Nitya Teachings

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Mandukya Upanishad - Mantra 4

6/2/15

Mantra 4

 

In the dream state (he), the inwardly conscious,

with seven parts and nineteen faces,

nourishing himself on the well-selected,

is the luminous one (taijasa), the second limb.

 

         Thanks to the combination of a full moon and the subject being dreams, we had a very lively session this week. Dreams always inspire flights of fancy and self-revelation. Between the moonbeams and the rhubarb pie, we could have chattered away the entire evening and not even bothered with the class. Happily, once we did, there was much to imbibe.

         We began by reading out the relevant excerpts from Love and Devotion. I’ll reprint them in Part II, but the gist is worth adding here at the start, where Nitya sorts humans into four broad categories:

 

   The individual can be a socially maladjusted and spiritually dull person. In that case he’ll be resorting to ill-conceived norms or will be making random decisions according to the social pressure or emotional tension that prevails upon him; or he can be a socially well-adjusted person conforming to universal norms and blind to the spiritual significance of the habitual choices he makes; or he can be a person with spiritual insight, clearly seeing the static nature of society and its morbid laws. Such a person would prefer to rebel and revolt to defend his personal norms against popular norms that are lacking integrity to be universal. Or he can be a very rare person who is a law unto himself, and what he understands and contemplates may also happen to be the most valid of universal laws.

   All these people interact with the world and contribute their positive or negative attitudes in the context of here and now. Hence this horizontal negative pole plays a very pivotal role in making both the individual and the world happy or unhappy with the judgment and volition which come from this quarter of consciousness. In all the wisdom texts it comes again and again that the mind is the cause of bondage and that it is also what causes our liberation.

 

         Labeling the horizontal negative, svapna, as the dream state is somewhat misleading. It covers subjectivity as a whole, which is merely epitomized by dreams. Actually, we are dreaming in the broader sense almost all the time. We interpret the objective world in ways that more or less closely model it, and the struggle of the scientifically or spiritually minded person is to make as near a match as possible. Deb loved the excerpt from Love and Devotion  (reprinted below) relating three prime functions of the second quadrant: mirroring the actual world, interpreting it, and willing a decisive response. These are roles we should not abandon in the mistaken belief that doing so is somehow spiritual, as they amount to our subjective efforts toward liberation.

         Nancy made the excellent point that on reflection, the apparent gulf between the objective and subjective realms grows progressively smaller, until they are seen as a single condition with two complementary aspects. The thrust of yogic contemplation is to bring the poles of the horizontal axis together to meet in the vertical axis, producing a state we readily recognize as harmonious.

         Actually, I’ve added the progressive minimization part; for Nancy the world is always unitive and harmonious, always one thing. Her stature as an oracle is grounded in the oneness of her vision. (I know she doesn’t read the class notes, or I wouldn’t even be writing this down—she never even thinks in these terms at all.)

         Nonetheless, the harmonizing of object and subject is a critical aspect of a healthy life. Nitya expresses its importance here in terms that take account of the scientific perspective:

 

The composition of mental images and the construction of the world are attempted by the mind to create a universe out of the chaotic onrush of all sorts of energies which pour into human awareness through the several inlets of the body. The subjective, creative functioning of the mind is to be performed with great technological skill so that the parade of forms that represent the world can give the experiencing of a continuous, organically knit story which can at once be beautiful and meaningful.

 

         This kind of skillful coming to terms with the outside world is more the task of our time awake rather than when we’re asleep. There was some talk of lucid dreaming—dreaming with conscious intent—but that goes against the thrust of what we’re after. It is interesting, of course, and if a person is severely limited in the ambit of their life, it might be a relief to play around with it. But the perspective we’re employing, as Deb emphasized, is that our surface consciousness is a gateway to the oceanic unconscious. Our task is to open the gates and monitor what emerges for appropriateness, not to presume we know what’s in there and select what we want. That would be too limiting.

         All night there was a lot of talk about dreaming in the traditional sense, and much of it was fascinating. Many of us feel like messages or prescience comes to us through our dreams. Scotty even reported having many dreams—at least 20—where later on (even many years later) he found himself in the exact situation he remembered from the dream, and he would think, now this is going to happen, and it did, or now so-and-so will come in, and they did. Quite unusual. Nancy reported frequently dreaming of extremely alien places she had no recognition of at all, as well as being an inanimate object sometimes. Some of her dreams are so foreign she feels like she’s tuned in to another person’s life, or as if someone else’s brain waves are crossing over into her. (For those of you following via email, this is Nancy R. not the Nancy Y. many of you know, who lives a couple of hundred miles north of us.) Susan also dreams of strange and unrecognizable places, but she finds that when she thinks about them for a while, she begins to get a sense of them representing something familiar. That’s more my experience also, where the symbolic language of the dream is framed differently than my waking perceptions, but often can be traced back to them.

         The unifying idea is that dreams open us up to our unconscious, which is a vast reservoir of wisdom. Normally, our transactional consciousness suppresses this treasury of values, as it is busy dealing with the necessities of everyday activity. Without an intentional break in the routine, it is only when we fall asleep that we stop preventing the natural upwelling of unconscious material, which is the fountain source of creativity. It looks like our inner genius is always pressing to be a part of our life, but we only foster its emergence by the occasional relaxation of our guardianship of the doorways. If we can remain open to it during the day, inspiration is always available. In other words, the more you are a relaxed you, the more your inner intelligence can come out and be part of your life,

         Ordinarily, we construct a defensive edifice with our subjective volition that suppresses our creativity in favor of safety issues. Another important idea from Love and Devotion is “There is the danger of making a private world around the I-consciousness and sitting in it like a spider caught in its own web.” Finding ways to remain open to our resources even as we protect our delicate inner parts is the tightrope we have to walk in a dynamic life on an unpredictable planet.

         The affirmation of Vedanta that we are the Absolute is a radical technique to break out of the mold, or the web. Nitya makes the meaning of it explicit, in a sentence Bill relished:

 

If God is a creator, and he is still creating his work, that is happening right here and now within the folds of our own brains.

 

Deb recalled that Nitya often talked about how we are meant to be co-creators with the divine. We are the arms and legs, eyes, ears, and all the rest, of the deity. The deity is not something outside us manipulating us like a puppet, but our innate functioning playing itself out. As with Nancy’s comment, there is only one thing going on here, no matter how we explain it.

         The English-speaking world has a mantra of its own that reveals the dream side of life, and hints at the proper attitude to glide through our days:

 

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream;

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

 

         Nitya touches on something I was moved to elaborate on in the class, that reading is a way of dreaming that exemplifies the second quadrant perhaps better than dreaming during sleep does. Before listing some of the most important story collections of humankind, he says, “The great ability of the myth-making mind can be directly experienced by reading great books.” When we read, there is a negligible proportion of objective material: words on paper, mounted on a screen or encased in a physical book, and possibly a pair of glasses. But all the rest is subjective. A vast world is generated in our minds to give shape to what the words mean. Each one of us will have a unique mental movie that accompanies our reading, and we will derive personalized meanings from it depending on how we frame it. On reflection, we do the same when we aren’t reading words; when we’re reading the book of life. A smidgen of data produces a vast moving image, mostly supplied by our mental structuring and predispositions. Nitya merely makes the dry understatement, “Many things we see explicitly are not actually warranted by the data given to our senses.” He adds:

 

When we see these artistic creations we forget that the same creative process is generated with immense perfection at least 20 to 22 hours a day, while we take it for granted as a world outside us and a few dreams inside us…. It is as if mind presides in a workshop of ideational engineering where the raw material for world structuring first comes through the five senses and is later stored in the black box of memory.

 

So the dream state is not just some vague flickering that happens occasionally in the night, it’s a fulltime engagement. It by no means excludes the wakeful; rather, it covers our intentional contributions to it.

         Prabu (whose fondest dreams involve lots and lots of reading) talked about how he used to be disturbed by fantasies about local girls, particularly those with large eyes. Then one day he dreamt of his local clan deity, who was female, and in the dream she merged with the images he held of the girls he was enamored with. He recognized that the girls were images he was projecting, and their source was this inner deity. After that he was much less troubled by longing for the girls as outside attractions.

         Paul told us about an acid trip he took in college, where he was overwhelmed with too much information. That can happen! He gained respect for the human need for limitations, and the importance of value and patterns in stabilizing the psyche. This idea touches on the brain as a reducing mechanism: in a sense the objective world is so vast we have no way to take it all in. Thankfully our brains select manageable bites for us to chew on in our subjective reveries, otherwise we’d never make much sense of anything.

         Michael quoted a friend who often said you have to have a mind before you can expand your mind. The point was well taken.

         I’m currently plowing through a tome on the history and purview of Western psychology, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, by Edward F. Kelly, et al. It is a work of the still-minority but burgeoning position that accords well with our studies, rejecting the starkly materialist cast of the field as it stands. It is fascinating to contemplate the paradox of a materialist view of the non-material mind, especially since here we’re realizing that subjectivity is 99.999% of the story, at least, and “objective reality,” if it exists at all, is a mere sideshow, an unprovable hypothesis.

         Scientists believed in a mechanistic machine universe for several hundred years, and in the late nineteenth century the parameters of psychology were staked out to conform to that rigid standard. Shortly thereafter, matter dissolved in relativity and quantum theory, along with the uncertainty principle that brought in the role of consciousness. So at practically the same instant that matter essentially disappeared, psychology pounced on it as the basis for mind. The abstraction of mental phenomena concretized into a material prospect, even as matter lost its solidity. The outcome is that Western psychology’s purview has shrunk drastically, even as ever more expansive information pours in. Anything that does not fit within the small arena set aside for the mind must be discounted, and is often fiercely derided, despite its self-evident quality.

         The book is intentionally academic and challenging, but it is a welcome restoration of sanity in terms of the importance of what spiritual seekers take almost as givens: consciousness, volition, and even sensation, all of which are dismissed by scientific fundamentalists because they don’t accord with a purely physical conceptualization. Such people do not realize their imagined objectivity is completely subjective…. The authors have encountered ferocious, religious fanatic-caliber opposition to their challenge of the dominant paradigm, despite extreme care to not exceed the bounds of reason. Such uncalled-for ferocity is most likely brought about by the gnawing insecurity of holding an untenable position. It’s a stark reminder that we should keep an open mind and examine our prejudices, as it is clear how easily assumptions become converted to gospel truth. Once that happens, the flow of creativity from the core is inhibited or totally curtailed. We become like a lurking spider caught in its own web.

         Deb left us with the liberating advice to spend the week looking at the intersection of dream and the transactional world. We will find that they merrily run together everywhere: life is but a dream.

 

Part II

 

         We started the class with a reading from Love and Devotion, as it sets the stage perfectly, and includes some very valuable information:

 

         To produce the effect of ‘u’, we should round our lips and close the mouth halfway. This symbolically suggests the receding of consciousness to another dimension in which only one half of the experience of wakefulness is employed. We have seen the subject interacting with its object in the wakeful, but in the present case only the subject operates. The subject produces out of its own registered impressions or latent and incipient memories [samskaras and vasanas], a number of compositions of mental images. The best example of such a function is dream. Even when a person is wakeful there are a number of lapses into the pure world of subjectivity. Indian philosophers include that also in the dream experience. (24)

 

We have assigned the plus side of the horizontal axis to the wakeful world of transactional objectivity, and the minus side of the horizontal axis to pure states of subjective activity. The plus side of the x-axis stands for the actual, whereas the minus side is playing three specific roles, such as: 1. the passive mirror of the objective as its virtual image, 2. the interpreter of the external world to the individual whole person and, in turn, the executive to receive from the total person the directive to relate to the ensembles of values presented through sense perception, and 3. the most dynamic instrument of will to insist on or to resist action based on the subjective appreciation of situations that are coming sequentially in the external world and of changing states of moods that present themselves internally.

         If the external world provides for experimentation, it is the subjective consciousness that provides both the hypothesis and the final judgment passed on as verification. (24)

 

         In the present context, the knowing self understands and behaves in accordance with the norms and general estimation of things as universally understood by all other individuals…. Just as there are universal norms, the individual is guided by his own personal norms also. The individual norm can be mostly in agreement with universals, but the uniqueness of the individual may also make certain of his norms clash with the universal. Usually norms, views, and private wishes of the individual that are unacceptable to the universal norm find their own sheltered expression in dreams, artistic or poetic creation, or also weird bursts of insanity. Only by understanding the complementarity of the identification with the person’s private world do we get a full picture of the oscillation of consciousness between the plus and minus poles of the horizontal axis.

         The individual can be a socially maladjusted and spiritually dull person. In that case he’ll be resorting to ill-conceived norms or will be making random decisions according to the social pressure or emotional tension that prevails upon him; or he can be a socially well-adjusted person conforming to universal norms and blind to the spiritual significance of the habitual choices he makes; or he can be a person with spiritual insight, clearly seeing the static nature of society and its morbid laws. Such a person would prefer to rebel and revolt to defend his personal norms against popular norms that are lacking integrity to be universal. Or he can be a very rare person who is a law unto himself, and what he understands and contemplates may also happen to be the most valid of universal laws.

         All these people interact with the world and contribute their positive or negative attitudes in the context of here and now. Hence this horizontal negative pole plays a very pivotal role in making both the individual and the world happy or unhappy with the judgment and volition which come from this quarter of consciousness. In all the wisdom texts it comes again and again that the mind is the cause of bondage and that it is also what causes our liberation.

         The horizontal negative pole occupies the major proportion of consciousness and also time-wise most of our conscious life. As mind can stretch itself into an infinity of space created by itself and can easily move backward and forward in time, such as engaging in a reverie of the past or fanciful imagination of the future, there is the danger of making a private world around the I-consciousness and sitting in it like a spider caught in its own web. This being a protected area where there cannot be intrusion of people from the transactional world, a sickly mind may use this private world like a shell in which to retreat. (25)

 

*         *         *

 

         Another contest! The term “apple jelly” is obviously a misheard image, but I cannot think of what the original might have been. Any ideas? Here’s the full sentence:

 

He [taijasa] can change the symbol of apple jelly into a viper with black and white stripes and easily transform it into a nun with black robes and white hood.

 

*         *         *

 

         In his book Wisdom, formerly Wisdom’s Frame of Reference, Nataraja Guru goes into much detail about the structural scheme we are investigating. He has a particularly interesting diagram titled “Cosmo-Theological Frame of Reference.” It uses the intersecting axes we have been visualizing, with a circle at the point of intersection labeled “God as Logos.” The horizontal positive is labeled Actual Space & Time, and the horizontal negative is labeled Virtual Space & Time. The vertical negative is God as Source (Aristotelian Prime Mover), and the vertical positive is God as End (Platonic Ideal).

         Anyone computer savvy enough could scan the diagram in their own copy and send it to me for distribution. (Wisdom, p. 23; Frame of Reference, p. 112.)

         Just as a sample of the Guru’s broad canvas, this section follows the diagram:

 

ETHICAL AND AESTHETIC CORRELATIONS

Where value-judgements in life are directly involved, as in ethics or aesthetics generally, the vertical and horizontal components of morality or art require a subtler insight to discern.

Generally speaking, tragedy has a movement along the vertical axis and plays on human feelings at their negative levels. To avoid tragedy would be the purpose of ethics, and in doing so we would have to avoid horizontal interests in life and cultivate vertical interests instead. Such are some of the ideas of the “Nichomachean Ethics” of Aristotle. The further implications of this statement can be found in Henri Bergson's epoch-making work, “The Two Sources of Morality and Religion”, in which the vertical world of open dynamic values is contrasted with the horizontal world of closed static or socialised values where obligations prevail.

 

*         *         *

 

Andy suggested reading the section of Patanjali (Living the Science of Harmonious Union) dealing with Isvara in concert with this mantra. It covers pages 90-107, if you’d like to read up. While the comments go outside of our focus, generally speaking, there is a nice meditation suggested on page 105:

 

Exercise

Breathe as gently as possible, silently chanting AU with each in breath and M with each out breath. After breathing in, hold the breath inside for a short while, without straining. After breathing out, gently hold the breath outside for a short while. As you do so, note the functioning of three kinds of energy: your will (iccha sakti), your action (karma sakti), and your knowledge (jna sakti).

  Continue breathing gently, silently chanting AU with each in breath and M with each out breath, holding the breath inside after each in breath and outside after each out breath.

 

 

Here are the sutras:

 

Isvara

 

23: Or, by continuous contemplation on Isvara.

 

24: Isvara is a distinct purusha unaffected by the propensities of affliction, action, and fruition.

 

25: In that Isvara the seed of the omniscient is not exceeded.

 

26: That is the teacher of the ancients also, not being limited by time.

 

27: Isvara’s signifier is pranava (AUM).

 

28: By its constant repetition and dwelling upon its meaning in the mind.

 

29: Also, from the repetition of the pranava mantra, the attainment of the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness.

 

Part III

 

         Jean sent some thoughts along, including pointing out the upside of the mind’s condensation of information:

 

You write, “A smidgen of data produces a vast moving image, mostly supplied by our mental structuring and predispositions.” I experience this every time I pass the newsstands with the evening papers (which tend to be more tabloid than the morning newspapers). The headlines are tempting, but not enough for me to buy a copy, since I hate to spend the money and time on this stuff. So I stand for a minute and read that smidgen of data on the front page, and using intuition, I can supply most all I need to know about the whole story—the whole vast moving image! It's amazing! Then I walk on, reasonably satisfied.

 

*         *         *

 

         Here’s a small indicator from The Psychology of Darsanamala, where Nitya hints at the spiritual role of svapna in monitoring jagrat, in other words of the subjective in monitoring the objective input:

 

A proper philosophical study should take into account the concrete facts of life and the problems arising from them. It is easy to say that the world is a projection, but it makes little sense if one does not follow this with an explanation of how the projection is experienced as a concrete fact. A philosophy which ignores this will not help us to emancipate our consciousness from the psychic colorations and social conditionings which perpetuate our misery.

(58)

 

*         *         *

 

         Jean sent this much later:

 

After reading class notes for mantra 4:

 

 I seem to feel a constant “drone” about all the transnational migrations that end in such tragedy, in Burma to Indonesia, Meso America to North America, North Africa to Europe, plus the EU-migrants, poor Rumanians and Bulgarians who are here by the thousands begging outside every store (4,000 in Sweden, 200 in Lund, 12 in O-hamn).  What to do?!!! 

 

“Both liberation and bondage are in the mind.”  Recalling your class notes, about the materialistic hopes of the transactional world, they do arise from the dreams of a better life and consciousness that many people live more comfortably, with food, water, warmth/air conditioning, travels, etc.  What is going through the head of a young guy from Eritrea, for example, standing on the Libyan shore, ready to “burn” away to the other shore on some smuggler's unseaworthy boat?  “Sometimes it is better to die than to live in such misery.”  But those who have reached Italy often live from hand to mouth there, too.

Scott Teitsworth

rsteitsworth(at)yahoo.com