Neither that, nor this, nor the meaning of existence am I,
but existence, consciousness, joy immortal; thus attaining clarity,
discarding attachment to being and non-being,
one should gently, gently merge in SAT-AUM.
You are neither this nor that nor the content of what is
perceived as being. Know yourself to be pure existence, all-embracing
consciousness, and immortal joy. Being brave with such a clear vision, discard
all attachment to being and non-being, and gently, gently merge in that Truth
that fills all with enlightenment and serene joy—AUM.
Neither this, nor that nor the content of existence am I,
But existence, subsistence, joy-immortal; thus attaining
Emboldened, discarding attachment to being and non-being
One should gently, gently, merge in SAT-AUM.
a profound time of sitting together, as we brought to a close another journey
under Nitya’s compassionate guidance. For this once we began with reading out
both the “short version” (Neither This Nor That…) and the “long version” (That
Alone). Appropriate to our dialectical approach, this is the only time the
short version is longer than the long one….
Alone is a work that continues to inspire fresh insights with each reading. No
matter how many times you delve into it, it precipitates new revelations. The
class agreed that as we grow, we become attuned to additional aspects of the
philosophy we hadn’t suspected before. In this way, Nitya’s talks resemble poetry—in
many ways they are poetry. In the
shadow of his poet father Nitya occasionally struggled to write regular poetry,
with modest success, but his classes were the apex of poetic imagination.
of which, this morning, Beverley sent a nice note that included a paraphrase
from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding that perfectly expresses the sense of
completion and expansion we all felt as we basked in the final verse of Atmo.
Suitably enough, this is the very end of the last of his Four Quartets:
With the drawing of this Love and
the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Not bad, T.S.!
sat for a long time in meditation, as is appropriate to this verse of final
merger. It truly is wonderful how easily a small group can sink into profound
states, when by ourselves we tend to suffer much more mental chatter.
we couldn’t resist sharing our joy in words as well. Actually, it was almost
impossible to break the silence, the peace was so intense. I opened my mouth
many times, but no sound came out, and I sensed that Deb was having the same difficulty.
Finally I audibly affirmed Nitya’s brief instruction: the intensity of the
state we have accessed should make us courageous. Fear comes from being cut off
from our true nature, and reclaiming our Self erases the anxiety we experience
in its absence. The all-encompassing state represented by Aum is a permanently
abiding reality, and once we are in tune with that we not only become fearless,
we respond to our environment with balance and expertise. Where we once shot
back partial, misshapen responses based on our personal limitations, by easing
into the ocean of being we all share we can offer a global, inclusive
the spell of silence was broken, the burbling streams of consciousness began to
flow in mutual ecstasy. Much of it was pure gratitude for the profundity of our
journey together, an experience all-too rare in the hubbub of the twenty-first
century. This is a meeting without competition, aimed at sharing rather than
argument. Undoubtedly, coming together as a class adds another dimension of
transformative impact to the study. We have nothing to prove but much to learn.
emerged from her inner quiescence and said, “I have such a sense of gratitude
that all of us have been able to participate together. What
I have learned has been amplified by everyone's participation. I am grateful to
Nitya and Narayana Guru for their frontierless teaching that is not grounded in
some particular place and is open to any human being anywhere.”
would be embarrassing to recount all the words of appreciation from everyone,
heartwarming as they were. Suffice to say those still participating are
enthusiastic about the positive effect the classes have made in their lives. I
noted that the Portland Gurukula class, now in its 37th year, has never been so
focused and coherent. It is heartening to notice how everyone is handling their
life with more effectiveness and compassion. The point all along has been to
convert our lives from chaotic randomness to something deep, meaningful, and
yes, more fun. The fact that it is actually happening is ample reward for the
time Deb and I put into it. Life is meant to be a wonderful experience, and it
shines when it is lived with enthusiasm.
is fairly new to the class, but what he said was as thrilling as it gets. He
used to try to read philosophy and couldn’t relate—he would get frustrated and
just throw the books away. And Prabu is no dummy! He always preferred
literature, as the great novels made sense to him. Now, however, he is finally
able to get into the philosophy. Before, when he read spiritual works he either
wouldn’t understand or he actually found them disturbing in the way they
introduced schisms into life. With the help of That Alone he feels like he is
at last ready to start appreciating spiritual philosophy, and he has begun
reading the book from the beginning. Needless to say, this is almost as
exciting for us as for him.
also feel that Vedanta can be bone dry or boring, and most of it is worthless.
Moni agreed, and added you have to see how it can be implemented in your life,
and then it has value. Academic philosophy intentionally leaves out relevance,
so it is almost always deadly. Deb recalled a college philosophy class that
just addled her brain, for no gain. I have always prized a quote in Nataraja
Guru’s Gita that says it perfectly, from VI, 46, which reads “The yogi is
greater than men of austerity, and he is thought to be greater than men of wisdom,
and greater than men of works; therefore become a yogi, O Arjuna.” Nataraja
Mere tapas (austerity) as it is known in the field
spirituality, is a severe form of joyless self-discipline. The jnani is a wise
man who might at best belong to the Samkhya (rationalist) or Nyaya (logical)
philosophical schools, whose life is based on reasoning which generally ends up
with sophistications and academic discussions, by themselves dry as dust.
Likewise the ritualist tends to become ego-centered and harshly exclusive. Yoga
generally understood is both a way of thinking and a way of life. The yogi is a
dialectician who harmonizes old in terms of new and vice-versa, and is capable of giving fresh life to arguments which
otherwise would be dead or stale. The breeze of a fresh life enlivens the ways
of a yogi.
of the types of spirituality referred to here, when they are taken according to
a yogic method or theory of knowledge, become, as it were, transmuted. This
verse states the superiority of such a yogic way in both practical and
I love that one line especially: “The breeze of a fresh life
enlivens the ways of a yogi.”
shared several of her favorite passages from That Alone, which she had marked
as we went along. She wrote, “Before class, I decided to read through all the
passages I have marked over the last few years in our study of Atmo. I was
really interested to notice that all the passages had similar themes. The
passages addressed depression and negativity, making mountains out of molehills,
and various ways we get obsessed with the material world. They explain how and
why the mind works the way it does and then how to live more peacefully without
all this negativity. The remedies that meant the most to me were the oceanic
treasury mentioned in Verse 3 (this image has been vital to my well being since
my first reading of the book 10 years ago), the understanding of the witnessing
consciousness, and coming to a unitive understanding from within.” Here are two
of her faves, the first from the end of Verse 37, and the second from the end
The ultimate thing is to become saumya,
which means finding the
quietness within you. It is by attaining sama, sameness, that you become quiet
inside. This is to be cultivated throughout. Each day begins a new series of
encounters. Each encounter is to be taken as a challenge to reestablish your
inner serenity, inner quietness, inner sense of sameness through an act of
adoration, an attitude of worship and a sense of the sublime.
There is no need for you to win all
the time. Your greater victory lies in your acceptance of defeat, allowing the
other to win. You may be in an argument. What does it matter if you win or not?
Give the other person the chance to win. Even if he uses some falsehood, when
you allow him to win he rethinks the situation. In his heart of hearts he knows
he did not deserve the victory. He knows the truth of your silence. You do not
become egoistic and you don’t make the other person egoistic either. It will
chastise him as well as purify him.
Thus, through the cultivation of
silence, sameness and serenity, you come to a unitive understanding from
within. This brings peace and harmony. Where there is peace and harmony, love
spontaneously comes. When you give yourself into the hands of grace, the hands
of the Divine, things which are difficult to attain become abundantly possible.
Then you can say you have attained the discrimination of the unbroken, by which
every ‘this’ is brought under the spell of the universal sameness.
The Guru is here suggesting to us
the most gentle pressure in the search. At the same time it is not lukewarm. It
is an urjita, an out-and-out search,
but that search is not directed to just one isolated area. Life itself is the
search. It goes on until we come to what is called paramapadam, an absolute state.
The absolute state comes when all
relative aspects are seen in their relatedness within the Absolute. Everything
has its own niche and you don’t have to dismiss anything. It all gets placed
properly in its context. There has to be a reorganization of the whole life so
that things are put in their appropriate position and understood as being part
of an organic whole. Once this is done, that’s all.
The state of being the Absolute is
continuous and simple. It’s not a static experience or event. When you think of
it, don’t think of it as a great mass with the whole world inside it. A little
baby smiling is a simple thing, but within that simplicity there is no shade of
pretension. It doesn’t smile to please anyone. It just smiles. A little flower
tosses its head in the breeze—that’s an absolute event. It is not a copy of a
flower or an idea of a flower, it is an absolute flower. It shines of itself.
So when you think Absolute, don’t think it should fill the whole universe.
There is a timelessness in it and an irrelevancy of the space occupied. It just
This is understood by the Japanese
poets when they write haiku. The quality of the haiku is the element of the
Absolute in it which comes as just a little shimmering—of its beauty, of its
plainness—in your heart. That’s it. You don’t have to explain it to anyone. You
should never read haiku to someone and then give a commentary on it. That’s the
worst thing you could do with it. Instead, silently read it and close the book.
Then just feel the serenity that pacifies you and makes you forget the world
for a little while, even if only for a fraction of a moment. A fluttering leaf
comes down and you gaze at it. Until it hits the ground you forget everything.
It’s an Absolute experience. You don’t have to be ponderously meditating, “Who
am I? Who is seeing this leaf which is fluttering in the autumn wind?” You
falsify the whole situation by thinking that way.
all agreed that the entire book is a continuous highlight reel, an
embarrassment of riches. I’ve never met anything that came close.
and Blessings, though, is not too far behind, while not as densely packed.
Because of the theme of merger into silence, I read out a couple of excerpts
from Nitya’s time with his first real guru, Dr. Mees:
Kanva Ashram is an abode of solemn silence imbued with the spirit of incessant
search in the mysterious cave of timeless mythology. Of an almost unearthly
beauty, it remains completely concealed from public curiosity. Dr. Mees
introduced himself to occasional visitors as Sadhu Ekarasa….
That first night after hearing Mees’ theories…
somewhat confused. I had always thought of myths as superstition. To me, to
think of them as valuable was to go on a wild goose chase. But I had the
patience to wait and see to what extent I could get along with his ideas. I was
thinking of myself as an unformed chick in an egg, and that Dr. Mees was going
to break the shell. Would I ever be the same again after being indoctrinated
into what he called Traditional Psychology? I wasn’t sure. I was entering a new
world with an unfamiliar earth and an unknown heaven. I decided to wait until
the next morning to get a clearer picture.
Towards the close of evening on my
first day, I noticed something that had earlier escaped my attention. As a
small boy I used to sit with my father near the creek flowing next to our rice
fields, where I listened to the several natural sounds: the gurgling of water,
the rustling of rice sheaves in the gentle breeze, the hum of the cicadas and
the croaking of frogs. All through my life I had been listening to different
sounds. But the Kanva Ashram was quiet and still. The expectant hush of silence
grew deeper and deeper as day passed into night. It was by no means the sheer
absence of sound. Rather, I experienced it as if listening to a divine choir. I
began to realize for the first time how truly vibrant silence is.
I started noticing many sounds that had always been drowned out before, like
the soft pad of my footsteps, the creaking of doors, and the din created by
turning the pages of a book. Even my breathing began to seem loud.
I wanted to merge into the silence, and
I became more and more ashamed of my awkwardness whenever I caused a disruption
of the total tranquility that prevailed in the ashram. I decided to discipline
myself step by step so that my personality would merge into the background.
This attempt to resonate with the flowing patterns of Nature’s silent
articulation made me very self-conscious for about a week. After that it was as
if the inner flow of silence suffused my very breath and circulated as the
lifeblood in my veins and arteries. (99-100)
With this scheme in mind I began
to visualize awareness as a mysterious canvas that is hidden from sight by the
endless parade of names and forms that are endlessly being painted on it. This
was a revelation to me of my inherent freedom. I realized I no longer had to
confine myself to being caged within a body.
In contrast to the many sterile and withdrawn spiritual
programs peddled in the modern world, Dr. Mees turned my attention to the joy
of the senses in order to discover the blissful center of the soul. I soon
became familiar with the rhapsody and rhyme of poetry, the many moods of
musical harmony, the rhythms and patterns of dance, and the individual’s
capacity to be transformed into any other type of character via the theatrical
Every day at the feet of my loving master Sadhu Ekarasa
a day of spiritual feasting and divine jubilation. I have no words to properly
express my gratitude to this great master of infinite compassion and dedicated
zeal, who helped me to transform my several fickle interests into an intense
discipline of unending joy. He led me by the hand step by step down the grand
avenue of living spirituality, which has time and again been frequented by
prophets, poets, visionaries, artists, and seekers of all sorts. Each day big
chunks of misunderstanding were thrown out of my mind, and I marveled at my
growth in both reasoning and understanding. (103-4)
good to have words like these to amplify the silence, and our next excursion,
into the Mandukya Upanishad, will be an extended meditation with less
philosophical exegesis. It’s classic Nitya, a series of ecstatic insights given
as prophetic talks to a group of attentive disciples. It looks like it will be
a delightful new line of study for us.
set the mood for our closing meditation, and in the light of the “joy of the
senses” Nitya extols in the above excerpt, we listened to the Beatles’ song
Here, There and Everywhere. Typically they transformed the traditional love
song format into a paean of worship of the divine, and the first step in
understanding the mystical power of their music is to use their words to
visualize That Alone as the feminized divine. Listen along on your computer for
an even better effect. The gentle sway of the music echoes the Gita’s verse at
V, 24: “He of inward happiness, whose inner life is free and easy, and likewise
of inward brilliance—he of unitive understanding, having become the Absolute,
enters the self-effacement of the Absolute.” Dig it:
To lead a better life
I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there
There, running my hands through
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn't know he's there
I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her
Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there
I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her
Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching their eyes and hoping I'm always there
I will be there, and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere
Could her name be Karu? I think it is. And so we say, from another cosmic
Beatles song, Good Night:
Good night, good night, everybody
Neither This Nor That But . . . Aum:
The Absolute cannot be termed as “that” or “this.” A man
recognizes his spontaneous awareness and he calls it “I.” As this consciousness
is self-founded and not depending on an external light, if he claims his ego to
be the supreme Self, that is also not true.
Self is the undeniable truth of everything. It gives room for the appearance of
modifications and, within time spans, to evolutionary changes fully governed by
appropriate laws, and for all gradations of values that can make immanence
meaningful without negating the ever-transcendent reality of the one Absolute.
When realization comes, disjunct, distinct, and relativistic orientations
vanish and their place is taken by all-embracing knowledge, which is
existentially self-founded and is permeated with the nondual state that is
glorified as immortal bliss. In this final stage, individuation widens its
horizon to infinity and becomes overwhelmed by the encompassing mystical union
of all. The lone voice of the Self merges in the vibrancy of aum. When this
happens, let there be no resistance. May it come to pass.
Guru’s two sentence commentary makes the connection with our next subject, the
Mandukya Upanishad, explicit:
AUM represents the Absolute as explained in the Mandukya
Upanishad. ‘Sat’ supplies the ontological basis for the
Absolute as Value.
commentary, appropriately, reprints Nitya’s few words and says nothing more.
Thanks to him for sharing all his fine work with us on this adventure. Aum.
sent a sweet thank you note this week, which can stand for the several others
Bob and I read this last week and contemplated on it.
What a beautiful ‘poetical’ way of Nitya’s explanation of
Narayana guru’s thoughts!
What a light!
takes the prize for a fitting final message of our study:
Many thanks for leading this discourse. It was an insightful
and interesting journey. I have been two to three weeks behind the rest of you
in catching up, often taking it at my own pace.
Atmo brings out so many facets of thoughts that its great
author (Narayana Guru) was able to reflect in awesome poetry. On the one hand I
am privileged to know Malayalam, raising in me some kind of a guilt that some
of you may not as much enjoy the prolific usage of words and verses, often
applied with a cryptic simplicity - unlike his contemporary poets who employed
rhetorical Sanskrit (sahityam) to embellish Malayalam. The upside was in
seeing the enjoyment and involvement that some of you could maintain solely in
experiencing the noble outlook and philosophy - the undercurrents that carry
the poem from start to end. Guru Nitya's contemplative interpretations are par
excellence, often bridging the substance over form (or language).