The world and the truth exist intermixed;
this state is one of great iniquity;
in this, which is beyond the grasp of word and mind,
how can any right reason operate?
There is an inherent iniquity in the unreal world and
Reality presenting themselves as one indiscernible whole. To these, which
cannot be demarcated verbally or conceptually, how can any role of methodology
As a mixture of what is the world and what is the real,
That which presents itself before us is a great iniquity
This is what is indeterminate, beyond grasp of word or mind;
How could the course of right reason move within its domain?
conclusion of the verse commentary is so crucial, I want to use it as the
The world is not what you
anticipate. You cannot just take an answer from a guru or someone else and use
it blindly. You have to make learned wisdom your own, and then evolve your own
way of applying it to things.
This is utterly essential, and we should never forget it.
Among other things, it’s what distinguishes a cult or closed sect from a
healthy spiritual probe.
we have often noted, this idea runs strongly against the grain of the social
veneer. From birth we have been pressured to take a well-defined stand and
stick by it. In place of the logical doubts that Nitya characterizes so well in
his talk, we pretend to unshakable beliefs, often clinging to them in
unconscious desperation. Our culture is permeated by such beliefs. For example,
Jan’s son was recently in a national debating competition, where he did very
well. In a debate it is essential to stick to your premise, whether or not you
actually believe in it. You are judged on how well you support your assigned
position, and you must leave out anything that doesn’t incontrovertibly back it
up. This is a useful skill in some transactional arenas, but not so helpful in
keeping the heart open, which is another useful skill we don’t often get
trained in, at least in school.
of the various pressures we have experienced to adhere to a fixed position, we
wield our attitudes like a defensive shield or even an offensive weapon.
Narayana Guru is gently suggesting we can lay down our military hardware and
come out of hiding. We are invited to stop battling our enemies and recognize
our common lot with everyone and everything.
study is not about finding a better system and allying ourselves with it to
make our position that much more impregnable, it’s about admitting our true
condition and accepting it. Then we should find common cause with all.
love that in Neither This Nor That,
Nitya describes the mind as a bombastic commentator. After studying this work
in depth, the many baldfaced assertions we may have once taken for granted
might make us cringe. Of course we are mostly very polite people, but under the
surface we are holding hard to our selected preferences. Since they are
essentially vaporous, we have to cling fast to them to make them seem real.
find it quite charming that when Gurukula friends are asked what our group is
all about, we don’t have a ready answer. There isn’t a descriptive motto we
repeat—in Portland almost no one would offer the famous one scrawled on walls
in Kerala, though they might have heard it once or twice. What is it about?
Nothing that can be readily put in words, that’s for sure. We are not going to
win any debates. Perhaps we could say we are learning to be flexible and open,
but such terms are generally treated as clichés. Nitya puts it this way:
There is a horizontal aspect of
life and a vertical aspect. If you don’t know how to coordinate them properly
you become confused. The Guru doesn’t want to make a fixed scheme to put into
your hands. If he did you would make another mistake. You would then have
ready-made pigeonholes in which to place your ideas of horizontal and vertical.
The next day what you found to be horizontal might have become verticalized and
you won’t be flexible enough to make the change.
Deb pointed out that the terms horizontal and vertical have
sometimes been a kind of Gurukula cliché. Instead of a nuanced understanding,
sometimes we might hear that vertical is good and horizontal is bad. Vertical
is spiritual, while the horizontal deals with mundane (hence, unspiritual)
reality. Yet both are intrinsic and essential to everything. In a relaxed pose
we intuitively know this, but when we try to pin it down in words we fly off on
tangents. Narayana Guru calls this an injustice, as if we are nailing a
butterfly to a board and mounting it in a museum. This only works as a living
philosophy, and is not meant to be codified.
openness is well known as a concept (or cliché), and yet it remains unexplored
territory. And that’s a good thing. Here’s Merry Prankster and Oregon author
The answer is never the answer.
What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of
the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the
answer. They think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek
mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and
mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.
Our brains are geared to relax and feel good when they
aren’t under threat, and in school that means when we have the right answer.
Nitya doesn’t want us to stop thinking just because we’ve found a comfortable
niche in the turmoil. If that was enough to make us happy, there would be no
problem. Yet it doesn’t hold up. Nitya slyly counteracts the default setting
most of us believe in with a kind of religious fervor, saying “All we know is
the appearance of things, and we can easily come to the conclusion that reality
is just as it appears. For those who think that way, all problems are solved….”
Of course, since problems persist for all of us, we can conclude that
appearances are in fact deceptive. Yet a strange compulsion continually sweeps
us back into our default setting of rigid belief, not just in appearances but
in abstractions as well.
before class I was reading the new issue of National Geographic, a magazine
that has grown tremendously in recent years to become a coherent voice for
progressive causes and global understanding. The feature article is on what is
called a war on science, the tendency of many to disregard scientific evidence
in preference to unquestioned beliefs. The theme should have meshed perfectly
with the class subject, and Nancy championed it for doing so, yet it offended
me because to was guilty of the same faults. Science was treated as a
monolithic good that we must believe in or else. Anyone expressing doubts is
painted as superstitious or at least gullible. There were no convincing
arguments, only platitudes. Science has never been faultless, but somehow we
want to make it the new God. If all criticism is discounted, we are on the
verge of destroying the earth because of our faith-based science in the service
assured us that science routinely forgets it has grown out of a narrow band of
philosophy. That reminded Prabu of something Noam Chomsky said, that physicists
study the universe, but when they can’t fit something in they say it is the
purview of the chemists. When chemists can’t explain something, they pass it on
to the biologists. When biologists can’t explain something they defer to the
psychologists. And when psychologists can’t explain something, they say it is
in the realm of philosophy. So in a very real sense, philosophy is the whole
context in which the various disciplines have their delineated places. It’s
when the part insists it is the whole that the fabric begins to tear apart.
are by no means the only culprits—mistaking the part for the whole is a
universal human failing. Synchronously, before I sat down with the magazine I
was reading Thomas Pynchon’s latest book, Bleeding
Edge, in which he rants about capitalism as the state religion of the US,
which it surely is. In response to a shred of doubt, a guru named Shawn says:
“It's not a religion? These are people who believe the Invisible Hand of the
Market runs everything. They fight holy wars against competing religions like
Marxism. Against all evidence that the world is finite, this blind faith that
resources will never run out, profits will go on increasing forever, just like
the world’s population—more cheap labor, more addicted consumers.”
in the excellent wording of John Lennon, in the song I Dig a Pony, “You can
syndicate any boat you row.”
is the urge to appear to be affiliated with an unimpeachable ideal? As far as I
can see, it is in compensation for feelings of insecurity, as in the religious
attitude “I believe in God, and God is perfect. Therefore to doubt me is to
doubt God, to doubt perfection.” It’s very effective, really. The Guru feels
that such egregious claims are unnecessary if we take the pressure off, if we
make it clear we aren’t out to punish or undermine anyone, or allow such things
to be done to us, either.
point is not to develop a boilerplate philosophy or science, since that is
evidently impossible, it is to be able to love life to the full. One way of
doing that is to ease up on the mania to define everything. Then we can tiptoe
out into the open, to commune with friends. Richard Linklater, in his movie Waking Life, has a character conclude as
When it was over, all I could think
about...was how this entire notion of oneself, what we are, is just... this
logical structure, a place to momentarily house all the abstractions. It was a
time to become conscious, to give form and coherence to the mystery. And I had
been a part of that. It was a gift. Life was raging all around me, and every
moment was magical. I loved all the people, dealing with all the contradictory
impulses. That's what I loved the most— connecting with the people. Looking
back, that's all that really mattered.
recently listened to an old Hank Williams song, Lost on the River, featuring a
chorus of “I'm lost on the river / The river of life.” It made her think how we
are in a flowing beautiful river and we can't predict where it will take us, so
we need to be open and flexible and vulnerable in how we understand our world.
It made me realize that you can only get lost if you have a rigid picture of
what the River is. If you “go with the flow” you are never lost, you are right
where you’re supposed to be.
are not simply intangible clouds, they are often used as weapons. Possibly it’s
better that we argue about ideas in place of killing each other, but the
arguments sometimes do lead to killing. Ideas can be very aggressive. Beliefs,
then, can be hazardous to our mental and physical health. We adopt them in
hopes of finding love and acceptance, and wind up polarized against those with
different ideas. That’s why Narayana Guru emphasized that our goal was to share
ideas, not to argue and win. It takes an entirely different mindset to share
than to fight.
was reminded of ostranenie, (defamiliarization in English) a
Russian concept defined as “the artistic technique of presenting to audiences
common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception
of the familiar.” She characterized it as a way of removing the incrustations
of our mental orientations to become more open, and she cited Vladimir Mayakovsky’s
poetry as a prime example of ostranenie. (Wikipedia has a fascinating glimpse
of his remarkable artistic flair, if you want to learn more.) Ostranenie is
certainly akin to Vedantic deconditioning, and the class approved mightily of
the word Bushra used, incrustations, as describing the way our mental padding
accumulates until it obscures any original form underneath.
broke down the same idea here in terms of caksusi and manusi, caksusi being the
immediate impression and manusi the way it is processed in the mind. He put it
In the last verse we were
speaking of manusi and caksusi. They are the two wives who weave the whole
garland of experience. Caksus means the eyes. When your eyes look at something,
the first perception that comes to you can be called perception. In the second,
third and fourth moments, and so on, you are no longer seeing it. When the
first impression comes, the sensation, the caksusi, passes on the data to the
manusi. Sensation turns into cognition. You think about and interpret what you
have seen. Cognition changes into recognition almost immediately…. That means
you have structured the meaning of your perception in your thoughts, and
thereafter you see only the meaning of your perception in the object.
soon as you start using words you are getting into dialectics, which belongs to
the world of semantics. The first impression is only for a split second, then
manusi takes over and the whole thing is mentally created and stabilized. A
name is given to what you have created, and thereafter it is a nominal
perception. You are far removed from the real basis of your perception. All you
can say about the real is that neither your sensation or your mind reaches it.
Between the sensation and the mind you are busy structuring an understandable
entity to which you can give a name.
all our understanding of sensations is a nominalistic understanding,
dialectically conceived. On such a basis it is hard for right reason to
operate. This is what Narayana Guru is saying here: what a person of common
sense with a personal identity takes for granted as this transactional world of
experience is very confusing.
The odd thing is how content we become with our personal
incrustations. It takes effort to peel them off, and since incrustations are
comfortable enough after we adjust to them, we just snuggle into them. That’s
one more way tamas can get such a stranglehold on our psyche.
brain is wired to give rewards for the proper pigeonholing of strange objects
into familiar categories. Once we can fit something into its correct slot,
whether or not it does it justice, we can relax. Our schooling is largely based
on a similar form of programming, so the urge to categorize goes very deep. It
takes a goodly measure of dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs to
energize the search for something more valuable than a wall covered with
well-filed dossiers shoved into neatly labeled receptacles.
talked about how she has learned a great deal by listening to others, instead
of always supplying her own pat descriptions. It’s an everyday form of ostranenie (in itself an unfamiliar
word for a familiar concept), and
Jan honors its role in her life: the simple act of quieting her inner
“bombastic narrator” to listen well has taught her so much, including about her
potential to enlarge her understanding in many ways. Again, this requires
letting go of the need for already being in possession of any final answer.
a surprising shift, Susan saw how this pertains to the importance of having a
home. She told us: “I am moving out of my family home of 18 years and I
feel the pull toward reacting in habitual ways — toward sadness, grief, fear,
and though these all have a place in this process, I am trying to also stay
open to not getting stuck in those. I am trying to see a wider view, to just go
forward step by step.” She also thought of the while horse parable as being
how “friends and family and even I sometimes want to say this process is good
or bad but you can’t label it, you can’t define it, you just have to move forward,
one step at a time.”
immediately related. He has lived in as many as thirty different places as an
adult, and is processing what his present, more stable home means to him. He
has lived there longer than anywhere else since childhood, and he didn’t feel
much at home even back then because he shared a room with his brother, and they
fought a lot. Andy has been a wanderer in this life, though he knows and
admires those who have found “home” within themselves. He cited an incident
Nitya recounted in Love and Blessings, which I will clip into Part III, where
his grandfather cursed him to be a wanderer. Nitya wandered homeless for most
of his life, but you could see that he was at home in himself. He didn’t depend
on any fixed abode for his sense of identity.
first chakra is the basis of our individuation, in other words, where our sense
of being grounded is centered. Our psychic home. In a sense, everything in our
personality is built up on top of this, including, as Deb said, our grasp of
truth. If we aren’t firmly grounded, we seek to satisfy the craving for home in
family, tribal, national and other identities. While these can provide some
sense of belonging, their partiality is also the breeding ground of conflict.
Narayana Guru has been teaching us to begin with an enlightened sense of home
in our self and then extend that gradually to all the layers of the onion of
the universe we are surrounded by.
noted how some people don’t support her need to move; they tell her it’s wrong,
and this just makes her job harder. Yet it does force her to keep moving ahead,
because part of her is tempted to not change, and she knows she’d better not
give in to it. Andy agreed that the cultural reaction against change is very
strong, a countercurrent we have to take into account. In Susan’s case, her
neighbors see that she has the most beautiful house on the block, and they
imagine her house is also a perfectly satisfactory home. Of course, house and
home are not the same thing, though they sometimes overlap, especially in the
popular imagination. Her neighbors do not know the intricacies behind Susan’s
reminded me of Nitya’s story from back in Verse 20, that cautions us to
remember that the physical act is not the whole transformation, the real change
has to come from within. I’m sure Susan is confident that her move is only an
echo of her inner need for authenticity. Then, too, the physical and the mental
interpenetrate each other and influence each other tremendously. Sometimes if
we’re mental stuck we can initiate some transformation with a change of scene.
Here’s Nitya’s story:
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
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.
shared a funny story about when he went to school for the first time. Something
in us knows we are being sold down the river when we swap our life of freedom
for the socially constrained hierarchy of education. When Prabu came home the
first day, he begged his parents to buy more buffaloes so
he could take care of them and not ever go back to school. His family had 25
buffaloes, so he computed that if they bought 24 more for him to take care of,
he would have all he needed. So sweet! Yet like caring parents everywhere, he
was not given the option.
called to my mind the indelible image of holding like a tenacious spider to the
sides of the taxi door with all four hands and feet, while the driver and my
mother pushed as hard as they could to force me inside, so he could take me to
nursery school. Some “nursery” that was!
epitomized the dilemma perfectly: we should be at home with our ideas but we
don’t want to solidify them or set them in concrete. If we are brave enough, we
can be at home with flexibility and freedom from dogma.
talked eloquently about how when she was younger she so wanted her own home, and for a while she thought she
had one. But then it was no longer true and the fantasy had no more importance
for her and she left. Words and memories create our personal universe, yet we
have to resist the way they bind us.
added that we have a strong genetic desire to have a home, and that is
certainly true. Home is where we are safe. We can relax and not worry about
being eaten or frozen to death. I think the philosophy is intended to expand on
that wonderful sense of security and safety and extend it as far as possible.
Certainly to those we come in direct contact with. In a sense civilization is
the embodiment of security, with its theoretical extension to everyone and
every place, so that we are set free to explore potentials that dinosaurs never
could. For some, the need for security brings about a shrinkage to a tiny,
unstable island of temporary safety. For others, a solid footing can be
projected into new territory, and the sky’s the limit. Spiritually minded
people perceive an ultimate form of safety in being the Absolute in their core,
which emboldens them to reach out in all sorts of ways.
like Susan, on the cusp of a new life, can’t be sure of what lies ahead. Her
certitude has to come from within. She can gather an abiding sense of it in her
heart, and then it will go with her wherever her path, with its inevitable ups
and downs, leads. I’m sure everyone knows that we are all in the same boat,
though at various levels of intensity. The lessons we learn and the insights we
gather from the intense times can be carried over to tide us over the calm
times too. Once we are at home in ourselves—not in any trite sense, but with a
real attunement with That Alone—it is not something we can ever lose, and the
more we feel its support the more confidence we will have to carry out the
steps we need to take and the steps we want to take.
This Nor That But . . . Aum is fantastic this time:
our daily life the world appears to us as one whole piece belonging, all at
once, to the same space and time. We do not realize how much the past, the
present and the future are all interwoven. We visualize a uniform world. Part
of this world is seen directly with our eyes and heard with our ears, and to
that we add the recollections of what we have experienced at some other time,
then this is further complemented by what we have heard or read as having been
experienced by someone else. This picture is further enhanced by our
imagination with the speculations of mythologies, theologians and scientists.
factual stuff occupies only a very small space of our visual and auditory
range, and even this small area is beyond our physical access, as we have in
our possession only certain sense impressions. No one has yet proved that our
sense impressions are exact copies of the models outside. In fact, if we are to
believe the astronomers, the stars we see take us beyond several light years
and thus the starry heaven is only the ghost of the past, which, however, goes
pretty well with the panorama of our present. When a man in New York talks to a
person in Bombay and to another in California within the time span of ten
minutes, one man speaks to him from the past and another from the future. When
we drive past the rows of trees of an apple orchard, the trees nearest to the
car seem to move fast and the farthest ones more slowly, and so we see endless
patterns of triangular formations, which give us a somewhat global vision in
relation to an imaginary point that can be marked in the farthest reaches
beyond the horizon. All these irrelevancies in time, space and appearance are
ignored, and such incongruity does not make us suffer in the least when our
is confined to a small physical area such as eating our
breakfast or shaking hands with a friend. If, however, we become ambitious and
attempt to execute a project involving large areas of space or long durations
of time, then we have to leave the familiar ground of our physical notions and
we must adopt many topological considerations.
bargaining of prices in a flea market is comparatively easier than for two
philosophers to convince each other of their respective stands. For example,
when a Buddhist is asked to testify on a red pot and a blue jar, he will
immediately raise an objection to the mixing up of names with things. According
to him, pot, jar, red and blue are only arbitrarily devised names, and the
actual things denoted by those names belong to another order of reality which
can only be sensed. Sensations do not come in the form of names. Where
Aristotle or the Christian theologians make a dichotomy of an actual thing and
its essence, the Buddhist thinks of this as a game of verbosity, since in his
opinion perception happens only in the split moment in which the senses receive
a stimulus from an object.
see things not merely with our senses, but also with our mind. The mind is like
a bombastic commentator who explains all impressions in terms of past
experiences and future possibilities. Thus, all at once, perception changes
into recognition and the mind attributes a use value to it, which originates
from the intentionality of the mind to earmark an object for future use. We are
very much deceived by the language we use. For example, when a Christian
theologian says that a person is factually true because he belongs to the here
and now world of perception and will essentially continue because he has an
essence which is not confined to the world of facts, as a personal opinion it
may sound innocent enough, but it can be vitiated with the ulterior motive of
the Church. If the basis of reality is what is given here and now in terms of
perceptual data, and as all that changes in a few hours or even after a split
second, a person of the present cannot be accused of any of his past crimes.
Yet, by accepting the concept of an unspent essence, the theologian can also
maintain the essence of a man’s sin along with the man’s essence, and so the
man can be called to account for his sin on the last day of judgment.
mixing up the world of facts with the world of ideas, whether philosophically
sound or fictitiously humorous, man can bring himself to situations of
embarrassment, if not downright harassment. Narayana Guru thus says that there
is an inherent injustice in the peculiar mix-up of things, the responsibility
of which cannot be put on anybody’s shoulders.
there is an erroneous vision on the part of everyone. If all people should
suffer from a disease which made them see all objects as doubles, there would
be universal agreement in what is seen and consistency in their vision, but
their perception would nevertheless be defective. All empirical knowledge is in
the same position, and this kind of illusion is called mukhya vibhrama. If one person sees three moons when all others
two moons he is making an empirical mistake, and this is called pratibhasika bhrantih. As our experience
bristles with such errors of both a transcendental and an empirical order, the
Vedantins put in a category called “the cognition of the unutterable,” anirvacaniya khyati. The Guru,
therefore, says that the reality of this world is beyond the comprehension of
our mind. Both philosophers and scientists claim to have devices or methods by
which they can give precise information of exact truths, but if we examine
these claims in the light of what we have already said, it is not difficult to
see that even the most ambitious scheme will have only partial credibility.
THE Absolute is presented to man’s view in the form of both
appearance and the reality behind it. These two are like grains that cut across
each other, and the process of reasoning has to move, as it were, in straight
lines between the cross-grains of the fabric thus presented. What is true in
the cross-sectional view is false from the long-sectional view. Everything as
presented is both ‘yes’ and ‘not’ at the same time. This is what constitutes
the enigma, the knot or the question mark that is said to be life in its total
aspect. The Jaina syad vada
(may-be-may-be-not) approach reflects this puzzlement.
We have in India what is called pramana-sastra, which is sometimes called logic. Western logic
along the usual lines does not strictly correspond to this. Reasoning leads to
inferences; but these inferences are themselves of two distinct kinds: one
which is for one’s own conviction (swartha),
and the other which is for agreeing with another (parartha). The latter is verbalistic and depends on a formalism
known to Aristotelian syllogisms, while the former is based on the thought
processes that take place in the individual himself. The anti-verbalistic
character of Indian logic is referred to as follows by the Italian philosopher
logic studies the
naturalistic syllogism in itself as internal thought, distinguishing it from syllogism
for others…. It does not
make the verbal distinctions of subject, copula and predicate…. All these are
extraneous to logic, whose
object is the constant: knowledge considered in itself. (22)
When the Guru speaks in terms of ‘pramana’, which we have translated ‘right reason’ and which is to be
valid, he must
have been thinking of the Indian schools of Nyaya and
Samkhya. Aristotelian logic
is different, as we have just seen. It is more verbalistic rather than based on
the thought-process itself. If one, the Indian way, is to be called ‘vertical’
the other should be called ‘horizontal’. The means of testing the validity of
truth and the object-matter of logic thus presents epistemological and
methodological difficulties. It is in this sense that we have to understand the
Guru when he says that reality is presented to our intelligence as a great ‘iniquity’.
This ‘iniquity’ is the same negative principle of Maya
which has been examined in
various verses previously and referred to in verse 88 as the great tribulation.
is referred to as a goddess of evil import, and sometimes in mythological
language this same principle could be seen as represented as the dark and
terrible Kali. Just as there are gradations of mildness and ferocity between
the Saraswati of Sankara and Kali of more ancient literature, the former being
more Sanskritized or refined than the latter, we have
in philosophical literature
reference to this active-creative horizontal and negative principle, sometimes treated
as the same
as the Absolute, and sometimes as extraneous to the
notion of the Absolute.
The creative power of the Absolute
could be intellectually
viewed or more emotionally viewed. The Guru is here content to call it the principle of
this verse, while in verse 88 it was a more open enemy.
The injustice here consists
merely in that it obstructs, by its indeterminism or flux as Bergson would put it, the application
of logical processes to the discovery of ultimate or absolute Reality. Both
Indian logic, which thinks in pure subjective terms, and Western logic which
inclines to objectivity through syntactical elements of language, do not avail
in cutting the Gordian knot.
(22). pp. 255-56, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M.
Hiriyanna, M. A., Allen and Unwin, London, 1932.
Right after the part about Eddington, in the paragraph beginning “Whether you
are a philosopher or a scientist,” the phrase “reality or transactional facts” should read: “reality
of transactional facts.” (no italics—they’re just for clarification
chapter from L&B, pages 31-3:
the elders were always steeped in their own affairs, we children had to plan
our own routine every day. By now there were all together forty cousins, but
the term cousin was in fact not known to us. We lived together as brothers and
sisters. The younger and weaker ones among us felt the struggle for existence
very keenly. Bullying was the main entertainment for all of us.
some time I was looking for a way to combat those who bullied me. One of my
cousins found an easy way of depriving any one of us of our cake and candy by
spitting on it, as there is a general taboo in India against eating anything
that has had contact with another’s mouth. He was not allowed to get away with
this for long. Others started the countermeasure of spitting on whatever he
grabbed that way. It was around that time I introduced biting as a major
weapon, and very soon I earned respect and a name for myself. One day another
fellow bit me on the lip and the doctor had to put in a few stitches.
our daily rounds of quarrels a cousin who was a year older than me came out as
the bully hero. My mothers and grandmother always made much of him. This caused
some rancor in me, and I was looking for an opportunity to show that he was not
so superior. In the morning when we all assembled for breakfast, I purposely
sat next to him. When one of the mothers served us a kind of cake with coconut
topping, I ate mine and then briskly removed the topping of my cousin’s cake.
When he tried to stop me, I threw a whole heap of cakes out into the courtyard.
were stunned at the sight of my grandfather advancing toward me. A terrified
voice came from the women’s apartment; it could have been my mother crying out.
By then my grandfather had already picked me up by one hand. I thought he was
going to dash me to the ground, but hearing my mother’s loud shrieking, he
dropped me on the floor and stood there as if he were in a trance. Then he said
in a very solemn tone, “You will live in the streets. You will have to be fed
by others. You will miss the food of your home. All your life you will be fed
that there was a great calm. My mother came running out of the room and dragged
me into a corner. She became hysterical and thrashed me recklessly until I
almost fainted. Nobody came to console me. After a time I got up with
difficulty and walked out to the cow pen.
those days the cow pen was bigger than the house. There was hay spread in it
for drying. I crouched down in the hay and started crying and sobbing for being
born among cruel people who didn’t care to understand the mind of a child. I
knew it was wrong to throw cakes in the mud, but it seemed the only way I could
call attention to the injustice of favoring the bully.
my mother had beaten me soundly, what was haunting my mind were my
grandfather’s solemn words. He said I would live in the streets. That meant I
was now a stranger in this house. I wondered how I came to live there rather
than in the street. He said I would miss the meals of my home. What difference
should it make to me? He said all my life I would have to be fed by someone
else. If that was so, could I at least endear myself to those someones?
head that felt so battered lay heavy on the hay. I closed my eyes and tried to
forget everything, but the entire scene repeated itself again and again in my
mind. Then I felt someone stroking my hair. When I opened my eyes, I saw
another of my mothers sitting beside me with tears in her eyes. In a cracked
voice she said, “You are a silly child. You don’t know what happened today.
Your grandfather cursed you. He’s our God. We don’t know any divinity other
than him. He’s a man who never speaks any untruth, so his words cannot be
spoken in vain. No mother can accept the fact that her son is cursed by her own
father. Her own despair made her furious. In desperation she was beating at her
own fate. You should pray for your redemption.”
was friendly and loving, but I thought of her speech as coming from the
opposite camp. I was resolved to be a child of the street, and I didn’t care
for anybody’s consolation or sympathy. I had already visualized how I would
walk alone through the streets of the world. Of course my world was not yet
very big. After that incident and until this day, I have never felt I belonged
in the home of any person. I have always thought of an unknown “other” waiting
for me around the corner or in another home to show me a place to sleep and offer
me a plate of rice to eat.
commentary is especially good on this verse:
most definite terms do the Guru and Nitya in their verse and commentary here
present our situation in the 21st century world, a place where the
experts, doctors, priests—the list goes on—work tirelessly to control our lives
and fix our gaze outward. But the
“world,” writes Nitya in his concluding paragraph of commentary on this verse,
“is not what you anticipate. You
cannot just take an answer from a guru or someone else and use it blindly. You have to make learned wisdom your
own, and then evolve your way of applying it to things” (p. 677).
he works his way to the foregoing conclusion, Nitya de-bunks materialism,
fractures Western theology commonly understood, describes our process of
nominal understanding, demonstrates how it operates in our different domains as
we go about our lived lives, and clearly outlines the limits of mind. It is in
this concluding observation that he reveals a corollary fact, the fundamental
flaw in our education industry—where the principle of slavishly following
models has become institutionalized and enshrined as pedagogical excellence.
his first few paragraphs, however, Nitya opens his exploration of the “world of
appearance and reality” by facing directly the theology of materialism. Relying wholly on sense perceptions,
writes Nitya, the materialist must, in order to remain logically consistent,
limit the world to the immediately sensory and by so doing narrow it to a very
small slice of the phenomenal.
Achieving that position, the true believer ought to find serenity. The world is only the immediately
perceived. But, as Nitya points
out, they generally aren’t very rigorous in their application and proceed to
add other’s perceptions, testimonies of all sorts, and so on until the picture
gets very confused. Just how to
limit all the sources of secondary data becomes unmanageable unless one simply
makes arbitrary judgments [that, ironically, are more often than not controlled
by unexamined compulsions arising from the samskara/vasana domain.]
the Western theological tradition, the materialist’s contradictory certitude
takes the form of a combining of sense experience and the concept of essence. Nitya traces this duality back
to the medieval schoolmen who
found in Aristotle’s logic “the priority of objective experience” and to this
concept they added the idea of “essential qualities” (p. 673). An essence, they went on to claim, is
that which makes each manifestation or thing uniquely what it is. In the case of people, this rationale
apples to each one of them, and one’s essence remains intact upon death, the
character of which is determined by the sin one has committed. In the case of original sin, a pillar
of organized Christianity generally, one’s guilt is self-evident. The way out of this dilemma of
predetermined guilt is to petition a third party for pardon, in this case Jesus
Christ (symbolized through his various living representatives) who alone has
the power to save. In this scheme,
“objectivity is the appearance of the essence,” writes Nitya. He then notes that the Guru sees this
“well knit business” as an injustice: “You are not given a chance to state your
case since logically you have already been given the proof” (p. 674).
to these two most popular theologies of contemporary American life is the
unexamined premise—both accept phenomenal reality as absolute. As Nitya explains, our perceptions are
anything but true as our sensations translate to concepts (words)
instantaneously. Agreeing on
words, we construct our nominal worlds far away from the original and clear perception. The thing in itself remains
as ever: “What a person of common sense with personal identity takes for
granted as their transactional world of experience is very confusing” (p. 675).
this point, Nitya offers as illustration the distinction between classical and
the post 1920s physics of Einstein and others. For matters associated with our everyday life, engineers and
builders find classical geometry, algebra, and arithmetic functionally useful. Lines are taken as being straight and
weight and mass are stable. For
sending missiles to the moon, space/time calculations based on an alternative
set of principles is required.
Functional reality depends on the domain of the experience in which one
challenge of distinguishing the real from the unreal confronts us continuously,
says Nitya. Our reasoned reality
and the transactional facts we always face do not line up, but they occupy the
same space. Without turning inward
and excavating our Self, this confusion/contradiction cannot be overcome, a
condition Nitya explains by reference to an anecdote offered in the Katha Upanishad: “The creator made a
great blunder, a big mistake. When
he created human beings he did not turn the eyes inward, he turned them
outward. Therefore we can only see
things outside and do not know what is happening within” (p. 676).
within is the answer beyond reason and the mind. Any one point of view from any domain of our holonic
universe will contradict some other view.
Our interior world is to remedy this “enigma of contradiction properly,
to discern truth (the vertical dimension) and also to make sense of the
transactional world “in its infinite number of domains” (p. 677). This journey is peculiar to each of us
and requires a personal plan in each case.
I really like the Atmo verse 94, but am still puzzled by this.......
As soon as you start using words you are getting into
dialectics, which belongs to the world of semantics
all our understanding of sensations is a nominalistic
understanding, dialectically conceived.
I understand the argument as such but can you find a synonym
or rephrase dialectics/dialectically for me? Perhaps you could explain
what you think Nitya means, and then what you think it means. Maybe there is no
difference? What IS philosophy if not semantics anyway? It's all words....
My response: I appreciate your question very much, and I
admit I too was somewhat surprised by this part of the text, since we have been
having recourse to dialectics throughout the study. Thank you for inviting me
to take the time to ponder it. Now I don’t think it’s so problematic.
of all, and lucky for us, immediately afterwards Nitya says straight out what
This is what Narayana
Guru is saying here: what a person of common sense with a personal identity
takes for granted as this transactional world of experience is very confusing.
Looking at the overall concept of the study, we have a
unitive core or karu which is the source of the dualistically structured world
of transaction, perception, and all that. No finalized conception of the karu
is possible; it is either experienced or it isn’t. Our conceptions and their
words focus on the dualistic world, in which we make surmises about the unitive
state in terms of duality. Narayana Guru is inviting us to regain contact with
the karu, the core of each of us that is a universal ground we share in common.
our study we have been using philosophical words and their associated concepts
to wean ourselves from an abiding fixation on fragments of the whole as being
the whole, which is pretty much a universal misapprehension. The idea is to
dive into unity and integrate it with the dual world we live in. Most words
heighten the attachment to specific items, but a few, like these, can turn our
attention to something more healing, more creative, and more productive of
understanding. Nonetheless they can’t help but exist in the realm of duality.
This is valuable to keep in mind, but it shouldn’t dissuade us from using wise
words to aid our ability to rejoin our deeper being.
of all this, the word I suggest you can substitute for dialectic is dualistic or simply dual. Our problems with
the dual world arise when we take one part
of it in isolation. The idea of dialectics is to balance the sides of any
duality to allow us to apprehend its underlying unity. If we are immersed in
unity, there would be no need, and indeed no possibility, of employing
dialectics. That means they are useful but not ultimate.
perfect example of how we humans unconsciously buy in to mass hysteria and
label it science (or some other unassailable position) just arrived in my
in-box. Accepting the official story of the 9/11 New York City disaster
requires ignoring scientific evidence and knuckling under to strong peer
pressure. That is definitely the easy route, but a few courageous citizens of
the world refuse to go along. Denmark’s Dr Niels Harrit is one of them. He is a
chemistry professor who examined dust samples from the WTC and found traces of
high explosives (nano-thermite) in every one of them. The three buildings—one
of which was not even struck by a plane—were obviously demolished by
explosives, yet the weight of public opinion is so strong that most people
don’t accept it. Believing the cover story is a matter of faith, buoyed by the
belief that “our side” would never do such a thing. Here’s the report I
Two weeks from today, Dr. Niels Harrit, the
distinguished co-author of the landmark nano-thermite paper, will appear in
Danish High Court to bring an appeal in his libel suit against the Danish
In a December 2012 article titled “Madness in the
Royal Library,” Weekendavisen writer Søren K. Villemoes referred to Dr.
Harrit and his fellow 9/11 activists as “crackpots,” while also comparing them
to creationists and Holocaust deniers.
“. . . Is the library soon going to open its doors to
an exhibition showing us 'alternative' theories about evolution? . . . Why
not just invite in Niels Harrit and the other crackpots from the 9/11 skeptics
movement while we are at it? What about the
holocaust denial movement?”
Søren K. Villemoes, Weekendavisen, December 7, 2012
For Dr. Harrit, a scientist who taught chemistry for
40 years at the University of Copenhagan, this amounted to an allegation of
scientific misconduct and a baseless attempt to damage his hard-earned
reputation. So he decided to seek recourse under Denmark’s strong libel law —
and give himself the opportunity to prove in a court of law the scientific legitimacy
of his 9/11 research.
Of course, this is about much more than undoing
baseless insults. It’s an opportunity for a leader
in the 9/11 Truth Movement to show in a court of law that the science behind
controlled demolition is not just legitimate, but overwhelming.
Moreover, because Dr. Harrit has been a national
figure ever since his 2009
appearance on TV2NEWS, the case is likely to be widely covered in the
Danish media — especially if he wins!
What the Case Comes Down To
Under Danish libel law, Villemoes has the burden of
demonstrating a factual basis for his claim. As a journalist, he must also
demonstrate that his reporting meets the standards of good journalism. At the
first trial, he did neither. Still, the judge egregiously ruled in his
In the High Court, Villemoes will have a much harder
time, because Dr. Harrit is being allowed to submit more evidence — namely, the
video of WTC 7’s destruction, as well as an actual sample of the WTC dust,
which Dr. Harrit will use to demonstrate the dust’s authenticity, and therefore
his good scientific conduct.
Dr. Harrit will also call two witnesses. One, Jan
Utzon, is a world-renowned architect and AE911Truth petition signer who
testified previously. The other, Dr. Per Hedegård, is a physics professor from
the University of Copenhagan’s Niels Bohr Institute. His statement to a
newspaper in 2010 dismissing Dr. Harrit was the only evidence used by Villemoes
at trial. Today, Dr. Hedegård has completely reversed his position and
insists on testifying in support of Dr. Harrit!
Thanks to Dr. Harrit’s relentless pursuit of the
truth, we now have an incredible opportunity to achieve some symbolic justice
for all 9/11 researchers and activists.
of faith, now that a number of large projects are wrapping up in my life, I am
able to begin a final edit to the last chapter of my Gita commentary: Chapter
XVII, dealing with sraddha, or faith. (Chapter XVIII is already done.) The
first few paragraphs of the introduction strike me as also being relevant to
the discussion about scientific beliefs earlier in the notes:
is what we believe in. Everyone with a healthy mind has a set of core beliefs that
anchors their life. We are not simply rational beings that function best with
nothing but stripped down linear facts to consider; we are holistic
mega-systems in which rationality plays a small but essential part.
supposedly rational thoughts are wholly shaped by what we believe, however
irrational it might be. Trying to think without beliefs is an interesting
meditation, but in the long run it invites chaos and confusion, because our
mind simply cannot function that way.
can be liberating or binding, depending on whether they are open or closed, and
it’s the binding ones that give believing a bad name. Liberating beliefs should
be cherished and shared, but many beliefs that purport to be liberating are
actually binding. Before turning Arjuna loose on the world, Krishna wants to
help him scrutinize his core beliefs so he can discard the restrictive ones
while promoting the more expansive and valid kind, and consequently optimize
is commonly but inadequately translated as faith, for lack of a better English
word. Faith is intimately connected to our actions, and ranges from abject
servility to absurd notions to dynamic insight into the nature of reality.
Fervently held ideas often provide motivation for an entire lifetime of
dedicated activity, with some people even being willing to die for their
beliefs. It is very helpful to know where on the scale of values
(sattva-rajas-tamas) our ideas fall. Wasting your precious hours or even giving
your life in service to an absurd or corrupt belief system is high tragedy,
testament to a lack of clear thinking at the very least.
A bit later, this:
scientists, then, are as full of faith as anyone else. Their faith is in what
they can perceive and measure; they believe in solid, material truth. They also
have faith that what most people believe is false, and needs to be revised. At
their best, they include themselves in that assessment.
is also the essence of religion, the hub on which its various practices whirl. Yet
the converse is not true: religion is not necessarily the essence of faith.
Knowledge or understanding is. Chapter XVII addresses religious beliefs in a
general philosophic way, without promoting any particular form or creed. The
Gita stands with Narayana Guru on this: whatever the religion, if it makes a
better person it is good. There is no illusion that any kind of ritual will
produce results beyond the performance of the acts themselves. At the same
time, Krishna wants us to know that what we believe has a crucial impact on how
many scientists, I come to the subject of faith as one who thinks of it as a
synonym for facile and delusory ideas, so the whole business of sraddha was
initially hard for me to swallow, until I realized that my faith was nothing
more than what I believed in. Then it made perfect sense. Our lives are
directed much more than we realize by what we believe to be true, as the
placebo effect clearly demonstrates. Our actions, naturally enough, are
designed by us to conform to our expectations. Everything not directly
connected with our senses, which is almost the whole universe, including most
of our friends and family at any particular time, is present only in our memory.
We believe—we have faith—that all those things exist, and have a past, and will
have a future, but we have no concrete evidence for it. All is supposition. So
we are profoundly shaped by our faith, our beliefs, even we doubters, all more
or less to the same degree.
to the wise our faith in imaginary constructs is risible, but nonetheless it’s what
we have to work with. We have to proceed from where we happen to be. An
important corollary idea is that our views are subject to an influx of wisdom
and understanding, and this changes who we are in an actual sense.
sent a nice note, which I share not only for its own sake, but to encourage any
of you still with us to send in your feelings about what this work has meant to
you. Knowing how much we influence and support each other, this is nice to hear
Scott, thank you for the class notes. They were great. I
really liked the quotes too.
You wrote about trying to “ease up on the mania to define
everything. Then we can tiptoe out into the open, to commune with friends.”
Then you gave that great quote by Richard Linklater, in his movie Waking
Life, as he’s dying about connecting with people. I realized
that this idea was something like what I was trying to express in class.
I’d been feeling touched and grateful about the people in my life who
have helped bring these ideas of Nitya and Atmo to me. I thought of books
like That Alone that can sit on a shelf until someone brings them to life for
another person. It seemed amazing to me how these really profound ideas
and abstractions, this wisdom about connecting with our true nature needs to
come alive through people sharing with people. Ultimately, like Linklater
said, it’s about our relationships.
I know Scott that you have talked about how we need to bring
this learning inside and really live it to understand its full meaning. I
was thinking how for me, all of that is also intertwined with hearing other
people’s personal experiences and stories of being connected to this mystery,
or of losing it and finding it. Somehow, it all really comes to life and
full meaning for me through this sharing. I can still have moments of
connectedness alone, but the shared experiences are so profound and learning
from others. Deb’s comment about being on the river of life is like this.
All of this illustrates the importance of the vertical realm to our
awakeness because in the vertical world we learn from others, from our
experiences, from our misunderstandings and our mistakes, etc. And the
wisdom we extract again from our experience is perhaps only as relevant and
true as it transforms our life, and continues to evolve in relationship to our
world, again making it somehow inseparable from our relationships. I’m
really just tripping out on some of these ideas. Back to basics - a big
lesson in the verse is to strive to remain open to learning and to not let our
beliefs become rigid.
In the debate realm with Louis, it has been challenging to
stay grounded in all this. Debate is all about ego and winning, about
bravado and arguing. But I have looked for moments to remind Louis how
much wisdom comes from connecting everything with his heart and internal sense
of truth, and how much he is learning from others. Then if he wins, he
can be appreciative of how others taught him. Some of that can be helpful
to remember. Jan
Gita Chapter XVII commentary is really fun to revisit. I just looked over a
section that echoes Jan’s noble sentiments:
foods which promote life, vitality, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, and
which are tasty, rich, substantial and appealing, are dear to sattvic types.
section on food is almost always taken literally, which is all right as far as
it goes. It is interesting that the Gita, centuries before the onset of latter
day food manias, may have made the connection between one’s state of mind and
what one eats. But it is much more valuable to think of food here in the larger
symbolic sense of what we mentally ingest, what we take in psychologically.
This covers our reading, our viewing, who we listen to, and so on. In other
words, what we imbibe, what thoughts we are drawn to and take in and savor.
What types of religious service we attend. Such nourishment is clearly related
to what we believe, our sraddha. Thus food stands for information coming into
the system, and can be dialectically paired with gifting, examined at the end
of the chapter, which covers information going out.
sattvic version of such “food” includes uplifting and inspiring art and
literature of all stripes, sermons preaching the unity of all, loving words
from friends (preferably in a nice restaurant…) and the like. Input that leaves
you feeling loving and kind and generous, unafraid to reach out to others. We
are tremendously blessed that our world is so rich in these types of food, and
we should serve them to our friends whenever we can.
the Gita’s standpoint, philosophy—the love of wisdom, or the wisdom
sacrifice—is the most sustaining and delicious food of all, and Krishna has
been serving Arjuna one of the greatest banquets in history. Food for eating is
gone by the end of the meal, but ideas that are “tasty, rich, substantial and
appealing” are perennially on the table.
13 years ago I wrote an article for Gurukulam Magazine about my nightmares,
entitled Growing in the Dark. I’ve just been rereading it. It’s rather good, if
I do say so myself. Gripping. Anyway, a couple of paragraphs I wrote go along
with Prabu’s reluctance to attend school in Tamil Nadu, and I thought I’d share
them. You can read the whole thing, about four nightmares and what they turned
out to represent, here: http://scottteitsworth.tripod.com/id14.html
the first few years of my life I had had a tremendous amount of freedom. I
lived in an idyllic world where I was allowed to roam freely around the
neighborhood, which was full of kids, dogs, undeveloped lots for playing ball,
and woods and waterways for exploring. Forcing me into school was like breaking
a wild horse. I bucked and fought against going to a place where I was unnerved
by the loud noises, aggressive boys, and programs I didn’t understand. I spent
a lot of time being yelled at in the vice-principal’s office. It was several
years before they were able to “saddle” me, though I retained a certain
wariness for the duration of my school years.
is the time of our life when we go from freedom to bondage, abandoning our
unfettered life for the world of rules and obligations. The school symbolized
this process, but it is one which is enthusiastically promulgated by parents
and society as well. Words, both written and spoken, begin to replace direct
action in the child’s life, and other people’s interests begin to take
precedence over our own. Whether or not it’s an inevitable transformation, it’s
helpful to understand the psychological trauma we went through and how we
suppressed and internalized the misery of it.