Nirvana Darsana verse 9
Of this, there is nothing
avoidable and acceptable.
As for the Self, it shines by
Thus having become certain,
Thereafter modulation does not
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
this (world) there is certainly
nothing to be rejected nor accepted,
for the Self, it is self-luminous.
understood (thus), one should
(from all functionings);
function does not repeat
anticipation of a quiet meditation for the termination of Darsanamala study
was, like most expectations, widely divergent from the actual course we took.
Nitya’s trenchant commentary sparked an active and highly stimulating
conversation. Despite that, there is so much supporting material that Parts II
and III hold the bulk of the material. It’s truly amazing to me how rich the
subject continues to be, even after so much has already been covered. I believe
this is the longest class summary ever, and I’m quite sure you’ll find
thrilling ideas all the way to the end. I hope so.
explosion of insights began immediately after the reading of the verse. It
occurred to me that Nataraja Guru’s famous opening sentence for the Integrated Science of the Absolute,
“Science seeks certitude,” draws on Narayana Guru’s exhortation here to become
certain and then liberate. Liberation follows from certitude. It is a crucial
point, but what exactly does it mean? I have collected several fascinating
references in Part III below.
was gratifying how eager everyone was to contribute to the main points of
Nitya’s brilliant elucidation. Because of this, I am tempted to imagine we have
actually learned something from this study, which began on September 15, 2015,
two and two thirds years ago. Sweet. Good job!
seems impossible that Narayana Guru could sum up the entire gamut of his
monumental work in one verse, but it appears that he has. With Nitya’s help we
can more clearly see what he’s saying:
Of this universe, what is or is
not is not determined by the primary substance which constitutes it. The
eidetic configurations conceived as vibrant energy, flying or clustering
particles, stabilized atoms, and adhering molecules are not self-contained
truths. These are the verdicts of human intelligence in the light of a self-luminous
principle which functions through the envisioning of spatiotemporal
The class revolved around the notion of a self-luminous
principle (light) projecting a universe made coherent by a series of framings
suited to the people doing the projecting, but not in any way limited by or
even tarnished by those attempts. As Nitya says, our very functioning is to
envision configurations. It’s what makes everything happen, or appear to,
brought to Deb’s mind how children react to a story being told them: they
demand to know what’s next, and then what comes after that. They have an
insatiable curiosity. Paul wanted to know why we do that—what’s the matter with
us? We’re never satisfied, always eager for excitement. I suggested it wasn’t a
fault so much as a principle on which a universe can be erected. A static
universe would contentedly abide in a state of permanent satisfaction, but that
would be really dull for thinking beings. Read Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth some time about
the Christian heaven, which in reality would be a hell world of boredom. To
have a dynamic, creative universe you need dissatisfaction, and that requires
an illusion of separation. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad postulates hunger as
the propitiating factor. For most lower animals, that means the hunger for food
is what gets them going. For higher life forms, once food is obtained, an
appetite for more subtle forms of nourishment takes over. It drives us to write
grand dramas, paint masterpieces, make enchanting music, build cities, invent
endless clever devices, experiment with novel social arrangements, and on and
on. It makes residing in a body interesting and varied.
epitomized the hunger as the desire for happiness. We are in one state and
presume that happiness is to be found in another, so we are always trying to go
from A to B. It’s an eternal drive.
having a drive is not a bad thing, even though imagining we aren’t happy is
bound to be a self-fulfilling proposition. Our problem is more that we are
strapped into a drive that properly belongs to someone else. Nitya always
emphasized tuning in to your inner motivations, your drive, as a beginning
stage of yogic self-knowledge. Only when you and your predilections are in
harmony can you make progress in releasing yourself from psychological bondage.
this does not have to be as dualistic as it is often made out to be. If we only
realized that happiness was already the true nature of A, it could change
everything. The flow of an ever-evolving universe is essentially unitive, a
vertical unfolding. It’s only when we try to squeeze it into a fixed narrative
that the mismatch is likely to occur. I always picture it as a harried shopper
trying to carry too many packages. Arms full, they keep dropping some as they
pick up others, so they are always stooping to collect what has escaped them.
Our stories, all the ways we humans try to make sense of our world, are never
completely “true,” but they are entertaining. As Bushra concluded, we are okay
as long as we realize they are only partial representations. It’s when we take
them too seriously, believing them to be the only correct version of reality,
that we get into conflicts. Nitya touches on how this breaks down a unitive
flow into a dualistic world based on causation:
By some strange compulsion, human
intelligence is never tired of giving a running commentary on the changing
patterns which go into the composition of both the presentative and
representative awareness. The characteristic of this commentary is its implied
logistics, which arranges events or observations in a precedent-subsequent
sequence of cause and effect.
her opening monologue, Deb noted that the limitless Self is beyond cause and
effect. The idea may sound cold and empty, yet those who know the Self are
filled with warmth and love. The premise reminded me of a favorite quote I’m
sure you all know:
Since everything is but an
perfect in being what it is,
having nothing to do with good or
acceptance or rejection,
one may well burst out in
Chen Pa – The Natural Freedom of Mind
Nitya says the same thing in his more explanatory manner:
If the fascinating or threatening
grand dramas of life are only read into the ‘folds and fringes’ of an apparent
flux of phenomenality, the mind which creates the world can also resolve it.
When this understanding becomes certain beyond a doubt, one wakes up to the
reality of the Self. As a result of such a realization, the phantasmagoria of
world-fascination and world wilderness cease. Thereafter there is not a second
to be explained or evaluated.
…And you might well erupt in laughter.
astutely related how having an excellent framework has helped her to achieve
peace. She gets a good feeling from knowing in the way we are being instructed.
It’s powerfully freeing to know that the mind which creates a problematic world
can also resolve it. For her, Nitya’s geometric illustrations of the
figure-eight movement of our awareness around a horizontal and vertical set of
coordinate axes brings her the confident feeling of truly knowing. She admits
to being a visual person, so the visual imagery especially speaks to her. I
agree, Nataraja Guru’s repurposing of the Cartesian coordinates for spiritual
psychology is tremendously liberating.
has been working with the fantastic Yoga Letters in the Appendix to Living the Science of Harmonious Union.
The fourth one talks about how life manifests from the light of the Self. It
invites meditating on a candle, letting your attention go to what it
illuminates, and then bringing it back to the candle. Nitya says of this:
In this suggestive pondering you should
careful not to put the imagery before your mind and see it as an objective
visualization. Instead you should become this light and experience the
ever-expanding space originating from the center of your own beingness in all
directions, like the ever-expanding dimension of a sphere. To make yourself
familiar with the imagery, allow your consciousness to expand to a conceivably
large dimension and then bring it back to the center. By repeatedly doing this
the pulsation of consciousness will get into a rhythmic pattern of expansion
and contraction. This is not your mind. It is designated as purusha, the spirit, the Self, soul,
truth, and pure consciousness.
Andy emphasized how important it is to not think that what
you see is outside. The light is the source of everything you are aware of. You
are That. In your core there is a certainty of this. Therefore we don’t require
adding anything to ourselves in order to be complete. Nitya quotes Sankara
along the same lines:
No word can explain that
boundless radiance of the one light that is without inside or outside. Sankara
speaks of that as “the inner light which is also identical with the outer
light. It is the first principle of luminosity. It is the twice transcendental.
It is the light of lights. It is the self-luminous light of the Self, the light
of Siva, which is the same as I am.”
One of the quotes from ISOA in Part II parallels this light
image in a spectacular fashion.
insight I had from the class was regarding the last line: after liberation,
modulation does not repeat. This is
an important idea. It does not mean that modulation ceases. A widespread misconception is that modulation ceases after
liberation, but we are talking about becoming free before death, not after. As
Nataraja Guru showed, the reference to ceasing modulation was referring
specifically to horizontal modulations, distracted modulations. We always
modulate while we are alive, and cease completely only when we aren’t any more.
Nataraja Guru’s translation here as ‘functioning’ in place of modulation makes
this readily graspable. Of course we
continue to function. But it’s no longer a repetitive functioning, and we don’t
want to bother with irrelevant functioning either. That means our modulations
are fresh and directly in accord with the present. We are no longer working off
our conditioning, struggling to repeat the past and apply it to our altered
circumstances. It takes true bravery to let go of our habits, and let’s face
it, very few people can muster the courage. You have to be a dedicated yogi to
even try it out.
if you are dedicated to living an unencumbered life, habits are always reaching
out to grab you, like the creepers of Atmo verse 9. In any case, liberation is
not finding a new set of vines to tangle yourself with, but remaining always
free of the habitual dismissal of reality due to conditioning. This is the
significance of modulation continuing but just not repeating.
and acceptance are the horns of our dilemma, the habits that bind us, according
to the verse. Narayana Guru is abundantly clear that they have no place in
talked about how we all have blind spots, implying they are configured from our
repetitive modulations. Deb agreed with him that our blind spots are where our
mind fills in whatever we don’t grasp with a familiar narrative, whether or not
it’s appropriate. She met cultural blind spots close up when she was teaching
Hmong immigrant children from Cambodia, after they came here as refugees after
the Vietnam War. She tried to teach them using cartoonlike images, but the kids
didn’t register them at all. They hadn’t been exposed to anything like them
before, so they made no sense to them. It puzzled Deb because they were so
obvious to her. How could anyone not see what was so plain to her? Yet these
were perfectly healthy, very aware children. Deb easily understood because she
knew they were children who hadn’t been exposed to some of the things that were
familiar to her, that’s all. There was no need to think of them as inferior or
messed up, but only not yet exposed. It’s what Vedanta means by ignorant: not
yet instructed, but potentially fully capable.
invites the question, why couldn’t we apply this same broad tolerance to
are likely to think of blind spots as yet another of our failings, but this is
another place where the mind can solve a problem as well as create it. We have
blind spots because we have limitations, yet it’s okay to have limitations.
Everyone does—even gurus. If we look for them, blind spots can show us where we
are missing something. At least we don’t need to criticize ourself for not
being perfect, since nobody is. We should only criticize ourself for things we
can do something about. And we could apply that to others just as readily.
of the chafing over blind spots, I felt I should reprise a familiar yet elusive
idea: that we seek certitude because as children we were frightened and even
punished for being “wrong,” whatever that meant to our caregivers. The
parameters were not clear to us innocent children, which bathed us in tons of
anxiety: how do we avoid pain? We have to figure out what’s right and be it
before we’ll be safe. Obviously we aren’t there now, because we’re being yelled
at, or worse. So “rightness” becomes something foreign and unknowable yet
highly covetable, and this is reinforced in our school education, which is also
built around getting the right answer and humiliating those who don’t. How
revolutionary it is to come back to our little candle and know it at the source
of all our light—the truest, most right thing there could possibly be, lodged
serenely in our core. And what a relief! When you visualize human life in this
way, you see those millions of forlorn souls slogging through life with the
unbearable burden of being judged wrong by their peers, even though their peers
have their blind spots as well. If yoga is not a way to throw off the tyranny
of such ignorance, it is nothing. To my mind the bound condition has never been
better expressed than by T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land:
Under the brown fog of a winter
A crowd flowed over London
Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had
undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were
And each man fixed his eyes
before his feet.
Paul asked what’s the point, and here is the answer. The
point is to get out from under the imaginary burdens we voluntarily carry
around with us all the time. Throw them down! They are worse than worthless.
Stop honoring them, as though some cruel god cursed you with them. No god is
involved, no matter what the good book says, only your neighbors who suffer
from the same delusions you do. Start a movement to get over it.
put this positively and beautifully: don’t take your stories so seriously! If
you cling to them they make you unhappy, they breed conflict. So let go!
Reality is much bigger than you realize. The mind wants to play in just the way
the body dances!
blessed us with another positive reframing. Although we have conflicts with our
friends and family, this isn’t about avoiding them. It’s not about living in
isolation. Interaction is stimulating. We are entwined with everyone,
interdependent. Learning from everything and everyone is another of our
happily, like Long Chen Pa we concluded with a paean to humor and forgiveness.
As Deb and Paul put it, everyone is a little kid inside. We don’t get upset if
a 5-year-old says something ridiculous, we think it’s cute. Why can’t we do
that for those with any number of years behind them? We are all, mean or kind,
really children at heart. Let’s go with kindness as the Prime Directive.
batted around what the Gita quote in the commentary meant: “establishing the
mind reflexively in the Self.” What is this reflexively? I have added quite a
bit about it in Part II, as it’s definitely important. I have also clipped in
the two marvelous sections of Love and
Blessings I read out for the closing meditation, Nitya’s account of his
life before conception. I was surprised that these weren’t totally familiar to
the class members, as they are foundational stories of the Gurukula, among
those many you can never read without being profoundly moved and gratified.
have after much thoughtful wandering arrived at the completion of another
amazing journey in the kind hands of our gurus. How lucky we are! Nitya’s
simple words incline before this grand moment:
In the next verse the non-dual
reality of brahma is established, and
with that both Nirvana Darsana and Darsanamala are concluded.
Be there or be square!
Because the world is not real there is nothing to be rejected
nor accepted. It is the Self that is real. Therefore, it is the Self that we
should attain to. One should know in the first instance that the Absolute is
true and the world is false. Thereafter one should meditate on the fact that
the Self is self-luminous.
are the two sections we read out from Love
and Blessings about Nitya’s time with Ramana Maharshi.
The first excerpt is something Nitya experienced
during the event described in the second:
I shall tell you how I was born. When an animal has a vertebral column running
beyond the length of its trunk, it becomes a tail. My memory also has a kind of
tail, rooted far beyond the trunk of this present life in the folds of the
prenatal past. Everyone’s consciousness begins from this prenatal region,
though only a few can recall it to mind.
I think of the cosmos, my mind spreads out into the infinity of what we know as
space and time. From the here and now it stretches out beyond the horizon to
the far fringes of outer space, lingering there in bewilderment since whatever
lies beyond our known existence can never be more than a vague supposition.
Similarly, as memory flows back from the present through the annals of history,
plunging ever deeper into the fossils of prehistory and myth, the mind once
again recoils on itself, unable to reach the beginning of time. And the
imagination shoots into the future, piling possibilities upon possibilities
until it too reaches a blind alley of bewilderment from an excess of
are the virtually immeasurable dimensions of our cosmos, the space-time
continuum. But the cosmos marks only one of the poles of the axis of truth. The
other pole or counterpart is marked by a point which has neither any dimension
or location. This pure, spaceless, timeless, nameless aspect is the individual
aspect of the all-embracing Absolute or Brahman. It throbs with a negative
dynamism. In fact the movement is so subtle that it cannot even be termed a
throb or a movement of any kind. Yet the negative charge precipitates the
fusion of its own spiritual spark with a positive impulse from within the
creative matrix of the cosmos.
an activated spark was the primal cause of my being. It became elongated as a
mathematical line without thickness, on which were strung all my previous
tendencies and talents. The pure ray which issued forth from the matrix of the
cosmos and the dimensionless point became colored and split in two. One half
became positively charged and attained the color of gold. The other was negatively
charged and became blue. The two rays passed through the entire gamut of time
and space, and through all names and forms and every kind of memory that anyone
had ever had, and entered the psychophysical orbit of Earth from opposite
directions. The golden ray circled the Earth clockwise and the blue ray circled
counterclockwise, and both of them entered opposite halves of a ripe
pomegranate. This very fruit happened to be in the garden of the haunted house
where Raghavan and Vamakshy Amma had recently taken up residence. Seeing the
fascinating glow of the fruit, Raghavan plucked it, cut it in two, and gave
half to his wife; both of them ate their share.
that mystic communion the negative ray of the spirit entered Raghavan’s soul,
while the positive ray spread itself throughout every part of his wife’s
organism. They became possessed of a great love for each other and felt a
strong need to cling together. During this loving consummation the two rays
again united and became a fertilized ovum. The dynamic rays, before becoming a
fetus, took from Raghavan twenty-three chromosomes with the qualities of
becoming poetic, intelligent, kind, open, frank, gentle and sensitive, and from
Vamakshy Amma the qualities of being willful, austere, forgiving, generous, and
so on. The fetus began to grow in the mother’s womb to eventually become the
present writer. (4-5)
was in 1948 during my summer vacation that I first went to see Ramana Maharshi.
As he was Dr. Mees’ guru, I went to him with great expectations. I had read
many accounts about him and considered it a rare opportunity to meet such a
is a hot place. One does not feel quite comfortable there. But the morning
hours are very fresh and lovely. The night abruptly comes to a close. This is
followed by the golden light of the sun embracing everything, which in turn is
accompanied by a very beautiful chanting of the priests.
Before going to see Ramana Maharshi
in the ashram, I wanted to get a feeling for the few places in town that were
associated with the early days of his tapas. I went first to the famous temple.
Even though I wasn’t much of a temple-going, deity-worshipping devotee, I stood
before the sanctum looking at the drowsy flames of the temple lamps in that
dark room. I kept absolutely still, imagining how the young Ramana first
entered the temple without a ceremonial bath, yet drenched by a rain that had
accidentally showered upon him. On the day I arrived, I was hoping to have a
similar shower, but it didn’t happen. Instead I perspired and my clothes were
as wet as if I had been standing in the rain.
were only a few people in the temple at the time. With someone’s help I found
the dark room in the basement where young Ramana had forgotten himself in bliss
for days on end. According to the stories I’d read, his buttocks had been eaten
away by ants or vermin. I went and sat in that sepulchral room, where a single
lamp burned with a steady flame.
felt tempted to go up onto the mountain and look at all the other places
mentioned in his biography, but my curiosity to see the Maharshi was so strong
that I went straight to the hall. There many people were seated around the
figure of the Maharshi, who was lazily squatting on a wooden cot with a
mattress on it. He was not conventionally dressed. He had only a t-string, like
the local farmers wore. Even before entering the ashram I had seen many young
and old people wearing t-strings, so when I saw Maharshi also wearing one it
didn’t surprise me. Under one arm he held a coiled white towel. On three sides
of his bed men and women squatted on the floor, while on the fourth side there
was a screen which served as a wall. Never in my life have I seen anyone so
completely exposed to the public, day and night.
Maharshi’s bed was at the end of a fairly large hall, which was full of people
most of the time. As everyone sat absolutely silent, you would never realize
there were so many people present until you entered. Even after seeing the
gathering you didn’t get the sense of being in a crowd, because each person was
so much drawn inward, absorbed in themselves. Some people sat with their eyes
closed. Many were dozing off. I saw a Catholic priest reading a book, probably
his Bible. There was an old Muslim fakir with a rosary in his hand. He was
counting the beads. From his lips I could see that he was silently muttering
something. An old lady was copying a passage out of a book into her notebook. I
saw a red-faced American whimpering, and occasionally sobbing and shedding
Maharshi sat erect. He looked like he was pondering over some abstract thought.
His head was shaking slightly. My first impression was of an old man mildly
suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
hero in those days was Swami Vivekananda. Like him I also worried about India’s
poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy, and its inability to organize dynamic work
projects for groups of people in order for India to buck up and get out of the
shackles of lethargy. The Maharshi sat before me like the concrete symbol of
a while I felt sorry I had come. I didn’t know why people were making such a
fuss over someone who was not giving people any incentive to work hard to make
India rich and beautiful. When the sun was about to set, I saw the Maharshi
getting up and going out of the hall for his routine walk. I was told that for
many years it had been his habit to walk around the hill. I followed him. He
only walked for a short while. Then he sat on a rock.
was just a change of place; otherwise he was exactly the same. People sat
before him just as they had done in the hall. After a wash, which was done out
in the open, he went back to his bed. Some Brahmins sat before him and chanted
from the Taittiriya Upanishad. They also chanted some Vedic hymns, which I
couldn’t immediately decipher. The atmosphere was very reverent and serene, but
my feeling persisted that the Maharshi was just lazy.
I had first come, I had stood before Maharshi and saluted him, but he didn’t
take any notice of me. Being a young man with a lot of self-esteem and ego, I
had wanted to impress everyone with my ability to chant the Gita. After a
couple of days of just sitting there quietly and anonymously I became very
bored, so I decided to leave. In India it is a custom not to approach or leave
a saint without offering some present, so I went out and bought some oranges. I
placed them on the ground near his feet and prostrated, even though I didn’t
have the least desire to bow before him. He took no notice of me. I thought he
was treating me like a shadow or a dead man. I was filled with resentment. I
wanted to walk away as though I had done nothing more than my duty.
some reason or no reason, I lingered there for a moment. Then what a wonder!
Maharshi’s gaze, which had been floating over my head, became slightly tilted,
and he looked straight into my eyes. It was as though two magnetic shafts were
coming towards me. Both struck me at the same time, right in the middle of my
heart. A great darkness began spreading around me, and I felt very dizzy. My
body started trembling. I couldn’t control myself. Soon it was as if my own
consciousness was an unflickering flame placed in the vastness of a lake of
sort of retrospection started unreeling my memory from the present to the past.
It was just like watching my life played out in reverse. I was riveted to the
scene, unable to move. Many things that had happened in my life passed before
my eyes. Soon I remembered being back in my mother’s womb. At one point I felt
a strong physical shaking, and remembered hearing that my mother had fallen off
a collapsing bridge while she was carrying me. I continued to retrogress, back
before my conception to my existence as a mathematical entity defined only by
vasanas and dharma. A great peace filled my entire being, as I became totally
absorbed in the interstices of the cosmic matrix. After many years of search I
had at last returned to the Source.
somebody tapped on my shoulder, and I came back to my senses. The Maharshi was
no longer before me, and the people in the hall were also gone. Everyone had
left for the dining hall. I was invited to come and eat. I walked as if in a
dream. To my utter surprise, when I got to the dining hall I saw that the leaf
on Maharshi’s right hand was not claimed by anyone. I was asked to sit there.
When food was served, Maharshi looked at my leaf as if to ascertain that every
item served to him was also being given to me.
that moment Ramana Maharshi was no longer a person to me. He was a presence, or
rather he was The Presence. He was that which I was seeking, and he was
everywhere. I needed no effort at all to be with him again. What held my heart
with an imperiential enchantment was neither the memory of a social person nor
the proximity of an unforgettable one. It was as if the duality between the
perceiver and the perceived had become merged in a single unitive phenomenon.
was how I met Ramana Maharshi for the first time. Thereafter I visited him off
and on until a few days before his mahasamadhi. (139-42)
rest of Nitya’s writings about the Maharshi, including his attendance at the
mahasamadhi, may be read here: http://aranya.me/uploads/3/4/8/6/34868315/nityas_time_with_ramana_maharshi.pdf.
on nirvana from the Integrated Science:
If someone prefers to live in the colder climates of Europe and
North America, such a preference need not necessarily be considered as binding
on a person who prefers the climate of the Equator. Both persons will be able
to communicate their preferences between themselves only when the implications
of the latitudes and longitudes of the cold regions and the Equator are
understood as belonging to the same Science. Each man thus conforms to his own
svadharma (the type of behaviour compatible with one's inner nature), while
trying to understand the same attitude in others who might be different from
him. No question of superiority or inferiority should arise, and a scientific
vision in this matter will help humans to live together in better harmony,
which is not a negligible factor in human life. (420)
The final definition of the Absolute (brahman) belongs to the larger context of
nirvana. As we see in the
penultimate verse, it is the result of a neutralization or normalization rather
than the result of an ascending or descending effort on the part of the
contemplative. As the verse clearly states, the Absolute is self- luminous and
sufficient unto itself. It emerges when it is left fully alone, as the Taoist
philosophers say. Our efforts, in whatever direction they are made, will only
spoil the case for the certitude proper to the normalized notion of the Absolute.
When normalization is accomplished, the Self-luminous nature of the Absolute,
of its own accord, becomes evident to the contemplative. There is an identity
between subject and object marking the term of the wisdom implied in the
Science of the Absolute. (422)
This should be paired with:
Open wisdom represents the plus side of the vertical axis,
which needs to be consciously cultivated. It cannot come by negative passivity.
quote from the Gita, “establishing the mind reflexively in the Self, without
thinking of anything whatever,” is part of the most comprehensive definition of
yoga in the Gita. It’s worth citing the whole section, from chapter VI:
state) where the (relational) mind attains tranquility, restrained through
continued cultivation of a yogic attitude, and where also the Self by the Self
in the Self enjoys happiness,
in which one cognizes the ultimate limit of happiness which can be grasped by
reason and goes beyond the senses, and established wherein there is no more
swerving from the true principle,
which, having obtained, there is no other gain thought of which could be
greater (in value), in which, when established, there is no swerving even by
should be known by the name of yoga: disaffiliation from the context of
suffering. Such a yoga should be adhered to with determination, free from
completely all desires originating in the will for particularized ends, curbing
the collection of sense-functionings on every side
slowly, activities should be brought to a standstill by reason steadily
applied, establishing the mind reflexively in the Self, without thinking of
causes the changeful, unsteady mind to go out (again and again), from each
such, restraining it (again and again), it should ever be led to the side of
a yogi, verily, of calmed mind, of pacified passion, who has become the
Absolute, free from all dross, comes to supreme happiness.
commentary on verse 25 may also be helpful:
activities to a standstill via the steady application of reason is the kernel
of the Gita’s meditation practice. Activities don’t stop by themselves; it
takes conscious intention to settle them down to a minimum. There is no
particular technique required to accomplish this; it is just something you put
your mind to. Krishna already gave Arjuna instruction in this toward the end of
the second chapter.
we act to correct imbalances, but very often we overreact to them, and so
perpetuate them negatively. Instead of “rushing off half-cocked” in this
manner, we are instructed to take a dispassionate look at the entire context.
To do this we must disengage from our initial impulse, shrug off our compulsive
need to always be right, set aside our habitual prejudices, and calmly examine
the situation from every imaginable perspective. At first this depletes our
actions of their hysterical or neurotic energies, and as we gradually become
more centered, the need to intervene to alter the inherent rightness of the
world drains away entirely.
writer Franz Kafka describes this aspect of meditation most poetically: “You do
not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not
even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The
world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will
roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Guru has translated this verse’s atma
samstham as “establishing the mind reflexively in the Self,” correctly
giving the sense of the Self perceiving the Self, as described in verses 5 and
6 above. Despite having forgotten our true nature, we are not in any way alien
to it. Most translations have something like fixing the mind on the Self, or
holding fast to the Self, as if it were other than us. The dictionary gives the
sense of residing or dwelling in the Self, and includes “standing together;
standing or staying or resting or being in; belonging to, based on; partaking or
possessed of; in the presence or midst of.” All these senses are germane. By
emphasizing the reflexive aspect, Nataraja Guru wants to preserve the sense of
dialectic resonance, where we are drawn into the Self by our natural affinity
with it, and not as invaders or explorers of a foreign land.
seekers strive to hold onto certain thoughts, or at least have some direction
in mind, while meditating. We gain much more by opening ourselves completely to
whatever influence the Self has to offer, by not thinking of anything at all.
Our thoughts automatically limit the range of our meditation. While actively
thinking and analyzing are valuable and important in a healthy discipleship or
field of study, we optimize our meditation by temporarily emptying our minds to
the maximum extent possible. Afterwards we can assemble the inspiration into a
comprehensible structure, if we are so inclined, and that can be very helpful
in our daily life.
section focusing on certitude deserves its own separate denotation. First off,
here’s a fuller reading from the beginning of ISOA about the importance of
seeking certitude and where it may be found:
SCIENCE seeks certitude. Man is naturally curious about two
fundamental problems, which are contained in the sentences: ‘Whence this
world?’ and ‘Who am I?’ When the first of these questions is kept in mind, we
may be said to limit our enquiry to the visible world, perceived or
perceptible. In its extended sense this domain can be said to comprise that of
a man puts to himself the question ‘Who am I?’, he has to do so with the
knowledge of factors which are not merely physical. He has to rely more on
concepts than on mere percepts derived from sense data. He introspects or
speculates on general ideas, mostly taken for granted by commonsense
experience. Such ideas are largely relied upon in the matter of arriving at any
degree of certitude in metaphysics, which is the other aspect of knowledge,
besides physics, under reference here.
whole vision vis-à-vis the physical world, together with his own subjective
experience, which is not experimentally demonstrable, thus emerges into view as
the legitimate and unified basis of our present enquiry, containing the domains
proper to physics and metaphysics. Physics is quantitative while metaphysics
may be said to be qualitative. If physics gives primacy to space, metaphysics
may be said to give primacy to time. If physics is phenomenal, metaphysics is
noumenal. If physics is relative, metaphysics tends to look at this relative
plurality in the light of something that is non-relative. When physics and
metaphysics, thus understood, are treated unitively, so that the certitude
contained in the one helps the certitude contained in the other by mutual
verification, we have the beginnings of a Science of the Absolute.
Science of the Absolute can be also called a Science of sciences, a Unified
Science, or an integrated body of knowledge. When such an enquiry is pushed
further, so as to yield a common notion serving as a normative reference for
all sciences, we then have a fully integrated Science of the Absolute.
in its progressive and triumphant march, and as it is now understood, is faced
with the problem of incertitude rather than the certitude which it thought it
was gaining. The inductivo- hypothetical approach to the formulation of
scientific laws or theories, based on calculations found permissible according
to prevailing practices in mathematics, yield at present varying pictures of
the physical world. Scientific myth-making is a danger to which we are becoming
more and more exposed. When science is thus being allowed to part company with
common sense, man becomes confused, both about what he should doubt as well as
what he should believe. A normative or integrated notion of the Absolute, such
as we have indicated above, can alone act as a regulative reference in this
matter. Thus, our attempt to give precision to the whole range of scientific
thought is not a fanciful undertaking. Science, even as understood at present,
both conceptual and perceptual factors, being a mixture of
calculations and observations.
added an Appendix to ISOA that collects references from Nataraja Guru’s
autobiography, including this:
Nothing absorbed my interest or activities at the end of
1965 and throughout 1966 more than the increasing of my inner agony to the
white heat required to actually begin and then finish the projected 1000-page
book: the Science of the Absolute. Every minute of my waking hours and
most of the subconscious state within light or deep slumbers at night was
filled with this non-event of thinking of expressing my thoughts in as clear
sentences or paragraphs as possible. The agony of ascent soon attained its peak
within me, but the 16th Convention of December 1965 called for some other work
connected with fully earthy matters like levelling the hilltop for a future
institute of a Science of the Absolute which had to be given its share of
pressure of effort was sustained by early morning, afternoon and night readings
and discussions in which many, including Celine and Romarin, were regularly
present at the site of the Brahma-Vidya Mandiram itself where a cabin had been
made for me with cement floor and asbestos sheet roofing. I carried my own big
box of reference books all round, Fred Haas and John Spiers joined the group at
Varkala on 23 December. The Convention programme, waxing stronger each year,
began on 26, its many items like homam (fire sacrifice), assemblies and
meetings, select reunions, classes and consultations going on as a seven days’
we did not relax the tense efforts to be able to actually begin the first
sentence of the book. The pressure was made to mount each day by our readings over
early morning cups of tea ‘that cheers but does not inebriate’. Thus we
suddenly found ourselves ready to actually pen the first sentence. Well begun
is always half done because a bad beginning can always entail endlessly brewing
troubles as the writing proceeds. The first sentence affords a peg on which
everything else hangs. Thus we hit upon the short and pithy sentence which by
its brevity was the mother of wit. It read, ‘Science seeks certitude’. This
beginning has augured well for us and has meant smooth sailing throughout.
in the Jnana Darsana (Vol. II, 219-20):
1. Apodictic, Dialectic and Intermediary Certitude
Science, as we have said at the very beginning, seeks
certitude. Absolute awareness in the total context of reason must contain all
the elements of certitude needed for making our inquiry of truth fully
scientific. It is the global approach as a whole without getting lost in its
ramifications that can lay bare the main lines of scientific reasoning in the
context of the Absolute. No kind of reasoning need be excluded from its scope,
but we should not lose sight of the forest because of the trees. In so far as
they can be fitted into a total whole, structural details of logical or even
syllogistic reasoning yielding only a feeble degree of truth may, however, be
profitably left out. The same holds true for quibbling, equivocation and
eristic and sophistic argumentation serving no fruitful purpose. Verbosity
should also be minimized.
avoid errors in thinking the main structural features should be kept in mind.
The choice between the innumerable possibilities and a singular impossibility
for the converse side, should be together envisaged. In guiding human thought
between the experimental and axiomatic poles of the total knowledge situation,
empirical control, rational method, critical scrutiny and intuition in matters
of pure possibility must all cooperate together. In this chapter Narayana Guru
presents his case for logic in his own way. He neither includes all the
elements of logical reasoning known in the West, nor all those known in India.
Instead he applies the principle of elimination of the extraneous with a
drastic love of order and simplicity.
reasoning in the context of Aristotelian logic has a certain element of feeble
certitude when it proceeds deductively from the general to the particular or
inductively from the particular to the general. Starting from premises or
postulates allowing for incertitude in themselves, the major, minor and middle
terms, when properly manipulated, can prove many things that are highly
questionable. Such a logical approach is only a feeble instrument for a fully
scientific method of reasoning.
Nitya’s In the Stream of Consciousness:
Bhoga and Yoga
were setting out on a long journey from the Nilgiri Mountains in South India to
Punjab in North India. As soon as we boarded the train, Guru said, “Man seeks
were still pushing each other aside to find their seats. Both inside and
outside the train there was a lot of noise, and the situation was absolutely
chaotic. But when I looked at Guru, he was sitting with his eyes half-closed,
absolutely oblivious of the shouting and disorder in the compartment.
pulled out my notebook and started writing. He continued, “Man is endowed with
reason. Like a crest-jewel, there shines in human reason the jewel of
discrimination that enables man to discern the true from the false, the
essential from the nonessential, the self from the nonself, and the transient
from the eternal. It is this discernment that brings certitude. Certitude
brings peace. In peace the duality of the self and the nonself is transcended,
at least momentarily. That moment of nondual silence is yoga.
alternates between bhoga and yoga. Sexual consummation marks the peak of bhoga,
and spiritual absorption arising out of true certitude marks the peak of yoga.”
is from my Gita commentary:
XVI, 24) Therefore
the scripture is your authority in deciding what should and should not be done.
Understanding what is indicated for guidance in scripture, you should do work
much thought, Nataraja Guru began his magnum opus, An Integrated Science of the Absolute, with the simple sentence
“Science seeks certitude.” Certitude is as mysterious as truth, and like it, is
susceptible to misplaced enthusiasm. We can feel quite certain about things
that are not at all true; in fact, history contains an unending litany of
people being motivated by certainty about matters that had tragic consequences
and which seem ludicrous in retrospect. The contemplative must be cautious
about the soaring sense of inner certainty and make sure it has a reasonable
basis. Although certitude is exactly what is sought, it must be doubted and
questioned, and held up to comparison with the accepted standards of wise
predecessors. Only if it matches those guidelines can it be considered
legitimate. As Mark Twain said, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you
into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
Gita is returning to solid ground after exploring the most sublime reaches of
human potential, preparing the student to reenter the actual world. Pure
spiritual intuition does not avail in all circumstances except in the rarest of
cases; for the majority of us—those who plan to maintain a measure of
connection with society—there should be external guidance available. While an
enlightened guru is an ideal guide, readily available scriptures fill that role
for most people most of the time.
dilemma of whether to surrender to outside advice or one’s inner promptings is
perennial, that is to say eternal. There is no hard and fast answer for it. We
have to enlist all our resources all the time in order to be on the safe side.
often even the wisest person will be puzzled as to the right course of action.
Rather than being led astray by the persuasive arguments of someone with a
vested interest, not excepting one’s own ego, the neutral wisdom of a scripture
may offer superior advice. At least advice worth considering. The ego can be
very convincing in rationalizing an unwise course of action. By comparing our
inner promptings with a widely admired hypothesis, we can be assured that the
desire is legitimate and beneficial rather than merely selfishness masquerading
the most important teachings of the Gita as a whole, scripture would have to be
considered a valuable adjunct to an intuitive connection with one’s true inner
nature, one’s dharma.
can’t help but think that the Gita may be offering itself as an eminently wise
scripture to be attended to. While we are aware of Godel’s second
incompleteness theorem, which asserts that systems asserting their own consistency
are inconsistent, we can bring our own judgment to bear as well. The Gita most
definitely provides ample encouragement for a penetrating and open-ended
excursion into the nature of reality. It doesn’t have to blow its own horn.
Sipping its sublime nectar is convincing enough.
how about this from Swami Tanmaya, from his article Blending The Spiritual And Temporal In The Sanskrit Compositions Of
Narayana Guru, in the Autumn 2009 issue of Gurukulam Magazine:
We live in an age of science; our minds are disciplined
through logic, reasoning, and the principles of science; somewhere there is
also the code of conduct for a peaceful life, outlined by our intuitive and
imaginative ancestors. The mystical language of mythology and the hidden
language of temple imagery interest modern persons as a source of practices to
balance the mind, to free it from stress. Science seeks certitude, knowing that
faith helps to go beyond to the unknowable Absolute. The subconscious mind
molds symbols of both specific and universal character; the symbols in temple
iconography are coupled with wisdom hymns in the light of absolutist vision to
help us to become more harmonious. Contemplative reflection of philosophical
works, it is hoped, will bring us closer to the certitude necessary for
adopting a neutral stand between revalued traditional wisdoms and modern life.
And here, the fruits of Narayana Guru’s labors in clarifying the dross of the dharma
sastras into pure wisdom are ours to partake of.