Atmopadesa Satakam, Version 2




(Editorial Note: this version has been revised and certain extraneous features, such as the original pagination, have been removed. However, it awaits a final re-reading)



The one hundred verses of this book have their original in Malayalam verses from the pen of Narayana Guru himself. Narayana Guru’s earliest writings were clothed in a mythological language depending much on the Gods or Goddesses of what is sometimes called the Hindu Pantheon, including Shiva, Vishnu, Subrahmanya or Kali. Even in those, the case for Advaita Vedanta could be seen showing itself from behind, as it were, the thin superficial veneer of a conventional style evidently adopted by him for the purposes of the common devotee to whom he had necessarily to address himself in those temple-movement days. Later years gave a more positivist orientation to his writings, getting rid even of the esoterics implied in his Shiva-Satakam (One Hundred Verses to Shiva).


We see him in this present work attaining to a philosophical context of Self-realisation rather than that of adoration of any deity, steering clear of local or traditional colourations. He approximates thus for the first time to the open and dynamic style of the Upanishads themselves where the teachings centre round the absolute value called Self or the Atman and not any God to adore as hitherto. An open reference to the Upanishads could even be found in Verse 14. This work of the Guru thus emerges early in his writing career, fully echoing the spirit of the Upanishads, where the centre of interest of value moves, as it were, from an outside locus into the domain of the Absolute Self. The limitations of the understanding of the devotees to whom these verses had to cater, however, kept him within the limits of a religious scriptural form without gaining a fuller status as an open and critical philosophical work as revealed only later in such works as Brahmavidya-Pancakam and the Darsana-Mala, which are the more finalized fruits of his life of contemplation of the Absolute from all the three perspectives of cosmology, theology and psychology. Even the voice of obligation, in which a certain course of behaviour, faith or understanding, whether ethical or religious, is not transcended here. It is in fact a confection in which the Upanishadic teaching is treated also as a way of life. Such a way of life has a fully open and dynamic character, instead of being closed or static as in hide-bound religion or ethics.

The reader could profitably read the essays by the present commentator, ‘Presenting the Philosophy of a Guru’ which enable him to enter in the further implications of this work, which is meant to be both a scriptural composition recommending a way of life as well as the clarification of the highest problems of Advaita Vedanta itself.

It would be helpful for the reader also to remember that the cryptic language which comes to evidence in almost every natural group of verses inevitably yields up their secret when subjected to a structural analysis which we have recommended many times elsewhere. Esoterics will become lit up to have a fully scientific status when subjected to such a schematic scrutiny. If the verses or the comments should still retain a certain strangeness from conventional norms, the excuse could be found perhaps in the attempt to lay the foundations of a type of literature fully emancipated from the possible prejudices and mental conditions belonging to limited spheres of time or clime. Conventions cannot be respected side-by-side with an open, scientific or universal outlook.









ONE HUNDRED philosophical verses constituting a wisdom text of rare value written by the Guru Narayana (1854-1928) in Malayalam are presented here for the first time in a modern English translation with suitable comments by one of his disciples. The text is entitled Atma-Upadesa, which means ‘teaching about or of the Self’. The subject of the work is contemplative self-realization or knowing oneself as better understood in the Socratic context as pertaining to the central problem of wisdom itself. Instead of being in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and a pupil, as is more usually the case either in India or in ancient Greece, the two counterparts involved in the wisdom-teaching situation are brought more unitively together here by the Guru. This is perhaps more consistent both with the matter and the method of the unitive wisdom treated in this ‘century of verse’ or satakam as it is named here.

The poet Bhartrihari has similar verse-sequences known in the Sanskrit tradition. Sankara’s Atma-bodha and Upadesa Sahasri are also kindred compositions. Highly reminiscent of this form of writing too, are the works of Tamil poets such as the Tevaram (Garland of God) and Tiruvasagam (Holy Sentences) of the Nalvars (Four Saints) so popular in South India. The Bhagavad Gita, also a song and a science at once pertaining to the Absolute, does not fall outside the class of composition  intended by the Guru in this instance. The present composition is thus a wisdom-discourse addressed to or about one’s own self. Further, as we shall explain presently with reference to the text of the very first verse, the author has in mind a work of a scriptural or canonical status wherein he seeks to present a revaluation of the whole field of wisdom  It is meant to be both scientifically precise and capable of being chanted as an elevating scripture like the Vedas themselves by the less strictly intellectual or merely academic votary of ‘Self-knowledge’.

The nature of the opening verse calls for some preliminary remarks. There is a tacit Sanskrit convention which requires that the first words should indicate succinctly the content, relation and subject-matter of the whole work, and indicate clearly the kind of approach and the nature of the problems envisaged. It is usual also in works of a serious kind in India, either to bow down to the Guru or to invoke God or some principle representing the Absolute or the Most High in one form or another. In Kalidasa’s ‘Sakuntala’, the very first verse has been subjected to a most elaborate scrutiny in the light of such a convention. It is also permitted to omit addressing a definite member of the Hindu pantheon by name and to allude only indirectly (as in Sakuntala) to some hidden principle, representative of the Absolute, according to the author’s original concept. Buddhist works refer to ‘the Enlightened One’ in various forms. Sankara’s ‘Viveka Chudamani’ begins by invoking his Guru’s name.

The Guru Narayana is able to conform to these tacit conventions in a manner which both conforms and by-passes its demands in a delicate and distinctive middle way which is all his own. The first letter with which the work begins is the vowel ‘A’ which, according to the Gita (X. 33) represents the Absolute. The pointed reference in the first verse to repeated prostrations to the Absolute, subjectively and objectively conceived at once, fulfils the requirements of an initial invocation without doing so in any closed theological or deistic sense. The dignity of philosophy is not compromised by the demands of any theology which might not be fully in keeping with the ‘free critic’ that a man should correctly consider himself to be.

The purpose and scope of the work, as also the central question, the problem or the doubt it confronts us with as a whole, requires to be clearly indicated also according to classical Indian convention. Here too the Guru satisfies this tacit requirement masterfully. One notices here that the central substantial core in oneself, referred to in the opening verse, lends itself to be considered both as the subject-matter as well as the object-matter of the philosophy of the Guru at one and the same time. Duality is thus not only avoided but unity established by means of a neutral normative notion of the Absolute which is adorable in, through and by oneself.

The neutral unitive Absolute, irrespective of any cosmological, psychological or theological bias, thus occupies a central place in the work. The task that the Guru places before himself in the ninety-eight intervening verses, is to arrive once more, after facing all relevant problems, at the hundredth verse, at a unitive and neutral concept of the Absolute. A close vision of the Self would be the compensation for the strenuous effort that the study of these verses might have cost the student when he finally is able to put the book down and see everything in it in its perfect perspective and symmetry.

The luminous and illuminating Self conceived thus non-dually is not merely of passing academic interest. It must hold the centre of all human interest when all other interests have given place to better ones in the spiritual progress of man. The Adorable Absolute Value would be represented by the Self, while it would banish philosophical doubts of a merely intellectual order.

Such are some of the initial ideas with which we have to launch our study of this philosophical masterpiece of our time. It lends itself as the basis of a new world outlook, which is neither Eastern nor Western, neither ancient modern, neither academic nor religious, neither pragmatic nor sentimental. ‘Let the Guru be praised for such an open and dynamic outlook’, is the note of prayer with which shall ourselves enter here into the actual task of translation and comment, in a spirit of leisurely detachment. We shall adhere as near to the original text as permissible without making readability suffer, and we shall comment generally and textually item after item, giving Eastern or Western references, thus bringing the discussions into line and up to date.



Rising even above knowledge, what within the form

Of the one who knows, as equally without, radiant shines,

To that Core, with the eyes five restrained within,

Again and again prostrating in adoration, one should chant.


THIS sequence of verses, as the first verse here indicates, is a contemplative hymn or sacred scripture intended by the Guru to be sung or chanted, like the Vedas, the Quran or the Psalms of the Bible. It concerns the Self, which is to be located neither inside nor outside the contemplator. Self-knowledge is to be sought introspectively with the outward-going interests restrained and directed inwards in terms of consciousness, which can be said to be both subjective and objective at once. A mere academic interest or intellectual curiosity alone will not suffice for the task of Self-realization. A whole-hearted interest is needed. Ecstasy and wonder are only to be expected normally in the appraisal of such a high human value. An attitude of ceaseless adoration is therefore recommended so as to attune the mind to the implicit central notion which is the content of the whole work. Such a notion, being beyond the paradox of logic, has to be approached dialectically. In such a unitive approach the attitude of reverence or adoration is but a natural corollary. Hence the prostrations here are indicated without violating the requirements of human dignity in its everyday sense. No abject idolatry or kow-towing is implied, but rather an adoration of the Absolute as the highest and dearest of human values.


‘RISING EVEN ABOVE KNOWLEDGE’: What is implied here is the Platonic distinction between the world of the visible and the intelligible. (1) Pure and practical reason in the terminology of Kant would refer to the same distinction as between the immanent and the transcendent, the ontological and the teleological, the a priori and the a posteriori, and in many other pairs of terms by which various philosophers have attempted to refer to two aspects of absolute reality.

Some of these, such as the Cartesian distinction between the body and the mind, imply a duality sometimes exaggerated out of proportion or asymmetrically conceived as between the two counterparts. Here the Guru refers to a central reality which transcends the two aspects of the visible and the intelligible. In the Upanishads para-vidya refers to the knowledge of the intelligibles and apara-vidya to the visible (Mundaka Upanishad. I. I. 4, 5). Para-apara is a term used in the Upanishads too, referring to what transcends these twin aspects of knowledge. When opinion attains to the red glow of what might be called knowledge, the duality between the two aspects may still persist, but when the same attains to white heat, the duality as between the material source of light and light itself becomes effaced, and luminosity pervades both subjectively and objectively. When fully realized, the wisdom of the Self would have no vestige of duality as between the source of light and light itself. Such is the unitive reality in the mind of the Guru here. The neutral Absolute given to higher dialectical reasoning and reaching beyond or higher than its own dualistically- understood counterparts is what is intended to be conveyed by the word ‘even’ in the text of the verse. In verse 72 we come again to this question of non-duality beyond or above duality, discussed in its proper place as the Guru’s philosophy unravels systematically. The subtle problem as between duality and non-duality is fundamental to Vedanta tradition, and we shall have occasion to refer to it many times in the course of our comments. We shall therefore not unnecessarily labour the point here.


‘WITHIN...AS EQUALLY WITHOUT’: The equal status given here to the subjective and objective aspects of knowledge is not an alternation as between the light within and without. An alternating movement as between two ambivalent aspects of the personality is, however, alluded to in Verse 68 as well as in Verse 72. Duality might have to be admitted for methodological reasons to arrive finally at its abolition through higher dialectical reasoning. Even otherwise, we know in modern philosophy such as that of Bertrand Russell, who calls himself a neutral monist, that the ‘mind-matter’ duality could have a middle ground which is neither the one nor the other. In terms of consciousness the distinction between its subjective and objective aspects is only of importance for purposes of nomenclature. The stuff or substance constituting knowledge, whether subjective or objective, is the same. Ramanuja’s Visishta-advaita (non-duality of the specific substance of wisdom as such) refers to the same paradox. (2) Spinoza’s notion of ‘a thinking substance’ can also combine the two aspects unitively. He defines it as follows:

‘I understand substance (substantia) to be that which is in itself and is conceived through itself: I mean that, the conception of which does not depend on the conception of another thing from which it must be formed.’ (3)

In more modern times we have the discussion between the ‘substance’ theory of the mind and the ‘substantive’ theory of the mind as distinguished by C. W. Morris. To understand the non-materiality yet self-existence of the notion, as used by William James who applied it to the resting phase of the stream of consciousness, we are helped by the following explanations:

‘Substantive states of mind, in contrast to transitive or relational states, are the temporary resting places in the flow of the stream of thought’. (4)

The ‘substance’ as understood by the Guru Narayana is unitively conceived.  Even the last vestiges of duality persisting in the notion of consciousness considered as a stream is here abolished by the Guru when he underlines the perfect equality of status as between its own subjective or objective aspects. Consciousness is here to be understood in terms of the eternal present or the moment, as in Plato’s Parmenides, where ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ meet. (5)

‘TO THAT CORE’:  What we have called the core here corresponds to karu in Malayalam.  It can be a substance centrally situated in an organism like its nucleus and the source of its functional side.  As something that starts or initiates action it could be thought of as the functional basis of the faculties or as an organ or instrument. Aristotle’s ‘unmoved mover’ comes nearest to what is meant by the Guru. The Sanskrit word karanam, referring to the functions of the mind, intelligence or reasoning ego, refers to the common Self behind, as it were, these specific aspects of the same Self.


Our idea of the ‘core’ has to accord with the further elaboration of its attributes in later verses, starting with the very next verse. The ‘core’ is not matter as in biology, but something more subtle as a functional basis of consciousness which is the meeting-point of outgoing and incoming conscious impulses. It is the source of the ‘pure act’ of Aristotle.


‘WITH THE EYES FIVE RESTRAINED WITHIN’ :  Afferent impulses tend to dominate everyday consciousness through the outward-directed attention fixed on objects of interest succeeding one another in cyclic succession, and depending on biological or other urges normal to living beings. Consciousness itself, in its two-fold symmetry, is not proportionately or fully seen in its normal balanced state when the outgoing tendencies dominate the incoming ones.

A detachment from the empirical world and a state of mind resembling that of pure mathematics is implicit in all contemplation.  Interests lead to chains of activities which are initiated through any object of interest occupying the centre of consciousness at a given time. These would compromise the case for pure contemplative attention to the Self as the neutral Absolute. Just as pure mathematical thought is impossible when we are swayed by passions belonging to the outer world; so pure contemplation is impossible to one attached to the empirical world of touch or measurement.

Eastern philosophy has to save itself from the aspersion of escapism cast on it by so-called positive philosophers of the West, which will be seen to be unjust when we remember that contemplation, and all philosophy for that matter, pertains to the world of vertical values in life rather than to those that are horizontal. Either one wants contemplation or not. This is for each person to decide for himself. But, after wanting it, it would be absurd to say that its methods have to be as objective as in the empirical branches of science or knowledge. In shutting the eyes here the philosopher only resembles the mathematical physicist, and in metaphysics this attitude is only all the more valid. Even Eddington, though a physicist, stands for what he calls ‘selective subjectivism.’

In fact, as Fichte pointed out, in discussing the Kantian duality between ‘pure’ and ‘practical’ reason, there could be a common principle, as in his notion of ‘wissenschaftlehre’ (doctrine of science), which could be independent of the pure or practical content of reason, referring to the truth of all science or knowledge treated as one. The ‘core’ here may also be said to lie at the meeting-point of the vertical and the horizontal aspects of reality, and represent at once the Platonic real and the ‘entelecheia’ as understood in the Aristotelian context. (6) Existence, subsistence and value notions meet neutrally in this central core.

‘ONE SHOULD CHANT’ :  No obligation to chant is here implied. Such could not be the construction that we can put on the word ‘should’ as used here. The Vedas or smritis (obligatory codes remembered) like that of Manu are sastras or canonical scriptures which have social or religious obligation implied in them.  Pure philosophy as in the Upanishads and the Gita is distinguished by its perfect freedom from any trace of obligation. Such works are therefore classed as srutis (heard wisdom teachings) as against the smritis, which are remembered ones from the teaching as applied to life.

How is it then, that the word ‘should’ is employed by the Guru here? This is a pertinent question. We have already indicated that the Guru’s intention here is to compose a work which will treat philosophy and religion unitively. It would have the characteristics of both Veda and Vedanta. What would be good (philosophically) to understand should be good to apply or adopt into one’s way of life. The duality as between smartha (remembered or applied) and srauta (first-hand, heard, or non-obligatory) is here brought together by the Guru in his treatment of the subject of Self-realization and the yogic disciplines that form an inseparable part of it in reality. Wisdom and action, as in the Gita, are brought together as one subject. The work is meant to be a song and a science at once. Exaltation is natural to the adventure of the discovery of the Self, and hence chanting the text is in order and normally indicated.


(1). See article in VALUES, (pub. Kaggalipura, Bangalore)

Vol. IV, No. 5, p. 141.


(2), See VALUES Vol. IV. .No. 4.


(3). p. I. Spinoza. ‘Ethics’, (Everyman’s Edition)


(4). p. 305 Ledger Wood, Rune’s ‘Dictionary of Philosophy’. (Jaico, Bombay.)


(5). see definition in VALUES, pp. 146-147 Vol. IV. No. 5.


(6). see VALUES P. 146, Vol. IV. No. 5.




The inner organ, the senses, and counting from the body

The many worlds we know, are all, on thought, the sacred form

Of the supreme Sun risen in the void beyond;

By relentless cogitation one should attain to this.

AS in mathematics, there is an inductive equation here, which the mind is capable of giving to itself. As the two terms of the equation we are asked to think hard about the inner organ at one pole and the sun in the supreme void at the other pole. Between these worlds one has to fill up for oneself grades of value-systems with which, as human beings, we deal, whether emotionally, actively or intellectually. ‘Terra firma’ is one such world, and the galaxies of the expanding universe could be the other. Or we could fill the series between these two limiting counterparts with other material, psychological or cosmological value-factors which concern human life interests. Howsoever they may be named, there is to be imagined a vertical axis in which all value-interests or things themselves could be arranged in an ascending or descending  series, with perhaps a neutral point between the extremes. The positive and the negative items of this series could always be equated and understood one in terms of the other. The ‘supreme Sun risen in the void’ would represent the extreme positive counterpart of the inner organ, which is the first item of the ontological aspect of reality. The main equation is between the inner organ (as next to the ‘thinking substance’ or core we have seen in the first verse), and the supreme Sun in the void postulated here. A form of pure mathematical reasoning is involved here which a scientist, whose very language is mathematical, should not question.

If mathematical predictions of events such as eclipses are possible and permissible, this a priori induction here, which equates the poles of reality as we can experience them, arrived at by hard introspective cogitation on the part of the contemplative seeker of the wisdom of the Self, should not be dismissed as unscientific, dogmatic or superstitious.

One can attain to this vision or certitude, the Guru warns us, only by very hard thinking of a certain kind, whose nature will become clearer as we proceed. Meanwhile it would be worthwhile to note that the ‘inner organ’ - which is the basis of the attributes of ego or individual consciousness such as the mind, reason, relational mind, and sense of individuation - is strictly the correct contemplative counterpart of the Sun in the void. Any empirical stigma attached to these starting counterparts in the mind of the student will have to be progressively discarded as the discussion attains to subtler inner factors which must constitute the subject-matter as well as the object-matter of all contemplative philosophizing. In other words, the physiological organ within and the physical sun are both to be substituted by a psychic organon and a supreme transcendental immaterial Sun beyond.


‘THE INNER ORGAN’: Aristotle, Francis Bacon, and Kant have employed the term organon in referring to the instrument of reasoning in man. The ordinary empirical reason that we use in everyday life is more of a faculty (that is, an attribute of the physical aspect of the personality) than one belonging to the philosophical a priori side of conscious awareness. Our own body is what we cognise first with this organ which is within us. When we pull out a thorn in our foot there is a coming-together of the counterparts of subjective and objective factors which go to make up the whole personality. A boy extracting a thorn becomes a dignified theme for a Greek sculptor because of this meeting of counterparts.

As we have said, this inner instrument of reason could be further vertically subdivided into mind, reason, relational faculty, individuation, etc., as has been referred to in Sanskrit psychology as manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara respectively. Whatever the subdivisions named or unnamed, they belong together to this inner organ when telescoped into one another as a single factor for purposes of easy nomenclature. This inner organ uses the five senses such as hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. The very first object with which we can be said to be in palpable contact is our own body. Objectively speaking, the body should have been our negative starting-point, and the physical sun its positive counterpart here; but, contemplatively treated, the inner organ itself, as the instrument of cognition, conation and affection, is the more correct starting-point in equating counterparts.

‘THE SACRED FORM OF THE SUPREME SUN RISEN IN THE VOID BEYOND’: This pagan sun which pre-Christian philosophers, including Julian the Apostate, made so much of, in contrast to the Christian tendency to do without the sun in vaulted churches of stained glass which keep the rays outside, comes into the Guru’s writing here, perhaps to some of us at least, with somewhat shocking abruptness. The Aryans were known to be sun-worshippers, and the Zoroastrians too extolled the midday sun. Plato’s writings refer to the sun, not in a religious but in a philosophical context. The sun is attained by the highest form of reasoning which Plato distinguishes as the dialectical, as in the following passage:

‘But isn’t this just the note that Dialectic must strike (to be able to argue logically as only trained philosophers can do)? It is an intellectual process, but is paralleled in the visible world, as we say, by the progress of sight from shadows to real creatures, and then to the stars, and finally to the sun itself. So when one tries to reach ultimate realities by the exercise of pure reason, without any aid from the senses, and refuses to give up until the mind has grasped what the Good is, one is at the end of an intellectual progress parallel to the visual progress we described’. (7)

Thus we see that treating the sun and the visible world as dialectical counterparts in higher reasoning has the sanction of long philosophical usage. The Upanishads also refer to the Absolute as aditya-varnam, as of the splendour of the Sun on the other side of all darkness. The Pushan of the Isa Upanishad also refers to the Sun as a visible symbol of the Absolute. References to the Sun in the Upanishads as Aditya, Savitr or Surya are numerous, but the reference in the Chandogya Upanishad (8. 6. 2.) gives the dialectical relation between the two poles as follows:

‘Now as a great extending highway goes to two villages, this one and the yonder, even so these rays of the sun go to two worlds, this one and the yonder.’

However, we should note here that the Platonic sun beyond has to be cancelled out or equated against the simple reality here in the inner organs in order to arrive at the neutral Absolute which is neither to be conceived as hypostatically nor hierophantically sacred. The sacredness has to be derived from its neutral absolutist participation.

‘THE MANY WORLDS WE KNOW’: The unmistakable suggestion which the Guru makes in this very second verse is that we know of several worlds. It is but fair for us to give the writer a chance to develop his subject in his own way, and it would not therefore be just for us to label the Guru in advance as a pluralist or a serialist. We saw in the first verse that the ‘core’ that he referred to admitted of no duality. In the very next verse we find him referring to many worlds and to the counterparts of these many worlds to be thought of in a certain graded order and brought together as the terms of an equation. The inner organ is to be the dialectical counterpart of the Sun in the void postulated by him. If pure non-duality is the doctrine of the work as a whole, the Guru has to develop his subject by using a certain method. Methodological and axiological requirements thus make him come down from the platform, as it were, and explain more intimately to the student that the way to arrive at non-duality finally, is first to find the counterparts that belong to the unity and bring them dialectically together for being resolved in unitive terms. Such apparent duality is not to be mixed up with a doctrinal duality. It is rather a methodological, suppositious requirement only.

All contemplation must needs have a human purpose, however pure or abstract. The axiological limits have therefore to be clearly indicated. We know of our own mind and the body that we touch. As we travel outwards from these given factors the objects of desire which form the natural human environment, such as the world of food, can be said to constitute the next value-system. More removed from the food-world, we could think of social, ethical or aesthetic environments for each man. The world of the intelligibles as described in Plato’s writings and the summum bonum which is the region of the final or supreme interest for man to reach, could be thought of as the highest of possible worlds. Other philosophers such as Leibniz would perhaps think of the serial world of monads, ranging from the simple atomic monad here to the monad of monads which is the same as God, according to his philosophy. Even to the scientific philosopher, with a space-time continuum, a series of worlds is possible as between the quantum pulsations of matter in its electro-magnetic field, to the cosmos imagined with its vast interstellar spaces in an expanding universe with an attraction and repulsion between bodies constituting the larger cosmos.

The many worlds we know, as here intended by the Guru, should be in keeping with his own philosophy, as developed in these verses or elsewhere in his writings, which it is our duty first to try to understand as we proceed.

‘BY RELENTLESS COGITATION ONE SHOULD ATTAIN TO THIS ‘: One has to do violence to one’s own nature in the practice of dialectical reasoning. That is why it has been called in Sanskrit ‘tapas’ or the burning up of oneself. A form of agony and a vertical ascent is implied in this intellectual effort which resembles the working of the faculties of a pure mathematician like Eddington with his sedenion algebraic formulae, his equations and constants. No arm-chair philosophizing will suffice here. Bergson in his Metaphysics refers to it as a form of ‘intellectual auscultation’ as when one hears sounds from within oneself by stopping and reversing the process of normal thinking.  Dialectical ascent and descent are also known to philosophers from classical times. The cogitations of Descartes and the use of intuition as known to him and to Plotinus or Bergson involve a pure mathematical way of negative or positive induction which involves special effort on the part of the contemplative. The true end of contemplation is not to be attained in any lazy attitude but involves vertical, though not horizontal effort.

(7). P. 302, The Republic, (Penguin Classics) - our parenthesis



These phenomenal aspects five such as the sky

Which as emergent from outside is here seen to be,

By contemplation one should bring to non-difference

As the sea is to the waves that rise in rows thereon.


AFTER making out the two poles involved in contemplation - one at the core of one’s own being, and one in the void beyond, in the previous verses - the accent now shifts to the subject, who is here treated as a passive onlooker witnessing the given phenomenal world. This world is what is known to physics and as in the pre-Socratic hylozoism of ancient Europe, it is even now habitual in India to refer to the sky, air, fire, water and earth as graded realities of the phenomenal aspect of the Absolute. The elements thus contemplatively understood should not be confused, however, with elements as understood in modern physics or chemistry. It is not merely the material basis of phenomena which have to be thought of under the symbols of the elemental names, but rather stable nodes in a vertical series of graded entities which, when more closely scrutinized, would reveal themselves to be of the same substance as the Absolute itself as understood in the first verse. Waves on the sea are water under specific name and form but otherwise homogeneous with the ocean. This classical Vedantic example is resorted to by the Guru here to refer to the differencelessness between the cause and the effect in the phenomenal world. The cause when viewed contemplatively yields this answer, while when viewed horizontally or non-contemplatively, the waves will have to be given a status in reality of their own.

Indian logic makes the distinction between the material cause, such as the clay that makes the pot, and the occasional or incidental cause, which is the potter’s work. The former is the vertical cause, while the latter would refer to a horizontal sequence of causes and effects. Each wave might have an individuality, horizontally viewed; but contemplatively or vertically viewed, the material cause and effect, namely, water, leads to a differenceless unitive vision. The text here being of a contemplative order and especially as there is reference to contemplation in the verse itself, the vertical unitive view of cause and effect is what is intended here by the Guru.

‘EMERGENT FROM OUTSIDE HERE SEEM TO BE ‘: That Vedanta, especially as stated by Sankara, refers to the visible world of phenomena as a mere appearance or passing show is proverbially known. Maya-vada (the doctrine of illusion) and ajata-vada (the doctrine of emergent appearance), are different names by which the negative principle of nescience is supposed to dim the transparency of the human mind, making for all sorts of conditioned states of consciousness, by which representations of apparent realities become supposed or superimposed on the pure being which is the subjective-objective Absolute.

Other favourite examples of nescience are the snake imagined in a piece of rope or the silver imagined in the mother-of-pearl. The colourless glass crystal conditioned or ‘coloured’ by its being placed on a piece of red silk is another favourite example of the conditioning optical or logical illusion possible in respect of reality. What seems to exist, as it were, ‘over there’ in our common experience of the visible world, is not in reality substantially there at all. The blue of the sky, to start with, is a mere optical effect known to science. It is due as much to the weakness of the optical nerves as to the effects in the dispersal of light. As we come down from the subtle element, the sky, through the intermediate nodes marked out symbolically by the elemental principles known by their respective names, understood subjectively and objectively at once, we appreciate only degrees of differentiation as between the successive items taken in order. Even here the difference as between say, fire and water for example, is due to the interpenetration of factors in an ascending as well as a descending order at once. The process of such neutralisation by opposites is known in Vedantic literature as panchikarana, and the elements themselves, thought of as principles rather than things, are called tanmatras (things-in-themselves). The story of the process of panchikarana or equalization of the factors is described by Prof. Lacombe as follows:

‘‘The great elements do not enter as such into the composition of individual realities, but undergo first a sort of shaking-up which is called quintipartition - panchikarana. Each of them is divided by the Creator into two parts and each of these halves again into four parts. Each of these quarters is afterwards mixed with the half that remains intact of each of the four elements. This takes place in such a way that each element becomes already composed as follows: 1/2 element plus 1/8 of each of the other four elements. And these are the composite elements which serve the constitution of the individual things. The dominating proportion of the primitive element  safeguards its authenticity. But the addition of bits of the other elements gives account of the participation of all things with all things and explains certain anomalies of  perception.’ (8) Although the above description of the process of actualisation of elemental principles as individual entities is graphic enough, the reference to the ‘Creator’ therein gives it a theological flavour which is due to the fact that this version of panchikarana is taken from the writings of Ramanuja and his followers such as Sri Nivasa Dipika, rather than from the more strictly philosophical Sankara school. In the Viveka Chudamani (verse 88), Sankara attributes panchikarana to action in previous births. The same process of panchikarana is accepted in the other Vedantic schools.

In the Guru’s verse here, this elaborate story of the process of panchikarana does not have to be drawn into the discussion, especially at the present stage. Elsewhere in this same work are found simple theories of concretion and individuation which we shall discuss in their proper place. Meanwhile we thought it good for the student to be informed about the prevailing theories on the subject.

‘AS THE SEA IS TO THE WAVES THAT RISE IN ROWS THEREON’:  The analogy of the sea invoked here is not the sea of samsara (phenomenal existence) but the sea of consciousness. Samvit sagara (the sea of consciousness) has to be distinguished from samsara sagara (the sea of phenomenal becoming in nature). The world of appearance is only the specific aspect of the basic consciousness in which all things have being. Name and form are the factors giving specificity to the general consciousness. The electromagnetic field and the gravitational line in modern physics are comparable to the twin correlating factors which may be said to give a frame of reference to the mechanism of radiating waves in the context of the quantum theory. The picture presented here is not without similarity to wave mechanics. Mass and velocity of energy and many other pairs or conjugates come into the picture of the physical world as understood at present through mathematical constants such as Max Planck’s ‘h’, which is the unitive principle between the twin, rival or complementary factors involved in particle-mechanics. Just as the trained scientist can understand wave-mechanics in terms of the constant ‘h’; so the philosopher is asked here to look at the successive grades of phenomenal manifestation of the visible world through elemental principles understood as substantially the same as the stuff of consciousness itself.

Consciousness has its radiating or horizontal wave-aspect and the aspect of depth in which contemplative operations can move. When contemplation is established, the difference vanishes, but in a more passive state, the waves appear as such in consciousness. Appearance has to be overcome and appreciation of reality established by the effort of contemplation. The effort alluded to in the previous verse is here too suggested as desirable for contemplative vision. The reference to the rows is to mark out the subtle gradation which will still persist in the vertical scale of reality between elemental principles. Thales and Heraclitus gave primacy to water and fire respectively in their hylozoic systems of pre-Socratic philosophy. The flux of phenomenal life was to Heraclitus like a river which one could not enter twice. The vertical process of becoming was distinguished from the horizontal aspect of being.  The latter was mere appearance. What is implied in the Guru’s verse is a similar idea in terms of pure consciousness which for him remains the central reality understood through the notion of a neutral Absolute.


The Vedantic term ‘vivarta’ in this verse has been translated as ‘emergent’ and by ‘seem to be’ understood together. A mental projection or supposition of a reality not there is what is implied. Vibhuti has been translated ‘phenomenal aspect’ because the root ‘bhav’ suggests ‘becoming’. Bhutas are those entities that have come to be; the mahabhutas, the great elements, is the term applied to those elements in their universal aspect as fundamental principles in the creation or phenomenal emergence of the visible world.

(8). P. 325, O. Lacombe ‘L’Absolu selon le Vedanta’,

(Paris 1837). Our translation.




Knowledge, its meaning known, and the personal knowledge

Subjective, together make but one primal glory;

Within the unrarified radiance of this great knowledge

One should merge and become that alone.


THERE is a subtle tri-basic factor called triputi which is responsible for our wrong appraisal of reality. The lazy mind left to itself without the attitude of contemplation has a tendency to view reality sectionally or horizontally, as it were, from an angle which takes for granted the knower, the knowledge as a concept, and the objective side of knowledge, as three distinct separate entities. One has to counteract this tri-basic prejudice to which the human mind is naturally disposed. We take a cross-sectional rather than a lengthwise view of reality.

Bergson has referred to this tendency as ‘the cinematographic function of thought’, by which it appraises ‘stills’ of a moving picture rather than the motions as such. Pure motion eludes appraisal by the mind because of its incapacity by its very structure to take in events other than mechanistically. The horizontalization of our relation with the visible world produces a similar tri-partite cleavage in our thought-process, which, instead of being the continuous process that it really is, shows itself under split or separated aspects by which the unitive nature of thought is marred. The paradoxes of Zeno are well-known classical examples of the kind of contradiction or error implied in all thought referring to the phenomenal world related to space. Even with reference to the vertical time axis, pure time can be thought of without such divisions into disjunct events by a little training in meditation; but it is merely the time as known by the tickings of the clock that is more naturally cognised. When the vertical view is established a sense of wonder of contemplative vision goes with it. As such knowledge refers to the Absolute, it is called the ‘great knowledge’ which, once established, shines inclusively without intermission.

‘BUT ONE PRIMAL GLORY’: When the tri-partite split has been transcended by another way of approach to reality which is more in keeping with contemplation, an inclusive and universal value of great interest and intellectual content takes its place in the centre of consciousness. The elements, when conceived as belonging to the grand elements of the vertically graded series that we have seen as implied in the last verse, are here referred to as making one mahas (great knowledge). The Guru does not want, straightaway at this initial stage of the development of the subject, to refer to any definite finalized concept such as the atman or the Absolute. The notion of the Absolute Self will be developed methodically stage by stage. But even here the relation thus correctly established between the subject and the object of contemplation does not admit of any duality at all, and the bipolarity or complementarity is bound to be perfect. The unitive character of the relationship is underlined by the words ‘but’ and ‘one’ which, read together with the last word of the verse where the word ‘alone’ occurs, contains something of the same idea as that of Plotinus where he refers to contemplation as the ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’.

‘UNRARIFIED RADIANCE’: Light is the favourite analogy for wisdom. Direct awareness which true wisdom demands, is not of the nature of a merely syllogistic ratiocination, but approximates to an intuitive vision which is immediate rather than mediate. Ratiocinative thought is normal as between things and is a dull mechanistic movement in consciousness compared to the compact or intensive thought which contemplation can establish.

Henri Poincaré refers to a state of mind in which he was led to a great mathematical discovery when one night he lost his sleep after drinking black coffee. This is a recent instance where the mind shows itself in special states to be capable of functioning differently at a higher scale than usual. Mystical states referred to in religious books become probable in the light of such possibilities. When such a white heat is established in thought, the methodology applicable becomes changed. The logical rules of double negation and inclusive conjunction, which have nothing to do with ordinary logic, become applicable to this style of thinking. Light when it becomes intense denies darkness and establishes itself as a reality without a rival. Relativistic thought thus changes into absolutist thought which becomes unitive and positive.

‘BECOME THAT ALONE’: The identity of subject and object in contemplative life has been recognized both in the East and the West. The reference of Plotinus to the ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’ is a direct paraphrase of the state of kaivalya (aloneness) which is the goal of contemplative life even according to dualistic schools such as that of Patanjali. With the maha-vakyas (great dicta) derived from the Upanishads such as ‘tat tvam asi’ (That thou art) etc., this identity of subject and object may be said to be the central doctrine of wisdom generally. When we say that ‘the kingdom of God is within’ or that ‘I and my Father are one’, as in the biblical context, the same verity is implicit. The imitation of Christ would be sacrilege if there was not this idea implicit in the suggestion made.  That the Brahman-knower attains Brahman and becomes one with it is clearly stated in the Taittiriya Upanishad (II. i): ‘He who knows Brahman attains to the highest.’ That the present work follows the lines of Vedanta in general is indicated here.


Mahas and mahat are terms originally known in the context of Samkhya tattvas (principles) later incorporated into the Gita and other Vedantic works. It has to be understood in the light of the revaluation it has undergone in the course of its use, with all vestiges of duality being progressively abolished. In his book ‘Yoga as Philosophy and Religion’ (New York, 1924), Surendranath Das Gupta refers to the ‘two parallel lines of evolution’ starting from mahat: one by which it passes through intermediate tattvas such as ‘ego, manas, the five cognate and the five conative senses’; while on another line of evolution ‘it develops into the five grosser elements through the five tanmatras which are directly produced from mahat through the medium of ahamkara. Vyasa Bhashya II. 19, 9  has a revised version in which the duality of yoga texts is better reconciled.’



It is important to notice, as from verse 5, the general plan of these hundred verses. We know already that the Guru Narayana, being an avowed Advaita Vedantin who follows the steps of Sankara and revalues his position in his own way, has the basic doctrine of non-duality preserved intact in his writings. This can be gathered from a general examination of the other compositions of the Guru taken all together.

The task of the student of philosophy of the Guru will be facilitated if he can place his finger correctly and carefully on just those points where the Guru tries to restate the position of Sankara’s Advaita. The later modifications given to the Science of the Absolute (brahmavidya) as brought about in the writings of the two other important classical Gurus of South India, Ramanuja and Madhva, should also be kept in mind by the careful student.

In point of method and theory of knowledge the Guru Narayana will be seen to depart slightly from all these Gurus: Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, and although the essential spirit of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita will be seen to be maintained, and the finalised position of the Brahma Sutras generally supported, the Guru will be seen to conform closely to the requirements of a more strictly unitive or dialectical approach. He is not content to be merely theological like Ramanuja; nor does he make of philosophy as perhaps with Sankara, sometimes, merely academic abstractions in which the living breezes of human values do not play. In these verses 5 to 7, it would be advantageous to note in advance that the method employed here approximates to that of Sankara in the analysis of the states of consciousness in locating the substratum of the Absolute common to waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is compatible with Sankara’s definition of the Absolute as avastha-traya-sakshi (the neutral witness, as it were, of the three states, jagrat or waking, svapna or dreaming, and sushupti, sleeping). This compares with the method of the Mandukya Upanishad which equates absolute consciousness with that of the ‘fourth’ or turiya state which inclusively transcends all the other three.

Ramanuja’s dynamism of existence follows the same dialectical lines but in terms of being and becoming rather than in terms of pure consciousness. Madhva stresses the aspect of a scale of values as between the Absolute and the Relative, understood in the dialectical context. But here the Guru Narayana brings dialectics to bear on common human life.

  These three verses, therefore, have to be read together so as to see that unitive fibre running through all three of them. The same thing is said from three dialectically different points of view. Using the terminology we have developed in the pages of Values we can explain broadly that verse 5 tries to draw the distinction between the horizontal and the vertical attitude implied in contemplative life. The dynamism of the horizontal factors, as they regulate common human life, is outlined in verse 6; while the same is viewed from the vertical in verse 7.

  The student must read all these verses in the light of one another before trying to extract any doctrine out of any one of them. Wherever the doctrine is vague, he must rely on other sections in the same work where a similar or allied problem has been treated; and he may even go beyond the limits of the present composition to others by the Guru.

  It would not be wrong to fit the teaching here back upon the general teaching of the Advaita of Sankara and upon the greater background of Vedanta thought in general as implicit in the three ‘canonical’ writings, namely, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras. Only then one would be but doing justice to the Guru Narayana, who represents the Advaita tradition in a fully revalued and restated form. In this translation all we are trying to do is to find precise modern equivalents and illustrations for the ideas presented by the Guru and his predecessors and, if possible, to continue the very trend of modern philosophical thought which itself is waiting, we believe, for a more unitive restatement in terms of a new world-philosophy where the scientific spirit would not be lost, but would be preserved in an extended sense. Although we cannot promise to be exhaustive, we shall make an effort as far as possible to supply cross-references.

(9). pp. 59-60 Vyasa Bhasya of Yoga Sutra, translated by Bengali Baba.



People here on earth, they sleep, wake and think

Various thoughts; watching over all of these with intent eye

There dawns a priceless light, which never shall dim again;

Led onward by this, one should forward wend.


AFTER preliminaries about the subject-matter and the general approach to it have been broadly indicated in the first four verses, the theme narrows down, as it were, to its proper contemplative limits, not as a cosmological or as a merely psychological abstraction, but in terms of a way of life or a bipolar relation from a more personal everyday point of view.

         What was neutrally treated in the first verse as the ‘core’ spreading its light homogeneously within as well as without the central Self (which is the subject-matter and the object-matter of the whole work), we saw that the Guru, for methodological requirements alluded to it as a ‘supreme Sun’ postulated as a second pole marking the goal of attainment for the contemplative. The inevitable duality thus introduced - somewhat akin to a pagan sun-god, though not strictly so when viewed more closely - was again to be reduced into terms of ‘non-difference’ and strict ‘loneliness’ in the next two verses.

         Here in verse 5 we should not miss the change in the analogy. Instead of a sun in the void, there is an eye watching the actions and thoughts of man. In the Isa Upanishad (verse 16) there is the reference to the purusha or supreme Spirit ‘yonder’ which is equated at the same time with the supreme purusha ‘within’ the contemplative ‘here’. The Person in the sun and the person within are equated to constitute the central unitive Absolute without prejudices of the subjective, objective or conceptual as explained in verse 4.

         The eye above is watching the watcher from here below who is caught in everyday necessities of personal life, such as waking, sleeping and thinking of various interests arising during the workaday life of the common man. Necessary aspects  of life touching the common generality of mankind are not bypassed by the Guru but, more like a modern pragmatic philosopher, the contingent and the necessary aspects are brought together, as if with equal importance, in the treatment of the highest contemplative text. There is no other-worldly escapism in such a way of treatment here. The Guru thus catches up with the requirements of modern thought as against the ivory-tower isolation of the more ancient classical writers, whether of the Eastern or Western context.


‘THINK VARIOUS THOUGHTS’:  Contemplation becomes strictly established only when the multiplicity of interests which regulate human activities are absorbed and united into a single bundle of one master-interest proper to the absolutist way. If we were to distinguish this master-tendency at the core of life as the vertical, then the plurality of interests that keep succeeding one another in our life ordinarily, clashing and displacing one another for occupation of the centre of the stream of consciousness, might be called the horizontal factors. The well-founded intelligence or the properly cultivated wisdom in man always seeks the unitive value of the vertical. As the Bhagavad Gita states even in its early chapter:


The well-cultivated intelligence is unitive, 0 Joy of the Kurus (Arjuna); many-branched and endless is the intelligence in uncultivated people. (II. 41.)


There is again the Upanishadic dictum which says:


He who sees (reality) as if pluralistically here

Wends from one death to another.

(Brihadaranyaka Up. IV. iv. 19)


Plurality of interests and thoughts, arising from desires or instinctive hungers that cannot be wholly satisfied, is the enemy of the contemplative. This does not mean, however, that to be a contemplative means killing out the legitimate joys of life. But in and through all interests, a master-interest must always be preserved. All actions and thoughts motivating them must be gathered together into a master life-tendency, so verticalized as never to enter into conflict with the minor fissiparous dissipating interests of a life without such a dominating interest. What is here implied is a process of sublimating pluralistic interests to a unitive interest.


‘THERE DAWNS A PRICELESS LIGHT...’: The mixed metaphor of ‘eye’ and ‘dawn’ is deliberate. The eye of the previous line is treated as if it could equally be regarded as a light. The light is what helps the eye to see other objects. The organ of sight is dialectically equated to the light which is both an end and a means in the central awareness of reality which is the common result of the presence of all these factors working in unison or operating in one vertical line. The idea is not unfamiliar to us in Plato’s Republic, as well as in Plotinus’ ‘Never did the eye see the sun unless it had first become sun-like.’ (10)


‘WHICH NEVER SHALL DIM AGAIN’: The idea suggested here is of an everlasting value in life.  When we reach the end of the work, in verses 93 and 98 this dominant everlasting life-interest in the self-hood of man is reiterated, after the implications of such a claim have been properly covered in the body of the composition.

  When we say ‘“Man as Homo sapiens is characterized by wisdom” the verity of such an axiomatic statement is accepted without further proof. Wisdom’s method admits of such a priori reasoning as normal. It is true there is a modern tendency in thought to speak in terms of probabilities rather than in absolute certitudes. This is the result of the a posteriori habit of mind brought into vogue by science. But when a unified science becomes an accomplished fact, as hoped for by some of the best minds of our day, the absolutist form of reasoning implied here will not be really objectionable. A priori inductions and a posteriori deductions will become equally valid in a unitive way of exact thinking which will bring the humanities and the sciences together as belonging to one single discipline.


‘LED ONWARD BY THIS’: The kindly light leading one on to salvation or to the goal of wisdom is sufficiently familiar in the context of Christian theology to need any explanation. In reality the idea dates back to times more ancient than Christianity, and general literature such as Dante’s Divine Comedy has poetical imagery borrowed from Plato, such as the progress of the soul guided in its upward course to God by the help of celestial light. In the very first canto Dante refers to ‘the planet that leads men straight on every road’. In many other passages in the various cantos of this work of the Florentine Christian poet, the pagan image of the sun occurs, treated in the dialectical fashion of both the Upanishads and Plato’s Republic, where the inner eye and the outer sun are equated into a central value. In Canto XIII of the Divine Comedy we have Virgil and Dante described as mounting the second terrace of the Purgatory past the ‘circle of purification’.

They were in a region where the value called ‘generosity’ is in front of them and ‘envy’, its counterpart, is behind them. They dare not linger in this region of dual values. The usual ‘virtuous citizens’ were found to be denizens of this region. Their eyelids are described as being stitched together, through which, on seeing the visitors, tears come in their agony. Virgil is depicted by Dante as remarking, ‘If here we wait to ask of, I fear perchance that our choice may have too great delay.’ And, gazing fixedly at the sun, Virgil remarks,


‘0 sweet light, in whose trust I enter in the new way, do then lead us we would be led here within; thou givest warmth to thy world, then shineth upon it; if other reason urges not to the contrary thy beams must ever be our guide.’ (11)


  Thus in the heart of Christianity we find this way of spiritual progress described in terms of Platonic dialectics. Vedantic literature in many places has the same comparison of light in relation to wisdom. In the literature of Advaita the two counterparts or terms of the equation are treated more unitively together. Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva mark three grades of such treatment, the last accepting a greater distinction between the counterparts.

  In the history of Western philosophy the body-mind duality of Descartes, if viewed in the light of dialectical methodology, implicit as in Dante, need not really be considered as objectionable, as some modern critics tend to think. Dialectical methodology requires at least some initial duality, even though it abolishes it later. The occasionalism intervening between the body-mind duality makes full amends for the initially-supposed dualism and makes of it as respectable a theory as any other, conceived on the same dialectical lines. The dialectical method permits duality in order to efface it more completely afterwards.

  Boethius (480-524 AD) who may be described as the first of the scholastic philosophers—or the last of the pagans—for he was the companion of all the medieval scholars, recognizes in God not the Father but the ‘foreknowing Spectator of all events’ (Encyc. Britt.) The idea of a guiding star or light or supreme intelligence is only a corollary of our search for wisdom.

  When light and darkness are properly understood as simple analogies, the strangeness of this language will be seen to be merely attributive to the limitations of common language. By trying to escape from the exigencies of language we are only likely to enter into more subtle dualities as implied in the most recent of philosophies called Existentialism, which is based on the rejection of the notion of ‘essence’ known to classical philosophers, and substituting in its place the notion of ‘existence’ as primary. The analogy of light is perhaps the most permissive, since light has a unitive status of its own, independent of darkness which is not a rival entity in its own right, but merely a negation of the real item called light.

  This analogy which the Guru employs elsewhere, as in his Advaita Dipika (The Light of Non-Dual Wisdom), enables us to treat the counterparts with easy dialectical insight. With a slight stretch of methodological insight or intuition, darkness can easily be imagined as being capable of becoming positive again by a process of negation of itself. Poetic expressions like ‘dark-splendid’, as also the description of the light of infernal fires in the opening lines of Milton’s Paradise Lost, reveal the subtle principle of double negation as known in general literature. The essence of tragedy itself is based on the principle of double negation. When light triumphantly leads us onward, the tail-end of the same light gets absorbed or doubly negated. Such are some of the more delicate implications of dialectics which we must bear in mind here. Knowledge can prevail both by double negation as well as double assertion.

(10). Plotinus ‘Enneads’. I. vi. 9

(11). P. 271, Dante. ‘Divine Comedy’ (Modern Library Edition, New York)



One has to wake, then go to sleep, of food partake, or mate,

Thus do promptings dissipating keep coming round;

Whoever could there be, therefore to wake

Unto that reality’s one and changeless form?


THE biological cycle of necessary activities, considered neither physiologically nor psychologically but from a common-sense standpoint, are referred to in verse 6. These follow one another as dictated by the vital urges within man. One satisfaction of instinctive desire follows another in a certain order of circulation. Waking and sleeping alternate diurnally, attended with secondary needs or appetites of hunger or sex common to human beings generally. Instead of referring to these aspects of necessary life as belonging to sin, concupiscence or desire as in the stricter theologies of codified religions, the Guru here reviews them more simply as necessary factors in common human life, but all the same suggests that, if one set of such necessary items of activity prevails in anyone, it would be impossible for him to get interested in the other or larger unitive interest which is beyond mere necessity in the everyday sense, but belongs to an order wherein one lasting value prevails over all others.

The object here is to bring together into proper relief the two sets of interests or value-worlds to which any man normally can relate himself. Without self-instruction as contained in this composition, man will tend naturally to attach importance to the series of necessary activities at the expense of the higher contingent interest which can everlastingly include all the others and lift the personality to a higher level of life altogether.

The rhetorical question at the end of the verse strikes a note of despair on the part of the Guru. The natural penchant of the human mind to find satisfaction in the horizontal world of values has to be overcome with the help of some positive effort which, as it were, must do violence to itself. Here comes the need for disciplining the mind to overcome its conditionings, for lifting it away from its merely instinctive moorings, and for setting it on its course to higher and higher levels of interest until its full dignity is established in selfhood. That very few persons seek the positive orientation of the spirit implied in the ascent here is referred to with a similar note of despair in the Bhagavad Gita:

‘Out of a thousand humans, one, maybe, strives to attain the desirable; out of such strivers, even when they do so, one maybe can understand Me in the light of (correct) principles.’ (VII. 3.)

‘THUS DO PROMPTINGS DISSIPATING’: The expression in the original is ‘vikalpa’ which has its antonym in ‘samkalpa’. These refer to two sets of mental activities, the former connoting evil and the latter good. The mind is the meeting-point of both these types of activities as defined by Sankara in the VivekaChudamani (167 to 183 and verse 174 particularly) and by Vidyaranya in Panchadasi and in the Vedanta-Sara of Sadananda. Opposite tendencies like good and evil promptings originate in the common locus of the mind. Sankara places in the mind the factors conducive to bondage as well as emancipation. Of the two sets of promptings originating in the mind samkalpa will thus refer to vertical tendencies and vikalpa to horizontal ones which refer to lower values in life. The vicious circle of horizontal values keeps recurring and repeating, while vertical tendencies lead to wisdom and freedom.

‘TO WAKE UNTO THAT REALITY’S ONE AND CHANGELESS FORM’: The reference here must be to the Absolute conceived as the master interest in life. Horizontal relativistic interests are pluralistic. They contain rival or conflicting items as against the series of vertical unitive interests implied in the contemplative view of life. The latter can range from the basic necessities of life such as food to the satisfaction of the highest of cravings, such as the love of freedom. The Absolute need not necessarily be conceived as a thing. It can be merely a dimension such as depth, or a direction such as the superior attitudes that the mind is capable of having when thinking creatively of the Absolute. The one-to-one relation as between the Absolute and the Self is implied here.

The word ‘changeless’ employed here draws attention to the nitya-anitya-viveka (the discrimination between lasting and transient values) which, according to texts such as the VivekaChudamani of Sankara (verse 19) is the preliminary qualification required before one enters contemplative life.

The changeless reality can only be the Absolute, as will become clear later on when the nature of the Self stands revealed in greater relief in these verses. The Eternal, the Everlasting, Omnipresent and Omniscient are attributes belonging to the Absolute, whether theologically conceived as a deity or as a purely abstract notion by one capable of such philosophic thought.


‘Wake to, etc.’: The suggestion here is that the Self, when moving within the range of the fully sleeping state or the opposite condition of full wakefulness, is engrossed alternately in actual or virtual activities or interests of a horizontal kind. Intermediate to these extremes of sleeping and waking there is a purer middle state of consciousness which is referred to more directly in verse 7. This word ‘wake’ is meant to pave in advance the way to this middle state.

When bipolarity is established correctly between the Self and the non-Self as counterparts, the resulting state of consciousness has the Eternal as its content. In other words, there is entry into the neutrality of the Absolute when the relation as between subject and object is established in a vertical sense.



To wake never more, ever sleepless to remain, as awareness;

If for this today you are not fit, then in the service

Of those silent ones who ever dwell awake to AUM,

Absolved from birth, steadily fix your form.


THIS is the third verse in sequence which refers to the alternating states of sleeping and waking in consciousness. The analysis of states of consciousness in a vertical series referring to deeper and deeper seats of consciousness is familiar to us in the context of the methodology of the Vedanta. Especially is this so with Sankara who conceived the Absolute as the witness of the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, with the ‘fourth’ called turiya, which touches the deepest stratum of Absolute awareness. But before coming to deepest seats of pure consciousness, it is necessary in the initial stages of developing the subject of Self-knowledge, to distinguish between the vertical and horizontal. The necessary aspects of everyday biological rounds of activity have been referred to in verses 5 and 6. We were brought to the threshold of a central spiritual value which persists at the core of even our everyday life, in and through our ordinary activities. It was referred to as a guiding light in verse 5, and as a changeless factor to which we should become awake in verse 6. The poles of the vertical axis of spiritual progress or Self-instruction have thus been worked out for us in verse 5. These poles were brought together more unitively in verse 6, as a way or an axis referring to unitive values in life. Instead of the cosmological setting with a source of light apart from the seeker, guiding as it were from beyond, the metaphor here refers in terms of the personal consciousness and its affiliation to lasting or changeless values which are under the category of the Eternal. The present verse goes one step further in the same direction. Sleeping and waking are not treated here in verse 7 as alternating states falling outside of the vertical axis of pure consciousness. In the form of a central neutral awareness independent of both the alternating states lying on one side or the other of the vertical axis, there is here a function postulated in which pure knowledge thrives and triumphs in and through itself.

This state of equilibrium between alternating states or tendencies is the secret of the contemplative or the yogi. The verse assumes the existence of silent men who live in this kind of unitive awareness in which the mean or middle ground between the alternating asymmetrical states in consciousness is merged into a central stream. Here it is hard to distinguish whether the subject is in a state called sleep or whether he is fully awake. Participating in both from either side as it were, sleep is to be understood in terms of waking, and waking in terms of sleep. Awareness becomes fully neutralised in this fourth or deepest dimension.

Active temperaments tuned to the horizontal world of action and caught in the love of particular objects of interest cannot steady themselves in the pure contemplation of absolute Value. There are, however, rare individuals among human beings who may be said to have tuned themselves to this kind of higher consciousness, which belongs to a category by itself. If an aspirant to wisdom feels that he has not understood the content or the intellectual and emotional implications of such an attitude as recommended here, there is a time-honoured alternative method known to many wisdom texts, especially in India, of establishing bipolar relations with a master who has already attained to the awareness or attitude implied. As the understanding of the attitude is not possible by the usual didactic methods of learning and teaching, which are mostly based on an a posteriori, pragmatic, empirical or logical approach, the only way to get it is through a global intuition which has its favourable conditions. By means of a subtle rapport and a mutual bipolar personal adoption between the seeker and the teacher, a sort of osmosis is established. The personality thus better adjusted to the absolutist way will be able to absorb something of the master’s attitude to the seeker when all the conditions required for the transmission of the teaching are present together.

The service of such a wise man is meant to induce that degree of mutual adoption necessary for the osmotic transfer of the wisdom-state from teacher to seeker. Mistrust and disadoption between the two concerned in such a bipolar wisdom-situation would tend to make the experiment a failure. Sankara’s ‘VivekaChudamani’ (verses 37 to 43) refers to the relation between the teacher and the disciple in detail, and the Bhagavad Gita, after entering into the subject in chapter IV-34, goes into greater and greater secrets to the point where the teacher there, who is Krishna the Guru, feels confident that there is no disadoption between himself and Arjuna the pupil, and himself refers to the possible kind of disadoption by the name asuya (a carping attitude).

In the Upanishads we have several instances, such as that of a Nachiketas, Satyakama or a Svetaketu, who are adolescent seekers of wisdom and who are taught only after the requisite bipolarity of relations is securely established between teacher and pupil.  The wavering mind, caught between rival interests, has to be steadied. This can be accomplished only by a body and soul affiliated to the context of wisdom. The wholeheartedness of the affiliation requires that the whole man, which does not exclude the physical, is made to comply or bend, as it were, to listen to the word of wisdom represented by the personality and attitude of the Guru. (11) According to popularly accepted dicta on the Indian soil, no wisdom which has not received the sanction of a Guru can be valid.

‘AS AWARENESS’: The deeper one sinks into consciousness, the more independent does it become of the alternating states of sleeping and waking. In verse 9 the two poles of the vertical axis are more explicitly alluded to, the two states of sleeping and waking attaining to an alternating asymmetrical expression. After establishing bipolarity with a supreme notion as representing the Absolute, the aspirant is to develop, here and now, a corresponding attitude of neutrality and steadfastness of a wholehearted character so that interests can be secured at both ends and kept within the right path of spiritual progress. Wisdom can result only when the conditions are fulfilled correctly. The two poles implied and the axis involved have first to be visualised or postulated correctly before instruction in the Self can go on unhindered. Neither the waking life or overt action nor the dreaming life of innate mental representations can give the correct orientation prerequisite for Self-realization.

‘SILENT ONES’: The word ‘muni’ is given here. It brings to mind the picture of a recluse living in a forest or far from the ‘maddening crowd’s ignoble strife.’ Mouna means silence, and contemplatives of the type called munis in India are those who are generally sparing in speech. They have invariably a pronounced inner life which lives in constant awareness of a high human value represented by the Absolute Self that they themselves represent. The two attributes that follow in the same verse, giving two of the limiting characteristics by which such persons have to be distinguished, are also referred to as follows:

‘AWAKE TO AUM’: The analysis of self-consciousness with reference to the mystic syllable AUM has been masterfully accomplished in the Mandukya Upanishad which, with its commentaries by masterminds such as Gaudapada and perhaps Sankara also, should make what is implied here quite complete and as thorough-going as can be expected. The letters A, U, M, represent three grades of open, half-open and closed states of consciousness, with a fourth stratum that pervades all the others. The vertical axis may be said to pass through all of them. Activity and passivity, waking overtness and dreaming innateness, are all levels to be marked on one and the same vertical axis in which consciousness can live and move towards action at one stage or to pure inaction at the other.

‘ABSOLVED FROM BIRTH’: The phenomenal existence of a living being, when biologically understood as active, is one in which horizontal factors enter to a greater or lesser degree. When pure movements of contemplative thought are established, as it were, along the vertical axis of awareness, the alternations as between birth and death, sleeping and waking, which have their being only on the horizontal plane, cease to operate. Even if they do operate, they have to be considered as null and void, belonging to the world of secondary values which can be dismissed as mere epiphenomena. We might here perhaps pause to ask relevantly whether or not the well-known doctrine or theory of reincarnation is not implied here. This doctrine or theory belongs to the general background of Indian thought. It has never been put forward as an article of faith. Various versions of the same theory are found in different grades of literature, beginning from the Puranas (legendary mythological lore) up to highly philosophically-conceived works such as the ‘Yoga Vasishtha’. Popular belief has its own story to tell of an ancestor whose soul might be in a crow that pecks first at a ball of cooked rice ritualistically offered by way of propitiating the pitris (ancestors).

But reincarnation in the proper context of wisdom has to be understood divested of all the mythological or allegorical prejudices or accretions around the idea of the past living into the future, which is perhaps all that the doctrine in its purest form wants to suggest. The vertical axis of time or pure duration has its retrospective aspects changing into prospective ones through what might be called the eternal present or the dialectical moment.

The silent ones who have awakened to the high value called the Absolute Self live an undisturbed life of peace and understanding which is free from the taint of the alternation of states whether between sleep and wakefulness, memory and prospective vision, life and death. Established in wholehearted interest in Self-realization, such an alternation of opposites  does not affect them. They maybe said to be established  in a form of pure becoming where the alternation of successively opposing states does not arise.

‘STEADILY FIX THE FORM’: The word in the text here is ‘murti’. An idol in wood or metal is sometimes referred to as a murti. Each individual has an aspect which is finite with a particular form. The impersonal Absolute is at best an abstraction which is formless and infinite. To establish a correct bipolarity between the two aspects involved here it is important to recognize that the outer aspects of the personality come into relation with the inner. The two poles of the two magnets have to be juxtaposed with the understanding of the technique which will give double mutual gain rather than double loss. It is not the spiritual side of the disciple which is first to be surrendered, but rather the gross, materially inert side on which he has actual control through his own will. Steadfastness results only from proper cross-affiliation.

(11) Further psychological and educational implications of this relationship have been worked out in a thesis submitted to the University of Paris by the present writer, entitled The Personal Factor in the Educative Process,  (Vrin, Paris. 1933).



Eating of the five fruits such as light and so on,

Perched on a shot-gun foul-smelling, ever in wily changeful sport,

Such, the birds five, in shreds, what can bring down,

Wielding such a lucid form, let the inner self brilliant become.


THE way of absolutist contemplation is not to be mixed up with mere religious piety. There is a radical note struck in this verse. It aims at giving the would-be contemplative an indication of the drastic, uncompromising attitude involved in getting started on the path of real contemplative life. It is more than mere prayerful meekness. There is something positive in the attitude required. The Bhagavad Gita refers to the inwardness involved by comparing the aspirant to a tortoise which withdraws all its limbs into its shell (II-58). There is also a reference to the flame that remains motionless in a windless place, steadily adjusted vertically (VI-19). These analogies are meant to indicate in advance the personal attitude or psycho-physical adjustment involved in the initiation of the contemplative’s progress.

         In this verse we have to imagine a hunter trying to shoot down birds on a branch. They are evasively changing from one twig to another before he can take proper aim. Interests are ever shifting ground in consciousness. As soon as one is displaced another appeal to the senses comes along, initiating another chain of associations. Thus the chain of cyclic associations never comes to a standstill. Meditation thus recedes further and further away from reach. The hunter has to take a firm one-pointed aim. The metaphor is meant to dispose summarily of many psychological and other questions by a figurative language. A mixed allegorical and parabolic style is adopted here, so that many factors may be understood as covered in a suggestive rather than in a discursive manner. The reader is left to guess freely and to fill in the gaps where they are purposely left to be implied. This concentrated cryptic way is compatible with what was already pointed out in the beginning of the work itself when, in the first verse, we were told that this composition was meant to be a chant rather than a discourse. This is reminiscent of the suggestive style of the Upanishads.

         The reference to the foul-smelling shotgun on which the birds are seated at one end, at the other end of which we have to put the hunter who is about to pull the trigger, suggests a vertical axis between the two polarities or factors of the same Self. The birds with the fruits which they peck represent the sensuous interests based on each of the five senses opening to the world of horizontal values. The aspirant cannot afford to be enticed by these frivolous interests if he is to be seriously established in contemplative life. The hunter has to take his aim in such a way as to shoot down all five of them at once. This means that he has to aim at the focal meeting-point of all sensuous interests and associative processes in the mind. He has further to be uncompromising. If he appears to be a kill-joy in this respect, we have to concede that he is only so in the name of a greater gain of inner contemplative brilliance of the whole spirit within him. The smaller items of pleasure are inclusively transcended in this inner lucidity which he gains. The body being a differential factor between the two poles, is here referred to as something to be despised. When we think of the gross aspect of the body, consisting of tissue etc., it is really something to be despised. Pampering the body or cultivating the body-sense obstructs the contemplative way. When the gun is fired there is a flash of light which would fill the whole of consciousness without the duality of the mind or the body. Both are abolished m a full absolutist state of intense light within. The suddenness of the event suggests further that contemplation is not to be thought of as a slow process of evolution through laborious intermediate stages, as it is commonly thought of in the context of what usually passes for the practice of meditation or yoga. Even Patanjali yoga, as Vasishtha points out to Rama in the Yoga Vasishtha, is tainted by the idea of graded steps in contemplation, to be gradually ascended.

         This attitude, tainted by Samkhya (rationalist philosophy) dualism has been revalued, not only in the Yoga Vasishtha, but is also implied even in the Bhagavad Gita in chapter II, in referring to self-discipline. The absolutist way of Advaita is thus slightly different from the ascent involved in the dualistic approach of hatha and raja yoga. A revalued, restated yoga is implied here. The way whereby contemplation becomes actually established may be a slow one, but the attitude of the aspirant has to be wholehearted and drastic.

         When the verse is paraphrased and expanded to smooth out all the subtle mixed metaphoric implications, the unitively revalued psycho-physical plan or functional structure of the Self with its two polarities to be reduced into absolute unity of pure content will become sufficiently evident without going into further analysis of the expressions used.



He who dwells in contemplation beneath a tree

Whereon climbing, a creeper bears aloft on either side

The blossoms of the psychic states; mark, such a man,

By inferno unapproached ever remains.


HERE we come to a verse which is intended to close a preliminary section in the development of the subject-matter of the whole work. In the next verse, we see that the Guru treats of the nature of the Soul or Self in man, thereby entering one step further into the subject-matter. But before doing so he uses a word-picture, the ancient idiom of a man sitting under a tree which is found so often in the contemplative literature or mythology of various parts of the world. This idiom is recognizable from the Shiva Seal of Mohenjo Daro to the fig-tree in the Bible associated with John the Baptist. While the immediately previous verse also used the language of a word-picture in referring to the alert and active hunter who with absolute precision aims a weapon, arrow or gun at a unitive target of value, uncompromisingly and radically dealing with petty relativistic attractions in life, an attitude which is a prerequisite for initiation into wisdom proper. Here the personal attitude is that of a more fully contemplative man sitting under a tree and detached from the lure of passing interests.



These two verses must be treated and understood together in order to extract from both the central doctrine which the Guru wishes to transmit and which is tacitly contained between them. This is the case also with other similar pairs of verses which can be located by the careful reader throughout this composition. In the active huntsman giving place to the contemplative sitting under a tree we have the indication of two limiting ways which are complementary - the initial limit positive and the other negative. Both these refer unitively to the contemplative state required before any Self-knowledge can be initiated and progress.

  The plain meaning of the verse must be sufficiently clear; but it is important to be able to see, through the mixed or complex metaphorical idiom, the scientific content as it should be grasped in the context of the Science of the Self representing absolute reality. The man dwelling beneath a tree should be understood as distinctly living apart from the tree itself. The relativistic context of time and becoming, with a duration tending to be historical rather than pure, is not the proper world of the contemplative. He not only lives apart from it, but under it. The tree has its stem which is the common origin of all the various branches and ramifications arising from it. The roots constitute its negative or retrospective part, referring to memory and other factors in the background of the personality. The man under the tree is above the level of the ground which hides the roots from view, but he is in the shade of the leaves. He is thus in a neutral middle position of detachment between the two extremes of time’s pointer as it indicates opposingly to the past or the future. He is balanced and neutral, as it were, between the rival tendencies involved. He sits calm and wholly apart in his loneliness, and thus escapes or transcends all tribulations.


‘BENEATH A TREE’: The tree of world mythology and as employed symbolically in the lingua mystica of humanity all over the world must be examined at closer quarters. The description of a mystical tree with roots upwards end branches downwards, given at the beginning of chapter XV of the Bhagavad Gita is a revised version of the same tree which is found in many mythologies and scriptures throughout the world, whether oriental, occidental, Nordic or Asiatic.

  In modern nursery tales we have the last remnant of a heaven-kissing tree in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk - the ‘tree’ that touches heaven and earth. The myth of the heaven-supporting tree is also found in the Scandinavian sacred Ash tree, Yggdrasil, which drops the honey from heaven, with three roots of various values, belonging to the refined heavenly Asa-gods, the coarse Frost-Giants of nature and to the Underworld of negations. At its top is the heavenly eagle and at its root is the snake, while in between there is the squirrel which sows strife between the eagle and snake (Vide Brewer’s ‘Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’).

The Cross of the  Bible is sometimes referred to as representing the idea of a ‘World Tree’ whose origin can be traced back to antiquity, far earlier than that of the Medieval Christian legends.  The tree is praised even in the hymn ‘Crux Fidelis’ sung on the day of the crucifixion during the Mass. Alan Watts gives the hymn:


‘Crux fidelis, inter omnes

Arbor una nobilis:

Nulla silva tamen profert

Fronde, flore, germine.’


(Faithful Cross, the One Tree noble above all: No forest affords the like of this in leaf, or flower, or seed.) (12)

  In the Book of Job (XIV. 7-14) we have a reference to a tree of life that sprouts again in the context of Job’s belief in resurrection. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III. 9. 28.) the same analogy of human life to a tree is mentioned:


‘As a tree of the forest,

Just so, surely, is man.

His hairs are leaves,

His skin the outer bark.’

(Hume’s translation)


Modified references to the same tree are found in the Katha Upanishad (VI. 1), and in the Svetasvatara Upanishad (III. 9), and are referred to respectively as ‘Its root is above, its branches below - this eternal fig-tree,’ and ‘The One stands like a tree established in heaven’. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad again, later, there is a dialectical revaluation (VI. 6) where we read:


‘Higher and other than the world-tree, time and forms is

He from whom this expanse proceeds.

The bringer of right (dharma), the remover of evil (papa)the lord of prosperity,

Know Him as in one’s own self (atmo-stha) as the immortal abode of all.’

(P. 409, R. E. Hume, ‘The Thirteen Principal Upanishads’, Oxford 1950)


The whole of chapter XV of the Bhagavad Gita is meant to revise this notion of a World-Tree into more absolutist terms. An examination of the implications of the chapter will reveal that the purer absolutism implied in the teaching of the Gita treats of the tree as a human value beyond historical time in terms of mere pure duration which is timeless. By the man being made (as in this verse) to sit beneath a tree and apart from the phenomenal aspects which it represents, or as in the Gita by the cutting down of the tree, the idea suggested is to transcend becoming.

  The Book of Job tries to make the same distinction but the subtle revaluation is lost or overcovered in translation or through the exigencies or vicissitudes of language. For our purpose here it would suffice to remember that the Absolute can be viewed as a living person as represented by the World-Tree or in more pure terms as an abstract Value.

  It will be seen in the Bhagavad Gita in XV, 3-4 that the higher path of absolutism is clearly distinguished from the lower or relativistically-coloured form of absolutism found in the Vedic teachings, these latter being compared to a tree which has to be cut down mercilessly before one can follow the higher path of absolutism which the Gita finally stands for. These verses from the Gita are:


‘Nor is its (i.e. the tree) form here comprehended thus (as stated), nor its end, nor its beginning, nor its foundation.

Having sundered this holy fig-tree with strongly fixed root, with the weapon of decisive non-  attachment,

Then (alone) that path is to be sought, treading which they do not return again, (thinking)

I seek refuge in that Primordial Man from whom of old streamed forth active (relativist) manifestation.’


Involved in relativistic versions of the Absolute, one is still exposed to the dual influences of pleasure, and pain. In the higher path indicated, suffering is by-passed altogether.



The psychic states here refer to the waking, dreaming and deep sleep trio (jagrat, svapna and sushupti), called the avastha-traya (the three states), to which every living being of the higher order is seen to be subject. The examination of the content of the three states in man has been employed in the Vedantic method (especially of Sankara) to arrive at the notion of pure or absolute consciousness which underlies all three. Understood in this way, the Absolute has been named avasthatraya-sakshin, the witness of the three other layers of consciousness in graded order, reaching to the familiar waking state which is the first or most superficial. This way of analysing personal consciousness is employed  masterfully in the Mandukya Upanishad. This shortest of Upanishads is a precise subjection of consciousness to the most exact contemplative analysis, and in a spirit of scientific though subjective experimentation. On this Upanishad is based the Gaudapada Karika (commentary of Gaudapada, predecessor of Sankara through his Guru Govinda) which is a monumental work forming the basis of the whole superstructure of Vedantic psychology, so valuable to the methodology and epistemology of the science of the Absolute. Sankara’s Bhashya or commentary on the commentary of Gaudapada, makes it further precious to all students of Vedanta.

  Thus in classical Vedanta we have three states of consciousness as named above, with a fourth one which, as the basis of them all, corresponds to the Absolute itself. This fourth is the turiya. Like white light or grey light, it is implied in the others, which have a status like that of the primary colours of the spectrum, red, yellow or blue.

  In the verse here, it will be noticed that the Guru slightly deviates from the conventional number three in favour of a symmetrically conceived pair of alternating states. In the preceding verses we have already noticed this symmetry of a bilateral kind. It is suggested in the alternating states of sleeping and waking which overpower, or take over charge of, consciousness in everlasting alternation. In and through these alternating states pure consciousness continues as the central vertical axis.  The horizontally alternating pair has, as it were, a superficial content merely. The third state, sushupti, has a negative vertical status. The fourth state, turiya above, attains the status of Absolute consciousness. As for the third state, sleeping, left out by the Guru in his vertically symmetrically-conceived plan, it must be supplied by us as virtually implicit in the person of the man under the tree.  It requires no special mention as it enters consciousness only virtually, and does not regulate conduct. Bergson has the same four states compared to a swallow flying over a river, a boat on the river, the river itself and a man watching all these.

  In this revised picture presented by the Guru, we therefore think of the alternating states of waking and dreaming as bearing blossoms on either side. Dream has its bright and beautiful representations as much as the waking state, when seen with the neutrally poised eyes of a true artist who is neither too positively awake nor deeply asleep.

  The meanest and most ordinary of subjects presented in the visible outer world of the waking state can be considered quite interesting. The paintings and drawings of such artists as Honoré Daumier (1808-79) have amply revealed that even scenes ordinarily considered ugly or not particularly beautiful, can have a hidden beauty in the situation of life that they might suggest in a globally synthetic manner.

  Daumier’s famous painting of a butcher cutting up an animal is ugly according to conventional standards of beauty when flowers or birds might have been chosen by the artist. But the attitude of the butcher represented by Daumier succeeds in drawing out the essence of a necessary and realistic human situation in which the ugly itself attains to the status of a subject dignified enough for a real artist to paint.

  In the case of reputed artists other examples of this kind are considerable. By telling their own tales in which value- factors are hidden, even waking life with all its ugly contents can be considered beautiful in the sense of the ‘Flowers of Evil’ (Les Fleurs du Mal), employed as the title of a volume by the French poet Baudelaire. The flowers or representations of the dreaming state are as beautiful as the corresponding flowers of the waking state as revised and seen, as it were, through the eyes of the artist and the poet who can, as Shakespeare would say, ‘see Helen’s beauty in an eye of Egypt’.

  The contemplative has to participate thus in the attitude of the poet before he can establish himself and be initiated into the reality symmetrically viewed in this manner. Like the man in the famous statue of Augusts Rodin (1840-1917) called ‘The Thinker’ (Le Penseur), the man sitting under the tree in the Guru’s verse should be understood, not as living in a vacuum of abstraction but as having for his content of consciousness all the other possible grades of truth or reality implied. Tree, creeper and the two orders of blossoms must be viewed globally with that degree of detachment which belongs to real living man in truly human contemplation.


‘BY INFERNO UNAPPROACHED EVER REMAINS’: Joy and suffering, light and darkness, positive and negative, prospective and retrospective orientations of the spirit, are to be understood as poles of the vertical axis of the personality of man As in a plant, where the roots seek darkness geotropically and the twigs seek light heliotropically, so too the consciousness of man is caught between ambivalent poles.

 The detached man who sits under the tree takes up a neutral position between the positive and negative. He avoids the lure of the sense-luxuries of objects of little interest and recedes to wholehearted or lastingly worthwhile interests by placing himself nearer to the negative pole. This would mean being nearer to the trunk of the tree which would represent the master-tendencies in life treated as if tied in a bundle together. Bergsonian metaphysics would lend support to such a picture of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ put together globally and unitively, although finally Bergson tends to stress ‘becoming’ at the expense of ‘pure being’, which latter admits no creative evolution.

 In thus placing himself correctly in detached neutrality, and if biased at all, more negatively than positively, the Self escapes all possibility of being caught in the alternating phases of the plus or minus of the situation. Self-realization is thus freedom from suffering when one’s consciousness is balanced: first vertically between dreams and facts, and secondly between positive and negative vertical states, when established in the neutral fourth state.


(12),   P. 157, ‘Myth and Ritual in Christianity’. Also see

P. 335, Vol. II, A. MacCulloch, ‘Mythology of All Races’.



‘Who sits there in the dark? Declare!’ says one;

Whereupon another, himself intent to find, in turn

Asks, hearing the first: ‘who may you even be?’

For both the word of response is but One.


THIS verse has to be read with the next (given below, on page 493) to make a complete contemplative item. The two men sitting in the dark questioning each other in the name of

knowledge about the self in each, represent a dialectical

situation by which the Guru here in this tenth verse enters

into the heart of the subject of the present work.


Wisdom has always been enshrined in dialogues between

two persons - whether Socrates and an Athenian youth;

a charioteer and a warrior on the battlefield, as conceived

poignantly in the Bhagavad Gita, or more simply as between a teacher and pupil.


Here the counterparts are brought together very closely as dialectically interchangeable factors, with all extraneous

elements eliminated as in arranging a laboratory experiment.

The Guru, in such a method of approach, seems also to have

been fully alive to the requirements of the age of science and of free criticism based on equality of status between the




The dark room is meant for selection and control purposes as in laboratory experiments. The reference to two men, instead of referring to the self in one man, is like bringing in the control element in the experimentally- conceived critical situation by which he is to prove scientifically to himself the reality of Soul or Self. The normative method in science would rely on statistics or a questionnaire to arrive at scientific certitudes. The experimental approach on the other hand is more direct and based on the three stages of experiment, observation and inference. The Guru employs here a method which combines both these, the normative and the experimental together, into a more direct one yielding a certitude that does not violate common sense. He thus fulfils the requirements of dialectical reasoning rather than relying on the one-sided approach consisting of inductive or deductive proofs known to the empirical scientists or rationalistic philosophers of modern Europe.


To know oneself has been accepted both in the East and in the West, in both ancient and modern times, as constituting the core of wisdom. Knowing oneself is hindered by the outward-going eye which sees other objects besides oneself. Bipolar relations could be established between the self on the one hand and what the self is able to perceive through the outwardly directed senses on the other. This latter aspect could be called the non-self. When the bipolarity is between equals of the same kind or species, the non-self aspect could be spoken of as the other self. Language even permits of a man referring to his wife as his ‘better half’.  There is thus a parity that we can imagine between two persons. The subjective and the objective selves could be treated as interchangeable terms.


If anything could mar the strict bipolarity of the experimental situation here envisaged for attaining to a correct notion of the Self in man, it would be a third set of elements in the form of various secondary, miscellaneous interests that could dissipate attention and spoil the contemplative attitude required for wisdom. It is for this reason, in order to minimise the possibility of a third factor disturbing the bipolarity that the Guru postulates darkness as a necessary condition for the experimental situation to teach us fully the self-knowledge that could be derived from it. The darkness further implies that contemplative wisdom is what is given to the eye of man when shut and directed not outwardly to objects but to realities belonging to the inner world. The science that results with the eyes open could be called physics and that which persists even when the eyes are shut may be said to belong to metaphysics. Between the visible and the intelligible worlds of Plato these conditions are not strictly applied nor distinguished.


As a result we have the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle

getting confused one with the other. Extraversion or extraspection has pure action implied in it, but introspection is directed to tranquillity or peace. Both are movements of thinking envisaged by the Self in each man.


‘THE WORD OF RESPONSE IS BUT ONE’: What could be called a dialectical proof may be said to be implied here. There are proofs given by a priori reasoning which are not those of experimental sciences like physics. The a posteriori approach is more naturally associated with its history. The telescope or the microscope were used by the earliest modern physicists to help outwardly the normal sight of the open eye. In other words the eyes were to be more open to see truth or reality. The philosophers who were called rationalists or idealists, from Descartes (1596-1650), through Spinoza (1632-1677) and Leibniz (1646-1716) to Kant (1724-1804), admitted the a priori but still thought with objective predilections and spoke of essences, substances or existences which they sometimes compared to some sort of fluids, emanations or monads. The a priori lost its way with them till dialectics began to be recognized again with the German idealists like Hegel (1770-1831). Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was able to look at the self from the pragmatic angle, giving a new start to philosophy from the standpoint of evolutionism. There is however a far cry from evolution as in the philosophy of Spencer (1820-1903) and the Creative Evolution as envisaged by Bergson. Bergson himself however, stops short of employing the fully dialectical method. What he refers to as ‘intuition’, which is reasoning from ‘inside’ an object rather than what is got by viewing it from outside, and which serves physics and metaphysics equally, is really a dialectical form of reasoning which was only beginning to be understood by him and the philosophers of his generation. Bergson remains for us here perhaps the only philosopher of the West who comes very near to the method of approach adopted by the Guru in the present verse. Bergson wrote:


‘There is one reality at least which we grasp from

inside and not by a simple analysis. That is our

own person in its flow along time. It is our self that

endures. We can sympathise intellectually or rather

spiritually with no other thing. But we do sympathise

surely with ourselves.’ (13)


Bergson goes on to describe what he is able to grasp about his own self by the method of making his ‘inner power to see’ (regard intérieur), take a walk over his person (promener sur une personne) as he puts it, and is able to describe poetically the structure of the personality in man. By this treatment of the self, which is not yet fully conceived as it ought to be in conformity with what we have called ‘dialectical methodology’, he kept the company of those who spoke the language of speculative philosophy and other rational or contemplative disciplines. They have each put a barrier between themselves and those who spoke the language of experimental science.



The Guru Narayana, by referring to the self in two persons at the same time, makes an epochal innovation by which he lays the foundation for the rapprochement and unification of two branches of wisdom, the physical and the metaphysical, which, by being treated hitherto separately, have lost their full influence in enriching human knowledge to the limit of its possibilities.


On reading this verse carefully it is important to note that the Guru takes pains to give in detail the agonising stages in the dialectical situation portrayed in this metaphysical experiment that he describes. The resolution of the paradoxical duality of the two persons into the One of the last line does not take place without effort or earnestness.


A thirst for more knowledge is implied on one side and the

inclination to remain quiet on the other. If the first man did not insist on knowing, the silence would have remained unbroken and wisdom would not have resulted. Active seeking of wisdom is a form of agony or thirst for knowledge which represents the knocking at the door to open, to put it in the biblical idiom. One has to want to know badly before knowledge can result. The duality then becomes transcended.  The two partial selves merge into unity in the Absolute. (We have taken the liberty here of capitalising the initial letter of the ‘One’ which is only to be expected in the light of orthographic usage in English.)


Unitive understanding consists essentially of abolishing

duality. This duality is not to be understood as a merely

theological doctrine which in common parlance, especially

in India, separates God from Man, as when we speak of

the difference between the theological doctrines of a

Ramanuja, a Madhva or a Sankara. Monism and monotheism still belong to the ordinary speculation of philosophy of the scholastics or the theologians. The truly dialectical content and import of the term ‘non-duality’ belongs to the domain of dialectical thinking which, as between the self and the non-self, or as between the one and the many, reduces all duality into unity. The unitive way is that of the central core of the stream of consciousness where it has nothing to do with mechanistic objects hardened as a crust round the liquid central flux of eternal becoming. It could be

conceived in terms of a vertical axis passing invisibly at

the core of the polyhedron, to which form of clear crystal

we could compare pure contemplative consciousness. (For

further clarification of such an analogy see ‘An Integrated

Science of the Absolute’ by the same writer.)


(13). p. 177. ‘La Pensée et le Mouvant’, (Geneva, 1946)



The repeated ‘I, I’ contemplated from within

Is not many but remains One; divergent egoity

Being multiple, with the totality of such

The Self-substance too continuity assumes.


HERE we touch the paradox of the one and the many which

started to puzzle philosophers from pre-Socratic days in

the West and the early pluralistic Vaiseshika and dualistic

Samkhya philosophers on the soil of Indian wisdom.


The notion of unity in terms of self-consciousness, which was touched on in the last line of the previous verse, based on metaphysically conceived form of contemplative experimentation, is further analysed here with its dialectical implications. Even within the domain of unitively-understood metaphysics there is room for the one-and-the-many paradox to persist. A monist in the philosophical sense or a monotheist in the theological sense should not be confused. This, however, often takes place. One who sees all as one, in the context of non-dual or unitive understanding of the Absolute, is the truly wise man. The latter implies a dialectical approach which is not given to the mechanistic reasoning of even correct theologians and philosophers. Reason has to go one step beyond even the intuition that Bergson postulated. When the faculty of dialectics which, as the coping stone of wisdom in man, attains to its full scope of directing and regulating thought-processes through its ascending and descending movements, as we have elsewhere studied, one would be able to think of an Absolute that unitively combines being and becoming and even the one and the many by one single act of understanding.


Plato’s Parmenides analyses this possibility masterfully. Even in the Bhagavad Gita we find one allusion at least where the possibility of an absolute notion of reality viewed from the dialectical rather than the rationalistic angle is present. Referring to the various forms of sacrifice open to men, the author of the Gita envisages the possibility of a wisdom-sacrifice to the Absolute as follows:


‘Others also, sacrificing with the wisdom-sacrifice,

worshipfully attend on Me (the Absolute) unitively,

dualistically, as also many-sidedly, facing universally

everywhere.’ (IX.15)


The possibility of seeing the one and the many together in the notion of the Absolute, which is really above even

mathematical symbolism, has remained one of the puzzles

of philosophers, both Eastern and Western, through the

centuries. ‘The Absolute is above all count’ as the Guru

Narayana himself says later in verse 68 of the present work.

In verse 87 the non-predicability of the Absolute is alluded

to further. The very first verse of the Book of Tao (Tao Teh

Khing) which term represents the purest notion of the Absolute in Chinese philosophy, describes the Absolute in the following striking manner:


‘The Tao that can be told

Is not the Absolute Tao:

The names that can be given

Are not Absolute names.

The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth

The Named is the Mother of all Things.’


How then, it could be asked here, is it possible to speak of the Tao that cannot even be named in the mathematically-conceived language of the ‘one and the many’? Although the notion is not predicable in the usual rationalistic and mechanistic terminology of a living language, the subtler language of dialectics can be used to reveal its inner structure. When we say in algebra ‘let x be the unknown factor’ we have in reality started saying something about it, and at the same time not said anything definite about it. Mathematics as the handmaid of mechanistic physics which uses static notions expressed by symbols, can still, as Bergson points out, be limited in its scope of revealing absolute reality, especially in its negative aspects. Bergson sums up:


‘Metaphysics is therefore the science which claims to do without symbols.’ (14)


Although this is true as far as it applies to the mechanistic

sciences, in modern times after the work of Pascal, Descartes, Leibniz, Poincaré and Eddington, there are newer forms of mathematics which can bring even the negative aspects of the Absolute under scientific scrutiny. We reserve for a future study the explanation of such mathematical possibilities.


For the present we shall content ourselves by referring to the possible meaning of a symbol like the square root of minus one, which can refer to nothing that we can visualize mentally but would still be capable of valid interpretation in pure non-utilitarian higher mathematics which could be put at the service of metaphysics more aptly than at the service of ordinary physics. Modern physicists are feeling more and more the need for some such precise language.


When the Guru here states that the sum total of the

divergent multiplicity in consciousness attains to continuity

with the One which represents the Absolute in a more finalized sense, he is only delving further into the structure of the notion of the one Absolute. The Absolute can have a positive and a negative side. The conflict between the two has to be overcome by a dialectical approach. The one and the many can co-exist without contradiction or paradox in the mind of the trained dialectician, while to the mechanistic thinker who is not a true contemplative and who is incapable of using higher mathematical symbols like the square root of minus one there is a glaring intellectual cul-de-sac out of which he cannot jump.


In this verse the Guru is just broaching the subject of transcending contradiction and reducing contraries unitively. In later verses we shall see him going deeper into the application of this dialectical approach which eluded even masterminds such as Bergson, and continues to trouble the mathematical though sceptical genius of a Bertrand Russell.  Whitehead, being an avowed Platonist, does not view the Absolute except from the positive side of lasting intelligible values. The correct method of the approach of Guru Narayana will become more and more evident as we proceed.


‘THE SELF-SUBSTANCE TOO CONTINUITY ASSUMES’: In modern physics we have begun to be familiar with terms like ‘the continuum of space-time’. This language which is non-Euclidean and non-Newtonian is sometimes called that of Relativity as opposed to the Absolutism implied in the older classical science. Einstein is the one primarily responsible for this change-over. But when we examine closely the physical theories of Einstein we find that a new form of Absolutism in terms of the unit or constant velocity of light lurks at its core.


In reality Relativity, especially when it refers to time, is only the dialectical counterpart of the Absolutism of space. Giving primacy to space above time, Einstein preferred to take a position at the other or lower pole of the vertical axis to which both what is called Absolutism and Relativity could equally belong.


The relation between the Absolute and the Relative as the two terms referring respectively to Einstein or Newton, is itself one to be understood in the subtler light of dialectics. The Absolute that cannot be told about, as in the quotations above, is the neutral and silent Tao of Chinese Taoism.


Einstein’s Relativity with a capital R corresponds to the ‘Mother of All Things’ of Taoism, rather than to the Newtonian notion of the Absolute which would correspond to the ‘origin of Heaven and Earth’. Dialectical methodology and epistemology are still in the process of formulation at the present time, and neither Einstein nor Eddington has arrived at the omega point which marks the positive opposite limit of the negative alpha of the Absolute. Like the space-time continuum, the Absolute and the relative Absolute have to be understood unitively as belonging to one and the same context of the Absolute that cannot be told about. Both physics and metaphysics would then derive from this central normative principle a correct methodology and epistemology. The following extract from Eddington will help us to see how the continuity between the one and the many, as suggested in the verse of the Guru here, is quite in keeping with the language being vaguely formulated at the present time by first-rate physicists who may be expected to be quite matter-of-fact and not merely sentimental in their approach to reality:


‘We take as building material relations and relata.

The relations unite the relata; the relata are the meeting

points of the relations. The one is unthinkable apart

from the other. I do not think that a more general

starting-point of structure could be conceived...

The relation between two human individuals in its

broadest sense comprises every kind of connection or

comparison between them - consanguinity, business transactions, comparative stature, skill at golf - any kind of description in which both are involved. For generality we shall suppose that the relations in our world-material are likewise composite and in no way expressible in numerical measure. Nevertheless there must be some kind of comparability or likeness of relations, as there is in the relations of human individuals; otherwise there would be nothing more to be said about the world than that every thing in it was utterly unlike everything else. To put it in another way, we must postulate not only relations between the relata but some kind of relation of likeness between some of the relations. The slightest concession in this direction will enable us to link the whole into a structure’.(15)


It is not hard to notice from a scrutiny of the above extracts that the modern physicist is, as it were, at the end of his tether in the matter of building an intelligent structure of the physical world. The physical and metaphysical worlds have to be linked through co-ordinates that are common to cosmology and psychology. Man is finally the measure of all things, whether cosmological, psychological, or both. The four-dimensional world with space gives us the relativist picture of reality; and the one which gives time primacy over space gives us the absolutist picture. Both have again to be related as between relata, as Eddington puts it. There is no escape from subtle dialectics here. Instead of turning one’s face against it or hesitantly asking for ‘the slightest concession’ as Eddington does, the bolder and more straightforward approach would be to adopt the methodology and epistemology of dialectical reasoning on which the Guru Narayana here relies. (cf. our later work on ‘An Integrated Science of the Absolute’)


The continuum here presupposed as existing between the divergent self and the One Self is thus to be understood in the light of the dialectics which will unravel itself stage by stage as we cover verse after verse in this sequence of verses. Eddington’s reference in the above quotation to business transactions and golf as linking one person with another might be considered as referring to outer aspects of life needed for understanding the physical world. The problems of contemplative wisdom concern the inner rather than the outer. Hence it is that we see that the Guru Narayana takes care to eliminate extraneous factors so that in the dark room postulated in the previous verse, pure relations between one man and another could be more clearly visualized. Pure dialectics operates best when outer or extraneous factors are minimised. The one and the many selves, whether seen as between two individuals or within the plus and minus sides of the same individual can thus be seen to attain equality, sameness, homogeneity or continuity as here mentioned. Unitive understanding, which is the proper subject-matter of non-dual (advaitic) wisdom, is what is here implied.


Eddington further clarifies this same problem as follows:


‘ gain an understanding of the Absolute it is

necessary to approach it through the relative. The

Absolute may be defined as a relative which is always

the same no matter what it is relative to.’ (16)


The various subtler discussions about the interrelations between what is called Vyashti (particular) and Samashti, generic, universal), which we find in such works as the Vedanta Sara of Sadananda, bear testimony to the same kind of epistemological problem, which has troubled the minds of Indian thinkers also. The genus and species relationship presents the same problem in the context of European scholasticism.


(14). p. 175 Ibid.


(15). PP. 225-226, ‘The Nature of the Physical World’,

(Everyman’s London. 1947.)


(16) p. 82, ‘Space, Time and Gravity’. (Harpers.)



With skin, bone, refuse, and many an inner factor of evil end,

Wielding these, lo! one ego looms: this which passes,

Is the other: that Self which grows to perfection,

0 grant the boon that it may not the ego swell!


THE repeated ‘I’, ‘I’ of the previous verse has a way of

asserting itself in two distinct manners. This verse suggests that one of these ways of assertion is favourable to self-realization while the other is detrimental to happiness when understood as the end or goal of life.


The structure of the Self which has been analysed in the two previous verses is filled with a content, not in terms of a vague abstraction, but in a very realistic, operational, human, and even a pragmatic manner, by which the aspirant to self-instruction can find his way and choose the right one of the two alternatives open to him in the path that marks out his progress in self-realization.


By cultivating the ego which has bodily attributes, the end is not happiness. By cultivating the Self that is non-bodily but has other attributes of a series of values in an ascending subjective scale leading to happiness (whose nature will become clarified only in the later verses), we stand in danger of having a bloated egoism in the name of some fetish-concept of personal spirituality which might lead us into the blind alley of a megalomania. Spiritual life often contains this soul-killing possibility of a wrong kind of self-hood which can be full of horizontal taints such as passion, pride or ignorance. The Bhagavad Gita (XVI. 21) refers to this sort of danger in strong terms as constituting the gates of inferno:


‘Three-fold is the gate to inferno which can counter

Self-hood - desire, anger and avidity; renounce

therefore these three.’


A horizontally-oriented self-hood spells evil while a vertically-oriented self-hood reaches out to the good ideal. A prayer for a boon to save self-hood from being developed in a wrong or compromised sense and a warning against such a danger which is so easy to fall into in the name of self-knowledge, from which we can think many ‘holy’ men suffer, is what the Guru takes the opportunity, sufficiently in advance in the course, to warn against in this verse, whose main purpose is to state that difference between the two forms of the same self. The modalities of movements in consciousness, to which these two egos are subject, has a paradox, conflict or contradiction at its core, which it will be the task of succeeding verses to effectively abolish.


To distinguish the two selves implied in the contemplative life envisaged here, constitutes the important initial step to be taken. We shall have occasion to examine the nature of the contradiction or the complementary character of the two selves involved. For the present we shall do no more than to refer again to the Bhagavad Gita (VI. 6) which also posits two selves for resolution into unitive terms, as follows:


‘To one who has overcome the self by the Self, the

Self is his kin: for one self-less, however, the very

Self can remain inimical like a (veritable) opponent.’


The verse immediately preceding (VI. 5) also refers to the subtle inner structure of the Self in man:


‘One has to support the self with the Self, one should

not let it down. The Self is the kindred of the self,

the very self is the Self’s (own) enemy.’


This ‘I’ within has its convergent (vertical) and divergent

(horizontal) aspects which have to be carefully distinguished,


‘LO! ONE EGO LOOMS, ETC.’: The ‘lo!’ here which stands for ‘look,’ implies a warning, as we have said above. In Vedantic literature generally this error of self-identification with a certain bodily or un-spiritual aspect or attribute of the personality is called the dehoham buddhi, the attitude of mind that says to itself, ‘I am the body.’ It is important to notice here that in the verse above, as in Vedanta generally, the line dividing the body from the mind, or the physical from the spiritual aspect of the personality is underlined.


When we use the word ‘mind’ in English it is meant to include all that is spiritual in a vague manner. Manas (mind) however, as understood in the strict Vedantic sense, belongs to the bodily side of our life rather than to the spiritual, because it is one of the inner organs together with buddhi, chitta and ahamkara (intelligence, relational sense and individuation), which depend for functioning on the stimuli entering the body from the objective rather than from the subjective side.


Psycho-physical parallelism, if at all admissible, has to be understood as taking place between elements in consciousness that really belong to two rival poles. The line which is to separate what belongs properly to the side of the psyche and what belongs to the physical aspect of life calls for minuter examination in the light of the polarity or ambivalence which is to be postulated as the base of this question of parallelism.


In the present verse one notices that the Guru takes care to indicate that the ego that wields the skin and bones includes on its side many other factors of evil portent, which conduce to unhappy ends. Even religious or other sentiments as sometimes popularly felt, as when one hears of ‘an enjoyable funeral requiem or dirge’ or of someone who cries throughout a melodramatic film show, have mixed sentiments involved, which are hard to put strictly into one compartment or other in the polarized scheme that we have to think of, in respect of the two selves involved.


In fact, finally the two selves have to be abolished through unitive understanding. It is this which it is the task of the present work of the Guru to accomplish.


In other works of the Guru this parallelism and polarity is discussed by him in greater detail, as for example in the composition called Chit-jadangal (Thought and Inertia). The same theme is indirectly touched upon in Indriya-Vairagyam (Sense-detachment) and in Pinda-Nandi (Prenatal Gratitude), as well as in some other compositions of the Guru.


The problem here is the same as in chapter XIII of the Bhagavad Gita devoted to the ‘kshetra (field) and kshetrajna (knower of the field) distinction.’ Sankara’s famous work called Drig-drisya-viveka (discrimination between the seer and the seen) is based on this same fundamental distinction—so important to be made before the Self can be properly realized.


When one has succeeded in eliminating the horizontal

tendencies adhering to the self and it is thus purified, the very self asserts itself and grows into power or perfection by double assertion and double negation. In the process, if one again rests peripheralized in interests, as for example being too much taken up by social or political problems, one might become some sort of distorted absolutist in the deprecatory connotation of the term. In the name of institutional forms of holiness we have examples of distorted personalities with egos exaggerated or awry in one sense or another. These pitfalls have to be avoided by the aspirant to contemplative life. The ego should not be allowed to suffer bloating, warping or distortion.


If we should think of social duties it can be of items which are free from the relativistic taint. The good work of the Good Samaritan in the Bible is disinterested and correctly altruistic, while many well-intentioned works in the name of religions suffer from relativistic taints or partialities which, like milk in a dog-leather bag, as Sankara would put it, have no real spiritual value.


‘THAT SELF WHICH GROWS TO PERFECTION, ETC.’: Once the distinction between the two aspects of the same unitive or Absolute Self is made, it will be easy to see how a normal process of spiritual progress can be established. Perfection or plenitude is the goal to be attained by the progressive self put on its proper path. The attribute which grows to perfection refers to the pure or verticalized self which still stands in danger of being compromised by horizontal factors.


If Bishop Berkeley denied objectivity to the body; while John Locke in his philosophy gave primacy to the objective aspect of reality in the context of European philosophy; we have David Hume, the sceptic - whose position has been humorously summed up in the textbooks as consisting of the pithy saying, ‘no matter, never mind; no mind, what matter!’


In a revised methodology pertaining to a more complete Science of the Absolute, as envisaged in Advaita Vedanta, to treat of body and mind from the standpoint of what Bertrand Russell would call his position of  ‘neutral monism’ is justified. He restates this in his History of Western Philosophy (Allen and Unwin, London, 1946) as follows:


‘I think that mind and matter are merely convenient

ways of grouping events’ (p. 861)


Earlier on the same page he says:


‘Thus from both ends, physics and psychology have

been approaching each other, and making possible the

doctrine of ‘neutral monism’ suggested by William

James’ criticism of consciousness’.


Thus we see that the position taken by the Guru is not repugnant to the attitude of the latest pragmatic or empiricist philosophers, even though they might call themselves ‘sceptics’. They represent a form of agnosticism which is a natural corollary to absolutist wisdom of the correct kind, which still remains to be formulated scientifically.



Unto the Master who dons the ashes of the three modes,

Offering the flower of the inner self, inclining before him,

With all sense-interests effaced, divest of all and cool,

Even from the grandeur of loneliness bereft, into glory sink!


THIS verse follows an antique and somewhat idolatrous figure of speech. The worship of Shiva, the great God of the Himalaya, who is at the same time the Guru Dakshina-Murti (the divine manifestation of the South), as pictured by Sankara himself, long before the Guru Narayana, is almost an inevitable idiom on the spiritual soil of India.


The great God is pictured here as sitting in meditation, cut off from all sense-interests, meditating on the Absolute and identical with it. This language is familiar to all Indians and especially to the temple worshippers of the South. The Guru invokes this ideogram to convey easily what he could otherwise have said only in many a dry paragraph.


The principle implicit in idol-worship correctly understood, is to treat of the two bodies involved - that of the worshipper and the worshipped - as interchangeable terms in a dialectically contemplative manner. The self of the seeker on one side and the personified Absolute on the other form limbs of a reversible operation like an osmosis which takes place spiritually between the two poles which in reality, belong to the same vertical aspect of the Self as distinguished in verse 12 above. The Guru is merely employing popular idiom here and no anthropomorphic god is necessarily postulated, although the ruling-out of such a god is equally to be avoided. Whatever anthropomorphism might persist will be cancelled out by trans-subjective and intra-physical complementarity of counterparts.


The notion of the Absolute, which is neutral between the two poles of the same unitive Self, can be conceived in pure or practical terms and, as long as the limbs of the equation are properly conceived as dialectical counterparts, no harm is done to the resulting doctrine touching reality that results from the cancelling out of counterparts.


The subtle dialectics implied in the exchange of values that can take place between the ‘Self’ and the ‘non-Self’, whether subjectively or objectively treated according to the correct rules of dialectical understanding, cannot be elaborated in the language of mechanistic or syllogistic reasoning. Here the Guru therefore by-passes discussion of the truth of God in the usual ontological or ideological discursive manner of modern philosophers in the West. The logical manner employed by Voltaire, which can be valid in its own way, is not resorted to either. Theology proper is avoided but the same purpose is served here by the simpler dialectical approach. After helping us to distinguish the Self from the non-Self in the previous verses, the Guru passes over quickly to equate them so as to resolve them both in the context of unitive Self-realization proper, without the usual logic-chopping or laboured theology.


To extract the correct sense of this verse the reader has to imagine himself as a Shiva-worshipper of South India who prayerfully offers flowers at the temple of the God who represents the Absolute in the antique and natural language of iconographic ritual and symbolism. The flowers are to be thought of as fine value products of the mind of man. They belong to this or the ‘self’ side; while the master or Shiva would represent the ‘Greater Self’ which is its own counterpart. The offering of flowers is a symbolic gesture by means of which a bipolar relationship is to be established between the Absolute as the ‘Self’ and the Absolute as the ‘self’. They further represent the specific aspects of everyday value-factors or items corresponding to the infinite small change which pays for the gold coin of the notion of the Absolute, which is an all-inclusive and supreme value in life.


An osmotic interchange of values, representing a reversible process or operation, takes place between the two counterparts envisaged here, which leads to self-realization, after the manner of the ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’, as Plotinus would describe the event or process.


The ‘glory’ in the last line refers to the principle of the Absolute, still within the limits of the phenomenal aspect of reality as understood in verse 4 (see page 456). The Guru avoids referring at this stage to the pure notion of the Absolute as meant by the term Brahman, but uses rather the word ‘mahas’ (the Great Principle) as used by the Samkhyas and as understood later and used more unitively in Advaita Vedanta, as we have pointed out under verse 4 already. This is by way of respecting methodological strictness in developing the subject matter stage after stage from the known or knowable to the more unknowable or unpredicable.


‘THE ASHES OF THE THREE MODES’: The theory of the three gunas or modalities in nature, whether psychologically or cosmologically understood, is developed in a whole chapter (XIV) in the Bhagavad Gita devoted to their character and mechanism. The Bhagavad Gita itself presents a revised picture of the modalities, which are given a psycho-physical rather than a cosmic status; and the three stratifications within the limits of necessary action, as understood in the dualistic Samkhya philosophy, are presented more unitively as applicable to the unitive personality of man. The gunas or modalities of nature are treated without the more pronounced body-mind duality of the earlier Samkhya school.


The Guru here sees the possibility of effecting further unity in the same sense as in the Bhagavad Gita. The three levels or strata of modalities in natural and necessary expression, when they attain the Absolute, as represented by the Master who is Shiva, are nothing more than ashes, generally worn as three horizontal lines on the forehead and body. Here they have no effective living influence on him who has transcended the necessary or negative level of life, where alone modalities could be operative. The gunas may be described as the dark or dull (tamas) the passionate or the active (rajas), and the pure or sublimated (sattva) expressions of psycho-physical life. On the body of Shiva, in the ideogram here employed by the Guru, these modes, which are sufficiently real from the side of the worshipper, have but the status of mere ashes as attributed to the counterpart, the worshipped symbol of the mystery of the Absolute.


‘THE FLOWER OF THE INNER SELF, ETC.’: In verse 9 (see page 480) the various states of consciousness natural to man have already been referred to as bearing blossoms. In relation to the plant itself the flower represents the most specialized aspect. Such specific items represent horizontal multiplicity of sense-values as against the vertical unity of the pure Self.  The special growths of a plant refer to luxury items in life, as suggested in the Bhagavad Gita, which compares the leaf-buds of the great banyan tree of its famous fifteenth chapter to the stanzas of the Vedas, which represent the hedonistic values implicit in the Vedic religion. It is there recommended that the tree with the buds be cut down mercilessly before one can follow the higher path of the wisdom of the Absolute.


The flowers in the verse under examination here are also petty utilitarian or sensuous luxury-items, even of the context of holiness, which have to be sacrificed in the fire of absolute wisdom for progressing in the path of self-realization envisaged in the present text. Moreover, the Absolute is a wonder and is adorable, as the most supreme of human values. Axiology, phenomenology and personalism represent attitudes or principles which remain blended together in this reference to the subtle relationship that one has to establish with the Absolute before merging into it could normally be expected.



bipolarity has been established in the manner indicated above, the lower series of interests naturally give place to the higher sublimated ones. The interests operative at the sense level of the personality depend on objects of perception stimulated from outside. They are horizontal interests which are of secondary importance only. When the full current is switched on by the bipolarity established, as it were, vertically, between the self and the Self representing the Absolute, these interests recede. The absorbing nature of the latter bipolarity detracts from the intensity of the sense-attractions to such an extent that, like stars that fade in daylight, their appeal is countered and effectively nullified. They become faint and enfeebled in proportion to the positive interest in the Absolute which becomes progressively established.


‘DIVEST OF ALL AND COOL, ETC.’: The pure Self within sits in nakedness and simplicity, as opposed to the peripherally conditioned personality that might have social dignity or status belonging to the outer world. Pilgrims to Mecca have to divest themselves of all decorations and even tailored clothes before entering the holy of holies. Likewise, the South Indian temple has to be entered wearing as few clothes as possible. This is symbolic of the rejection of all peripheral conditionings that might colour the pure self from the extraneous and apparent phenomenal world. The utter nakedness of the soul may perhaps trail clouds of glory, as the poet might say, in its spiritual journey from God, but nothing of worldly decoration really belongs to it. Moreover, the outer world is ‘of the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.’ Both these states of affiliation to group-psychology or activity have first to be transcended before the path of self-realization as envisaged here can be followed up. The cooling therefore refers to the slowing down of the tempo of active outward socialized life.


‘EVEN FROM THE GRANDEUR BEREFT, ETC.’: Zeus with his thunderbolt represents the great god on high as understood by the Greeks. Indra of the Indian context is likewise a chief of the gods of heaven. There is something quantitative still persisting in them in the attributes applied to them which imply horizontal values.


The Absolute is not a quantity with any magnitude, but

rather a pure quality without magnitude. Even the hypostatic

glory that we attribute to God in praising Him is not consistent with the image of the Absolute as understood in the purer non-theological context of contemplative self-realization. Neither can we say, however, that the Absolute is without greatness. The ‘greatness’ (as we have translated the word mahas here) is to be understood as a glory that participates more in the vertical aspect of value rather than in the horizontal.


The distinction that we are trying to make is something like the distinction between ‘natura naturans’ and ‘natura naturata’, as used by Spinoza in his philosophy. The former has a vertical value while the latter is horizontal in its content. We have a similar reference to two kinds of gunas (modalities of nature) in the Bhagavad Gita (III. 28) which reads ‘the gunas reside in the gunas’, meaning that modalities remain as principles with no horizontalized expression. The grandeur of the subject is absorbed in the greatness of the counterparts in the Absolute without getting horizontalized in the process. Without this subtle philosophical distinction between the two aspects, horizontal and vertical, the meaning of mahas and mahima, as used in the original text, must remain mostly obscure. The ‘sinking into glory’ represents the ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’. The sinking further suggests that the forward progression is itself a vestige suggestive of duality which has to be counteracted by an inverse process which is sinking backwards rather than going forwards or rising. This is more in keeping with the ‘negative way’ proper to contemplation. In pure becoming there is no movement at all in the usual sense. The Absolute would correspond then to the ‘unmoved mover’ of Aristotle.



That light, rid of three-fold view, that ever brighter burns

Upsurging and brimful beyond the bounds of the triple worlds,

Remember, that it will never come within the reach

Of a hermit untrue, as Upanishadic secret lore declares.


THE context of Shiva worship is here abandoned in favour of Upanishadic teaching. The dialectical revaluation of the Guru-wisdom, as represented here in the teaching for Self-realization, participates on one side in the pure teaching of the Vedanta as contained in the Upanishads, and on the other side it includes the long tradition of Shiva-worship which has been preserved down to the time of Sankara in South India.


A certain upright and straightforward attitude of mind is the basis of all Upanishadic teaching. The whole philosophy of the Vedanta may be said to be based on the notion of sat (ontological verity) which has the same root in Sanskrit as the word satya (truth). Sattva, which is recommended as an attitude to be cultivated by the aspirant to wisdom by texts in the Upanishads as well as in the Bhagavad Gita, also implies a basis in truth. The truth within and the truth that one seeks have to fall into one and the same line.


This attitude of mind is referred to as arjavam (straightforwardness) in the Bhagavad Gita (XIII. 7; XVI. 1; XVII. 14; XVIII. 42), and as satyam (truth) in the same work (X. 4; XVI. 2, 7; XVII. 15; XVIII. 65), reiterating Upanishadic teaching in many ways. In the Chandogya Upanishad truth is referred to as the foundation or principle of the Universe (VI. XVI. 1) and the same Upanishad stresses the need to understand the truth (VII. XVI). The soul is supposed to be obtainable by truth in the Mundaka Upanishad (III. 1,5,6). The Absolute itself is characterized by truth as stated in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V. v. 1, 2). Seekers of truth are applauded in the Mundaka Upanishad (I. ii, 1) and referred to as Satyakamas (lovers of truth). Thus, both as end as well as means, truth represents a high value in the Upanishads.


There is no short-cut or crooked path to wisdom. One has to go by the royal, public or straight road. All kinds of esotericisms and secret practices, not at one with the principle of truth as a philosophical as well as an ethical concept, are discredited here by the Guru, where he wishes to enter into the subject of Self-realization one degree deeper than hitherto in the text. In the next verse we can see that the Guru touches upon two aspects of nature which are reciprocal and contradictory at once by way of relating outer and inner truth under one scheme.


The earlier half of the present verse disposes of two additional epistemological and methodological concepts familiar in Vedanta. They have to be first understood properly before one can enter the wisdom-path of Self-realization. We shall examine them below. When these two kinds of conditionings hindering our progress in Self-realization are effectively discarded, the vision of the Absolute will come, as it were before the eyes of the aspirant in a manner that is not merely an academic appraisal of the Absolute. The wonder of the Absolute will then fill the personality with that form of subtle exaltation after which all yogis aspire.


The two impediments are of a cosmological and

psychological order. The latter may be said to be lodged within, as the beam in the eye, while the other conditioning applies to the outer world in a cosmological sense. It is a grosser conditioning which is comparable to the mote in another’s eye. The subjective and objective causes of erroneous appraisal of truth have first to be removed. Triputi is here translated as ‘the three-fold view.’ Tribhuvana, ‘triple-world’, refers to the cosmological worlds of value within which the spirit of man with its aspirations may be said to live. A one-one correspondence is implied between these three-fold conditionings.


‘RID OF THREE-FOLD VIEW, ETC.’: One of the most important conditionings to which knowledge is subjected, as we have just pointed out, is referred to in Vedanta as the tri-basic conditioning or triputi. Puta means base, as that of a leaf, and this tri-basic quality, affecting our appraisal of truth, consists of dividing our knowledge into the subjective, the objective and the meaning aspects, which tend to be thought of separately instead of unitively. Thus first, second and third persons, as used in grammatical syntax, can refer to the same central verity in a phrase which may be said to be affected by the syntactical prejudice of triputi. The pure vertical semiotic content of thought gets horizontalized in a sentence form when syntactically conditioned tri-basically.


If we should take the case of the purest notion of the Absolute we can refer to this central notion in three ways. The Absolute could be the antecedent respectively of ‘I’, ‘you’, or ‘it’ in three sentences written as predications about  the Absolute, but in the first, second and third person. The mahavakyas (great dicta) of the Vedanta do just this when they declare: ‘I am the Absolute’, ‘Thou art That’, or ‘This Self is the Absolute.’ The meaning remains one and the same.


But as ‘soon as this primary ‘basic’ fundamental

conditioning natural to the intellect in relation with objective interests in life is admitted into our way of thinking, it has the disastrous effect of shutting out the unconditioned aspect of the Absolute. One already views it, as it were, through the coloured glasses of three kinds of conditionings to begin with. These three give birth to other secondary ones whose ramifications of upadhis (conditionings and sub-conditionings) fill the whole area of the field and stream of consciousness with a multiplicity of interests, rather than with that unitive one which is the highest and supreme value in life.


The passion and love of truth planted in the human heart, which, as Mathew Arnold said, consists of the ‘intellectual enthusiasm to see the truth and the emotional enthusiasm to see the truth prevail’, have to be cultivated and affirmed further by contemplative disciplines. The false recluse here referred to is the spiritual aspirant who believes in indirect or sinuous paths for reaching the vision of the Absolute. The false personal attitude might be what conditions from within, or conditioning as it were from without - both hiding the end envisaged as a goal of life. In other words, ends and means in spirituality have to fall in the same straight line of truthfulness or straightforwardness.


‘THE TRIPLE WORLDS, ETC.’: In every language, heaven, inferno and the human world refer to three levels of value-strata in which the human self finds its subjective-objective environment. The ‘Divine Comedy’ of Dante and the ‘Paradise Lost’ of Milton are built around this time-honoured way of referring to value-systems in which the personality of man may be said to live and move up or down.


Rid of all its superfluous accretions and superstitious implications we can still think axiologically of three worlds or value-systems. For example, we know that the blue of the sky is not even a scientific truth. The blue is there because of the limitation of our powers of vision. A high flight or a telescope penetrating space, through clearer vision abolishes the blue effectively. A certain dispersal of light is implied there which applies to the eye as an organ as well as to the rays of light that can affect it. Pure light is thus conditioned by a certain veil. This veil is both subjective and objective at once. Even as between the cosmological and psychological there is a duality to be abolished in our appraisal of pure truth in itself, when rid of its phenomenal aspects.


While the notion of triputi, which we have explained in the previous section, is a psychological one, the notion of the three worlds, resorted to by the Guru here, is to be taken as the more objectified counterpart of the same series of conditionings of an epistemological order. The three worlds and the tri-basic conditioning of consciousness vis-a-vis the knowledge of the Absolute may be said to refer to the vertical and the horizontal aspects of the Absolute. Cosmology being more objective than psychology, the horizontal aspect would accord more with the conditioning under the three worlds, which would then refer to the horizontal axis.


The three-fold view on the other hand, would refer to the vertical aspect. This difference which we have once referred to under two aspects relating to the inner and the outer nature, is further clarified and brought into relief in the next verse.  Modern phenomenological operationism takes its stand on a similar epistemological ground.



Ten thousand years do a moment make for the favoured ones

Suckled in the milk of the Absolute beyond; but when knowledge

Is caught in the power of the nature that is relative here,

Half a second, ten thousand years long would seem.


A FUNDAMENTAL epistemological distinction is made here by way of comparing the two kinds of knowledge that the human mind is capable of having or of aspiring after. The knowledge of the Absolute which is beyond, unconditioned by the multiplicity of attractions here in relativistic nature with which we are related every day, refers to the supreme aspect of the Absolute. The ordinary everyday world of life here in the biological sense involves values that are multiple and relativistic. Vedantic literature makes use of two terms applied to Nature. One of these is called ‘para’ which has the quality of otherness. The second is called ‘apara’ which has the quality of non-otherness, or that which is familiar to us here. We have translated the two terms as ‘the Absolute beyond’ and ‘the relative here’ to indicate the reciprocity of the distinction implied.


Between these two aspects of Nature (one with a capital

letter and the other without the capital), much epistemological theorisation is implicit, which it is hardly possible to dispose of at one stroke. The Guru therefore refers to them here only in their broader aspects, contrasting them with reference to the factor of time and without referring to space for the present.


Time is related to eternity and reveals a dimension which is abstract and given to the philosophical insight with which human nature is endowed. More ordinarily, however, what man can appreciate refers to interests which have very little span of time involved in their attainment or enjoyment. In the domain of interests therefore, there are two broad divisions: some that lure us to eternal values and the other binding us to transient interests. The Guru suggests here that those who seek eternal values, which refer to the Absolute that is beyond, are more intelligent than those who are caught by the necessary and binding items of everyday interests belonging, as it were, to the opposite pole of reality. The Viveka-Chudamani of Sankara would refer to the same distinction as nitya-anitya (lasting and transient).


By his method of exposition here, the Guru goes beyond making the contrast merely academic. He relates it to the ambivalent or opposing states which each one of the attitudes involves for the subject. When the three worlds have been transcended and the aspirant has abolished the three prejudicial conditionings referred to in the previous verse, there is revealed, as it were, a world without time’s limitations, in eternity or the eternal present, wherein he can feel a profound happiness. When subject to the opposing state of mind, the implied suffering tends to make the sense of duration of unendurable length.


‘SUCKLED IN THE MILK OF THE ABSOLUTE’: The pure Absolute is referred to here, though figuratively, in anthropomorphic terms. The image of a mother suckling her

child is introduced. One has to remember here that the pure

Absolute should not even be named, as the Tao Teh Khing would put it. (In the same Tao Teh Khing the wise man is

likened to the child sucking the Mother, to Nature or the Absolute - section 20). The supreme Absolute is that about which nothing can be predicated. The Mandukya Upanishad (verse 7) describes such an Absolute, and this is about as far as epithets can go to help in the matter of appraising the notion of the Absolute. The verse (Hume’s translation) reads:


 ‘Not inwardly cognitive (antah-prajna), not outwardly

cognitive (bahih-prajna), not both-wise cognitive

(ubhayatah-prajna), not a cognition-mass (prajnana-               ghana) not cognitive (prajna), not non-cognitive (a-prajna), unseen (a-drishta), with which there can be no dealing (a-vyavaharya), ungraspable (a-grahya), having no distinctive mark (a-lakshana), non-thinkable (a-chintya), that cannot be designated (a-vyapadesya), the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self (ekatma-pratyaya-sara), the cessation of development (prapanchopasama), tranquil (santa), benign (shiva), without a second (advaita) - (such) they think is the fourth (state).  He is the Self (atman). He should be discerned.’


The Absolute in its most ultimate aspect is indescribable but it is usual to try by words to help the seeker of wisdom to think of it as far as thoughts can take us. It is usual also in this linguistic or poetic context to describe the Absolute as a feminine principle. Sophia (or Wisdom) is represented in the West also as a feminine figure, as a foster-mother of wisdom whom Boethius saw consoling him in prison. The image of the consoling mother has persisted in many forms and the Guru here resorts to the same time-hallowed language. The highest notion of Maya identifies this principle of nescience with the Absolute in, as it were, a penultimate form, also as a feminine principle. When we remember that the Guru in these preliminary verses is still labouring to lay down norms of reference for the better understanding of the Self in all its aspects, the imagery that he resorts to here can be easily understood.


‘NATURE THAT IS RELATIVE HERE, ETC.’: A perfectly symmetrical picture is built round the notion of Time, half a second in duration, which is the central and neutral reality that is here postulated for the comparison of two aspects of the same Absolute, as seen in Nature, whether taken to be within or without. The inner Nature is related to pure Time with no events; while the outer nature is so full of events that duration feels heavy and unpleasant.


In the Scholastic philosophy of Europe and as distinguished in the philosophy of Spinoza, we have the same two natures: the ‘natura naturans’ (nature that is ‘naturing’) and the ‘natura naturata’ (nature that is ‘natured’). In the first the subject is sufficient to itself, while in the latter there is duality as between subject and object. In the scheme of correlation employed by us in this commentary, and based on discussions elsewhere, we could refer to the Absolute Nature as the vertical, and the relative nature as the horizontal.


As between these two aspects contrasted here, the reader has to notice the symmetry which is implied between them. The right and the wrong attitudes are not only different but reciprocally ambivalent or opposite. Instead of one being given primacy over the other, the two poles are given an equal status in the context of the Absolute. Good and bad have to be understood as aspects of the central Absolute which inclusively contains them both with an equal status for each of them. Wisdom triumphs dialectically by the vertical conquest of values over the horizontal aspects of natural interests.



If an arid desert most expansive should become over-flooded

By river water all at once, such would be the rising symphony

Falling into the ears, to open then the eye; do therefore

Daily become the best of sages endowed with Self-control.


HERE the Guru recommends a personal attitude to be constantly cultivated by one who aspires for the full attainment of wisdom or self-realization. A teacher of wisdom is constantly faced with the question of how spirituality is to be practised.


On the Indian soil there is the practice of yoga which has become, as it were, a deep-rooted idiom in the popular mind. Sitting cross-legged in various postures, with the eyes shut or gazing at the tip of the nose or concentrating at the middle of the eyebrows, and various other practices, are part and parcel of accepted popular notions in the context of self-discipline with a view to attaining the goal of spirituality, however vaguely-conceived it may be.


From Hatha yoga to Patanjali yoga one has a choice of

self-disciplinary systems recommending various forms of

physical attitudes, breathing exercises and steps to attain to the goal. Some of these place the accent on the body, while others have implicit in them a Samkhya duality between the body and the mind. Patanjali Yoga itself, which is sometimes called the most publicly acceptable of disciplines (and therefore perhaps called Raja Yoga) has its eight steps leading to kaivalya (aloneness), which pinnacle of yoga is to be reached by the aspirant through the various intermediate steps of yama (reining-in), niyama (regulating), asana (posture), pranayama (control of vital tendencies), pratyahara (withdrawal of out-going impulses inwards), dhyana (establishing bipolar contemplation with the higher Self), dharana (maintaining such a relation), and samadhi (attaining final loneliness or peace).


It will be noticed that with the later rejection of the Samkhya duality as between means and ends, and as between prakriti (nature) and purusha (the higher Self) as implied in such a graded ascent in discipline, a revised and revalued yoga was recommended in works such as the Yoga Vasishtha, in which Vasishtha, the Guru, goes even so far as to tell his disciple Rama in so many words that the ashto-anga (eight-limbed) yoga was repugnant to him. Yoga there was conceived on the basis of sapta-bhumikas (seven world-grounds).


When we come to the Bhagavad Gita we find no reference at all to these eight steps of the popularly-called ‘Raja Yoga.’ In a whole chapter (the sixth) devoted to the question of self-discipline, it is the Self that is treated as the dialectical counterpart of the self, instead of nature and Self, At the end of verse 25 there, the simple injunction given is that the mind should find rest in the Self and that it should be emptied of all content. The dualistic agony of ascent of the Patanjali way is modified into a simpler merging of the self into the Self.


The Guru Narayana here brushes aside, as it were, the whole question of self-discipline, by reference to the global personal attitude implied in the context of self-realization. Elsewhere, in the Darsana Mala of the Guru in section IX, which is entirely devoted to this question of yoga, he sums up all yoga under two categories: (verse 10) that of the yoga of action (karma), and of the yoga of wisdom (jnana). Karma yoga is yoga through action dedicated to the Absolute, when a man is not able to understand the Absolute philosophically. It is given a place because it is necessary and inevitable, but neither recommended nor discussed at any length.  All yoga worth the name must be also wise. Blind yoga like blind love can be disastrous. When we remember the stress in the Bhagavad Gita on buddhi yoga (unitive understanding) and its reference to karma (action) as a discipline of a very inferior order

(II. 49 ) and openly recommending the higher way of wisdom, the position adopted by the Guru in this matter becomes less equivocal. Taken side-by-side with the fact that every chapter of the Gita is called a ‘yoga’, thus making eighteen different views on yoga, ranging from the levels of necessary action to the high pure ones of self-realization, the nature of the self-discipline acceptable in the context of Advaita Vedanta must become clear to any one.


In the present verse the Guru gives the whole subject a summary treatment. The intellectual side and the physical side that are non-dually implied together in the attainment of wisdom, are brought together as close as could be. The dawn of knowledge is referred to in the language of a personal experience, and what pertains to the opposite or instinctive pole of global emotions is referred to by the example of a perfected man of self-discipline available in the traditional language of Indian thought. The sounds that open the eye of wisdom is an ideogram familiar in India and the recluse of full self-discipline is also a model popularly understood. The main point that we have to notice here is that wisdom gets established not by laboured graded steps, but that it happens when the personal attitude and the intelligence work together to usher in the result. No staircase is needed to ascend to wisdom. The duality between ends and means is abolished. Further, speaking as he must be from his own personal experience, this view has to be given the full credit it deserves as a direct wisdom- teaching of rare value.



Whether taken as an idiom or a personal experience, these words can have only one meaning in the fully contemplative context. The ears have a very special and intermediate position among the senses. The eye is a window of the soul which is meant to look outward rather than inward. Distant noises coming to the ears of a sleeping dog or the cry of a child beside its mother in sleep, enter the subconscious efferently rather than afferently. Sounds and meanings come close together in alternation. The word and the meaning fuse together to become one event in consciousness.  The conceptual and the perceptual come together closest through the ear.


Plato speaks often of the eye of the soul and of the limits of the visible and the intelligible. The circulation of the subtlest of contemplative thinking takes place by a kind of alternating figure-of-eight process within consciousness. When such an alternating process occurs between the poles that are horizontal and vertical at the same time, the resulting event tends to refer to the purest aspects of contemplative life when cultivated properly by self-discipline. The word and its meaning, the ‘logos’ and the ‘nous’ known in ancient Greek philosophy, would meet and merge into one meaning referring to the Absolute, which is the real subject and object of all wisdom.



WITH SELF-CONTROL’: The terms ‘monk’, ‘sage’, ‘seer’ or

‘pontiff’ in any religious or spiritual context refer to a type of

person who is dedicated to a life of spiritual value. In India we have the munis (recluses), the yatis (those of self-control), the parivrajakas (the homeless wanderers) or the swamis (heads or would-be heads of religious institutions) and a large variety of other types.


Here the Guru specially selects the word yati to describe the type of person envisaged in the present context of self-instruction. The yati resembles a sannyasin (one of correct

renunciation) which is one of the four phases or ashramas

normal to a spiritual aspirant wherever he might be. The four ashramas in life according to Sanskrit and other ancient writings in India, are those of brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. The word yati, which we have translated here as ‘sage’ would correspond to the stage of natural sannyasa, not necessarily understood as having philosophical erudition or institutional affiliation.


The first stage, brahmacharya, which applies primarily to

student life, and secondarily is implicit in all the other three stages that remain, indicates the basic attitude involved. ‘One who moves or walks in the path of Brahman (the Absolute)’ would be the etymological connotation of the word brahmachari. The grihastha or householder, who might have wife and children, is still a brahmachari in principle, while in practice he might respect practical necessity incidental to social life to a great extent. The vanaprastha (one who has gone out to the forest) has reached a stage where, while being a brahmachari still, he transcends social obligations. This third stage tends to become eliminated as civic conditions impose themselves more and more severely in modern life. The sannyasi, however, can and should survive if the absolutist way of living is to have a recognized pattern of behaviour at all. In its long history India has been a land of great sannyasis like the Buddha and Sankara. The best of sages here must conform to this last type while retaining in principle the mental, the personal, and the behaviour patterns that would belong to the three other types.


In the context of self-instruction the qualification of perfect self-control gains primacy over all others. The yati here includes in principle the yogi, the guru, the true vedantic pandit or teacher of wisdom - those who practise quietist or active mysticism of all the varieties known to spiritual life generally, including the parama-hamsa or jagad-guru, which are titles given by devoted followers to most-perfected ones in the context of wisdom and self-discipline taken together. The attitude meant here has further to be cultivated without any intermission, as implied in the word ‘daily’.


The unity of this verse and its construction, which brings together the two poles of personal life recommended in the context of self-realization, will become clear when we remember that the Guru himself must have had this form of experience. One must look out for other verses in the present text where the same personal touch will help us to make the meaning clear. The unity of the thought will become clearer by looking at the verse in this way. A constant and perfectly verticalized personal attitude is what is implied.



Suffering-filled, with petals five and tiers two

Rotating beginningless, such a lamp hanging

The Self in shadow form, it burns, with prior habit traits

For oil, and function verily for wick.


HERE we have one of the magnificent global visions of the psycho-physical reality which we often call the soul or more correctly the Self in man.


From the previous verse it is to be understood that the Guru is not here building up the Self in any graded or piecemeal fashion but, as is natural and inevitable with such a subject belonging to the context of the Absolute, plunges into the heart of the problem of the Self by way of a global vision here presented.


A preliminary, experimentally conceived indication of the nature of the Self was given by him in verses 10 and 11. Now its content is more closely viewed. It is compared to a lamp hung from high, as it were, from the regions of the Absolute, which are beyond all definite conception. The chain by which it might be imagined to hang gets lost, as it were, in the high regions of the Platonic Intelligibles. The sensible aspect of the same abstraction is the lamp, conceived not as an object but as an objective or schematic abstraction, with the actual and conceptual aspects coming together under the presiding concept of the Absolute which, by itself, is something about which we can form no definite notion.


The image employed here belongs to a schematic representation of a psychological and philosophical verity pertaining to the Self under the presiding normative notion of the Absolute which, by itself is not, strictly speaking, either a concept or a percept. It is both at the same time. The lamp with two stages or tiers is meant to suggest this ambivalence implied in the Self, correctly treated as an abstraction, as it should be, by the mind which is capable by its mathematical faculty of making degrees of approximation to the purest notion of the Absolute, through an exactly conceived language.  If mathematics can be allowed to say that minus multiplied by minus gives a plus; and plus multiplied by a plus remains a pus; and that one factor being minus the multiplication gives minus always, thus giving two negative and two positive of four possible operations of arithmetic - we can see that some kind of scheme of relations is implied therein. In logic we have the four syllogistic forms which correspond to the same four-fold way of conceiving reality. The mystery of the quaternion was known to the poet Milton who wrote:


‘Ye elements, the eldest birth

Of Nature’s womb, that in quaternion run.’


This four-limbed Self is further known in the context of the well-known Mandukya Upanishad which says that this atman (Self) is chatushpad (four-limbed).


In the language of modern mathematics such terms as ‘the integration of the quaternion’ and the existence of the ‘quaternion units’ come nearest to the kind of schematic imagery of the Absolute here presented by the Guru as a methodological and epistemological abstraction. We cannot go into the merits of this view here. All we have to say here is that this image of a revolving lamp, as an analogy, has implicit in it a correctly conceived scheme of correlation of conceptual and perceptual factors belonging to the psycho-physical self as conceived in the context of a Science of the Absolute. (See later work on this subject) Instead of four limbs, the Guru here contents himself with reference to two of the main ambivalent polarities implied in the concept of the Self. There is the negative or the dark side which is here the shadow. The outline of the lamp is made visible, not by the principle of light but by the principle of darkness. All negation is specificatory. Light being the positive aspect where reason prevails, it cannot have any limiting outlines. All colours and forms become visible to us because pure sunlight is refracted or reflected partially. Even the sensation of light is its effect on the cells of the eye and has nothing to do with pure light as such, which reaches us from the Sun, millions of miles away. Purest light is invisible when absolute, and all that is visible must belong to the shadow side rather than to the side of light. This justifies the statement in the verse that the soul burns in shadow form, which statement, though it appears in the form of paradox, has to be positively understood, by double negation or double assertion dialectically, without contradiction. The psycho-physical implications derived from the main postulate of this verse are contained in the other phrases which we shall presently examine.


‘SUFFERING FILLED’:  The doctrine of human suffering

(dukkha-satya) as found in the vulgarised version of Buddhistic belief, like original sin in Christianity, has perhaps been over-stressed. Apart from such a context, it is possible to see the place of evil, sin or suffering, as characteristic of the necessary aspect of life, as opposed to the contingent.


This initial reference to suffering applies to life when viewed from a pragmatic and ontological here-and-now point of view. Among European philosophers Schopenhauer represents in his writings this attitude commonly attributed to eastern religions and philosophies.


It is true that in the Bacchanalian European context of wine and women there is to the present day evidence of a love of the bright side of life. In India too the Vedic Aryans were also hedonists who drank wine and ate meat. To love the good things of life and participate in them with intelligence and sobriety, never violating the spirit of kindliness for all living beings, would of course be normal. A philosopher, however, who is a realist and is not carried away by the superficial vanity and gaiety that is a thin superficial veneer on life merely, will be able to see that life with its multifarious wants and the need for much labour in connection with them, is one of ‘getting and spending’ and ‘laying waste our powers.’ Adversity has its ‘sweet uses’ in teaching us to seek happiness instead of mere pleasures.


All these considerations have to be recognized and kept in mind when we read here that the Self is filled with suffering. This epithet has to be understood in the way it is meant to be by the Guru in the given context. Life is a joy in the Absolute, but when steeped in the relativistic morass of common human existence the horizontal factors prevail instead of the vertical. At the point of insertion of the two aspects there is a conflict. The eternal problem of ‘to be or not to be’ faces everyone from the moment of birth to the day of death and even beyond, if some sort of survival is visualized, even theoretically. There is no recommendation to be a pessimist for ever in this phrase. It only represents life in its most real, pragmatic and empirical angle where the philosopher is able to recognize the factor of necessity which can mean self-suffering. The content of life is nearer to suffering than to gaiety. A wistful sense of suffering remains as an undertone in life, whatever major notes might be played overtly. The contemplative who starts to understand the nature of the Self has to recognize this substratum on which he could later, through wisdom, build the superstructure of happiness in the Absolute.


‘WITH PETALS FIVEAND TIERS TWO’: The five senses of perception are what are meant. Whether this five-petalled nature is applicable to the two tiers of the lamp or only to the top one, is left vague. The usual division in Vedantic literature is the jnana-indriyas (organs of perception) and the karma-indriyas (organs of action), each referred to separately.


The psycho-physical correlation here adopted is still vague in the light of modern psycho-physical notions of the relation between the mind and the bodily functions corresponding with it. The exact relation of mind with body, whether through interaction, parallelism or both; whether through Cartesian occasionalism, or through the Spinozian ‘thinking substance’ or the Leibnizian ‘monad’, is one that would take us far into subtle discussions which we shall not undertake here. Mind and body do participate on neutral ground, as seen in common experience when a man can bend his arm at will.


The relation depending on the meeting of two ambivalent,

reciprocal and polarized aspects of life, has to be a subtle, vague and indeterminate one - as Heisenberg has recognized with conjugates in physics. There are certain matters where

definitions become impossible, and to recognize them as such is as far as we can go with our intelligence. Intuition has to step in and guide the philosopher from this point onwards. Even when intuition steps in there are laws of dialectical reasoning which have to be respected. Possibility, probability and provability meet and merge in this region of thought. The petals represent the positive side of conscious intelligent perception, while the subconscious counterpart of the same is to be sought in the lower tier mentioned in this same verse.


In strict psycho-physical language the two tiers may be said to be respectively those dependent on efferent and on afferent nervous impulses. Psycho-physics has still to develop a terminology for its use which is neither physical nor mental. Meanwhile, the imagery or schematic picture of a two-storied lamp would be sufficient. (The five petals have also to be compared to the five birds eating five fruits, in verse 8.)


‘ROTATING BEGINNINGLESS...’: Perpetual motion is not

a proper concept of empirical physics, except perhaps in the

context of thermodynamics or the conservation of energy in the universe. Gravitational and electromagnetic theories have attained to the status of physical laws that speak in terms of billions of years. The velocity of light is also treated as a unit. The methodology of physics is at present in the melting-pot. Here in the present phrase, rotation and beginninglessness both belong to the unitive domain of contemplation where physics  meets metaphysics, as it were, on neutral ground. When the mind thinks of a duration that is indefinitely continuous, such a notion is no more quantitative but becomes qualitative. In the latter context eternal motion is epistemologically as valid as very long-enduring motion. Rotating or circular motion consisting of revolutions is natural to celestial bodies, and when translated into conceptual terms can be imagined as applying to the world of the Intelligibles as well as to the sensible world. The circulation of thought as a process covering the inductive and the deductive, the qualitative and the quantitative, or the psychic and the physical, the conceptual or the actual, is a matter which the man of intuition (or uha-poha as Sankara would call it) has to understand by a certain mental awareness, rather than by reasoning. The image of a revolving lamp may have, as its further implication, a bilateral symmetry along two different axes, the vertical and the horizontal. The quaternion that we have referred to above would then become evident. This has to be studied separately, as we have said.  Meanwhile this rotating two-storied lamp image must be understood here with all the secondary implications that accompany it when seen through intuitive imagination.


‘PRIOR HABIT TRAITS ETC.’:  Corresponding to the chain from which the lamp might be said to be suspended from a kind of Platonic world of the Intelligibles, as it were, from above hypostatically, there is the corresponding opposite pole of the soul which refers retrospectively to the past habits and associations which give meaning to percepts through memory or instinctive dispositions.


These vague urges or tendencies are called vasanas or samskaras in Sanskrit. These may have their primary and

secondary causes as the various priores of Aristotelian

philosophy, culminating in the prius nobis, the anterior factor to all perception or even conception.


A series of hierophantic values may be thought of as marking stages in this negatively vertical retrospective series of factors. The Guru here refers to them by comparing them to the oil and the wick of a lamp. The wick is the functional aspect, while the oil is the thinking substance which enters into and feeds consciousness with a continuously flowing set of associations based on interests and instincts which unravel themselves. Bergsonian metaphysics offers to the modern reader a picture almost as good as what the Guru gives here summarily in passing on to his subject proper. (Bergson’s ‘Essay on Consciousness’ and his works on ‘Thought and the Moving’, ‘Matter and Memory’ and the more complete treatise ‘Creative Evolution’ may be considered as containing a fully elaborated modern version of this same image that the Guru is using here to explain the nature of the Self.)


‘FUNCTION VERILY FOR ITS WICK’: The wick of an oil

lamp, when it has fallen into the oil completely, cannot burn

and give proper light. The brightest incandescence results when the liquid fuel gets completely burnt and changed into gas and water most effectively. A sluggishly burning smoky lamp is so because the upward capillary attraction of the wick is weak. As soon as the hot oil reaches the tip of the wick it becomes inflammable and the carbonisation has to be most complete if the best or hottest flame is to result.


These are all true in the analogy drawn here. A dull or

sluggish functioning of the higher centres of the personality tends to make the ascent of the oil weak, and to that extent the lamp becomes inferior. The structure of the psyche in its psycho-physical setting has to be visualized with all these implications. They have to be imagined intuitively before the seeker of self-instruction can make his own person adapt itself progressively to his own self-affiliation to the full light of bright wisdom. At the lower physiological levels, as in the higher psychological ones, it is important that the  normal functions are kept up to keep the machine from degenerating through disuse. Cybernetically the wick represents the basis for both action and retroaction. The way of such functioning without error, socially or personally, is the art of the Yogi. Without entering into the details of how to practise such a two-sided discipline, the Guru indicates schematically the structure of the Self, and stresses the need for a harmonised routine of activity for a sane spiritual life. The inner and outer tendencies have to be kept in the pure vertical light of right functioning. In the next verse he goes on to examine purer and subtler aspects of Self-instruction.



The ‘I’ is not darkness; were it so blind

And unaware of this ‘I’, ‘I’ we should have remained;

Because of such awareness, in order to know

Thus (as such) to one and all declare.


AFTER settling some preliminaries in connection with the

ego or the Self viewed directly in the first person, rather than in the second or the third, following the experimental way in which the existence of the Self was asserted (in verses 10 and 11), the Guru here passes on to its closer examination as in itself or ‘as such’, without reference to anything outside itself.


One transcends here the region of doubt and of probability.

We have here a way of reasoning which is one-hundred percent certain, without detracting, for that reason from the strictly methodological and epistemological validity of the verity that has been asserted.


Although the form of the reasoning here might be thought

by empirical thinkers as conforming to no sort of scientific

reasoning, being open, according to them, to the objections of verbalism, tautology or even solipsism, we have to remember that different forms of reasoning must be considered as suitable to different departments of knowledge or science. Pure and practical reasonings cannot each have the same method. The Cartesian dictum ‘cogito ergo sum’ belongs to the domain of what is called rationalism, while in the experimental sciences we have observation and inference leading to certitude of judgements or propositions. The Guru here adopts axiomatic thinking.


One way of reasoning is as valid as the other, although the exigencies of the domain of reality to which the reasonings

apply may be different. Formal logic and the proofs of mathematics have different grades of validity, but the degree of certitude that they imply could be the same. That we are aware of the presence of the Self in ourselves is here treated as equal to the proof of the existence of the Self or the Soul in an absolute sense in each of us. By asking us to declare this self-evident verity to all, the Guru brings to the discussion an open, public, or scientific character. There is axiomatic public validity for the negative awareness of the self as asserted in the last two lines of this verse.



‘Bottom, top or tip, reality here, there or that’ -

So do conflicts come: Prime Substance is all there is:

The inert here, all change and pass: How could a wave

Apart from the water’s form, another reality have?


THE study of the history of thought or philosophy in any country reveals to us that various trends or tendencies giving

primacy to one or other factor of existence, essence or value

have held the field at certain places or times, to give place to another. In one and the same period in contemporary thought, or even in the same cultural unit, if sufficiently large, we can discover the same differing elements as between schools of philosophy or religious groupings. Empiricists and idealists come into conflict as do Unitarians and Trinitarians, pluralists or nominalists. The possible varieties are endless and there is always bound to be between them an implicit differential as between an ontological or a teleological approach, a practical or a pure way, an existential or an essential standpoint. An ascending dialectical method like that of a Plato will clash totally or partially with the descending dialectical method. A hypostatic value-factor will tend to be discarded in favour of a sacred presence here and now. Phenomenology opposes ‘numenology’.


On the Far-Eastern scene we have pure absolutists who say that what can be named is not the true, and those other

philosophers who put their faith in concrete problems of every-day statesmanship or politics. In India Samkhya philosophers pinned their faith on the aspects which appealed to human reasoning, while others postulated an ultimate and transcendental principle beyond, called Brahman (the Absolute). Even among those who accepted Brahman there were those who gave primacy to the cosmological or the psychological aspect. Theologies, Eastern or Western, have also tended towards the two poles involved in the central value accepted in their particular branch of theology. Pantheism and monotheism tend to be opposed. History is a record of how ideologies have many times and in many lands caused bloodshed on a large or small scale.


The Guru here dismisses these dualistic trends in favour of one central reality as inclusively covering all existences, essences or substances.


‘PRIME SUBSTANCE IS ALL THERE IS’: Conflict between two schools of thought, whatever may be the items, terms, or values, will necessarily be based on giving primacy to one or other of the factors involved. A dualism is implied in all of them. When, however, a philosopher takes care to give primacy to a notion that is not affected by duality, but conceives of it as being central, neutral and prime in an absolute sense, he will be justified in calling it a reality which abolishes all rival realities. It is in this sense that the expression ‘Prime Substance’ is to be understood here. In fact it is no other than the Absolute, though not expressed yet in its fullest and most finalized form.


In the context of Western philosophy we have the controversy between essence and existence. The tendency in

modern philosophy is to discredit the former notion, so dear to the Middle Ages’ scholastic and theological thinkers, in favour of the notion of existence. This might be called an ontological tendency in thought, as against the previous teleological one. We know that pragmatism itself is an attempt to balance and counteract the tendency of pure rationalists to shake off the concept of the Absolute as an airy nothing. Dialectical materialism claims also to balance the ‘spiritualism’ implied in the usual theistic approach. Between these two tendencies, we have the notion of the ‘thinking substance’ of Spinoza, which is an attempt to strike the mean between mind and matter. The ‘neutral monism’ put forward by such modern writers as Bertrand Russell attempts again to find unitive ground between the two opposing or ambivalent tendencies of thought. The Guru here, by his support of the notion of Prime Substance, is only correctly taking the position as belonging to the Advaitic or non-dualistic tradition in the history of Indian thought. We could even go so far as to assert that this notion comes nearest to the idea of the Brahman or the Absolute when fully understood, as it is meant to be, in the context of the Upanishads. Perhaps because of the fact that he is still in the preliminary stages of development of his subject in the present composition, it is true that he uses the expression ‘Prime Substance’ purposely so as not to anticipate prematurely its fuller psychological, cosmological or other philosophical implications, which he is to develop stage by stage, according to his own method, in the rest of the work. The word ‘substance’ here comes closest to the name ‘karu’ that he gives to reality in the very starting verse of this composition.



The distinction between the reality, which is a flux changing

and passing, and the ‘being’ that is independent of becoming,

is fundamental to the Advaita philosophy which the Guru, like Sankara, correctly brings up here for early discussion.


Discrimination between the transient and the lasting (nitya-anitya-viveka) is referred to in the Viveka Chudamani (verse 19) of Sankara as among the primary prerequisites even of a person who aspires to the wisdom of the Absolute (Brahman).


In the Western philosophical context we know of the pre-

Socratic philosopher Heraclitus who said that one could not

enter the same river twice. The philosophy of flux and becoming persists to the present day in Bergson.


On final analysis we find that whether in the East or in the West, philosophers of worth have recognized two aspects of reality, one that endures and one that does not, but both occupying, momentarily together or alternately, an important place in their discussions of reality. Being and becoming have between them a vertical unity and a horizontal contradiction. The Guru here juxtaposes them within the notion of the Absolute or Prime Substance. The relation between the two aspects is at the very core of the Advaitic tradition, which aims at transcending or solving the paradox.


In order to bring home the subtle nature of the problem

implied, the Guru passes on to a rhetorical question.



FORM, ANOTHER REALITY HAVE?’: The Guru takes the classical example in Vedanta of the relation between the water and waves that rise thereon. Waves rise and fall but the water in the ocean, as such, remains as the noumenon behind the phenomena, or as the ‘being’ behind what keeps becoming in the eternal flux of reality. The latter, ‘becoming’, is sometimes named Maya or Samsara in Vedantic literature. Becoming and Being are aspects of the same Prime Substance or the Absolute, when neutrally or centrally understood as the one to which both belong as ambivalent aspects.


The real difference between the physicists’ empirical approach to reality and the metaphysicians’ idealistic approach to the same reality, consists in something like that between the cross-section view of an animal or plant and its own longitudinal section. What we see might have a different appearance and might belong to two totally different epistemological categories or ambivalent aspects. If we should examine a cucumber in cross-section, or view the same longitudinally, it is the same object which is in question.


In a similar way, the specific form of a wave and the generic content of the wave refer to the same water. The difference, when closely scrutinized, amounts to something highly theoretical called the ‘form’ as distinct from the ‘matter’ of the wave - the outer apparent configuration to which the water is subjected. This shape is not matter, but is a conditioning of our minds. ‘Wave’ as a name and ‘wave’ as a form refer to the same substance that is Absolute.


Matter and form, however, meet both as abstractions with reference to the water which is the object of our study. The abstract notion of the water as a reality, universally understood, meets the geometrical notion of the form of the water, and both together produce in us a notion that is neither generic nor specific, but which constitutes the neutral link between the water of the ocean and the specific wave with its form.


In all this process of understanding, nothing new has entered into our understanding. The meeting-point of the form of the wave and the matter of the wave gives us the notion of water which is common to the ocean and the particular wave that we might be thinking of. There is a dialectical interplay implied here which leads to the unitive understanding of water as a neutral entity between the ocean and the wave. Horizontally viewed, we have innumerable waves on the ocean’s surface; and vertically viewed, there is the same differenceless water, whether called ocean or wave. It is in this sense that the rhetorical question that is put by the Guru here should be understood and answered. The Guru does not yet enter into the problem of unitive understanding as such, but suggests that there could not be a third factor other than the wave or the ocean that could be involved in this central neutral notion which has its place between the two poles into which reality itself could be divided phenomenally rather than noumenally.


It will suffice for us, at the present stage of our discussion of Self-knowledge as it is to be understood in the context of the Absolute, to concede that in the notion of Absolute Reality there is no extraneous third factor involved, other than the two ambivalent aspects into which the Absolute itself tends to be divided through the refraction that our own mind produces. A transparency to dualistic refraction is what is to be cultivated in the philosophy which is being presented here by the Guru.



Another reality this world has none; contrary assertions

Made in this world, understanding all do lack;

Though an ignorant person could mistake it for a reptile.

Could a flower-garland, beneficial, ever a snake become?


THE tri-basic epistemological principle called ‘triputi’ in Advaita Vedanta has three distinct aspects: the ‘knower’ aspect of reality, the known or ‘objective’ aspect, and the central ‘meaning’ aspect which is knowledge. The last is the conceptual which is reducible to one or the other of the remaining two.


The meaning is inseparable from the world it belongs to,

and should not be thought of as a third reality, although in technical epistemological terminology, it is given a name

as representing knowledge.


When philosophers tend to make the idea a hypostatic reality through ascending dialectics, as in Platonic philosophy; or when they give to prime matter a status that tends to be a hierophantic presence here below, to be reached by descending dialectics; or even when they give to a percept a different status from the concept to which it belongs - they are arbitrarily putting philosophical abstractions into fresh compartments and treating them as if they were independent realities on their own.


A rose can smell as good without its conceptual aspect, and conversely, the idea of a rose need not necessarily exclude its odour. The neutral concept of the rose could combine the

two ambivalent polarities that might be seen as one having

primacy over the other by rival philosophers. As has already

been alluded to in the previous verse, there is an error, which is natural in this world, of treating dualistically, instead of treating unitively, factors that belong together.


‘UNDERSTANDING ALL DO LACK’:  In his Viveka-Chudamani (verse 16) Sankara refers to a faculty called uha-apoha, which corresponds to what Bergson and also Descartes would call intuition. This is the faculty that resolves paradoxes, as in the dialectics of Parmenides. In the same way, Advaita philosophy abolishes duality and merges difference into the sameness of the neutral Absolute.


Most schools of philosophy, insofar as they do not consciously adopt this unitive or dialectical approach to wisdom, fall short of the requirement of a philosophy which is well founded, with a methodology and epistemology of its own. As mathematics has its axioms and postulates, the philosophy of the Science of the Absolute has its particularity of methodological approach. Atma-vidya or the Science of the Self is an open book only to those who have the gift of intuition, as stated by Sankara in the above verse. The generalization made here about other philosophers of the world is justified in this sense.


‘COULD A FLOWER-GARLAND, BENEFICIAL, EVER SNAKE BECOME?’: The example of the rope that is seen in obscurity to be a snake, by an ignorant or cowardly person whose intelligence is not properly directed to the search of truth, is an age-old and somewhat hackneyed example known to Vedantic literature. This very example is here used by the Guru with purposeful modifications, to bring out the unity of value underlying the duality tacitly implied in the classical example.


We have to imagine a man who is not quite mentally alert or awake enough to realities, especially to values, as he ought to be. He sees a broken flower-garland in a badly-lit part of his house. He takes it to be a snake because of his conditioning to fear snakes. The rope in the classical example is an article that has no practical utility. Truth is compared to this kind of valueless object. Appearance is also on the other hand exaggerated as a dangerous snake. Between truth and falsehood, or rather reality and appearance, there is thus admitted in the comparisons corresponding to each of them, a polarity or contrast which tends to be dualistically conceived, even when both are thought of in terms of pure value. As a matter of fact, what is true in everyday life has at the same time a beneficial utilitarian or cultural value. Likewise, if we think of the transcendental aspect of life, which is the ambivalent counterpart of the utilitarian, even in this pure or ideological sense, truth is a beneficial value. The classical, abstract and academic example of the rope and the snake fails to look at the natural ambivalent factors of cognition and conation in terms of value, in which emotion enters as a detrimental factor against giving it unitive interest or value.


The substitution of a sweet-smelling flower-garland, and carefully qualifying it as beneficial, is meant to draw attention to the fact that, viewed from the standpoint of human values, the unitive link between reality and its mental, hypostatic aspect, stands revealed together in greater unitive relief. In the classical example it would seem that truth is valueless, while appearance is fraught with fear. Both tend to be negative in value. In either case the interest of man in truth is not considered important enough. In the revised version of the classical example given here, the value of truth, even in its existential aspect, is stressed; while the error of the fearful snake is mitigated by reference to it as a reptile that dwells in its burrow, not necessarily harmful, and valuable idealistically in its own way. A flower-garland represents a spiritual value instilling neither fear nor favour but fully significant to human life as a leaven.


These are fine touches of revaluation in keeping with the philosophy of the Guru, which are to be kept in mind in the study of axiology that the Guru wishes to introduce into the discussion more correctly than hitherto. In the work of the Guru entitled Advaita Dipika (Light of Non-dualism) verse 11, this becomes quite evident.



A certain kind is dear, that is dear to me; what is one’s own desire

And what is to another, so variously thus puzzlement prevails

Round each object of desire: what to oneself is dear

That verily know to be another’s desire also.


THIS verse has to be read with the next one, which together complete the plus and minus aspects of the same unitive thought. In this verse it is the negative aspect of complication which is touched upon, while in the next the positively dialectical resolution is brought into evidence.


Life expresses itself through attractions and repulsions, likes or dislikes, preferences or rejections, strong or weak.

When we come to examine the different kinds of interests or value-appreciations that human beings generally are capable of having, we can think of them in four different kinds of combinations.

There is:


1) the self that relates itself to outside objects or

2) to a certain specific quality outside itself, as when we say,

‘I like a rose’, or ‘ I like beauty’.

3) When we say ‘this is my preference’ we have a personal

and subjectively directed movement of interest.

As against this self-directed kind of interest there are

4) interests which have their accent on the opposite pole of the non-self.


In all four cases we have the field or seeds of confusion, puzzlement, or discontent. In fact all mental troubles may be said to have their origin in such possible confusions.


The verse ends with a generalized axiomatic statement which could be said to enunciate the basis for all ethics of right or morally correct conduct. How morality stems out of philosophical considerations is a question that has often puzzled thinkers and writers. In such a context one often hears of a voice within called conscience or the will of God. The categorical imperative of the philosopher Kant corresponds to the same moral or ethical principle innately present in man. In the context of the Bhagavad Gita we have the notion of the sameness (samya) that the yogi should see with all beings because of their being analogous with the self that is within each of us. Modern phenomenology, axiology (the science of values), and eudaimonology (eu- = happiness or well-being, daimon = spirit; the science of well-being) adopt the same method of putting together subjective and objective value factors to harmonise inner and outer life. Equating somehow the Self with the non-Self so as to arrive at unitive or non-conflicting interests, is the method that underlies this way of solving the question of morals.


After having systematically laid the foundations required epistemologically (i.e., in the science of the ways of knowing) and methodologically (i.e., in the science of means and disciplines) for a discussion of ethical values, the Guru here devotes the next few verses to the basic considerations of a morality that he intends to be broad-based on a proper philosophy.


This work is not meant to be a code of ethics and is to be kept free from degenerating into a mere ‘dharma sastra’ (textbook on right conduct) or ‘smriti’ (remembered application of heard wisdom) which would belong more to the side of action rather than to understanding. The present work is devoted mainly to Self-realization and should be free from the social and obligatory aspects of morality. Therefore the author contents himself with broad generalisations which have more of a wisdom-interest than one of obligatory social action. (A regular Narayana Smriti has been compiled by some of his disciples at the instance of the Guru.)


‘WHAT TO ONESELF IS DEAR, ETC.’: The axiomatic conclusion of the verse merely draws attention to the philosophical verity that there is no fundamental difference between the desires, appetites or aspirations of one man and another. All persons need food, sleep, waking activities or companionship, involving many individual items of interest. Whether it be man, woman or child, a civilised or a primitive human’s needs have a basic uniformity of character. Although, considered in detail, tastes might differ, basic satisfactions depend on items that are alike. A wheat-eater and a rice-eater are both consumers of cereals. Looked at in this way, the basic axiom of good conduct reduces itself to one law: namely, one is right when one’s own taste accords with what is truly human, or conversely, to choose what one should rightfully prefer in life, one should be guided by what would be conducive to the happiness of humanity in general.



The other man’s interest, that is even mine; what to oneself

Is beneficial is so for the other man also; such is the course of

Discrete conduct; all acts aiming each man’s Self-happiness

Must spell at once the happiness of the other fellow-man.


AS we have said, this verse completes and resolves the complication referred to in the previous verse. The Guru takes particular pleasure in playing on the strings the same note or melody. By this he only wishes to underline the law of human relations and conduct which is here enunciated in keeping with the correct dialectical approach.


Desires can come into conflict when treated unilaterally and horizontally, but are resolved into the harmony of unity when both the counterparts of the relational situation are brought together through correct Self-knowledge.


This way of confronting the problem of evil which otherwise puzzles theologians and philosophers equally, is the prerogative of the dialectical, as against the merely rational approach. Steeped in scientific or unilateral rationalism, modern philosophers in the West have forfeited their more ancient heritage of wisdom. In what has been called the ‘Nichomachean Ethics’ of Aristotle (named after Nichomachus, the classical philosopher of Greece), the West had the beginnings of this way of looking at moral problems. Rationalism, as with Voltaire, found no explanation for evil, and suggested no remedy that took man beyond good and evil. Theologies retained a God who could punish and excuse sin and thus help man to transcend evil, but the roots of theology in the reasoning faculty of man were overcovered by myth or by pseudo-science. The identification of one’s own best interest with that of one’s neighbour, who, in principle, represents one’s own dialectical counterpart among human beings with whom one comes into daily relationship, is the secret and time-honoured way  of peace on earth and good-will to all mankind, which is the philosophical basis of human ethics as directly derived from wisdom through Self-realization. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Man contain the same ethical law.


The equation of the Self and the non-Self which is the essence of dialectical wisdom, implicit in the ethics presented in this and in the previous verse, has its philosophical echo in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter VI, verses 5 and 6:


‘By the Self the Self must be upheld; the Self should not be let down; the Self indeed is (its own) dear relative; the Self indeed is the enemy of the Self.’


‘The Self is dear to one (possessed) of Self, by whom even the Self by the Self has been won, for one not (possessed) of Self, the Self would be in conflict with the very Self, as if an enemy.’


Here two sets of selves are juxtaposed unitively without conflict and also put together horizontally with conflict entering into their relations. The ambivalent aspects of the same Self can be conceived unitively or dualistically, the former resolving conflict and the latter accentuating it.




OTHER FELLOW-MAN:  These words from the latter half of the verse have an apodictic finality of form, and enunciate correctly and succinctly the whole foundation of the ethics on which the Guru’s idea of human relations are based. The law of all morality is stated here in unequivocal terms. This law is conceived strictly according to the Science of the Absolute, whose method is dialectical and not merely rational. It should be noticed here that the ends and means of morality and the subjective and the objective aspects of it are brought together in a way which is in keeping with the Science of the Absolute. The personal and moral factors or elements involved have to be submitted to a dialectically-valid operation to yield correct results.


One classical example of making wrong use of dialectical reasoning is contained in the Bhagavad Gita (II.5) where Arjuna shows himself as a person capable of dialectics but, as when a telescope is turned the wrong way, the certitude that he arrives at becomes vitiated by a certain negativism whose fallacy requires a master dialectician like Krishna, the Guru of the Gita, to put into relief in the chapters that follow this verse. We should not linger over the subtleties involved here for fear of a long digression.


The use of dialectics is for double affirmation, as double negation cancels each negation by its positive and unitive import of a highly imaginary order. When we say, for example, ‘darkness has no existence apart from light’, the double negation of darkness involved in its denial in absolute terms, brings into being an absolute notion of light in a double sense. This verity is implied already in grammar and in mathematics where dialectics is tacitly recognized. The good of man must be understood as belonging to the context of the Absolute; and what is good for humanity and what is good for the individual, both subjectively and objectively understood, must all point to the absolute human value representing the good of each and all at once. No act can be considered ethically valid if it is only of partial application.


It is often thought that religion and ethics depend on the person concerned and are therefore relative to the individual. This is not the way to look at truth. It has to be from both its aspects of self and non-self. Correctly speaking, morality, though personal, cannot afford to connive at error in the furthermost corner of the world. Each man is his brother’s keeper. One man unjustly treated anywhere in the world calls for retribution from the whole of humanity with one voice. It is in this sense that slavery is immoral, and that a mere mechanical equality is not desirable either. The dialectics of the one and the many involved here has to be kept in mind if the full implication of this law enunciated here is to be understood in the spirit intended by the author.



For the sake of fellow-man, unceasing, day and night

Unstinting strives the kindly man;

The niggard lying prone, what frustration’s toil undertakes,

That is for his own sake alone.


AFTER laying down the subtle dialectical law of ethics in which the counterparts of interest as between oneself and a fellow-human who is ‘no other’ than oneself, judged by the common human interest that binds them both in the two verses preceding the present one, the Guru here passes on to point out how static, self-centred striving, egocentrically carried on, finishes up in vain frustrations, eliminating in the process both the general good and the good for oneself.


These last two aspects of taking and giving, when correctly viewed in the light of dialectical ethics, hang together. Closed ethics ends in the desert sands of exclusive isolation; while the open and inclusive way, which rises from the particular to the universal in a dynamism implied in all things that develop and grow, gives life more abundance and makes life generally better for oneself and for all others. Moreover, selfish toil involves a great deal of energy which paradoxically defeats its own purpose. Niggardliness means lack of the open and bold generosity which widens the circle of a man’s opportunities. The ungenerous man closes the bars against himself.


Here the Guru clearly enunciates the basis of ethical conduct, not in terms of a categorical imperative or an inner compulsion, nor merely in the name of the specifically human element in man, but based on a dialectical formula as between oneself and one’s own counterpart in the world of human relations. Many of the ordinary theories of unilaterally-conceived ethics are here bypassed by the Guru in favour of an approach more in keeping with the non-duality which is the basis of the whole philosophy of self-knowledge as understood in this composition.


This verse teaches the same principle as the dictum ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’; only the dialectical bipolarity is more explicit and the unworkability of one-sided interest in the Self more categorically denounced.



What here we view as this man or that

Reflection reveals to be the Self’s prime form;

That conduct adopted for one’s Self-happiness

Another’s happiness must also secure at once.


THE principle viewed above from the social and ethical standpoint is here restated in terms of Self-knowledge. The duality that is apparent between the interests of two individuals can be viewed unitively as referring to the self-same central or neutral Self conceived in the context of the Absolute.


The Bhagavad Gita (V1.32) alludes to this way of establishing ‘sameness’ (samam) between the Self and the Cosmos. It is not according to the ordinary laws of thought, which admit of contradiction and an excluded middle that this kind of unitive vision of the Self, which is all-embracing, is to be established.


The equation of the Self and the non-Self, has implicit in it

the dialectical method known to ancient wisdom the world over, but overcovered and lost in later philosophies. Remnants of it are to be found in different degrees of rationalized versions in Kant,

Hegel and Fichte. Modern phenomenology has this way of thinking implied in it.


Looking at the verse in a common-sense way, we could derive the simpler principle of human equality from it. When the poet Burns writes ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’, the principle of equality which is at the basis of Western civilization and variously named democracy, socialism or communism is implicit, in spite of the closed interpretations or forms that interested political bodies might have given to it. Perhaps only exponential differences of degree or intensity might distinguish them. Treating thy neighbour as thyself implies the equation of the Self with the non-Self.



What spells benefit to one, while to another distress brings,

Such conduct is one that violates the Self; beware!

That spark of pain intense to another given

Into inferno’s ocean it falls, there to burn its flames.


FURTHER implications of the same subtle reciprocity of the Self and the non-Self are here unitively developed from

the negative side. Like the quality of mercy, kindness has to be conceived as a double blessing, and its absence as a double disaster. The non-dual way is the only escape when conflicting interests develop in a given situation due to unilateral action. Favouritism is a form of duality, to whichever the side the favouritism might be applied. What is evil is the duality implicit in the unilateral interest that is taken.


Ethics is not to be conceived as depending on the conduct of a good man taken by himself, it is to be understood as a double-edged situation cutting both ways. It has to be conceived not as a lame or one-sided affair, but as a process in which donor and beneficiary belong to a unitive and universal context. Violation of the unitive self-hood on the one side is equated here with its dialectical counterpart of a general fire of inferno for which the spark of pain given to a single individual could be the partial stimulus to create a wholesale reaction. Just as intense pain in the tip of one’s toe would suffice to upset the balance of the whole person in suffering, so the subtle reciprocity implied here, when the slightest discrimination is made between favourites or enemies, brings unforeseen quantitative or qualitative effects. Consequences flare up into a general conflagration. The sum-total of human suffering consists of small sparks of partiality shown by men somewhere or other at one time or another. The general cause of war should be thought of in this way. Like one spark setting fire to the neighbouring faggot, the continuity of the process of evil effects is to be imagined as operating ceaselessly in the world of human relations. Clashes of clan with clan, time-old feuds, racial, national or other rivalries, and preferential pacts, all work together to keep the flames of inferno constantly fed with fuel and burning incessantly.


When the dualistic attitude has once been abolished and generosity spreads evenly like sunlight on all human beings without distinction, even on the publican and the sinner - that kind of generosity belongs to the context of the absolutist way of life, and is one that, in the context of Self-realisation, is very important to keep in mind. The Self can itself become the worst enemy of the Self. This has been brought out with the full force of delicate dialectics in the Bhagavad Gita (VI.6).



All limbs suppressing and standing as a bolt

The limb-owner mere vapour enshrouds within;

‘This’ man he takes different from ‘that’ therefore

Owing to the weakness of unwisdom alone.


PETER may be said to be different from Paul, but for one primarily interested in the religious value they represent, there is no substantial or essential difference between them. Even in a more matter-of-fact scientific sense a man might have a fingerprint that is different from another, but his personality might be fundamentally the same as that of any other human being.


However, in the context of contemplation or wisdom, this kind of difference has no importance at all. All are made in the image of God, as the saying goes. What we call the soul within the body of man is a neutral and impersonal entity at its very core, although it might carry peripherally, as accretions, all sorts of impressions or conditionings which are incidental to the life of any individual.


The modern democratic idea of the equality of man recognizes this verity sufficiently. It is not necessary in our time, therefore, to insist on this aspect of the impersonal equality of all beings. All individuality or difference of detail belongs to the extraneous world of actions and reactions which do not touch the deep-seated self in man, just as the winds and the waves leave unaffected the deep waters at the bottom of the ocean. Wisdom is concerned primarily and solely with the pure and absolute content of the individual. Contemplation takes place best in dark-room conditions when the sense-impressions which make for differences and multiplicity are effectively effaced.


The Guru here compares the residual core of the unconditioned Self to mere vapour which is enveloped, as it were, by an outer covering or veil whose tissue or stuff is none other than ignorance. As the Gita puts it very directly, ‘Wisdom is enveloped by unwisdom; therefore beings are deluded’ (V. 15). Characterlessness is to be treated as an attribute of the pure or absolute Self, although in ordinary life, to call a person ‘characterless’ might be considered derogatory. In an ordinary textbook of ethics it might be more correct to ask a person to try and add some character to his personality. This contemplative text, as we have said, is not to be taken as an ethical code. Its only aim is to throw light on the absolute Self, and it is thus proper, therefore, that the Self here should be described as having no mark, even of individuality. The pure unconditioned Self tallies with the notion of the Absolute, which can be said to be existing and non-existing at the same time. The existential side of the Self here is compared to an upright bolt and the conceptual Self which is a phenomenological event in the mind is compared to the vapour of empty characterlessness. Both together abolish individual specificity, which is a myth to be abolished.


There is here reference to the limbs which are aspects of the physical personality or individuality. The ‘limb-owner’ may be said to be a psycho-physical entity as seen from this side of reality, from which as common human beings, we envisage reality. The physical body, which has limbs, has some agent or owner within which is able to order the limbs at its will. Whether that is the same as the absolute Self or not is not a question that should arise, because this relative Self is only a postulate used to affirm the Absolute. Finally, the non-dual Self is what is to be taken as real. Various suppositions have to precede the conviction. As we press towards this culminating notion in which the Self is compared to an airy nothing or vaporous something, we have to pass through an intermediate notion of the ‘personality’ or universal individual phenotype which is here compared to a bolt that stands upright or erect in perfect vertical poise. As a tree is supported by a stem, the limbs of man are held up by a principle which supports them, keeps them straight or erect and gives unity and coherence to the parts of the integrated whole. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because it belongs to a unitive order by itself.


Even such a notion of a unitive Self could further be resolved into an entity that has no tangible content and which could be called a void as well as intensely material stuff. As in the case of pure space it could be thought of as highly unyielding as well as letting all things live and move within its flexibility. These contradictions are apparent and should not be taken seriously by one who knows the double-sided approach to axiomatic truth, which can use the a priori and the a posteriori together without contradiction. Self and the Absolute are one and the same, both perceptually and conceptually. (See for clarification our later work.)


The latter half of this verse lays down the dictum that it is foolish to discriminate between man and man. Equality is perhaps the highest contribution of modern civilization, and this notion is reiterated here and related to its proper context of non-dual philosophy. This philosophy thus becomes suited to the aspirations of all mankind treated as one.



What in darkness remains aware, the Self indeed that is;

And knowledge that which as name and form,

As senses with inner-organ, as actor and action,

Looms here as everything, like great Indra’s magic, lo!


WE have to recollect here the main thread of the composition left off at verse 10 for a digression in which aspects of the ego or Self with its ethical implications were examined from the wisdom-angle in passing, without, as we have pointed out, laying down any actual code of conduct. The main thread of the wisdom-teaching is now continued by the Guru, as is the definition of the Self or the soul, which has been the subject of so much metaphysical speculation, without proper scientific or apodictic finality in the discussion, as in the case of hair-splitting Scholastic Philosophy in the West and vain Vedantic logic-chopping in India.


Here we have a scientific definition of the same Self, soul or atman finalized and presented apodictically and with experimental precision. We are asked to recapitulate the situation outlined in verse 10, and to observe introspectively the nature of the residue called the Self when outward objective-sense impressions are effectively eliminated from what the Self should properly mean in a contemplative context. Here thus we arrive at perhaps the shortest definition of the Self in all metaphysical literature. This is accomplished by the experimental procedure of science.


Vedantic method consists of first dividing the knower from knowledge. The ‘subject-matter’ of philosophy and the ‘object-matter’ of philosophy should not be promiscuously mixed up. This would result in a grave initial error in the search for wisdom about the Self or the Absolute, which cannot be properly mended when allowed to complicate further thinking. Knower, knowledge and known have first to be distinguished properly before scientific Self-realization can result without violating rules and norms of methodology and epistemology.


It is for this reason that the Guru insists here in this verse on drawing clearly the line dividing knowledge from the Self. When the knower has been demarcated properly, it will be possible to make distinguishable the further subdivision between what is known and neutral knowledge intimately connected with the central Self. The extreme multiplicity resulting from the ramifications of objective cognition is alluded to as a magical wonder because of its endlessness and variety. Mahendra is the chief of the gods of the Hindu Olympus or svarga, and all that is specialized and good in the Platonic sense is supposed to belong to the hypostatic world to which great Indra, the leader of the celestial beings, himself belongs. The specialized aspect of reality is also sometimes referred to as visesha and the glory of Vishnu belongs to this aspect of the Absolute. The flowery ivory-tower luxury of Vedism is another example of this same aspect of the Absolute.


All this glory of specialisation and wonder has its simple origin in the Self, which has been compared in the previous verse to mere vapour. Between the pure vaporous Self at the core and its multiple manifestations, we have to think of various levels of illusion or appearance, from the most abstract limit peripherally, to the most concrete manifestation centrally, which is still an appearance only.


Name and form are the first mental elements that emerge from the nothingness of the central and neutral Absolute Self at the core of our being. Being seems to be subjected to phenomenal becoming, but there is no real change in the evolutionary sense here. All is abstraction and magical illusion through grades of ignorance, thick or thin. The rainbow colours have no material basis in the blue sky.

These are mere effects or optical illusions as known to science. This kind of illusion is the most basic, perhaps, but all other appearances also belong to the same order, with differences of degree of ignorance involved.


After name and form, which condition the pure Self at the core of our being, which is one and undivided, come other conditioning factors in graded order. Next mentioned are the senses, which appraise solidity or sound and other sense-impressions, and fuse them together into what is named here as the ‘inner organ’, which is a kind of  organon as Aristotle would call it, with which, as instrument, we are able to measure all things. The Sanskrit word karana is an instrument of understanding, which latter is a kind of event in consciousness culminating in more overt action-and-actor sense, which may be said to have its inception in this inner organ.



Bereft of bottom as of top, from bottom to the crest

What transparent awareness has, that is turiya- consciousness;

The inert no knowledge has: what it cogitating tells

From in between, is no knowledge at all, do mark!


THERE are two aspects of consciousness within, as given to the contemplative vision. They are to be understood as dependent and independent; as the physical and the psychic or the psycho-physical aspects functioning simultaneously. One has a transparency and clarity, filling the whole of being as from within, without any remainder, spreading from our consciousness of the soles of the feet to the top of the head.


The other kind of awareness is not total, and like the reflex-action in the muscles connecting them with the central nervous system, functions transversely, hesitating and using halting syllogistic reasonings which are only probable and indirect in their nature and weak in their degree of certitude.


On the other hand, single or partial stimulus is translated into total responses by the transparent consciousness. This latter is to be recognized as the ‘turiya’ consciousness as opposed to the consciousness dependent on the physiological aspect, which is here called inert, and which, by its very nature, is against the notion that life’s totality represents. The vertical axis is the dynamic, and the peripheral bodily responses are static. These two antinomian aspects make up the whole of the consciousness as the interlocking psycho-physical factors, both dependent and independent of each other, and what is more, the physical has an inhibitory effect on the other. Between them, they could represent knowledge and nescience.


The Guru here leaves out of account the usual classification of consciousness into four as in the Mandukya Upanishad:


jagrat = the waking,

svapna = the dreaming,

sushupti = the sleeping,

and turiya = the ‘fourth’.


In the Guru’s Darsana Mala, as in the Mandukya Upanishad, the fuller description is given. Here, conforming to the necessities of the context, the Guru selects only the ‘jagrat’ and the ‘turiya’ (the clear inner all-pervading consciousness) for the sake of contrast. The intermediate ones of the four ‘limbs’ are implied in the two others selected for mention here. The omitted limbs refer to the dream-world and that of deep or dreamless sleep.


The definite reference to the limits of foot and head here is not to be understood in a mere physiological sense but in a neutral psycho-physical sense. As in space understood as a reality here and now in modern physics, the reference to bodily limits gives to the Absolute Awareness of ‘turiya’ a fully real status as a concrete universal entity.



The mind-blossom plucking, who offers to the Great Master,

No need has he, other works to perform;

Else, let him pluck blossom wild, and if none is there,

The Maya spell let him repeat; the Maya goes.


A SERIES of intermediate forms of meditative self-discipline are passed in quick review here so that the Guru could pass on to subjects of more seriously contemplative import. There is the constant question put by spiritual aspirants about the regimes or disciplines to get rid of error and arrive at wisdom. The Gita refers to them as sacrifice, after the model of the fire-sacrifice. Here the Guru adopts the analogy of the idol-worship of South Indian temples where, instead of graded sacrifices leading up to the culminating wisdom sacrifice, there is the flower-offering. The flowers represent the blossomings of the mind which are impediments to real wisdom. The mind is defined by Sankara as the seat of representative functionings (samkalpa) and wrong resolves (vikalpa). The mind-functionings have to be sublimated from the lower to the higher levels by graded self-disciplines, before wisdom could abolish the possibility of errors of judgement in respect of values or realities that affect our lives by their attractions and repulsions. This constant conflict of interests, in which we are caught each moment of our lives, has to be made fluid and flexible in the light of higher contemplative wisdom. When the possibility of error weakens, wisdom prevails more and more. Ritualistic requirements for self-discipline can be overlooked in such a case.


The reference to flower-gathering (or rather plucking with some effort) is an inner event corresponding to an outer one, beginning with the first degree of self-discipline. We have to imagine an aspirant who, as may be usually expected in South India, is going in the morning to the temple in the city where he lives, to offer flowers gathered from his garden; perhaps, if he is one who happens to have arrived at his third stage of self-discipline, in which he has already left behind his home in favour of a forest habitation, then he cannot have garden flowers, but must content himself with wild flowers. The more removed he is from society, the less available become the garden flowers. He might, so that he could avoid the crowded competitive world altogether, prefer to live at a seaside or in a desert where even flowers that are wild may not be available. In proportion to his aloofness the need for ritualistic or necessary action weakens, and finally he comes to a stage when the mere mental exercise of repeating words of wisdom-content would have the effect of conquering the forces of illusion.



The inert, no awareness it can have; awareness no thinking needs,

Nor does it any discourse hold; knowing awareness to be all,

And then renouncing, transparency of spirit gaining

In body-bounds confined, he suffers nevermore, indeed!


THIS verse closes another section by marking out a stage in self-realization. The transcending of the vestiges of the physical and the heavily material aspect of consciousness, which is referred to generically as the inert, is the subject-matter of this verse. The renunciation is in favour of what is not bodily but what belongs to pure reason, to which the higher consciousness by its very constitution, directs its attention. We should not mix up cogitative thinking, or even discoursing, with this higher affiliation to wisdom which is preferable when it is silent and wholehearted. Rival interests do not enter into such a verticalized affiliation of the true contemplative. Knowledge must help to gain more knowledge and then arrive at the term of knowledge where one becomes aware of the absolute status of knowledge. A transparency of spirit comes which has other attendant states of mind like peace, calmness, etc. enumerated in the Gita (XVII. 16).


The reference to release from bodily bonds belongs to the idiom of the soil of India, where the ‘mortal coil’, as in Latin or Greek thought, is an evil to be cast away. This way of speaking about spirituality is not very modern but it is natural and time-honoured. Even in the modern sense, however, it could be understood without any of its vulgarised connotations. The physical and the psycho-physical are two ways of viewing our consciousness. The former leads to bondage while the latter leads to release. The contemplative way is one which begins by taking a unitive and neutral position as between the body and the mind.



Without prior experience, inference there is none,

The agent of overt expression not being experienced

By the senses, the presence of such

By inference cannot be known: do mark.


DEDUCTIVE inference is knowledge that follows experience by the senses. Such an inference is called a posteriori in philosophical terminology. Some philosophers in the West have given importance to another kind called inductive inference which corresponds more to the a priori, where the experience comes after the process of thinking has taken place.


The visible world is an expression of a function or event in consciousness or underlying phenomena. The mind is neither inside us nor outside, but mind and matter refer to consciousness phenomenologically. Understood in this manner, rather than as empirical facts existing in outer space alone, we have to recognise two kinds of inference, one that is a priori and the other that is a posteriori.


The Guru here makes pointed reference to the latter kind of a posteriori inference, which is technically called ‘anumiti’ in Sanskrit logic or Tarka Sastra. The correct term for inductive inference is ‘anumana’ which would correspond to the movement of thought from the particular to the general.


These two movements in thinking are important to distinguish if we have to arrive at fundamental philosophical verities such as the ‘thing-in-itself’ to which Kant refers. The phenomenal world has as its substratum or basis the world of the entelechies which Aristotle refers to, from which, as latent potentialities of phenomenal expressions, whether mental, material or both, the manifested world becomes or takes being.


‘Dharmi’ and ‘dharma’ are the two simple Sanskrit words used by Guru to distinguish the two aspects respectively of impression or innate potentiality, and overt expression or manifestation of the same absolute reality implicit in them both. The Sanskrit root ‘dhri’ (to bear or support) is at the basis of the two terms, and the ‘dharma’, when overt, may be said to be the horizontalized version of ‘dharmi’, the potential agent, which is innate. Spinoza’s terminology might refer to these two aspects as the ‘natura naturans’ and the ‘natura naturata’ respectively. Whatever the technical terms that different philosophies might employ, the distinction is between two kinds of thinking in making inferences; one which has sense-experience as an anterior condition, and another which is independent of sense-experience but still carries with it a high degree of conviction.


It is true that empirical science gives primacy to the phenomenal aspects of reality, although scientific method, as is generally admitted now, is largely based on the inductive reasoning which may properly be said to belong to the theoretical or metaphysical kind of reasoning. The Guru is here particular to caution the seeker of Self-knowledge about the limitations of the a posteriori form of reasoning. If one wants to be a philosopher one has to change the method of reasoning from the a posteriori to the a priori. The very first ‘sutra’ (aphorism) of the Brahma-Sutras (Aphorisms of the Absolute) insists on this recognition of the a priori approach when it states that Brahman (the Absolute) is to be proved not ontologically but by appeal to the a priori; for, as it puts it, if Brahman were not true all the sastras (texts) would refer to nothing significant at all, which would be absurd to suppose. ‘Sastra-yonitvat’ and ‘tattu samanvayat’, which are the third and fourth of the sutras, insist on the importance of the a priori approach so inevitable as the basis of all metaphysical or philosophical thinking. A complete science of the Absolute must give its proper place to both of these.



It is not the inner agent but the expression

That we know; since the said agent of expression remains unseen,

Do remember the earth and all else is naught:

While the supporting outline of awareness is all there is.


THE type of reasoning adopted in this verse is called the ‘sad-karana-vada’, i.e., the way of reasoning that gives primacy to the cause and not to the effect. Philosophy may be said to be the research of basic verities as opposed to knowledge based on mere appearances. If we should give primacy to the effect rather than the cause, the chain of effects with their future possibilities would lead us to the specific multiplicities of phenomenal life till philosophizing itself would have endless multiplicity to pin its faith on, which would be impossible and absurd. The research for reality is for some firmer basis, and thus proceeds from effects to causes rather than inversely. The multiple effects have no philosophical status as reality at all, and are thus here referred to as consisting of nothingness, or of no significance.


The supporting outline of awareness is the resultant of the meeting of the two movements in consciousness referred to in the previous verse. A priori knowledge has to be understood in terms of the a posteriori aspect of the same event in consciousness considered without psychic or physical prejudice, as it were, neutrally. The outline is the geometrical notion of a point that occupies no space, or a line that is meant to represent length only and have no breadth implied in it. On final analysis it is a result of consciousness, wherein various pure events could take place. The stuff of the events is neither mental nor material but belongs to that unitive ‘stuff’ which has to be distinguished as above duality and thus belonging to the absolutist order.


When we say that a table is two feet by three feet by two and-a-half feet, the complete significant notion that results is the resultant of the meeting in the consciousness of two different sets of reasonings which are of the two broad divisions referred to above. ‘Two plus two equals four’ is pure reasoning, and the table is what is given to the senses posteriorly. Both these meet in the significant or meaningful notion of the table as it enters into the reality of our lives.


The Guru emphasizes in the verse here the correct methodology implied in all knowledge. After various aspects of the subject of Self-knowledge have first been examined in the earlier part of the work, the Guru thus enters into more fundamental epistemological and methodological problems from the previous verse onwards. This section may be said to give place to an even more penetrating analysis after verse 36.



Awareness, in order to find its proper state,

Itself the earth and other manifestations became;

In inverted state thus, now mounting, now changing over

Like a circulating fire-faggot it keeps turning round.


ALL things as seen manifested are phenomenological events in consciousness. The phenomena themselves have a double origin psychically or physically. In terms of unitive awareness the duality is reduced into vertical self-awareness instead of being conceived as two distinct functions in consciousness. Reflexive Self-knowledge is what, as neutral awareness which is neither subjective nor objective, witnesses from a central position both the events called perceptions as well as conceptions. The a priori and the a posteriori thinking processes are events or chains of events in pure contemplative consciousness which are capable of envisaging them both as part of one single process.


If two opposite forces act on a particle of which the negative one is considered as the cause of the positive one, we are able to imagine, under such conditions, a circulation of thoughts in consciousness made up of a chain of cause-effect links. The cause-effect links are monadic units of thought which could be spoken of as sparks of light. Pushing the analogy further, it would not be too far-fetched even to think of this fire as circulating inasmuch as there is actually, as experienced by the contemplative, a rising, a changing-over and a fall of thought-elements in keeping with a certain inner order or law of thought in a living being. The pulsations of thought are not static but dynamic and circulate within the amplitude of two poles, one belonging to ‘matter’ and the other belonging to ‘mind’.


The ‘alata’ (faggot of fire circulated) analogy for the phenomenological chain of events in consciousness, is a very time-honoured one in Vedantic literature, and brings the pulsations of thought-processes to somewhat the same picture as is implicit in modern quantum mechanics. Poets have compared the pulsations of the mind to the fire-fly, but the circulating fire-faggot is better in that the successive positions of the luminous spark trace a continuous line instead of an intermittent one. The mind has what Bergson would call a ‘cinematographic action’ which makes discontinuous events seem continuous. The chain of events could be treated as ‘kshanika’ (momentary), repeated instant after instant, or, with the help of the mind, as a continuous unbroken process. The two ways are treated complementarily by the Guru here.


The reference to the ‘inversion’ here is nothing more than a corollary or consequence of the methodology which gives primacy to cause rather than effect. The subtle inversion is implicit in the ‘sad-karana-vada’ which is part of the correct methodology of Advaita Vedanta when understood as a science and not merely as speculative metaphysical lore. (16)


(16) Bergson’s methodology envisages this ‘double correction’ principle, as we have explained at length in our later work, ‘An Integrated Science of the Absolute’.




Half a second is what makes the primordial hub

Of the car-wheel, mounted whereon the world rolls on:

Know this to be His sport divine, beginningless

In the domain of consciousness ever going on.


THE Vedantic idiom permits us to conceive of thought as

taking place within the general consciousness or awareness

as its matrix or general background. No strictly philosophical answer could be given to the question why this should be so. The answer to ‘how’ this could be so is what is attempted by the scientists who explain that science is concerned with how a candle burns and not why it burns.


Metaphysics or theology has to step in to deal with the latter question. The personal pronoun here, attributing events in consciousness to an absolute agent, whether theologically or metaphysically understood, is to indicate this limitation and not because of any superstition about a personal God. Vedantic idiom permits such a use and as the Guru has to pass on to another aspect of Self-knowledge after this verse by way of summing-up, he lapses into the current idiom of Vedanta by which all events, including what takes place in pure awareness, are treated as belonging to the notion of the normative Absolute of all thought without which thought itself would have no basis. The personal pronoun is to be treated as incidental, and those who can do without thinking of a personal Absolute could do without it perhaps with greater difficulty as pointed out in the Bhagavad Gita:


Greater is the difficulty to those whose mind is

attached to the unmanifested. For those who are

conditioned necessarily by their own bodies the way

of the unmanifested is difficult of accomplishment. (XII.5)


The dialectical moment or the eternal present is a notion familiar in the West in the writings of Plato. Time and eternity meet neutrally in this notion. In modern times Bergson has restated this same notion by his idea of eternal change and becoming in the context of pure time. The contemplative vision which presupposes the Absolute, at least as a normative principle, if not in personal terms, could see the circulation of thought as taking place round a nucleus, as it were, of thought, which is the hub where the logos or the verb may be said to represent mental events, in its most basic or primary form. The karu (core) which referred to the same thinking substance, located in pure time, in the very first verse of this composition, conforms to this same central substance, as we have already explained.


The analogy of the wheel is found in the Upanishads in several places. The rim, the spokes and the hub have been used to explain the various aspects of the structure of thought, and in the Upanishads, the Buddhist writings and the Gita itself, the idea of a wheel and a circulation is employed many times. The duration of time which we think of when eternity is given a content, and the ‘half a second’ referred to here, allude to the same substratum of Absolute or Pure Time that figures even in modern times in the philosophy of Bergson, which in turn has become acceptable to the pragmatists of today. There is therefore nothing old-fashioned in referring to Time as constituting the hub of the car-wheel representing the more peripheral events, when viewed phenomenologically. Time is momentary at the core of the world, which is to be treated as a peripheral manifestation. The first two lines of the verse refer to a cross-sectional view which is cosmological, while the last two tend to give a longitudinal view where eternity is present and pure subjective Time acts as a reference to phenomena.



Like the dawn all together of ten thousand solar orbs

Wisdom’s function comes: such, verily is that which

Tears asunder this wisdom-hiding, transient Maya-darkness


And as the primal Sun prevails!


AFTER pointing out in the immediately preceding verse that reality and knowledge are not distinct, and that the content of half a second is sufficient to imply all the manifested universe, the Guru here makes a more finalized statement about the way in which wisdom comes to the aspirant for Self-knowledge. The illumination understood in the contemplative context is not one that takes place slowly and gradually, as in the evolutionary picture or with the growth of plant. Within the relativistic context there might be accumulation of information about things or events which in time might mature to make the person concerned more and more worldly-wise; but the wisdom that has to do with the Absolute asserts itself in quite another fashion. It is not a slow evolutionary process but an overwhelming event in one’s life.


It is true that there are references elsewhere in wisdom-writings to the long number of years of discipline in the form of meditation or study that should precede the attainment or the goal of education or spiritual discipline. The Gita refers to the many births that should pass even for a wise man to attain to the Absolute (VII. 19). In the context of education with a Guru in ancient India, twelve years, or even multiples thereof, are said to be normal periods for finishing one’s studies. Here it is not a question of the actual time required but of the qualitative content of the wisdom, when it comes, if at all.


Contemplative wisdom is different from the ordinary accumulation of information about events, things, or matters. It is something wholesale of an all-or-nothing character. This difference is due to the global totality of the subject matter of such wisdom, which is no other than the Absolute. Wisdom that refers to the Absolute has to be itself of an absolute quality.


There is moreover to be noted the word vritti (functioning), which qualifies the kind of wisdom which the Guru has in mind here. There is static wisdom as also dynamic wisdom. The latter is the resultant of the meeting of the positive and the negative aspects. When the positive and the negative aspects of wisdom meet, it is the central radiance of the neutrality that we refer to as wisdom. The subtle mechanism, as in the case of the electric-arc lamp, where positive and negative electricity meet to make the brilliant light, is referred to more clearly elsewhere in the writings of the Guru. In his composition called Advaita Dipika (The Lamp of Non-Dual Wisdom), verse 4 translated reads as follows:


In wisdom that is dynamic, there is no universe

Nor is there any seed thereof as nescience.

When light comes there is

No more darkness near it; but again as soon as the wick

Is left, the light goes out and darkness comes


In verse 17 above in the present composition, the more complete psycho-physical picture with the role of the wick as the basis of wisdom-functioning (or dynamism) has been once touched upon. The various references to the structure of the Self have to be put together by the intelligent student to yield a complete picture of the living Self as finally to be understood in the context of the wisdom of the Absolute.


Science and nescience are two aspects of the dynamism of wisdom; one that may be considered positive in character, and the other that is negative. Between these aspects there is an interaction that, when dynamic, tends to dispel the surrounding darkness; and when static, brings more darkness round it, resulting in the emergence of the phenomenal universe. The phenomenal universe belongs to the world of transience, while the dynamic reveals the light of the Absolute which is eternal and changeless. The technical name in Vedanta for this alternating process, in which the plus and minus sides alternate to make for a phenomenal world of doubtful status in reality, and which is filled with the plurality of multifarious entities in an ever- changing flux of becoming, is Maya, and results from the dual aspects coming together without the fullest measure of dynamism. Degrees of doubt and error giving rise to relativistic phases of appearances result from the same Maya-principle understood in this manner. Maya is the negative or static basis of all possible philosophical errors, whether physical or metaphysical. When the full dynamism of absolutist wisdom prevails, the brilliance of the illumination suffices to efface all the relativistic vestiges in consciousness, leaving the pure consciousness to prevail over all appearances which are false. The vision of the Absolute is here compared to the primal Sun which forever reigns, dispelling the relativistic darkness.



The powers of wisdom are many; all of them under two divisions

The ‘same’ and the ‘other’ could conclusively be brought;

Merging into that form which makes for ‘other-sameness’

To clarity of vision one should awake.


BEGINNING with this verse and ending with verse 42

(inclusive) we have a very valuable analysis of the structure

of consciousness, with two main axes of reference which are

classified under the taxonomic nomenclature of two symbolic expressions which are the words ‘same’ and ‘other’.


The clarification of the implications of these broad categories is given in the later verses of this section of seven verses. It is not easy to analyse the events in consciousness and refer them to their normative axes of reference. Such analysis is the result of extreme introspective research, and the Guru has given us the result of his meditations here in a very precise and succinct manner which it would be wrong to try to elaborate in any way. All the clarification legitimately necessary is already given by him. If the reader does not still understand the full import of what he says with such crystal-clear precision, it must be because the philosophical problems that the subject-matter presupposes have not had a chance, so far, to arise and assert themselves in his own thinking. Dictionary meanings might be given, but the import might still remain elusive. The reader has been warned in the very first verse of the work that the subject-matter of the composition has to do with higher wisdom and not with everyday knowledge of practical utility.


The present commentator has developed in his writings a frame of reference consistently applicable to many branches of contemplative wisdom, theological, cosmological or psychological. The taxonomic categories of the ‘same’ and the ‘other’ refer to the vertical and the horizontal axes of the frame of reference that has been developed. Even in the Guru’s writings this frame of reference is implied in more than one place. In his Daiva Dasakam (ten verses devoted to the topic of God) we find that the Guru equates the depth-aspect of the ocean with the Absolute, God or Reality. The surface-aspect of the ocean in the fourth verse of that composition is meant to be analogous to the collective and overt aspect of the consciousness of humanity, conceived as a unit, while the depth of the ocean is there compared to the Absolute or God. Translated the verse reads:


Like the sea and the wave, the wind and the depth,

         Let us within us see

Ourselves, Maya, Thy Power and Thee Thyself



Here there is a tacit plan of reference in which the dimension called depth represents what is of value contemplatively. The individual selves of each member of humanity, thought of collectively, tend to be quantitative, and thus with the rival claims of each member, there is divergence instead of unity. Inwardly understood, however, the same Self could be conceived unitively and contemplatively as participating qualitatively in the unity of the Absolute Self, which is that of God. This same way of analysing consciousness has been consistently kept up in all the writings of the Guru and constitutes his contribution to Advaitic or non-dual thought, which is of no small importance. The importance of these aspects of the Absolute Reality has been insisted on in the Bhagavad Gita, which devotes the whole of its thirteenth chapter for the purpose, as significantly stated in verse 2:


Know Me also as the Knower of the field in all fields, 0 Bharata!

Knowledge in respect of the field and the Knower of the field

According to Me, constitutes (veritable) wisdom (itself).


The conflict implied between these two is a subtle one, which has to be clarified in various contexts, as the problems present themselves. The intersection at right-angles between these two aspects of the Self, understood in the absolutist context of total consciousness, will be justified as and when occasions arise, in the rest of the work. Confirmation will be found in other works, not only of the Guru, but in wisdom-literature generally, for which the keen student of Self-knowledge has to keep vigilant watch before the whole living picture gets filled in with the clear content of the Absolute given to a clarified vision.


In the present verse, after indicating the two categories of the movement or the functioning of higher reasoning or wisdom, the Guru indicates summarily that the goal of the contemplative is not to give primacy to the one or the other of these rival aspects, but to transcend them both through the neutral point of intersection of the two axes of reference, which he names as ‘anya-samya’ (the other-sameness) aspect.


By giving primacy to one limb or the other, whether the vertical or the horizontal, the negative or the positive aspects of consciousness, one tends to lose clarity, however much the accentuation of one aspect of knowledge might be necessary or laudable in a particular instance. The normal and normative picture of the Self has first to be conceived in its neutrality and harmonious symmetry before other value-accents could be added to the basic picture.



To subdue even somewhat the obduracy of the ‘other’

Is hard indeed without wisdom’s limitless power;

By such do gain mastery over it and unto Her who is Wisdom

The anti-sensuous One, close access attain.


THE structure of consciousness and how it operates are dependent upon certain reciprocities, ambivalent polarities and peculiar modes which are important for the aspirant for spiritual Self-realization to understand fully. Independence and interdependence of tendencies, some of which compensate and some that come into conflict; some compromising the effect while others add up the cumulative effect according to inner laws of neurology or deeper psychology - have all to be taken into account before one could gain final Self-realization. Here the Guru is not concerned with all the details of neurological or psychological phenomena, but only with those basic ones which give us the key to the inner workings of the modes of gaining knowledge or wisdom.


The two aspects of wisdom-functioning known as the ‘same’ and the ‘other’ have between them a subtle organic relationship, with a law of inverse proportion implicit between them. If the horizontal tendencies are accentuated the vertical ones suffer, and vice-versa. Just as pruning one branch would stimulate the growth of another, and electricity and magnetism are interdependent, we have to gain, by intuitive imagination, an idea of the structure and working modes of the process of cultivating wisdom. The ‘same’ which we have renamed here as the ‘vertical’, is pure and unrelated to sense-objects. The attractions and repulsions of things do not affect this series of tendencies. The class of tendencies which refer to the sensuous side of life, which we have tried to distinguish as the horizontal - called the ‘other’ in the text - tends to be strengthened at the expense of the former. Within the two categories of tendencies themselves there are polarities reflecting ambivalence so that a certain degree of relativity on the one side is countered by a corresponding degree of its opposite. The ‘same’ or the vertical aspect has to gain an absolute status before it can prevail against the distracting forces of sense-interests. Half-hearted efforts at affirming Self-realization can therefore only fail. The ‘other’ itself tends to gain an absolute status with the help of the natural penchant ordinarily existing in life. These subtle mathematical laws also hold good in the domain of the science of the Absolute, to which Self-realization, as understood here, also pertains. Self-realization has to respect the innate methodology, epistemology and axiology of the science of the Absolute if it is to yield any degree of success at all.


The remainder of what is implied in this verse has to be understood by imaginative intuition and not by any metalinguistic analysis. The Guru himself elaborates and defines to the extent that such is possible or necessary in such a matter as this, which touches the core of consciousness itself, and which eludes by its subtlety all analysis. It has to reveal its truth rather than be described in analytical terms.



What appraises manifold variety, the ‘other’ that is;

And the ‘same’ is what unitively shines;

Thus understanding the state aforesaid, into that state

That yields sameness, melt and mix and erect sit.


HERE the Guru gives very precise definitions of the two fundamental aspects into which he has divided the totality of self-consciousness. The Upanishadic dictum which says that he who sees multiplicity or plurality ‘wends his way from death to death’ is the basic idea here.


A unitive vision of reality, and plurality, are twin aspects of reality between which the philosopher chooses the path of unity as against that which is based on plurality. Some pragmatic philosophers might be justified in insisting that plurality is as much real as the One of the idealists; but it does not follow that such an attitude which accepts the pluralistic manifold of interests or motives gives any peace or happiness to man. Torn between rival interests, he would be steeped into the world of conflicts and sufferings.

Philosophy should not merely satisfy the intellectually or academically valid aspiration of man’s interest in truth, but must bring him nearer to happiness, which is his goal in life.


Multiple interests in the relativistic world of plurality spell troubles, and unitive interest in life in the absolutist sense spells peace. The movement in self-consciousness tending to reveal the underlying unity of realities may be said to be vertical; and the other which tends to reveal the multiplicity, the horizontal.


These two axes are to be recognized by what they lead to, rather than by any innate characteristic in themselves. In themselves they are just tendencies or movements in contemplative consciousness. As a tree is to be known by its fruit, the distinction is based on the end they serve in the contemplative life of man.


After understanding the nature of the two rival conflicting tendencies, the second half of the verse gives precious practical indications pertaining to the actual ‘practice’ of yoga. All that a man actually does in the form of action is the orientation of the spirit or the inner tendencies towards the unitive instead of the world of pluralistic rival values. The whole of yoga, as understood in this verse, consists of sitting erect with one’s inner tendencies turned to the appreciation of the unitive and unique value represented by the Absolute. The attitude of ‘sameness’ implies the idea of equality besides that of unity. By analogy with one’s inner being (atmaupamyena) as the Gita puts it (VI. 32), one is able to see the equality of everything with oneself. Unity is attained by a verticalized view and the horizontalized version of reality leads to conflicts with oneself and in one’s relations with the external world.


The reference to sitting erect is reminiscent of the idiom of yogic practices which permeates the whole of meditative literature on the soil of India. A physical attitude of restful but alert contemplation, implying harmony, balance or peace has been a pattern of behaviour in India that has persisted through its long history of contemplative thought. The Shiva-yogi seal of Mohenjodaro, the Dhyana Buddhas scattered over vast areas of South East Asia in the form of images, and the instructions of the Gita (VI. 11), not to speak of the Hatha and the Patanjali yoga proper, and even the Brahma-Sutras - all stress this attitude of alert relaxation combined with inner adjustment of the spirit tuned to the Absolute. One has to be free from sleep as well as from wakefulness in such an attitude, as has already been recommended in the present work earlier in verse 7.



Following up further the said powers - a second division:

One of these is an attribute of the ‘same’, while the other

Qualifies the never-to-detachment-attaining harshness

Of the ‘other’: thus making two kinds of these again.


THE more detailed analysis of the two primary tendencies in consciousness referred to in the previous verse is undertaken here. ‘Sameness’ and ‘strangeness’ – which have been distinguished as one that spells peace-giving equality, as its counterpart spells otherness – are further specifically characterized. Natural attachment to specific attributes or actual things will be operative in consciousness in respect of values that are horizontal in import. The two primary divisions have thus each a second division, so that we have to distinguish four in all. How these four limbs - two of them generic in status and two others specific – are integrated together into a whole which makes up the global Self-consciousness, is a matter that will become clearer only with the next verse. Meanwhile we are here to gain an insight into the structure of the tendencies, both generic and specific, that go to make up the totality of consciousness in a static manner before arriving at a more complete psychophysical dynamics of the same, to be discussed in the next verse.


The static view of psychophysical truths is that of intellectualised versions of reality which one has to translate into dynamic terms and relate organically with one’s own inner experience. This has to be accomplished stage by stage, and this verse lays bare the structure and the frame of reference within whose four walls consciousness, whether objective or subjective, lives, moves and has its being. The Guru really takes us into a domain hardly describable in the words of ordinary language. He, however, attains to a great measure of clarity in the analysis of consciousness, and although the language is still elusive when treated intellectually, when one tallies it from the pole of proto-linguistic thinking with the help of the two axes that we have suggested here and elsewhere, the meaning becomes sufficiently simplified and transparent.


The complete picture of the psychophysical dynamism of Self-consciousness is contained in the three verses to follow. Here the generic and the specific aspects of the two main categories of tendencies within consciousness are merely named and marked out as already defined psycho-statically.


It is true that tendencies in consciousness are not capable of simplified treatment because of the complexity of psychic or mental phenomena. This does not however mean that what we can know of them under their main categories, pictured in a simple manner as in a map with longitudes and latitudes which are merely aids to understanding, should necessarily be complicated. The outline of a country in actuality could be as irregular as it likes, but it is still capable of being referred to by its latitude and longitude. Modern and ancient philosophers, whether Kant or Aristotle, have relied largely on such categories. Philosophy itself relies, as does mathematics, on abstraction and generalization; and even when we speak of cause and effect as related, we are making an abstraction and generalization on which all reasoning rests, whether in physics or in metaphysics. Here we have a way of analysis which relies on a methodology of its own and on an epistemology on which the Vedanta itself is a superstructure. In reality analytical and synthetical methods go hand in hand here.



On to the ‘same’ as on to the ‘other’ there constantly alight

Their respective specific powers; though not proportionate

By spin-emergence as between these two in all,

All predications whatsoever come to be.


INTUITIVE imagination is called for in visualizing the subtle psycho-physical dynamics implied here. The two axes of reference for the tendencies that operate within consciousness, in its psycho-physical content at any given time, have a mode of operation on which the Guru here tries to throw more clear light.


The accentuation of one set of tendencies over the other takes place as man gets interested in one kind or category of subject or another. Sensuous pleasures may dominate the factors where wisdom counts, and thus the processes go on alternating between the two trends with their four possible modalities. The specific of each interest or value gets adjoined, merged or appended to the basic or generic aspect of the same.


As two branches of the same tree could grow, one at the expense of the other, there is a subtle or organic reciprocity to be understood, not only as between the two basic tendencies, but also as between the specific characteristics of each of the two taken separately. There is both interdependence and independence as between the two main sets of tendencies, each with its own generic and specific, positive or negative poles which could be accentuated at the expense of its rival set.


There is thus a phenomenological circulation of thought or feeling that goes on always and constitutes the content of self-consciousness. Interests and their corresponding objects fuse loosely or closely, intensely or feebly at different moments in what we call our life. Action gets accentuated at a given moment as against pure thought, which might prevail at another. Existential aspects may overpower essential or ideological ones. A complete cosmology and psychology have to be fitted into the scheme in which the dynamism functions in actual experience. The details have to be fitted into the skeleton scheme outlined here, by the person who cultivates contemplative Self-consciousness.


Gaining the totality of experience is what constitutes spiritual progress, and not the asymmetrical development of one set of tendencies over the others. The rule of harmony and the golden mean hold good here, as in morality and art. Wisdom is thus part of ethics and aesthetics and could be cultivated side-by-side with love of beauty or of virtue.


We have translated bhrama-kala as ‘spin-emergence’ as the nearest to what the two Sanskrit words suggest. Modern quantum mechanics supports the idea of both right-handed and left-handed spin and is highly suggestive of the structural dynamism of the Absolute as seen by the Guru here.



In ‘this is a pot’ the initial ‘this’ is the harsh

While ‘pot’ is what makes its specific attribute;

For the mind with its myriad magic of Great Indra to come to be,

Understand, this to be the nucleus.


THE syntactical analysis of a simple prepositional statement, here adopted by the Guru to reveal the structure and composition of thought, follows the lines of ancient thinkers of the time of the Mimamsakas in the history of Indian thought, culminating in the well-recognized methodology and epistemology of the Advaita Vedanta.


Modern semantics, with its logical syntax and its recognition of the semiotic structure of sentences, although far from being perfected yet, comes very near to this ancient way. After distinguishing the two main tendencies within the movement of thought or within the totality of the stream of consciousness, the Guru here relies on a semantic, or rather syntactic, analysis of a simple atomic proposition as representing a type of mental event which could be said to reveal the inner structure of one of the two primary movements or categories of the thinking process implicit in language.


All language must convey thought and correspond to it in one way or another. Thought-communicability through language proves this. How all thought, communicated or merely communicable, conforms to two main types of atomic propositions, has already been stated. The first type, referring to objective realities that are horizontal in content, is here further examined and further analytically scrutinized. What is referred to as ‘harsh’ is the ‘other’ of the previous verse. Moving semiotically, as thought does, from the virtual and generic syntactical element represented by ‘this’, which could apply to any object, to the actual and specific aspect of the same thought represented by ‘pot’, we have a pure psycho-physical, neutral, atomic event which we have to recognize as the subtle-to-gross horizontal movement. As actuality limits freedom by its space-time finiteness and its specificity of character, it is the harsh obdurate ‘other’ of the previous classification. Actuality and virtuality, as also specificity and generic abstraction, may be said to be the ambivalent poles within whose limits thought may be said to have one of its primary alternating oscillations or movements. The movement is quantitative here and has to be understood in contrast with qualitative intensity within pure tendencies in the second category examined in the next verse.


The ‘myriad magic of Great Indra’ is the world of

pluralistic and disjunct rival values related to sense-realities of the actual, or its virtual aspect – both understood ‘objectively’ with ramified sets of secondary or tertiary derivatives. In Kantian terminology, this would refer to the phenomenal. Practical immanent reason would find within the amplitude of this movement its natural habitat.



In ‘this is knowledge’ the initial ‘this’ is ‘same’

While its attribute is cognitive consciousness.

For the mind and all else to vanish

And the good path to gain, this should one contemplate.


THE other universal atomic or elementary proposition in terms of pure reason or knowledge is subjected to scrutiny here. Here too there is a positive or a negative, a specific or a generic aspect; while the movement itself here may be said to be the qualitative rather than the quantitative aspect of reality. Like the square root of minus one understood graphically in terms of the correlates of Descartes, we have here an aspect of reality represented by ‘this’, which is negative and belongs to the vertical aspect.


The negative nothingness understood in its pure or dialectical aspect is the ground of all absolutist realities of every grade of value, from the lowest to the highest; and within the scope of this series marking the path of spiritual progress in contemplative life we have to seek to become affiliated and promoted stage by stage to the full freedom of truth.


The specific attribute of pure reason is stated to be cognitive consciousness (bodha) in this verse. The epistemology of the Vedanta strictly distinguishes between the Self and the non-Self sides, the conceptual and the perceptual aspects of the event called awareness within consciousness. ‘Jnana’ is applied to the subjective or conceptual and ‘jneya’ to the objective or non-Self aspect. As with the Mimamsakas, consciousness is a form of activity here, and the positive act of cognition is different from mere passive awareness. These dualistic distinctions, however, finally get absorbed into the unitive status of the Absolute; but for purposes of methodology and for epistemological analysis, we have to distinguish them here.


When knowledge becomes finalised beyond terms of becoming into terms of pure being there is neither plus nor minus to be distinguished, but only the pure unitary or unitive light of the Absolute that is fully itself. This ultimate standpoint is the goal of the aspirant for Self-knowledge and is referred to in the second half of the present verse. The path to contemplative progress is just indicated and not defined or described fully yet.



By Nature’s action caught, and turned,

Men of good action too, alas, keep turning round!

Mis-action to counteract, non-action avails not.

Gain-motive bereft, wisdom one should attain.


THIS is a highly concentrated aphoristic verse meant to give a final reply to the never-ending discussion in Vedantic

literature of the relative merits of ‘jnana’ (wisdom) and ‘karma’ (action). Between the followers of Jaimini of the Purva Mimamsa School and those of Badarayana who accept the Vedantic point of view, there is much subtle polemics, as between the rival claims of ‘piety’ and ‘works’, which are corresponding spiritual values in Western theological speculations.


Sankara’s position is unequivocal in the primacy it confers on knowing rather than on work. In a masterly tirade against the plea for combining jnana and karma of those who give equal place to both, in his introduction to his famous

commentary on the Bhagavad Gita he exposes the nature

of the conflict and subtle paradox involved. Even after

giving due consideration to all his arguments one is left

with a vague feeling that a thumb-rule in this matter is not possible. The Guru here directs our attention to four

different aspects of action under the Sanskrit terms:


prakriti (nature’s action) tending to create what is specific and particular from the general matrix of virtual realities;


sukriti, action of the good man who wishes to escape its binding  or compelling obligatory pressure in the matter of rising above necessity to freedom;


vikriti, perverted mis-action which arises out of our natural attractions and repulsions in relation to sensual or mundane interests; and


akriti which is non-action.


These are potent tendencies whose force is operative overtly or innately. A fly-wheel of a machine, once started, keeps moving even after active power applied has been withdrawn; vikritis are thus potentially operative tendencies in the psycho-physical dynamism of human life which cannot be denied but have to be countered or cancelled-out consciously before freedom could be established. The problem has to be faced with subtle insight into one’s own self as belonging to the larger context of the Absolute.


A process of sublimation of gross tendencies of action in terms of subtler and subtler tendencies of purer and purer

wisdom-content, is involved here, to be grasped through

intuitive imagination. An organic or living approach instead

of a merely mechanistic attitude is called for. The transition

from the world of horizontal interests in things of the order

of  ‘this is a pot’, as analysed in the first of the two previous verses, has to give place to the purer interest conforming to the pattern of thought-movement implied in the nuclear, atomic or simplified proposition, ‘this is knowledge’, of the previous verse. Petty interest in utilities or pragmatic interests have to be transcended, and they have to be replaced by higher interests of a pure intellectual order before one could arrive at the full term of contemplative life. Ends and means have to be conceived unitively before the process of sublimation is finally accomplished. While non-action is not held up as the ideal, work is not presented as the goal either. As in the famous verse in the Bhagavad Gita (IV.18) equating action and inaction, one arrives at a unitive view of these rival value-factors, and then alone a solution is arrived at which abolishes the duality in the neutrality of the Absolutist viewpoint. Prakriti, sukriti, vikriti and akriti, referring to four kinds of tendencies in the Self, have all to meet centrally and neutrally in the consciousness that is established in the Absolute, for which disinterest or a dispassionate attitude is here recommended.



Not seeing that the various religions in the world

Are essentially the same, advancing various arguments

Like the blind men and the elephant, roam not like fools,

But stop wandering, and calmly settle down.


THE blind men of the fable who examined an elephant could not come to any agreement about it because none of them could have a clear enough or total enough direct view of the animal, and generalized too readily on their data which were partial and lacking in clarity.


There are many religious groups in the world which have arisen to correct or wrong opinions or practices which might have prevailed in disjunct regions and at distinct times. Formulated and codified with direct reference to the actual situation and the error they were meant to correct, they tend to stress one aspect of spiritual life or to give primacy to one doctrine or commandment over others.


The total truth, which is independent of particular circumstances, and which should not be limited even to correct particular items, only tends thus to remain outside the scope of any particular formulation or codification of religious life. The total or global truth tends to be even more than the sum-total of individual points of view. Moreover, the original founder of a religion might have had a clarity of vision of the global truth which those who follow him without the same degree of original insight cannot have in the natural course of happenings in life.


Cults, creeds, codified and hidebound forms of faith or

doctrine tend thus to attach more importance to the dead letter rather than to the living word. Direct global insight into the nature of the absolute or total truth that is the basic subject-matter of all religious faiths or patterns of behaviour tends thus to be overlaid or examined piecemeal and partially, giving rise to endless theological, doctrinal or other differences, around which much disturbance of life takes place. The trees can hide the forest.


To the eye of a person able to see the essential as distinct from the merely superficial aspect of religions, there is a common basic substratum of which the divergent expressions are only secondary and unimportant marginal aspects. All religions in essence answer to one central human need for spiritual consolation. They all seek happiness, and there is no religion in the world which aims at suffering rather than happiness. This is stated in verse 49 that follows.


The one religion of mankind, to which the Guru Narayana referred in his well-known motto of  ‘One race, one religion and one ideal or God for all mankind’, is to be visualized on the basis of the common end of happiness that all religions, however varied and different superficially, have as the central value implied in their teaching.


There is a tendency in the group-psychology of human beings to get influenced by mob sentiments that might come to the surface of collective life at any given moment. The excesses committed by fanatics in the history of the world are such that they have drenched the soil with human blood many times. The Guru is concerned in this verse to see that better sense or wisdom should prevail. The contemplative view here recommended is to make the man who tends to be moved by group emotions in such matters compose himself and calmly go about his normal business without adding fuel to the fire of fanatic agitations. Group contagion of horizontalized attitudes is to be guarded against. The reference to settling down calmly is to the appreciation of contemplative values in life. The whole of this discussion naturally stems out of the common ground of philosophy and religion which is the Self.



One faith in another’s view is low, and the doctrine

Cardinal as taught in one, in another’s measure, lacks;

Know, confusion in the world shall prevail so long

As the unitive secret herein remains unknown.


RIVALRIES and feuds between followers of different faiths, religions or creeds, big or small in number, can never come to an end when approached in the usual way of relativistic or mechanistic reasoning. There will be no lack of sentiment or argument to support separatist tendencies, which are natural, as there is something corresponding to the struggle for existence in the Darwinian sense, which tends to divide man from man on the basis of ideologies - which are in effect more real than the geographical or actual barriers that divide one man’s domain from that of another.


What is here referred to as the unitive approach is known to the absolutist as dialectical wisdom which, instead of tending to add to the intensity of dilemmas or paradoxical conflicts in life, solves them by a contemplative way known to the ancient wisdom context. In the terminology that we have already started to use in this commentary, there is a vertical and a horizontal approach to problems. The horizontal, when stressed, divides and differentiates, while the same problem approached vertically or unitively finds a solution to conflicts and spells reconciliation.


The Guru expressly refers to this way of wisdom as a ‘secret’ as, strangely enough, to this day it has remained without full recognition in the public eye, although those who are gifted with mystic, contemplative or dialectical vision have always stood for it in one form or another. Art and literature based on this very secret have flourished in various parts of the world, giving rise to the flowerings of special cultures that belong to various geographical or historical contexts. This secret has one day to be raised to the status of a science and taught in public schools with a definite methodology, epistemology and a scale of values that properly belong to it.


In India, this has been known as the Advaita approach, which is unitive and non-dual in character. If this could be taught scientifically, then we could expect a universally tolerant attitude to develop in the mind even of the common man, which will tend to minimise or at least mitigate the rivalries and rub their edges off.


With a slight touch of sadness the Guru here deplores the lack of this kind of unitive wisdom of which he is the teacher and the Guru, because in his vision of the future of the lot of humanity the solution for conflicts between religions and allied ideologies that are closed and static can come only when the open, dynamic and unitive, contemplative or universal way becomes evident to the minds of the generality of men.



To vanquish (a religion) by fighting is not possible; no religion

Can be abolished by mutual attack; the opponent of another faith

Not remembering this and persisting in his fight,

His own doom shall he in vain fight for, beware!


THE roots of any religious growth are not in its outer expressions. Just as the partial pruning of a tree only helps the tree to grow all the more strong, a mere mechanistic overt attack fails when directed against established religious growths. There are deep-seated value-factors that make any religion flourish in any country. These are like the roots or the invisible stem of a great tree. Religion has its subtle raison d’être which is not overtly evident to the view or even subject to the attack of wordy polemics. If this were so, many old religions would have been exterminated by this time. All religions satisfy the needs or console the spiritual hankerings of those who seek refuge under them. When the benefit is spent out and a religion has no succour or consolation to offer to its adherents, it might shrink or even die a natural death. Overt fighting only strengthens all the more the root aspects of a religious growth by a strange law of opposites.


Religions have two sides which might be distinguished broadly as the hierophantic and the hypostatic. These have been alluded to in the Bhagavad Gita through the metaphor of the great banyan tree with roots up and branches down. The branches, while tending downwards, have two opposing ambivalent directions in which they are described as spreading (XV.2). Whatever may be the way that we adopt to distinguish the two aspects, these positive and negative aspects are found in all religious expressions or growths. The positive note in the attack of an outsider is meant to discredit the same pole in the other religious growth. The two positives tend to cancel each other out, just as the like poles of a magnet tend to repel rather than attract. To make magnetism grow stronger one has to match the positive and negative sides in a manner so that they do not repel, but help the normal circulation of magnetic forces.


Some similar subtle law may be said to be implied when a religion claims superiority over another religion in certain matters, forgetting that in the items on the other pole of the same religion there are compensatory factors for the apparent drawbacks that one might point out on the overt side. The evils of idolatry could thus be balanced by greater toleration in respect of overt doctrines of faith.


While each religion can have its proper raison d’être, the raison d’être of another religion has only absurdity with reference to the first. A mango tree or a coconut palm are good by their own inner standards, and by the fruit that men like. One cannot legitimately condemn one tree by extraneous standards that have no relevance to it. If one should ask which is the better game, cricket or football, we are obliged to say that each has to be judged from its own inner standards. They are both good, each in its particular way. The man who actively engages himself in attacking other peoples’ religions finds that, to the extent that he stresses extraneous matters in such an attack, he is hurting the cause of his own religion. If, for example, he should say that his religion is more empirical than the other which tends to be idealistic, he will be by that very token discrediting the idealistic elements which must necessarily be present in his own, though in a different form. In any case, the attacker, by a strange law, tends to get discredited.


That no amount of religious teaching finally succeeds in eliminating rival elements is proved by the historical fact that even to this day in the in the very core or heart of Christendom, say in Belgium, there are still people who say they are not Christians, and use the Church only for the indispensable utilitarian needs of daily life, and pride themselves in being pagan, or at least ranged against the Church, under such labels as ‘Socialist’ or ‘Rationalist’. Even to-day Jews, Christians and Arabs thrive side-by-side. The Egyptian Coptic religion persists in spite of the rise of Islam. There are said to be Buddhists to this day in Swedish Lapland. Idolatry persists in India in spite of the Christian missionaries and Muslims who have tried in vain to eliminate it. The outward pattern might change but the essential content remains unchanged.


One who pins his faith on the externals comes up against people who do the same in the name of some other camp. The two factors cancel each other out. The original pattern objected to continues to persist in its essential aspects. Sometimes it so happens that those who oppose a religion vehemently from outer standards get converted inwardly to the stranger religion that they unjustly revile. Sudden conversions take place in this manner. In any case it is certain that overt attack is not the successful or correct method. The subtle dialectical interdependence and independence of religious growths is a matter that should be respected if the vain self-destruction of humans is to be avoided. A complex phenomenon of double loss and double gain is involved here, and since no one religious formation can claim the sole prerogative of being totally right for all time, the attack must recoil on the attacker himself. The difference of collective opinion and individual opposition is also a factor that goes against the attacker of another’s religion. Protestants have not killed off Catholicism to the present day and are unlikely to succeed in the future. Changes may, however, come about by inner deficiency in either or in both. Christianity still survives in spite of the persecution of the early Christians by the Roman emperors. Some advertised products sell better when rivals decry them. Religions have an inner two-sided personality which make many of the living ones invulnerable. Unilateral attack only makes them stronger, to the dismay of the attacker who often only spells his own utter failure.



All men do even plead for a single faith to prevail

Which no disputant owns to himself withal;

Those wise ones free from other-faith-dispute

Alone can know here wholly, the secret here implied,


IN the three verses that follow we have a section which

happens to occupy the core or almost the central place in the whole composition, and which pertains to an all-important topic. When we remember the number of times in human history that the earth has been drenched with human blood caused by feuds, whether arising out of fanaticism, patriotism, or through love of ideologies or idolatrous infatuations by which men are willing to give up or to take others’ lives, the importance of the teaching contained in this central section will become evident to anyone.


There is thus a subtle element of tragedy, as between the values that enter into interplay in human affairs. Favourite objects or even ideological preferences become linked up with the Self in the form of bipolar attachments. The Self or the non-Self might prevail or loom large in consciousness at a given moment in such two-sided affinities, tending to give one or the other an absolute or relative status.


In terms of inner life in this kind of coupling of inner with

outer (or negative with positive) value-factors, we have implicit the basis of self-realization itself. Verses 47, 48 and 49 have to be carefully scrutinized with these theoretical considerations in mind if the full lesson from this section is to be derived.


The subtle secret here is the paradoxical position delicately stated in the first two lines. The situation is comparable to a man in a meeting with many others who shouts for silence without remembering that his own shouting adds to the noise rather than taking away from the evil meant to be eliminated. The very zeal of the faithful who might want unity in world faith could, by a strange travesty of circumstance, be the major hindrance to its attainment.


When the Christians took up arms against the Saracens, both were right and both were wrong, which is the same as saying that neither were right nor wholly wrong without any justification. To get round this double-edged situation a new yet time-honoured kind of unitive approach in reasoning is required, which is the secret of the wise man here referred to.


In respect of the desire to see fellowship or unity of faiths, both the parties involved in this delicately balanced dialectical situation may be said to be sailing in the same boat. The tragedy of the situation has to be located in the fact that, while a zealous follower of a certain faith is highly conscious of the importance of his own mission, his tendency to find fault with the honest faith of another acts itself, at the same time, as a subtle veil. The full recognition of the fact that the other man is just like himself in his own zeal for the particular religion that he prefers to call his own is absent. There is easy vertical adoption and difficult horizontal recognition of the values involved in ‘rival’ faiths which could be reconciled only when looked at unitively.


What is more, there is a disproportionate degree of absolutism that might mentally be attributed to one of the values involved as between what refers to the Self and the non-Self. Egotism might colour one’s judgement and put an accent on the one or the other of the personal or impersonal values involved in this doubly complicated mix-up. There is inter-physical or trans-personal complexity of possible relational attitudes. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy can mix into highly explosive or poisonous compounds. To visualize all such dangers in clear terms requires a subtle dialectical insight which it is the prerogative only of rare human beings to possess. This is the reason why the Guru in the second half of the above verse refers to the wise man, so rare on earth, who can see through the intricate tangle that such a socio-religious problem can present. In fact this one point of non-recognition by a wise man of the difference between the mechanistic view in this matter and the dialectical view of the same, explains the reason for all the disasters and failures in the attempts that well-intentioned persons have made to avoid religious conflicts in the course of what constitutes the history of humanity till now.


Furthermore, it should be noted that the Guru takes care in the above verse to underline that no piecemeal approach to this secret will do. The solution does not depend on place, culture or time. It is one secret known that will solve paradox and reconcile conflict anywhere and at any time.



The dweller within the body from its existential body view

In respect of all things treats ‘that’ or ‘this’ as  ‘mine’

Transcending physical limitations; when we consider this

We should concede that any man immediate realisation has.


IT is usual to speak of immediate realisation as a rare thing among men. Here the Guru asserts the converse of this verity when viewed from the context proper to contemplative thought. All men have self-realisation already implicit in their relational life.


When a man says that a certain thing belongs to him he is in reality establishing a relation between two entities, one of which is physical and the other that has only a psychic status.


His body, which is physical, cannot establish any direct (logical) relationship with another discrete body because of the property of matter known in the textbooks of physics as impenetrability.


A chair is not able to consider another chair as its own. We have therefore to postulate a subtler substratum of the physical body so that the bipolar interest-relation involved between the Self and the non-Self units of the situation may become understandable.


The only reasonable postulate that can admit the possibility of this inter-physical and trans-subjective or trans-physical or inter-subjective basis of interest or participation as between inert and living entities can be that the medium in which the interest thrives or can function is a neutral psycho-physical stuff. This neutral psycho-physical stuff can be neither totally material nor totally mental in status. It has, in fact, to participate transparently, as it were, with the very stuff of the reality of the Absolute itself on homogeneous ground.


It is in this sense that we have to understand the Guru to assert that when we come to analyse the situation we lay here the very basis of all interest-relationships. This basis implies in principle Self-realisation, which from the standpoint of the common man is often thought to be a very rare or precious possibility in human life. We associate Self-realisation only with people like Socrates. The Guru here asserts it to be every man’s prerogative.


The ‘existential body’ that is referred to above calls for some explanation. Since inter-physical interest of body with body is easily seen to be impossible and, as we know, on the other hand, that in common experience the relation referred to does exist as a reality, we have to say that the relation is between the existential aspects common to the physical and the mental. This neutral ground has to have a homogeneous or transparent basis at the level of existence so as to be real at all. The other possibilities are for both the factors to be considered essential or at least subsistential. Public reality has to insert itself in the existential and not in the subsistential or the essential, which tend both to be lost in the domain of idealism rather than realism. The ontological ‘sat’ in Sanskrit which has been used by the Guru in the original verse, further refers to existence rather than to subsistence or essence. The delicate distinction that we are trying to make explicit here can only be adequately treated in a fuller chapter, as we have elsewhere attempted. (17)


Man’s life is regulated and understood with reference to his natural or normal life interests. If we should take an overall view of the interests of man in human life, we shall find that one general factor dominates their whole range, whether we take daily interests or the higher interests, here or hereafter. The everyday interests may be said to begin with satisfactions such as hunger. When thirst is quenched man is satisfied and may be said to be happy. When moral, aesthetic or religious consolations or satisfactions are included within the scope of our scrutiny, in a similar way, we find that even they, as they range from the more common to the most rare and specialized interests of man, present the same underlying law, which is that man seeks happiness at all times and in all ways. After exposing the basic structure of bipolar interests in the previous verse, the Guru next goes on to a bolder generalization on the same lines, arriving here, at the centre of the work, at a very important statement about the fundamental unity of all faiths, applicable to humanity as a whole.


(17). cf. VALUES, Vol. IV. 8, 9, 10. May, June, July. 1959.

See also later work.



Every man at every time makes effort in every way

Aiming at his Self-happiness; therefore in this world

Know faith as one; understanding thus,

Shunning evil, the inner Self into calmness merge.


IF we should look at men anywhere in the world as they pass their lives in their normal activities, and observe them for any length of time, examining their actions in relation to their life-motives, we shall be able to make an over-all generalization which may be said to be the master-motive regulating human conduct in the most general terms.


No one will be seen to be doing anything with pain or unhappiness as the object in view. Even in austerities that may appear in the form of self-inflicted suffering, the regulating motive-principle will be happiness, as perhaps distinct from mere pleasure. All humanity in this sense can be said to seek the supreme felicity implied in Happiness with a capital ‘H’.


If this generalization is correct we arrive at the notion of the happiness of oneself, as the basic motive force of all human striving hereunder for all time and anywhere.


Happiness, in other words, refers to a supreme human value in whose light all other motives are only secondary considerations or particular instances. Happiness as the aim of man gives unity to human purpose and brings all religions, faiths or creeds under its single sway.


If this verity should become properly understood by followers of different religions, we would be able to arrive at one single value common to all faiths or religions whatsoever, past, present or possible in the future, in any part of the world. Such a view must imply also its most important corollary that would exclude any possibility of saying that one religion differs fundamentally from another. The one faith or religion that is the dear dream of every religionist to see established in this world can thus become easy of realization when approached in the way of the wise. Thus much bloodshed in the name of religious rivalry could be avoided, at least in the future.


The Guru not only presents here the happy prospect of one religion for all mankind, in a scientific or public sense, but more pointedly than that, asks each man to adopt this attitude so that he could find peace of mind for himself and attain the goal of happiness. The one religion of mankind would thus follow as night the day or as a natural corollary to the common human goal of happiness as the highest of unitive human values.



With earth and water, air and fire likewise,

Also the great void, the ego, cognition and mind,

All worlds including the waves and ocean too

Do they all arise and to awareness change.


WITH this fiftieth verse, which marks the centre of the hundred verses of the composition, when read together with the immediately previous one, we have to note that there is a change-over from one aspect of Self-instruction to another. The change-over could be described philosophically as passing from the ontological to the teleological.


Verse 49 ended on the note that one should settle down in inner peace of mind. Those aspects of Self-realization that are most conducive to this peace, as understood in this contemplative context, have been treated of by the Guru in a certain methodological and epistemological order. In both the halves of the work we notice that the topics discussed are around factors of subjective import, as the subject matter of the whole composition would warrant. Introspection, however, becomes affirmed deeper in the second half as deeper recesses of the Self are brought up into view and scrutinized more carefully, where again the reader would profit by noting the inward approach to the subject matter.


Cosmology and psychology enter into the structure of the verses in their own manner, and one is to be understood in terms of the other. A contemplatively neutral psycho-physical method and theory of knowledge, besides an axiology or science of values, all viewed in an absolutist sense, are implied in the verses as they now pass on to the latter half of the work.


Some modern philosophers know that Reality is an ever-

changing flux and that ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ are interchangeable terms, with an element of paradox implied when both are taken together and fitted properly into the context of the larger and more inclusive background of the notion of the Absolute.


The Self and the Cosmos have the same laws belonging to the neutral ground of psycho-physics. The body-mind duality has to be transcended before one can visualize this common ground of all truth or reality. Absolute Being has to be understood in terms of becoming, as one is in reality a counterpart of the other when looked upon from the standpoint of dialectical thinking. Dialectics is what reconciles apparent paradoxes; and dialectical methodology, which belongs to the scientific approach to the Absolute by natural right, has to be recognized properly if such verses as the above are to be understood in their full import, and not merely as mystical or poetical effusions.


This verse sums up the position and restarts the discussion of self-instruction or realization which would require many pages to comment upon. It thus only prepares the way for the second half of the work. As the rest of the composition itself would serve in many ways as such a comment, we are not here going into the implications of all that is stated here. It would be helpful to refer back to verse 2, at the beginning, to be able to see the perspective in which the meaning of the present verse is to be understood. There it was stated that there are several worlds, beginning from our own inner instruments of knowledge or doors of perception, known as karanas in Vedantic language. The treatment of mind as on a par with other factors such as the worlds that can be serially conceived as leading up to the highest contemplative values - spoken of as the sun beyond space and equated to it - is to be justified in the light of the method followed in the work as a whole.


The great circulation of thought here implied in the absolutist contemplative context, starts with the earth, which is the grossest of the manifested elementals. Passing in graded fashion through the higher and subtler elements such as water, air and fire, we come to the sky, which is both subtle and gross at the same time. There is space that contains matter such as ether; and pure space which is of an a priori and metaphysical order. Aristotle makes this distinction clear when he defines space as, ‘That without which bodies could not exist.’ (‘Physics’ Book IV). If space were a body then we should have to concede that two bodies existed in the same space. The passing on in the series here from the elementals which are primarily physical, to those that are understood to be of a primarily mental order, involves a unitive epistemology on the basis of which we have already made our comments in the previous half of the composition.


The “void,” which can represent both the aspects of space that we have tried to distinguish above at the same time, is the unitive factor which leads us to the rest of the series in order, such as the ego which cognises through mind etc. In the Bhagavad Gita we have the enumeration of a similarly conceived series of categories, which reads:


‘The earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind and reason too, with ego-sense—such are the eight items of the series of the nature that is of Me (the Absolute).’ (VII.4)


The Viveka Chudamani of Sankara also follows similar

lines when it enumerates the eight cities that constitute the subtle (sukshma) body:


‘They are: the groups of five, beginning with speech (1); the five beginning with hearing (the organs of perception) (2); the five functional factors (3); the elementals (such as sky) (4); and the mental factors, such as cognition (5), nescience (6); action (7) and desire (8).’ (verse 98.)


Vedantic epistemology is thus familiar with this unitive treatment of categories. Other philosophers like Aristotle, Kant and Spinoza have, in the categories they enumerate, this same time-honoured methodology and epistemology. The Guru here follows the same perennial contemplative approach, which is in keeping with the Science of the Absolute known both in India and outside. Contemplative method first reduces these factors into a series that, even when the order is reversed, still refers to the norm of the Absolute. Ascending and descending dialectics meet in the neutral Absolute. This verse marks the beginning of ascending dialectics.


After visualizing these factors contemplatively, it would be necessary to fit them into a ‘being’ in terms of a never-ending process of ‘becoming’. ‘Being’ and ‘becoming’ have to yield together a unitive and living picture of the Absolute. The same circulation of various psycho-physical entities finds mention in the Bhagavad Gita (III.14-16) where there is reference to a wheel that goes round eternally as between items such as food, rain, sacrifice and the absolute value implied in sacrifice. The rising of the various worlds, understood in serial and graded order, and finally their transformation into terms of one absolute value as pure consciousness, is a matter already recognized, and one for contemplative vision to grasp both schematically, symbolically as well as dynamically.


The further reference here to the ‘waves and the ocean’, as if they fall outside the elementals, is to show that there is also a relational or formal world which has to be given its place in the scheme of the Absolute which is both being and becoming at once. The Nyaya-Vaiseshika philosophers included ‘sambandha’ (relationship) as an independent category, and the Guru here approves of this way of examining all the possible categories that legitimately apply to the Absolute. The waves are dialectically related to the ocean, and the relationship implied is one that belongs to the world of categories which have all to be comprehensively understood schematically before any full vision of the Absolute can result.


When endowed with this type of reasoning through relationships, the intelligence of man will be able to see that all factors, ranging from the grossest to the subtlest, arrange themselves and constitute the cycle of change and becoming in terms of pure consciousness. A great deal of research and thought has, however, to proceed before such a vision of the rise of thought through ramified sets of psycho-physical factors into absolutist awareness can be witnessed as taking place in oneself.



From awareness the ‘I’ sense first emerged;

Comes then with it ‘This’-ness, as counterpart beside,

These like creepers twain do cover entirely,

The whole of the Maya tree to hide.


MAYA is the name in Vedanta for the principle of error or appearance understood in its widest meaning. In order to appraise truth one has to eliminate all possibility of error that might hide it from view. Truth and error are dialectical counterparts and Truth is not to be spoken of as something given, like an object or a lump of some reality that is taken in one-sided objectivity. Just as zero and one have to be distinguished, and the one and the many have also to be distinguished, before we can get to a proper notion of unity, the notion of the Self, as understood in its pure absolute reality, has to be submitted to the process of elimination of error, in all its epistemological grades, varieties and possibilities.


Error is like a creeper hiding a tree with its root and stem as also its branches spreading on either side. (Refer back to the same ideogram employed in verse 9.) Between the root aspect, the stem aspect, and its right and left aspects, we can broadly refer to four main possibilities of error which together represent the tree of Maya (or Error) when understood most philosophically. Appearance hides reality as Error can hide truth.


The first two broad philosophical divisions in error or appearance are here under scrutiny. Pure awareness is what can represent the neutral Absolute as next and nearest to it. It knows of no duality whether subjective or objective. Thus we could first think of a vague sense of awareness as emerging from this Absolute. When consciousness is further analysed, we are able to distinguish in the matrix of this vague neutral awareness four distinct limbs or aspects, of which two are here under reference.


Before enumerating all of them the Guru selects two of the most important aspects, which have their origin in pure awareness. These are the sense of “I”-ness or egoism and the sense of “This”-ness or objective appraisal of reality. Of these two, primacy has to be given to the “I”-sense, without which “This” cannot exist. There is a subtle interdependence here which is brought out by the word “first” employed in the verse. Just as electricity may be said to be first and its magnetic field could be referred to as its secondary phenomenon going together with it, these subjective and objective aspects of awareness have to be given their due status of importance with reference to the Self, which is here the central reality of all.


“I”-ness and “This”-ness may be said to constitute between them the twin creepers of all possible subtle error, which has in turn for its basis no other than the more gross Tree of Maya. The ramified errors of Maya, come under two subtler categories, under “I”-ness and “This”-ness. This mythic tree finds mention in many mythologies of the world. The Scandinavian mythology has the notion of the Yggdrasil, which is mystic and touches heaven. In the Upanishads there are various grades of references to the tree, which represents the relativistic cyclic or phenomenal aspect of reality.


The culminating notion of this kind of Maya Tree is found in the Bhagavad Gita at the beginning of the chapter XV where the tree is equated to the world of reality known through the Vedas and which is still vitiated by relativism. This tree has to be cut down mercilessly before the higher path of the Absolute can be trodden (as verse 3 of the same chapter unequivocally lays down). This radical note is justified because the vision of Truth can only result when Error in all its gross or subtly suggestive bearings has been abolished altogether from consciousness. After the 50th verse the composition passes on to the end by beginning to cut the roots of Maya here.


In order to avoid error, as we said, we have to analyse and classify the possibilities and kinds of error. This is what is undertaken here, and the Guru brings to view analytically the two main branches of error which have their origin in ‘egoism’ and ‘objectivity’ respectively. The vague original vision of the negative Absolute which permits the rise of all things or worlds, to transform themselves in terms of the gross world as we see it, when further examined at closer quarters, reveals these two main divisions or categories of error representing the primal dichotomy to which all awareness become subject. These two branches have further ramifications which bear different buds or leaves of values or interests in human life. The roots, stem and branches too will become invisible to the common man when common interests prevail and are allowed to proliferate.


The un- philosophical man does not see the origins of error so as to be able to avoid them and seek the truth of the Absolute, which is or should be to him the highest of human values. The covering or veiling effect of Maya as the main source of error in life, is what keeps the contemplative in darkness. (A graded analysis of Maya and its component factors can be found in the Darsanamala of the Guru, chapter IV, commented on in our later work An Integrated Science of the Absolute.)



Filled with word-content, that day the firmament shall radiant        blaze,

And in it shall become extinct all the visionary magic:

Then too, that small voice completing tri-basic knowing

Shall cease and Self-radiance prevail.


THE starting point for the treatment of the subject-matter of the second half of the composition, as we have pointed out, has to depend on inner experience hardly capable of being put into words. In spite of this innate difficulty of the subject-matter, however, the Guru here writes a verse surcharged with inner experience so that the more critical and methodological discussion might follow. Whether this forceful verse reveals the actual state of mind or consciousness of the Guru or not, it is more important for the disciple to examine its implications carefully so that he himself can have the benefit of what the Guru tries to say by way of instruction about the Self.


‘Sabda’ and ‘dhvani’ both refer to sound, but it is not merely sound as studied in physics that is meant here. ‘Dhvani’, which is the word used by the Guru here, is to be taken together with its meaningful import as the word and its meaning taken together. Whether spoken or understood, the word has a contemplative content which Vedantic literature refers to as the source of all visible realities. We have therefore rendered ‘dhvani-Maya’ as ‘filled with word-content’.


How could such a ‘dhvani’ or sound blaze into radiance, so as to fill the sky? This is another suggestive subject in the above verse which has to be justified. If magnetism can be equated and understood in terms of electricity, it will not be altogether out of place to speak of intense meaningful sounds setting fire, as it were, to the total field of inner consciousness, more especially to the higher or more positive aspects of the same. With an apocalyptic touch the Guru here predicts such a glorious day for everyone in the path of Self-realization.


The colourful world of vain attractions and repulsions in which we pass our everyday lives is here brought under the grade of a visionary magic. Though tantalising and elusive, they are not substantial, and when the higher levels of perception or vision are established within consciousness by intense thought or contemplation, the lower region which is the source of lazy visions of ramified value-sets tend to get weakened and the visions abolished altogether, absorbed into white light full of meaningful import.


Just as the vision of individual trees can get effaced when the forest becomes globally discernible, or thread disappears when we focus attention on its woven effect of cloth, so the entities that depend on lower passive states of mind disappear if inner attention is increased. It is thus that the outer show of colourful magical display is said to be absorbed or extinguished in the higher though more interior vision. The vision gives place to meaningful sound, culminating in the conceptual light of the Absolute Name.


The horizontal view of reality that we take in our non-contemplative or passively lazy moments of life, when our attention is not properly focused on the central reality, has its tri-basic division which is known to Vedanta as the ‘triputi’ already explained. This makes the three operations within consciousness in respect of any proposition have three distinct or disjunct divisions which give the subject, the object or the meaning primacy at a given time. It is a syntax or a subtle linguistic element that thus divides a single meaningful content of thought into three apparent parts or aspects. Full contemplation can result only when this tri-basic prejudice, which belongs to sound in the sense we have explained, is not operative within consciousness. The still voice here under reference, which is the last link between outer and inner language, shall stop when the full vision of the Absolute is about to be established. This dual state is here compared to the ‘All-Filling-Light’ of Self-realization.



That primordial potency that herein resides

Is the seed that gives birth to all here we see;

Merging the mind in that, never forgetting,

Maya-mind to end, ever do contemplation pursue.


HAVING in the previous verses brought all reality to the concept of an all-pervading self-luminous entity, into the vastness of whose glory all sense of individuality or self-identity is lost, as it were, in a neutral notion of the Absolute, the Guru here passes on to examine the same in terms of a living purpose, taking a teleological rather than an ontological perspective.


The ‘atman’ of the Advaita Vedanta has been compared to a lamp that lights a theatre; while it sheds its light as a witness (‘sakshin’), the players who represent the living beings or jivas come or go in the world of phenomena. It is usual to refer the phenomenal world to Maya, as its source. Maya is only a philosophical term applied to the possibility of all kinds of errors, actual or conceptual, in the human mind. From simple optical illusions to the grandest of errors of mistaking the Self for the non-Self or vice-versa, man lives in error, and within the alternating range of certitude and doubt, he finds himself alternately in fear or wonder, eternally caught by lack of clear insight, within the living limits of a smile or a tear. Maya, it is true, is the source of the world of appearances, but behind and implied in Maya itself is the deeper-seated seed, which is also the source of the visible universe and which is independent of even the errors with which Maya is capable of inflicting the human kind. Maya as used here holds within its scope both its negative and positive implications before all duality’s taint is abolished.


The ‘potency’ referred to in the first line refers to the ‘sakti’ or power that is said to belong to Maya in Vedantic literature. This power should ultimately be traced to the Absolute itself, because without the light that the Absolute sheds, no errors would be possible at all. They would not arise. Although Maya is the immediate source of error, the final seed of error resides in the heart of the great neutrality of the Absolute described in the previous verse. Maya as a concept has validity as long as any vestige of duality in the Absolute persists due to its dominant negativity, as Hegel would put it.


Maya gives birth to the phenomenal (or the visible), while the noumenal and neutral Absolute is the source of all, or the ultimate cause. In itself, the Absolute viewed as Maya is causeless, and remains as an abstract principle tending to be negative in its import.


Assuming names and forms, Maya has the power of creating a world of plurality or multiplicity of percept-concept entities with which the actual world becomes filled at any given waking or dreaming moment. The common seed of both Maya and ‘jiva’ (a living unit) is to be traced still further backwards to the Absolute at the negative levels of this notion, whose best expression, as we have seen in the previous verse, is in a glory, filling all space. Maya may be said to live and express itself negatively and horizontally, while the glory of the Absolute may be said to have a vertical range, retaining still a common point of contact between the two. The positive and negative aspects of the Absolute, with a neutral central aspect best expressed by silence, are all implicit in

Vedantic writings of the different ‘acharyas’ (teachers) of India by names such as ‘para’ (ultimate), ‘sakshin’ (witness), ‘kutastha’ (positive or well-established), etc., into whose intricacies we shall not, at present, enter. Neither definitions nor examples can help the seeker here if he does not also have that imaginative and intuitive gift of vision which Sankara has called ‘uha apoha’ (an inductive-deductive insight. See our later work).


The second half of the verse refers to what one should do to advance in self-instruction. The pursuit of contemplation is here recommended, not as an obligation but as a free choice by a wisdom seeker. The word ‘manana’, used in the original Malayalam text for ‘contemplation’ here, refers to a discipline mentioned in the Upanishads and in the Gita which distinguishes between mere intellectual appreciation of a verity which is called ‘sravana’ (coming from hearing the  words of a Guru), and rumination over the truth as ‘marking’ in the familiar phrase of ‘read, mark and inwardly digest’ found in the context of Christian liturgy. The same distinction as between mere reading and marking, which refers to a further intensification of attention, is greater in the third term ‘nididhyasana’ - going with ‘manana’ and ‘sravana’ in Vedanta - (which would correspond to the third degree of attention implied in the term ‘inwardly digest’ of the Christian context). In the Bhagavad Gita this same distinction is under reference when in chapter XVIII. 55 we read:


‘By devotion he (the aspirant) knows me, to what extent and which I am; and thereafter, having known me, philosophically, he enters into me.’


The knowing process, in the intellectual, academic or philosophical sense, has only a weak degree of attention or faith involved in it. This has to be made more complete or perfect by the act of entering into the Absolute itself as meant in the philosophy of Bergson. The Absolute is within the consciousness of man and conversely man lives within the consciousness of the Absolute, The third degree of contemplation in the series of ‘sravana’ (hearing) and ‘manana’ (mental identification of what one has heard, or knowing it by heart as schoolboys say) is ‘nididhyasana’ (knowing the Absolute as if from inside it or as the Absolute within you). In the present verse this last stage of self-realization is not yet under reference, but we have to know the whole context if we are to have a precise notion here of what is implied by ‘manana’ which we have rendered in English, as the pursuit of ‘contemplation’.


The result of such active contemplation would be to cut at the root or the source of error, where it branches out horizontally into the visible world of names and forms, without denying the real seed which is lodged in the heart of the neutral glory of the Absolute itself.



The waking state, it obtains not in sleep

And sleep again does not attain consciousness

When awake: day by day these twain are born

Of Maya’s womb and keep alternating on.


IN verses 5, 6 and 7 the subject of the states of consciousness in relation with sleeping, waking and thinking were once alluded to, and it was indicated in verse 7 that the state of pure awareness was something midway between the states of waking and sleeping. Following up further the same idea, the Guru here indicates the neutral vertical axis that may be said to subsist between the alternating states of sleeping, waking and dreaming. There is one feature which is common to both sleep and wakefulness. In both, the subject witnesses either dream-objects or the objects of the waking world which, in the contemplative context, could in principle be called day-dreaming.


Our attention is here being directed by the Guru to this activity common to dream and day-dream that goes on in spite of the opposite and mutually exclusive nature of the two states that are compared here. The parity, implicit in terms of the active though not objectified content of sleep and waking, is stressed and explained further in the verse that follows. In contrast, in the present verse it is the mutual exclusiveness of the sleeping and waking states that is horizontally examined.


Maya is the principle of nescience or ignorance which is not an entity but a convenient term or mathematical factor or element with which to relate the two aspects of the Absolute, which always co-exist. Like the square root of minus one and its positive counterpart in the square of the same number, understood reciprocally or ambivalently as it enters into electro-magnetic calculations in modern physics, Maya is to be understood in terms of the philosophy of India, especially that of Sankara, as a negative vertical factor admitting contradiction horizontally but unity vertically.


Although his rival, or rather complementary, Vedantic teacher, Ramanuja, developed a theistic view of the Absolute, in which he could discuss the same Vedanta without the help of this Maya concept, by transferring to the power of God himself all that was attributed to the power of Maya or nescience, this negative principle, or ‘negativität’ in Hegelian terminology, has persisted to this day in Indian philosophy through Sankara.


The Guru Narayana, elsewhere in his Darsana Mala, analyses this concept in a whole chapter, and presents it in a fully revalued and scientific form. As the negative principle of creative manifoldness in nature, Maya is figuratively spoken of as a female that gives birth, while the positive fertilising aspect of the same natural power is transferred sometimes to the masculine principle such as Shiva, rather than to Parvati, his consort in the popular mystical or mythological proto-language of theism of India. This negative factor, which in principle contains the created multiplicity of the waking and the dream worlds together, ranging from existing to intelligible worlds, is the central axis common to the asymmetrical states of waking and sleeping, when viewed horizontally and independent of both.


This is the domain of this negative potentiality of the Absolute which is Maya, examined from the plus side of the vertical parameter for its reference in the context of this verse.


Maya is no other than the Absolute itself, when all movement or creativity is subtracted from it. The relation is a dialectical one, and is indicated by the word ‘ananya’, (non-other) explained by Sankara. Maya and the Absolute are related dialectically and not merely as in mechanistic logic. Pure consciousness, when free from the Maya-content of names and forms, becomes the same as the Absolute. Thus it is that we are directed to try to cut at the root of Maya by meditating at the point of insertion of the Maya- function within the pure Absolute. As electricity and magnetism act on different planes while yet belonging to one and the same energy, we have to imagine a unity and a difference here which itself is to be resolved into a final unity at the end of our search for Truth.



A long-drawn-out dream is this, and like sleep each day,

It gets extinguished: dream too likewise!

We can never see extinction thus to this: as it is

Hitched on to the pure aloneness, it goes round for ever.


THE continual flux of becoming implied in the creative evolution of the process of Nature in the phenomenal world, not excluding the psychic states of dreaming or waking that belong also to the more subtle aspect of the same, are pictured here together in living terms.


This is to be understood psycho-dynamically and in neutral psycho-physical terms, in keeping with the neutral monism implied in the contemplative way belonging to Vedanta (or contemplative absolutism). The parity that exists between sleep and waking in terms of their common creative content, which we have tried to explain in commenting on the previous verse, using the expression ‘Maya’ – this parity is what is meant to be expressed here. In verse 7 the same process was scrutinised once though from an ontological angle.


In order to see this in its proper perspective, we have first to think neutrally and see that both dream and the waking events of life are subject to extinction each day. When one leaves operating on the consciousness, the other takes over; and between these two modes of creative activity of the psycho-physical apparatus we have a long-drawn-out dream which belongs to Maya kept on everlastingly.


This Maya has to be imagined as being in relation to the vertical axis of becoming in pure time. Pure time in reality belongs to the context of the Absolute, which is here referred to as kevala, which we have rendered as ‘aloneness’, referring to the unique status of the Absolute, as known in contemplative literature such as that of Plotinus where spiritual progress is described as ‘the flight of the alone to the Alone’. ‘Kaivalya’ (which is the noun form of the adjective ‘kevala’), as the goal of contemplative progress, is also used in the context of Patanjali Yoga, and is to be treated as synonymous with ‘nirvana’, which refers to ultimate release of the soul from all bondage. There are many other terms like ‘apavarga’, ‘moksha’ or ‘nihsreyasa’, etc. which refer to the same pure state of ultimate release or salvation.


Careful re-reading of the first half of the verse, and keeping in mind the parity of dream and the wakeful states intended to be explained, will reveal the subtle interplay of vertical positive factors which are meant to be unitively and neutrally understood here.



Like waves instantly arising on the ocean

Each body one after one rises to subside again:

Where, alas, is the term for this? Know this as action

Taking place perpetually in awareness-ocean’s prime source.


The plurality of souls and the comprehensive unity of all souls into one are philosophical or religious opinions that have given rise to much disputation.  By way of reconciling the pluralism with the unitive status of individual and universal selves, called ‘jivatma’ and ‘paramatma’ respectively in Indian philosophical terminology, the Guru presents here a unified simple synthetic picture in which the ideas of the one and the many get reconciled in an overall notion of the absolute awareness. It could be called the collective cosmic consciousness of humanity which represents the Absolute in psychological terms.


The body is what we see, which consists of specific attributes such as solidity etc., which might mislead us to think that it has nothing to do with consciousness. In the very beginning of the composition, in verse 3, the Guru has given us an idea of how the elements such as earth, water, fire, etc., have to be viewed from the point of view of non-difference with the Self. It is because we look at the body with our own fleshly eyes that the prejudices of solidity, etc., seem real. Viewed as if from the inside of consciousness itself, and in terms of consciousness, the duality of mind and matter vanishes, and we can see the relation as consisting of only between what is general or generic (‘samanya’) and what is specific (‘visesha’). The specific expression of water that is universal or generic, is the wave. Between the two, ocean and wave, there is a subtle dialectical reciprocity when quantitative and qualitative aspects are thought of together and unitively.


The everlasting and beginningless principle of the unmoved mover that has its source in awareness pure and prime, is an Advaitic doctrine which is based on the a priori approach to absolute truth and thus requires no other proof. The phenomenal world is but a projection of the mind and has no status apart from consciousness or awareness itself. Even according to Aristotelian doctrines there is a ‘prius’ in matter which can be traced backwards as far as we like, and which gives us the answer of the unmoved prime mover, which is linked with consciousness or involved in it as the ‘prius nobis’, the anterior source in terms of awareness of all manifested matter where potentialities reside. The reference here to the prime ocean of pure awareness is not therefore unknown to philosophical thought, whether Eastern or Western.


The ocean of awareness which is, as it were, the source of motion or action, known as ‘karma’ in Indian philosophic terminology, is not confined to individual consciousness nor is it limited by it in its range of memory or imagination. It has to be understood in its infiniteness and its fully absolutist status. The two ambivalent aspects of the ocean here under reference must be put together into one whole with the prime root- or source-aspect on one side and the specialized wave-aspect as end or effect on the other. The phenomenal world conceptually presented to the contemplative vision has to be a verticalized version of the usual view of reality, which tends to be a horizontalized version. The noumenal and the phenomenal aspects of the Absolute thus hold together individual bodies and the one Self – as the ocean is the basis of the many waves that rise and fall on its surface.



Within the waveless ocean, there do abide

Endless Maya traits, which as potent configurations that assume

Bodies with such as water and taste, remain

As beginningless effects forming various worlds upon worlds.


THE Aristotelian notion of entelecheia and the scholastic notion of “being as such” known as ens have been the subject of much philosophical disputation in the history of Western philosophy. The term ‘Maya’ in the context of Indian thought refers to negative being and becoming at once, where potentiality and realized form are held together under a common unitive notion in the context of the Absolute. There is also ‘being’ viewed rationally (ens rationis) and the same ‘being’ viewed from the more realistic standpoint. Again there is the notion of neutral being between opposites, as in the ens known to Parmenides. We have to refer to all these grades and varieties of being and becoming known to philosophy before we can see the idea behind this verse, which demands much philosophical insight and imagination.


In the previous verse we have examined the notion of the body that is born into the visible world, and reduced it to terms of pure awareness. Here the same subject is viewed from the more virtual, negative or abstract and generalized viewpoint. A noumenal rather than a phenomenal view is taken here. The minus side of the vertical parameter is under reference here, with the serial worlds that it can project upwards.


The expanding universe or the contracting universe known to modern physics, e.g. to Jeans and Eddington, refers to distant galaxies which move away or come nearer to the observer. Whether these have a rational or a real existence is a question that cannot be answered definitely. The measurements involve the velocity of light and are calculated in terms of light-years, which are notions beyond the realistic limits of human experience. Further, the Eddingtonian world belongs to a non-experimental order where science transcends observation. The concept here becomes more important than the percept. We have to put ourselves in a frame of mind in which mind-matter differences are abolished before we can see the meaning of the above verse.


The analogy of the ocean of pure or prime awareness is continued here from the previous verse. Within the calm level of the ocean, where action is potent and invisible, there are motion- or action-factors still at work which have a cause-and-effect structure. If we think of the salt water of the metaphor and think of it as a reality, we have two distinct aspects of the reality: 1) the qualitative attribute of the taste which touches the consciousness at a certain point, and 2) the water with its objective form which belongs to the empirical order. These two put together form the basis of effects ranging from simple entities in nature to entities such as all the galaxies that we can observe. There are worlds upon worlds that thus form themselves with their root deep-hidden within prime consciousness itself. If waves on the ocean surface refer to the horizontal plane, these serial effects of worlds here refer to a vertical parameter, still within the scope of Maya’s process of becoming.


The verse may be re-read carefully with the cause and effect aspects of being kept distinct in the mind. Being has to be understood as in a process of flux, when it will be known as becoming, which refers to the notion of Maya. Maya is the two-sided process of becoming applied to pure being or the Absolute in Indian philosophy. Maya refers at once to existence and essence as also to the neutral substance, which last we have referred to above as the ens as understood in the philosophy of the Eleatics like Parmenides. The galaxies are effects which range from one pole of abstraction to the other and spread endlessly out or remain held together within the comprehensive awareness of man. The expanding and contracting universes are within human awareness. The contemplative vision is capable of visualizing the whole from the standpoint of the Absolute and in more verticalized terms than in the immediately preceding verse.



Thinking not in terms, ever new, of yesterday, today,

Tomorrow or even another day, never-endingly

Know, all things we count or measure

As of confusion’s making; difference there is none at all!


THE Absolute is beyond all count or measure. It belongs to an order by itself removed from all relativistic considerations. The world of science, which depends on counting or measuring, has to be transcended before the pure notion of the Absolute can emerge in all its neutral glory.


After giving us in the previous two verses an intuitive and imaginative picture of reality in its rational and empirical aspects, put together unitively round the central neutral stuff of awareness or consciousness after the manner of the ‘thinking substance’ of Spinoza, or dialectically conceived as by Parmenides - the Guru goes one step further in the same direction to abolish all sense of duality in the heart of the Absolute. He takes hold of the time-factor and reduces it in terms of pure duration as Bergson has succeeded in doing in his ‘creative process’ of the ‘vital energy’.


When the visible world has been subtracted from the totality of experience there are still objects that can be measured or counted. Scientific knowledge, in the empirical sense, pertains to the world of measurement or enumeration. The notion of the Absolute, understood in terms of self-consciousness or in more realistic cosmological terms, can be put into the melting pot of absolute awareness where all differences give place to a final synthesis or unity.


Science has been defined as depending on knowledge by measurement. Counting too belongs to the arithmetical

world. The Samkhya philosophy of India belongs to the world of counting the categories, numbering twenty-five as between nature (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). Enumeration is an integral part of the Samkhya school of philosophy. To the extent that abstraction and generalization are involved in these approaches to truth, they have a place in philosophical speculation, but when we come to the finalized notion of the Absolute, as envisaged in the Vedanta, these enumerated items and measurable aspects of reality are to be thrown into the melting pot, so as to reveal the basic reality, which is Absolute and devoid of all differentiation. Measuring and numbering fall short of this ultimate notion.

         The Guru is here underlining this basic verity, although analytically he too, in some of his writings, such as the analysis of consciousness called ‘Arivu’ (Epistemology of Gnosis), enumerated aspects of the Absolute in a graded manner, in keeping with a science of the Absolute.


The neutral, normative and differenceless basic Absolute is, even there, fully and basically retained. Lesser epistemological and methodological requirements alone make such enumeration of categories permissible. The unitive differenceless Brahman or the Absolute remains ever the norm of the science of the Absolute.



Apart from awareness I have no being:

As distinct from me awareness cannot remain

As mere light; both knowledge and knower, contemplation

Reveals beyond doubt as of one substance alone.


THE relation between the ‘subject-matter’ and what we might call the ‘object-matter’ of consciousness is subtle and dialectical. There is an ambivalent bipolarity or dichotomy between the self that is the knower and the self that is known.


Both of these are linked by pure knowledge, conceived as a neutral abstraction, which has been variously recognized, both in Eastern and Western philosophies, under different names and in the context of differing philosophical points of view.


Fichte’s division between the self and the non-self may be said to divide correctly these two aspects. Kant’s division between ‘pure reason’ and  ‘practical reason’ also recognizes this same ambivalence. Mind and matter have been treated unitively or dualistically by Descartes and others. Whether mind and matter are linked together by the principle of ‘occasionalism’, as Descartes would put it, or through the intermediary entity called the ‘substance that thinks’, as with Spinoza, or through the notion of the monad as with Leibniz, rationalistic philosophy recognizes the neutral common ground between these evidently dual aspects.


Extreme dualism grades into forms of solipsism with different writers or thinkers, serially reviewed. Whatever the degree of unity or duality may be as between different schools of thought in the East or West, we can discover a common methodology implicit in all of them. In fact the relationship is dialectical and dialectical methodology would permit of the two factors being treated in various degrees of unitiveness or duality.


Human consciousness alternates between the poles of the self and the non-self. When we look upon this alternation from the core of consciousness itself, the alternating process becomes effaced into the unitive light of absolute consciousness, abolishing all duality. In the workaday, realistic or pragmatic sense no one can deny that mental and bodily phases constantly succeed each other as we observe our own daily life and actions.


In the present verse the Guru recognizes the ambivalent interdependence between the self and its dialectical counterpart, the non-self. In verse 68 below, the same idea is taken up again and treated more dualistically, so as to reveal the mechanism of the self in its operational sense. Here the solipsistic regulative principle is just enunciated, to start with, to form the basis of the further elaboration of the same theme in later verses of the second half of the work which will have more to do with the positive or known than with the knower- aspect of the self. Sankara himself divides consciousness into ‘drik’ (seer) and ‘drisya’ (the seen) for an analysis of self-consciousness to reveal to inner structure of absolute consciousness.


Such an analysis of consciousness is highly necessary for the student to avoid the philosophical puzzlements and confusions with which books abound. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of ‘jnana’ (knowledge) in contradistinction with ‘jneya’ (the known) which belongs to the ‘vijnana’ (specific wisdom) aspect of wisdom rather than to the mere ‘jnana’ aspect, which can be negative in its implications. Avoiding grades or classes of error is the ‘jnana’ aspect, and building up positive notions and doctrines about reality is the second stage of the same (‘vijnana’) process of knowing. Wisdom gets finalized in its own neutral glory in the end of the search when the self and the non-self unite.


The solipsistic form which might be considered an objection to this way of looking at the problem of reality is not really an objection because, at least methodologically, solipsism in some form or other has to enter into the contemplative way of reasoning which is the domain proper of higher wisdom. Just as pantheism has to enter into theology when God is described as omnipresent, the very unitive basis of absolutist philosophy can hardly avoid this position, and by itself it is no drawback of the teaching. Just as axiomatic verities exist side-by-side with verities that grade from tautology to the extreme position of contradiction in various steps of logic merging into the highest form of logistics or of dialectical reasoning, so solipsism as a basic epistemological law is fully legitimate and admissible. The philosopher must only take care that he does not get stuck mechanistically in the solipsistic position, and make a fetish of the doctrine. The Guru here, as we shall see, after stating the law of the reciprocal interdependence of the knower and the known, passes on to its theorems and corollaries in a graded and methodical fashion.



Even when knowledge to egoism is subject in any predication,

And one is unmindful of the ultimate verity of what is said,

Yet as with the truth, however ultimate, such knowledge

Can never fall outside the scope of the knowing self.


TRUTH can be viewed from one or the other of its ambivalent poles that we have tried to distinguish in the previous verse. Truth is not a third factor that can exist independently of the knower or the known. When this is admitted, we can see that each man’s truth is the resultant of the two ambivalent aspects of truth which give meaning or value to that truth for the person concerned. In other words, truth is what attains to an equilibrium between the two poles of the self and the non-self.


Let us think of a straight vertical line between two extreme points representing the possible poles of the self and the non-self. Each man, when he conceives of truth wholeheartedly, must perforce put it at one point or other on this ascending or descending scale of values. Each truth has a personal or ultimate value and could hold interest or be meaningful only to the extent that it falls somewhere in the line joining the self with the non-self. This is a corollary that inevitably follows from the axiomatic form in which the two counterparts of the self and the non-self have been stated to be fundamentally related. To the extent that the truth conceived disinterestedly is purer and more impersonal, the appeal to instinctive dispositions weakens. The transcendental appeal of the glory of truth might increase in intensity at the expense of the immanent and intimate experience of the same truth. What is lost on one side is gained on the other and, as a value factor that regulates and influences the life of the individual concerned, the one or the other have the same influence, which could be treated as a constant.


An ultimate truth that cannot be conceived by one who is not a high philosophical thinker must still be within his intellectual or emotional reach if it is to have any value-content at all. The object is limited by the subject and vice-versa, making the effective value the same all through if the truth is wholehearted and genuine. The condition of strict bipolarity is what matters. An ordinary devotee might think of his God as having personal attributes while another, more capable of abstract thinking, might think in terms of a scientific Absolute given to reasoning or dialectics. There is a law of inverse squares that may be said to be present here in the reciprocity involved. All forms of faith, if they fall unitively in the vertical scale implied, would be equally respectable - it is in this sense that in the Bhagavad Gita it is stated:


Whatever be the manner in which a person might approach me, even accordingly do I accept him; it is my own path that all mankind do tread in their different ways. (IV. 11)


The controversy in Christian theology relating to the primacy given to ‘grace’ or to ‘works’ can be settled when we apply this law of reciprocal or ambivalent values. Faith and works have to go hand in hand unitively.


In the stories of the saints in Tamil literature a canonical status is given to a simple peasant devotee, Kannappa Nayanar, whose faith to Shiva was said to be so great that he was willing to give his own eye to mend the damaged eye of an image that he worshipped wholeheartedly as Shiva. Other canonised saints might have been superior intellectually, but for Kannappa Nayanar, his faith, though realistic to a childish limit, scored in value or merit equally with the most intellectual of devotees, as legend says. Thomas à Kempis recognizes the same principle in his ‘Imitation of Christ’. No faith can strictly be called false and no reasoning unfaithful. Truth and faith lend support to each other.



Outside objects hold the field, each distinct from each,

With the sense that measures, whose function is nescience,

And these in turn with many sets of names, such as that of directions,

Or the sky, keep rising up and into awareness change.


THE events that fill consciousness in a state of contemplative flux or change or becoming are vividly pictured in this verse in neutral psycho-physical terms.


The objects that we see objectively, as if outside consciousness, are focal points of interest which engage our attention in succession both in time and in space. This the world of multiple interests in which the self lives and moves, selecting its satisfactions here and there in a changeful and light-hearted manner. The measuring-rod with which all interests are appraised has its source in the five senses. These however, insofar as they give us a partial picture of the reality, deal with the world of appearance rather than with reality and therefore function on the side of ignorance rather than on the side of science.


When we pass from the outer objects of interest to deeper-seated conceptual factors in consciousness we come to items which refer to entities which are neither physical in the full sense nor merely mental. They belong to the psycho-physical framework of reality as conceptually understood.


There is actual space which is filled with things, and conceptual space which is independent of things. Aristotle’s ‘Physics’ (Book IV) brings out this distinction when it defines space as ‘that without which bodies could not exist, but itself (space) continuing to exist when bodies cease to exist’.


Modern mathematical notions of space grade imperceptibly from actual space into non-metric space of different orders in the context of the Absolute. Quadric and vectorial spaces are now known to scientists and mathematicians and are in practical everyday use. The sense of direction that each person carries within him refers to his ego which is at the core of his consciousness with which, as locus, he is able to point to the points of the compass and to overhead or below, giving rise to sets referred to by names which cluster into different classes which grade into the world of imperceptibles. The sky refers to space, which is independent of the notion of directions and comes near to a purer notion than that of a direction. Cantor’s theory of ensembles and the post-Hilbertian geometry of algebra are modern disciplines which could be appealed to here for supporting this vision of rising sets of value entities.


The change and becoming that is always in progress within psycho-physical consciousness, viewed in living and contemplative terms, has an ascent and a circulation which

are under reference in the last line. When we see that modern physics admits of a physical world in which galaxies advance, recede or keep expanding or contracting within the limits of outer space, it should not be considered too far-fetched for a contemplative to visualise the neutral psycho-physical world as in a state of flux. Bergsonian philosophy, while retaining a scientific status, has succeeded in describing reality in a manner that would be acceptable to the physicist and metaphysician at one and the same time. Pragmatism and mysticism find place together in such a philosophical outlook, which may be said to agree in its main lines with the standpoint adopted here by the Guru. Knowledge however gains primacy above all material or practical considerations here.



Mere orthodoxy, which keeps saying that one should not adopt

As one’s own a doctrine belonging to another side, how can it

True knowledge bring? Lip service does not avail -

One has earnestly to contemplate the state supreme.


WHEN a man adopts a religious or spiritual life consisting of articles of faith or patterns of behaviour, he can take one of two alternative courses: that of the orthodox who tend to exaggerate the value of what is already their own by previous conditioning or adoption; or else he could err on the side of heterodoxy by saying that beliefs or modes of life outside of what one has been conditioned or brought up to adopt for oneself are better than what are already one’s own.


The general law that underlies the bipolar situation in which each man may be caught is enunciated in verse 60. The two aspects, referring to the self or the non-self, cling together and fuse into each other as a central or neutral verity in any case. They form a value that is dear to the person concerned, and as long as they are true from normative standards of spiritual life they must all be considered equally good. In other words, as the next (63rd) verse is going to enunciate more pointedly, the true dialectics as between heterodoxy and orthodoxy is the rule of the golden mean of Aristotle. The present verse speaks from the side of the conservative self or of hide-bound orthodoxy; while the next will be seen to give primacy to heterodoxy – and from both the sides it insists on the need for earnest research for the correct middle path.


The conversion that takes place in certain people at certain times – by which they disadopt gradually or suddenly what was their own, or go with particular insistence in the opposite direction, i.e., of vehemently adopting what is not their own – is a familiar event in the world of religious life. There is a subtle spiritual suffering implicit in either case.


In the present verse the Guru refers to the orthodox tendency to disadopt what is not already accepted. Mere conservatism of this type is as bad as its counterpart of heterodoxy.


The cure for both these tendencies or ‘doxies’ is the calm contemplation of the absolutist or finalized standpoint implied in what is referred to here as the supreme state. What are understood as particular ‘isms’ or creeds refer to partial aspects only of the absolute all-comprehensive Truth that covers existence, subsistence and values at once. The ‘supreme state’ mentioned in this verse is thus a neutral and normative standpoint with respect to the Absolute.


Most people who call themselves religious are only interested in the outer forms of religious life. The doctrines and patterns of behaviour implied refer only to the world of outer values in some social or group life. These tend to fan rivalries and exclusive attitudes of mind. One has to seek for deeper religious values which belong to the spirit and not to the dead letter. The ‘Lord-lordism’ against which Jesus himself complained belongs to this world of superficial or conventional reactions of lip-service to spirituality. The munafiqun of Islam and the Pharisees of the Bible are not truly spiritual. The Guru here points out that spiritual progress in the direction of absolute wisdom cannot come by mere repetitions of formulae, however correct they may be intellectually or valid by their meaning. There must be a religion of the heart that goes with it, and such a spirituality or contemplation has to be cultivated, not by allowing oneself to be swayed by the sentiments of the people at its dull superficial level, but more deliberately with reference to the finalized wisdom of the Absolute.



This wisdom that ever remains non-other to the Wisdom

Than the knowing of which just as such, here, what

By heterodox disadoption one can never come to know,

Such, the supreme secret of the pundit, who is here to see?


THIS verse has to be read with the previous one to enable one to see its purpose, which is to complement and correct any deflection from the strictly neutral position we should take as between orthodoxy and heterodoxy that might recommend itself to any one who seeks progress in the matter of contemplative wisdom. The self and non-self, which have an interchangeable character as the subject-matter or the object-matter, now of orthodoxy and now of heterodoxy, have between them a subtle middle ground in which true knowledge takes its forward stride to Self-realization. It represents the domain of pure wisdom as such, and the stride that is taken from the subjective aspects of the same wisdom is not an event at all in terms of the central neutral and normative Absolute which is also the content of the other. Absolute Wisdom is, moreover, all-inclusive and already implicitly contains the subjective aspect which on final analysis is non-different from itself.


The neutral and perfectly central or absolute Wisdom refers to what one realises just as such without any sense either of heterodoxy or orthodoxy. It is a simple event which is not an event at all in a gross mechanical sense. The words ‘knowing just as such here’ are meant to stress the ease and the directness or neutrality of the inner event of knowing, when it refers to pure Self-realization, which is neither objective nor subjective. Most religions and philosophies now prevailing err on one side or the other. Hence the justification for the last rhetorical question.


As against people who suffer by orthodoxy from a subtle form of mental reservation or disadoption of what is strange to them (referred to in verse 62); there are others, according to the present verse, who tend to exaggerate the importance of extraneous aspects of the wisdom of the Absolute, such as those transcendental aspects of it which remain strange from the side of mere orthodoxy. The exaggerations of heterodox disadoption are equally bad. It is not conducive to pure wisdom to strive in the seeking of wisdom, whether positively or negatively. It must be a simple event.


A note of warning is here struck against any excesses in any direction. Those who tend to adopt eagerly the varied sensational and new-fangled, odd or fantastic ways of self-realization are hereby warned off against possible excesses in their approach. The two verses, 62 and 63, are meant to bracket or enclose between them the pure context of Absolute Wisdom.


In the last line of the verse the Guru reveals his plaintive mood, tinged with sadness at the fact that most of the enthusiasts in the name of spirituality whom we see in this world fall either into the category of the over-orthodox or the over-heterodox. A balanced pressure between these rival forces has to be maintained, and the two counterparts should not cancel-out altogether into dull and lazy states of vacuity or emptiness of interest. All the forces that converge to the point of Self-realization have to be focussed on to the wisdom that is ever present and which is normal and natural and needs no straining to be seen in its own light.


There is involved in such a process the penetrating insight of the pundit, who is the intelligent, learned or well-informed man in such matters. The Gita uses the word ‘panditah’ in this laudatory sense, although punditry is sometimes applied to mere learning. It is in the true Gita sense that it is employed here. The supreme pundit is neither orthodox nor heterodox but holds himself between

these tendencies. Only the most learned and those of the most penetrating insight in such matters come to this right way. The majority of seekers of spirituality or wisdom get lost and fail to hold the balance. This is the justification for the note of sadness with which the verse concludes.


The way of absolute wisdom sits still without taking sides, established within the neutral core of wisdom as such. The firm establishment of wisdom is what takes place within wisdom itself and not with reference to anything extraneous to it, whether belonging to the side of the Self or the non-Self. It is thus a simple event which is not an event at all.



This which ever prevails, surmounting each interest-item,

One’s proper retrospection alone can compromise:

By means of extremely lucid memory, however, the revealing

Of ultimate wisdom-treasure is still not to be ruled out.


THE mind as an inner organ of thought or consciousness can be related to the future or the past. Interests having a prospective or a retrospective content can fill the mental field by establishing a bipolar relation with any one at a time. Items of interest thus succeed each other, holding the centre of the field of attention at a given time with each person. Just as a river flows forward, overcoming obstacles such as stones that hinder its progress; so the forward-flowing or prospective function, which is a corollary of the orientation of the spirit to the future ideological end or purpose in life, consists of overcoming impediments in the form of interests of various degrees and kinds which happen to hold back the attention of man at any given time. These interests are good for spiritual progress even in their most ordinary levels or degrees only in so far as they offer footholds for the ascent of the spirit by convenient steps through their means to ever higher levels, so as to prevail finally in self-realization of the highest or absolute value


The enemy of such a process of positive progression is the retrospective orientation of the spirit which is often filled with the dross of personal reminiscences which result in regrets or regression of the spirit harmful to a healthy psychic life. Reminiscent moods are often signs of mental debility or advanced old age. Items of regret can effectively compromise or counter the forward impetus that leads to the goal of absolute Self-realization. The harm done by retrospection and regret to the soul in its progress to the goal is described in the forceful language of the German philosopher Nietzsche in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra (Page 153, Random House, New York, N. Y., U. S. A.)


Willing emancipateth; but what is that called which ‘It was thus’ is the will’s teeth-gnashing and lonesomest  tribulation called. Impotent towards what hath been done – it is a malicious spectator of all that is past. That time doth not run backward – that is its animosity. ‘That which was’ – so is the stone which it cannot roll called.


Over and above this generalization about the evil of retrospection the Guru’s verse contains a kind of safety-valve pertaining to the same question. All retrospection is not to be ruled out. When the Isa Upanishad says;


0 purpose (kratu), remember: The deed (krita) remember

0 purpose remember, the deed remember.


There is still a two-sided allusion to the item of retrospection or remembrance retained in principle. There is a lucid form of pure memory transparent to purpose and to what is past and gone for ever. Such a lucid form of retrospection, with double reference to the past as well as to the future, has the same effect as digging for a treasure trove that is hidden under the ground and finding it, and the Guru here accepts this kind of pure retrospection, approximating to a form of general awareness, as conducive, in principle at least, to the end of contemplative Self-realization.



There is not one thing here that we have not already once known;

Veiled by form, knowledge fails: wakefully to know all

There is none here boundless as it is;

0, who can know at all this wonder dear!


MEMORY is at the basis of our vision of the manifested world. This is the theory of ‘adhyasa’ or superimposition, well-known to Vedantic thought. The reality that we attribute to the objects we see are to be traced to their source by a process of reasoning which goes from effect to cause. Such a philosophical way of enquiry is natural and normal to the human mind. We are always asking ourselves about the ‘how’, ‘why’ or ‘what’ of things. All things must have a cause, and science is what reveals the cause behind effects which constitute all the appearances in which we all live.


Adhyasa (superimposition) has been defined as the grafting by memory of something which does not belong to the place or context. It is a special or particular instance of wrong perception. The associative or apperceptive masses that are formed by our long contact with objects in our past, however long, are not lost, but remain as ‘samskaras’ or conditioning unit-factors which colour our present vision, giving it a ‘reality’ which is not really there. Subtle associative unit-masses of habitual forms called ‘vasanas’ (tendencies) operate to shape or determine our present view of things.


Western psychology does not give much place to this deeper aspect of the structure of perception. Perception becomes conception, and both of these interact, giving depth of meaning to everything. Emotive factors enter into cognition and conation to a larger extent than what is envisaged by the merely superficial stimulus-response or mechanistic psychology known in modern Europe or America. The Bergsonian theory of memory holds good here and gestalt configurations also count.


The whole question has to be viewed from a vertical rather than from a merely horizontal perspective. When we have done so, the verity of the statement in the first line of the verse above, which at first might appear too sweeping, will become more evident. Our consciousness, whether individual or collective, must, in principle at least, contain all that has been the least meaningful in our past life. There cannot be any effect without a corresponding cause. This cause must necessarily be any effect without a corresponding cause. This cause must necessarily be hidden in the past.


That form hides instead of reveals, as the second line of this verse seems to suggest, refers perhaps to a more fundamental philosophical verity. Its shape or colour fails to touch the substantial basis of an object. Colour could be an optical effect and shapes could be mere outlines demarcated in space. The content or the thing-in-itself, as Kant would call it, is not the same as the accidents that are merely attributes of the substance that is not given to the view.


In the Indian philosophical context we distinguish between ‘dharma’, the mode of expression of an object and the ‘dharmi’, the basic reality common to particular modes of expression, which is the cause or agent that produces the effects or ‘dharmas’. This agent cannot be seen, but has to be inferred through the exercise of the faculty of reasoning. What hinders reasoning here is the visual aspect. In thinking of colours or forms, which belong to the order of appearances, the reality becomes obstructed to the extent that we are misled by them. The extraneous impediments of form have to be brushed aside before a notion of the basic reality can dawn in our minds. It is in this sense that form is said to obstruct our knowing objects in themselves.


The impossibility of knowing all objects in this universe must make us give up any ambition, such as to be able to be

so wakeful as to take into our consciousness all that is possible to know, without any remainder. We cannot be at all places together. Each is obliged to live in a bounded world of his own, whether big or small. Even when the collective consciousness of humanity brings within its wakeful scrutiny or purview the large world of outer space or when it examines microscopically the space in which minute particles live and move - while it is true that we can theorise  or generalise about them, the knowing of each and all as particular objects or events in a fully wakeful or ‘objectified’ sense becomes impossible to conceive. There are expanding universes known to science beyond galaxies, and newer and newer particles leap into view as we progress in the scrutiny of atoms. Individual possibilities of wakeful knowledge are still more limited. Actual knowing, as distinct from inferential knowing, draws a still narrower circle around our range of vision of things. Even the outside wall of our living room is only known to us at second-hand.


The ‘dear wonder’ referred to in the last line is that aspect of the Absolute not subject to the influences of memory-aspects of consciousness. It has been pointed out in verse 64, that memory is the enemy of spiritual progress. Retrospective in its drag or regret, it is only a negative factor. Only bold spirits can undertake the positive conquest of the unexplored aspects of what is known as ‘adrishta’ (the unseen) or ‘apurva’ (the never-known before) aspects of the Absolute Truth, which alone gives a crowning character to the notion of the Absolute itself.


The unseen can refer to the Absolute as the adorable, whether as God, as a high moral value, or as artistic perfection at its best and rarest. Whether through theology, which might call it God; or through ethics that might call it the embodiment of ‘dharma’ (‘Dharmakaya’ as with Buddhism) that could by-pass theological gods; or through aesthetics that visualizes this rare aspect of creative thought as something precious - we here touch a value that is absolute and supreme. This is given only to the vision of the boldest adventurer in the realm of the spirit, and constitutes the most precious aspect of human wisdom itself. The last line declares how rare it is to attain such positive wisdom.



Earthy factors shall come to be evermore;

One alone remains not subject to becoming;

What we know, what it is, what we are, are that same;

And all others too remain conforming to its form.


THERE is an aspect of nature that is phenomenal and subject to everlasting flux and becoming. This is the domain of the multiplicity of existing things - like the earth which we can touch and know as something outside ourselves, as an object to be known. The knower is the self and the known belongs to the side of the non-self. If we should put these two dual aspects together unitively there is a central neutral reality which knows no change. That remains ever as the ‘high value’ of the previous verse.


Unchanging reality is the Absolute which is ever constant and the same. It has a certain finalized form as pure awareness which is ineffable and subtler than the subtle, like a mathematical truth of the most abstract and generalized order. It is on such a subtle and all-inclusive basis that phenomenal existence can trace its changing phases.


The one and the changeless on the one hand, and the many that hang together in the chain of causes and effects, are related to the core in the neutrality of the Absolute without contradiction or conflict - but in the manifested world they are contraries or contradictories, according to the various grades of actualities or reasoned entities, factors or beings.


There are three ways of knowing from the relativist side when we envisage the highest of absolute generalized abstractions which is all inclusive. These three ways are touched upon by the Guru here in the third line as:


Firstly, what we know, or rather what we can know by the advancement of philosophical knowledge, which is called ‘jneya’ (that which is to be known), or even sometimes ‘vijnanam’ (specified knowledge). This refers to the object-matter of knowledge in pure epistemology.


Then, secondly, there is an ‘objective’ knowledge pure and simple, or just things that we can touch and entities that are analogous to it as seen through the inner organs such as the mind (‘manas’), intelligence (‘buddhi’), relational mind (‘chitta’) and the ego (‘ahamkara’). Such actual or analogously actual items are many, and the Guru refers to them as a category implied in ‘what it is’ or ‘that’, which refers to tangible aspects of the non-self.


Then, thirdly, there is the self itself which is, as it were, within the body, but not really inside or outside.


These three aspects, while they are distinguishable from the relativistic side, merge into the unity of the Absolute when the philosophy becomes finalized or confirmed. The phenomenal and the noumenal worlds can be equated in terms of the Absolute.


Knowledge, knower and known are the tri-basic aspects of truth as seen from the relativistic side, which are transcended in the unitive vision of the Absolute. This tri-basic aspect of knowledge is to be vedantically finalized or reduced in terms of the vision of the Absolute.


Unitive knowledge combines the ‘it’ or ‘that’ aspect with the self aspect on one side, and the non-self aspect on the other. When the tri-basic aspects are thus unitively and globally reduced and reconstructed, as the last line states, we come to see all others too that we saw as individuals apart from our own individual selves, as also conforming to the prototype of the global neutral and normal notion of the Absolute. All first, second or third personal pronouns in the singular or plural and whatever gender, could come under the aegis of the Absolute Self.



That which is beyond count, on the one hand,

And what is ordinary and of the workaday world;

Other than these two, there is no other form at all

Either in memory, in sleep, or in the city on high.


THERE are two archetypal types of knowledge to which all reality may be said to belong without exception or remainder. The first mentioned in the verse is the Absolute as conceived in its purest connotation which is beyond all plurality or computation. If it is one, it belongs to a unique order by itself. Notions of the one and many cannot apply to it. As pure mathematics is not merely arithmetical in content, the Absolute is the most generalized and highly mathematical abstraction which does not refer directly, for example, to the items for sale piled up in the market place. One is perceptual or conceptual, the other is actual. Between these, all reality is comprised.


These components have to be put together for us to arrive at the normative notion of the Absolute, which is all-inclusive. For clarity we could say that there is a reality with a vertically logical reference and one that has a horizontal reference. There is nothing besides.


The pointed reference in the last line to the dream world; to the world of past memories or samskaras; and to the world that the life of a spiritual man aspires for or attains as the promised land, apocalyptically viewed - which is in common language referred to as the City on High or Heaven, and which is no other than the sum-total of value- items that human beings aspire after in terms of future happiness or other visualized goals - are all to be comprehensively included within the scope of the two axes of reference of values to man, whether here or hereafter, whether in the past or in the present. All else belongs to the limbo of the absurd.


The categoric generalization with which the verse ends is fully justified by a priori considerations. That Absolute which leaves something outside its scope is inconceivable, and we know also by the same a priorism applied to the notion of the Absolute, that reality must either be perceptual or conceptual. It could be said to consist either of ‘relata’ or of relations, to put it in the words of Eddington. Whatever the particular philosophical terms used, these two aspects comprise all.


We have consistently developed the terms from algebra and geometry as the vertical (pure) and the horizontal (practical) in various contexts in articles published, which refer to the same two divisions.



As the ego sense enters into the double snake-rope-like scheme

Now as knowledge and now as the limited body agent,

It becomes sacred at one time or profane again

Thus, should he understand, the intuitive man.


THERE is a subtle form of dichotomy or ambivalence to which the ‘I’ sense which each man can feel in himself tends to be subjected alternatingly, while still remaining basically the same. As a magnet could have two poles while still belonging to the order of magnetism, this subtle polarity has to be first fully visualised by the contemplative who aspires to self-realization beyond its two-sided limitations. Duality in all its aspects, gross or subtle, has to be taken into account before it can be correctly merged in the notion of the non-dual Absolute. With the present verse the Guru enters into a series of verses dealing with the inner structure of contemplative consciousness, viewed both cosmologically and psychologically. Many subtle problems and correlations are established so as to reveal the structure of the Self in the context of the Absolute.


Here the Guru makes use of the classical Vedantic example of the superimposition in consciousness of the illusion of the snake on the reality of the pure thing-in-itself represented by the rope. This example has been worked upon by Vedantists over and over in their literature and it has become such a favourite that Vedanta can no more do without it. The reason for this is to be sought in the fact that this particular example has much proto-linguistic value attached to it.


Our consciousness is really unitary or unitive in its content and structure but where it participates with the relational world of appearances it presents this elusive, ambivalent phenomenon when viewed from the side of appearance rather than that of reality itself. The ego-sense may be said to oscillate within the amplitude of the two poles characterised by the snake-rope analogy which the Guru resorts to with great advantage for explaining his own scientific philosophical standpoint.


In oscillating between the poles, the ego-sense gets filled with two different contents: one of these has the status of a mental presentation only, on an existent basis. This is the snake superimposed on the other simple reality of the rope. When consciousness swings as it were to the other extreme negative pole, the content is not a mental presentation but tends to be existent, and touches, as it were, the ontological limits of the actual or the physical.


Knowledge helps presentiments, while fact tends to abolish this tendency in favour of actuality. Knowledge is the pole of subsistence, while the ego-sense conditioned by the physical body (here referred to as the ‘limbed-agent’, a translation of the Sanskrit word ‘angi’) is the pole of existence. The alternating states of consciousness refer to the psychic and the physical aspects of reality. These two poles have their common ground in the same individual consciousness.


Spirituality in the religious context is permeated by the twin considerations of merit or demerit, saintly or sinful, sacred and profane. In the context of Sanskritist religion the corresponding expressions are ‘arya’ (good or honourable) and ‘anarya’ (evil or dishonourable). The racial implications may be said to have been completely effaced from these expressions as used at present. An Aryan is known for gentlemanly qualities whatever his race. Thus ‘arya’ and ‘anarya’, which we could have translated as ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’, refer to twin ambivalent aspects of personal spiritual life. One feels holy or sinful according as his ego-consciousness is coloured or conditioned by one or the other of these poles that have been distinguished above. Sin and saintliness have both to be transcended in favour of a unitive state which abolishes effectually the duality that might persist as between either of them. This is the way of absolutist self-realization or contemplation which is recommended here. To be able to recognize the duality of the aspects is good, but it is better to go further in the same direction to abolish it and merge it in the unitive vision of the Absolute. Before one can deal with or work a machine it is necessary to have a clear idea of its mechanism, at least in broad outline. Contemplation, to be correctly practised or accomplished, must be fully informed of the way of transcending duality through an understanding of the nature of the duality itself. It is for this reason that the Guru concludes with the suggestion that intuition, which is a higher form of reasoning than the merely mechanistic one, must be applied here for one to be able to appraise the dual aspects together as the underlying unity, without contradiction.


The awareness or wakefulness of the intuitive man should be such that, while it is fully aware of the duality, it is able to see unity in it, in the brighter light of a more focussed attention. Only a man gifted with this kind of intuition is regarded by Sankara and others as fit for the study of Vedanta or ‘Atma Vidya’ ( Cf. Viveka Chudamani verse 16). Bergsonian intuition also belongs to the same Absolutist contemplative context.



With hearing and such as horses linked, carrying within

The Self-image, and ruled over by the master of thinking powers

Such is the libido chariot, mounted whereon the ‘I’ sense Unceasing deals outward with each form of beauty as it proceeds.


THE participation of the Self with the outer world of interests has a graded, serial, polarised nature which has to be understood operationally and in globally integrated fashion as a totality in the context of the Absolute. Piecemeal notions of such verities found in text-books of different psychological, philosophical or theological disciplines are here seen integrated together as if hanging by the same peg. Modern phenomenology undertakes a similar task.


The central reality here is the ‘Self-image’ referred to as the ‘atma-pratima’. The double description implied has to be justified in the light of the word karu (core) as employed consistently even from the very first verse. Like the ‘thinking substance’ of Spinoza, it is psycho-physical and neutral between mind and matter. What is more, it does not participate directly in outside action with forms or things other than itself. Like the ‘unmoved mover’ of Aristotle or the ‘agent of pure act’ of classical philosophers, this self-image is the most direct and really given representative of the notion of the Absolute.


On the South Indian soil the sight of such a ceremonial procession as seen in this verse is familiar to the common man and what is more, in the Upanishads themselves this same imagery has been employed in several places, comparing the self with the charioteer and the senses with the horses.


The Katha Upanishad (third valli, verses 3-6 ) states, ‘Know that the soul (atman, self) as riding in a chariot’. The rest of the analogy is the same there, except that the manas is further compared to the reins, which does not contradict the picture the Guru presents here.


Svetasvatara Upanishad (2-9) says: “Like the chariot yoked with vicious horses, his mind the wise man should restrain undistractedly.”


Maitri Upanishad, II prapathaka, goes into the functions of each of these factors in greater detail, beginning, “This body is like a cart without intelligence...” and explaining how the pure Absolute itself could be the driver.


These stray comparisons and analogies have been brought together here by the Guru in a more complete and coherent form, to serve as the basis of an integrated notion of the Self in a fully contemplative and absolutist context, with a scientific status given to it, although put in the language of antique imagery. The comparison of the Self to an image in an idolatrous chariot procession (such as takes place to this day at Puri Jagannath - the ‘car of Juggernaut’ being known to the English idiom itself), the latter representing the inevitability of the force of providence in human life, might have an outlandish flavour. When we consider, however, that it is neither mind nor matter that we have to think of neutrally and psycho-physically here, this prejudice will lose its force, if any. The image represents the notion of ‘substance’ rather than of mere matter. The procession represents a parameter for accommodating graded spiritual factors around the self.


The more solidly material side of the situation here portrayed is to be traced backwards into the chariot rather than forward to the horses which represent the senses. Between thinking and substance - which are aspects or attributes of the neutral Absolute - is to be located the neutral Self-image. After this, more negatively, we have the physical basis of the self as the libido, as understood in modern psycho-analytic literature such as that of Freud, Jung or Adler.


The word ‘rati’ which we have translated as ‘libido’ here,

as the nearest corresponding notion of the West, may be viewed as highly coloured by sex, or only tinted with a shade of the sex element, according to different schools of psycho-analysis, whose prudery in such matters might vary according to their puritanism or paganism. That sex is the basis of the body is sufficiently proved by the fact that the body is born by sex, even if merely immaculately. When the Bhagavad Gita goes so far as identifying ‘kama’ (passion) with the Absolute, as it does in chapter VII verse 11, this kind of paganism may be said to be natural to Indian spirituality. Science and religion do not come into conflict here. Sex in fact enters - or is the whole of - the stuff that makes up the Self in its negative aspects, while the senses make up the positive element. Whatever might detract from the spiritual status of the Self by its participation with the libido on the one side is made up and added to it by its being linked to the ruler of the instruments of knowing (the ‘karanas’), which are also related to the same self on the positive side.


The chief philosophical verity to be extracted from this verse consists in recognizing the perfect aloofness and neutrality of the pure thinking substance that corresponds to the highest Absolute Self. The horizontal forces that are positive or negative operate on a different plane and leave the self-image intact at the very core. The reference to the aesthetic participation with beauty-forms does not belong to the perfectly neutral self but its negative counterpart, distinguished as the ‘I’ sense, which is slightly asymmetrically located on the negative side of the scale or graded polarised series in the analogy employed here.



The one libido it is that as the ‘I’ sense, the senses,

The inner instruments, the body and all these becomes

Unravelled; where is the term to this? The knower remains

Distinct only till knowledge becomes known.


WHEN the self is equated correctly with the non-self they cancel themselves out in the Absolute. This is the epistemological law in the light of which this verse will make meaning to the casual reader. When the implied equation becomes an accomplished fact the process of unravelling of the negative aspects of the personality goes on as a horizontalising process within consciousness. The objective tension mounts up and then decreases when pure thought reabsorbs it again into the domain of its own transparency. When perfectly pure vertically, and when no element of objective opacity intervenes between the self and the non-self, the process of unravelling of subjective into objective elements comes to a stop and the equation succeeds in having the full effect of making the subject and the object one. Before this term is attained by contemplative self-realization in rare individuals capable of verticalized and transparent unitive contemplation, the alternating process of horizontalization and verticalisation goes on without any remission.


The continuity of the process includes as its natural corollary the theory of reincarnation taken for granted in Indian spiritual thought. Death is a forgetfulness of the actual here and now aspects of life in favour of pure transparent thoughts that are almost mathematical in content. When even the mathematical implications of the vertical content of life are abolished there is breaking from the process. This can take place within the relativistic frame of reference or could be fully absolutist in its implication. In the latter case the knower and the known merge into one unitive Absolute consciousness. Before such a term is reached, relativistic processes of becoming, whether in the gross outer sense or in the subtle inner sense must go on, now transparent in content, now more and more opaque. Such is the ever-changeful alternating process to which the ego-sense is subject, as analysed in the two previous verses and further elaborated in the verses that follow, until the subject-matter enters into the domain of pure thought by verse 84, where even the earth is treated as a universal concrete.


The order in which this unravelling process is stated to go on within consciousness warrants closer scrutiny. It is the ‘I’ sense that first emerges. The unconscious rises into the conscious level of itself with this first unravelling event. As indicated in the 68th verse, there is the body-sense that keeps alternating with the ‘I’ sense in which physical factors tend to be more fully abolished. The libido thus gets raised and unfolded into the stage of ego-consciousness, after which the specialized doors of perception come to be added to this global ego-sense. This process of specialisation goes one step further and expresses itself as instruments of inner perception by means of which the brute actuality, which the senses gain directly from objects outside, gets more and more meaningful in view of any action that the organism as a whole might want to take.


Manas, which is both positive and negative according to circumstances, is further specialized at a higher level into

buddhi, which reasons and discriminates between alternative courses of action, selecting the advantageous as against the one that might be disadvantageous. Cogitations involving the element of will that veils reality when confused (‘vikalpa’), and reasons more clearly [when not confused] (‘samkalpa’), alternate when the mind is in operation. At a still further state of positive specialisation, ‘buddhi’ or the reasoning power becomes further transparent and is able to enter into bipolar relations with objects of interest outside, or with artistic or intellectual items of interest. This is the ‘chitta’ level in the vertical series of specification of inner faculties. ‘Ahamkara’ (the ‘ego-sense’) is imbued with a sense of one’s own individuation as a further specifying factor.


Individuation pure and simple involves the objective body-factor. This objective body-factor, thus socially individualised and fixed in time and place, is not the same as the essential libido with which we started, but is its more positive counterpart. Within the limits of the libido and this objectified notion of the person, self-knowledge can live and move, and such a process could go on unremittingly till full identity between subject and object is established by contemplative self-realization marking the term to this process of unravelling.


The Samkhya theory in respect of the factors that evolve

within consciousness has been worked out by various philosophers of that school. (Cf. intro. pages 26-29 Samkhya-Karika of Isvara Krishna, University of Madras, 1948). It is Prakriti (Nature) as opposed to Purusha (Spirit) that evolves and unravels into the elements of  Mahat, Ahamkara and the three subdivisions and further ramifications of  tattvas  (first principles) based  on the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas), culminating in the gross manifestations of the mahabhutas or the five classical elements such as sky, air, fire, water and earth. The Saiva Siddhanta and the Paramartha school of Samkhya all have their varied versions of the process of unravelling of the elements of the self. Ranging from the libido on one side to the object of attraction or interest is the picture presented by the Guru here. The Guru’s version excels in that it conforms more to the findings of the experimental psychology and analytical psychology of our times. A theory of aesthetics and ethics is also implied therein. The revaluation implied here is of great value to the student of comparative philosophy and psychology. The duality between ‘Prakriti’ (Nature), horizontally conceived as subject to gross evolution, and the pure ‘Purusha’ (Spirit), which has no participation with nature, is abolished by bringing in the libido at one extreme and the object of attraction as its positive counterpart. Scientific validity and metaphysical correctness are combined here without duality. This kind of unravelling is to be understood in the light of what is indicated below in verse 71.



Bereft of becoming none stays here on earth

In equalised state; a beginningless sport all this!

In its global fullness, when, as a whole, one knows this

There comes to him unbounded happiness.


IN the previous verse there was reference to the process of unfolding of the one libido into those psycho-physical elements portrayed as the chariot procession of verse 69. When wisdom dawns the forces or tendencies in nature tend to become equalised or harmonised so that phenomena become stilled or reabsorbed into the transparent clarity of the Absolute.


The common lot of humans on earth who are conditioned by the adjunct of a body that is ever subject to the processes of change and becoming, cannot be said to be in a state of equilibrium as between rival tendencies. The three gunas or nature-modalities, called the sattva (pure-clear), rajas (active-emotive) and tamas (inert-dark), known to ancient philosophers like the Samkhyans, have the possibility of gaining the equilibrium of tendencies when a reabsorption of life-tendencies into the source can take place.


This theory has formed part of Indian philosophical thought in general over the nearly thirty centuries of its growth and development. It still holds the field as evidenced by the choice of expressions used by the Guru in this verse which are so reminiscent of the time-honoured theory of the gunas. It is however on the background of contemplative life that the gunas are to be operative.


Like the everlasting phenomenon of the rise and fall of waves on the ocean, we have here to visualize a process which as a process is beginningless and consequently endless in principle, except when the term to all process is attained by self-realization, when all relativistic aspects are absorbed into the absolute tranquillity and transparency of pure wisdom that knows no second.  The rise and fall is an alternating process continuing ever within the relativistic set-up of human life here. The alternating process and its implications are examined more specifically in the next verse. Here, in the present verse, there is indication of this eternal game that goes on. Maya or error is an alternating process involving the plus and minus sides of absolute consciousness.


How is this subjection to the everlasting alternating process to be overcome? This is a question touching the very purpose of philosophizing or wisdom. It is proverbially known that knowledge has power. Samkhya text-books such as the Karika of Isvara Krishna themselves begin their inquiry by referring to finding the means of terminating misery:


‘The three-fold suffering causes injury, so an investigation into the cause of this injury. (If it be said) a consideration of this is a useless wish it is not so, for suffering has no perpetual existence.’ (Verse 1, Samkhya Karika by Isvara Krishna.)


Sankara himself starts his Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya by

referring to this same overall purpose of knowledge. Ignorance is the greatest single cause of misery. Here, however, one has to remember that it is not piecemeal information-items or opinions that prevails against suffering, but a global or total absolutist vision.


If life is caught beginninglessly in a necessary process of becoming, the only way out of it is to attain to something

superior to the process itself, of which the fractional events are partial aspects only. When such a superiority is implicit in a vision that is global and all-comprising, the truth therein can make one free. It is for this reason that the Guru here underlines the absolute, all-filling and total nature of the wisdom-insight for abolishing ignorance root and branch and establishing oneself in the happiness or bliss that is the same as the Absolute in its essence.


The question is often put whether absolute wisdom makes one happy positively; or whether it is the mere absence of misery that is to be counted as amounting to happiness. Even the inner duality implicit in such a question will not arise when knowledge is established fully and non-dualistically, as we should suppose when a perfect state of equilibrium referred to here is established in all its possible implications.


The process of becoming to which man’s consciousness is subject has dualities, both as between objects and as between inner factors such as ideas or emotions. Knowledge or wisdom can equate or cancel-out or abolish rival tendencies or trends in the innermost spirit of man to establish the state of equilibrium referred to. Such is the way of self-realization here indicated, which is conducive to the unbounded happiness which all people seek at all times. This happiness is, strictly speaking, neither positive nor negative, but absolute.



Now there is action, which is nescience, and again

There is the pure mental, which is knowledge;

Ordered by Maya, though this stays on divided, thus

The meta-dual attitude the unitive turiya yields.


CONSCIOUSNESS is subject to two main and alternating phases or pulsations; one which is fraught with elements that are overt and refer to the world of actualities in which there is action and reaction in the mechanistic sense. This belongs to the peripheral, inert, gross and unthinking aspect of the person. Darkness, nescience, ignorance and necessity are the distinguishing features of this phase. We feel the heavy weight of our own body here and there is a sense of being overpowered by this inexorable force of nature, which is the negative aspect of what is known as Maya, comprising, when fully and correctly understood, both the minus and plus aspects of this dual, alternating process.


The other ambivalent counterpart of this dark side is that zone of pure thought which is removed from all practical considerations. Phenomena are transcended in this which is the noumenon, and as such the Guru refers to it as ‘kevala’ (pure, lonely) and ‘chinmayi’ (made up wholly of mind-stuff). This does not develop any horizontalized action, but is where pure thought prevails more and more intensely and internally. Action is peripheral. Thought is central and, while remaining unmoved, it moves beyond to the world of the intelligibles. The alternation is thus between the horizontal world of observables and actions present or possible, and the world of the intelligibles or calculables which we should distinguish as located at the inner vertical core of our self-consciousness.


Maya is a notion that on final analysis comprises both phases of this subtle alternating process and not merely the negative aspect of darkness, or nescience. It is supposed to have a vikshepa (projecting) and avarana (veiling) function. One is positive and the other is negative in its content and effect. Although the term ordinarily connotes more the negative rather than the positive aspect of this double process, here the Guru more correctly describes the double function as ordered by the principle of Maya, which must refer to the last vestige of asymmetry or error in consciousness, beyond which and neutrally the full notion of the Absolute lies. Vedanta knows of no other factor intervening between the Self and absolute wisdom, and it is permitted even to say that Maya is the same as the Absolute, because of the possibility of Maya being reabsorbed into the full transparency of the Absolute when its dual or negative implications are realized and effaced by the subject in all completeness of Self-absorption into the Absolute.


Name and form are the final ingredients of Maya with which it works its projection or veiling. And when ‘nama-rupa’ (name and form) become transcended, the Absolute begins to shine in its full glory. Such are some of the implications here suggested. The meta-dual attitude is the dvaya (dual), para (beyond), bhavana (creative approach or attitude), which should now become sufficiently clear in the light of the double nature of Maya explained here.


The word ‘turiya’ is another technical Vedantic term, the full meaning of which has to be understood in the light of what is described as the fourth state of consciousness in the

Mandukya Upanishad. It refers to pure or absolute consciousness and the pertinent section translated reads as follows:


 ‘Not inwardly cognitive (antah-prajna), not outwardly

cognitive (bahih-prajna), not  both-wise cognitive

(ubhayatah-prajna), not a cognition mass (prajnana-ghana),

not cognitive (prajna), not non-cognitive (aprajna), unseen (adrishta), with which there is no dealing (avyavaharya), ungraspable (agrahya), having no distinctive mark (alakshana), non-thinkable (achintya), that cannot be designated (avyapadesa), the essence of the term that designates the one Self (ekatma-pratyaya-sara), the cessation of phenomenal complication (prapanchopasama), calmly established (santa), benign (shiva), secondless (advaita)- such they hold is the fourth. He is Self (atman). He is one to be known.’

(Translation from R.E.Hume, with slight modifications)


This ‘turiya’ or ‘turya’, as differently called, is also described in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in V. xiv, 3, 4, 6, 7; and in Maitri Upanishad in VI, 19, VII. xi. 7. Such a state has as its nearest Chinese concept the Tao which is described in the beginning of the Tao Teh Khing as not capable of being expressed in words by the famous sentence: ‘The Tao expressed in words is not the real Tao.’ This turiya is sometimes referred to as the supra-conscious state, but it would be better epistemologically to call it the neutral state beyond all dual consciousness, having its locus in the Self, as the last adjuncts described in the Mandukya Upanishad quoted above make sufficiently clear. It is not a mere sunya or vacuity without value or content.



Of one thing there could be many, as in many objects

One single meaning reside; by such knowing we can know

Consciousness as inclusive of all, differencelessly;

This secret ultimate is not given to all to know.


THE dialectics of the one and the many, as elaborated in Plato’s Parmenides, is the subject-matter of this verse.


We know that the same philosophical problem comes back in scholastic philosophy in the form of the relation between genus and species. The discussions have been so fruitless that scholastic hair-splitting has become proverbially held up to ridicule because of such so-called logic-chopping.


Even to this day, however, the dialectics implied in the question is not seen by usual textbook logicians like Bain, while Bradley may be said to have an inkling of this two-sided approach to the link between the one and the many. In India this two-way approach finds mention even in the Rig Veda (X, viii. 58-2), and in the Bhagavad Gita (IX. 15) which refers to ekatva (one-ness) and prithaktva (separate plurality) as pertaining to the same central truth of the Absolute.


The idea of unity depends on the notion of multiplicity, which is its inevitable dialectical counterpart. When the one and the many cancel out there is the numinous value called the Absolute. The conclusion of the passage in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’ reads as follows:


‘Let this much be said; and further let us affirm what seems to be the truth, that, whether one is or is not, one and the others in relation to themselves and one another, all of them in every way are and are not, and appear to be and appear not to be.’ (18)


The statement in the last of the verse here to the extremely secret or subtle nature of this question is thus justified.


If we should reduce the truth of this metaphysical subtlety into common parlance we could think of a garden with peach or mango trees of the same kind and age. The knowledge of one tree would apply to all trees and thus justify the statement, ‘Of one thing there could be many’ and conversely each peach or mango tree, irrespective of vertical differences through the seasons, when in different months it is without leaves or with flowers only, as seen clearly with cherry or peach trees in Europe; and also, in spite of horizontal differences due to location and minute individual details of an incidental nature (such as what distinguishes the finger-print of a Peter from those of a Paul) - conforms in principle to an archetypal pattern or model of a tree in terms of inner consciousness, where meanings of meanings have their being. ‘In many objects one single meaning could thus reside’ as the verse states in the second instance.


When we admit that the notions of the one and the many are dialectically interdependent in this manner, we can go one step further and generalise that ‘consciousness’ is ‘inclusive of all differencelessly’, where one and the many merge in the unity of the Absolute. Contemplative insight is required to penetrate into this secret of secrets, as the Guru takes care to warn the reader. At least such knowledge is not common to all.


(18) P. 87, ‘Dialogues of Plato’, Vol. II, translated by B. Jowett, Random House, New York, 1937.




Particles there are innumerable in a world

As within such a particle a world too abides;

The inert merges thus in the mind-stuff, as the mind-stuff too

Within the body; thus, on thought they are One.


THE same subtle dialectics implied in the relation between the one and the many which was epistemologically considered in the previous verse is now taken up again in its ontological implications. The material world consists of particles as known to modern particle physics, which, between the expanding universe of astronomy and the quantum world of nuclear physics, has come to recognize a subtle reciprocity of correspondence as between the micro- and macrocosms. The big universe and the universe of particles which behave as if they were little systems of their own, are familiar features of the modern idea of the nature of the physical world. In fact what is called physical now admits what used to be called mental, and what is mental has absorbed within its boundaries what was once outside its scope. Cybernetics and semantics are branches of modern science which participate both ways by subtle reciprocal ambivalent links which are neither mental nor material. Matter and mind have to be viewed in the light of a ‘neutral monism’ or of a ‘psycho-physics’ by which, instead of being two distinctive relatives of different orders, they belong to one and the same epistemological basis. Fechner may be said to represent this philosophical school of psycho-physics in the West, and Russell, James and even Bergson, who solves the paradoxes of a Zeno and a Parmenides by a modern scientific methodology of his own, also belongs to this neutral ground of motion, both brute and pure, which meet in his ‘motor schemes’. Modern mathematical physics has notions of space and time united under the concept of a common field.


The Sanskrit word ‘jada’ is the opposite of ‘ajada’. Heaviness, inertia, lack of any initiative, discrimination or will to guide itself—these make up the dark, material aspect whose attributes have to be conceived philosophically together before its living contrast with what is called chit, which is its counterpart, is also similarly visualized as a factor in the subtle two-limbed equation here involved. We have translated the word ‘chit’ by ‘mind-stuff’ as affording the nearest point of contact for the natural insertion of mind into matter or vice-versa. The word ‘chit’, as used in Vedanta, specifically refers to that aspect of clear consciousness that is capable of entering into some bipolar relation with an outside object.


In the last two lines of the present verse, the body (udal) is said to be comprised within mind-stuff (chit) and vice-versa. The reciprocity, complementarity, or mutual cancellability between conjugates such as time and space are notions beginning to be acceptable even to modern physicists. The macrocosmos

might be said to comprise the microcosmos or vice-versa.

Modern cosmologists at least would not be shocked by the

postulation of such a possibility. Dialectical methodology is

becoming more and more acceptable to scientific thinkers.


Here the Guru adopts a thorough-going epistemological and

methodological standpoint. Textbooks like the Vedanta

Paribhasha, although they seem to have use for pramanas (means of knowledge) such as the pratyaksha (direct perception) in common with materialists who rely on this first of all pramanas, take care that there is first established a common epistemological basis for the two, matter and mind, to meet on common ground. The methodology and epistemology proper to contemplative science, which belongs to the context of absolute wisdom, has to be elaborated in detail only hereafter. The Guru here anticipates a unified science wherein mind and matter could reciprocally comprise each other on neutral ground.



Nature is water, body foam, the Atma (Self) the deep,

The constant ‘I, I’ rumbling within, the magic of waves;

Pearls they are, each flowering of knowledge from within,

And what one drinks of oneself, indeed the nectar of                     immortal bliss;


CONSCIOUSNESS is often compared to an ocean. Samvit, as it is called, is, like the electro-magnetic field of modern physicists, an abstraction that is neither material nor merely consisting of abstract conceptual entities. This ocean of consciousness, conceived neutrally and absolutistically, has noumenal unity under its apparent phenomenal diversity. In other words vertical and horizontal aspects come together to give it a global or unitive structure in which aspects of individual or collective consciousness could be intelligently fitted organically to make a unitive whole. The relations are not haphazard or chaotic. The way in which the structure of total consciousness emerges from its own absolutist background of boundless infinitude is what is presented in the verse here, and also in verse 77, where the same is examined from a slightly different perspective.


The Upanishads have in several places employed a scheme of cosmological, psychological or theological correlation to give a global perspective to that vision of the Absolute. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I, I, 1, starts with one of the boldest attempts at correlation of the Absolute when it reads:


‘Om! Verily the dawn is the head of the sacrificial horse; the sun his eye; the wind his breath; universal fire (agni vaisvanara) his open mouth. The year is the body (atman) of the sacrificial horse; the sky his back; the atmosphere his belly; the earth the under-part of his belly; the quarters his flanks...etc. ‘


The Aitareya Upanishad I. ii, 4 reads:


‘Fire became speech, and entered the mouth. Wind became breath, and entered the nostrils. The sun became sight, and entered the eyes; the quarters of heaven became hearing, and entered the ears.’ (19)


In the very next verse, 76, the global picture is one that takes place in time and process as factors side-by-side with being as such. Being and becoming are there juxtaposed by a mixed metaphorical or allegorical device, too complicated to analyse. Here, however, the unitive picture revealed is more simple and transparent. The participation of matter with mind takes place in a homogenous medium of general consciousness.


When Nature (prakriti) is compared to water it might be difficult for those brought up in Western notions of Nature, as in biology, to enter into the spirit of the analogy straightaway. Darwinian Nature, which gives room to the mechanistically-conceived forces of ‘the survival of the fittest’, ‘the struggle for existence’ and ‘natural selection’ under blind or necessary given conditions, is more viscous in consistency than Nature in the Bergsonian context of the eternal flux and becoming in terms of pure motion. Pure motion or act in the Aristotelian sense also fits into a world of absolute pure consciousness, which is neither physical nor psychic. The notion of Nature here must be made by the reader to fit into such a context of schematization as understood by Kant and others when they distinguish the pure thing in itself from its own phenomenal aspects on a common ground.


The body is here compared to foam because foam is more specialized than a wave, although both foam and wave are but water. Nature as water is the least specific general aspect of the basis of the pure act or motion in the phenomenal world. The Self does not depend on the material aspect of the water; therefore it corresponds to the depth dimension of the ocean to which all other factors may be said to cohere, cling or cluster around. The ego-consciousness is an event in pure duration that comes to be, lasts awhile and then is reabsorbed into the central consciousness where it has its origin. The repeated ‘I, I’ would thus represent each individual consciousness that rises like a spark from the general anvil.


When knowledge is for the self, of the self and by the self, there is an essential unity which gives it a very high human value-content. There is nothing so dear to man as his own soul, the losing of which while gaining all the three worlds would still be meaningless. Immortality and happiness are synonymous and interchangeable terms. These values belong to the self at the very core of the relational structure portrayed here as the drinker or enjoying subject to whom all the varied values must refer homogeneously.


(19) Cf. R. E. Hume, ‘Thirteen Principal Upanishads’, for many other instances of correlation, both psychological and cosmological.



As with a well with measureless sand dropping ceaselessly,

Whereon wafting tier on tier, fitful gusts prevail,

So too, to the waftings of untruth’s hierarchy exposed

Inwardly does the Inner Self multitudinous forms attain.


THE process by which the transparent and pure factors that originally made up what is called the ‘inner self’ or atma of man, as given to contemplation, is transformed from its original purity and unity into multiplicity, and its degradation to gross indigence in its spiritual status, is here pictured by the Guru through the analogy of a neglected well such as one sees on the coastal regions of Kerala. The horizontal gusts of wind prevail eternally, and the process of sanding-up of the original water is to be thought of as eternally happening from the bottom of the water from inside and upward. On the other side the limpid transparency of the water that was once present is perhaps to be treated as also far removed in time. Whether water is still present or not in the well is not important to the analogy, whose purpose is to reveal the operation of the factors that destroy the transparency of the original waters and keep making it opaque or translucent.


The two factors involved are: one of truth that helps the participation of mind with matter; and the other of falsehood which is a contrary wind which counters the possibility of their participation. The operation of these two factors, eternally and together, results in the multiplicity that life presents to the non-philosophical mind.


‘Measureless sand’ is referred to here as against small

installments of sand, so that the reader may not have the impression that the process has a beginning and is to be visualized as a mere phenomenal fact of the outer world. The purpose of the analogy would be best served only when the picture and the process it portrays are fitted correctly into the structural philosophical background where they are to be operative. Similarly the hierarchy of untruth here referred to would suggest the co-existence of truth with falsehood for all time, instead of coming into force suddenly. Wisdom has always by its side its own enemy in the form of nescience.


If one is light the other is darkness or smoke. This second negative factor has been compared to smoke in a flame, the dust on a mirror, or to the amnion and the allantois that cover the foetus. In the Bhagavad Gita a high absolutist status has been conferred on this negative factor, which is there described as having the form of desire (‘kama-rupa’) and which is further alluded to as nitya-vairi (eternal enemy) of the wise. (Gita, III. 39). This is a clear recognition of the horizontal factor operative at the very core of the Absolute Self.


The horizontal gust of ever-wafting winds here, blowing untruth against the interests of the transparent waters of the well, is the same factor. Both vertical and horizontal factors operate on the Self at one and the same time. This is neither strictly an event nor a process, but has to be understood philosophically as both, with all its subtle dynamic and static implications. Human life touches here the philosophical paradox of the one and the many, and the other possible paradoxes of the big and the small or the material and the spiritual - all of which are implied in this transparency or opacity through which matter and spirit participate.


The participation of mind and matter has been a metaphysical problem that has uniformly agitated minds of all countries through the ages. In India itself, Vedanta has its schools of Advaita, Visishta-advaita and Dvaita (non-duality, qualified non-duality and duality), which have between them contributed so many volumes of polemical literature of the most hair-splitting order that the discussion itself is sometimes considered sterile and useless. The Upanishads contain hints of this subtle participation, sometimes referring to it as the bridge that gulfs immortality or as the double road that links and permits the two-way traffic between two great cities.


There is an ambivalent osmosis of plus and minus involved here which requires much insight to grasp. To help in such an understanding the Guru here resorts to the analogy of the clear waters of the well that gradually get sanded-up by adverse winds of falsehoods. Imagination and insight have to fill in the gaps to make the picture living and complete.



The transcendental ultimate is the sky, that power

Expansive is the wind, consciousness fire, and the sense-organs

Water, the object of perception the earth; thus as principles five,

What keeps ever burning, has its secret in One alone.


THE same unitive scheme of correlation of aspects of reality from the contemplative point of view is considered again here from another perspective at a more central level of the personality. The two previous verses viewed the same factors of correlation from a more hypostatic level. Here there is a descending dialectics which finally puts the senses and sense-perception as close as possible, with the element called earth as the object.


When the elements are referred to in the context of Indian philosophical tradition we have to remember that it is a monadological version of it, vertically conceived, before horizontalization by the churning activity of nature takes place. Such horizontalization of the tendencies that turn externally and centripetally into particularized manifestations in distinct and solid objects, as in terra firma, attains to the term of such a process, and the contrast between the object and subject then becomes more fully marked. The earth has a direct bipolar subject-object relation clearly marked as between our subjective perception and its objective counterpart.


With this double aspect of the simple phenomenon of knowing the earth in the visible sense, we can think of a series of upward gradations which relate the subject- and object-factors, which are five in number, ranging from the earth to the sky. Consciousness, like fire, occupies a central place in the dialectical relation which links one pole of this series with the others, ranging downward from sky to the earth.


The process of horizontalization of the elements from their pure to their derived form, involves, according to Sankara and others, a complicated mathematical rearrangement, making of each of them five-fold ensembles, rather than pure abstract principles or entities. We have in their actualising process of pure elements a division and growth as in the typical biological egg that has been fertilised. Division and proliferation set in together, with growth both in number and size. In Vedanta such a process of actualisation in space follows an organic order or method called panchikarana.


An authoritative account of panchikarana is given in Prof.

0. Lacombes’  L’Absolu selon le Vedanta, p. 325, which we cannot do better than translate and quote below:


‘Each one of the grand elements is divided by the Creator in two parts, and one of these two halves again into four parts. Each one of these quarters is then mixed with half that has been left intact of each of the four other elements. It thus results that each element composes itself thereafter as follows: 1/2 element pure plus 1/8 of each of the four other elements. It is these composite elements which serve for the constitution of individual things. The dominant proportion of the primary element safeguards its authenticity. But the adjunction of the other elements explains the participation of things with all other things and explain certain anomalies of perception’.


The Guru does not enter into discussion of those fractions of elements in this process of actualisation into the primary elements, to give them the anomalous appearances that are not their own but borrowed from others.


The solid earth appears so, because, besides its original half of its own totality, it has mixed with it four 1/8 parts of each of the other four primary elements.


If we take the case of the sky, we have to imagine that one part of earth forms an eighth part entering into its composition to make it have that degree of materiality, though only ethereal, which the sky implies, as it is not empty of all matter-content. It is easy for us to see the truth of the difference between the elements and difficult to undo the effects of the panchikarana to see behind the elements the equal essence of reality that traverses all of them like a string through coloured pearls.


What is extraneous to each element is what makes it different as between each successive member of the series. Although, as suggested in this verse, there are five different flames which have differences between them, we have to understand them in terms of the pure incandescence that underlies all and each of them as a common factor. An ambivalent polarity with a neutral fire in the centre, ascending to the sky or descending to earth, is also to be fitted into this scheme of correlation.


The common principle is no other than the character of absolute existence. Whether the Guru accepts this theory of ‘panchikarana’ or not does not arise here, but in the light of his other writings where the theory is alluded to, it is justified to believe that he gave support to it at least in its broad outline.


The schema implied in verses 77, 76 and 75 justifies this

view. What is more important than the ‘panchikarana’ theory that we have to notice in this verse is the correlation established between these elements and other cosmological and metaphysical aspects of the Absolute Reality treated as a whole. When in philosophy we distinguish the transcendental from the immanent, ontological or empirical aspect of reality or existence, we have to bear in mind that the difference is not fundamental and that one and the same contemplative value relates and strings all of them together in an ambivalent or polarized series. Just as the elements can present differences in appearance between them, due to the mixing up with extraneous elements of different levels of reality, the vertical difference as between the transcendental and the immanent could be reconciled with the central fire of consciousness in a certain way. The totality must yield the neutral Absolute that knows no difference, whether vertical or horizontal.



Neither is there death nor birth nor life duration here,

Nor men or gods nor others of that order; all name and form

Like a mirage based on desert sands, is this thing that stands

Nor is it a thing at all with any content, note.


EVEN the frame of reference from cosmology and psychology that was depended on to bring the notion of the Absolute into its own proper perspective is here abandoned and the Guru’s speculation soars one degree higher. The preparation for this total vision, discarding all scaffoldings to help to raise the edifice of non-dual thought in the self-realizing process of contemplation, was already begun in the end of the previous verse where the five apparently different principles of the elemental aspect of nature were merged into a central unity. As soon as contemplation is able to see the unity behind the diversity of phenomena it is not to remain statically fixed even to the idea of diversity. Speculation rises  higher and more neutrally into purer and freer abstractions.


In the present verse it will be noticed that, while the mythological, actual and other miscellaneous conditionings are shed, only the vestige of the reference to name and form taken together is retained. Birth, death and duration refer to the vertical axis of the frame of reference merely nominally and as tacitly implied even in their denial. Men, gods and other things or entities of a similar order, which may be said to depend more on the horizontal factor, are effaced even before the name-form residue. The denizens of space, with whom mythology, theology or literature are populated, are all swept away, as it were, at one stroke, and the stage is set ready for the higher contemplative verities to be examined hereafter, before the hundred verses complete the total cycle open to introspection or overt speculation with general ideas.


Name and form are those aspects of thought or mentation which persist even when the grosser elements of consciousness have been analysed and found empty by an intense process of contemplation. Name and form remain in the mind of thinking man as categories that still give room for some kind of ideation or mentation into which entities distinguishable by them faintly adhere and seem to occupy a place as configurations within consciousness.


Although the contemplative is to go behind and beyond this pair of conditionings to which his consciousness is subject, to come up against the full light of the vision of the Absolute, the Guru stops short of abolishing name and form here, still giving them recognition. All plurality depends on names and forms. They are two poles, like the matter and form of Aristotle or the visible and the intelligible of Plato - which are again the same as the two orders of the observables and calculables that modern scientific philosophers are beginning to distinguish as being at the base of all strict reasoning or knowledge that can result overtly or actually.


When reality has thus been reduced to just name meeting form, only seeming to contain the distinct entities that we take seriously but erroneously as things, what is there left in its place? The Guru here tries to determine the status of the reality that is left when aspects of appearance through name and form are abolished. He takes the favourite example of the mirage which seems to have the thirst-quenching value-content called water. In reality it has no such value-content, and dry sand, which has no such value, is the existential basis on which the life-giving waters were imagined. Thus, not only is there an optical illusion, but an emptiness of value or interest. What is false can still be seen by the senses but does not mean anything of value.


Some philosophers like the Vaiseshikas would say here that seeing itself proves the reality, as otherwise we should not see at all. This is the realist position, valid in theory when we forget about life values which are fundamental and even conducive to final happiness. When we think of existence, subsistence and value together, and look at the world of name and form, we find it empty of content or of ultimate value-significance; and it is because of this lack of full or final value-content that appearance is to be discarded as false, although the eye is able to see the mirage and falsely perceive the water, even when no thirst-quenching possibility resides there. Advaitic epistemology admits of slightly varying points of view as between the different schools of dualists and qualified non-dualists (as between the empiricists and rationalists of Europe) about the status of appearance, which we shall not discuss here. We shall only note that the Guru, like Sankara, gives no value-content to mere mentations and appearances but wishes to lead us to the pure absolute core of Self-consciousness itself, which is alone existence, subsistence and value, properly speaking.

When the Guru repeats here that it is a thing and then says it is not really a thing, he is not merely dismissing an aspect of reality as false, as some Maya-vadins (supporters of the doctrine of appearance) might do, but, while making some allowance for the position of the mere empiricist or realist thinker, finally establishes non-dual reality.



At birth-time there is no being, and who is born

Is not there at another moment; how ever does this have existence?

Death too is even likewise, and thus birth too is nought;

All is a flux and a becoming within the mind-stuff pure!


HERE we have a verse highly reminiscent of the Eleatic philosophy of Parmenides and Zeno, which was later restated by Plato in the words of Socrates. It was given to Henri Bergson in recent years to revert after centuries to this way of thinking which boldly attempts to face and solve the innate paradox of life and existence. The expression ‘chit-prabhava’, which we have rendered as the ‘flux and becoming within the mind-stuff pure’, finds full corroboration in Bergson’s idea of change and becoming in pure terms of a ‘motor scheme’ of events in the flux of consciousness.


Birth is an event, but as it is a process coming under the idea of becoming it cannot be understood in the static terms of a still or a cross-section. If we want to study the growing point of plants we have to take several cross-sections and put them together, and imagine the growth as a pure movement in becoming, linking all the individual events considered as stills. It is the intuition of man that is alone capable of seeing the continuity implied in the process.


Non-mechanistic or creative thought has this cinematographic function through its ability to piece together single events that are stills or cross-sections into a continuous whole. Bergson excels in showing this through almost all his writings.


The entity or organism that is subject to birth is in the process of becoming, and it would be wrong to fix one moment in the process which would statically fix the process and view it as a single event called birth. It is in this sense that it is stated here that there is no being at birth-time nor at another moment. One cannot enter the same river twice, as Heraclitus said. Here Narayana Guru reveals a fully modern scientific attitude.


If we should take a complementary or converse position and think of what is born as a spiritual soul or entity, there is another paradox that presents itself. Seen from its own inside, the moment of birth exists in what is called the eternal present or moment. An extraneous moment in which life that is born could have its being, is unthinkable. The lengthened picture of the duration of time, according to the ticking of a clock, is a product of defective, conditioned, mechanistic thinking. There is what is called pure time, which does not depend on the ticking of the clock or the rotation of the earth, which latter are mere physical events, extraneous to the essence of time as such. Spiritually speaking, one has to find living possible in unconditioned pure or eternal time, which cannot find a moment external to itself. Physically speaking, the process of birth and becoming cannot be fitted into a static moment.


Existence, which is referred to in Vedanta as the second item of the series srishti (creation), sthiti (duration or existence), and laya (reabsorption into the original matrix) cannot be understood to refer to a static state disjunct and distinct from the two others, although in popular parlance this seems to be vaguely admitted by these three words being loosely applied to one and the same indivisible flux in consciousness. The corresponding term in Vedantic terminology is the ‘dhara-vahika-chitta-vritti’ or ‘flowing-oil-streak-continuity’. The Vedanta Paribhasha of Dharmaraj Adhvarya deals with this kind of stream in consciousness in his introductory section where he treats of Vedantic epistemological principles.


Pure consciousness - when free from extraneous conditionings (upadhi) and from conceptual attributes (adhyasa) that have their origin in the inner organs of knowing called karana (the instrument of knowledge or the organ of consciousness) - comes to have its own status identical with the highest notion of the Absolute, in the light of which ultimate Vedantic verity all events in consciousness, whether inner or outer (i.e., conceptual or perceptual), are reabsorbed into the transparent richness and glory of the Absolute itself.



Contraries, like being and becoming, how could they

As creation, endurance, dissolution in one place co-exist?

For these three to pass into, there is nothing either;

Thus viewed, earth and other things are mere word alone.


THERE is a subtle paradox implied in being and becoming as applied to reality. The idea of creation, the endurance of such creation for some time, and its passing into another stage as the process of becoming is pushed further, (which are respectively the three aspects of srishti, sthithi and laya known to Indian philosophical lore) - these three have implied between them a paradox, just in the same way as a paradox is implied between Pure Motion, to be thought of independently of the static state, and its own dynamism. The Zeno paradoxes have stated and examined this philosophical puzzle in detail from the times of the pre-Socratic philosophers. Movement has its contrary in standing still; and between the two the resulting notion of Pure Motion has to be derived, which is to be understood in terms of neither one of the two. While brute movement and immobility are horizontal, pure movement is vertical.


We know that the philosophy of Bergson in more recent years further elaborated and worked upon the paradoxes of Zeno and Parmenides and gave to the world a fully scientific point of view by which reality is conceived as in an eternal flux in terms of vital energy. Between these contraries one has to arrive at a pure notion of motion or becoming. This can be done by abstracting and generalizing to arrive at the essence of movement conceived dialectically in the context of the Absolute, whereby mere tautologies and contradictions are transcended. Motion has to be understood schematically and in the abstract, as in mathematics where symbols or lines would represent the pure idea.


In the Indian philosophical context the ultimate point of reduction of reality into its philosophical components is by the term nama-rupa (name-form combinations); when we say that the wave is only water with a certain outline and form with a name given to it, we only reduce it into its ultimate terms to dissolve and merge both name and form into the matrix of the Absolute.


The continuous process of pure becoming - which constitutes the creative evolution of life in terms of the vital energy (élan vital), as known to the philosophy of Bergson - admits of no static cross-section which could be conceived as a stable basis of reality, as when we say that the earth and other things have been created and will endure some time and pass beyond into some unknown state of existence. Although popular religions may hold such a view there is no ‘beyond’ into which the states could pass on. Even as we see or imagine the process as taking place in a fully scientific sense here, these three have at their core a paradox which cannot be explained away.


As opposites cannot co-exist without contradicting or cancelling the verity of each into nothingness, we are obliged to resort to the absolutist approach if any residue of reality is to be left at all. The earth has a certain outline shape which has first to be recognized schematically or in mathematical abstraction. Then we have to recognize this entity by a name so that we can communicate with one another about it. Name and form have no actual content in themselves, but are conceptual abstractions. Conceptualisation leads finally to nominalism.


Such a nominalistic view of reality is not unknown in

Western philosophy. The philosophy of Peter Abelard and

his followers represent just this school. Phenomenology and nominalism in the West touch precisely those levels of

abstract speculation which the Indian mind has attained in the Vedanta, which equates all phenomenal appearances to name and form, of which name by itself implies form. The simplest of mental events, without any tangible content, is all that may be said to remain when we think of birth, creation or death, as has already been stated in a previous verse (79).



Nature, dividing, at one time as the enjoyer of everything

Outside, immanent as transcendent, it shining looms;

At another time again by ‘this-ness’ expanded

It spreads out before as the enjoyable universe.


MAN is related to nature in two principal ways. The relation is established through the interest that a man might take in life, whether subjectively or objectively understood. It is thus a value-world in which he is placed. This value-world or setting that any man may be said to find himself in, is called ‘Nature’ here, as contemplatively understood in its complete and two-fold aspect. We have to think of man as forming the core of the situation, and then it would be possible to refer to the two aspects of Nature distinguished here. Vertically there is the pure world of things-in-themselves, both actual and perceptual, conceptual or even nominal, covering the ontological and teleological, or the immanent and the transcendental realities, as related to the mind, spirit or inner consciousness. This same inner agent or witness is the one which is also related to the horizontal series of graded interests that, like a feast, is spread out before him as items of enjoyment. Whether this horizontally-spread-out feast is to be enjoyed in an ethical sense is not to be discussed here. The recognition of this two-fold aspect of Nature is all that is intended in this verse.


We know in philosophy such distinctions as the ontological and the teleological, the immanent and the transcendent, the phenomenal and the noumenal and other such pairs of distinctions. They belong to different philosophical contexts. The attempt of the Guru here is to classify Nature into two sets, resembling the divisions of Spinoza - both of them being outer manifestations. It is here viewed from a neutral psycho-physical standpoint where mind and matter are given equality of status under the aegis of what is known as Nature, understood under the aegis of the Absolute.


Nature is a conditioned aspect of the Absolute seen through the self or the ego of man. Although thus conditioned, the division here is fundamental and necessary for methodic self-realization because the vertical and the horizontal aspects should not be mixed up. If mixed up, they will not yield the final vision of the Absolute which has to identify the self and the highest of human values under one scheme.


Another subtle philosophical point to note here is that the two value-worlds of Nature meet in the central self which is the enjoyer. As the Sun and sunlight are related, the enjoyer and the enjoyed aspects of nature must belong unitively to a central reality which is here ‘Nature’ written with a capital N. Nature under the aegis of the Absolute is the common meeting-point of the actual and the perceptual. Thus we have here one of the most important of the correlations for a normative notion of the Absolute in the context of Self-realization. Nature thus neutrally understood would be the point of intersection of the vertical and horizontal aspects in the context of the Absolute itself.



Like the fire that emerges out of churning sticks

That boundless wisdom that from within those who seek prevails

As the Sun ascendant in pure reason’s firmament supreme.

It stays burning and to its flames consuming, fuel everything



THE Upanishadic analogy of two sticks rubbing together to produce fire (see Katha Upanishad IV. 8.) is resorted to by the Guru to bring out the twin aspect of Nature as referred to in the previous verse, and the notion of the Absolute which is altogether beyond all relativistic considerations. The man who is engaged in the incessant search for Absolute Truth does not arrive at his prize in slow graded installments or degrees. Wisdom is a flame that bursts out in its brilliance when the required intensity of thought is arrived at. The analogy is meant to underline the need for persistent and relentless research in the pursuit of wisdom, and to stress the emergent nature of the resulting wisdom with the full white light of the Absolute, which is not to be expected in any slow gradations. One has to wait for the bridegroom to arrive without blinking a minute, as the Biblical parable puts it.


Merit or virtue in the religious or ethical context is one thing and the boundless wisdom here under reference is quite another. The two should not be mixed up directly, as with ends and means. When textbooks on meditation indicate that one attains perfection after much practice, this same verity is viewed from the relativistic side. Either one has Absolute Wisdom or one does not have it. The middle ground is abolished here. The fire of wisdom is referred to in the Gita as being capable of burning up all dross of karma (action) (Cf. IV. 37).


The light of wisdom is qualitatively different from that innate negative factor which is at the basis of manifestation or creation. These two aspects in nature have been brought into their paradoxical perspective in this and in the previous verses. If we should consider one aspect of nature as positive, and the other aspect as negative, we can, by a simple mathematical operation, explain how all manifested things become absorbed and burnt in the conflagration of the fire of wisdom that is here described. All duality vanishes in the unitive Absolute.


Besides the Upanishads and the Gita we have the testimony of generations of mystics, sages and seers, like the author of the present set of verses himself, whose words have to be respected in such matters. Such visions depend on a priori and not on a posteriori reasoning, and this is why the Brahma Sutras start off boldly and categorically by asserting that the proof of the Absolute is in its having its source in the sastras (canonical scriptures). Sabda or the ‘word’ is also recognized in Vedanta as a pramana (basis of certitude). Wisdom is an emergent factor and the cause of it is prior to inferential reasoning, as Sankara explains in three verses quoted by him at the end of the Chatussutri.


If we should be permitted to use the terminology developed in these comments and elsewhere, the horizontal version of truth is effaced when the vertical version of the same prevails. The vertical needs no proof but proves itself. Like an equation in physics the two limbs prove each other. Relativistic nescience thus gets absorbed and cancelled out when absolutist knowledge or full wisdom prevails.



It breaks up, stays on, rises or changes over,

Again to continue, such is the nature

Of the body here; watching these three from on high

The Self, the uncleft one, it ever changeless remains.


THE living body, viewed in its proper psycho-physical perspective, is an entity subject to a cyclic process which alternates and completes itself, somewhat on the lines of the beating of the heart. We have to think of an organism in the abstract if we are to visualize this process of becoming in respect of the living body or entity. Modern medical men like Dr. Alexis Carrel have themselves distinguished between the dead body viewed, as it were, on the dissection table, and the living body which has its full function as a unity. The philosophy of Bergson again affords us a living picture of how organisms follow a cyclic alternating course in their growth, multiplication and development (cf. Bergson’s ‘Creative Evolution’). Life is viewed there as a tendency in the abstract, and the organism, schematically conceived, is what is subject to the tendencies of the vital urge.


A somewhat similar point of view must be adopted here in order to be able to see how there are three main stages in the cyclic repetition of life in the body. The process is not unlike what we can watch in a pool of water where big drops of rainwater make bubbles that last for some time to burst again. All bodies are the same in their contemplative, essential content so that the change-over is merely nominal. Elsewhere in verse 56 of the same composition the Guru compares the rise and fall of bodies to the incessant rise and fall of waves on the ocean. In verse 75 again the same waves have been understood in terms of inner consciousness as the basis of the ‘I’ sense that keeps repeating itself within each individual consciousness.


Here the three stages of making and breaking, together with the intervening concept of staying or enduring, are subtly referred to in order to contrast this living, psycho-physically-conceived picture of the body - both with that of its own vertical component, which is something apart and knows no change, and with the fully horizontal version. Here the vision is neutral between the transcendental and the immanent.


The wheel of life or samsara, as known in the Sanskritic lore, as well as the wheel mentioned in the Gita (III, 16) and the dharma-chakra known to the Buddhists, all imply the same revolving and alternating movement whose phases pass from the actual to the virtual or the more deep-seated levels of consciousness - which refer to the consciousness of deep steep (karana) and the ‘fourth’ (turiya), which is the most abstract and most generalized aspect of consciousness. This four-fold frame of reference within which human consciousness lives and moves is known to the Mandukya Upanishad and to other writings. When the Guru here refers to the breaking up, the staying and the rising, etc. - all aspects of this subtle, cyclic, double alternation have to be kept in mind.


As in a bulbous plant, life repeats itself season after season - alternately dormant or actively unfolding itself, and then dying out again. It is not altogether a flight of philosophical fancy to say that there is a similar alternation to which life tendencies in the body are subject. Besides the heartbeat, the quantum-pulsations and the diastole and systole phases of circulatory nervous or other systems of the body, especially evident in the sex life of the individual, all indicate the outlines of these alternating phases to which allusion has been made in verse 68. A complete picture of this alternating process has to be built up by the reader by fitting different life contexts together.


Here the general purpose of the reference to this alternation is to draw the contrast between relative life, subject to the alternation of tendencies that belong to the body and the other absolutist counterpart of the same which has no such alternating gaps.

The Absolute is a terminal limit to this alternating or circulating lower process. It witnesses all from a positive rather than a central position, as in keeping with the position of this verse in relation to the total structure of the work as a whole.


The expression, ‘cleftless’, is a strict translation of the original ‘vidar-arum’; vidar meaning ‘gap’, ‘inter-space’ or ‘cleavage’, as found in rocks that are not fully compact. The self in its extreme positive aspect is spoken of in Vedanta as rock-firm (kutastha). The notion of such a self; firm, compact and of a substance fully itself with nothing extraneous to its own pure, rich being or sat, is natural to Vedanta, where the notion of ontological existence is given full importance together with what is real in the world of ideological values. The term ‘watching’ in the third line is not to detract from the ontological self, because knowing substance as ‘sat’ and ‘chit’ could be attributes of the same Absolute.


The reference to ‘on high’ in the same line is a translation of the original expression ‘mudi’ which could also mean ‘peak’, ‘top’ or ‘tip’. The plus limit of a vertical axis which is referred to sometimes as an omega point is what is meant.



Because of cognition, if one should say there is

Earthiness as a reality, that is not true; what there is, is sod.

Without stable content all the limitless entities that stand

Are but Nature, configurations abiding within awareness.


A subtle but common philosophical error of an epistemological and methodological order is what the Guru wishes to point out here. The point of insertion of the actual into the perceptual, conceptual or the nominal worlds of reality is a philosophical problem of the first order and importance. The Guru here puts his finger on the problem in its most pointed aspect.


We tread on the earth or the firm sod beneath our feet in everyday empirical or ontological experience. This simple and direct experience is transformed by associative, inferential or analogical activities of the mind into its pure perceptual, conceptual or nominal aspects vertically, but apart from its own horizontally virtual or actual aspects. The virtual reality is not actual, and the error here would be of the order of a child mistaking a mirror image for the original. Eidetic personalities, of whom again children may be referred to as usual examples, are prone to give living reality to a mere doll or dead model or dummy figure. This is another way of making a mistake about reality.


Besides these, there are still subtle errors of judgement when we travel towards mathematical abstractions and generalisations that deal with imaginary or irrational quantities, culminating in the notion that is much in vogue in modern electro-magnetic calculations, which is the elusive negative notion of the mathematical quantity called the square root of minus one. It is real within the world of pure mathematical knowledge but cannot be traced to what it represents in any one particular experience of reality.


The pure and the practical worlds, like the philosophical divisions made by Kant, belong to the noumenal or to the phenomenal. One cannot jump from a map to the real ground, because the reality of the map is of a different order from that of reality. As a modern sage, Ramakrishna, put it, “by shaking a calendar showing a rainy day, one cannot make water fall.”


There are distinct philosophical planes of reality, ranging from the actual to the perceptual, conceptual and nominal, which have all to be treated separately if they have to make sense within the four walls in the general over-all frame of reference. All words like earth, soil, domain, sod, terra-firma, in the English classical language, and terms like prithvi, bhumi, dharithri, avani, urvi etc. in Sanskrit, have their proper places in a general scheme of reality. Some refer to ontological presences, while others have an ideological implication. The conceptual significance in others would prevail over the perceptual one. In the two terms, ‘avani-vikaram’ (earthy mode), and ‘urvi’ (sod), used by the Guru to refer to the earthy; the first is more conceptual than the second, which is a universal concrete. The Guru only pleads here for not mixing up different epistemological entities having their proper structural status.


The property of impenetrability of matter that modern physics recognizes is a corollary of the principle of mutually-exclusive space which is actual, as contrasted with pure space which is more perceptual. In Vedanta, dik represents perceptual space, while akasa stands for actual space. Whether space is in the mind or outside it is a question that has troubled philosophers like Locke and Berkley, and the discussion has come down to us from the times of Aristotle. Even the sensation of colour could be subjective within the mind, while vibrations that produce colour-effects may be said to be all that is present objectively outside.


Prof. L. Wittgenstein, late of Cambridge University, in his work called the ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’, and later in his ‘Philosophical Investigations’, has surveyed the whole range of errors of this kind under the title ‘word games’, by which he has amply revealed that methodological and epistemological errors of a subtle order may lurk behind the apparently plain meanings of words that we take for granted. In his item 4.441 of his above-mentioned work, Wittgenstein makes the statement, ‘there are no logical objects’. Ordinarily one would think that logic deals with objects, as when we say ‘Socrates is mortal’. But Socrates as an object is outside the scope of the logic that ‘reveals itself’ through the verity stated.


By using the distinction which we have tried to draw between the horizontal and the vertical aspects of truth, we could easily point out the difference that the Guru wishes to refer to in the verse under discussion. Just in the same way as Jesus said, ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s’; or as the Gita poses the problem, ‘the Field’ and the ‘Knower of the Field’ have to be distinguished (XIII. 34). In other words, the vertical aspect of truth has to be understood as distinct from the horizontal. Here the earth by itself would stand for a simple actuality, while the idea of earthiness would not fit into the scheme at all. The ‘Nature-configurations’ referred to in the verse are to be understood in terms of divisions in Nature, as distinguished in verse 81. Nature as the enjoyer has a pure subjective status, and whatever truth might be in it, it has no actual status in existence.



No shadow could exist without depending on a model original

Since the manifest world is seen to have no original model anywhere

Neither shadow nor actuality is this: all is seen

Like a snake that a gifted artist might cleverly sketch.


PHILOSOPHICAL speculation all over the world has tried to face the problem of reality in various ways. Idealists like Plato have spoken of original prototypes of the imitations that we see here around us in some sort of archetypal or ideal world. Vedanta is not strictly such an idealism, but has this difference, that it is founded on the ontological notion of ‘sat’, the basic existing reality. Aristotle, who revalued his own teacher Plato, may be said to have given matter here primacy over mind or idea. He was thus nearer to the Vedantic standpoint. Even in India the tendency with the Vaiseshikas was to put stress on the side of the intelligible effect rather than the ontological cause. In Spinoza we have the notion of the ‘thinking substance’, which is both matter and mind.


The world of reality and the world of appearance are often juxtaposed and contrasted in Vedanta, which otherwise seems to support the idealistic viewpoint. The duality that is implied here is what calls for the above explanation by the Guru in the present verse. In an earlier verse (20) this same denial of duality was once underlined. It was also pointed out in verse 80 that the earth and other things were mere names or words.


Here the complementary point of view is stated, viewing reality, even in the ontological sense, as nothing more than the creative urge of an artist talented enough to sketch or give to a mere outline some sort of apparent reality, even when it has no real content. The appearance of reality is made possible by this merely sketchy outline coming from the mind of the artist. The name-aspect and the form-aspect just meet here and now, resulting in the ontological reality of the world that we experience. Like the pure world of mathematical equations the name equates with the form and that is all.


The reference to the snake here is by way of respecting the traditional example dear to Vedantists from antiquity where the apparent is compared to the snake and the real to the rope that is the basis of the snake-illusion. Between the rope and the snake realities, a unitive understanding is to be established which should stand neutral between the two aspects of name and form. The nominalistic emptiness of content of mere appearance has already been explained in verse 80. The unity that underlies appearance and reality has been pointed out in verse 20. Now the form-aspect of the snake is finally dismissed as having no significant material content at all. It is merely a flourish of the artist’s pen. Reality and appearance both cancel themselves out thus within the neutrality of the Absolute.



The body and other things all have no being one in another,

Thus the converse position becomes untenable;

As from day to day this remains without setting

It gains the status of verity emerging once again.


IN the next three verses we come up against a problem of great importance in philosophy. The knotty question as to the relation between the one and the many, the generic and the specific, and of over-all existence, essence or substance, immanently or transcendentally understood, with ontological or teleological implications, is brought into the focal point of scrutiny as a correct methodology would require in this verse. We know that scholasticism has vainly tried to determine whether God created the species or the genus. The individuality that distinguishes a Peter from a Paul, according to some, is not the work of God, who only thought in terms of principles and generalities. Did God think of the particular, and is He the author of evil in the actual sense? No satisfactory philosophical answer has been found to this day. The hand of God has been revealed to none, while philosophers dispute and the theologies of different religious groups wage wars.


Already the epistemological basis on which the statements of these three verses are to be understood has been laid by the Guru himself in verse 36, and following. The ‘same’ and the ‘other’ referred to there are no other than the two ways of knowing open to man’s intelligence. The ‘same’ implied in reality is the inclusive principle of togetherness, and the ‘other’ is the exclusive principle of contradiction or difference. The impenetrability of matter is the physical expression of ‘otherness’, strangeness, exclusiveness, or the principle of contradiction. All things hang unitively together in the sameness which yields the unitive way to happiness and right understanding. These two principles give the horizontal or the vertical view of reality. In the present verse the horizontal view is taken in the first two lines, and in the last two lines the vertical verity is indicated.


The words ‘satyam’ and ‘rtam’ refer respectively to the

ontological (sat) and the rational (chit) aspects of reality. The former is rightness or conformity to world order or law in the domain of existence, while the latter refers to the formal world of logic. This distinction is recognized as ‘fact true’ and ‘logic true’ in modern logistic.


The world order continues in spite of the alternating falsehood implied in it from the logical standpoint. The two kinds of verity put together constitute the paradox of life which is to be referred to as the unpredicable in the verse below (87).


The word ‘all’ in the first line of the verse is to indicate

that it is not merely the actual single instance of impenetrability, but the law of impenetrability of matter generally which is under reference here. In generalizing we discuss a philosophical truth or verity and not mere actual experience.



Each taken by itself, all things here do exist; treated mutually

Each class excludes the other; considered in this way

The body and other things are neither real

Nor lacking in verity; they become unpredicable.


A PREDICATION is a statement made consciously and philosophically in respect of the truth of reality of any entity actual or conceptual. Definitions and relations too are sometimes called predicables. Where there is a subject there is also a predicate to which it is a subject. When the subjective and the objective sides tend to be confused with one another predication is not possible any more.


Here we have to clearly distinguish the factors that contribute to such an indeterminism, incertitude or unpredicability. The uncertainty principle has now come to find place in modern physics through Heisenberg, who has formulated it not as a mere doubt but as a positive factor of uncertainty defined as a principle. Similarly when the Guru says here that because of difference and agreement with some central philosophical norm, the reality of an object of a certain class becomes unpredicable, we have not to confuse it with mere difficulty of knowing. Even with a high degree of intelligence, this unpredicability will persist, because it is a fundamental epistemological factor. It is not just vagueness.


There is a central paradox at the core of life itself by which what is true and what is false present the contradictory character of each other. Truth could appear false and vice-versa, so that we arrive at a strange and necessary uncertainty when both are perfectly balanced. They are in fact the obverse and the reverse of the same coin, represented by the Absolute, which transcends paradox and all possibilities of paradox.


In the next verse the Guru will use the technical term of

Advaita Vedanta philosophy, viz. Maya, to designate this same principle of uncertainty, as it covers all possibilities of error in philosophical speculations in respect of the Absolute. The outside fact and the inside truth come into subtle conflict through the principle of Maya, which is the uncertain negative principle or ‘negativitat’ as Hegel would call it.


Kant would say that the reality of a thing-in-itself (ding-an-sich) is unknowable. This thing-in-itself is what philosophy seeks to understand. The phenomenal world is self-evident and requires no special exercise of the attention or of reasoning. The outside world is present even when we deny it or lazily witness it. But when we focus our attention and reason about it to find its cause or underlying reality, such reasoning abolishes it. Thus it is and is not, according to the degree of attention we are able to bring to bear upon it. If, by introspective reasoning we examine its basis, the

Absolute that is given to such deeper intuitive reasoning takes us to the thing-in-itself.



All things are real enough; the philosopher, however

Grasps all things here as One; when not viewed

Through the inward eye, that great tribulation

Which is Maya, yields much puzzlement, indeed!


HERE the Guru makes a concession to the standpoint of the common man in everyday life, who is not motivated by any desire to seek ultimate philosophical truth. In the very first verse of the work the Guru took the precaution of hinting that those who are not keen about higher knowledge may not find the work interesting. Realism is not a position that requires philosophical support. Persons who are content with appearances are welcome to lead a life which might be full of errors due to lack of deeper understanding. To avoid error at the gross as well as the subtle levels of human life, one has to take an inward contemplative view of reality. Such a view is what philosophical vision implies. After 87 verses, in which life-problems have been examined in a certain order, the Guru arrives at the notion of Maya, which is the inclusive name given to all the possibilities of philosophical error to which the human mind is prone.


It is true that even in India this appeal to the negative principle of error has been questioned by philosophical schools rival to that of Sankara, who is known as the ‘Maya-vadin’ (one who put forward the theory of Maya or formulated it as a part of his doctrine). Ramanuja puts forward seven main objections (anupapattis) to this ‘theory’ or ‘doctrine’ of Maya, as it is sometimes alluded to. In fact Maya is neither a doctrine nor a theory. It is only a term which stands for a negative principle of incertitude such as we have examined the nature of in commenting on the two previous verses. Hegel has the concept of  ‘negativität’ with which he supports his dialectical absolutist standpoint. The term is an epistemological and methodological necessity to signify and name all possible philosophical errors under one over-all heading. Idealism and realism cannot have the same accent placed on life-values, although they could have a common frame of reference. Ramanuja gave importance to devotion to God while Sankara gave primacy to wisdom. The difference between them is therefore negligible, as belonging to their particular method of developing the notion of the Absolute. When we remember that the word Maya is known to the Upanishads, the use of the term by the Guru is to be taken as but normal and natural. Maya is not a reality but merely an expression to signify the category of all possible errors in philosophy before it can arrive correctly and methodically at the notion of the neutral normative Absolute. The Guru, in the second half of this verse, recommends an interiorized view that will save the philosopher from getting lost in extraneous details. Bergson’s metaphysics recommends the same inner rather than outer view of reality (20)


(20). Cf. p. 1424 ‘Oeuvres’, Paris 1959.



As out of knowledge sparks innumerable arise,

Asserting the being of non-being to make the world appear,

Know that outside of knowledge not a thing exists;

Such knowledge global awareness shall yield.


PHILOSOPHY aims at a finalized, unitive and satisfactory answer to the questions and problems that seriously face man. Truth must be one and has to be understood as a whole rather than in piecemeal fashion. When we say that Truth shall make us free or that knowledge is power, such wholesale knowledge is what is meant. Whether it is the knowledge of the self or the soul, or of the universe around us, or both together - a satisfactory degree of certainty has to be present in the truth thus gained or knowledge acquired.


We know that the Sun and its light are not two different entities. The Sun as the source of light might be richer in its content of luminosity, but both the Sun and its light are easily understood as consisting of the same stuff. Knowledge, which has been compared to light, has two aspects, an inner subjective aspect and the outer objective manifestation of the same.


Here in this verse, there is a further subtlety that has been brought out by a favourite analogy. We know that Maya, as the overall category of error or illusion which has been examined in the previous verse, is an elusive entity with a double epistemological reference. It is described as both ‘sat’ (existent) and ‘asat’ (not real). Further, we have seen that there is a negative principle of indeterminism which characterises the concept of Maya. How could there be a relation between such a double-sided concept of Maya and the unitive and globally understood Absolute? The relation between the two is perhaps the most subtle and has been the cause of differences between Vedantists, as we have seen.


Ramanuja has questioned the validity of the Maya theory most penetratingly with his seven anupapattis (refutations) - his own Visishta-advaita doctrine giving primacy to effect as much as to material cause. The Vedanta of Sankara, on the other hand, tends to put the stress on the cause as against the effect. The Guru here, by the choice of his example, bridges the gulf between these two rival schools of Advaitins. The sparks of fire are the effect of the central fire from which they arise. While having the same fire implied in them, the sparks have inert coal too as their basis, and moreover the fire in each spark does not last. As sparks, treated collectively as always rising from the central source of fire, they could be called real; but on the other hand there is enough justification for us to treat each spark as both real and unreal.


The totality of sparks, however, by being as lasting as the fire from which they arise, must have the same status, in the same way as the Sun and its rays are both light. There is however an ontological poverty in the collection of sparks. In comparison to the richness of the source of light, the totality of sparks could only be given a secondary status. The sparks are more carbon than light and thus represent also the relative aspect of light in this analogy. By apt analogy the Guru is here able to bring to light the subtle relation that exists between the absolute and relative aspects of the same reality. If fire should burn more brightly, there may not be any sparks at all, as in incandescent light. This would represent the full or non-dual absolute status of Truth.


The phenomenal world, as the result of two-sided Maya, is the secondary aspect of this full Absolute and it is because of its plus and minus aspects meeting that the emergence of the universe that we can see or experience comes into view or looms into our consciousness. It is due to the indigence of the sparks that are both real and unreal, lasting and transient, that the phenomenal world emerges into view or enters our experience as something cognisable.


The fire and the sparks treated together comprise all that should be taken account of to give a total, global or unitive vision of reality; and such a view can leave nothing else as residue or remainder. When we recognize this we come upon a wholesale philosophic answer to the main problem that philosophy sets before itself. The satisfactory certitude that such a vision carries with it is in itself the recompense for the enquiry undertaken.



What has no basis in reality can never hide what exists;

Experience vouches for this; asserting the reality

Of what exists, at every step, by existence all is enveloped:

The body and other things thus have pure being for content.


THE word ‘sat’ as understood in Vedanta refers to the ontological basis of existence. It is not merely the empirical and particularly objectified being that it connotes.


Rtam, as employed in the Sanskrit of the Vedas and the Upanishads has some reference to the necessary cosmological world-order. What is in keeping with the laws of nature may be referred to have this kind of verity.


Anrtam is the opposite of rtam. Here in the present verse the Guru uses these words in their strict sense. The verse says first of all that anrtam (what exists outside of the world order or reality) cannot hide astita (the condition of being or existing). Truth is what proves itself by entering experience. Although horizontally-viewed Maya implies being and non-being blended into a state of indeterminism; vertically viewed from the absolutist standpoint, as it were from within the thing-in-itself, its truth remains unaffected. This follows from what has been already discussed in previous verses such as 87, 73, 55, 42, 28, 20, 4 etc. To see that existence applies to the Absolute so as to make it the truth that we seek through reasoning philosophically, we have to follow the special contemplative absolutist methodology and epistemology developed here from the beginning and also see the arguments in line with the scheme of values. When we say that truth will prevail, although misrepresentations might mislead men for some time, we are referring to this ontological principle of veracity which runs through the whole course of our thinking. If someone should say that fire will not burn, experience will prove the contrary. At the logical level of reasoning, similarly there is an a priori principle of truth which is all important and of which syllogistic proofs are only secondary shadows. The best proof is what is evident, other proofs are only less valid. In the higher domain of human values too, the basic existent element of the value must determine its validity by its goodness. At every step in reasoning that we might take leading up to the highest values in life, we have this ontological principle of existence giving it a status in truth or veracity. This has been brought out on almost similar lines in the Bhagavad Gita XVII. 26, which explains how ‘sat’ (the ontological principle of existence) enters into all levels of reasoning, and even gives its sanction to the rightness of any action that we might decide to take.


Our thinking or reasoning has its starting point in our experience of things which exist by natural right, such as our own body. We say to ourselves, ‘I have a body’, and then perhaps comes the higher thought that Descartes pointed out as the basic starting-point for his methodic thinking in this metaphysical reasoning, which was formulated by him in the words ‘cogito ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am). We build up certitude about reality in this manner, with the body-sense or experience as the more natural starting point. Reasoning processes of the formal world which we might call the world of subsistence, succeed those of the world of existence, resulting from the active state of the substance which forms the core of our material-cum-spiritual being as the ‘thinking substance’ of which Spinoza conceived. Then, above all, comes the world of values in which again the veracity of rightness is supplied by the element of ‘sat’ (the existent principle of reality) which runs through all the three levels of existence, subsistence, as well as value. Finally the supreme value of all, which is the knowledge of the Absolute, is reached as the term of all philosophical enquiry. This is touched upon later in verse 93. This verse, in short, brings out the truth that an existent reference as a vertical parameter runs through all grades and categories within the Absolute.



The effort that is made in view of something dear to one

As ordained too, remaining always constant and same

There is a dear value, unborn, unspent, unpredicable,

One and secondless, which ever endures as one’s happiness.


IN this and in the next two verses (92 and 93) the Guru is able to establish a link between the highest of human values and the ontological aspect of the same in terms of the Self. Action, especially conceived in terms of pure action (karma), as also understood as such in Aristotelian philosophy, is brought too into this unitive Self. Thinking itself and contemplation are actions in this pure instrumentalist sense and concern the Absolute as their aim, goal or object.


All men are constantly engaged in some sort of effort to better their lot in the world of value or interests that is in the environment of each. These values could refer to the goods of the earth or aim higher in the hierarchy of human values. Whatever the motive, the striving or effort to better the lot of each is a constant and uniform factor. Such an effort or constant activity belongs by inevitable necessity to human life. After being born we cannot stop breathing, although it might be possible, as in hibernating animals, to modify or control the function so as to minimise it to a great extent. The pure action involved would still remain, and the coefficient of the pressure of effort would be the same mathematically conceivable, functional or operational constant.


All effort or striving must be to attain a goal. Whether the goal is an outside cosmological one or is still within the limits of the psychology of the individual is not yet raised in this verse. It will be in the next verses, especially in the 93rd. Whatever its status, be it theological, psychological or cosmological, the Guru wishes to lay down the law that it represents a mathematical constant that never changes. It refers to some item of interest dear to the self. Although individual, men conceived as living biologically within body limits, might be taken to have a limit set to their efforts, as a general law applicable to humanity as a whole there is a never-ending effort which can be admitted to be a mathematical constant.


This constant effort has its dialectical counterpart in the Absolute, which in itself represents the finalized and supreme value for Man. This apodictic approach has characterised this work uniformly from the beginning, and both a priori and a posteriori reasons have been advanced dialectically together in support of the final, ultimate, human-value status of the Absolute. The epithets lavished here in the latter half of this verse on this dear value are therefore not out of place. They may be seen to conform to the description of the Absolute in the Mandukya Upanishad as it applies to the ‘fourth’ or turiya state mentioned there.



As there is the law of energy remaining ever unspent

By outwardly directed action, there must needs be inwardly

A dear value that is inseparable from it, for which here

The action is merely a symbol of outer recognition.


IN physics we are familiar with the idea of the law of conservation of energy as known in Newtonian mechanics and valid in the world of motion or action. Later physics is familiar with the notion of entropy, about which the law is “the total entropy of any isolated system can never decrease in any change, it must either increase (irreversible process) or remain constant (reversible process).” Modern physics, as well as classical physics in its philosophical aspects, accepts this law which the Guru also states so as to fit it into his own scheme of contemplative metaphysics. The Guru here has shown himself fully alive to the requirements of the modern way of treating physics and metaphysics unitively as belonging to one Science of sciences. Modern thermodynamics further accepts the convertibility of matter into energy and vice-versa so that the law of conservation of matter-energy could state this fundamental law more correctly.


Energy is action of some kind, and matter is also concentrated energy, as nuclear physics tends to show. Even in its revised forms, the law referred to by the Guru here for his contemplative, metaphysical theme remains valid in the light of modern knowledge. We know also of the case of radiation in radioactive matter which takes thousands of years to spend only half of its conserved material energy, and another period of thousands of years to spend half of what remains. Energy, known experimentally, thus approaches perpetual activity, although perpetual motion in the mere mechanistic sense remains only an ideal.


The light that these experimentally valid facts throw on the nature of the thinking substance is what concerns us more directly in this verse. In the very first verse, this source of all action was referred to as ‘karu’, which we translated as ‘core’. After developing his subject through the intervening verses it is easy for us to understand the full import of this startling idea put forward by the Guru as a central reality which reconciles matter and spirit. The implicit method is both ontological and teleological. Nature itself, as we have seen in verse 81, has a subjective aspect that was both immanent and transcendent at the same time. In keeping with the tradition of Advaita Vedanta the Guru will be seen to have consistently adhered to a unitive way of developing his subject combining these two aspects of the iha (immanent) and the para (transcendent).


The case of the Absolute Value to which all the three verses, 91, 92 and 93 refer, and which was examined with a cosmological slant, as it were, in the previous verse (91) is now restated in psychological terms. Modern phenomenology knows this way of treating the inner self and its eidetic counterpart as consisting unitively of one ‘epoche’ or event in consciousness.


The sun and sunlight are to be understood unitively, as also the fire and the sparks, or the sea and the waves that arise therefrom. In essence or substance they are the same, although one might be less rich ontologically or more significantly teleological. As the classical example in Vedanta harps upon incessantly, the wave and the ocean in reality belong together unitively and constitute one and the same reality to the dialectically-trained, contemplative inner eye which can see the reality from within appearances. Cosmology and psychology thus view the same verity in terms of the Self, understood in the context of the Absolute.


The source of action and the action itself being thus one or inseparable, the brute action, as we mechanistically see it as an actuality representing the non-self from an outside point of view, reduces itself into a mathematical symbol. The whole of physics is said to be a science of symbols by advanced philosophers of science like Eddington. The relation between action and what it corresponds to symbolically is explained by Eddington as follows:


The whole calculation of N (the Cosmic Number) is an essay in the representation of conceptions by symbolic algebra. It is the conceptions that matter. We have to express in mathematical symbolism what we think we are doing when we measure things; for if we had no conception of what we are doing, the results of the measurements would not persuade us to believe anything in particular. (23)


The symbol N thus stands for the measurable cosmos where action also lives and moves. The language used by the Guru thus catches up with what is known to link the experimental and non-experimental or symbolic worlds.


(23) pp. 266-7. ‘Fundamental Theory’, by Sir A. S. Eddington, Cambridge University Press.



To one who has cut connection with the changeful body

There is nothing which surpasses in value his own Self:

As the interest that prevails in respect of oneself, as ordained also,

Never-ceasingly endures, the Self, eternal it is.


THE absolute status of the Self is here established by following up the line of reasoning that was started in verse 91. The dear object to which all human effort or endeavour is directed, as it were, backward, is not to be thought of necessarily as something outside of the self. On final analysis this value has its subtle locus in the self itself.


When we think of the self, however, we have to eliminate its peripheral vesture, which is full of elements or factors of change. In verse 12 already, these two aspects of the ego and the self: one changeful, transient and subject to maya; and the other, the self which is a pure witness inside and lasting, have been explained. The ambivalent factors involved in even deeper seats of body-consciousness were referred to in verses 68 and 72. When the horizontal aspects of the self have been eliminated, there would remain the pure vertical aspect of the self which would represent the highest of human values for anyone and for all.


Love of self, as understood in this way, and mere selfishness have to be distinguished. In this connection there is a well- known passage of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV. V. 6) which brings out the difference in a very telling manner: Yajnavalkya speaks to Maitreyi about the nature of the love between them as husband and wife, as follows:


‘Lo, verily, not for the love of husband is a husband

dear, but for the love of the Soul (atman) is the husband dear.

Lo, verily, not for the love of a wife is a wife

dear, but for the love of the Soul (atman) is a wife dear.’


This series covers values such as sons, wealth, cattle, Brahmin-hood, etc. in the same strain to point out that the direction of contemplatively-understood values is to be sought in the Soul and not in outward items of apparent values.


Elsewhere in the Darsana Mala of Narayana Guru we have a definition of what constitutes ‘bhakti’ (chapter VIII, verses 5, 6 and 7) where we come up against the same idea of unitively treating ananda (value factors), atma (Self) and brahman (the Absolute) as interchangeable terms. The bipolar relation between husband and wife has its relational content which belongs neither to one party nor to the other, but is to be understood dialectically to be a common value-factor applicable to both together and at once.



As a mixture of what is the world and what is the real,

That which presents itself before us is a great iniquity indeed!

This is what is indeterminate, beyond grasp of word or mind;

How could the course of right reason move within its domain?


THE Absolute is presented to man’s view in the form of both appearance and the reality behind it. These two are like grains that cut across each other, and the process of reasoning has to move, as it were, in straight lines between the cross-grains of the fabric thus presented. What is true in the cross-sectional view is false from the long-sectional view. Everything as presented is both ‘yes’ and ‘not’ at the same time. This is what constitutes the enigma, the knot or the question mark that is said to be life in its total aspect. The Jaina syad vada  (may-be-may-be-not) approach reflects this puzzlement.


We have in India what is called pramana-sastra, which is sometimes called logic. Western logic along the usual lines does not strictly correspond to this. Reasoning leads to inferences; but these inferences are themselves of two distinct kinds: one which is for one’s own conviction (swartha), and the other which is for agreeing with another (parartha). The latter is verbalistic and depends on a formalism known to Aristotelian syllogisms, while the former is based on the thought processes that take place in the individual himself. The anti-verbalistic character of Indian logic is referred to as follows by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce:


Indian logic studies the naturalistic syllogism in itself as internal thought, distinguishing it from syllogism for others…. It does not make the verbal distinctions of subject, copula and predicate…. All these are extraneous to logic, whose object is the constant: knowledge considered in itself. (22)


When the Guru speaks in terms of ‘pramana’, which we have translated ‘right reason’ and which is to be valid, he must have been thinking of the Indian schools of Nyaya and Samkhya. Aristotelian logic is different, as we have just seen. It is more verbalistic rather than based on the thought-process itself. If one, the Indian way, is to be called ‘vertical’ the other should be called ‘horizontal’. The means of testing the validity of truth and the object-matter of logic thus presents epistemological and methodological difficulties. It is in this sense that we have to understand the Guru when he says that reality is presented to our intelligence as a great ‘iniquity’.


This ‘iniquity’ is the same negative principle of Maya which has been examined in various verses previously and referred to in verse 88 as the great tribulation. Sometimes Maya is referred to as a goddess of evil import, and sometimes in mythological language this same principle could be seen as represented as the dark and terrible Kali. Just as there are gradations of mildness and ferocity between the Saraswati of Sankara and Kali of more ancient literature, the former being more Sanskritized or refined than the latter, we have in philosophical literature reference to this active-creative horizontal and negative principle, sometimes treated as the same as the Absolute, and sometimes as extraneous to the notion of the Absolute.


The creative power of the Absolute could be intellectually viewed or more emotionally viewed. The Guru is here content to call it the principle of injustice in this verse, while in verse 88 it was a more open enemy. The injustice here consists merely in that it obstructs, by its indeterminism or flux as Bergson would put it, the application of logical processes to the discovery of ultimate or absolute Reality. Both Indian logic, which thinks in pure subjective terms, and Western logic which inclines to objectivity through syntactical elements of language, do not avail in cutting the Gordian knot.


(22). pp. 255-56, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M.

Hiriyanna, M. A., Allen and Unwin, London, 1932.




This expansive display of operative artifice as by Maya ordained

The shining creative principle of the universe is she;

And she, descending here, her limbs they are that become

The crust of the cosmic egg, in number ten million.


HOW did this world come to be? This is perhaps one of the most challenging of questions that could be put to the scientist, philosopher or theologian. Various answers are found in the scriptures of the world, from the Song of Creation of the Rig-Veda (X. 129) to the creation found in Genesis of the Bible. The Santi-Parva of the Mahabharata also gives the picture, producing water first like another darkness in darkness. Maya is the cause of creation in the Upanishadic context. This Maya is represented in mythological language as a female principle of creation or illusion.


Mind and its ignorance are attributed to this female or negative principle of nescience, and all the magical variety of the world is attributed to it. Theistic schools of philosophy, such as that of Ramanuja, prefer to give the function of creation to God, in His goodness and bounty, rather than to any evil principle. The problem of evil is not squarely faced by such schools but inclusively attributed to the Divine Principle itself. Why should God take the trouble of creation at all? Even this question is answered in various ways by giving primacy to the upadana (material) rather than to the nimitta (instrumental) agency of the Absolute Godhead. The idea of lila or the sport of God in creation is also not unknown.


The Guru here strictly adheres to this same tradition of contemplative literature. We have to note that here he is at the end of his series of verses of Self-realization. Without deflecting from the conception of Maya as a negative or female principle of creation, he lifts the concept as high as the hypostatic level of ascending dialectics, as would be consistent with the negative nature of the principle itself. The Absolute is finally neither negative nor positive.


To derive the negative Absolute from the neutral Absolute is a delicate matter if one is not to part company with the theologian on the one side or join hands with the sceptic on the other. In the present verse the Guru accomplishes this delicate and difficult task without violating the norms of any school of thought, mythological, theological, scientific or philosophical. The tacit epistemological frame of reference developed in the previous verses is not departed from. Negative nescience is still the origin of the manifested universe.


Words like ‘shining’, ‘sportive’, ‘creative’, and ‘expansive’, which might at first not seem consistent with the darkness which is supposed to be the origin of the universe, are here justified in the light of the fact that, step by step, the duality between light and darkness has been abolished by the Guru, and by the time he arrives at the 95th verse he is able to speak of the negative principle as negative only to the Absolute conceived in ultimately philosophical and scientific terms.


The reference to the limbs of the personified negative principle materialising here below as the crust or shell of the cosmic egg has its justification both semantically and scientifically. In Sanskrit there is reference to the cosmic egg or brahmanda as a kind of unit of creation with an individuation for each entity that is created. The monadology of Leibniz has the same kind of unit-conception and the Nyaya-Vaiseshika schools of Indian realistic philosophy have the idea of the paramanu (the ultimate real particle) which has two outer sides and an inner vertical aspect which together represent reality in atomic form.


Matter is something that we touch with its properties of heaviness, inertia, impenetrability, etc. It is still something that the self experiences, as it were, from inside, and its being ‘out there’ in space is not valid in the strict sense. Unity and multiplicity are dialectical counterparts of reality which have to be reduced into non-dual oneness as envisaged in verse 96 below. It is thus a conceptual world in which all these speculations are to live and move.


Modern physics itself admits of this kind of conceptual approach, as we have already noticed in verse 92. Eddington actually alludes to the cosmic number ‘N’, which refers to the actual number of protons and electrons in the universe. We shall not enter into this way of evaluation of the number N by modern scientists, but only say that it refers to an actual and fixed figure raised to the power of 256. When the Guru here refers to a fixed number of a ‘crore’ (ten million) as the units that comprise the manifested universe, he is only speaking somewhat the same language as modern physicists.


It is the outer limbs of this virile or fecund principle of creativity that thus transform or metamorphose themselves as the shell of the cosmic egg. Brahmanda-kataha itself is an expression in usage in Sanskrit which refers to the outer crust of the cosmos, treated as a whole and unitively. When such units are spoken of as making millions, we have to understand that the Absolute combines the one and the many at its two poles. Descending dialectics gives us the picture of multiplicity in the horizontal aspect of the universe, and the vertical unity underlying it holds them together. The one and the many are natural counterparts in the dialectical way of reasoning.


The next verse will examine this dialectical polarity at closer quarters.



The atom and the infinite thus, as being and non-being

Do both from either side shine forth; this experience too

Of being as well as non-being shall thereafter be extinct

And devoid of foundation, forever, both shall cease to be!


BESIDES the dialectics of the one and the many which was treated in the previous verse, we have the last vestige of individuation or ideation which refers to the part and the whole or the big and the small. These paradoxes were known to Zeno and other pre-Socratic philosophers and have been resolved in various ways by philosophers. The Guru here and in the next verse comes up against the same time-honoured problem with reference to the ultimate unitive status of the Absolute in the Self as a high value.


The one and the many are dialectical counterparts. Both of them, like the big and the small, motion and stop, have to be resolved into oneness, just as size is to be resolved without its relative aspects that contradict it, and pure motion as against stop. All these solutions could apply under the same dialectical methodology to Being and non-Being, which were resolved in this verse in terms of a central notion of the Absolute. Zeno of Elea and his teacher Parmenides worked on the solution of this paradox presented at the core of the notion of the Absolute; and Plato himself through Socrates employed and developed dialectical thinking in later times. All of them insisted that changeless Being or Self was the ultimate Reality or Truth. Strict logic had to be abandoned here in favour of a higher and purer way of reasoning called dialectics, about which much vagueness still persists to the present day. Indian Yoga methodology is akin to dialectics, as also the axiomatic thinking gaining vogue only at present in the scientific West. (See our later work).



Within the glory of wisdom, the atom, bereft of parts shall

extinct become

And the infinite too, shall that day its perfection attain;

Without directly experiencing this cannot be known, this boundless

Stuff of pure intelligence, this silence-filled ocean of

immortal bliss.


THE glory of knowledge and the perfection of the Absolute have a common ground in the experience of the Self. The existential and the subsistential sides – into which categories of thought the central reality was understood as belonging in a polarized and dual fashion – attain a neutral unity in which cognition, conation and emotion merge into a central experience. The culmination of wisdom has to take place in the individual, and the mere thoughtful analysis or synthesis to which it is prone will not bring it to the equilibrium or sameness or unity which is here to be understood. We know that the maha-vakyas of the Vedanta such as tat-tvam-asi (Thou art That) etc., have all of them two sides: one immanent and the other transcendental, or one ontological and the other teleological, which meet to produce the ultimate experience of the yogi or the correct dialectically-trained philosopher. In verse 99 below, the Guru himself will refer to this union of the self and non-self aspects of knowledge. In this verse and the next we thus touch the finalized position of Advaita Vedanta teaching. It should be noticed also that in the description of this rare experience of the true philosopher or yogi, as understood in this series of verses, as we see it in the last line of the present verse, there is a blending of rational and emotional factors.


The Absolute, though finally one and one only, is cognised under three final categories of understanding, which are referred to as the sat (existent), chit (the rational or intellectual) and the ananda (the value factor or element) – under which the experience gets its reality-content or character. A mere emptiness or absence of interest as in something insipid is not the end or aim of Advaita Vedanta. Mere intellectually-biased schools of philosophy like the Vijnana-vadins and the Sunya-vadins, although their philosophies could be otherwise tenable and quite respectable, might err in this direction of lack of value-content.



Till now, not a thing have we here known, as we have kept saying

In every case, that there is something still of greater happiness;

Although the mind and other factors might vanish

The selfhood of the Soul (Atman) must be said to be wisdom ever unspent.


IN the process of Self-realization the seeker of wisdom passes through many stages before arriving at the ultimate term of his research. As long as something better is left over in the mind of the seeker, we cannot say that the term of knowledge has been reached. In this sense we have to say that we have not known anything at all, which could be rightly asserted only when we have found something on which we need not improve.


When, in our analysis of the self, we have successively discarded the peripheral vestures of the self by the well-known process of ‘neti, neti’ (not this, not this), as recommended in the negative way of the Upanishads; discarding one outer vesture of reality in favour of another inner factor more real, as when we go from the senses to the mind; we finally arrive at the term of our enquiry, beyond which thought cannot go, and the value to which thought is applied cannot be improved upon. Such a term is described here as Self-possession or Self-realization as it is understood in usual philosophical language.


The two aspects referred to in the previous verses meet unitively and neutrally in this central value-factor. It is thus that wisdom becomes finalized in terms of value.



Knowledge and ‘I’ are both one, for one divest of all veiling curtains;

Another might have reason to argue still;

If the ‘I’ could be taken as other than knowledge

None there is to know knowledge here at all!


THIS penultimate verse sums up the position of Advaita Vedanta in terms of Self-knowledge. The reasons advanced need no comment. No argument remains after this finally apodictic statement is made after examining all other points of view in the previous verses.



Neither this, nor that nor the content of existence am I,

But existence, subsistence, joy-immortal; thus attaining clarity.

Emboldened, discarding attachment to being and non-being

One should gently, gently, merge in SAT-AUM.


AUM represents the Absolute as explained in the Mandukya

Upanishad. ‘Sat’ supplies the ontological basis for the Absolute as Value.