Nirvikalpa (also Nirbikalpa) is a Sanskrit adjective with the meaning "not admitting an alternative" (from ni, away, without, not") and vikalpa, alternative, variant thought or conception.
Heinrich Zimmer says Nirvikalpa samadhi means absorption to such a degree, or in such a way, that the meditator has no sense of anything. Based on that, we could add he has no recollection after such an experience either. "No impressions whatever, no memory".
In Buddhist philosophy, the technical term nirvikalpa-jnana is translated by Edward Conze as "undifferentiated cognition" He describes the term in this way: "The 'undiscriminate cognition' . . . directly intuits the supreme reality. . . . There is here no duality of subject and object."
There are other nuances and meanings involved as well.
(Main source: WP "Nirvikalpa")
The Indian teachings, unlike those ministers I had known, stressed the need for testing every Scriptural claim. - Swami Kriyananda (The Path, Chap. 14)
As she lay on her deathbed in a cloister, the thing that the aged nun Gyanamata - the name means "wisdom-mother" - felt most sorry for, was that she had not reached Nirvikalpa.
Her guru seemed to assure her, to the effect of implying "You are beyond it, Sister." Yogananda:
She asked me for nirbikalpa samadhi, but I said, "You don't need that. I saw you in God. When you reach the palace, why do you want to go in the garden any more? Divine Mother has taken care of you." And she was contented.
Two days later he asked her, "If you have any desire, I will fulfill it right now. You tell me." Three times she said "'No." "Is it true?" "Yes, Sir, she replied, very firmly." (Self-Realization [Magazine], January 1952, p. 11.)
Thus, Yogananda teachings that nirvikalap is the highest, are of the garden while being in the palace seems better. Ask with him: "Is it true?" Or "Is that so?" One may vary one's questions to those who vary their teachings about top states.
Yogananda tells that in 1932 her husband, who was a university professor, brought her to the SRF headquarters in Los Angeles. Yogananda was very much astonished, and asked, "Why did you bring her?"
He said, "Would you keep her now?"
Yogananda goes on: "Some time after, when I went to see [her there] I could hear her heart pumping just like a bellows, even from the door. I was very frightened, and I called on God."
But she was calm.
Yogananda: "I beg your life from God."
At once she got well and was breathing normally. He thought that after that she could not go from this earth without his prayer. "I found myself in a peculiar position. I took delight in the fact that Sister could not die without my release, and yet I was extremely grieved that I had asked the Father to spare a life which I later found was to be constantly tested by physical suffering. I would not have asked the Father to spare her life had I known".
Gyanamata suffered for twenty years due to Yogananda's intervention, he says. (Same source)
Outsmarting death, is that really something to invest in? And will it create the life you want? Who knows?
The state that none knows the meaning and significance of seems too difficult to learn about.
"Prevention is better than no cure" - you can quote me on that one.
The state of mind that the guru of SRF calls nirbikalpa, is without hope - as understood from the guru's words, wherever he got them from.
Animals find it fit to inspect, alert to what is going on. How can they find out of what is levelled and skewed in different teachings about nirvikalpa samadhi? Is there really a state called nirvikalpa samadhi if there is no way of knowing anything about anything in it?
There is a state that none knows the meaning and significance of, then, the acme of states according to Yogananda's teachings. Now, the author and helpers of his autobiography also define it as a "state of changeless God-consciousness", and a "perfect and unshakeable state" (Yogananda 1971:511; 27n)
As for the deathbed nun, maybe she was blithely ignoring that Ramana Maharsi said that illusion is in itself illusory, and four gurus in her guru line all said the world is illusory. It is difficult to say much, according to that.
First-hand inspection by famous yogi
Young Vivekananda tried to inspect the "all is illusion" doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He repeatedly tried to bang his head towards iron railings back in India, to check - (Nikhilananda 1953, introduction)
Don't try it at home. Calmly consider what happens during train accidents instead.
Charles Darwin was once approached by two small boys of the family, whose guest he was. They had caught a butterfly, a centipede, a beetle, and a grasshopper. Taking the centipede's body, the butterfly's wings, the beetle's head and the grasshopper's legs, they had glued them together to make an original insect.
"We caught this bug in the field," they said innocently. "What kind of a bug is it, Mr. Darwin?"
Darwin examined it with great care.
"Did it hum when you caught it, boys?" he gravely asked.
"Yes, sir," they answered, while trying to hide their mirth.
"Just as I thought," said Darwin. "It is a humbug." (Fuller 1990, No. 1121)
Even withered grass has its uses, as in straw hats, for example.
There is much to consider
From the poem "When I Take the Vow of Silence" by Yogananda
A doormat and a lawn have in common that people and animals step on them. Try not to become a doormat.
Walking on grass, or on a picnic among straws, will you be more considerate? Grasses are hugely underestimated benefactors. Animals feed on them, - people do too, for example the grains of wheat, rice and barley, maize, oats and millet are seeds of grasses, also called cereals. (WP, sv. "Grass")
"When I am gone, I will not appear in visions to anybody," insisted Yogananda. He could also have said the astounding, "When I have gone out of my mind I can really help," but did not. He told instead he would be watching each follower from the pores of the sky - those pores - have you seen any?
When you walk over the fresh grass blades, or if you are afraid the woods have ears as the Romans warned about. It means there could be unnoticed listeners there. Is that remotely akin to Yogananda's saying that he would watch you "in my living leafy presences"? It is wise to reserve our judgement to things we know about, just as Konfu-Tzu said.
In matters which he does not understand, the wise man will always reserve his judgement. . . . The wise man . . . is never reckless in his choice of words. (Analects, Chap. 1, in L. Giles' translation)
There is more to it. In the poem, Yogananda also says, "I shall not speak except through your reason."
"Grass is grass is grass"
You may sense an air of Zen here. Garma C. C. Chang writes in The Practice of Zen,
After one has attained Satori, he should cultivate it . . . Zen work consists of two main aspects, the "View" and the "Action," and both are indispensable . . . Being a most practical and straightforward teaching, Zen seeks to brush aside all secondary matters and discussions and to point directly to . . . the seeing or viewing of Reality . . . carrying wood, fetching water, sleeping, walking . . . the plain and ordinary mind is Buddha's Mind; "here and now" is the paradise . . . "Carrying wood and fetching water are miraculous performances." This high-spirited, bold view is truly the pinnacle of Zen. (Chang 1970:52-54)
In praise of that common sense
Common sense is in part good calculation applied to life in general. [Cf. Henri Frederic Amiel]
As for good and staunch common sense - enough of it looks like genius and may compete with the gods. [Josh Billings]
Your common sense may evoke criticism from indoctrinated guys.
There are no soap opera gorillas in the world if the universe is an illusion, as Yogananda tells from time to time.
Sound moderation, decency and tact are too good helpers to be flushed down by over-bossy, indelicate decrees.
Servility and calculated humility can block a straight way for the Atman (soul, Spirit) within.
To the shallow, all looks shallow. To the sallow, maybe nothing matters.
Tact is there when no one says "Bah" to a deviant tenet because it is deviant. Instead the skilled way of handling it is like, "That is an interesting proposition. Now prove (document) it is so." The burden of proof rests on the one who proposes. It is also skilled to put unresolved issues in suspense, at bey, and avoid immature conclusions. By these simple skills of handling many sorts of assertions we are freed to go forward. And while decent proof is not forthcoming, time may be used to our own benefit. (Cf. Zukav 1979).
By reaching too deep into your pocket you can reach your heart. Do not do that.
Joking aside, to reach deep enough is to reach the heart. Add "perhaps" to that yourself. If you do not attune yourself to your own heart, how can you reach the hearts of others without manipulating a lot?
Even if you cannot document things, they could lighten your way anyway, for unproved is not necessarily and always unfit.
Silver linings abound
There is a silver lining to some clouds. Have you considered how someone with violent hiccup may be saved by it and not from it in a very real way?
Unawares entering a sweet-talking, but suppressing sect, a person with extreme hiccup may be shooed from the sect meetings and later the sect itself for disrupting the services because of the minor ailment. Thereby he or she may escape the jaws of suppresson and advancing death as an individual and may in time mutter in appreciation, "Luck was on my side, hiccup."
It could remind of a folk tale:
A man reported his wedding to a friend.
What seems bad at a time, could be for our luck, and the other way round, and so on.
Maya and Figure-Forming
What is called "figure" in ancient Greek, corresponds neatly with the Sanskrit concept "maya" as I understand it. Maya is food for thought, Maya is figures from depths we should explore more often, as by dream analyses on waking up after dream sleep. [Link]
Also, we understand through fair maya, that is through good figures. Imagination, insight, learning - all that is had by figures out of the deep inner side. Prowess is had next, on top of such items.
By stringing and gluing well chosen "figure-bundles", maya-items, we can evolve a plan for well-chosen actions.
Through a comparison, much may be made somehow understandable. But "the comparison halts" too. And some comparisons are not really helpful either. Kriya yoga can be compared to many things, but basically it is breathing in and out in a regulated way. The core practice is called ujjayi too. [Link]
Makara is a vehicle of the sea god Varuna. The word 'makara' means 'sea dragon' or 'water-monster' - a sea-creature in Hindu culture. There is room for variation in depicting it. [Wikipedia, s.v., "Makara"]
"God" can be different things. Basically your inner Self, it is said, and a lot of gods also. The "henotheistic" view, as the scholar Friedrich Max Müller phrased it, is that many gods and goddesses can carry the worshipper into their godhood by regular worship.
Yahweh ("I Am") appears as a veal-eater to Abraham (Genesis 18;1-10). Today many other sorts of food have been made widely available, for example Brussels sprouts.
From South America and Meso-America come amaranth (flour) avocado pears, bootle gourda, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, cassava, cerimans, cerimoyas, chayote, chia seeds (salvia hispania), cocoa, fuchsia berries, guava fruita, oca, papaya, passion fruit, peanuts, pineapplea, prickly pears, runner bean, sapodilla fruit, squashes and pumpkins, string beana, sunflower seeds, sweet corn (maize), sweet pepper, sweet potatoes, tamarillo and tomatoes,
to name some.
Maybe God in the Bible got no tomatoes to go with the veal - no potatoes, no guacamole - and not much else that we know of. How tasty and useful these fine foods can be. However, the cuisine in the Mediterranean basin is old and also good. (Hestosky 2009; David 1991) Adding to Hestosky and David:
Mediterranean cuisine . . . generally relies heavily on local and seasonal ingredients . . . [S]pices such as cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and saffron are lit up by the bright flavors of fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint. Olives and olive oil are plentiful and used . . . [for] salads, soups, and dips. . . . [F]atty fish . . . add a unique depth of flavor to almost any dish. . . .
He hails when fit and makes his way - do you know that sort of guy?
Yogananda hails Jesus and his teachings, but all the same does not agree with his words that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). Hm. Ponder such as "He does not seem to rule out "Salvations may be from any others than Samaritans too". The next group of questions might be, "Saved from what? Saved to what? Saved along what? What does 'saved' mean, really?, and how?" Then avoid coming to conclusions if the evidence to base it on is much menial. That is in the art of living.
Wise Men Refrain from Believing Notoriously
The prudent are crowned with knowledge. [Proverbs 14:18]
According to Yogananda, the reborn wise men in the gospel of Luke were among the Self-Realization Fellowship gurus - but no evidence that it is so is found. To the contrary.
"There are wise men, men that are called wise men, and men that aspire to be called these men reborn."
For all of us who do not claim to have been wise man in what may have been characters in a far-out Jewish folk tale of a sort, (Matthew 1-2), the bible scholar Geza Vermes (2010:84-87) has much to add to the Nativity tale. Few make claims of having been folktale figures in past lives, but Atman is for everyone:
What is man that you are mindful of him . . . that you care for him?
So far so good. The question is how to verify it reliably, or firsthand if needs be.
Chang, Garma C. The Practice of Zen. New York: Perennial/Harper, 1970.
David, Elizabeth. A Book of Mediterranean Food. Reprint ed of 2nd, rev. ed. London: Penguin, 1991.
Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.
Giles, Lionel, tr. The Sayings of Confucius. London: John Murray, 1907. --- Reprint: Twickenham: Senate, 1998.
Hestosky, Carol. Food Culture in the Mediterranean. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.
Kriyananda, Swami (aka. James Donald Walters). The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi. Nevada City: Crystal Clarity, 1977.
Nikhilananda, Swami. Vivekananda. The Yogas and Other Works. Rev. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953.
Self-Realization Fellowship. Self-Realization (Mag.). Los Angeles, Self-Realization Fellowship, January 1952:11)
Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.
Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.
WP. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2001.
Zukav, Gary. The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics. London: Rider, 1979.
Weeks, Caitlin, Nabil Boumrar, Diane Sanfilippo. Paleo Mediterranean Cuisine. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing, 2014: "mediterranean cuisine".
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