All here is the Absolute (Brahman) indeed;
this Self (Atma) is the Absolute;
this same Self (he) is four-limbed.
second mantra features Nitya at his best, leading a meditation that expands
consciousness dramatically. As Bill put it, as you experience the All, you
enjoy a more and more blissful state. You can be part of the bliss that is the
nature of the Absolute. Truer words were never spoken!
implicit dialectic of the guided meditation counterpoises “All” and “this,”
initiating a pulsation between the most open conception we can muster and a
point source right in the center of our being. By keeping both in the mind
simultaneously, our identity is drawn out of the point where it normally
incubates to adopt a more universal self-identification. To put it mildly, the
class was profoundly moved by the technique, even without the personal presence
of the guru, which always energized the best meditations, as if he was sitting
inside his listeners and lending his light to what they experienced. We found
we didn’t need a living human guru: together we could have a fine meditation by
simply paying attention and going slowly through the text. The guru principle
is after all a permanent part of existence.
during the reading Scotty found himself floating away into different levels of
consciousness, and he had to keep bringing himself down so he could stay in the
room with us. It may be that Michael actually did leave, because he was unable
to speak until practically the end of the session. I think all of us felt
powerfully stirred by the beauty of the deliberately paced presentation.
may also have noticed that Nitya began the first mantra with a focus on “this”
and then expanded it to “All.” Here we began with the All and brought it back
to this. Thus there is a dialectic resonance between the two verses as well as
within each by itself.
started us off by underlining these two aspects of the whole context, first knowing
from direct perception and then speculating on the Absolute beyond, which no
one can encounter directly. In other words, the world is where we first
experience the Absolute, but then we expand and come to it as a reality that
you can’t have a one-to-one encounter with. Where we all too often think of
ourselves as outside the mainstream, this approach moves us right into the
found the meditation reminded him of aikido, where you are the center, and as
you sink more into your center you are able to manipulate the energy it
releases. As he led us into our centers, Nitya touched on a Sufi saint he felt
great kinship with, who knew this secret:
As we sink more and more into it,
ecstasy grows on all sides, and the only reaction that you are capable of by
way of self-expression is to say: “All this is Brahman.” It is something quite
similar to what the Sufi mystic Mansur al Hallaj said: “anal haq, anal haq...”
Anal haq means I
am Allah, or I am the Absolute. Al Hallaj was brutally executed for admitting
this basic truth in the presence of ignorant believers. Nitya recounted more of
the story in That Alone, Verse 46, which I will clip in in Part II. Nitya
reminds us in no uncertain terms that while it is true in principle that we are
the Absolute, we should keep in mind we are also very much limited:
At this point the rishi wants to
give us a caution. Although we now think we have seen all, our kind mentor
wants us to know that there are other worlds, seen only from the periphery,
which we have not incorporated. There are depths to gauge.
I related a surprising vignette from a book I recently
checked into, Proof of Heaven, that I
will reference in Part II also, where the author notices the simultaneous
closeness and remoteness of God. I include it because of the mention of om by
someone with no prior knowledge of it, yet it overlaps our study in some other
fascinating ways as well.
realize that I’ve been taking for granted that everybody already knows much of
the basic information about aum, and will rectify this as we go along. Joseph
Campbell’s explanation is very good, and you’ll find the link to it in Part II.
Prabu has offered to scan a few of our helpful diagrams, which I will share
when they are done. At the moment he is caught up preparing for his final
exams, so stay tuned. It’s funny how such a seemingly small subject keeps
expanding, with innumerable implications. It’s hardly an exaggeration that aum
is the whole universe….
Guru deserves all credit for using the Cartesian coordinates to graph
consciousness, and notably incorporating the scheme of aum from the Mandukya
Upanishad. It was one of his most salient strokes of genius. Anyone who has
spent time with Gurukula classes must have gotten that much already, but we’ll
be reprising its key points beginning with the next mantra.
often described consciousness as following a figure-eight pattern as graphed on
the coordinate axes, but he never spelled out what he meant, at least in his
English-language books. Realizing this, I added some of it into the
Introduction to Nataraja Guru’s Saundarya Lahari. You can read it here http://scottteitsworth.tripod.com/id24.html,
but I don’t actually have the diagrams that appeared in the book, so if you can
find a copy, check it out. Much of what I wrote there is helpful, even without
most memorable version of the figure eight for me was in Nitya’s first class in
Portland, in 1970. He first drew the Cartesian coordinates on the board.
Visualizing this is a big help, and I’ll try to describe it adequately so you
can. The X or horizontal axis represents actuality, while the Y or vertical
axis represents virtual or theoretical values. The point of intersection, 0,0
is the fulcrum of perfect balance, the starting and finishing point of the
cycles. Nitya’s example, in tune with the tenor of the times, was a person
wanting to save the world. They come up with a great idea. Since it is just an
idea, it moves into the horizontal negative, while its creative aspect takes it
to the vertical positive, so together they are curving through the upper left
quadrant. Then the person calls some friends to help with the world-saving
program. They all make excuses or otherwise throw cold water on it, so as the
curve bends around to the side of actuality, the enthusiasm dissipates, and it
moves through the upper right quadrant back down to the zero point. Then the
person is sad or even depressed that nobody will help them actualize their
vision, and the psyche circles down through the lower left quadrant. When the
psyche hits rock bottom, its natural optimism returns. Perhaps an actual
experience of beauty or the hand of a friend lifts it back toward balance, so
it cycles up through the lower right quadrant.
advised us that such cycling was natural and inevitable in the psyche, but we
can minimize the low, depressive end and amplify the high, optimistic end, and
make life much more enjoyable. Needless to say, the tendency is often to do the
opposite: emphasize the hopelessness and minimize the positive contributions.
This should definitely be corrected.
labels for the four quadrants in the Saundarya Lahari diagrams may help, as you
can picture the figure eights easily enough. For the vertical figure, these
are: optimism based on subjective fantasies; deflation due to conflict with
reality; depression over shortfalls of the program; and reestablishment of
balance and neutrality through appreciating the measure of success.
writing the Introduction, I realized you could also visualize a horizontal
figure eight, like the symbol for infinity. Starting with the upper right
quadrant, the figure moves to the lower right, upper left, and lower left. The
labels these have are: optimism due to purposeful integration with reality; dissipation
of enthusiasm due to problems encountered; elation stemming from detachment
from material goals; and reassessment and regeneration of a meaningful program.
Rather nice, I think.
will be seeing how the fourfold structure of Aum corresponds to this cycling of
the psyche as we go along. Susan noticed how the three gunas also fit into
this, with the optimistic end sattvic and the pessimistic end tamasic, and
rajasic energy providing the drive to oscillate between them.
Susan brought up the gunas, Prabu was reminded of Nitya’s movie theater analogy
that appears in his Patanjali commentary (and elsewhere). I’m sure you
remember. We are all sitting in the seats watching the play of life on the
screen. The gunas supply only the tinting of the movie film, yet we are so
wrapped up in watching the play that we aren’t aware of the pure light that is
causing the projection. Bill was also excited about the “illuminating factor”
of the Self, quoting Nitya calling it a “spark coming out of a hidden world of consciousness.”
I wanted to remind them that while this is true, Nitya is not ruling out the
projected movie. He loved movies! The point of his talk includes the value of
the projection, which is the outcome of the projector: the light entering the
world, the “this.” We can interpolate the Absolute from its effects here, as
well as disregard the effects to ponder the pure light alone. Ultimately both
go together. No one wants to sit and watch a blank white screen—we would die of
boredom before very long.
we are trying to do is enlarge the ambit of our experience from the tried and
true to include more of our potential, like knowing how the whole thing is
projected and what the light is like before it passes through the film of the
gunas. Nitya brings back the analogy of the frog escaping from the pond that
spawned it, from the first mantra meditation:
For a tadpole, its world is a
frog pond, but for a frog who can come out of the water, can hop around and see
a much wider world, the horizon is far larger. The world of perceptual
experience, although physically immense, is a prison house of the soul. There
are fixed patterns such as sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, by which we
know this world. It is a poor man’s menu. Those who stop at the empirical level
do not realize what they miss.
You probably noticed how the characters of his plays hopped
out of Shakespeare’s mind, extending the analogy. The whole point is to become
intelligently and coherently creative, and not to shut off the flow.
were all charmed by the “poor man’s menu” of limiting oneself to empirical data
alone. There is so much more going on! Rather than bring it down like
Procrustes to fit our limited conceptualization, we want to expand our
perspective to allow it the freest possible rein. Speaking of movies, it calls
to my mind the opening of Fellini’s 8 ½, where he is a young man floating in
the sky. Suddenly he feels a tug downward, and we discover he is tied like a
kite to a rope, and down on the ground two Catholic priests are reeling him in.
In our terms, though they have a fixed scheme they are content with to describe
the world, it drags the spirit down into the dust. Like Fellini we want to cast
off the rope and fly free, soaring into the empyrean. If we thought we knew where
we were going, we wouldn’t be able to get there.
Nitya guided us to fantastic heights of insight, he knew that we shouldn’t
obsess over him as the source but simply keep diving as deep as we can. It
would have mitigated our experience if we were thinking “Nitya is showing me
this,” or some such. So he would say things like:
What a magnificent meditation we
get in this mantra! The expansion of the Self has happened without any effort.
The union of the world and the Self was effected without even giving a thought
Putting it that way kept everyone’s attention where it
belonged, and saved him from at least some of the worship many were poised to
slather him with.
closing mediation and chant of aum was dedicated to a dear friend who is
seriously ill. Hopefully our focused thoughts and love made a difference for
our friend, but it definitely made a difference right where we sat. Aum.
to Michael’s sleuthing, here’s a brief (4 minutes) explanation by Joseph
Campbell of Aum on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XOHJ7x5tsA&feature=youtu.be
read out the following surprising excerpt of the book Proof of Heaven, since it talks about aum. While the author
personifies the Source of the universe(s) as God, it’s easy to translate the
terms to the Gurukula’s more philosophical attitude. The Gita’s Chapter XII
deals with the personified versus philosophical interpretations of the All, first
commending the personal as easier—which it certainly is—and then concluding
that both achieve the same realization when expanded to their full
(near death experiences) include a remarkably similar set of experiences, and
Alexander’s contains some very familiar imagery to me from my own of five years
ago. The extensive literature on NDEs repeats consistent, extremely uplifting
results from whatever state is accessed by leaving the body. As with everything
outside of “normal” experience, many people are skeptical of these accounts,
revealing an unscientific closed-mindedness. The image that came to me the
other day is of a roomful of people with a door in the far wall that many are
going through. There is no indication of what’s beyond the door, but
occasionally someone comes back out. A majority of them tell of a wonderful
place they found themselves in, where they realized their unity with all of
existence and reconnected with their deceased relatives and friends. They feel
a profound sense of relief at knowing there is so much more than they imagined
at play in the world. Skeptics are those who are cocksure they are all
hallucinating—in fact, all having quite similar hallucinations—and that there’s
nothing beyond the door. They imagine they know for sure there is nothing out
there. While I respect and encourage skepticism, I also believe we should be
honest about what we actually know and distinguish it from what we believe.
Anyone sure of what lies beyond death’s door, whether it’s something or
nothing, is basing what they think they know on religious belief rather than
scientific proof. That’s another kind of poor man’s menu. It’s much more
delicious to keep an open mind.
book is Proof of Heaven – A
Neuroscientist’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander, M.D. (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 2012).
his recovery, the author wrote down everything he remembered, and this is the
relevant part of it. During a lengthy NDE, he has burst through a “gateway”
into another world, a kind of shining void he termed the Core (Karu?). Keep in
mind that this medical doctor was utterly unaware of Eastern thought, and for
that matter had only a nodding acquaintance with Christianity:
continued moving forward and found myself entering an immense void, completely
dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch black as it was,
it was also brimming over with light: a light that seemed to come from a
brilliant orb that I now sensed near me….
situation was, strangely enough, something akin to a fetus in a womb. The fetus
floats in the womb with the silent partner of the placenta, which nourishes it
and mediates its relationship to the everywhere present yet at the same time
invisible mother. In this case, the “mother” was God, the Creator, the Source
who is responsible for making the universe and all in it. This Being was so
close that there seemed to be no distance at all between God and myself. Yet at
the same time, I could sense the infinite vastness of the Creator, could see
how completely miniscule I was by comparison. I will occasionally use Om as the pronoun for God because I
originally used that name in my writings after my coma. “Om” was the sound I
remembered hearing associated with that omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally
loving God, but any descriptive words fall short.
pure vastness separating Om and me was, I realized, why I had the Orb as my
companion. In some manner I couldn’t completely comprehend but was sure of
nonetheless, the Orb was a kind of “interpreter” between me and this
extraordinary presence surrounding me.
was as if I were being born into a larger world, and the universe itself was
like a giant cosmic womb, and the Orb… was guiding me through this process.
when I was back here in the world, I found a quotation by the
seventeenth-century Christian poet Henry Vaughan that came close to describing
this place—this vast, inky-black core that was the home of the divine itself.
“There is, some say, in God
a deep but
was it, exactly: an inky darkness that was also full to brimming with light….
the Orb, Om told me that there is not one universe but many—in fact, more than
I could conceive—but that love lay at the center of them all. Evil was present in
all the other universes as well, but only in the tiniest trace amounts. Evil
was necessary because without it free will was impossible, and without free
will there can be no growth—no forward movement, no chance to become what God
longed for us to be. Horrible and all-powerful as evil sometimes seemed to be
in a world like ours, in the larger picture love was overwhelmingly dominant,
and it would ultimately be triumphant. (from Chapter 9)
the reference to Mansur al Hallaj from That Alone:
is a story that when Mansur Hallaj was beaten, he became all the more convinced
of his oneness with Allah. His hands and legs were chopped off, but he thought
that it was only his hands and legs that were cut and not his love for Allah.
Then he was hanged, beheaded and cut into pieces, and still every little piece
chanted “an al Haq! I am Allah!” When he was burned, the flames said “an al
Haq,” and every particle of his ashes said “an al Haq.” Finally his ashes were
thrown in the ocean. Each wave came crashing back, murmuring “an al Haq, an al
Haq.” So by fighting you don’t win. (311)