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Darsana Two - Verse Four


Apavada Darsana Verse 4


Because of its non-difference from cause,

how can an effect come to have existence?

By that, how can there be

the non-existence of cause also?


Nataraja Guru’s translation:


Because of non-difference from cause

The effect, how could it have being?

How could there be for the same reason,

For the cause also any non-being?


         In 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.

         The 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.


         Struggling 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?


         I 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 hold back.

         Where 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.

         Nitya 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.

         Moni 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?

         Nitya 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.

         The 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.


         Speaking 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.

         As 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.


         In 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.

         As 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 world:


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.


         First 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.

         We 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.


         Moni 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.

         Karen 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.

         The 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.

         Mathematicians 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:

         Nitya 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.

   In 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.

         Moni 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.

         I 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 manifested universe.

         If 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.


Part II


         Swami Vidyananda’s commentary:


         Because an effect is 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.


*         *         *


         After 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! .


         Deb 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.


         Looking the poem up, I found this quote from his friend Robert Bly, from


“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.


         Which led to:


“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.


Part III


         More 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)


*         *         *


         Amara 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 seeing.

Much Love as always, Amara


The Perfume of True Being.       Satsang  3/16/2016


The Way It Is… William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change.

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 time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.


We use so many words to describe the Absolute, the Unknown, the Beyond.

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 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 eternally present.


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.


Love, Amara

Scott Teitsworth