Now there is action, which is
and again there is pure
consciousness, which is knowledge;
although these two are thus
ordained by maya to stand divided,
a non-dual vision of the Absolute
brings about turiya.
One aspect of life is action,
it belongs to nescience. There is another aspect which is permeated with
consciousness, and it belongs to the sphere of knowledge. Although these two
thus stand divided, as ordained by maya, to those who are successful in adopting
a non-dual attitude, the two together will give the pure experience of
Now there is action, which is nescience, and again
There is the pure mental, which is knowledge;
Ordered by Maya, though this stays on divided, thus
The meta-dual attitude the unitive turiya yields.
many lectures in your life have contained as many life-changing ideas as this
one? After the reading we sat in blissful silence for awhile, certain that
nothing could possibly be added to the lesson. It says it all. And yet, once
again we soon were engaged in a lively and incisive discussion.
was one of Nitya’s meditations that on first hearing totally blew me away,
reverberated through my whole system, and left me permanently altered for the
better. It is a master class among master classes. I don’t know how the book
alone strikes people, but Nitya was putting an extra intensity into his
delivery during this period that was palpable in person. He knew that Atmo was
going to be the best bet for most of us to make a breakthrough, and he gave it
broke into our bemusement by saying that the most vital or relevant of the many
lessons in the commentary is that the state of equipoise is crucial, and
resting in silence can stay with us through a whole lifetime of activity. It is
basis of everything we do. Our self is always there. Bill agreed that we can
meet every contingency with equal-mindedness, and the way to maintain it is
through intelligent analysis.
underscores a key premise of Vedanta, that realization occurs right in the
midst of activity. This world is the paradise we seek, and not some other.
Again, let’s defer to the master:
Ignorance comes and dwells in the
senses, the mind and the intellect; and yet these are precisely the tools with
which you go on expanding the area of your knowledge.
the field of vidya, maya can function in a very funny way. If you think that
after all it is the pure idea that matters and not anything that has manifested
in name and form, then you have created a limitation or a frontier between the
manifested aspect and the pure, ideational aspect. This may lead you to believe
that the person who is actually standing there, smiling at you, is not what
matters, but rather the pure idea of the person is what is significant. This is
nothing more than another kind of ignorance. That is why in the Upanishads it
says the person who adores ignorance is living in darkness, but the person who
adores only wisdom is living in even greater darkness.
As always, the solution is to bring the poles together
synthetically. The next verse is another superlative teaching on how to do
me, the strongest impact of many came from the idea of getting over our
presumption of neediness. Nitya says:
An area where this can have an
important affect is love. Love can be so painful. “I love you. Why don’t you
love me in return?” “How much I love you... why don’t you care about me?” It
brings great agony. And what is this love? It is the love about which Kahlil
Gibran says, “Your thirst, your hunger. The hand you hold out in want.” You are
like a beggar. You are not the rich donor: “Let my heart flow to you.” You are
so thirsty and so hungry that you are in terrible need. You want the other
person to give to you. It is this need, this thirst, you call your love.
want to love and also be loved.” It’s like a contract. If you truly love, you
want to see that the person you love is happy. If the other person’s happiness
is to have their own way, why can’t you be happy about that? Many people, like
Victor Hugo, have tried to bring out this point, but they are dismissed as
romantic dreamers. There is much more than a romantic dream in it.
contractual love we do not elevate ourselves.
I had experienced radiant love with great intensity during LSD trips and other
moments of ecstasy, I hadn’t fully addressed the way neediness is built into
the “normal” psyche. As children, everything is given to us. We are recipients
of immense largess, and in an opulent society even more so. We come to feel
entitled to be catered to and waited on. Later ideas of “giving back” or
“providing” are conceived contractually, so they also play into our
expectations of self-fulfillment. We might even (I did) go to a guru expecting
them to cure our defects and make us especially wonderful, which is another
kind of neediness.
as Nitya talked about this, building on all the groundwork we had laid down in
past classes, light was thrown onto the egotistical slant I was bringing to
every moment of my life. Honestly, I was horrified. Plus shamed, humiliated,
remorseful. I made a resolution then and there to become a donor rather than a
charity case. Admittedly the changeover takes lots of time and effort, but I
had been sufficiently shocked by my unintentionally sorry state to be eager to
do whatever was necessary to turn things around.
added how a consumer society is based on creating neediness and supplying
wants. He recalled an ad for life insurance aimed at 80-year-olds. Life
insurance is one thing if you are young and have a family to support, but seems
absurd for anyone in their twilight years. Yet undoubtedly people bought into
it. In the modern world millions of people are dreaming up new needs to
convince people of, so they can generate a new income stream. It’s how our
economy is structured, but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice our peace of
mind to feed the beast. Anyway, the point is that we are always vulnerable to
suggestions that we are less than we ought to be.
recalled going to a famous retreat one time where there was a prominent sign
that read: “Life is short—don’t waste time! Pay attention to the practice!”
It’s like “be here now” refers to a future state to be attained by effort, so
it isn’t here at all. Nitya’s take is impeccable:
This implies two items of ignorance.
One is that you are rating yourself in terms of certain mental or physical
conditions that are prevailing at the moment and not in terms of the pure Self.
How often do we identify ourselves with the body and its names and forms, so
that our individuated person can be compared with another? Then we think the
other person must be happy because they have certain things going for them. We
think, “If I get that condition then I will also be content.” This first kind
of ignorance is called avarana, the
veiling of our real nature. We cover up our true nature with an unreal image of
our own imagination.
you have an imaginary self-image of your happiness—”When I am like that, I will
be happy.” Your imagination is positing what you ought to be, what you want to
be, what you desire to be. Thus your very future is already filled with an
image. You compare your future image with your present one, and invariably feel
unhappy with your present image. You feel that only when you come to that
future state will you be able to be happy.
type of projection is called viksepa, positing
an image in what you consider to be your future. That future can be in the next
moment, the next year, or in ten years, but once you have decided it is not
now, you have already forfeited your right to be happy at this moment. “Until I
attain that image, I can never be happy.” Such an attitude is an important
stumbling block to seekers of truth, who are often motivated by a desire to
escape from present circumstances into a supposed heavenly future. This is why
it is essential to befriend yourself in the present and not reject your own
nature as a prelude to beginning the search.
We have talked before about how virtually the first step in
spiritual growth is to befriend yourself, to stop running yourself down. We
learn to be self-deprecatory as a defense mechanism, not only because it
capitulates to other peoples’ opinions, but also because it deflects criticism.
“Hey, I think even less of me than you do, so you don’t have to bother picking
on me!” The problem is we come to believe it, usually unwittingly, and the
displacement of happiness Nitya describes so well is inherent in this attitude.
We make a partial substitution for it by becoming happy about our road to
recovery, about all the efforts we are making to “get right with God” or
whatever, but if these are unconsciously based on self-rejection they are like
the endlessly rotating wheel in a squirrel cage. We never actually get back to
where we once belonged. Unless we address the source, we will remain eternally
displaced from our true nature.
our life on a contractual basis breeds misery, based on unrealistic
expectations and our exaggerated responses to them not being honored. Many of
us youngsters in the original class were obsessed by relational problems, so
Nitya often would word the teachings in terms of love:
When love pinches you, becomes filled
with anguish and sorrow, it is because you have images about it. These images
belong to avidya. The pursuit of love is engendered by vidya, but it often ends
up in avidya. You smile and you expect a smile back; you touch and you want to
be touched in return; you give and you want something to be given back to you.
In this way you make it transactional. It becomes a contract, and if the
contract is not carried out exactly as you want it to be you become very
dissatisfied. Only when love is self-contained and has no hankering behind it
does it belong to vidya.
our problems always seemed so overwhelming we felt like hapless victims of
fate, Nitya not only reassured us we could prevail, he underlined the effort
needed to unburden ourselves of unnecessary thought patterns:
If you look closely at the painful
aspects of your life, only a very few items are actually inevitable. Most of
them are minor things we exaggerate or things we bring upon ourselves. In the
area of avidya there is a very large chunk you can just throw out, and by
changing your thoughts and attitudes the rest of your suffering will be greatly
related an inspiring story of how she was bringing Atmo into her life. She
wanted to work on loving her kids without having to possess them. She took a
phrase from last week’s verse that was reiterated in the present one, and told
her teenage son, “What makes you happy is what makes me happy.” It worked! He
was very pleased to hear her say it, and it improved their relationship on the
spot. Later they were able to have a mild argument based in respect rather than
opposition, and they both wound up laughing about it.
kind of success story is modest enough, yet it has profound implications. We
picture realization as an explosive blast that lights up the sky, but it is
much more than that. Being able to say your happiness is my happiness requires
a major change of heart. It can only be true if a sea change has taken place.
Probably mothers are far ahead in feeling that way, but it’s never easy for
recalled Nitya talking about how the psyche is like a crystal of three colors:
black, white and red, standing for the gunas. The light of transcendence or
turiya illuminates the crystal, which rotates to produce all the complexities
of conscious life. He likened it to the three primary colors used in LED
displays, which are mixed in varying proportions to produce an infinite variety
of colors. Fred thought this was an apt metaphor for maya, that what we see is
an infinite display but it is built up from a few essential elements. We don’t
notice the elements unless we are philosophers, but they are nonetheless what
allows the panoply of life to exist. He might have added that this is akin to
the current scientific model that a few subatomic particles are responsible for
everything in our universe.
felt it was a great relief to her to not have to pin everything down, that you
could allow things to be what they are rather than having to define them. The
idea is a continuation from last week, where she relearned there is a way of
knowing that goes beyond words. There is a fourth state, a turiya, that is like
an all-engulfing silence.
amounts of anxiety and insecurity are generated by the learned need to define
everything we encounter, easily exacerbated by traumatic experiences. If we can
become convinced that this is unnecessary and even counterproductive, it can
certainly lighten our state of mind. Again, this is no easy matter. Much
healing has to take place, largely self-administered. A level of basic trust
has to be reestablished, a conviction that the universe is not inherently
hostile, and then the fear drains away. Needless to say, fear is the bedrock
basis of rampant consumerism, too: you don’t just need whiter teeth, you need a
vast arsenal of defensive weaponry, armed guards, laws and a punitive system,
and on and on. This makes deciding to live openly and without fear the most
revolutionary act possible—and one of the rarest.
continues to wean us away from our lackadaisical attitudes about spirituality.
Here it is an active, engaged process, satisfying and challenging in the here
The [turiya] is not a state of
inertness. There is no inertia at all.
the fourth state only come when you are in a state of absorption? There are many
arguments about this, but at least the Vedantins and Yogis believe—and the
Taoists have something similar
to it—in a state called jivanmukta, where
you don’t have to lie still or sit like an inert lump to experience the
realized state. One experiencing jivanmukta is also in the state of sahaja samadhi.
Sahaja means natural,
innate; sama means equipoised and dhi
samadhi comes about through the same element of intelligence with which we
appreciate a thing via our senses. The mind works by borrowing the light of
that intelligence. It is the same intelligence by which one meditates, wills,
acts. In fact, it is the only reality. That spark of intelligence belongs to a
greater reality than we normally understand or appreciate. Usually our
intelligence is moving around, oscillating, unsteady, so it is called chala, moving.
When it is not moving it
becomes equipoised, samadhi. When it is standing firm in the world of wakeful
transactions and the world of subjective ideas, it is in samadhi.
The activity is all grounded in non-activity, like aum that
arises from and returns to silence. Like classical sonata form, what emerges
from it gives meaning to the silence: the silence is uplifted by the sounds
that lead us into it. We closed with a meditation on the beautiful final
paragraph. We know equipoise is our ideal, but also that we tend to lose it
under pressure. Life is kind to give us pressure situations to practice with.
We spend time in equipoise in the class so that we can take it with us when we
go on. Nitya’s words joined us in the vibrant silence:
can have all the transactions of the world with that silence as the backdrop of
your mind. You can have all the dreams and creativity of the world with that
silence as the ennobling, stamina-giving, energizing principle of your
creativity. It is into that silence you can go just as you go to the lap of
your mother or your most beloved person. Into that silence you can merge,
because you are that. The one who is aware of this all through is having a
sahaja samadhi, an experience of turiya.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
verses 69 and 70 the Guru called our attention to the libidinal force which is
at the root of intentionality, and in verse 71 he gave us an overall picture of
becoming. He made it clear that no one can escape the flux of becoming. In the
present verse he refers to an alternating process, an ambivalent principle
instituted by maya. Maya is that which is not. Hence the predicate “instituted”
is to be taken only allegorically. This paradoxical alternation of interests
and the knowledge of the associated contexts to which these interests belong
should be understood as maya.
is a wonder. The Absolute is also a wonder. Wonder comprises delightful surprises
as well as unexpected strokes of tragedy. When we take interest in a specific
object or event we project our happiness or misery as a condition intrinsically
associated with external objects or happenings. This is erroneous; yet, in the
course of a day we indulge in such projections hundreds of times. At the same
time all our value judgements are made on the basis of our intuitive perception
of the three basic aspects of our Self, such as its existence, its
self-luminous awareness and its ever-blissful state. Then, even to make an
erroneous judgement, we have to borrow the light of our Self. It is like a man
who uses his knowledge of truth to tell a lie. Deriving pleasure from objects
of interest or suffering pain and misery because of physical identification is
termed here avidya. Comprehending the nature of the Self, at least momentarily
and indirectly, is called vidya.
occasion for this ambivalent alternation is one of action. Action is
necessitated by the individual’s dissatisfaction with his present state and the
search for novelty, for a new state of being, or for another arrangement of his
life situation which might be more interesting. This pursuit of happiness was
alluded to in verse 69 as the libidinal urge. It can be directed toward objects
outside or toward the self. The feverish search for happiness implies two
mistakes: one is that the individual underrates the true nature of the Self
because he identifies himself with a body which is given a certain name and
which is considered to be one of the many things of this world. The other
mistake is to think that one’s happiness is conditional to a factor outside
oneself. Transactionally, this identity is quite valid; it is erroneous only
when we consider the basic nature of the self. In an absolutist sense we do not
lack anything, we are the very existence, knowledge and happiness that we are
seeking. This identity is veiled by ignorance and this kind of ignorance is
called avarana. The veil is not
merely blank ignorance, it functions as a projection that is capable of
affecting the mind with pain and pleasure. When a film is projected on a blank
screen, the original white screen is veiled by the dark patches that come from
the projector. Apart from this veiling, the dark patches and the shades of
light appear as intriguing figures which have the power to produce a series of
meaningful ensembles to the onlooker. A projection superimposed on something
else is called vikshepa. Maya
operates by interlacing the veiling and the projection.
a man is in a theatre, excited by either a humorous sequence or a
blood-chilling scene, he laughs or cries. After leaving the theatre, he will
laugh at the folly of allowing mere shadows projected on a screen to affect
him. In life we also take many things seriously and suffer. Later we may think
of the same things as silly.
a person is content and happy here and now and can transcend both vidya and
avidya, he is blessed with a nondual vision. When a person loves another person
with great intensity, he or she experiences a transpersonal identity. Everybody
experiences this going beyond the bodily limit to be at one with another’s
interest. If this possibility is widened in its scope, the limitations of name
and form can be transcended. A total transcendence of the transactional
experience can bring a hitherto unknown identity with our own basic nature.
are three areas to look into: one is the transactional world of all dualities;
the second one is the world of the contemplative where all forms, names and
events are reduced to a single universal; and the third one is the neutral
ground of the realized ones who treat both the transactional and the
transcendental as aspects of one and the same reality. The turiya, the fourth
state of consciousness referred to in this verse, is to be understood in terms
of AUM, as it is described in the Mandukya Upanishad. In the transactional
world we experience inevitable pains and pleasures which are characteristic of
the agitations of the nervous system. There is no solution to this. It must be
accepted as a fact of life. Most of our pains and pleasures, however, are
imagined. It is up to us to give up all the fanciful imaginings that we
ground of our transactional experiences and subjective experiences is the
unmodulated pure consciousness. This can be compared to the silence that
precedes and follows the articulation of AUM. “A” indicates a sudden break from
silence into a world of objectivity. The known and the knower emerge with a
clear distinction between them. The sound “U” indicates a gradual merging of
sound into the silence from which it blared forth. Like that, in the subjective
reflection mind merges once again with the universal. “M” indicates the total
extinction of the articulated sound, and it symbolizes the disappearance of the
duality between the knower and the known. The silence that follows brings us
back to the ground from which everything started. A true knower has a
transparency of unitive vision and always sees this unchanging ground of pure
silence as a backdrop to all events in the flux of becoming. His intellect
remains stable, steadied by this unflagging vision. This is called sahaja samadhi,
the natural absorption of the enlightened seer. In this verse turiya is to be
understood in that sense.
Guru felt Verse 72 was of special importance. He referred to it in Verse 1:
opinion attains to the red glow of what might be called knowledge, the duality
between the two aspects may still persist, but when the same attains to white
heat, the duality as between the material source of light and light itself
becomes effaced, and luminosity pervades both subjectively and objectively.
When fully realized, the wisdom of the Self would have no vestige of duality as
between the source of light and light itself. Such is the unitive reality in
the mind of the Guru here. The neutral Absolute given to higher dialectical
reasoning and reaching beyond or higher than its own dualistically- understood
counterparts is what is intended to be conveyed by the word ‘even’ in the text
of the verse. In verse 72 we come again to this question of non-duality beyond
or above duality, discussed in its proper place as the Guru’s philosophy
unravels systematically. The subtle problem as between duality and non-duality
is fundamental to Vedanta tradition, and we shall have occasion to refer to it
many times in the course of our comments.
equal status given here to the subjective and objective aspects of knowledge is
not an alternation as between the light within and without. An alternating
movement as between two ambivalent aspects of the personality is, however,
alluded to in Verse 68 as well as in Verse 72. Duality might have to be
admitted for methodological reasons to arrive finally at its abolition through
higher dialectical reasoning. Even otherwise, we know in modern philosophy such
as that of Bertrand Russell, who calls himself a neutral monist, that the ‘mind-matter’
duality could have a middle ground which is neither the one nor the other. In
terms of consciousness the distinction between its subjective and objective
aspects is only of importance for purposes of nomenclature. The stuff or
substance constituting knowledge, whether subjective or objective, is the same.
now his Verse 72 comments:
CONSCIOUSNESS is subject to two main and alternating phases
or pulsations; one which is fraught with elements that are overt and refer to
the world of actualities in which there is action and reaction in the
mechanistic sense. This belongs to the peripheral, inert, gross and unthinking
aspect of the person. Darkness, nescience, ignorance and necessity are the
distinguishing features of this phase. We feel the heavy weight of our own body
here and there is a sense of being overpowered by this inexorable force of
nature, which is the negative aspect of what is known as Maya, comprising, when
fully and correctly understood, both the minus and plus aspects of this dual,
The other ambivalent counterpart of this dark side is that
zone of pure thought which is removed from all practical considerations.
Phenomena are transcended in this which is the noumenon, and as such the Guru
refers to it as ‘kevala’ (pure,
lonely) and ‘chinmayi’ (made up
wholly of mind-stuff). This does not develop any horizontalized action, but is
where pure thought prevails more and more intensely and internally. Action is
peripheral. Thought is central and, while remaining unmoved, it moves beyond to
the world of the intelligibles. The alternation is thus between the horizontal
world of observables and actions present or possible, and the world of the
intelligibles or calculables which we should distinguish as located at the
inner vertical core of our self-consciousness.
Maya is a notion that on final analysis comprises both
phases of this subtle alternating process and not merely the negative aspect of
darkness, or nescience. It is supposed to have a vikshepa (projecting) and avarana
(veiling) function. One is positive and the other is negative in its content
and effect. Although the term ordinarily connotes more the negative rather than
the positive aspect of this double process, here the Guru more correctly
describes the double function as ordered by the principle of Maya, which must
refer to the last vestige of asymmetry or error in consciousness, beyond which
and neutrally the full notion of the Absolute lies. Vedanta knows of no other
factor intervening between the Self and absolute wisdom, and it is permitted
even to say that Maya is the same as the Absolute, because of the possibility
of Maya being reabsorbed into the full transparency of the Absolute when its
dual or negative implications are realized and effaced by the subject in all
completeness of Self-absorption into the Absolute.
Name and form are the final ingredients of Maya with which
it works its projection or veiling. And when ‘nama-rupa’ (name and form) become transcended, the Absolute begins
to shine in its full glory. Such are some of the implications here suggested.
The meta-dual attitude is the dvaya
(dual), para (beyond), bhavana (creative
approach or attitude),
which should now become sufficiently clear in the light of the double nature of
Maya explained here.
The word ‘turiya’ is another technical Vedantic term,
meaning of which has to be understood in the light of what is described as the
fourth state of consciousness in the
Mandukya Upanishad. It refers to pure or absolute
consciousness and the pertinent section translated reads as follows:
cognitive (antah-prajna), not outwardly
cognitive (bahih-prajna), not both-wise cognitive
(ubhayatah-prajna), not a cognition mass (prajnana-ghana),
not cognitive (prajna), not non-cognitive (aprajna), unseen
(adrishta), with which there is no dealing (avyavaharya), ungraspable
(agrahya), having no distinctive mark (alakshana), non-thinkable (achintya),
that cannot be designated (avyapadesa), the essence of the term that designates
the one Self (ekatma-pratyaya-sara), the cessation of phenomenal complication
(prapanchopasama), calmly established (santa), benign (shiva), secondless
(advaita)- such they hold is the fourth. He is Self (atman). He is one to be
(Translation from R.E.Hume, with slight modifications)
This ‘turiya’ or ‘turya’, as differently
called, is also described
in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in V. xiv, 3, 4, 6, 7; and in Maitri Upanishad
in VI, 19, VII. xi. 7. Such a state has as its nearest Chinese concept the Tao
which is described in the beginning of the Tao Teh Khing as not capable of
being expressed in words by the famous sentence: ‘The Tao expressed in words is
not the real Tao.’ This turiya is sometimes referred to as the supra-conscious
state, but it would be better epistemologically to call it the neutral state
beyond all dual consciousness, having its locus in the Self, as the last
adjuncts described in the Mandukya Upanishad quoted above make sufficiently
clear. It is not a mere sunya or
vacuity without value or content.
In his commentary on this verse, Nitya opens by saying the
content of it needs to be understood in light of the previous two in which he
discussed libidinal forces and the world of becoming. The present verse drills down into those notions in order to
illustrate our common lot in that world and to point out how to both live in it
and to transcend it at the same time.
This apparent contradiction points to two elements necessary in order to
reach an awakened state, and both are part of our day-to-day world. They constitute
the very fabric of our contemporary
culture wars between conservative dogmatists and progressive technocrats but
was noted thousands of year ago in the Upanishads.
Nitya cites the rishis: “the person who
adores ignorance is living in darkness, but the person who adores only [italics
mine] wisdom is living in
even greater darkness” (p. 505).
battlefield on which our current contest takes place is firmly established in
our awake world of necessity/becoming, maya’s domain. And in the opening lines of his first few pages of commentary,
Nitya goes into some detail as to
the qualities and nature of maya.
It is, he writes, a condition rather than a force. Because “it is
not” in Vedantic terms,
it does not propel action but rather is that context in which it occurs, and it
is our consciousness within it that is modulated. As we pursue happiness, the dual nature of the context,
which remains mysterious, presents positive and negative poles by which the
mind measures any action. Success
or failure, happiness or misery, bracket all our attempts to do.
is in action that our focus of attention is defined (in maya), writes Nitya,
and our minds are constantly in search of more of it. Through this movement we seek and encounter novelty and
thereby we move from moment to moment.
This set of circumstances, all established out of awareness and within
the world of becoming leads us to “two items of ignorance” (p. 500). By
pursuing the novel, we assume the
present to be unsatisfactory. We
want something we feel we don’t have, a premise that, in turn, replaces or
covers over our true Self. Our
egoic non-self takes charge of the crusade and leads us to a second kind of
ignorance: no longer living in the present moment. Because what is desired will (or won’t) materialize later
on, we delay happiness too, consigning it to the future we have constructed and
that exists nowhere in nature. In
short, writes Nitya, “you have [now] already forfeited your right to be happy
at this moment.”
makes a comment as to how this kind of future-living constructs a barrier for
those seeking truth as a
route to escaping their condition.
By the same token, I think it is an equally formidable barrier for those
buried in a commercial culture in turn embedded in a project of creating
material desires always to be sated in the future. In both cases, the present itself disappears and the
grand illusion of the future/past dominates. Keeping one’s attention focused
outwards becomes, it seems to me, an absolute mandate for both camps: apostates
become either sinners or superstitious primitives.
then considers some of those motivations so often cited by propagandists and/or
proselytizers as beyond dispute: love, wisdom, compassion, and so on. When one
is “doing the right thing” or “making
a difference,” however, one is still working within maya’s domain and comes
under the influence of duality.
Nitya writes that vidya and avidya
(ignorance and wisdom) as having
their way regardless of the character of the motivation. Love, he notes, is perhaps
noble of intentions and when applied equally to all of life cannot be
corrupted. It stands in the
Absolute. In the relative, on the
other hand, it can and more often than not does become just as transactional as
anything else. A quid pro quo
dynamic replaces a complete and whole embrace of the All and an allowing of
each life form to be: “you smile and expect a smile back” (p 501).
the last few pages of his commentary, Nitya offer a “how to” manual on dealing
with this general and very real condition he spent the first few pages
articulating. Given the givens, “if
it is natural for us to indulge in ignorance, and ignorance has knowledge for
its basis, how do we transcend both?” (p. 502). In answering his question, Nitya explores “three special
areas: ignorance, wisdom, and transcendence.” Ignorance is the very nature of our awake/dream states, and
much of it we cannot rationally know.
The work-a-day world presents us with conditions of ignorance that in
order to deal with, as the Buddha says (writes Nitya), “you have to lock your
fingers, sit firm, and suffer.” A
child cutting a tooth experiences discomfort and cries all night. In this arrangement,
no amount of philosophizing will change what is. It is in our embracing of our discomfort that we manage to
amplify the anguish, creating additional and unnecessary suffering. Nitya here
points to love—our making a
contract of it—as an important and pervasive example of this kind of self-created
misery. Rather than elevating love
and accepting others as they are, we create obligation, guilt, hatred—all in
the name of a love we have distorted into something entirely removed from its
pure form. As Nitya writes, if you
really believe that possessing the beloved is a tangible goal how will you
actualize that possession once you have it? “Put them in your mouth? You can’t nibble them like a chocolate Santa” (p. 503).
prime directive, concludes Nitya, is loveability, not love. Once we realize the
true goal, we can
then allow the Other to be and incorporate his or her happiness into our own,
regardless of where it is directed.
This is the wisdom that lies at our very foundational Self, he
writes. Once we can become
aware of both that Self and the world of the non-self populated with others in
their immanent forms, once we can combine both and not seek to privilege one
over the other, we have an opportunity to transcend the duality.
his last few pages, Nitya goes into some particulars that characterize this
non-dual position beyond ignorance and knowledge, the fourth state of turiya:
that which is maintaining your beingness, your existence,
within the state of total unconsciousness [deep dreamless sleep]; and which is
the ground of the operation of all consciousness in the dream as well as the
ground of reality in the transactional world. This total ground remains unbroken through and through as
the Self” (p. 505).
fourth state, turiya or Samadhi, he continues, does not demand the state of
absorption experienced by yogis as they sit inert. It is possible to attain right here in the world of
necessity as we stand in that position of balance observing/participating but
not being hypnotized by the passing circus: “you can have all the transactions
of the world with that silence as the backdrop of your mind” (p. 507).
early Nineteenth-Century (and in conventionally masculine) terms, this theme
found a peculiarly American voice (now largely untaught in its public education
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion;
it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in
the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of
solitude. (Emerson, “Self
Reliance,” p. 153, Selected Essays)