Bhana Darsana, verse 4
such awareness as “body” and “pot,”
is the specific;
“I,” “this,” and such
to be remembered as the generic.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
Here what is the consciousness of the body
And the pot, that is the specific;
Likewise too, what is (the consciousness) of `I' or `this'
known as the generic.
Guru inserts an explanatory verse in the sequence of the four broad states of
consciousness, in between the wakeful and the dream, otherwise known as the
objective and subjective. He comes close to revealing the metaphoric meaning of
the pot analogy by comparing it to the body, and the “this” with our sense of
self. As in ayam atma brahma: this
Self is the Absolute. In other words, this is about us: all beings are pots
fashioned out of the clay of the Absolute.
analogy is repeated rather often because we continually forget our true nature.
When we identify ourself as a specific form, we align with similar forms and
reject dissimilar ones. Conflict and disappointment become almost inevitable.
Nitya also gives broad hints as to the significance of the image, without
coming right out and making it explicit:
At the very outset of the Guru’s
were shown how man erroneously and habitually engages in the superimposition of
the quality of one thing onto another. The most fundamental quality that makes
a thing what it is, that is to say, makes it unique among all other classes of
things, has been previously noted as its differentia. The “clayness” of clay
can never be taken away from it, even when the clay is fashioned into a pot or
some other artifact. As far as the clay is concerned, being fashioned into a
pot is incidental – it could just as easily have been a jug, a vase or a plate.
Of course, when clay is fashioned into a pot the incidence of the pot is
promoted into a class of differentia to identify it in relation to jugs or
jars. At the same time it becomes classified with all other pots.
turning of clay into a pot has only a transactional acceptance. The fundamental
truth of a pot is the clay, or, rather, the “clayness.” This truth is veiled
from the observer by the transactional emphasis on the artifact, on the
“potness” so to speak, of the transformed clay. This happens to us in every
field of experience.
At the present time, the distinguishing potness of the
various racial variants of humanity is being emphasized, and the familial
resemblance ignored. As a species we got along fine when there was no other
version than our own tribe present, but as soon as a more global awareness
dawned, the fighting began. All other humans than Homo sapiens have already been eradicated, probably by our species.
The acceptance of our common heritage has been much more difficult than any
philosopher could have imagined. Even after many centuries it seems that
progress has been quite modest, though nontrivial. Nitya puts his finger on the
intelligence required to make the requisite breakthrough:
To speak from a spiritual viewpoint, it
advisable that a man should see his own self as being everything. It is obvious
that this is not usually the case. Such a perception comes only when the
fundamental differentia of the one universal Self is positively apprehended
throughout the entire field of manifestation, and when specifically modulated
incidents are not taken in confusion for the true nature of the Self.
It is very human to be so freaked out by “specifically modulated
incidents” that they are
superimposed as truth on the neutral ground of being. Unfortunately and
inescapably, neutrality is not immediately as attention-getting as everyday
occurrences tend to be. It has to be accessed through an intelligent effort,
commonly known as meditation or contemplation. The reward for seeing through
the obvious to the subtle is an oceanic sense of belongingness that is deeply
satisfying, something I think we all crave, at least subconsciously. We fight
because we believe specific things will take away our happiness, but it’s
actually the resistance we put up that turns us away from our true nature,
described as ananda. That means we have the ability to restore our well-being
as well as to throw it away.
verse reactivated my memory of the pundits conference I attended a few years
back as a spokesperson for Narayana Guru. At the concluding round table it was
asserted that Narayana Guru was just another sectarian thinker, because he
advocated one religion for all. (The essence of Narayana Guru’s
philosophy is famously stated in his dictum One Kind or Caste, One Religion and
One God for Man.) Somehow those brilliant thinkers assumed that this meant
everyone should become an orthodox Hindu, or some such. In other words, that
Narayana Guru was advocating one specific type of pot. I had to grab the microphone
to proclaim to the deaf ears present that his one religion was the universal
search for happiness. What the Guru meant was that beneath all the varieties of
religious behavior lies a single motivation, and if we discern it we will be
tolerant and even supportive of the differences. If we don’t we will be
suspicious at the very least. Yet even in that gathering of the best and
brightest, the concept was so foreign as to not register at all. Likewise one
caste means there can be no caste, no hierarchy; and one God means that all the
ways people delineate their God are variations on whatever the underlying
principle is. Meaning we are all fighting over things we actually agree about.
A guru has to be infinitely patient, as their liberating insights are trampled
into the dust over and over. Yet even the best have had their moments of
despair. Who can blame them?
uses this interim verse to do one of his periodic injunctions, exhorting us to
make a more sincere effort to realize the teaching, to make it real. Humans are
pretty good at academic understanding, and we have learned to be content with
it. Unfortunately, being nothing more than mental abstractions, it can fail us
at any time. Going beyond it to something more substantial takes a level of intensity
we don’t always have at our fingertips—one that most usually arises under
pressure. At least it would be better to pressure ourselves instead of waiting
for a tragedy to impose our motivation from outside.
doesn’t help us that there are so many glib fakers who are experts at diverting
our attention. This is likely the specific impetus for Nitya’s rant:
In one regard the spiritual is like any
aspect of life: it can be imitated. Many people do enact a passable imitation
of spirituality – passable, that is, to others as deluded as themselves. It is
even possible to imitate the aspect of universalized sameness which can be seen
in its true expression in a Self-realized man. We can fool ourselves for a
while, and fool others, but very soon we shall discover that we can go all the
way only with the realized man. What he is on the surface he is all the way
through. To claim realization is one thing; to be realized is very much
This is also why we must not go around proclaiming “I found
it,” or “ours is the way,” or anything like that. The minute we describe what
we’ve found, it is transformed from raw clay to being fixed as a pot. It
becomes “My way or the high way,” meaning the low road. The boasters get the
glamour and the big attendance in their tents, but what kind of wisdom
transmission takes place in such a venue? From the outside it looks more like
brainwashing than liberation. Nitya draws a distinction between sincere
contemplation and the rush of being part of a mass movement of mass hysteria:
Using the statement “this is a pot,”
contemplative can extend the undiscerned “thisness” to obviate all its
“potness.” In the same manner, when we say “I am the body,” all the variegated
moods, tendencies, sensations, and impressions can be sublimated by a
contemplative if he turns himself into a blazing fire of pure I-consciousness.
However, most of us are not contemplative at all, and we pay only lip service
to the hope of Self-realization. We limit ourselves, in both the above cases,
to the accidental and partial knowledge of what seems to be concretely
manifested, or to the conception of the limits of our own bodies.
In plain terms, we should meditate on the universal values
that unite us all, and apply them to every specific instance as it appears
before us. Deb expressed this
nicely, that when we find ourselves in position of being recipients of
argument or distain, if we can see the commonality with the other person then
we won’t get so hurt. By remaining in a position of common cause the other is
defanged. I added that we practice this by careful self-examination, and what
we learn can then be applied to others to get an inkling of how they may have
arrived at their own (wrong!) conclusions. Some of them may have a point after
all. Regardless, we understand the other by first understanding ourselves. As
Deb put it, the practice is to see where we’re going off course and come back
to clarity and openness. Unless we do that, we aren’t going to be helpful to
several in the class noted, we are at the post-graduate level of yoga at the
moment, learning to cope with a tide of aggressive mentally ill hordes that
have seized power across the globe, while not getting caught up in the lunacy.
Lip service is not going to serve us in such a climate. Nitya concludes his
diatribe by pointing this out:
In this verse the Guru shows how what
presented to our awareness fluctuates between the generic and the specific. But
mere cognition without substantiation of the experience with a meaningful
awareness is no experience at all.
This is a great example of real-ization: we all think we
know what he means and so we might imagine we’ve learned something. Therefore
we don’t have to sit down and internally visualize the generic and specific
aspects, we can just go back to sleep. It’s a shame if we don’t go all the way
with him! Nitya stretches his personal comfort zone as a renunciate to offer
the analogy that we are asleep in bed while the divine lies next to us eager to
make mad passionate love, but we don’t even notice:
In a dream one may be weeping inside himself
because he is separated from his beloved. Deeply asleep, he may be quite
unaware of external events. At the same moment he weeps for his loss in the
dream, his beloved may be with him in bed, fondling and kissing him, but she is
awake in the external world and he is asleep in the internal. No matter what
her actions, if he is not aware of them it is for him as though nothing has
wondered if there was anything new in the pot analogy this time. I suggested
that since we routinely forget that we are the Absolute and think of ourselves
as a certain self in a certain body with certain challenges confronting us, the
teaching has to be repeated. Hopefully we won’t become inured to it and tune it
out, but that is a risk. Narayana Guru does suggest a slight upgrade here: he
is conjoining the pot with “this” instead of with clay. Clay as we normally
conceive it is actually another specific form distinct from other specific
forms. “This” is truly non-specific. If you think about it, his alteration is a
stroke of genius. If we meditate on clay, we will have certain images come to
mind, but if we meditate on This, it doesn’t call up any images until we
predicate it with some specific form. Bill agreed, and reminded us of Nitya’s
Atmopadesa Satakam, Narayana Guru explicitly instructs his votaries to
meditate on the full implications of “thisness” in order to be freed from the
easy slide of consciousness into the pitfalls of relativity.
The “pitfalls of relativity” would be thinking that the
non-formed Absolute looked like clay. Don’t laugh. That’s what every religion
does when it specifies what God is. That’s why my God is better than your God.
Too bad the partisans aren’t usually aware that this is a slide into relativity
or duality, and that by doing so they are selling their God short. It helps to
have your gurus reminding you over and over to not make that mistake, but it’s
no guarantee you won’t. Vigilance is required.
the end of the class we addressed the opening paragraph:
The two examples given in the previous
“this is a pot” and “I am the body” are not examples chosen at random. Each has
been selected to represent a sphere of concreteness. To recognize a pot as a
concrete reality is a different matter from recognizing one’s own body as a
concrete fact. When someone says “I am the body,” the conceptualized body
content is construed out of a partial perception of the external form. This
arises from their awareness of the response of the external boundary of the
body to sensation. Wherever the surface of the skin is in contact with anything
which can exert pressure on it, there awareness flows in the “I am” context.
Very seldom do we experience the totality of our body boundary.
I recalled how early on Nitya would have us do a meditation
where we lay on the floor and he would help us energize our chakras, lightly
touching us starting at the toes and working to the crown and back. He would
supply the Sanskrit name for each, and at the end of every cycle have us chant
“I am not this body” several times. It got me floating in a state of blissful
neutrality that lasted a long time. Here, though, we are invited to meditate on
the opposite: “I am this body.” For those of us who have lost touch with our
bodies by converting them to abstractions, regaining contact is good for us in
any number of ways. That’s how yoga works: you involve yourself with each side
of a polarity and then unite them in acceptance. Both add something essential.
told us about how his confusing childhood of mixed messages drove him to lie
under the covers in bed every night, going into a black void of nothingness.
Later in counseling he first accepted his void as a containment vessel, which
led him to become aware of his body once again. Really aware, as in getting in
tune with it. Doing so released his pent up artistic talents, his love of
colors and forms, and a kind of synesthesia. This in turn gave him insight into
the Zen idea of the space in between the specific details of the object, like a
pot for instance.
also noted the paradoxical nature of body awareness. Becoming fully aware of
her body as a reality and not simply a concept taken for granted released her
from the oppressive identities that young women especially are subjected to.
She described it as being dissociated, but I think she meant free-flowing,
unrestrained. Unoppressed. It was the regained association with her bodily
being that freed her to let go and expand. She recalled music concerts where
she felt at one with everyone present. This led to a sharing of communal
musical experiences that all of us in the class have enjoyed, honoring the
liberating power of music of all stripes.
appreciation of so many different musical forms is an apt analogy for how we
could be equally thrilled by the intriguing varieties of humanness that have
evolved in geologically short order on our beautiful planet. Should we be
thrilled or recoil in horror? Those of us who have adopted the former option
thank our lucky stars that we have avoided the negative emotions bound up with
the other. “If music be the food of love, play on!”
the body, pot, cloth, house, etc., each have a discrete specific status
qualified by specificity in reference to each other, such items of
consciousness are called specific. The body is specified by the differences
implied in such ideas as pot, cloth, house, etc. The cloth is specified by the
differences implied in such ideas as body, pot, house, etc. Thus, each object
has a discrete status of its own. Therefore, the consciousness of such is
called specific. Such items as I, this, that, etc., are called generic because
they do not specifically distinguish such items as, body, pot, cloth, house
etc., so, they do not refer to their discrete individuality. For each of the
four such as gross, subtle, etc., there are the generic and specific aspects to
in case anyone feels like sharing their thoughts.