In the waking state, (he is) overtly conscious,
having seven parts and nineteen faces,
nourishing himself on the concrete,
the Universal Man, the first limb.
a wonderful world, where we can sit together in a comfortable room with a
beautiful view, quietly pondering words of sublime wisdom and letting the joy
of it sink deep into our souls! Our community consciousness underscored the
truth of the words Nitya closes his meditation with:
Man is privileged to enjoy to the
maximum. Why call this world a world of thorns and thistles and pestilence and
fury? For the discerning person, it is a world of figs and grapes, a carnival
of colors and music, a world to love and be loved in. This is the picture we
get of the conscious experiencing of psychophysical enjoyment.
first “quarter” or limb, the domain of waking consciousness, is often belittled
in spiritual circles as the most limiting and limited of the states of mind.
One of the distinguishing features of the Gurukula philosophy is its according
full value to conscious experience, even as it recognizes its limits. As with
the I Ching image of The Lake, limits make forms possible: without boundaries,
water flows over the land and dries up. While we are alive we have to have
delineations. So waking consciousness is at once limited and our doorway to the
started us off thinking about the importance of waking consciousness as the
arena where spiritual values can be actualized, and how it’s the prana that
activates and infuses the beauty within it. The five types of prana are
included in the nineteen “faces,” along with the five major senses, five organs
of action, and four aspects of mind (antakarana).
The five pranas are prānā, apāna, samāna, udāna, and vyāna,
and if you are interested, there
is a long excerpt describing them from Nitya’s Pranayama notes included in the
Isa Upanishad class notes for verses 16-18 (http://scottteitsworth.tripod.com/id119.html).
of anything most often refers to the chakras. The organs of action vary, but
are more or less speech, digestion, reproduction, hands and legs. Everyone must
remember the antakarana: questioning
(manas), memory recall (citta), judgment (buddhi) and relation to self (ahamkara).
All the faces might be more properly called “interfaces” in modern lingo, as
they are the way we interface with the environment. Susan caught the importance
of this in Nitya’s assertion:
The universe is like a person
with complementary limbs and several faces to enjoy itself with. I am a finite
being, and yet I am privileged to act in unison with the world and be its
interpreter and commentator.
include a quote from the Gita in Part II, reinforcing the concept of the faces
as being how the universe or the “cosmic person” views itself: we are its
actual eyes, arms, smile, and so on. Our relation to the world is primary and
essential, except that we have learned to rely only on secondary sources and
discount primary experience. It’s a shame, really. Where we are meant to be
fully and ecstatically alive, we wrap ourselves in a cocoon of protective
concepts that dulls the spirit, the zest for living that is innate in all
beings. Speaking of which, Nitya elaborates:
The program of the cosmic person
is to enjoy. He is like a voracious caterpillar gobbling up everything on all
sides until he is ready to go to sleep in his cocoon and dream of transforming
into a butterfly that can emerge from the pupa with widespread wings and fly
into the sublime heights of heaven. The cosmic person’s head touches the world
of the luminaries and his feet are planted firmly on earth. He is like a
vertical parameter spanning the earth and the heavens. Between the earthly
alpha and the heavenly omega he has many worlds to enjoy. With his cosmic eye,
the sun, he fashions forms and colors…. By breathing in and breathing out, man
receives into every cell of his being the cosmic promise of life.
In case there is any doubt, Nitya adds:
The world would be a meaningless
place shorn of beauty and wonder if there were not the consciousness of man to
be the enjoyer of the whole of which he is a part.
Reviving our capacity as the enjoyer of the world is the
task of the first quarter of consciousness, the wakeful.
recognized that the part of the lesson on refining our abilities encourages us
to be reflective and nuanced in our enjoyment of the world. She found this very
heartening. The more we know and understand, the more enjoyable the world
becomes, so if we want to be joyous we have almost a responsibility to develop
our skills. I gave the example of musical appreciation, where on first hearing
a lot of music makes no sense or has little appeal, yet once we come to know
it, it may carry us to the heights of rapture. This is true of any art form, of
course. Jan is a gem specialist, and what might be a pretty rock of passing
interest to me is a fascinating and thrilling stimulus to her psyche. Given
proper stimulation, our brain rewires itself to appreciate new areas of
interest, making our life richer and more rewarding. I’m pretty sure this is
what Nitya was getting at in using the word “esthete.” While often taken to
describe someone who is detached from the thrum of life and merely pretending
to sensitivity, it also means someone who is more alive to the meaning and
value of sensory input.
is perfectly clear about his intent:
For conscious enjoyment the
senses are to be disciplined and well attuned to every shade of meaning and
nuance so that the individual person may perfect himself as an aesthete.
often Nitya demonstrated exactly what he meant with this. He would stop and
appreciate some flower or scenario, talk with a man on the street, or revel in
artistic performances. Those of us who were walking with him, wrapped up in
heady thoughts and paying scant heed to our environment, would be brought up
short, stirred out of our fog, and brought to a heightened state of aliveness
by his very gesture. What would it gain us if we reached the end of our lives
with a well-constructed philosophy but no actual experience of what the
Earth—that ideal place for love—was all about? What if we passed on armloads of
opportunities to love and be loved, because we were too busy gathering wool?
What a waste!
this is a central tenet of Gurukula philosophy: it is totally life affirming.
Deb recognized that many spiritual practices push this first quadrant of life
aside. It’s as if life is getting in the way of our attunement with something
otherworldly and more important. How sad! God, Paramesvara, or whatever you
like to call it, is flinging bliss and beauty at us all day long, and we
imagine it is just junk getting in the way of our having a good time. We could
miss our whole life with an attitude like that—and often do.
this context it is appropriate that Nitya references the famous honey section
of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. “The world is honey to man and man is honey to
the world,” is a paraphrase from the fifth Brahmana of the second Adhyaya of the
Madhu Kanda, where many aspects of the world are treated dialectically as
honey, as in “The earth is honey for all creatures, and all creatures are honey
for the earth.” There is nothing sweeter than honey, and nothing sweeter than
being alive and functioning as one of the myriad faces of the Absolute. The
philosophy should be honey for our daily life, just as our daily life is the
honey to sweeten our philosophy. I’ve added a humorous story from Love and Blessings about the honey
section in Part II.
shared a nice example of one of our friends who has spent a lot of time in
Borneo. On a recent visit he contracted a dire form of malaria, and was taken
to the local hospital, where the doctor told him that the form of the disease
he had was nearly always fatal. He would administer the only drug that might
help, but he had only four days left, after which he would either recover or
not. At first our friend was hysterical, crying and feeling very sorry for
himself, dying all alone far from his loved ones. He began praying to God to
save him. But then he thought: wait a minute! I don’t believe in God—I believe
in love! If I have only four days left, I don’t want to waste them feeling
miserable. It means I have only four days left to love. I’d better get busy. He
started loving everyone, the nurses, visitors, others in the ward, strangers,
and his spirits improved greatly. By loving them, they also felt better.
Obviously our friend recovered, or we wouldn’t know the story. I wonder what
role the placebo effect had on his recovery, since it appears to be about the
most powerful force for healing available to us. Surely his positive attitude
must have helped. The real lesson, though, is that we shouldn’t wait for death
to jumpstart our cute little love motors, we should crank them up starting
today. Any one of us could die in four days, so what are we waiting for?
mused about the self-generating and transforming aspect of the cosmic person,
the Paramesvara. Here Nitya treats it as a given, but by curious coincidence
just before the class I was proofing the first verse of Darsanamala, where
Nitya explains what he meant quite perfectly:
As an alternative to the
hypothesis of an independent creator creating the world with whatever means he
has at his disposal, let us look at the very stuff called “world,” which
includes us also in it. Think of it unitively as one primeval substance. It
should not be difficult to see how a substratum can remain the same in its
essence, without any fundamental change, and yet transform itself into a
variety of individuated forms. When physicists speak of the conservation of
energy and the transformation of matter, they refer to the same truth. The
unchanging substratum, which is willing its own transformation into the
manifested world, in the present context is called paramesvara.
friend called this morning to say that she felt Nitya very strongly with her at
the moment. That does seem to happen occasionally. When what I’m doing so
closely accords with the class content, I feel something along the same lines.
There is a mysterious coherency to life that implies much more than waking
consciousness is in play. We’ll explore some of that terrain in the upcoming
II has a lot of great quotes for your delectation. Before I get to that, I
wonder if anyone can help me with something. I’d be willing to swear that Nitya
was misheard when he said prana was like a “cute little motor.” Here’s the full
sentence: “The prana installed in a
living organism is like a cute little motor that sets into motion a million
movements, even in an organism as small as an ant.” The word cute is all
wrong—say what you will, there is nothing cute about the dynamism of prana. But
I can’t come up with a homophone that it might have been misheard as. I’d be
willing to change cute to a better
suggestion. Any ideas?
was just reading of Nitya time with Dr. Mees in Love and Blessings, and cited
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 arts.
Every day at the feet of my loving
master Sadhu Ekarasa was 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.
Ultimately when all three volumes
of The Revelation in the Wilderness
had been neatly typed and readied for publication, Dr. Mees was ready to go to
see his parents in Holland, where his father was a banker. When he left he put
me in charge of the Kanva Ashram with the freedom to wander as before.
The day before he left he gave me
his final revelation. Although Dr. Mees spent many hours in prayer and
meditation, he had never called me to sit with him. That evening he took me to
the Varkala beach. We both sat on the cliff facing the western sky. Soon the
clouds changed colors, first into a golden yellow and afterwards into a perfect
magenta. The setting sun looked very beautiful, as its golden disc was slowly
immersed in the Arabian Sea. The waves became crested with gold. Then Dr. Mees
asked, “Isn’t this beautiful?”
After that he didn’t say anything.
He was absorbed in the crimson jubilation of the sunset. When we returned to
the ashram he was deep in a contemplative silence. We took our evening meal as
usual, although he remained silent. I was feeling a little sentimental, as he
was to depart the next morning. After the meal he put two chairs in the open
where we could sit and look at the full moon in the eastern sky. Then also he
repeated the question, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
He got up as if remembering
something. He walked to the garden, returned and beckoned me to go with him. We
stood before a potted plant, the Queen of Night. One flower was slowly opening,
as big as a white lotus. Unlike the other flowers, we could see each petal
trembling as it opened. He moved the pot to where the moonlight fell straight
on the flower. It was an unforgettable scene of the moon above and the flower
below. The sheen of the moon and the milk white color of the petals seemed to
blend into each other. Now for the third and last time Dr. Mees remarked “Isn’t
Once again we went and sat on our
chairs. He looked into my eyes inquiringly and asked, “What is the Sanskrit
word for beauty?”
I replied, “Saundarya.”
He again asked, “What is the
Sanskrit word for truth?”
Then he asked “Isn’t it peaceful
I said, “Yes.”
What do you call it in Sanskrit?
“Are not shantih and shivam the
“So you accept satyam, shivam, and saundaryam—truth,
peace and beauty. Then
what is your objection to God? If you don’t want to say “God,” you can still go
deep into the significance of satyam,
shivam, and saundaryam.”
At that very moment God came into
my consciousness with a bang. That was the last lesson Dr. Mees gave me.
Afterwards I found out it was also his formula for God. (103-5)
That Alone brims with references
four quarters. Verse 63 has some relevant information about the wakeful state:
is just one knowledge, and in that knowledge we have the assurance that at this
moment this exists. We should also have the assurance that this is very
delightful. It is the quality of our knowledge that it has an existential
verity and at the same time is happiness through and through. The specific
occasion that makes it a happy thing—such as good food, the touch of a dear
friend, the word of someone loved, or the subtle nuances of music or poetry—can
come only here and now in our present, actual life.
if you want to look for the Absolute, this is the right place to do it, where
you and I sit together and have a happy time. It is right in that happiness
that you see the happiness which is called the Absolute. It is a very simple
thing. It is not some blinding light which is going to knock you down. It is
the happiness of right now.
your joy is that of a yogi, one conjoined with the Absolute, or a bhogi, one conjoined to the light of
the senses, you do not have any separate or different kind of experience from
this here. You should see the blissful beatitude of the Absolute in sensual
joy, and the joy of the senses in the Absolute. To the wise man the eternal
present is this here and now. What prevails in the state of supreme absorption,
in the quietude of deep sleep, in the phantom shows of the dream, and in
actuality, are all modulations of total knowledge. And never do you become so
clearly aware of that knowledge as in the transactional, because here you can
examine things and look for their deeper dimensions and significance. It is
here you can reflect.
thing sits solidly here before you. It is gross, concrete. But you can convert
it into just your knowledge, because only your knowledge is there for sure.
Then the concrete thing becomes very subtle. It is identified with your own
consciousness, is part and parcel of your awareness.
is up to you to make your consciousness bright or dull. If you decide, “Oh,
this is the time to mourn, to sit and become boorish,” you can. Or you can
realize it’s nonsense, just nonsense, to get into depressions. Instead you
could think, “My Self is a treasure, and each passing moment is to be enriched
with the treasure of my own Self. Every possible relationship I may get into
here with the things that are presented to me in the wakeful, I will also
enrich. If the Absolute is all joy, all bliss, there is no reason why this
moment also should not be like that.”
there is one impediment, something called vipati
vijnana, seeing everything as its opposite. The Self is seen as the
non-Self, and the non-Self is seen as the Self. It is not just because you are
in the wakeful and the world is presented there and you can do anything that it
becomes a happy occasion. No. From your side you have to do one thing. Certain
kinds of understanding are to be reversed. For instance, what you experience as
concrete you have to reverse and see how it is not concrete. It is only your
idea of concreteness that seems to be so solid. Only your prejudicial view of a
certain situation as inimical makes it so. You should be able to work on it to
reverse the whole process.
wise man inwardly sees the oneness, and that very cognition changes the
external world for him. The problem arises when a person has to share the same
with another person. Even if I see only the Absolute right here and now and I
am delighted, you may look at me and see only a pot belly and a beard. So I
also have to carry you with me. I have to somehow help you change your view so
that even though you are seeing the pot belly and beard, you know those are
only formal things which are impressed upon you by your senses and shaped by
your ideas. The differences in the ideas are not in the substance of
consciousness out of which the ideas are formulated. Give primacy to the
substance of consciousness. It is ever there. Treat the modulations of it as a
passing show. That will make it more comfortable.
purport of this verse is not to take you away from the pragmatic utility or the
transactional richness of life. It merely adds another dimension to them, the
dimension of the Absolute. And in so doing they become infinitely more
Love and Devotion:
experience is characterized by the clear demarcation of the subject interacting
with its object of interest. This is also marking that part of our experience
which can be called the transactional world. In the transactional world,
objects are constants. The changing consciousness of the subject can return
again and again to these constants and can relate the past to the present
through an act of recall. It can also relate the present to the future by
anticipating the constant to be where it was left by the subject’s
consciousness on a previous occasion. (23)
objective validation is the most firm ground of transactions, the world of
wakeful consciousness gives primacy to what is “out there.” For the same
reason, experimentation and proof are given a very high place in the world of
important aspect of the transactional world, represented by the sound ‘a’ in
the mantra Aum, is the emphasis on the efficiency of action and the
dependability of the unchanging qualities of things in themselves, which are
described as physical and chemical properties of matter. It is in this world of
transaction that we employ various instruments for the pursuit of our search,
the accomplishment of external goals, and the production of things. This
explains our preoccupation with material objects, interactions with people,
engagement in action roles, experimentation on the basis of trial and error,
and the ever-growing world of technocracy. (24)
Love and Blessings, during Nitya’s
time at the first Portland Gurukula:
October 8, 1971
morning for the relaxation I gave the passage from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
well known as the “Honey Section.” It is a passage that is universally
acclaimed for its profundity and beauty. When I was halfway through it, I could
see that it was causing some disturbance to some of the inmates. Two or three
are staunch macrobiotic adherents and some others are midway between yin-yang
dialectics and the worship of ice cream.
the session Jane came to my room, visibly agitated and said, “You’re a rascal!
I’m allergic to honey. You’ve been purposefully making me sick by repeating
those verses. It’s made me ill.”
I told her that exaggerations are
of madness. She told me that not only she but others also were having weird
experiences. In fact, Anne’s sister advised her to see a psychiatrist.
women who are very refined can get hysterical even at the sound of a word that
has some far-fetched association in their mind with things they like or
dislike. This is even more pronounced when they aren’t married and don’t have
children. I could foresee a series of tragedies that could easily ensue from
such a train of thought, so I decided I’d better explain all this before I
conducted any more classes.
is not my desire that anyone should learn anything from me. If they come to me,
it is at their own responsibility and risk. I don’t believe in magic or
miracles or witchcraft or spiritism. My main ground is mathematics and cold
logic, pure reasoning and experimental science, not hypnosis or charlatanism.
All this was presented in the evening class, and I think I explained myself
sufficiently to all concerned.
Gita’s Chapter XI elaborates on the idea of limbs and faces:
Arjuna, My forms, by hundreds and thousands, various in kind, divine, and of
varied colors and shapes.
the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Asvins, and also the Maruts; behold
many marvels never seen before.
behold here in My body the whole world, including the static and the dynamic,
unitively established, and whatever else you desire to see.
if you are unable to see Me with this your (human) eye, I give you a divine
eye; behold My sovereign Yoga.
thus spoken then O King the great Master of Yoga showed Arjuna the supreme
many faces and eyes, with many marvelous aspects, with many divine ornaments,
with many divine weapons held aloft,
divine garlands and vestures, anointed with divine perfumes and unguents, a God
representing sheer marvel, without end, universally facing.
the splendor of a thousand suns were to rise together in the sky, that might
resemble the splendor of that great Soul.
Arjuna then beheld the whole world, divided into many kinds, unitively
established in the body of the God of gods.
Arjuna, struck with amazement, with his hair standing on end, reverently bowing
his head to the God, and with joined palms, spoke.
see the gods, O God, in Your body, and all specific groups of beings, Brahma,
the Lord, established on his lotus seat, and all seers and divine serpents.
see You on every side, of boundless form, with multitudinous arms, stomachs,
faces and eyes; neither Your end nor Your middle nor Your beginning do I see, O
Lord of the Universe, O Universal Form!
behold You with diadem, mace and discus, glowing everywhere as a mass of light,
hard to look at, everywhere blazing like fire and sun, immeasurable.
are the Imperishable, the Supreme that is to be known; You are the ultimate
Basis of this universe; You are the unexpended and everlasting Custodian of
(natural) law; You are the immemorial Person, I believe.
see You without beginning, middle or end, of never ending force, of numberless
arms, having moon and sun for eyes, Your face like a lit fire of sacrifice
burning this universe with Your own radiance.
space between heaven, earth, and the intermediate realm is pervaded by You
alone, as also the quarters; having seen this wonderful, terrible form of
Yours, the three worlds are in distress, O Great Self.
You enter those hosts of the Suras, some in fear of You mutter with joined
palms, bands of great rishis and Perfected Ones hail You with the cry “May it
be well!” and praise You with resounding hymns.