Vanity thought #1585. What it isn’t

I was hoping that after New Year I would catch up on missed posts, I’m currently two days behind, but instead I got positively swamped. Maybe later this week.

It’s been a near perfect storm, a combination of work things and family things and health things and senility things and it just won’t let go. Nevermind, the ekādaśī is coming and I trust the universe to let me breath and chant more rounds in peace. So far the universe has been cooperative on ekāsaśīs, let me keep my fingers crossed on this one.

In this state of mind, which I would describe in one word – frantic, I’m obviously not ready to talk about advaya-jñāna, which I was hoping to accomplish today. When mind is disturbed by external happenings samādhau na vidhīyate, as Kṛṣṇa said in BG 2.44 – the resolute determination for devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place. OTOH, it’s not all bad, there might be a bigger lesson to learn from being busy – it’s not what advaya-jñana is, and even when the mind eventually settles down the same signs of business would still be detectable in however small amounts, and it won’t be advaya-jñāna either. It simply does not dwell in this world, not when it’s agitated and not when it appears to be peaceful.

Being busy also gives us the opportunity to see beyond our minds. Normally we would blame the circumstances for pushing and pulling our minds but we could also let the circumstances take over completely and just step aside and concentrate on what is really important, but we have to find what it is first – which is advaya-jñāna.

One way to describe it is to talk about five levels of perception as taught by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – pratyakṣa, parokṣa, aparokṣa, adhokṣaja, and aprākṛta. Of these we are familiar with the first two – pratyakṣa, the knowledge obtained through our senses, and parokṣa, the body of knowledge taught by others, who got it though their own senses. The next one, aparokṣa, is tricky because various schools define it differently and the meaning, therefore, is not universal. In Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism aparokṣa is not a big deal but others see it as something transcendental.

In our school it’s just intuition or realization based on parokṣa and aparokṣa. In contemporary terms it’s knowledge of the “force”. You don’t really know how it works but you know what should be done and how. Lots of people achieve glimpses of this kind of realization by honing their professional skills. It’s the point where they see their vocation as art, as too complex to explain in mechanical terms.

Technically, aparokṣa means non-perceptible or invisible but this is Kali yuga and so we can settle on “not obvious”. In India, but also in other cultures, it’s the knowledge given by devatās. It just comes to you because one way or another you deserved it. The typical case would be Keśava Kāśmīri who composed a hundred verses glorifying the Ganges on the spot. He didn’t think them up himself, he relied on the mercy of the Goddess Sarsvatī. When he was defeated by Lord Caitanya he also didn’t take it personally but understood that much higher powers were at play.

Full mastery of aparokṣa leads to the realization of the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth, when one goes beyond “I figured how to do this” to “I won’t even bother doing it”. The world just fades away and fails to excite anymore, everything appears to be trivial and unimportant. It’s easy to understand how on this level one would be inclined to withdraw and dedicate himself to meditation. God would still not reveal Himself, though. Śrīla Madhvācārya, however, classified aparokṣa as higher than dhyāna, which he said was contemplating of the mental form. Aparokṣa then would be meditating on otherwise imperceptible form of the Lord.

The next level, adjokṣaja, is, in our school, fully transcendental and takes one as far as Vaikuṇṭha realization. Full knowledge of the Absolute, including Kṛṣṇa’s Vraja-līlā, is available on the level of aprākṛta.

Going back to advaya-jñāna, it must be at least on the level of adjokṣaja where one is fortunate enough to directly perceive transcendental form of the Lord. We, obviously, don’t have it, but we can have a shot at aparokṣa and hope for the best.

Being busy allows us to distance ourselves from the workings of the world and observe them from a distance. Nothing will happen, the world will go on, the mind will continue reacting, the intelligence will continue seeking solutions, and body, the nature, and the demigods will continue giving us trouble, but we can find an inner place totally removed from all that jazz.

Ordinarily, we would try to memorize everything that happens to us so that later on we can tell the world our story, find a friend willing to listen, or at least tweet about it, but if we had simply waited until it was over we would come out of busy period with nothing to remember at all. Right now, if someone asked me to describe my holidays, I would probably refuse. It’s too much trouble for me to recover all those memories, there’s nothing special about them either. If one does that, however, he is bound to develop either attachment or detachment and position himself relative to those external happenings – “I liked that” or “I didn’t like that, never again”. It doesn’t matter what, we always end up liking or disliking things, and who needs that?

We all know how to deal with busy times, we try to manage our load, find time to deal with it and time to take a break, postpone, procrastinate, delegate, roll up our sleeves, sleep less, get tougher, run away, ignore, pray – whatever works. Ultimately, however, all this management is a waste of time – the material nature can do it for us, we don’t need to invest our own consciousness in it. The universe will arrange everything for us to make decisions and act in certain way, it will pull memories from our intelligence, it will provide advice from others, it will provide energy or arrange for escapes. It always does all of that, we just want to extend our control over parts of it as “my brain”, “my memory”, or “my time”. It’s not ours, we are not our subtle bodies, let it roll all by itself. If we do not allow ourselves to become attached or detached we won’t care how exactly it all plays out.

So, advaya-jñāna is elusive but now I get a better idea of what it is not. We should avoid taking shelter in duality of likes and dislikes, and we should stop trying to control the world, not just around us but “within” us, too – it’s not “our” mind, “our” intelligence, etc.

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