No shadow exists independent of an actual form;
as there is no original form anywhere for the existing world,
it is neither shadow nor substance;
everything that is seen is like a snake painted by a master.
No image can exist without a model. If the world is a shadow
it should have its archetype somewhere. No such original is seen anywhere;
therefore, this world is neither a model or its image. Everything seen here is
like a snake painted by a master artist.
No shadow could exist without depending on a model original
Since the manifest world is seen to have no original model
Neither shadow nor actuality is this: all is seen
Like a snake that a gifted artist might cleverly sketch.
famously difficult to pick out the “essential” verses from all the merely
wonderful ones, but this would certainly be a top choice. Nitya’s commentary is
so detailed and superb there is not much to add. What we do have to bring in is
our personal pondering of these critical questions, to convert them from a
theoretical to a vital understanding.
the rishis have intuited and neuroscience confirmed, what we perceive is a
construct, not any absolute reality as such. It is a painting—or as Nitya upgrades
the image, a movie—presented by our whole being to our miniscule but critical
conscious awareness. We are captivated by the movie’s apparent perfection. It
all seems to hold together, to work, so why should we question it?
reason is that we can become full participants in our own life only if we
realize how we are bound by false ideas. We are much better off when we face up
to them. Nitya brings this home to us yet again in his conclusion:
You bind yourself so much with
mere suppositions. It is those suppositions and images, called here nizhal, shadows,
that you should be
dealing with. Then alone can life become a harmonious flow. Otherwise it can
of the most crippling suppositions is that somewhere other than where we are is
an ideal place, and our present location is just a way station to where we
ought to be going. The idea constrains us to be either passive and docile or
inharmoniously busy and unsettled. I suggested that the class think about how
thoroughly our attitudes are suffused with the ubiquitous assumption that here
is not good enough. The belief permeates human culture, and it is shocking to
realize how deeply the illusion cuts into the joy of life. I would say that
almost 100 percent of our framing is grounded in scientific and religious ideas
about a perfect and remote paradise. We are striving to find our way there.
What gets left out is our full appreciation of the here and now.
the idea of artwork produced by an adept can leave us with the feeling we are
mere irrelevant observers in the majestic play of the world. Yet the master
artist of the verse is in us, is us!
We are co-creators of the drama. Narayana Guru is not asking us to imagine
there is some godlike artist out there somewhere who is painting this world.
The painting is done by our own brain-mind, and it is indeed masterful, utterly
compelling. Only a rare seer can learn to accept that it is their own
constructs they are dealing with, and not some freestanding reality that we are
timidly intruding on.
think many of us are afraid to accept this truth because we fear we will lose
our grip on reality. Actually, we will lose our grip on unreality! Nitya’s
explanation here is a classic:
How does Narayana Guru explain
it? He says that when an expert paints a snake and the painting is placed in
dim light, it can frighten a person. The dread can be so great that the person
might even collapse and die. So the painting can function as a snake to some
extent, but as soon as it is closely examined it will be found to be only a
it turns out to be a painting, it does not cease to be. The snake doesn’t
disappear. It continues to be what it always was—a painting done by a master.
What changes is your reaction to it. You no longer react with fear but with
great admiration. You say, “Look how lifelike it is! It’s wonderful!” You might
want to possess it: “Let me take it home. It’s a terrific picture!” Once you
accept it, it is no longer a snake. When you were dreading it, it was also not
a snake. It all came from the mind’s projection.
If we want to convert our baseline fear into admiration, we
have to change our orientation to our surroundings. Humans think we have to
change the world to make it better, or even just to hold on to what we have
now, but then we bring our original misperceptions to bear and everything goes
haywire. Grasping that what we perceive is a projected image accords us at
least one additional dimension, which is huge. We can still love the play, but
we don’t pin our existence on it: that comes from somewhere deeper. And we have
a hand in shaping it. Our happiness is discovered to be an intrinsic part of
our being, instead of an acquired condition we have to fight for. Nitya says:
How can ignorance come and take
away the joy of something you have enjoyed? Because your basis for that joy was
only a supposition. If you saw joy right in eternal existence itself, in
eternal awareness itself, it would not have broken down. But we are forever
fashioning something out of that and projecting our happiness onto this
temporary creation, which is moving and changing all the time.
uses the analogy of married people getting divorced when their projected joy no
longer resonates with the person it once fastened upon. It’s a good image to
think of how we are entangled by all sorts of “love affairs” with various
aspects of the world, and then drop them with more or less distress when
another attraction comes along:
This doesn’t only refer to
husband-wife business but is a handy way of understanding something general in
life, where people get infatuated with so many things and then after some time
effect a separation from them. Marriages and divorces are going on all the time
between people and their relativistic values. They aspire to something, but
when they get close to it they no longer want it. They think it is not what
they were looking for. That’s because the beingness of those things has the
same status as a painted picture. The painting is done from within. Is it real
or unreal? The Guru says you cannot say it is real, nor can you say it is
unreal. It’s simply a wonder.
Wonder or not, making our happiness dependent on externals
is a failed approach. The external world—which is an inner projection of our
master artistic Self—is infused with enthusiasm to the extent we bring it to
the table with us. As Deb put it, our life can be a constant, beautiful
uprising of joy, because the eternal moment is always present. Paul added that
we can still cry our tears over life’s tragedies, but they are no longer tears
of self-pity. They are tears of compassion, of a life that’s so vast it can’t
be confined solely to the body.
are moving into a section with some uniquely excellent clarifications of
saccidananda, of existence-awareness-value, woven in. The example in Nitya’s
commentary is worth revisiting:
apply this in your life, you have to look for the being which cannot be
explained away. What is that being? It’s called existence. You should also look
for the knowledge which cannot be explained away. Such knowledge is awareness.
Existence is called sat; the
awareness of subsistence is called cit.
Sat and cit never change, but you can fashion the sat like the potter fashions
a pot, like the lover fashions the beloved, like the buyer of a commodity
fashions its value, like the admirer of beauty fashions light into a beautiful
form. The substratum is perennial existence. What you temporarily create out of
it has existence only during the time when it is valuable to you.
brings us to a third factor, the utility of a thing, its prayojana or value.
Saccidananda is an anchor of solidity in the turbulent,
every-changing universe. It’s where our true happiness resides. We get
displaced from happiness when we pin our feelings solely to outside factors,
which come and go, wax and wane. It isn’t that we sweep away all the outside
factors to enjoy happiness, but that it is incorporated in everything we do,
from our greatest triumphs to our most profound tragedies. I know we have heard
this many times already, but have we understood it yet? We often “get it” in
one instance, but the next enticement that comes along catches our attention
and makes us forget. So it bears repeating.
the three aspects of saccidananda are contracted into one, that core oneness
could be called the Karu. We began our investigation with the Karu. It expanded
into all this manifold universe, and now we are contracting back into it. The
Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction are one grand pulsation from point source to
infinite manifestation and back to a point. Hopefully we have learned something
valuable in the process.
are burdened with so many onerous beliefs, it is no wonder we are miserable!
The gurus want us to throw them off and come alive as free beings. Why not?
What is holding us back? It’s worth taking a good close look. This is
apparently not something that can happen in public, even in a supportive
environment like the Gurukula class. It has to be homework.
example Susan submitted by email a couple of weeks back (Verse 83, Part III)
gave us a practical example of how this can work any time, any place. Remember?
Once again she was driving and a car came up hard on her tail. Feeling
pressured, she imagined all sorts of negative things. She pulled over and the
car roared off. Usually she would be very upset, but this time she asked
herself what had actually happened. On reflection, it was a very simple event,
and her anticipated upset had mostly been a projection: “I was amazed to think
about the pile of untruth that I had managed to load on top of this incident.”
It’s a simple enough example, but one we can easily apply to every aspect of
our life, with highly gratifying results. We don’t just do this conditioned
projecting in the car.
shouldn’t be too much trouble to investigate our suppositions and question
them, and we might as well start with the ones that are making us the most
miserable. We can deal with the harmless ones later if we feel like it. But
look at the egregious ones first. How about, “I’m putting up with this horrible
situation for someone else, to make their life happier. Because of them, I can
suffer a lot, and it’s okay.” From a detached point of view, we might wonder if
the others are actually going to benefit, or if we are just imagining it so we
can keep basting ourself in misery. A surprisingly large portion of our
self-imposed duties has this kind of false supposition behind it.
know everybody is very guarded about their projected suppositions, so I won’t
even invite anyone to send in examples to share. Just know that you will get
out of this study what you put into it, so at least do it privately for
yourself. If you want to make our study transformative, spend some time
thinking about this simple principle. Take a look at your core assumptions and
ask yourself why you have to believe them. What are they based on? You can
still maintain all the connections you have built up in your life, but they
will be much easier to bear when they pinch, and you might even be able to let
some of them go.
bottom line is that we are always waiting for something else to come along,
always thinking we should be going somewhere else. Maybe we should, especially
if our life stinks. But this is it! We should not indulge in excuses to keep
from living fully right now. That’s why the gurus insist, as Bill reminded us,
that this world isn’t a copy of anything. It’s all we have, and it’s way more
let Nitya have the last word, in his inimitable fashion:
This verse is not of merely
intellectual interest. It has a great spiritual import. To those who meditate
on it and want to take benefit from it in their life, it gives so much. It is
just like Jesus saying, “Come to me, those who suffer. Unload all your burdens
on me.” Why should you carry them around in your head? The whole thing is a
supposition—leave it where it belongs. Feel right. Be happy.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
Of all philosophic problems, none has caused more dispute
among thinkers than the judging of the right distinction between appearance and
reality. Philosophers have made this problem even more complex by drawing a
line between what “seems to be” and what “looks.”
There are at least two groups of
appearance idioms—what might be called “seeming idioms” and “looking idioms.”
The first group typically includes such expressions as “appears to be” “seems
to be,” “given the appearance of being”; the second, such expressions as “appears,”
“looks,” “feels,” “tastes,” “sounds.”*
Plato’s Republic, Socrates makes a division in knowledge between what appears
to be falling on the “eyeball” or the “sky ball.” According to him, all we see
here are only shadows of archetypal ideas. In this verse, Narayana Guru refuses
to accept the Platonic theory of shadows. For a shadow to appear there needs to
be a concrete object or body to obstruct or reflect the light. If the world of
our experience is the shadow of another world, that world should have an
existence elsewhere. We do not know of any existence other than what is
experienced here and now.
are many variations of shadow. When a concrete body stands in the path of
light, a dark patch is cast on the ground or on a wall and that is called a
shadow. We can easily distinguish the shadow of a man from that of a tree or a
dog, and the careful manipulation of shadows can make them closely resemble
actual people. The reflections we see on oil or water are more detailed than
mere dark shadows; however, they too are only shadows. In a well-polished
mirror we see the clearest of all images, except that the right looks like the
left and the left looks like the right. In the projection of Cinerama, one can
experience the illusion of walking into the panorama and among the people that
are projected, but realistic as this might seem, we cannot have any
transactions with these projected shadows.
comparison to all these shadows, the encounter of actual persons and objects is
a most real experience, and this is where we come to the real stumbling block.
We have no means of apprehending the physical world except through our sense
impressions. Although we are experiencing the seemingly infinite magnitude of
the universe, all forms of perception are manufactured for us within our own
small skulls. Neurophysiologists, who have busied themselves with the inner
mechanism of perception, are yet to discover how exactly the electrical
impulses that agitate the synapses of the brain can reproduce a world of color,
sound, name and form, and magnify it according to a standardized perspective
which seems to be of a measure identical to the images produced by the
brain-stuff in all skulls, whether of a man, a rabbit or a frog. If the cosmos
we experience is the image of an image, what means do we have to verify it as
Guru’s answer to this question is that in this context such a criterion is not
feasible. All that he agrees to is that a continuous process of gestaltation is
going on and that the expertise involved in it is matchlessly superb. He
compares the world to a snake painted by a master. If the painting is realistic
enough, the image of the snake can cause fright, but as it is only a picture,
after the first shock one will realize that it is only an appearance. That
knowledge brings an altogether different appreciation of the same picture. Now
the picture is admired for its beauty, and one might even want to possess it as
a remarkable aesthetic expression. In either case, we are affected by the
compelling aesthetics of the picture. This world also offers us a similar
ambivalence of repulsion and attraction. On the whole, it is a source of
* The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (New York: MacMillan,
1972), Vol. I, p. 135.
PHILOSOPHICAL speculation all over the world has tried to
face the problem of reality in various ways. Idealists like
Plato have spoken of
original prototypes of the imitations that we see here around us in some sort
of archetypal or ideal world. Vedanta is not strictly such an idealism, but has
this difference, that it is founded on the ontological notion of ‘sat’, the
basic existing reality. Aristotle, who revalued his own teacher Plato, may be
said to have given matter here primacy over mind or idea. He was thus nearer to
the Vedantic standpoint. Even in India the tendency with the Vaiseshikas was
to put stress on the side of
the intelligible effect rather than the ontological cause. In Spinoza we have the notion
of the ‘thinking
substance’, which is both matter and mind.
The world of reality and the world of appearance are often
juxtaposed and contrasted in Vedanta, which otherwise seems to support the
idealistic viewpoint. The duality that is implied here is what calls for the
above explanation by the Guru in the present verse. In an earlier verse (20)
this same denial of duality was once underlined. It was also pointed out in
verse 80 that the earth and other things were mere names or words.
Here the complementary point of view is stated, viewing
reality, even in the ontological sense, as nothing more than the creative urge
of an artist talented enough to sketch or give to a mere outline some sort of
apparent reality, even when it has no real content. The appearance of reality
is made possible by this merely sketchy outline coming from the mind of the
artist. The name-aspect and the form-aspect just meet here and now, resulting
in the ontological reality of the world that we experience. Like the pure world
of mathematical equations the name equates with the form and that is all.
The reference to the snake here is by way of respecting the
traditional example dear to Vedantists from antiquity where the apparent is
compared to the snake and the real to the rope that is the basis of the
snake-illusion. Between the rope and the snake realities, a unitive
understanding is to be established which should stand neutral between the two
aspects of name and form.
The nominalistic emptiness of content of mere appearance has already been explained
verse 80. The
unity that underlies appearance and reality has been pointed out in verse 20. Now the form-aspect
the snake is
finally dismissed as having no significant material content at all. It is
merely a flourish of the artist’s pen. Reality and appearance both cancel
themselves out thus within the neutrality of the Absolute.
take in That Alone on the reality of temporary factors was slightly modified
and elaborated in his 1985 article, My Personal Philosophy of Life, Part II. I
think many of us will prefer this version, which accords the transient a more
dignified status than flat unreality:
postulate is All. Then I want to qualify that all. All also means the ground of
all potentials. Whatever is possible arises from that All. What is known to me
and what is not known to me, what I am conscious of and what I am not conscious
of - all these are included in this concept of All. I am in it, the world is in
it, the past, the present and the future are in it. Nothing is excluded.
is my starting point. I bring in two concepts, objectivity and subjectivity.
When I open my eyes and see whatever they can perceive, I understand that I
only see a part of this grand universe. I suggest the rest to my mind. The
world does not stop where the horizon stops. Something similar to what I see
continues from the horizon infinitely or, at least beyond where my mind and
senses can reach. The objective world does not come and stand as a mere object
which I experience with my senses. I identify all objects by reading meaning
into them. Some subjective embellishment is required for any objective factor
to present itself to me. Therefore the objective world or the cosmological
world out there, which includes my body, is only one half. The other half is
everything I experience with my eyes closed, with my senses withdrawn. If I am
not looking out at the external world, I am in the world of ideas and
subjectivity. But, in the world of subjectivity, every form that I perceive and
every concept I apply is influenced by whatever I have noticed in the objective
world. So the objective world is not completely objective and the subjective
world is not completely subjective.
There is an
interiorization of the subjective and objective into each other which creates
an amalgam of the external with an emphasis on the objective, and an amalgam of
the internal with an emphasis on the subjective. The center of the area where
they overlap each other and interlace is the central focus of my consciousness.
In the heart of it I experience the I-consciousness. When I say: “I know,” “I
feel,” “I see” - seeing is external, feeling is internal and knowing is
centrally placed between them. Between the cosmological and the psychological,
I place myself as part of consciousness very much affected by non-conscious elements.
I am always within the brackets of
objective appearance and subjective appearance. I say ‘appearance’ because
close examination of what is presented reveals that there are inner layers of
greater reality which were not seen at first sight, whether objective or
subjective. So the prima facie status of our experience is one of appearance.
That does not mean it is unreal. To me, all experiences are real experiences,
but their status is not that of a perennial, eternal entity, but that of a
transforming, changing entity within the ground of the All. The All has within
it the possibility of becoming as well as being - it’s a being, becoming
entity, without any contradiction.
Sunday NY Times of Nov. 29, 2014, ran an article featuring another excellent
example of how a change of framing can make a big difference in our life.
Eugenia Bone’s article, Can Mushrooms Treat Depression? is mostly standard
fare, except for this beautiful excerpt about her own experience. The second
paragraph fits perfectly with our study, which I think of as psychotherapy for
the sane. It is too bad that people on a psychedelic trip can implement long
lasting changes so easily, as Bone did, while those of us without the “brain
boost” struggle, sometimes for years, to make even modest breakthroughs. Still,
I hope we can at the minimum learn from their courageous examples. Bone writes:
mushrooms may positively affect even nonsufferers. They did for me. I ate the
mushroom as part of research for a book. The experience lasted about four
hours, much of which I spent outdoors, but seemed to last much longer. I think
because everything I was seeing was so new: the way the air was disturbed
behind the flight of a bee, the way the trees seemed to respire, how the clouds
and breeze and rocks and grass all existed in a kind of churning symbiosis.
I experienced a number of small epiphanies —
self-realizations actually — but one in particular remained with me. As the
drug wore off, I went indoors to take a hot bath. For a moment I thought that
might not be a good idea, as bath time is when women in middle age can be very
self-critical and unforgiving, and I didn’t want the sight of my waistline to
veer me into a bad trip. But while in the tub I envisioned my body as a ship
that was taking me through life, and that made it beautiful. I stopped feeling
guilty about growing older and regretful about losing my looks. Instead, I felt
overwhelming gratitude. It was a tremendous relief that I still feel.
just finished the final (for now) edit on my Gita Chapter XV commentary, and
found this extract fits rather well with verse 85:
departing, staying, or experiencing, conditioned as they are by the modalities
of nature, the foolish cannot see; the wisdom-eyed can see.
able to “see” spells the difference between wisdom and ignorance. So what does
that mean, exactly? We tend to be convinced we are seeing perfectly well all
the time, and only other people are the fools who don’t get it, but that’s how
they feel about us also. Therefore we have to have a measuring device for
wisdom that is independent of our personal impressions. Here the Gita offers a
unique and eminently practical guideline for how to judge our own perceptions
and inclinations: if they are subject to the gunas, the modalities of nature,
then they are less than optimal. To really see clearly we have to shake off
their influence with a transcendental vision.
So how is it that the gunas
blind us and turn us into fools? Foolish humans go by the appearances
created by their sensory system within the theater of their mind’s eye, but the
wise can additionally intuit the animating principle behind the surface play.
They know that what they are seeing is an imaginative display projected within
their own brain. Instead
of retaining the detached wisdom of our inner “transcendent Lord,” who knows
nature to be a conditioning factor only partially perceived by the mind,
foolish people mistake their cerebral passion play for reality itself. Once
this happens, they are likely to be trapped by their convictions, and what they
see is then further warped by the funhouse mirrors of the gunas, sattva, rajas
and tamas, cycling between differing degrees of obfuscation.
the way, almost all of us are foolish in this way pretty much all the time. The
Gita’s advice is not given for anyone else; it is for our benefit alone. And
the second half of the Gita, the practical half, is heavily weighted toward
helping us to become detached from the gunas, which as moderns we can
understand to mean the dictates of our mental imagery. Everyone lives in a
universe of their own making, and yoga is the process by which we can pry
ourselves free of it, to some degree at least.
has been rereading Nitya’s commentary on Sankara’s Saundarya Lahari, the work that captivated Nataraja Guru toward the
end of his life. It’s one of Nitya’s most profound efforts. Deb found this
relevant excerpt under the fifth verse:
Saundaryalahari, composed to glorify
beauty as the highest form of truth and goodness, treats beauty as a deluding
force as well as an emancipating one, and in doing so refers to one of the most
difficult epistemological stumbling blocks in the field of philosophy. This is
the paradox around which center problems like the One and the many, being and
becoming, and the transcendental and the immanent. Here tripurantaka, the god of destruction, is allegorically said to be
in love with the manifestation of tripurasundari,
the goddess of beauty, which is not possible without causing violation to his
own nature. This paradox is really the hardest crux of philosophy. Ramanuja
overcomes it with a revision of Sankara’s anirvacaniya
khyati, the error of indeterminism. According to Sankara, this paradox is
like the assumption that the wave has a reality other than the water or that
the blue color of the sky has a reality other than that of the sky itself.
These, according to him, are transitory projections which are neither real nor
unreal. In the above-mentioned
story, the exciting beauty of the illusory seductress was only a momentary
phenomenon superimposed on the reality of Vishnu, who was never a female.
Similarly, the universe is a phenomenal superimposition in the form of Nature,
on Siva, the eternal principle of transcendence, who is free of all the triple
qualities of Nature, sattva, rajas and tamas. The Real is unchanging. The water
is real, making the wave unreal. By the same token, the world is unreal and
only Siva is real.
position of Sankara is reviewed, criticized and rejected by Ramanuja. So long
as water remains, one wave will be replaced by another wave, and the nature of
water causing a wave is as real as the water itself. Therefore the principle of
waves has a reality in which the reality of the water itself participates. We
find this same position stated in this verse of Sankara, who must have
corrected his earlier position in this book of hymns which he wrote after
completing all of his major commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads,
and the Brahma Sutras. In this revised sense it is Siva, the burner of the
three cities, providing the ground for the manifestation of beauty in all the
three cities. (35-6)
had a conversation with angry man on Christmas day. Rational science, he assured me, is capable of knowing
everything if only given enough time, a condition, he added, that was
effectively blocked because people were too stupid to avoid their own destruction. Implied
in his analysis was the unstated
premise that if only everyone would accept what he (this man) knows to be
empirically true then this cutting-short of opportunity would not occur and
heaven on earth would naturally emerge, that and eternal somatic life. Rarely
articulated so clearly, this
“philosophy” illustrates many elements of contemporary American atheist
materialism or ulaku, a point of view
Nitya introduces in his commentary to the verse: “The world we perceive when we
are earth-bound and mundane in our interests” (p. 598). Dealing with that
ulaku as we live in it constitutes the lesson of verse 85, and that
universal tutorial is both practical and spiritual, he writes.
shall we deal with the world that is simultaneously of one Absolute substance
while presenting itself to us in an infinite number of forms in addition to the
words and concepts our minds manufacture about them? As Nitya answers, “that [condition] is the crux of the
problem” (p. 597), and as he and the Guru have repeated throughout the verses
and commentaries, what is true is consistent in all cases. Manifest reality certainly
qualify, however much so many find in it a durability it does not possess. Because
of this failure, true believers
find despair or renew their crusades to find the next “true” object (idea,
cause, or whatever) often distracting their attention, at least in the short
Regardless of our position, the
things of the world require our attention as long as we live in it, and our experience
of them, says Nitya, “has two
major factors implied in it. One
is the beingness of what is
experienced, and the other is the knowledge of what is being experienced” (p.
596). To illustrate his point, he
uses the Indian-traditional “pot/clay” analogy, writing that in all instances
the clay is present while the pot comes and goes. The question then arises as to just what we mean when we say
“pot.” The word pot represents
the form, which is, in
turn, constituted of clay always.
The name, unlike the form, is not experiential and exists “in air,” to
employ a tired phrase. The pot
exits in the space already occupied by the clay, but the name for the
object—the knowledge of the name—does not. It is a mental construction without beingness and relies entirely on conditions in order to be a stable
construct. The pot has certain
characteristics, features, functions, and so on, but those too are ideas that
once peeled away leave the beingness
of the pot in question or reduced to its perennial substance, clay.
Nitya writes that this problem of
establishing beingness of forms arises “when we do not know the subject we are
dealing with” (p. 597). A pot is a
fairly elementary kind of form whereas those we construct our culture and lives
out of—such as “wife, husband, friend [or] enemy”—are far more complex (p.
598). These types of constructs
are provisionally established and transactionally valid as long as our
consensus establishing them holds together. That is, the husband and wife exist until the divorce ends
the matter. It is in these
concepts “in air” that we operate in a relativistic world in constant motion as
we experience the cycles of birth, death, and cyclical existence or endless
beginningless change within change.
In the clay/pot analogy, the clay
is the constant just as the Absolute remains constant in us. It is that which
informs all manifest
arising in spite of the forms and names our minds perceive and
manufacture. And that mental
reaction is the key to what we experience, writes Nitya. Here, he uses another
borrows from the Guru: an expertly done painted snake placed in a dim
light. Inaccurately perceived as
real in the semi-darkness, we become victims of our fear and dread as they
control our behaviors until that perception is corrected in the light of
day. The tendency to privilege the
mind’s colorations of perception without awareness of that tendency illustrates
our general condition according to Nitya.
Our reactions to events, perceptions, and so on change constantly, and
that very process applies generally to our lived lives. For the length of time
we hold any idea
about any perception in collusion with those around us, that idea holds
transactional reality, all of which are in effect temporarily in a world of
flux and change.
At this point, Nitya turns his conversation
inward and addresses our ontological situation as we experience all this
relativity. He notes that whatever
it is we temporarily create exists only insofar as it has value to us. Once that
element disappears, so does
the condition generally. Moreover,
the “pots” in our lives—husbands, wives, children, and so on—“are fashioned out
of an already transitory situation called the life process” that further
amplifies the motion/change of ulaku,
the transactional world (p.
The contradictory nature of this
reality lies in its presenting the relative as the eternal stability where
happiness (the goal of the spiritual journey in the first place) resides. Nitya
paraphrases Jesus in making this
very point that “one who is to have a strong house should build it on rock and
not sand” (p. 601). By remaining
on the sand, puzzled by the play Maya puts on for our senses/mind, we
essentially fool ourselves into believing the elements of relativity are in and
of themselves stable and true.
This projection of value always disappoints because of its very
nature. The mind is unstable and
continues its work in a world just as changeable where transactional validity
ceaselessly comes and goes. It is,
however, the world in which we live and demands our attention as long as we
do. It is in our position in that
world and our awareness of what it really is that Nitya concludes, “There is a
simultaneous resignation and acceptance involved. There is prompt action, too, efficiency to suit the
situation. This is a living
philosophy; it is a living annotation of this verse” (p. 604).