Adhyaropa Darsana, Verse 1
was in the beginning as if non-existence,
world, like a dream; thereafter,
the will alone of the Supreme Lord.
In the beginning there was
Dreamwise then again by mere
Everything existent created
He, the Lord Supreme.
this first actual verse commentary, Nitya touches many of the themes that will
be explored throughout the opening darsana, and beyond too, making for one of
the longest chapters in the entire book. Because of its lengthy reading coupled
with a late start, we only addressed a couple of issues, and saved much to talk
about in later classes. Nevertheless, despite Deb being nearly tongue-tied at
the outset, the community mind burgeoned into an absorbing and uplifting
investigation. It was as if, in the beginning, we sat in a condition of
nonexistence, and then, like a marvelous dream, captivating insights began
fluttering into our awareness. It’s really quite a dynamic situation we find
purport of the verse relates to many levels of existence, ranging from the
personal to the cosmic scale of the universe as a whole. As usual, our focus is
mainly on the practical implications for the immediate implementation by a
seeker of truth. Nitya speaks to the pairing of the existential truth of our
perceived world with an inner sense of awe and wonder:
Higher truth… becomes all the
more dear when one knows it intimately. Each time we are aware of what is
happening around us, a new experience can bring with it a new sense of wonder
or intrigue. Inherent in this wonder or sense of concern is the realization of
the newness of the experience; newness and spontaneity are factors in the sense
Implicit here is that by truly seeing, everything is
revealed to be new and delightful. We are not stepping into the same river
twice. However, if we rely on our stock of memories to interpret our
experience, which is the brain’s default setting, our experience is deadened to
the precise extent that we substitute our conceptualization for the reality
that is offering itself to us. This reminds me of a favorite quote of Franz
It is not necessary that you
leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only
wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present
itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe
at your feet.
This advice was tacitly followed by Deb in her opening
comments. She voiced the impossibility of adding anything to what Nitya had so
eloquently presented, yet in that very act of surrender she had a vision of
Athena being born from the forehead of Zeus, emerging fully formed as a warrior
ready to do battle. Was Athena not “projected by the will alone of the Supreme
Lord”? Moreover, bursting from the forehead is a protolinguistic image of
creation by thought, which is exactly like a dream. In a wise person the
thoughts emerge “ready for battle.” They are already well developed and can
uphold mercy and justice by driving back the darkness of ignorance. We were
witness to a small miracle: it was as if the ancient Greek myth and Narayana
Guru’s darsana had come out together holding hands, two versions of a single
truth, to take a bow at the inception of our study.
likely thinking of Bill and Nancy, who design and build houses (ours for
instance), Nitya uses home construction to illustrate the relationship of
thought and action in the willing of the “Supreme Lord,” who is, after all,
each and every one of us:
Let us say a man designs in his mind the
construction of a house. He has a mental picture of its dimensions, the number
of rooms and their uses, its situation, decoration, and furnishings. He may
picture the life of his family in that house, and even himself living with them
a mental existence in a mental construction. But the house can be called an
accomplished fact in the transactional sense only when it is transmuted from
the mental world into the world of three-dimensional existence, built of
substantial materials and with people inhabiting it. Yet the actual house could
not have been brought into existence without the prior conception of it.
Similarly, this world which I experience now exists as an integral part of my
beingness. It may not have come as a consequent result of a person’s prior
concepts, but in and through its continuous process of organization we see a
steady, progressive actualization of logically reducible ideas of integrated
forms and interrelationships of properties.
In other words, this is the opposite of randomness. If the
universe were truly random, like a blind watchmaker haplessly shuffling
elemental building blocks and accidentally creating a functional system, we
might expect to see a lot of worthless, dysfunctional junk lying around all
over the place. All the random experiments that didn’t work out. But we don’t.
We see instead “a steady,
progressive actualization of logically reducible ideas of integrated forms and
interrelationships of properties.” It should easily tip us off that there is
some form of intelligence at work, some kind of patterning. Intelligent
materialists at least admit this must be so, hypothesizing an infinite number
of prior universes that are lending their infrequent success stories to the
supporting substance of our present abode as a kind of template. As noted
before, mathematician Roger Penrose has taken a close scientific look at
randomness, and calculated that it would take at least a million times longer
to produce a modestly complex animal than it has here, on the order of several
quadrillion years. Something mysterious is speeding up evolution to a breakneck
pace! Or we can imagine a million or two prior universes, which from our
standpoint must remain purely imaginary—as if non-existent.
don’t know what this mysterious organizing force is, and we don’t have to,
though we give it names like Paramesvara. But we could easily be filled with
gratitude toward the mystery. We might even become worshipful, since it has given
us All This, scot free. As we know, the best worship is to live our life to the
fullest possible extent, maximizing our freedom and compassion and joy and
mutual support. That’s what Narayana Guru and Nitya are trying to get across to
us. In terms of the house analogy, we have a fixed structure in our way of
thinking that circumscribes our ability to find fulfillment. We picture things
a certain way, and arrange our life to neatly fill the rooms we have decorated
with our style of mental framing. Unfortunately, many of us have erected faulty
homes, with strong shutters to keep out the light, and dark and uncomfortable
furnishings. Many opportunities are excluded. If the world is based on our
dreaming, why don’t we dream of intriguing, exciting possibilities? It’s not
that we should ignore “reality,” or what is more properly called “actuality,”
but we are doing enthusiastic psychic lifting rather than weighty
self-suppression. We are sharing our smiles, once we rediscover them, and not
so much our tears.
“Supreme Lord” here is one of a number of ways Narayana Guru will address this
underlying principle of organization. Nitya was fond of Spinoza’s Substance.
You must have noticed how he sneaked it in:
As an alternative to the
hypothesis of an independent creator creating the world with whatever means he
has at his disposal, let us look at the very stuff called “world,” which
includes us also in it. Think of it unitively as one primeval substance. It
should not be difficult to see how a substratum can remain the same in its
essence, without any fundamental change, and yet transform itself into a
variety of individuated forms. When physicists speak of the conservation of
energy and the transformation of matter, they refer to the same truth. The
unchanging substratum, which is willing its own transformation into the
manifested world, in the present context is called paramesvara.
and Paul were drawn to the classic idea of the universe observing itself
through the agency of the human mind, or really through every mind, which can
be a very unitive idea. It is gratifying to think of ourselves as essential
elements in the grand play of meaningful unfoldment that is our universe. Nitya
elaborates on the definition of the overarching principle that Narayana Guru
begins with, bringing us in explicitly:
Such a universal mind as we have referred
called paramesvara. Param means “Absolute.” Isvara is derived from the root it, meaning
“that which rules.” In every
unit of experience of each individual this principle operates. Moreover, it
does so in such a manner that all the parts of each experience are held
together in a way which makes the whole experience unitively meaningful. This
occurs in spite of the heterogeneous functioning of the parts. This principle can
be seen to be of the same nature as creative intelligence, so it can manifest
as the awareness of each individual mind. It is as if the Universal is
observing itself through the action of a properly focused human mind. Another
aspect of this universal mind is its ability to interpret visibles in terms of
focus is the key. More often we view the world “through a glass, darkly.”
don’t know if you stopped to wonder what that last sentence in that excerpt
means. It implies that there is a level of existence that is behind or beyond
the surface. There is more to life than just what we perceive, and it’s what we
make of what we perceive that shapes our existence. Moreover, making meaning is
not just an aberrance of deranged humanity, it is intrinsic to the whole. All
creatures are interpreting their perceptions in comprehensible terms, and these
are capable of apparently infinite refinement. If one were to look for the meaning of life, this would be a
good place to begin. The universal aspect means there is something unifying in
our calculations: they aren’t simply personal interpretations disconnected from
the whole. If we are honest, we can infer this from the coherence that, defying
all logic, makes itself apparent in the working of the world:
We can rightly infer that the world of
appearance is a changing flux and that the only unchanging factor is the one
witnessing consciousness. Of course, there is a constant element in the wakeful
world of transaction that gives the contiguity to proceed from one wakeful
experience to another period of wakeful experience. We have, however, to look
for this mysterious element as a transpersonal factor.
the present verse the Guru does not say that the world is dreamed by the
individual. He attributes its existence to an overriding principle which, like
the human mind, can project its ideas in such a cogent and coherent manner that
it should be possible for anyone to gain some understanding from and about it.
This is the kind of insight that should make us ecstatic.
Nitya was good at expressing the roots of ecstasy in calm, measured tones, so
that his listeners wouldn’t get carried away. Yet we don’t want to miss it on
that account. It’s just that we are guided to experience ecstasy as a deep pool
of quiet assurance, rather than a maddened display explosively being acted out.
the theme Jan introduced last week, Brenda waxed rhapsodic about letting go of
our psychological strictures to achieve deeper communion with others, and with
the All. She of course has put this into practice for all her adult life, so
she is an excellent example. While having been raised in an intensely
repressive household, she has found ways to emerge from its gloom to be a
sweetly smiling light to all her friends and family.
led to a discussion of the recent performance of Hamlet in the prison that
several of us attended, as well as the subsequent dialogue at the Unitarian
Church about arts in the prison programs. As in every aspect of life, a balance
must be struck between full liberty and abject constraint. A great play in
itself demonstrates this: by assuming a certain role, certain limitations,
meaning is conveyed. The real tension for those who contribute to prison
programs, is that almost all the things that are most needed are banned. There
can be no touching or other intimacy between prisoners and volunteers. Real
feelings and relationships are not allowed, even though they are precisely what
is lacking, and their absence is likely the primary reason for criminal
behavior in the first place. The rules are meant to keep everyone safe, and
they do to a degree, but mainly they add to the punitive and vindictive
atmosphere, and make healthy growth nearly impossible. Balance is never the
objective: prisoners and guards maintain an extreme polarization, which is
seldom if ever challenged. According to Deb, this is even harder on the guards,
who suffer an abysmal early death rate, than the prisoners.
as Hamlet well knew, these taboos are everywhere. All the world’s a prison, “A
goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons.” While not as
obvious as those who are physically locked up, people on the outside confine
themselves in dungeons of their own making, or really that have been made for
them, and they have been invited to step inside and remain there, for the good
of all and the grace of God. How often we voluntarily imprison ourselves, even
as the door stands open! To me, that was Narayana Guru’s main motivation:
everywhere ostensible free human beings were imprisoned in mental chains of
impossible tenacity, and he wanted everyone to recognize that none of it was
necessary. At the very least we could take steps to reduce our self-imposed
are brought to the close of Nitya’s magnificent exposition with an affirmation
of the intrinsic divinity of life. It is not bestowed by some outside
force—divinity (or whatever you prefer to call it) is within every drop:
If the world is like a dream, can
it be called real? The answer is no, it is not real. But if the world is
unreal, how could it have a creator? Are we not forced to say that if the
effect is unreal, the cause must also be unreal?
leads us to a position where the initial assertion of a creator as a reality is
cancelled out by the unreality of the creation. This in turn brings us to the
awareness of a numinous but indiscernible principle that is behind the
phenomena of both creator and creation. So we are led to the conclusion that
the status of such a reality has an existence which is established in itself, and which is independent of
all other possible forms of existence.
If the world is unreal, at least there’s a vast amount of
it, and it’s fascinating and intriguing enough to keep us interested forever.
So we can drop trying to define exactly where it falls, and simply embrace it.
This is the first big step on our journey of a thousand miles. Aum.
promised, I will reprint Swami Vidyananda’s commentary on each verse, preserved
in Nataraja Guru’s Integrated Science of
the Absolute. The Guru’s hand is clearly evident by the density of the
translation, and though he promised to add his own ideas in parentheses, his
perspective is present throughout. It makes me grateful for Nitya’s much more
transparent interpretations. This version is nonetheless invaluable for hinting
at the original atmosphere, with brilliant disciples attending on one of the
most brilliant gurus in all of history—can it be a mere 100 years ago?
Vidyananda’s commentary was approved and modified by Narayana Guru himself.
(The background given in ISOA is reprinted in the class notes for the
Introduction.) Vidyananda wrote of this verse:
In the beginning (i.e., at its upper limit
which has to be distinguished together with other similar limits), there was
non-existence. Posteriorly to this (in pure time), the Supreme Lord (paramesvara) when creation was to begin,
by His mere willing created all this (i.e., gave it a conceptual status
different from what was merely nominal), just as in the case of a dream (having
its own virtuality within consciousness).
The stuff that dreams are
made of is admittedly unreal to the extent that they belong to the world of
ideas. In the same manner the world can be said to be unreal to the extent that
its stuff is of the same order as His will. Whatever reality there was at this
limiting point can be attributed to the Supreme Lord, rather than to His
creation. The Taittiriya Upanishad supports
this two-fold point of view. The world as objectively manifested apart from the
Lord was there equated to nothing, tentatively accepting the principle of
contradiction between existence and non-existence.
In Vedāntic parlance the
upper limit set by the term agre (before
creation or in the beginning) corresponds to the pāramārthika or ultimate reality (i.e., the vertical), while punaþ
(thereafter) refers to the vyāvahārika or work-a-day practical reality
(i.e., the horizontal).
It should be noted that
according to Sanskrit convention, a work of this kind has to indicate the
subject-matter, and also imply something by way of adoring the most high value
of the Absolute. This requirement is only tacitly fulfilled by virtue of his
beginning the very first verse with the letter a which, according to the Bhagavad Gita (X.33), is equated with the
Among syllabic letters I
(i.e., the Absolute) am the A. . . .
The first word of the verse, moreover, refers
to something existing, because the word āsid
suggests something existent (in the ontological sense of sat). Because of referring to sat,
this word occupying the very first position in the verse, can also be
considered as fulfilling the requirements of an auspicious beginning required
by the same convention referred to above. Moreover, the verse later on equates
existence with the Supreme Lord, and further confirms and complies with this
contributed two of her poems that relate to the class:
Moving Through the Desert
The snake winds his body
over rocky ground,
on shedding skin,
scraping off the slough
of old desire,
the life now too small,
and unable to breathe
he winds and pulls,
moving into open breath,
out of constriction,
that last moment,
into this touch,
the limitless air.
Her Gaze Never Drops
The muse is angry,
her words sting,
she wants to be inside you,
a deep place you rarely find.
It is like a seed, the shell broken.
Through the cracks, words.
Here, this is yours,
see the clear tunnel.
Where have you been?
The fist can be hot, the sound hard.
Listening is our only option,
we can’t turn away.
We stand in the open,
listening to crackling vibrations,
waiting, following our only path.
also shared two poems, the first by Deepak Chopra:
Here is one of my son’s meditations:
There is only one secret to healing and it is enlightenment
Enlightenment means going beyond your ego-encapsulated
and realizing that you are the Universe
manifesting through a human nervous system
and becoming self aware
When you feel unbounded and free
You will begin to heal yourself.
The word healing is related to the word: Holy.
Healing is the return of the memory of holiness.
When you are whole you are holy and you’re healed.
When you are whole, you also lose the fear of death
because you realize that death is a creative opportunity to
Peace arises when we meditate on these words!
the song of gratitude she sings with the children she cares for:
THANKS A LOT
Thanks a lot
Thanks for Sun in the sky
Thanks a lot
Thanks for clouds so high
Thanks a lot
Thanks for whispering wind
Thanks a lot
Thanks for the birds in the spring
Thanks a lot
Thanks for the moonlit night
Thanks a lot
Thanks for the stars so bright
Thanks a lot
Thanks for the wondering me
Thanks a lot
Thanks for the way I feel
Thanks for the animals
Thanks for the land
Thanks for the people everywhere
Thanks a lot
Thanks for all I’ve got
Thanks for all I’ve got
class, Charles mentioned an idea of Ken Wilber, that I’ve fortunately found on
(accessed 9/30/15). This amplifies some quotes from Nitya added last week,
about going all the way with therapy to Realization. Wilber’s idea is we need
Freud (analysis) to escape certain traps, and Buddha (synthesis) to restore a
healthy balance to life. We all wish we could just ignore the first part, but
those demons don’t go away on their own—we have to show them the door. Here’s
Wilber, with a very good basic explanation:
Question: So assuming that this consciousness holarchy
exists [i.e., developmental stages]—we were talking about the fact that higher
stages can be sabotaged by repressions at lower stages—the internal civil wars.
Wilber: Yes, I think so. If the self represses or dissociates aspects of
itself, it will have less potential left for further evolution and development.
And sooner or later, this will drag development to a halt.
I don’t mean to quantify this in such a simple way, but as a crude example, say
the self at birth has 100 units of potential. And say that in its early growth
it dissociates a small blob at moral stage 1 [referring to the psychologist
Kohlberg’s pre-conventional stage of childhood development]—say it splits off
10 units of itself. It arrives at moral stage 2 [Kohlberg’s conventional stage]
with 90 units of its potential.
So the self is only 90 percent there, as it were. 10 percent of its awareness
is stuck at moral stage 1, stuck in this little unconscious blob residing in
the basement and using its 10 percent of awareness in an attempt to get the
entire organism to act according to its archaic wishes and impulses and interpretation
[e.g., a man’s attempt to get completely unconditional love from his wife, when
that is a child’s wish that simply cannot be fulfilled in adulthood].
And so on, as growth and development continues. The point is that, by the time
the self reaches adulthood, it might have lost 50 percent of its potential, as
split-off or dissociated little selves, little blobs, little hidden subjects,
and these little subjects tend to remain at the level of development that they
had when they were split off.
So you have these little barbarians running around in the basement, impulsively
demanding to be fed, to be catered to, to be the center of the universe, and
they get very nasty if they aren’t fed. They scream and yell and bite and claw,
and since you don’t even consciously know they are there, you interpret this
interior commotion as depression, obsession, anxiety, or any number of neurotic
symptoms that are completely baffling.
Question: So this would sabotage higher growth as well.
Wilber: Yes, the point is that these dissociated selves—these little hidden
subjects that are clinging to lower world views—will take up a certain amount
of your energy. Not only do they use energy themselves, your defenses against
them use energy. And pretty soon, you run out of energy.
And yes, this will very likely sabotage higher or transpersonal development.
Let’s say it takes 65 units to get to the psychic or subtle levels [Wilber’s
names for the certain transpersonal stages]. If you only have 60 units left,
you’re not going to make it. This is why, in broad terms, we want to integrate
Freud and Buddha, we want to integrate lower “depth psychology” with “height
psychology” [i.e., a psychology that is concerned with the “higher,” or
spiritual stages of development].
And, in fact, we are at an extremely auspicious moment in human evolution,
because, for the first time in history, we have access to both Freud and
Buddha. The profound discoveries of the modern West—the whole notion of a
psychodynamic unconscious, which is really found nowhere else—these discoveries
can be integrated with the mystical or contemplative traditions, both East and
West, for a more “full spectrum” approach.
Question: The point of uniting Freud and Buddha is that if you’ve got 50 units
of your consciousness trapped in the basement, you’re not going to make it tot
the higher levels, as a general rule.
Wilber: As a general rule. if you don’t befriend Freud, it will be harder to
get to Buddha.
So what we do with “depth” psychology—well, actually, that’s misnamed. It’s
really shallow psychology, it’s really dealing with the lowest and shallowest
levels of the holarchy, but for just that reason, their narrow and narcissistic
perspective can be so crippling.
But the point is, with “depth” psychology, we recontact these lower holons
[i.e., a whole that is also a part of a larger whole] and expose them to
consciousness, so that they can be released from their fixation and
dissociation and rejoin the ongoing march of consciousness evolution. They can
get with the program, as it were, and cease this backward, reactionary,
anti-evolutionary pull from the basement of your awareness. They can be
reintegrated with your main self, so that your central self might now have 70
or 80 units of its potential available to it, and with that energy it can then
continue its growth into the transpersonal.
And if that happens, and transpersonal growth is engaged with great intensity,
then at some point you will climb not just up the ladder, but off it. As Zen
would say, you’re at the top of a hundred-foot pole, and yet you must take one
more step. How do you step off a hundred-foot pole? You take that step, and
where are you?
When you step off the ladder altogether, you are in free fall in Emptiness.
(from A Brief History of Everything (1996), p. 154-156)
know we already have too much reading here at the beginning, but I’m sure it
will settle down soon enough. This is just such exciting material! And most of
us won’t bother to read this far anyway. For the few of you who have, I’ve been
proofing a wonderful talk by Nitya given at a Nataraja Guru’s samadhi day
celebration. I’ll be putting it up on the website in its entirety (http://aranya.me),
but this excerpt is so perfectly suited to the foundation of
our study I want to include it here also:
values may be centripetally reduced to one prime value, the value of values so
to speak, which for Narayana Guru was freedom. Any person can be deprived of
freedom in relation to their bodily senses, mind, intellect or emotions. A
proper perspective is needed to diagnose what causes permanent distortion in
one’s personality and what can give sustaining stamina all through life.
should know what causes defects in the personality, defects in seeing truth,
defects in conforming to moral norms. According to Narayana Guru, seeing truth
requires a lot of vigilance. Being awake and attentive is a sign of energetic
existence in which a value is nurtured as the quality of life, the excellence
of life. The other possibility is to become more and more sloppy, lazy and
wayward. Such a person will cling onto the wrong supports. We can lean on God,
truth, duty or integrity for instance, or we can lean on Fate, inactivity, lack
of discrimination, or even succumb to fear. A person can tend to be
irresponsible on the plea that he has no integrity.
Guru knew that if you wanted peoples’ sloppiness to be corrected you should
first make them active in their assigned works. He showed by his own example
how work can be done perfectly. More recently, in the field of education John
Dewey has suggested that a child should not be allowed to do anything halfway
and give up. The child should be made to go to the logical end and put
perfection into finishing what it has begun. This was the modus operandi in
Narayana Guru’s life and teachings also.
the core of human consciousness the Guru observed an oscillation of awareness
between the periphery and the center, and between the center and an unknown
depth. He was well aware that most people would find this difficult to grasp.
He first visualized a vertical parameter going from the birth of a person to
their death. He saw how a newborn child gets into encounters with all the
incidents of life from the moment it wakes up until it goes to sleep. It’s like
a lump of clay sitting on the wheel of life on which social consciousness is
acting like a potter. The horizontal occurrences of each day make impressions
on the child which ultimately fashion it into a finished product. Each touch of
contact registered in the five senses leaves an inerasable impact on the
growing psyche. Some touches are painful, some are pleasurable, and some are
even boring. But through it all the person is vertically changing, not only
growing physically but also in consciousness.
person begins to see some things as favorable to him and some as against him.
Over time he may learn to associate the favorable with a benevolent God and the
painful with Fate or even the Devil. It is as if there are now two potters, one
harsh, one benevolent, and between them the person is formed. One is lucky if
the harassment of one is canceled out by the kindness of the other. But the
usual situation is that many distortions enter into one’s personality. Narayana
Guru was profoundly moved by the distortions that are impressed on the mind of
a child. He took note of the variations in those distortions between people
brought up in different circumstances, from very wealthy to very poor. He came
to realize that a person is mostly shaped by the education he gets. So he knew
that to change society you needed to reeducate the public, and for that you
needed a value science.
on in the same talk, Nitya epitomizes the first five darsanas:
Darsana Mala Narayana Guru had
developed a scheme of ten philosophical visions to go from untruth to ultimate
truth. The first phase is that of superimposition (adhyaropa). The child is taken care of by its mother. It imitates
her and gathers from its childhood experiences the material from which to form
its imaginations. When it cares for its doll its imagery is mostly unreal, yet
some basis of homogeneity allows the elders to be sympathetic with the child.
Still, the child’s inferences are bound to be prejudicial, not judicial. As it
grows into adulthood, it has to give up several already formed concepts and
gain new concepts to match with percepts as well as memories. Growth means
substituting false concepts with more approximately true concepts.
Guru showed Nataraja Guru that one should reject untruth, but in one’s zest for
change, one should not tamper with the fundamental basis of truth. First of
all, a norm of truth is necessary to scrutinize a given situation. Only on the
basis of it can one arrive at a conclusion to reject what is found untrue (apavada). When a criterion to
distinguish truth is applied to a false projection, it will show the untruth (asatya) to be given up.
equipment in the search for truth and untruth is our senses, mind, practical
experiences and hearsay, along with books. In all our experiences, something is
going on outside that generates the data to be examined. It can be called maya.
The conveyor of external data is operating as an oscillating principle of
cognition (bhana), which is bound to
come to a homeostasis if the organs are healthy. Bhana is the psychic power
that transforms into various ontological projections of knowledge.