Not this, Not this 1

Not This, Not This

“What is it that:
Air does not erode?
Fire does not burn?
Water does not wet?
Earth does not cover?”

~Paul Harvey translation Bhagavad Gita 2.23

To come back to the basics again and again is a worthy endeavor. Samyama (dharana+dhyana+samadhi) is sometimes called beginner’s mind after all. A proverbial wiping of the slate clean. To recognize that even in the processing of learning what we are discovering is just how very little we know. True knowing requires a final stage of connection with truth. That truth is the atman. So how do we “know” the atman exists. Samkhya gives us the following qualifier…

  • Sanghata: the multitude of systems (in me)
  • pararthatvat: higher purpose (the entire universe was created for the sake of the subject
  • triguna: 3 gunas (sattva+rajas+tamas) 
  • viparyayat: special, opposite different
  • adhisthanat: that doesn’t change
  • purusah: the unmoving principle: as Ramaswami says “that which should be called as ‘I’ “
  • asti: exists
  • bhoktr: one who enjoys 
  • bhava: attitude
  • kaivalya: liberated, seperated from
  • artham: for the purpose of
  • pravrtti: special cognition
  • ca:and

“Because there is a condition for the sake of another (the one) by the multitude (24 tattvas of prakriti) and because there is a controller of the three gunas of nature then there is a Self. Because the enjoyer exists there is the aim of detachment of the one (the atman/purusha) from matter and it’s manifests (prakriti)”

This karika emphasizes that there must be a subject to experience objects. This subject is characterized exclusively by awareness. This purusha is said to exist because “triguna viparyayat”- there must be something distinctly different from the three gunas because of their nature- which is to keep changing! Without awareness what would this world be? Chaos? Inertia? These multitude of systems inside of me (sanghata) are always in flux and yet they exist not for some mundane and chaotic purpose. No, this karika says “pararthatvat” they exist for a higher purpose! That higher purpose is for the sake of the subject – the purusha- to experience itself.

Paul Harvey here references the Bhagavad Gita 2.23 (chapter on Samkhya) 

  • nanam: that never unto this soul
  • chindanti: can cut 
  • sastrani: all weapons
  • dahati: burns
  • pavakah: fire
  • kledayanti: moistens
  • apah: water
  • sosayati: dries
  • marutah: wind

“the atman can never be cut by any weapons, it can not be burned by any fire, it cannot be drowned by any water or dried by any wind”


“What is it that:
Air does not erode?
Fire does not burn?
Water does not wet?
Earth does not cover?”

With this we see that while we exist in this world experiencing the 5 kleshas (avidya and it’s cohorts) and the 3 afflictions of mind/body (adhyatmaka), other living beings (adhibautika) and the forces of nature (adhidaivika) the Purusha/the atman/the true nature of ourself is not afflicted by any of this. In the 17th karika above we see the purusha defined not only as the subject but as the enjoyer. This world and it’s multitude of universes is meant for the enjoyment and eventual realization of the Self. Nature is not to be denied but rather an access point by which to reflect within. This is the crux of yoga and vedanta- the pursuit of knowledge, or more specifically- WISDOM.

Neti Neti

So established in the bahiranga with a healthy body and sound mind how then do we go take up the process of analyzation and understanding? This is the subject matter of the first pada in the yoga sutras discussing stages of samadhi (absorption) towards eventual peace of mind. There are special practices of course, some of which we’ve discussed and others we will look ot in the coming days. But for now let’s look at the framework. 

In Jnana Yoga the term “Neti Neti” meaning “Not this, Not this” is used as a tool. This simple phrase is the crux of the scientific analyzation according to vedanta and yoga. Going through the 24 tattvas of prakriti the yogi with samadhi capability (one who is established in dharana that slowly gains the samadhi siddhi or power of absorptive analysis) goes through each principle of nature (bhutas, tanmatras, indriyas, manas, ahamkara and eventually the buddhi itself) and in deep states of meditation dissolves identification with everything that is not the atman or the true self. The definition of that which is not the atman (anatman) is that which changes. So through single pointed focus to the point of complete absorption the yogi is able to see “oh! this changes! this is not me.” The knowledge that results from this inquiry is beyond intellectual discourse, it is an experience. 

The alternative

The alternative to this scientific analyzation is defined by Patanjali in the Sadhana Pada as:

  • va: or
  • isvara: the 26th tattva
  • pranidhana: devotion

“or by intense devotion to Isvara” we realize the Self. Isvara here is defined as a vishesha purusha and the 26th tattva (Samkhya describes 25 tattvas. Yoga Sutras mentions a possible 26th that stands alone). The 25th tattva or our individual purusha (our true nature) is said to me a mirror image of Isvara. The only difference is that each individual purusha is in close proximity to prakriti making it appear to have form (asmita: the feeling that you exist).

Isvara is described as unique (vishesha) in that Isvara stands apart. While purusha is within and experiencing itself directly through prakriti, there is no proximity between Isvara and prakriti. For those who have the inclination towards devotion (bhakti) the task in samyama (dharana, dhyana and samadhi) is encouraged to be intense devotion to Isvara. Devotion is not a mere task. Anandamayi Ma said “Worship is not a ritual. It is an attitude, an experience.” This bhava comes from the heart and placing the mind always there. Understanding that ALL of 24 tattvas of prakriti are not the self, that for now the purusha is too close to prakriti to see clearly, and having a deep faith in that truth the devotee can turn their heart mind to the divine form of their understanding until the form itself falls away.

The Bhagavata Purana describes the divine as one that presents in three ways. First is Brahman- the all pervading divine essence (smaller than an atom, more than the universe). Second is Paramatman- the indwelling or the divine in everyone’s heart. Third is Bhagavan or the divine in a manifested form. So Bhakti yogis may worship the divine principle in form (Krishna) as a means to access the divine within and all pervading. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita’s chapter on devotion says to Arujna that (paraphrasing here) those who put their mind in the Lord with steadfast faith are the dearest among yogis. The heart of the bhakti yogi is pointing towards Grace at all times.

Either way the aim is the same. Yoga is not a proponent of one path or the other but merely encourages us to take up the path that suits us. Krishnamacharya was clear that teaching yoga should not conflict with the students faith but rather be a support for their devotion and inquiry. The paths are not at odds with eachother and therefore neither should we be. The encouragement is not dogma but rather wisdom! If you are a devout muslim you can turn your samadhi to Allah. If you are a Vaishnavite like Krishnamacharya your samadhi turns to Narayana. If you are Shaivite turn your gaze to Shiva. If you are a student of science your Samadhi turns to nature and it’s products slowly eliminating the misconceptions. Different streams, same ocean. Applying the principles of yoga to your foundation helps to shine light onto truth. Without a foundation of yoga sadhana and analyzation we can often turn our blind faith into another crutch and form of seperation. But with sincerity, self reflection and deep quiet contemplation faith and truth go beyond seperation and judgement into yogica pratyaksha (direct experience). If we stop at agamah (taking someone’s word for it) and don’t proceed to inference and experience then the mind will hold fast to avidya. Often times religious extremism is a product of this. Harming others who don’t share your beliefs. If we aren’t established in truth and wonder we fear, or at least feel aversion to, anyone challenging our faith. Established in truth abhyasis become yogis: those with no agenda but to rest in the Self -or- Rishis: the realized ones who have no agenda but to share the truth with those who are open and interested. 

Krishnamurti said “the Truth is a pathless land.” So while we all have a journey, the aim has no boundaries.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram

See you tomorrow,



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