Nirvana Darsana verses 6 & 7
Having renounced all action,
always established in the
who moves about the world merely
to conduct bodily life –
he is the superior knower of brahma.
He knows only when informed by
does not know by himself –
such a person is the more
He always enjoys absorption in
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
who, renouncing all action,
established in the Absolute,
the course of bodily life, wandering
the world, (he) is the elect
knower of the Absolute.
He, being informed by
another is able to know,
But he himself does
He is the more elect,
absorption in the Absolute.
remainder of Darsanamala will be mostly absorptive meditations rather than
verbal extrapolations, and the notes will reflect that. Much of the material
today is in Part II: supportive content from elsewhere. We combined two verses
touching on progressive stages of absorption, as Nitya had little to add,
mostly quoting magnificent sections from the Bhagavad Gita that were suggested
by Swami Vidyananda.
way to keep the Nirvana Darsana relevant is to think of the absorption as
temporary, as in meditation sessions or creative endeavors. It reads as though
the stages are permanent, but we lightweights tend to dip in to stillness and
then rejoin our busy lives, hopefully retaining some of that peacefulness
one way or another, we will become more absorbed and less interactive with the
outside world. I see this as begging for a positive reframing of what is
medically viewed as dementia in older people. The idea of “losing our mind”
brings anxiety and panic, where “spiritual absorption” might be honored: the
former to be battled against and the latter to be venerated. I have reprinted
Peggy’s magnificent poem showing just how well this reframing worked with her
mother, at the end of Part II.
of you may also remember the New York Times article I cited ten years ago now,
“Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain”: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/health/research/20brai.html?_r=0.
It focuses on very mild cases of “nirvana,” but the basis of the revaluation is
well presented in it. As our perspective broadens with maturity we may well
lose touch with the swarm of miniscule “facts” in the process, but that’s okay.
I wonder if this detaching process will be amplified now that we have machines
that are so good at keeping track of the details, freeing us to wonder as we
reminded us that many traditional cultures respected their older members, and
cared for them reverently. Of course, old age was rather rare back then, which
would help. Such an attitude is hard to imagine fitting in with the modern
beehive mentality, where it’s produce or die, but we conscientious meditators
don’t have to buy into the dominant paradigm. Deb felt that if we recognized
that the renounced or absorbed state exists within us all the time, we would
not be thrown so off-balance when it surfaces.
wondered about the hierarchical division of purity in these last verses. If
something is pure, how can it be differentiated into grades? Paul recalled
Nitya’s image of a playwright who is sitting in the audience watching his show.
Having created the characters, he is bound to have a different feeling toward
them than the rest of the audience, who are sure to think of them as more real.
He will not be so easily drawn in to the drama, and is likely to have a more
detached and critical attitude about what transpires.
is a perfect time to invoke the image of the Absolute as water, so favored by
Vedantins. A wave travels as an impulse across the ocean until it reaches a
shallow bottom, symbolic of horizontal impediments. It rises up and breaks in a
furious display, churning up sand and mud in its foam, and afterwards glides to
the shore, losing energy, becoming more quiet, until at last it leaves an
almost invisible rim on the sand and is gone. In the Nirvana Darsana we are
within this last stage of the wave, and it still has varieties of expression,
but all along it was nothing but water. I guess we can say that the horizontal
factors, the depth, sand and turbulence, provide the impurities, but they never
do change the water into anything but what it always was. So there are grades
of purity even as the ultimate context is unchanging.
reiterated that the whole course of the wave is “the most important part.” It
isn’t that the dying out at the end is what it’s all about, as though
everything is only a means to an end. The means is the end. All of it is beautiful. Last week we reflected on
Narayana Guru praying to remain as a wave just a little longer, so he could do
important things to help others. As I put it, the period of the breaking wave
is the most spectacular and interesting part of the whole production, yet we’re
learning to cherish every bit of it.
we certainly don’t have to obsessively micromanage our personal wave! In verse
6, Nitya likens much of our functioning to a machine driven by natural forces,
hinting that we don’t need to dedicate our full attention to operating it:
A windmill exposed to the wind
spontaneously turns according to the course of the wind, and it rotates without
any conscious deliberation on the part of the wheel or the mill. The body-mind
organism is part of nature’s creative device, and it will go on until, by its
own wear and tear, the body falls apart. Such automatic functioning is
inevitable, and action belonging to this category is known as prarabdha. The psychophysical
functioning of a superior knower of the Absolute is similar.
Then in the next verse, 7, the surrender is underlined:
All psychophysical functions are
programmed for only a short display by the individuated self. Within the frame
of reference of the time-space continuum, they are controlled by cause and
effect dynamics just so long as the individual believes in playing a
In this light, Moni said that doing good—as opposed to acting
unitively—creates certain conditions that constrain our actions, and this is
opposed to the spirit of our study. Nancy added that in absorption we act
without thought, in a sense. At least we restrain the managerial thinking that
is the most obvious level of our surface mind.
at being a mere persona is something we have been working to outgrow in our
Darsanamala study. It’s a mystery how we can foster the process, but whether we
do or not, if we live long enough our mania with surface issues will fade away.
Nitya neatly describes what happens when we let go, voluntarily or otherwise:
This identity cannot be
maintained when the imprisoned consciousness of the individual breaks the ego
boundary and expands into a cosmic consciousness. Having once attained that
consciousness, individuation is more or less effaced. Senses are withdrawn from
the externally illuminated world of name and form and the transactional
interrelationships of things. Awareness becomes minimal. All colorations and
conditionings of the past begin to fade out. The place of ego-consciousness is
substituted by Self-awareness.
this section of the Nirvana Darsana, our associates can still bring us back to
earth. I always picture the opening scene in Fellini’s movie 8 ½, where he’s soaring through the
skies and is suddenly yanked down to the ground like a wayward kite by two
black-robed priests. In his time in Italy the Catholic Church was a dominant
purveyor of rules. In any case, this is the stage where we need to be cared for
by others if our bodily existence is going to persist, because we are more or
less tuned out from that aspect.
and Nancy have recently been attending a dear friend who was on his deathbed.
They described him as being in both worlds at once, here and elsewhere, easily
laughing or crying with joy, lighthearted and childlike. He was intensely
feeling the love around him; as Bill put it, seeing the Self within the world.
In this case he was still in possession of all his faculties: it was a physical
death from cancer and not a fading out of the mind.
speaks to a state where a person is perhaps farther than that beyond the
borderline of the here and hereafter:
A short-term revival of the
empirico-rational awareness can be effected by an outside agency, though as the
suggested meanings of names and forms have become fictitious to such a person,
it is unlikely that any real interest can be revived in sense objects or
ratiocination of events. Absorption in the universal has now become most
told us about a lama in Peter Matthiessen’s The
Snow Leopard. Matthiessen encountered him in a remote valley high in the
Himalayas. The lama was old and crippled and so was confined to his home in the
rugged terrain. Matthiessen asked him if it bothered him that he was stuck
there, and the lama laughingly responded, “I love it even more that I can’t
leave!” The illusion of there being somewhere else to go is one of the
distractions to appreciating where we happen to be.
we discussed how we are to get where we’re going, since we are co-conspirators
in the game. Paul talked about it in terms of learning compassion, and how hard
it was to teach such a skill. He felt it emerged from seeing unity, and that is
exactly what the word means. Seeing what unites us all is the basis for all
spiritual values, with compassion or empathy exactly at the forefront.
compassion is universally admired and widely taught, Paul’s point that it was
resistive of us thinking our way into it is well taken. So much of our
constructed world is designed to separate, especially in our early development,
that compassion is most often learned accidentally. Deb made the point that
suffering opens the door to our commonality with others. We didn’t follow up on
it, but I reflected how the major disasters in my life were definitely doors to
greater compassion. They overwhelmed my ego-orientation and taught me many
crucial things. This would be an excellent topic for serious discussion at
thing I did say, because we were talking about babies, is how important it is
that they have a trustworthy caregiver as they are exploring their world. Paul
had brought up the pulsation model, and babies love to seek the new, but as
soon as they get past their comfort zone they like to rush back to a secure
place in the arms of their loved ones. Once they are restored to their basis of
womblike security they gather the confidence to go a little farther next time.
sad it is that some babies don’t have the security of a dependable loved one to
return to! They become afraid in their explorations and are not reassured, so
the fear, with all its attendant miseries, becomes the default setting of their
whole lives. Many of them will repay their unloving world with violence and other
forms of selfishness. As Nancy and Deb related, there are some government
programs to support early childhood care, but like so many critical needs, they
are provided fitfully if at all, brushed aside by all sorts of graft and
always, our thoughtful sharing led us to a profound silence that no one wanted
to bring to an end. The compassionate guidance of the gurus embraced us in its
love, and we sat for a long time in blissful abeyance of analysis. Aum.
This is the
distinguishing characteristic of the man who has attained to the first stage of
those who are called elect knowers of the Absolute. This type of knower of the
Absolute has only that degree of responsibility about carrying the burden of
the body he has come to possess because of actions from the past, only till the
moment such actions with their beginnings in the past have been expended and,
thus, causes the body to drop off of itself. In the Bhagavad-Gitą (III. 17) we read:
But for him who happens
to be attached to the Self alone, who finds full satisfaction in the Self, for
such a man who is happy in the Self as such, too, there is nothing that he
What has just
been stated also answers to the description of an elect knower of the Absolute.
It is this type of elect knower of the Absolute that can correctly be called a sannyąsin (renouncer.) In chapter XII,
13 to 19 of the Bhagavad Gitą we
He who has no hatred
to all creatures, who is also friendly and compassionate, who is free from
possessiveness (mine-ness) and egoism, who is equalised in pain and pleasure,
unitively-disciplined one (yogi) who
is always contented, self-controlled, firmly resolved, whose mind and reason
are dedicated to Me, he, My devotee, is dear to Me.
He who does not
disturb (the peace of) the world and (whose peace) is not disturbed by the
world, and who is free from exaggerations of joy, hate and fear, he too is dear
He who expects no
favours, who is clean, expert, who sits unconcerned, carefree, who has
relinquished all undertakings, he, My devotee, is dear to Me.
He who neither
rejoices nor hates, nor grieves nor desires, and who has relinquished (both)
the beneficial and the harmful, such a one endowed with devotion is dear to Me.
He who is the same to
foe and friend, and also in honour and dishonour, who is the same in cold and
heat, in pleasure and pain, and who is free from attachment,
To whom censure and
praise are equal, who is silent (in manner), content with whatever happens to
come, having no fixed abode, mentally constant, such a man of devotion is dear
described in these seven verses in chapter XII called bhakti-yoga (Unitive Devotion and Contemplation) refers to the
elect knower of the Absolute who has renounced all undertakings in life.
Because the contemplative state of this type of knower of the Absolute is free
from action, public-mindedness, etc. without even the least touch of urgency to
action and attachment to public life, and because he is always in the enjoyment
of the bliss of emancipation, this type of nirvana
has been put in the category of an elect kind of emancipation or
The (plain) knower of the Absolute, while engaged without
passion or motivated by any (personal) gain, enjoys the bliss of nirvana while doing works beneficial to
the world. As for the more elect knower of the Absolute, he, abandoning all
works, accomplishes his journey here fully and consciously awake. If we now
think of the second type called the more elect (variyąn) knower of the Absolute, he is one without any attachment
to the world and without being interested in doing any act. Nonetheless with
his activities turned inwards (introspectively) and without any consciousness
of outward things, silently remains in the bliss of emancipation or absorption.
He attains to outward consciousness only when prompted by somebody else, and,
thus, comes to be conscious of such matters as sounds or touch. Thereafter he
again relapses into his own natural state of silence and again enters into the
bliss of nirvana. In this state of
profound peace he enjoys uninterruptedly the bliss of the Self. This kind of nirvana has been termed as the more
elect kind of emancipation. This more elect knower of the Absolute is referred
to as one who has transcended the sphere of the operation of the three
nature-modalities (gunas). It is this
very type of jivanmukta (man
attaining liberation while still alive) who has transcended the
nature-modalities that is described in the Bhagavad-Gitą
in XIV. 22-26.
Important excerpts from ISOA Vol. II pertaining to nirvana:
Evil becomes excusable only on the ground of its being
inevitable and natural to ordinary human life. As a scorpion with its sting
removed cannot be considered a perfect specimen of its kind, so too, human
perfection will only suffer by being presented as a mere conceptual abstraction.
The Science of
the Absolute has to make room for the full play of reality under the division
of a universal concrete notion comprised within the Absolute. Thus it is
correct to think of real men and women when we consider the perfection or Self-absorption
reviewed in orderly fashion in the verses of this chapter [Nirvana Darsana].
Their human defects, if any, only enhance their value as real representatives
of humanity and not as mere abstractions. (406-7)
Here we have a direct example of the operation of the
principle of compensation. In the context of nirvana all men can be considered
fundamentally as human beings having the same norm, mainly for purposes of
reference only. As in the case of a precious stone, the superiority depends on
the principle of uniqueness or rarity of type. By referring to extreme positive
and negative instances it should not be thought that a normal type endowed for
one kind of expression of absolutism should imitate another. Rather it is to be
understood that each man should conform to his own type of behaviour proper to
himself. Whether considered pure or valuable depending upon actual circumstances
of purer principles of absolutism, the implied norm is always a constant. Thus all
become equal in the eyes of God. The absolutist himself who looks at anyone
from the same godly perspective can only see it equally reflected in all
things, whether considered sacred or profane. (418)
Every man is made in the image of God and has the kingdom of
God within him. God is a reference to man and man is His dialectical counterpart,
giving the same status to the Son of Man as to the Son of God, i.e. the same
Jesus of Nazareth. It is in such a perspective that the content of this chapter,
which seems to include good and bad people under the scope of the same value of
nirvana, is to be viewed. (419)
Duality is the one overall error or prejudice to be
abolished through certitude on the part of a person who has gained a knowledge
of this Science of the Absolute. (475)
The methodology consists of a reduction of multiplicity into
unity and of taking a verticalized rather than a horizontalized view of
There is no use in again and again saying, as many
Vedàntins do, that the world is màyà and therefore unreal. The visible world
does not melt away because of any doctrinal conviction. Nirvana or absorption
takes place only at the very core of a universal and timeless life when all
polarity or duality has been cancelled out by equality, parity or purity of
sent this after the previous notes had gone to press, but I thought it would
work just fine here, as it’s mostly a quote from Nitya of general interest:
Here is the penultimate paragraph from the Original Atmo 5:
Today’s meditation is to seek to
go back to this light, which is always shining within. Become constantly aware
of that, and see that it has no beginning and no end. It is witnessing, the
witness within you. There is a great discipline lying in it. You need only your
peripheral mind to tend to all the external functions. The core can go on
continuously shining as the unchanging cause. Notice, watch and witness all the
changes going on and also remain as the unchanging.
This reminded me of something Paul said last week in class,
something that has stayed with me all week. He said that we are always striving
to be with our true self, the Self within us. We can better and better
recognize the superimpositions and distractions in our lives that keep us from
that this. More sometime eventually.
Self and Memory
Peggy Grace Chun
As my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease slowly melded her brain
and melted her ability to orient via identity,
I suffered after each visit, sitting in my car weeping.
She suffered deeply also, grasping at flickers of fond memories, panicking when
she’d look in a mirror,
drawing maps of relationships, losing them.
We grasped and flailed together,
until one day I came for a visit and she said,
“I have no idea who you are but you’re just lovely.” And I said, “Shall we walk
in the garden?”
From that day forth, our suffering ceased, no longer
orienting via identity
but rather connecting via our deeper selves in the present moment.
of course, she could no longer safely or freely interface in
the broader world,
so I’m not recommending Alzheimer’s disease as a path to “Be Here Now.”
But that remarkable shift we shared
remains my sacred foundational axis...
in life, in love, in art, in the grocery check out line... in standing side by
quietly peering at the garden’s beauty
where only that delicate purple iris exists.
(Gurukulam Magazine, Fall 2013)