Karma Darsana verse 10
Because ‘I’ is the seen as
an object of
awareness, I-consciousness is also a
like the silver in the mother of pearl;
above everything else, today and tomorrow,
one alone exists.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
of being an object of experience
the “I” is a conditioning factor
like the mother-of-pearl gleam;
everything else today and tomorrow one alone is.
close reading such as we have been doing sometimes obscures features that are
easier to observe from a more distant perspective. I noticed one here that
should have been obvious, yet I don’t recall reading it anywhere and we have
certainly never talked about it: each darsana begins with multiplicity and
works its way to oneness in the last verse. It’s a subtle way of drawing us
into the core in addition to the intellectual content, as if each darsana was a
conic pyramid tipped in gold.
to this pattern, the Karma Darsana began with “many forms” and now concludes
with “one alone is.” If we fully understand the Guru’s teaching, our actions
will now exemplify the unitive principle, at least on occasion. Happily, a
couple of examples were shared by participants demonstrating that this is
indeed the case.
is another commentary where I could just copy the whole thing over and call it
good, but I’ll weave in a couple of stories that may add to its excellence.
First off we are reminded of the reason for all this grappling:
The main purpose of this darsana is not
confirm that there is action, nor to deny it. It is to help us in the
realization of the Self, to help us to achieve a state of continual serene
happiness – even when the senses and organs of action are all geared up for the
performance of action.
thing that was not addressed in the class is the crucial idea of the first half
of the verse: we ordinarily treat our ‘I’ as an object of awareness, which
automatically makes it a superimposition or projection and invalidates it.
Melting it in the Absolute does not make it disappear, but it evaporates the
superimposition and aligns what’s left with a natural flow. It might just be
that the whole point of the Karma Darsana is to let go of our fixation on “me”
as a fixed object, so we can become a more universal “me” as a living, vital
entity. Unselfconscious. Wasn’t self-consciousness the “sin” of Adam and Eve,
the self-awareness that caused their fall from the Garden? It marks the
dividing line that distinguishes natural and free from guarded and defensive.
easily shrug off such ideological clothing, but it becomes harder and harder as
we get older. Still, as with President Kennedy speaking of shooting for the
moon, we do such things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
And in our case at least, because they proffer “lonely final happiness” (per
recent neuroscience has not found the self anywhere in its brain imaging
studies, and has (possibly prematurely) concluded that this means the self does
not exist. It is a fiction cobbled together from diverse material elements.
Vedantins agree that the ‘I’ is fictitious in a similar sense, but scientists
and philosophers alike are puzzled by its persistence. Nitya elucidates the
practical consideration of this insight:
The kovida (wise man) described in the previous verse
is one who has
realized that the Self is not his personal ego. He does not act, therefore,
from an egocentric base.
talked about how the first impression of this idea is that it doesn’t matter
what we do. But that premature assessment leaves out the critical factor: we
have to be aware of the whole, and then we will act in the interest of all.
Otherwise “it doesn’t matter” is just license for the ego to run wild.
thinking resolves this dilemma. Our egoistic impulses are reactive and highly
conditioned, so we can observe them (they keep coming) but then resist the urge
to blindly follow them. Instead we contemplate, meditate, detach; we dig into
the totality of our being; then we go with the flow.
recalled that his fundamentalist church upbringing was the opposite of going
with the flow. Their belief was you change your behavior first, and this
accords you entry into heaven. It’s actually the norm in almost all religious
beliefs, especially in the West. Paul is well aware that this turns you into a
kind of donkey: an obedient creature disinclined to think for itself. There is
no flow in this direction! Flowing is tough enough if you lead with knowledge,
but at least it’s possible. Paul likened his church training to trying to push
a boat without a keel backwards against the current—an original and amusing
image for sure. The boat veers every which way kicking up waves, and is
maddeningly uncontrollable. He said that when you surrender the sense of agency
it’s like letting the boat flow forwards. It becomes not only easily steerable,
but leaves the slightest gentle wake behind it.
gave us a lovely example of going with the flow, one that illustrates a fairly
simple and highly practical technique. She has struggled with her relationship
with her mother for a number of years, and their beliefs are very different.
During a recent visit she decided to not insist on her own position and not to
confront her mom, but to stay open and meet her where she lived, so to speak.
To her surprise and relief they got along much better, and had a lot of fun
being together. It was as if she had transformed before Jan’s very eyes. If
nothing else, she was able to see her mother more clearly without the
distortions of her ego fogging her vision. They laughed together and parted
amicably, and you could hear the joy in Jan’s voice as she told us about it.
emphasized the value of this philosophy in her daily life, how it was helping
her connect with love and beauty in very satisfying ways, and as a consequence
to flow through situations almost effortlessly.
underlined that this is a fine example of unitive action, karma yoga, and how
it has a positive impact on our experience. And on this level it is eminently
doable. When we surrender to the egotistical urge to manage the flow, we
inevitably disrupt it. It only flows when we let go of control. Practical
situations give us an opportunity to achieve the impossible: control ourselves
in order to relinquish control. As Moni said, it takes practice, practice,
practice. Its success motivates us to continue making the effort.
remember Nitya urging us selfish Westerners on several occasions to appreciate
our mothers more. It’s funny how, no matter how much we love our mother, it’s
kind of a primal challenge to our developing egos. I suppose that’s because
it’s our deepest tie by far, and as we grow up and assert our individuality
more, it is bound to clash with those ultimately intimate connections.
report reminded Deb of a friend who once asked Nitya for advice. He wondered
how he could retain his equilibrium when people were so annoying and
disturbing. Nitya’s response was, You need to be nicer to your mother.
friend protested, You don’t understand. I must not have been clear. It’s not my
mother, it’s all these other people who really bother me and I find I am
getting upset by it. It takes me out of my spiritual state.
looked at him with his humorous owl-like stare. I understood you. You need to
cultivate love and appreciation for your mother. Your mother carried you for
nine months, nurtured you as a baby, took care of you all through your
childhood. You need to have a deep respect and caring for her. It doesn’t have
to be outward, but you should constantly meditate on it.
friend was baffled, but he did as Nitya asked. He and his mother were at odds
over many issues, but he privately worked to broaden his attitude and
appreciate her more. His next visit with her was better than it had been in
many years. She mentioned how different he was, and they got along very nicely.
That makes perfect sense, but the really surprising thing was that he found his
relationships with others also improved, and keeping his balance under pressure
also became much easier.
looks like the Guru saw the essence of a psychological complex and showed him
how to cure it. Surely it’s one we all share. Where we might meet each incident
on its own terms, underneath they all taper together to a point, and if we can
work at depth we can cure many things at once. It’s like Nataraja Guru’s saying
that we are busy opening doors from the hinge side, which takes a lot of
effort. If we can find the handle, the door will swing open easily. This is a
lovely illustration of one of Nitya’s sentences here:
The deliberation of any action or
the manner of any reaction to a situation is very much based on a person’s
identification with his own self image, as well as how, through that
self-image, he relates himself to various value-factors.
There is also a deeper analysis in the commentary:
When a person says ‘I’ that
is what he
experiences – the individuated ‘I-ness’ of egocentricity. Such a state is a
conditioned one, and all conditioned states are nonexistent. Therefore such an
ego has no real existence, and it and the experience of it are founded on
ignorance. As a consequence, the attempt to please by pampering a nonexistent
ego must lead to futility in action. Be that as it may, most of us are all the
time engaged in actions designed to lead to self-gratification. A wise man
realizes the worthlessness of such pursuits. He knows that “his” senses,
physical organism, and mind are all integral parts of the phenomenal universe.
As an aside, I thought that substituting ‘insubstantial’ for
‘nonexistent’ would make the Vedantic cliché that everything we encounter is
nonexistent a bit more comprehensible. We struggle mightily to convey the
precise meaning, yet insubstantial,
while meaning basically the same, meets the idea well: something we perceive
though it lacks substance. A rainbow or mirage is insubstantial, but to most of
us they do exist, and even have an impact on our feelings. Paul took umbrage,
however, and I had to concede that veteran Vedantins who are used to nonexistent
entities were welcome to stick to their preferred term. It just doesn’t mean
you’re crazy to actually see the rainbow.
of veteran attitudes, here’s another problematic and related one, at least for
[A wise person] is described as
one who is not affected by what is happening around him, nor is he affected by
what he himself seems to be doing. In any action the sense of agency can arise
only when one experiences consciousness of oneself as a person.
This clashes with all our experience, and yet it is the
realized attitude we are asked to aim for. Of course, we want to be affected, we are here to be alive to everything,
what is meant here is that we aren’t knocked out of balance by the impacts of
what affects us. Nitya elaborates:
One who is wise performs action
as it needfully arises as part of the physical necessities of life, but in so
doing no unnecessary disturbance will arise in his mind. Though engaged in the
most complex of actions, his inner serenity will not be disturbed. No matter
what the action or what demands are made on him, he will maintain the sameness
of vision which is characteristic of a yogi. He will keep himself always in a
state of neutral zero.
Bill admitted it was very hard to picture what a state of non-personal
awareness means. He felt he had only an inadequate intellectual idea about it.
It is indeed easy to be perplexed by the idea. Where oh where is that neutral
laughed out loud though, because the psychedelic experience is the ideal
preview of exactly this exalted state of mind, and many of us have been there.
During a trip the ego is turned off, yet we don’t die (as we might fear), we
actually are far more aware of everything, at least at times. There is no sense
of self at the peak, but a cosmic love and caring for every bit of existence
that crosses the mind. So, many of us can just recall a trip and know what the
Guru is talking about. If you think that’s blasphemy, chances are you never had
a proper trip. Call it cheating if you want—it’s the kind of cheating that
everyone should be encouraged to do, as it is so beneficial.
Spiritually-oriented humans aren’t in competition to see who’s best, we are
trying to evolve as a species to a level of sanity that will ensure the long
happy life of the species and the whole planet.
also reminded the class that we are including a pulsation model in our study.
This verse presents the rarified air of pure unitive action, but we are not
asked to stay there. It is merely one pole of a continuum. We have to bring
such purity into the contaminated transactional arena, and vice versa. Our
ideal is to alternate between utter ego-free unity and practical involvement.
As we become more familiar with both aspects of existence, the pulsation speeds
up. When it gets fast enough—say 60 cycles per second—the transcendental and
the transactional become fused, and the resulting unity will look a lot like
the meaning of these superlative verses about oneness.
point of what we are doing is positive transformation, and it was heartening to
hear stories of exactly that taking place. Narayana Guru didn’t compose
Darsanamala for our amusement, he wanted to lift us out of our misery to enjoy
the gift of life while it was still in our possession. Nitya is also quietly
begging us to grow up and become better citizens and better individuals:
As an example we can cite a man who looks
himself merely as a physical body animated with vital forces arising from the
input of nourishment. His main interest will be in his body and in finding
nourishment to assure his continuance. From his point of view it will not be
seen as wrong to kill an animal for food. The consideration of sentience in
beings other than himself will not arise, and if it should he would most likely
dismiss it as irrelevant to the main issue of sustenance. Such a man may come
to realize that the intrinsic nature of all beings, including those he has been
used to eating, is the very same nature as his own; that his own Self is the
Self of all beings. Such a realization will very much change his attitude
toward other living beings. Indeed, his attitude may be so revolutionized that
he is likely to adopt a different behavioral pattern altogether, and this not
only in the matter of sustenance.
level of insight doesn’t even require any mystical revelation. All that is
needed is the willingness to look at the history behind what lies on our plate.
As one of my close friends always says when we are out at a restaurant: “If I
had to kill my own food I would be a vegetarian.” But so long as he just sees
some inert and delicious substance on his plate, his conscience remains
untroubled. And as Nitya points out, this applies to everything, not just our
food. A yogi should always look “behind the curtain” to see what the immediate
situation is based on. Then if there is nefarious activity lurking in the
shadows, they should disassociate themselves from it.
human race is beginning to come to grips with the hidden costs of much that we
take for granted, really just scratching the surface of an invisible hellworld.
Even that modest effort is causing major upheavals and is being met with
entrenched resistance from the vested interests that profit from our ignorance.
Heightened awareness is truly a revolutionary act, both for our self and in
regards to the society. None of it comes easy. Nitya neatly epitomizes the
The most gross level at which we are exposed
the pains and pleasures of life is that of action. To decide whether it is
worthwhile to engage in any action one should know who he really is and,
moreover, why he is doing what is being done or what he is proposing to do.
Nitya’s words provide a fitting conclusion to the Karma
Every action of a wise man will arise
contain within itself an altruistic or mystical quality of love, kindness,
compassion or beauty. Such a man is in harmony with the universal Self, so he
sees everywhere nothing but truth. This truth is the light which illuminates
the oneness of all things. As a result of this his understanding will be
unitive in its nature. What he continually sees and understands as truth are
the unalloyed expressions of goodness and beauty which are the most adorable
qualities of the Self.
What is the object of consciousness is superimpostion. (This
verity has already been explained.) In other words, all things that constitute
objects of consciousness are unreal. Even when considered so, they have their
basis in something real in order to express the unreal. Here the example of
silver in the mother-of-pearl is given. When there is the superimposition of
silver on the mother-of-pearl, although, there is no actual silver it seems to
be there. In spite of this, the unreal semblance of silver is really based on
the reality of the mother-of-pearl. In a similar way all actions and the egoism
causing them are superimposed on the Supreme Self. It is the Supreme Self that
is alone real, remaining one and eternal. The whole world consisting of action
seems to be merely a superimposition on the Self. By the expression “fixed
above all things,” it is indicated that the Self is pure and other-worldly,
transcending time and place, as well as pleasure and pain, and that it is
ultimately superior to all things.
E.E. Cummings fourth of his Six Nonlectures includes this excerpt from the introduction
to his Collected Poems, 1938:
Take the matter of being born. What does being born mean to
mostpeople? Catastrophe unmitigated. Socialrevolution…. Mostpeople fancy a
guaranteed birthproof safetysuit of nondestructible selflessness. If mostpeople
were to be born twice they’d improbably call it dying.
you and I are not snobs. We can never be born enough. We are human beings;for
whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery,the mystery of growing:the mystery
which happens only and whenever we are faithful to ourselves…. Life,for eternal
What their most synthetic not to mention transparent
majesty, mrsandmr collective foetus, would improbably call a ghost is walking…
He is a healthily complex, a naturally homogeneous, citizen of immortality… He
is a little more than everything, he is democracy;he is alive;he is ourselves.
…Nothing believed or doubted…
Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful
of a beautiful answer to a beautiful question, I just came across this answer
to my surmise at the outset of this set of verse notes, on the unifying trend
of each darsana. This is from Nataraja Guru’s ISOA dealing with the third
darsana, which he titled Phenomenology. I had just gotten back to my editing
project, and the Guru weighed in immediately:
This is where we have to bring protolinguistic structuralism
into the picture. Simple though these verses seem and although they present a
mere skeleton without any flesh and blood by way of elaborations and
descriptions, the reader who is able to follow the successive steps represented
by each verse will get an encompassing and comprehensive notion of how Narayana
Guru accomplishes the reduction of duality between the mind and the
phenomenological world into a basic ontological unity pertaining to the Science
of the Absolute. Phenomenology is not unilaterally treated as a mere science of
appearances and a distinct branch of knowledge sufficient to itself. Instead,
it is presented with its reciprocal implications, which absorb each other
negatively at first where ontology ultimately gets primacy over teleology. Even
this vertical duality of movement in thought is balanced or cancelled out by
the time we attain the finalized notion limiting this chapter, marked by an
ontological unity without any trace of duality. (387-8)