Adhyaropa Darsana, Verse 2
As incipient memory form alone, in the
This remained; thereafter, the Lord
Projected with his maya,
Like a magician, the entire world.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
In the beginning in the form
of incipient memory factors
remained. Then the Lord
By His own power of false
presentiment, like a magician
Created all this world (of
universe of insights emerged from this simple verse. It seems that we are
accessing the Garland from a deeper level than ever before. This is going to
get very interesting!
set the stage by noting how we tend to think of maya as illusion, a gigantic
trick or impediment. Yet properly understood, maya includes all of
manifestation. Everything without exception is a projection that arises from
the ground, here called prabhu. I
pointed out that this engenders a very different attitude toward the world. If
we think of the whole of creation as an illusion, it becomes a kind of enemy,
an obstacle to accessing something preferable. This can only exacerbate the
duality we feel as a sense of isolation, of being separated from our
environment. Instead, when maya is treated as a natural and inevitable
occurrence, we can learn to harmonize with the essence of everything, which is
transformed into something to love and be loved by.
added that maya was a process, not a stand-alone entity, which is an
operational hazard of personifying it and reducing it to a cliché. Deb
elaborated that it is the whole that arises from the seed, and the seed is in
the mind of God (which is also a principle of proliferation and not a
stand-alone entity. See Part II). The seed billows out and becomes the entire
Guru is affirming that the apparent nothingness of the beginning is filled with
infinite potentials. It is not an empty nothingness. It is tautologically
obvious that if something comes to be, it must have been latent in the previous
state where it did not appear to exist. Knowing this is a most uplifting insight!
By contrast, scientific materialism has proposed a deadening alternative: a
universe of pure randomness, in other words, without anything being latent in
it. Its favorite image is the blind watchmaker, swirling dust around and
occasionally making a recognizable form purely by accident. If such absolute
randomness were in fact the case, we should expect to see a preponderance of
heterogeneous piles of junk, dotted here and there with temporarily functioning
conglomerations. Yet wherever we look, every bit of it is marvelously well put
together. We don’t see randomness painfully accreting anywhere. It’s all a
magnificently functioning interrelated whole. And from what we can tell, it has
been that way since the beginning.
has been trying to recollect his earliest memories, which is also far from
random, considering that it fits so well with the present study. At Narayana
Guru’s behest we are contemplating the totality that supports the temporal
world we inhabit, presumably because we have lost touch with it and want to
reacquaint ourselves with it. There are many ways to access the pristine state
we lived in before we began to become seriously conditioned, and diving into
the depths of memory is a fascinating option. Andy noticed that before his earliest
coherent memories, somewhere around age two, looms a dark void, intriguing and
impenetrable. We wondered with him, what connection does that bear to the
prabhu? Must we surrender all our psychological structuring in order to enter
related how when she was young she visited the Greek Acropolis and other ruins
of the Mediterranean region where she lived, and she can still recall the
spiritual feeling they evoked. She could easily sense that there was something
valuable just below the surface, or even being elicited by the surface. Until
recently, civilized humans believed that architecture inspired creativity and
what they might have called godliness. Sadly, the new god of Finance is better
worshipped by squelching those sentiments, including replacing sinuous
architectural lines with massive, unimaginative boxes. But Jan’s point was that
like Andy she felt close to something profound when she regressed into early
memories. It is an enjoyable and accessible route into our personal lake of prabhu.
also had a tale about the evocation of memory, in her case through exhaustion,
which is central to many spiritual techniques. At the end of a long and
grueling day of travels, she fell into a semi-dreamlike state where she had a
clear, realistic memory of her father telling her to keep her mouth shut. She
hadn’t remembered that for some four decades, but it came back with a rush, and
she suspects her father’s well-meant directive has subtly inhibited her for
much of that time. Having seen it so plainly, she can begin to let go of its
impact and feel a little less inhibited.
me, just knowing about a state of unlimited potential that exists within us is
a liberating concept. We don’t have to explain or otherwise determine what the
mystery is, exactly, or link up with it, we can just invite it to work with us,
and make ourselves as open as possible to its influence. When we do, we find
that those potentials are “hot to trot.” Eager to be actualized. Like carbon
dioxide bubbles in a soda, they are continually bubbling to the surface.
Normally we suppress them, I guess in the fear that they might make us burp in
public. This is too bad, since they are our inner genius reaching out to us.
offered himself as an example. He has been composing a spectacular (my word)
graphic image for each of the Atmopadesa Satakam verses as he addresses them in
his online study group. For a long time he found it an effortless process,
where the insights would just pour out of him as he worked. Now he has gotten to
a place where he is not so sure of himself, and is somewhat anxious about the
process. Yet as he stews and muses about his dilemma, images begin to come, and
before long he has done another graphic interpretation of the subject.
great geniuses of human history often seemed to be hard pressed to keep up with
the visions pouring into them, and that is a popular ideal of creativity. On
closer examination, most if not all of them had bouts of struggle when the flow
was more sluggish or even stopped entirely. Very often they invoked their
preferred version of the Unknown, and by so doing opened themselves even more
to its influence. Sooner or later the flow was reestablished, often improved or
at least redefined.
things go perfectly all the time, it is far too easy to become egotistical
about it. Even thinking something as simple as “I’m doing it right,” may be
enough to stifle the inspiration. On the other hand, doubt can help reduce the
egotism and restore the openness. Certainly the humility of not feeling in
total control of the process is invaluable. We should keep this in mind as
Narayana Guru leads us in a serious process of deconstruction as we pass
through Darsanamala. Whether or not we are exceptionally gifted, we live our
lives like glowing stars, almost without noticing the myriad complexities we
perform daily like master magicians. Then too, if we are fortunate, we find
time to stop and examine what’s going on. We dip back into the depths of our
being and emerge refreshed, ready to reassess the world with new eyes and ears.
has been doing something like that in relation to the structural image of aum
that is so central to the Gurukula version of Vedanta. He experiences awe in
the image’s “super-intelligent presence,” and feels that the symbolic concept
is “smarter than I am.” You ponder it and don’t realize how much meaning is in
it, but it continually brings up new insights. This is the type of aesthetic
contemplation that Nitya was especially fond of and considered an optimal
meditation, by the way.
wanted a clarification on the incipient memories of this verse, the vasanas,
wondering how they were related to the prabhu.
This is an important distinction to make. Are they the same or not? Almost, but
not quite. Vasanas are a lot like the personal extension of the total
all-pervading prabhu, in that from
our conscious perspective, both are impelling us to act, and we have a hard
time determining which are the more or less valuable. To make matters worse,
there are two contradictory threads in Vedanta, where vasanas are either to be
selectively promoted or done away with entirely. We surely don’t want to
encourage the harmful impulses that sometimes surge through us, but, along with
Jan, we do desire to foster our creativity for any number of good reasons.
Obviously this process is not something that can be clearly delineated, nor
should it be. Nitya does emphasize its importance in streamlining our
This potential or latent aspect, which enables one to have
or discordant relations with others, and which often appears capricious to the
onlooker, is described by the Sanskrit term
the Absolute is a state of pure potential, and therefore it does not impel
anything. The prabhu is that aspect of the Absolute that does unleash the
creative unfoldment that proliferates into our universe in all its details.
Part of that unfoldment is what we now call the genetic makeup of all the
living species that have been created. It’s a kind of successful patterning
that keeps getting reused to replicate the success. In Sanskrit it’s called
vasana. Most of this replication goes on species wide whether or not we are
aware of it, though yogis are presumed to be becoming better acquainted with
that part of their makeup. Nitya adds:
Narayana Guru attributes such potentiality to one generic,
principle in the primeval substratum, recognized in the previous verse as paramesvara, and in the present one as
prabhu. All possibilities in the
universe, from the spinning of a nebula to the pollination of a flower, and
including the composition of a symphony, are all latent in the prabhu as vasanas. Prabhu literally means, “that
which becomes, methodically and
added that as individuals we transmute the pure energy of the prabhu and shape
it according to who we are. This personal shaping on the deepest level is done
by our vasanas, and at a more conscious level by our samskaras. On a surface
level it is dictated mainly by social constraints and commonly accepted
knowledge. Regardless, it is only natural that we shape our interactions with
the world according to who we are. It’s when we substitute who we think we should be for who we are that we begin
to get into trouble.
why the unknown is best left unknown, though it need not be unappreciated. Deb
has recently noticed that, like us, physicists have been deconstructing their
fixed view of the world more and more. Dark matter and dark energy are now
thought to make up 96% of the cosmos. “Dark” is a term coined by persnickety
scientists striving to avoid religious implications at all costs. The truth is
that it’s not dark, it’s invisible. Most of the universe consists of invisible,
undetectable, weightless nothingness that somehow impacts everything we know
about—the lowly 4%. Such invisibility is uncomfortably close to divinity, so it
gets demonized as darkness instead, which suits the Semitic religious mindset
just fine, particularly certain like-minded rationalists.
Darsanamala is encouraging us to ease back into the unknown, not to define it
but to simply experience it, and our group mind in the class is looking like an
excellent way to inspire each other in the joys of the journey.
gave us an assignment: to answer Nitya’s question, “What is it that causes qualitative variations at the atomic
other words, how does the quality-less Absolute become imbued with qualities?
Is it all an illusion? Does it matter? The original question is about simple
chemistry, about how atoms become various qualitatively different formations
when combined. It brings up the question, what is a quality? How do we detect
it and what does it mean? Nitya, of course, reminds us to always apply his
analogies to our personal spiritual self-examination:
When we turn our attention from the mysteries of the physical
chemical worlds and focus it on a more intimate subject, that of our own
personal life, we are confronted with a much deeper mystery.
So, what does it
mean when we apply this analogy to our own life? You please tell us.
talked about another key idea implied in the verse: we are making up stories
all the time to conceive of the inconceivable. She agreed it was okay, as long
as you realized that none of the stories you came up with were actually true. I
added that we were nonetheless free to upgrade our stories to make them kinder
and more joyous, etc. The sum total of these “fictions” is what makes up our
conception of the universe, and they are as good as it gets, until the next more
improved version comes along. That’s why we share. When you create something
out of nothing, it is bound to be an imposition. And on a grand scale, a
superimposition. It can’t be helped. Deb reminded us of Wendell Berry’s
terrific and essential book The Unsettling
of America: Culture and Agriculture,
where he examines the cultural myths we unconsciously employ in the US, along
with their effects on the environment and our lives. Those beliefs that go
deepest and we are most sure are true are at the same time the ones that can
lead us most astray, like lambs to the slaughter.
is interesting that Nitya uses the example of the manned moon landings to
demonstrate a plausible fact that is doubted by closed-minded naysayers. At the
time of writing Darsanamala, those events were universally believed without
question, and yet since then convincing evidence has surfaced that points to
the whole drama being staged for propaganda purposes. I have been pondering
this all week in preparation for the class. It reminds me of the propaganda
coup of blaming the demolition of the New York trade towers on Muslim
fundamentalists. In both cases, a politically motivated belief, ceaselessly
repeated, easily continues to trump clear scientific evidence of its falsity.
Because I am somewhat a voice in the wilderness in calling such patriotic
beliefs into question, I have personally observed the hurricane of denial that
erupts whenever the tried and true is doubted. It rapidly escalates beyond mere
disagreement to rancor and calumny, with a potential for even worse. This can
teach us a lot about the degree to which we are bound without realizing it.
It’s rather shocking, as a matter of fact.
Galileo and Bruno are its poster children victims, the need for society to
viciously defend false beliefs has apparently not abated in the more than four
hundred years of “progress” since they were brutally persecuted by the standard
bearers of their day for holding beliefs that are currently beyond question. If
anything, many beliefs have become even more rigidly conformist in our time,
since socially acceptable attitudes are routinely amplified and reduplicated
through the mass media and now reach every corner of the globe.
unequivocal warning tone is definitely where Narayana Guru is going with his
observations of cosmic projection, as he spells out unmistakably later in the
ignorance is fearful;
by name and form,
the most terrible fashion, looms here, ghostlike.
is terrible and empty of content,
a phantom city;
as such, the whole universe
made as a wonder by the Primeval One.
it is “terrible and empty of content,” falsehood has the power to move us,
mainly but not exclusively because we buy into it. Nitya’s example is of those
who deny the obvious because of prior-held ideas that would have to be
surrendered in order to accept it. This is a ubiquitous quality of human
beings, the prime reason we remain “boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past,” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s immortal words.
daring to take Darsanamala seriously should be prepared to give up at least a
few of the very ideas they cling to most tenaciously, as their very tenacity is
an indicator that we may be holding on to them not out of intelligence but out
ideas we cherish and profess make a huge difference, not just to us but to
everyone around us. Whether you believe that the Americans beat the Soviets to
the moon may be relatively inconsequential at this point, a relatively trivial
propaganda victory, but blaming Muslims for the 9/11 mayhem was more
successful: yet another excuse to wage an eternal war that is eating our planet
alive, now fourteen or really twenty-four years on. The devastation is truly
titanic in scale.
class is not about debating what did or did not happen; it is aimed at each of
us recognizing the tendency in ourselves to pad our nests with the attitudes we
have been saddled with in the course of our mental development. We don’t have
to hold to them, but since that is our default setting as brain-operated
beings, we do have to intentionally let them go or they will persist. The very
ideas that make us uncomfortable if they are questioned are where we most need
to do the weeding, and if we accede to our preference for the easy route, we
will effortlessly ignore the most entrenched falsehoods in our psyche. We don’t
have much problem in observing other people’s idol worship, but it is much
harder to look into our own. Narayana Guru, in his fierce compassion, is going
to keep turning our heads back into our own being, because right behind all our
garbage is where the beauty of our being resides. Recall the Isa Upanishad’s
golden disc that hides the sun: a simulacrum—a false but plausible
simulation—is the best place to hide truth, because we are content to be
satisfied with it. Nitya often characterized himself as a gardener of the soul,
helping us to see behind the faįade:
My lot is of a clumsy old
gardener who cuts and prunes the bushes and hunts out the vermin and the fungus
that come to destroy the delicate buds of his blossoming bushes. (L&B 371)
is it so hard to disabuse ourselves of false beliefs? Lurking behind them in
our subconscious, in our samskaras, is the threat of punishment. Free thinking
has almost always been met with severe correction, even as it was professed as
a virtue, and in the back of our minds we still fear the lash. In our
reflection on our earliest memories, we can likely recall moments in the first
years of schooling where our unpopular ideas were met with derision, and we
hastily abandoned them in favor of groupthink. (Searching groupthink will bring
up a wealth of relevant ideas. This one is very good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink).
closing meditation was on returning to our still center, our karu or absolute
emptiness, to be regenerated with a fresh approach, exactly like a caterpillar
melting into a formless soup in its chrysalis before it breaks out
reconstituted as a butterfly.
At inception this
world was in the form of vāsanās (incipient memory factors). Thereafter
the Great Lord by His power, which was of a non-existent (or merely conceptual
order), after the manner of a magician, created all this phenomenal universe.
Before creation this world had merely the status of pure samskāras (deep apperceptive masses in consciousness).
(willing) mentioned in the previous verse is only an active version of the
same vāsanā. At the time of creation
the Lord created all this by his illusory power. This is like the magician, who
while remaining all alone, is able to make us believe there are multitudes of
other things around him. There is in reality nothing apart from the magician,
who is capable of manifesting visible things. Actual entities are not there,
but only entities having the status of memory factors are to be considered
real. In the same way, there is nothing in the universe which is other than the
Lord. What is in the Lord is only a certain power of specification or
qualification called māyā (the
principle of false presentiment), having no (real) existence of its own. By the
example of the magician, it has, thus, been shown that the phenomenal world is
sent this today, from Nitya’s essay she is currently typing up:
Here is a paragraph from Pranava which seems so very
Although for religious reasons a Creator is permitted, or
admitted, Indian schools of thought give no actual credence to such a Creator.
Self-born suggestiveness swells on all sides with fresh and new suggestions.
Every formation of growth of the embryo takes place between the presentative materials
arising from the past and the futuristic design of possibilities, which are
continuously carving and licking into shape new limbs for fresh operations.
Thus the past, the present, and the future are to be taken as a single function
where what is predominant is not the objectivity of the body that arises, but
the continuous function which is proliferating with new modes of action.
Sankara traces the possibility of all errors that can lead us to almost
irreversible false notions, which breed pain, to this proliferation. Therefore
the asva that is to be sacrificed is none other than the ever-increasing
suggestibility that arises from the seedbed of an urge which has within it the
dual principles of hunger and the call for appeasement.
passed along some pertinent quotes for our delectation. The link embedded in
the Nietzsche section will take you to the excellent Brain Pickings site with
some pithy ideas about creative inspiration from Picasso and others. Susan
I’m finding this study wonderful so far. By the way, I think
this quote I sent you before is quite germane this week:
From Finding Meaning
in the Second Half of Life, by James Hollis
Thus people worship forms of belief without struggling with
the issues the forms tentatively embody or emulate behaviors without
questioning whether they really serve fuller life. Accordingly, either the
image of divinity is to be defended for its presumed historic claim, or it is
to be summarily rejected as unworthy of a modern sensibility. In either case
the world is de-souled, when what it needs is reanimation; either way, the
individual is prey to belief systems that narrow into rigid positions rather
than expand to opening dialogue; the mystery is banished and therefore rendered
irrelevant to all. Similarly, one may attend a college in order to avoid the
radical opening to real education,* go to church to avoid religious experience,
and even undertake therapy to avoid the reality of the psyche. All of these
practices are in fact common, albeit mostly unconscious, and result only in
deeper and deeper alienation from the mystery. And all reduce the measure of
life through the disregard of personal experience and deflection of personal
*Education derives from the verb educe, which means
“to draw forth from within.” The original teaching methods of Socrates has been
largely displaced by professorial deference to received scholarly authority. By
and large, our students are taught how to take exams but not to think, write,
or find their own path.
There’s also a great series of quotes from the website
“brain pickings.” Do you know that site? Read this:
Any human being who does not wish to be part of the masses
need only stop making things easy for himself. Let him follow his conscience,
which calls out to him: "Be yourself! All that you are now doing,
thinking, desiring, all that is not you."
Every young soul hears this call by day and by night and
shudders with excitement at the premonition of that degree of happiness which
eternities have prepared for those who will give thought to their true
liberation. There is no way to help any soul attain this happiness, however, so
long as it remains shackled with the chains of opinion and fear. And how
hopeless and meaningless life can become without such a liberation! There is no
drearier, sorrier creature in nature than the man who has evaded his own genius
and who squints now towards the right, now towards the left, now backwards, now
in any direction whatever.
Echoing Picasso's proclamation that "to
know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing," Nietzsche
considers the only true antidote to this existential dreariness:
No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you,
must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and
demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning
and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but
you. Where does it lead? Don't ask, walk!
But this path to finding ourselves, Nietzsche is careful to
point out, is no light stroll:
How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business:
if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times
without being able to say, "Now that is truly you; that is no longer your
outside." It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into
oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one's being.
How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal.
Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness
to our being – our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our
memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens. For the most
important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its
own life with a view of the following question: "What have you truly loved
thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it
at the same time?" Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and
perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental
law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge,
outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have
been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried
deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least
above what you commonly take to be your I.
sent his thoughts on maya, which has the fourth darsana all to itself. Actually
it has all the darsanas to itself, but it is specifically addressed in the
is only a possibility of ones’ consciousness being condensed and solidified as
a confection of phenomenal elements of virtual possibilities that have
manifested within the creative process, inherent in consciousness itself.
This manifestation is truly magical! Consciousness identifies itself as
the phenomenal experience of what we call life.
very nature of the mind is the “Maya experience” which throws a veil over the
pure consciousness and hides the truth of ones’ real being. This is a
natural state when one comes into existence as a body/mind manifestation.
Pure consciousness becomes restricted and limited with specific physical and
mental energies. The whole time it is still consciousness.
the mind is silent and still, with no modulations, the personal identity (Maya)
ceases to exist as an object of awareness and all is absorbed back into pure
consciousness. In this state it is possible to retain an awareness as a
witness or observer and the body/mind can be observed with all its manifestations
of sensory perceptions and mental fabrications as they come and go, like clouds
passing in the sky.
this witnessing state of consciousness, awareness of ones’ Self expands to
include all manifestations as ones’ Self. There’s no distinction or separation.
Ones’ identity expands to be the collective body/mind energies of the Universe
and also, to be the silent, emptiness of pure consciousness,
simultaneously. Thus the paradox – “Existence is everything and nothing
at the same time”. If one sits where the vertical and horizontal axis
intersect, this neutral space reveals this paradox.
emerges from emptiness and a spontaneous flow within the stream of
consciousness manifesting everything in the present moment. The presence
of this manifestation is evidenced through contemplation and meditation, but it
is not dependent upon it. A direct recognition of ones’ true being is
possible at every instance.
hallucinations of fabricated realities subside and consciousness disassociates
itself from the mind, the presence of silence and emptiness permeates existence
without any actions of acquisition or attainment. All is what it
is: the spontaneous construction and deconstruction of perpetuating
cycles and nothing in particular, at the same time.
is a hindrance to this recognition since it requires the mind to provide the
energy of conceptualization, which is similar to that of a mirage in the desert
that has no actual reality in itself. Using Maya to see what is real is
futile. With all this said, it’s time to be quiet and let go of
everything; be nothing in particular; and observe everything in silence…aum
I wrote back thanking Mike for his response and wondering whether I should use
it in the Maya Darsana instead, he sent this:
Sometimes I don't actually respond accurately to the full
content of the assigned task and take a more intuitive approach to the text in
relation to what I'm experiencing in the present moment. All relates to
my spiritual awareness at the time. I try to stay on track but there's a
higher consciousness projecting what my responses will be. This has
deepened and become very intuitive. If my responses resonate in some way
to another verse, please feel free to use it appropriately.
When I was in the Atmo group with Nancy, it seemed my
responses were always more appropriate for the next verse than the one we were
on. I seemed to always be ahead without reading ahead if you know what I
I live in meditation/contemplation all the time and take
several hours a day to sit in silence. I never know who or what I am
unless someone or something stimulates a familiar pattern to remind me.
Spontaneously flowing in the stream of consciousness has deepened my love for
my True Self. I have no choice at this time to be anything in
particular. It's all good.