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Darsana Four - Verse Seven


Maya Darsana verse 7


That by which this world, which is indeed

the object of the senses, is specifically created

is apara alone, which in the Self

permeates the eidetic imagery of the gross.


Nataraja Guru’s translation:


The objective data of the senses which is the world

What emanates forth, that indeed,

In the context of the Self is the immanent

The basis of all gross presentiment of the will.


         Verse 7 covers material we have examined extensively already, and in fact our class was mostly about hashing over old ideas that remain hard to assimilate. That’s a good thing to do! This ain’t easy. The central focus of the commentary is to actualize our deconstructive program by seeing how what we think about even our own body is a fiction, or in any case an eidetic image: one based in vivid memory rather than direct perception. We cannot even grasp our own material existence: it turns out to be a series of predigested analogies. As Nitya puts it, “Is it not strange that we should conjecture the reality of our own objective existence merely on the basis of a number of assumptions?” Yet we do, we do.

         Sometimes in meditations, Nitya would guide us to picture our bodies and discern what we actually knew for sure. With eyes closed you cannot tell where your skin ends and the room air begins. There is some very gentle breathing movement and a slight pressure in your seat, otherwise everything else is being generated by your habitual memories. Our picture of our self is a mental image—a construct. And it is likely to be strongly prejudiced in several different and unhelpful directions, as we have often discussed. The verse has one of these lovely meditations built in:


Our physical body is closer to us than anything else in the world. There is no doubt in our minds that it is objective, gross, and concrete. The demands made by the body are the most intimate experiences in human life. But, as with many other objects seen by us in the phenomenal world, much of what we believe concerning the physical body is merely assumptive. Without the use of mirrors we cannot see the back side of the body, and since what is then seen is not the actual body we cannot be sure of the verity of the image. As for what is inside the skull and the remainder of the body, that is all presumption. The brain tissues with their electrical frequencies, the nervous system, arterial and capillary systems, and the operation of the organs – all this we take for granted because we have been told it is so.


I thought of how, down through the millennia, people have always had very certain knowledge of who they were and how they were constructed, yet every generation or so that knowledge has been modified. The new is always treated as the truth, while the old is disdained as outmoded misunderstanding. At every stage there is a reassuring certitude based on partial information, or what is known in Vedanta as ignorance. Possibly there have always been a few yogis here and there who, while knowing the science of their day, also saw the emptiness of concepts and could release themselves from the popular bondage to ignorant notions.

         Paul mused on the word imperience that Nancy Y. includes in all her lessons: “Share your experiences and imperiences.” The two terms go together to indicate outwardly and inwardly directed encounters. Imperience is especially relevant here because we have many sensory experiences with our bodies, but our imperiential relationship is evanescent and mysterious. From what I can make out, the term (not the concept, which is ancient as Paul knows) is quite recent, and not yet in any dictionary. Nitya coined it for himself somewhere along the line, I’m not sure where. On line, all I could find was another Indian pundit doing the same (site linked to his name):


Imperience is a word coined by Pujya. Dr. K.C.Varadachari [born 1902] to distinguish it from experience. Experience is a feeling / knowledge that arise due to external / outside inputs. Imperience is the wisdom gained on contemplation on the deep states of non-concentration concentration (Absorbency).

  Pujya. Dr. K.C.Varadachari practiced yoga graduating himself from the traditional system of Srivaishnavism, through Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga to Sri Ramchandra’s System of Rajayoga. Having come to a stage when he was living in Sahaj Samadhi, he found a need to distinguish between “experience” and the “spiritual states of his existence”. He felt the inadequacy of the words like Nirvana, Nirvikalpaka Samadhi, etc., to express such states of wisdom and hence coined the word “Imperience”.


         Regardless of who coined what, it is liberating to take stock and see how little of what we think is based in actual observation. Oddly, instead of welcoming the freedom this grants us to positively redirect our thinking, we are more likely to mount a defense of our presumptions and treat such wisdom inoculations as hostile threats. Could this be because the ego is sitting doggedly in the seat of judgment? Very likely. And who is willing to tell it to “Sit! Stay!” Almost no one. We are very comfortable with our false images, carefully designed to make us look good to others so we can relax. So why don’t we relax? Because those others, no matter how well-meaning, tend to be very uncomfortable if they can’t pigeonhole us into their own shrunken imagery. If you dare to be different you invite avalanches of opprobrium.

         Many allegedly spiritual programs are crafted to solidify a well-polished egotism. Darsanamala decidedly does not. Narayana Guru’s idea of freedom is that maintaining our self-image is a substantial obstacle that we must overcome. Almost the first step is to acknowledge what Nitya calls a “central benevolence” that is untainted by selfish interests. Without that there is no point to any of this.

         While working on my compilation of the highlights of Nitya’s Brihadaranyaka Upanishad commentary, I came upon a beautiful excerpt that speaks eloquently to this misplaced affection that continually throws us off course. You can find it in Part II. Deb cherished one sentence in particular that sums it all up: “The selfishness which we speak of here is the bias which in every walk of life leads us away from that central benevolence to which we should gravitate every moment.” Isn’t this incentive enough? Seems like it should be. Nitya laments our unwillingness to open up and surrender the ego’s dominance in the present commentary as well:


Each time ordinary people experience pleasure they become more firmly rooted in allegiance to the illusory world of sensory impressions and mental projections of fantasies. Such people—and that includes almost everyone—are unlikely to forsake transient pleasures and turn away from the phenomenal to seek the consolation of the non-transient transcendental. But pleasure can become repetitive and stale, and in any case must soon give way to pain. If sufficient growth toward maturity eventuates, we begin to see life from a different viewpoint. Then transient pleasures cease to allure us, and we are impelled to turn away from the imminent and transactional world when we taste the bitterness of the undependable flux of phenomenal becoming. That men should choose the lower, when they could as easily choose the higher, is very strange. It is the negativity of the universal ignorance and the implacable demands of nature that make us do this. That aspect of maya which again and again brings a false reassurance to our minds to accept the verdict of the senses, and to stand by all the obligations and changing patterns of our day-to-day life, is here classified as the apara aspect of maya.


Actually, the experience of pain roots us in our false allegiances even more fixedly than pleasure does. Deb and I were just talking about how we can clearly remember every time we were punched or beat up as kids (she once, me multiple times). Trauma makes a lasting impression; it’s the way our brains are wired, in hopes that we won’t make the same mistake twice. Painful experiences are exactly what the brain wants to hang on to the most.

         Deb laughed at Nitya’s sentence bemoaning our misplaced affections: “That men should choose the lower, when they could as easily choose the higher, is very strange.” She thought there was nothing strange about it, and Nitya immediately tells us why: “It is the negativity of the universal ignorance and the implacable demands of nature that make us do this.” Well, yeah. Those implacable demands of nature, of necessity. They can easily keep us diverted for a whole life from opting for higher values, and so from our own reality. We really should be generously tolerant, knowing that there is nothing easy about this, especially in a world dead set against acknowledging anything other than necessities.

         Jan readily saw the importance of knowing that unity even exists: without it we are lost at sea. Unity doesn’t show up unless we are looking for it, and why would we look if we had no idea about it? This is essential to know, which always reminds me of Atmo verse 18:


The “I” is not dark; if it were dark we would be in a state of blindness,

unable to know even “I,I”;

as we do know, the “I” is not darkness;

thus, for making this known, this should be told to anyone.


         Deb added that originally the Buddhist concept of suffering wasn’t just about pain and misery, but simply that when you lived in a projected world of duality you were already suffering. It meant that you were separated from the source of vitality, at least mentally. Fortunately, our ignorance seldom kills us, but it does frequently lead us into unnecessary predicaments, sapping our energy and deflecting us from the path of recovery.

         In more evidence of a universal benevolence, Steve W, who doesn’t even follow the class, sent me a link this week of a talk by Robert Lanza on biocentrism—the theory that consciousness is primary and matter secondary, as Vedanta also affirms. I thought of the ridicule he has endured from supposed scientists, some of whom rudely dismiss his ideas out of hand. The ideas are not only plausible but supported by the actual science his mockers profess to swear by. And you can see right away the relationship to this verse, as he discusses how much we assume about our world, without any factual basis. He has a rich New England accent too: Part 1: . Part 2:

         There is another slightly skewed idea in Nitya’s commentary, a hangover of Indian Puritanism that is never far off, that we should “turn away” from transient pleasures. It goes against the main thrust of the revitalized philosophy here that we should perceive the eternal right smack in the heart of the transient, and to do that requires tuning in to it, not turning away. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad commentary below begs us to pay attention to the transactional environment, because it’s precisely where truth resides: “Although we make many hypotheses painted in numerous colorful forms that fascinate our imagination, they do not help us to come out of the quagmire of illusion. The next course for us in our search for the Absolute or Self-realization is to give time to the factual situations of life.” All situations are simultaneously real and unreal, the very definition of maya. Thus they give us the opportunity to access truth right in them, and to separate it from falsehood. If we look elsewhere we immediately are in fully unreal territory.

         What Nitya really means is that we should not presume that transient pleasures and pains are all there is. We need to perceive the eternal within the transient, instead of treating the transient in isolation, and either dismissing or embracing it. The transient without its eternal ground is a highly unsatisfactory place to pitch our tents. As I suggested, let’s not pick sides about something that has no sides.

         The class talked about this at length: that plenty more people would choose lasting values if they knew about them, but they don’t. Our social world ignores higher values in favor of pressing necessities, and we learn to tune them out so early in life that we don’t remember the liberated state at all, even though it is our true nature. The primary positive impact of psychedelics is to reveal the invisible world and its “central benevolence” in an undeniable fashion, and once you realize it is the glue that holds everything together you know that your life’s goal is to bring it back to the core of your life. Or better, bring you back to that already existing core. Nitya expresses this very simply: “an imaginative person, though still experiencing the world of objectivity, can comprehend the idea of an ultimate unity that is transcendentally real.” You can’t access it by your senses, but only through thought. Through imagination, but reality-based imagination, not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Insisting it doesn’t exist because it isn’t made of molecules is simply pathetic. Ideas are never made of molecules.

         Jan wondered about “the causal factor of phenomenality which is enigmatically related to the Absolute.” Where is the enigma? Is it the Absolute? No, the Absolute is ungraspable, but utterly necessary nonetheless. It is its relation with manifestation that is enigmatic. Our study is complex because there is no one-to-one correspondence between duality and unity, or say transience and its lasting core. The relationship is profoundly mysterious. Possibly we should reprint the Gita’s last word on the subject every week, from Chapter IX, where Krishna is speaking as the Absolute itself:


4)         By Me all this world is pervaded, My form unmanifested; all beings have existence in Me and I do not have existence in them.


5)         And further, beings do not exist in Me; behold My status as a divine mystery; further, Myself remaining that urge behind beings, I bear them but do not exist in them either.


6)         As the great (expanse of) air filling all space has its basis in pure extension, thus you should understand all existences as having their basis in Me.


Pretty darn enigmatic, eh? If you can sort this out, please write it down and send it to us. If you can’t, don’t feel bad, and definitely don’t let it stop you in your tracks. The relationship has to be enigmatic: if it were solid the whole universe would collapse of its own weight. And we should stay light too.


Part II

         Swami Vidyananda’s commentary:


This visible world of the five elements has been already stated to be a product of the will. What remains in the Self in the form of gross presentiment and creates this world as presented to the senses is that aspect of maya called the immanent (apara). What is called para or transcendent is subtle and what is called apara or immanent is gross.


*         *         *


         Deb typed up the famous quote she read out to us, and graced us with her thoughts on it:


Excerpt from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean


Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.

Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.


I have included a little more than what I read out last night, the first paragraph and more of the second. I think it is important part when he says he loved but did not understand those he loved. It is hard to see through, to cross over, that divide of individuality that we live in day to day. Yet we can love even if we don’t understand.

And then the water, the river…the flow we all live in, each morning, every night when we go to sleep. It is both the mysterious consciousness that animates us all and it is also the vivacity of the natural world we are born into. The “half-light of the canyon”: where not seeing distinctly helps us to have the transparency of vision we search for. And all memories and beings, all existence settles into the water (to paraphrase Maclean). We “hope that a fish will rise”….the fish being what we look for and prize and want, yes, but also that essence that we most want but which often eludes us.

And then that last, soaring paragraph: “Eventually, all things merge into one”—exactly what Narayana Guru says. And through that oneness our life and all the other lives, “cutting through.” And words—our concepts, our ideas and perceptions, our memories—live under that water and we sometimes hear them. Could he have said it any more evocatively? How we are “haunted” by that, and I would add, nourished and given grace by it.


*         *         *


         From the very end of Volume I of Nitya’s Brihadaranyaka Upanishad commentary, this has a similar message to the present darsana, beautifully expressed:


         Many people muse on the glory of realization, and dream of someday reaching there while, as if from behind, they are eaten up by the canker of ego and the darkness of ignorance. Every religion and every philosophy is trying its best to assure us that there is a bright tomorrow when we will be in the benevolent hands of the Supreme. This is a kind of panacea where the believer is held captive by self-hypnosis. But if we can shake ourselves out of this stupor and become more wakeful and conscious, we will see that we are in the hellfire of ignorance—an ignorance that we ourselves have generated, if not during this very life, then in a previous one. It is all because we glorify the highest and neglect our existential life.

         Unfortunately, our existential life is one of functioning as a masochist and/or a sadist, taking pleasure in hurting ourselves, as well as feeling the vigor of life in the blood we or others profusely shed. Although we make many hypotheses painted in numerous colorful forms that fascinate our imagination, they do not help us to come out of the quagmire of illusion. The next course for us in our search for the Absolute or Self-realization is to give time to the factual situations of life. However, this does not mean one helpless person should hold another helpless person on their lap with the two sitting together bemoaning their fate. That will not help either. We have to see our egos clearly to know which aspects are malevolent and which aspects are benevolent. We have to rigorously clear away the agony-brewing aspects of ignorance or selfishness. The selfishness which we speak of here is the bias which in every walk of life leads us away from that central benevolence to which we should gravitate every moment.

         The purificatory discipline of the individuated self is the major door to salvation. The same scriptural texts that give us the idea of release or liberation also help to give relief from the proliferation of our ego’s power to demolish. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to sublimate the ego’s power by spiritual reconstruction if we wish to reach our goal. (635-636)

Scott Teitsworth