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Mandukya Upanishad - Mantra 7

7/7/15

Mantra 7

 

As not inwardly conscious, not outwardly conscious, as not filled with a knowing content, not conscious, not unconscious, unseen, non-predicable, ungraspable,

bereft of quality, unthinkable, indeterminate,

as the substance of the certitude of a unitive Self, as the calmer of the unmanifested,

tranquil, numinous, nondual is the fourth limb considered to be.

He is the Self; that is to be recognized.

 

         If there was ever a mantra or verse where it’s harder to imagine saying anything about it, I don’t know where you’d find it. Yet this classic description of the turiya, the fourth state, spawned a surprisingly lively discussion, on a glowing evening that simultaneously underlined the turiya’s value and challenged us to treat it as “unseen.”

         After reading the commentary, we took plenty of time reading through the mantra again to meditate individually on every one of the concepts in it. It’s mostly an exercise in neti neti, of subtracting vast categories, with the (non) intent of arriving at nothingness. It’s a particularly comprehensive set of concepts to unwork with, and since they are impossible to conceive, the pressure we bring to bear leads us away from conceptualization. The paradox of concepts pitted against concepts is never far away, leading Nitya to affirm, in the Darsanamala excerpt found in Part II, “So, in order to be precise, we should add here in parenthesis (forgive the use of words and forget that it has been said).”

         Part II consists of several excerpts from Nitya pertaining to turiya, plus whatever anyone else submits by press time. Since the mantra commentary is brief, presumably in the expectation that we will perform our own reflections on it, these remind us of some of the familiar groundwork that we have considered before in our Gurukula studies. The additional Parts are particularly excellent in today’s notes. Don’t miss them.

         The essence of the thrust of the seventh mantra is given early in Darsanamala:

 

On the whole both the mind and its monitoring I-consciousness are camouflages that conceal from us the true ground, which can be equated with the prior nothingness of what is being experienced…. The intention of the first darsana is to give us the discipline of recognizing our general experience as a superimposition, and then to work our way into the primal state previously mentioned as the ground of all experiences.

 

Nitya adds there: “By silencing our mind we can go back to our own prior absence. This is not, however, meant to be an intellectual process. It is accomplished by a process of reduction.” (Read in Part II for a description of this reductive process and the meaning of prior absence.) He adds the reason for doing this:

 

All of the various kinds of reasoning are inefficient for cutting through the matrix of projections because conceptual word-images are used, which, by affinity of semantic associations, get entangled with the verbal content of the reasoning mind and float along with the stream of verbal concepts rather than penetrating to the bottom, which is beyond the reach of concepts and untainted by memories of the past. One must go again and again to the bottom of one’s experience, carefully avoiding all habitual chains of reasoning.

        

So yes, it’s a process of letting go. Whenever the mind attempts to supply a definition, an inhibition or a rationalization, we dismiss it. The “nothing” of nothingness is a vivid state untroubled by the ripples of conceptualization. This aspect may be what is hinted at in the phrase “the calmer of the unmanifested.” The unmanifested is already as calm as calm can be, so it’s more like we are calmed by the unmanifest state. Hume’s translation should make the sense somewhat clearer: “the cessation of development.” When we stop developing ideas, we naturally settle back into the prior absence from which they arise. Without waves, the ocean is naturally calm.

         Deb broke the lingering spell of our contemplation of the mantra with an apt analogy. While sitting she had a vision of ice melting back into the water out of which it is formed. Ice cubes, with their sharply defined angles and brittle inflexibility, are created when supple water freezes into a static pose, yet by a very simple process of melting they can lose their hardness and become water again. She added that every night, in sleep, the ice cubes we are melt right in our beds. She remembered Nitya saying how this is a gift we all receive: when we sleep we go naturally into samadhi. Certainly sleep requires a measure of letting go that sooner or later all of us are forced to allow to happen.

         Deb recalled visiting a spectacular lake in Patagonia, near the largest glacier outside of Antarctica. Huge chunks of the glacier would break off and float across the lake, eventually melting near the far shore, where we stood watching. She thought of all the seeds and pollen and bits of plant and animal matter that had been captured in the ice for thousands of years, finally to be released as the ice melted. It reminded her of the memories and fixed concepts we all hold dear within us. They too will disperse some day, if not in meditation, at least in death. But we can melt them out now, to our lasting benefit.

         Prabu shared inspiring stories of Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi melting into their enlightenment. As a counterbalance, Deb cautioned that we should not hold any fixed ideas about how the enlightened state comes to be, because we can be caught up in romantic notions that separate us from the very state we desire. Indeed, the contradiction is that by desiring we push ourselves away from what we desire. That’s why the seventh mantra is so perfect: everything is surrendered, even the desire for attainment, with the comprehension that our default setting is the Absolute so all we have to do to access it is stop our machinations. In Nitya’s words, “It is a matter of deconditioning and unlearning whatever one has gained in this manifested world.” Nothing to it!

         The experience in question is an utterly personal and private affair. We have heard the stories of those seers who have become famous and popular, but for each one of those there are myriads of seekers who have melted into their essence and yet never shared it overtly. They have come and gone quietly, or their humble circle of visionaries persisted for a while and then vanished without a trace, like a ripple in a pond.

         One of the things we have to relinquish to sink into the fourth state is the motivation to promulgate something special. As soon as the state is defined, it becomes something other than turiya, which, among other things, is bereft of qualities. It’s not a salable quantity, as blogger Dominic convincingly argues in Part II. We must drop the thoughts we harbor that enlightenment is something special that only great masters attain, not to mention dispense, which erects a solid barrier between us and our essence.

         Paul lamented how the stories we tell ourselves grant meaninglessness to aspects of life that should be noticed. He recounted a Chinese fable of the Bird’s Nest Roshi, who often meditated in a tree. One day the governor of the province came by and said, “Meditating in a tree is dangerous.” The roshi replied, “What you are doing is more dangerous.” Meaning he was not meditating, that not seeking the meaning of life is the most hazardous course there is. What is dark to the worldly is bright to the yogi, and vice versa. Such stories are meant to remind us to be humble about our position and look for the meaning that abounds all around us.

         This attitude is slyly implied in the phrase that the fourth limb “is considered to be” all the aspects listed. It does not insist on its validity. Any description has to be different from what it describes, because descriptions are based in word concepts, and thus are an approximation at best. Nitya gives a brilliant explanation of this in Darsanamala:

 

Let us think of the element of reason as our inner light. In this light we see several elements of our experience; reason is our tool to specify these elements as it highlights each unit as a value factor. Let us take joy as one such unit. The recognition of joy occurs as a conscious appreciation of its existence in our awareness. Awareness and the state of joy are now related as a matter of psychological affinity. We recognize not only the element of joy, but also the fact that we are joyous, and the recognition of being joyous is immediately promoted as a main aspect of our experience. The recognition “I am joyous” is a secondary representation of the primal happening of pure joy. We have thus rationalized our experience, and it is brought forth as a representative image of our understanding of this spontaneous occurrence of the state of pure joy. (89)

 

         There is nothing in this philosophy to follow: we are directed to re-experience the turiya in our own unique way, by breaking through layers of obstructions and impediments. As Moni said, there is nothing to define. After all, that’s what “non-predicable” means: you can’t say it’s anything. The minute you do, it becomes something else.

         Deb registered a complaint—echoed by all the women present—about the use in the mantra of the male gender pronoun to refer to the turiya: If we are beyond everything, then surely we should be beyond male versus female. It’s a point well taken, but to my mind overdrawn. Transcendence does not negate existence, it enhances it. In other words, we have many imperfections, and they are inevitable, to exist at all. Holiness does not mean living in perfect perfection. It means living perfectly amid all the imperfections, changing what we can and smiling at what we can’t. Especially as here, where the intent was clearly neutral, and it’s only the present day focus on chauvinism that raises a familiar association—that ping in the heart or whatever. It’s well and good to root out chauvinism, along with all the other isms, but here its presence is what Nataraja Guru meant by mixing up our frameworks. We’re musing about transcendence, but we’re insisting on calling out the fools.

         Up until very recently, “he” was frequently and unapologetically used to refer to both men and women in a general sense. In the last few decades we have evolved a different opinion, but to retroactively and indiscriminately apply our current thinking to the past is inappropriate. Obviously the rishis who wrote the Upanishads in the highest ideals of human destiny were at fault if they harbored gender distinctions. It’s a modern conceit to excoriate them as if they did, but if they believed their own philosophy—and I’m sure many of them did—then the issue would have been nonexistent.

         “He” in place of “that” or “it.” Such a simple thing to yank a person out of their still center! Does that mean when the deity is referred to as she that women should feel a special affinity and men should be left out? I don’t think so. Both postures throw us back into the schismatic mindset we are aiming to release here, if only for an hour. How many clichés push our tender buttons in a similar fashion? Our reactions are an indicator of what we still have to release, not necessarily where our good fight is to be fought. At least, not until we obtain a true sense of balance.

         This issue indirectly led to another important question. Jan talked about how she had spent the weekend at the beach with her daughter and friends. The whole time was wonderful, but she had a special period as the sun went down while sitting and walking by herself. She felt terrific! It was a great weekend. But sitting in class, where we were talking about nothingness and subtracting everything, she wondered if she had been wrong to feel so great. Feeling great is not nothingness! Far from it.

         I hastened to assure her that nothingness is a somewhat misleading term; that when we feel we’re “in the groove” like she was, that’s the whole point, in a way. Usually, our happiness is accosted by all kinds of doubts, second thoughts, and other mental sabotage. In Jan’s case there was undoubtedly a sense of relief of having passed through a difficult time, even if only part of the way. It may not have been absolutely absolute happiness, but it was damn good! It was not the rishis’ intent to make her feel guilty about it.

         The subtraction exercise of this mantra is to let go of those secondary thoughts, to dismiss them as impediments to abiding happiness. It’s frustrating that at the very moment we feel terrific, our socialized inner voice tells us that there must be something wrong with it. Pretty quickly we carry ourselves away to an anxious state of doubting ourselves—precisely what we’ve been trained to in a lifetime of bad conditioning. Instead we should dare to allow ourselves to feel good. Why not? It doesn’t take much inner contradiction to drive it away, and that’s precisely what we’re learning to stop doing.

         The key teaching is that we shouldn’t believe our happiness is dependent on the external world. It comes from us, and we bring it with us. Some environments will allow us to enjoy it more or less, but if it isn’t in us, we will never experience it. The beach didn’t cause Jan’s happiness. It may have helped it to come forth, but it was sitting in her waiting for its chances. There’s no reason we shouldn’t give it the chance every minute of every day.

         Deb recalled wrestling with a similar predicament. On her epochal 1971 trip around the world with Nitya, they had been in Singapore struggling with the importance of environment on your state of mind. Obviously if you were truly enlightened, it didn’t matter what your surroundings were, you would always be the same blissful being. Without proper insight, it’s a seriously daunting belief, and it can lead to us beat up on ourselves if we don’t make the grade. Then we begin to pretend to be in command at all times. It’s a tricky business. Nitya’s closing paragraph emphasizes this transcendental aspect of the spiritual search:

 

It is a matter of deconditioning and unlearning whatever one has gained in this manifested world such as seeing, transacting, grasping, taking note of hallmarks, or anticipating, even though what is referred to is not any of this. One gets to it by transcending all this. By going beyond sound, touch, form, taste, smell, one comes to a peace with which one was never acquainted before. It is the numinous toward which everything moves. It is other than the wakeful, the dream and the deep sleep. What is it? Well, it is the fourth. Call it atma if you may. This is to be known.

 

         Due to this type of teaching, Deb thought she should feel the same in a garbage strewn parking lot in a hot, noisy city (this was pre-modern Singapore, not the newer, squeaky-clean Disneytopia) as she did when she was in a beautiful garden or other paradisiacal spot. It is central to our normal lackadaisical attitude that we seek pleasant surroundings, and we are easily thrown off by all sorts of “bad vibes.” Does that mean we’re failures as truth seekers? This is a perennial problem, especially for those who don’t live in ideal surroundings, where coping with various forms of discomfort is a major factor in the search for abiding happiness. Is it cheating to not have to battle heat and bad air and noise and stinging insects and hostile people?

         Clearly the environment both is and is not important. Possibly that’s why the Mandukya’s scheme has four aspects, and it does not judge them on relative importance. They are all valuable, even essential. Generally we miss out on the fourth, while dealing with the rest, more or less. But to spend time, or non-time, in the turiya, we most certainly have to let go of our doubts and self-criticisms and other-criticisms at least in the moment we feel most attuned. That’s the time to laughingly chide those nagging little devils: “Ah, there you are again! I’m not going to indulge you today—I’m feeling good, and I’ve decided that’s okay.”

         What the rishis wanted to impart, I’m certain, is that the mental machinations appropriate to the wakeful, transactional realm are inhibitory of immersion in the fourth, so we should practice living without them in those blessed moments when we are spared from moiling and toiling. If that inner calmness grows to permeate the rest of our life, fantastic! It will, if it is invited in on a regular basis. Eventually, perhaps, it will invite us in. In fact, it is inviting us in, and we resist out of the bad habits we have learned to cherish in lieu of liberation.

 

         There so much more to this, but my brain hurts. I wish I could just spread the whole evening before you and leave it at that. It would be nice if some of you sent in your thoughts, to bail me out and further the development. I’ll leave you with lots more from Nataraja and Nitya and a couple of other luminaries in Parts II and III. Above all, have fun out there! And don’t feel bad about it.

 

Part II

 

         From That Alone:

 

         Where do all these things take place? In between the light and the darkness. And what is the light we are speaking of? It is a pure light, one that transcends the concrete, gross world of wakeful experience, the subtle world of dream experience, and the non-activated potentials of the deep sleep experience. If we push these three states—tainted by darkness, by relativistic nature—away, what remains is a pure consciousness which witnesses the other three states. This consciousness has no beginning or end; it is not limited to any body. Everything that happens is within it. Such a state is called turiya, the fourth. It does not come within the three. Yet without the light of the fourth none of the rest can ever function.

         Our consciousness is made up of two entities: the three states taken together, and the one that witnesses. The witnessing reality or pure consciousness alone is nonconditional. It is not a dependent factor in relation to anything. It is totally independent. The great saint and philosopher Madhva called it the pure principle of independence, svatantra. Sva means its own; it is its own tantra or tool, its own operation. The self-operating reality is called turiya, and the three states are called paratantra, dependent factors. (v. 28)

 

*         *         *

 

         From Darsanamala, Comic Projection: Applied Psychology, concluding the first Darsana, Adhyaropa:

 

         What is taken for granted as a life experience, when carefully examined, will reveal itself to be a superimposition. A superimposition implies a ground upon which something alien to its nature is transposed or imposed. The ground of our experience is what we call “I,” although the I we talk about or ponder over is not the ground, but only a semantic symbol which is colored by what is superimposed on it. Thus the transactional I is as much alien to the beingness of the ground as what is fictitiously projected upon it. All of the various kinds of reasoning are inefficient for cutting through the matrix of projections because conceptual word-images are used, which, by affinity of semantic associations, get entangled with the verbal content of the reasoning mind and float along with the stream of verbal concepts rather than penetrating to the bottom, which is beyond the reach of concepts and untainted by memories of the past. One must go again and again to the bottom of one’s experience, carefully avoiding all habitual chains of reasoning.

         The crust of our consciousness is formally structured with a relation-relata complex. Our empirical ego, which is also the semantically structured I-consciousness, is the invisible thread which holds together all ideas, sensations, and feelings to form the gestalt of the moment. An integral part of this gestalt is a certain pattern of reasoning and its given coloration of mood, which time and again is recognized as one’s mind. Thus, on the whole both the mind and its monitoring I-consciousness are camouflages that conceal from us the true ground, which can be equated with the prior nothingness of what is being experienced. The Self, or the true I, is therefore to be understood as the anterior absence of what is present. It implies within its structured content the paradoxical contradictions of the coexistence of both beingness and nothingness. When Ramana Maharshi advised his followers to repeatedly ask the question “Who am I?” his intention was to make them go beyond all semantic exercises and not hang on the crutches of reasoning, so that they could experience directly the nothingness of nothing cancelled by the being of beingness. So, in order to be precise, we should add here in parenthesis (forgive the use of words and forget that it has been said). (88)

 

         The intention of the first darsana is to give us the discipline of recognizing our general experience as a superimposition, and then to work our way into the primal state previously mentioned as the ground of all experiences. (90)

 

         By silencing our mind we can go back to our own prior absence. This is not, however, meant to be an intellectual process. It is accomplished by a process of reduction, though not a reduction in the sense in which it is suggested by Husserl or Jaspers. The type of reduction suggested here is the kind performed by a yogi. We have hands for working and legs for walking or moving. When a yogi sits quietly he does not use his legs or his hands. The hand is an instrument. If it is not functioning, the mere structure of it alone does not make it a hand. The plastic hand of a doll is also called a hand, but is it one? Is a plastic flower a flower? No. It is a chemical substance molded into a form that bears some similarity to a hand or flower. It may look like a hand or flower, but even structurally it is not true to the original. When we go beyond it, when we reduce the function of the hand, we go from what it can do to nothingness. The same with the legs. This means we sit quietly. If we also make this happen to our mind by not feeding it with memories and by not hooking one association to another, then functionally the body and the mind come to a certain nothingness. It is in this nothingness that we find the ground. We do not see the ground, we are the ground.

         This ground or nothingness is not a total nothingness: it has certain potentials. When these potentials become actual, we think of them as the cause and the actuality as the effect. Now let us again forget the tyranny of language. At what stage is there a cause and at what stage does it become an effect? We can imagine our physical growth. Could we draw a line somewhere and say that up to this point in our growth was the cause and thereafter the effect began manifesting? After the prior absence of the fetus there comes into being a single cell, the zygote, which then starts to multiply. Can we stop there and say that that was the cause and the rest is the effect? No. The replication of the cell is done as if by memory, like a habit. It is as if this organism has done it so many times before that it has become instituted in it as a habitual function. This is what is called incipient memory. The incipient memory need not necessarily be the memory of what we recall in our mind. It is a potential in the ground itself. Our meditation is to reach the ground as well as the potentials in it.

         Why should we bother to seek the ground? It is because at the conscious level in which we live our life we have no control, since that level is already manifested. If we want to do something with the primeval dynamics, we should go to the area which is still in the process of being manifested. The further we go into the unmanifested potentials, the greater is our control. How do we go about this? Let us go into our own personal experience, our own life. What problems are we confronting now? What kind of personal relationships do we have with others? What makes us cry? What makes us laugh? What inspires us to write poetry, or paint, or do any creative work? What inhibits us? What gives us courage? These are the areas that have become fully manifested. We should try to predicate the “what” in these questions. (91-2)

 

         We began with nothingness. Then we found that nothingness is the prior absence of things that are manifesting, and that if there is a prior absence of what is manifesting then the potentiality of that which has to manifest is there. To understand ourselves we should know our ground, the nothingness, the scratch from which we began. Understanding is a complex process of comprehension where our emotions understand our emotions, our reason understands our reason, and our unconscious inner mechanism understands the unconscious totality to which it belongs. The principle of homogeneity is to be applied at each level so as to include and interrelate the entire content of our experience. One way of doing this is to conceive of our life as a series of pulsations, and to watch the centripetal and centrifugal contractions and expansions. (93)

 

*         *         *

 

         Deb found a Gurdjieff/Trungpa inspired rant that pertains to turiya as it relates to the present day spiritual marketplace. Chogyam Trungpa wrote Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, an essential book for truth seekers, where he coined the term. There look to be additional good reads at this site: https://vanishingnarrative.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/unsold/ .

 

Unsold

Posted on July 5, 2015 by dominic724

 

“ I just don’t see what awakening is good for. The people I know who have woken up –
I don’t see how this has improved their lives. “ – Zelda

Riffing off Zelda’s comment …

Frankly…

Awakening isn’t good for anything.

Self-interested seekers, please seek elsewhere.

There is nothing for you here.

Numberless are the mercantile cyber-stops for you to visit, enjoy,
and leave with SOMETHING USEFUL.

Lots of businesses work this angle.

This is not such a place.

If you love the life of the mind – definitely seek elsewhere.

You will not find mind-food or mind-toys for your voracious pet here.

Your fluffy little Pomeranian will bark, and whine, and you will give in –
like you always do, while pretending you are still in charge.

What you tell yourself is your business.

Self-deception is fundamentally a private affair.

At least, at first.

We pour huge amounts of time, life, and energy into self-deception.

You’d think we actually ended up with something after all that effort.

Not really, unless you count empty promises.

Someone once coined a phrase – spiritual materialism. (1)

But you can call it what you like.

It still means
at day’s end
there’s nothing left.

If you thought your smarts would save you from this, guess again.

If you thought your street sense would save you from this, not really.

If you thought your education would save you,
it probably won’t pan out.

Want to escape from the tyranny of the self ?

Burning inquiry, searing honesty, relentless self-challenge –
this path is tried and true. ( it’s also free )

What do we get for it when we’re done?

Nada.

Zip.

Zilch.

Nothing at all to show for your effort.

Nothing you can be proud of.

No souvenirs.

No certificates, plaques, not even points
redeemable for frequent-flier miles.

This non-dual stuff – it’s really not about you.

If you want a better you,
plenty of people out there will try to sell you something –
and if that doesn’t work,
there is always something else to buy !

Nothing here will make your you any better.

Really, nothing here at all.

Part III

 

         One of many of my unfinished articles is about the Absolute, close kin to the turiya. I’ll share a few of the quotations I collected for it, beginning with Nataraja Guru’s excerpt that includes Hume’s translation of the seventh mantra, well worth comparing to Nitya’s present version:

 

From Ch. 6 of Vedanta Revalued and Restated, a definition of turiya or atman:

 

The notion of the Absolute has somehow to transcend all paradox, and even vestiges suggestive of it. This is an utterly necessary position, epistemologically speaking. Ultimate truth cannot be thought of as having a rival or be ranged against itself. That Vedanta does recognize this ultimate absolutist status for its Reality, Truth or Value is evident from the seventh verse of the Mandukya Upanishad, which reads:

Not inwardly cognitive (anta-prajna), not outwardly cognitive (bahih-prajna), not both-wise cognitive (ubhayatah-prajna), not a cognition mass (prajnana-ghana) not cognitive (prajna), not non-cognitive (a-vyavaharya) ungraspable (a-graha), having no distinctive mark (a-lakshana), non-thinkable (a-chintya), that cannot be designated (a-vyapadesha), the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self (ekatma-pratyaya-sara) the cessation of development (prapamcjopashama), tranquil (shanta), benign (shiva), without a second (a-dvaita) Þ such they think is the fourth. He is the Self (Atman). He should be discerned.

         Here, except that there is an implied equation between the Self and the notion of the Absolute and that it is calm, benign and non-dual in content, no specific positive qualities are attributed to it. Vedanta attains to a status as near to that of the shunya-vada of the Buddhist philosophy of the Middle Way (Madhyamika) as possible here. The other extreme position may be represented by the so-called dualists, such as Madhva.

 

An absolute can only be given in an intuition, while all the rest has to do with analysis.

Henri Bergson

 

Eddington: To gain an understanding of the Absolute it is necessary to approach it through the relative. The Absolute may be defined as a relative which is always the same no matter what it is relative to. (Space, Time and Gravity, Harpers, p. 82)

 

Zeus with his thunderbolt represents the great god on high as understood by the Greeks. Indra of the Indian context is likewise a chief of the gods of heaven. There is something quantitative still persisting in them in the attributes applied to them which implies horizontal values.

         The Absolute is not a quantity with any magnitude, but rather a pure quality without magnitude. Even the hypostatic glory that we attribute to God in praising Him is not consistent with the image of the Absolute as understood in the purer non-theological context of contemplative Self-realization. Neither can we say, however, that the Absolute is without greatness. The “greatness” (as we have translated the words mahas here) is to be understood as a glory that participates more in the vertical aspect of values rather than in the horizontal. (Nataraja Guru, Commentary on One Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction, p.75)

 

Nitya, in Living the Science of Harmonious Union:

 

Every religion has a central axiomatic principle on which the morality of that religion is established. In the Upanishads the axiomatic teaching is given as the unity of the one Self that is in the heart of all. It is this realization that leads us to both ahimsa and satya. Then we will have no private world. When we look inward we will see the entire infinitude of consciousness as our truth, the only Absolute. We will not see another there. When we look outward, from the blade of grass under our feet to the far off invisible galaxies also, they are all one. So there is nothing to be privately desired or grabbed. Then the truth itself stabilizes us in our belongingness with all. It is this vision of oneness that cancels out all pairs of dualities in a realized person’s life. The basic nature of life is the knowledge of a single existence and that existence is not—even for a second—different from the total value or ananda of life. Thus the yogi is a person of open morality whose religion is a dynamic religion and not a static, structured one. (249-50)

 

Letter to Josie, August 31, 1977, now in Love and Blessings:

 

         A relativist is one who lives always calculating the future and wondering how he or she can manipulate the mind of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a relative, to get some vested interest gratified in the name of a good that was intended to be done in the past or a promise of a great good that he or she will someday be able to do. Concealing two-thirds of the truth, painting one-sixteenth of the facts and leaving all inconvenient things to be merely promised, the relativist always wants to use others.

         The absolutist is one who sits firmly on the conviction that there is a functional truth that runs all through life, sometimes obscure, sometimes pronounced and sometimes hard to detect. He or she knows that the best way to be in tune with this benevolent, protective, friendly, hidden truth of life is never to belittle its glory, power, intelligence, beauty and absolute goodness. The Absolute is neither particular nor general; it is neither an idea nor a fact. It is the living meaning, the unalloyed value that insures the worthwhileness of life.

 

Part IV

 

         Deb added more on the gender bias issue, and addressed the struggle I had in writing the notes:

 

Hey, for all the feelings of disaster and difficulty with writing this, I think it worked out very well. Such a beautiful verse and well communicated.

 

Of course, I am also going to respond to what you say about the use of “he”. One, I am sure many of the rishis understood what they were envisioning and were not partial. They were steeped in the turiya. But the fact is people can be almost awake but still be blindsided by deep cultural biases. And the traditional Vedic and Upanisadic cultures had strong strains of patriarchal superiority. If someone uses the word nigger or kike or faggot, we are upset because we can see that it is an example of a clouded mind set (as well as ugly actions). And the way we express or don’t express the equality of gender can also have that same clouded outlook. I don’t think we all need to stop using the words “he” or “his”, but where it very definitely has a neutral status we should make that clear, i.e., in philosophical cases like this verse. Also, of course, in the best of all possible neutral worlds words don’t matter or mean anything...but we are using them now and being exact and careful with them highlights their preciousness. 

 

*         *         *

 

         Jean also weighed in:

 

Dear Scott,

 

“I am joyous” at being able to read your continuing class notes.  (“It’s nice to have you back where you belong!” -- a Hello Dolly song :-)

 

I feel calmed by your discussions of the unmanifested, even as the horizontal world is changing all the time around us, Nancy’s mother, my stepmother, thoughts for Bushra, just for starters.

 

The fourth, as “its own... tool”, as independence:  I’m reminded of a time when Nils was about 9.  He’d had some major altercation with a half-bully down the street, and he grabbed his bike and said he was leaving forever and rode off into the sunset.  I had three younger boys to keep track of and didn’t know what to do.  Called Lasse on his ship and explained as much as I knew about the situation.  He listened, then said, “Well, he has his own will.”  After a pause, “He’ll probably come home when he gets hungry.”  (Shades of BU, ha ha)  And so it was.

 

Turiya as a he/she/it....   Definitely an issue where “word-images...which by affinity of semantic associations get entangled.”  Here in Sweden, where LBGTQ questions are always under scrutiny, there is a whole new OFFICIAL word, hen.  It works like this:  as han = him, and hon = her, then let’s do away with the difference (viva la difference!) and make it a hen = him/her.  I do have trouble using this new word, because all I see before me is a hen (chicken).  Those pesky semantic associations!  You just can’t win.

 

Tranquilly,

Jean

 

*         *         *

 

         Beverley added some helpful investigations:

 

Hi Scott,

On reading mantra 7 class notes and additions I thought at first that I agreed with what you wrote. One should always take note of the cultural background of any literature, philosophy or theology and take that into account when assessing the value in modern terms of any information or advice.

 

Next I thought I would try to see how the Sanskrit had been translated by others. I concentrated on the last line of the mantra. I got quite fascinated after a while. Here is what I found......

 Sa atma, sa vijneyah

 

This is the Atman, the Self; this is to be realised

Swami Krishnananda

 

This is the fourth stage, the self, that is to be known

Jayaram V

 

This is Atman and this has to be realized

Swami Nikhilananda

 

He is the Self. He should be discerned

Nataraja

 

I also found some information  on the very different way Sanskrit treats pronouns - often not using them  so they have to be inferred.

 

On the basis of this limited and superficial information I made a short summary as follows....

Sa is neutral and certainly the unaccented ending 'man' in Brahman  is neutral and I think the word Atman is too.   So...... in this case Guru Nataraja's use of He  is perhaps open to some suggestion of unconscious gender assumption.  

 

Finally I wondered about the how and why of the whole issue about whether I felt it mattered if Guru Nataraja, and Guru Nitya too, used 'He' at times in a way judged to be gender biased in modern terms. Admittedly when I started this study nine years ago I used to wonder how the ruminations of these ancient MEN could be remotely relevant to me, but  I persisted and now I value a great many things that are expressed in this archaic language that seem quite alien at first, and the use of He instead of This or That does not seem to be relevant.

 

So, I reckon I still agree with you.

Beverley

 

—Whew! It looks like I dodged a bullet here! In my response I affirmed that I very much resist the neutral (Absolute) godhead or principle being accorded a gender.

         For the record, Hume (the go-to guy of Upanishadic translation) also has it as He, and likely is the inspiration for Nataraja Guru. This would be due to the reference to Siva preceding it. The Monier-Williams dikker admits sa as a neutral pronoun sometimes modified by other nearby terms. It’s also worth repeating that, while the two gurus had old-fashioned notions about gender terminology, carried over from their student days, they were outspoken in refuting gender bias, even being vilified for their non-traditional stances. Nataraja Guru especially felt he had to be careful, as he was already considered so radical as to not be a legitimate representative of Hinduism. For that matter Narayana Guru challenged sex discrimination from the beginning.

         I’m always a bit disappointed when these well-known facts are overlooked in favor of a personal preference, so I particularly appreciate Beverley’s open stance.

Scott Teitsworth

rsteitsworth(at)yahoo.com