Apavada Darsana Verse 4
Because of its
non-difference from cause,
how can an
effect come to have existence?
By that, how can
the non-existence of cause also?
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
Because of non-difference
The effect, how could it
How could there be for the
For the cause also any
keeping with the theme of the second darsana, Nitya takes the time to correct a
few false notions that permeate uncritical spiritual thinking. In the process
he offers us one of his most electrifying commentaries. As I was pulling out
excerpts for the notes, the whole thing reads like a highlight reel—the hard
part was to leave a few paragraphs behind.
most critical of the false notions he addresses is that the unreality of the
world and our generic ignorance are terrible, oppressive conditions that spoil
everything, so our attention should be directed elsewhere. A very widely held
religious attitude is that this world is a vale of tears to be at best endured
and ideally utterly rejected. Nitya’s message is diametrically opposed: while
there are inevitable limits to what we know and perceive, these are innate
expressions of the exuberance of the essential nature of reality. Our
limitations can be loved for what they can do as well as what they cannot, and
this opens our eyes to the greater context from which they spring. He starts
off by acknowledging the harmful impact of rejecting the world:
If we are told that the world and
our experiences in it are unreal, and if we take the statement seriously, we
shall be faced with a sense of deprivation and the stability of our
individuated structure may be threatened. If we are told it is all unreal, then
where do we turn? We know no other reality than of this world.
to avoid reacting to external stimuli is often seen as spiritual in itself, but
almost always it is more like an advanced form of self-imprisonment. That’s
because the agent directing the process is the ego, with its petty likes and
dislikes, and its half-baked assessments. We can do better, once we penetrate
below the surface. Nitya offers a perspective that should eradicate such
negativity for good and all:
If the world is not real, where
does this leave us? Can it be wrong to care for one’s parents? It would
certainly seem to be a wasted effort if they were unreal. Should a man not be
responsible to nurture and educate his children? Should all the schools and
universities be closed, the courts of justice be dismantled, and the production
of goods and services cease? Can it be shameful or a waste of time to enjoy the
beauty of a sunrise, to write poetry or make music, to paint or to sing?
have occasionally mentioned the fellow in one of my first Gita classes, who was
preparing to leave to attend on his dying mother. He asked, in all seriousness,
how he was supposed to maintain a steady state of mind and not get upset. I
told him he should allow himself to be thoroughly upset, that if he didn’t he
was denying one of the truest sentiments he would ever be capable of
experiencing. I said please, please feel it. Be there with her. If anything has
meaning, it’s your own mother, for God’s sake. There is nothing wrong with
feeling sad or heartbroken. If you allow yourself to feel the tragedy, you will
also get over it faster and more completely than if you stifle it. So don’t
does this impulse to deny the world come from? While passed off as religion, it
must be some sort of thwarted childish fantasy masquerading as philosophy.
Puerile compensation for not getting our way. The harmonious approach is not to
not feel, but to regain our composure in a dignified period of time.
embodied the healthy balance of one who loved every moment of his life, both
the beautiful and the terrible, and yet never forgot his essence as an ocean of
calm. In the process there were no dull moments. Every act was infused with
full appreciation. While teaching us how to intelligently discard our
misapprehensions, he simultaneously beckoned us to love life as an inestimable
opportunity and an immeasurable blessing.
recalled the many times he would stop on walks to admire a flower or a beetle,
or gaze at the sky in wonder. He didn’t like us becoming self-absorbed and
tuning out the environment, mulling over murky “spiritual” topics at the
expense of being present. The marvelous world was a constant reminder to remain
fully alert, and to be prepared to offer it our loving care. What could be more
spiritual than that?
puts this subject to bed once and for all, in referring to the list of
priceless creative opportunities he had just enunciated:
If we treat all these and many
more of the stimulating and creative activities of our life as being merely the
aspects of an abysmal ignorance, then our life will become truncated and
meaningless. Even if an experience is transient, like the beauty of a rainbow,
the stimulating affection of a friendship or the enjoyment of some sporting
activity, it contains an element of truth which is itself not transient.
So please do not imagine that the key to spirituality is to
hold a rigid posture to ward off stimulation, in hopes of getting somewhere
else! We are meant to open up like a flower bud, into full glorious expression,
and then to slowly wither away to make room for the next possibility, which is
already in advanced development. It’s a pretty sweet setup, really.
inner coherence remains invisible to us unless we step back and view the way it
plays out in the world around us. Here is precisely where our mental framing
can have a game-changing impact. As Nitya puts it:
It is the quality of our
awareness at any given moment which gives our experience of that moment its
particular flavor. The aspect of consciousness known to us as awareness has the
inherent power, if it is conditioned correctly, to change the potential
morbidity of an experience into an actualized delight.
Although this is a well-known and admitted fact of the
psyche, in actual practice we forget how crucial our own conscious role is. We
are so used to being who we imagine we are, we simply react in a habitual
manner to everything that comes along. Or we wrestle with trying to alter the
surface to suit the preferences of our ego and superego. In this way we merely
amplify the falsehood we have come to live more or less comfortably within. In
Vedantic philosophy, by contrast, we work to align our efforts to the inner
pulse of what might be called the Absolute: the depths of our being that are
intimately linked to a universal principle. In an oft-quoted line from the I
Ching, the one who acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes. During the
course of our study we will be learning how to switch our primary focus from
the ego to the Self, which can be an ecstatic journey of Self-fulfillment.
Nitya first invites us to the quest:
Very much power to shape our own
experiential destiny lies in our own hands if we care to exercise it. We
experience our own projection of what is called “the world.” Either
individually or joining with others in a mass projection, it is we who create
the world. And what we have made, we can alter and unmake.
of the inner coherence of the cosmos, earlier in the day Susan sent a couple of
quotes from Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, that appealed to her, without
having read the Darsanamala text yet. They are from the book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us
Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, and are strikingly appropriate:
Between stimulus and response
there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our
response lies our growth and our freedom.
The last of the human freedoms is
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.
Stimulus and response are of course the somatic version of
cause and effect. The space between is a residence that is neither stimulus or
response, neither cause or effect.
Frankl realizes, the point is not so much to change the world but to change our
understanding. The former is well nigh impossible, while the latter is
eminently available to us, once we turn around and face ourself. And it is a matter of turning around, of
focusing within. Plus, not leaping to the conclusion that once we begin to
change we have completed the process. We have a long way to go to experience
ourselves as the living Self! Nitya demystifies the challenge:
If we ourselves become the
expression of true knowledge, we can change what is now a world of unreality
into a different world of reality. Whether we actually see what is real, or see
what we wrongly believe to be real, depends on the extent to which we have
experienced ourselves as reality, that is, as the living Self.
this we have a measuring rod: deep joy and satisfaction. So long as they are
not resonating throughout our entire being, we will feel impelled to keep
searching, unless we sabotage our efforts in some unfortunate way. Meaningful
union is always the goal:
Despite the multitudinous
expressions of itself, the Self is one; and the awareness of its existence is
experienced as bliss when the individuated self becomes consciously what it
always was – the universal Self.
The joy of the Self is instantly recognizable as our true
home, but we keep being attracted to ersatz versions because we long for it so
strongly in our hearts. Nitya sneaks in a subtle hint regarding how to
distinguish between the real and the false here, in his inimitable fashion:
Joy is a unitive experience,
while misery leads to the desolation of separateness and disunity. When the
self deviates from a blissful awareness of itself, then automatically is
initiated the need for the lost joy of the Absolute, which is intuitively felt
by the individual. This is experienced within consciousness as the phenomenal
transforming into the numinous.
Isn’t it odd how the perverse “joys” of separateness and
disunity have become so appealing to many people? Like learning to prize the
taste of cigars or rot gut whiskey. Separateness and disunity are useful for
politicians and other con artists in fleecing honest folk, convincing them to surrender
their integrity and their dollars to someone who promises to fix things for
them. Otherwise, not so great.
to the hint, it’s in the phrase “the phenomenal transforming into the
numinous,” referring to life becoming spiritualized. When what we see migrates
from an ensemble of seemingly solid objects into a shimmering manifestation of
an abiding underlying reality, we are on the right track. We still have to
remain on guard against projecting our fantasies as reality, but we have
already been given some serious instruction about that in the first darsana.
The gurus do not want us to stifle the possibility of enlightenment by being
overzealous in preventing projections, which might inhibit our openness, so
after studying the subject we can now move ahead to a more ecumenical attitude.
This leads to the most interesting depiction of how a yogi should relate to the
If we examine the events and
experiences in our life, we shall see that there is a rhythmic flow in an
ascending spiral pattern in which certain types of events seem to recur again
and again, and intermeshing with this is a figure eight pattern of movement in
which the real flows into the unreal, and the unreal into the real.
off we have a vertical spiral, where our life is evolving from a beginning of
pure potential toward an actualized ensemble of expressions. Our strengths and
weaknesses are repeated, so that we can work on them and make progress. Looking
at the spiral from above we would only see a cyclic repetition, but from the
side, so to speak, the development is added to the picture. We are not stepping
in the same river twice. Each time we meet our personal life issues we have
improved our finesse in coping with them.
have pondered figure eight movements before, but this one is subtly different,
because the point is to penetrate the real from an admittedly unreal platform.
We are alternating between our provisional understanding and the purported
total reality we seek to align with. Dipping into reality positively affects
our understanding, and purifying and solidifying our understanding based on
what we’ve learned helps us to access more of the underlying reality. Our
effort keeps the figure eight spinning and developing. Nitya has more advice
regarding this subtle thrust:
If we look at transactional
events or experiences in isolation, the whole business of life may well appear
meaningless and without purpose. But if we can relate all events in the flux of
life to the golden thread of joy which is the manifested Self, then we see only
the Real ever shining in the gloom of what seem to be the constantly altering
phases of real and unreal aspects of the phenomenal world.
The thread is an essential element. Sometimes we wrongly
imagine the Absolute to be a great mass, infinitely large. The thread is
infinitely thin and tenuous, yet it ties all the rest together. It is central
to our present study, as indicated in the Introduction:
Darsanamala means ‘A Garland of
Visions’. The garland likens consciousness to a series of ten flowers strung
together on a golden thread, with a precious jewel pendant in the center. Each
flower is a unitive vision, and is described with the utmost economy in ten
succinct and evocative verses pregnant with implications…. The golden thread
that runs through the whole is an important image, implying an invisible
continuity linking the stages of life into a meaningful progression.
underlined that the thread is the Absolute, and that when we are here in a body
we should enjoy what it can accomplish. Deb added that we’re seeing the
incredible reality that infuses and unites all. More on the golden thread as it
inspired Deb is in Part II.
mentioned an important caveat, that although we need to hold onto the thread at
every moment, it doesn’t mean we have to accept negative situations. Seeing the
essence doesn’t take away our role in mitigating difficulties. Paul agreed, and
added that when we see something we are repelled by, we automatically create a
division. Yet when we are attracted to beauty we are (ideally) at one with the
attraction. We certainly have a hand in how we interpret what we encounter, how
trapped in duality we insist on being.
topic of the actual verse, the unreality of cause and effect, is dealt with
only by implication here. Despite being indistinguishable from each other, as
Narayana Guru has been pointing out, they are of course valid up to a point on
the horizontal plane. But we are drawn along by a vertical tide that is
unitive, and the more we tune into that, the less binding are the
considerations of cause and effect. We don’t do something in order to get a
hoped-for result, but as an expression of our true nature, as Bill frequently
reminds us. In the context of changing our lives for the better, it is not a
matter of adjusting the external details, which humans are so fond of doing,
but of releasing our defenses against the wisdom of our inner being. Tinkering
with trivialities—made to seem crucial by commercial and social interests—can
easily keep us from ever dipping into the blissful core of our being. We worry
about the right foods to eat, the right activities, the right people to
associate with, the right this and the right that. While some of it has a
modest value, it’s basically all window dressing. We are tinkering to try to
become someone else, where what’s really needed is to become ourselves.
and other scientists like to examine isolated examples of cause and effect,
which is somewhat useful for theoretical purposes, but of course not really
related to reality as a whole. Since it ideally is interested in the nature of
reality, science is beginning to address this fault by including more and more
complex features in its purview, and computers make this possible. If science
can ever incorporate the whole shebang in its modeling, it may come up with
what we are already bequeathed: a fully functioning reality. Pradeep, our
estimable chemistry professor, has just sent a relevant article examining the
limits of some pseudo-scientific attitudes: http://theweek.com/articles/610948/why-many-scientists-are-ignorant.
relates the discrimination of the real from the unreal with the three gunas.
Sattva, rajas and tamas mark three stages of clarity: transparent, translucent
and opaque, respectively. This is well known to us by now. While all three have
their legitimate place in our comprehension, we need to insure that we don’t
leave out the transparency of vision and so spend our days alternating between
rajas and tamas. Nitya cleverly links this to the universe’s innate delight in
its eternal manifestation:
We are normally unable to
discriminate between what is real and what is unreal. And even that lack of discrimination
varies from a state of translucency to one of opacity. Sometimes for a brief
moment we may think we have glimpsed reality, but then again the veil drops. The
“purpose” of the Absolute is to everywhere experience its own existence in that
form of universal consciousness called the Self. When that is achieved, then
translucency and opacity give way to transparency.
this vision the Guru is helping us to develop a transparent insight which will
always reveal the one abiding truth now obscured by the passing shadows of the
phenomenal world. Without this transparency, even the most apparently
satisfactory life is dull and insipid and full of irrational tribulation.
Paul summarized this as meaning we can retain transparency
of vision and still use translucency and opacity to navigate the transactional
world. This reminded Karen of the ballet of Romeo and Juliet most of us saw a
few days back, where the ill-fated lovers were drawn together by mutual
attraction but then pulled away by the implacable forces surrounding them. The
oft-repeated gesture of them reaching toward each other as they were being
riven apart was eloquently moving, reminding us that we cannot hold onto what
we most desire, as long as it is something that is bound to end.
recalled several of Nitya’s famous letters to friends who were struggling to be
what they wanted to be. He always tried to turn them away from their obsession
with specific goals to simply enjoy the ride, insisting that the end result was
not nearly as important as rising to the challenge. Results will undoubtedly
vary and not meet our expectations, but our hearts must be steadfast
throughout. Moni remembered him telling some of them that they were oscillating
between fear and doubt (generically, tamas and rajas) and they needed to attain
a measure of sattvic detachment if they were to be at their best.
emphasized that when Nitya speaks of the world of passing shadows, he does not
mean the cliché of dark and ominous, colorless events, like the sarcastic nomes
flitting through the rocks in the Nome King’s underground realm in L. Frank
Baum’s fairy stories of Oz. Yes, the world’s events are transitory and
fleeting, but they are lovable and worthy of our admiration and participation.
They pass by in living color. They have all the delightfulness possible in a
you imagine the Absolute as drawing the joy out of life, requiring you to not
be affected by the shadows, then you have missed the boat. The shadows are also
the Absolute. The joy is the Absolute. We are the Absolute. Our job is to
orient ourselves to the shadows in a way that promotes a lasting happiness for
everyone involved. There is a lot more to it, and we eagerly await the next
installment of the gurus’ instruction.
Because an effect
non-different from its cause, the effect has no independent status in being. By
the same reason for the cause there is no non-existence either. That is to say,
the world as an effect is given to the vision, but on further examination it is
seen to be unreal. If there is an effect it should necessarily have a cause.
That effect should not be different from its cause in principle. That is to
say, when we (still) examine it further there remains only the cause and not
the effect, because the non-existence of the effect as given to view is the
unsublated reality of the cause itself. By virtue of such a reasoning, the
Absolute as the cause alone is real. The world as an effect is, thus,
established as unreal without further argumentation.
class, Deb brought up a lovely video she watched in her French class, given by Francine
Christophe, another holocaust survivor. It gives a very moving example of the
golden thread, in a five-minute talk. Don’t miss it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXGfngjmwLA
also mentioned one of our favorite William Stafford poems:
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
the poem up, I found this quote from his friend Robert Bly, from http://www.fairfieldreview.org:
“One of [William Stafford’s] most amazing gifts to poetry is
his theme of the golden thread. He believes that whenever you set a detail down
in language, it becomes the end of a thread... and every detail—the sound of
the lawn mower, the memory of your father’s hands, a crack you once heard in
the lake ice, the jogger hurtling herself past your window—will lead you to
amazing riches.” –Robert Bly, The
Darkness Around Us is Deep, p. vii.
“I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead in at Heaven’s gate
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.”
--William Blake, Jerusalem.
on the golden thread has appeared. First this, from the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad study group reading. Nitya writes:
The thirty days of a lunar month are a beautiful handicraft
of the visible and the adorable which are all strung on the mystical string of
the Self. When colorful beads are strung, they glitter and attract our
attention, while the golden string that gives unity to all is held away from
our gaze. The string is the independent Absolute and the beads are the
dependent creations of time and space and their interactions with the passions
of creatures. (334-5)
sent a beautiful meditation from her own group, inspired by the Stafford poem:
Thank you for sending the William Stafford poem recently.
It inspired a satsang which I thought you might enjoy
Much Love as always, Amara
The Perfume of True Being.
The Way It Is…...by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that
But it does not change. People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard
for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen,
people get hurt
Or die, and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
We use so many words to describe the Absolute, the Unknown,
It is actually possible for us to contemplate any and all
words only to find that eventually they describe that which is indescribable.
How can this be true?
Because words are bits and pieces of the wonder and
Intelligence that all of Maya is made of.
In our life, in our worlds of inner and outer, sleeping and
waking, Intelligence is the prime substance that represents our eternal nature.
We are not talking here about egoic mind’s limited range of intellect which is
based on right and wrong, fair and not fair, and all the other dual opposites.
Here the word intelligence is describing the golden thread that keeps us all a
float in the churning ocean of samsara. This is our lifeline, our ruter, our
compassionate guide...so many metaphors and they all fit.
This thread, which can be called Intelligence is always with
us, for we are made of it. It’s 24/7, 360 degree, multidimensional knowing is
ancient and completely timeless. It’s now and always. It’s here and everywhere.
It’s nameless and described by an infinite number of names. It is colorless and
unmoving, and yet it is the animating principle of all of life no matter what
the form looks like or what it does. It is without judgment, meaning, dreams
and desires. It is both empty and full. It is neither high nor low, and
This wonder of wonders is with us always. It’s subtlety is
such that we rarely experience it through our senses although it does carry a perfume.
This perfume is not for the nose, nor can it be heard has a vibration in the
ears. But it is experienced in us as a blooming, we call this bloom of
universal Intelligence, by the name Intuition.
It comes in any state...waking, dream or deep sleep. It
informs us in ways that seem grand or small. It dissolves borders of time and
distance. It’s scent it so silent that we only notice it after the bloom has
occurred. Intuition cannot be owned. It never is “our” Intelligent Intuition
for it is nameless by origin and only truly valuable as a reminder of the
wonder of life and the mystery of True Beingness. It is the same Intelligence
which understands these words, and experiences Love magically by
receiving the understanding. This Intuitive Intelligence open us to a world of
meaning which is intimately familiar and entirely new.
Honor the silent Intelligence in all of life. Notice the
perfume that anoints your own experience as aliveness, in this game called
existence. And intuitively see that you always have and always will hold this
Golden thread, this Ground of Beingness, this wondrous Intelligence with its
kiss of perfume which we call Intuition.