As not inwardly conscious, not outwardly conscious, as not
filled with a knowing content, not conscious, not unconscious, unseen,
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
He is the Self; that is to be recognized.
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.”
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).”
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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
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)
Darsanamala, Comic Projection: Applied Psychology, concluding the first
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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/
Posted on July 5, 2015 by dominic724
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
off Zelda’s comment …
isn’t good for anything.
seekers, please seek elsewhere.
is nothing for you here.
are the mercantile cyber-stops for you to visit, enjoy,
and leave with SOMETHING USEFUL.
businesses work this angle.
not such a place.
love the life of the mind – definitely seek elsewhere.
will not find mind-food or mind-toys for your voracious pet here.
fluffy little Pomeranian will bark, and whine, and you will give in –
like you always do, while pretending you are still in charge.
you tell yourself is your business.
is fundamentally a private affair.
least, at first.
huge amounts of time, life, and energy into self-deception.
think we actually ended up with something after all that effort.
really, unless you count empty promises.
once coined a phrase – spiritual materialism. (1)
can call it what you like.
at day’s end
there’s nothing left.
thought your smarts would save you from this, guess again.
thought your street sense would save you from this, not really.
thought your education would save you,
it probably won’t pan out.
escape from the tyranny of the self ?
inquiry, searing honesty, relentless self-challenge –
this path is tried and true. ( it’s also free
we get for it when we’re done?
at all to show for your effort.
you can be proud of.
certificates, plaques, not even points
redeemable for frequent-flier miles.
non-dual stuff – it’s really not about 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 !
here will make your you any better.
nothing here at all.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
also weighed in:
“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
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.
added some helpful investigations:
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
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
This is the fourth stage, the self, that is to be known
This is Atman and this has to be realized
He is the Self. He should be discerned
I also found some information on the very different
way Sanskrit treats pronouns - often not using them so they have to be
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.
—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.
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.
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.