our wrap-up we read out each darsana as a unit, thought about it for a moment
and then shared our impressions. It turned out to be more stimulating than
anticipated, so we only covered the first half. We will finish next week,
before taking a break of unknown duration.
opened with an appreciation of the extraordinary value of a work such as this
at a time such as this, when the public dialogue is plumbing new lows. What a
desert for the soul, if not the body itself! It is eminently refreshing to
spend time with an intelligent proposition that invites us to bring our best
brain- and heart-work into play. Reading each darsana out made it clear how
essential an incisive interpretation was, as the original is almost infinitely
allusive, requiring a knowledge base that none of us even comes close to
having. Even after a lifetime of association with Darsanamala, I was reminded
how on my own I would have NO IDEA what Narayana Guru was trying to get across.
As always, it seems, Nataraja Guru and Nitya were crucial in gradually
converting his celestial vision into a comprehensible format.
not skip these paltry notes take an hour to review the verses on your own and
see what occurs to you? I’m not able to pass along a comprehensive sharing from
last night, but only some intimations, but that’s okay, because the reflective
process is valuable for each student to do on your own. We have delved so
deeply examining the trees that we seldom stepped back to admire the forest.
Now as we are receding toward a new adventure, why not take a last look at the
spectacular wilderness from which we are just emerging?
the first darsana, Cosmic Projection, the most important point to be aware of
is that Narayana Guru is not presenting a creation myth of his own here, though
it resembles one. He is limiting the purview of his modern Upanishad to the
consciousness of the seeker, switched on at the dawn of consciousness, switched
off at sunset, though that fateful date isn’t precisely defined. How the
universe came to be is an interesting speculation that could draw our focus
away from more important issues for millions of years. In order to gain mental
and spiritual balance, we have to limit ourselves to plumbing who we are and
how we relate to what we encounter. Let others argue about chickens and eggs.
The projection of the Supreme Lord documented here is therefore our projection, and the Guru suggests
that the world as we know it arises from the actualization of our own latent
potentials. It is extremely revolutionary to “bring the war back home,” to
redirect speculation inside to where it is projected outward instead of
imagining it as battalions of external forces impinging inward. This is truly
the first significant step toward reclaiming our sovereignty.
depends on this type of inward focus, whereas the notion of an external source
is the basis of fear and contraction. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad famously
speaks of the overwhelming fear of the Unknown experienced by the First Person.
Only when it realized there is no Other did the fear evaporate. Fear is fear of
the Other, and in self-realization we learn there is no such thing as the
Other. It is a projection of our own imagination. The Guru counsels, “When
Self-knowledge shrinks, then ignorance is fearful.” Our present world
catastrophe provides an excellent example of how demonization of the Other
leads to chaos and conflict, both within and without, and external solutions
merely get us deeper into the morass.
had an interesting take on the shrinking of Self-knowledge and the fear it
engenders. The straight up reading is that when we forget our true Self and
confer sovereignty on an external world-projection, even though we imagine it to
be “us,” we lose our ground and become like living ghosts, animated
reflections. Paul offered a kind of reverse version, that forgetting our
individual self likewise leads us to dependency on an imagined (projected) and
thus unreal Source. Actually, this line of reasoning can lead us to see how
self and Self, individual and Absolute, are in essence the same. The full Self
constitutes a spectrum, with one pole the individual and the other the
totality. In a realized state these are no longer separable. You can’t take
something out of totality and still call it that!
second darsana addresses Truth by the Consistent Refutation of the False, a
wise policy if there ever was one. Narayana Guru starts us off by agreeing that
if we accept the world as real, we will necessarily accept its material basis.
If we deny its reality, we will recognize it as an evolute of consciousness.
The eighth verse gives away his position: “Consciousness alone, not another,
shines; therefore, there is nothing other than consciousness.” The shiningness constitutes
reality, as Jan was quick to point out. Narayana Guru continues in no uncertain
terms: “what does not shine—that is unreal; and what is unreal—that does not
shine.” Only ananda—pure happiness—shines as real. To Jan this meant that truth
is nothing other than happiness, which makes her happy to hear. She noted how
we’re naturally drawn to the connection with bliss, which is our true Self.
Guru concludes with the warning that “he who sees this as many goes from death
to death.” If we know the ground of existence (consciousness), the many become
superficial aspects of oneness, transient phenomena. It reminded me of
Claymation, short for Clay Animation, a Portland invention, where an animated
film is made using clay for the transformations. We watch as the clay takes on
bizarre and fascinating forms and then resolves back into its unmanifested
basis as lumps of clay, only to be given another form, and another.
“going from death to death” part is vividly evidenced in our modern world. When
we mistake parts of the whole as other than us, we are led to demonize them,
which is liable to evoke hatred in us, especially if our religion or favorite
radio (or twitter) host exacerbates the division. We simultaneously make other
lives miserable, and unknowingly leap into the pit of misery alongside them.
Hate is a kind of death, where so much is lost, and it feeds on itself, so
Narayana Guru’s advice is by no means overdrawn.
awareness leads naturally to the third darsana, A Vision of Nonexistence, where
Narayana Guru tears down the edifices of our deranged imaginations of
separateness. Extending the clay analogy, the different religions might worship
a cup or a bowl or an abstract clay-art icon, but it is ridiculous to argue
which is the “right” form of the clay. If you know it is all clay, then you
simply marvel at the forms that different groups are drawn to, and you might
even come to understand why. If you insist that your particular form is the
only right one, the only one approved by God, then you are foredoomed to
conflict. Humans even go to war with themselves, when what they love is not
approved by the (imaginary) guardians of normality.
being central to all this mental churning, we meet it even before the fourth
darsana, which is explicitly named for maya. Paul has learned that maya is independent
of how we think of it. He cautioned that by making the unreal—maya—real, we
miss the reality of the Absolute, since they are intimately linked. We then
superimpose our own predilections by making maya an end in itself.
this is true enough, we also recalled our new framing: maya is most often
imagined as illusion, but in this study we have converted it to lila: play or
divine sport. Illusion has a negative cast, while sport or play is decidedly
positive. Demonizing maya tends to enhance the dualism, where accepting it
makes a unitive attitude more attainable. Here the subtext is to be kind to
yourself. We harbor within ourselves a history of being told we aren’t right,
that we need to reform to become what God (or his “servants” on earth) meant us
to be. This is a prime example of the very unreality Narayana Guru is trying to
free us from.
added that involvement with our projected world is inescapable, implying that
flailing to break free is not going to get us anywhere. We aren’t learning to
escape maya, but to wear it proudly, by comprehending our predicament in ways
that are liberating rather than enslaving. We have all been bequeathed ample
amounts of binding concepts, but few enough that are freeing. In case we
haven’t mentioned it yet, Darsanamala is incontrovertibly aimed at liberation.
led us to think about the last verse especially:
One is real, not a second;
unreal indeed appears to be real;
sivalingam is stone alone,
a second made by a sculptor.
Sadly, we tend to think of the One in abstract terms, making
it into a vestige of its true self. A projection. And we mistakenly accord
reality to the transient waves that are presently impacting our senses. Narayana
Guru epitomizes this confusion as our worshipful attitude about icons. We imbue
our icons with meaning, not realizing that the meaning resides in us, and so
could be projected onto anything and everything. That might be forgivable, but
in our ignorance we are poised to fight over whose version is the “true” one.
We would be better off to learn how and why another person projects their
version of truth, and to stop feeling threatened by it. This attitude requires
being comfortable in our own understanding first, before we can offer it to our
morphed easily from there into the Maya Darsana, which Nitya describes as A
Vision of Non-being Beingness, to openly proclaim the paradoxical nature of the
subject. Deb affirmed that without maya we don’t have a world. Paradoxical or
not, we are not sorry that existence exists. It’s a very good game. Too bad we
are left to guess at the rules, but it does give us plenty to argue about.
Maybe we could adopt Maya Prevents Boredom as a slogan.
we knew it we slipped on into the Bhana Darsana, A Vision of Awareness. The key
idea is the simultaneous projection of subject and object as two sides of the
grand coin of the universe, fluttering alternately like the invisible wings of
a zooming bee.
is getting around to the realization that our sense of self is a construct made
in response to sensory stimuli, and not any absolute abiding reality. The
resultant ego is just a small but itchy pimple on the cheek of the psyche. This
is just like what the Bhana Darsana holds: from a unitive seed state the self
and what it perceives arise together as inverse aspects of each other,
producing something out of nothing. It’s the original miracle of existence: how
to make an infinite universe out of a half ounce of imagination.
perspective refutes the conceit of science that it can confine itself to a
wholly objective version of anything. Subject and object are always paired.
What we have is a sliding scale where one or the other is more dominant, but
they still interlace and are dependent on each other. More than dependent, they
are two aspects of one thing. What we call attaining the Absolute is getting to
the place where we can take a vacation from the eternal projective paradox of
analyzing the world and simply enjoy it as it is.
whispers the hint that trying to wring out all subjectivity from our
understanding is as ridiculous and unbalanced as trying to subtract all
objective aspects from our subjective state. Then we can believe whatever we
want! (Sound familiar?) The really healthy condition is to have objective and
subjective reality—or what are popularly known as facts and opinions—integrated
and in balance, each influencing the other to remain in harmony. The more they
are in harmony the “truer” they are, by the way.
of the bee analogy, I recounted my old story of coming off a psilocybin trip in
my youth. I was asleep yet still under the influence, apparently, because as I
awoke in the morning I found myself in a state where the fluttering of the
wings of the mind-bee was greatly slowed down. I would see my room as normal
for a few seconds, and then it disappeared and was replaced by a white,
featureless light for the same interval, and then back to the room,
continuously alternating. It was mindblowing, as we used to say. The room was
obviously not really there, and there was nothing to the light but, well,
light. Gradually the back and forth flashing sped up, faster and faster. It
looked like a movie projection flickering at a too-slow speed, and then it got
up to full speed and the flickering ended. I was back to the “reality” of my
room, grateful to be home, and very glad to have had a glimpse into how my
world was assembled. The experience lay more or less unprocessed in my mind
until my editing work on Darsanamala some 15 years later.
was quite taken with the last verse, especially the last half: “what is
superimposed, that is unreal; what is not superimposed—That alone is real.” It
made her realize that whatever you might be devoted to, you ultimately realize
it comes from your own subjective predilection. There is so much more going on
than we normally are aware of.
always happy to pass by That Alone one more time—the boldest of the sources of
the title of Nitya’s masterwork among masterworks, as the pendent jewel at the
very heart of the garland of Darsanamala.
recalled the wonderful story of when Nitya was impelled by Ramana Maharshi to
go back through his life to before he was born, all the way to the beginning of
the universe, as related in Love and
Blessings. Nitya’s intellect had nothing to do with making it happen, but
that does not mean the intellect has no legitimate role in a life worth living.
His intellect did serve for making sense of what happened, retaining it, and
communicating it to the rest of us. There are times when being “intellect free”
is of value, but it does not follow that our intellect has no place in the
game. I think the Bhagavad Gita’s trajectory is just about perfect: a long
preparation period where you, with guidance, discipline the mind to have an
intelligent focus, leading to a brief but intense period of direct, unmediated
experience, which is gradually processed to integrate it into a newly
constituted, ongoing expertise in daily life.
that concludes the half of the study devoted to deconstruction. We will knit it
all back together in the final session next week. This is the last chance for
those in the hinterlands to contribute their thoughts as well. I often wonder
if anyone is still listening. I hope at least you are celebrating the glorious
uplifting vision bequeathed us by our estimable trinity of gurus. You won’t be
seeing it reported on the evening news, that’s for sure!
all our regulars were in attendance for the final session, except for three
exploring various mountain ranges in Oregon and Peru. The awe of being in the
presence of a very great work of art permeated the atmosphere, as we took a
last generalized view of the second half.
overall pattern needs to be kept in mind. The first half Darsanamala
deconstructed the known universe, leaving nothing but That Alone, code for the
Absolute. The second half begins with the widest possible ambit within That
Alone and gradually closes the gap, resolving it back into unity.
Deb said of the Karma Darsana, dealing with cosmo-psychological functioning, it
isn’t really about karma or action, meaning it isn’t a manual for any kind of
proper action. The Guru wasn’t into such things! He was well aware that
specifying behavior leads to exactly the opposite of the freedom he was trying
to impart to us. He felt if we grasped the principles underlying action and how
they all worked, we would be prepared to make wise decisions on our own. What
he teaches (reminds) us of in the sixth darsana is that karma is done by the
Absolute. We imagine we are the
actors, doers and enjoyers, but we are taking credit for way more than the 1%
we are actually capable of influencing.
Guru wants us to give credit where credit is due: we are being swept along in a
tide, and our part in it is simply to hold our head up so we don’t drown,
metaphorically speaking. Claiming ownership of the tide and erecting tollbooths
is absurd, yet here we are.
just finished Michael Pollan’s spine-tingling new book, How to Change Your Mind, about psychedelics and what
has made of them up till now. Science is finally catching up with the rishis of
thousands of years ago! (The rishis are still ahead, however.) Briefly, the default
mode network (DMN) is a constellation of brain functions that appear to produce
the sense of self: the ego or I-sense. It’s a centrally important hub of
coordination, but it also screens out most creative options, relying instead on
the tried and true. What was good enough for grandpa is good enough for me—that
sort of thing. Under the influence of LSD and other psychedelics, the DMN goes
quiet, and furthermore the quieter it gets the more the voyager reports a
blissful loss of self and consequent gain of experiencing oneness with All. It
seems that beyond our ego boundaries—strictly enforced and maintained by the
DMN—is the realm within us of universal oneness and love. Reconnecting with
this brings about the psychedelic “miracle cures” of the malaises of excessive
self-control: depression, addiction, fearfulness, and so on, as well as the
liberating sense of freedom that impels the creative drive in those who don’t
suffer so much from an overdominant ego.
Karma Darsana can be readily interpreted as addressing exactly the same
structural scheme, with the Supreme Self referring to the whole brain or mind
at large, and ignorance residing in the DMN. Wisdom dwells in the unfettered
totality, and the Guru tells us how to identify the interloper in the tenth
verse: “Because ‘I’ is seen as an object of awareness, I-consciousness is also
a superimposition.” Our ego is the impostor, and we have cast our lot with it,
to the exclusion of our full beingness.
meditators and young children show the same pattern of a quieted or undeveloped
ego as the trippers, under MRI observation. Andy talked about how meditatively
observing your breath draws you into a nondual state. In a sense this is a
practice meant to achieve realization, but he has a problem with the concept of
practice, implying as it does a means to an end. I suggested the word practice has two senses, and the one he
wanted was more like medical practice, where practice simply means acting with
expertise. We also practice skills in order to achieve a future result, but
that is a different business. From a Vedantic standpoint, even that kind of
practice should be made vivid in the present, the difference being that we
aren’t ready to treat a patient or audience with our skills yet, even though the
bliss is already at full throttle.
also weighed in on karma, reading out a paragraph from his recent response to
the online Gita study. We are currently in the third chapter, Karma Yoga. Prabu
Before we jump into permissive
action with greater freedom, one more concept needs to be digested.
Sacrifice. Remember the verses [9-17] focuses on sacrificial ritualism.
“Outside of activity with a sacrificial purpose, this world is bound by
action.” The sacrifice mentioned in this verse is different than the
ritualistic offerings people make to God while they pray for their wishes to
happen. It is just a means to achieve some end. On the contrary,
the sacrifice mentioned is an act justified as an end in itself. It is
equated with the phenomenon of rain. “ Food is the cause of the beings, and
from rain food is produced; sacrifice has its effect in rain, and sacrifice has
its origin in action”. Guru Nitya, in his commentary extends this
analogy to cosmic principle in general by relating it to the radiation of star,
the wafting of a breeze or the blooming of a flower. All these natural
phenomenons doesn’t have any secondary motives other than the mere
action. Clouds doesn’t rain to give drinking water to humans or to give
life to aquatic beings. Sun doesn’t shine to grow plants. Like wise, the
motives for human action should be inherent in the action itself.
So employing a means to an end is DMN (ego) at work; uniting
them is the role of the Self. Which led us right into the Jnana Darsana, examining
consciousness and its modifications.
continued the equation of Pollan’s neurology with the Garland (the DM and the
DMN?), especially with the first two verses, where the conditioned state is
brought about by I-consciousness and its consequent awareness of “This” outside
of itself. Unconditioned knowledge is devoid of I-consciousness, constructed in
modern parlance by the DMN. The terminology is different, but the concepts are
surrendered his ego pride in deference to a simple leaf falling from a tree,
wondering how it performs such a simple, mindless act so perfectly, while he
strives and studies and tries and fails, and remains as a stumbling bumbler? As
he well knows, the answer is right here: park the ego, the DMN, and travel into
the fullness of your being. While working on that, remind yourself that you
already do many things harmoniously, without thinking about them. It’s when you
try to craft new behavior using the ego and all its pre-established
requirements that the stumbling happens. Invite the Self to participate more,
and it will enlarge its presence in your life gradually but steadily. To me
this is the best meditation.
heartfelt offering got me thinking about another aspect of Pollan’s trajectory
in his book. He’s a plant person, and his trips made him more aware of how
intelligent plants are, not in the way humans are intelligent, but definitely
and demonstrably. I have been feeling that more and more lately, as if the
plant world is a presence begging us humans to wake up before we destroy
everything, on top of their everyday intelligent behavior of things like eating
sunlight and converting it to food for everyone. I’m hearing them now in an
intuitive way, too. Pollan also reported on a mushroom expert, Paul Stamets,
who lives a couple of hours north of here. His 15 minute TED talk includes some
fascinating threads of fungal intelligence: https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world.
I think he concurs with some of us that ingesting magic mushrooms may well have
contributed to the leap of consciousness that propelled Homo sapiens to
self-awareness leading to global dominance. Now we desperately need one more
leap, back into global harmony.
read out part of the thrilling last paragraph of the Jnana Darsana, here
reproduced in full. Keep in mind that psychologic refers to I-consciousness and
cosmologic to the awareness of external objects:
The imperiential union
of the psychologic and the cosmologic indicated in the present verse is not a
knowledge that is one among many items of information that one gains through an
act of ratiocination or by dualistic cognition. It is a tremendously sweeping
and overwhelming denial of all the limiting adjuncts of an individuated self.
After one has embraced this indescribable union, even when the previous
individuation returns it does not gain the dynamic status of an ego-centered
individual again. Both the psychologic ‘I’ and the cosmologic ‘other’ are
reduced to mere appearances, and a strong bond of union prevails as a
substratum for the superimposition of both ‘I’ and the ‘other’. This knowledge
has the existential verity of irrefutability and the subsistential transparency
of a boundless Self-knowledge that is not alienated anywhere as a part torn
off, or even modulated as an objectivization of any kind. In its absolute
value-content it is intensely ecstatic, which can be poorly illustrated by such
examples as the total union which is experienced in love. Finite experiencing
of love between two people is prized above everything because that is the
nearest individuals can arrive at with their conditioned knowledge to the
appreciation of the blissful nature of the Self nondifferentiated from the
Absolute. It is this blessed state that is going to be dealt with progressively
in the next three darsanas.
Jan was delighted that the “boundless Self-knowledge” is
“intensely ecstatic.” And who wouldn’t be? Making this out as drudgery and
tedium in order to crush the ego with boredom is not the route we’re taking,
though that is a perversely popular one. And too, plenty of puritanical souls
are offended that seeking truth could ever be joyful. For them, the presence of joy is ipso facto proof of sin.
For us, however, it is evidence of success, of getting it right.
you might have guessed, we were already running out of time for a fair
treatment of the last three darsanas. I’m going to include a longer summary I
wrote a few years back, in a separate document that I finally located. I meant
to include it for each darsana as we went along, but it fell through the
cracks, which in my case are more like yawning fissures. Who knows what else
has fallen through? Okay, where were we? Oh yes, going to bhakti.
the Bhakti Darsana, dealing with contemplative devotion, Deb mentioned how we
are used to loving something, some thing, but this darsana is about love
without any object. Love that just is. Psychonauts report it as the ground of
consciousness they encounter on trips. Love without an object is utterly
different than love of one.
brought up Alison Gopnik, who has studied the brain activity of young children,
and tested those old enough to take simple tests. She has found that
4-year-olds are better than adults at solving the kind of problems requiring
unanticipated answers, because they are more flexible in their thinking. Again,
unrigidified children enjoy the kind of contemplative consciousness we are
trying to recover in our little study group.
Guru gives the essence of bhakti in the eighth verse, just before his final two
verses honoring the wonderful people and principles that shape our ineffable
the wise man sees everywhere
but the joy of the Self—
even a little of anything else.
bhakti indeed is the highest.
This is not a mindless joy that turns its back on the tragic
realities of the world, but one energized precisely by his care for the
unnecessary suffering we endure and inflict on our fellow beings. We follow him
because this is the finest contribution we can possibly make to ameliorate
misery, both within and without.
the ordinary perspective, yoga leads to bhakti, but as Nataraja Guru has pointed
out, in Darsanamala bhakti is the precursor, because yoga is not a means to a
goal, but a fully realized way of life, where dualities are always united.
Bhakti retains a gap between worshipper and worshipped, but true yoga no longer
makes that distinction. It’s a small point but one with vast implications. Deb
nicely described yoga as merging in neutrality.
is therefore described as transpersonal union in the Darsanamala. Transpersonal
union is a term created by and for the psychedelic community, Nitya would be
irritated to learn. But it simply means there is more here than we realize:
reality is bigger than we are. We come together when we transcend the
boundaries of our personal space.
was pondering sankalpa and pratyahara, which mean being limited to
egotistical concerns and transcending them, respectively. He could see that sankalpa leads to conflict, as you fight
to bring about what you want, while pratyahara
resolves conflicts. He was reminded of the Gita’s famous call to lift the self
by the Self, to have the Self support the self at all times, etc. For Andy this
was a cleansing process. Unitive cleansing. Deb shared the paragraph relating
to this issue, and thereby properly defining yoga, on page 417:
Even after receiving the secret instruction
tat tvam asi, “That thou art,” from
one’s teacher, one may not become a yogi unless this consciousness of the union
of the subject and object is continuously realized by perpetuating the
retentive idea “That thou art.” This is not possible unless one empties oneself
of one’s ego. Personal ego is an aggregate of memories called vasana, and it is
always active to produce volitional imagery. This is called sankalpa. Sankalpa is the root cause of
all human miseries. An effective step in withholding from being influenced by
the vasanas is returning again and
again to the true nature of the Self. This withdrawal is called pratyahara. When once the Self is seen
through an act of samyam, the Self
can be seen in all and as all. When there is nothing extraneous to attract or
distract, consciousness becomes steady and samadhi
is achieved. Thereafter one does not experience the duality of the subject and
the object. Such a state is praised as yoga.
As darkness fell and duties began to call us back to activation,
we descended into the Nirvana Darsana, the vision of extinction. We had barely
time left for a brief meditation, but it was amplified by Deb recounting an
astonishing dream of a friend. It was brought on by a short discussion of how
in psychedelic journeying, as well as ordinary therapy for that matter, you are
instructed that if you encounter something terrifying, go toward it. Don’t run
away. Ask it what it is trying to tell you about your psyche. It you run it
grows stronger, if you face it, it will lose its fearful aspect. Here’s Deb’s
friend hates and fears snakes even more than most people do. He has been under
tremendous stress lately, and recently dreamt of entering a room filled with
thousands of baby snakes. He was horrified and stomped wildly on them all,
killing them. The next thing he knew, a huge snake came through the door and
slithered toward him. It rose up to his height and looked him straight in the
eyes. “I am their mother, and because you killed my children I will kill you!”
This got our friend’s full attention. “You have only one alternative.” The
snake crawled under his shirt and wound up to his neck. “I am going to stay
here with my mouth around your neck—forever! Otherwise, I will have to kill
you.” He had no alternative but to surrender to the embodiment of his fear. As
soon as he accepted that he was doomed to have a giant snake stretched up his
body, fanged mouth open around his throat, forever, the snake disappeared. And
then he awoke.
an example of dream therapy at its best, with a touch of nirvana thrown in for
usually takes a severe shock to pry us out of the comforts of our default mode,
our ego-centered existence. As anyone who has had the good fortune to have that
kind of breakthrough and understand it, reports it brings utterly blissful
relief to wriggle out from under the thumb of our resident dictator, if only
for a short while.
Darsanamala Narayana Guru has done everything he can for us. And now he has
handed us the ball. Play well!
profound thank you to all unindicted co-conspirators for accompanying us on
this journey. Aum, and good night.
is a “beginner” in an unusual sense of the term. Quite an advanced beginner….
He has contributed an excellent survey of the first darsana. It’s one of those
quirks of fate that we are closing the show just as a knowledgeable person
walks onstage. Yet everyone is welcome to share their thoughts pertaining to
the big picture any time—don’t ever feel constrained to address only the
immediate subject. Baiju wrote:
Read the study notes received by email. It is a good
experience to read them - the experience shared by the serious learners of
Darsanamala. Meanwhile, I completed a reading of the first darsana – a blissful
experience to the extent I understood. My ignorance of Psychology and Western
Philosophic terms makes me a little handicapped. Maybe I can pick them up as I
I liked the idea of a wrap-up discussion based on each
darsana. As a beginner, I can get the substance of each darsana. Having read
the class notes, I feel like pitching in and sharing with you my related
thoughts and understanding; I hope they are not much off-track:
A samnyasi in Kerala made a comment a few years back
that the original verses of Darsanamala are almost of aphoristic nature. The
statement implies that a prior knowledge of the Upanishads and preferably the
instructions of a Guru followed by deep contemplative meditation would take a
seeker to get the full grasp of what the Guru implied. I consider myself
fortunate that I have now at least the longing to learn Darsanamala.
Once a seeker realizes the truth behind the Cosmic
Projection his goal is achieved. An oft-repeated analogy in Vedanta for the
Cosmic Projection is that of a mirage. We can clearly see with our own eyes the
shining ripples of a pond-like mirage. But from experience we know that our
eyes are tricked by that magical scene. It’s a convincing example that proves
the fallacious nature of our sensory perceptions.
We, the humans, are fortunate to have our intellect
illuminated by the Atman. Applying the intellect, we can extrapolate the
anomalous sensory behaviour in the mirage experience and appreciate the Cosmic
Projection. Then we have the words of Narayana Guru and the Rishis of the
Upanishads, based on their own experience of becoming one with the Absolute
(the state of Samadhi or Turiya), that the Universe is just a vivarta
(superimposition), and the Cosmic Projection would vanish when the Truth (the
Absolute) is revealed - nothing else prevails.
In the very first verse of the first Darsana, Narayana Guru
says the entire universe is projected as in a dream just by the sankalpa
(will) of Parameswara (the Absolute).
The incipient memories and the latent potentials (vasanas)
form the repository of the content of the projected Cosmos. The individuated
beings also have sankalpa, and the incipient memories and the
latent potentials “inherited”. The Cosmic Projection appears to be true to the
individual as long as the sankalpa exists in his mind and it draws from
the repository of vasanas. Should we successfully inhibit the sankalpa,
then we naturally turn inward and start getting the vision of the Absolute.
Can we do that? If so, how? This is where the intellect has to be prudently
applied by a seeker. Why does sankalpa keep rising from the vasanas of an
individual? Because of desires. Why desires? Because he is still not convinced
that the physical body (both gross and subtle – which includes the mind and the
intellect) is not “I”’ or at least he keeps forgetting this truth. He is not
able to separate his self from the body and treat the body separately (the ones
who have the intent to do so keeps forgetting it). Obviously then he takes
bodily pleasures and pains as his own and gives them serious attention. The way
to do it is to have sraddha (complete faith in the sruti and the
Guru’s wisdom teaching) and direct the intellect on a continuous basis to
consciously ignore (not cutting them off by force) the pleasures as well as the
pains of the worldly life. Our sankalpa (will) is always about the
acquisition of various means of pleasure and avoiding the causes of pain in
accordance with the vasanas. Now if pleasures and pains are of no
concern to us there are no desires; therefore there is no motivation for the
mind to dwell on sankalpa. The vasanas will get sublimated; they
can surface only with the rise of sankalpa which has already been
obviated as the self has become desire-free.
Now if we continue successfully to stay indifferent to
pleasures and pains (directing the intellect by design to start with) and get
used to that way of living, we have nothing much tangible to receive from this
phenomenal world. The objects of the senses do not mean anything to us. The
natural result will be for us to turn inward (the state called antarmukhatvam).
One usually struggles to achieve one-pointedness in meditation which also
now becomes natural as there are no objects of interest in the external world.
The intellect will go still too. What is left is nothing but pure
consciousness; consequently one starts experiencing the Atman and gradually the
individuated self merges into the Atman. The self transforms into Saccidanandam.
Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th century saint of Bengal
in India, used to advise his disciples: when a thorn is stuck underneath your
foot, you remove it with another thorn, and then throw away both the thorns.
Here the thorns are the sankalpa (which is mind itself) and the
intellect, both of which are parts of the physical body.
Our physical body is part of the external world, which
everybody often forgets. And if the Universe is a superimposition over the
Absolute, the physical body is also a superimposition.
It has been pointed out earlier that pains and pleasures are
experienced by the physical body, the gross and the subtle (the mind and the
internal sensory systems being parts of the subtle body). So the goal is to
make the mind and sensory system still, and ignore them completely. The
practice of dama, dana and daya (self-control, self-sacrifice, and
compassion towards all the manifestations of the Self respectively) recommended
by the rishis would further help solidify the state of indifference or
equanimity in the face of pleasures and pains of worldly life.
Maya is the wondrous power latent in the Absolute. It is
like an accomplished magician’s ability to show amazing items of magic to the
spectators. The Cosmic Projection is the super-magic of Maya; elsewhere
Narayana Guru himself referred to the Cosmic Projection as a mahendrajala
Learning and practicing to maintain the awareness, without
even a moment’s break, that the physical body (including the mind) is not
“I” is a key exercise for a seeker.
After the consecration of a temple in Kerala, Narayana Guru
composed a prayer in prose for the benefit of those who wanted to contemplate
on the Paramatma (the Absolute). The following few lines from the prayer
(a rough translation) appear to me the essence of the thoughts I am trying to
O Lord, whatever I see with my eyes are not real (and
therefore not eternal). This body is as ephemeral as a bubble in the water.
Everything is nothing but a dream. I am not the physical body, but knowledge
(pure consciousness). I am verily that knowledge which existed even before this
body took shape. And even after this body is gone I will continue to shine (be
luminous) the same way. Birth, death, poverty, sickness and fear – none of
those will dare to touch me. Please let me have your grace to meditate without
even a moment’s break on such wisdom words being advised and the Absolute
who is the advisor.
Aum tat sat.