Yoga Darsana verse 3
All this name
and form is
Brahma indeed. Thus, in
the Absolute, mind always merges well.
That is ascertained
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
this consisting of name-form
verily the Absolute, the mind ever merges
the Absolute, what constitutes such,
Yoga is ascertained.
opening meditation was enhanced by listening to Claude Debussy’s impressionist
piano piece Reflections in the Water, something Jan had mentioned in the
examples she sent in before class time. For a verse on perceiving the unity
within multiplicity, music in general is a fine example. It is made up solely
of individual notes, which are put together to make a new kind of unity whose
impact utterly transcends anything the individual notes are capable of. It
demonstrates that unity is much more, not less, than the endless
horizontalizing implications of separateness.
music reminded Deb of the opening of Nitya’s Foreword to That Alone, where Narayana Guru describes the essence of Vedanta as
knowing that ripples and water are not two. You can reread it in Part II. She
liked that what it and this verse are both saying is that all the ripples that
we see and the names we give them, are the fleeting names and forms that go
back to being water when you look at what they’re made of. Paul added that the
reflections are the images we see virtually appearing in the water or another
mirror. They not only aren’t really there, but are made hazy by the wave action
and altered by the color and clarity of the water they are reflected in.
point Narayana Guru is making in both places is very elusive and goes against
much of our natural predilection: all that we perceive and conceive is nothing
more or less than the Absolute, and that’s why the mind so easily merges into
it. The Absolute isn’t elsewhere. All this is also us, and we are the Absolute.
Paradoxically it is our learned ideation that reality is something other than
us that keeps us unsettled and dissatisfied. Yet it’s something we can easily
and naturally get over if we want to.
of Nitya’s commentary is a review of the building blocks of the world
consisting of name and form:
Almost from the moment of the child’s admission
to the empirical world, the great process of the structural composition of the
empirico-critical world is commenced, and it snowballs into the ‘self and the
other’ world of the individual. Its growth, concretization and persistence as
the facts and figures of an empirical world continue until one’s death…. In this
tremendous unconscious creation, names and forms are
the two main constituent elements.
us immediately that the desire to sweep away the apparent world is a misplaced
effort. What we need to do is retrace the connection of seemingly disparate
elements to their unified source, and this changes everything.
likes to underline what a challenge this is, that whenever we cognize name and
form we forget that the waves they generate are nothing but water. Yet that is
exactly what Narayana Guru intends to counteract here. If you do
remember instead of forgeting, you know that name and form are comprised of the
Absolute, and this is the key to not being drawn out of our center by events.
And it’s a cinch.
the commentary is mostly review, we moved quickly to talk about the examples
several of us brought of how yoga is put to use to solve practical problems.
The Gurus are telling us that bringing in the unity we often name ‘the
Absolute’ is the resolving yogic act. We enjoyed hearing and thinking about
them, especially learning that they really made a difference.
(who earlier had joked that Jan, who invited the examples, had better start us
off with three or four) started us off herself. Once again, we are sharing
these because many of us have the same foibles, and they are meant for all of
us to use. People are grateful for good examples, and no one in the class would
ever make fun of someone for their foolishness. We know that would just be an
ego mask to cover up our own foolishness, and we aren’t playing those games in
told us that she woke up the other day and immediately regretted something she
had said at her book group the night before. She now knows she has a
longstanding bad habit of beating up on herself. She wrote: “I started thinking
about some comment I made last night at book group and how I wish I hadn’t
bothered, and then I was off, thinking about how I say things I regret, and how
it must make people think less of me, but it wasn’t more than 30 seconds before
I caught myself. Look at what you are doing. This is one of your routines. This
is guilt. Let it go. And once I see it, I can. Instead I breathe, concentrate
on my breath. I widen my perspective. I open up to something that isn’t about
me. It helps.” Susan said she felt more open, and much less stressed. I should
think so! Guilt and regret squeeze us tight, so throwing them off feels so
light in comparison. Thirty seconds is pretty minimal, after all. Many of us
have histories of regretting our follies for days or weeks. Catching old habits
quickly like this is a major leap in the right direction.
Susan was not done. She had a second superb example that used a specific image,
showing how we can use name or form to take us straight toward that unity. “Then
there are the times when I feel slighted or taken advantage of.” Nods of
recognition all around. “These can happen while driving, if somebody cuts me
off, after being awake too long in the middle of the night, during some
disagreement with my brother, who always got a better deal and is everything
I’m not. It’s a strong, deep, righteous feeling and it sends me right down a
path of blame and victimhood. Physically, it is like hackles rising on a dog’s
spine and my gut starts to churn and grind. Through the years and with the help
of this class and my related reading, I have been able to put some revealing
light on these episodes that helps to defuse them. An image came to me a few
years ago of a little girl of maybe 5 or 6 pulling a red wagon piled high with
big rocks. The girl is pulling the heavily laden wagon and she is whining, ‘It
isn’t fair!’ Once I started seeing this image, I not only could clearly see
what I was doing when I went into my feelings of being slighted but the fact
that there was this little girl behind it all made me more compassionate with
myself. She also makes me laugh and that always helps bring down the shackles.”
is such an excellent example! Susan is using a meaningful image that addresses
her injurious habit, instantly bringing all the insights she has picked up in
her spiritual quest to bear. She isn’t denying name and form, she is using them
in a healing way. Without them she might well be back at square one whenever
she felt slighted. Honestly, that’s why it drives me nuts every time someone
says oh words just get in the way. No, we need them, badly. We just need the
right words in place of the wrong ones, with their wrong concepts, that have
been tripping us up. Susan used to say to herself, “I’ve been slighted!” and so
reinforce her victimhood. Now she says (or pictures) something liberating, and
it releases her from so much suffering. Her healing is directly connected to
her well thought-out concepts, handily identified by name and form.
could relate. One thing she does when she starts to get negative is use the
international symbol for no: the slash drawn through an image of someone
smoking or driving where they shouldn’t. She visualizes a big sign with a
slash: don’t go there. And then she can easily change direction.
hard to image Karen ever getting angry, but that must just be testament to her
success as a yogi. The same goes for Bill, who I’ve know for 45 years but have
maybe seen him fuming once in all that time. He told us: “I use that kind of yoga
practice every day. I’ll be driving down the road and getting angry. The
Tibetan Buddhists have what they call the silent witness — he sits in perfect
equanimity, without getting involved. I’ve used that concept to assess how I
react to things. The silent witness is me in a quiet state, and it reminds me
how to keep my cool. It’s the same with yoga when you can see what’s going on
in your life before the ego and the intellect get involved. What they start to
do before you react. And then I don’t have to go there.”
shared two fine examples, and she did me the honor of writing them down in
advance, so you can read them in Part II, along with one of my examples that I
may share next week, since we ran out of time.
Deb was off the hook because of sharing last week, she had another example from
earlier in the day. Our daughter Emily called up to say that there was a minor
glitch in her plans to come visit with her partner and his children, and she
was very upset. Actually, she thought it was a major glitch, but it wasn’t, and
Deb handled it easily, reassuring Emily that it would be fine, not to worry. It
was the kind of stupid thing that could easily have been blown out of
proportion, but because Deb didn’t go there, the potential for misery was
diffused. Friends can help friends, even if they are related! And of course it
took words to make the difference. It’s ever so much harder to reassure someone
if you don’t say anything.
daughter thing clicked with Paul, who is confronting a serious problem with his
own Amie. He and I had talked a while back, and he had gone on and on about
what he hoped for as an outcome. Then I asked him what she wanted, and at the time he had been incensed: who cares what
she wants? I’m the father. But thinking it over in terms of yoga dialectics, he
began to see how essential it was to take her side into account, even if it was
plainly wrong from his perspective. Which it is and was. He could see it was
her life after all (she’s in her late twenties). Paul realized if he enforced
anything arbitrarily it would be like another form of religious control.
Ultimately he realized that forcing her to do the right thing would fail in
that she would be doing it to make her dad happy, and not because it addressed
her own needs. This is a wise and difficult realization for any parent,
first example was about her relation to her daughter, and we all agreed that
our children go right to the crux of yoga, because they are so important to us.
Many things we can just shrug off, but not our kids’ problems. If we turn away,
they know just how to zip around and get right in front of us again. Because
Jan’s problem was really about herself, as you can read below, it had a rapidly
positive resolution. Paul definitely has a heavier wagon to pull with a real
tough situation, but he has lightened its load somewhat by taking one or two of
his extra rocks out and tossing them aside.
then it was my turn. My good (I hope) specific example is down in Part II, but
I had a more general, everyday one that was grist for the mill. I started by
comparing it to a story of Nitya’s, of how when he was a wandering sannyasi he
arrived at a place of tremendous realization about the meaning of life. He was
exploding with love and excitement about all and everything, and hugged
everyone he met as a long lost soul mate. After a while, though, he noticed
that many good people were horrified at being hugged by a wild, energetic
stranger. India is not big on hugging—it’s all about keeping a respectful
distance. So he pulled back and modified his tactics. To some degree it was a
veiling of his light, but he was able to share so much more as a teacher,
offering wise words and concepts energized by the tremendous joy he never lost
but now kept discretely within bounds.
am similarly a very ardent person full of love, and in the heyday of the
Sixties I was part of a psychedelic movement where many of us vividly
remembered that we were eternal beings gathering on this planet after far
wanderings through the galaxy. It’s a lot like something Nitya said to his
disciples in Australia once upon a time, recounted in Love and Blessings:
I concluded with a conviction
that had been growing within me as my teaching role had expanded. “This
learning situation is eternal. We gathered in Egypt and we gathered in Sumeria.
We gathered in Babylon and on the shores of Galilee. And we gather here today
in this prehistoric wilderness, children of a New Age, to give praise and
thanks to the Absolute.”
of us were deeply convinced that we were part of an
intergalactic emergency team that was sent to planets at the critical moment,
perhaps tipped off by the discovery of atomic fission, when the sentient
species must change course or risk destroying the planet it inhabits. At the
time, 50 years ago, it seemed like we might yet turn the tide, now it looks
like we may have failed. The point here, though, is that we felt a similar
explosion of love and connectedness to everything, and the community
consciousness greatly amplified it. Now though, on a daily basis I have to
restrain that exuberance, because humans are universally swathed in defenses,
and love naturally overcomes barriers. “Something there is that doesn’t like a
wall, that wants it down” and all that Frostian nonsense. Finding the balance
between reaching out and holding back is a delicate yogic art form.
my childhood in a moderately hostile environment I learned to
do—reluctantly—what pretty much everyone learns to do: guard my self by
erecting layers of defensive protection. My yoga training is aimed at removing
those, but yet I have to keep in mind that even if my barriers are down, others
are very content with theirs. The rub is that to be effective at trying to
influence the world for the better, you can’t just stay bottled up. And I know
that under all those layers of batting, souls are crying out for release. They
may or may not even know it. Plus, every person is unique in every way. So it
is a challenging and fascinating avocation to stay in what I called the green
zone: the middle range between being too outgoing and overly restrained. It’s a
daily, if not moment to moment, practice, and it takes place not only in
relation to others: it’s an internal balancing act as well.
added that in all these situations we have to think of how we are, how we know
ourselves, how to relate to people. To see how people are defended, and how to
be with each individual person and still be ourselves. Quite so.
thought of it in terms of the pain of not having your love reciprocated, but
for me that was laid to rest a long time ago. Of course I still like it to be
reciprocated, but if you rely on such things you are bound to feel very
impoverished. He also thought that most accomplished yogis don’t think of
reactions, but that is exactly the point of Nitya’s story. Taking other
people’s needs into account is intrinsic to yoga, though ideally it doesn’t
hamper your own internal openness. Maybe what Bill meant was that you should
not let other people’s reactions bring you down, even as you are constrained by
of us had been to a powerful movie about Joan of Arc a few days back, and Deb
used it as an example of how she kept her purity of spirit even as she was
under tremendous pressure from the politicians and church officials, who had
preconceived ideas and demanded certain answers. Her responses came from a deep
place that they were wholly ignorant of. Her innocence baffled them. It was
like she was in the water and they were holding on to the ripples.
It was all about how you are innocent and yet you are in a difficult
position, how do you learn from it and stay in your true nature, being loving and
expressing it. Of course, humans have often been killed for staying true to
their heart, which is another reason for prudent caution.
got Paul thinking of his expectations about his daughter and he generalized the
idea nicely. He could see that if you drop your expectations piecemeal it
doesn’t work. You have to drop them wholesale. If you drop one, ten more spring
up from your pride about that one.
to the online Gita class he is now in, Paul was reminded by Sraddha of Nitya’s
video class, which he watched the other night. He was thrilled by it, and one
thing that really struck him was the idea that there is no enlightenment
without the transient and the transcendent existing together. Trying to keep
them at bay, trying to hold back on attachments thinking that if they leave
that’s all you need, is futile. Nitya says they both have to be combined as
opposing forces, and only then do the attachments go away. Yes, that’s yoga,
folks. Here’s the link to the video that so inspired Paul: http://aranya.me/watch.html. Lots more
of those links are available here: http://scottteitsworth.tripod.com/id2.html.
conclusion of our yoga sharing was the realization we came to that the norm is
to take a position and hold onto it desperately. Even fight over it. The yogic
secret is to incorporate the whole, which has to include what you disagree with
as well. As Paul put it, “I’m doing the same thing that everyone else is doing
in picking one half of a dualistic proposition and holding on to it.” By contrast,
Joan’s answers, as well as Narayana Guru’s like the one
shared last week, go straight to the center. They open us; free us from the
tyranny of posturing. It’s very heartening to see how the work of the Gurus is
bringing out the best in those who are studying it.
so, let’s get back to the teaching of this specific verse. We’ll talk about
more yoga practicalities next week.
Jan notes in Part II, often references to vasanas are really about samskaras.
With enough effort we can manage how our memories affect us, but we are
helpless to alter our genetic makeup. The memories that most define us began in
the prenatal state or soon thereafter, and so have the feel of coming from an
ancient source. While the use of the two terms is somewhat slipshod, the point
of their often unwelcome influence is spot on. Nitya first traces the ground of
all our mental operations in memories:
Nobody can think without using
word images in their mind. All word images are concepts. Concepts are processed
and recreated memories.
Where we can work effectively on ourselves
is in becoming
aware of how our deep memories are coloring our experience in the present.
Fortunately, we don’t have to actually know what the memory is, we can presume
it from observing its influence compared to a reasoned assessment. Any
deflection is produced by vasanas or samskaras or a combination of the two.
This is most tangible as the mood we are in, which is something an honest
contemplative can readily feel. Nitya puts it this way:
Conceptually recalled images are
confections of names and forms neatly blended, and each such unit becomes
animated with the prevailing mood of the individual whenever it is assigned a
place in the range of experience. Thus all experiences of pain, pleasure, and
indifference are stimulated, nurtured, and continued by name and forms.
And those names and forms are “animated with the prevailing
mood of the individual.” As we acknowledged last week, our moods, including
negative ones, are very comfortable once we become “civilized” or “socialized,”
so we tend to hold on to them and defend them. Narayana Guru is inviting us to
let them go instead, and Jan’s invitation to explore our “hang ups” brought
some excellent examples into the discussion. This has to be a practical exercise.
The ego is expert at talking tough and doing little. The Guru is suggesting we
stop theorizing and do something meaningful instead. It turns out this is
quickly and easily rewarding, at least after we have grasped the concepts which
he has so carefully laid out. They really do make good sense, and that’s the
place to start. As Nitya says, actually doing to work is what separates the
contemplative from the non-contemplative:
In the case of a non-contemplative, extroverted
person, the proliferation of the images of name and form goes on without the
individual giving any special attention to the validity of the impressions
created by the name-form complex. Of course, there is not anyone who is totally
devoid of contemplation. But in the case of one who is an avowed contemplative,
apart from merely experiencing name and form, such a person will also develop a
critical faculty to moderate and improve their modes of appreciation so that
the presiding consciousness can be in full control of the constant interplay of
concepts and percepts.
“full control” may be overstating the case, but it is
helpful to be aware of the process even as life sweeps us along with its
irresistible momentum. Even a little of this way of life has a beneficial
impact, as the Gita tells us, and the examples we shared gave ample evidence of
influencing our lives is a skill like any other, and it improves with practice:
Although at a beginning stage of
self-discipline such critical apperceptions of gestalts are far apart and
varied, when the discipline increases all the structural details of the
presentative consciousness and its representative character are scrutinized for
the purpose of integrating all infrastructure and meta-structure to become
fully harmonized in the idea of the universal.
Happily our class members have had quite
a bit of practice
scrutinizing themselves already. It doesn’t have to be an obsessive
deconstruction of every detail. Relaxing into the flow is an important aspect
of how we let go of our rigidities. The hard part is admitting we are perverting reality with our conditioning, and in
consequence not accepting our immediate perception as the God-given truth. If
we know we are inevitably twisting the facts—both intentionally and unintentionally—we
will be more open to listening to criticism and more circumspect about our own
ideas and motivations. That doesn’t mean we stop functioning. The intent is to
function better, and every example we shared had a happy, or at least improved,
ending to evidence its efficacy.
those who recall the wonderful section of Narayana Guru’s Hundred Verses of
Self-Instruction dealing with sama
(sameness) and anya (otherness),
Nitya expresses the gist of the verse in those terms for us:
Narayana Guru calls the specific variance anya,
and the integrated universal sama. Contemplative discipline is to go
from the multifarious anya to the
aren’t leaving name and form behind to discover some exotic hidden territory,
we are simply seeing how the apparent variety is united at its core. Which is
much, much easier. Nitya’s most important paragraph is his summation at the
end, underlining this with a mahavakya:
In the present verse the word brahma, meaning the Absolute, stands for
sama. The anya or the variant has the ability to color the consciousness that
apprehends it with its specific property. To escape from the impact of it at
the time of its occurrence is most difficult. Here exactly is the need for
disciplining the entire mechanism of mentation, by which one can reverse the
power of streaming consciousness from the effect to the cause and from the
manifoldness of names and forms to the unitivity and universality of the one
Absolute, Brahma. When this is achieved, one cuts across all forms of
phenomenality and gains the transparency of yogic vision. Then it can be said, “All
this is Brahma,” sarvam khalvidam brahma.
enthusiasm generated by the sharing of examples had to be stopped abruptly
because of the lateness of the hour. The entire Yoga Darsana will afford us
opportunities to keep coming back to practicalities, and the invitation is open
to readers to contribute their wisdom as well.
stated in the previous verse, it is not easy to restrain mental activity and to
remain in the unconditioned and calm contemplation of the Absolute, fully free
from tribasic prejudice (tripuņi) and
operation of the three nature modalities (triguõa).
It is difficult to remain always in a kind of peace which is without any mental
activity at all. Even if we should repeat the word Brahman (the Absolute) any number of times, the world of name-form
made manifest by attributes does not disappear from being operative within
consciousness. When the reasoning mind is distracted by interests of ordinary
life consisting of worldly thoughts, the attainment of samādhi (peace) is not possible. Then how is it possible to
accomplish such a Yoga?
verse intends to give the answer to such a question for the aspirant who wishes
spiritual progress through Yoga, and puts the question with an intense desire
to know an alternative way. Instead of trying to see this visible world as
consisting of name-form, and, thus, as entirely false, it is recommeded here as
easier on the basis of the mahāvākyas
(great sayings) such as “Everything here is the Absolute,” to look upon the
whole phenomenal universe as consisting of the Absolute. It is not easy to turn
from the long mental habit, enduring through many births, telling us the world
is real. Even though to a discriminating mind the world is philosophically
false, the appearance of the world
as real still continues to be operative.
Guru now makes reference to a verse in his Advaita
Dãpikā (Lamp of Non-Duality), which states that even when discrimination
has abolished the reality of the world, it continues to be given to the senses
just as to a man who has lost his sense of direction, the error could persist
for sometime even after the orientation has been intellectually corrected. A
mistake might continue to persist for sometime even after its recognition as a
mistake merely by force of habit. There is also reference to another verse in
the âtmopade÷a øatakam where Narayana
Guru states the converse possibility and says that all things are real enough
but that the man of philosophical disposition could comprehend the unity
underlying all things.
alternative case can be easily practised and is here recommended in view of an
aspirant, who, by practising this kind of Yoga for a long time until the
incipient memory factors are eliminated, will accomplish the same purpose of
Yoga otherwise more difficult. It is to underline the continued practice that
the word nityam (always) has been
used. Pata¤jali also underlines this same verity when he says that by long
practice without interruption in a reverent spirit of service, one is capable
of stabilising certitude. Such an unceasing practice is itself Yoga.
* * *
the first part of the Foreword to That Alone:
Guru once asked a young novice, “Do you know
young man answered, “No. What is there to know about it?”
you know what water is like?” replied the Guru.
you know what wave is like?”
you know that water and wave are not two?”
Vedanta is so simple, why do people spend so much time studying it?”
people forget the wave is water.”
do we forget?”
do we get rid of maya?”
knowing that wave and water are not two.”
is the use of knowing they are both the same?”
you won't put such questions!”
story was told to me by my Master, Nataraja Guru. As he himself was a disciple
of Narayana Guru, it is even possible that he was the novice mentioned.
point, however, is that truth is so very simple we don’t need to make any
effort to know it, but an undetectable ignorance conceals what should be
obvious. Then we take a lifetime of beating around the bush to arrive once
again at what is already known to us. Once the lost truth is regained, the
search comes to a close and there is no need to utter another word.
the effortlessness of the obvious and the silent wonder of regaining the
forgotten truth, there are many hurdles to be cleared. The truth we speak of is
neither fact or fiction. It is not the object of immediate perception or the
subject of mediate inference. Either you unconditionally know it or you do not.
This is the knowledge which cannot be taught but, paradoxically, it dawns upon
you on listening to one who knows.
wrote up her two examples for us. She later added: “I realize I was probably
talking about samskaras more than vasanas, but they are interrelated.” Mira is
her university-age daughter, who is starting her semester abroad:
I thought we had a great class last week talking about yoga,
dealing with our vasanas, and the heart place.
first example of how I recently experienced these ideas
had to do with Mira. I had a moment during her last evening with me
(before her leaving for Switzerland) of wanting to bring up with some topics
that I knew would be problematic, about something I wanted from her. It
was clearly all about me - but I thought a reasonable ask. As I thought
about how to ask for it, I saw lots of those emotions and vasanas coming up
inside me. My wise self recognized the tension as a sign of something
unhelpful coming. Instead of pushing my ego forward and my needs, I
opened up instead to my deeper self and “let go” of those wishes. As I
tapped into my more vast self, I felt a wonderful clarity and freedom. It
was easy to let go of my needs. I quickly understood that I was tapping
into the loving part of me, which was connected to love itself and that I could
trust that loving energy to resolve this as it was meant to be. I trusted
the right outcome was evolving, and I knew not what that would be. So
what I recall about it that strikes me as similar to this verse is the letting
go my ego, the freeing myself from my vasanas at that moment, and the basking
in the loving energy and larger Self that really can guide us and bring us
I thought it helpful to also pay attention
to how we do not
always perfectly manifest these ideas. I think the more we all discussed
our incomplete or not fully realized efforts, the more we would learn from each
other. My second example was more here. I have always had lots of
vasanas around “entertaining” but I love to do so. I was feeling some of
those come up this weekend about an event I was hosting. Although I was
not able to 100% calm myself down, I did tend to my inner beasts moment by
moment throughout the day and it helped keep me centered. I also tried to
let go of expectations more. As the evening started happening, I found keeping
up the same practices helped a lot (letting go of expectations, calming my ego
and defensive thinking) as did staying connected to my heart center. It
really felt like a wonderful evening of much loving going all directions.
[In class she added: I was trying to stay calm throughout
the day and look at the feelings that were coming up. As the evening started,
if I kept up calming my ego, and because of this everything went better. There
was lots of loving energy. It was a real reminder about letting go of ego needs
and tapping into deeper heart, where we connect to the Absolute.]
That kind of became the theme to the weekend as other events
fed into it, the theme of staying connected to our deepest heart in a profound
way. I found it beautifully expressed in the first piece of Debussy’s Book
of Images, Reflections in the Water. That music portrayed for me the
transformation of opening into the light filled vertical plane by releasing, in
small measures, our little self…dissolving the ego, and finding the luminous
core of the heart.
From my response to an exercise in the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad study group of 9/24/18:
2 is also right up my line: to take a fresh hard look at my blemishes. Nitya
writes: “Every passing moment is an opportunity to have a hard look at the
facts of one’s life to see what blemishes are there that can be steadily
removed.” I should say that all hard looks are fresh, automatically. That’s
what makes them hard.
thing I’ve had lots of practice with in the blemish removal arena is responding
to insults. Where I grew up, in a diverse region, insults were part of ordinary
social communication. From the dominant culture I learned to give back as good
as I got—a milder version of the way Donald Trump was raised: which was to hurt
others MORE than they hurt you, and have no reservations about it. Although my
agnostic parents intuitively followed the teachings of Jesus, counseling me to
be kind, considerate and compassionate, reactivity (whether for good or ill) was
strongly emphasized in the culture at large. It’s very hard to hold to your
ideals in a gentle way when everyone is traumatized by the level of
argumentativeness inherent in schooling and the struggle for success in the
pecking order. We can hurt each other very much simply by struggling to secure
our minimal place in line. I also happen to have grown up in a period when old
ideals were being cast in the fire and replaced by more idealistic ones. It’s
REALLY hard for an American to be both gentle and transformative. Gentle gets
ignored, while “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It takes a lot of noise to
get us truly motivated on the transactional plane.
Guru’s tutelage I began to see how my “educated” reactions were pure ego,
almost always the result of defensive drives. I began to wonder why it was so
important to maintain an untarnished persona, especially since no one except me
believed I had one. Could they be right? And what did it matter after all? I
adopted a strategy of presuming the insults to me were well founded and of
swallowing my pride. I looked for the truth of them, granting the accuser
quasi-divine status as an unwitting mouthpiece of God. It was a very hard thing
to internalize! If I wasn’t able to be grateful for an insult, at least I could
refrain from smacking the tennis ball of accusation back across the net. Plus,
by remaining calm I could sometimes see the hidden motivations of the person
taking umbrage with my behavior. It turned disagreements into a fascinating
exploration instead of a head-butting exercise. There was almost always a
measure of truth present that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was busy defending
myself, so I wound up with lots of blemishes revealed, giving me a rich
spectrum to investigate. It doesn’t look like I will run out of blemishes this
lifetime, so I should never be bored.
an example of how it looks in the present. The other night a friend announced
to the twelve people over for a potluck dinner that I was a very opinionated
person. I hadn’t been saying anything, it just came out, aggressively, right in
my face. In our society, opinionated mainly means small minded and bigoted.
Naturally the ego wants to immediately defend itself, proclaiming “I am not!” I
watched as my normal reaction of denial pulsed out of my body, but I didn’t
give it any support. I just smiled in tacit acknowledgment of the truth of the
accusation. Still, there is a chemical reaction, adrenaline and more, which
doesn’t settle immediately. I processed the anger prompt by musing that I did
hold opinions, because I was a caring, interested person, but that was not
necessarily a bad thing. I am respectful of other peoples’ opinions, and do not
insist that anyone agree with me, but I took this as a reminder to always be
careful in that regard. There is a lot of samsaric sting in people’s feelings
that makes us all presume we are being attacked even in the midst of a polite
discussion. I further mused that no one was likely to change their opinion
about me based on this person’s revelation. Lastly I recognized that this
person was bossy and self-righteous at times, and I had stood up to her in the
past, which was likely the cause of the whole outburst. She had tried more than
once to have me agree to something I didn’t accept, and I refused, to her
chagrin and astonishment. Being pushy had been a pretty successful strategy for
her, I’m sure, and our sexist society forces women into an underdog position,
where being feisty makes a lot of sense if you don’t want to give in to the
prevailing injustice. In a subterranean way her zinger might have been a
justifiable plea for ratification of her as a valuable person, which she very
much is. But I know my default setting is to highly honor women’s intelligence,
so such feelings are more the fault of society than of me personally. My
refusal to be pushed around was what made me “opinionated” in my friend’s
eyes—I didn’t meekly accede to her opinion, though I certainly honored her
right to disagree with me. I had not been pushing my opinion on her (though by
disagreeing she might well have imagined I was). After this extended meditation
I could let it all go. Except it made a perfect example for our exercise of
taking a hard look at the facts and blemishes of my life. I thought I might
report on a recent success story, with a more or less happy ending. By not
protesting my friend’s statement, the attack fizzled and the pre-dinner
conversation resumed a friendly cast.
one thing to be pigheaded, holding tight to a bad idea despite the attempts of
good people to get through to you, and quite another to believe in your own
carefully considered ideas and not be swayed by public opinion or expediency.
To me, that’s called integrity.
This is so sweet ...the sharing bit...
Am lagging behind as you can see :)
I thought I would add a bit to the sharing...if it is not
I recently quit a job where I had been
working ...at a Music
School...a new start-up, teaching in - depth Western music theory and practice
to kids in Bombay. I had been with them since inception 4 years ago. I was Head
Administrator to a 15000 sq foot property and the entire running of the
premises (except for Teachers /Music curriculum )was under my supervision. The
School has been pulling along but not really making any profits and getting
continuing investors has been a challenge.
Well one fine day a couple of months ago, two of the senior
managers called me in and rattled off how I was not up to the mark, as I was
not helpful , I was not technically qualified , I made a Senior Founder ' lose
his temper' and I was always 'arguing'. I was a bit taken aback as we had had
no run-ins as such,except for one with this Senior Founder, who had lost his
temper over a petty issue.And I think personally didn't particularly like me.
However it was enough for them to call me in to be ticked
off. Listening to them go on about my negativeness made me wonder where we were
headed...eventually on being asked what I was going to do about it, I was a bit
stumped, so said ...would you like me to resign ?
They were a bit surprised as they may not have wanted me to
leave (this is what HR told me later...that this was not their intention) but
were so caught up with the righteousness of berating me...that they said yes.
Whatever the reason - personal or cutting of overheads, I
was in a way relieved as to carry on now with nothing right in what I did, was
a bit off-putting.
I have to say I was a bit upset when I
left that day but all
through their talk I kept very neutral, listening and assessing. I did not get
into any panic,anger or even hatred towards these two.I kept breathing deeply
and did not give in to the urge to defend myself. I did think about it that
evening and did some very deep introspection but did not get low,depressed or
self-pitying. And within two days I was actually buoyant happy and looking
forward to what else life would bring. I even thought, this is now a push for
me to change cities and move to a less expensive,less polluted one.Maybe retire
I am pleased to say that in a very short
while, I was in a
correct frame of mind and not dwelling or harping on the disagreeable
circumstances and actually seeing this as an opportunity for change.
And within weeks have been so gainfully occupied & busy
- am working towards a big event in April - that I have to really catch up with
the Class notes !!
This bouncing back seems to be happening
more smoothly and
with less pain ever since I started being aware of my reactions and I now
consciously, try to keep balanced.