Adhyaropa Darsana Verse 7
ignorance is fearful;
by name and form,
the most terrible fashion, looms here, ghostlike.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
When Self-knowledge shrinks
Then prevails nescience
Ghost-like, taking name and
In most terrible fashion
7 and 8 indicate the dead end we come to when we mistake our projections for
reality, and the rest of Darsanamala is Narayana Guru’s best effort to help us
extricate ourselves from this often-painful predicament. These verses are
therefore the most crucial starting point for a sincere search for truth.
Unless we recognize that something is out of kilter, we won’t be able to
rectify the situation.
have all felt in our gut how the fear of imaginary beasties like ghosts can
cause us a lot of pain and lead us to avoid certain locations, even though we
may be fully convinced that there is no such thing as ghosts. It is this
paradoxical state of mind the gurus want us to contemplate. Even though we are
careful to only believe in things we are quite sure exist, they assure us this
is not true: most of what we believe, if not all of it, is generated in our
mind and does not correspond to anything actual in our environment. The fact
that our beliefs “work”, that they have an operational effectiveness, overrides
any reservations we might have about them. If we don’t accept the gurus’
premise and take a good hard look, we will simply continue in our default mode
is where a comfortable life actually militates against self-realization. The
antidote is not to make our life uncomfortable so much as being aware of how
comfort lulls us to sleep. We are actually very fortunate that a compassionate
teacher is helping us to stay alert against all odds.
through the Gurukula version of Vedanta is the awareness of how the fear of the
other sabotages our peace of mind. Nitya’s That Alone commentary on Atmo verses
36-41, dealing with sama and anya, is probably the apex of this strand of
wisdom. Nitya epitomizes that section briefly here:
knowledge is circumscribed by the boundary of an “other,” then the fear of that
“other” can make the sphere of knowledge shrink. The idea of the “other” is
saturated with fear. The only way to remove fear is to expand the horizon of
knowledge until nothing remains beyond knowledge itself.
The possible addition we find in the Darsanamala commentary
is that the existence of the other is almost always a projection. In That Alone
we extended our boundaries to include the other as it exists, primarily as
other people and other living beings.
opening thought was how well this verse outlines what our practice is. From a
state of unitive absorption aspects emerge that we then separate into subject
and object; in other words our mode of thinking bifurcates the unity that
exists everywhere. The idea that we project illusions means that we inevitably
split reality into yin and yang, good and bad, and so on. As Nitya puts it, “We modify the state of pure consciousness,
which is absolute truth, to produce the illusions which we mistakenly call
reality.” Restoring our acceptance and appreciation of unity, Deb thought, was
the short version of what we are doing as seekers of truth under the aegis of
the Gurukula. She wondered, “how do we see through all that surface complexity
to understand the deep inner cohesion of our world?”
duality on top of the omnipresent unity doesn’t actually disrupt it;
fortunately for us nothing can harm the unitive basis of existence. Weapons
don’t cut it and all that. Recall the Gita, II, 23 and 24, which read:
23) Weapons do not cut This, fire
does not burn This, and water does not wet This; wind does not dry This.
24) Indeed it is uncleavable; It
is non-inflammable; It is unwettable and non-dryable also—everlasting,
all-pervading, stable, immobile; It is eternal.
Nonetheless, we tend to forget this basis of the world,
caught up as we are in the manifold specific expressions of it, and there is
nothing like an Other to draw us out of the peace of unitive contemplation.
Most of us no longer believe in ghosts as disembodied spirits, but we do firmly
believe in ghostly ideas, thoughts untied to any real basis, which include all
the ways of describing unity in terms of duality. What do we do when we are
asked to give up the very things we most believe in? We refuse, of course.
we just nod and smile and walk on. Paying it lip service diffracts the
inclination. Deep down we are committed: damned if I’ll give up what I’m most
sure of! The fear is that without our beliefs we are nothing—we will sink in
the void. It doesn’t matter that millions of glowing souls testify that it’s
safe and effective, that there is nothing to fear. That conviction is exactly
what we have to surrender. That’s why it’s so hard to do!
are so accustomed to our fears we hardly notice them. Fear prefers to remain
out of our sight. Instead of trying to catch it, we can examine our beliefs,
because these have often been impelled by fear. Nitya lists some examples of
where to bring our attention:
idea of “other” arises because we are very much influenced by our individuation
as an entity possessing a specific name and form. True knowledge can exist only
when one has a transparency of vision which transcends the limitations of
formal perceptions and nominal conceptions. The immediacy of cognition in a
person is a referent recognised by him as “this.” Every “this” can be connected
with a conceptual predication. One says, “This is what I see; this is what I
hear; this is what I like; this pains me; this is beautiful; this is ugly.”
There is no end to the formations of units in knowledge. Moreover, when such
formations are taken as disjunct entities, the conscious “I” stands apart from
all of them as a separated individual in an ocean of infinite “otherness.”
verse implies a couple of useful techniques we can employ. Narayana Guru is not
denying the importance of the terrible things that happen in our world. Far
from it! But in our meditations we can see to what degree these are phantoms.
What do we perceive of them here and now? Very little, if anything. So they are
only present as memories and mental constructs. Ghosts, you might say. In the
previous verses we have been examining how we shape our ideas more from
previous experience than from any actual qualities of the subject. There is a
substantial benefit to sitting down and seeing how our thoughts are based on
suppositions and not any content of the present. It might lead us to imagine we
could in fact be happy now despite
the perception that the world is filled with suffering. They are not mutually
exclusive propositions. It might even be worth considering that our happiness
is a major contribution to the well-being of the world we live in.
did collect a few examples of this kind of exorcism of ghosts. This week Susan
did more driving yoga (her favorite!). Sitting in heavy traffic and feeling
resentful for those ahead of her who didn’t go as fast as she would have liked,
she thought to herself that everyone else wants to get where they’re going as
much as she does. No one wants to sit in their car waiting for the light to
change. Immediately she felt better and her stress level lowered.
recalled being on a hike with her philosophy professor in college. As they
crossed a high bridge he talked about the fear of heights being related to a
subconscious desire everyone has to leap to their death. Jan had never been
concerned about heights, but suddenly it was as if the fear was transmitted
from the professor into her. Right then and there she became afraid of heights
and has never gotten rid of it. Of course it’s a natural fear, but this
illustrates how we often curse each other with ideas, and they are hard to counteract.
It’s like they are contagious. We should be very careful what we infect our
fellow beings with.
told about my own fear of heights and how I worked hard to put it in remission
in order to become a firefighter. I definitely made substantial progress,
enough to work on high roofs and climb the 100 foot aerial ladders carrying
heavy equipment. Previously I had routinely given in to the fear, but my desire
for the job pressed me to stand up to it. It was like holding a snake, where
the initial repugnance cools down to acceptance and sometimes even attraction.
We recalled Bushra’s wise words from the last class, telling how by meditating
on her impending death, she went from a wall of fear to have what she described
as an amazing experience in which many doors were opened.
thought it would be good to carry on a dialogue with our fears. Fear happens
right where we are most in the dark, so it is showing us exactly where we need
to work. As Deb said, when you register fear you can look to where the sense of
otherness is being evoked, and try to bring intelligent appraisal to bear on
owned up to a deeply lodged fear of praying mantises—insects resembling Indian
walking sticks. They are rather creepy, but Deb can’t even bear to be near
them. She runs away screaming. Last weekend she was doing her monthly dialogue
group in prison. One of the inmates talked about spending 9 months in solitary
confinement (torture is routine in US prisons), a stretch that could easily
drive anyone insane. He discovered a praying mantis in his cell, and befriended
it, giving it food and water and keeping it alive for the entire time he was
“in the hole.” It was his only companion. Deb was amazed to think of her mortal
enemy being a dear friend, and wondered what it would be like if that was her
only option for communication. Still, she hopes fervently that it never comes
added insult to injury—in a ghostly sense—by telling about a tiny woman who
loves crocodiles and rescues them. Another of Deb’s worst terrors is crocs.
Even the idea of them activates her ghosts.
shared a clever video about how labeling people leads to conflict, and
affirming that we are much more than what we are labeled. I suspect she
especially likes it because it compares your body to the car you drive, so in a
way it is another kind of driving yoga…. There’s more than that, too. You can
watch it here: http://smag31.com/wow-watch-the-video-that-s-taking-the-internet-by-storm-today/
it can be anything, often enough the Other actually appears in the guise of a
human being. Moni told us about a friend of hers, a really brilliant fellow,
who would carve out a specialty and become the most knowledgeable person in
that field. Yet as soon as another person took up the subject, he would get
upset and change to a new field. He couldn’t bear to not be the sole exemplar
of his interest.
suggested a current political fantasy here in the US. A rightwing buzzword
these days is immigration. Politicians conjure up a ghostly army of illegal
immigrants creeping over the border to take our jobs and undermine our glorious
way of life. Immigrants are the latest embodiment of the soulless communists of
the 1950s or the bomb-toting terrorists of the turn of the century. The epitome
of fear. If you are fortunate enough to encounter one, however, you will most
likely meet one of the most humble, hard-working, gentle, unpretentious,
selfless people on the planet. Knowing someone like that can convert a paranoid
fantasy into compassionate understanding, and might even impel an effort to
help out. That’s how Self-knowledge grows.
illustrates Nitya’s simple assertion that “This separative apperception is the result of a lack of contemplative
discipline.” In other words, contemplation guides us back to unity, to pulling
together. Contemplation can be active as well as withdrawn and solitary. He
gives examples of where to look in our Self-contemplation:
Knowledge occurs only when there is a pure comprehension
blissful awareness of existence. This possibility can be veiled by a mistaken
identification of existence with nonexistence, knowledge with nescience, or the
apprehension of responses such as disgust, fear and nausea as value-factors.
Nausea is in there as a
nod to Sartre, I
related a powerful poem by a refugee from the Sudan, about how you don’t leave
home unless you have to. No one is emigrating out of meanness, but only out of
desperate need. An article including the poem is here: http://www.commondreams.org/further/2015/09/04/no-one-leaves-home-unless-home-mouth-shark.
was a lively discussion of the political scene in America, which is without
doubt at the lowest point in our history, far surpassing previous abysms such
as the late nineteenth century robber baron era. Political discourse is a
perfect illustration of this verse: “When Self-knowledge shrinks, then
ignorance is fearful.” The fearful ignorance is backed up by substantiation
through name-calling and the conjuring up of frightening images. Conjuring is a
magician’s trick. There is a kind of demonic magic at work here. “See how it
all comes as Mahendra magic!” (Atmo 27). It’s running wild here these days.
in America and many other places, demonizing the other is the central motif,
because generating fear is a very profitable undertaking. But what can we do
Guru implies a technique in the first line. Ignorance becomes fearful when
Self-knowledge shrinks; therefore, expanding Self-knowledge dispels the
fear-inducing ignorance. This is another case where battling head on with the
problem is not the solution. Rather we should expand our loving awareness of
the totality, the entire context, and then the fear will naturally disperse.
Moreover, we should recognize that the real-seeming fears are in fact only
ghosts substantiated by name and form, otherwise known as concepts and
percepts. We talked about several practical ways to come to grips with this.
shared an interview she heard on the radio of a British rabbi, whose basic
message was that the time has come for us to find God in the stranger. This is
an old idea that must be revivified every moment of our lives, because the
brain’s default setting is fear of anything strange. India has its similar
motto: the guest is God. So we need to convert the unknown into the known, the
stranger into the friend, on all levels.
Nancy insisted, we ignore the ravings of public figures at our peril. History
is full of buffoons who took power and wreaked havoc. She’s right. The Guru’s
message is not a call to tune out but to tune in. A healthy world needs our
participation. But wishing things were better is just another ghost. As is
fearing what could go wrong. The idea is to be as fully present as we can be.
We aren’t likely to be able to solve all the world’s problems, but we can lend
a hand with the problems that do land in our lap.
could see that the serious problems we face weren’t going to be solved right
away. To me, problems and their solution is what the Earth is all about. This
is a school for souls, and if there were no problems there wouldn’t be any
learning, either. So we should view problems as an invitation to do good work
rather than as a curse. Nancy felt that having a more grounded perspective
could be as contagious as spreading fear and distrust. Deb added that instead
of pushing our apparent enemies away, we could
foster the ability to reach out and wonder why they think that way. We can have
a sense of openness, of caring toward others.
wondered if she should send loving thoughts toward the lunatics that dominate
our public discourse at the moment. Would that help? I suppose anything that
energizes loving thoughts is reasonable, yet I assured her that her loving
nature radiated in all directions and affected whatever it could. So she
shouldn’t try to force the issue, but rather practice love wherever she was and
whoever she was with. This is something she is already quite good at. In terms
of Narayana Guru’s implicit advice, she could assess the situation
intelligently, perhaps noticing that politicians were intentionally creating a
distraction from real issues more worthy of our attention. What is the
motivation? It’s hard to say, but we might quickly realize that following the
entertaining ravings of hired goons is a miasma that can suck us in and
paralyze us from doing anything of value. Our commercially-oriented world
benefits from luring us into its context. It just might be that “disaffiliation
from the context of suffering” (the Gita’s definition of yoga) is our finest
personal contribution to just about everything.
of which, the Gita’s definition of yoga, given in Chapter VI, is always worth
20) (That state) where the
(relational) mind attains tranquility, restrained through continued cultivation
of a yogic attitude, and where also the Self by the Self in the Self enjoys
21) that in which one cognizes
the ultimate limit of happiness which can be grasped by reason and goes beyond
the senses, and established wherein there is no more swerving from the true
22) and which, having obtained,
there is no other gain thought of which could be greater (in value), in which,
when established, there is no swerving even by heavy suffering
23) —that should be known by the
name of yoga: disaffiliation from the context of suffering. Such a yoga should
be adhered to with determination, free from spiritual regret.
We have a million ways to
ourselves from the possibility of happiness—we have become experts in denying
ourselves the joys of a contemplative attitude. Nitya talks about the central
place of happiness in relation to this verse of Darsanamala in his Atmo verse
58 commentary, which I’ll append in Part II.
closing we sat together in the unified state beautifully indicated in Nitya’s
There is the possibility in some for consciousness to free
specific transactional events and the fantasizing ideations of dreams, to
remain poised in a state of unconditioned awareness without falling into the
state of deep sleep. This is called the fourth state of consciousness—a state
of pure transcendence. As this state is without finite limitations, it is
called the pure state of the Self. In fact, the other three states occur within
the state of pure consciousness, as modifications of consciousness, producing item
after item of what is generally called knowledge or experience. We modify the
state of pure consciousness, which is absolute truth, to produce the illusions
which we mistakenly call reality. So habitually and continuously do we vary our
focus of awareness, that few of us come to know that the pure state even
exists. This is one of the tragic aspects of individuation. Narayana Guru gives
a clearer picture of that tragedy in the next verse.
this verse it is pointed out how, because of the absence of right knowledge (avidyą) about the Self, all beings find
creation to have a terrifying aspect. When such knowledge is absent then
nescience (lends support) to the appearance of name and form (nąma-rupa). (This plurality of) name and
form (entities) seem ghost-like in a most terrifying fashion, presenting
themselves as appearances.
It is only because there is
a lack of Self-knowledge (ątma-vidyą) that the whole of the universe
seems to be the seat of all fear and suffering. When the correct knowledge
about the Self prevails, all apparent sufferings and their sources (in the
world) disappear. There will not be any cessation of suffering until one
realises the true knowledge, resulting from the realisation of one's own self.
Self-knowledge is the most superior of all means for release. In the same way
as in cooking the only means is fire (or heat), so there is no salvation
without Self-knowledge. This is what Shankarącąrya has taught.
By this verse the man who is
desirous of getting release from suffering resulting from lack of
Self-knowledge, is to be considered an adhikąri
(a person fit to study this science), and that the subject-matter of this
present work is ątma-vidyą (the
Science of the Self). Furthermore, between ątma-vidyą
and this work there is the relation of subject-matter and object-matter. The
final release from suffering due to nescience and the attainment of the goal of
full Self-knowledge, is the aim and utility of this work as required by
Suffering and ignorance
apply not only to people in this world but to all created beings, whether seen
or unseen, wherever they be in the universe. In principle this applies to all
of them. (It is to be remembered that) even the creation undertaken by the Lord
involves the same wonderful and terrifying elements of this very kind.
the end of That Alone, Verse 58:
belonging to the world of relativism has an origination, and hence is
terminable. In the first vision of his Darsanamala,
the Adhyaropa Darsanam, Narayana Guru
ignorance is fearful;
by name and form,
the most terrible fashion, looms here, ghostlike. (v.7)
of the Self or the Absolute is called nescience or ignorance. The feeling that
a happy moment is gone or is only about to come indicates a rift or chasm in
Self-knowledge. Although the sun does not go anywhere, for the people dwelling
on the rotating earth it looks as though it is rising, traveling across the sky
and then setting. For those who know that time and space are only creations of
the mind, however, there are no limitations and there are no events.
value of the Absolute is coexistent with its beginningless and endless existence.
The highest value of the Absolute as a living experience is identical with
happiness, and the normative notion for deciding its validity is the
unexpending nature of the summum bonum.
In other words, the nature of the Absolute is eternal happiness. For this
reason Narayana Guru equates imperishable happiness with the Self, and the Self
with the Absolute. Perceiving or experiencing happiness is the same as knowing
the Self, and to know the Self is to transcend all limitations, such as time
and space, name and form, cause and effect, and the duality of subject and
object. Therefore, we should remain Self-founded in the unexpending Beingness
of the Absolute.
in UK has been typing up the book for us, fulfilling a long-held desire of mine
to have it converted. Sometimes she makes comments about the project, and some
of them are fun and/or helpful, and I’ll share those with you. Here’s what she
wrote at the outset:
I really like how I feel knowing
there is a large project ahead that is well worth doing.
After a while she hinted at the difficulty of using a
computer translator to do such a complex task:
It is quite a steep learning
curve here with my Dragon (Dictation Programme). It is possible to use it for
doing absolutely everything by voice but also immensely complicated. I am
slowly losing strength in my arms and hands and so this will be a necessary
tool one day perhaps. I enjoy learning new skills anyway. love b
And for this verse:
I did this after a long session
with my dragon which has learned to come when called and to sit and stay!
(This was a bottom line for my
dogs when I had them.)
commentaries for Adhyaropa are all quite brisk (at least they are for Nitya!)
and seem fairly straight forward to me. The ones I really like are numbers 5
and 6 - the Bhana and Karma Darsanams. Was it these two he used for some
of me believes in starting at the beginning and keeping on to the end and not
picking out bits. I tend to be like this with all books unless they are for reference.
Another part of me feels tempted to get my mental teeth into 5 and 6 which were
difficult first time round.