Nitya Teachings

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Darsana Four - Verse Nine


Maya Darsana verse 9


Just as a tree wonderfully is

latent in the seed, all are in this;

therefore, or by its importance,

it is called pradhanam.


Nataraja Guru’s commentary:


Because of being that aspect (of maya) which is a marvel

By containing in all this (universe) like tree in a seed,

Or by virtue of its importance (above others)

This here is known as the prime potent power (pradhana).


         When you look carefully at the verse, pradhana appears to be almost identical with maya: it means the whole context of existence. Nataraja Guru’s translation emphasizes this quite nicely. The class noticed how maya has been expanded to its full dimension over the course of the Darsana, and so is no longer an enemy, no longer simply a term for the negative half of existence. Life is not a mistake to be corrected, but a creative exuberance to be expressed in myriad ways, one mega-drama to each customer.

         Nitya had a wonderful understanding of the Bible, and he loved to share it, particularly with people basted in popular interpretations that he was convinced did not do it justice. Here he equates pradhana, the prime potent power, with the Word of God in St. John’s gospel:


The element of wisdom underlying both the Book of Genesis and St. John’s Gospel is the same. In both there is reference to the Word, or logos, that can bring into manifestation the world of gross and concrete actuality, and in both there is reference to the dual principle of light and darkness in which darkness has the opacity to reject the positive power of light. The Biblical language is of a mystical order and does not pretend to a scientific clarity. Even so, the suggestions given in the above quotations can be of immense help to anyone blessed with the faculty of intuition. They will help them to understand the major riddle of spirit versus matter which confronts us in the fields of religion and science.


The Word is not the same as the flow of verbiage in words. It is a translation of logos, Greek for logic, and so a perhaps unfortunate quirk of the English language. The Word is a moving creative force, an ongoing hurricane of creation. We all exist within that perfect storm. As Paul said, words are delimiting: they put a border around any object we give value to. The Word is more like an acorn, one whose actualization is our entire universe. While unmanifested, it is all-inclusive. As Deb put it, you can’t see the tree in the seed. It has to become expressed before we can learn what the potential was.

         This may be why it is so difficult for us to accept the intrinsic harmony of nature—its true spirit. In the West we are inheritors of some 400 years of careful scientific separation of spirit and matter, and at least two thousand years of a similar religious division. It is high time for us to begin to see them as twin aspects of a single unitive principle. Paul put this very nicely, quoting a friend that reality was the nature of Spirit, which is the same as Spirit’s nature. On close examination, there is only one thing going on, a continuous emanation from a point source (located in everyone and everything) to the vast panoply of actualizations we perceive. Prior to manifestation reality remains as pure potential, and after manifestation infinite potential resides also within a more or less limited expression. We highlight different aspects for the sake of analysis, but we should never forget that there is no line of demarcation anywhere. It isn’t even that the one flows into the other. There is no other. There is only reality as such, comprehended according to each person’s lights.

         Bushra shared how she loves to sit and drink her coffee in the morning and visualize how she is made up of so many other things. She can sip the jungle where the coffee is grown, the monkeys in the trees there, the worms in the earth, all of it entering into the coffee plant and into the berries, eventually finding its way to her lips. She loves to watch all those different lives entering into her during her morning coffee meditation. It makes her feel like she is made up of many other forms. She knows that in its turn her body will some day feed other living things too.

         Deb likened pradhana to atomic energy, which radiates as electromagnetic waves that also have the qualities of particles, depending on how they are observed. We can easily comprehend how all of us come from that universal source. If it’s personified it becomes problematic, but we don’t need to complicate it that way.

         Nitya gives three perspectives of how the universe emerges from a point source: a more-or-less traditional concept of God as creator; the elaboration of a mathematical point of no dimensions into a line, plane, and eventually a three-dimensional solid; and the atomic or monadic theories of an irreducible building block. He also implies a fourth perspective, in the conception and development of a human infant. All of these emerge from a single point, which is really nothing, as he makes clear, though the baby is more of a symbol of a point of origin, since it begins as a unicellular construct. A real point is nothing at all.

         The implication of these images is not only that our world is an elaboration of a seed—that is self-evident and not necessarily a transformative idea. The spiritual implication is that we can deconstruct our conceptual accretions, and by doing so get closer to the universal dynamic source at the heart of our individuality. Instead of stifling its purview to act on our behalf, we let go of our fear and cherished certainties to provide a less-congested slate for it to write on. Again, this is not some outside force we are dangerously inviting to take control. It is our very nature. It is already operating in us, but at low-res. Turning up the brightness can flood away a number of anxieties, which are measures of how tightly the ego is clinging to the tiny shreds it is familiar with.

         Despite herculean efforts to subtract coherence from the universe on the part of many thinkers, there remains an undeniably coherent organization as the skeletal structure of what we know. Nitya says of this: “If we agree with the description of the logos given by Heraclitus and Plato, we shall think of it as a totality of intelligence operating in and through the entire gamut of the universal and world manifestation and the process of creation.” The problem scientists have with this obvious truism is that humans have had a tendency to split intelligence off from its intrinsic location within manifestation, put it on a remote pedestal, and call it God. Then all sorts of cockamamie ideas become plausible. It shouldn’t be considered so wrongheaded to observe coherence existing within everything and call the whole business Divine. In the words of Stan Grof: “Divinity everywhere, with no deity anywhere.” Or how about calling it simply Functional? It is a miracle that things work, and work well. Scientists attribute intelligence to principles like survival of the fittest or the wisdom of the marketplace, which are just another kind of deification of ideas.

         Let others tie themselves in knots over semantics. We are aiming to open ourselves to the creative impulse of pradhana—the expression of maya if you will—to enrich our lives. When a new entity bursts into existence like a spark from a campfire or homam fire, sooner of later it fizzles out. In the brief moment of our glory we want to be a bright light that cheers everyone in the vicinity, to really live our unique opportunity well. The gurus are offering to fan the flames, if we are willing. Nitya reiterates our potential, in case we are immodestly selling ourselves short:


The dual factors mentioned by St. John at the beginning of his gospel – life and light, and light and darkness – are enough for us to understand both the transcendental and the imminent. Every cell in our body pulsates with light, yet we are in the dark as to the nature and purpose of that pulsation. At the same time, there is a great light in us that can soar high on the wings of the Muses and pay veneration to the highest values of the Self. It can also dive very deep into the depths of the mystery of the soul. Both these aspects must be put together to enable us to understand the nature of the Word, which St. John presents as not only of the world, but also of God.


Religion has often strayed very far from this type of interpretation. Nitya alludes to the discrepancy, saying “Unfortunately for the enlightenment of their followers, Christian theologians have made a complete mess of this sublime teaching.” He is referring to how the inner impulse has been personified as a remote God who dictates our behavior, and if we don’t do what he demands we are consigned to a hell-world of sin and degradation. Such an attitude is practically a guarantee that we will fail, we will become perverted echoes of the promise we brought with us into the world. It shifts the onus of living with expertise to the relatively helpless and hapless ego, and creates a schism between our self-identity and the inner wisdom of our very being.

         There is a world—no, a universe—of difference between viewing our self and all other humans as sinners, or victims of a hostile maya, and viewing them as expressions of an intrinsic creative brilliance who have barely begun to realize their power.

         Eugene gave a great example. He was in an opera master class when he was quite young, but still remembers it clearly. The teacher told each of the students in turn to get ready to sing but then not to sing. She signalled the pianist to play. After a while she told the singer whose turn it was to go ahead, to pick it up in the middle. It was as if they were joining an event that was already in progress. They weren’t the source of the music. The music was always there, and had been for a long time. They were only joining in. Eugene felt the difference, and it translated into improved sound. It seems like a very clever way to subtract the ego from holding center stage, in an art form which is famous for big egos.

         Moni remembered Nitya requesting something like that from a singer, asked them to listen to what was already in the air before beginning. After the performance he asked, “Did you hear it?” The musician answered, “Yes.” Nitya smiled and replied, “I heard it also.”

         Bushra noted how in many cultures art is not considered the province of any individual person. It is collectively held, and artists are only channeling what is already held in trust. Again, this can minimize the egotistical tug of being an admired artist. On the other hand, it can breed stasis, artists who are only allowed to copy what has already been done. But the point is well taken: the Word is always pouring forth its wonders and all we have to do is tap into them, which is perfectly in accord with Narayana Guru’s depiction of maya here.

         Deb remembered reading about the poet Ruth Stone, who grew up on a farm in Virginia. While working in the fields she could sense a poem wafting by on the air, and she would sprint to the house to get her paper and pencil. She knew she only needed to be present to catch it.

         Jan noticed how similar these ideas were to a book she recently read, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, detailing ways to release the “hidden jewels” within each of us. In the class we were simply opening up to the “Word of God” and letting it speak to us; Gilbert also addresses overcoming the obstacles that many of us are restrained by, what Nitya once called inhibitions to creative catharsis. Patanjali gives the obstacles a serious thrashing in his Yoga Sutras too, of course.

         Dividing spirit from matter leads to the isolation we have foisted upon ourselves as a species, and the consequent deadening of joyful participation with our surroundings. We are being invited to heal our wounds by a simple change of perspective. The all-encompassing pradhanam or Word is infinitely dynamic. Some of us like to add the sense that participating in its flow is beneficial rather than merely neutral. It is taking us places we want to get to, and the only way to get there is to hitch a ride, so to speak. Our ego and our society do not know the way, though we can amuse ourselves to some degree by flailing about. Yet why shouldn’t we begin to listen to our wise inner voice, or what the Bible calls the “still small voice”? Then we can be what author Ken Kesey described as a lightning rod, rather than a seismograph.

         Nitya sums up the purport of the verse beautifully with his closing words. I have gathered some of Nitya’s references to the Sanskrit terms in this paragraph, as promised in the class, and you can check them out in Part II. But for now I don’t want to disturb the sublime way these words tinkle in the air, like an operatic aria or a poem waiting to be caught:


The stumbling block of every serious thinker has been the convertibility and complementarity of spirit and matter. In clarifying this enigmatic principle here, it is considered to be the most brilliant and dynamic aspect of maya. Hence it is called pradhanam – the principle of irrefutable dynamism to both make and unmake. The pradhana of the Sankyanas is equated with the supreme principle, mahatattva. The parallel concept in Vedanta is mahas, which is the glorious principle in which the beginning is complementary with the end. The same is also glorified as the supreme aspect of the Divine to which we should ultimately turn, as the final destination, to experience our inherent and adorable intimacy with the Absolute.


Part II


         Swami Vidyananda’s commentary:


In the same way as a large banyan tree is contained in a small seed, the whole of this universe is contained within maya. Because of the marvelous way it contains the whole universe in itself, it is called prime potent power. There is the further justification for calling it pradhana, the prime potent power, because it is a more comprehensive factor than science (vidya) and the other factors already enumerated.


*         *         *


         Bill asked for an elaboration of a couple of the Sanskrit terms found in the commentary. First, culling from the Monier-Williams dictionary:


Pradhana—the most important or essential part of anything. Primary germ, original source of the visible or material universe (MW)

The prefix pra has a lot of meanings, but many of them are linked by being forceful or directional. There is thrust in them.

Dhana—corn, grain (originally the grains of seed from their being ‘laid’ into and ‘conceived’ by the earth)


That Alone mentions both mahas and mahatattva:


mahas is introduced in verse 4 as the primeval stuff. The verse text is:


         Knowledge, the object of interest,

         and one's personal knowledge are nothing other than mahas;

         merging into that infinite, Supreme Knowledge,

         become That alone.


Verse 13 reads:


         Having offered the flower of your mind to that Lord

         smeared with sacred ashes, the three gunas,

         having cooled down the senses, unwound everything, and             become calm,

         when even the glory of aloneness has gone, become                       established in mahas.


Verse 57 parallels the present verse:


In the waveless ocean, endless traits of maya remain

as potent and beginningless effects;

water’s taste and so on make a configuration,

and with such embodied forms world upon world comes to be.


Part of the commentary mentions mahas:


         The ocean of salt water is only one type of ocean. A philosopher who is thinking about the phenomenality of life and its dualities—pain and pleasure, becoming and being, truth and falsehood—sees the ocean of samvit, which is at once gross and subtle, conscious and unconscious. The possibilities of the ocean of samvit are many times more numerous than those of a saline sea. Again, a person in a mood of adoration, who is filled with a sense of reverence and who looks around and sees the abundant benevolence of nature, is filled with another idea: that of an ocean of compassion. One who is in a state of meditation, who is silently immersing into the unfathomable depths of his own self, sees in, around, above and below nothing but the ineffable ocean called adhimahas, the primal glory. So there are many oceans, and all of them have infinite possibilities.


Verse 69 mentions mahatattva, and relates it to St. John’s Word:


         The antakaranas are the four inner organs: manas, the interrogative aspect; chitta, memory; buddhi, reason and intellect; and ahamkara, ego. There is a certain way in which light comes to manifest, by way of the tan matras, the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Three principles bring this about: avyakta, mahatattva and ahamkara. The first is the state in which there is no differentiation between prakriti and purusa, the creative dynamics and the spirit. There is only a primordial unity. This is like the state of which St. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When you don’t differentiate between the Word and God, that is the avyakta state.

         When the Word begins to operate, it is called mahatattva or the great principle. The supreme principle has a logos, a reason about what and how it is going to manifest. Whatever is going to be brought into existence is not going to be done in a haphazard manner. It comes as a cosmic or universal manifestation of the law. The principle, the meaning, the relationship, the purpose—all these together can be called the reason of manifestation, identified with the mahatattva. In this, buddhi, the intellect, has a priority over everything else because it is nearest to the Supreme, in the sense that it brings the light of the Supreme to manifest in everything.


*         *         *


         This was sent by Emily, regarding the recent mayavic election. We’re not sure, but it may be from the indigenous elders who run this site:


From the Great Council of Grandmothers...Wise words, indeed:


After the election in America I asked the Grandmothers, “Now that it’s over, what can we learn?”


“First,” they replied, “let us explain some things. You have elected, not a man, but a ‘moy’ to lead you. He is a boy in an old man’s body. Moys are a combination of man and boy, but mostly boy. They are large and have loud voices so people mistake them for men, but they are not men. A man thinks of the common good while a moy has not learned to think of anyone but himself. He has not fully developed and is still a child.


“The time you are living in is called the age of destruction,” they said, “the Kali Yuga. It is the lowest point. At this time evil rises to the surface to be destroyed. This dark-age takes place just before the arrival of the in-coming Golden Age, so today you are watching out-of-balance Yang energy creating destruction all over your planet. This IS the Kali Yuga. You have heard and read about it and now it has come.


“Your country has just elected a moy to be its next president. Russia as well as Syria are already run by moys, while Africa is overrun by them, each moy creating havoc in his area of that continent. The Philippines is run by a moy and so are several other countries. Is it any wonder that the world is lurching from crisis to crisis?


“This is what is happening on earth now and because it is, you must learn to cope with this energy. You cannot reason with it because it is entirely destructive. Instead you must hold steady within yourself and observe its wild behavior from a position of power. If you do this, it will not be able to feed on you. Your steadiness will help contain its rapacious energy and it will not be able to do as much damage as it would otherwise.


“Call on us, call on the Net of Light and hold Sacred Space. Be mindful of who you are! You are a great being, here on earth to occupy a steady place in an unsteady world. You can do this! You are not weak and helpless. Within yourself you carry the great holding power of Yin. Call on it now. Live with it. Be as you were born to be.


“We ask one more thing of you. At this time reach out to one another in service. Many are suffering now. Feed the hungry, visit people in hospitals and prisons, provide shoes to those who need them, help the animals. If each of you plunge into one activity of service, together you will do great good, turning many hearts to light. Find a service project for yourself. We ask this of you because we know who you are. You are our hands and hearts on earth. You are greatness itself.”


November 12, 2016, The Great Council of the Grandmothers


*         *         *


Part III


         Deb is reading poet William Stafford’s Crossing Unmarked Snow; Further Views on the Writer’s Vocation, and called my attention to a section where he’s being interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor newspaper about how he writes. Stafford famously wrote before the day began, the way meditation is often engaged in. He mentions that being sent to a Conscientious Objectors camp during WWII inspired his poetry writing because, since “it was like a work camp or prison camp… it made me want to preserve a part of my life for my own.” I have often wished he could join us in our class, but as he’s no longer with us, here’s his contribution to Maya 9 from this lovely book:


I believe it was Clarence Day who [said that] in the novels of Joseph Conrad you get the feeling of [being] on a ship where they’re all below celebrating, and there is someone up there at the bow of the boat who realizes how deep the ocean is down there, and where they are going, and that around them is this mystery. So getting up early and being receptive like this, day after day, is a reminder of the depth and mystery around us. I think another thing is: Your life gets centered all over again every day. The daily practice is enough to take you out of the current of your obligations and put you in relation all over again to something that feels like the big current outside of us, the tide of the eventfulness of being alive. (27-8)


Scott Teitsworth