Apavada Darsana Verse 8
alone, not another, shines;
there is nothing other than consciousness;
does not shine—that is unreal;
what is unreal—that does not shine.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
Thus it is pure mind-stuff alone that shines
There is nothing therefore beyond pure mind-stuff at all;
What does not shine is not real either,
And what is non-real does not shine indeed.
always nice to have old friends drop by for class, and last night we were joined
by Amara and Lee, up from the Mt. Shasta region of California. Amara
participated in our class in the 1990s, and now teaches Atmo with friends near
wanted to pursue what Narayana Guru means by shining in this verse, but the
group was more drawn to Nitya’s trenchant ideas about fearlessness. Before
moving on to that, let me reprint Nitya’s intimation about shining:
It is knowledge alone that shines. If
does exist but is beyond the range of our knowledge, it does not exist for us. Our
consciousness remains unaffected by what is beyond the scope of our knowledge.
That which does not shine or reveal itself in terms of existence is
nonexistent. Nonexistence cannot assert its beingness in any way.
The idea is not simply to repeat something along the lines
of “shining is knowledge,” but to explore what is meant by this assertion. How
does it shine? What kind of light are we talking about? What is our role in
relation to it, or its role in relation to us? It seems to me there is great depth
here, worthy of investigation. Happily, Susan already sent some musings that
fit the bill, which I’ll append in Part II. Yet the question remains, what does
this shining mean, exactly? If you have thoughts about this, please share them.
A few of us touched on it after class, but as the hour was late we barely
broached the subject.
a potent subject, fear is the guardian of the gate, easily turning away those
who wish to enter the Beyond. Until we can stand up to its pressure,
self-discovery remains a forlorn hope. So we always welcome exploration of our
fears in the class, however they may connect to the subject at hand.
important instruction that determined the class’s focus on fear included:
The highest form of happiness is
not any kind of excitement, as in the case of pleasure, but total fearlessness….
To become established in fearlessness in all the four modified states of
consciousness is another way of stating the main goal…. Here we are not just
engaged in theorizing. All self-realized people are fearless, and fearlessly
accept what life brings to them.
Obviously, that is enough to spark several evenings worth of
discussion and self-examination. Thanks to the spirit of camaraderie in the
class, several people bravely stepped forward to do just that.
started us off saying one good exercise is to think about what makes us anxious,
to really notice it. She realizes her lack of understanding is the basis of whatever
anxiety she experiences. I added that whatever we are afraid of, our ignorance
makes it more acute, and there’s always plenty of ignorance available. While we
may not be able to disregard the causes of our fears, we can at least delete
the excess we add to them through the projection of possible negative outcomes.
As we take heed of our imaginary fears, we may well find that they are quite
unlikely to occur. If we can just tell ourselves to “wait and see,” the
terrible outcomes we fear simply don’t come about. It should make us confident
that we can reduce our fears to a minimum.
talked about when Nitya died, she was beset by fear. In the back of her mind
she had thought he would never die, and she was shocked out of her false belief
when she heard the news. She knew the emotions moving through her were contrary
to his teachings, yet they were ripping through her. As she watched the
oscillations, she slowly overcame her gut fear, which was gradually replaced by
profound joy. This is reminiscent of a story of Jyothi’s (placed in Part II),
as well as one related in Atmo verse 83. First verse 83 itself:
break, to exist and to come into being is the nature of bodies here—
goes, another takes its place;
in the highest, the Self that knows all these three,
indivisible one, is free of modifications.
commentary on this is excellent, as always. The most relevant part is:
course, it is out of the question to immortalize the body. Narayana Guru agrees
here with the evolutionists that the very nature of the body is to break, then
for something new to come and for that to continue for a while before it also
breaks. Then its place is taken by another, and this will continue on and on.
So there is nothing called the immortality of the body.
When Sri Aurobindo expounded
theory of spiritual evolution and the descent of the supramental, I don’t know
if he meant it this way, but what his devotees understood and we are likely to
think when we read his book, is that the body, which is a receptacle of the
spirit, is slowly changed by the supramental spirit to become an immortal
vessel to hold life. He clearly seemed to imply a physical immortality rather
than any theoretical one.
During his lifetime no one in
ashram was allowed to ask the question of what would happen after Aurobindo’s
death. It was taboo. They all believed he would not die and that his body was
immortal. When he died, the ashram people wouldn’t believe it. They refused to
bury him. There was a French government at that time, and they did not
subscribe to that belief. They had a law that a dead person should be buried
within three days. The ashram people said “No, he is alive. He is in samadhi.”
After the third day the government decided to bury him forcefully, so the
ashram finally allowed it after much dispute that he was still physically
of our fears revolve around the wellbeing of our children. Deb talked about
when our daughter Emily was sick with Lyme disease. It wasn’t something she
could just shrug off, as if a different attitude could fix it. There was no way
to get to a place of “how wonderful!” The question was only how to deal with
the transactional world and stay grounded in the shining aspect at the same
son had a terrible accident at the age of 28, and his life hung by a thread for
several days. She was initially overwhelmed by fear, as is perfectly natural,
but as she sat in the hospital, with no possibility of doing anything to help,
she was slowly able to accept the situation, and once she did a peacefulness
began to permeate her mind. She really felt the shining. She knew she had to
accept what the universe wanted and this gave her strength. Her son recovered
and is thriving.
greatest fears also came from threat to her son’s health, which began at a very
early age. The fear brought up all kinds of horrible anxieties about how it
would turn out. Fortunately, most of them did not happen. Jan did a lot of work
to subtract her projected fears for her son’s future from the actual immediate
situation, which was dire enough. By deleting the excess, she was able to bring
her best caring efforts to bear. At first nearly paralyzed by her fears, she
became a pillar of strength, and managed the very long treatment and recovery
reminded us that absolute fearlessness comes from complete identification with
your true nature, and this is the breeding ground of compassion. Paul added
that Nitya often speaks of overcoming obstacles in a wholesale manner. Where we
have mostly been advocating examining individual fears to sift out the excess—a
piecemeal approach—this could be considered merely palliative care. The true
cure is to reclaim our authentic nature, which is at one with all else, and
there is no room for fear in it. It simply doesn’t come up. Yet if you haven’t
achieved this level of enlightenment, (rather rare in my experience), piecemeal
work can also be very valuable. We only have the opportunity to recognize our
fears when they arise, and that is the best moment to take them on. Either they
drive us as tumbleweeds before a storm, or we stand up against the gale until
they blow over. Once you achieve total Self-identity, they will have only the
power of shadows on stone.
in the midst of a whirlwind of life changes, agreed that the piecemeal approach
was working well for her. She strips down her fears to their raw essence, which
allows her to get rid of all the projections that pop up around facing the
unknown course of hew new life. She feels like the teachings have helped her to
stay strong and even thrive with the challenges she is facing.
made a terrific point, that if we can see our troubles as a gift rather than a
threat it shifts our orientation when fear arises. This is similar to something
we often stress in class: that the situation we are in is exactly the place we
need to work. Instead of seeking to escape trying circumstances, if we treat
them as opportunities we will find they activate our best qualities. Amara
talked about a friend of hers who was suicidal. Instead of commiserating about
his troubles, she convinced him that by seeking escape he was avoiding his
spiritual journey, and with the new framing the same problems he couldn’t bear
suddenly made him laugh. After the initial resistance, avoidance is often a lot
more work than acceptance. Amara advised that if you can surrender, you can
feel the peace that you already are.
agreed that surrender is letting go of the ego’s preferences, and quoted our
favorite Buddhist teaching of Long Chen Pa, on The Natural Freedom of Mind:
Since everything is but an
perfect in being what it is
having nothing to do with good or
acceptance or rejection,
one may well burst out in
is a naturopathic healer who works with a lot of sick people. He feels that
their challenge in recovery is to accept there is a different way of
approaching their health. Many of them have fallen in love with their illness,
which is their “story,” in a sense. We all like to have our story, but it can
be toxic without us even realizing it. He asks his patients in advance to agree
to forget everything they currently believe about their condition, to clear the
decks so they can get a fresh start. Only then can the healing begin. About 20%
walk away from even such a seemingly simple requirement, possibly worried that
getting well would erase their claim to fame.
felt that the verse we are studying also references our love for the story of
our illness. I think she meant that we forget that we are consciousness through
and through and simply become conscious of what we are viewing. The view
includes many terrible and threatening possibilities along with the good ones,
and they draw us further away from our center in pure consciousness. If someone
proposes that these oscillating events we identify with are not the core of
reality, we may deny it vehemently. Most of us are truly addicted to our
added that we are equally addicted to ideas like love and compassion. We might
agree to forego negative feelings, but the positive ones we hold on to for dear
life. We are being invited to transcend all our attachments here, both good and
bad. Laughter is the best healing ointment for loosening their hold.
offered a short version of the solution: “Actualization of the highest possible
values, or the realization of the Self, dispels fear. As an example, the
experience of perfect love does indeed ‘cast out fear’.” He invites us to take
this epitome and expand it into a holistic lifestyle grounded in fearlessness
and expressed in loving kindness. Words like bravery and courage almost but
don’t quite get to this point, as Paul intimated. They imply a dual
perspective, where the optimal state is unitive. So long as there is an other,
there will be fear, which we must meet with courage. That means the courage is
dependent on the fear. A unitive position is fearless through and through,
because there is no other thing to fear, and therefore there is no need for
courage, bravery, or any other heroic virtue.
to “actualization of the highest possible values,” we seek to cultivate and
foster enthusiasm. Often circumstances conspire to lead us away from our master
life interest, and we must find a way to restore it to its proper place at the
center of our life. Nitya’s story about his heart attack in Love and Blessings is a wonderful
reminder, concluding with Nataraja Guru’s ideas:
His theory was that we die when
the plus side of our life is robbed of its vital interests. A good remedy for
seemingly fatal diseases is to cultivate enormous interest in accomplishing
It is also the cure for fear, according to Nitya.
usual we struggled with how much to make efforts and how much to let go of
trying. It is very hard to strike a balance. It has to be a dynamic dance and
not a fixed program, however you face it. The minute we define it, it slips
away from our grasp. Nitya doesn’t want us to lose sight of the essential
The goal of the present study is
to release ourselves from the perennial chain of human misery, and to establish
ourselves in a state of happiness which is not transient. Turning away,
repudiating, or fleeing are methods adopted to escape pain. Drawing closer and
using techniques of sharing or communication are indications that pleasure is
being experienced. Pain germinates fear; pleasure brings hope. Of these two
major propensities, fear and hope, it is fear that dominates both the conscious
and the subconscious mind. Hope arises from that stratum of existence which is
truth itself—that is, the blissful Self. Hope asserts itself again and again as
the will to live, the will to seek, and the will to actualize.
The paradox is made more paradoxical by the fact that its
resolution is already within us:
Realization is not anything to be
newly gained. As all individuated beings are manifestations of the Self, they
do not have to go anywhere to discover it. Unfortunately for us there is a veil
of ignorance which creates the illusion of a dichotomy between the Self that is
seeing and the Self that is seen. All we are asked to do by the Guru is to
rectify this veiling ignorance of the individuated self.
refutation of the false” can be tough going. Narayana Guru will be reminding us
of its inestimable value in the last pair of verses in the darsana. The last piece
of advice we are given is to convert our insistence on being an isolated
individual to being “a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” We are each
a unique aspect of the total or absolute reality—the image that came to me was
of the candles in a menorah—and no matter what happens to us there can never be
a final disconnect with our “true nature” as the universal Self. Pain will not
tear us away from our true nature, but the fear of it will cause us to forget.
Despite its challenge to our timidity, the Apavada Darsana has invited us to
take heart. Nitya concludes:
If these verses are examined, we shall
idea put forward of the Self transforming itself into all that is seen and
experienced. At the same time we are reminded of the experiencing self. It is
an inner sense of identity, that is, the Self experiencing itself, which
removes from the mind all forms of anxiety and fear.
a systematic application of the method of reduction, the Guru comes to the idea
of the true nature of the Self, which is ananda.
This he states in the two remaining verses of the chapter.
All that enters consciousness is nothing other than what is
real. That which is not real cannot enter consciousness. It is knowledge alone
that remains real. That which is both real and consciousness is the Absolute,
which is none other than the Lord as consciousness. Therefore, what appears as this
world is nothing other than the Absolute. Existence and subsistence are both
the form of the Absolute. Existence-subsistence-value all have the
characteristics of the form of the Absolute. What is both existence and
subsistence is a High Value at the same time.
addressed one of what Deb calls “Gurukula clichés,” in the process shedding
much needed light on it. Clichés can either conceal or reveal, depending on how
carefully we pay attention:
In class, the phrase “true nature of the self” keeps coming
up and I hear it but I’m never quite sure what it means. I know it’s something to
work toward understanding. Then when I was meditating this morning, I realized
that the quiet place that I find in meditation is what could be termed the true
nature of the self. It is that place where the senses cannot take you. It is
not a describable self with characteristics — intellect and knock knees and
beautiful hair. It is just what it is. I think that I have thought after all
these years of conditioning and competing and keeping up and education and
striving that I would be looking for something more. More! But no. This is it.
The this-ness. The quiet from which all that manifestation comes. If you don’t
know that quiet which, in the end and always, is all and enough then you can’t
fully live. You are instead pulled one way or another constantly without
knowing where the center is. Somehow I thought it would be more flashy. I
thought there would be some flash, some excitement, but there is more and more
quiet and settling in. Not something that can be explained. Now I feel as
though I have always been top-heavy – so far away from myself – always in
others’ minds. How do they see me? How do they think of me? They are so
wonderful, smart, articulate. I am lacking constantly. There is also the
knowing oneself that involves Dharma and one’s passions but I can see that I
have to start with knowing the true nature of myself. For now I can feel it
best in the quiet of meditation though of course it is always with me.
you all know this story, but Amara did not. Since it parallels her own memoir,
I’ll reprint it here. It’s up on his website now too (http://aranya.me).
Nitya’s death in May of 1999, his longtime assistant Jyothi was inconsolable.
She cried the blues from morning till night, year after year. Her fitful
efforts to spark some new interests always sputtered and failed. She moved back
to her parents’ home, and took occasional trips to visit friends, but nothing
seemed to lift her spirits for more than a few hours.
a single woman in India is tough enough, but being seriously depressed is even
a half dozen years or so of this, she spent a few weeks visiting her friends in
Singapore. As she was reluctantly preparing to return home, her heart heavy, a
messenger arrived at the door.
master is asking for someone named Jyothi, staying in this house,” he said.
“She should come right away.”
friends were baffled. They knew the man who had sent the message slightly. He
was Chinese, supposed to be a medium, and lived not too far away. They had
basically had no contact with him, but he had a good reputation, so they sent
Jyothi back to his house with the messenger. She herself was a little bit
puzzled, but not especially suspicious.
she went in, she was amazed to see that the man’s whole body language looked
exactly like Nitya. He was sitting just as Nitya used to sit, and he greeted
her with a secret affectionate name that only Nitya knew. He asked her to sit
am sorry I had to send you away,” he told her. “I needed to be alone when I
died.” Part of Jyothi’s sadness was that when Nitya knew he was going to die,
he sent her on a false errand to town to get her away. He didn’t want her
around, distracting him from his final samadhi. She is very emotional and
talkative, as well as worshipful. And they had a very loving relationship. It
would have been very hard for both of them if she had been present. But she had
always felt betrayed by missing the final moment.
have been very sad that I am gone,” he said. She nodded. He went on. “I have
not gone anywhere. I am now everywhere. You should not be sad.” Jyothi looked
at him in amazement. She couldn’t believe her eyes and ears. This guy even
sounded like Nitya! He knew nothing about her or the Gurukula, and had never
heard of Nitya, that was certain. But he was
Nitya, in every detail.
is the matter with you? You should not be upset. I am everywhere. I am always
with you. There is no end to life. Instead of mourning me, you should celebrate,
celebrate, celebrate!” This last was said with great joy and strong emphasis.
Jyothi promised she would mend her ways, and stumbled out in a daze. When she
told us about it some months later, she would still light up from within, in
great relief and joy. She took a firm vow to change her attitude, and ever
after felt the certainty of Nitya’s presence always with her.
threads have been popping up all over the place, as the universe honors our
study of Darsanamala. The latest is from the program notes for Thomas Adés’
Radio host, author, and music
critic Tom Service, a longtime champion of Adés’ music, writes, “Adés talks
about hearing the ‘magnetism’ in each note… every one of which becomes, under
his composer’s microscope, a seething mass of musical possibilities. For Adés,
this way of hearing is an absolute, a golden thread he follows in each piece he
writes. The results, though, are the opposite of predictable or pre-planned. To
hear what I’m talking about, listen to Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Paths’,
which he composed in 2005. In just 20 minutes, this three-movement piece does
something magical. The way it swirls ethereally in the first movement, exerts a
tragic and vice-like grip in the… second part, and finally propels you into the
uninhibited flight of the finale is like being spun into an infinite space.
sent in some wise thoughts about the shining:
Your question at the beginning about what the shining means
got me going, so I looked at Atmo and read a bit.
Verse 89 of Atmo talked about the sparks and glowing of pure
knowledge. Reading that verse helped me understand Verse 8 in the Apavada
Darsana better, and shed some new light for me on these ideas. For
instance, there is something ephemeral about sparks that is key to what the
verses are teaching.
Verse 89 reads:
Existing in knowledge, as the being of non-being,
countless sparks arise, causing the appearance of the
so, apart from knowledge there is not another thing;
thus one should know; this knowledge bestows the state of
Nitya then explains that sparks are the “innumerable
offshoots” that spring forth from knowledge (which is the Absolute). Atmo
here seemed similar to our verse in talking about how the “world is nothing
more than the continuous rising up of sparks from a common source.” Pg.
What interested me most was Narayana Guru and Nitya’s
meaning with the spark and its shining quality. Nitya talks about how we
are “drawn to a tiny little luminous aspect in the experience.” p.
630..We go from one spark to another, we cannot give our attention to many
sparks at once. They are made of stuff that holds light but that burns
away, so we cannot retain the sparks. The contemplative sees that the sparks
have a common eternal source, and that they are connected.
This idea that the sparks come and go is important and Nitya
says we need to foster faith that “sparks will be continuously coming” and
“there will be some joy in life all the time.” He also reminds us not
“try to capture one and possess it, expecting to get all you need for the rest
of your life out of it” because then you make a mistake. p. 631.
Nitya also says “we tend to exaggerate either the
impermanence of all sparks, or else the glorious glow of a single one.”
So we should strive to live somewhere in the balance where we remain
unattached, enjoying the beautiful glow of all the sparks and their continuous
I liked your idea of enthusiasm below and saw it related
here too in important ways. Nitya says even though the sparks keep coming
and going, “why should you allow any moment of your life to be wasted, to be
barren and meaningless?” He encourages us to make life wonderful and
joyful, and this process is tied up with our individuality and how we each
represent an individual manifestation with unique interests, desires, talents,
etc. He even talks here (like you did below) about longevity and how this
process is part of a long, happy life. “Find out your own interests.
Keep life interesting. Let new sparks, new joys come.”
Otherwise, life becomes hell. p. 634.
Lastly, I was surprised a bit by seeing how the idea of lila
fit in here too. Just as the universe and Absolute is constantly
involved in this elusive process of world-manifestation and has a “creative
urge for world formation,” we too can be engaged in lila in our
individual lives, and in doing so be close to our divine essence. The
joy we experience “becomes a perennial experience” and encourages other people
to find their joy and divine essence too. It’s a playful process that is
probably exactly the kind of orientation we need to really live these ideas.
I thought all of this was beautiful and very inspiring. I know
there is more to the meaning of the shining quality, but this was something for
now to think about. Jan