sameness and in the other each one’s
force always comes and becomes established;
the fluctuating function of these two,
comprises all, everything becomes the object of awareness.
specific powers alternate between synthesis and analysis. Even though the
contexts of operation are innumerable, the dual functions of the assumption of
the agency of the subject and the knowledge of the object belong entirely to
these two entities.
On to the ‘same’ as on to the ‘other’ there constantly alight
Their respective specific powers; though not proportionate
By spin-emergence as between these two in all,
All predications whatsoever come to be.
40 sums up the revolutionary section on sama and anya. In the original class,
Nitya slipped into a deep meditation and took us on a guided tour of the
cosmos. It’s particularly wonderful to read the commentary in a similar way,
taking a moment to vibrate aum in each chakra, and to visualize the imagery
throughout. Nitya had the mojo to really vivify those places—they seemed
intensely real in his presence, not like images at all. Probably a book can
only provide a faint echo of that intensity, but last night the echo was amplified
by the group meditation setting, which definitely adds to the effect.
started the conversation off being curious about the two fulcrums Nitya
mentions, referring to sama and anya:
Guru says even though the possibilities of these two ways of thinking are
endless—one centralizing in your ‘I’ and making everything specific and
particular, and the other expanding you, identifying you with the cosmic whole,
generalizing and liberating everything--it all can be gathered under two
categories, the unifying and the specifying. Consciousness is an eternal
fluctuation between these two fulcrums. It zips about, now rotating around the
hub of specificity, now changing to rotate around the hub of generality. In
this way it enables you to know everything.
we think of a single fulcrum beneath a lever, with yoga being the effort to
place it precisely at the balance point. Then the poles oscillate rhythmically,
one rising into our attention while the other recedes, like a seesaw. Having
two fulcrums would be seriously disruptive, requiring a lot of extra force to
make the system function properly.
think what Nitya intended was that each pole of the seesaw was not a monolithic
state, but a system that has its own fulcrum. It’s like having a small seesaw
on each end of the greater seesaw. The anya end has the horizontal parameter of
subject and object, with its own fulcrum where we try to bring concepts and
percepts into harmony. The sama end has the vertical parameter, so to speak,
that oscillates between ends and means, goals and tactics for their
attainment—something like that. In analysis we could add seesaws onto the poles
of seesaws for several iterations, but the point here is that there are two
main polarities, which are connected and oscillate or pulsate, known as
sameness and otherness.
thought the word fulcrum was simply wrong, that the poles in question are
fields of energy, not static entities. Nancy agreed, recalling the figure eight
movement of consciousness, which is anything but linear. Looking closely at the
above paragraph with 20/20 hindsight, it seems that Nitya realized the word fulcrum
was misleading, and switched to hub, which expands the concept of
alternation from two to three dimensions at the very least. It allows for all
kinds of movement and interaction, whereas a fulcrum is linear and mechanical.
Plus, hubs don’t interfere with each other, as fulcrums might.
image that Narayana Guru most wanted to impart is one of pulsation. The sphere
of consciousness begins at the core or Karu, and expands in all directions
toward the periphery, in which anya is everywhere. A healthy psyche, according
to the Guru, comes back frequently to touch the Karu, infusing its benign
influence out to the periphery. In a way, this is the essence of the study of
the Hundred Verses. We tend to become mesmerized by the glitter of the
periphery and imagine that going farther afield will increase our happiness and
well being, and before long we forget the Karu entirely. We become dissociated
from our own center and toss about seeking the missing unity in peripheral
matters. The idea here is to remember the core, like touching home base in a
game of tag. We go out and run around and try not to be touched, and there is
the thrill of nearly being caught and imprisoned, but then we scurry back to
base where we are safe. Once we catch our breath we can make another sortie. We
don’t stay on home base any more than we run around all the time, because that
would spoil the fun of the game. As soon as we calm down, we plunge back in. As
Nitya puts it, “You should not get stuck in one single idea, nor get lost in
generalities. In a healthy life there is a constant fluctuation between these
two possibilities. Out of this fluctuating perspective arises our idea of the
offered a nice dialectical perspective, that spirit was the thesis and nature
the antithesis. Their synthesis is us.
tend to struggle with the dissociation we make between sama and anya, which
could also be thought of as spirit and nature. It seems as if unitive awareness
has no place in the harsh realities of everyday life. Nitya begins his
commentary with a perfect demonstration of how the poles can fit together
without contradiction. It’s a stroke of genius. It makes you think, “Oh yeah.
It’s so simple.” He was someone whose every moment in a very rich and busy life
was charged with the dynamism of unitive awareness. That’s what we are learning
from our exploration together, as well. The more we dip into the oneness, the
more it is available when we are involved with the affairs of our life. It’s
not that we are always grounded: most of us regularly get caught up in
reactions and forget. All the time, in fact. But when we do catch ourselves in
the act, we can bring ourselves back to the center, and then our actions will
be more meaningful and valuable. We can see evidence of this happening to class
members, and it’s very heartening. Practicing this really does have a positive
impact on our lives.
talked about how she used to obsess about what could go wrong in the future. It
was like she was standing on the periphery and peering out into the gloom,
worried and doubtful. But she has been back to dip in the pool at the center of
her being enough to dispel a goodly measure of her fears. She has a renewed
confidence in herself, and that allows her to be more available in the present
to her family and friends. This is exactly the kind of stabilization of the
psyche that makes for a satisfying life. We aren’t talking about traveling to
Saturn or performing miracles like rising up into the air. It’s about getting
well, being sane. There are no external marks to speak of, except perhaps the
absence of panic. Once you are healed, you can try for astral travel if it
still appeals to you. But most of that turns out to be veiled fantasies about
getting off the hot seat. Once you reconnect with your own true nature, every
moment becomes so beautiful and rewarding that you no longer desire to escape
from it. You are no longer trying to arrange the future just so, in hopes that
it will make you feel better. You are busy trying to see what’s right around
you more clearly, because everything you need is already present in it.
laughingly told us how he wakes up in the morning and his mind immediately
kicks into gear, roaring off in several directions at once. He used to follow
wherever it led. Now he reins in those impulses and gathers himself together
first. That allows him to sort out the valuable impulses from the unnecessary
ones. He didn’t say it, but being able to laugh at our follies is a big asset.
Our socialized self wants to punish us for our transgressions, but that only
makes the schism in our psyche wider. We know that nearly every human on earth
is led astray all the time. We all get caught up in the attractions of the
moment. It’s totally normal. We should be kind to ourself, and gently let go of
the hook, whatever it might be. We didn’t mean to be mean, it just happened.
Getting upset about it just prolongs the misery. Deb mentioned that this is
what Chogyam Trungpa meant by befriending yourself first. Don’t feel you will
be condemned to hell for your mistakes, just stop making them when you notice
they are happening. Laugh about them. Put an arm around yourself, and vow not to
forget, at least until the next time, when you surely will.
summed it up quite nicely: “the subtlety of taming the mind is impossible in
the absence of love.” Anya isn’t cured by amassing just the right assortment of
stuff, but by injecting all of it with sama. Or in the Gita’s words, our
residual cravings for our favorite fragments disappear when the One Beyond (or
Within) is sighted. We crave oneness but seek it in otherness. No wonder we get
disconcerted! Instead, we should carry oneness with us wherever we go. It’s
like bringing a torch into the dark cave we happen to be exploring.
are very fortune people indeed to have the luxury to step back from the chaos
of anya and take stock. Self-examination is a rare enough endeavor, partly
because it takes a while for the benefits to become evident. Rather than
instant gratification, it provides lasting gratification.
class mulled over the perennially tantalizing idea of the witness. Ordinarily,
we hold on to a persistent notion that the witness has to be created, but it is
always present. It just gets obscured when we fixate on peripheral matters. It
may not be apparent how powerfully the One Hundred Verses is redirecting our
attention to states where the witness is not obscured, but it is.
want to be a little careful, though, because the witness that is witnessed is
not the witness. It has been converted into an object of awareness. Then it
becomes the possession of the ego. From this, all manner of unhealthy
extrapolations are possible. We are already witnessing; we don’t have to define
it. Leave it alone.
thought “conscious awareness” was a better term than witness. We don’t doubt
that we are aware, but we have no idea what the witness might be. Becoming the
witness sounds like some exotic spiritual attainment. It’s just that awareness
witnesses best when it is in balance; when it’s off kilter its ability to
witness is reduced. Nitya concludes with an invitation to practice neutrality,
by embracing the full pulsation of consciousness, including the unitive core
and the multitudinous periphery, saying, “You become aware of consciousness as
such getting involved in these two-fold functions. One who can cultivate the
neutral attitude where he or she becomes a witness to the two-fold fluctuation
of consciousness becomes a real contemplative.”
closed with a meditation on the superlative conclusion of Nitya’s Verse 20
commentary, about making every moment rich. Bringing sama into our everyday
activities is the way to attain the permanent ecstasy of being really alive in
the present. We pave the way for the possibility by dedicating a bit of our
precious time to dipping into the Karu together. It has been very good. Aum.
is a big fan of the short version, and wrote, “On second reading before slumber
the commentary in this version is quite profound. Nitya's far more concise in
weaving his dialectical dance. He uses the Sanskrit terms anya (specific/ego-centered)
and sama (general/altruistic) to illustrate that at the center point of this
bipolar relationship is the springboard for its transcendence. The anya/sama
oscillation continues to function, it just doesn't get in the way of the
This Nor That But . . . Aum:
shall give the meaning of this verse.” “Let us learn the all-embracing wisdom
of the great seers.” In these two sentences, there are two different kinds of
emphasis. In the first instance, the subject “I” makes a specific reference to
the person concerned, and thus differentiates himself from all others. The
object of that sentence refers to a particular verse, also differentiating it
from other items of knowledge. Thus the main note of this sentence is anya. In
the second statement, “I” changes into the all-inclusive “us.” The object
matter is also an inclusive one. Thus, the dominant note in this sentence is
sama. In our daily transactions we adopt both these stands. Anya is personal,
specific and ego-centred. Sama is impersonal, general and altruistic. If anya
is analytic, sama is synthetic. When we understand a person with reference to
his physical body, he is different from others in form, colour, the tenor of
his voice, his individual tastes and temperament, his moods and behavioural
patterns. These are only a few distinctive marks, but we can go on enumerating
many more distinctions. When a thing is analyzed into its simpler elements, the
thing changes and begins to vanish. When an atom is finally blasted, it becomes
a destructive force. Thus, the power of specificity is unaccountably large and
all the limbs are put together we have a body. When all the structural and
functional aspects of the body become pronounced as a personality we have an
individual. When individuals associate themselves as a corporate whole we have
a society. When all societies are brought under one universal group we have a
species, and when
species are brought into the homogenous whole we have a genus. Absolute
knowledge includes everything. Our personal knowledge is always moving between
the most specific and the most generic. If a person is absorbed in his
non-differentiated knowledge of the Absolute, there is no known or knower to
know anything. There the operational aspect of knowledge has no significance.
Conversely, when an individual becomes obsessed with one single item of
knowledge, that stupefies him to the point of madness and thus brings about a
malfunction of the agency of the knower in him.
knowledge does not remain static either in its specific modes or in its
universal mode. It is natural for man to shrink into himself and act as a
psychological entity. With the same ease, he can also expand his consciousness
and become an integral part of the cosmos. Thus, life is a pulsation of
consciousness with the alternating emphases of anya and sama. Narayana Guru
describes these two functions as the operational instrumentality of the
specific and the universal. A contemplative can detach his witnessing awareness
and transcend both these aspects.
INTUITIVE imagination is called for in visualizing the subtle
psycho-physical dynamics implied here. The two axes of reference for the
tendencies that operate within consciousness, in its psycho-physical content at
any given time, have a mode of operation on which the Guru here tries to throw
more clear light.
The accentuation of one set of tendencies over the other
takes place as man gets interested in one kind or category of subject or
another. Sensuous pleasures may dominate the factors where wisdom counts, and
thus the processes go on alternating between the two trends with their four
possible modalities. The specific of each interest or value gets adjoined,
merged or appended to the basic or generic aspect of the same.
As two branches of the same tree could grow, one at the
expense of the other, there is a subtle or organic reciprocity to be
understood, not only as between the two basic tendencies, but also as between
the specific characteristics of each of the two taken separately. There is both
interdependence and independence as between the two main sets of tendencies,
each with its own generic and specific, positive or negative poles which could
be accentuated at the expense of its rival set.
There is thus a phenomenological circulation of thought or
feeling that goes on always and constitutes the content of self-consciousness.
Interests and their corresponding objects fuse loosely or closely, intensely or
feebly at different
moments in what we call our life. Action gets accentuated at a given moment as against pure thought,
which might prevail at another. Existential aspects may overpower essential or
ideological ones. A complete cosmology and psychology have to be fitted into
the scheme in which the dynamism functions in actual experience. The details
have to be fitted into the skeleton scheme outlined here, by the person who
cultivates contemplative Self-consciousness.
Gaining the totality of experience is what constitutes
spiritual progress, and not the asymmetrical development of one set of tendencies
over the others. The rule of harmony and the golden mean hold good here, as in
morality and art. Wisdom is thus part of ethics and aesthetics and could be
cultivated side-by-side with love of beauty or of virtue.
We have translated bhrama-kala
as ‘spin-emergence’ as the nearest to what the two Sanskrit words suggest.
Modern quantum mechanics supports the idea of both right-handed and left-handed
spin and is highly suggestive of the structural dynamism of the Absolute as
seen by the Guru here.
shared an upbeat musical meditation on the chakras:
a fantastic, funny and depressing article about the direction meditation is
headed. We are definitely out of date! And I don’t mind. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/fashion/mindfulness-and-meditation-are-capturing-attention.html?_r=0
verse, writes Nitya in his commentary, is a bit unlike most of the others
because it offers no direct instruction but rather pauses to make an
observation about our natural condition, the way it is. The mind, he
notes, moves between the specific and the general of its own accord and on its
own schedule. By oscillating
between the psychological and the cosmological, the mind privileges the I in one
case and the all in the other. Knowing
this condition to be the case,
writes Nitya, allows us the space not to try to control it or apply shoulds to it. It is what it is and by way of its activity allows us to
know everything internally and externally.
this continuous shifting is natural, our being able to observe it rather than
being controlled by it affords us the opportunity to follow it as we progress
through the day. Becoming
unreflectively attached to one or the other of these extremes leads to
Narcissism or a collective totalitarian regimentation. In these positions lie
all manner of
social evil from chaotic anarchism, a primitive “survival of the fittest” model
once articulated (and feared) so thoroughly by Herbert Spencer in the 19th
Century on the one hand and a dystopian Big Brother collective oppressing any
individual expression on the other.
the American political scene, these two extremes are trotted out by their
adversaries as the inherent dangers in subscribing to political forces tending
toward one or the other. Those
prizing individual autonomy are accused of fomenting social chaos that allows
those individuals to retain power and privilege. At this juncture, ethnic dimensions are usually attached as
additional fuel to damn the “individualists” who really (say the accusers) seek
their own narcissistic ego inflation and their social position illustrated in
the Dickensian horror of 19th Century industrialization. On the opposite
side of this political
coin are those same individualists pointing the finger of collectivist
conformity at those on the left.
The bigger the government, they claim, the smaller the citizen, a view
that if taken to its logical conclusion leads to Treblinka and the Gulag. The
history of modern collectivism,
they point out, has been anything but pretty.
two accusations are essentially projections of those cemented into an I or we
centralized view. By denying that
the alternative view can be legitimately entertained, those on both sides
project on the other that “shadow” of themselves they have alienated and refuse
to accept. It simply does not
exist in them anymore and is now the property of the other. As Nitya observes,
“consciousness is an eternal fluctuation between these two fulcrums” (p.
277). Our Self is made up of that
continuous movement that allows us to know ourselves, and that movement is; it is
not an ought that should not be so because nature is wrong and the ego is
In his commentary, Nitya counsels
us to harmonize ourselves with our natural rhythms and not attach to either the
general or the specific but rather to remain as that observing Self that works
with each oscillation as it appears so that we can expand consciousness and at
the same time operate in the world of manifestation so that both states can
combine as a dialectic educating us about ourselves. A contemplative who observes life in both its specific and
collective dimensions is, through the exercise, relieved of the anxiety and
fear so necessary for those demanding that the world—and ourselves—be other
than we are and conform to the demands of illusions neither party can
articulate because they exist nowhere in nature.