Nitya Teachings

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Darsanamala - Bhana Darsana

10/10/6

Bhana Darsana introduction

 

Now we begin to study the way the mind functions in earnest. Nitya provides a brief introduction to sketch out the four basic states of mind: wakeful, dream, deep sleep and transcendental. Wakeful and dream are referred to as the horizontal positive and negative respectively, while deep sleep and the transcendental comprise the vertical axis from negative to positive. Nitya begins by asserting that the Maya Darsana dealt with “what is” and the Bhana will deal with “what ought to be.” “What is” refers to the horizontal factors, and “what ought to be” comprises the progression through time along the vertical parameter.

 Happily, Anita gave us a perfect example right off the bat. Every morning she wakes up and visualizes her desire to bring happiness and love to the world. Often she has dreams she remembers, some of which add richness and direction to her conceptualizations. Then, as she goes through the day she attempts to actualize her helpfulness by being kind, forgiving, understanding, and so on. She admits that very often the encounters throw her off balance and she reacts at less than optimal levels, but then she gathers herself back together for the next interaction. We can see that Anita has a goal of perfecting herself spiritually, and she is growing from the unconscious seed state of the vertical negative into the conscious version at the vertical positive, with the aim being to achieve full transcendental awareness. All along the way, she has horizontal interactions with people that are the specific opportunities to practice actualizing her vision.

 Bill mentioned that when asked what happiness is, the Dalai Lama responded that happiness is a tranquil mind. Narayana Guru’s (and I presume the Dalai Lama’s) vision of a tranquil mind is one with a dynamic equilibrium between horizontal and vertical factors, where the spiritual vision infuses every aspect of day to day life. Actions without a vision are brutish, and a vision without implementation is isolating and sterile. Thus, tranquility does not mean a mere absence of stimuli but their embrace and absorption in active wisdom.

 Nitya leaves it to us to concoct our own value vision to provide meaningful direction to our life. Each of us is bound to have a different take on where they individually and we as a whole are headed, or where we should be headed. But he significantly asks if we make progress only when we are consciously and actively engaged with the wakeful state, or whether or not the rest of the psyche participates. “Where do we go when we begin to snore? Are we then still engaged in the program of our search for truth?” In his That Alone class he once accused us of being prejudiced in favor of the wakeful state. The present class pondered whether the dream state or even the vertical core participated in our programs. It’s a sad fact that we mostly identify with the tip of the iceberg called wakeful consciousness in our self-image. Evidence abounds that our own mind is packed with abilities that we know little or nothing about. If these could be acknowledged and tapped into, our life program would be greatly enhanced.

 We had a recent example. Deb has put the current issue of Gurukulam Magazine together in record time, all by herself, with only one snafu. One page resisted every effort to enter text correctly, and every fix we could imagine. She called her helpful computer nerd, and he was baffled as well. But he thought about it for awhile and then went to bed. At four in the morning he woke up out of a dead sleep and had the answer like a bolt from the blue. When the rest of the world awoke he came over. His vision had been exactly right, and the fix took only a few seconds.

 Once we opened this door, others remembered the “Eureka!” factor in their own lives. Many years ago, Adam had been struggling mightily with a puzzle for three days, hoping to win a prize. With the deadline the next day, he finally gave up and went to sleep. The next morning as he awoke he perfectly visualized the solution, which he then replicated a few times so that it was impressed on his waking mind. He proudly retains the prize to this day.

 The annals of science are filled with tales of great discoveries made while resting or sleeping off the stress of mental gymnastics performed to solve the very problem. Recent research has also shown that we consolidate what we have learned only when we turn off our transactional mind and take rest. The conscious effort is essential to the process, but it is not the whole story. The effort must be followed by a letting go, which invites the involvement of a much wider spectrum of intelligence to join the fray. Such an attitude can be cultivated regularly, by replacing self-deprecating thoughts such as “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not smart enough,” with “I’m going to open myself to all the abilities hidden within me, and I’m sure they can rise to the occasion.” A simple change like this can harmonize many chaotic and disused forces, allowing them to imbue our steps with almost unlimited inspiration. That’s why one of the most important beginning projects in the spiritual search is to befriend yourself, to come to know that you are made of star stuff just like everybody else, and your potential is infinite.

 Nitya reminds us, “Individuals are like pawns on a chessboard. Yet there is a difference: there is no player who moves us about. The choice and responsibility of movement is on every occasion assigned to the pawn itself.” But he also wants us to know we are much more than pawns: we are sovereign kings and queens, with abilities that are naturally penned in at the outset but become more and more available as the game goes on. If we ignore our true worth we will imagine ourselves to be just meek and meager pawns, but if we engage our total being in the game we can achieve much more. Such is the doorway to the Bhana Darsana that the Guru invites us to enter.

 

Part II

 Another dream from the class. Jyothi avers she has been in a funk since Nitya’s passing in 1999, only emerging from it in the last year or two. She has wondered what she should do with her life, now that her longtime position of secretary and helpmate was no longer available. Options for women are severely limited in India, and sadly, particularly in the current Gurukula climate, which has reinstituted the sexism that the three Gurus strove so mightily to abolish. Where she should be eagerly sought as a teacher, she is ostracized instead. Several times during that seven year period she had a dream that baffled her, and the friends she asked for help couldn’t offer any insight either. Since it’s the most straightforward dream I’ve ever heard, it must be that when we are confused even the obvious becomes mysterious. It is a wonderful thing to be aware of, knowing as well that as our confusion dissipates the mysterious becomes obvious instead. But never fear: the universe will never run out of fresh mysteries to enchant us with.

 Here’s the dream: Jyothi and Tyagi Swami are sitting at Guru Nitya’s feet in the “prayer hall” at the Fernhill Gurukula, where a million similar talks have happened in waking life. Nitya is sitting with his eyes closed. He opens one eye and looks directly at Jyothi. “Mole, write!” (Mole, with two equally stressed syllables, is a common term of affection meaning daughter in Malayalam.) Then he closes his eye and goes back into deep meditation.

 Deb pointed out that this showed that Nitya had not gone away with his dying, that he was still here and very much a part of our lives. Being present or not present transcends the workings of fate, in other words. Jyothi only mentioned the dream because we had been talking for a week about how she had so much writing she needed to do, memoirs of her time with Nitya especially. It is too bad that all the people who knew him are holding onto their memories and may well go to the grave with them. There are so many great stories, enlightening stories. Jyothi had started writing only two days before, and things were starting to pour out, beginning with her first meeting the Guru at Kanakamala Gurukula as a little girl. Finally while probing the subject in class, the meaning of the dream crystallized irrefutably for her.

 Jyothi has so much to share. We all do, but our funks block our ability to be who we already are. Story of the human race, as a matter of fact. So there is no need to debate whether the dream was “actually” Nitya or just the subconscious using him as a symbol of Teacher, the dream finally had its effect, and after many repetitions it got through. Dreams can solve much more than simple dilemmas; this one is a whole life problem, though it was able to be put very simply.

 We can answer Nitya’s question with an affirmative Yes. Dreams most definitely participate in our search for truth. Almost better to ask whether our waking mind does….

 

10/17/6

Present within as without, constantly fluttering like a bee, awareness is divided into just two kinds: generic and specific. (V, 1)

 

 One of the first of many realizations that came to me on LSD was that there was no inside or outside. Everything just is. It is all consciousness. The fictional notion that I was a body was swept away in an instant, and when I thought of it the whole idea was risible, laughable. The ego boundary dividing us from them, inside from outside, is for all the world like the thinnest of bubbles. We have to keep it pumped up with hot air or it will evanesce before our very eyes.

 We look out at our body and make a link between our self and what we see, but if we simply sit quiet and contemplate with eyes closed, from the inside there is no perceptible boundary. Our conscious space is vast and unbounded. When we delimit ourself in our imagination, the barrier building takes place wholly within our consciousness. Narayana Guru begins his examination of awareness by simply asserting the existence of this ground.

 Further, he mentions the Vedantic concept that subject and object spring into existence together as mirror images, and that there is a rapid fluctuation of our localized awareness back and forth between them. Sometimes in meditation, if you can step back from subject-object duality for a moment, this will be perceived as a flashing or flickering sensation, similar to a movie projected at too slow a speed. When concentering consciousness, one seeks to sit outside this movie for a moment, in the stillness of the Self. That gives one the perspective to rejoin the fray from a less easily ruffled, more stable state of mind.

 We talked many times about how the “scientific” belief that objects cause the subject to appear in consequence is absent from Vedanta. To the Vedantin (and the quantum physicist) this is only taking the illusion as reality. Obviously a bad idea, though highly compelling.

 After a long study of the ways we are confused and deluded as a species, the Bhana Darsana converges on the assertion of exactly what is real, which comes precisely in the middle of the total garland of visions, at the end of the tenth verse. Darsanamala is Narayana Guru’s last word on Vedanta philosophy, dictated in response to requests from his disciples for just such an all-encompassing summary, and it evinces a magnificent symmetry. We have reached the stage in it of pulling everything together, plunging headlong toward the conclusion “what is not superimposed—That alone is real.” Tat eva sat: That alone is real. Aum.

 It must seem ages that we have been wallowing in what is not real before arriving at what is, but that’s the way the Guru teaches. As Nitya says, “The effacement of the duality cannot be effected until one discovers the false criterion adopted to make this dichotomy.” It’s all very well to say you don’t accept duality, but that doesn’t have much effect on your natural and inherent perception of subject and object. The Guru wants to take us to a place that does have an effect.

 The first division of awareness is into generic and specific, and it is here that we begin to go seriously wrong. The two categories should be complementary: the generic should express the truth of the sum total of specifics, and each specific should be an integral part of the generic understanding. Somehow they tend to be out of joint. Examples are legion of the disconnect between them, but here’s one that springs to mind. My family has a number of racists in it. They often make horrific statements about people of different color. But in their everyday experience they are kind and civilized with whoever they meet. Moreover, they are seemingly unaware that there is any ruptured relationship between their specific interactions and their generic attitudes. I’d like to generalize this idea and claim that many of us have highly suspicious and negative feelings about our overall concepts, while in our specific activities we have much more positive and sympathetic feelings. Why not adjust the generic to match the specific? This also works the other way around. If you have a positive general attitude, when you meet that one bad apple in the barrel you won’t be inclined to insist that every other apple must be rotten too.

 Nitya mentions how the death of someone in your family can affect you much more than the death of a million people in some far off place. Jyothi told us how he had taught that it was the “my” factor that caused the pain. If you could eliminate that you could stay steady in your happiness. I mentioned that he also taught that if you could enlarge that “my” to include everything, then all was equally dear. I recall him looking at a sunset and saying “Aren’t I beautiful?” for example. You can have your choice of methods, or even try both. I think to be successful with the first approach you must die to your family in something resembling the classic sannyasin style. Otherwise to arbitrarily cut off the “my” from “my child” is too severe, like being dead before your time. You can’t go wrong by making everything dear, though occasionally there will be bouts of pain when something dear is taken away.

 Deb suggested an exercise based on the text. Ask yourself what did you once consider to be outside yourself that now was part of your self-definition. I suggested a similar one: What did you once think was true that you later found out was wrong, thus realigning your outlook. Either of these is a good subject for contemplation some morning.

 Jyothi began the exercise by talking about how before she came to America she had so many odd notions that were pure prejudice, and how getting here everything changed. Travelers to far flung places are familiar with this kind of transformation. Ann talked about how she once disliked coyotes, since she raised chickens and they ate them whenever they could. Recently she has learned how beneficial they are to the ecology, eating lots of nuisance rodents. She beefed up her fences and tosses the coyotes some food once in awhile, and now they are friends and have even stopped eating her hens. I recalled how my mother was a misogynist for some reason and she had me convinced from early on that girls were deceitful, mean, untrustworthy, you name it. To be avoided at all costs. As a result, for most of my youth I was never able to talk coherently to females: they were totally Other. I was simultaneously attracted and repelled, which produced a permanent state of tongue-tied conflict. Luckily I came of age in one of the all-too-brief eras of liberation, racial, sexual, gender, and so on. Slowly I learned to treat women and men equally as human beings, without a lot of baggage weighing me down. Liberation felt great! Only later in life did I reflect and realize how my mother had poisoned me because of some wound she herself had suffered. Without the liberation I might never have had a decent relationship with a female.

 This verse invites us to take a hard look at our entrenched attitudes one at a time, and revalue them in the light of dispassionate wisdom. Each success is like pulling a thorn out of our foot. Why should we walk around our whole lives on all those sore spots? The effort is well worth the trouble.

 

Part II

 I was asked after class where love fits into all this. I like to start with Nataraja Guru’s definition: “Love is a vague word used by unscientific people about a feeling they don't understand.” He also said, “all of life is a love affair.” These are not contradictory.

 Love is another of those words bandied about frequently, but rarely experienced. To me, love is the same as Light, and it is the beingness of the Absolute. As such it is omnipresent. It isn’t ostentatious; in fact, it’s too subtle to be perceived most of the time.

 The kinds of emotional outbursts that are sometimes identified as love are fine things, but they are something else entirely. Interpersonal love is a complex soup of desire, repulsion, release from repression of the ego, and much more. It is plainly visible, and so receives a lot of attention. Everyone’s first love is an exquisite state of tremendous power, but no one has been able to teach how to re-experience it once the rush is past. Lucky, or we’d all just stay there and let the world go to hell in a handbasket. I think of emotional love as being at its best in a predominantly black, gospel church. The enthusiasm and excitement are so palpable that a person would be a spoilsport to allow his philosophy to intervene. It’s a catharsis—get out of the way.

 When the psyche has been crushed and held down for a long time—and a week can be a long time when you’re oppressed—when it finally has an opportunity to break out, it erupts with terrific exuberance. The feeling is spectacular, and I suppose that’s why many people can accept their oppression the rest of the time. Much great art and music, too, bursts out of severely repressed psyches. But should this be a rationalization of oppression? I can never give a final opinion on this matter. Maybe we only grow through suffering, and yet all I want to do is relieve suffering. Does this make me anti-growth?

 One of the key criteria about unity is that it doesn’t come and go, it remains constant. Those things that produce attraction followed by repulsion are dualistic. Peak emotional states, fun as they are, are very exhausting. Darsanamala study is aimed at finding love in a calm and centered way, that is energizing rather than enervating. To many, especially Westerners with their long history of ceaseless activity, it looks too quiet.

 Vedantins don’t much use the word love, though Nitya often did. They prefer to call it happiness or bliss. All these are the same thing. Arguing about it is like arguing whose God is better, when it’s all the same God. What matters is that you experience it. The experience of bliss or love or the light of truth is rare. As we are continually reminded, the main purpose of the study we are undertaking is to achieve this state in a lasting way. There are many other ways, and it’s a matter of taste which you choose.

 I’m acutely aware that anything I say on the subject of love is only a small part of the picture. I hope some of you wise associates out there will add (or detract) from this brief summary. Please let me know if I can share it with the larger group, or if you’d prefer I keep it private. Now, turn off your computer and go have some love!

 

Anonymous feedback:

You said: Vedantins don't much use the word love, though Nitya often did. They prefer to call it happiness or bliss.

 

 Perhaps Nitya is correct. This is a word class.

 

 Could happiness or bliss be mostly interpreted as a self centered; I feel the bliss, or am I happy? Whereas love is not?

 

Do you agree love means connectivity, and sharing with the all? Do the Bushes need love? Absolutely, but they and theirs are only them, whereas love does not delineate but is free to all. There is no measure of he or she or them need more love than some other being. My personal view of this word, is surrender to others with help and giving, and thereby freeing ego or “I” from any meaning. But do it because they are a part of you, and you them, not because you might free your self. And of course unitively connected, without ego, striving only for harmony and giving in which way all is benefited. 

 

 I am disturbed when teachers frequently use the word compassion. Because to me compassion is caring, being respectful, doing what you can. Whereas to me Love is when you jump off the bridge, totally going for it. If we can care for the lonely coyote, the devoured pet eaten by coyote, then if we see the feeling and apply it to all, the Bushes are automatically included. Loving does not in my view imply suffering. But it is surrender. If someone needs, let them take. Are we really ready for this? The way I remind myself of these things, is to imagine someone whose life is dependent on mine, literally. What is my life worth? This is a part of it, perhaps the most important part. So yes, imagine giving your life for another because they asked and needed it. So by this giving you can relieve their suffering. Then imagine keeping this focus permanently. If there are doubts perhaps this will also give us something to study and grow with. As long as I’m exposing, I feel love is naturally rewarding, joyful for those reaching out totally to all and is the embodiment of the reality and joy we call unity or the Absolute.

 

Response:

 I wholeheartedly agree with you that love is naturally rewarding and joyful. Also that it means connectivity and sharing with all and the All. And I agree that compassion, nice as it is, is a way overused term, but I’m not sure why it bothers you when it describes such a positive attitude?

 Pure unselfishness does not imply giving everything away and not taking care of yourself. We are called to give what each situation requires, that’s all. You take care of your personal hygiene and I’ll take care of mine, as long as we can. Giving too much can be more obnoxious than not giving enough. And who do you surrender to? Surrender describes a way of opening up the heart, it doesn’t mean that we should become servile and grovel in the dust. I like to think that life presents us with opportunities to lend a hand sometimes, and to share what we’ve learned. As St. Bob put it, “If you see your neighbor carrying something, help him with his load, and don’t be mistaking Paradise for that home across the road.”

 Giving is a whole study in itself, as The Gift, by Lewis Hyde attests. Each person’s life is worth much more than the price of their death. All are unique, and should uniquely express themselves. There is no substitute for any one of us. Existence is all the reason there is; people like you who care a lot and ponder things always seek to improve themselves, but that’s just the way you are.

 Any experience requires an experiencer, and in this love, bliss and happiness are indistinguishable. In practice though, I agree that some people pursue a selfish form of indulgence that they may call happiness, whereas to love often implies giving something to another. In that case, the former is taking in and the latter is pouring out. The notion of giving is present also in compassion. In both love and compassion there is usually a slight taint of superiority in the mind of the giver. To me perfect love comes from harmonizing the influx and the outflow, to find the stillness in the midst of the storm.

 I believe that when love or bliss or happiness are experienced, there is a natural benign influence on friends and family that doesn’t require any sense of superiority. Love is latent in everyone, and the love they are shown resonates with the love already in them. The state of love, bliss or happiness, which I continue to assert is the same with different terminology, is arrived at via a bipolar relationship with the Absolute, Guru, God, the quantum vacuum or what have you. I think of Jesus as a Guru; many think of him as a God. I don’t know what you believe on that score.

 The symbol of the cross teaches us to love God the Father vertically and our fellow humans horizontally. What this means to me is that we don’t somehow generate love, we are made of it. God is love. Vedantins say we are God, so we are also love. Christians posit love as a blessing from an external God. Either way, none of us has any special claim to it, but all of us are—or can be—filled with it. Striving to be loving dilutes the impact of just being Love, which is what we are. We are only asked to share the love we are made of with our neighbors and concurrently with our inner relationship with the divine, and by so doing it is expressed and experienced, to everyone’s delight. There isn’t a downside.

 All of us benefit from instruction from our wise friends. We should learn to see how what each person talks about with slightly different terminology is the same, otherwise we will once again fight over meaningless issues. We will think “Oh, those people don’t get it but we do. Our way is the right one.” Narayana Guru has gone to great lengths to show us why this is a failed attitude, especially in verses 44-49 of Atmopadesa Satakam, which I highly recommend for a more detailed look at this question.

 I beg to differ that this is a “word class.” We are learning to experience love directly. A description of love or bliss is a pale imitation of what we seek. The words are how we learn and comprehend, and how wisdom is transmitted, but they are by no means the end in themselves. They are just an excellent means to an end. They clarify our confusion. They can help us to be far more loving than we have been in the past, and those are the kinds of words we strive to share in class, in a protected and sympathetic environment.

 I’m sorry this is a bit diffuse. I’m getting ready to leave for two weeks, and it is a huge subject. I’m glad you brought it up, and I look forward to your further thoughts whenever you feel like it.

Blissfully yours, Scott

 

11/8/6

Gross, subtle, causal, and the fourth—thus, the bases of awareness are of four kinds; the same names apply to awareness also. (V, 2)

 

 The commentary is long enough we’ve spent two classes on this verse, with Deb filling me in on the first session, which I missed. At that one they talked, logically enough, about the quaternion structure so familiar to Gurukula buffs. The bases of awareness are the wakeful, dream, deep sleep and transcendental states. The shades of awareness symbolized by those states are material reality, its perception by the mind, the potential seed state of the unconscious, and the full expression of manifested comprehension.

 The first class discussed the horizontal bases, the subjective and objective categories, mostly commonly thought of as names and their corresponding forms. They keyed on how objective entities have a subjective content, which is a perennially valuable meditation. Adam mentioned the common experience of returning as an adult to the house you grew up in. The house is ostensibly the same, but the subjective experience is dramatically different. Not only have the house and grounds shrunk a noticeable amount, but the “feel” of it has gone from intimate familiarity to disjunct separation and even alienation. “You Can’t Go Home Again,” enshrined in the book by Thomas Wolfe, means you can return to the objective location but the subjective experience can never be reproduced.

 Next they talked about synchronicity, how frequently “outside” events correspond to our inner mental state. Adam told an interesting tale about how he became fascinated by a Polish psychologist living in Canada, Kazimierz Dabrowski, and his Theory of Positive Disintegration. One day Adam was in Warsaw, Poland, riding a bus, and just nearby was a guy who looked exactly like Dabrowsky’s picture in his books. Warsaw is a huge city of a couple of million people and Dabrowsky lived half a world away, so it was impossible it could be his favorite author, but he thought “What have I got to lose?” and introduced himself. It was in fact the man he had been avidly reading, in Poland to give a series of lectures. They had an exciting discussion and Adam was invited to attend the lectures, and even invited onstage to assist in demonstrations. In an imaginary world where subject and object are not connected, how likely is that? And yet somehow our dreams do become reality, often enough to go well beyond statistical accidents. Our outlook and interests shape the course over which our lives unfold, without any need to consciously scheme and manipulate. It happens as a natural flow and unfoldment.

 When I looked up Dabrowsky and his theories I learned he is widely respected, and positive disintegration parallels the unfoldment of dialectic yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. Interesting fellow.

 Anita added a scenario familiar to every parent: when you are pregnant, everywhere you look you see babies and pregnant women. Even as a mere spouse of a pregnant person I can vouch for this. You cannot imagine how much reproduction is happening all around unless you have been part of the game yourself. It’s like a hidden picture puzzle where once you see the disguised subjects they stand out perfectly clearly. We come to experience what we meditate on. It is a logical but false concept that the objective world produces our subjective experience of it. According to the Bhana Darsana, subject and object arise together out of the seedbed of the vertical negative, loosely called the unconscious in the West, but known by us as sushupti, the deep sleep state. In this verse it is called karanam, the causal state, the state that causes things to come about.

 If I had been in class, I would have added that when you are happy the world is radiant and people smile and talk to you on the street, and when you are depressed you encounter unfriendliness and hostility, situations that augment your misery. Good enough reason to seek happiness.

 In the same vein, we have a government run by terrorists, who therefore see terrorists everywhere. And we know of saints who see the glory of God in everyone they meet. More good reason to seek happiness and wise insights.

 Or as Ann told her depressed friend, if you cannot find a way to be happy yourself, at least do something nice for others around you. A kind word seldom goes amiss. You can bring about happiness even when you are miserable, as long as you get over your selfishness in wanting everyone else to be as miserable as you are.

 The class concluded that the apparent dichotomy between a personal soul and an impersonal world is false. The soul is an integral part of the limitless ground of the Absolute it arises from, and soul and world spring into existence together. Deb wrapped it up with an apt quote Peter O had contributed to the Spring 2005 Gurukulam Magazine from the Talmud: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

 

 In the second class we examined the mysterious vertical pole, representing time or unfoldment, the process of going from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom, from bondage to freedom. As Bergson claimed, “The universe is a machine for making gods.” When we put energy into it, our vision will expand immeasurably.

 Nitya’s commentary highlights the way each seed is conditioned as it develops, since that is where we have leverage to make positive contributions to our own and other’s welfare. First of all the seed has predilections of its own, but then it is shaped and diverted by the world in which it is birthed. Conditions have to be favorable at the outset or the seed remains dormant. Nitya wants us to know that the seemingly outside social and moral spheres are also an integral part of our individuality. This part of us is called the superego by Freud. We are not isolated souls victimized by outside factors. The whole thing emerges harmoniously from the dance of our spiritual evolution. And yet those conditioning elements are not the Absolute, despite being held in high esteem by the religiously minded. They are our challenge, our bondage to overcome, our eggshell to break out of when the time is right. They have their place, but they are limited and limiting.

 Adam put an old idea in a wonderful new way, and I wish my keyboard had a Polish accent so I could do it justice. The Absolute cannot know itself, it has to first lose itself in order to find itself, and in the process it discovers what it is. The evolution of the universe is how the Absolute comes to know itself. The pain of loss of self-awareness is more than compensated by the joy of regaining the awareness of the Self.

 Our class next examined the importance of the interconnectedness of things, epitomized as it is by the vertical pole. If there is no Absolute to unite all the particles, individuals, events, and so on, then the whole game degenerates into chaos. The truth that it does not indicates a uniting factor to keep everything in dynamic relation. Our happiness thus comes from new insights and expanded horizons of awareness, progress upwards along the vertical pole, and not from the cyclical fluttering of horizontal actualities. Those merely accompany and give shape to the expanding awareness as we go through life awake. Or course, it is equally possible to waste a life in stasis by focusing only on horizontal happenstance and avoiding growth and new frameworks of awareness. Happens all the time. Tamas is ever present, ready and willing to usher us back into the womb of unconsciousness or delusion.

 Nitya drops a favorite sentence of his here, “This ‘this’ is different from that ‘this’ because of the what of this ‘this’ and the what of that ‘this’.” When I edited Darsanamala over twenty years ago I didn’t know that this is a quote from F.H. Bradley, so I tried to make it more comprehensible. Unfortunately the idea was for it to be maximally incomprehensible, as a goad to look beneath the surface. The proper quote is (I hope), “This this is different from this this because of the what of this this and the what of this this.” The full story is admirably told In Love and Blessings, pages 161-162. Check it out.

 The overall aim, as Deb stipulated, is to discover the This that unites all the manifold thises. We are very good at predicating and defining all the little thises, but not so good at remembering the overarching This. It requires centering ourselves and sinking into the depths of our Being. Ann likened it to scuba diving. At the outset you are on the surface of the sea, preparing your gear, beset by waves and wind and weather. Then you sink into the ocean and all that disappears in a blissful unitive state. You can physically feel what we usually describe only metaphorically and abstractly, the telescoping inward from horizontal involvements to the cool profundity of unitive deeps. Ann says you should try it, you’ll love it.

 

Feedback:

Wonderful notes and classes! Wow.

THANK YOU. ABSOLUTEly brilliant studies.

 

I also deeply treasure Dabrowski

and his profoundly useful contributions for humanity.

His valuable works and concepts

are foundational to

The Institute for Advanced Development

in Boulder, Colorado,

and their very interesting yearly journals.

Worth a peek.

 

Again, thank you all for coming together,

sincerely sharing your hearts, souls and journeys,

then generously pollinating us wayward stragglers

out here in the hinterland.

This process certainly makes clear:

"The whole is much greater

than the sum of it's parts".

What a delicious inspirational buffet!

 

In gratitude, love and grace,

Peg

 

11/14/6

See here: “I am the body; this is a pot.” Thus, based on the gross, the awareness which is experienced, that is considered to be the gross. (V, 3)

 

 The first of two verses addressing the first quadrant of Narayana Guru’s scheme of awareness asks us to take a close look at objective reality. The ordinary mortal takes the world around them for granted, and as such it has a disarming logical coherency. The reason it does is it springs from our personal predilections for the most part. When predilections habitually match their surroundings we become hypnotized by what the Guru calls eidetic presentiments or what Christians and Muslims call idolatry. In fact, we are so fixated on what we believe that it takes an explosion of some kind to open us out of the mental womb we have constructed for ourself. Otherwise we proceed gaily through an imaginary world where we are the hero of a story written in our honor. A true spiritual birth demands that we emerge from the womb of our self-constructed outlook to see things as they truly are. This is the point that effort is most necessary, since going with the flow merely bounces us around the walls of our prison. Here’s how Nitya concludes his commentary:

 

 What we should remember again and again is the purpose of this study. The Guru has specially given the Bhana Darsana so that we may arrive at that state of certitude that alone is valid. Instead of taking this verse as mere theorization about the brute forces of actuality, it should be used as a mantra for meditation. Then the annoying externality of consciousness can be truthfully incorporated into one’s all-embracing awareness, and the separation of individual and cosmic consciousness can be finally erased. (245)

 

 As the last bit implies, true seeing transcends the appearance of an external world to achieve union with totality, which is the only legitimate goal of a spiritual search. Compared to this, siddhis or magical accomplishments are secondary. They can manipulate the external world only after we become free from its clutches, and therefore cannot be the initial goal of the search. If they are, they keep us bound in our fantasy version of reality. Unfortunately, their intriguing attraction is well suited to distracting us from the business of liberating ourselves.

 Admittedly there are times when manipulating the external world is a tremendous blessing. Ann told us of a healing performed for her son, who has been seriously ill. A friend contacted a healer in Ethiopia, and the next day Aaron was well. Very well in fact. No one knows what was done. Presumably one becomes such a true healer after breaking free of their own mental limitations to embrace the All, after which knowledge of the causal elements of the external world comes naturally. It is natural to want to be a healer, but desires like that don’t lead us to become true healers. Doctors yes, healers no. Doctors heal via learned knowledge, which works much of the time and is terrific as far as it goes, whereas healers cure through revealed wisdom as well, and can address ailments that mystify ordinary medicos.

 We opened and closed the class by meditating on and attempting to experience exactly what the gross world is. As noted, most of the time we take the external world for granted. Beyond that a scientist sees swarms of particles which are nearly all empty space, and knows that what we experience is an image constructed in the mind to account for the surfaces of the emptiness. The mystics and philosophers further examine how externality emerges in consciousness, as our idea of it. Very little of what we call the external world is anything more than fragments of memory and imagination: only what is directly in contact with us may be even presumed to be material. True materialists cannot accept the validity of the next room, much less the other side of the putative planet. Vedantins however allow for the relative validity of memories and imaginary strands, as long as their weaknesses are kept in mind. They embrace the whole cosmos as it is understood by the comtemplator of it.

 That said, the present exercise is to reduce the external world to what we know for certain. How else can we attain certainty? The class noted how deceptive visual factors are, and talked about the amazing awareness of blind friends we have known. The gross is described in this verse as what we experience as it, and yet our sensory experience is largely deceptive. If we close our deceptive eyes and ears, all that remains is a little bit of pressure on our bodies from our chairs, and if we tune in to the pressure it is very diffuse and nonspecific. We can only locate it in our imagined body, which is in turn only an image picked up from visual experience. A little meditation gets right past those images—our common idolatry—to… what? That’s what we have to determine before going on in the study.

 There will be another session on the first quarter of consciousness next week, before plunging into more subtle realms.

 

Extra

 After reading the above, Deb felt I made it sound like the body does not exist. I apologize for giving that unintended impression. My intention was to highlight the paradox and have the readers decide what exists and how it exists for themselves.

 The body exists; the pot exists. But we have an image in our mind that we use in place of direct awareness, which is an accretion of past impressions both true and false. The aim here is to discard the image or at least reduce its priority, and tune in more to the present state of affairs. The body and the pot are both objects of awareness and therefore viewed by us as external. We are now groping for a new kind of connection from the inside, so to speak. We can still retain the habitual practice of feeding the body and attending to its needs, as indeed we must. We can’t drop the pot or it will break. It’s just that we are striving to wake up to these as living realities in “the fleshy tables of the heart.” This is the same as moving from words to the meaning of words, or symbolically from death to life.

 

11/21/6

Here, such awareness as “body” and “pot,” that is the specific; similarly, “I,” “this,” and such are to be remembered as the generic. (V, 4)

 

 This verse carries over from the last, where “This is a pot,” and “I am the body,” are said to exemplify the gross world of actuality. Each phrase is here split in two, into the specific and the generic. Body and pot are specific instances of the more general This and I. The most general This is most often called That. That thou art.

 The generic I at its most idealized approaches the Absolute, as in “I am the Absolute.” Specific items forever demand our attention and cause us to forget the generality from which they spring. The pot makes us forget the substance from which it was made, and our body causes us to forget our unlimited aspect of the optimized I. Hence the gurus are always reminding us to meditate on the general and the specific and how they interrelate, in order to free ourselves from self-imposed limitations.

 To anyone who has traveled this far through Darsanamala, this must be a very familiar concept. Narayana Guru is preparing us for some stringent corrections, and Nitya has made one implication clear in his comments. We focus on a specific item all the time, and this is fine if we remain flexible and disentangled. But we very often suffer a kind of mesmerization in our relationship with things. Our outlook becomes increasingly exclusive and fixated, and the result is spiritually disastrous.

 Nitya resorts to the handy example of how religious conformists dwell in a fictional image of themselves as excellent, even chosen, devotees. They take a mental photograph of the divine and perform all sorts of rituals in respect to it, meanwhile ignoring the call of the living spirit that surrounds them. He likens it to a man sleeping in bed and dreaming he is separated from his beloved, while that very being is snuggling next to him and showering him with kisses. Even if he were to dream he is embracing his beloved, it is clearly an imaginary event, and the real lover will have no part in it.

 Nitya has used the familiar image of well-intentioned Christians who believe fervently in Jesus but wouldn’t for an instant follow in his actual footsteps, so lets take Hindus for example instead. Hinduism, like other religions, has jewels of wisdom in its core, but how many professed Hindus do we know who figure they have it made automatically just by being born into the faith? Nearly all of them: just like any other religion. They don’t have to find the jewels because they already know they are there. Especially if you are Indian, you can just mail in your contribution because you are one of the saved. All you have to do is perform your puja on a regular basis and nod politely when the guru speaks of spiritual matters. You never have to question your assumptions or examine yourself critically. A little conceptual box thus substitutes for the living awareness of divinity. As long as we are content with the box, we won’t make any effort to know the greater whole. After all, the box is just as divine as anything else, isn’t it?

 This form of hypocrisy is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark, 8, 36) Here “the world” stands for focus on the “body” and “pot” aspects, and “soul” is akin to “I” and “this.” I believe this is also what the writer of John was getting at when he said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (John 2, 15) Unfortunately, due to poor translation or secret language or whatever, this passage has often been interpreted as meaning the votary should hate the world as such. The devastating effects of such mangled beliefs are staring us in the face nowadays. Hopefully we can love the world—we must love the world—but what it means is that we should not become enamored with our conceptualization of the world and exclude everything that lies outside of it. Such love is turning our world and our soul into a desert.

 Somewhere along the line we learn to believe that a specific set of behaviors or actions will put us in touch with the divine, and all other behaviors are worthless. Moreover, all people who use those other methods are mistaken, and often enough are condemned to eternal torment. The very least insight we can draw from this verse is to become generous in our tolerance of different methods and techniques used to approach the divine. If we take it farther, we can realize that such mannerisms have nothing whatsoever to do with spiritual life. Our very faith in them turns our awareness away from the present, which is chock full of love and amazement and opportunity, and directs it into a dead realm of imaginary worshipful pleasures.

 The mechanism of such fixations is our inner predilections, our vasanas, finding their corresponding items of interest in the outside world. This can be a very healthy and necessary outlet for self-expression, but to the extent it is exclusive it becomes a self-imposed prison. Since any focus of awareness requires us to push nearly one hundred percent of the universe aside to attend to it, it is critically important to meditate on that far more vast side of things regularly to avoid getting stuck. If we can maintain a respectful attitude to what we don't yet understand, we can avoid many terrible mistakes in this regard.

 We can and should sympathize with ourselves that this is a tricky area. We begin with clever insights and a degree of understanding, but if we take pride in our cleverness we slip out of the flow and are instead content to bring up the same old insights over and over again. Almost immediately they lose their efficacy. Living life requires presence in the present, not following a blueprint for well-crafted behavior. As Nitya says, we can fool ourselves for awhile, and fool others, but the imitation does not hold up in the court of real life. We have to give up our wishful thinking and imaginary systems of belief if we want our spirituality to be anything more than a fraud. That’s why Narayana Guru directs our attention at this stage of the game to objective reality. There’s plenty more to the picture than this first quadrant, though it is often mistaken for the whole, and we will study the rest of it too, but we have to start with freedom from confusion about the real world before we go any deeper.

 One important suggestion in this verse is that when presented with the new, we reassess our concepts to make room for whatever doesn’t fit with them. This is the healthy way. All too often we, like our old friend Procrustes, tailor the new to fit our already made bed of concepts. It’s precisely here that effort has to be made, since it is much easier to be content with the status quo. Sooner or later, though, life itself will force us to pay attention, because it never stays still. It’s always new. We can live in a fool’s paradise only so long, and then it dissolves into the fantasy it always was.

 Deb brought in a poem to share that she felt expressed the same wisdom as this section of the Bhana Darsana. It’s a sort of dialectic rhapsody of the objective and subjective aspects of existence, with a transcendent synthesis allegorically located in the middle of the visible spectrum, and it aptly closed the class.

 

THE GARDEN by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

 

What wondrous life is this I lead!

Ripe apples drop about my head;

The luscious clusters of the vine

Upon my mouth do crush their wine;

The nectarine and curious peach

Into my hands themselves do reach,

Stumbling on melons, as I pass,

Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

 

Meanwhile the mind from pleasures less

Withdraws into its happiness,

The mind, that Ocean where each kind

Does straight its own resemblance find;

Yet it creates, transcending these

Far other worlds, and other seas;

Annihilating all that’s made

To a green thought in a green shade.

 

11/28/6

The senses, mind, intellect, items of interest, and the five vital breaths—the awareness which constitutes the subtle nature of its basis is the subtle. (V, 5)

 

 We’re now faced with a couple of verses on steroids, and summing them up is going to be a task worthy of someone more than “a bear of very little brain.” In lieu of such a one, I’ll do the best I can.

 Hopefully we are all familiar with the four quarters of consciousness according to the Mandukya Upanishad, that is used as the scheme in Vedanta, so I don’t need to review that this second quarter covers subjectivity. But subjectivity is not monochrome, and we touched on several aspects in our class discussion. Nitya first indicates that there are two main categories of subjectivity: one related to the horizontally positive objective world and dealing with more or less transactional matters, and the other relating to the causal consciousness at the vertical negative. This latter connects us with vasanas and their expression in myths, archetypes and dreams.

 Subjective consciousness is highly fluid, and so needs a pole or pivot to concenter itself around, or else it can become pathological. Pure fantasy occasions drifting that unmoors the psyche and may appear to threaten extinction of the self, which is usually compensated for by extreme defensive measures. We’d like to avoid those pitfalls if at all possible, and so seek for “reality” on which to base our subjective thoughts. As Nataraja Guru put it, “Science seeks certitude.” Certitude means there is a direct correspondence between what is thought and what is perceived.

 By and large, we pair our subjectivity with concrete objects in the allegedly outer world, which is fine as far as it goes. But as we mature and examine this aspect of reality more closely, it begins to lose stability and dissolve into a mysterious and paradoxical status that some even call unreal. Even hardheaded scientists have found their objective world melting away before their microscopes. The story of the spiritual quest is in significant measure one of seeking and finding a new pole for the harmonization of awareness, one that doesn’t dissolve or die with the passage of time. Hence, the movement from worldly fixations to more subtle and interior areas of interest. And the importance of separating truth from fiction.

 Only if some connection is felt with the vertical pole of consciousness can the psyche manage this transition with pleasure rather than fear and loathing. That’s why the Guru is directing our attention toward the Absolute Core of existence. He suggests we find a way to float ourselves on this Core, as an alternative to clinging to the sinking ship of temporal objective events.

 The class talked about how all-consuming the objective world is to the young, where how you look is of supreme importance and clothes make the man. In later life subjective interests take precedence, and a good conversation is far more satisfying than gorging on eye candy, although it may not obviate all indulgence. And some of us have gone beyond subjectivity to occasionally experience causal consciousness in our waking state. It is most often treated as an embarrassing loss of memory, since our culture prides itself on getting great test scores. A healthier view would treat “spacing out” as a dive into the depths of awareness beyond currently accepted definitions and parameters. One type of causal awareness that is typically more accepted is the in-between state that happens just at the moment of waking up or drifting off to sleep. For a brief time we can be perfectly poised between waking concerns and the dream state, which establishes us dialectically in the causal consciousness, potent and fruitful as it is. Of course, if we were to think “Aha! I’m in causal consciousness!” then the mind has already jumped back into waking awareness and the blissful state is once again subsumed in concrete thoughts. Let it be.

 Nitya points out that Jung’s archetypes are basically the same concept as Vedanta’s vasanas. In both, seeds of generic patterns arise in the causal consciousness and produce objective and subjective expressions. When our subjective consciousness encounters these expressions it is often in the form of mythical structures displayed in dreams. Probably these contain their own impetus and do their work without any assistance from us, but we can also study them as a way to know ourselves in our deepest levels, and simultaneously aid and abet at least some of their expression. Artists are our most famous exemplars of this process, taking inspiration from their core and then depicting it in various ways that can be communicated with their fellow humans, who are thereby refreshed and enlightened. But we can all live like artists, even if the most exteriorized thing we ever do is admire a leaf or take a deep breath.

 The bottom line is that the core is potent, in other words full of potential, but these potentialities press outward into our conscious awareness and then can be manifested in objective terms. Although there is an eternal simultaneity within the process, there is also an unfoldment. If we don’t allow our own natural expressions, we are suffering from spiritual constipation.

 Modern humans are taught to treat the process of manifestation as already determined and completed, by “God” or Nature or Society. The masses huddle in an objective world of predetermined events and feel helpless and powerless. Scientists wag their metaphorical fingers at those who dig deeper than the surface, and everyone is aghast if someone spaces out a detail about the world because their heart is connecting with some profound but invisible level of their being. Is it really more important to remember that fourth item on your shopping list than to embrace the cosmos? Perhaps our priorities need to be gently redirected, and the floodgates allowed to open once again. It takes courage, but not so much as to put it out of reach.

 We did an exercise beginning with the question “Does anybody know you just by seeing you?” There was a surprising amount of support for yes, they know a lot, due to body language, but I have to hold that most of that is projected knowledge, and we remain unknown—everything remains unknown—if it is merely seen on the surface, regardless of the actions it is performing. To know more we have to communicate with words and protolinguistic sounds, and then we can know much, much more, though as Anita pointed out, many people don’t know themselves very well and so don’t communicate well, or do so in warped ways like saying the opposite of what they mean. A lot of decoding is involved with verbal communication, and that’s a fact, but it does get beyond the surface.

 The point of the exercise was to see how we know, or how we can know, when we really see so little of the world. Our minds act as reducing valves to screen out the vast majority of sensory input, so we can focus on a limited thing and not dissolve in a welter of stimuli.

 Knowing this leads us to respect the value of words in the growth of our awareness. Many putative spiritual seekers sneer at words as being mere symbols of something else and not the things themselves, which is true or course, but the mere absence of words does not make those thing appear in themselves, it allows them to hide behind their surfaces. The Guru extols the Word—words—as the high road to realization. They are how we learn and how we conceive of what we know. They are how the wisdom of the ages has been passed on to us. They are how the potentials of the causal realm become manifest. Clearly they deserve our greatest respect. Nitya even says, “The only valid method to arrive at the highest truth that man seeks comes from the testimony of the Word. The Word of God, or the Word of the Guru or scripture, is the Word that is revealed both to see and hear simultaneously.” (254)

 Seeing is used here in an unusual sense. “The most primary transformation of what is formless into the realm of form, which takes place in the causal consciousness, is here referred to as the primary act of seeing.” (253) It might more aptly be called birthing.

 Sitting here at this undersized desk, I can only feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of this verse. Perhaps I’ll write more later, but this is already a lot. We could probably spend a month here, but instead we’ll try to nudge upstream and catch the remaining ideas wherever they pop up. And after all, this is only the launching pad. You are the rocket. Bon voyage!

 

12/5/6

“I am ignorant”—such awareness exemplifies the causal; here, what is revealed as “I am” is the generic, “ignorant” is the specific. (V, 6)

 

 We’ve split this verse into two parts, as it is a long and beautiful commentary. At the pre-class discussion and tea, Anita gushed, “I’m glad I read the commentary this time, because now I finally understand why we’re studying Darsanamala.” In typical Gurukula fashion we never got to find out what she meant, but hopefully in part two we can get her take on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Mostly we do it for nonspecifiable reasons, I imagine. We are attracted to it against all better judgment. It intrigues us, draws us in.

 Nitya begins by presenting the familiar Vedantic truth that when you say you don’t know, it is in fact a declaration of knowledge. Modern man has smugly barricaded himself behind such negative assertions, which insulate him from criticism and from having to actually pay attention enough to know something positively.

 As an example, I had a couple of visits this week with a bright young man to talk philosophy. He wondered if I was a Hindu, and whether I believed in evolution. The short version of my answers is no and yes. I assured him I was the sort of person who would be carried out of town on a rail tarred and feathered by devout Hindus, and while my vision of evolution is probably different than his, I certainly believe that things change over time and that life is moving (intelligently) towards increased complexity.

 When we first spoke of the question of whether life has any meaning, he was categorical and absolute in claiming that life had no purpose. Purpose is something akin to God, that people either believe in or don’t on an a priori basis. Proving it is beside the point.

 On my next visit I told him I wanted to hear more about his deeply held religious convictions. He looked at me in consternated surprise. “I’m not religious. What do you mean?” I said that he was deeply certain that life had no purpose, and any conviction based on faith was religious. This led to an animated exchange, and it turned out that he had read a convincing book in college and adopted its ideas. Years later he was still left with the belief, but the life that once animated it and made it seem so true had long since evaporated. Interestingly, in class one of the participants averred the opposite, that life has a definite purpose. She couldn’t give reasons for her belief, any more than he could about his, or even say what the purpose was, but she was nonetheless certain about it. Probably this also was something she once decided and then stuck with, like a security blanket. That’s what our beliefs usually turn out to be: security blankets, barriers to the glories of the present.

 So oddly we have another paradox: ignorance opens you up to new insights, while convictions erect barricades to it.

 I asked the class specifically if they believed in God, and whether such a belief mattered. Of course, such sensitive souls took a degree of umbrage to the question, but we gradually moved into a discussion of how our beliefs are based on certain limited concepts. Deb said you had to know what was meant by God before you could say whether you believed in it or not. That’s exactly the point. Most of us come to a fixed definition of things like God or purpose or evolution, or look at other people’s simplistic definitions, and then can decide fairly easily whether we believe in that fixed notion. The problem is that the definition bears little or no resemblance to reality as such. At best it’s a very rough approximation of the subject. Nataraja Guru quotes Schopenhauer on this matter: “The objective world, the world of idea, is not the only side of the world, but merely its outward side; and it has an entirely different side—the side of its inmost nature—its kernel—the thing-in-itself.” The thing-in-itself is a pure essence, which we can only contemplate in awe and trembling, so to speak. To transact around these essences we make descriptions and conceptions and then maintain our belief in them, but there is only an approximate match to begin with, and then the ideas remain relatively static while the essence is free to evolve unhindered, so that once again we “boats against the current are borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

 As we have talked about before, all these fixed notions become bones of contention to wrangle over. Whether you believe in one tribe’s semi-fixed idea of God or not decides your value to those people, even whether you should live or die. Yet if closely examined, each person would be holding a different conception of God, so all they really share is a belief that their beliefs match. Ridiculous really.

 We are not trying to criticize tribal beliefs here, we are striving to relinquish our personal fixed notions in order to sink down into the third state of consciousness, the causal, the deep sleep state. This is done simply in the spirit of exploration, and not to attain anything, since any goal is bound to be limited and limiting. At least temporarily we are letting go of our beliefs, hopes, fears, quarrels, diversions, and all the rest. It may help to realize that all these things are superficial, not really what we’re after. Let small-minded people argue whether God or Evolution exists: their words have no effect on the truth of anything. We are not saved or lost on the basis of clinging to a certain creed, we are only blocked from inner contact with the Absolute. So for brief periods like Gurukula class time we give up the contentions and just sit quietly.

 The Gurus assure us that paradoxically the seeming emptiness of the causal state is very very full. If we insist on clinging to beliefs we can just take their word for it, but they would like us to find out for ourselves. The Upanishads describe the third, vertical negative, state as a mass of consciousness. Nitya likens the potency of it to the Cave of the Heart of Christianity, and further compares it to a zygote. A fertilized egg is so tiny as to be invisible, but given time to develop, a whole panoply of expressions are actualized by it. The universe or the Absolute is exactly like that: a source brimming with every and all possibilities, which are actualized according to the proclivities of each individual and the limitations of their environment. We sink down into this sea of potentials periodically to restore the freshness of our life, to revivify our way of viewing the world, and to promote new potentials onto the road to actualization. If we don’t spend time here our life gradually dries up and withers away. And if that isn’t a reason to study Darsanamala, I don’t know what is.

 

Part II

 As usual I have presented my take on the little piece of the verse I have time to discuss, and certainly have sold other people’s views short in the process. When I asked the class for the value of beliefs, there was a significant faction in favor of them as stabilizing and orientational aids, if nothing else. Anita felt they gave order to life, and spoke eloquently in their favor. It should certainly be admitted that without some form of structure our lives would be completely chaotic and senseless; the transactional world in particular depends on it. Order, organization, and beliefs are intimately connected and interrelated, as most everyone will concur.

 The delicate problem with this is that Nature or the Flow has its own innate and successful organization, and our clumsy and half-baked attempts at bringing order to it are often highly destructive. What Vedanta recommends is attunement with a pre-existing harmony—the natural order or whatever—rather than adoption of a human-biased rational system, as with religion or politics for instance. Such a system could possibly work, but we are always leaving so much out of the picture that so far none of them does. It could only succeed if it was based on a full awareness of all the implications of every piece of the structure. To date humanity has bulled ahead with many false assumptions, not the least of which is that there exists an unlimited potential for the growth of itself and concurrent exploitation of the natural world. So many actual limitations are currently converging on Mother Earth from the wholly human and fallible systems imposed on her that we are staring into the immanent elimination of our own and many other species.

 Deep down most of us do not trust Nature, which has run a successful batch of programs for as long as anyone can remember. Somewhere in our learning process we need to become respectful and even somewhat wary of the onrushing wave of life, instead of being selfish manipulators of it. With humility our need for order will not be more disruptive than it has to be in order to maintain our place in space. I would claim that the ongoing experiment of humanity replacing God (or Nature) as the manager of living systems has failed. The Greeks warned us about such hubris in the myth of Icarus, who escaped from the labyrinth by attaching the wings of the gods to his arms with wax, but who then flew too close to the sun, melted the wax, and crashed fatally to earth. If he hadn’t gotten carried away by his first flight, he might have tempered his trajectory enough to have survived, but his newfound technological power went to his head and he overreached.

 The bottom line here is to go ahead with your beliefs and organizational drives within the framework of the horizontal world, but simultaneously learn to let go of those and settle into the flow of your interior life to reacquaint yourself with the vertical parameter. In such a spiritual endeavor, beliefs are a hindrance and not a help. If we can trust the universe that buoys us up, letting go will be much easier than if we don’t.

 

12/19/6

“I am the Absolute”—such awareness is praised as the fourth; here, the element “I am” is the generic, and “Absolute” is the specific. (V, 7)

 

 Most excellently we have finally arrived at the turiya, transcendental consciousness, just as we outwardly arrive at the winter solstice, so often associated with the return of the Light to life. For a year and a quarter we have scrupulously studied the negative limitations of consciousness, slowly emerging from the mire of creation to at last be ready to reenter the fray as full-fledged human beings, radiantly cognizant of our largely untapped capabilities.

 We are a small group, and several have abandoned the admittedly strenuous effort, to seek in other ways or to tend to life’s manifold engagements. Yet the class continues to grow, joined by a somewhat larger group spread across the globe via the emailed class notes and added to by word of mouth. I often get brief but enthusiastic responses from some of you, along with the substantive ideas that are usually passed along to everyone, so I know that many of you are with us too, in the greater classroom. The glowing words are a welcome contact between hearts, and much appreciated if not always acknowledged.

 We spoke last night of the subconscious linkage of all beings in the unity of the Absolute, and surely these far-flung friends are our close companions in this journey of exploration. They are welcome to join us if they will via written comments whenever they feel the inspiration. Most importantly, we can never illuminate the whole of any verse in either the class or the notes, so whatever we speak of and write about should be only the door or the launching pad to enlightened musings and contemplation of the optimum engagement with Life.

 In his commentary, Nitya makes clear that entering the turiya means moving from duality to unity:

 

The prop in the previous verse was described as shouting to the unknown for a response, and the response coming from the mysterious depths of the unknown. In the present verse any such kind of bipolarity is given up…. The experience given to us here is not amenable to the conclusiveness of logic. Here we have to shift our camp from the well-systematized and neatly structured world of the logician to the awesome, silent, and mysterious world of the mystic. (271)

 

 At the vertical negative, we must establish a bipolarity with something greater than our limited picture of ourselves. But this is a means to an end or a stage in the journey, and not the ultimate accomplishment. The bipolarity brings us to unity, just as the bipolarity of the drop and the ocean sooner or later merges into the Greater Ocean. At some point our examination of the situation becomes a form of resistance to merger, a preservation of the duality of bipolarity, and we must let it go. The moment has arrived to let go of our defenses and let the sunshine in.

 Nitya does add the essential caveat, “And we must do this without losing touch with the plain world of natural common sense.” This “plain” world grounds us and provides us a home base, since a purely verticalized existence is perfectly disorienting. So we can only let go safely when we have got a firm grip on the basics, and that’s what we’ve been preparing for for nearly half a hundred verses.

 But now, enough of common sense! We’ve laid that groundwork carefully already, so that now we can dive down into (or rise up into, or both simultaneously) the unitive state. We are making the most important leap, from the universal unconscious of the causal state to conscious awareness in the transcendental. We have been assured that night after night by the mechanism of deep sleep we are gathered back into the arms of our essential nature, after wandering bravely in a mixture of wakeful and dream states throughout the morning and evening. But we need to bring this essential nature into our conscious awareness to be fully alive in every respect.

 This seldom happens by accident. We reconnect with the turiya by contemplation and meditation on the mystery that surrounds us. And since it does surround us, it is available always for perusal. If we choose the hamster wheel of transactional involvement instead, it is our choice, plain and simple.

 The turiya is the “missing piece” of the puzzle of our lives, whose absence allows us to go on crazed tangents of various stripes, tailored to our individual predilections. It is the cure for our insanity, the balm for our wounds, the insight for our confusion. So it is no wonder that in any complete philosophy, such as the one Narayana Guru is presenting in Darsanamala, it is an integral element, the integral element. Turiya, it can be admitted, is another, highly neutral name for the Divine, God, Allah, Satori, Buddha nature and so on. It is called the Fourth merely due to the structural scheme of psychology common to Indian philosophy. We might be more comfortable with claiming only two states of consciousness, plus conscious and unconscious association with the Absolute, but it’s still the Fourth.

 No one has any special claim to the turiya: it is universally available to all beings. No one should ever fight about it or try to possess it. All we can do is increase our association with it, letting in the light which is bliss which is joy which is love, and then sharing it with our fellow beings. Sharing it is a little tricky, since our initial impulse may be to offer more than our friend is interested in accepting. It is an art form that we will begin to examine in the next darsana, the Karma Darsana. But for now we are skinny dipping in the pool of bliss within the cave of our heart. We are soaking in the glow of love, and not worrying about what to do about it. It is like coming home again. There is no better feeling than this.

 Nitya provides us with an apt conclusion to this year’s notes. After sketching three models of spiritual perfection from the Bhagavad Gita, he adds:

 

In all these models the supreme consciousness is certainly present. As a result, the transactions of the wakeful life and the visions of the dream life become permeated with the beauty, sweetness, fragrance, and inexpressible bliss that truly belong to the Absolute….

The great love of the Self for itself, or to be more precise, the natural abundance of bliss generated by the union of the existentiality of the persona with the all-pervading awareness of bliss, finds the spirit center to be like a floodgate through which the unlimited joy of the Self can be channeled towards all sentient beings. This naturally assigns to such blessed souls the role of guiding, spiritually nourishing, and ultimately saving whomsoever comes under the influence of their attention. (272-3)

 

 Once again, we cannot share what we do not have. Hypothetical spirituality is an ersatz gift. We must dare to open those floodgates unto ourselves, in the process overwhelming the personal factor in universal benevolence, and then what we offer will be of surpassing value. Aum.

 

1/9/7

Where there is awareness there is an object of awareness; where there is no awareness there is no object of awareness; thus, by agreement, and also by difference, certitude comes. (V, 8)

 

 Once in awhile the whole gang decides to come to class, which makes for quite a festive atmosphere. The chaos of happy voices and faces was a nice contrast to the renounced silence of the verse we eventually settled into. The dynamic interplay of contraries is at the heart of yoga and the Gurukula philosophy, and it was well exemplified last night. The more we empty out, the fuller we are.

 Nitya’s comments are very brief, as befitting our arrival at the universal source of All. Mostly he lists the epitome of what the masters of the past have taught as the ultimate realization. He was always particularly fond of St. John of the Cross and his assessment of climbing Mount Carmel: “Nothing, nothing, nothing—on the Mount also, nothing.” When bhana, awareness, manifests there are many things that appear as objects of awareness. When one reduces awareness to the zero point, there are no objects. This may fill us with dread at first, but the fact is that the resultant emptiness is a shining void, filled with potential, ceaselessly producing world after world of delight and absorbing interest. We don’t need to charge in and have our psyches shattered; we can sit quietly and gently allow ourselves to merge into it. And we can always retreat to our world of objects whenever it becomes too intense to bathe in nothingness.

 I wanted to add the words of a modern saint to the roster of Nitya’s oldies but goodies like Plotinus and Buddha, so we began the class listening to The Beatles’ hauntingly cosmic song Across the Universe, written by John Lennon, although sounding more like George Harrison:

 

Words are flying out like

endless rain into a paper cup

They sit awhile they pass

They slip away across the universe

Pools of sorrow waves of joy

are drifting thorough my open mind

Possessing and caressing me

 

Jai guru deva om

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

 

Images of broken light which

dance before me like a million eyes

That call me on and on across the universe

Thoughts meander like a

restless wind inside a letter box

they tumble blindly as

they make their way across the universe

 

Jai guru deva om

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

 

Sounds of laughter shades of life

are ringing through my open ears

exciting and inviting me

Limitless undying love which

shines around me like a million suns

It calls me on and on across the universe

 

Jai guru deva om

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Nothing's gonna change my world

Jai guru deva

Jai guru deva….

 

 The double entendre of the refrain expresses the paradox of the present verse perfectly. Nothing is in fact the driving force behind all change, and while called by many names It remains beyond all names and forms. It is No Thing, hence nothing, because any thing can be specified and is therefore limited. To blast beyond all limitations we want to take a break from studying and interacting with things, and just drift across the universe for the nonce.

 And, as the Beatles so well knew and taught, traveling in the company of your friends, gathered in the “Yellow Submarine” of a living room with a warm fire blazing, is almost unbearably sublime.

 

 Nitya talked about the reluctance we inevitably feel as individual drops of water on the verge of losing our identities in the ocean of total consciousness. This is a major theme in the tenth and final chapter, the Nirvana Darsana. Narayana Guru himself prayed to not dissolve (as quoted on page 12 of The Psychology of Darsanamala), but to remain intact so he could function and help others. All those saints and sages who we revere were able to retain some degree of personal integrity, else we would never have heard of them. And as they gave up their fixation on themselves and embraced the greatest possible Whole, they became highly efficient beings to bring light and love to many, many grateful souls. This is a familiar theme to students of Narayana Guru’s Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction, too, especially verse 23:

 

For the sake of another, day and night performing action, having given up self-centered interests, the compassionate person acts;

the self-centered man is wholly immersed in necessity, performing unsuccessful actions for himself alone.

 

 Following up on Nitya’s mentioning of Attar’s Conference of the Birds as containing many humorous references to those who were unwilling to “take the plunge” and made excuses instead, I dug out our old copy. It’s a magnificent work, highly recommended. The excuses are actually used as teaching points, and oddly are very familiar sounding…. I was reminded of Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue, which contains some very sweet and funny excuses of those who decide not to join the author’s metaphorical journey to the heights. Daumal is the French Shankara, having translated all the Upanishads into French in his teens, and this slim book is one of the greatest pieces of writing to be found anywhere. When, not if, you read it, be sure to obtain Roger Shattuck’s translation. A “new, improved” edition was recently issued that is far less poetic and full of errors, including the omission of a very important diagram. Shattuck’s introduction is a tremendous essay in its own right.

 Anyway, enough about excuses, back to the class. Susan told us of a family trip to Utah. Coming from the wet, luxurious Northwest she was blasted by the seeming nothingness of the desert, but after awhile she came to like it and see how full all that emptiness really was. This provided a practical aspect of this admittedly abstract section of Darsanamala. By and large, this isn’t something that we can work into our life as specific tips, it’s more wholesale and all-encompassing. But yet, as Susan showed, it can.

 Bill asked for some elaboration on the exact meaning of the verse itself, which is surely arcane. The short version is that according to the Bhana Darsana, consciousness and its objects spring up together; they are of a piece. The world is not built up of little bits that combine to make bigger and bigger bits, which eventually get big enough to miraculously spring to life. It begins with consciousness and proliferates out of it. James H. Gardner puts it well: “I have long suspected that the Supreme Intelligence sketched in our universe, but as we its inhabitants search deeper into the foundations, She is forced to fill in greater and greater detail. Molecules not the smallest bits? Well, here’s atoms. They’ve seen past atoms, chuck in some quarks. Still coming? Then give ‘em dark matter, that should slow ‘em down for awhile.”

 Awareness and its objects are the horizontal, while “none of the above” is the vertical aspect. Together—and not separately—they bring full certitude. It’s related to neti neti (not this, not this) and asti asti (this, and this), the former denying all things to attain the emptiness outside of thingness, and the latter affirming all things as integral parts within the Absolute. Both are true, but as Tamar pointed out we shouldn’t mix them up at the same time, they are only efficacious techniques if you stick to one at a time. Yet once you get the point you can realize both at once.

 To confuse Bill further I read out Narayana Guru’s own “clarification” of this verse, which does add some interesting ideas:

 

Agreement is when we appraise the fact that wherever there is consciousness there is also the object of consciousness. Agreement is defined as the inseparable association of ends and means. Here the ends are the object of consciousness while the means are consciousness (itself). By this method of agreement and difference we should understand that only where there is consciousness there is the object of consciousness, and conversely, wherever there is an object of consciousness there is also an accompanying consciousness that goes with it. Difference is defined as nonexistence: that is, the lack of a concomitant associative link as between ends and means. Where there is no object of consciousness there is no consciousness either. This is called difference or absence of agreement. Here the absence of ends is the absence of the object of consciousness, while the absence of means corresponds to the absence of consciousness (itself). By this method of difference we come to know that where there is no consciousness there is also no object of consciousness, and vice versa (thereby attaining to unitive certitude).

 

Simple enough? No? Let’s just aver that certitude comes from contemplation of what is true, and not from the juggling of intriguing ideas. It requires a total engagement, not a lukewarm interest.

 Which leads to the concluding section of this very powerful single page commentary by Guru Nitya, in which he decries the commercialization of spirituality. One day when we went to the local food co-op he spotted Wah Guru Chew candy bars and became highly incensed. After railing about it for days and upbraiding all of us (whether or not we craved those delicious little tidbits) it found its way into his Darsanamala book. He never could bear the cheapening of spirituality, which he took deeply and wonderfully seriously, and of course that is a prime reason we love him so much. The modern world is drenched in the false claims and lurid come-ons of advertising, and the Gurukula has always steered clear of it. We are happy to share, but not happy to make claims. If by salubrious accident someone walks with us for awhile and is benefited, it is a wonderful thing. Anne P. is one such, who gave us a profoundly touching card before the class expressing her sincere appreciation of what goes on here. It was gratifying in the extreme, and the blessings go in all directions, as she is a highly intelligent, insightful, compassionate soul with plenty to offer everyone around her.

 I’ll close with a bit of a Nitya letter from Love and Blessings that Anita sent. She has been opening it at random, and discovering solace hither and yon, as it is eminently suitable for.

 

Today Edda Walker presented me with another of Stone's monumental writings, The Passions of the Mind. This is a biographic novel of Sigmund Freud. Of late I was going deeper and deeper into Freud and Jung, both critically and with empathy. There is now no doubt in my mind that Darsanamala can be the basis for the first ever expounded psychology of a healthy and normal mind that is in the process of unfoldment and growth and which will finally arrive at its ultimate realization. This possibility is so very inspiring that I don't want to lose the opportunity given by God. With this intention I am fathoming the depth of every word Guru has written in his Integrated Science of the Absolute, and am concentrating my best soul force (cidshakti) to do full justice to Darsanamala.

 

As we crescendo toward the close of the first half of the work, which determines the parameters of reality, it is fitting that we acknowledge the brilliant job the Guru has done to make this complex and difficult work accessible to all us mere mortals. We could by no means do it alone. He stayed ever true to a direct involvement with the Absolute, and we are willingly swept along in his wake. Aum.

 

1/11/7

More, from Anita:

Dear Scott,

Thank you for the comprehensive and inspiring class notes. As always, when I miss class I am bereft but your notes help me feel like I was indeed there in spirit if not in body. I did meditate on the group Tuesday night from my own living room.

 

I wanted to know more about Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue. When Googling, I found a very interesting paper entitled "CRITICAL COMPASSION: PROLEGOMENON TO A LIBERATING EDUCATION" written by DAVID W. LONG, PH.D.,DEPARTMENT OF

PHILOSOPHY, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA.

 

There were many things in the paper that I found most interesting. I've included a few of the stories and quotes that I was especially drawn to and that seem in tune with the verse in Darsanamala that I missed. This can maybe be my "homework" for missing class.

 

I've been pondering how I know truth, so this fable caught my attention:

 

"AMIR'S FABLE

There is an old fable which tells that Truth and Falsehood went for

A swim together, leaving their clothes on shore. Falsehood

Coming out of the water first, puts on Truth's clothes

Truth being what it is, absolutely refused to wear

Falsehood's clothes, thus remained naked.

Ever since then, Falsehood, appearing

As Truth, has been accepted as

Truth, while Truth still

Awaits to be seen."

 

I've included some additional stories from Dr. Long's paper below. Also included are the excerpts from his paper which set the scene for his stories.

 

"After the four day Congress in Bombay during January, 1986, a small group of participants, mostly Westerners, went on a tour in India. Our first major post-congress press conference took place in New Delhi. Twenty-five Indian journalists were present to listen and query. The journalists were especially interested in our impressions of India as well as our assessments of the Congress.

         When I was called upon to speak, I rose and stood before the Indian reporters, trying to marshal my thoughts and tell them something useful and interesting. In a flash, I knew what I had to do. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Indian Press," I began, " I must do something unusual, for it's the only way I can convey my feelings to you today. At the risk of offending you, I must tell you two of your own ancient and venerable teaching stories. The first expresses a diagnosis of the problem of reconciling Science and Religion as well as Science and the World and the Science of Man. The second story, one often told by Ramana Maharshi, a great sage of 20th century India, intimates a solution to the problem." The Journalists were puzzled, but in the end, appreciated my rendering and use of the story treasures from their culture.

         Here is the first story, in a rendering by an Indian sage for Western Psychiatrist Medard Boss (in A Psychiatrist Discovers India):

 

         It seems there were ten merchants on their way in order to conduct transactions in another city. They had come to the banks of a broad river. The rains had caused it to rise so much that it had swept away the bridge. Nevertheless, their business was urgent. And so the merchants decided to swim across the river. When they reached the other bank, one of them began to count the group. He wanted to make sure that no one had drowned during the crossing. To his horror, however, he always ended up with nine instead of ten, no matter how often he repeated the count. The others too began to count. But no one got a higher figure than nine. A hermit, coming long, delivered them from distress and doubt. He laughed merrily, counted the merchants and found that all ten were there. Only then did they notice that each of them, when making his count, had forgotten to include himself explicitly.

 

         I had heard the second story some years before while sharing cultural insights and stories with a new friend who had immersed himself in the work of Ramana Maharshi. Over the years, before and after the Congress, I performed the story for many people, including thousands of my students at CSU, Sacramento. In 1991 I prepared a revised version of the 1986 paper for presentation at the California Colloquium of Vermont College held in Montecito, California. I had never put the story into writing before. Performing and improvising was one thing. Written word was another. The task required a lot of effort and ingenuity, but a version emerged which satisfied me and pleased my listeners. Here it is:

 

         One day a spiritual master and his disciple were walking in the courtyard of the monastery. Deep in silence, they slowly circled a beautiful fishpond gracing the center of the courtyard. The disciple finally broke the silence by asking a question which had obsessed him for many years. In a pleading tone, the disciple asked: 'O Wise Master, what must I do to attain the state of enlightenment which animates your being, touching the lives of all those around you?' The Master, known to all disciples for his strange and confounding responses to interrogations, turned and gazed at the student with a stern but loving look. Without warning, the Master swiftly grabbed the disciple at the nape of his neck, pushed him down to his knees, down over the low stone wall of the fishpond, then thrust his head under the water. The disciple was surprised, even a little anxious.

He knew, though, that he must endure the immersion, of the Master's acts always embodied vital lessons. So the disciple steeled himself for whatever was to come. He opened his eyes and began to look about under the water. Pond carp moved toward him, curious about this strange visitor. The water was cool, a refreshing contrast to the hot sun of the courtyard. The disciple felt the unremitting pressure of the Master's hand on his neck. 20 seconds passed. Then 30. The disciple waited patiently, feeling no particular discomfort. He was even beginning to enjoy the experience. 40 seconds. 50 seconds. However, as his chest tightened, it dawned on him that the Master had acted so swiftly there had been no time to inhale before the water closed over his face. He was quickly exhausting the air in his lungs! 60 seconds passed. 65. He grew anxious. Anxiety became fear. 70 seconds. Fear disintegrated into alarm! 75 seconds. 80. Panic! no air! The Master's hand! Pressure! Air! 90 seconds. Breath! Breath! 100 seconds. Breath! Breathe! 120 seconds Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! The disciple's awareness dissolved into an identity with breath.

BREATHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Existence, reality, consciousness, disappeared into the all-consuming cry to breathe. At this point the Master released his grip on the disciple's neck. Gasping, shaking, gulping air, the disciple raised himself. Before he could recover the Master commanded: 'Look at me!' Painfully, slowly the disciple focused on his teacher. "When you want enlightenment as badly as you wanted air," said the Master, 'you will have it.'"

 

Next are some great quotes from Daumal's work and some thoughts about language...

 

Our language is originally built around the realities of self-attention.

That is, human language is meant to be an instrument of a conscious being, a being who is fully and precisely aware of all that takes place within their own psyche. Such self-attention has disappeared from our lives, but the corresponding instrument of language remains. We have no real self-attention, yet the shells of human language remain.

                                            

                                                      -----Jacob Needleman,

                                                      The Heart of Philosophy

 

In the process of putting so much pressure on language, thought ceases to be satisfied with the support of words; it bursts away from them in order to seek its resolution elsewhere. This 'elsewhere' should not be understood as a transcendent realm, a mysterious metaphysical domain. This 'elsewhere' is 'here' in the immediacy of real life. It's from right here that out thoughts rise up, and it's here that they must come back. But after what travels! Live first, then turn to philosophy, but, in the third place, live again. The man in Plato's cave has to go out and contemplate the light of the sun; then, strengthened by this light, which he keeps in his memory, he has to return to the cave. Verbal philosophy is only a necessary state in this voyage.

                                                      -----Rene Daumal, "Une Experience Fondamentale," translated by Roger Shattuck in the Introduction to Daumal's Mount Analogue

 

To know means to be learning or to be teaching; there is no middle way. The human mind enjoys no state of passive grace. yet beyond a certain point teaching becomes a subtle and deceptive undertaking, scarcely to be distinguished from learning. 'Socrates,' Daumal writes, ' never teaches anything. He plays the fool and from time to time tells a legend, assuring us that its just for his own amusement.' So Daumal, too, with obvious relish, tells us a legend in which we find not doctrine but a sturdy weave of action and reflection, not thoughts only but people thinking.

                                               ------Roger Shattuck in the introduction To Daumal's Mount Analogue

 

Lastly, this great quote about the NEED to understand. I will keep this one nearby.

 

"We should put aside the need to understand anything. This does not mean we put aside understanding, but the need. When we need to understand anything, the need rather than the understanding dominates. When we are openly, attentively aware, understanding comes."

 

Well, gotta go. Hope all is well up on your mountain.

Anita

 

1/16/7

 It looks like the snow may cause us to cancel class, so this is a great time to discuss the Why of classes in the first place. Pradeep has just sent me an interesting interview with the following tag:

 

In a perfect world, scientists share problems and work together on solutions for the good of society. In the real world, however, that's usually not the case. The main obstacles: competition for publication and intellectual property protection. Is there a model for encouraging large-scale scientific problem solving? Yes, and it comes from an unexpected and unrelated corner of the universe: open source software development. That's the view of Karim R. Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. A must read interview is here:

 

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5544.html

 

The summary is that businesses are finding that opening up scientific problems to anyone who is interested (generally for either money or the pure pleasure of problem solving) yields rapid and serendipitous solutions in about a third of cases. Very often problems are solved not by insiders but by those from different fields, who have unsullied perspectives. Improvements in software ran between 10 and 100 times. A new field is now evolving, striving to integrate intellectual openness with the proprietary interests of commercialism.

 Exciting as this is for business, it reminded me of why we put on our class here at the Portland Gurukula, year after year. There are extant many romantic models of lone seekers battling interior demons to achieve enlightenment, but the Gurukula adds a gentle form of open interaction that is a bit like open source software development. Without getting overly personal, individual problems can be aired, and then a respectful brainstorming occurs. Because every person has a different take on life, several unexpected solutions or recommendations will usually be proffered. Over the years we have seen a few breakthroughs and a lot of broadening of peoples’ concepts due to this technique.

 Of course, we have also seen some friends whose problems strike them as too personal withdraw from the threat of exposure and leave the class. Operating from the psychological equivalent of a proprietary business model is not at all unusual in the modern world. Breaking out of one’s personal cocoon to take the first awkward flight is possibly the single greatest step of the spiritual quest. And like the moth in the cocoon, it should only happen at the proper moment, or serious damage can occur.

 The Portland Gurukula’s interpersonal openness is a very faint echo of the style of Nataraja Guru and to a lesser extent Guru Nitya. In the Fernhill prayer hall there was often a grilling of various students during class time. Early on there seemed to be a belief that public exposure verging on humiliation was valuable in its own right. That slowly tapered off. Now what we try to do is demonstrate that what may be thought of as a terrible problem in private is really nothing to worry about, and often common to everyone present. That can take away a lot of neurosis and auto-repression. And as the above article demonstrates, a lot of fresh light is brought to bear on our darkness. When we “go it alone” we can easily wind up in a rut, banging our heads against the same barriers over and over. Our friends might well be able to show us a simple way to walk around the barriers and make some real progress. So we meet once a week to offer not only instruction but “group soup.” Even if there is no direct exposure, no outward demonstration of give and take, there is yet a beneficial participation in the heart.

 Nitya described this process as the stream rounding the stones in its bed. Because we’re so new, many of us have sharp projections that can poke somebody in the foot. Some buffeting and rounding by the stream of life will smooth us out, but we have to make ourselves available to it.

 I’ve experienced the benefits of “open source” in my practical life as well as spiritual situations. In the fire department we occasionally brainstormed problems, though sometimes it was only a tempest in a teapot. There is a lot of doctrinaire thinking in organizations like that, but very often we were able to come up with several new angles when we sat around a table together. Some angles were new to everybody. First we all just put in our favorite ideas, but then as we batted them around a new idea might emerge that was better than any of the originals. The solution was an emergent phenomenon of group interaction, and it happened more than once that we needed the new solution almost immediately.

 Seekers of truth can be either scientists or contemplatives. Or both. When we open ourselves up to a non-closed community, we make a leap beyond struggling alone and in secret. It’s a daunting step, but it has no downside outside the world of business. And it can leapfrog us over obstacles and open new avenues of exploration. Furthur!

 

Supplement: Muhammad and Buddha films

 

I commended our good friend Jean about something she'd passed on from her TV, and received a bountiful reply, which she doesn't mind sharing with everyone. Enjoy! Scott

 

 

 

Everything on Swedish TV isn't wonderful, so I pick and chose, and cherish the evenings when there's nothing I want to see, too. But tonight I'm going to watch a Lebanese drama from 1976, "The Message", about the Prophet Mohammed's life history. Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas have roles. "The image of Mohammed does not appear in the film", the TV-guide informs us :-)  The only problem is that this all starts at 11 pm and ends at 2 am. Oh well, I'm a night person, so no problem. (Islam celebrates its New Year today.)

 

Later:

 

Let me just say that I was really curious how they were going to show Mohammed's life without showing him. He never appeared nor spoke in the movie. Instead, the camera was with him in a dark cave, or the camera was riding on his head as he rode his white camel, Kaswaa. Sometimes the camel's head was visible from above and behind, sometimes in profile. In one swordfight scene, where Mohammed seemed to take part with a double-pointed sword, all we could see was the double-pointed sword and his adversary who died by it. Occasionally, when Mohammed had something important to say to a group of men, everyone in the group turned towards the camera (as though they were looking at me, the viewer), and always there was a spokesman or trusted friend or relative who relayed the important words.

 

All these fints aside, it was a fairly instructive costume drama, made possible by donations by Khadaffi when other financer's opted out. Islamic accuracy was attested to by Islamic scholars from al-Ahzar in Cairo and Lebanon. So many similarities with Christ's Christianity!: love your neighbor as yourself, help orphans and the poor, all are equal (men, women, slaves, tribes) and God is One. Mohammed set himself up against the merchants and vested business interests in Mecca, where 360 gods were worshipped and people came from far and wide to worship them (and do business). Europe was entering the Dark Ages, the old civilizations were collapsing (Hypatia had died not so many years before). Important words from Mohammed, "READ! Go and teach others to read, the Koran", take me back to "In the beginning was the Word." Islam must have contributed to increased literacy in the Islamic world.

 

And then there were the disturbing references to martyrdom and paradise (using afterlife to control the present). For FIGHT they did, but "in the way of God" (not against women, children, old men, tillers of the field, etc.), only against those who fight/persecute you. And, "quit fighting when they quit."

 

Women's rights in all honor (in the original Islam), there seem to be problems today with families' "honor code" getting in the way, when marriages are decided. Irene Papas was the only woman in the film, and she was very negative to Mohammed and his new ideas and fought them almost to the end. The mosques only showed men who prayed (separate but equal, I guess). Mohammed's esteemed wife was as invisible as himself in the film.

 

Ja, ja, the original idea of Islam and of Christianity seems hard to keep kindled and alive in the hearts of people through the centuries. It is a constant job, of immediacy and rediscovery, to rest assured in the great love of the Absolute, to know that we are loved, that we are meant to love one another, and that love is all around.

 

Later:

 

 

Your recent "open source" appeal has proved thought-provoking, and I've got some musings there for "open group", but I'm not quite up to it tonight. The word "fint". Sorry about that. It's Swedish, and I inadvertently got the languages mixed up. It means "trick", and I meant the "filmatic tricks" used to portray Mohammed without actually showing him-- even though God's messenger was "just a man", as the film pointedly stated several times, too.

 

At one point, he was being pursued by men who wanted to kill him. They came to a cave where they thought he might be hiding. But because a dove nested at the entrance, and a spider's web covered the opening, they decided he couldn't be there after all and rode away. "And so Mohammed's life was saved by a spider's web." That's probably a key place in the Koran, too, it's so neat. (Visions of Osama bin Laden danced in my head.)

 

I can't resist-- I'm probably going to drive you crazy telling you about the wonderful things I see on TV-- but yesterday evening's was another you should keep your eyes open for: "The Great Buddhas". It was all about the stone Buddhas that the Taliban blew up in Afghanistan, a film made by Christian Frei, 2001-2004. Debbie would be very interested, too, with her knowledge of China, for the story started there in the year 625 (three years after Mohammed died), when a young Buddhist monk, Zuanzhun (sp?), began a 16 year trek to bring back Buddhist writings from India. [Story of which is the source of the world's greatest novel, Monkey. RST] He wound up in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the center of Buddhist learning at the time. It was just a wonderful film, with ties not only to China, but to Toronto, Strasbourg, and Doha, Qatar (al-Jazeehra). All paths led to Bamiyan! I could hardly sleep last night, admiring the filmmaker's handicraft, thankful for all I had learned, and sorrowful, too, at the complexity of our human ways. The Taliban had just been cut off from the world community by UN sanctions, and destroying the statues was their way of spitting in the face of world opinion. At the end, I jotted down <http://www.giant-buddhas.com>www.giant-buddhas.com, which I haven't checked out yet, but it might say more. Today I paid our TV taxes, $300 a year, but I pay it gladly for the occasional quality and the advertisement free broadcasting.

 

Jean

 

1/23/6

As the eye does not see itself, even so the Self by the Self; because the Self is not an object of awareness, what the Self sees—that indeed is the object of awareness. (V. 9)

 

  Both Susan and Anne brought homemade bread to share, a true gift of the heart whose blessings radiate to all around and rebound redoubled to the givers. Aum. The best blessing of all is the attendance and loveful participation of so many beautiful souls, who enrich the class immeasurably. Just as bread partakes of all four elements, we are baked of them as well in the oven of our mother’s womb. It is wonderful to gather these gifts for a time, and bathe them in the emptiness of the All. Now on to the class.

  Since we identify with our sight so thoroughly, Narayana Guru’s analogy here is perfect. We see so much “stuff” we forget the watcher—which is precisely who we are, our consciousness. The correction, once we have lived long enough to desire one, is to retreat from the attraction of the dancing lights and turn to their Source, deep within ourselves. In his beautiful and poetic commentary, Nitya puts this better than anyone:

 

Just as the lower animals take the air they breathe for granted, so do we take consciousness for granted. We feel no pressing need to know from where consciousness comes. As we grow older and encounter situations where it is necessary to make precise observations free of any natural fallacies and erroneous vision due to personal defects, we begin to pay some attention to the structure and function of consciousness at the transactional level. This need has created a sound and systematic methodology of science. When mature minds entered this field, it became imperative to withdraw the mind from immediate impressions so that things of like nature could be abstracted and generalized…. In this connection, the mind has developed the power of analysis to a very high degree. Even so, the mind-stuff that has become expert in what may be called the application of the subjective technology of consciousness has not bothered to find out the nature of itself. Only after big cracks have appeared in [this] general network based on the concepts of the functional mind… have some adventurous people begun to look into the depths of the mind itself. They have been awed and thrilled to discover that mind has a profound depth, and that behind and beneath it is an unconscious mass. (278-279)

 

More than one person has complained that they got to middle age before turning to seek the Source without the trappings of religious doctrine, free of the lures of materialistic chimeras. But that’s how long it takes to carefully work through this whole process, and they should be thankful to break free at all. Many never wake up. Our transactional world strives mightily to keep this type of awareness suppressed and invisible. It is not taught in school, it is not taught in church, and mainstream science still openly disdains it, though that is changing fast. No matter what happens outside, it will always enchant us, until we mature enough to become disenchanted with the husk and desire the kernel. And as these very people who complained have discovered, the minute you turn away from the glamour and “seek the havens,” as Tolkein put it, you find companions and support all around. Our experience is shaped and directed by consciousness, and it is always “built to suit.” Hopefully we can learn to appreciate the miraculousness of this natural facility, and not worry that it may have come too late to where we want it to be now. Nothing is too late or too soon, as Wordsworth forever reminds us:

 

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

little we see in Nature that is ours.

 

Need it be said this is exactly the mentality that we are turning away from? And this morning I’m seeing the double entendre in that first line for the first time (why didn’t I ever notice it before??? I’ve wasted years!). Being a Sixties hippie type, I’ve always read it as “The world is TOO MUCH with us;” meaning the world is overwhelming, capturing all our attention and energy. But Wordsworth also, and possibly primarily, means “The world is too much WITH us;” meaning we are too embroiled in the world, we don’t let it go enough and turn inward. A very Vedantic perspective.

  The delight I felt of discovering this exemplifies why we generally don’t uncover our true depth until we are mature: it’s more fun that way. Every moment of discovery is exciting, blissful, educational, energizing. Like the prodigal son, it is more satisfying to go away and come back than to remain always at home. We only discover what we are ready for, what we want to seek. As kids we discover playing, as young adults we discover sex, drugs and rock and roll. Next we discover the transactional world and our place in it, and then later, if we’re so inclined, we discover our true Self, or at least go looking.

  Which brings up one of our greatest fallacies. Going looking for something that is already our true nature causes us to become more rather than less embroiled in the world. There are so many cool stories about rare ascetics performing feats of meditation and mortification, slogging up mountains or drying wet blankets in winter with their body heat, counting endless prayer beads, that we at first imagine realization to be a rare, far-off possibility. Narayana Guru assures us it is a simple act available to everyone right where we are, right now. No piling up of merit is required. No unusual abilities need be tapped. His preparation is simply to subtract all the false notions we have been decorated with in our careers, and then to just be ourselves (another double entendre, i.e. just BE, ourselves and just be OURSELVES). The first four darsanas accomplished this psychological brush clearing, and now we can see both the forest AND the trees. We are not only ready, we are There.

  Czeslaw Milosz gives an unusual example of how such simple realization might be lived, in his memoirs entitled To Begin Where I Am. Speaking of the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, he writes:

 

“I permitted myself everything except complaints.” This saying of Brodsky’s ought to be pondered by every young person who despairs and is thinking about suicide. He accepted imprisonment philosophically, without anger; he considered shoveling manure on a Soviet state farm a positive experience; expelled from Russia, he decided to act as if nothing had changed; he equated the Nobel Prize with the capricious turns of fate he had experienced previously. The wise men of antiquity recommended such behavior, but there are not many people who can behave like that in practice.

 

  One of the best essays included in Ervin Laszlo’s latest book, Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos, also edited by Nancy Yeilding, is by Peter Russell. He shows how a scientific attitude dovetails perfectly with a spiritual search. It is not called a Science of the Absolute for nothing. On page 145 Russell writes:

 

All our experiences—all our perceptions, sensations, dreams, thoughts, and feelings—are forms appearing in consciousness. It doesn’t always seem that way. When I see a tree it seems as if I am seeing the tree directly. But science tells us something completely different is happening. Light entering the eye triggers chemical reactions in the retina; these produce electro-chemical impulses, which travel along nerve fibers to the brain. The brain analyzes the data it receives, and then creates its own picture of what is “out there.” I then have an experience of seeing a tree. But what I’m actually experiencing is not the tree itself, only the image that appears in the mind. This is true of everything I experience. Everything we know, perceive, and imagine, every color, sound, sensation, every thought and every feeling, is a form appearing in the mind. It is all an “in-forming” of consciousness.

 

  The only way for us to ever apprehend reality outside ourself is to seek another route than being a fixated audience of the dancing interplay of images in our mind. The great teachers of humanity assure us that we can detach from this magnificent play on the mind’s stage and discover what we call the Absolute for lack of a better term. Such a discovery feeds back into the mind’s play of imagery, normalizing it, enlivening it, and filling it with meaning. Armed with those assurances, we can gently, gently merge into sat aum.

  Anne mentioned that our habitual understanding is very comforting, and that it can be terrifying and destabilizing to step outside it. This is an important point, and one which loops back to the idea of everything in its proper time. We need to be prepared before diving into the Unknown, or the lack of shape in our psyche is indeed the most terrifying of fears. Luckily it doesn’t usually happen before we are ready, but it occasionally does. In the Gurukula we have a community of fellow seekers that provides the kind of support a person might need when floating in the void. Of course a guru is just the thing. Even back in the Sixties when we were prematurely thrown into the void by psychedelic drugs, we had a sense of community with others of our generation. We knew we would come back to ourselves, because others had been in the same free fall and lived to tell the tale.

  People around us who have been “untimely ripped” from the womb of their youthful mythologies and are suffering from confusion and fear of the void, can be greatly benefited by a sympathetic engagement with a friend. If they are told that we all have emptiness in our core, the experience can even become very positive. It is a golden opportunity to replace the iron bars of outmoded and false beliefs with sensible and loving ones shaped by our own educated predilections. All too often in breaking free people go only half way, and then are caught in a tense struggle between the voices of barbaric religions and their own inner light. Narayana Guru would have us reach out our hands to those people whenever we meet them. A little support might be all they need to feel at ease with their expanded awareness.

  We closed the class by sinking into the stillness of our cores, sitting silently in our harmonious grouping. Pins didn’t dare drop for fear of making too much sound. Breaths were so gentle as to be inaudible. The emptiness was sweetly palpable. With any luck, and some reliance on the Gurus’ instruction, we can continue to treasure moments like those even when doubts and puzzlement return to our shoulders as our familiar cloaks of darkness.

 

1/25/6 Supplement

 

  So many important ideas get batted around in each class it is completely impossible for me to add even a significant percentage of them to the notes. Once in awhile an omitted factor keeps pestering me until I write something about it, and this is one such.

  Deb asked the class what Nitya meant by his last paragraph, which for convenience I’ll include:

 

When this revolution of understanding occurs, we shall find our way into the secret chamber of the programmer of the universe. This reality now hidden behind the passing shadows of the phantom transactional world is called in this verse the Self. The Self is the one seer behind all that is seen, though it sees not itself; the one listener behind all hearing, though it hears not itself; the one knower behind all knowing, though it knows not itself; and the one enjoyer behind all enjoyment, though it enjoys not itself. When the tribasic error is corrected, the knower and the act of knowing disappear in knowledge, and the enjoyer and enjoyment disappear in a nondifferentiated joy. With this verse the Guru has prepared our minds to go beyond the last frontier in the world of personal awareness. (280)

 

Clearly there is a similarity with the Biblical “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” But what exactly does this mean? Jesus’ line may well refer to a secret code that only those initiated knew, but there is a spiritual significance with it too. The key once again is consciousness or awareness. The example I used in class was the now ubiquitous background music in public places. Everywhere really amazing music is playing, but at low volume. The intent is to promote buying and working, and the unnoticed hum is like an unobtrusive babysitter. There are plenty of effects, but they aren’t noticed by most people, beyond a pleasant sense of comfort. However, if you actually listen to it, the music emerges from the chaos and can be quite beautiful or ugly or whatever. The degree of attention you give it determines how much you get out of it. Simultaneously the veiled psychological/commercial effects are reduced to a minimum.

  Wise teachers always remind us that the Absolute is present in our daily life, but it hums away unnoticed in the background. When we turn our attention to it, suddenly we see it. Or hear it or know it or enjoy it. And as we pay more and more attention to it, we begin to merge into it, and the notion of an ‘I’ appreciating an ‘other’ melts away into a unitive experience of unalloyed joy or knowledge. Then we will feel as e e cummings did when he wrote:

 

i thank You God for most this amazing

day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth

day of life and love and wings: and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any—lifted from the no

of all nothing—human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

 

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

 

 

1/30/7 all-purpose supplement

My friend Jan has been going through That Alone with me, emailing her thoughts and questions as she goes along. She sent this insight from verse 54, which struck me as universally applicable and beautifully expressed, and she's allowed me to share it with you. It's part of a much longer string that we will reluctantly withhold due to some sensitivity. This is exactly what the Hundred Verses of Self Instruction (That Alone) is all about:

 

  Nitya calls us a big unconscious walking around with a little sign of consciousness on top and we often fail to see that the light on top really does not help us to know our bigger self, the unconscious.  And that deeper place is where we are drawn and where we find all that we truly want, the connection to the Absolute and freedom, joy and peace.

  What this says to me is that in my spiritual growth and in how I live my life I need to let go and let in.  This truth connects beautifully with my insights from this last week....

  Just by ... not listening to this ongoing soap opera in my head...I found I could attend to [other people] and their needs, and that felt good. I also found that when I consciously try to put aside that bundle of self ensnarled stuff--almost like you would put a bundle down by your bed--and that if I look up with openness and emptiness to the world around me, something rushes forward that brings life, light, companionship, peace or joy. 

  This verse reminds me that although all our philosophy and learning and beliefs can be helpful to our growth, and that many of our expectations and predilections and biases are just part of who we are, that we need to try as best we can to throw them all aside. This process of letting go, clearing the mind, and meditating and reflecting is so important to our growth and shaping of our self. It seems so ironic, but true. For by doing so, insights and feelings will become known to us from the deeper place within us and connections can be made in the external world that will prove meaningful and pivotal, and yet we could not gain these things by going at them with an agenda. So although we have learned it is good to apply the dialectic method to our experiences and emotions and bring in the opposite, we also have to find that unknowing place and simply be in a receptive, open state. 

 

1/30/7

What is the object of awareness, that is superimposed; the non-superimposed is not an object of awareness; what is superimposed, that is unreal; what is not superimposed—That alone is real. (V. 10)

 

  Guru Nitya sums up some main threads from the first half of the work in his brief but pungent commentary. We revisited how the true believer in God and the atheist are not different, from a philosophical perspective. One dances with his concepts and the other with his percepts, but both concepts and percepts are horizontal factors, external to the Vedantic conception of reality. They are creations of the human mind, superimposed upon the real ground of That Alone, the Absolute.

  Within our mind, our consciousness undergoes a split as it observes the imagery produced there by the senses. The image of the outside world becomes the ‘other’ while the observing part becomes the inner self or ego. Both parts are within the mind, but then we select and trim the image to our preferences, distorting and confusing matters. We pick and choose. Nitya says, “We mostly do not believe what is true, but rather what gives us the most satisfaction or comfort. It is always the manufacture of the ‘other’ which deludes us.” Whether thought of as a material world or God, this ‘other’ is a temporary construct only. To make matters worse, it ensnares us in fixed concepts: “We shall undoubtedly be confronted by the products of our own hypothesizing. But they will turn out to be as ephemeral as our own I-consciousness which created them.”

  We have arrived at Narayana Guru’s affirmation of reality after fifty verses of preparation. Nitya reminds us “The cryptic formula ‘That alone exists’ is both the precious pendant and the secret key of the entire ‘Garland of Visions.’” Its occurrence precisely halfway through the work is no accident. It hangs like a jewel from the bottom of the loop of the garland worn around the neck, setting the whole ensemble off.

  The class did a wonderful job of bringing Narayana Guru’s seemingly simple words to life. Everyone felt the synthesis of the group mind enabling the collected individuals to dive deeper than normal. This is one time when we fully rose to the occasion—melted into the occasion—most admirably. Sitting quietly together, we settled into a peace which did not require subject and object bifurcation. The experience of peace became a dynamic attraction in its own right, pulling us in further and further as the class unfolded. Too bad I will only be able to give the faintest impression of the radiant evening in writing.

  Due to the frailty of translating Sanskrit into English, most Americans have a tough time with our world being called unreal. We think of the unreal as something which doesn’t exist, and become incensed that our apparent reality is said to be false. In Vedanta, the real is that which persists, which has pure duration. Things that come and go are unreal because they don’t last. They are real enough for a moment but then fade out to be replaced by the next thing. Not long after writing this commentary, Nitya decided to use the term actual instead of unreal. The changing world is actual and the unchanging ground is real. This gives a much better sense of the neutrality meant to be imparted by the Guru. The actual world is just fine, and in many respects is the predominant side of life. It’s just that it will not last. Who could argue with that?

  In Darsanamala study we are searching for the side of life that doesn’t go away, so we can add it to our familiar kaleidoscopic actual life. One of the primary motivations of a search for truth is that once we discover that the I-consciousness is doomed to be temporary we want to identify with something permanent. We don’t need to throw away the ‘I’, as some religions require, but just redirect it toward a more solid foundation. This is referred to in the Bible as building your house upon a rock instead of sand. In the wildly florid language of the King James version, it’s put this way:

 

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke, 6: 47-49) (Matthew’s version has sand instead of earth.)

 

I like to bring in other sources, but I have to admit I find the calm voice of Narayana Guru much more helpful than the extremist agitation that is so often found in the Bible. Yet the concept is undoubtedly the same here. The house we build is our world view; the sand is our personal preferences for comfort and so on, and the rock of course is the Absolute, that which does not wash away when the floods come. Indeed, it is unwettable. The Gita says:

 

Weapons do not cut This, fire does not burn This, and water does not wet This; wind does not dry This:

 

Indeed it is uncleavable; It is non-inflammable; It is unwettable and non-dryable also—everlasting, all-pervading, stable, immobile; It is eternal. (II, 23-24)

 

  Curiously, depression was a major theme in the discussion. I think everyone was delighted to hear it brought up. “Oh, good! The secret’s out. I’m not alone after all.” Everybody feels depressed at times, and due to the medication mania of our culture and the “false front syndrome,” that’s treated as a bad thing. Instead it should be considered part of the natural flow, the rising and ebbing of the tides of our life, the flip side of being up. As John asked, why don’t we also worry about being elated? But we’ve learned to hide our downs and only step out into the arena when we’re at our best. And as Susan said, we often hold onto the depression because we draw a perverse satisfaction from it. It makes us feel real, in a way. In the split we talked about above, the observer identifies with the sadness and cherishes it as “me.” “Me” is thus the other and the self at the same time, though still divided. It’s a narcissistic imitation of celestial unity, an easy trap to fall into. This maximizes the depressed part of the sine wave and minimizes the elated part.

  It’s only true depression if it never lets go, but most of us go up and down with varying degrees of equanimity. We are not depressed, we are experiencing depression at times. This is perfectly normal and nothing whatsoever to feel guilty about.

  Jan added how we get in the habit of blaming others for our troubles, and so don’t feel we have to address our internal problems. We smugly withdraw into a kind of martyrdom which reinforces the negative state, because the spouse or Bush or bad luck has done this to us. Anita added the dialectic, that sometimes it really IS the other person’s fault, and we shouldn’t automatically assume it’s only us. Tamar tied it up beautifully by mentioning how so often she had initially felt someone else was to blame, but when she looked harder she found the situation revealed something important for her own edification, and exactly who was responsible for what was of secondary importance.

  Moni carried us through the life cycle of a tree as it unfolds from a seed, sprouts, grows, proliferates, flowers and bears fruit, and then drops its seeds once again to the good earth to start the process over again. The unfolding and evolution involved are the truth of the tree, and they are one of the ways the real becomes actual, or say the non-superimposed becomes superimposed.

  Susan noted that the metaphor of the ocean and its waves was addressing the dichotomy of superimposed and non-superimposed also. That’s a helpful way to look at it, all right. There is no separation between them: wave and ocean are both water. Waves make the ocean interesting, define it, and give it its character, even though they are temporary conglomerations. Knowing it is made of water doesn’t keep the wave from rolling you when it washes past, either. Still, if we know what things are really made of, what their truth is, sometimes we can avoid a wipeout. So we ponder, and learn how to surf.

  I’m quite frankly overwhelmed at trying to reproduce even a vestigal glimmer of last night’s sublimity. I incline before the gurus who have given us this bounty, and the good souls who have shared in the banquet along the way, many of whom were able to be with us last night and some who were not. I will lift myself off the hook by including the note that Susan wrote when she got home, way past her bedtime, as a fitting conclusion to the Bhana Darsana notes. Aum.

 

Dear Scott,

Such a wonderful class tonight. Thanks to you and Debbie for making it

possible. And all who came before. And the Absolute/That Alone.

 

For the last 15 minutes of class I was thinking about the un-emotion of the

Absolute and I wanted to bring it up but it would have started a whole new discussion and actually Debbie mentioned it at the end. I was really struck in a new way tonight by how the Absolute is not joyful and not depressed. What I mean to say is that so often I have taken God into my little personal sphere and assumed that he/she was in on whatever I was feeling – not causing the pain but certainly causing the joy. Well, I guess I've even thought at times that my pain is given to me by some outside force so maybe it's the same thing. Anyway, when Moni was talking about the tree growing up from the seed, I first started having my usual feelings of Joy, Beauty, Elation about this amazing thing that happens but then I realized that I was superimposing all this meaning onto the plant. The plant is just doing its thing -- neither with joy or pain -- and that is the manifestation of the Absolute. This is a huge realization for me. I know I've thought about it before and I even remember that we talked about this long ago. Remember? It was when we were saying that it would be awful to actually have a God that had emotion -- who could be angry or happy or get carried away with anxiety or elation. We would want a god that just was, through thick and through thin. So it is wonderful to now meditate on this new and deeper understanding of the Absolute -- as being neither joy or sadness. That is a pure and simple yet difficult thing to grasp. I think this is what we were talking about yesterday too; how in my own work, I need to let go of both ups and downs because they are my own superimpositions and they do not allow for the onrushing wave.

 

The journey continues. Wonderful.

 

Peace,

Susan

 

2/2/7

Lastly:

It seems fitting to end Part One by revisiting dear old Long Chen Pa, with his words on The Natural Freedom of Mind:

 

Since everything is but an apparition

perfect in being what it is,

having nothing to do with good or bad,

acceptance or rejection,

one may well burst out in laughter.



Scott Teitsworth

rsteitsworth(at)yahoo.com