Existing in knowledge, as the
being of non-being,
countless sparks arise, causing
the appearance of the world;
so, apart from knowledge there
not another thing;
thus one should know; this
knowledge bestows the state of oneness.
From knowledge countless sparks emerge that are both real
and unreal. The conglomeration of them appears as the universe. The
understanding that nothing can be other than knowledge will give it
As out of knowledge sparks innumerable arise,
Asserting the being of non-being to make the world appear,
Know that outside of knowledge not a thing exists;
Such knowledge global awareness shall yield.
89 continues and clarifies the assertions from the previous verse. Narayana
Guru uses the analogy of a fire emitting thousands of sparks. While each spark
has its own unique attraction, they all are more or less interrelated and
follow similar but unique courses. In Nitya’s description:
Here Narayana Guru is giving us a
vision of truth as he sees it. From knowledge innumerable offshoots spring
forth, like sparks leaping from a campfire. They burst out, fly up and
disappear. What he means by knowledge is identical with the Self, God, the
Absolute or whatever name you prefer to give it. This is related by analogy to
the fire, the one common source from which all sparks come. What we see here as
the world is nothing more than the continuous rising up of sparks from a common
source. The sparks can be of different magnitude and brightness, and some may
remain for a long time while others have but a brief existence, but ultimately
they all disappear.
the curious way that life and art are interrelated, Deb and I have been looking
at old slides this past week. We discovered a group of experiments I did with
Steve Weckel back in the early 1970s, time-lapse photos of a nighttime campfire
he was sitting next to. He was stirring the fire with a stick that was out of
sight in the darkness, so there are zillions of sparks as streaks in the
picture, with his classical features almost like a vaguely seen deity barely
visible to the side. I’m sorry I don’t have a digital copy yet to show you. The
shape of the streaks taken all together not only make a “world” of their own,
they draw the connection of Verse 89 with Verse 33:
Knowledge, to know its own nature
has become earth and the other
spiraling up, back and turning
like a glowing twig it is ever
Here too, “What [Narayana Guru] means by knowledge is
identical with the Self, God, the Absolute or whatever name you prefer to give
it.” It is the knowledge that is the source of all.
a way, this earlier verse gives the horizontal extrapolation of the sparks or
burning embers, while in the present one they are vertical, shooting up to wink
out in the sky, with only the laws of physics to manipulate their course. In
Verse 33, a sentient agent is whirling the glowing lights around with conscious
intent, more like the way we live our daily lives. Amazingly, among the old
slides was another picture where I took a time-lapse photo of a flashlight
(torch) beam and “drew” a picture with it. The result is a solid, fixed image.
wondered about the connection with the previous verse, how the gunas are
related, for instance. The bright initial glow is the sattvic part of the
continuum, the burning transition from bright to dark is rajasic, and the
unburnable waste products that result are tamasic. The idea is that as
contemplatives grounded in saccidananda, we are entranced by the complete
rotation, whereas if we are stuck in the gunas we will be attracted to the glow
and disappointed when it dies out. We are being taught to step back and see the
entire ensemble in context, rather than being caught up in bits and pieces of
essential point is that our interpretation of the meaning of the sparks lends
them their significance. This can either be steady if we have a contemplative
eye, or ever changing if we remain fixed on surface details. Nitya offered his
own analogy that is especially helpful:
What is the significance of the glow
in this analogy?
we look at a book we see many tiny ink marks on the pages. If the book is in
some language we can’t read, like Chinese, all we see are beautiful forms and
patterns. However, the so-called beautiful patterns are our projection. All
that’s really there is carbon molecules adhering to white paper. If the book is
in a language we know we may never notice the ink at all. As soon as we look at
it, each formation presents a familiar notion to articulate a sound. We start
reading the instant we look at it. Each word flashes and bursts in our mind as
a meaning. There are millions of sparks on the page which all come and burst
into meaning in us. It is this meaning that bursts from the seemingly inert
matter into the brilliance of significance that is being represented by the
glow of sparks in the Guru’s analogy.
This idea reminded me of the fictional character Tarzan, a
feral English aristocrat baby raised by great apes in the African jungle. When
he first encountered a book in an abandoned hut, he thought the ink marks were
lots of little bugs squashed on the paper. And that’s exactly right: in
themselves the marks are meaningless. When we learn to read, we bring the
meaning with us, and transform the bugs into significant symbols. Without an
advanced brain to bring them to life, they remain only carbon dust on dried
demonstrates the meaning of meaning, so to speak. Meaning is meaningful, and most
of what we think about a situation is
what we bring to it. This means we can have a hand in the meaning we
make of anything and everything. Things don’t carry meaning of their own
accord: we add it. Pity the poor scientist who believes that meaning should
therefore be stripped out of everything, as if that would reveal things in
their true light. Not at all! Everything is a composite of existence, awareness
and meaning, of sat, chit and ananda, taken together. Isolating existence from
the rest kills the joy and darkens the awareness.
can take the example of a musical piece that we particularly love, while
knowing full well that for certain other people it is utterly repulsive. The
music is the same; only the reaction varies. Yet we are easily capable of
learning to love something we don’t like if we have sufficient motivation. The
reverse is also true.
Alone is like that too. We in the class have all come to revere it as a beacon
of liberation, but for most people it looks like a way-too-big book they would
much rather leave on the shelf. How many sparks of joy do our own prejudices
steer us away from, without even a twinge of regret?
rightly felt this verse was a call to live in joy, to be in touch with our own
best feelings and keep them alive to
share with others as a seed of the Absolute. She told a story of when she was
working as a lawyer and feeling stifled. One day after work when she went out
to the lot to get her car, she exchanged a few words with the parking
attendant. It was really nothing, and yet it touched her more than she could
have imagined. It was only a small exchange, but it felt great! She realized
that she could find joy in the most unlikely places. Her happiness wasn’t
dependent on special circumstances. Ever since then she has allowed herself to
be open to the possibility of joy wherever she was. Deb agreed that in every
spark a measure of joy is present.
in the Gurukula we don’t evangelize, I asked Jan how she thought we could share
our joy with others. She answered without a moment’s hesitation that we have to
love ourself first, and if you’re not seeing the spark of joy in your own life,
work on that. Plus, we should honor the sparks that others cherish, and not
maintain a narrow attitude about what is valuable.
idea sparked Deb to think of Peter O., who is a master photographer in our
midst. He has a knack for capturing his subjects with no trace of
self-consciousness. Deb said how most of us have fixed ideas of what we want
from a photo, and by trying to make it happen we disrupt it from ever
happening. In consequence, all our pictures are slathered with
self-consciousness. She mentioned a new series posted by Peter of Indian
children, and those of you who are his Facebook friends can check them out. I
can attest that all of Peter’s photos (at least those he displays) are gems in
which a spiritual magnificence radiates from the portrait. The most
unprepossessing candidates are seen to be sparks of the Absolute exploding into
meaning. As I understand it, Peter waits without expectation for the exact
right moment to click the shutter. Some day perhaps he will elaborate how he
does it, but even that might be disruptive of the purity of the process.
idea of patiently waiting for just the right moment prompted me to bring out a
favorite quote from Minor White, in his amazing book of pictures and wise
epithets titled Mirrors Messages Manifestations:
“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for
the photographer It has chosen.”
added a humorous thought, that Napoleon always knew he was going to be depicted
in history, so he invariably acted like a puppet, always working hard to
choreograph his actions. This is not so unlike the rest of us, only more
obvious. When we choreograph what we do we lose the spark of spontaneity. With
That Alone we are learning to hold our intentions in abeyance so the spirit of
the moment can infuse us with its innate joy. Deb summed this up very nicely: “every
experience helps get you outside the
boundaries of yourself.” John added, “then you are more open to any experience
that comes along.” Moni’s advice was to not try to possess the moment, but just
let it come to you.
with his artistic temperament, grew up in a tough part of town where fighting
was the preferred form of group interaction. Yet he followed his heart’s call,
and gradually his enemies became friends. He would rather paint than punch any
day. The new friendships only happened when his enemies were away from their
peers, else they wouldn’t have dared to vary the routine. He noted how his
attitude was contagious and over time had a positive impact on his
mused about how we often feel like we have to decide everything, and there is
plenty of social and academic pressure to do so. The attitude is that
everything is up to us. It produces a lot of anxiety. In 1974 she was with
Nitya at Sonoma State College in California, and she was trying to make up her
mind whether to live in the city or the country. She was a young adult and felt
it was about time to choose her life’s trajectory. She asked Nitya about her
dilemma: she was happy staying out in the country, but she was also happy
whenever she went into the city. What should she do? Nitya eyed her with his piercing,
puckish look. Then he laughed, and told her that it meant she was happy, so
wherever she went would be okay. The happiness didn’t come from the place she
was in, it was inside her. For Deb it was an aha! moment: we bring our state of
mind along wherever we happen to be. The decision was really whether she should
be happy or not. A lot of peer pressure exists to convince us that being happy
is wrongheaded. Only unhappiness is legitimate. And we frequently fall for it.
been a long time since we studied Verse 20, so let me reprint a favorite bit
from there. Nitya writes:
I was a student, I felt very miserable. The whole college situation seemed
meaningless, so I wrote a letter to my principal stating I was going away. He
sent back a note asking me to come and see him before I left. When I went to
his office, he invited me to lunch with his wife and him. He said “It’s a fine
thing that you want to leave on finding that this place is not meaningful to
you anymore. That’s very good. But tell me, when you go away, are you going to
take your mind with you also, or are you going to leave that here?”
“Surely I take my mind with me
wherever I go.”
“That means you’ll be taking the
same sorrow, sadness, suspicion, doubts, misery, everything with you. It will
be the same in the place where you go because you are taking all this with you.
If you can leave your mind here and run away from it, fine.”
This is so true. I get letters
almost every day from people who say that they want to get away, to run away.
Go away where? We think all the misery is because we are with certain people
and certain situations. When we move away it will again be a wonderful world.
If you can create a wonderful world in another place, you can create it where
you are now, too.
Nitya’s eloquent teaching, some confusion remains over maya and reality versus
unreality. In the Vedantic conception, whatever does not persist is unreal, no
matter how real it seems sitting there in front of you. Temporary reality is
considered an oxymoron. Keeping that in mind, Nitya’s clarification here makes
Is there any difference between the
tiny periods and commas on a sheet of paper and this great universe? The star
up there is one mark; the period here is another mark. In both there is
something that comes for a little while, reveals a certain idea, and then fades
away. Each in its own way is a spark of the one fire. Narayana Guru qualifies
the sparks as asadasti, unreal/real.
The mode is unreal, yet the brightness they have is real. The whole world is
the whole world is nothing but an asat, an
unreal medium which brings us meaning for the time being. The sparks may
disappear, but our experience of their light is impressed on us first.
The meaning Nitya is indicating expands exponentially when
we think of the mark not as a dot in the sky or on paper, but as our dear
friend. What we know as our husband or wife is only a tiny bit the other
person, and a vast amount of what we imagine those terms to mean. Mother and
father have a narrow technical definition, padded out in all directions with
our vast affection and deep awe of them. Our brother or sister are slightly who
they are, but mostly made up of how well they satisfy our own expectations.
of these images can be modified significantly by employing our intelligence.
That’s actually what we are about here in the Gurukula. We can give the other
person lots more room to be themselves without offending us, and we can take
much more joy in them when we give up our petty expectations and unilateral
demands. Why shouldn’t we? It makes life much more fun and interesting. On the
other hand, why should we continue to honor our fantasies, if the other person
isn’t actually there behind them? Shouldn’t we be trying to establish something
more real? Of course we should, unless we are content to live in unreality.
new to Atmopadesa Satakam, gave a quickie estimate of what he thought the
meaning of the study was: to have the guts to get out there and really love. That’s
about it all right. Somehow our joy is severely restrained, and our meanings
have been reduced to nearly nothing. Narayana Guru is inviting us to make them
big again. John talked about how when you see your fellow beings suffering, it
breaks your heart open, and compassion pours out. That is true for some people,
and if it works, great. But we can at least make the possibility more likely by
rearranging our opinions, and that kind of course is open to all.
seeing the other as separate is the basis for callousness and injustice, the
key understanding that opens the doors of the heart is to perceive the unity of
all creation. Indications are everywhere. As Nitya puts it:
The whole universe is like a book, in
that everything in it is a symbolic expression of higher truth. We are getting
educated in that truth day after day. That truth grows, sustaining the meaning
and value of life. If you turn to it, you see there is nothing devoid of
knowledge. Such knowledge brings you to aikarupyam,
the oneness of everything.
are beginning the wrap up of our extended study of the Self. Time to gather
what we’ve learned and see how we can put it to use. Have we grown? Are we more
resolved to upgrade our life to make it more fun and interesting? Are we
looking within ourselves for the motivation to change, instead of waiting for
an imaginary knight in shining armor to arrive in the mail? Or are we forcing
ourself to put up with miserable conditions that we choose to regard as
unchangeable? Who exactly would be the beneficiary of such an ideal?
conclusion, I’ll compress a few of Nitya’s related points, by way of
inspiration to “get out there and really love.”
Narayana Guru says if you don’t do
this, if you don’t make life interesting, the world becomes a narakam, a hell.
Find out your own
interests. Keep life exciting. Let new sparks, new joy come. That’s how you
make it interesting.
you try to make everything uniform you create a hell world, but if you see the
unity within the diversity it becomes instead a great wonder.
you take maya in this sense, it is not just illusory nothingness. One half is
provoking the other half. One half is exacting from the other half its meaning.
One half is a challenge to the other half. Truth is a challenge to falsehood.
The possible is a challenge to the potential, whereby the probable is asked to
actualize itself. All this is revealed when we apply this in our own lives, and
through it life becomes vastly interesting.
Alone is vastly interesting. It began in 1976 as a bright glow of sattvic
attraction to Nitya’s string of prophetic utterances. Then many years of
strenuous rajasic efforts by several people went into turning the captured
words into a solid book. The physical book is the tamasic finale of the process.
Yet it brims with the promise of potent release. Every time we open its pages
we can reactivate the sattvic glow of supreme interest. We have once again made
dedicated efforts to understand its brilliance, and hopefully have settled into
a more sublime level of stasis. We no longer feel like emphasizing one aspect
or one guna over another: all fit together to weave a magic carpet of
transformation. As Deb said in closing, “Without the tamasic part (the actual
book) we would have nothing.” Our undying gratitude goes out to everyone
involved in this very special rotation of the modalities of nature. Aum.
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
examine truth and to arrive at certitudes scientists depend mainly on
experimental verifications. In an experiment, a hypothesis is postulated and
the scientist observes it under varying conditions, but until it is proved
fruitful the postulate is a priori. In Vedanta philosophy, as in other fields
of spiritual discipline, analogy plays the same role of experimental
verification. In essence, both experiments and analogies are examples. In the
present verse, Narayana Guru gives us a comprehensive example which contains
various valuable suggestions. These suggestions are called lakshanas (marks) and each of these marks has its scope, which is
Guru analogically compares this world to an ensemble of sparks flying from the
fire of consciousness or knowledge. Each spark has an origin, a period of
existence, and an extinction. It moves continuously from the moment of its
origin to that of its extinction and finally it turns to ashes. We are like
one fire is the common source of all sparks. It is hard to ascertain how and
when the thermal principle of fire began, and it is difficult to decide the
magnitude of its field. Fire has many aspects, and in this verse it is equated
with consciousness, the consciousness that is asserting the individuality of
the sparks by illuminating each bit of carbon. As a potential fire is not
visible, yet without producing flames it can manifest to a large extent as the
temperature of the atmosphere and of the living bodies of animals. It becomes
visible only when it leaps into flames. Like that, consciousness also has a
very wide and deep base buried in the unconscious. Every aspect of knowledge is
a specific manifestation, like the flames of fire. The sparks symbolize the
transient and individuated aspect of every autonomous unit in the world of
reading these pages one's eyes run over the written letters. A letter does not
seem to be anything other than carbon dust sticking to white paper, yet
something besides the impression of the ink can be seen. Each letter suggests
the articulation of a certain sound, and groups of letters flash to the mind a
word that has meaning. These letters are like glowing sparks. The ink as such
connotes nothing, it is the form of the letter that suggests a meaning, and
what is true of this letter is also true of everything we perceive. From a
period or a comma marked on this page to the whole universe, nothing is other
than a form suggesting a meaning. A form, however, cannot stand by itself, it
should have a medium. This can be something concrete like the earth, or flowing
like water, luminous like fire, gaseous as air, or it can give location like
space, sequence like time, or ideation like consciousness.
are either burning pieces of carbon or molecules of matter. These tiny pieces,
whether carbon or matter, do not have the quality of luminosity; it is the
burning fire that glows, and we cannot separate the glow from the burning
matter. When we read a written word the glow of meaning belongs to the
ink-stain; they cannot be separated.
real and the unreal thus belong together in making each unit of awareness. Each
item of experience is an awareness of something. There is no way of postulating
the existence of anything anywhere without making it an object of awareness.
Although each spark has an individuality of its own, the glowing fire in each
belongs to one and the same luminous principle. In the same way, everything
that we experience should be unitively understood as belonging to the one
consciousness, which is none other than the Self.
ontologic richness of fire is meager in a spark, as even though it is fire in
principle it does not promise a wholesale participation with the universal fire
of which it is a part. In the same manner, the mere glow of consciousness
experienced by our mind cannot secure an identification with the universal Self
for us unless we know how to link the individual manifestation with its
effect such union Shankara suggests a continuous meditation on the true nature
of the Self, which he terms svasvarupa
anusandhana. He takes it for granted that one's true nature is that of the
Self, which is pure existence (sat),
knowledge (cit) and peerless bliss (ananda).
Ramanuja does not like to leave
the quality of bliss vague and recommends meditating on the blissful state of
the Self, which he calls svarupananda.
Madhva takes it further, making constant comparison between the personal
experience of happiness and the unbounded happiness of the Supreme Lord; this
he terms svarupananda taratamya.
the three masters seem to be of different opinions, Narayana Guru effects an
integration of their views in his analogy of the manifested world as an
ensemble of sparks. In verse 33 the Guru made reference to knowledge changing
and becoming all these things; he compared it to shapes caused by the
brandishing of a burning torch in several figure of eight movements. In another
work called Arivu, “The epistemology of gnosis” (verses 12-15), the Guru
describes how knowledge sparks off:
Yourself is what is known as knowledge;
By putting down your own knowledge, it becomes the known.
The known is thus twofold: one conscious of knowing
And the other not conscious of the same.
Knowledge, too, likewise in its turn proceeding
Became reflected in the knower once again
And one spark of knowledge falling into this the known,
Into five shreds it became split up.
If one could still be cognizant of oneself
As the knower of knowledge, still knowing knowledge to be
all, The one that is knowledge and the one that is the knower
Within that which is known, six and eight, too, they become.
Corresponding likewise with this known
Knowledge, too, seven and one, makes eight;
Knowledge is thus superficially distinguished
As also the known, when separated one from one.
First the Guru divides consciousness into two, the knower
and the known. He then splits the known into five sensory awarenesses and he
subdivides the knower into mind, intellect and ego. In fact, each of these,
when considered as a spark, can be further visualized as separate universes constituted
of countless millions of sparks accounting for experiences of all sorts. The
link between sparks of consciousness and their source, the Self, is the golden
thread of a sense of endearment which connects all values that are recognized
as a repeated illumination of the natural bliss of the Absolute mirrored by
each spark-like occasion.
PHILOSOPHY aims at a finalized, unitive and satisfactory
answer to the questions and
problems that seriously face man. Truth must be one and has to be understood as
a whole rather than in piecemeal fashion. When we say that Truth shall make us
free or that knowledge is power, such wholesale knowledge is what is meant.
Whether it is the knowledge of the self or the soul, or of the universe around
us, or both together - a satisfactory degree of certainty has to be present in
the truth thus gained or knowledge acquired.
We know that the Sun and its light are not two different
entities. The Sun as the source of light might be richer in its content of
luminosity, but both the Sun and its light are easily understood as consisting
of the same stuff. Knowledge, which has been compared to light, has two
aspects, an inner subjective aspect and the outer objective manifestation of
Here in this verse, there is a further subtlety that has been
brought out by a favourite analogy. We know that Maya, as the overall category
of error or illusion which has been examined in the previous verse, is an
elusive entity with a double epistemological reference. It is described as both
‘sat’ (existent) and ‘asat’ (not real). Further, we have seen that there is a
negative principle of indeterminism which characterises the concept of Maya.
How could there be a relation between such a double-sided concept of Maya and the
unitive and globally understood Absolute? The relation between the two is
perhaps the most subtle and has been the cause of differences between
Vedantists, as we have seen.
Ramanuja has questioned the validity of the Maya theory most
penetratingly with his seven anupapattis
(refutations) - his own Visishta-advaita doctrine giving primacy to effect as
much as to material cause. The Vedanta of Sankara, on the other hand, tends to
put the stress on the cause as against the effect. The Guru here, by the choice
of his example, bridges the gulf between these two rival schools of Advaitins.
The sparks of fire are the effect of the central fire from which they arise.
While having the same fire implied in them, the sparks have inert coal too as
their basis, and moreover the fire in each spark does not last. As sparks,
treated collectively as always rising from the central source of fire, they
could be called real; but on the other hand there is enough justification for
us to treat each spark as both real and unreal.
The totality of sparks, however, by being as lasting as the
fire from which they arise, must have the same status, in the same way as the
Sun and its rays are both light. There is however an ontological poverty in the
collection of sparks. In comparison to the richness of the source of light, the
totality of sparks could only be given a secondary status. The sparks are more
carbon than light and thus represent also the relative aspect of light in this
analogy. By apt analogy the Guru is here able to bring to light the subtle
relation that exists between the absolute and relative aspects of the same
reality. If fire should burn more brightly, there may not be any sparks at all,
as in incandescent light. This would represent the full or non-dual absolute
status of Truth.
The phenomenal world, as the result of two-sided Maya, is the
secondary aspect of this full Absolute and it is because of its plus and minus
aspects meeting that the emergence of the universe that we can see or
experience comes into view or looms into our consciousness. It is due to the
indigence of the sparks that are both real and unreal, lasting and transient,
that the phenomenal world emerges into view or enters our experience as
The fire and the sparks treated together comprise all that
should be taken account of to give a total, global or unitive vision of
reality; and such a view can leave nothing else as residue or remainder. When
we recognize this we come upon a wholesale philosophic answer to the main
problem that philosophy sets before itself. The satisfactory certitude that
such a vision carries with it is in itself the recompense for the enquiry
contributed a Rumi poem, Shadow and Light Both:
How does a part of the world leave the world?
How does wetness leave water?
Don’t try to put out fire by throwing on
more fire! Don't wash a wound with blood.
No matter how fast you run, your shadow
keeps up. Sometimes it's in front!
Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.
But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is
your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.
I could explain this, but it will break the
glass cover on your heart, and there's no
You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,
be quieter than a dove. Don't even open your mouth for
even a coo.
well known Buddha aphorism makes a statement so at odds with the American
sensibility that it is rarely repeated in our culture and almost never
explored: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no
matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common
sense.” The Buddha’s advice speaks
to knowing and not, strictly speaking, to feeling or thinking. In this maxim,
he distinguishes truth
as that which is always so and quite distinct from our efforts to navigate our
continuously shifting condition.
In his teaching, Buddha offers observations that in general square with
what we know as truth, but as visions alone cannot resonate with anyone else,
they must become lived truth until they finally are incorporated into our
experience, into our knowing—our knowledge.
verse 89, the Guru once again presents a vision of his direct perception of
truth that he couches in terms of analogy in order to communicate to those of
us having yet to have had such an experience. This use of figures of speech as a method of illustrating is
common throughout the verses (and Vedanta thought generally as Nitya points out
in his commentary). In this case,
the Guru uses sparks thrown off by a fire as a metaphor for the Absolute
continuously manufacturing itself as those sparks that burst out and fade in an
infinite number of durations. Like
our existences, as a spark oxidizes it cannot remain in any fixed state, but
this analogy also functions on a moral level. As they “oxidize,” our lives are embedded in an ocean of
people but constituted of all our experiences. Nitya points to our act of reading as an example. If we comprehend
the marks on the page,
they release in us all kinds of meanings that, in turn, like sparks,
proliferate and open new meanings, new sparks. This model he then applies to the entire cosmos that, he
writes, “is nothing but an . . . unreal medium which brings us meaning for the
time being” constructed of our memory of those sparks (p. 630). The complexity
of this process indicates
its infinite character as knowledge.
real and unreal—so understood—no spark is stationary. Everything is in constant motion, a principle fundamental to
our lives generally: “Flux-motion-movement: that is the one reality of the
unreal” (p. 631). All
things—people, events, thoughts, and so on—come and go, sparks that all burn at
their own velocity (including us), “and that is the intrinsic game of life”
(p.631). It is when we attach to a
spark rather than enjoy it or marvel in it as a temporary manifestation of the
Absolute that all the trouble begins as we spin in Maya becoming either
“cynical” or “frustrated,” writes Nitya.
Mistaking transience for permanence, we then jump frantically from spark
to spark seeking that which is not there.
Through beholding this transience we
come to know that which is not. (Given our intellectual penchant for duality in
thinking, this “route” to waking up “makes sense.”) The key to our assuming this centered condition is in
knowing our true form, knowing thyself. That constant Self—observing your ego in childhood,
young adulthood, and into your physical decrepitude of old age—does not change,
and the marvel of this fact is its ontological validity. Even the most cursory
self-reflection uncover this truth that we know
and cannot rationalize, feel, or argue. It is of that domain from which the sparks emanate,
the Absolute, that we spend our lives searching for—and is always just out of
reach because of our own detours into Maya which, as Nitya points out by citing
Betty Heiman, is routinely mis-defined in Western circles. Often labeled as illusion, she writes, the term gets associated with the notions of
deception or delusion. In its Latin form (the more accurate translation)
however, illusion or Maya denotes “a
relative or transitory
display of forms” or Lila in
Sanskrit: “play and display of the creative urge. . . ‘”(635). In
other words, transient existence is
a sport of the Absolute, a game we can choose to play well or badly once we
become aware of it.