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Darsana Five - Verse Two


Bhana Darsana, verse 2


         Gross, subtle, causal, and the fourth—

         thus, the bases of awareness are of four kinds;

         the same names

         apply to awareness also.


Nataraja Guru’s translation:


As the concrete, the subtle, the causal and the Absolute

Basic Consciousness (is) of four kinds

So these names even (of basic Consciousness)

Are also applicable to consciousness.


         At long last the weather has relented and we were able to resume our probe into Darsanamala. A visitor from Montreal, Nadia, joined us, who has a background in osteo yoga. I always wish that a new friend would be able to have a proper introduction, but dropping by in the middle of the Bhana Darsana is about as far from introductory as you can get. This section is a real head breaker—intentionally so. How else can the chick emerge from the egg than by smashing the shell? At least Nadia did not run screaming out the door, as most of our visitors feel like doing. And perhaps that would be a fitting response to the threat of abolishing our illusions. If the class was really what it proposed to be, everyone would run away screaming every week. Hmmm.

         Nitya’s commentary is essentially a subtle examination of the four states of consciousness listed by Narayana Guru, and so draws on all our previous understanding, as if we had absorbed it all already. Every week we demonstrate that this is far from the case, yet also that we are somewhat prepared and willing to absorb more. Happily, implied in the subject matter is the awareness that we already have it all somewhere within us, and are simply in the process of re-cognizing our wealth of knowledge. Many of you will remember the relationship of this concept with verse 65 of Atmo, which is an excellent supplemental read:


Nothing exists here that we have not known once;

veiled by form, all this is not wakefully known;

being boundless, there is no one who knows;

who is there to know this dear wonder? Alas! It is strange!


If we are convinced that our “greater being” (Self or Absolute) is not separate from us, but only that our conscious awareness functions in a limited arena and necessarily tunes it out so it can function efficiently, we won’t have to initiate a formidable search for who we already are. Thanks to the extensive deconstruction we have already practiced, we are approaching the central fulcrum in Darsanamala where that is ostensibly revealed as our true ground.

         Deb talked about how this awareness excuses us from have to go after what are called mystical experiences. The affirmation of Vedanta is that we are already everything: tat tvam asi, That thou art. Literally everything is a “mystical experience.” Social disinformation pushes us to feel cut off and extraneous to anything that truly matters, as Jan mused, which of course feeds into our egoistic anxieties. Narayana Guru’s compassion is aimed at reassuring us that we are already much, much greater than we can imagine. Knowing that we can let go of our death grip on the flimsy supports provided by commercial enterprises and social hierarchies, and connect with the ground that is at once utterly subtle and absolutely solid.

         A nice example just happened to me. Last week Andy asked if we had an extra copy of Arivu, and I searched diligently without turning anything up. We don’t have a digital version yet either, so I told him he was out of luck. Yet as I sat here this morning trying to get traction for elucidating this massive essay for the class notes, I was suddenly prompted to get up and walk directly to the three precious booklets of Arivu nestled on my Gurukula shelf. One of them is en route to Andy this morning. So I know for sure that some part of me remembered exactly where they were.

         LSD experiments often turn up absolutely vivid recollections of early childhood, proving that it’s all sitting in there somewhere.

         Scotty talked about a time when he was in counseling. For a time he merely reacted to the therapist’s suggestions, doing what he was prompted to do. Then one day he underwent a breakthrough to heightened clarity, where he became more conscious, more independent. He felt empowered to be himself, and reactive learning no longer drew him. Coming back to our true self is the ostensible goal of therapy, but it is rarely realized. It takes a good counselor as well as an able recipient.

         Deb agreed. She grew up feeling she was supposed to be a certain way, and worked hard to live up to those expectations. She learned to base her feelings on external impacts. Later, as a philosopher she had to relearn how to rely on her boundless inner being that is connected to everyone and everything.

         We have learned in our studies that the way to tap into the fullness of our being is to make an initial request: a perfunctory search, a prayer, a wish, but then let it go. Don’t micromanage the unfoldment. If we’re trying too hard, we won’t be able to hear the whispers of our innate intelligence, which already knows what we need. So giving up without losing confidence opens a door to the wisdom library. The more this happens, the easier it is to retain confidence in the participation of the Unknown, and this is something we can easily cultivate. Though often clothed in religious imagery, it is equally available to atheists, as in Isaac Asimov’s Eureka phenomenon.

         Gross and subtle are connected, often haphazardly. They come together in the vertical parameter linking the causal with the transcendental. The transcendental is properly called merely turiya or fourth to omit any adjectival coloring. Nitya connects this with the gist of Bhana Darsana:


Although the pains and pleasures and the experiences of elation and misery are subjective states, we very often link them with what appear to us as concrete facts belonging to an external physical world. The one unitive value that all beings seek is happiness. If that has any direct or indirect bearing on external entities, often called the “harsh facts of life,” we should look into the nature of the concrete world.


He doesn’t actually say it here, but we look at the concrete facts to discern the reflection of our subjective mental framing. What looks concrete turns out to be largely a product of our imagination. Recall that the deconstruction we are undertaking is to break open our static mentality and free us to adopt a better one. The reconstruction will begin in earnest with the Karma Darsana, next up. This is essential. We are currently experiencing deconstructed politics in the US and elsewhere, where facts don’t matter, everything is merely what you want, prompted by unexamined urges. It leads to fascism and violence, as history has amply demonstrated. People from my generation have Charles Manson as the poster child for what can happen with deconstruction if there is no meaningful rebuilding of the psyche. If good and bad have no meaning, anything goes, including the murder of innocents. Nitya makes a passing reference to the retention of factual reality within the transactional world:


We now speak of harsh facts. Jesus said: “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” (Luke 11, 11-12)


The US is now in a position where its elected leadership proudly proclaims that reality is what it says it is. When people ask for jobs or health care, the response is a grin and a wink. In other words, actual needs are met with subjective opinions, which don’t do much for the stomach. When we ask for an egg, we are being handed scorpions.

         You don’t have to study a profound philosophy to know that there should be a working relationship between the transactional world and a person’s understanding of it. The shorthand name for the relationship is Science. The Gurukula study is called brahmavidya, the Science of the Absolute, more popularly known in the West as a Theory of Everything. It has to work and not just be a fantasy. Nitya sketches its parameter regarding the horizontal factors of subjectivity and objectivity:


We are students of brahmavidya, the wisdom of the Absolute, and so are concerned not with the concreteness of the various modulations and projections of consciousness, but with the consciousness of concreteness. What we want to understand is how consciousness can assume a certain quality when it interprets a modification as something to be loved or discarded, adored or abhorred.


         The whole point of deconstruction is to remove the falsehoods we unnecessarily and unfairly attach to objects, and not to give ourselves permission to run with whatever unmoored beliefs suit our selfish whims of the moment. The closer we come to seeing things as they are and not how we wish they were, the closer we’ll be to appreciating the glories already filling the manifested world to the brim.

         Nitya also reminds us of the pulsation model of consciousness, which we’ve touched on frequently, where awareness alternates between an infinite non-dimensional point at the core of existence and an expansive sphere of interface with the external world:


What is the world that lies beyond transactional actualities? To have an idea of this we should go back to our earlier analogy of the point and the circle, which mark the two extreme limits of a cone: the point, the apex; and the circle, the base. The pulsation of the mind that we spoke of earlier has to touch these two limits. It touches the gross when it expands centrifugally, and loses itself in the subtle when it returns centripetally to the core. Although the subtle does not look as impressive as a hot loaf of bread just taken from the oven, the bread would not have been brought into existence without the intention and skill of the baker. This is a case where one turns away from the facts of life in order to understand the very feasibility of facts.


The idea is to infuse our transactional lives with the blissful essence of the living source. It’s an unending process, not a one-time accomplishment. Regularly dipping into the depths helps makes life meaningful and enchanting.

         Nitya pokes (respectful) fun at Karl Marx for trying to envision a world of external facts devoid of subjective coloration, because the two are inextricable. It reminds me of something I’ve been told as well as read, by staunch materialists: “I don’t believe in metaphysics!” Belief, of course, is a metaphysical proposition, so the statement is self-contradicting. Absurd. Most philosophy is half-baked at best. Nitya wants to lead us to the source of our skewed perspectives so we can truly liberate ourselves. Moreover, only liberated human beings can assist in the liberation of others. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. People tend to prematurely give up liberating themselves and substitute others as their practice dummies, which is a classic lose/lose proposition.

         All these conundrums should lead us to unfettered contemplation of our whole being, as Nitya specifies:


This brings us to the problem of knowing intimately the whole process of basic awareness interacting with the ground to assume the special quality that belongs to each item of manifested consciousness. A probe into this is recognized in the West as the study of depth psychology.


Nitya hints at this here in the somewhat baffling section on what and this:


In each act of cognition two other factors have to arise from a depth in order to recognize the meaning of what is cognized. The cognition brings only the awareness of a presentation, which can be qualified as idanta, the “thisness” of every experience. As each presentation is first apprehended only as a presentation of a new theme of awareness, it is also indicative of the homogeneous factor of the Self that is entering into every experience as a subject to be predicated.

   For this reason, “thisness” belongs to the world of generality. This “this” is different from that “this” because of the what of this “this” and the what of that “this”. The “what” is the qualifying element. If “this” is the subject, “what” reveals the predicate. Assigning the predicate to the subject, as we have already said, is an act of judgment. This judgment is made feasible by bringing from the depth of one’s own psyche a concept or a number of associated concepts with which a newly presented entity can be re-cognized.


The really baffling sentence in the second paragraph is taken from F.H. Bradley, which some of you may remember. I’ll append a delightful passage about it in Part II. The key point here is that there is a vertical rising and subsiding of awareness of each individual mote as we engage with it, meaning we are adding our entire history of encounter to each seemingly new iteration. Unless we are aware of how heavily this affects what we perceive, we will be painfully trapped in our own prejudices and limitations. Nitya describes the baggage that comes along with every concept:


A concept does not arise leaving behind all the shades of meaning and emotional content which have gone into every such formulated concept. The newly presented data becomes meaningfully effective only when the central core of consciousness is affected by the re-cognized presentation. Although the central focus of awareness is operating at the periphery, its counterpart is a consistent, built-in I-consciousness that has on it the fingerprint of every experience that has been and is being shared between the basic consciousness and the modulated consciousness of the individuated self. This value-bearing and value-interpreting ground of I-consciousness, which is always hiding beneath the threshold of consciousness, reveals its recognition, registers its protest, offers its recommendation, and releases its feelings of pleasure or excitement. It keeps its identity concealed when it promotes an incipient memory. It also advocates the cause of social mores.


         Page 465 of That Alone has a simple diagram that is worth consulting, related to the above. At the center is the ‘I’ or ego. The intellect connects the ‘I’ to the Absolute (arivu, knowledge or Self), while the mind connects it to the body and other specific items. This legitimizes the ego as the essential coordinating factor between outer and inner, or apex and base of the cosmic cone of consciousness. Gurukula philosophy does not attempt to either eradicate the ego, or give it undue importance. Balanced in the middle is just right.

         Jan wondered what exactly the mystery was in the sentence, “It is a real mystery how the substantial essence of a social tradition can be part of the subjective operation of the individuated self.” A lively discussion ensued about the way we think being shaped by our social environment. Andy talked about the rewards and punishments that constrain us to “be good,” which are the lion’s share of conscious conditioning. Additionally, Nitya refers to a mysterious factor to draw us to also recognize the very subtle ways we are influenced, the ones we are hardly aware of at all. Like the water fish swim in. We can only get a sense of this by deep contemplation, by returning to a neutral zero of unconditioned consciousness. We don’t have to become iconoclastic; mainly we prefer to not be blindly driven by these ubiquitous forces. Many of them do not need to be resisted—only the ones that cause harm. In fact, we can intuit the toxic ones by seeing the harm and then inferring backwards to their cause.

         In clarifying, Nitya refers to my very most favorite Atmo verse, which coincidentally Andy is now studying in his That Alone online group. I used it as the opening image of my introduction to that book, which I think works rather well. If you don’t have a copy, you can read it here: Just the first bit. Nitya uses the image to explain the social impact of conditioning:


Although most conditionings occur at the transactional level, they percolate through the ego and become the accumulated sediments of built-in social norms that can have full control over manipulating what we have called the causal consciousness.


Narayana Guru gives a very good illustration of this in verse 76 of Atmopadesa Satakam:


As countless grains of sand ceaselessly blown onto

the surface of a pond generate ripple after ripple,

by untruths successfully blown,

the inner self is transformed from within into various forms.


Each time sands fall onto the surface of the water the surface becomes turbulent, and it causes patterns which are not natural to still water. Apart from the surface disturbance, the formation of the bottom of the pond is also altered by this phenomenon. But there is one thing that participates in all these transformations and yet is not affected by either the changing bottom or the surface disturbance. This unchanging reality is H2O, the essential nature of the water itself. In the same manner the Absolute is unaffected by the three levels of modulations: the causal, the subjective, and the transactional. It always remains the same. Hence, in the present scheme Narayana Guru calls it turiyam, the fourth.


We ended with a reaffirmation of the value of knowing we already possess the turiya (or it possesses us). We are That. We don’t have to launch a journey of a thousand miles to reclaim our birthright, we simply have to let it have room to express itself through us. Nadia talked about how she has moments where her yoga practice takes her to a lovely place, but then at other times she has bursts of feeling disconnected and struggles to regain that place. This is wholly normal. Narayana Guru wants us to accept the bliss and the ordinariness as both being who we are. We are alive to all the ways we exist, which allows the bliss to seep into the outer experiences. One pernicious form of social conditioning is to believe we have to be A students all the time or we will fail, we will be no good. The Guru suggests we stop grading ourselves and just know that all of it is us. Our boneheaded mistakes are just as much the magic of creation as our rare achievements, and our life is going to continue unfolding harmoniously regardless. Knowing this should reduce or eliminate our gratuitous anxiety, at the very least. At best it is a true tool of liberation, one we can bring in any time we remember what we’ve already learned.


Part II


         Swami Vidyananda’s commentary:


         For consciousness as well as its basic counterpart there are four divisions. They are concrete basic consciousness, subtle basic consciousness, causal basic consciousness and Absolute basic consciousness. In the same way there are (four divisions for consciousness) and they are also concrete, subtle, causal and Absolute respectively.

     The difference of generic and specific belongs to the whole lot of the components of consciousness. They are broadly divided into two, giving four generic and four specific sets, e.g., generic-concrete consciousness, has its counterpart on specific-concrete consciousness, as also, two such as generic-concrete basic consciousness and specific-concrete basic consciousness. As with the concrete we have to extend such divisions as applicable to the subtle, the causal and the Absolute.


*         *         *


         Here’s the excerpt I sent out last week, from the Yoga Darsana (the ninth of the ten darsanas of Darsanamala. Bhana is the fifth.) I think this should answer at least some of the questions along the lines of “What’s the point?” It should help us come to grips with the Bhana Darsana as a vivid, practical instruction. Right now we’re studying how the pure Source expands into a subject/object duality, between which transactional consciousness fluctuates like the wingbeats of a bee. The aim of Yoga (and Darsanamala) is to reconnect with the Source and take a vacation from fluctuating, so that we really come to know that the fluctuations aren’t the whole ball game:


         The intended game of the yogi is to effect a total cessation of the consciousness that fluctuates and thereby automatically creates the subject-object duality between a non-temporal, non-spatial, non-physical subject and an object spatially located, temporarily contacted or apprehended, and physically assessed. An observation of this phenomenon can never be fully directed to the observed because the source of its illumination is in the observer, and the most active intentionality of perception and conception originates from the self as a vibrant projection of an image which is received back as a vibrant interjection. Thus one unit of modulation is completed. Although this happens as a self-deluding hypnotic function, the yogi intensifies the thoroughness of watching the full round of modulation so that that bit of consciousness can be freed from being identified as subject or as object, as the accompanying attributes pinned on to the subject as a pain-pleasure complex, or as the attributes of the object such as visual, auditory, or other properties. The result is a total transcendence effected there and then even when the flow of energy does take place. There is no qualitative distinction between the first, second, or third moments of the transcendence of modulation. This is what Patanjali calls citta vritti nirodha. (DM 9.1)


*         *         *


         Our bedtime reading last night included a magnificent poem that seemed just right for the spirit of the class:


The Darkling Thrush

  by Thomas Hardy


I leant upon a coppice gate

      When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

      The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

      Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

      Had sought their household fires.


The land’s sharp features seemed to be

      The Century's corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

      The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

      Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

      Seemed fervourless as I.


At once a voice arose among

      The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

      Of joy illimited;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

      In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

      Upon the growing gloom.


So little cause for carolings

      Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

      Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

      His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

      And I was unaware.


*         *         *


         Of several references to Nitya’s revelation about the Bradley quote, the one in Chapter 41 of Meditations on the Self is my favorite. It’s also mentioned in Love and Blessings (161-2).






Cannanore                                                           November 21


         An old reminiscence comes to mind. In the early 1950s I was teaching F. H. Bradley’s Appearance and Reality in the Vivekananda College in Madras. In the course of my lecture I stumbled on a strange statement of his. It read somewhat like, “This ‘this’ is different from this ‘this’ because of the ‘what’ of this ‘this’ and the ‘what’ of this ‘this’.” I got stuck in a cloud of confusion and dismissed the class.

         To boost my mind I sipped a cup of black coffee and walked up and down my room. I casually picked up Narayana Guru’s One Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction and opened it at random. The first verse that caught my attention acted on my mind like a magic spell. Even before finishing the verse, the confusion that arose in the classroom became at once transparent, and I was overwhelmed with the joy of a newfound secret. The delight of the discovery boiled over all night.

         When I entered the class the next day, I asked rapidly five times, “What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this?” My students thought it was very funny. I again repeated the question, but this time pointed to different articles in the classroom, such as the table, the board, a piece of chalk, a book and a chair. Though my questions of the first series were presumably aimed at different objects, they appeared to the students only as vain repetitions. The second series was different because they could easily see that the subject under reference in each question had a specific quality predicated to it.

         The simplest pulsation of the brain in the act of reasoning is in making a judgment. Every subject is an object of inquiry, and every judgment is the predication of some quality to the subject. So every judgment is divided into a subject and a predicate. The affirmation or negation of the predicate is indicated by a copula. The copula is a semantic device that couples a subject to an appropriate predicate. In the verse I’d read, Narayana Guru makes an analysis of a simple judgment, “this is a pot.” In this sentence “this” is the subject, “pot” is the predicate and “is” is the copula. In answer to another question “what is this?” we can say “this is a pen” and to still another question “what is this?” we can answer “this is a chair.” In all these questions the subject is “this”. The interrogative “what” makes a demand on us to make a judgment of a predicable quality by which we can distinguish the subject under scrutiny. Though the predicate gives us a very distinct picture of the subject under reference, on just hearing the word “this” we don’t know what is to be conceived. We treat it as a mere indicative reference. All the same, “this” is the common ground of all objects of our perceptions as well as our conceptions. For that reason Narayana Guru calls “this” that which is difficult to discern. Predicates such as pot, pen, and so on, are only qualifying attributes: the “whatness” seen in the “thisness” of the “this” by the mind.

         Thisness in its purest form can be compared to the paint in an artist’s brush. Nobody can predict whether it is going to be impressed in the form of a flower, a bird, a man, a cloud, a symbol, or a non-representative stroke. Once a form is impressed though, it gains a status of its own, and it automatically negates all other forms, which therefore become outside factors. The common stuff out of which this magic-like world is created by the mind is a consciousness which can only be described as “this”.


Scott Teitsworth