Nitya Teachings

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Maya Darsana


What is not known, that is maya; it alone shines as many forms: vidya, avidya, para, apara, tamas, pradhana, and prakriti. (IV, 1)


  One of our rare summer evenings, with a light breeze, sitting on the porch and watching the sky do its psychedelic performance, vibrating with intensity.

  Verse one lays out eight terms that will be taken up one by one in the course of the darsana, with maya itself making two appearances. These are mostly tools for continuing the process of distinguishing the real from the unreal, but with more direction aimed at finding the pearl in the oyster so to speak. We will be enabled to discern the truthful basis of our superimpositions of falsehood, as Nitya puts it. We are now beginning to turn away from falsehood and towards truth in our overall study program.

  Like a garland, Darsanamala resembles an inverted arch. It drops down rapidly into the phenomenal from the noumenal, then gradually begins to bend from the negative to the positive, simultaneously slowing its descent. The turning point in the exact middle is Aum Tat Sat: That Alone is real. That Alone again! Afterwards it moves upward with increasing alacrity, sweeping up to disappear once again in the Nirvana Darsana, the tenth.

  We are in an exciting moment in the unfoldment of Darsanamala, but considering the slow pace we take with it, we had a few ripples of impatience in the group last night. Where is the truth in all this? True, on the surface we’re wallowing in the vines that encircle us, but it is essential to recognize you’re bound before trying to become free. Otherwise it is likely to be an imaginary freedom. In order to be sure, we have to really look at those pesky things holding us in place.

  The key idea is that truth is not something we make or create, it is sitting there all the time. Only it is overlain with piles of junk we have encountered and danced with. Whatever extent we are able to discard the crap is the precise extent we will encounter truth. I shouldn’t even call it crap, because we tend to love and cherish our junk, our psychological tchotchkes. Our endearments is the better word used by Narayana Guru in his One Hundred Verses of Self-instruction. In the cliché lingo they are called attachments, but sometimes words get used so often they lose their import. Anyway, we frequently make the mistake of trying to build up an image of truth, instead of paring away the extraneous to let it stand revealed. We insist on belief. “Do you believe in God?” “Do you accept Allah!?” As if these are something specific, items fixed and knowable. We make tchotchkes out of the divine mystery, and stick them on the shelf.

  Nitya beautifully describes maya in the first verse. Manifested things come and go, are born and die. When they are here they are as real as anything gets, but then they disappear, first leaving memory traces and then into nothing. They become unreal. Maya is what is both real and unreal, in the sense of emerging and remerging from the primal soup. If there was no underlying reality, it would truly be chaos, but apparently there is something that holds it all together. There is a continuity to the whole that surpasseth understanding.

  We are going to learn that instead of imagining that our happiness is dependent on the things that come and go, it is actually intrinsic to our nature, and those things derive their apparent radiance from us. If we turn to the source within instead of the reflection without, our happiness will become steady, instead of fluctuating with the availability of the things we cherish. We can and should still dance with the things we love, but our love will be vastly expanded to include everything. We will be making this change of outlook as real as we can in the coming months, under the guidance of a couple of truly great masters.

  By the end of the class, with glowing darkness wrapping us in its arms, we spoke of the thing we all cherish most: our mothers. How is it that something so transcendentally dear and important can pass away, and what are we left with? Perhaps we are in bondage to our mothers, because we believe our happiness is so inextricably entwined with their existence. Or perhaps we have been shown the ultimate lovable beauty the universe can create out of its infinite compassion. We can take that example of pure selfless caring and return it to That Alone which nourishes us, sharing it and teaching it to our lonely fellow beings. What is there to stop us?


Part II

  Oddly, tchotchkes don’t make most dikkers, being Yiddish. It’s a very handy word. From the internet: Tchotchke is from Yiddish tshatshke, "trinket," ultimately of Slavic origin.

 More from

tchotchkes, a.k.a. knickknacks -or- swag -or- schwag

(pronounced: choch-keys)


Promotional items emblazoned with company logos, from the traditional type of giveaway (baseball cap, T-shirt, tote bag, or mouse pad) down to really weird junk (barf bags, butterfly nets, neon sunglasses, or pogo sticks). These items are usually given away in the thousands at shows and are given to other people in turn or retained as part of an individual's geekosphere.


see also: SWAG


  It also reminds me of Nataraja Guru’s definition of siddhis, (psychic powers) which are “psychophysical dynamisms. They are like the plastic spoons, soap-powder packets, etc.: free gifts of very little value.” So, yeah, it’s just what you thought it was—junk.



Like the prior nonexistence in the clay alone, before it is fashioned, none other than the Absolute is known; what is that Absolute is indeed maya, of indeterminate possibility. (IV, 2)


It is apparently against a basic law of the universe to compose a Vedantic work without at some point bringing in the metaphor of the pot and the clay. For many years I would nod off whenever it came up. But if we keep in mind the symbolism that clay represents the Absolute as substance and pot means a specific manifestation, particularly YOU, then it is more interesting and makes more sense. The world around us is like an amorphousness bending and twisting into a ceaseless series of morphs, forms, which are briefly stable and then morph into something else. The pot and the clay thing describes this process in more unitive terms than almost any other metaphor, accounting for its continual resurfacing. It will be back!

  When we see that the pot is nothing but clay through and through, we can readily agree with Narayana Guru’s definition of maya here. It is none other than the Absolute, unfurling. Everything is a temporary form of the Absolute. The pot of you is indeed the Absolute. Tat tvam asi, girls and boys!

  Nitya makes a nice point in his commentary that when the unfurling of our life goes well we picture a benign God or Providence, and when it gets ugly we bring in the Devil or pitiless Fate. We love to anthropomorphize. But basically it’s inscrutable, the possibilities are indeterminate. As the seed grows into a tree, good and bad things happen to give it its shape and dimensions. We can retrospect and notice a lot of coherence in our unfoldment, but we can only guess and hope as to its future course.

  Still, looking back and contemplating the course of our life has an important value at times such as this. When life appears bleak and frightening, as when warfare is redoubling around the globe and no way out can be imagined, it is comforting to notice that there is an intelligent direction to everything. Sadly, mankind as a whole seems to grow by fits and starts, by agonizing contractions between spurts of expansion. Doom seems certain, and yet life as a whole perseveres and furthers. The chaos stimulates our thinking and contemplative propensities. We too easily become complacent. We want to have faith in our leaders, so we pretend they are not psychopathic lizard-people. We would rather follow than lead.

  Happily, a balanced yogic approach means we should stay poised midway between leading and following, open to the next possibility. The class talked about how we need to plan and strive and set up programs in order for anything to happen, but at the same time how too much planning and programming makes serendipity impossible, makes new directions impossible. This is another arena in which to find the happy median. We don’t want to be bound by our previous decisions if they become outdated, yet we want to accomplish and fulfill what we find rewarding.

  We tried an exercise to look back at our lives to try to spot moments when something unexpected changed its course in a significant way. As Deb said, really everything is unplanned or unexpected. Mostly we talked about little things like plans for the day that got altered for the better, or at least for the nonce. But there are major events that start as a point source and spread to have earthshaking consequences. It is valuable to take a look for them, if only to open up to the wonder of an invisible hand directing the course of the river of our life. Equally present are courses we once considered highly likely that came to nothing.

  Finally Moni showed us the proper way to meditate on this idea. She talked about how when she had graduated from university and was wondering about her future, she received a letter from Guru Nitya inviting her to come to the Gurukula for a short visit. She was certain her father would not permit it, since it went against all propriety. And yet, when she showed him the letter he was enthusiastic about the idea. She went for two weeks, and later became Nitya’s personal secretary and traveled all over the world with him. She got a US passport, so now she lives here. So many events in her life she was able to trace back to that one watershed letter. It was touching and beautiful!

  It turned out Jebra (one of our two special guests along with Jean Norrby) had done a similar exercise to last night’s, in a course after college to determine a suitable occupation. In her class everyone filled out a questionnaire listing highlights of their life to date. Then they looked at them closely. Almost everything in Jebra’s involved some form of writing. Now she writes for a living—she doesn’t like to call herself a writer, but the rest of us could. So sometimes you can reinforce already existing tendencies by consciously recognizing them. And this wasn’t something that popped up by Chance, it had been there all along.

  As we have been studying, each of us has many innate tendencies, called vasanas in Sanskrit. They are like seeds buried in the manure of our psyches, waiting for opportunities to grow and actualize their potentials. There is a mysterious mating of opportunities and potentials that has made us what we are, and which makes the world what it is. It is done with such finesse that it looks accidental, haphazard even. It is a seamless, flowing miracle. To participate in it is the greatest wonder. There is no blessing other than this. Tat tvam asi.



The non-Self is unreal, the Self is real; thus, the means by which such knowledge comes, that is this vidya, like the recognition of the truth about rope and snake. (IV, 3)

The Self is unreal, the non-Self is real; thus, the means by which such knowledge comes, that alone is avidya, like the erroneous cognition about rope and snake. (IV, 4)


  Once again a vast conception is epitomized in a few words. Our class was like those boxes full of compressed paper snakes, the ones you open and they expand and shoot out all over the room. Very festive, but difficult to summarize, to squeeze them all back in the box and shut the lid.

  I’ve been writing about truth quite a lot lately, trying to get a handle on its elusivity for my Gita commentary. So I was well prepared to recognize that Nitya does a masterful job of delineating truth in a few short paragraphs here. Understanding the distinctions between truth and falsehood are the starting point for a sincere swim in clear waters, and we’ve been working diligently on that very subject for a long time in our study. It’s almost time to see where it will take us.

  Narayana Guru highlights an aspect I at least hadn’t separated out before, even as editor of this very book. He is saying here that vidya is not just knowledge of truth, but the transitional experience of “getting the picture,” of suddenly “seeing the light.” What is going on when you finally realize it is a harmless rope and not a poisonous snake in front of you? Your first impression of something terrified you; adrenaline shot through your system and you freaked out. But this time instead of running back to the village to raise a posse armed with machetes, you stopped and looked more closely. And right before your eyes the deadly thing morphed into a harmless bit of detritus. Now relief surges through you; you want to laugh. You can make fun of yourself and be on your way. I don’t think Narayana Guru is saying we should just substitute one loaded set of memories for another, but that there is a fresh way of seeing without memory tags at all. He wants us to watch how we transition from a loaded, conditioned state of mind filled with negative expectations to an unconditioned one, and not just think of the end result but of the movement this entails. If we know “the means by which such knowledge comes,” perhaps we can make it a permanent part of our repertoire.

  I have to plug verse 20 of That Alone, where Nitya and Narayana revalue the rope and snake metaphor. It’s a great essay. Reading it will throw a lot of light on this part of the study, and the “snarope” comes back in the next verse too.

  As part of his unification plan for science and religion, Nitya describes how a materialist can have a contemplative relationship with his world. He posits a chemist who wants to know the true nature of ordinary table salt. Beneath its sensory qualities he first knows it as sodium chloride. Going deeper, he can examine sodium and chlorine separately as atoms and then observe their subatomic particles, which are essentially the same everywhere. At last he arrives at the mystery of the primal source of all matter, which we call the Self or the Absolute.

  Later in the comments, for dialectic perfection Nitya offers the parallel version of the intelligent contemplative, who begins by asking herself “what is it that compels me to act?” She will see that action comes from volition, volition comes from desire, and desire comes from preference for pleasure over pain. Nitya goes on:


Pleasure is a quality of awareness that reflects the element of happiness, which in truth belongs to the Self. If the seeker understands this, he will realize that he should turn his attention inward into his own being to find true and lasting happiness, instead of seeking it through the gratification of his senses in the world external to himself. When one gains this knowledge, he naturally curtails all activities in which he previously engaged which are born of the confusion arising from the ignorance of his projected values. Then he is saved from the world of transient values that the Isavasya Upanishad describes as darkness. It is for this reason that the Isavasya Upanishad says that a man who knows the secret of ignorance will transcend death.


  As previously noted, Maya Darsana consists of a series of definitions. This verse is Narayana Guru’s definition of vidya, knowledge. He is unequivocal that true knowledge of the Self is vidya and knowledge of the transactional world, for instance of salt as a sensory seasoning, is asat or untrue. Whether we’re a chemist or a mystic, we should look beneath the surface and trace all our snakes back to their source, where they lose their sting.

  We spent a lot of time on verses 9-11 of the Isa Upanishad, that Nitya brings in as a parallel teaching:


Into blind darkness enter they

That worship ignorance;

Into darkness greater than that, as it were, they

That delight in knowledge


Other, indeed, they say, than knowledge!

Other, they say, than non-knowledge!

—Thus we have heard it from the wise

Who to us have explained It.


Knowledge and non-knowledge—

He who this pair conjointly knows,

With non-knowledge passing over death

         With knowledge wins the immortal.


Deb noted that the delighters in knowledge live in greater darkness because they are closed to new knowledge. At least an ignorant person welcomes light into their darkness, but once they decide they know it all, their doom is sealed. Many people only want to know that salt makes their food taste better, period. Don’t confuse us with molecules! With salt the darkness isn’t particularly lethal, but in other cases it is.

  I gave the example of Israel living in a self-imposed bubble of conceit of a chosen people surrounded by hostile enemies. Almost all information and education in the country is tailored around a paranoid mindset. In our terms, ropes are depicted as snakes, and anyone who disagrees is ostracized. There have been snakes sometimes, so you either agree that all ropes are snakes, or you’re out. The Arab children crouching in bomb shelters are not really children, they are subhuman and threatening, so bombing the shelters is justified. There could be a terrorist anywhere, so kill them all and let Jehovah sort it out. As long as you crouch behind a wall of ignorance and exclude all who disagree with your selected “knowledge” you don’t have to even look at the disasters you cause. Dozens of peace initiatives have been ignored out of hand, because the presumption is that only war will bring peace. Pleas for sanity are only to be sneered at as the whining of the ignorant. “Never again” has been perverted to mean that this time we will be the perpetrators, but never again the victims.

  The class then moved back to the personal level. It’s good to always use such large-scale holocausts as forceful teaching aids. As Nancy pointed out, we can’t do anything immediately about far off disasters, but we can remind ourselves to always stay open to the All. And we can but hope that some day all the good folks who have held to the light in their personal actions and meditations will tip the scales in favor of a peaceful and compassionate world.

  Susan had some very good examples from her relationships with her children that led to a lively exploration. Kids are masters at pushing our buttons, natural gurus. We have a universal urge to instruct them, and they have a universal urge to resist. It’s the macrocosm writ small. Both world wars and family skirmishes are fought over who gets to instruct who. Paradoxically, if we abstain from pushing our own agenda, peace sometimes breaks out. Maybe our specific agenda wasn’t as important as we thought; we can adapt and compromise.

  Susan has been closely watching how certain acts of her children bring up floods of memories, many tinged with fear, which color her own feelings as well as magnetizing her responses. She is then able to let those go and act more from a neutral place. A terrific accomplishment, I must say, and an ongoing effort for everyone.

  Well, this is already too long, and I have some killer excerpts from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad to tack on here at the end. Too bad I’ve barely scratched the surface. The fine thing is that the richness of Darsanamala is flowering forth in our discussions, and that of course is a self-reinforcing energy. A new, clear chain reaction.


Okay, call this Part II. I could mix these into the text, but I think you’ll see the relevance. They’re all from Volume II of Nitya’s BU commentary, and all close together. First, a cute sentence to remind us not to panic that we haven’t figured everything out yet:


The body is “a perilous and perplexing place” for the Self to reside. (573)


Another take on the darkness of partial knowledge:


No physicist has ever seen an atom, much less a subatomic particle. But, like religious people who make icons, the physicist has also made conventional models of atoms and particles. Any person who has gone to school and studied the model of the atom cannot be dissuaded from that mental picture. In this way even scientific knowledge becomes a matter of belief. The Upanishad sweeps away all images born of mind. That is why a true Vedantin can never be a religious person.

         The human ego is like a medium out of which one can fashion commendable patterns as well as incoherent ideas. As a result, a person with a mind that has sense impressions registered in it which are colored with likes and dislikes is tempted to apply all the previous memories and preferences to current experiences. Patanjali thinks it is this so-called scientific certitude that stops a person from going into transcendence. (575)


All purpose good vibes:


As we are used to accomplishing things and obtaining desirable ends by our actions, we entertain the false impression that for the self to become brahman there has to be some kind of process by which the part can evolve into the whole. Mantras seventeen and eighteen remind us this is not so. We are always the whole. All that we need to do is forget the false notion that we are anything other than brahman. Realization is not accomplished by a forward march but by a regressive dissolution. Up to the last moment you have a choice to skip the whole process of samsara merely by accepting the fact that you are the Absolute. (583)


And finally, this is to help explain that mysterious and, let’s admit, baffling verse 11 of the Isa:


What is death? The non-Self is opposed to life. When you develop a hankering for the pleasures you expect to get from the non-Self such as love objects, you are allowing part of your self to be afflicted by the darkness and ignorance of the non-Self. That is one way of embracing death. When you withdraw your desire from anything which prevents you from ennobling the Self or being at one with the Self, you are opting to put the Self in the position of the non-Self. Inside you will grow bright and more in resonance with the Self. To that extent you transcend death. You need not force any mechanical renunciation upon yourself. While living in the body, the senses are like handmaids to you and the mind is like a trustworthy friend. Thus it is to your advantage to live physically and have enough opportunities to be a silent witness of your organism functioning as if it knows what it is and what is going on.

         Both life and mind are simple if we do not complicate them. A river does not need to take extra care to flow over any land where it chances to be and ultimately reach the ocean. A river reaching its natural destination, the ocean, is symbolically the same as the self arriving at the Supreme or Absolute. If, in your poetic exuberance, you put on many festoons and make yourself so artificial that you are giving too much thought to body and mind, you give up most of the freedom of the person living in your body. (564)


And so, good night sweet princes and princesses!


Part II

  I’ve been asked to clarify the Isa bit about those who delight in knowledge living in greater darkness. The qualm was over the notion of delight. Delight is just fine. Indeed, it is one of the warning signs of enlightenment. One can easily note the same root in both.

         What the Upanishad is talking about is the attitude of self-satisfaction, satisfaction in a partial vision, which may in fact be exacerbated by delight. If we believe something and it makes us happy, we ask ourselves what more do we need? It’s a bit of a paradox, the same paradox found between temporal and eternal happiness. Not so easy to sort out, when you think of it. Beliefs, however, tend to become static and lose their charm the more they are believed. They easily become memories of delight, and we cling to them all the more as they slip into shadow. This starts the cycle of striving to renew the sensation of delight by repeating the activity associated with it. Soon we’re focused on the activity itself, and the delight slowly fades away. We become “defenders of the faith” when we should be letting it go.

         Delight—struggle—stasis. Sound like a familiar pattern? Sattva—rajas—tamas, isn’t it?

         The antidote for this ensnarling cycle of the gunas is expressed as a dialectic relation with knowledge. We don’t hold back from the world, we enjoy it. And we don’t allow ourselves to be caught by anything in particular, we are open to all of it. Above all, we don’t identify our happiness with the object “out there.” We discover—un cover—it in ourself, and then everything is to a greater or lesser extent a factor in our total state of happiness.

         My friend was worried that the Isavasya Upanishad was recommending that old-fashioned religious withdrawal from everything, a giving up of joy. Not at all. Go for it, and let the dead bury the dead! In other words, don’t cling to dead forms of imagined delight. By all means look to your own nature, which is in truth the value form of delight, as Narayana Guru put it somewhere or other. Or seek ye first the Republic of Heaven, and all things shall be added unto you, as the Bible has it. In closing, it may not hurt to peek ahead just a bit, to verse VIII, 8 of Darsanamala: “Thus the wise man sees everywhere nothing but the joy of the Self—not even a little of anything else. His bhakti indeed is the highest.”


Part III

  Yesterday at the library I stumbled across an interesting-looking book titled The Ignorance of Certainty, by Ashley Montagu and Edward Darling. Nice to know that the Isa Upanishad isn’t alone in being suspicious of the knowledge-enamored. From the flap:


Meanwhile we trudge along, believing what we want most to believe and planning our future action as if our crystal ball were unclouded. This, alas, is how the ignorance of certainty leads to the certainty of ignorance. We must mistrust the man who is certain. Absolute certainty is the right of uneducated minds, absolute fools, and fanatics. For the Thinker certainty is never an end, but a search, at best the highest degree of probability that attaches to a particular judgment at a particular time level, and hence, like truth, infinitely perfectible.


Nataraja Guru opened his magnum opus with the carefully chosen words “Science seeks certitude.” He certainly did not mean “Science finds certitude.”

From the Preface:


The ignorance of certainty is that lack of information which makes us bold to assert that we see the truth, pretty much the whole truth, and discard anything which is not the truth. It appears to be a human trait that our certainty is inversely proportional to our knowledge—that is, the thinner our information is, the surer we are we’re right and the more viciously will we defend our position and the more fiercely liquidate deviationists of every color, preferably (at the low ebb of wisdom where the barrens of complete ignorance begin) with suitable torture. The heretic must die in agony. (xiv-xv)


Greater darkness indeed.



The senses, mind, intelligence, five vital tendencies and such—that by which they are specifically created as the subtle limbs of the reasoning Self is para alone. (IV, 5)


  Para is one of those words with a whole column to itself in the Monier-Williams, plus pages of combined words made from it. Basically, para is the Beyond, in all its implications. The transcendent. Nitya mentions that para as used here is not the pure transcendent, which is the Absolute, but a relative transcendence opposed to apara, immanence. He elaborates, “So far as transcendence (para) is concerned, it becomes meaningful only when it refers to a reality which transcends all the requirements of the flux of becoming in the space-time continuum.” In other words, this type of para is established by apara, and vice versa. As Bill pointed out, para within maya is not the true para, but a reflected image of transcendence based on the limitations of our psychophysical system.

  What I feel Narayana Guru is getting at here is that while we once had strongly fixed notions about objectivity and actuality, if we really look at them they become misty and vaporous. The solidity on which we bang our head becomes an evanescent picture in the mind, and the mind itself is a picture in the mind. We have now arrived at the moment in Darsanamala when the outside world is so far along on the process of dissolving that its nonobjectivity becomes an integral part of our operational awareness.

  This is a verse to meditate on rather than think through. We are asked to sit and observe the workings of our mind and senses, and as we do to realize that what appears to us as a harsh and universal reality is a chimera of scintillating illusions with all the earmarks of believability. We must certainly act on what we perceive, and that is well and good. But the seeming immutability of what appears to be no longer drives us to act compulsively. It has become subtle.

  This verse, then, must be coupled with the next, defining apara. Transcendent and immanent have to be together. It is not that, like many religious programs, we are trying to leave the immanent and move to the transcendent. We are expanding out of our fixation on the immanent to rediscover and include the transcendent aspect. When both of them are brought together unitively, we have an accurate take on whatever we encounter. Immanent and transcendent are merely two complementary perspectives on a single existence.


  The five vital tendencies are the five vayus or pranas. Vayu is wind, in the same sense that spirit is wind. The vital energies regulate the body systems. For the record, prana is associated with the rising breath and apana with the downward breath. Udana regulates the movements of the alimentary canal. Samana circulates food throughout the body. Vyana regulates the overall temperature and harmony of the body. The whole schema is yet another way of turning what is often taken as ordinary material processes into a more subtle, spiritual conceptualization.



Adopting these limbs, the reasoning Self by its own maya becomes deluded, as if happy or unhappy; in truth there is nothing at all. (VI, 6)


  As Nitya says, “In this and the previous verse, what puzzles our minds is locating the cause of the phenomenal in the transcendent, which is called para.” Perhaps para is where the term para-dox comes from, because this is the biggie: how do two seemingly absolutely antithetical aspects meet, overlap, or coincide? Coincidentally, I wrote the following earlier in the day: “Pretty early in the process of chasing our likes and avoiding our dislikes we lose awareness of the connecting link within the dual back and forth movement. Heads and tails are taken in isolation and are no longer seen as parts of a single coin.” In other words, by fixing our attention on the play of manifested, transient objects and events, collectively called maya, we forget the connecting ground on which they are taking place.

  Very soon, Nancy Yeilding will finish preparing Nitya’s commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for publication, likely to be his last great book in English. As it came out in Gurukulam Magazine once upon a time the Portland Gurukula held classes on it. If I had time to dig through the back issues, I’d re-present the section where Nitya updates Patajali’s take on maya, but for now I’ll just paraphrase. Our “limbs,” meaning our psychophysical system, vasanas and all, is like a movie projector in a theater. A bright light—awareness, cidatma, what is translated here as the reasoning Self and by Nataraja Guru as “the Self that is consciousness in essence”—shines through a film of our predispositions, projecting negative imagery upon a blank screen. Although the bright light is our true source of awareness, we have turned away from it and become engrossed in watching the action on screen. We are so totally engrossed, in fact, that we have forgotten our true nature and now imagine that we are players in the movie itself. When something sad happens we cry and when something funny happens we laugh. We say we are sad or happy, depending on circumstances. In truth there is nothing at all: we are part and parcel of the entire metaphoric situation, story, projector, audience, light, building, and even its place in space and time. Patanjali’s recommendation, as I recall, is to turn 180 degrees away from the hypnotic screen, back to the light. You begin the process of your own liberation by seeing the captivating play of lights and shadows for what it is. I think this image parallels the present verse rather closely.

  We’re having a practical exam for this awareness today at the Gurukula, since Harmony just flew out this morning to attend college. Deb and I are filled with an emotional intensity that could be considered sadness, and also feels like bliss. It brings tears and surges of memory. But it is in essence nothing at all, only the continuing, natural flow of life taking its course. If properly viewed, every moment would have the same intensity, and it is to be embraced and cherished and then released. Holding on would be morbid, but appreciating it is the joy of living.

  A significant part of Nitya’s commentary spoke of the way religions personify natural processes, often divided into a benignant deity opposed by a malignant master demon or devil. This takes Narayana Guru’s happy and unhappy to its logical extremes, where due to delusion we presume there is an absolute good battling an intractable evil for ultimate supremacy. The entire theology is a fictive mindset, an anthropomorphic superimposition that converts the unitive unfolding of life into a dualistic nightmare. In the Chinese image of yin and yang, which one will win? It’s an absurd concept. Both arose together and couldn’t exist in isolation for even a nanosecond.

  We talked about the tsunami of a year and a half ago, when all the Christian fundamentalist “pundits” weighed in that God was punishing those people for being Muslims, and many anxious hand-wringing souls wondered how God could permit such a terrible thing to happen. The “nothing” that was going on was the natural movements of an evolving planet, within which relatively tiny adjustments can have a devastating impact on the life forms clinging to its surface. There was no demon or angry god with an invisible lever prying Sumatra a little to the left. The Guru wants us to leave all such superstitions and come out of our caves.

  We segued into how the demonizing mindset leads to wars. Instead of accepting that each person sees the world from their own perspective, and that it is “right” from their point of view, we somehow imagine that our angle is right and the other’s is way off base. The light of consciousness in every case is the same—there cannot be two truths or two Absolutes. “My God is bigger than your God” is a deranged kindergarten belief, though recently espoused by a top American military officer in Iraq. Nancy sighed out loud at how simple and obvious it all was, and yet somehow the fighting goes on. She wanted everyone to admire and respect everyone else’s opinion, instead of wanting to punish them because they didn’t agree with their own.

  I noted a recent article by Chris Floyd about how even the liberal British press held a taboo against mentioning that there might be some legitimacy in being upset and even vengeful about having your family blown up. You are shushed up immediately and called a traitor to the crusade. Rigid blockades against imagining the obvious are necessary to preserve the instability that allows certain people to dominate others. Those who travel or who are at least brave enough to think get around the blockade by meeting people everywhere who are “just like us.”

  Deb brought us full circle by reminding us that this advice was about us as individuals, not about anyone far off. If we try to impose such a vision on others we will only create more conflict. Still, in the words of the Gita (III, 21): “Whichever may be the way of life that a superior man adopts—that very one is (followed) by other people. What he makes his guiding principle, the world behaves even according to the same.”

  So the Gurus want us to stop being taken in by the delusory movie that’s being shown, and make our own improved version in tune with the light. Perhaps it will help the world, perhaps not. Nitya sums up, “Krishna advises Arjuna not to bemoan anything which is of a transient nature, and everything except the transcendent Absolute itself is of a transient nature. We should maintain a state of equanimity in all situations, knowing that everything is transient and in a state of continual change, including ourselves.” Such an attitude opens the floodgates of compassion and understanding, long blocked up by our delusory beliefs.



That by which this world, which is indeed the object of the senses, is specifically created is apara alone, which in the Self permeates the eidetic imagery of the gross. (IV, 7)


         A couple of days back I wrote some things in my Gita commentary that closely parallel this verse. It’s not just that I’m lazy (though I am) but I’d want to say these same things over again, so why not just copy and paste? These are excerpted from the last two verses in Chapter III, Karma Darsana:


42)   It is taught that the senses are great; beyond the senses is the          mind, beyond the mind is reason, and beyond reason is That.


         The graded series telescopes inward and upward. The senses are great because they translate the objective universe into a form of computer code that can be used by the brain. They perform a vast reduction of the myriad manifested things. The mind then utilizes this input to perform transactional assessments, further sorting and abstracting the data. Afterwards the intellect may make generalizations, grouping like events so it can draw conclusions, make excuses, and so on.

         As to desire, the senses begin the game by being tickled by stimuli, and they have a natural interest in stimulation. After all, that’s their game. The mind then decides preferences, and directs the body to repeat the experiences it likes and avoid those it doesn’t. As a person becomes more sophisticated, desires get cloaked in all sorts of rationalizations and philosophies. The intellect can rationalize detrimental desires because it always knows exactly the argument the mind will agree to.

         The senses are given their due here as windows on the world, vast and enchanting, but even in ancient times it was well known that they weren’t absolutely trustworthy. They aren’t particularly accurate, and can lead you astray on many levels. The mind is viewed as a kind of sixth sense, collator and coordinator of sensory input. This roughly corresponds to the material brain of modern science, extremely useful but subject to many delusions and misunderstandings. Reason or intellect is metaphysical, the part of the individual that soars beyond the chains of actual objects and events. At its best it is aimed at union with the Absolute, though as we know it is more often used to control the actual world through manipulation.

         The Absolute is as always beyond the beyond. Needless to say, infusing the intellect, mind and senses with the ineffable Absolute is the aim of Krishna’s teaching.

         It’s important to remember that param, translated as beyond, doesn’t necessarily have any spatial component. The mind is not only beyond, it is within the senses, animating and supporting them; the intellect is likewise within the mind, and the Absolute is within everything. Beyond, within, transcending, exceeding, prior to, and much more are implied in the term.


43)         Thus knowing That to be beyond reason, stabilizing the self by     the Self, kill that enemy in the form of desire, so difficult to          overcome.


         Drawing a conclusion from the sequence of the last verse, a secret teaching is made as plain as possible here. The senses are gathered into the mind, and the mind is gathered into intelligent reason. From this point a leap is to be made, for a kind of inner connection with the Beyond. We do not know (since it is beyond reason) how to do this or what to aim for, yet we can have an inward gesture that opens us up to the kindly light of the Absolute. When we can relinquish our sense of agency into the “arms of the Divine,” our personal self becomes stabilized in the universal Self. Stabilization means the self and the Self become unified.


Verse 42 even has a series using paran, basically the same as para and the opposite of apara as employed by Narayana Guru. Para and apara are transcendent and immanent, as has already been mentioned. We are trying to find the middle ground between what we see and interact with, and what we know beyond our sensory input. We are already aware that the senses by themselves are inadequate, and that thought divorced from actuality is pointless.

  We spent most of the class wrestling with the notion that Narayana Guru and Nitya are somehow in the same mold as Hindu fundamentalists and hair-shirt Christians. There is a long and sad tradition of joy-killing in religion, as though God will not be pleased if anyone enjoys His creation. Don’t get me going: those fervently held beliefs are nothing more than trashy, immature thoughts cloaked in high sounding phraseology. Admittedly, some of the words used by the gurus sound similar, but it is very important to realize that they (and I) are definitely not in the camp of hellfire and damnation. I consider beliefs like those of the Puritans and Calvinists, et al ad infinitum, to be at best seriously deranged, and at worst a fatal cancer on the human race and possibly the planet.

  Americans, among others, are so steeped in religious negativity that it is extremely difficult for them to crawl out of the hole dug for them by their forebears. I am eternally grateful to my parents for never threatening me with church, let alone hell. They gave me hell once in awhile, but it wasn’t syndicated into a permanent condition…. Anyway, this is one place where a determined effort is to be made. Semiconscious beliefs are literally killing us, blocking us from living up to our potential, spoiling the fun of being alive, poisoning our relationships with other humans and the environment as a whole. And somebody please tell me, what’s the upside??

  The projected terrors of imaginary demons, along with the projected delights of imaginary fairy godmothers, when superimposed on reality are called sankalpa, translated here as the eidetic imagery of the gross. Religious symbols are especially fraught with eidetic associations. We can’t even look at simple crossed sticks without zooming immediately to death and Christ and suffering and God knows what else. None of that’s in the sticks, it’s in our minds. The course of Darsanamala has dealt with these projections at length already, but they are very persistent. The Guru is offering us yet another opportunity to break their stranglehold.

  The first thing is to really see how they poison us. Part of their defense is to make us suspicious of someone trying to help rid the system of them. Until we clearly understand their harmfulness we tolerate them and shrug our shoulders. They are like leeches. We’d rather leave them alone, because if we pull them off we’ll bleed a little. It might hurt. Unlike leeches though, they don’t fall off of their own accord. When a leech is full, it goes off looking for someone to mate with. That’s because a leech is real, while our beliefs are not. They stay stuck on.

  As Nitya puts it here,


Each time ordinary men experience pleasure they become more firmly rooted in allegiance to the illusory world of sensory impressions and mental projections of fantasies. Such people, and that includes almost everyone, are unlikely to forsake transient pleasures and turn away from the phenomenal to seek the consolation of the non-transient transcendental…. That men should choose the lower, when they could as easily choose the higher, is very strange. It is the negativity of the universal ignorance and the implacable demands of nature that make us do this. That aspect of maya which again and again brings a false reassurance to our minds to accept the verdict of the senses, and to stand by all the obligations and changing patterns of our day-to-day life, is here classified as the apara aspect. (216)


  Nitya hid his ferocity well beneath a gentle and kindly exterior. If you really and truly hear these words, they are powerful blasts against our idiocy. He is trying to shoot them deep into our souls, somehow penetrating the bulletproof vests we all wear. He must have felt like it was mostly a waste of time, but thankfully he persisted.

  Happily, Susan helped us end on a positive note. She works mainly in her dreams, which are quite amazing. She had been having a string of dreams of being in seedy hotels, and worrying about trying to move to a nicer one. There were lots of foreigners and suspicious people watching her. Recently she realized that the hotel was her, its rundown condition was her poor self-image, and the suspicious watchers were her own guarded and worried feelings. She thought she should stop rejecting her hotel and remodel it instead, in other words accept herself and make improvements instead of wanting to run away. This is a very large leap in the right direction. Almost everyone secretly believes they are inferior or inadequate. It’s a baseless fantasy from childhood that lays its eidetic imagery over the whole world, tingeing it gray. Dark gray. Realizing it’s a universal misunderstanding and refusing to be undone by it anymore is a huge step in the process of attaining that rarest of states, normalcy.


  As ignorance of mother-of-pearl is the basis of silver, what is imagined in the Self—that is known as tamas. (IV, 8)


  A common variant on the rope/snake metaphor, the silver in the oyster shell is well known. (An oyster is defined as someone who sprinkles their conversation liberally with Yiddish words.) (That’s a joke. And now back to our topic.) Seeing an unreal appearance is a natural enough experience, but here Narayana Guru underlines it as tamasic, the product of darkness. Nitya comments: “This can be very frustrating. We are exposed to such experiences on many occasions during our lifetime. Disillusionment in matters such as the accumulation of riches, mistaking infatuation for love, and treating scholarship as wisdom are only a few cases which remind us of how we are deceived day after day by the veiling power of our own psychic darkness.” (218) We go about enamored with the silveriness on the surface, but yet working on seeing the basis of it, knowing there is more to the picture somewhere. And eventually, if we are indeed trying, we somehow become aware of the mother-of-pearl that is the source of the perception, in an “Aha!” moment.

  This is not an experience that happens of its own accord; it must be sought, pondered, weighed and considered from every angle. Interaction with friends and teachers is almost the most important factor. And then suddenly you see it. As Nitya puts it: “Until our mind is flooded with [the] uncompromising light of truth and justice, compassion and love, we will not see how faulty our stand is.” (218) The new understanding sweeps away the darkness, in many cases permanently.

  I asked for any examples from each person’s life, but unfortunately the class consists mostly of old hands who are beyond this remedial work, even looking far back in time. We are only approaching the part of the study that will be most appropriate for them, although we’re getting very close. Be that as it may, readers of the notes can try the exercise at home. Have there been times when some realization or awareness filled your being with an uplifting emotion, in the presence of which you felt changed, shaken to the core? Was there a new awareness of a faulty stand that was now swept away? Did you feel exposed as a hypocrite, or merely uplifted into the new ideal?

  Anita brought up an excellent example. She had a co-worker who was insufferable—self-absorbed, curt, and unhappy. Anita took it as being the woman’s attitude to her personally, and so didn’t like her, felt hurt and resentful, and so on. One day she discovered that the woman had a long list of personal problems that would unhinge anyone, and she immediately realized that she was suffering tremendously and was deserving of sympathy and assistance. All Anita’s feelings of self-pity were instantly beside the point, and she effortlessly gave them up into her new understanding of the situation. Not only did the awareness of the underlying problem resolve her immediate difficulties, there were subsequent times when people were acting antisocially that Anita didn’t take personally any more, imagining they were wrestling with their own demons. A permanent upgrade of attitude came from seeing a little deeper into an everyday situation.

  This reminds me of the end of Verse 15 in That Alone:


Many people used to ask Ramana Maharshi what they could do for the world. He always asked them, “Who is doing for whom?” Thus their focus was turned to their own selves. If I want to make you happy, I myself should be a happy person. If I am sad, how can I make you happy? To make you smile, I should first of all know how to smile. I should know what peace is to bring peace to you. We have to discover the peace within ourselves, the joy within ourselves. This can be done only if the friendship that we cultivate with the spirit within becomes continuous, unbroken.

  This is like magic: your world tomorrow won’t be the same. You live in exaggeration. This world is not as bad as you paint it. What is madness? Madness is a positive or a negative exaggeration of the mind. If you see a thing in its natural value or worth, not more or less, it is a sane attitude. But we tend to exaggerate.

  If somebody is busy doing something and you pass by and they do not smile or greet you, you say, “Oh, he does not like me any more. That’s why he didn’t greet me.” You are so self-conscious and poverty-stricken, wanting somebody’s attention all the time.

  What kind of a terrible disease is this? If you don’t have such a disease you would say, “Oh, my friend was very busy today, so absorbed in himself that he didn’t see me.” It amuses you. “He didn’t even see me!” The other attitude is, “He deliberately ignored me.” One thing is seen two different ways. One hurts you and the other amuses you. So why should you be on the side of being hurt rather than amused? I am speaking of you, not some far away people. You can make your world a real heaven. This is the paradise; there is no other. This is a happy world, right in the palm of your hand, every day. But you throw it away.

         This is the promise Narayana Guru gives us in this verse.


  The example I gave was from the sama and anya section of the same work, verses 36-42. Somehow the teaching hit me in a titanic blast right at that stage. The dichotomy of the self and the other had been mostly hypothetical to me up to then, but suddenly I was struck by a humiliating realization of how I had been erecting barriers all my life to protect my self from the imaginary other. Implicit in such an act was a rejection of the other as dangerous, hostile or simply less than my evaluation of myself. The realization was seen inwardly as a field of white light, indivisible, (with liberty and justice for all), in which I was constructing subconscious walls and turning subconscious shoulders to the outsiders. All kinds of selfish attitudes showed clearly in that light, and I felt psychically bowled over. The repercussions have continued to reverberate until today, though I have to be on guard that it doesn’t become “canned” due to repetition. That would be the tamasic element reclaiming the territory.

  All such prejudices thrive in the dark, in our tamasic regions. All we can do is bring light a bucket at a time, hoping that some day we’ll be overwhelmed by a cleansing flood. When you dance with the Guru, it is a distinct possibility.



  In the years since Psychology of Darsanamala was written, an incredible amount of scholarship and new findings has brought a flood of light to early Christianity. In the commentary, Nitya refers to some old beliefs that have been discredited, at least by some top scholars. I’m sure he would have appreciated the upgrades. Even though his points are good anyway, I’d like to do a little repair work for those who are sensitive in this area. Here’s the original paragraph:


One cannot evaluate or revalue without adopting a normative notion of fundamental values. When given the option to save from death the condemned fellow, Barabbas, or the spiritual master who was the light of the world, Jesus, the Jews exercised their option in favor of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jewish mob, and Jesus—who preferred to die rather than concede to the relativistic Jewish norms—both held to their normative notions of what was right. The Jews were obsessed by the sociopolitical oppression imposed on them by their Roman masters, so they looked upon Jesus as the Messiah whom the prophets had said would come to bring about a political redemption. They became frustrated and angry when Jesus bracketed them and the Gentiles together as all the children of God in need of spiritual redemption. (218)


  John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopalian bishop, has written eloquently about this era, and he makes an excellent case that the writers of the gospels were trying to twist the finger of blame from the Romans, who were totally responsible for Jesus’ execution, to the victims of Roman oppression, the Jews. Spong sees this as Christians trying to curry favor with the Roman masters at the expense of the Jews, to make themselves separate from the persecuted group and thus escape at least the worst of the punishment. To me it looks like tinkering by the Romans themselves. In either case, it was long after the fact that the anti-Semitic words were written.

  Curiously, a minor point as to Barabbas, the name literally means son of God. If you have to pick between the son of God and another son of God, who do you choose?

  In Liberating the Gospels, Spong traces the evolution of the slur personified by Judas Iscariot, and says: “In this evolving story, the blame for Jesus’ death was clearly shifted from the Romans to the Jews, and as part of that shift, the story of the traitor emerged. The traitor was then given the name Judas/Judah, which was historically the name of the whole Jewish people.” (273)


In Matthew’s gospel Pilate [the Roman governor] was said to have gone so far as to wash his hands publicly and declare himself “innocent of this man’s blood.” Matthew then went on to have the Jewish crowd say those terrifying words, “his blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 26:25). Pilate was exonerated and the Jews were portrayed as calling down blame on themselves for all eternity. No text in any religious sacred literature has ever been the cause of so much pain and suffering in history as has this one. In these words a killing anti-Semitism found its biblical and therefore, in the eyes of many Christians, its justifying legitimization. The attempt to shift the blame from the Romans to the Jews is obvious, and it has been historically successful. (272)


I raise this possibility to consciousness in the hope that as you and I are awakened to the realization of what this story of Judas has done to the Jews of history, we Christians might rise up and deal a death blow to the most virulent Christian prejudice that has for 2000 years placed on the Jewish people the blame for the death of Jesus. If that result could be achieved, then the darkest cloud that has hung over the Christian Church in our history might finally begin to lift. At the very least, this is an idea that Christians need to entertain with great seriousness. (276)


  Sadly, for every reader of Spong there are a million viewers of the poisonous trash spewed by the Mel Gibsons of the world, but we thank him for digging for the mother-of-pearl beneath the silver sheen of tamasic ignorance. The false image will ever be box office dynamite, and the seeker of truth the rarity, it seems.

  As I said earlier, Nitya’s point about a consistent normative notion is true despite the historical inaccuracies. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” is a proverb that expresses the idea of normative notion accurately, as does the Golden Rule. We should not have one standard for ourself and our loved ones and another for those outside our group. If we don’t wish to be killed, we should not be killers. We are hypocrites if we are nice to some people and nasty to others, because of unexamined presumptions we carry in our hearts. The concept is deeply enshrined in the ideals of justice and truth mentioned by Nitya as being elements of the flood of realization. It plays out in the Jesus bit as meaning that if we open ourselves to truth, we should not kill the messenger and change the story to suit our comfortable fictions. If we want to be honest and adhere to our ignorance, it is a free choice. But if we pretend to a search for truth, we should not customize it to our habits of mind, but let the truth break open our shell as it listeth. Who knows, we may discover the pearl of great price within.


9/6/6 responses

from Anne:

Dear Scott;


Great class notes, as usual, following, of course, a great class.  A couple of quotations have occurred to me, rather belatedly as my brain works more slowly than most.  They are probably more relevant to verse 7 than verse 8, but very good nonetheless.


Do not look for rest in any pleasure,

because you were not created for pleasure:

you were created for joy.

And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy

you have not yet begun to live.

- Thomas Merton


I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response which decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


And joy is everywhere;

it is in the earth's green covering of grass;

in the blue serenity of the Sky;

in the reckless exuberance of Spring;

in the severe abstinence of Winter;

in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame;

in the perfect poise of the Human figure, noble and upright;

in Living;

in the exercise of all our powers;

in the acquisition of Knowledge;

in fighting evils...

Joy is there


- Tagore


from Baird, the source of the Spong connection (and the person we would most like to attend a class some day, even counting Madonna), a better summary than I gave:


To elaborate a bit on the story of Judas, here are some of Spong's comments from his newsletter just after the "Gospel of Judas" was aired on TV last spring:


A great part of the reason that I greeted this ‘discovery’ of the Gospel of Judas with a huge yawn is that in my book, “Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes,” written in 1996, I had argued for an even more radical understanding of Judas than the one included in the canonical gospels. The Gospel of Judas only seeks to restore Judas’ reputation from those earlier gospels. I contend that there never was a figure in history whose name was Judas Iscariot who needed to be rehabilitated. My study has convinced me that Judas was a creation of the second generation of Christians designed primarily to shift the blame for the death of Jesus from the Romans to the Jews. The pressure driving this creation of Judas came from the war between the Romans and the Jews beginning in 66 C.E. and ending at Masada in 73 C.E. The crucial event in that war was the destruction of Jerusalem and the razing of the Temple in 70 C.E. Roman hostility against the Orthodox Jews, who they blamed for initiating this war, was overwhelming. The Christians, who at this time were primarily Jewish, needed a way to separate themselves from the Temple authorities and to reach out to the Romans. To vilify a representative Jew, who had the name of the whole nation, Judah or Judas, while exonerating the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, accomplished exactly that. So Pilate was portrayed in the gospels, written either during or after that war, as washing his hands and proclaiming himself innocent of the blood of this man, while the Jewish authorities were portrayed as accepting the blame for Jesus’ death and suggesting that it was appropriate to pass that blame on to their children. This shift is clearly shown when the gospels themselves are read in order.


Adding data to the idea of Judas being a created symbol, we note that the concept of betrayal enters the Christian story in the writing of Paul in the mid-fifties some 15 years before the first gospel was written. Paul’s word literally meant “handed over,” an action that might include betrayal but does not necessarily do so. Paul, however, never identified this handing over of Jesus with one of the twelve. Indeed, just a few chapters later in this same epistle, Paul wrote that the Risen Christ appeared to ‘the twelve.’ Judas was clearly part of his Easter vision, an idea that is inconceivable if he had been the traitor. Matthew, who says that the risen Christ appeared only to ‘the eleven,’ also says that Judas had hanged himself before the crucifixion occurred. Once that seed of doubt about Judas’s historicity is sown, then the narratives that constitute the betrayal story can be looked at to see if there is another source for their content. For those who know the Hebrew Scriptures, almost every detail in the Judas story can be found in earlier biblical betrayal stories. The 30 pieces of silver as the price of betrayal, for example, as well as the hurling of that silver back into the Temple come out of II Zechariah (11:12,13). The idea that the traitor was one who broke bread at Jesus’ table, reflects the story of Ahithophel and King David. When Ahithophel’s treachery was discovered, he went out and hanged himself (II Sam. 17: 24, and Psalm 41:9). The kiss of the traitor comes out of the story of Joab and Amasa (II Sam. 20:9). The idea that a member of a band of twelve betrayed one of its own is found in the story of Joseph and his brothers from the book of Genesis (Gen:37:26). It is worth noting that in that story the one who decides to get money for betraying Joseph is named Judah or Judas. Keep in mind that the first story of Jesus’ passion, written by Mark, is not based on eye witness accounts but is drawn primarily from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. All of these things cast doubt on the historicity of Judas.



Just as a tree wonderfully is latent in the seed, all are in this; therefore, or by its importance, it is called pradhanam. (IV, 9)


  The last two verses of Maya Darsana lead us seamlessly into the Bhana Darsana. Pradhana is the source producing prakriti, the manifestation of Nature, which is the final term discussed in the next verse. Pra has several shades of meaning, in this case bringing forth, emanating. Dhanam means holding or containing, like a womb. MW defines pradhana as the most important part of anything, the Originator, primary germ, the original source of the visible or material universe. Where everything comes from, in other words.

  Swami Vyasa Prasad made an excellent point about pradhana. Shankara and Narayana Guru are kindred souls, and Narayana Guru often dismissed himself with the phrase “What I have to say is what Shankara said.” But Shankara left pradhana out of his philosophy, probably considering that the duality of purusha and prakriti didn’t suit his absolute nondualism. Here Narayana Guru reintroduces it. He wanted to also embrace the actual world, which is necessarily dual, and not only have the unitive but distant or detached side of things in his philosophy. This is in fact a major difference. Shankara’s outlook produced legions of monks sitting in profound meditation, but Narayana Guru invites us back down to earth, to live our life in all its uniqueness while carrying the Absolute with you wherever you go. To me, this slight change makes all the difference. I want to imbibe life, not bury myself in some repetitive program designed by someone else, long ago.

  The sequence right now in the study is that out of “nothing” everything comes. As it emerges, everything becomes bifurcated into subject and object, observer and the observed, and all that. Then it is further trifurcated into the gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. The complex interplay of these three produces the infinite kaleidoscopic display of manifestation.

  Here in the ninth verse we are closely pondering the moment that nothing becomes something, the greatest miracle in a cascade of miracles. If it were really nothing, nothing could emerge from it, but since it has become all this, we have to know that what appears to be nothing has in it a proliferating pattern and an urge to become existent. Therefore, as Anita said, nothing contains everything. It’s very pregnant.

  This means, among many other things, that the meaningless, random universe of dull minds is nowhere to be found. All creation brims with meaning and significance. Every moment is a priceless gem of the manifestation pouring out of the void. As Narayana Guru puts it, everything is wonderfully latent in the pradhanam. The wonderful part is very important. It is a wonder, filled to the brim with wonder. If properly appreciated, we should dance with joy at every moment, good, bad or ugly as it may happen to be.

  Part of this meaningful universe is the synchronous realization of different aspects of life with the path one is following. No less than three people had encountered the following quote within the last couple of days, which says the same thing in modernese. It’s by Marianne Williamson, from the recent film Akeelah and the Bee (thanks Susan):


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


Susan commented, “Is this not a wonderful, marvelous, very relevant quote???” Yep. We also are working on bringing this awareness into actualization, with our little sorties into the light.

  In short, the universe is not spewing all this amazing stuff just so it can be dismissed as ordinary, ho-hum. Get over it! Let it blow your mind. And we’re not just talking to scientific materialists. When religious enthusiasts claim God created everything, they are all too often dismissing creation to exactly the same extent as the materialists. God created it, so watch out! Do what God wants, or else! That kind of God is no better and often worse than an arbitrary big bang in an empty desert. We have some more layers to strip away here. And we will.

  Nitya, in his commentary, takes three major fields and retraces them to a point of origin. Religion holds the universe is a manifestation of the Word or logos, which emanates from the mouth of God. God is thus the point source of all. Science examines how the tiniest particles combine to make larger and larger structures, or how a big bang begins with a single point and expands into all this. And mathematics also begins with an imaginary point, which moves to become a line, turns to become a plane, and turns again to become a solid. All three hold the solid world begins with a point and expands. When the concrete, specific world vanishes, retraced back to the single point, it becomes only a conglomeration of ideas. An equally vast universe of ideas complements the material one, and they are united at the vanishing point. In our scheme of correlation, the horizontal positive pole represents the objective world, and the horizontal negative represents the conceptual, general world. They meet and “cross over” at the intersection with the vertical pole, precisely in the middle. The image is of two complementary solids like cones or pyramids, with their apexes conjoined, constructed along a horizontal axis.

  The Bhana Darsana teaches that the objective and subjective worlds come into being simultaneously in a rapid back and forth movement, like the fluttering of the wings of a bee that is so quick it becomes invisible. The present verse lays the groundwork for our understanding of that concept.

  We ended the class with something you can try at home: a few moments of sitting still and contemplating the nothingness from which all this has sprung. Don’t give it a name, like God or the Absolute, or even nothingness; then it isn’t nothing any more. Just take an unmediated peek at it, or at least try to imagine what nothing would look like if you could check it out.

  When we become enmeshed in manifestation, we can change the roll of the dice somewhat by mentally returning to the state of emptiness. Tinkering with what is already accomplished is unwieldy at best, but catching the cycle at a subtle level makes for significant change without any greater effort than having a clear understanding. As we all found, it’s actually rather pleasant—very pleasant even.



Vyasa Prasad sent the following last week after the class he attended, and it's here in case he didn't send it to all of you. Thought it would get the synapses firing in prep for this week's class. I'm also including a piece written by Vinaya Chaitanya for the Narayana Gurukula Yahoo group, where the old notion of the guru as a social reformer was once again floated. It's not obvious to everyone why this is a pejorative reference, so I asked him to spell it out. RST


Vyasa Prasad's:


I found myself reflecting on the notion of "nothingness" used to describe the mysterious state from which everything emerges.  I got a tip from Laszlo's latest offering, "Science and the Reenchantment of the Universe" where he quotes Heidegger's question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"


We do experience a content, a beingness and so I think of wisdom as a shift from objective consciousness to the content of consciousness. We can call such a state 'transcendental' in which our value content is at its purest state.  When we are drawn into experiencing the world, both in its subjective state and objective state, the value is "alloyed".  In the course of our growth we move from inanimate objects to the value of life itself.  I understand this value as the sat-cit-ananda described by the rishis. 


So the "nothingness" we think of is not a void or a vacuum, but a state in which there is absolute value content.  As we get caught up in the world of action and objects this absolute value is compromised and obscured, giving us only partial glimpses in the course of our interactions.  So the original state can be a nothingness in terms of the objects and ideas we have come to be associated with, but in itself it is a mysterious fullness, purnam, from which everything can arise, and yet manifestation can never exhaust its fullness. This notion is found in the peace invocation, "purnam idam, purnam adah...."


I suppose this is what Sankara meant when he composed verses ending with "cit ananda rupah, sivoham, sivoham" (I am consciousness and value). Narayana Guru has examples of his own, like 'arivu', and 'karu'. 





Why the Guru Narayana is not a "social reformer" but a World-Teacher,Jagat-guru?


     Another Guru-jayanti and Samadhi anniversaries have passed, and as usual, lot of newspaper publicity about the Guru, and all the politicians competing to praise him, should gladden the disciples of the Guru, but the fact is quite the contrary, and it's also very sad.  And my good friend Scott asking me to elaborate on this for the benefit of students/friends is the reason for this piece; otherwise I'd rather leave it well alone, and concentrate more on the translations of the Guru into Kannada and similar things that I am busy with these days, apart from the routine chores at the gurukula.


     Even though lots of lip-service is paid to the Guru as a social reformer, hardly ever do we find any mention of him in speeches/writings on philosophy in India.


     The first thing to note is that it is not so much as a historical figure that we study Narayana Guru, but more as a World Teacher and model Guru, in the context of perennial philosophy.  Not that he didn't respond creatively to the historical situation in which he found himself in the light of his wisdom-vision, but that is not to be mixed up with the far more important role of a Guru whose teachings are relevant to one and all, anywhere, anytime, who seek answers to questions that haunt humanity at levels far deeper than the social/historical questions.  The reformer is forgotten once the social problems are redressed, but a Guru's message is timeless, and this understanding/ discrimination between the eternal and the transient is the first qualification for a seeker of wisdom in the Guru tradition.


     In the long line of Gurus of India, it was the Buddha who frontally dealt with the despicable issue of "caste."  Gurus who followed have left much to be desired on this front, in spite of being staunch proponents of advaita. Narayana Guru was unequivocal on this question, declaring the oneness of the human family through his writings as well as establishing centres where this could be lived. This must be the reason why he's usually excluded by speakers and writers on philosophy.


     And it is not helped at all by the almost "successful" attempt by certain communities to see in him a "social reformer" and leader of a particular tribe struggling for social and economic justice.  To be affiliated to the name of the Guru for wrong reasons is just as bad as neglecting or ignoring him.  It cannot be over-emphasized that the Guru Narayana was NOT for any one group of people as against another.  He wanted humanity to recognize itself as belonging to the One caste of humanity, as made clear in all his writings, especially the Jati-Mimamsa (Critique of Caste).


     Philosophy does not live in a vacuum.  Falsehood has to be denied before truth can be founded firmly in the human heart.  Guru does this not only in the social realm, but in all realms, as evidenced by his bringing in an Asatya- darsanam (Vision of Untruth) in the Darsana-Mala, where he integrates all possible philosophical points of view in terms of the Absolute Selfhood of the human being and its dearness to one and all.  And, to conclude this, this integration at all levels is the uniqueness of the philosophy of Narayana Guru.  Brahmavidya is this integrative or unitive understanding of all, not another system, and the Guru restated it in clear and simple terms that befit the dignity of the human kind.  And this is why he is universally revered and his name celebrated.  May such understanding bless us all.  



  As by its very nature, it diversifies the modalities marvelously; this, which is of three-fold modality, is well known here as prakriti. (IV, 10)


Continuing the theme from last week, where something is mysteriously born from nothing, here that pulsation is shown to proliferate into everything we see and know as our world or our universe. The tenth verse is thus a rounding off of the entire darsana, and in a way of the entire first four darsanas, which depict the psychological and cosmological beginnings of existence. We stand now on the doorstep of the more practical part of the work, where the transformation imparted by the Guru can really begin to sink in.

  There has been plenty of adjustment of our way of seeing over the first four darsanas, but as Deb pointed out, this was preparatory stuff, what Nitya called “finding our seat.” We’ve learned to discard blocks and attune our vision to a harmonious keynote. We’ve settled neutrally onto our ground, which is called the Absolute, thereby laying the foundation for our personal castle on solid rock. But what will we create there?

  As a reminder for those of us who’ve gotten disoriented by the intensity of the study, Nitya immediately brings us back to the gist:


Darsanamala is a textbook of the Science of the Absolute. The intention of the author, and what should be that of the student, is not the gathering of information for the sake of scholarship. The prime motives are to attain a lasting happiness and to free the mind from the dual conditionings of pain and pleasure. (p. 225)


He then elaborates just a little, since this has been stressed repeatedly in the past:


As we go from verse to verse we are asked to take full cognizance of every detail of the transactions of life. Between the concepts of maya and prakriti [i.e. between “what is not—that is” and Nature] we are given every opportunity to trace the development of manifestation from what “is not” to what is irrefutably “out there.”

  In his search for happiness man is confronted by many objects which exist at the physical level externally to himself. But what exists as an external factor does nothing for him until he relates to it his subjective awareness of its meaning or significance. (p. 226)


We are exhorted not to dismiss anything but embrace everything.

  Underneath this simple yet radical teaching is a sketch of the fourfold or quaternion structure used by the Narayana Gurus as a great Key to understanding. “What is not” is placed at the vertical negative, and as it proliferates into “all this” it moves upward toward the omega of the vertical positive. Incidentally, the vertical movement implies time.

  As things become manifest in space, they take on a horizontal component. On the horizontal plus side, which is arbitrarily located on the right, objective reality (the reality of objects) is graphed. Corresponding to this on the left or negative side of the horizontal axis are the mental concepts of objects, known as subjective reality.

  A lot of the work we’ve done so far is to focus our subjective awareness so it accurately matches objective reality. (That’s part of why this is called a science, by the way.) Our storehouse of prejudices and misperceptions alters our subjective awareness to conform to a more or less imaginary version of objective reality. As we discard them, we begin to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. When this becomes established as our normal viewpoint, we have arrived at the stable seat of consciousness, our firm ground. We are now ready to begin. Before arriving at this stage we were only pre-tending, preparing for our journey. Now our mental safari equipment is ready, the porters of good intentions are hired, the maps of consciousness well scrutinized, and the antivenin and mosquito netting of helpful friends and wise teachers kept handy. We’re set to take the plunge.




Today I received a letter from Jim, saying that the chanting and all the Sanskrit words in the class was very alienating. He finds them a stumbling block rather than being beneficial in any way. Without having been in class, he echoed Nitya’s sentiments that we should be seeing the truth beneath or beyond the words, and not busy ourselves with “scholarship.” Since his complaints are felt by many others and are well taken, I want to share my response with everyone. I beg Jim’s pardon, but my guess is that a lot of people will be very glad he voiced what they secretly felt.


Dear Jim,

  Thanks for sharing your frustration with the class with me. I think you’ve expressed ideas many people feel. Perhaps you’d be surprised to learn that I agree with you for the most part.

  There are many ways to approach the study of what may loosely be called metaphysics. The one the Gurukula offers is intellectually challenging. It is based on the insights and vision of people with a different language than ours, though happily with excellent English skills as well. English in fact does not have words or concepts corresponding to many of the Sanskrit terms, so the latter are frequently used. I know this is very off-putting until one becomes familiar with them. Even then it is fraught with peril.

  The familiar word karma is a good example. It means action in its widest sense, but it is widely imagined to refer to a mysterious form of causality where you reap what you sow. The widespread belief that there is no relation between reaping and sowing thus makes people sneer at a relatively simple term that would actually be completely acceptable to them. Funny.

  Terms like Maya or Bhana combine many many unfamiliar concepts into a single term. Expanding one’s understanding of all the implications is a major part of the way many Indian gurus teach. It’s handy when you can evoke an ocean of understanding with a single word, but it’s prone to even more misunderstandings as people weigh in with their limited take on what they mean. I guess you could say this is always the problem with language and words. The Bible refers to it briefly as the Tower of Babel conundrum.

  But these are great words, mostly, and like a universal language are widely known around the world. There is a lot to be gained by knowing them. Unfortunately, you just jumped into the deep end of the pool before you learned to swim, so to speak. This is not an introductory course. It helps a lot to meet the words one at a time and have them explained. We are not doing much of that at the moment.

  In the past we have taught much more user-friendly classes. It took twenty years to get up the courage to present The Psychology of Darsanamala, which quickly scared away most of our class participants. I was not too surprised, either.

  Knowing the language barrier to be very significant, I have tried hard to limit the unfamiliar terms in the books and the classes, and striven to be the helpful intermediary you have not found in the class. I apologize for my failings, which are legion and I believe well acknowledged. I agree that getting the point is what it’s all about, as does Nitya. You probably saw the bit I quoted from him in the class notes from the last verse commentary: “Darsanamala is a textbook of the Science of the Absolute. The intention of the author, and what should be that of the student, is not the gathering of information for the sake of scholarship. The prime motives are to attain a lasting happiness and to free the mind from the dual conditionings of pain and pleasure.” In That Alone, Nitya excoriates teachers who sling Sanskrit terms to engender false respect in their followers. He always wanted to get the point across in ways people could grasp, and was an expert at doing so. But all we have left of him are his words, to bring back to life if we can. None of us is as good at it as he was, by a mile. But we feel we can sometimes help, despite our patent and admitted inadequacies. Amazing as it may seem, our classes are aimed at doing precisely what you request: turn unfamiliar ideas and words into something that makes sense to everyone. Sometimes we do better and sometimes poorly.

 I have suggested to others that they can skip the Sanskrit words as they read the books, because they almost always are translated anyway. They are like lions guarding the gates, but they won’t bite if you slip past them; they only look fierce.

  The source of the Gurukula teachings is in one sense very far from our familiar awareness. I trace it thusly: Narayana Guru had the precipitating vision; Nataraja Guru was able to schematically interpret it for scientists and philosophers; Nitya made it available and comprehensible as practical instruction for dedicated seekers. All of them re-experienced the vision for themselves, to make it real. Those of us remaining in this milieu have the task of not only striving to re-experience it too, but also of modernizing it into our present language and drawing parallels that speak to everyday problems. It’s not as easy as it sounds. That’s why we wrestle so mightily in class: we’re struggling to present a mastodon in the guise of a pussycat, and hoping that everyone can reimagine the mastodon from the cat. That’s how words work.

  If you can get to it without words, fine. From what I’ve seen, there is a modicum of success with nonverbal meditation techniques, but nothing like what the Guru I knew achieved. We live and breathe words, and they are simultaneously our prison and our release. What we need most is to move from words and concepts that imprison to those that liberate.

  While my experience is limited, most of the “simple” presentations I’ve seen I find very disappointing. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, but that’s what they mostly boil down to, in my estimation. Anyway, there’s lots of them for those so inclined. I’ve said before, this is not The Three Minute Manager. More like the thirty year manager….

  As to the brief chants before and after class, you are free to ignore them if they bother you. I’d be happy to explain them some time if you like. They are a way of calming the mind—nonverbally for those who don’t understand the words—with a variation of the aum sound. Other than the writings of the Gurus, they are the only shred of anything that unites the Gurukulas. If you go to Kanakamala or Somanahalli or Varkala or Ootacamundalam or Bainbridge you would find that classes begin and end similarly. None of the classes would be the same, however, because everyone sees things differently.

  There is no “agenda” in the Gurukula other than the sharing of wisdom. In Portland we have even stopped doing the main chant, because it’s a little long. But they are all lovely.

  The chants are not intended to be religious. The intention is to harmonize ourselves, to move from the chattering state of mind we enter the classroom with to a receptive and contemplative state, quickly and gently. As you noted, any meaningless sound can do this also. Humming a chant-like tune excludes errant thoughts. For your info, here’s what we use. They are all very ancient, and connect us to the Upanishadic rishis, who chanted them thousands of years ago. You can just read the English:



                           PORTLAND GURUKULA CHANTS



Aum, guru Brahma, guru Vishnu,

guru devo Mahesvara,

guru sakshat param Brahma,

tasmai sri gurave namah.

Aum, shanti, shanti, shantih….


Aum. The Guru is Brahma, the Creator,

The Guru is Vishnu, the Sustainer,

The Guru is Maheswara (Shiva), Great God and Dissolver of all.

The Guru is indeed the all-transcending Absolute.

To that Guru our salutations!
Aum, peace, peace, peace….



asato ma sat gamaya

tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

mrityor ma amritam gamaya


lead us from untruth to truth

lead us from darkness to light

lead us from death to immortality


—Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28



saha navavatu

saha nau bhunaktu

saha viryam karava-vahai

tejasvina-vadhitam astu

ma vidvisha-vahai

Aum, shanti, shanti, shantih….


Aum. Let us together be protected.

Let us together enjoy.

Let us together be nourished.

Let us together become radiant with spiritual effulgence.

Let there not come any hatred between us.

Aum, peace, peace, peace….





Aum, purnam adah, purnam idam,

purnat, purnam udachyate,

purnasya, purnam adaya,

purnam eva-vasisyate

Aum, shanti, shanti, shantih….


Aum. That is plenum, This is plenum.

From the plenum, plenum arises.

When plenum is taken away from plenum,

Plenum alone remains.

Aum, peace, peace, peace….


Again, my profound apologies for my poor teaching abilities. And thanks to you especially for voicing your concerns, without which we never know whether things are going wrong. Your friend, Scott


9/28/6 More from Jim


Greetings to all:


RE: my built in firewall


You may or may not know, from your experience and time we have spent together over several decades that I am sincerely engaged in the search for truth.  This search for truth I deem to call religion.  You may or may not know of my views of organized religions.  These organized religions of which I have participated, some for remarkably short times and others for longer periods have been various and varied in approach and method. 


M constitution includes what can be best described as a built in firewall that concerns itself to my religious and truthful searches and understanding.  The normal activity of this firewall is to determine weather what I’m doing is inclusive of all people, all perspectives, and without dogmas or certainties, that are a given, within this group of searchers I might be gathered with at one time or another. 


It rebels occasionally when groups, whether religious or not, place me in a position where locked perspectives, inherent dogmas of behavior necessary to continue my search and share with others is present.  In the old days, (not that this has come to an end), me and friends would commonly refer to this rebelling interpretation as with regard to the cause, as BS.


Accordingly, I view my Gurukula attendance and studies as religious.  My firewall has made itself known.  And I’m one very frustrated, depressed and uncomfortable camper concerning this.  I have no wish to create disharmony, as I may have already.  And I am depressed because I find myself mostly alone with this dilemma.  I am uncomfortable because I have no choice or voice in my sincere intuition that something is amiss and that for some reason something good for me is making untoward changes.  


I found it worrisome that you mentioned, I did it wrong, i.e., jumping into the deep end before I was ready. Because I have been in the deep all my adult life with regard to search for meaning and truth.  Perhaps you didn’t mean this.  As was taken from this writers view.


From experience there have been times when I have enhanced my understanding even while walking with another person, or participating in other overt activity.  So a lotus position is not a requirement.  This is mentioned to place in view what is organized or not organized.  While learning, much has been learned from the chance encounter, the novice and well as the i.e., moderator.  These loosely framed remarks are the best this writer can offer to further illuminate my heartfelt concerns.


Please accept my apology and my best wish to you and all for love and peace, Joy and Happiness.

I am not leaving.  I am with you all and will continue as best possible, but please accept my apologies for any discordance or interruption and to all, of course my love and wishes for personal Joy and Happiness.

You may do whatever you want with any remarks received from me.  Peace.




Thanks for your further amplifications. I'm sorry that you are not happy about the Gurukula class, but any search for truth is bound to have its ups and downs. It's there for those who wish to avail themselves of it for purposes of understanding, and we don't ask anything of anyone, monetarily or philosophically. Participation is free and withdrawal is free. I'm aware it doesn't suit very many people, but for those it does it is a breath of fresh air, actually a hurricane of fresh air.

  As to firewalls, I always hear Robert Frost's voice in my head: "before I built a wall I'd ask to know/ what I was walling in or walling out." Right after, he adds, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down." The mysterium tremendum naturally breaks down barriers, but we can build them back up again if we choose. That's from Mending Wall, to my mind one of the greatest poems in the English language.

  To clarify things a bit, no, I don't know anything about your past search for truth or religious involvements. And you misunderstood my comment about the pool, which was that I hadn't bothered to talk to you about the chants because I didn't realize there was any need to, until you mentioned it. A little clarification might have relieved your doubts, who knows? For instance, we "pray" that no one takes or gives offense, and that we will have mutual enjoyment of learning in the class. With that as a starting point it is easier to remain amicable. Instead of knowing this, if it's just a series of meaningless sounds, it's possible to imagine all kinds of things. I'll be the first to stipulate that religions have been responsible for many tragedies great and small throughout history.

  Americans are traditionally suspicious of foreign languages. I hope you'll read the hilarious diatribe by Jim in Huckleberry Finn about French; I'm sure it's on the internet somewhere.

  Anyway, you and I know that you are not leaving, because wherever you go, there you are. No one can leave the Absolute, which is their very nature. So we are always here, even when we think we aren't.

  If you feel like discussing this further in person, please give me a call. I'd like to clear away whatever can be cleared away, and leave only the actual junk that persists. Or we'll have a simple piano visit later this fall.

  I'm quite sure no one has taken any offence at what you think or say. I reiterate that everyone should always speak their peace. Conflicts like this if aired are a beneficial learning situation; if retreated from in silence they become just another of life's dead ends. It's our choice. Svasti (May it be well!), Scott


Some further responses:


You're right about the Gurus and our call to live and reinterpret their perennial vision of Truth in terms we can relate to, understand and find meaning through.  I appreciated your honesty and value your insight that words simultaneously conceal and reveal. It's up to us to see and to use language effectively and know when to keep quiet. And to know and feel the inner quiet of AUM ever reverberating underneath our words, their inspired source, the very embodiment of their sounds and their repository when remembered or forgotten.

     It does take some intellectual chops to understand the Absolute as one's Self and one's world through philosophy, psychology or mysticism. That's one of my main attractions to Vedanta. It is scientifically-thorough, logical, reasonable and precise; psychologically inclusive and wholesome and mystically adventurous and fulfilling to the body, mind, heart and soul.

     AUM Tat Sat.  Svasti.  The waves are breaking before the infinite sun on the cosmic shores of paradise.

     Aloha. Peter M.


WOW.  Thanks, Scott.  I think I missed the ACTION!...and actual class notes for a few weeks (last one received 9/5/06)???  Valuable dialog.  I remember feeling totally alienated in a Latin Catholic Church service (or again aware that I'm really an ALIEN...), and equally so at a Witch's Coven gathering in college.  In these situations, I wonder if these "in group" and "out group" rituals try to serve the purpose of bonding and elevating the superior believers (illusion or not), and revealing the masquerading misfit inferior outcasts.  Come to think of it, aren't the UO Duck's football team chants EXACTLY for these purposes?!  I think Jim and the rest of us will find the peace we seek by embracing our ALIEN-NATION, and thus are no longer offended by any situation where we feel alienated...rather the reminder helps us feel right at home.  A bit of a different twist...or maybe I'm just twisted tonight.... hmmmmmmmm.  Either way, filled with joy along the path.... 


All love, grace, gratitude, and a pinch or two of humor,



Well, well, well.  That was a fascinating and edifying exchange of views you had with Jim.  Actually I caught the first part of it last night, right before I went to bed, but it was 3 a.m. and I needed to give it some space.  I'm so glad that Jim dared to air his concerns with you (and you can share these first two paragraphs with him, so he knows it).  I was also glad to be able to know him better than that he makes a delicious whipped cream-fruit salad!  He was very quiet at the one class I attended, but I know from experience that quiet people can be vibrantly alive inside, just nervous about opening out.  OK, I've felt some of the same "alienation" he has, like, "I'm not getting this, this is beyond me", and "isn't that an awful lot of words to say a 'simple' idea?".  I've thought, "Oh, well, let Scott have his fun".  My thoughts went to the picture of Lahiri Mahasaya (page 375 in Autobiography of a Yogi), his resemblance to you, and perhaps a repeated karma in your own life.  In other words, I didn't always understand what you were talking about, but didn't like you less for that.  Within my own "firewall"  (and here I equate firewall more with a sense of personal integrity than with a wall), I just felt a little more lonely.


So I received your translations of the chants with gratefulness.  (My only real contact with chanting has been at La Center so long ago., and I never really felt initiated there, either.)  I revelled in your definitions and clarifications, and lovely similes and metaphors, of Sanskrit words like fierce-looking lions guarding the gates of knowledge, or of "struggling to present a mastodon  in the guise of a pussycat", while trying to reimagine the mastodon from the cat!  Swimming pools in all honor, with their deep and shallow ends, I personally feel stuck far away in a land of frozen lakes, and I've missed an awful lot of swimming lessons, so I need all the help I can get.  But partly through your class notes, and greatly through studies with Nancy, Gayathri and Wendy, I am actually re-experiencing the great vision (freeing up the mind), modernizing it into present language, and drawing parallels with everyday problems.  Anyway, many thanks to Jim for bringing this concern to light, and to you Scott, for your humble and pedagogical way of dealing with it.



How wonderfully J---! I can just hear her saying this. I guess that I am just guarding the dragons. I find your class notes and expression always thought provoking and often very touching. Don't you find that understandings sometimes come later? When the plums are ready they fall from the tree. Not quite sure if that fits but you will know what I mean. Don't water the content down to suit us, continue to help us to rise up and meet the content.


love, wendy.


I enjoy the chants even though I am not able yet to say them without the help of the book.  I enjoy learning new languages and was just yesterday looking in the Darsanamala at the front section where it goes over pronunciation of the Sanskrit letters/sounds and also at the beautiful Sanskrit at the back of the book where I assume the verses are presented.  I even looked over the Sanskrit version of the index, so my experience is that this is not off-putting but intriguing.


I want to read Jim's message and your response more carefully but I am of course reminded of my own moments of feeling out of step with the class and I do agree with you that voicing my concerns has been a beneficial learning experience.  I hope that this will be Jim's experience as well.



PLEASE Scott leave all the Sanskrit words in. Let people look them up. The are only alienating if one chooses them to be. They all form a wondrous part of the whole and fill the class notes with an Indian fragrance and vibration all their own.


AUM   Wendy.


I definitely appreciated your explanation and also that Jim let his opinions be known. As for me, I like the class the way it is. I always begin in a kind of fog and leave with a greater clarity. That seems the way life is in general. We keep coming up against challenges great and small. At times it feels that the ground is shaking violently or that the roof is caving in but if we surrender, accept, grapple, confront, ask questions, allow discomfort, sit quietly (not in that order perhaps), we find understanding, clarity, and such joy. Or maybe just the strength to take another deep breath.


Oh gawd. Sounds like a Hallmark card. But you get the gist...

Peace, Susan


ST: Sounds like the phones are ringing off the hook!


When I lived in a tiny cabin in Kneeland, California, high up in the mountains just east of Arcata/Eureka, right by the Mad River (hmmmmmm), I had just made a gigantic creative breakthrough and spent many obsessive months--nearly a year--madly creating by candlelight and kerosene, my first major tapestry, "The Dragon and Chrysanthemum". It includes 3,000 fabric pieces, 500 individually studded gems, thousands of beads, literally blood, sweat and tears, plus gazillions of precious breaths. This was the sacred christening of the 30 year path upon which I am still now traveling with this current gypsy project, a true 10 year monster of an undertaking.


I'll always remember when a sweet well-intention woman down the road happened to stop by and said, "Heavens, that's quite a quilt, honey. A little gaudy for most tastes, but I'll give you $200 for it anyway." I was speechless, and she thought somehow she was doing me a favor. The part of me that was still nurturing my aching bleeding fingers felt the urge to jump her and bury her in the basement. But I stood there seeing that she did not know what she was seeing, and she probably didn't deserve to die for the crime of what to her was simple kindness.


Needless to say, she and I never developed much of a depth relationship, but we'd nod warmly when we'd pass in the market.

I can still remember the urge to feel insulted, hurt, doubtful, alienated, instructive, aggressive, angry.... but I think this lesson came to me at a time when I was dancing so closely with the warm innocence of the Divine, that my mind came to rest with such gentle obvious truth that we were both good humans with varying ways to see.


All love and gentleness on this beautiful clear day,




I'm tired of being in the news.  But I want to wish love. Jim

[only two of these notes were ever sent, plus my responses]


Language, it is said, has always existed.       


I came across a paragraph by Nataraja Guru:  "Philosophy too, when rid of linguistic or cultural frontiers, will tend to bring humanity together in a more real sense than in the case of the Tower of Babel, which left the question of a common language outside its scope."              


The language we speak today has roots that go back to antiquity.  A branch of study called etymology traces the development of words.  Latin, Greek provided the English language with most of the words in use today. 


When the word 'paparazzi' recently gained currency we had to rush to our dictionary to find the meaning.  The origin we are told is Italian.  When 'au pair' began to be voiced by the media, we discovered that it was French.  The English language has anglo-saxon roots, supplemented later with Latin and Greek roots.  The native anglo-saxon roots have given us words like bread (from breowan) and knowledge (from cnawan) and friend (from freon) and wisdom (from witan).  After the Norman Conquest words based on Latin and Greek roots found their way into the English Language.  Latin roots like ager, agriculture; aqua, water; arbor, tree;  canis, dog; frater, fraternal and friar; humus, humble; oro, speak.  The even more ancient Greek provided words such as angelos, angle or evangelist; anthropos, philanthrophy; kardia, cardiac; kosmos, cosmopolitan; lithos, monolith; mythos, myth; oikos, economy, ecology; pathos, sympathy; psyche, mind.  


The Sanskrit language is the root of almost all the languages of India, except for the Tamil.  The word "Sanksrit"  means "refined."  There are similarities between some Greek, Latin and Sanskrit words.  (mater and mata both mean "mother")  In my personal experience, I have found the relationship between sound and meaning quite intimate in the structuring of Sanskrit words.  The semiotic process seems more streamlined  and so learning some of the words actually helps the thought process.  My conclusion is that there is no harm in picking up a few Sanskrit words, even though they seem difficult and alien and even funny in the beginning.

Vyasa Prasad


That about wraps it up. It certainly wasn't my decision to use Sanskrit and chanting as a teaching technique, it goes back thousands of years. It's just what I happened to learn from a really excellent teacher, our buddy Nitya. Peace, Scott 

Scott Teitsworth