Adhyaropa Darsana, Verse 4
The power, however, is of two
kinds, known as
the bright and the dark; thus,
there is no coexistence between
as with light and darkness.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
The power however, as of two
Is to be known as the bright
and the dark;
There is no co-existence
between these two
As with light and darkness.
of our best discussions ever took place last night, and that is saying
something. You could almost hear the clunks as key ideas fell into place. It
seems we are really ready this time to meet Narayana Guru on his own ground,
rather than overlaying his visions with our own partial perspectives. That is
the right and proper way to relate to a guru!
helps to realize that there is an unfolding process throughout all ten verses
of this darsana. We began with non-existence. This contained a potent ground,
which elaborated itself like a tree emerging from a seed. As the tree takes
shape the unitive essence of the seed is naturally divided into two contrasting
aspects, as depicted in the present verse. They are treated as distinct here at
the outset, but immediately they begin to interpenetrate each other. As we
know, all of one thing is a steady state, and only when there is another state
does their interaction produce transformations, or for that matter, existence.
Voila, another universe is born! Let me quote from my book, The Path to the Guru:
There is a continuum between the
apparent opposites of light and dark. In pure darkness you can’t see anything.
Pure light is likewise so bright you can’t distinguish anything. Only when
there’s a mixture of the two do objects become distinguishable. In one sense it’s
the dark (evil!) that makes us able to apprehend light. So we shouldn’t lean
one way or the other; what’s called for is balance. This is true in physical as
well as metaphysical situations. Consider also the binary computer. All
information of one type of bit is no information at all. There has to be an
alternation of on and off or yes and no to produce a meaningful stream of data.
often referred to this idea, but it was easier for me to find a summation of it
in my book, so please forgive the interjection.
class offered several variations on the light and darkness duality, all of
which are implied in it, but that also elaborate the implications. Andy favored
the known and the unknown, Paul the objective and subjective. Bill wondered why
the two were considered distinct, and Andy’s example makes it perfectly clear:
when something becomes known it is no longer unknown, and conversely if it is
not known then it is unknown. Later on we may find these realms overlap in a
fuzzily mysterious way, but for now we recognize their distinctness.
wondered about the threshold, the region where the known and the unknown,
conscious and unconscious, meet. This is an important question, since we
usually stick as close to the center of the known as we can. We want to be
squarely surrounded by what we know and have determined to be safe. After all,
for much of our lives it was the primary aim of our development. It takes a
willingness to move away from our familiar comfort zone to begin a serious
quest for new knowledge. Jan’s reflections brought up the question of why we
search for truth, which became one of the themes for the evening.
thought that since the unconscious envelops consciousness on all sides, the
threshold must be everywhere. Which is true, but nonetheless we have to open
ourselves to it. And the feeling of impending infusion from the interior is
almost always disconcerting, so unless we are determined to stick with it, we
will quickly turn away and go back to our center of transactional
consciousness. Which is likely to be very far from being centered.
Guru has by now described the creation of the universe as it relates to an
individual in four succinct verses. Afterwards there will be a presentation of
some of the implications. Nitya is eager to get to those, and touches on at
least two big ones, the first being:
We come to know an object of interest
remembering, hearing, or reading its name, and thus causing within ourselves
its corresponding mental image. By relating a name to a form, the idea of it
becomes a coordinated concept forever in our memory. Of itself the object of
interest has no name. It is by our human deliberation that the name is attached
to it, but the name thus given in no way modifies the nature or composition of
the object. In the same way, the concepts surrounding our perception of an
object arise only in the subject. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the
concept has a one-to-one correspondence with all the properties of the object.
In fact, we could say that it is guaranteed that no concept
can ever have “a one-to-one correspondence with all the
properties of the object.” This is a humbling realization. Where formerly we
have learned to bluster and prevaricate that we are in command of a large area
of knowledge and certitude, when we address the unknown we begin to realize how
tiny our awareness is. If we are honest, most of what we take for granted about
our immediate environment is a projection of our memories, and not at all a
true appreciation of what is there. We think we know our friend, but she is
very different that we (or even she) imagine. We are certain we see a tree, but
it is actually a construct of memories cobbled together over the barest hint of
the actual tree. In other words, most of the known is also unknown. When we
overlay the mysteries of our surroundings with imaginary knowledge, we do it a
great disservice. What did Narayana Guru call it in verse 94 of Atmopadesa
Satakam? A great iniquity:
world and the truth exist intermixed;
state is one of great iniquity;
this, which is beyond the grasp of word and mind,
can any right reason operate?
This is a fine commentary to refer back to in That Alone if
you want to go into the idea further.
careful witnessing of the world leads us to realize we are seeing almost
entirely projections of our own mental framing. The world as such remains
almost a complete mystery to us, yet we have to act, so we go forward on memory
suppositions. I wondered if anyone realized how transformative this idea is. By
giving up our false belief in our certainties, we become open to what actually
is. By reducing the grip our fixed picture of the world has on us, we open
ourselves to manifold transformations. We listen harder, with our whole being
and not just our ears. We invite intuitions. And by doing so we may find
ourself on the threshold of a much larger version of reality.
we realize our concepts do not measure up to present circumstances, those of us
who do not give up in despair or indifference begin a search for a way to
attune to more of it. We could even say the whole unfoldment of the evolving
universe is the process of the Absolute coming to know itself in ever more
refined ways. Bill paraphrased Jung at this juncture, supposedly saying “God
cannot observe—that’s my job.” Paradoxically, we have to become limited in order
to apprehend the unlimited, even if our best efforts are inevitably limited ….
leads us to the specific outcome of the bifurcation of unity into two poles: “Concepts
which were thought to be valid in past experiences may undergo a process of
modification or correction as our knowledge becomes more intimate and precise.”
Yes, that is what we’re doing here. The example Nitya gives is of a husband and
wife, noting how the spouse’s concepts may change, but the other’s reality does
not. This may be true enough from a totally absolutist point of view, but in
actuality the other does change too. The object as well as their subjective
conceptualization is undergoing continuous transformation. Living beings are
dynamic entities, and our view of them as static is one of the many fixations
that prevent us from even beginning to appreciate them as they are. This
sentence is one of my objections to minor aspects of the commentary: “In both
cases the objects remain what they were and are; only the concepts change.” In
living beings—especially spouses, but also most notably children—the object is
always changing and it is our job to not inhibit those changes by trying to
hold our loved ones to a static viewpoint based on what they once were.
Needless to say, this has dramatically practical implications.
does salvage his perspective beautifully by immediately getting to a very
Thus it is that the nature and
composition of an object can never be known to us in its own reality. When we
view an object there arises in us a self-luminous concept, and we presume that
it is appropriate to consider the object as having the quality which the
concept gives to it. As consciousness arises out of unconsciousness and recalls
a little of its hidden aspect, so does the unknown allow some unveiling of
itself to give us a glimpse of its nature.
What he means is that we can learn a lot about ourselves
from the way we misinterpret what we perceive. In other words, our failings are
our lessons. Our mistakes are revealing our projections, our superimpositions.
The first realization is that we need to be less sure of what we know, so we
can listen to our friends and foes instead of shutting them in a casket of our
surety. The second is that our unintentional iniquity is a door to
self-awareness if we dare to open it. Narayana Guru wants us to know that this
is an exciting prospect, so thrilling it should be impossible to hold us back!
Yet something in us dreads the admission of ignorance, so when the opportunity
presents itself, we resist with all our wiles. This is a simple change of
orientation we could easily implement, if we can just teach our own ego to
lighten up and relax.
talked about how when she was in college she was forced to do many things she
didn’t want to. She felt they were a drag, until she decided (somewhat
reluctantly) okay, this is what learning is. I should just do it. And suddenly
it was okay.
we’re always reluctant. Yet so long as we know there is a benefit lurking in
the struggle, we will make the effort. Jan has a friend who is dealing with
anxiety issues. The friend wants to hold tight to a bygone version of her life,
but that is not possible. Jan is trying to help her learn to accept new
possibilities, but she is having a very hard time getting through. The
resistance to what seems obvious is always so frustrating to bump up against.
daughter Harmony was held out as an example of someone who was totally fearful
of anything new. The good part of the story is that through persistent gentle
pressure, she learned that there was little or nothing to be afraid of. At the
end of her teens she thanked us for making her do all those things, because
otherwise she would have stayed under the bed for her entire childhood.
Nowadays she does public speaking and all sorts of difficult things with hardly
a twinge. She even loves it, sometimes.
talked a lot about the challenge of accepting this need for positive change in
real life. Psychologists shake their heads over the many examples of their
patients who can never be convinced to take even one simple step that would do
so much to improve their lives. Outsiders can often see what is necessary, but
the person locked in to their position will accept anything but that one key
solution. All we can do is make sure we don’t make the same mistake. And of
course, when we gather the courage to look, we see we are blundering too, just
like everyone else. We imagine this is because our good intentions are being
resisted by fate, but this is another learned attitude based on the resistance
of our caregivers to our natural aptitude for exploration and discovery as
children, as Paul described it. Nitya says:
As far as what is unknown in the
physical world is concerned, there is no deliberate intention on the part of
that unknown to keep knowledge of itself hidden from us. Man can expand his
observations into what is now hidden from him, and fabricate for himself
increasing numbers of methods to penetrate into the unknown. In any case, the
known and the unknown cannot be thought of as being the same, by definition.
This stimulated my question for all to answer: why do we
quest into the unknown? Why aren’t we satisfied with what we have? Is it a
fool’s errand, or essential to our growth? Should we resist the urge to explore
as a distraction, or allow it to carry us where it will? While we discussed it
at length, it remains an open invitation for you to contribute your thoughts.
and Paul agreed there is an innate impulse to connect with our greater reality,
with Paul adding that this paradoxically requires us to detach from
contemplation of the pure Absolute in order to observe specific instances. This
whole business is in fact fraught with paradox. Does dynamism arise out of a
passive attitude, as is often thought, or is action required? What kind of
action? And how can we maintain a unitive attitude if we think of our
motivation as coming from the unknown? This is a powerfully tricky business.
in the class who don’t feel much affinity for this type of self-examination
brought up Nitya’s worshipful attitude as an antidote. If we adore the
Absolute, won’t all else follow, without painfully mucking about with our
fixations? Nitya’s adoration of the Absolute—which was very gentle and
dignified, although monumentally intense—stemmed from the awareness we have
been discussing, the realization of our own inadequacy, coupled with the
exaltation in the adequacy of life as a whole. This brings up the second major
point Nitya makes:
If the unconscious is seen as
total darkness, how does it operate as if with an awareness of the insecurity
and possible destruction to which the organism and the individual self are
exposed? Clearly, something seems
interested in our welfare and takes adequate measures to enable us to avoid
such threats. Here we have to accept the paradox or enigma of the unconscious
operating as a super-consciousness.
By allowing our inner superconsciousness to guide us, we can
learn to surf through life rather than slog. But it always is based on a
combination of critical self-examination and enlightened optimism. Nitya never
held that one was unrelated to the other. Adoration can certainly be seen as
yet another threshold, opening us to the infusion of the wisdom of the whole
mind or being, but by itself it does not normally eradicate our
admitted that adoration has gotten a bad name, because it has been trivialized
by any number of religious sects. This is yet another potent field for
upgrading through thought: we can reject the tawdry adorations peddled by
manipulators and charlatans, and see it the way the Gurukula gurus have, as the
bliss of experiencing beauty in all its forms. When a piece of music brings
tears of joy to our eyes or makes our body get up and dance, we can reach with
our innermost being to that lofty height that somehow makes it possible. We
don’t have to define it—that only cheapens it. The irrefutable evidence is the
beauty we experience. We could downplay it in the case of music as simply vibrations
impinging on our eardrums in a meaningless universe, but why? Why kill joy? If
everything arises out of a transcendent neutrality, why should we opt for
misery in place of delight? The choice is ours. You knew that, didn’t you?
the reason for our exploratory gyrations—to reclaim our joy—does become
obscured by the intensity of the efforts we are making. Deb turned “randomly”
to a later page (90) and found: “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.” Simple enough. We work our way into the ground of being by
relinquishing our superimpositions. We aim to minimize our projections, if not
surrender them entirely. As an aid, we are invited to reframe our quest from
one of dread, anxiety and fear, to one of excitement and optimism. The ground
of all experiences is the source of our creativity, the superconsciousness that
infuses our being with ecstatic aliveness. Why in the world would we prefer to
power of the Lord, however, is to be understood
in two distinct ways: (first) as taijasă,
or belonging to the light (i.e., heliotropic); and (secondly), as tŕmasă as belonging to darkness (i.e.,
geotropic). We can divide the (specificatory) power of the Lord into two
(ambivalent) divisions referring respectively to light (tejas) and darkness (tamas).
Light and darkness cannot co-exist. It is the same with these two (ambivalent
and specificatory) factors or powers of the Lord.
elaborated on her friend’s dilemma, written to me but meant for everyone:
I was touched how Verse 4 shed light on my experiences this
week. In particular, I mean the ideas of the known vs. unknown, and the
conscious and unconscious, and how Nitya says the unconscious functions are
vastly more extensive than the voluntary, conscious ones.
As I mentioned in class, I’d been helping my friend that
very day in her struggles with these divisions in her life, and how they are
producing much anxiety and depression. I didn’t have all the answers my friend
wanted and needed, but I reassured her that many of the answers lay within her,
even within this unknown, unconscious realm. We talked about the need for her
to open up to her inner springs and deeper self, to quiet her mind so that the
answers could bubble up.
I know it is easier said than done. I think the ego resists
these unconscious parts of ourselves because it loses control when we open up.
But I think it’s a critical process as our growth, insight, and evolution as
divine organisms are often tied to what is streaming in from these unknown
parts of ourself and the universe.
Verse 4 and our class discussion also made me think of Jung’s
idea of the individuation process. To me, that process seems to be one of
integrating the conscious and unconscious, of carving out of the vastness some
rendition of who we really are, and thereby finding our intimate connection
with, and our unique expression of the Absolute. At least in myself, I feel
this to be an innate process, an urge toward wholeness and greater
connectedness with everything. As I have said before, I cherish the notion
that this is how the universe comes to know itself also.
I wanted to convey to my friend the exciting part of her
process and struggle, that she can create some new balance and awareness that
is more expansive and fulfilling. I liked your words in class of about
how our guiding star can and often does come out of this darkness. That idea,
the guiding star, reminds me of the many other rich symbols from mythology,
dreams, Jungian stuff, etc., which describe the valuable matter we gain from
this work; i.e. symbols such as the pearl from the deep, or the golden treasure
or golden egg, or the elixir, etc. I wish for my friend that some golden nugget
could appear soon without too much more pain and suffering and loss, but I fear
that will not happen yet. This dark night will stretch on longer.
I do find comfort in the Verse’s other idea about
superconsciousness also (which is related to the guiding star above but sounds
like something vaster). My friend’s crisis is being guided and nudged along by
something larger and wiser. I can trust that somewhat. It makes me think of
Joseph Campbell’s phrase “the beneficent nurturing force of the universe.” And
I realize I need to keep looking within myself and at my superimpositions upon
the situation, as no doubt I am being called to grow by all this also.
also shared a relevant excerpt in Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, from his time traveling in Africa.
clear subtext here is his fear of letting go, of merging with the mystery that
was so palpable to him while there. Keep in mind the text of the verse while
that time I understood that within the soul from its primordial beginnings
there has been a desire for light and an irrepressible urge to rise out of the
primal darkness. When the great night comes, everything takes on a note of deep
dejection, and every soul is seized by an inexpressible longing for light. That
is the pent-up feeling that can be detected in the eyes of primitives, and also
in the eyes of animals. There is a sadness in animals’ eyes, and we never know
whether that sadness is bound up with the soul of the animal or is a poignant
message which speaks to us out of that still unconscious existence. That
sadness also reflects the mood of Africa, the experience of its solitudes. It
is a maternal mystery, this primordial darkness. That is why the sun’s birth in
the morning strikes the natives as so overwhelmingly meaningful. The moment in which light comes is God. That
moment brings redemption,
release. To say that the sun is God
is to blur and forget the archetypal experience of that moment. “We are glad
that the night when the spirits are abroad is over now,” the natives will
say—but that is already a rationalization. In reality a darkness altogether
different from natural night broods over the land. It is the psychic primal
night which is the same today as it has been for countless millions of years.
The longing for light is the longing for consciousness. (269)
continues his absolutist take on the verses:
All is manifesting from the One Source inherent in all
things that appear and disappear. The substratum that supports all of
this is That which has no form, no name, no gender, no identity, etc.. Where
one goes awry is when one sees ones’ self as a person with a personality and
identifies continuously with virtual identities of mental imaginations.
It is OK to live in this realm of virtual phenomenon for a while. But, if
one seeks to know the truth then one must see the whole view instead of a tiny
speck of an identity that is unstable and that changes from one moment to the
The only permanence in this life is the substratum where all
existence comes into being. The potential for phenomenal existence is
made possible only by the emptiness of a substratum that allows all
possibilities to exist. When we look at Yin and Yang, we see two sides of
the same coin. In this analogy, the coin makes it possible for Yin and
Yang to exist. The substratum is not affected by anything that is manifested.
If ones’ identity is solely based on the phenomenal, then
one is only seeing a tiny speck of what is really there. The limitless
emptiness of the Absolute provides all possibilities and potentials for
creativity. The whole of ones’ identity must include all appearances and
disappearances; manifestations of all phenomenon; and the Source from which all
of this is derived.
If one asks, "Who is experiencing this?" and does
not attempt to answer with the mind or imagination and observes as a witness,
then all that is experienced is the Absolute. The mind cannot have this
experience. The person cannot have this experience. Only That can
have its own experience of That alone.
offer a contrasting idea to the last paragraph above from Nitya’s Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad commentary: “The seers of the Upanishad give primacy to the mind by
imagining it to be a spirit principle which from the outset became the
primordial problem-solving device.” (260)
is crucial to realize that in fact, it is the total mind that has all
experience. The Absolute—That alone—cannot have experience, which is why we are
here. We sentient beings are the very aspect of the Absolute that makes
experience possible. What is often called mind in the West is the ego, or at
best the waking aspect of consciousness. Or as Mike rightly describes it, our
identity based on the phenomenal. Vedanta carefully distinguishes between those
aspects of mind and the greater whole mind that makes our existence
comprehensible, and the aligning the lesser with the totality is one way of
conceiving of what we do in our quest into the Unknown. The experiential
dynamism of this position is why life remains eternally interesting.