Monday, June 26, 2017

Desani's Paper on Civil Disobedience

     Todd Katz has today posted a link at to Desani's paper on Civil Disobedience delivered at a Colloquium at the Philosophy Department, University of Texas, Austin in 1979. Direct link here. The paper details, from Desani's unique point of view, Mahatma Ghandi's political struggles in South Africa and India.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Desani on Pananjali Yoga Sutras

     Heavy Karma is in the mind. Unseen karma consists of innumerable past lives, deeds, words.

     The desiring of an object is animalistic. Clinging to an object is equivalent to fear of loosing same. If one tends to animalism one eventually falls into violent experiences, employment, etc. He associates the proliferation of armaments.

     A sanskara is an unaccountable karmasaya.

     To have a spiritual mentor is a fixed destiny.

     Attachment is associated with revulsion.

     A selfless action is a virtuous action, duty, without intention, with love, with compassion.

     Desani recounts spending a year learning to walk without intention - it is extremely difficult.

     Restraints must be imposed on things that are easily overindulged in, e.g., sex.

     When Satva rises to its highest level illumination is produced (in a situation).

The Science of Yoga

     Sutra means aphorism. Yoga is to control the vriti of citta, consciouosness.

     The Bhagavad Gita notes there are many yogas. The sage Patanjali's yoga is a precursor of these. 

       Raja yoga
       Dhyana/Zen yoga
       Karma yoga - - yoga of action without desire
       Bhakti yoga - - of devotion, like a practicing Christian's love for his god 
       Hatha yoga - - physical yoga
       Kundaline yoga

     Samkhya is the theoretical basis of yoga.

     The yogi seeks quiescence in order to attain samadhi/satori.

           PURUSHA                                                                                                      PRAKRITI
               spirit                                                                           substance of universe-nature-existential mass 
cosmic intelligence
(I Am) principle of individuality
cosmic mind
                                            |                                                                          |
                                            |                                                                          |
                                            |                                                                          |
                                            |                                                                          |
                                    INDRIYAS                                                    TANMATRAS
                                                    powers of the senses                                                                            subtle elements
                                                            hearing                                                                                                 sound
                                                            smelling                                                                                                odor
                                                            seeing                                                                                                    sight
                                                            touching                                                                                                texture
                                                            tasting                                                                                                   flavor

     With reservations there are three elements in Prakriti, the Gunas. They are sattva, rajas, tamas.

     The first product of the union of the Purusha and Prakriti is Mahat. It is from Mahat that Patanjali intellectualized his compilation. It is also the Mahat that westerners allude to when they speak of Universal Mind., etc.

     Consciousness is made of, consists of, the three Gunas. A rose is made of the Gunas. The image of a rose in one's mind is made of the Gunas. The difference is, with reservations, a matter of quantity.

     a. Satva - The most subtle substance in nature - mental substance. On the moral level it is goodness and on the aesthetic level, the most beautiful.

     b. Rajas - Animating element

     c. Tamas - Passive element. The tendency to procrastinate is tied in with Tamas. It is the steadying element, pulls toward sleep.

     Yoga has to do with the second Guna, Rajas, with stopping the animating element so that Satva can shine forth. This is the quieting of consciousness.

     Samadhi grants Mokhti, freedom.

     Patanjali's first sutra is that Yoga is the inhibition of the citta vritis (modifications of the mind).

     Five kinds of citta vritis
       1. A person feels full of lethargy, sleepy. a. and b. are conquored by c. He notes that the gods never sleep and recounts that as a monk he went ten or so days without sleep stating that during this time Satva reigns.
       2. A person is full of anger - c. dominates
       3. A person is full of restlessness - b. dominates
       4. A person is full of good works - a. dominates
       5. The highest Samadhi is the one that grants knowledge though it is still a modification of the mind.

     So, Purusha, spirit, and Prakriti, cosmic substance are foundational.

     Yoga means union (yoke).

     The first result of the union (yoking) of spirit and cosmic substance is cosmic intelligence.

     He mentions the Nadi Shastras speaking of foreknowledge. Two centuries ago a palm leaf refers to Desani by name, gives date of birth, place, and so forth.

     Qualities of Purusha - It is the lord, it is not material, it is conscious.

     Qualities of Prakriti -  Satva - mental substance, Raja - activating element, Tama - inertia.

     He says that a 2500 year old commentary says that space and time are schemes for the understanding.

     In Mahat Satva dominates. Mahat is the source of wisdom. Mahat is the first evolute.

     Literally Mahat means the great.

     When Purusha and Prakriti are joined and the first evolute arises it is Purusha who sees this. It is Purusha that sees all.

     Ahamkara is the precondition for the mind's ability to discriminate. At Mahat there is no discrimination but just one ocean of light. He gives thought that most people evolve to Ahamkara and stop, especially Westerners.

     Yoga is the stilling of citta (consciousness)  vritis (modifications of consciousness).

     Consciousness is material so what we think effects others.

     Thought impinges on its object. If I think of a person as dead that person will find his death. If I think good thoughts about a person that person will find good. Of course, this applies only if there are certain yogic attainments. Desani has see this in action.)

     Thought is substance. Think Satva will increase and it will. Think Raja as increasing, it will. Think Tama as increasing, it will.

     He gives example of a teacher at Cambridge (Desmond) hitting a student who questioned whether thought could be proved to be a substance, in the stomach with a visualized - by thought - heavy object. Desmond turned, whirled to face student. Student fell, was hospitalized, almost died. Desani says this is a "petty trick".

     Also relates that a man worked ten years to perfect a trick whereby he could not be moved by five men (from a train when he refused to pay for a ticket). He thought a heavy object into existence at the base of his spine - he cultivated Tama at the base of his spine.

     Four states of consciousness - Awake, sleep, profound sleep, Samadhi.

     One must practice and practice detachment.

     The intellect is material. If it is mirror like, superior material, it is comprised mostly of Satva.

     Purusha is masculine, the divine father. Prakriti is femine, the divine mother.


     This is from my actual notes of the first two classes from the spring of 1973 at the University of Texas, Department of Philosophy, Austin, Texas. The department chairman was Irwin Lieb. The dean of Arts and Sciences was John Silber. Raja Rao also taught there at this time. I took his course on Mahayana Buddhism. Desani also taught a course on Theravada Buddhism.

     Rao's class was, as I recall 200 or more students. Desani's class on Patanjali, about 20, maybe 30, no more. This class was a couple of years after I first made his acquaintenance

     I don't apologize that my class notes rendered here are somewhat crude, those of a neophyte. I've not edited them. But I recognized Desani - my notes say - as a composer, a maestro, a conductor. He draws words, ideas into a beautifully rendered mosaic. The Nadi Texts, I was to learn later, name him as an incarnation of the Lord. As far as I was concerned he was certainly in the model of Jesus Christ or Buddha, fully self realized, actualized. He, of course, would never call himself that, and claimed not to have a "yogi franchise'. All in all he was a very modest man and stove mightily to live a quiet life.

     My affection for the material presented has filled my life and led me to other sources. I found Kelly Ross who received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Texas' philosophy department a few years after my matriculation there. See here, and here (scroll down to the Mandukya Upanisad), for instance. But I was fortunate indeed to have the 'fixed destiny' of finding a spiritual mentor in the person of Professor Desani.

     My old textbook:


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Desani's Indian Affairs piece and the Nadi texts

Todd Katz ( has made available Desani's piece on Indian Affairs, An Appraisal, originally published in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1964. I have previously written about his Nadi texts here and am including Desani's comment which gives the reader the benefit of his personal thoughts on these texts in his own words.


It was about nine years ago that I was told of the faculty in some persons to foresee. A few of those were professional astrologers. I consulted them, at a considerable cost in time and money, and although one or two surprised me, I was disappointed. The results reported from Europe and America seemed better. (Mr. Nehru obviously has not the leisure to read such reports or to notice that the subject of precognition and foreknowledge is not beneath the active attention of a research fellow at the University of Oxford.) My inquiries, in the course of years, led me to the samhitas of the rishis Bhrigu, Vashistha, and Kaśyapa. I allow for greed, and fraud: apart from the laudable enterprise of the Madras Government – so I have been told – who have published some Nadi books, these samhitas are in the possession of the people who sell information. Well. If, in a work written on palm-leaf, absolutely at the most guarded of estimates a few centuries ago, I found my name, my parents’ name, and the names and exact description of the women with whom I have been in love, and all the details about the state of my health, my gurus’ names – including non-Indian names – and the precise details of my mantra dikshas – secret communications known only to myself and my teachers (absolutely regardless of any other prophecies concerning the span of years following the date of consulting the samhitas) and all this information within the framework, the precise terminology of Indian astrology, I think such a discovery is an occasion for humility and reduction of one’s ego.
.... to prophecy that I, G.V. Desani, shall, at a certain age, exactly so many years and months and days past the date of my birth, on a certain day, at such and such hour, call and consult the Samhita of Kausika, is a special faculty, you see.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Desani on Youtube

Todd Katz found two videos posted recently by 'An Admirer' on youtube and will link to them from when he does his update soon.  These were recorded at the University of Texas, if my memory serves, and at one time I had a copy.  I'm grateful to find them in the public domain. Of particular interest - I've written about the Nadi texts here - is Desani's discussion at about 42 minutes of these texts.

Note that at about 31 minutes the first video goes to a blue screen, then static, but resumes a bit later.

part 2:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ethics, Nirvana, and Sundry Items

Professor Desani delivered a talk in old Bombay in the late 1960s titled Ethics, Nirvana, and Sundry Items.  Todd Katz has today edited and published (.pdf) this here.  It is the item at the top of the list of other "samples".
Some excerpts:
 "These things by themselves do not lead us to the ideal. They help us approach the ideal. A person who keeps his conduct Good – as defined so far – is the one who qualifies. It is quite in order to ask what it is for which one should qualify.
"To know this, to experience to attain excellence, freedom, mukti, Nirvana. But to attain it, one needs bala or balāni; power, or powers.
     "You need to have in your favor, prārabdha; a fate, a destiny, a beginning in the past. To be possessed of a good ‘past’ is a bala (a power). By ‘past’ is meant the infinite or a ‘history’ of a Consciousness. An individual born with an enormous bank balance, any prince or princess of a ruling house, with a few or no obligations or responsibilities, has to his or her credit a ‘past’. An individual born with an infirmity, an incurable disease, robbing him of the freedom of action, has a ‘past’. Both he, and an individual born with gifts, experience the advantages, and the disadvantages, of their situations, and regardless of their Will. Faith is a bala. A person without faith is the one who has his palm formed into a fist. You cannot give him anything. He cannot receive it. If a person exerts, practices, he has bala, or power. If a person has samādhi – he has concentration of mind, has calmness, as opposed to the restlessness of Lobha [that] I mentioned, he has real bala, power."
"Methods vary. Some look at and contemplate an image – a pratimā. Some visualize – ‘see’ mentally, direct attention to – a thought, a notion, a concept, a quality. (To contemplate one’s God as supreme, as good, as true, as merciful, as just, as love, as wisdom, is to contemplate the qualities of supremacy or power, goodness, truth, mercy, justice, love and wisdom. To venerate in a contemplation Gautama, the Buddha, or any other Buddha, as omniscient, as enlightened, as virtuous, free from Lobha, Dosa, Moha – regardless of its value as a prayer or a communication – would be a contemplation of his qualities.) It does not matter what means are employed so long as those lead to success in controlling that operation of Consciousness called ‘attention’. The Buddha recommends that we contemplate maître – lovingkindness for all beings whatsoever, human, infra-human, supra-human; and karunā – compassion for all beings, the good, the evil, all; muditā – altruistic joy in the happiness of all; upeksha – equanimity, the quality that enables us to accept, with calmness, and dignity, both joy and sorrow. The contemplation of these – with method and technique – can lead us to high samādhi, to the bala, power, of a concentrated mind. And to develop these qualities, as character traits, is as high an ethical aim as one can conceive."
      " is possible, citing an experience, just to ‘see’ a tree. It is possible, by controlling the mind, by freeing it, freeing it of all concepts – through the techniques the Buddha has taught us, by developing Sati and Samādhi – to ‘barely’ ‘see’ a tree, for a millionth-millionth part of a second. And to declare that it does not exist: or to say – from lacking the means to communicate exactly an experience – that the tree ‘exists’ only in the ‘mind’, in your C, in your particular scheme of knowing and understanding. At any rate, such a judgment would be as ‘true’ or as ‘false’, or more ‘true’ and less ‘false’, than the summary assertion “I saw a tree.” The Buddha has asked us to barely see. He has asked us to barely see (and not involve mana, the mind, in reactions, responses). That is true ‘seeing’. The ethical implications of such an appraisal of the world – both external and internal – are enormous." 
"The nearest conceivable lakṣaṇa – mark or feature – of Nirvana – according to Gautama, the Buddha, is peace. Bhagwan was careful to point out that the peace – the śanti lakhana of Nirvana – is not the ‘peace’ experienced by creatures in the world of phenomena."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Full Circle

Reading an essay by "Spengler" titled A Thoughtless Age as often happens I reflected on the ideas through the lens of Desani's teachings.  Spengler doesn't say so but the implication is that we are in spite of our technological prowess - and maybe because of it - being ushered into a new dark age.  A classical liberal arts education focusing on how the present world has been molded by the development of ancient ideas, concepts, and those old masters who put them forth is pretty much a thing of the past and will have to be rediscovered.  He points out that you can't read - and have it make any sense - a great book without understanding the embedded references, allusions. So for at least two generations now virtually no one pays any mind to the great works of literature and philosophy that were once considered essential to a liberal arts education.

Desani was the very quintessence of a liberally educated man of the world.  His work is brimming with allusions to other great works, ideas, and cultural patterns. The reader needs bring a lot to the table to fully benefit from the author's intent.

Desani's endowment to me is summed up in a gem he personally gave me.  I've mentioned it elsewhere but, again, it is that we are the device(s) by which God has self experience. To me that was his core belief, his core message. It's almost painfully direct - Diamond on Diamond as he was wont to say - but compare it to God's covenant with the Jews. "You will be my people and I will be your God."  Or, to put it otherwise, you will be my particular and I will be your universal.  Or how about, I will confer on you universality and you will confer on me individuality.  I think the great Aristotle gave us that.  Jesus is the "Word made flesh" follows the same formula. Desani's formulation means that the covenant of God is not with the Jews per se, nor is it with man.  It is with Sentient Life Forms.  Naturally it follows that the end within all creation is the actualization of this potential that is bound up in matter itself.  It also follows that the wonderful qualities of Beauty, Truth, Love, Liberty, and so forth, are emergent characteristics intended to flower along with Life itself; Life and the qualities that tend to life are the end within creation, as the rose is in the bud. That would be, in Aristotle's thought, Entelechy, the end within.

Since I'm speaking of God I'd point out that the great pitfall there is our apparent materiality.  I don't know what Desani thought of the idea put forth by Soren Kierkegaard that God doesn't exist because "he" is eternal - and therefore not a thing.  This approach appeals to me, at any rate, and I compare it to the notion put forth in, for instance, Satipatthana Vipassana yoga that the Self doesn't exist either.  I've not had that insight - its called Anattanupassana-nana - that is, "insight into the absence of self or personality."  I just wanted to put that out there because talk of God is not to be done in a glib manner.  Desani pointed this out frequently saying it was a waste of time when what we should be occupied with is Love of God, that is, worship.  He also said that bringing God to mind again and again is a form of worship.  This little offering is intended to be a part of that.

The Father is delighted by, indeed, gains sustenance from, the discoveries of his children.  He stands, hands outstretched. In one hand he holds the ultimate knowledge, understanding, of the meaning and purpose of existence.  In the other hand he offers the unending pursuit of that understanding.  Following, again, the lead of Kirkegaard, we ought wisely to choose the offering of pursuit, of discovery.  Let God keep his secrets.  Ours is not to know the reasons why.  Ours is to take the path of discovery.

Desani taught that we should take what is good from the past and apply it to make a better future.  A quote from the piece above cited is appropriate to Desani's teaching.
When properly conceived and taught, the liberal arts do not by themselves make us “better people” or (God knows) more “human.” They don’t exist to make us more “liberal,” at least in the contemporary political sense. But the liberal arts can do something no less wonderful: They can open our eyes.
They show us how to look at the world and the works of civilization in serious and important and even delightful ways. They hold out the possibility that we will know better the truth about many of the most important things. They are the vehicle that carries the amazing things that mankind has made — and the memory of the horrors that mankind has perpetrated — from one age to the next. They teach us how to marvel. - John Agresto
And, "Western culture has become inaccessible to the general public because we have lost the ability to see the world through the eyes of those who created it."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Memorabilia from Boston University

John Silber, Boston University President and former Philosophy Chair and Dean of Arts and Sciences, University of Texas, Austin, invited Professor Desani to Boston University for the 1981/1982 academic year.  Professor posted a flyer to me announcing these lectures.  Silber was responsible for bringing Desani to Austin.