To break, to exist and to come into being is the nature of
one goes, another takes its place;
remaining in the highest, the Self that knows all these
the indivisible one, is free of modifications.
The changeless Self, from its vertical height, witnesses the
flux of becoming, noticing how bodies exist and perish and come into being
again, and how one is substituted by another.
It breaks up, stays on, rises or changes over,
Again to continue, such is the nature
Of the body here; watching these three from on high
The Self, the uncleft one, it ever changeless remains.
we have a fine example of a master teacher in action. Nitya uses the brief
mantra from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Lead me from untruth to truth; lead
me from darkness to light; lead me from death to immortality) to explicate the
verse, and in the process conveys an explosion of meaning. He often spoke of
the Vedantic idea of sphota, how the
meaning of words goes off like a bomb in the mind of the hearer, and here we
get a spectacular demonstration of it. And too, the more intently you listen,
the bigger the impact.
was another class where it was tempting to just read out the commentary and leave
it at that. What more need be said? Yet the evening gradually developed into
some meaningful discussions based on the ideas, and extended them even farther.
That’s the delight of gathering together: each of us is an entire universe of
original perspectives, and the interaction of all of them creates new
modalities that couldn’t happen any other way. In modern terminology, a class
like this one is the basis for an emergent phenomenon: a collective entity that
is more intelligent than any part taken in isolation. At times its existence is
the outset, Deb talked about how as individuals we pursue program after program
throughout our life, and they all have a well-defined end. Naturally we come to
think of everything as conforming to that model. So we have to look in another
way to see the continuity that permeates all the transitory events we are
constantly immersed in. Such inner continuity is not immediately perceptible,
it is only revealed by intelligent contemplation. Nitya urges us to ponder it,
since it is the source of meaning in life:
If you take the theory of
evolution as a reality, all forms of life are parts of the biologic mainstream.
We are all part of one stream of life whose history is much longer than any
human life. Nothing in this theory gives us any reason to discipline ourselves
or have any kind of morality or higher values. There is no need to enlarge our
intellect. So for us to commit ourselves to a higher form of life there should
be a possibility of somehow moving from nonexistence to existence, darkness to
light, and death to immortality. Then our life can have meaning.
Even knowing we are part of a gigantic, onrushing flood of
life is an abstraction; one that could lend meaning to the things we do. But
what Nitya is hinting at is our own empowerment to be a full participant. How
often do we feel helpless in the face of events, many of which are negative,
threatening, and appear to be leading us to disaster? Or, like evolution,
conforming to laws beyond our reach? Being swept up in the flow at such times
can convince us to abandon hope, and to doubt our ability to creatively respond
to the needs of the hour. Creative involvement is precisely where a sense of
meaning can be nurtured. At first our authentic participation may seem like a
flickering spark on the verge of being extinguished, but with care and
protection from wind and rain it can be coaxed into a merry blaze.
Guru well knew that on the surface, life doesn’t seem to have a pervasive
unity, so we can easily get caught up in the chaos and despair. In verse after
verse he tries new strategies to beckon us to enter into the karu, the dynamic
yet peaceful substratum on which the play of events takes place, so as to
restore our sense of connectedness. Attuning with it is not an escape, it’s a
way to complete the picture, and in so doing we discover our inner meaning, our
dharma, and begin to live it. It opens up the possibility of having a
meaningful participation with life, instead of the semi-detached, disjunct,
dissatisfying trajectory we imagine we are supposed to follow.
offered an amusing analogy for human narrow-mindedness. He grew up on a farm,
and remembered a way the lambs would play together. One would jump over an
imaginary obstacle in an open field, and pretty soon all the rest would line up
and jump over the same place, even though there was nothing there at all. Paul
thought that much of what we humans do in our relationships is a lot like that:
going through various energetic contortions to avoid imaginary obstacles. If we
see someone else do something, we are convinced we have to do it too.
we just read the words of the guru’s interpretation, they don’t necessarily
move us the way they are meant to. We have to ponder them, really listen to
them, and then—miracle of miracles—they begin to come to life. We are experts
at reading without being changed, but these are words of transformation, if we
only allow them. As Nitya points out, we are coming to the close of the study,
so we should really understand what Self-realization means. It’s time to let it
all sink in, and our diligence will certainly be rewarded. Nitya gives a
succinct summary to keep us on track:
should turn again and again to the very first verse, where Narayana Guru
referred to a substance, a karu, which
has three modes. In one aspect it becomes the awareness, the knowledge, that
fills the essential properties of everything and identifies them as the
knowledge of a thing. The same karu is all this concrete manifestation as well
as the individual subjective consciousness. When what is objectively out there,
what is subjectively experienced, and the consciousness of things both outside
and inside are all reduced or traced to one common substance, it is unbroken.
There is no cleft in it anywhere. We can’t say whether it is a thing or a
not-thing. It is both thing and not-thing. Basically we can say the karu is a
law that governs everything. That law is changeless, but at the same time it
governs all changes.
is one entity in us which bears a striking similarity to this: that which
detects and recognizes the law within us, the buddhi.
the preeminent quality of the Buddha, is often undervalued, because the
intellect is ordinarily attuned only to surface details. Intellect in the
Indian sense penetrates to the essence, integrating ground and surface. The
ground imparts meaning to the surface, so the buddhi connects us with meaning.
Limiting its purview to only the meaningless side of the equation ensures that we
will find life meaningless.
class wrestled with the limitation we impose on the karu by locating it
spatially or temporally. Prabu, recalling a retelling of the conversation
between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi he found in Nitya’s commentary on the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad (Volume I, 313-20), suggested we tend to wrongly think of the Self as
entering or leaving a room, just as the body does. When it’s in the room with
us, we know it as an object of cognition, but when it’s out of the room we
don’t know it, because we can’t see it anywhere. Moni agreed that we keep
trying to fix its location. As Andy railed, we seem desperate to impose spatial
metaphors on a living reality that is not a metaphor. After all, it’s the
limited way we’ve been taught to think since early on, so we don’t have much
practice leaving time and space out of our cogitations. This is a very
important point. Our ruminations here are supposed to lead us to relax into a
state that is not limited in any way, and this requires a new orientation that
doesn’t come quickly or easily. We have to practice letting go. The kind of
thinking we are doing in class is meant to show us how we are holding on
without realizing it, so we can stop doing it. The resistance to the idea is so
entrenched that most of the initial class have already dropped out, correctly
intuiting that the beliefs they cling to are not going to hold up in true
Self-realization. To the ego, it’s a terrifying prospect.
this is too bad, because it’s meant to be an inviting prospect. As an example,
Paul found the description of how the many different cells of the body work
together to function as a unit, almost certainly without any knowledge of how
they all fit together to create an amazingly complex whole, renewed his sense of
the body as a divine mystery. As he phrased it, it restored a sense of
sacredness to what would otherwise be boring facts, the kind we routinely take
for granted. Nitya, in parallel with biologist Teilhard de Chardin, shifts the
analogy to the next higher level of complexity. Like cells in the body,
sentient beings are the component building blocks of the noosphere, the body of
living substance enveloping our planet. The analogy can take us all the way to
That alone. In Nitya’s words:
Change takes place within the
system, but the system as such doesn’t change. As we are already That, there is
no reason for us to become immortal. We are part of an immortal system. When
you know this from a peak state of consciousness you are only amused by the
changes, not threatened by them, even though part of the amusement is regarding
your own dissolution. You can just look at it and smile.
a few profound points people would sigh, “If only we could remember that all
the time!” showing how sure we are that the subject is something specifically
identifiable. But the Absolute isn’t anything that has to be remembered, or
that can be. We are trying to gain the confidence to know we are That deep in
our core, and that whatever happens takes place within That. The ground is not
the one below us we walk on, it is everywhere. It is not an entity or a system,
so the very effort of trying to remember a specific aspect of it subtly turns
us away from it. This is one of the most essential paradoxes in spiritual life.
there is no need to despair that we don't “get it,” since our true nature is
not something we can ever lose. On top of that, our limitations are what make
life interesting. Ultimate perfection would be static, so instead we have
perfection within imperfection. The imperfections make for variety, the
ever-famous spice of life. Nitya’s closing words have always driven me wild
with tender affection for his wisdom in communicating this:
Our body is an object lesson.
When we see how it changes and perishes day by day, it prepares us for its
final dissolution. Dying with grace is as beautiful as living with grace. To
live in grace and die in grace, one should have a vision of this great symphony
of life, in which mortality brings so much variegation on an immortal stage.
Guru, in his commentary on this verse, wants us to especially notice the
ontological richness of life. Although this body is a decaying and perishing
one and this mind is an ephemeral experience, within it is also placed this
grand scheme of universal truth shining in all its resplendence. You have a
mortal body to introduce you to the immortal theme, a stupid mind to lead you
to the highest of all wisdom, and deep darkness to become the backdrop for the
brightest of all lights. For all this you need a body, a life, a mind. When you
see this it is not a paradox that frightens you but a paradox that surprises
you and brings you so much beauty.
Paul summed this up very nicely: what Nitya has said makes
the ephemeral our guru.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
are now entering the last phase of our meditation on the Self. In this verse we
are instructed to accept the reality of our physical limitations. Man's eternal
prayer is to be led from nonexistence to existence, from darkness to light and
from death to immortality. Nonexistence, darkness and death surround our
physical existence in the body. Although the body looks whole and well
integrated, it is made up of billions of semi-autonomous units which are dying
incessantly and are constantly replaced by similar units. As this process is
going on in an unconscious state, we do not know anything about either the
growth or the deterioration of the body. Eventually when the dead and
decomposed cells or similar units are no longer being replenished, we begin to
recognize the aging process. Finally it comes to a breaking point and the whole
physical system collapses.
physical body is a biochemical modulation in the on-flowing stream of life on
earth. It is entirely subject to natural laws. Nature makes short-term
provisions for the continuation of life in the body and long-term provisions
for the continuation of a species through the serialization of proliferated
life units. In both the short-term and the long-term prolongations of life, the
systems adopted by nature have the triple principle of origination, sustenation
and dissolution. In the long-term series, the living essence of one body is
transmitted to another in the form of progeny. Children continue the life of
their parents. If in some sense the theory of evolution has validity, we have
to admit that all forms of life are modifications of the one biologic
principle. The continuity of life on earth can be understood only in terms of
incessant birth, existence and dissolution, and the same organic stuff is then
consumed in the generation of another life. Our physical growth and sustenance
are derived from the nourishment we get from food, and the food on our table
was a living organism a couple of hours, days or weeks before it was processed
into food. In one form or another we will also change into food for other
beings, or into manure for the vegetative world. If this is all that happens,
life has only little meaning and we don't need to uphold our morale or to
dedicate our life to any high purpose.
everything in our life happens in the dark recesses of the unconscious. All
through life we experience and enjoy the self- luminous glow of our
consciousness. Like the fire that remains latent in firewood, and the detailed
plan of a tree that hides as a potential in its seed, the Self is enveloped by
the veil of the non-Self. It does not originate or dissolve. Nature, which is
subject to transformation, derives its intelligence and its laws from the
imperishable light of the Self. True immortality is not achieved by
perpetuating the physical body or by producing a progeny, it is attained by
knowing the Self. The potter who handles a lump of clay to make a pot is
conscious of the breaking and kneading of the sod, of its transformation into a
pot, of the aesthetic value of the pot he makes, and he recognizes the same
clay even when the pot breaks into pieces. The apparent transformations of the
clay that the potter observes are called vikāra. Although the clay is
transformed and has a new name and form when it is temporarily recognized as a
pot, the new name and form do not affect the substantial nature of the clay. So
we can say that the clay continues to be in a nirvikāra state, or a state of
the present verse, the Self is qualified as nirvikāra and it is further
described as viņararum, which means “without any cleavage.” The consciousness
that animates a living body is very elusive and hard to understand. Physical
ailments such as brain diseases and nervous debilities can cause serious
aberrations in the normal and healthy functioning of consciousness.
Physiologically it can easily be shown that consciousness cannot prevail
without a biochemical and biophysical basis. For that reason, immortality
cannot be achieved by any fancied perpetuation of consciousness. Consciousness
of the mind is as ephemeral as the body. There is an astounding ontologic
reality of consciousness, however, which can be seen implied in the origin and
function of all bodies, ranging from a subatomic particle to a galactic system.
The mind of man must be a participant in the cosmic intelligence which rules
the entire universe if it is capable of calculating, of deriving equations, of
mathematically conceiving the distance between the earth and other planets, of
jettisoning a spaceship across hurdles like the breaking away form earth's
orbit and the entering into the orbit of another planet to finally land on it,
and capable of making contrivances for the spaceship to flash back to earth its
physical data as accurately as it can be done in a laboratory on earth.
is this intelligent Self that is the imperishable reality. We are that, so
there are no fresh problems of immortalization. As we recognize our oneness
with this rich ontologic verity of the intelligent being in us, it becomes easy
for us to remain in that peak position as impassive witnesses of all that goes
on at the physical level of nature and not get carried away by the sentiments
roused by the triple states of birth, existence and death. Realization is a
matter of knowing and not of becoming.
THE living body, viewed in its proper psycho-physical
perspective, is an entity subject to a cyclic process which alternates and
completes itself, somewhat on the lines of the beating of the heart. We have to
think of an organism in the abstract if we are to visualize this process of
becoming in respect of the living body or entity. Modern medical men like Dr.
Alexis Carrel have themselves distinguished between the dead body viewed, as it
were, on the dissection table, and the living body which has its full function
as a unity. The philosophy of Bergson again affords us a living picture of how
organisms follow a cyclic alternating course in their growth,
multiplication and development (cf. Bergson’s ‘Creative Evolution’). Life
is viewed there as a tendency in the abstract, and the organism, schematically
conceived, is what is subject to the tendencies of the vital urge.
A somewhat similar point of view must be adopted here in
order to be able to see how there are three main stages in the cyclic
repetition of life in the body. The process is not unlike what we can watch in
a pool of water where big drops of rainwater make bubbles that last for some
time to burst again. All bodies are the same in their contemplative, essential
content so that the change-over is merely nominal. Elsewhere in verse 56 of the
same composition the Guru compares the rise and fall of bodies to the incessant
rise and fall of waves on the ocean. In verse 75 again the same waves have been
understood in terms of inner consciousness as the basis of the ‘I’ sense that
keeps repeating itself within each individual consciousness.
Here the three stages of making and breaking, together with
the intervening concept of staying or enduring, are subtly referred to in order
to contrast this living, psycho-physically-conceived picture of the body - both
with that of its own vertical component, which is something apart and knows no
change, and with the fully horizontal version. Here the vision is neutral
between the transcendental and the immanent.
The wheel of life or samsara, as known in the Sanskritic
lore, as well as the wheel mentioned in the Gita (III, 16) and the
dharma-chakra known to the Buddhists, all imply the same revolving and
alternating movement whose phases pass from the actual to the virtual or the
more deep-seated levels of consciousness - which refer to the consciousness of
deep steep (karana) and the ‘fourth’ (turiya), which is the most abstract and
most generalized aspect of consciousness. This four-fold frame of reference
within which human consciousness lives and moves is known to the Mandukya
Upanishad and to other writings. When the Guru here refers to the breaking up,
the staying and the rising, etc. - all aspects of this subtle, cyclic, double
alternation have to be kept in mind.
As in a bulbous plant, life repeats itself season after
season - alternately dormant or actively unfolding itself, and then dying out
again. It is not altogether a flight of philosophical fancy to say that there
is a similar alternation to which life tendencies in the body are subject.
Besides the heartbeat, the quantum-pulsations and the diastole and systole
phases of circulatory nervous or other systems of the body, especially evident
in the sex life of the individual, all indicate the outlines of these
alternating phases to which allusion has been made in verse 68. A complete
picture of this alternating process has to be built up by the reader by fitting
different life contexts together.
Here the general purpose of the reference to this
alternation is to draw the contrast between relative life, subject to the
alternation of tendencies that belong to the body and the other absolutist
counterpart of the same which has no such alternating gaps.
The Absolute is a terminal limit to this alternating or
circulating lower process. It witnesses all from a positive rather than a
central position, as in keeping with the position of this verse in relation to
the total structure of the work as a whole.
The expression, ‘cleftless’, is a strict translation
original ‘vidar-arum’; vidar meaning ‘gap’, ‘inter-space’ or ‘cleavage’, as
found in rocks that are not fully compact. The self in its extreme positive
aspect is spoken of in Vedanta as rock-firm (kutastha). The notion of such a
self; firm, compact and of a substance fully itself with nothing extraneous to
its own pure, rich being or sat, is natural to Vedanta, where the notion of
ontological existence is given full importance together with what is real in
the world of ideological values. The term ‘watching’ in the third line is not
to detract from the ontological self, because knowing substance as ‘sat’ and
‘chit’ could be attributes of the same Absolute.
The reference to ‘on high’ in the same line is a
of the original expression ‘mudi’ which could also mean ‘peak’, ‘top’ or ‘tip’.
The plus limit of a vertical axis which is referred to sometimes as an omega
point is what is meant.
received a nice note from Susan:
In the days since the class I’ve had several encounters
have made me better understand that little prayer that Nitya mentions at
the beginning of 83:
“Lead me from untruth to truth; lead me from darkness to
lead me from death to immortality.”
There was the confrontation I
had with a friend, which felt initially horrible. I said
something that made my friend very upset and it was something I shouldn’t
have said. This created a darkness and murkiness that in the past would
have made me want to run from the room. I don’t like confrontations, I don’t
like disharmony. It feels awful and messy and part of me is sure it will never
end or that talking about it will make the darkness even darker. Happily, I
was able to see the basic truth that I really cared about my friend and I
wanted to figure this out so that we could still be friends. What I didn’t
anticipate at that time was that I think we understood each other better
afterward. It strengthened our bond. It’s good to be reminded each time I go
through this kind of dialectic that there is always a coming out into the
light. I have to keep pushing myself through the self-deprecating feelings and
the messiness. When I look back on these incidents, they seem not so monumental
as they felt at the time. There is just a sweet lingering light about them and
my feeling of surprise for that light.
Your quote from the class notes reminded me of this also:
"Creative involvement is precisely where a sense of
meaning can be nurtured. At first our authentic participation may seem like a
flickering spark on the verge of being extinguished, but with care and
protection from wind and rain it can be coaxed into a merry blaze."
I really think of these confrontations as a form
of “creative involvement.” I have to be creative in these discussions
because it always feels like foreign territory. There is no manual and I am
thwarted constantly by the inner voice in my head that is running me into the
ground and making excuses for the other person. The most helpful thing is to
keep trying to find the truth of the situation – – What is really happening
here? What are we really discussing? It’s okay if this person is mad at me. It
does not mean that I am a bad or unworthy.
Which leads me to this sweet quote from the verse:
"Thus, knowing is realization, not any becoming. You don’t have to become
Another good example of moving from untruth to truth in the
last few days is a driving example (always makes me think of Anita — Hello
Anita!!). I was driving back to my house after a walk with a friend last week
when another car came up from behind and was tailgating me rather severely. As
I often do in these situations, I pulled over to the side of the road so that
the car could pass. As the car sped off ahead of me, I was struck by all the
thoughts I had had from my first sighting of this vehicle. I imagined a male
driver with a frowny mouth and an angry crease in his eyebrows. I imagined all
the profane words he was flinging at my vehicle. I even imagined his stress
about being late somewhere – – a stress with which I am very familiar. As the
car passed, I imagined him so relieved to get by me and the lingering disgust
that I should have been going so slowly (5 miles over the speed limit).
But I caught myself in the midst of these imaginings. I asked myself what
actually happened. A car drove up behind me. It was so close to my back bumper
that it made me uncomfortable. I pulled over to the right. The car drove past
me. That is all that really happened and I was amazed to think about the pile
of untruth that I had managed to load on top of this incident. Amazing how
one’s mind can work.
Now on to the idea of going from death to immortality. Nitya
spoke a lot in the commentary about the meaning of immortality. Wonderful words
that made even more sense to me after reading Alan Watts' book
called, “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.” Here’s
one of many great ways that Watts speaks of immortality and how we are all
“This feeling of being lonely
very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything
known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do
not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as
leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the
universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole
realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if
ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory
do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as
isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.” (The Book, pp. 8-9)
He goes on to say that we don’t die because we are never
born. This is a tough thing to accept because all of our senses and cultural
conditioning tell us otherwise. But how much more comforting and less scary to
think about death in this immortal and holistic way, directing our attention to
the whole, to the eternal.
I also loved this from the end of Nitya's commentary:
"Nataraja Guru, in his
commentary on this verse, wants us to especially notice the ontological
richness of life. Although this body is a decaying and perishing one and this
mind is an ephemeral experience, within it is also placed this grand scheme of
universal truth shining in all its resplendence. You have a mortal body to
introduce you to the immortal theme, a stupid mind to lead you to the highest
of all wisdom, and deep darkness to become the backdrop for the brightest of
all lights. For all this you need a body, a life, a mind. When you see this it
is not a paradox that frightens you but a paradox that surprises you and brings
you so much beauty.”
If that isn’t one for the bathroom mirror, I don’t
Nitya and the Guru have repeated throughout That
Alone, our Self seeks to know itself, and it is “that consciousness that
animates the physical body” (p. 581).
This inexorable drive to realize the Self as it goes on operating in an
environment of ignorance, darkness, and alternating dualities—our world of life
and death—positions that Self so that it continuously and directly confronts
those three barriers. They require
attention, and in his commentary on this verse, Nitya penetrates their true
nature and places it in a cosmic totality of which we are both part and
whole. The very fact of our
inclusion in that one grand plan—the wave and the water are not two—means that
our Self (the Karu of the first verse) is both immortal and continuously
evolving. Out of ignorance comes
we are embedded in our cyclical world of necessity, however, the barriers to
waking up present difficulties.
Maya, the duality-driven character of our work-a-day world daily present
itself to our senses as real and enduring, despite the self-evident evidence to
the contrary. No form endures, but
our senses systematically tell us the opposite so they can return as often as
possible before the body gives out.
The mind/body operates on its own schedule and is marvelously equipped to
prize physical survival and endurance.
But as Nitya counseled us in his commentary on the 27th
verse, “The Self-luminous Atman itself is not known, but its effect—all the
pluralities of the phenomenal transformations and modifications that come into
being—is all we see. What is, is
not known; while what is not, is known.
Hence it is called the grand magic” (p. 194).
Nitya continues with his commentary on verse 83, he extends his previous
observation on the impermanence of manifestation by focusing on how the body we
live in presents to us continuous lessons on the subject of constant
change. After about 30 years, it
begins its inevitable decline despite our (or Ponce De Leon’s) best efforts. In
fact, writes, Nitya, we know almost
nothing about why the body operates as it does. It salivates when eating, for example, but we don’t have any
idea why. We can only connect the
two in a descriptive process when we notice them. Nitya calls this ignorance darkness and thereby pretty much locates our position vis-ā-vis the
body. Limited by its perspective
and ignorant of its internal functions, “our awareness is like a small island
floating in an ocean of darkness” (p. 582).
Continuing with his lesson on our
condition as tethered to the body, Nitya then points out that the body is not
just one thing or system. It is
comprised of a countless number of them operating in harmony as they repeatedly
replace dying cells with new ones—until they don’t. When the system collapses, he goes on to say, it is buried or
burned but “nothing is lost.” As
with any material form, the body eventually becomes the nourishment out of
which new forms are then fashioned, “a continuous transformation of birth,
growth, and decay” (p. 583).
This holonic, constantly changing,
and unstable system reflects an indisputable picture of life as we live it day
to day. Select
atheist-evolutionary theory roughly describes this set of circumstances but
then walks away from it as being pointless because
of its cyclical redundancy. Taken
as a complete explanation for everything unto itself and as not part of any
larger one—split off as free-standing and completely autonomous and not as part
of a system within a system in a cosmic holonic dance—evolutionary theory as
commonly understood (in contemporary American culture at any rate) fails to
explain its value. As a
stand-alone process, it does indeed spin on mindlessly in its eternal dumb show
without a purpose that cannot be inferred through any isolated evaluation
process. The error in this dead
end method is in its narrow focus and its insistence that the manifest
ever-present arising exists wholly on its own (in spite of all the facts of the
The very same fallacy presents
itself in literal Christian interpretations (and echoed in contemporary
politically correct atheist ones) where this kind of separation from the whole
is sometimes personified in Satan’s apostasy, at least as John Milton would
have it when he presents the “Arch-Fiend” of the poet’s Calvinist Epic going
public with his manipulation of this misinterpretation as he challenges the
angel Abdiel to carry his (Satan’s)
message as to who created what:
That we were
form’d then say’st thou? And the
hands, by task transferr’d
Son? Strange point and new!
would know whence learnt: who saw
When this creation
was? Remember’st thou
the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time
when we were not as now;
Know none before
us, self-begot, self-rais’d
By our own quick’ning
power, . . .
Of this our
Heav’n, ethereal sons.
our own, our own right hand
highest deeds, by proof to try
Who is our equal:
then thou shalt behold
supplication we intend
begirt th’ Almighty Throne
besieging. This report,
carry to th’ anointed king;
And fly, ere
intercept thy flight.
Book V, Paradise Lost)
totality of the system, writes Nitya, includes and transcends the immanent, a
principle that if we can come to comprehend will enable us to place Maya where
she belongs: “Our body is an object lesson when we see how it changes and
perishes day by day, it prepares us for its final dissolution. Dying with grace is as beautiful as
living with grace” (p. 586).