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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

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    Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
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    Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    “The evolutionary tide on earth is regulated by the unerring hand of cyclic law.”

    — Aquarian Almanac

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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    April 8, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep on until
    exhausted, but this permits no man to refuse to help his fellows and every sentient
    being. — Aphorism on Karma

    Can we imagine the present-day races of men living together as each other’s
    fellow-citizens, as they would have to do if there were to be an effective
    World-State? — ARNOLD TOYNBEE

    Hugo von Mohl 1805

    • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
      Gerry Kiffe
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

      Concerning the aphorism on Karma: Is the injunction telling us that if we fail to come to the aid of others who are suffering we somehow create new karma of our own that in turn must be exhausted?

      • Profile photo of Odin Townley
        Odin Townley
        Participant
        Profile photo of Odin TownleyOdin Townley

        If a situation or challenge presents itself to us, we should help others affected. But it also means, if we become aware of it, that it is also OUR KARMA.

      • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
        Pavel Axentiev
        Participant
        Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

        I think Gerry is correct. However, if we become identifed (entangled) in the fruits of our action, we also create karma. As the verse in Shri Ishopanishad goes:
        Those who worship nescience enter into the regions of darkness.
        But those who worship knowledge enter into a still deeper darkness.

        • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
          Ramprakash ML
          Participant
          Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

          What is “nescience” here mean, as contrasted with “knowledge” ?

          Gave a thought to the question.

          All learning which does not lead to knowledge of Self–ultimate Reality– should be nescience ? If so, all our academic learning, including science, come under the head nescience. It is “Avidya” in the original text. It does indeed lead to spiritual darkness, does not reach down to and affect the Inner Man, though develops and sharpens the Lower Mind.

          Perhaps, “Knowledge,” “Vidya” in the original, appears to be spiritual knowledge as an intellectual acquisition only. The latter seems to be denominated as “the Eye Doctrine,” or “the Dharma of the Eye.” If one is devoted to intellectual study of Theosophy only, as a mere academic exercise, though apparently good in itself, we are warned,leads to greater darkness, if is not illuminated by the Heart-Light–Buddhi–“the Dharma of the Heart.”

          The Voice says that the first prate, “Behold, I know,” and the last, “those who in humbleness have garnered, low confess, ‘Thus Have I Heard.'”

          The relative merits of these two are shown :

          “The Dharma of the Eye is the embodiment of the external and the non-existing,” and is “scattered to the winds by the good law.”

          “The Dharma of the Heart is the embodiment of the permanent of Bodhi, the Permanent and Everlasting.”

          Masters emphasize on the Heart Doctrine, and value only that.

          • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
            Pavel Axentiev
            Participant
            Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

            Thank you, Ram. Nescience = ignorance. I would not equate it with merely academic knowledge, though. Even sincere infatuation with the Theosophical texts can lead to a certain “darkness,” when we keep searching for answers in the books instead of looking within.

          • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
            Pavel Axentiev
            Participant
            Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

            I would not equate *”knowledge” here ^^

          • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
            Pierre Wouters
            Moderator
            Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

            That’s nicely phrased Ramprakash,very important distinction!

        • Profile photo of Peter
          Peter
          Moderator
          Profile photo of PeterPeter

          re: #5414

          “Those who worship nescience enter into the regions of darkness.
          But those who worship knowledge enter into a still deeper darkness.”
          [9]

          I think its quite hard to appreciate what this verse from the Isa Upanishad is getting out without seeing it in context. Even in context there appear to be many layers of understanding to it. Also, the word ‘alone’ is normally included as part of the translation for one or both of the sentences in the verse above – see, for example:

          ‘They who workship Avidya alone fall into blind darkness; and they who worship Vidya alone fall into even greater darkness. [9] (trans. S. Sitarama Sastri)

          ‘Into blind darkness they enter who are devoted to ignorance (rituals); but into a greater darkness they enter who engage in knowledge alone.’ [9] (trans. Nikhilananda)

          The following verse 10 indicates that separate results accrue from following either of these two worships alone, while verse 11 indicates that really they should be pursued together:

          ‘He who is aware that both knowledge and ignorance should be pursued together, overcomes death through ignorance and obtains immortality through knowledge’ [11] (trans. Nikhilananda)

          The next verses 12 to 14 follow on the theme – the worship of the unborn prakriti leads into darkness and the worship of Hiranyagarbha leads into a greater darkness. Form the worship of each alone particular results acrue. However, worshipping them both together leads to the attainment of supernatural powers (siddhis) and immortality.

          Sankara explains that the immortality acquired when combining each of the above pairs is only a ‘relative immortality.’ Combining the avidya and vidya of verse 9 leads to immortality as a deity in the deva realms which lasts until the positive effects of that worship are exhausted.* For Sankara, avidya in this verse refers to ritual worship (karma) while vidya refers to the occult knowledge of the deity associated with a ritual worship. (Sankara also goes to some lengths to justify this interpretation in his commentary to the closing verse to this upanishad, verse 18.)

          As for the following verses (12-14) combining the worship of the unborn prakriti and that of Hiranyagarbha leads to immortality through the absorption of the individual into the unborn Prakriti. According to Sankara, this is the highest stage of freedom, absorption and immortality that can be attained within the realm of samsara. It is not the liberation and immortality that comes from renunciation and knowledge of the Self (Atman).

          Aurobindu explains it differently, as do some other traditions in hinduism, viewing the vidya and avidya of verse 9 as knowledge of multiplicity and knowledge of the One, and that true enlightenment requires a merging of the two which is his understanding of verse 11.

          *Note: Subba Row points out the dangers of deity worship in one of his esoteric teachings, stressing the dangers of the ego being absorbed into a deity or god.

          PS: I’ve not that if we edit a post it removes it from it’s original place under the original reply and places it as a new post at end of the messages. Apologies if you receive this post twice in your inbox as a result of replacing under the original post replied to.

          ~~

          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            Just to add a further thought to vidya and avidya (knowledge and ignorance). From the perspective of Vedanta teachings all knowledge arising in the realm of duality is not really separate from ignorance, because such knowledge, no matter how great or refined is not the direct knowledge of the Self or Atman. Hence it pertains only to the illusory world of samsara. As Ramana Maharshi puts it:

            Knowledge is never and nowhere in the world separate from ignorance; neither is ignorance at any time and for anyone separate from knowledge; true knowledge is Awareness of the original Self, which becomes manifested by the Quest ‘Who is this I to whom belong both of these,’ nothing else. [10]

            How can knowledge of objects arising in relative existence, to one that knows not the truth of (himself) the knower, be true knowledge? If one rightly knows (the truth of) him in whom both knowledge and its opposite subsist, then along with ignorance (relative) knowledge also will cease once for all. [11]

            Know that that alone is true knowledge in which there is neither knowledge nor ignorance: the (so called) knowledge of objects, understand, is not at all true knowledge. The Real Self shine always alone, with neither things for Him to know, nor persons to know HIM; therefore He is only Consciousness; do not think that He is non-being. [12]

            The Self, (here) declared to be Consciousness, is alone real, without a second; all knowledge which is manifold is only ignorance: this ignorance –– which (being a negation) is non-existent –– has no existence apart from the Self who is Consciousness. Say, do the unreal jewels exist apart from the gold which (alone) exists? [13]

            (From ‘Revelation’ : a sanskrit version of the Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses on Existence) of Sri Ramana Maharshi.)

            ~~

            • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
              Pavel Axentiev
              Participant
              Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

              Thanks, Peter, for these enlightening elaborations.

              If I may bring in yet another, perhaps more “ignorant” perspective, I would like to look at these terms from the following point of view:

              Let us consider “knowledge” as a synonym for truth about some object or objects, while “ignorance” is either absence of any information or incorrect information about the object.

              First of all, I think that equating “ignorance” with rituals is narrowing the potential (full) meaning of the text.

              Furthermore, I think that Ramana Maharshi’s interpretation is reading too much into the terms. I would think it obvious for me, that the verse is not talking about knowledge as Ultimate Realization, which is how Ramana Maharshi wants to stretch the term.

              I think both such interpretations, despite being very popular and probably even status quo, are logically incorrect: one inflates the term, while the other narrows it unnecessarily.

              Considering the brevity of the text, and its independent standing of its own (correct me if I am wrong), I would take the most common-sense interpretation of the term “knowledge” and assume that it was assumed by the Author, for He used it without any elaboration. Of course, you may argue that it may be incorrect to apply even such strict logical procedures to the text, as they may be contemporary, to which I would reply that in my opinion this is a more “primordial” form of logic – i.e. a more natural type of thinking – hence more likely to have been implied by the author.

              Thus, knowledge (vidya) is likely to mean intellectual knowledge, or activity, while ignorance (avidya) – lack of such activity and/or incorrect knowledge.

              I believe such interpretation, despite being perhaps too obvious, is more conducive to receiving the mystical meaning of this verse as well as the subsequent verses – in part, because it is so shocking for the mind, as it is, not unlike a Zen koan, and such shocking character was perhaps intended by the creator of the text.

              • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
                Pavel Axentiev
                Participant
                Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

                To add, it may be a play of words: knowledge as intellectual knowledge, and knowledge as perception of Truth.

                Perhaps, the author was making an allusion to the common human perception that intellectual knowledge is Truth. Thus, one’s train of thinking is broken, and one is able to perceive that Truth is perceived not by the intellect, but by some higher faculty, which may look like ignorance, because unlike the mind it is Silent and to the mind even appears Empty or Void.

          • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
            Ramprakash ML
            Participant
            Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

            Peter
            April 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm #5450

            Peter, can we not relate Avidya-Nesciene and Vidya-Knowledge to the two paths spoken of in the Upanishads–one leading to the region of the Moon, gaining which the Soul is compelled to return to earth life; and the other to the region of the Sun, gaining which, the Soul is not compelled to return, ie., emancipated ?

            I think, both Vidya and Avidya spoken of here in the Upanishad refers to the fist path–the path of smoke, the dark fortnight, the sun’s southern journey, and NOT to the path of Fire, the fortnight of full Moon, of the Sun’s norther journey. Because, pursuit of both viday and Avidya is said in the Upanishad to lead to blind darkness (Andah – Tamah), those devoting to Vidya alone entering into still worse kind of mental darkness (Bhuya Eva Tamah).

            To my understanding, the verse applies to two kinds of intellectual or scholastic pursuits. One, denominated Avidya, not only to ritualistic worship devoid of spiritual knowledge, but to all kinds of Learning which are rooted in Rajasic and Tamasic qualities. Under this head all our modern scientific research and knowledge and other branches of knowledge our universities pursue are included. No doubt they lead to mental darkness–not from worldly perspective but in the view of the spiritually illuminated Sage.

            Have not Master said that since science has nothing to do with morality, philanthropy, altruism, it can make no claim upon Them, unless it blends itself with metaphysics ? Modern science is amoral and serves and promotes Avidya.

            Reg Vidya, it should relate not only to magical knowledge of powers of nature and their control (obtaining Siddhis) but to even mere intellectual study of Theosophy without applying it for self-transformation through renunciation of self while engaged in action. Of the latter kind there are many among students of Theosophy.

            The danger that lurks in mere intellectual and psychic development without blossoming of Higher Manasic and Buddhic faculties is warned against by the great Gurus. Judge’s warning that intellect alone leads us all to hell, is not paid much attention to by students. History of the TM has illustrations of such failures.

            • Profile photo of Peter
              Peter
              Moderator
              Profile photo of PeterPeter

              Hello Ram and Pavel,

              Thanks for your thoughtful comments. What you both say about vidya and avidya in general makes a great deal of sense. By the way, the passage I quoted from Ramana Maharshi is also about vidya and avidya in general from the Vedanta perspective. It was not meant as an interpretation of that particular verse in question from the Isa upanishad.

              I’m not making any claim as to which of the views examined so far (yours or Sankara’s or Aurobindo’s etc) is the right or wrong way to interpret that verse. I’m simply suggesting that when that verse is looked at in its context, the meaning may be more complex than at first appears.

              Lets say that avidya (nescience) is wrong knowledge or ignorance of any kind. Let’s also say that the term vidya in this verse refers to (mere) intellectual knowledge. Verse 9 says that when each of these is worshiped alone each leads to darkness, the latter (mere intellectual knowledge) leading to an even greater darkness than the former. If this is the case then a couple of questions arise. Why then does verse 11 say that they should be pursued together rather than separately? How might it be that while each of these leads to either darkness or to an even greater darkness, yet when combined together they lead to the overcoming of death and attainment of immortality?

              ‘He who is aware that both knowledge and ignorance should be pursued together, overcomes death through ignorance and obtains immortality through knowledge’ [11] (trans. Nikhilananda)

              ‘He who simultaneously knows both Vidya and Avidya gets over death by Avidya and attains immortality by Vidya.’ [11] (trans. S. Sitarama Sastri)

              Another way to look at the term Vidya in verse 9 is to take it as referring to true knowledge i.e the direct apprehension or realisation of Reality (referred to as knowledge of Atman). In which case, we might ask why should one combine Vidya (knowledge of Reality) with Avidya (ignorance) as suggested in verse 11. Can the direct realisation of Reality be compatible with a state of ignorance? An earlier verse in this upanishad say they cannot:

              ‘To the seer, all things have verily become the Self: what delusion, what sorrow, can there be for him who beholds that oneness?’ [7]

              The above is why I wonder that our original verse might be more complex than first appears.

              ~~

              • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
                Ramprakash ML
                Participant
                Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

                Hello Peter

                You have pointed out in the three verses, 9, 10, and 11 an apparent confusion. It is indeed tricky. However, there seems to be some clue to the riddle in an episode narrated in the Vishnu Purana which I had read years back, and had marked that particular reference in my copy of Isa upanishad, against verse 11. It is now coming handy. I am referring to the 6th and 7th chapters of the 6th and the last section of the Vishnu Purana. You can perhaps check it out with Wilson’s translation. It is entitled : The Episode of Khandikya Janaka and Keshidwaja. If you read these two chapters, I think, it gives a clue to the riddle of verse 11 of the Isa.

                Stated briefly and in my own (non-scholastic fashion of) rendering into English of Sanskrit verses translated in my native tongue, Kannada–which is, like other south Indian Dravidian languages are highly Sanskritized–it runs like this.

                Khandikya and Keshidwaja are first cousins, and rivals. They fought a battle in which Khandikya is defeated, and he takes refuge in a forest. Keshidwaja, though devoted to spiritual knowledge, with a view to cross over the death, engages in Karma Yoga in a spirit of renunciation of fruits of it, in order to purify his nature. His sacrifice suffers some serious defect. He seeks remedy. None knew the remedy except his rival, the exiled Khandikya Janaka.

                He meets Khandikya in the forest and seeks remedy. the remedy is given. the King completes the sacrifice after rectifying the defect.

                He goes again to the forest and asks Janaka what he would like to have as his Guru Dakshina (gift to the teacher). Janaka could have asked him to make over the kingdom to him but, instead, to the surprise of Keshidwaja, he asks Keshidwaja, who was well grounded in spiritual knowledge, to teach him that knowledge which destroys all afflictions of conditioned existence.

                Khandikya gives Janaka a description of the characteristics of Avidya which binds, and how the dirt of nescience gathered from many previous births can be washed away by the warm waters of Tattva Jnana (discrimination of principles in nature and man)

                It is through combining Karma Yoga — engaging in actions with heart joined to renunciation–which is still Avidya–with Tattva Jnana, which is Vidya, one crosses over death, first through the door of Avidya, and then attains immortaity through the door of Tattva Jnana (Vidya)

                Thus Verses 8 and 9 of chapter 7 of section 6 of Vishnu Purana seems to throw light on the perplexing verse 11 of Isavasya Upanishad.

                • Profile photo of Peter
                  Peter
                  Moderator
                  Profile photo of PeterPeter

                  Hi Ram (re #5475) – thanks for your summary of those chapters from the Vishnu Purana. Good to read and very interesting, and as you say they do seem to have a resonance with those verses in the Isa Upanishad in a helpful way. Perhaps where it doesn’t accord entirely is where the Isa Upanishad states that each of those two paths – in this case it would be ‘actions with heart joined to renunciation and/or Tatva Jnana – leads to darkness, though it’s easier to appreciate how Tatva Jnana may well do so without the former.

                  Sankara obviously saw the problem of contradiction (rather than confusion, I would say) in those verses if we assume the usual meanings of the terms avidya and vidya (intellectual or spiritual) are used, which is why he glosses them in this case with ritual worship in both its aspect as karma and as knowledge of the deity worship. But his explanation feels somewhat forced, at least to me. I can appreciate why he does so, because, he argues, what is the core of ignorance (avidya) if it not br the notion of ‘I am the doer’, the basis of karma (action). Anyway,the main thing is the important of context when looking at verses from the Upanishads or anywhere else.

                  ~~

              • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
                Pavel Axentiev
                Participant
                Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

                Hi Peter, and thank you.

                I believe that a subtle play on words is more likely, especially in an ancient text like this, than following some strict definition of the term. I think you are right that the context is the key, and that perhaps should include the societal, historical context of the time.

                That said, I am prone to interpret the verses (9-11) in the following way:

                Avidya meaning ignorance, or lack of knowledge, to a common mind may appear similar to the real knowledge, the Gupta Vidya of HPB (?), the Silent, inner knowledge of the yogis and rishis.

                Since Vidya is typically equated with either intellectual or practical knowledge (and I assume this was the case even in those ancient times), such Vidya is more like ignorance, and the rishis of our time – Sankara and Ramana Maharshi – say that much.

                In a sense, the author of the Upanishad is implying that the typical worldly views are incorrect, but he doesn’t dwell on that for, perhaps, he (she?) has something more important to say.

                I think that this very condensed logic is perhaps the primary obstacle to the full understanding of the texts, not that one can’t grasp it all immediately by intuition, which I also assume to be one of the intended effects of all texts like these (Ram would say that it develops the Buddhi mind, perhaps).

                So, we have vidya and avidya, which both mean one thing on the surface and sort of opposite meanings on the esoteric level.

                From my perspective, I would say that the verses tell us to develop all aspects of ourselves, while not clinging to any of them but for the Highest – the Monad, the Spirit, the Atman.

                The “avidya” that overcomes death is the non-attachment of a Zen master or a Yogi, living in the mountains free from all upadanas (?).

                This is also the avidya of an urban Buddhist and yogi, living in a modern town or village, relatively independent.

                And the vidya that helps one to achieve immortality is perhaps the inner practice, the path of the mystic, that helps us crystallize our higher potencies.

                Essentially, every tradition probably has an outer and an inner aspect.

                The outer aspect, a path of self-constraint, is “avidya.”

                The inner aspect, the internal development, techniques of meditation – these are vidya.

                Such is, at least, one possible interpretation that I am currently seeing.

                • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
                  Ramprakash ML
                  Participant
                  Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

                  Thanks Pavel and Peter. Your comments have certainly helped in better understanding the Isa verses, 9,10,11.

                  Pavel, your comment copied below seems to me to reflect the intent of the Isa verses. :

                  “The “avidya” that overcomes death is the non-attachment of a Zen master or a Yogi, living in the mountains free from all upadanas (?).

                  This is also the avidya of an urban Buddhist and yogi, living in a modern town or village, relatively independent.

                  And the vidya that helps one to achieve immortality is perhaps the inner practice, the path of the mystic, that helps us crystallize our higher potencies.

                  Essentially, every tradition probably has an outer and an inner aspect.

                  The outer aspect, a path of self-constraint, is “avidya.”

                  The inner aspect, the internal development, techniques of meditation – these are vidya.”

                • Profile photo of Peter
                  Peter
                  Moderator
                  Profile photo of PeterPeter

                  Good thoughts, Pavel. Whether they are all reflect what the verses intend I’m not sure, but either way that doesn’t lessen their value.

                  Yes, ‘to develop all aspects of ourselves’ in harmony would appear to be more in line with Verse 9 where it states that to develop one aspect alone leads to darkness & so on. So, if for arguments sake we take vidya to mean ‘intellectual knowledge’ then the verses would be suggesting there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such knowledge providing it was not developed in isolation. The same for any other quality we might attribute to the term vidya.

                  Just to add to your thoughts on vidya. Vidya (knowledge) is a very general term and needs to be qualified according to context. There are many types of knowledge (practical, science, scripture, occult & so on) as well as different sources for knowledge whether material or spiritual, exoteric or esoteric. We can be knowledgeable in one field of knowledge, ignorant in another. In relation to the verse 9 in the upanishad we would need to ask what kind of knowledge is the author referring to. Knowledge of what? Ignorance of what?

                  A Vedantin would say that Atma Vidya (direct knowledge of Atman, the Self or Brahman) is the highest form of knowledge. Sankara would add that to know Atman is to be Atman, for it is never an object of knowledge. Atma-vidya would correspond to Satya – the highest truth (paramārtha) or absolute knowledge. The many varieties of knowledge (including those of the subtle and spiritual planes) pertaining to the manifested realms would correspond to samvritti-satya (relative truth).

                  Even in the realm of manifestation or samvritti-satya there is right knowledge (vidya) and wrong knowledge/ignorance (avidya). However, even the right or certain knowledge of the manifested realms is still ‘ignorance’ in relation to Atma-Vidya (absolute or transcendental knowledge).

                  In terms of the importance of context when interpreting the text – for Sankara the most obvious context for this Iśa Upanishad is the Yajur Veda to which it belongs. The Vedas are very likely to have pervaded the religious and social life of many at the time of Sankara. In his introduction to the Iśa Upanishad, Sankara explains that while the aim of the Vedic ritual practices (karma kanda) leads the brahmin to ‘glories’ either during incarnation or in the heavenly (asura) realms after death, only knowledge of the Self, as indicated in the upanishad, leads to final liberation.

                  When seeking to explain what kind of knowledge and ignorance (vidya and avidya) the upanishadic verse is actually talking about, Sankara relates these back to the Veda to which the upanishad belongs. As early as his commentaries on verses 2 and 3 he explains why the term avidya of the upanishad verses pertains to karma kanda (ritual action) and in later verse explains why the term vidya refers to the knowledge of the deities or celestial beings worshiped in the Veda. Both of these operate within the field of samsara and samvritti-satya and can lead to relative immortality and joyful states in the deva realm after death when combined. They are not the transcendental truth of the Atman or Self. The aim of the upanishad is to explain just this, according to Sankara.

                  Other tradition, especially those that advocate ritual worship, will have different views to Sankara. The above is just offered as food for thought, especially as Sankara is spoken of so highly by HPB.

                  ~~

                  • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
                    Pavel Axentiev
                    Participant
                    Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

                    Thank you.

                    Curiously, I just found a PDF copy of Isa, Kena, and Mundaka Upanishads with Shankara’s commentaries (a 1905 ed.) on universaltheosophy.com. Maybe it’s a sign that I should check that out!

                  • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
                    Ramprakash ML
                    Participant
                    Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

                    Excellent comment, Peter. You have a clear conception of the intent of the Isa versus.

                    Karma Kanda is indeed, in the Vedic culture, a preliminary and preparatory stage for the man of the world for his ethical development, as attending diligently to it, purifies heart and mind of the practitioner, and prepares him, after many lives, to enter the Jnana Marga.

                    If Karmas are performed as prescribed in the Shastras with motive of self-benefit–either for heavenly enjoyment or earthly riches or both, the practitioner gains what he desires, but it does not lead to Vidya in the sense of Atma Jnana. Hence it is Vidya-nescience, but necessary for people who are still attached to worldly things.

                    Over many lives of experience, the practitioner develops dispassion and longs for true knowledge. Even then he practices Karmas but without self-interest, Nishkama Karma. The latter exercise purifies his whole nature by working out past Karmas while making no new ones. Purification of self leads gradually to knowledge.

                    A stage is reached when he entirely gives up Karmas and devotes himself entirely to Janana, leading to Mukti.

                    The Isa verses seem to refer to this evolutionary progress.

              • Profile photo of Jon Fergus
                Jon Fergus
                Moderator
                Profile photo of Jon FergusJon Fergus

                Very interesting discussion. Thank you all.

                This quote seems meaningful to me: “Knowledge is never and nowhere in the world separate from ignorance; neither is ignorance at any time and for anyone separate from knowledge,” especially if we combine it with this, from HPB:

                “As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality;” but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.”

                Every kind of vidya possible must be ultimately a mix of vidya and avidya, because no being perceives the whole truth no matter how “high” they are. And no avidya, however low, can be entirely devoid of some amount of vidya. In this sense, the two are like the polar ends of a spectrum. If we picture an endless line with ever-increasing vidya in one direction and ever-increasing avidya in the other, then it makes sense that following only/alone one or the other direction will lead ultimately nowhere (or to “darkness”). And perhaps HPB’s “reaching the absolute consciousness and blending our own with it” is what gives the ability to take a kind of “overview” of that spectrum, see both vidya and avidya at once, and not be entrapped or “mystified” by either. I imagine it in the sense that pursuing either vidya or avidya keeps us on the wheel, going round and round, and at some point it’s necessary to step off the wheel to see the folly in going around (in either direction). If one can step off that wheel one might “simultaneously know both Vidya and Avidya” as in the Isa verse.

                Also, the Upanishads speak of the two paths (the Lunar and the Solar), one where you die and come back again and again and the other where you become free from that cycle, and I’ve always suspected that the Isa is simply warming the reader up to that essential idea, which is then unfolded more in the following Upanishads (“following” if one goes by the Muktika order).

                The idea of using avidya to get through death and vidya to obtain immortality is interesting, though the meaning given in various translations isn’t always the same (i.e. “conquering” or “overcoming” vs. terms like “passing through” or “crossing”), so I’m unsure if the Sanskrit carries the meaning that avidya is part of “conquering” death, or merely leading to it and beyond (only to cycle back again). But in looking for clarity on the Isa verses, it seems to me that one might be able to treat the entire first part of the Katha Upanishad as a kind of commentary on them. Specifically, if one reads the Isa as far as verse 11, and then skips directly to Katha, 1:2:1 (part 1, section 2, verse 1), it seems to pick up the thread and follow it through (concluding with Nachiketas passing through death to obtain immortality and the means by which he does this).

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
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    April 9, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    Whatever seeds each one cultivates will grow to maturity and
    bear in us their own fruits. — PICO della MIRANDOLA

    There can be no progress (real, that is, moral) except in the individual
    and by the individual. — CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

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    April 10, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    Thou canst create this ‘day’ thy chances for thy ‘morrow’. In the ‘Great
    Journey’, causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid Justice
    rules the World. — THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE

    There is within us a little space through which all the threads
    of the universe are drawn. — GEORGE WILLIAM RUSSELL

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    April 11, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    As each man has his period of rest and activity, the day and night, so must a
    nation, a kingdom, a planet, a solar system, and finally the Universe.
    — D. K. MAVALANKAR

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    April 12, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    We can only have the highest happiness by having wide thoughts and much
    feeling for the rest of the world as well as ourselves.
    — WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

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    April 13, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human
    mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, … institutions must
    advance also, and keep pace with the times. — THOMAS JEFFERSON

    Let us wait patiently, in the silence that follows all effort,
    knowing that this is how Nature works. — W. Q. JUDGE

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    Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

    “The soul of man returns again and again to learn the lessons of life in this great world-school. . . . If this be so, it follows that when similar conditions recur, a similar class of souls returns to continue its lessons of experience. … For why otherwise do the same ideas recur, why do the same problems arise, the same ways of looking at things? …must it not be that they have been brought back by minds to whom they have already been familiar?”
    – G. R. S. MEAD, “Fragments Of A Faith Forgotten” (1906), pp. 22-23.

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    April 14, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Cyclic Evolution

    Everything is the product of one universal creative effort;
    the Macrocosm and man are one. — PARACELSUS

    There is no question of time and space. Understanding depends
    on ripeness of mind. — RAMANA MAHARSHI

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      “The Fifth Round will bring forth a higher kind of Humanity; and. as intelligent Nature always proceeds gradually, the last Race of this Round must necessarily develop the needed materials thereof. Meanwhile…the deadly strife between spirit and matter, between Light and goodness and Darkness and Evil, began on our globe with the first appearance of contrasts and opposites in vegetable and animal nature, and continued more fiercely than ever after man had become the selfish and personal being he now is. Nor is there any chance of its coming to an end before falsehood is replaced by truth, selfishness by altruism, and supreme justice reigns in the heart of man. Till then, the noisy battle will rage unabated. It is selfishness, especially: the love of Self above all things in heaven and earth, helped by human vanity, which is the begetter of the seven mortal sins…Before the poor creature now in the clutches of Darkness is liberated through Light, it has to know itself. Man, following the Delphic injunction, has to become acquainted with, and gain mastery over, every nook and corner of his heterogeneous nature, before he can learn to discriminate between HIMSELF and his personality… to accomplish this difficult task, two conditions are absolutely requisite: one must have thoroughly realized in practice the noble Zoroastrian precept: “good thoughts, good words, good deeds,” and must have impressed them indelibly on his soul and heart, not merely as a lip-utterance and form-observance. Above all, one has to crush personal vanity beyond resurrection…”

      -H. P. Blavatsky, Lucifer, March 1891

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        Kirk Marzulo
        April 14, 2017 at 4:41 pm #5410

        Thanks Kirk for posting this fine piece from Lucifer.

        We made use of it in our last Saturday evening study class at the ULT, when discussing portions of the Light on the Path. To know the personality in all its complexity is indeed the most difficult task. Till it is known and mastered the mystery of Self as the All Self remains a closed book to us. The “Circle of Pass not,” the “Dhyani Pasa” which circumscribes this world (read, personality) and prevents access to the World of Reality, the absoluteness of infinity, (True Self) is well nigh impassable, though not impossible. (SD, I, p. 130, 131) Difficulty lies in the illusion thrown up by personality–the I and the mine with its ten thousand snares. Says the Light on the Path :

        “Not until the bonds of personality are loosened can that profound mystery of self begins to be seen. Not till you stand aside from it will it in any way reveal itself to your understanding. Then, not till then, can you grasp and guide it. Then, not till then, can you use all its powers, and devote them to a worthy cause.” (p. 24)

        To know the personality one has to light the lamp of the Heart Light — Buddhi — which alone can lead the man to his final goal.

© 2017 Universal Theosophy

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