Karma Darsana verse 2
I think, I speak, I grasp, I hear –
all such forms of action are done
by the Supreme Self
through the agency of consciousness and
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
think, I speak, I grasp, I hear,”
such forms whatever actions, are accomplished
the Supreme Self (which is also),
the forms of pure reason and the senses
I ran across a helpful section in Nataraja Guru’s An Integrated Science of the Absolute (ISOA), where he is
explaining the structure of Darsanamala, which he uses as the basis of his
monumental work. I clipped it out and put it in Part II, and then later in the
day read this in Nitya’s commentary on this verse:
Nataraja Guru, in his exhaustive
commentary on Darsanamala, reminds us that in this chapter we are relating the
Self to the non-Self, rather than the non-Self to the Self.
This is actually very important to our grasp(!) of the
material, and you can read below for a more thorough picture of the overall
plan. Essentially the changeover we’ve made between the fifth and sixth
darsanas is the transition from physics to metaphysics, or say, outwardly
directed to inwardly directed consciousness. Here at the beginning of the Karma
Darsana, Narayana Guru is establishing that where we formerly thought of
ourselves as individuals struggling to put together our understanding, we now
know we are just one humble feature of a vast flow of life.
appropriately asked for a practical example of the difference between those
outlooks. In the former case we assume total responsibility for our actions,
which are the product of our various schemings, severely limited by what Andy
called our massive ignorance. We seek to accomplish certain things, and have
been given certain skills to carry them out as isolated individuals, but we
don’t know very much of how it will transpire. (This kind of ignorance is
actually a good thing, often enough.) Because of the difficulty of
accomplishing what we hope for, frustration, anxiety, anger and so on are
possible outcomes. We are never sure if we are on the right track, or whether
we will succeed.
we can envision instead that the universe as a whole is acting through us and
with us, we can retain our role as an individual and yet feel grounded in a natural
flow inclusive of everything. We can accept that a tremendous amount of
unasked-for assistance is given to us before we even begin. Then in place of
anxiety we will be bending our ear to hear how we are to proceed. The
motivation is that this is exceedingly blissful, in the highest sense, as well
as frequently successful, also in the highest sense.
not talking about hearing voices and acting on them, as Bushra affirmed. We are the Absolute. It is not something
remote running our life—we are it. We simply have to give up the fantasy that
we are lone gunmen facing the evil enemy on a fake Western stage set. Sheriffs
against the bad guys, a movie played over and over in our psyches as gullible
consumers, now featured in theaters worldwide. The isolationist fantasy is
demonstrating its toxicity on a colossal scale these days.
class lamented that the Absolute was not in any way accessible: it is not an
object of awareness. Again, this is a good thing, if you can accept it. Why
convert yourself to an object? Just be a living reality instead. We reprised
verse 9 from the last darsana:
As the eye does not see itself, even so
the Self by the Self; because the Self
an object of awareness, what the Self sees
that indeed is the object of awareness.
Because we are the Absolute, it is not anything “out there”
to perceive, just as the eye does not see itself. We are the Absolute as
witness. Everything we see is an object of our senses, and therefore the
non-Self, by definition. This is hardly cause for lamentation. We are sitting
with an impeccable set of gurus drinking in inspiring insights about this whole
situation. Hard to beat.
this stage of our study, Narayana Guru has turned our perspective 180 degrees,
from divergence back to an all-inclusive ideal. He has made an impeccable case
for it in the previous five darsanas, if we have been lucky enough to be paying
close attention. He and Nitya are going to keep at it.
lamented that the isolated ‘I’ was a powerful habit to overcome, that it is a
mistake to think “I grasp,” and so on, and yet how else can we frame it? We
have to meditate deeply that the world is not a product of our thinking, and
that there is a notable difference between thought and pure consciousness. The
universe exhibits an overarching logic. He was cautious about admitting we
could even experience it, but we can surely meditate on it. (I would say these
are not two things, but shades of one.) Andy thought we should meditate on our
massive ignorance, of how much was unknown to us, to open our hearts to the
greater world we are a part of. We benefit from so much that we don’t even know
exists, like the workings of our own bodies and what’s around the next bend.
Well, we may know it abstractly, but it doesn’t affect us in a way we are
normally cognizant of.
added that the benefit of meditating on our ignorance is not to make us feel
small and stupid, it’s because we are even ignorant of our ignorance. We have
no idea how ignorant we are, because we’re playing a game of “Look how clever I
am.” Who are we fooling? Our ignorance is not a void, but is filled with the
harmonious workings of a spectacularly well-adjusted universe. Its running does
not depend on our ego-fantasies, but part of its harmony does include our
unique being. We contemplate our ignorance to mitigate our hubris, to bring our
ego down to its proper size.
are creatures of instinct much more than we realize, not unlike the “lower
animals” we humans tend to pity as being less sentient than we are. Humans are
diligently trained to shut off our “automatic pilot” of harmonious instincts
and “fly blind” instead. Just me and the runway ahead. Will I make it through
in the way I’m supposed to? The truth is, nearly 100 percent of our action
propensities are animated by instincts. Science is now trying to make it 100,
but we Vedantins reserve a reasonable role for the I-consciousness, so make it
99―. Our egos cozy up around the remaining half percent and feel pretty darn
smug. Nancy put it nicely—we have these gigantic brains. What are they for? We
are weaving patterns we don’t even realize.
got to talking about a certain humble Japanese puffer fish in a BBC video, well
worth taking a few minutes to check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1PID91sEW8.
This is pure instinctive action, but what does that mean? There is incredible
intelligence involved, passed on from fish to fish without words or
demonstrations. They just do it. There has to be some invisible, undetectable
connection. Impossible not to be. It can only mean the Self acts through its
extensions in what we call the real world. And yes, instinct doesn’t apply to
everything in the universe except humans. Guess what? We operate the same way. It’s
just that we have developed a unique inhibitory faculty that usually works
quite well, but occasionally overdoes it. Society keeps cheering us on to build
stronger inhibitions, which often damage the psyche and cause it to veer away
from optimal functioning. Without reinforcement of a connecting awareness, we
may drift into tamas, darkness. Nitya epitomizes the situation quite clearly:
As the Absolute Self is not directly known
the self as an item of awareness, the reasoning self goes on taking upon itself
all agency of action until the psychophysical embodiment of the individual
falls apart as a demolished instrument.
In other words, we assume the reins of our psychic horse and
turn a deaf ear to our inner promptings of which way to go. We apply random,
fitful tugs on the reins and are stupefied as we are taken for a wild ride. We
don’t trust the horse and we’re not sure about our self, either. We only give
up the hallucination of control when we die.
wondered what great things might be possible if we stopped inhibiting ourselves
before we die.
and consequent self-inhibition is what imposes the three gunas on a
harmoniously functioning psyche, spinning us down through sattva and rajas to
the dark pit of tamas, until we find a way to break free and ascend to relative
clarity with another burst of sattva. But this is an endless cycle we are
called to transcend entirely. Nitya nails it:
From the study of earlier chapters we
at least vaguely that returning to the Self in its purest form is the sure path
of regaining our happiness. What seems to obstruct our path is the continuous
hindrance caused by unavoidable propensities that make us act or react.
Those propensities are the gunas. He adds:
Pure consciousness in Sanskrit is called
cit. However pure it is when it lends
itself as the only existential reality that can give meaning to mental or
sensual operations, it is bound to be delimited and stained with the triple
modalities of nature: transparency, translucency and opacity. As a result, the
awareness becomes either a positive recognition of a partial manifestation of
happiness, or the denial of this positive value in a given context in which an
individuated organism is coming into relation or encounter with other forms of
specific manifestations of like or unlike species or order.
This last sentence made me realize we should decode the more
complex ideas in these commentaries. Here what Nitya is saying is that pure
consciousness is the abode of true happiness, and that when pure consciousness
is divvied up into the three nature modalities it becomes a less-compelling
version. It becomes happiness we have to go looking for. We either chase after
momentary happiness, or lose out to other people or situations that block us off
from it. Either we get to eat that delicious chocolate cake, or the dog runs in
and eats our piece before we get to it. As we well know by now, in Vedanta
dependent happiness is called pleasure, and is not considered happiness at all.
other sentences beg for clarification. First:
Three ways of understanding the Absolute
the recognition of the irrefutability of the existence of beingness, the
appreciation of the intensive and the extensive possibilities in terms of
awareness, and the meaning of appreciation centering around a value stemming
from an unalloyed state.
Eagle eyes will see this is an elaboration of sat, chit and
ananda. Then we have:
How can the base, devoid of any
urge, prompting, desire, or latent possibility of action, remain ever unrelated
to the perceiving mind and the organs of action, when they are dependent
factors on this one basis, without which nothing can exist?
Nitya is describing his double cone figure from the previous
verse, so the base is the absolute ground. The apparent schism between the
totality and our limited individual perspective is the unbridgeable gap that at
the same time cannot be a gap at all, because everything has to be connected.
We have wondered elsewhere how the all-knowing Absolute could hide from itself,
even temporarily. It’s perhaps the second greatest miracle, after existence
itself. Or maybe they are one and the same miracle.
were all fairly perplexed by how you proceed in the face of the impossibility
of attaining the Absolute. Deb remembered Nataraja Guru once saying that you
can’t wait for it to come to you, and you can’t go and wrestle with it and
capture it. Another way is needed, or maybe a fortuitous blending of the two.
had a very rich class and were gratified that we can continue this exploration
in the next few verses. Before signing off today, we still had to defend
against the urge to negate the individual in favor of the Absolute. The idea
will likely never die, but Nitya is unequivocal:
The point where action ceases altogether
described by the Buddha as nirvana, nibbana.
Some of his disciples have even gone to the extent of describing nirvana as
nothingness or the pure void. According to the rishis of the Upanishads, the
transcendence of all action as well as the causal urges to act is moksha. Moksha is not equated with
nothingness or the void. It is the rediscovery of beingness. In this context
beingness is equated with the Absolute.
Remember, sat in the earlier quote means the
Absolute is “the recognition of the irrefutability of the existence of
beingness.” Nitya adds elsewhere, “This riddle can be solved only by
tracing the common source of all bodies to one unified or unitive reality or
beingness.” Beingness is the opposite of nothingness. Only in the very broadest
sense are they the same.
are coming to life, not slinking away from it. This is our fleeting moment of
glory. Don’t pass on it! Live it to the hilt. Bushra was really in the spirit
of it—we are the Absolute already. We don’t have to reconfigure ourselves to
conform to it. This wisdom should fill us with ecstasy, and empower us to do
excellent, wonderful things. It is very exciting to see the glints of
luminosity bursting through the cracks here and there around the room. Let’s
first two sentences also make a fitting conclusion:
We are not tired of calling the attention
the reader to the fact that this is not a book to discuss hydraulics,
thermodynamics, or electromagnetism. We have to keep before our mind the
purpose of our pursuit: discovering our lost treasure of happiness.
action is accomplished it is the Self that remains, and as the inner organs and
the motor organs, accomplishes all works. That is to say, it is the one Self as
the reasoning Self (cittātmā) that
accomplishes acts of thought by saying to itself, “I think,” and in the form of
speech accomplishes the act of saying, “I speak,” which is action, in the form
of the spoken word, as the Self of the hand accomplishes the action of taking,
which is of the form of grasping, and as the Self of hearing accomplishes the
work in the form of “I hear.” By reference to actions such as “I think,” etc.
we have to take it that all functions such as rising, falling, contracting,
expanding and moving are also to be supposed. Because there is nothing other
than the Self and because it is impossible that anything that is inert can
accomplish any action, it is the ultimate Self (which by assuming the form of
the reasoning mind and the senses), that accomplishes all actions as expressly
intended to be understood in this verse.
now editing the part of the ISOA preliminaries where Nataraja Guru talks about
the structure of Darsanamala that provides the framework for his magnum opus. This
is a useful way of understanding what we’re about:
For purposes of convenience the
chapters of Darsanamala can be divided into four parts…. The first three
chapters can be considered as forming one group where the attention of the
reader is still directed outwards to the objective, or at least the
phenomenological world about us. The last three chapters, on the other hand,
have an axiological unity of content between them. They strictly belong to the
mystical rather than to the scientific approach. Out of the four chapters
remaining, which are more or less logical or psychological referring centrally
to consciousness, as understood with its innermost implications, we can again
think of a subdivision, as between the fourth and fifth on the one hand, and
the sixth and seventh on the other. They also have an inner symmetry between
them. The fourth examines the overall possibility of negative error in the
context of the neutral Absolute, while the seventh proposes how to overcome
error positively through the training of the reasoning will, and thus to leave
the error behind.
methodological or epistemological implications of these chapters will become
evident when we come to deal with them. For the present it suffices to remember
that the two central chapters, the fifth and the sixth, cling close together
giving unity and continuity to the total knowledge-situation understood schematically
or nominalistically. (132-3)
One more word about the treatment
we are going to give to these various subdivisions: We shall give due place in
the beginning to modern scientific knowledge of an observational order, while
trying to balance such knowledge with speculative observations so as to round
them off and fit them into the overall context of the present work. In the
second half, especially in what pertains to the last three chapters, Vedantic
speculation will receive sufficient counterbalancing treatment as against the
observational aspects emphasized in the beginning. Brahma-vidya or the
Science of the Absolute as understood in the authoritative source books will be
fully respected at the end. The four intermediate chapters will represent the
part of the work where the subtle transition between physics and metaphysics
will take place. (134)
shared a lovely insight that I can’t fit into the flow of the first part, but
feel it must be included, for those few who read past the asterisks, at least.
Tibetan Buddhists are always talking about overcoming demons, and we tend to
think of them as monsters, dragons, ghosts, super-aliens and the like. She
always feels that she can easily beat those. But one day she realized: when my
feelings are hurt, I turn back into a crying ten-year-old girl, and gather
myself around my hurts, nurturing them in a way. And THAT’S my demon to
overcome. It isn’t a monster, it is whatever catches and holds me, keeps me
from being fully alive to the encircling situation. They are precisely what we
don’t want to admit. We can all find demons like that within ourselves, but we
can’t fight them off with weapons. They require skillful handling. They require
admitting our own weaknesses. They are shameful, and nothing we can set
ourselves apart from. They are the shape we have grown into. Until we deal with
them, they will continue to terrorize us.