Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression



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#2619 - Friday, October 20, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

Randy sends the following video of a live dance performance. Thanks, Randy. Hypnotic!  

Dancing like Buddha:    

The metaphysical intuition
Seeing God with Open Eyes
Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita

Swami Siddheswarananda
Translated by Andr
van den Brink

An excerpt of this book appeared in Highlights #2616: In this issue is featured Chapter 1 from The Metaphysical Intuition. At the end of this passage the author speaks of the sage and says, "the sage's conduct constitutes an ideal for those who observe him." In 1959, when this book was published, that was probably the way sages were viewed. I read the material on sages from the viewpoint that the sage is not separate from who I am. The sage is not a person who is out there somewhere.


~ ~ ~


Chapter 1


Action and inaction

He who see inaction in action,

and action in inaction,

he is a sage, a yogi,

and he accomplishes all action.

IV, 18


It seems that the Bhagavad Gita is giving us a strange teaching here. Should one have recourse to such a paradox? Since we are concerned, here, to know and to realize the truth in the simplest, most direct way possible, why point it out to us through enigmas?


However, this first verse which we are studying, bewildering though it may seem, illustrates one of the basic principles of Vedanta: Truth can only be expressed through contradiction. As one will see, it is not through logical reasoning, through a series of properly interrelated ideas that the truth may be known. All reasoning leads to the adoption of a position, which opens but one perspective to us. And it would be equally vain to multiply these points of view for the comprehension of the reality is not the sum total of all perspectives -- it is not the act of totalizing. It is through intuition that goes beyond logic, outside the play of opposites, that we will be able to understand the nature of the real.


The sage, this verse tells us, sees action in inaction. It may be convenient to give a definition here of what inaction actually means, but this initial problem is difficult. For our purposes, however, it's sufficient to accept the common notions dealing with action and inaction. For example, what do we see in our daily lives? All action encounters obstacles. All action provokes contradictions. And these obstacles, these contradictions are such that they persuade us that the highest freedom corresponds to the abandoning of all action. Thus it would suffice, we believe, to stop acting in order to be finally free.

This temptation is deceptive, because such abandonment, if at all possible, would have nothing conclusive. It is not obvious that the fact of ceasing to act is still an action, that any initiative taken by the ego is an action? We will only be changing the direction of the energy that is driving us outwards. In fact, there is no greater effort than to oppose a natural movement, to want to work against the normal course of thought and action. To see action in inaction is to understand that no one can refrain from acting.

But who accomplishes the action itself? When one is acting, everyone imagines that the force, which is thus expressing itself, comes from the ego, from the sovereign individuality. On reflection, however, one will recognize that this belief is not well founded, for one realizes that it is nature itself that is accomplishing everything. Someone who knows the truth might think, "'I don't do anything' Whether he is eating, moving or sleeping, whether he is breathing or speaking, whether he is taking or giving, whether he is opening or whether he is closing his eyes, he knows that it is only the senses that are active among the sense objects" (Gita V, 8-9). Thus we need to gain an understanding of a total vision of nature, a vision that will replace narrow and false views. Then we shall cease to believe that the source of action lies within ourselves. We shall understand that it is the nature of things, the cosmic energy that is acting.

But it's not enough to say that the effort that would be aimed at stopping all action, thus establishing us in inaction, would be vain. Such effort would not only be useless, but would also plunge us more and more into ignorance. Indeed, if we want to escape the hold of ignorance, it is important to understand at the same time that atman, our proper nature, is free from all action, because it is unborn. "He is never born not does he ever die. Having been, he cannot cease to be any more. Unborn, permanent, eternal, ancient, he is not destroyed, when the body is killed" (Gita II, 20). It is only nature, prakriti, who acts. The sense of ego and the external objects, the quality of being interior and exterior, of action and inaction, only exist in prakriti.

Atman, the self of each being, knows neither interiority nor exteriority. The Gita as well as the Upanishads teach the identity of the individual soul and the cosmic soul, independent of their expression in prakriti. The person who wants to know and realize atman should therefore take up a position outside of prakriti. But, in doing so, he will run up against an insurmountable obstacle, because no one can place himself outside of prakriti. In fact, this is only a way to point out the direction that we need to give to our spiritual efforts.

Another important observation to be made is that the wisdom and the sage are identical. Indeed, the realization of atman is not an abstract notion, separate from the one who realizes. The sage, like the wisdom, is impersonal.

Naturally common sense will exclaim, "How can you say that the nature of the sage is impersonal? Doesn't one see a person acting or not acting, sleeping or walking?" But our intellect that analyses and divides cannot grasp the impersonal character of the realized being. The impersonal remains beyond our comprehension, beyond all grasp. And when the Gita treats of the sage's conduct, it concerns an altogether exterior point of view, the description of that which appears within prakriti, nature.

Let us remember that in this prakriti, Indian thought distinguishes three modes: sattva (purity), rajas (passion), and tamas (inertia). In the eyes of all, the sage remains on the plane of sattva, and the sage's conduct constitutes an ideal for those who observe him. And, surely, the sage accomplishes such or such action "in conformity with his nature." For the Gita teaches that the whole universe is in action; the whole universe is the multiple expression of energy. When wisdom is reflected in prakriti, the realized person appears as the highest degree of sattva.

No one, however, is able to understand the sage in his essence. No one is able to give the reason for his behavior. The sage, being wisdom itself, is impersonal. If he sees action in inaction, and inaction in action, it is because in that wisdom there is no more place for the sense of ego. Whatever he may do, the sage does not think he is acting. It is nature as a whole, prakriti, and not the one whom sees acting.

This person with intelligence firmly established, this eminently sattvic being gives the impression of perfect harmony. Indeed, when the vision is not veiled by any preferences, there is equilibrium and harmony. The sage looks with the same impartiality upon "a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, and even upon a dog or a pariah," as it is said in verse V, 18. It is this verse which is not going to take up our attention.


--end of Chapter 1


The metaphysical intuition
Seeing God with Open Eyes
Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita

Swami Siddheswarananda
Translated by Andr
van den Brink

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