right thing to do and it
will settle down faster than the previous time.”
this way Krishna shows how to gently tame your mind by detaching yourself from
the things with which you are infatuated.
We are all comfortable enough in class now to admit the
whirlwinds that rage through our lives at times, and that’s a substantial
achievement. Jan really appreciated the whirlwind analogy, adding that when you
aren't in a balanced state, if you can let your reactivity settle down, then you
gradually come back to the unity. It’s a hugely beneficial change of narrative
to let go of our reactions rather than cling to them. Then our moments of peace
and calm become more frequent.
often, however, we are so relieved to get a break from the whirlwind that
during the quiet periods we don’t work on ourselves. We want to enjoy the
temporary pleasure of not hitting our head against the wall. Yet that is our
best opportunity to change course, our best time for meaningful reflection. We
should be careful that our sense of relief doesn’t lead us to fritter away our
best opportunity for incisive investigations.
more, oneness is so disdained in human society these days that many, whenever
they find themselves disconcerted by quiet time, actively seek new whirlwinds
to be blown around by. Soon they never have a lull anymore. It’s a very common
modern condition to be constantly aroused and inwardly miserable, yet the true
antidote is never considered. The gurus recommend we cherish our rare enough
opportunities to evolve out of the several dead ends that flesh is heir to.
sent a paragraph that shows how she is beginning to use her opportunities
effectively. In her own words:
Atmo seems to be percolating in
my brain—before I read the verse today, I was thinking about my family members
who annoy me and [husband] Rick's family members who annoy me and how Rick and
I tease each other about each others' families. Then I started thinking about
other people I know who I find annoying and I would never want to live their
lives or with them. After awhile, it seems that I had put just about everyone
outside of my personal circle of comfort or what have you. I was shocked by
this and felt very isolated. Of course I don't really feel that I am separate
from friends and family and they are precious to me but somehow thinking about
this made me feel that I was cutting myself off of my own volition. Then it was
quite a tonic to read Nitya's commentary.
She added that inevitably as we get older we get stuck in
certain limiting circles and ways of doing things. We need to expand and
include others, and other ideas. We all lamented how young children don’t yet
have barriers in place, and so adapt easily to all sorts of conditions, but as
we age our ambit grows progressively more circumscribed. By late in life we may
become very narrow indeed. It’s a trend we have to combat continuously and
intelligently, lest we become bound to our favorite tree trunk by unbreakable
vines of habit.
isolating tendency Susan outlined has an even nastier denouement, when we turn
the animosity inward and become estranged even from our self. It’s the logical
extension of the separating tendency. Once we become separated from our true
nature, our beingness, we become zombified. Then our task of reconciliation is
truly herculean. Baseless self-criticism diverts our energy from healthy
concerns into self-stifling ones, and it is always ready to pounce at the
merest hint of emergence from the miasma. Quoting from an old class notes: “The
bottom line here is that, once you have learned the basics of social
interaction and balanced your ego, hopefully by early adulthood, you can free
yourself by letting go of the tight grip everyone feels they have to maintain
all the time, and which is reinforced by subconsciously retained threats of
punishment. By relaxing our self-criticism, not to mention criticism of others,
we permit ourselves to automatically rise to the next level of spiritual
pointed out that it’s hard to realize when we’re not fully present. In fact,
it’s almost the most critical aspect. When the ego is detached from its unitive
ground, it is seldom aware of how it is distracted. Deb recognized that when
she daydreams, she trips or drops things or cuts her finger instead of the
carrot. Such “non-Freudian slips” are ways our unconscious tries to jolt us
back to awareness, part of the internal corrective process that is an important
ally. But we are also welcome to employ our conscious to stay conscious, as
brought up Nataraja Guru’s translation of nivarnnu
as sitting upright, which Nitya translated as finding release. While related,
they present two contrasting aspects of the Malayalam original. She
noted how in Nataraja Guru’s excellent commentary, he spoke of an “attitude
of alert relaxation
combined with inner adjustment of the spirit tuned to the Absolute.” Alertness
and relaxation seem to be opposed, but when dialectically united they help us
to be at our best. Those are our artistic moments, our dynamic stretches of
clarity. This is what Nataraja Guru means by sitting upright, in the
traditional pose of a yogi.
added that it also indicates a mental posture of perfect neutrality. Leaning
one way or another means we are prejudiced. Only when we are perfectly upright
are we free of preferences. We cannot attain sameness if we are leaning in any
direction. Even something as seemingly trivial as “this is a Hindu concept”
adds a subtle perversion to the idea of universality. It is either true or not,
and it cannot be the possession of anyone or any ideology.
we attain to a posture of true openness, knowing we don’t know and being eager
to find out what comes next. That’s when we discover that Life has been waiting
patiently to reveal itself to us. If we haven’t noticed, it’s because we’ve
been busily ignoring it. As Franz Kafka so poetically put it:
It is not necessary that you
leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only
wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present
itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe
at your feet.
Gurukula doesn’t advocate any specific technique to find the eye of the storm.
That does not mean that each person will not be benefitted by finding it in
their own way, and through their own efforts. Walk the razor’s edge between
tension and release, effort and stillness. “Only then will the functional
reality of seeing oneness become a persistent way of life.”
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
People have different tastes and temperaments. Even within
one family people like to dress differently, eat differently, and amuse
themselves differently. Lack of agreement in opinions and personal values
causes constant friction. When a husband and wife adopt different lifestyles
and begin to fight, they make their home a hell for themselves as well as their
the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus says: “Suppose ye that I am come to give
peace on earth? I tell you Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there
shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father;
the mother against the daughter and the daughter against the mother….” (Luke
12, 51-53). To verify the truth of this we can find any number of examples.
is however a way to overcome this anomaly, and that is by cultivating unitive
understanding. The Bhagavad Gita (VI, 27-32) gives the following instructions:
Such a yogi, verily, of calmed mind, of pacified passion,
who has become the Absolute, free from all dross, comes to supreme happiness.
Ever uniting thus the Self, that yogi, rid of dross, having
contact with the Absolute, enjoys easily happiness that is ultimate.
One whose Self is united by yoga sees the Self as abiding in
all beings and all beings as abiding in the Self, everywhere seeing the same.
He who sees Me everywhere, and sees everything in Me, to him I am not lost and
he is not lost to Me.
That yogi who honours Me as abiding in all beings,
established in unity, remaining as he may in every possible way he abides in
By establishing an analogy with the Self, he who sees
equality everywhere, O Arjuna, whether in pleasant or painful situations, he is
considered a perfect yogi.
Mind does not allow itself to be controlled very easily. It
can become weird and cause tempests, but there are moments when the mind is
calm. Those occasions should be used to direct it to the universal oneness of
the Self which animates everything. When the mind is calm it should be taught
to become compassionate and get into fraternal commitments. If we do so
repeatedly, the mind can be absolved from its hysteria and ultimately one can
find one's full relief.
HERE the Guru gives very precise definitions of the two
fundamental aspects into
which he has divided the totality of self-consciousness. The Upanishadic dictum
which says that he who sees multiplicity or plurality ‘wends his way from death
to death’ is the basic idea here.
A unitive vision of reality, and plurality, are twin aspects
of reality between which the philosopher chooses the path of unity as against
that which is based on plurality. Some pragmatic philosophers might be
justified in insisting that plurality is as much real as the One of the
idealists; but it does not follow that such an attitude which accepts the
pluralistic manifold of interests or motives gives any peace or happiness to
man. Torn between rival interests, he would be steeped into the world of
conflicts and sufferings.
Philosophy should not merely satisfy the intellectually or
aspiration of man’s interest in truth, but must bring him nearer to happiness,
which is his goal in life.
Multiple interests in the relativistic world of plurality
spell troubles, and unitive interest in life in the absolutist sense spells
peace. The movement in self-consciousness tending to reveal the underlying unity of realities
may be said
to be vertical; and the other which tends to reveal the
These two axes are to be recognized by what they lead to,
rather than by any innate characteristic in themselves. In themselves they are
just tendencies or movements in contemplative consciousness. As a tree is to be known
its fruit, the
distinction is based on the end they serve in the contemplative life of man.
After understanding the nature of the two rival conflicting
tendencies, the second half of the verse gives precious practical indications
pertaining to the actual ‘practice’ of yoga. All that a man actually does in the form of
action is the
orientation of the spirit or the inner tendencies towards
the unitive instead of the
world of pluralistic rival values. The whole of yoga, as understood in this verse,
consists of sitting
erect with one’s inner tendencies turned to the appreciation of the unitive and unique value
represented by the Absolute. The attitude of ‘sameness’ implies the idea of
equality besides that of unity. By analogy with one’s inner being (atmaupamyena)
as the Gita puts it (VI.
32), one is able to see the equality of everything with oneself. Unity is
attained by a verticalized view and the horizontalized version of reality leads
to conflicts with oneself and in one’s relations with the external world.
The reference to sitting erect is reminiscent of the idiom of
yogic practices which permeates the whole of meditative literature on the soil
of India. A physical attitude of restful but alert contemplation, implying
harmony, balance or peace has been a pattern of behaviour in India that has
persisted through its long history of contemplative thought. The Shiva-yogi
seal of Mohenjodaro, the Dhyana Buddhas scattered over vast areas of South East
Asia in the form of images, and the instructions of the Gita (VI. 11), not to
speak of the Hatha and the Patanjali yoga proper, and even the Brahma-Sutras -
all stress this attitude of alert relaxation combined with inner adjustment of
the spirit tuned to the Absolute. One has to be free from sleep as well as from
wakefulness in such an attitude, as has already been recommended in the present
work earlier in verse 7.
has a paragraph or two where he touches on a few mystical ideas that are not
much a part of this study. I thought I’d mention one, and add it in an
appendix, as it doesn’t particularly fit the flow of the commentary as a whole.
I’m pretty sure Nitya was gently implying that certain meditative practices are
helpful in finding lulls from the whirlwinds of life, but he was always very
careful to not come on as an advocate of any technique in particular. He
believed that a life path is an absolutely individual decision. What he offered
was wisdom and psychological insight.
can look up the terms he uses in that section and find general information
easily enough. I’ll just say a bit about “When you concenter your
consciousness in any of the synergic centers, it is as if consciousness is
flowing or streaming centripetally and centrifugally, while keeping that locus
as a monitoring force.” That might still baffle your search engines!
centers” was Nitya’s translation of chakras. Synergy is the convolution of
forces to produce a greater energy than the sum of the parts. In the chakras,
inward cycling energy (centripetal) and outward spiraling energy (centrifugal)
meet. One of his more frequent guided meditations (though still uncommon—Nitya
was very original about meditation, and seldom repeated himself) was to go
through the chakras one by one. First we would spiral outward from the center
point, and then circle back inwards. It brought an expansiveness and heightened
energy to the locus.
order, the correspondences are, for chakras one through seven: earth, water,
fire, air, vibration/word, wisdom, and liberation. We would begin with the muladhara,
the first chakra, and
meditate on the solidity of it, the real material basis of our being, where we
sit. Then Nitya would draw our attention progressively outwards, touching all
the earthy elements in turn. We would feel the hardness of the floor and the
structural basis of the room we were in. Then our flights of fancy would go
farther, slowly taking in the solid aspects of the immediate environment, the
town, the region, the globe, the solar system, the galaxy, and finally the
whole universe. Then we would gradually return in an inverse pattern. On
arrival back at the starting point, that chakra was now informed by a vast new
perspective. With each chakra the focus was on the element epitomized in that
level, and the approach was not linear but spherically centrifugal. Next we
would follow liquids through the cosmos, followed by heat, gases, vibration,
light, and occasionally the mysterium tremendum of nothingness.
spoke of a similar meditation he does, only when you return to the “one point”
(near the third chakra) you then cycle inwards infinitely: the point itself is
infinite, only in the opposite “direction” of the outer universe.
way, it is a wonderfully freeing meditation, and one which reinforces the sense
of unity with the whole cosmos. Try it sometime.
comments are particularly excellent this time. You can see he’s really made the
material his own, which is just the thing to do:
this verse is the admonition to locate the transcendent within, to hold to it,
and to interpret all of manifestation in terms of it as you go about your
life. Having established that our
true Self is that which is unchangeable and true, the Guru in this verse turns
to his readers and tells them it is time to live that truth. One could say, this
is the “just do it”
verse that is the culmination of those which have preceded. As he discusses the
Guru’s words, Nitya
picks up where he left off in his previous commentary. “Sameness,”
he here repeats, must form
the core of our understanding and point of view, for as long as we entertain
separateness as a default position our minds will spin in endless mazes.
he pointed out in verse 37, Nitya opens the present one by again noting that
our lives are constituted of an endless stream of agitations and that the mind
continuously manufactures fears and dread that divert our attention to the
particulars. In doing so, it also
divides us one from the other: “this tendency is seen everywhere,
differentiating, separating, breaking away, alienating, rejecting” (p.
264). This anya drives us to continue in this path that makes us more and more
isolated as we experience life.
Cultivating the opposite tendency, sama,
writes Nitya, requires that we reverse course and begin to see the commonality
in all manifestation, including especially ourselves.
As a matter of fact, it is with
self that this whole process must begin, with our turning inward and observing
just what it is our minds are doing all the time. In order to illustrate his
point, Nitya cites the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna (seeker) tells Krishna
(Absolute) that all that he (Arjuna) has been taught in the abstract is fine as
far as it goes but that now he asks how he can make that advice practical, how
he can live what he has learned when his mind does not seem to be under his
control and constantly creates an endless stream of ideas laced with terror,
fear, and worry. Krishna concurs
with Arjuna in his observation and drops a key observation in saying that the
mind cannot be forcibly controlled.
It does what it does, performing in many cases like a whirlwind that
kicks up smoke and fume thereby distorting and clouding any clear vision
otherwise possible. But the mind
is not always so agitated, continues Krishna. It does settle down eventually, and it is during these
moments of calm that it needs instruction from our Self, that it needs to be
reinforced in the fact that it like everything is part of the Absolute oneness
the same everywhere and always.
In our secular western sense, this
same advice has sound therapeutic value.
Our alienation and solitude, the logical consequence of a mind left on
its own, easily leads our egos to assume a heroic posture in defending itself
from ideas threatening that position.
In our world of strife and competition, the examples are legion writes
Nitya—from family disputes to religious wars. And they are indeed endless as long as the mind is left on
its own to defend itself in a world of necessity in which everything is other
and everything is a threat. By
centering on sameness rather than difference, we begin to change the narrative,
so to speak, and instruct the mind on a new default position. During the storm
of conflict, the
teaching may not be possible, but afterwards, when the mind is calmed, that
instruction can take place and can continue as is possible. The mind, says Nitya,
will take in the
lessons but won’t necessarily demonstrate that it has learned anything right away.
The education requires a constant
application, advice common to that offered in contemporary psychotherapy. After
the storm passes, pick through
the debris, sort out what is useful and what is not, and resolve to apply the
lessons when the next event comes about, and it always will.
Detaching the mind from its
obsessions as they manifest is often
not immediately possible but can be given the proper and continuous
discipline. Nitya calls this our
“constant meditation” (265). In
this phrase, he makes a distinction between “sitting cross-legged on the floor
with eyes closed” and our lives generally which he then says “is a
meditation.” Our true Self, our
beingness is that which allows us to say “this exists” or “this does not
exist,” and it is with this Self that we address all things that enter our
lives. Once we establish ourselves
in that Absolute and read our daily lives through it we will be in a position
to meet all the whirlwinds we encounter without the necessity of attaching to
them and being swept away again and again by a mind that just doesn’t know any