long dream is this; like sleep, this perishes every day;
the same way, dream also;
perishing intelligence does not see
belongs to aloneness, and hence is constantly confused.
wakeful experience is also like a long dream. Both waking and dreaming
terminate after a period of time. Because of the confusion generated by this
alternation, no one sees the aloneness of the universal substratum.
A long-drawn-out dream is this, and like sleep each day,
It gets extinguished: dream too likewise!
We can never see extinction thus to this: as it is
Hitched on to the pure aloneness, it goes round for ever.
verse 55 commentary is very long. In my preparation for the class I tried to
determine any parts that could be left out to shorten the reading. There were
none. The whole meditation brims with essential ideas that flow seamlessly into
one another, so any lacunae would disrupt the symmetry of this masterpiece. We
used the long reading as an opportunity to go deeply into the aloneness it
highlights, guided by Nitya’s illuminating presentation.
of us from the West know the nursery rhyme that instructs us to row our boat
gently down the stream because life is but a dream, but now we are being
directed to really think about what it means. All we can perceive of life, both
awake and asleep, is temporary, which is the dreamlike feature. An event comes,
impresses us for awhile, and then vanishes with hardly a trace. We are now redoubling
our efforts to ally ourselves with the lasting basis underlying the temporary
flux, which should accomplish at least two crucial things: restore us to us
full confidence in the midst of chaos and give us a clue as to how to not be
drawn into dead ends, or in Indian terms be seduced by Maya (over and over
again). Nitya draws us right in:
process we are undergoing in this work is a transference from maya, the seeming
first cause of the transactional world, to an ultimate cause. If maya both is
and is not, it has no proper basis. For anything to be, it should have a real
basis. So an existential ground is to be established for any experience. An
experience may be an illusion of something, but there still should be a ground
for that illusion. When you say something is superimposed, the question arises,
“Superimposed on what?”
is slightly misleading, because maya itself is an aspect of the eternal ground.
It doesn’t come and go, it’s the very way existence is brought into being.
Remember last week we were taught that maya is unitive at one end and dual at
the other. It’s what maya produces that occurs, lasts awhile and then
disappears, not maya itself. But no matter. The point is that we are aiming to
reacquaint ourselves with the stable ground of the Absolute, or at least the
normative notion of the Absolute, since the Absolute is not anything we can be
acquainted with in the ordinary sense. If it was, this project would be a piece
why should we bother to sort through this complex business? Because we get
fooled every time we superimpose our affinity for joy and beauty on the
illusory aspect, and sooner or later find ourselves barking up the wrong tree,
worshipping a dead horse, to mix a few metaphors. If we can just make our way
to the unitive end of the spectrum, then the ground of life will stand
revealed. Until then we run after one chimera after another, and nurse our
wounds when the object of our attentions disappears once again.
remember an image from one of Nitya’s early Bhagavad Gita classes. He said we
are standing around looking at an egg. It’s very symmetrical and perfect.
Suddenly there’s a crack! The egg moves. Another crack! Quickly cracks appear
all over, and pieces start to fall off. It looks like a terrible tragedy. How
can we stop it? But inside the egg is a baby chick that needs to be born. It
also wants to stay safely in its artificial womb, but it has grown too big. It
has to come out. When it does we are relieved to find the apparent tragedy was
not a tragedy at all: it has produced a beautiful baby bird that will soon
learn to fly.
tells us in order to grow we first have to break out of the mold we currently
inhabit. Depending on your perspective, the natural stages of growth can look
either beautiful or terrifying. From a limited viewpoint, there is disaster. An
eggshell has been destroyed. From a wider purview, what happened was a natural
promotion of essential development. Nitya was speaking optimistically of the
social upheavals of the early 1970s, but it equally applies to the stages of
reminded us that since our confusion arises from the inadequacy of both dreams
and intellectual reductions, understanding the principle of the Absolute helps.
It is the wider purview we need, the firm ground we can stand on through all
the turmoil. It sounds easy enough, but how do we actually carry it off?
trick Nitya mentions is that when we awaken from a dream, we compare it to our
present state and realize it was “just a dream.” Unfortunately we don’t have
that option in the dream, but we can imagine it when we are awake. We can
presume that our waking state has the same existential reality as a dream, and
then we can begin to treat it the way we treat our dreams, lovely and
interesting, but evanescent. We can teach ourselves to let go. And remember,
letting go doesn’t mean dismissing or ignoring anything. Letting go of our
conditioned responses allows us to be more present than ever, because we’re not
being thrown off by our attachments. We become much more effective even within
the waking dream of life when we develop a detached perspective. This is a
crucial place where spiritual seekers make mistakes, by believing we can just
tune out the world and become realized in consequence. There’s a bit more
was the stillness of aum in the last verse is here described as kaivalya, aloneness,
which, you may
recall, is a contraction of all oneness. In the unitive state, everything we
identify as ‘I’ or ‘mine’ is effaced. That means if we do dip into it, we don’t
stay there long. We become confused and return to our familiar state of
separateness. Since the gurus are trying to blast us our of our complacency and
into a unitive state, they aren’t letting on that this is normal, that almost
no one remains permanently in pure unity, we all go back and forth and
integrate the confusing state of unity into our much more confusing state of
duality. The more we bring unity into our everyday lives, the more the
conditionings, the memory retentions, are softened, worn down, washed away.
Where the fearful cling to their little definitions of who they are, seekers
are happy to expand their definitions toward the ultimate.
“bit more involved” is our accumulation of static definitions on which we base
our orientation to the world, including ourself. These dictate our behavior
almost totally, while providing us the illusion of control. The ego always
thinks it is running the ship, but that is one of Maya’s little jokes. She
supplies all our impetus, plus the delirium that we are making our own
decisions. That makes us willingly complicit in all her schemes, and highly
defensive about any suggestion that another option is worth considering. In
other words, it makes us docile slaves. We willfully fight off ideas and
attitudes that might be vast improvements on our “chosen course.” Chosen by our
conditioning, that is. This is not a new concept, but Nitya puts it very well
the dream an unknown force influences your mind so that you behave in a certain
way despite yourself, and yet you know that at that time it looked as if it
were your decision. Like that, you can see that the wakeful experience is also
not free of an overall dominating principle. This directing or dominating
principle could be taken as the operation of a collective mind of which your
individual mind is just a part. Or perhaps there were long stored up incipient
memories which were looking for an opportunity to actualize.
What we are seeing as the here and
now are the accumulated urges which were lying dormant for a long time finding
opportunities to influence segments of your experience from within. Although it
appears to be the individual's experience, the actual content belongs to many
previously suppressed occasions in a temporal series; in other words, what you
tried to accomplish on a subject four years ago, three years ago, one year ago,
a few months ago, last week. The same thing has come up many times, but
something in your ego repressed it. Finally it gets to a breaking point where
that repression is no longer possible, because all the resistance is worn down.
Then it comes out as an experience in the wakeful. In this way almost all our
wakeful experience has an unconscious history behind it, which is impelling its
made Andy think of how most of the time we unquestioningly assume we are in
charge, but the verse locates the motivation for our experiences far beyond the
dream and waking states, a truth recently ratified by neuroscientists with
their fMRI experiments.
if you read this extract closely, both positive and negative vasanas battle our
resistance to try to get expressed. I suspect as children we first learned to
repress our bad urges, and pretty soon just decided to repress them all, since
most of them were unwelcome to those around us anyway. An empowered ego could
make reasonably wise decisions about which ones to not suppress, but since we
don’t even acknowledge the mechanism, we don’t know how to reinstate our
creativity. We do art projects and such like because they sometimes permit a
trickle to seep through the barricades, but we generally are fully bound up.
Getting it right requires a dramatic change of focus that would allow us to
penetrate to the essence through all the glamour of appearances. This is
eminently doable, and we’ll be working on it for most of the second half of
this talk about dreams was right up Nancy’s alley. She is very fond of “dozing
Zen,” of lying in bed half asleep in the morning. She knows from experience
that dreams can point out problems when she’s going through a crisis. She likes
to prolong the dream state into her waking time in bed, so the two states can
neutralize each other. She goes back and forth across the borderline, and
learns many wondrous things. (I use this adjective, wondrous, not she. She’s
also very modest.)
has been working from the other side of night: before he goes to sleep or
during the day he sends little mental packets of love to his father, who is
estranged from the family. Recently he had a dream similar to Deb’s reported in
the verse 53 notes, where he watched his father and felt sure he was okay, and
then he became a third person witness, smilingly looking at both himself and
his dad together in a store. Like Deb, he took away a lasting sense of peace
and happiness from the dream.
cued Bushra to talk about how she sometimes found herself in a kind of “third
person” state of the neutral ground. She knows if she can be a witness and
remove a certain level of involvement, she can be a witness to her own pain,
anger, happiness, and so on, and reach neutrality. She sometimes stands outside
herself and thinks, “Oh look! Bushra is suffering.” It lets her feel there is
more in her than just her ‘I’.
added that the idea of becoming liberated from our retentions doesn’t mean we
are supposed to stop existing. He cited the sentence, “Narayana Guru said that
knowledge, to know its own state, has become all this phenomenal world, so that
through this intelligence it can see what it is.” We are essential to the game,
and it’s more than just a game, it is a teaching tool. We should be like the
Native American shaman Fools Crow, who taught people to become like a hollow
reed for the winds to blow through and make music.
these lines, Nitya here suggests an attitude that often causes revulsion,
because our self-identity is bound up with the excitement and misery of events:
to this instruction, you come to a place where you are no longer excited about
experiences. You do not treat them as good or bad even though previously that
may have been very important to you. You no longer attach a moral tag that
makes you feel guilty or benevolent. You don’t treat things as bright or dull,
or true or untrue in the relative sense. You just treat them as phases flowing
past. And because you are no longer excited you are no longer terrified. There
is no threat in anything. Insecurity could only be about the things that are
passing away, so that ceases to eat at you. There is no gain you can retain. It
is all just passing phenomena, to which you have a feeling of “Let it be.”
This attitude brings you to live
in the present, in this very moment, because that is all that is possible.
There comes a kind of sameness. What once seemed very painful as well as what
seemed very sweet become mere relative factors. The retention of the painful
and the sweet are only two models. By themselves they are no longer sweet or
painful when they are recalled to mind. The sameness that is in the recall of
the retention is also experienced as it is taking place. That is how it should
be. Narayana Guru says you fumble at the termination and do not realize it is
all happening within the total oneness. You are still confused. He will examine
it further in the next verse.
is downplaying the bliss of the state of sameness—samadhi—for a very good
reason. Many of us in the original class had already converted samadhi into
just one more transactional accomplishment. It was something you went out and
got. It was the goal of spiritual life. But thinking of it in this way converts
it into something it isn’t. So Nitya didn’t sell realization as some great
accomplishment we should all try to attain. The Gurukula gurus figured that if we
could be weaned away from our cravings for peak experiences and brought to a
state of normalcy, it would allow us to ease into all-oneness, since it is
already our native state, our native place.
Guru encourages us to closely examine our experience in order to reveal its
essence. Nitya closed his discourse with a subtle plea for us to get over our
habitual reactions dictated by our vasanas and samskaras, our various memory
meditation of this verse requires a very deep introspective analysis of one's
personal experience, at a time when you are passing through a crisis. At the
same time, the crisis can be seen as a phantom even while you are living it.
This can be accomplished only when you can detach your mind in the thick of actual
situations and can see how the exciting elements are passing into a retentive
[memory] world even as you are living them in the here and now.
On certain occasions in my life
when I had a physical or mental affliction, I took the opportunity for the meditative
purpose of evaluating the actual pain, the actual agony to which the body or
mind was subjected. I quietly watched the body's pain and wrote descriptions of
exactly how I felt it to be painful. Immediately there came a psychological
turnover of my interest from the pain itself to the norms of pain,
intellectually conceived. That made the pain already a phantom.
The pain became less painful
because my interest was of a critic making a critique of it. When you become a
critic of your own pain, half of it goes away. Then you question whether the
other half is real, because the first half already left. This is even more
poignant when you are in an angry state and you make a journal of your anger.
The bulk of the anger immediately dies down and becomes even humorous. You pose
as the angry person and make a caricature of your anger. It becomes so
satirical of your own state of mind that you see yourself as a big fool to get
angry like that. There is so little content in it. It is blown all out of
proportion. Once you see this, the whole thing leaves you and you wonder, “What
is this thing called my anger? What is this thing called my pain? What are
these things called my excitement, my sense of fame, my sense of importance?”
All of it is reduced to an evenness. Somehow, up to now you have not cultivated
that acumen. You can try it and see what kind of difference it makes.
Nitya was a philosopher, he makes it sound almost easy, but being able to
examine our mental states when we are in a crisis is anything but. It helps—I’d
say it’s essential—to have encouragement and support. But a crisis is a crisis
precisely because we are helplessly carried along by our demons, and we swear
by them. Hey, it might be dangerous to challenge our demons! They might bite
us. So look out everybody! Here I come! Roaaaar!
is often the case, life provided crystal clear examples this week for the
verse. A dear friend who has gallantly repressed his ferocious demons all his
adult life has finally surrendered to their power, and their eruption is like
an atomic blast. Every word of Nitya’s exegesis seems so germane and
well-considered in respect to his condition. Of course, it’s the last thing our
friend would ever think about or accept. The normal reaction to a crisis is denial
first of all, followed by blaming others, and if that isn’t enough, furious
violence. Anything but accept that the crisis emerges logically from our own
derangement. Anything but dare to open our eyes to the toxic retentions we have
been carrying around and secretly nurturing.
Morbius, in the movie Forbidden Planet, whose subconscious demon has been
unleashed and is wreaking havoc all over the alien world Altair IV? At the
climax it is breaking down the steel door and coming to kill the survivors
huddled inside. At first Morbius can’t admit this lethal eminence has anything
to do with him, an outwardly kind and gentle soul. But when another spaceman
insists that the problem is “Monsters from the id,” meaning the subconscious,
he begins to suspect himself. He vaguely recalls the same monster lived in the
past, but now he sees it “Only in nightmares of those times. And yet always in
my mind I seem to feel the creature is lurking somewhere close at hand, sly and
irresistible and only waiting to be reinvoked for murder.” Close at hand
indeed. But at the last minute he realizes the creature is him: I’m “Guilty!
Guilty! My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!” Yet he
can stop it. Shouting, “I deny you, I give you up!” the energy drains out of
the chimera and the crisis is over, other than the Hollywood excess.
is giving up our obsessions so darned difficult? Why does it take a crisis to
give us the energy to honestly look at ourselves, and yet that is also the time
we are most resistant to doing so? The time we most need a wise helpmate, and
yet we want to push everyone as far away as possible? Maya is a pro at keeping
the veil in place, that’s for sure.
is an unusually balanced person, and has no apparent connection with spiritual
teachings, so I asked her how she got there. I suspected she was a natural
yogi-type, but that wasn’t it. She told us that some years ago, not too long
though, she was in a crisis of her own, and a friend (Johnny Stallings, in
fact) told her you can step back and watch yourself, and it clicked,
spectacularly it would seem. The right word at the right time. But without that
word, would she have been able to change her life?
Bushra added a great idea: that dreams
are extraordinary, but when we are awake we domesticate our dreams, we tame
them into the narrative we use for day-to-day living. But we shouldn’t
domesticate our dream life. Leave it wild, uninterpreted. I added that wakeful
experience was also like that—an extraordinary series of experiences that we
convert into a boring narrative to fit our preconceptions. Andy added that
highlighting experience into a shadowy form is a great thing to take away from
we very often grow through crises, and it doesn’t have to be our own crisis,
either. Susan said she always based her life on how she thought her brother
would judge her: “What would Philip say?” He was her model for behavior. Then
eighteen years ago he had a serious mental breakdown, and she realized she
shouldn’t look to him like that anymore. It began the gradual process of
restoring her self-reliance.
is a classic retention, usually unrecognized. All of us have parents, siblings,
grandparents, teachers, guest speakers, TV stars, you name it, compressed into
the form of memories, who are directing our steps. Where is our own voice to be
found in all the hubbub? If we can get them to be quiet even for a moment, we
can make great strides.
closing meditation was to sink into the confusing, ‘I’ eradicating aloneness
for a brief period. Accompanied by our fellow travelers, we dared to dive deep
into nirvana, and the joy of it lingered long into the night.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
do we draw a line between the wakeful and the dream state? If dream is a
mythically structured image that can be placed between a haphazard caricature
and an ingeniously fabricated short story, our wakeful consciousness is vastly
interspersed with many such caricatures and mentally visualized myths and
parables. What is common to both the experiences of the wakeful and of the
dream is the subjective identity of the I-consciousness relating itself to
time-sense, space-sense, thing-sense, and a general orientation of events. The
main differences between the two are the absence of perception in the dream and
the contiguity of events in the wakeful. The memory of the wakeful comes in
handy to relate today's wakeful programme as a meaningful continuation of
yesterday's and the day before yesterday's. The programming of tomorrow and the
day after tomorrow can also be tabulated in today's wakeful state. Dream is
chaotic and defies all the set conditional rules of the wakeful world. When we
are in the dream we do not experience any lack of perception. No one feels any
compunctions about having a haphazard, vulgar or lazy dream. In the present
verse, the Guru treats both the wakeful and the dream as a grand dream and he
contrasts it to deep sleep.
the wakeful state we question, make critical judgements and have volitions to act.
In the dream these are faked, but we do not notice the least difference between
a wakeful questioning and the fake questioning of the dream. The same is also
true of fake judgements and fake volitions. Both the wakeful and the dream
become of no consequence in the deep sleep state. The senses, the mind, the
intellect, memories and the ego are all obliterated
deep sleep everything disappears, but nothing is annihilated. Like the winter
trees sprouting new leaves in the lush green of spring or the seeds that
reappear after lying buried in the good earth, whatever is obliterated by deep
sleep reappears in the dream and the wakeful as if it had never disappeared in
the gap of deep sleep.
Guru treats the transcendent Absolute and phenomenal existence as the two faces
of the same truth. The fag end of phenomenal existence is symbolically marked
by the vanishing sound ßmmmû of aum. When aum is articulated a long silence
follows the half intoned sound ßmmmû. ßMû symbolically represents the deep sleep
and the causal consciousness of the phenomenal alternation between the wakeful
and the dream.
intellect, which fades out at the termination of dream, has no power to go
beyond the opaque walls of deep sleep to estimate the change that comes over
the consciousness. The aloneness that the Self enjoys beyond the last part of
deep sleep is an eternal mystery. Recurring wakefulness and sleep turn one
again and again from the aloneness of the Self and perpetuate the confusion of
the phenomenal as the only reality that is experienced. The flight of the alone
to the alone is thus only the privilege of the few.
THE continual flux of becoming implied in the creative
evolution of the process of
Nature in the phenomenal world, not excluding the psychic states of dreaming or waking
belong also to
the more subtle aspect of the same, are pictured here together in living terms.
This is to be understood psycho-dynamically and in neutral
psycho-physical terms, in keeping with the neutral monism implied in the
contemplative way belonging to Vedanta (or contemplative absolutism). The
parity that exists between sleep and waking in terms of their common creative
content, which we have tried to explain in commenting on the previous verse,
using the expression ‘Maya’ – this parity is what is meant to be expressed
here. In verse 7 the same process was scrutinised once though from an
In order to see this in its proper perspective, we have first
to think neutrally and see that both dream and the waking events of life are
subject to extinction each day. When one leaves operating on the consciousness,
the other takes over; and between these two modes of creative activity of the
psycho-physical apparatus we have a long-drawn-out
dream which belongs to Maya
kept on everlastingly.
This Maya has to be imagined as being in relation to the
vertical axis of becoming in pure time. Pure time in reality belongs to the context of the Absolute,
which is here referred to as kevala, which we have rendered as ‘aloneness’,
referring to the unique status of the Absolute, as known in contemplative
literature such as that of Plotinus where spiritual progress is described as ‘the
flight of the alone to the Alone’. ‘Kaivalya’ (which is the noun form of the
adjective ‘kevala’), as the goal of contemplative progress, is also used in the
context of Patanjali Yoga, and is to be treated as synonymous with ‘nirvana’,
which refers to ultimate release of the soul from all bondage. There are many
other terms like ‘apavarga’, ‘moksha’ or ‘nihsreyasa’,
etc. which refer to the same
pure state of ultimate release or salvation.
Careful re-reading of the first half of the verse, and
keeping in mind the parity of dream and the wakeful states intended to be explained,
will reveal the subtle interplay of vertical positive factors which are meant
to be unitively and neutrally understood here.
verse is a good place to reprise the quote from neuroscientist David Eagleman
about the ocean liner I’ve made much of, from Incognito (2011). I’ll throw in the other paragraphs I typed up. I
know you’ve seen it already, but this is definitely worth seeing twice:
If you ever feel lazy or dull, take heart: you’re the
busiest, brightest thing on the planet. (2)
first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most
of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. The vast
jungles of neurons operate their own programs. The conscious you—the I that
flickers to life when you wake up in the morning—is the smallest bit of what’s
transpiring in your brain. Although we are dependent on the functioning of the
brain for our inner lives, it runs its own show. Most of its operations are
above the security clearance of the conscious mind. The I simply has no right of entry.
consciousness is like a tiny stowaway on a transatlantic steamship, taking
credit for the journey without acknowledging the massive engineering underfoot.
not perceiving what’s out there. You’re perceiving whatever your brain tells
In the traditionally taught view of perception, data from
the sensorium pours into the brain, works its way up the sensory hierarchy, and
makes itself seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt—“perceived.” But a closer
examination of the data suggests this is incorrect. The brain is properly
thought of as a mostly closed system that runs on its own internally generated
activity. We already have many examples of this sort of activity: for example,
breathing, digestion, and walking are controlled by autonomously running
activity generators in your brain stem and spinal cord. During dream sleep the
brain is isolated from its normal input, so internal activation is the only
source of cortical stimulation. In the awake state, internal activity is the
basis for imagination and hallucinations.
more surprising aspect of this framework is that the internal data is not generated
by the external sensory data
but merely modulated by it….
deep secret of the brain is that not only the spinal cord but the entire
central nervous system works this way: internally generated activity is
modulated by sensory input. (44-5)
first lesson about trusting your senses is: don’t. Just because you believe
something to be true, just
because you know it’s true, that
doesn’t mean it is true…. This is
because your senses will tell you the most inglorious lies….
all, we’re aware of very little of what is “out there.” The brain makes
time-saving and resource-saving assumptions and tries to see the world only as
well as it needs to. And as we realize that we are not conscious of most things
until we ask ourselves questions about them, we have taken the first step in
the journey of self-excavation. We see that what we perceive in the outside
world is generated by parts of the brain to which we do not have access.
principles of inaccessible machinery and rich illusion do not apply only to
basic perceptions of vision and time. They also apply at higher levels—to what
we think and feel and believe. (53-4)
the concluding paragraphs of his commentary on verse 55, Nitya begins outlining
some specific steps we can take on our journey to realizations once we hesitate
long enough to re-alize we are on that voyage of becoming aware of it or not
(as he pointed out in his previous commentary on verse 54). He prefaces his instruction
dissecting the Guru’s verse, which is concerned, for the most part, with the
dream state. Having focused on the
relationship between the wakeful and deep dream states in the previous few
verses, the Guru, in the present one, notes how the awake and dream states
combine in such a way as to operate as a unit that essentially blurs in our
memory as a single continuous dream.
In this natural dissolving, they reveal the canvas of the Absolute on
which we have painted our lives.
It is in this awareness that we can find the space to locate our I as we
go about our business in the
world, a position from which all activity can be seen for what it is—distinct
from the ego-I values we have attached to the various objects coming and
going. In that balanced vision, we
have the opportunity to act in the world according to what is rather than what ought to
be, to act according to our clarity of vision and make choices as they
legitimately present themselves and not act because we are compelled to do so,
never knowing why.
begins his commentary with a discussion of the dream state and its correlation
to the awake state. In both, the
mind is at work and there exists a sense of I
around which thoughts circulate.
Both, however, rely on an unknown critical faculty by which we measure
any experience. Awaking from a
dream, we discover we have been dreaming and place the memory of it in the
“dream” category. In our wakeful
state, we likewise verify experiences as belonging to that wakeful state by way
of the same faculty. In this
process we compare the two states and continuously make judgments as to the
dream experiences’ authenticity by comparing them with those experiences we
have in the wakeful state, thereby reducing the former to “not real.” The
possibilities raised by reversing
this trajectory, says Nitya, are, for the most part, “left unexamined” (373).
down into this alternative, Nitya connects it with our mind’s creation of space
and time. As he has noted
previously, it is the mind that manufactures space and time so that the I can locate
itself, affording it the
ability to recognize phenomenal arising.
As these experiences are lived through, the mind to various degrees
compulsively attaches to the memory of them thereby perceiving a ghost of the
past in the present. As Nitya
writes, there really is no past other than those fragments of memory contained
in the present that can be retrieved now and then. In this subjective and diaphanous perceived state, the
content of what was determined to be a dream (somewhere in the “past”) assumes
the very same form. In other
words, the content of the past-dream or event of the awake-state transform into
the same entity and both are manufactured by the mind in the present moment
(Footnote: Sometimes, pictures, books, films, and so on are offered as the past
rather than as what they
are: artifacts, etc. experienced only in the present moment and always subject
to deterioration as is all manifestation.)
both states, we act out our roles according to a script we rarely
recognize. In the dream state, our
mysterious motivation is a bit easier to perceive than it is in our awake
state. In a dream, we can often
find ourselves doing ridiculous activities that jump elliptically among
absurdities. Something there is
guiding those scenes, and the work of much psychoanalysis is devoted to dream
interpretation (more often than not explained by samskaras established early in
life). Likewise, in the awake
state, excavating the source for our various “decisions” constitutes the work
of that same talk therapy. As
Nitya writes, “our wakeful experience has an unconscious history behind it,
which is impelling its operation” (p. 376). The same process functions in our dream state, and both
constitute our attempts to actualize a desire in order to see it. By experiencing
it, we “re-alize” it as
uncovering or exposing of this constant process opens for us a path to
uncovering those influences that can be associated with one’s biological
history, including the influences of one’s predecessors. In Western medical
moving beyond that dimension presents a domain conflict; we move from “science”
to mysticism. Exploring samskaras
and their influences on our lives can be practically verified whereas vasanas
constitute that which cannot be empirically measured by number. And the interaction
between the two, their
constant intermingling (according to Eastern thought), further removes the
combination from being reduced to quantitative measure, the bedrock of Western
science. Both the psychologist and
the Vedantist, however, share the realization that influences outside conscious
awareness play a necessary role in determining how people act and what they
think they choose to do.
In the last few pages of his
commentary, Nitya offers a way forward that includes both approaches and does
so by associating them with the awake and dream states. In both the awake and
dream states, the
mind continuously and instantaneously retains experiences as memory. It is this
“process of a retention of
retention [that] transforms things into shadowy substances” (p. 377). At
this point, that substance replaces
the experiences and we begin to parse the “historic, mythical, legendary or
fantastic aspects” as items of interest and study. In short, the map replaces
the territory, but that retention is actually the mind recreating the past in
the present, a process that magnifies with each memory and constructs an
endless chain of retention retaining retention wherein the distinction between
dream and awake experiences dissolve.
Our mind works always in the
present, however much it insists on its time/space compartmentalization. It will
do what it will do, but our
Self does not necessarily need to buy into the illusion. By critically analyzing
by staying in the present—the only legitimate time tense—we can, as Nitya counsels,
see that our unified experience has the “same kind of content which dreams
have” and end our manic attachment to them (p. 378). They will come and go, but we cannot ignore them because
they do temporarily present themselves to our senses in the world of
necessity. From a position of
present-centering, we have the option of responding or not according to what is
happening rather than what appears to
be happening: “according to this instruction . . . . there is no threat in
anything” (p. 379).
isn’t lagging behind like many of you (it’s fine!), but she wrote this and then
forgot to send it for a stretch. That’s okay too.
“Where the fearful cling to their little definitions of
they are, seekers are happy to expand their definitions toward the ultimate.”
(From the class notes, verse 55)
As I anticipate big changes in my life, I am really looking
at how I define myself and how to let go of those definitions. I am finding
many roadblocks. First, my life is very busy and full of distractions so that I
don't take the time to ponder. Of course there is time as I'm in the midst of
all the busyness to think about these things but it's not the same as really
giving my mind to it as I am doing right now. I enjoy this time so much – reading
through the class notes and thinking about my reactions and revelations. So why
can't I get around to doing this more? Second, the definitions of who I am are
quite entrenched at this point: wife to Rick, mother to Sarah and Peter, sister
to Philip, etc. Of course I want to be all these things but I don't want them
to define me. Third, I keep thinking that I am going to transition and change
into a new definition rather than just letting my definitions expand. How
freeing to not think of having a goal in mind. I must trust the process, as
Bushra said a few weeks ago.
Nitya: “According to this instruction, you come to a place
where you are no longer excited about experiences. You do not treat them as
good or bad even though previously that may have been very important to you.
You no longer attach a moral tag that makes you feel guilty or benevolent. You
don't treat things as bright or dull, or true or untrue in the relative sense.
You just treat them as phases flowing past. And because you are no longer excited
you are no longer terrified. There is no threat in anything. Insecurity could
only be about the things that are passing away, so that ceases to eat at you.
There is no gain you can retain. It is all just passing phenomena, to which you
have a feeling of "Let it be."
As I am growing older, I am thinking of a time when I will
no longer be here, I am trying to let go of any material things and also adjust
my feelings about letting go in general. I feel that I have come a long way in
this area. I used to be so attached and so terrified of loss. Now I feel that I
can at least entertain an understanding of its natural and inevitable beauty,
like the turning of the autumn leaves. But of course I still alternate between
clinging and letting go and I do understand about the confusion of this.