Free from substantiality, the Fourth is outside discussion,
calmer of the manifested, numinous is the nondual one,
which is even the AUM, the Self itself. He enters the
Self by the Self who knows thus.
brief sojourn into the Mandukya Upanishad has turned out to be especially
rewarding. The profound meditations that bracketed our last evening together
were as intense as anything I’ve ever experienced in similar circumstances. It
isn’t often that you find yourself in a dedicated group where everyone is
willing to listen respectfully to each other, to say little more than the most
essential well-considered kernels of what they are thinking, and willing to
allow the intervening silence to ring out without needing to obscure it with verbiage.
Usually in study groups there are myriad irritations, diversions and
inattentions. So while we may think of what we do as rather trivial, it is in
fact a significant accomplishment, providing deep nourishment for the soul in
Deb affirmed, the turiya is everywhere, all the time. But we live in it like
fish in water: so familiar with its presence that we hardly notice. The
Upanishadic rishis invite us to be aware of the tremendous blessing we all
share, merely because we exist in a magical, mystical universe. This is in
contrast to those self-important pundits who assert there is nothing, no inner
coherence, no overarching goal or point to life. It is just an embarrassing
accident. Well, it can surely be embarrassing, but it is never an accident. The
same people who insist life is random and accidental also insist on rigid laws
that govern every aspect of universal behavior. How can you reconcile those
diametrically opposed positions? It must satisfy some perverse impulse of the
ego. Duality can also be like water to fish, never noticed or acknowledged.
Fourth is the infinite toward which we are journeying. Guy Murchie, in The Seven Mysteries of Life, traces the
rapid growth of the human mind from its very limited beginnings, where a minute
seems like eternity and the perceptible world fuzzes out beyond a foot or so;
up to adulthood, where we easily perceive vast distances and conceive of
“galaxies like grains of sand,” while time whizzes by at an incredible speed.
To Murchie this is the measure of our expansion as evolving beings. The sky,
then, is not the limit; it is only the beginning.
for all of us, it is not necessary to be aware of this aspect—call it the inner
spiritual meaning of existence. The whole thing works just fine no matter how
profound our ignorance. Sometimes I wonder if there is actually any point to
knowing about it, since we sometimes muck it up with our partial knoweldge. But
then I remember the consolation, the excitement and inspiration, and yes, the joy,
that I derive from a semi-intuitive sense of evolving in a meaningful way. To
me, it adds an ineffable dimension to life that I would sorely miss if it were
vertical parameter represents time, our progression from conception to
realization. Realization is not some static, fixed accomplishment—we all are
moving toward a personal version of what is possible. I asked the class to
share (no one did) their deepest aspirations and goals. It is usually a very
private matter, and one which tends to lose its luster and be demeaned when
shared, so I was not surprised. But some sense of purpose in life seems an
important building block for focused development. It does not have to be
spelled out, but only felt. I often quote Rene Daumal, from Mount Analogue: “I
suffer from an incurable need to understand. I don’t want to die without having
understood why I lived.” Yet that apparently is a reasonably rare condition.
seed in a supportive environment sprouts and sends a stalk up vertically,
reaching for the sun, the source of sustenance. After the complex groundwork is
carefully laid, a gorgeous flower appears, which when pollinated produces a
fruiting body containing more seeds. All along this continuum there is a
reaching up toward fulfillment. We are just like the flower, and the shape and
kind of the fruit we bear is simultaneously personal and universal. The core of
the motivation for this unfoldment is bliss, the joy of the Absolute, custom
shaped to fill each vessel it permeates:
The experiential horizon of any
significance to the individual is limited to the measurable field within which
an organism’s motor-sensory system can operate, and the orientation of each
event is consequently strung to the antecedent and the consequent with a string
of memory which has the special quality of being perennial and unceasing. This
mysterious omnipresence that shines from within every bead of experience is
ananda, the central locus of atman,
horizontal world of the present moment has a pulsation from the core to the
periphery and back again to the core, which is a kind of analogue to the
vertical expression of seed, stalk, flower, fruit, and back to seed. The
horizontal is what gives the vertical expression its personal flavor. We
experience many horizontal pulsations all day long, but our whole life is a
single vertical one. The vertical continuum is what gives coherent orientation
to our life, and its core in ananda.
ambit of our contribution to our own life, which as we have seen is constrained
in so many ways, is to minimize the obscurations we add to the natural ones
that cloak our being. We are filled to the brim with ananda, yet our psyche
alternates between joy and despair, confidence and anxiety, optimism and
pessimism. Yogic contemplation is aimed at freeing ourselves from the
unnecessary weights that drag us down into negativity, or in other words, that
blind us to our own true nature of ananda. Obscuration, or tamas, is a natural
part of life. We just don’t want it to be our permanent state, our default
setting. Here’s Nitya’s description of how this works:
Ananda is like light. No one can
alter the speed of light, yet it can be intercepted and thus its saturation can
be affected. From the invisible to the brightest light, there are several
shades of obscurations. In the physical world of reflected and refracted light
we are beset by many optical illusions. The same is also true of ananda when it
is experienced within the altering states of consciousness already described as
the wakeful, dream, and deep sleep.
is why for some of us there is work to do. Mental blocks seldom go away on
their own. They tend to reinforce themselves and accumulate more and more
garbage. Nitya reminds us that the point of all our studies is to compost the
garbage, to turn it back into healthy soil. Garbage left on its own will rot
and stink; but with a scientific treatment it can become sweet-smelling and
fertile. The arena for this transformation is our samskaras, the “behavioral
reactions” Nitya mentions in his overview of the human organism:
There are several factors that
constitute the subject matter of our study. First of all there is subjective
consciousness, which includes sensations, mentations and emotionality. Secondly
there is a network of neural interconnectedness. Thirdly, there are many
chemical and biochemical interactions which cannot be fully discerned. Finally
there are a number of typical and atypical behavioral reactions which have
socio-historical significance. All these aspects are governed by specific laws
which are intrinsically connected with general laws that govern the universe as
“Socio-historical significance” refers to our lot of traumas
and conditioning. The class discussed how each of our parents tried diligently
to structure us correctly, to get us to “fit in” to the world as they knew it.
It makes perfect sense! Many of those who did not have at least terrible active
parenting are like lost souls, with no sense of themselves beyond a superficial
accounting. We need something, no
matter how imperfect, to bounce off of. So the fact that there was a model for
us was critical. And yet, at least some measure of that partly-obscured love
became over time binding chains to hold us in rigid postures.
it is the unspoken behaviors that are passed along most thoroughly. Children
tend to reject the verbal instructions of their parents, and that’s often a
very good thing, because it leads them to their own independent course. But the
nonverbal patterning is more subtle and difficult to recognize.
with these issues makes for deeper meditations once they are set aside. I read
out the amazing excerpt from The Psychology of Darsanamala reprinted below,
which includes the continuum between fear and hope. Hope became the major theme
for the concluding moments of the class. It is a fitting theme to end on. I’ll
reprint a couple of the quotations read out, in Part II.
led us to an idea he gleaned from a short story by Raymond Carver, The
Cathedral, which highlights the distinction between direct experience and
mediated experience. In direct experience the turiya is maximally present, or
we are maximally in tune with it, while mediated experience suffers from the
many degrees of obscuration flesh is heir to. Carver’s point is closely related
to Nitya’s favorite story about Henri Bergson and Notre Dame Cathedral, most
readily accessed by us in That Alone, Verse 47:
Bergson puts this idea very beautifully using several examples. He speaks of
the Absolute as the gold coin which can never be equaled by any number of
copper pennies. Again, he discusses how a verse written in another language,
which comes straight from a poet’s inspiration and vision, can be translated
many times, but the translations can only approximate the original and never
communicate its full sense. Then he continues, suppose you go to Paris and walk
around Notre Dame cathedral and take hundreds of pictures from inside, outside
and above. Then you bring them home and juxtapose them all and show them to
someone. No matter how the photographs are presented, they can never convey the
overwhelming experience of actually walking into Notre Dame and being there,
because each one is only a partial view.
knew the same idea from seeing postcards of the Grand Canyon. They are pretty
enough, but none of them can prepare you for the astonishing rush of arriving
in person at the rim. Being There. That Oh! of aesthetic arrest. The rishis
want us to have that experience regularly, right in the thick of our lives. It
is the best gift we can give ourselves as well as our fellow beings. To access
it we have to let go of all the stuff—both good and bad—that we hold on to,
that we cling to, whether we know it or not. It isn’t so hard, once you stop
trying to avoid doing it. But because we are socially constrained to keep the
chains on, getting started is definitely the most challenging part.
concluding paragraph is a fitting close to our brief yet delightful study. In
quiet words, long drawn out in our reading, Nitya accords us one last
The phenomenon does not make the
whole story. There is also the noumenon, light in itself, which is ananda
through and through. The fourth and last immeasurable silence that follows the
articulation of AUM is suggestive of a final plunge into the noumenon, where
there is nothing to quantify and nothing to measure. This is the merging of the
dewdrop in the sea.
Letting go brings merger, naturally. The All is always
present. We don’t have to go and find it. We just have to discard our
objections and let go. It’s rather like how it must feel to jump out of an
airplane: you trust your parachute and really want to experience the rush of
free fall, but a feeling in your gut holds you back with a tremendous force of
aversion. You are suddenly quite certain jumping is the wrong thing to do. It
takes fierce determination to break through your resistance. And no one will
notice if you pull back and tiptoe away. No one but you.
we cling to phenomena, to the things we can identify with our senses and
rationalize in our mind. The problem is we cling to a superficial version of
reality. Why not cleave to the thing in itself, the reality, the ananda?
closing, all of us half-merged dewdrops expressed our gratitude for what we
have been blessed to be a part of. A fuller accounting of our appreciation is
also relegated to Part II. I think you’ll find it worth reading.
your hearts be full and generous, and may your steps ahead be taken in
confidence and inspired by hope. This is a spectacular universe we have chanced
upon. What could possibly be a greater miracle?
Aum tat sat – Aum, that
alone is. Was I
right, when we began the class? Can you ever think of it as om again? I sure
can’t. It looks rather pathetic, all stripped down like that. I want all four
letters, all four quarters!
often get the feeling that Nitya is handing me supplementary material to bring
to the class. I was proofreading this verse as I was preparing for last night’s
reading, and as you can see, it’s exactly to the point. From The Psychology of
The goal of the present study is to release ourselves from
the perennial chain of human misery, and to establish ourselves in a state of
happiness which is not transient. Turning away, repudiating, or fleeing are
methods adopted to escape pain. Drawing closer, and using techniques of sharing
or communication are indications that pleasure is being experienced. Pain
germinates fear; pleasure brings hope. Of these two major propensities, fear
and hope, it is fear that dominates both the conscious and the subconscious
mind. Hope arises from that stratum of existence which is truth itself—that is,
the blissful Self. Hope asserts itself again and again as the will to live, the
will to seek, and the will to actualize. Actualization of the highest possible
values, or the realization of the Self, dispels fear.
The highest form of happiness is not any kind of excitement,
as in the case of pleasure, but total fearlessness. Man is not afraid in the
state of deep sleep, because at that time there is no ego nor any ideation
giving rise to names and forms which may be experienced as threatening entities
by him. But fear may return when he enters the dream state or awakens. To
become established in fearlessness in all the four modified states of
consciousness is another way of stating the main goal.
we are not just engaged in theorizing. All self-realized people are fearless,
and fearlessly accept what life brings to them.
It is an inner sense of identity, that is, the Self
experiencing itself, which removes from the mind all forms of anxiety and fear.
have had an exceptional opportunity in our studies, and are perennially
grateful. It’s time we acknowledged some of it.
gratitude flows out to first Nitya, of course, with his lifetime of pondering
the intricacies of the universe and his exceptional ability as a teacher of
dunderheads, but then our gratitude extends on to include the recorder of his
talks, very likely Nancy Y.; to Nancy, Sraddha and Bob Tyson, who wrestled the
gigantic, temperamental machine to print the magazine in which it appeared; to
the gaggle of us who converged on Bainbridge Island several times a year to
cheerfully collate, staple, trim and distribute the result; right down to
Michael Brumage, who diligently digitized the commentary into a form we could
share on the internet with all class participants.
even such a simple thing as this document has a long and colorful history.
Since our study has terminated in the noumenon, it seems appropriate to recall
the end of That Alone’s verse 19, indeed a fitting conclusion to our study:
human heritage is molded by the brilliant thoughts of all these wonderful
people from all around the world: the poets, storytellers, those who made the
myths and legends, the inventors, composers, scientists and discoverers.
Whatever they have contributed is still present in our lives, guiding us,
teaching us, and helping us every moment. But they are not here. Only the
friend next to you is here, the friend who exemplifies and incorporates all
those wonderful qualities and insights. And we can all share this tremendous
inheritance and even more, with each other, to make life an ecstatic and joyful
when you do something as simple as sip a cup of coffee or tea, think about what
you are doing. Your morning tea begins in some far-off land, where very poor
people get up at four o’clock. They crowd onto a battered bus, then walk to the
plantation where ripe leaves are waiting to cut into their fingers. Leeches
climb on them to drink their blood. All day long they fill their baskets, then
they go home to a meager supper. The tea leaves are hauled to huge mills
employing hundreds of people, where they are cleaned, dried, and made into the
kind of blend you want. Then it is put in tins or boxes, and sent by truck down
the mountains and out to the coast. The shipyard is filled with more poor
laborers, who load the tea onboard ships. Then across the ocean it comes to
your port. The distributors parcel and package it and send it to your local
market, where you buy it and take it home. Thus the whole world participates in
one cup of tea. If you like sugar with your tea, there is another world of
production and distribution behind that spoonful of white grains you tip into
the cup. So should you not look into the numinous aspect of just a cup of tea?
you become sensitive to the numinous aspect of life, gratitude will naturally
fill your whole being. Each time you put a morsel of food in your mouth or sip
your tea or coffee, you will become so grateful to the corporate life of
mankind for giving you so much for so little effort. You will see nothing but
the unity underlying the many forms of the world. Great will be your joy to
share, to give, to receive. Then you won’t fight. The belligerency comes in
where you see only your own personal interests—“my home,” “my family,” or just
“my self.” The superficial form of your self interest should be subsumed in the
ocean of the general interest, and you should feel the world is your country,
your home. That humanity is your family, filled with your brothers and sisters.
Guru wants us to really feel this: to stand united, to find peace and become
peacemakers. We have to first be peacemakers in our own lives. We bring peace
to ourselves. By putting all the peaces together, we make peace with the world.
If you fragment it, you lose it. So let us gather all the peaces together in
one meaning, in one divine thread of love and compassion and understanding.
heads up brought this section of Love and Blessings to our attention:
AN APPROACH TO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
beginning the class on political philosophy, I read a passage quoted by
Cephalus from Pindar about hope: “Hope cherishes the soul of him who lives in
justice and holiness, and is the nurse of his age and the companion of his
journey—hope which is mightiest to sway the restless soul of man.” This one
sentence became the nucleus of my expanding political philosophy. When I read
it, what struck me immediately was the personification of hope, which could
just as well be addressed as God.
my childhood I had always been optimistic about finding a light to guide me
into the sunshine and gentle breezes of a new path leading on to the next goal.
It was immaterial whether I knew the goal or not, or whether I even saw a clear
path before me, because I was full of hope.
Prometheus went to the heavens and stole fire to benefit humanity, the gods
decided to punish him. He was approached by Pandora with a sealed box
containing the germs of all the tragedies man is now exposed to. Wisely he
rejected her gift. But Pandora didn’t want to take the box back to the gods, so
she gave it to Prometheus’ brother. After handing over the key to that foolish
man, she asked him not to open it. Of course curiosity overwhelmed him. He
opened it, and all kinds of plagues rushed out to infest mankind. Seeing this,
he closed the box. Then he heard a silvery voice crying out from inside, “Why
did you let out all the plagues and keep me alone imprisoned? I came to save
you. I am Hope.”
This story was in the back of my
mind when I read that the person worthy of being cherished by hope should live
in justice and in holiness. Pindar uses holiness in the sense of living a clean
and pure life, somewhat different than the holiness religious people speak of.
In my mind it is the wholesomeness of life that matters. (135-6)
read out Mary Oliver’s amazing poem Journey, as revealing the sense of forward
movement despite obstacles, inspired by what we have been calling turiya, the
fourth of this final mantra:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
further class is planned as of now. We’ll see what arises, probably around the
equinox. So far there are a couple of votes each for Darsanamala and the Gita,
but no consensus. Have fun out there!
got responses! First, from Amara, with the subject line “Just finished this for
Satsang tonight. Similar to Debs turiya remark on the Mandukya notes”:
What is it that Lights you up?
What conversations leave you with an open luminous feeling?
What places bring you peace and a sense of sweet belonging?
Which friends relax you so that you can feel your essence in
all its beauty?
These contemplations can be called spiritual, because these
inquiries are movements of love.
Our everyday life contains infinite possibilities to Light
us Up with truth, clarity and depth of understanding.
Such blessed experiences leave, in their wake, the sweet
scent of gratitude.
Life's wholeness also has a pragmatic aspect, and this
aspect calls for functional inquiry.
Our world culture favors this aspect, and most of us have
been taught how to use our intellectual capacity to question and understand
varied levels of our day to day reality.
What does this mean?
What happened first?
What might happen next?
What should I do?
Why did they do that?
Where is it all going?
All these contemplations, and more, have a functional
validity and offer a particular kind of satisfaction when resolved and
But what Lights you up?
In our world, balance is rightly honored as sensible wisdom
in our dance of duality.
The wisdom of balance is great, it serves by reducing many
traps and potholes on our life journey.
But balance is a foundational piece, and so much More wants
to rest upon it.
Balance supports our love and yearning for That which Lights
Give yourself the great gift of questioning what in your
life Lights you up.
Notice what gives you the thrill of being fully alive and
Bow to this alive openness.
You may see.... that the mystery of Life itself is what
Lights you Up.
(Scott): I responded how funny and lovely it is that
everything harmonizes, Amara added:
It is so funny how it all harmonizes...
For months now I prepare something for Wednesday Satsang
before reading the Verse for Thursday Atmosphere class....and of course there
is always a supportive coincidence.
This time a compliment with Thursday's Verse 35...with your
Mandukya and on and on it goes.
My friends report the same thing, either with Verses or
Satsangs....and it makes no difference if they are here or on vacation in Cape
Cod.....it is so beautiful!
With Love, Amara
shared a poem, under the subject line “What we aspire to.” She introduced it
This poem describes how we imagine something defined and
limiting...but then go towards that which is more open, leading into infinity.
I could say that is what I aspire to, always the larger and
more vast space.
I used to aspire to know many things. Then one day I had a
revelation: I knew many things and understood very little. Then my aspiration
changed toward understanding and wisdom.
Over the last few years that has altered (expanded?) into
wanting to be or live that understanding right here in this moment.
A long continuum.
I Chase Your Echo
Inside, as I breathe, movement, space.
I imagine a window
with sill and panes, birds outside.
Instead: the open air, the sky,
feathers inside my clavicle
trembling with each inhalation.
fifth chapter of Women in Love, by
D.H. Lawrence, has a great novelist’s most fitting take on the final question
of our Mandukya Upanishad study: what is your aim in life? While presented as a
conversation between two men, it should be easy enough to convert this to a
female perspective. You can read it here, with access to several formats and
all the chapters:
The main gist comes before they talk about going up to
London, but the whole chapter is quite stimulating. I’m finding bursts of
amazing insight interspersed with rather wordy stretches to set the mood
throughout the book. I also found the last half of chapter 3 to be especially
relevant to a spiritual life, say starting from “Hermione took no notice.” It’s
a real guru blast, a challenge to our conceits, those false spiritual ideas
that effortlessly kill the spirit. Read it at your own risk.
cheers for aliveness!