I found this logical ballerina of the old Indian Philosophy while walking though this beautiful book: The Upanishads [introduction and translation of Swami Nikilanada], Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York 1949.
And this is the forest glade where I saw her dancing, for the fist time in my life (Op. cit. vol. I, p. 78):
“We have already spoken of the two aspects of Brahman: Nirguna and Saguna. Nirguna Brahman is characterized by an absence of all attributes. It is Pure Consciousness and the immutable foundation of the universe. Again, in association with maya, Brahman appears as Saguna Brahman, which, from the standpoint of the Absolute, is mutable and impermanent. The knowledge of the former is called the Higher Knowledge, and that of the later, the lower knowledge. The Higher Knowledge brings about immediate Liberation, resulting in the utter cessation of all suffering and the attainment of supreme Bliss. The lower knowledge leads to the realization of the position of Brahma and thus paves the way for ultimate Liberation. It offers the highest happiness in the material world. But still it is not Immortality. The attainment of the Higher Knowledge, or Para Vidya, is the goal of the spiritual life. But the lower knowledge, or apara vidya, is not to be neglected or despicted. As long as man is conscious of the ego and the outside worlds, and as long as he takes these for real, so long must he cultivate this knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita says that if a man who is identified with the body follows the way of the Unmanifest, he only courts misery. The Mundaka Upanishad exhorts the pupil to cultivate both the Higher Knowledge and the lower knowledge.”
My intention in this text is to figure out the metaphysical-systemic meaning of the very fact of the existence of that alleged “inferior wisdom”: the very fact that there is something – life, world, or whatever you want to call it – where, if you have certain very precious knowledge, you can be happy. How and why was our world designed in that challenging way? Is it a moral, mighty video-game? Or was the world not designed that way (there is no design at all) and are we now dealing with false philosophical problems?
Anyway, since we are now not supposed to be in that Vedantic “superior wisdom” (actually if we were there, there would not be an “I” that writes and another “I” that reads), we can contemplate and enjoy the awesome intellectual storm of increasing and unresolved doubts. Let’s start asking. Lets fully open and peek out every conceivable windows of our mind and of any mind. Let’s start loving, yearning, what we don’t know, “that” whose mere existence we can not imagine. Let’s start enjoying the sublime (and harsh) pleasure of Philosophy.
But do we really want to resolve all doubts? Do we really want the absolute cessation of all suffering? Do we want immortality? Do we yearn, like Schopenhauer, an eternal, beatific nothing?
Apara vidya is the wisdom for those who don’t want to escape from life, for those who do not mind to go on loving the world (the whole reality if you want) without really understanding it. It could also be called “wisdom of life.” Or wisdom “of the dream”, if we see our life as a dream (it is, in fact, a dream: a sacred dream). But who/what dreams?
And, especially: How is it possible the very existence of ignorance within the Being? Is not the ignorance a miracle?
More questions: Can we be more or less happy in our life depending on the knowledge that can be achieved in it? Is it worth being wise here inside? Is the wise happier? Are we free inside this world to decide and achieve the scope of our wisdom and happiness? How much knowledge and happiness are available?
Do we have – the “human beings” – power enough to transform our life (Our mind? Our consciousness?) into a work of art, into something wonderful… according to our own model of what is and what is not wonderful?
Is it worth our effort, our daily struggle, our telephone call this very morning to that person whom one day we decided to hate forever, or the daily care and respect for our body, or our unconfessed prayers to… we do not know very well what omnipotences, or our sleeplessness caused by our financial problems, or our trembling fight against our darkest shadows? Is it worthwhile to educate our children, to manage our economy with diligence, to vote good governments?
In summary: Is it worth this very world, this life, even if it is a dream, even if it is an ephemeral ripple of the mind of Something unnameable?
Yes, it is. Sorry Schopenhauer.
But what am I referring to, specifically, with the expression “this life”? And where lives my life?
Schopenhauer [See here in German], subjugated by some models of the Mystic tradition, and tortured by his own psychological and familiar hell, proposed a radical abandonment of the world (his world). Nietzsche (who was radically loved by his parents) even though he suffered much more than Schopenhauer, proposed just the opposite: a radical and passionate permanence in the world, in that world in which we so much doubt, tremble and suffer (and enjoy) and die: heroic permanence, with all the senses activated, exposed (not drugged), introducing our hands and thoughts in all the muds and in all the tears and in all the possible and impossible stars so as transform our life into a great work of art. The goal would not be happiness, but art (bewitching, designed, artificial contents of consciousness).
For what then the superior wisdom, the Para Vidya? Why then to escape from this unsayable prodigy that we call life? Are we going to escape from it only on the grounds of stopping our suffering? And do we not endure the idea of dying? Why not? Is not the idea of finitude (death) as fascinating and unthinkable as the infinitude?
Last question: Is it possible to make use of the Higher Knowledge and (refusing the advise of the Bhagavad Gita) put it at the service of life?
Some of my ideas (of my feelings):
1.- I suspect, I verify almost every day, that we have an overwhelming influence in the unfolding of what we call “our life”.
2.- I believe that, if we become aware of what we are, of the power that we have, we can see the world in the palm of our hands, ready to be our Creation. Thus, the Para Vidya (the superior knowledge, the one that allows us to know that we are the bottom of all the worlds and of all the gods) allows us to love life (the Creation, what presents itself inside our consciousness) with the feeling of being its creators. I am referring to an infinite love, but also to an infinite distance, regarding the dance of reality. From that infinite love and distance we can contemplate (and sublimate, and sacralize) our apparent individual self (the one which has a name): a creature (an avatar) that we can love -and care for- without completely confusing ourselves with it.
3.- Our huge efforts are worth it. We can make amazing alchemies: we can transform any hell (exterior and interior) into a paradise. Surprising levels of beauty around us can be unfold. We are extremely powerful.
4.- But before the existence of any transformable hell, or any desirable type of light, a cosmos (order, structures, ideas) must have been installed in our consciousness. When we fight for the beauty of our world, we always do it fully spellbound by ideas. The idea of love, of son, of friend, of old man who can be taken to heaven with a single smile, of idyllic nature, of economic growth, of whatever. And we will kill a cockroach, or a bacterium, or we will put a criminal in jail, or we will scold a child, or we will expropriate a bank, if with that we believe that it can be sustained, in the metamorphic immensity of the Being, our beloved world according to “our” ideas of beauty. We constantly strive to materialize ideas of beauty. Thats the only thing we really do.
5. Para Vidya. Superior wisdom. At least as proposed by the Vedanta, it would allow us to know what we really are. It would allow us to live inside a dream knowing that we are the creators of that dream. The dreamed person, the consciousness that has been finitized, individualized there, knows that its being is not confined there, in that precious, deliquescent, ontologically vacuous mask (the person). Higher knowledge offers an awakening, within the dream, without deactivating the dream.
6 .- The history of human thought and feeling offers us a huge catalog of inferior wisdom (apara vidya). One of the most outstanding offers of lower wisdom (wisdom of life) is offered by Hatha Yoga. There stands out the (Aristotelian) idea that we can only be happy and virtuous at the same time. The world, the reality of our life, is connected to our mind, but also to our whole body. A simple bowel cleansing influences the intensity of the blue of the sky and diminishes the apparent badness of a neighbour. A gesture of affection for those who for years have embittered our life embellishes the streets and purifies our viscera. Mind, body, consciousness, world… everything merges into a prodigious machine where true magic can be made: a prodigious machine that allows to feel -and be- the sacred.
7.- Another feeling: The worlds love those who love them. It is impressive to see how sensitive the Thing is. It could be said that “the matter” (What is that?) that surrounds us and constitutes us, at least at this level of consciousness, is raw, lets say as sensitive as human, living flesh… without skin. The virtuous human being discovers that everything is known in all corners of the Whole, that matter reads his thoughts, that “the other” – the other human being – is himself: another one of his avatars, another one of his masks.
8.- From the precious jail of the language it is possible to try something like this: There is Something, omnipotent, free, of infinite fertility, that is capable of self-diffraction in infinite worlds and in infinite levels and forms of consciousness. In each of them that sacred monster knows what he needs to know, what he wants to know and the happiness or suffering he wants to feel. We should not be surprised. Is not all this, and infinitely more, possible for an omnipotent being?
9.- All knowledge is always inferior. Also the one that the Upanishads calls “superior”. All knowledge is ignorance, because the final destiny of all wisdom is to discover that “knowledge” is a spell, that it is essentially false. The basic presupposition of all knowledge (that of the existence of a subject and an object) is falsehood (a sacred falsehood). “Advaita”: with this Vedantic symbol it is intended to be said that the Whole Thing can become aware of its being in one of it created forest glades (for instance a human mind). Heidegger spoke of advent [See in Spanish]. In Christianity there are those who speak of Grace. Master Eckhart affirmed that the divinity reveals itself when it wants … within itself. What other place can there be?
10.- Is there nothing to do then from here, from inside an individual life? Quite the opposite. I see it every day. Paracelsus believed that magic does not like slackers. I know people who have fought fiercely, and quietly, to keep clean, like jewels, the invisible conduits that united the members of their family. And they have achieved it. Keys that these people have given to me (they are two old women who do not know each other): avoid slander, do not gossip, do give example, never stop loving, do not complain, be very strong (very resistant to suffering and hope), pray… The two old women believe that life (other´s life mainly) are very worthwhile. They believe that life can be very beautiful or very ugly depending on how we take care of it, and depending on our level of virtue, lets say the level of beauty of our deeds and thoughts. Both old women, by the way, love gardening.
11.- We seem to be involved in very profound and mysterious information flows. We are in something much bigger and more prodigious than any wisdom can ever know. We read and learn what we need.
12.- Matrix: From the model of totality that emerged from our logical dancer (apara vidya) we could say that we are, at the same time, the slaves of the Matrix and the architects of the worlds that are inoculated in those enslaved minds. To know it would be superior knowledge. To know it would mean to assume absolute creativity, and a huge responsibility.
13.- I feel more and more surprised by the plasticity of life. I love this life. I love this dream because there are beings in it who I love without limit. Beings -not just humans— that, to me, justify any effort that I had to make so that this dream, this Maya, does not dissolve in the enormous bonfire of the infinite. Two of these beings appear in the image that floats over these phrases. In it you can see my brother Alfonso teaching a Yoga class, and also my son Nicolás, listening.
14.- I perceive, from the most radical empiricism that can be practiced -William James [See in Spanish]– that something/someone assists us from out there to fight for this dream. And, in silence (only in silence), that huge Thing, apparently external to our self and our universe, tells us how to turn our life into a wonderful spectacle. We just have to be quiet -radically silent- and listen attentive. We are not alone. Nothing is alone.
Well, this is what occurs in the dancehall of my mind if I let the logical ballerina “apara vida” dance freely, naked, wild, inside it.