Nitya Teachings

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Darsana Eight - Verses Nine and Ten


Bhakti Darsana verses 9 & 10


Towards the Father of the world,

to one’s spiritual teacher, father, mother,

towards the founders of truth,

towards those who walk in the same path,


towards those who put down evil,

(and) to those who do good to all,

what sympathy there is, that is bhakti,

what here belonging to the supreme Self is the ultimate.


Nataraja Guru’s translation:


Towards the Father of the World, to one's

Spiritual teacher, father, mother;

Towards the founders of Truth and

Towards those who walk in the same path;

Towards those who put down evil

And those who do good to all, what sympathy

There is, is devotion here; what here

Belonging to the Self-Supreme is the ultimate.


         With the swirl of the holidays upon us, we agreed to make the last two verses of the Bhakti Darsana the terminus of our gatherings in 2017. We’re going to let it sink in as we focus on sharing our time and love with our closest friends and family.

         Nataraja Guru’s guiding insight in his commentary on Darsanamala is that in the second half there is an incremental coming together of the Self and the non-Self. Here at the end of the eighth darsana we have progressed from simple gratitude to sympathy, a distinct closing of the gap. Gratitude is accorded by a one to an other, while sympathy shares the stage with it. Narayana Guru specifically states that in bhakti there is a sympathetic agreement between the appreciator and the appreciated. We are more than grateful to the wise and cosmic entities on his list, we are beginning to embody those qualities in ourselves.

         The relief felt by everyone present that an important election had gone that evening in favor of a good man supporting ethical values, who edged out a palpable embodiment of evil, gave a realistic tone of gratitude to the class. The year has been especially lacking in positive political developments in the USA. It feels like the maddeningly dammed up care and concern felt by so many of us has found a sympathetic outlet at last. Perhaps there will soon be a flood released to inundate the arid desert generated by neoliberal capitalism.

         Nitya highlights an important dimension of gratitude, one which implies a universal beneficence knitting our world together:


The farmer is consciously or unconsciously grateful to the amazingly benign hidden hand that promotes his labor and concern at every step to make his farm yield plentifully.


Deb noted that our vast world is profligate in giving us so much abundance, including obstacles (naturally), friendships, alone time, and so on. Even though we are often severely challenged, our difficulties are a stimulus to growth. At its core it is not a world of contracts but of beneficence.

         I fastened on Deb’s contractual idea as being of major significance. A contractual view of life demeans that hidden hand or flow that blesses all beings regardless of their merit, as Nitya puts it. Do we have to make deals with the sun for it to energize the world? Superstitious humans have thought so at times, but scientifically speaking all our machinations to influence and thereby manipulate the ground of being are illusory. It’s quite the other way round. Gratitude and sympathy rise above contractual considerations to touch on true freedom. And as Deb added, they connect us with our core.

         Honored guest Emma saw how our blockages—to community, to our Self—come from a fallacy of propositional thinking. We humans tend to ignore what isn’t rational, yet isn’t the non-rational (or trans-rational) where our deep insights arise? If we tune out our intuitional wisdom, we are left with something like bald contractual analysis. Deb lamented how she was thoroughly trained and became expert at ignoring her quiet voice within. She is now giving it more credence, and finding its guidance gratifying.

         Bushra added how we must love people irrespective of merit: love based on merit is something less than love. In true love the object doesn’t have to be evaluated—to be weighed and judged. That would destroy the love, or anyway severely dampen it.

         Looking at religious history, the more the emphasis on judging and merit-rating, the more brutal and repressive they have been. Instead of letting their love flow, fearful believers obsess over how to meet the impossible demands of an implacable deity. It’s yet another case of man creating God in his own image, a complete reversal of the biblical Book of Genesis, yet preached in many a pulpit.

         Paul noted that humans eagerly unite behind either a terrible villain or a radiating saint. He and Nancy agreed that increasing your capacity to love and include rather than exclude is liberating to the extent it expands your boundaries. Challenging situations are our opportunities to make those kinds of choices.

         The Bible famously advises “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” By the very act of judging others we reduce ourselves. While we may hurl accusations and even mount offensives, most of the intimidating action is confined within us. Paul’s evangelical upbringing has made him acutely aware of this. That kind of religion is primarily a negative path, an endless list of don’ts enforced by an angry god. Generating fear in innocent children by threatening them with something like an eternally burning hellfire is psychological sadism. Despite his spiritual growth and blossoming wisdom, those ugly echoes from the past continue to cast a shadow on Paul’s joy. If what makes you happy is bad, it’s a guarantee you’ll never be happy unless you change your mind.

         Nancy has been reveling in her new granddaughter, who is an ideal antidote to despair—not that Nancy ever despairs. She recently had several hours of caring for her, in only her second week of breathing air. Nancy marveled at how this little wonder came from a single molecule and has expanded into this miraculous form where everything is so perfect and in working order, eagerly drinking in its new world and learning as fast as possible. Nancy is now looking at everyone she sees on the street as a former baby, how they all started out as a tiny bliss-filled being, and they remain an expression of the ever-unfolding wonder they once knew. (This sounds like bhakti to me.)

         Andy talked about saying grace, the action of sitting down to have your food with full appreciation. He spoke of how his atheist family of origin never said grace before meals, but now he is amazed and gratified at how his food appears on his table almost like magic. He thinks of all the nurturing that went into making the elements of his dinner available for him to assemble in his kitchen, to say nothing of the kitchen and its appurtenances itself. That leads him to be appreciative of every aspect of his life as a kind of miracle of grace, an outcome of what Nitya calls “a universal urge to care.” Andy claimed that real grace doesn’t stop being graceful when you finish your dinner. He feels it when he looks at the floor, when he walks down the street. He feels that the gurus are inviting us to appreciate conventional forms of virtue and to even go beyond them, at every moment.

         I wholeheartedly agreed, adding that we humans are adept at taking the infinite miracles of our lives utterly for granted. As soon as we make the effort to stop and notice, everything looks like an amazing free gift, a beneficent blessing. Nitya’s poetic extrapolation puts it far more eloquently than I ever could:


The interaction between the sun and the ocean is very much like the shared responsibility of a universal father and mother, which replenishes the biosphere of the planet by lifting mammoth clouds out of the sea and distributing them over the surface of the Earth as rain to fill rivers and lakes and to store in subterranean pockets and veins. It is like a free service rendered to all living organisms irrespective of their merits. A thousand and one other instances can be quoted to show that the innate law that holds together every atom of this world has a will to care and a meta-intelligence to design a program with all the caring parents in the world put together.


Nitya continues the theme of doting parents, who promote the grand expression of life’s possibilities even when we have only the least inkling of our true roles. He likes to epitomize this creative expression as God, partly to test our openness and flexibility, but mainly as a word—an elision of good—that is a powerful mantra in its own right:


Thus God, who hides behind the scene, comes to the forefront wearing the garb of the common man in the street, giving him education and leadership to plan each day and to make this world a veritable workshop of high creative efficiency. It is like a grand sacrifice, beginningless and interminable, which is continuously fed with the oblation of fresh life generated in the assembly lines of physical fathers and mothers. However ignorant they are of the purpose for which they generate and perpetuate the species, they are like the receptors and effectors of the grand body of this world. They receive into them life’s retrospective storage of instinct and prospective designs of intelligence only to modify and perfect the worth of these universal gifts and to pass them on to the next in line to continue the divine sport of phenomenality.


The spirit of Darsanamala continually calls us to become more aware, more sentient, as the way to become, in one of Nitya’s favorite characterizations, a co-creator with God, with the innate flow of universal expression. While this slumbers within each of us, it is usually elicited by the good offices of an inspiring teacher or guru:


Most of us are carrying out our roles, even at a high efficiency level, with a compulsive instinct that keeps us blindfolded. We are released from this ignorant plight, which at best is like the obligatory labors performed by a slave, and are changed into the joyful co-creators of this world by teachers of spiritual insight who rouse their fellow men from the stupor of ignorance.


When we have a sense of independent awareness and the confidence to shrug off social conditioning and come into alignment with our true dharma, we find ourselves in resonance with an overarching pattern of evolution:


This highly decentralized and distributed government of countless billions of autonomous units, functioning with crisscrossed alignments and reciprocal empathy, is periodically reexamined, revalued, and reconstructed by the phenomenal recurrence of law-knowing and law-enforcing super-geniuses that appear among the cream and scum of human society as prophets, poets and scientists.


         That’s right: super-geniuses arise without regard to any external constraints like color, creed or financial amplitude. The rest of us are mere geniuses.

         The main dialectic challenge we face is how to release our potency while keeping it intelligently channeled, like the Lake of the I Ching that needs its banks to keep it from spreading too far across the land and drying up. This is particularly relevant at this historical moment when the human race appears to be exploding in frustration at the endless impediments to happiness continually erected by the masters of greed:


This world of ours, which is loosely held together with the matrices of innately inherited and outwardly ordained group discipline, has evolved straitjackets of varying mechanistic determination which are comparable to human devices like dikes, locks and floodgates, so that the system will not be inundated with the wild passions that are periodically released from groups or individuals. Human freedom is actualized and realized by severely curtailing it with sanctions, blocks, and permits, which are nurtured with the consent of those who allow themselves to be ruled. Such is the complex matrix to which every one of us belongs.


It is hoped that by now we have significantly overcome fear and taken heart with confidence in our ability. Nevertheless, Nitya knows that a reminder to meet every interaction with unclouded courage is always welcome. If we force the issue it is going to be less than if we allow our natural kindness and good sense to rule the day. In other words, let the “automatic” love have full sway, as the intentional variety is easily sensed by others and therefore undercuts the genuineness of our participation:


In this winding path our safe conduct is vouched for only by a reciprocally generated sympathy that automatically wells up in our heart on meeting another of our kind, both in the public spaces and private cellars of this age-old labyrinth called world.


Jan particularly loved this spectacular sentence, and reread it to us. The sympathy here is the very basis of community, grounded in the acceptance or at least recognition of the validity of the other. She added that part of community is tradition, of having familiar ground in common. That is likely why humanity is undergoing yet another cyclic period of disintegration and splintering: so many of its traditions have been recently found to be untrue and jettisoned, and nothing has yet appeared to replace them, at least on a large scale. This got me musing on the improbable effect of those old saints, or perhaps their promulgators who made them into religious icons, how they convinced vast swaths of humanity to adhere to ethical values. That fog of enchantment has been dispelled by a rational worldview that has not yet learned how to uphold compassionate values. Religions, for all their faults, do encourage people to be loving and to remain within the bounds of justice. They universally share the key idea expressed in the Biblical golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

         Community is an antidote to despair, and we shared our thoughts on it in detail. Bushra feels we humans are connected whether we know it or not. We are reading signals from each other beyond language all the time. This reminded Deb of something she’s recently learned about trees, how they have communities too, supporting each other, communicating, and even feeding each other.

         We are making our way through what appears to our inner guidance system very much like an underground labyrinth. We can’t be sure of the way, but we are assured that if we carry the torch of our intelligence, buddhi, and maintain a devotional or at least cautiously optimistic attitude, we will not only pass through the darkness but have an enlightening time doing it. It doesn’t hurt that we have good company, kindhearted and supportive, here and elsewhere. And for us there is no goal, other than the going. With Andy, we want to fully experience every moment, not deferring our life for some imaginary future perfection but taking it as it comes. In the immortal words of Atmo 5:


Ever wakefully witnessing all this shines an unlit lamp,

precious beyond words, that never fades;

ever seeing this, one should go forward.


That going forward is an evolutionary gesture. Evolutionary history is passing through us—we are the very agents for making it real. How cool is that! We are co-creators, the ones who give the universal urge to care its final manifest shape, until it is passed on to others, intentionally and unintentionally. Nitya likens this to a hierarchy of devotion:


Our habitual choice to walk a path of truth, goodness, and beauty is always a movement or transition from the previously acquired to what is to be passed on in the relay of tradition. This is to be known as a hierarchy of devotion, parampara bhakti.


Hopefully this darsana has freed us from any static concepts of devotion. The only specific reference of the Guru is this loving attitude that imbibes the wonders of grace pouring through us at every moment, and shares the ensuing glow with all those who cross our path. The less specifically focused the bhakti, the greater the ensuing effulgence. While most of us prefer to remain modestly recondite lights illuminating only our immediate area, by opening our hearts to the onrushing wave anything may happen. There is no way to predict who will make a quantum leap from that solid foundation into the totality of a truly universal urge to care:


Among those guided by this instinctive devotion there happens now then the great wonder of one gaining an insight into the entire system of the phenomenal in such an amazing manner as to become convinced of their identity with the supremely numinous truth that shines in and through this wonderful world. The devotion of such a contemplative is the ultimate, parabhakti.


Our excited conversation slipped into silence at just the right moment to allow for a prolonged meditation, internalizing the rich nurturing care of our little group, where everyone feels respected and honored to be true to themselves. It was a lovely way to arrive on the verge of the winter solstice, like the planting of a special spiritual seed that will begin to grow in the new year in exciting and unanticipated ways. Seeds are essences. We have been paring away the excess baggage our psyches have been made to carry, refining our be-ness, and burying the resulting minimalist germ in the fecund soil of a blissful garden plot. Let it be nurtured in kindness toward all beings, and it will grow into a tree that offers serenity and renewal to a humanity longing for those very qualities. Aum.


Part II


         Swami Vidyananda’s commentary:


All humans need adoration to a God for the sake of securing their happiness here as well as hereafter. Those who desire liberation also need the same for the sake of the purification of the Self. It is also important that all persons should respect their spiritual teacher with the same respect given to God, because of their help in removing ignorance and bestowing the light of wisdom. It is the duty, moreover, of every human being to have respect and regard for his mother and father because they caused his birth and suffered for his sake many inconveniences.

     When truth and righteousness decline in the world there are people like Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Jesus who come for the regeneration of mankind and for once again establishing truth and righteousness. There are also those who follow the footsteps of such men and they constitute good models. It is good that people have respect and regard for such personalities. In the same way it is but right that they should have respect and regard for people who control and prohibit bad acts like murder, robbery, drunkenness and debauchery. By doing this they give protection to everybody and nurture goodness among men.

         All the above-stated items are necessary to human life, and this is why we have set them forth as examples. In spite of this, however, what is indicated in this chapter as most important is devotion referring to the Supreme Self, being of the nature of existence, subsistence and value. All the other devotions are customary or traditional only, but the one referring to the Supreme Self is the highest devotion.


*         *         *


         This from ISOA, addressing these last two verses of the Bhakti Darsana:


Thus everywhere the same Absolute is implied. In the verse referring to loyalties to an administrator of justice we touch on matters of practical everyday import. Here the absolute value remains still the same. The bipolarity between the items always marks the differential between two points of the vertical axis, and whatever horizontalized elements might enter into the situation are merely compensatory in character. When thought of thus in the most schematic terms, all duality and contradiction are abolished. Like water poured into water, to use a favourite example of the Upanishads, horizontal and vertical values become indistinguishable. (Vol. II. 289)





Scott Teitsworth