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Neat personifications can make appropriation easier.

Let not the thread of my song be cut while I sing;
let not my work end before it is fulfilled

Rig Veda ii. 28


Vedanta and Dharma, Rita, Varuna, Surya and yourself

Vedanta is one of the schools of Indian philosophy, one of its darshans. Vedanta itself has branched out in several schools too. The Vedanta schools all have faith in an encompassing, divine law of proper dealings – through Dharma. But that is not all there is to it - far from it. Dharma is seen to cooperate with arcane principalities - ancient deities or asuras: There is Rita of cogent and seasonal order, Varuna of order in moral and law in societal affairs, Surya (also known as Mitra, friend), of nourishing.

As there are many sides to order and lack of it, various deities work either together or one by one for order in the world. What is more, order may be of different levels. In the environment there are for example edgy crystal-order, blithe or rounded plant order, animal "order" expressed in movements, habitat and seasonal adaptations. Humans contain all such different forms of order, or ordering principles, and may learn to close agreements on paper, formally - and much else that animals have troubles with so far.

Good balance is called for

Order, harmony and balance are related too. Well timed order helps harmony or well balanced ways. "Not too little, not too much -" but 'metron', measure, that ancient Greek for something well balanced.

Behaving well

Humans are either given a delicate inner sense of how to best behave and steer along well, and a mature, heart-felt conscience to signal adjustments are called for. However, many seem not to reach up to individual takes in moral matters. They may go along as conform members of groups and societies, being ruled over from outside. If such dependent persons grow and mature, they may be freed from parents and think and adjust for themselves. If they also learn to glide within in deep meditation, many could vitalise dormant, delicate faculties like own likes, fantasy, own moral, own creativity - and help themselves through such finer capabilities. There is that hope, tells Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. [In Jack Forem, p. xxx]

For the lack of a well developed inner sense of right and wrong, many are in need of being taught how to behave. Norms, even human laws, originate in such strategies.

After violated propriety: bad karma sets for the sake of balancing

Another side to ancient teachings is that order-forming works in the human deeps and the world around, that humans and nature are intertwined. One side to such order-forming is called karma. If justice is violated, a retribution is wont to come, for the sake of balance - or order. Effects may come quickly of after many lives, is the old teaching. If they come late, it may be too late to escape harsh damages or havoc. One should therefore seek to make good one's wrongdoings if there is time and conditions for it. Otherwise tables may turn and one may become a foolish victim of something, even of one's own desires.

Stances of Nimbarka

Nimbarka is known for propagating Dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. Many scholars place him in the late Middle Age (somewhere between 1000 and 1400 CE). However, the old philosophical school called Nimbarka Sampradaya holds that he lived over 5000 years ago, when the grandson of Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) was on the throne.

B. S. Guha sums up in his preface to Dr. Roma Bose's translation of Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha of Nimbarka and Vedanta-Kaustubha of Srinivasa (Commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras), Vols 1-3. (1940):

Nimbarkas commentary on the Brahma-Sutras known as the Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha, and that of his immediate disciple Srinivasa styled the Vedanta-Kaustubha are the chief works of the school of philosophy associated with the name of Nimbarka. . . .

In her English rendering of the Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha and Vedanta-Kaustubha, Dr. Bose has not only given Nimbarka's reading and interpretation of each Sutra, but has compared them with those of Samkara, Ramanuja [and others] of the Vedanta Philosophy. Differences from the religious and ethical grounds have not either been ignored. (in Bose, 1940:v, vii)

Now another side to living is that of harmonious dealings through the life-time and death. A fit human life is made for thriving and freeing oneself in the deeps as well as can be, each school of Vedanta teaches, in step with the four main life goals in Hinduism: wealth, lust, righteous deals, and freedom. The first three can help thriving, the fourth is liberation in the yogi way mainly. Health is good to have too; the health-promoting or health-redressing Ayurveda system contains impressing knowledge too. There is balanced yoga and meditation too.

There are also a variety of philosophical systems. The wide Vedanta system contains such as Advaita (non-duality) and Nimbarka's Dvaitadvaita (duality-in-nonduality). Understanding differs, also in Vedanta. Advaita is the oldest school, and cuts through things. Other Vedanta schools are not as tall. To learn about the Advaita state is hardly easy. It requires experience of a non-duality state where no other outside oneself is perceived. That is what advaita stands for, roughly said.

Lots of concepts are formed on lower levels, where some concepts seem good when they liken the non-dual state to things, for example a bag with nothing in it. But there is no bag! One is left to make do with going for ideas that make the best sense. The most proficient use of them is to let them help the living. And on such levels - in quality, Sanatan Dharma, Eternal Righteousness, serves lots of people a lot. It helps us to climb toward higher states and better living.

The following is aligned with the basic stances of Nimbarka, who represents the outlook that there is duality in Unity, or in Sanskrit: dvaitadvaita. Dvaitadvaita is also the name of one of the subschools of Vedanta. According to this school, the jivatman, 'soul', individual spirit is the same as God and yet different from God. It depends on how you look at it. The jiva relation inwards may be regarded as of duality from one point of view and of nonduality from another. The latter is the Advaita view of Adi Shankara.

To Nimbarka adherents, Person-God is, and not only Subtle Unity inwards. Person-God may be termed Bhagvan, Lord. As for Nimbarka, some think he appeared on earth in the year 3096 BCE, while others think it was much later, possibly the 1200s CE, and right before Shankara or at the same time as him. Be that as it may, according to tradition, Nimbarka's position is that duality and nonduality are here at the same time. At bottom there must be a controller, an enjoyer, and various things to be enjoyed to the degree they are enjoyable. If you depend on this and that to exist, fully independent existence may not be up your alley. In somewhat related words, in duality, the full independence of non-duality is hardly noticed.

If you find yourself not enjoying this and that, it could be because some other entity is enjoying you, perhaps without your notice. Thus, when plants are treated like minerals for the sake of profit, they may not thrive full well. When animals are treated as plants, more or less, their worths are lessened and that is what makes profiting from them possible. When humans are treated more or less like cattle, herded, made use of with ever more control, surveillance and dwindling of former freedoms, leaving out individual needs and differences, humans are exploited too, and perhaps halfway discarded as machines take over under the over-arching heading of "machine-age progress of fears" and so on. The key is: "Be either an enjoyer or someone enjoyed by being reduced from full worth, by "thingish-making" and shrinking space for living in the current times. Increase your winning streaks so as to enjoy life to the full. Maybe you can succeed in it."

Maybe that was a bit gruff. For Nimbarka the highest object of worship is Hare Krishna and His consort Radha. They had an extramarital affair, those two, and in the end he left her. [Wikipedia; An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, index].


When he was young, Majorca-born Juan Mascaró found a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. This led him by turns to study Sanskrit, Pali and English at Cambridge. After the Spanish Civil War he settled permanently in England. He lived at first on the hills above Tintern Abbey. There he translated some Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He then returned to Cambridge University as a lecturer, and also translated the Dhammapada from Pali.

Mascaró died in 1987. The Times obituary writes that his aim was to convey the essence of originals in pure, poetic English, and that his translations of the Gita, Upanishads and Dhammapada 'are the best that we have in English, and are unlikely to be superseded', and they are 'appreciated by thousands of readers all over the world'.

As a student at the Norwegian University of Technology and Science in Trondheim, Norway, I happened to read Mascaró's translation of the Upanishads. The Sanskrit word Upanishad comes from the verb sad, to sit, and the whole would mean a sitting, an instruction, the sitting at the feet of a master, says Mascaró in his introduction. The Upanishads are spiritual treatises. The oldest of the surviving ones were composed between 800 and 400 BCE. Their number increased with time and about 112 Upanishads have been printed in Sanskrit. Some late Upanishads repeat most of the ideas of the older Upanishads.

The longest and perhaps the oldest Upanishads are the Brihad-aranyaka and the Chandogya which cover about one hundred pages each, while the Isa Upanishad, one the most important, not far in age from the Bhagavad Gita, has only eighteen verses. The Bhagavad Gita too could be considered an Upanishad. {7]

The son of the emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal, was in Kashmir in 1640, where he heard about the Upanishads. He had fifty of them translated into Persian. A Latin translation of the Persian selection was read by the philosopher Schopenhauer, who found them consoling. {8] {9]

The Ultimate may be mirthfully explained:

Only the ONE was . . . in the void.
Who knows the truth only knows, or perhaps knows?

Cf. Rig Veda x. 129

Hm. If one is in a void for long, one is quite likely in a squeeze, and that is something - Anyway, we find in the Upanishads a reaction against external religion; and ideas of the Vedas are given a spiritual interpretation. Besides, as the Bhagavad Gita says, "Like a well where water overflows everywhere, such is the use of all the Vedas to the seer of the Supreme." Along the same vein the Svetasvatara Upanishad tells us about "the other half of the coin": "Of what use is the Rig Veda to one who does not know the Spirit from whom the Rig Veda comes?" {10] Scholarship is necessary to bring us the fruits of ancient wisdom, but more goes into it, such as an elevated spirit. Upanishads also tell us that the Spirit can be known through union with God, but not through learning. Is it good to know that, or not?

A weary saying of the Upanishads is 'Words are weariness'. For all that, the Upanishad lore has {11] a wonderful, central theme that is often repeated: Brahman in the Universe, God Immanence is the Spirit of man, the Self in every one and in all. Thus Upanishads state that God must not be sought as separate from us, but as the inmost of us, as the higher Self in us. Thus we should learn the art of self-rising to the Self, to Brahman or Plenitude.

"You say Atman, I say God. You say Atman, I say Brahman. You say God, I say Atman."

People think that the Way inwards is foolishness because it lacks lots of outward definitions: But if such a Way could be easily understood, it would be rather small and not great as compared to That which is beyond "normal" classification. Lao Tzu has a similar take on the Way, Tao, in chapter 1, 41 and many other places. So words are hopefully fit and not awkward intimations on the trek into the inner and subtle ranges of awareness. [28, 23]

If life-breath is in you, Atman is in you. In the deep fountain of life within us lies Atman of Heaven. In the Upanishads is found the conception of a fourth state of consciousness, besides waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The Katha Upanishad tells us: When reason rests in inward-turned calm, then begins the Path supreme. The central vision of the Upanishads is Brahman, and beyond thoughts and words, he can be perceived as the soul and secret Atman. The task then is to enter into the Eternal Being through God in the centre of our divine hearts, and whose admonitions we may sense somehow. Some may call it an awakened, sound conscience. [28, 13, 35, 36, 24, 29]

A reference to wrong teachers: 'He cannot be taught by one who has not reached Him', says the Katha Upanishad. [28]

Godwards, and wisely adjusted otherwise

In surface-attuned and not deep meditation we hope to consider divine things, pass from one idea to another. But in deep meditation the soul enjoys silence and is invigorated. Such inward-turned calm and energy may be put to use for further delving, is the yoga stand. It is also possible to try to reap benefits from one's riveted attention while meditating deeply. The technical term for the latter is sanyana. Patanjali devotes many verses to merging one's focus in deep meditation with various "objects", attempting to reap results of deep adjustments. If these attempts are not sidetracking, they could help somehow. But good gurus tend to teach you to go for the highest: the Divine. Maybe miracle powers are added to that in time. [41]

In the rising Selfwards, awakening from consciousness to supreme Consciousness, there is a process, a glide into Contact. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad we find verses that sound similar to those found in Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita: With upright neck delve towards or into the heart; and cross to the other side. [cf. 36]

Then, as the Mundaka Upanishad puts it, 'Who knows God becomes God'. Does it mean, that your personality and relative wisdom is forgotten? Does it mean that all normal consciousness is lost after becoming the Self? Well – there is access to the Consciousness in all, and the Universe. The Katha, Mundaka and Svetasvatara Upanishads put it this way: From his light all these give light, and his radiance illumines all creation. [cf. 13, 14. 25]

After all, it works best to make quick, decent progress on the path that leads to Brahman, although slow progress is to be preferred to no progress or deterioration. It is best to make quick progress without overstraining and overworking yourself, for other undertakings than treading the path Godwards are little worth in comparison to it, and besides, distractions, ill-health, sufferings and untimely death may come too. In such cases the gift of a human life has not been put to as good use as could be, which is well worth tall regrets in time, and related to wasting one's time or idling away one's opportunities.

Outward-turned faith is related to imagination, much intermingled with fancy, vision and superstition, as the case may be. Samuel Coleridge held the primary Imagination be the living power and prime agent of all human perception. [27, 28]

The End of wisdom is described in the Isa Upanishad: Know this, know Brahman beyond what is not. It is the end of vision, to be reached by vision, too. However, it is mind with its faculties that rises or dives inwards. [31]

The source of joy and everything truly beautiful transcends reason. Not through much learning is the Atman reached, not through the intellect and sacred teaching, says the Katha Up. However, Brahman is known to the simple, asserts the Kena Upanishad. I would have used the term 'well unified', since being just simple-minded is not what it takes. You can be "simple" in many ways. Being whole-hearted and of a unified mind, are related to what it takes. TK [16, 17]

The idea of Brahman is found in its most pure form in the oldest Upanishads. Then we find in the Isa Upanishad, and especially in the Svetasvatara Upanishad, ideas centred on the concept 'God' afterwards to be developed in the Bhagavad Gita 18:55: "And when he knows me in truth he enters into my Being." That is one way of putting it. What is beyond is everywhere there is: Brahman is described as immanent and transcendent, within all and outside all. [12]

From baseness to frivolity

To the soul the flower is an object of joy and a thing of beauty. – Cf. Juan Mascaró [18]

Mascaró considers that many a thing on earth, from a flower to a human being, can be (a) an object of love or contemplation, (b) an object of intellectual interest, and (c) an object of possession. In the first case they give us the freedom of joy. In the second they give us some knowledge to bind and harness. In the third they give us chains that bind us to matter, future miseries, selfish esteem power. [cf. 18,19]

Compare the Bhagavad Gita: "When one sees Eternity in things that pass away . . . then one has pure knowledge. But if one merely sees the diversity of things, with their divisions and limitations, then one has impure knowledge. And if one selfishly sees a thing as if it were everything, independent of the ONE and the many, then one is in the darkness of ignorance." [18:20-22 [19]

So if we are able to delight in things and others without any obscure drives to use them, we could have come a long way. Besides, know the marks of the opposite road so as to reverse your downward spiral, to the degree you can. Base greed and lust are not really helpfu, for they tend to bind us and commit foolish errors of living. Think over the signposts of the Gita in the light of 'Know thyself', and mature wisdom. The farther centres are from the Centre, the farther they are from the godly light within. Far away from the godly, inner light, or rather, on its rim, unwelcome birth, death, suffering, woe, lamentation and despair go on. Proficient teachings about the finest means that lead to abandoning of woes, could indeed be needed. That is in Buddha's teachings as well. As for me, I found TM, and am grateful for that. [19, 20, 22]

Buddha is into these fine nuances of good living: "Remember that what I have not said, I have not said. Some topics and problems in life are not utterly profitable, not very fit for a good, sane life and inner development, and do not lead to peace, great wisdom, and enlightenment in Nirvana." [Cf. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 63. [22]

A person who knows something about minds, cannot but smile. Where there is joy, there lies a little realisation somewhere. The reality of God is apprehended in a consciousness of joy that transcends ordinary consciousness and goes along with it. The Katha Upanishad speaks of the two paths. There is a path of joy and the wise chooses the path of joy. However, fools takes one or more paths downwards, perhaps bound by sordid pleasures. [cf. 39-40; cf. 31]

The minds of mortals are so different and bent on such diverse journeys. Our hearts go on becoming, until our end. The essence of Upanishads helps us to the riveting centre of our soul. This above all, to your own self be true, says Shakespeare. [24, cf. 25. 33]

Then how can we know truth-aligned higher Imagination from fancies? First, noble minds are lacking in fanaticism and superstition. Teachings of Yoga may be useful, but can mislead the seeker of a spiritual path. Also, noble minds live by soul-okayed norms, and have surpassing inner realization of the divine, the Brahman, or Para-atman. Such masters are of undivided minds. [18, 28, 40, 37, 49; Mason 2009:49]

How to be Self-true? Much tends to come down to this: Devote ample time to practice the very best you have learnt from a noble Para-atman, and do that with still attention. It may also help to be well aligned to truth and develop inwardly well beyond conformity we may do our parts. And the higher flights of Upanishads are descriptions of the art of entering the consciousness of Brahman that transcends things. [cf. 37. 30]

Decent souls long for the inward freedom that Upanishads suggest, yearn for liberation, but maybe without words. This may take a person even into God, perhaps by steps, and after arriving, she is to be ranked above less accomplished ones, even though she does not like that. {30]


  • Good food is necessary for life, and food is something material. [16]
  • Being practical is not unfit in itself.
  • Ideally, go for being kind to your gentle neighbour, not gross, and hold on to truth. [16, cf. 42]
Page references in this chapter are to Juan Mascaró's introduction to The Upanishads (below).


Vedanta for Westerners, Literature  

Bose, Roma, tr. Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha of Nimbarka and Vedanta-Kaustubha of Srinivasa (Commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras). Vols 1-3. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1940.

Chatterjee, Satischandra, and Dhirendramohan Datta. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 7th ed. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1968 (or Rupa Publications, New Delhi 2007, or other editions)

Deussen, Paul. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads. London: Penguin Books, 1965.

Sivananda, Swami. Vedanta for Beginners. 3rd ed. Shivanandanagar, Uttarakhand: The Divine Life Society, 1996.

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