Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Carriage, the Horse, and the Coachman

Gurdjieff often evoked the analogy of a carriage, a horse, and a coachman, in order to explain the functioning of human beings.

A man as a whole with all his separately concentrated and functioning localizations, that is to say, his formed and independently educated ‘personalities,’ is almost exactly comparable to that organization for conveying a passenger, which consists of a carriage, a horse, and a coachman.” All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, page 1192

In the analogy, the carriage represents the physical body, the horse represents the organization of human feeling, and the driver represents the whole totality of the manifestations of human mentation—what is generally described as thinking.

Gurdjieff goes into quite a lot of detail regarding each—and is generally not very complimentary of their manifestation in contemporary man:

“… a broken-down carriage which has long ago seen its day, a crock of a horse, and on the box, a tatterdemalion half-sleepy, half-drunken coachman whose time for self-perfection passes while he waits on the corner, fantastically daydreaming, for any chance passenger.” – Ibid. page 1193

I’m sure that some would nod in agreement, while many, maybe many more, would consider Gurdjieff’s assessment harsh and unfair, but, I wonder, how many would consider the assessment in the light of their own personal self-observations? Yet, to me, this is exactly the point—not whether I agree or disagree with the analogy in my mind based on want I have heard or believe, but rather, what is my experience of that which I call myself?

Self-observation seems to be a function of the coachman being directed by a passenger who sits in the carriage , but does just any chance passenger have any real idea of what constitutes self-observation—or interest in it—and if by chance he does, how long will he even remain in the carriage?

“And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” – Mark 5:9

But before I even ask myself the question; what do I observe, perhaps I need to first ask myself the question; Am I even able to observe, and, if so, under what circumstances?

I remember being in a meeting with the yogi Swami Vishnu Devananda many years ago when he was asked a question about some yogic practice. His response was; “It is possible, but can you do it when your mind is tired of playing the yogi?” In other words, when the passenger—the I—in the carriage is interested in yoga then it directs the driver in that direction, but not all of the passengers that ride in that carriage are interested in, or even know anything about, yoga.

And so, I have noticed that my own attempts at self-observation appear to be limited to only certain situations and occasions (when the right passenger happens to be sitting in the carriage)  and even then, my observations often seem quite vague and fleeting (perhaps the result of having a tatterdemalion half-sleepy, half-drunken coachman sitting in the driver’s seat)?

Gurdjieff’s solution to the problem of multiple passengers with multiple desires directing the driver is what he calls the temporary steward. In the case of our analogy, a group of passengers appoint from among themselves a temporary steward to administer the affairs of the carriage, the coachman, and the horse, with respect to an over-all aim of making the rig suitable for the real owner to come and sit in the carriage and take over its affairs. The real owner is the real I – real Self – the real Master—Conscious God—the one who Gurdjieff calls man number seven.

“But you have filled His abode with millions of strangers and He cannot enter, for He is shy of strangers. Unless you empty His abode of these millions of strangers you have filled it with, you will never find God.
“These strangers are your age-old desires — your millions of wants. They are strangers to God because want is an expression of incompleteness and is fundamentally foreign to Him who is All-sufficient and wanting in nothing. Honesty in your dealings with others will clear the strangers out of your heart. Then you will find Him, see Him and realize Him.”The Everything and the Nothing, Meher Baba

I characterized the carriage, the horse, and the coachman, as an analogy—an analogy that explains the functioning of human beings. Now I would like to explore it as a tool for self-awareness.

Sometimes in a guitar lesson I might ask a student to observe, saying something like; “Let’s take one minute and just observe. I’ll let you know when the minute is over. Okay, let’s start now.”

When the minute is up I’ll ask the student what he observed. More often than not the student does not have much to say and I explain that the problem is because my question was too indefinite. “Observe what?” would have been the reply if I had given the student the time to respond before beginning the exercise.

I explain that I should have been more specific—observe sounds in and outside the studio, or observe the furniture and decor, or observe our thoughts, or our breathing. I might then repeat the exercise giving a more specific object of observation. When the minute is over I repeat the question; “What did you observe?” and the replies—the observations—are of a more detailed nature and quality.

Using the analogy of the carriage, the horse, and the coachman as a basis for self-observation might render a different level of observation than just generally trying to self-observe. This was my assumption, but to acquire real material I had to do—had to attempt—the self-observation.

After a few days, it became clear to me that I only remembered to try to observe at certain times—certain occasions—like during meditation, or while doing yoga, or walking, or playing certain pieces of music, but remembering to try to observe myself was less likely to happen during transitional moments between activities and seldom while talking to people—unless the subject of the conversation had to do spiritual things.

An example of one of my efforts attempting to observe myself through the lens of the carriage, the horse, and the coachman was while taking a long walk around my neighborhood. As I walked I observed that the coachman (my thoughts) seemed to direct the energy of the horse to move the carriage (my body) along the designated route. The driver had an awareness of the coach through the sensations that emanated from it as the result of the coach’s movements.  My body spoke in the language of sensations—sensations that my thoughts interpreted as, either appropriate or inappropriate reactions to the efforts of movement.  I noticed that my thoughts tended to worry or become concerned when the sensations of the body did not seem appropriate to the action of movement.

I wanted to notice the horse and its energy manifesting as feeling—feeling as distinct from the carriage’s language of sensation. With my house in sight I mounted the narrow timber that bridged a little stream in the greenway that divides my street. I observed that my thoughts—the coachman—needed to keep a closer rein on the horse and stay more attentive with regard to balance. I had decided that I would continue my exercise of self-observation until I passed through the door of my house.

But as I stepped off the timber I saw my neighbor standing in the street looking at her front yard. I said hello as I approached and then became engaged in a conversation about her landscaping. My effort at self-observation disappeared and I did not remember again until sometime later. Had a different passenger gotten in the carriage when I saw my neighbor? Had seeing my neighbor affected the coachman or the horse? Had I fallen asleep?

Meditation offered another occasion for my study. My technique was to sit without movement and for fifteen minutes inwardly repeat Meher Baba’s name without allowing my thoughts to wander into the past or the future, or to get involved with solving problems or answering questions. I wanted to keep my thoughts focused on Meher Baba’s name and maintain an awareness of my body to keep my mind rooted in the present. I sometimes imagined myself sitting at God’s door.

Meditation is not new to me and my body—the coach—remains quite still during the exercise. Also, inwardly repeating Meher Baba’s name for the designated time is not too difficult—provided I do not become too involved with other thoughts. But the thoughts—the coachman—cannot be controlled beyond a certain point and I have observed that the coachman has the ability to think other thoughts simultaneously while remembering to repeat Meher Baba’s name. In other words, internally I can repeat Meher Baba’s name but wander away from door while my body remains still.  I observe that there is a very different quality—state?—when I am able to keep my thoughts from wandering. I wonder, when they wander is that an example of the coachman falling asleep and dreaming?

  More self-observation and study of the analogy of the carriage, the horse, and the coachman has led me to these thoughts:

The carriage is attached to the horse, but the coachman and passengers are free to move off and on and in and out of the carriage respectively.

The coachman communicates with the horse by using reins. Sometimes they work better than others.

The coachman senses through his body the sensations emanating from the coach.

The carriage is the only component of this analogy that is not portrayed as a living being.

These thoughts raise questions to be explored through more self-observation:

Though the carriage is portrayed as a mechanical device rather than a living being, my own experience sees my carriage as a living thing—a living body—that seems to have an intelligence of its own which attends to many important functions like breathing, heart function, digestion, instinctive actions, etc., without any apparent help from the coachman or the passenger.

I remember that Gurdjieff called human beings three-brained beings. The three brains corresponded to centers that he named the moving center, the thinking center, and the feeling center. No doubt, these centers correspond respectively to the carriage, the coachman, and the horse. He also said that each of the centers had its own moving, thinking, and feeling sub-centers or parts. I assume, for example, that the instinctive and learned-instinctive actions of the coach—the human body—are controlled by the moving sub-center of the moving center.

Another question is regarding the relationship that exists between the coachman and the passenger. Both are portrayed as human beings, and I assume that they communicate by talking to each other, but how, since one is sitting in the carriage and the other is sitting on top of it?  

And finally, and perhaps most importantly for me, is the whole question surrounding the Self—the real owner and master of the carriage, the horse, and the coachman.

You and I are not we, but one!” – Meher Baba

Gurdjieff never claimed to be a Perfect Master—a God-realized soul with a duty towards creation.  He never said, “See me as the real owner of the rig.” To the contrary, he said that his students should not accept anything without first experiencing it for themselves.

Until you experience it, it is not true.” – Kabir

Gurdjieff suggested that the seeker find within himself a collection of I’s that share a common and consistent aim with regard to realizing TruthSelf—, and to delegate to these I’s the authority to consistently maintain the carriage, the horse, and the coachman, in pursuit of their common aim—the temporary steward.

Meher Baba never used the analogy of the carriage, the horse, and the coachman, nor did He ever use the term temporary steward. The Avatar and Perfect Masters appear to work in a different way than advanced, but still un-realized, individuals. For the Avatar and the Perfect Masters, the personal relationship between them and their followers is the singularly most important thing. The Avatar and Perfect Masters are the manifestation of God—Self—Truth—in human form. They play the role of personal God, as opposed to impersonal God. In other words, they are the manifestation of the very Goal itself that the seeker is seeking.

To know God, you must become God.”

Therefore, until you become God, you do not experience God, you do not know God, nor do you know or experience the Self.

I have noticed the difference between yoga ashrams and esoteric or spiritual, or religious schools and the places of pilgrimage connected to the Avatar and the Perfect Masters. With regard to the former, the emphasis in always on the efforts of the individual—what is called working on oneself. The ashram or school and the teacher create an opportunity to work on oneself.  But in the presence of a real Master, or at the places of pilgrimage of the Avatar, it is the work of the Master on the follower that is of real importance. The follower merely needs to be there, in that place, and in the presence of the Master. When I am at places like the Meher Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, or His pilgrimage center in India, I try to keep myself entertained, open to what may or may not come to me, and basically stay out of the way of His work.

“A moment in the presence of a real Master is worth hundreds of lifetimes of penance, meditation, and yoga or spiritual practice.” – a paraphrase of comments by Meher Baba

Meher Baba was once asked about the yoga He taught. His reply was, “My yoga is you go!
Deconstruction is a technique that is popular in culinary circles these days. A dish that combines multiple ingredients, like a stew or a salad, is served with its ingredients separated—not combined…

The carriage, the horse, the coachman, and the passenger conjointly make-up the illusory self that I (my consciousness) identifies with. Mostly, I am not aware of the separate elements that make-up the stew of my sleep. 

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” Matthew 26:40

But in those few moments when I remember to try, the elements that comprise the stew of my sleep become, as it were, deconstructed and I, as some kind of consciousness, am able to remain aloof from and observe the ingredients of the carriage, the horse, the driver, and the passenger. I am not saying that in these moments I am awake, it’s more that in those moments I am more aware of my sleep—though this awareness happens within, not without, the dream of creation.

In Carlos Castaneda’s book, Journey to Ixtlan, the teacher gives the student the exercise of finding his hands in his dreams. Of course, the difficulty is remembering the task while in the dream state—some little part of the dreamer has to remember—has to remain awake. Exercises in self-observation is much the same thing, perhaps, it is even exactly the same thing. One must stay awake in the waking state which is, in fact, a dream state.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” – Children’s nursery rhyme

On one of his visits to America, Meher Baba, on the request of one of his followers, attended a meditation group. I actually listened to an audio recording of the event. At one point, the leader of the group gave the command to meditate. The recording goes silent for a few minutes and then a loud clap by Meher Baba brings the exercise to a close. Meher Baba, his gestures read out by one of his close disciples, tells the group that they are all asleep. He explains that even the exercise of meditation is happening in their dreams—the dreams of their lives—their identification with the bodies and their thoughts.  It’s impossible to describe how powerful listening to that moment on the recording was for me…

So I try to not take the exercise of observing the carriage, the horse, and the driver, too seriously.

He who takes thing too seriously cannot be very serious; he who is really serious does not take things too seriously.” – Gurdjieff

But why make the effort in the first place? My answer is that I have observed that I am  always doing something— even trying to do nothing is doing something—and that certain actions seem to bring me deeper or more profound happiness than others; and the two domains of action that consistently bring me the most joy are musical thinking and thoughts regarding God and His path. With regard to musical thinking, I feel that my efforts can lead to certain accomplishments within the musical sphere, but with regard to thinking about God and the spiritual panorama my feeling is that the domain is so vast and powerful that my efforts are not so much about the results as the pure joy of making the effort itself.

In The Second Attention, Carlos Castaneda wrote:

“I narrated to her the way Don Juan made me understand what was meant by impeccability. He and I were hiking one day through a very steep ravine when a huge boulder got loose from its matrix on the rock wall and came down with a formidable force and landed on the floor of the canyon, twenty or thirty yards from where we were standing.
The size of the boulder made its fall a very impressive event. Don Juan seized the opportunity to create a dramatic lesson. He said that the force that rules our destinies is outside of ourselves and has nothing to do with our acts or volition. Sometimes that force would make us stop walking on our way and bend over to tie our shoelaces, as I had just done.
And by making us stop, that force makes us gain a precious moment. If we had kept on walking, that enormous boulder would have most certainly crushed us to death. Some other day, however, in another ravine the same outside deciding force would make us stop again to bend over and tie our shoelaces while another boulder would get loose precisely above where we are standing. By making us stop, that force would have made us lose a precious moment. That time if we had kept on walking, we would have saved ourselves. Don Juan said that in view of my total lack of control over the forces which decide my destiny, my only possible freedom in that ravine consisted in my tying my shoelaces impeccably.”

So I make efforts; they’re a way of passing my time while on the train that I am not driving. The efforts, indeed any of my actions, do not affect the train or its destination. What the efforts do seem to affect is the degree of happiness that I experience along the way, and is not the bottom line for all of creation the happiness of the search for Bliss?

 I observe that the carriage is the most easy to control, even though what I am able to control seems to be just an iota of the sum total of all the actions that the carriage performs. For example, though I can make it move or stop, turn or go straight—make a cup of coffee or tea, etc., I have no direct control over the birth and death of the cells that make up the carriage or its functions like digestion, breathing, or the transitions from my waking state to my dream state to the state of deep sleep, etc. At best, I can sometimes indirectly affect these functions, but they are not dependent on my awareness or intent—and thank God for that!  

With regard to the mind, well my thoughts seem to have a mind of their own. They go here and there and everywhere. Efforts to stop or re-direct thoughts are consistently ineffective and there is a glimpse, occasionally and not very clearly, that the domain of the mind is infinitely more vast than the thoughts that I am able to occasionally observe or direct.

And the horse, the domain of energy and feeling, the ability to even approach it directly, let alone control or direct its activity, is predictably impossible.

But in spite of it all, somehow, we will get there—we will come to know ourselves as the the Infinite Self; the train will get to its destination, not because of our efforts,  but in spite of them.
As Rumi reminds us; “Come, come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving—ours is not a caravan of despair. Though you may have broken your vow a thousand times, come, come yet again, come!Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Ayushya, I wanted to tell you about my dream.”

Of course Mira, please tell me.”

“I have been reading your series of posts on the carriage, the horse, and the driver. I was particularly affected by Meher Baba’s comments to the meditators and your use of the other analogy of the train that takes us to our destination without our help.”


“And so the other night I had a dream in which I was driving the carriage—going here and there—and then I realized that the carriage, the horse, and the driver were actually on the train itself. No matter where I drove it, no matter what I did, it was not going anywhere other than to different places on the train.”

“The carriage was on the train?”


“Did you tell your grandfather this dream?”

“I did, and in response he recited this quote;

‘He returns to the door he first came out, although in his journey he went from door to door.’”



                                                              (c) copyright Michael Kovitz, 2018


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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Shudra and India's Caste System


Shudra, the lowest rung on the ladder of India’s caste system, is a word that is a flashpoint for ideological, religious, political, moral, and ethical discussions—and arguments.

Brahmana class did not come independently into existence. Just as the human being is the highest form in evolution, the Brahmana is the highest stage in human evolution. The original stage of the human form was Shudra, who with the help of Brahmakriya, ascended to the stage of Brahmana.” – 
  The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 31

I have been reading The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja for over thirty years. These talks contain spiritual treasures that cannot be found anywhere else and I have been inspired to share them with others—but there are some difficulties…

First, there is the question of language. The talks were given primarily in Marathi, written down, and then translated into English by Indian speakers, and so the talks do not read in a way that is familiar to most Western readers.

Second, the majority of Upasani Maharaj’s followers were Hindus and thus, though the subject matter of his talks is universal, he often uses language and terminologies that require a measure of familiarity with Vedic philosophy and Hindu customs, traditions, and practices, as well as a working knowledge of the various forms of yoga practiced by serious seekers of Truth in the East and West.. 

Third, these talks are the talks of a God-Realized Master and so reflect his Infinite Knowledge and direct experience of states of consciousness that lie beyond the experience of the average person. But, as Kabir said, “Until you experience it, it is not true,” and so when there are claims that one is a Perfect Master—a God Realized Soul—whose knowledge is Infinite and unquestionable, then where one stands in relationship to the personage and authority of such a being is a factor in how one responds to his words and deeds.

And there is a forth problem also that is revealed in this statement by Avatar Meher Baba; “In the Spiritual Game, the loser rejoices and the winner feels ashamed!” How at odds do the Spiritual Game and the Game of Life appear to be—and how often are the differences misinterpreted!
But, first, what is the Game of Life? – for India’s caste system creates a model for how the game of life is to be played; and with regard to a human being, the elements that make up the conditions of the game have been inherited from the evolution of the soul’s consciousness through previous animal forms and consist almost exclusively of the activities of:



Keeping from being eaten


These four domains of activity consume 100% of the animal form’s attention and it is the same for the human form throughout most of the Process of Reincarnation. Only after a sufficient number of incarnations does consciousness begin free itself from these four domains of activity and to edge closer to the Process of Involution—the path to God— the path that leads to the consciousness of  Infinite and Eternal Self.

There is no real freedom in the stages of evolution, reincarnation, and involution, but, as consciousness begins to work its way free of the four domains, it does begin to experience what can be called the shadow of freedom in such forms of leisure as the arts, sports, and various intellectual, religious and spiritual interests. Of course, these activities are not free of the concerns of the four domains—the concerns just become more and more refined—less gross—until consciousness can begin to experience through these forms a sense of the real freedom which finds its absolute and ultimate expression in the consciousness of God.

As Meher Baba put it, it is all a dream until one awakens. Evolution, Reincarnation, and Involution are all dreams within dreams within a dream, but there is a distinction between the dream of life and the divine dream of becoming God, or, it can be said, between the Game of Life and the Spiritual Game.

Karma is the cards that one holds, and Dharma is the way that one plays those cards. In Evolution and most of Reincarnation there is no real Dharma because the cards, as it were, play themselves. Especially in Evolution, the cards play themselves and play themselves perfectly—unless the cards have been tainted by proximity to unnatural impressions acquired through contact with the human form when it is itself tainted with unnatural impressions. This is especially true during the cycle of time called Kali Yuga—the Yuga we still find ourselves in these days.

Choice begins to emerge toward the end of the Stage of Reincarnation. This choice is by no means absolute. Meher Baba once asked a follower to pick up one leg when he was standing. The follower did so. Then Meher Baba asked him to pick up his second leg…

The limited choice that can be exercised in the Game of Life and the Spiritual Game is called Dharma. Dharma, as said before, is the way one chooses to play the karmic cards ones has been dealt,  but these games  are very subtle games, because their aims and rules appear to change with the consciousness of the game player and his or her position in the Stages of Reincarnation or Involution. Also too, at a certain point, both the Game of Life and the Spiritual Game are realized to be only different aspects of the same one game—the Game of God’s Awakening.

The Glass Bead Game

We re-enact with reverent attention
The universal chord, the master’s harmony,
Evoking in unsullied communion
Minds and times of highest sanctity.

We draw upon the iconography
Whose mystery is able to contain
The boundlessness, the storm of all existence,
Give chaos form, and hold our lives in rein.

The pattern sings like crystal constellations,
And when we tell our beads, we serve the whole,
And cannot be dislodged or misdirected,
Held in the orbit of the Cosmic Soul.
The Glass Bead Game, a novel by Hermann Hesse

In India’s caste system, Shudra is considered to be the lowest rung of the ladder. But what does that really mean? Upasani Maharaj’s Talk illumines this question from the perspective of a God-Realized Perfect Master.  

From the Truth perspective of the God Realized Masters, all life and all creation has but one objective and one purpose and that is to evolve and involve consciousness so that the Eternal Infinite soul can realize it’s Eternal Infinite Reality. The process is not as difficult to understand as many have made it out be. Consciousness evolves through numerous forms from gaseous to stone, stone to vegetable, insects to reptiles, etc. until it reaches the final form, the human form.

Creation is characterized by duality, every light has its shadow; every knowing has its unknowing; every pain has its pleasure; every face has two eyes; and every left has its right… 

By experiencing an almost endless array of opposites, the dust—what Meher Baba calls sanskaras—that covers the mirror of consciousness is loosened and ultimately removed.

Attainment of the human form marks the achievement of full consciousness, but that consciousness needs to be wiped clean of the dust of its journey through Evolution. Numerous lifetimes in the human form—the Process of Reincarnation—loosens the dust from the mirror sufficiently to allow the Process of Involution to then remove that dust so that the Eternal and Infinite soul can see and then merge with its own Eternal Infinite Reality.

If we have to come back, we cannot stop it. We are in a train, the train is going somewhere. All we can do is to pass the time in the train differently…”The Fourth Way, by P.D. Ouspensky, final sentence, page 437

Meher Baba tells us that the end—union with God—union with Self—is assured for each and every soul in creation. But if we are not driving the train, is there a best and most expedient way to pass our time while on the train?

Meher Baba was very clear on this point, He said, “Don’t worry, be happy!” The Lord wants us, each and every one of us, to be happy, but this happiness is something other than the endless pendulums of pleasure and pain so often experienced in life.

Time revolves in endless cycles of Yugas. There are four Yugas. We are now experiencing the end of the fourth Yuga in the cycle. Like the seasons, Yugas do not change all at once—a day in late summer that feels like fall—eventually those days come more often, summer wains and eventually gives way to the new season.

We are now in that transitional period between the end of Kali Yuga and beginning of Satya Yuga. Satya is a Golden Age; souls born in Satya are totally oriented to the light; spirituality is natural and there is no need for austerities, penances, or yogic practices.

But as the cycle of Yugas progress, more shadows begin to appear and the need for techniques and teachings become more necessary. India’s caste system can be traced back to the transition between the third and fourth Yugas of the cycle—Dwapara and Kali—though it may have existed before then… 

References to India’s caste system can be found in the Bhagavad Gita—the source of the teachings of Krishna who lived in the transitional time between Dwapara and Kali. Kali is generally understood to have begun around 3102 BC. So, India’s caste system’s origin is at least 5,000 years ago. Using Ouspensky’s analogy of the train, the purpose of India’s caste system is to assist embodied souls to best use their time on the train.

It is my understanding that the choice of actions while on the train has more effect on the ‘happiness index’ of the individual than on the overall time of the individual’s journey—in the sense that the journey can be more or less difficult. To speed up the journey requires the Grace of the Avatar or a Perfect Master.

Shudra is inspired by a talk by Upasani Maharaj titled of The Glory of Faith The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A. It focuses on, what for many readers may find a very uncomfortable subject, India’s caste system and what is considered the lowest rung of that ladder, the caste called Shudra.

In the opening statement of His talk, Upasani Maharaj tell us that human form represents the crowning creation of evolutionary consciousness that began with the stone form and evolved through the mineral, vegetable, worm, fish, bird, reptile, and animal forms. He then goes on to say that of the human form represented by the Brahman class represents the highest stage in human evolution and the Shudra class represents the lowest, or the first, stage in human evolution.

It is the human form alone that is capable of understanding—knowing—attaining—enjoying the Original state—the Brahma; that is the reason for the creation of the human form.

“Since the visible human form is the natural outcome of the formless invisible Brahma, the first stage of that form is bound to be of the highest importance; this primary—original—human state has to be given some name for the purpose of identification, and hence the name explaining the natural state of Brahma was chosen for it, and that epithet is Shudra.

“I have told times out of numbers that names are given in accordance with the qualities presented by the subject. It is on this principle that the epithet Shudra was chosen to name the primary human form. I will now tell you what is the real—the subtle—meaning of the word Shudra.

The word Shudra consists of three letters—Shu, plus ut, plus ra; Shu means Shuddha—pure—without any admixture; ut means high—higher status; ra means luminous, full of knowledge, Satchitananda (knowledge, power, and bliss) Brahma (Creator). Thus the primary state of the human form is Brahma itself; or it could be said that primary evolutional human stage of Brahma has been named Shudra.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, pages 32-33

Much of the meaning of this statement hinges on the meaning of the terms primary state of the human form and primary evolutional human stage. In God Speaks Meher Baba distinguishes the first human form from the birth of a human being:
This (most first) human form is no other than the consolidated mold or cast of the impressions of the most-last species of animal-form.”God Speaks, 2nd edition, page 28

Unlike Darwin’s Theory of Evolution which is concerned with the evolution of forms, Meher Baba uses the term evolution to mean the evolution of consciousness. In God Speaks, Meher Baba details the evolution of consciousness through all of the gross forms of creation from stone to vegetable to fish, bird, and animal—all the forms that lead up to the first human form. This first human form stands on the line of demarcation between the last animal form and the first birth of a human being. With the first birth of a human being begins the process that Meher Baba calls reincarnation:

Through the first-most human-form the consciousness of the souls experiences and exhausts the impressions of the most-last species of animal-form.
“When all the impressions of the most-last species of animal-form are experienced and exhausted by the consciousness of the soul, then the soul dissociates itself from the most-first human form and the conscious soul automatically drops or sheds the body association. This is called the death of the most-first human form.”—Ibid.

In the next paragraph Meher Baba explains that when the soul identifies with the next human form it is called “the birth of a human being.” —Ibid. page 29

One question I have is whether Upasani Maharaj’s use of the term Shudra is synonymous with the first-human form or the form called the first human being? I tend to favor the former over the latter, but with reservations…

In His talk Upasani goes on to describe the qualities of the primary state of the human form:

Now look at the qualities presented the Shudra. He does not generally play any part in the good or bad affairs of the world. He just works for the bare necessities of life. He has not much impression of pleasure and pain. Except for self-protection he has hardly any desires. He hardly evinces any egoistic attitude. He has a tendency to behave in accordance with the formula, ‘Be as it may.’ Desires and anger hardly affect him. He has no particular form of conduct or any thought.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 33

It is important to keep in mind that Shudra does not here signify a person as much as it signifies a state of consciousness. This state of consciousness is a rung on the ladder of the soul’s ascent to Self-Realization. All souls passing from the Process of Evolution into the Process of Reincarnation pass through the Shudra state—whether it is identified as Shudra or not. The Shudra state is not limited to India’s caste system, but in that system it is given the name Shudra.

To the worldly intoxicated, Upasani’s description of the Shudra state may not seem very appealing, but looking deeper at the qualities, there is much to be appreciated. “Desires and anger hardly affect him.” If one is honest with oneself does not one agree that both desire and anger are painful states of restlessness?

He does not generally play any part in the good or bad affairs of the world.” Again, do not the good and bad affairs of the world just go on and on? One has to decide for oneself if deeper and deeper involvement with these affairs actually leads to any real and sustained happiness for oneself or anyone else?

Then too, there is Upasani’s statement; “He has a tendency to behave in accordance with the formula, ‘Be as it may.’”  To those familiar with Upasani’s talks, this formula, Be as it may, represents the highest state that one can achieve in the world. To identify someone as being in the state of Be as it may is the very highest of praises.

As has been stated; Karma is the hand one is dealt; Dharma is the way one plays that hand. There is no choice in Karma, but there is some choice in exercising one’s Dharma. Choice in Dharma is guided by what one takes the object of the game to be. One plays the game according to what one takes as the highest directive of one’s conscience and consciousness.

On the Karmic pendulum, the beggar and the king continue to exchange their roles until the pendulum stops moving—and it will stop moving, eventually. The question becomes; are there actions that one can perform that can inhibit or expedite the stopping of the pendulum?

If we have to come back, we cannot stop it. We are in a train, the train is going somewhere. All we can do is to pass the time the time in the train differently—do something useful or spend it quite uselessly.”The Fourth Way, by P.D. Ouspensky, final sentence, page 437

 Now look at the qualities presented the Shudra. He does not generally play any part in the good or bad affairs of the world. He just works for the bare necessities of life. He has not much impression of pleasure and pain. Except for self-protection he has hardly any desires. He hardly evinces any egoistic attitude. He has a tendency to behave in accordance with the formula, ‘Be as it may.’ Desires and anger hardly affect him. He has no particular form of conduct or any thought.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 33

He then went on to explain;

In the good old days these were the qualities presented by Shudras and Shudras should be like that. It is in this form of Shudra that Bliss evolved as the first stage of the human form. We know that Shudra means Satchitananda. It is this Shudratva that is useful for the Brahma Sanskara to become a Brahmana.” – Ibid.

The good old days…” When Upasani Maharaj speaks about the good old days, he is speaking about a time many hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago when the state of consciousness called Shudra (Shudratva) had none of the negativity implied by the term as it is used in the remnants of India’s caste system as it is found in the much more recent 20th and 21st centuries. 

Satchidananda means Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Power, and Infinite Bliss. These are the qualities of God as Creator—Brahma—and Brahma Sanskaras refers to the impressions of, in this case, Infinite Bliss, which can be experienced—can be manifested— in the human form, i.e. in state of God (Self) Realization. He underscores this point in the following statement;

It brings forth one important point, that the human life—the form of the human being—is not born for worldly pleasures, or to deal with the affairs of the world.” – Ibid.
Once again, the consistent message of all the Perfect Ones, that creation exists wholly and solely for the evolution and involution of consciousness to realize God (Self).

A thousand times I have looked and a thousand times I have ascertained that the universe and all its concerns are truly nothing into nothing.” – Hafez

Over and over again, the Masters are always reminding us of the meaning of our state in the process of God Realization. God Realization implies consciousness and consciousness is acquired through the processes that unfold in creation—the dream state of God.

To come to the human state is to descend from the original; it is also called Sansara (the word literally means slipping down) and is commonly taken to mean worldly life. To become a human thus is coming down; but it does not mean that we should get engrossed in the affairs of the world and thus cause oneself to suffer for births on end. Having descended, to try for and attain the Bliss once again (consciously) is to ascend.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 34

And so, how should one try to live in the world—in the human form—in the state of the dream? 
So many answers have been given;

Be in the world, but not of it.”

Trust in God, but tie your camel first!

Don’t worry, be happy!

Gurdjieff once said, “He who is really serious takes nothing seriously; he who takes everything seriously cannot be very serious!”

To come down to the human state and go back—ascend to the original state completes the circle; to ascend is the duty of a human being. To become second from the one and become one once again is to complete the work for which the second came into existence. Only coming down to the human state is not completing the task.” – Ibid, page 35

How is it possible to understand anything without a right sense of everything? Is this why sleeping man seems unable to understand himself and the creation and God? If life is viewed as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, then how is it possible to understand rightly the meaning and purpose of birth and death, happiness and misery, failure and success—all of the dualities and all of the apparent contradictions that plague the mind of man?  And so it is the work of the Avatar and the Perfect Masters to continue remind us of the meaning and purpose of the state we find ourselves in. 

Consider the title of Meher Baba’s book, God Speaks—The Theme of Creation and Its Purpose.
The Avatar and the Perfect Masters are very practical. They know our precarious position better than anyone. They know that until the Goal is reached we will continue to miss the mark—the word in the New Testament is hamartia—the word that has been translated into English as sin.

As Meher Baba said, in the false consciousness of man, “Illusion appears to be most real and God appears to be most unreal!” And so the Avatar and the Perfect Masters keep reminding us even though, or perhaps because, as Kabir put it, “Until you experience it, it is not true.”

No doubt India’s caste system as it is found these days is degenerated and has become obsolete. In His life and work, Meher Baba demonstrated again and again that all souls are equal in the eyes of God—giving no importance to caste, creed, or religious affiliation. 

So the purpose of this series of posts titled Shudra is not to promote or justify the caste system, but to recognize what it was implemented to do in a different time and for a specific period of time—and perhaps, for some other time in the future that has yet to come.  For although times and cycles of time continue to change, seemingly endlessly, the meaning and purpose of creation remains the same, and it is for this purpose alone that Upasani Maharaj’s talk is of the utmost value and importance. Can we call it a prodding to awaken?

We lower a pail in the well, but this is not completing the task; only when we raise it up full of water and bring it to the surface is the task of obtaining water is completed. To lower the bucket is effortless—it just slips down. Descent is natural and effortless, but to raise it up requires effort and time. Upon raising it up we get the water for which we used the pail.

“Descent and ascent are required to complete any task, and in that too, the two actions are always opposed to each other; this is the Siddhanta. Exactly like the descent of Bliss to the primary human state—the Shudra—is only half the task—the effortless part of it; the second part of the task is to make efforts and realize one’s Self—attain the Bliss—the original state of one’s Self—this is the effortful part of the task.” – Ibid. page 35

So lowering the pail takes no effort, but raising the pail does—makes sense—seems clear—but how does it apply? Perhaps each and every soul has its own way—its own path. There are as many paths to God as there are souls in creation.

A Buddhist teacher once said, “Truth is like the hub of the wheel. Spokes from the hub fan out to the rim. At the rim the spokes are very far apart, but as they move toward the center—the hub—they come closer and closer till at the center they become one.”

The mind thinks effortlessly and who would deny that for the average person the vast majority of these thoughts are concerned with life and life’s problems. To think about God—to remember God—takes effort and the efforts that are most efficacious are according to unique impressions—sanskaras—gathered by each soul’s mind during the course of the evolution of its consciousness.

Meher Baba often explained, that once the consciousness of the soul reaches the human form, that consciousness is full and complete and is capable of realizing God, but because of the burden of sanskaras gathered during the evolutionary process that continue to cling to the mind like dust on a mirror, consciousness experiences not God, but instead, it continues to experience its own impressions of illusion.

Since the matrices of impressions are different due to the uniqueness of each souls journey, the efforts necessary to remove those sanskaras will necessarily be different, and even differ for the same soul at different stages of it journey. This is why there are many religions and many teachings and many isms and non-isms.

Alas, don’t tell me the Christians are lost,
Don’t tell me the Jews are lost,
Don’t tell met the Infidels are lost.
Alas my brother, you are lost,
That is why everyone else seems lost!” – Rumi

To those gathered that day to hear Upasani Maharaj’s talk, he said, “Even though the word Shudra actually means the Almighty—the Infinite Bliss—you people look down upon a Shudra as the lowest.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 35.

How can one know the truth and speak the truth if one is not one with the truth? And so to His followers He explained that in their topsy-turvy understanding of truth they should consider that whatever it is that they take to be the lowest, is, in fact, where the Bliss resides.

“Whatever is considered lowest by you the Bliss is there.” – Ibid.

Explaining further He said, “Without smallness—humility—ignorance—one cannot attain that Bliss. ‘Ignorant’ means a person who understands nothing of the world, and unless one attains the state of not understanding anything pertaining to the world, one cannot attain the Bliss.”  Ibid.

Ignorance is Bliss.” I remember hearing that when I was a child.

As a child, I lived in my dreams; the world of my waking state made little sense to me and the explanations of my family, teachers, religion, etc. did not have the ring of truth that I found in fairy tales and old sayings;

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

“But there must be real truth and there must be people who know it,” I thought, and became a seeker and eventually, by the grace of God, I heard the messages and teachings of advanced souls and the Avatars and the Perfect Masters.

In the conclusion to His book, God Speaks, Meher Baba states;

Nevertheless, all that is said here and explained about God to appease the intellectual convulsions of the mind of man still lacks many words and further explanations because the TRUTH is that Reality must be realized and the divinity of God must be attained and lived.”

Some have used this statement to support the claim that knowledge and understanding are somehow unimportant, but, Meher Baba did write the book, the fact of which makes me assume that a mind appeased of intellectual convulsions is a happy mind, and a happy mind is a great thing to have along the path to God.

When a problem comes to a man with a troubled mind, it is like chiseled into the stone; but when a problem comes to a man with a happy mind, it’s like written in the sand.” – Old Sanskrit saying.

Meher Baba always reminded us, “Don’t worry; be happy!”

The Avatar and the Perfect Masters want us to be happy in life; they don’t like glum and sour faces that betray a state of mind that believes in the ‘reality’ of illusion. Sure, there is and will be suffering along the way, but a mind appeased of intellectual convulsions—a happy mind—is a mind that is best prepared to take on this illusion of reality. A mind appeased of intellectual convulsions stands almost next to God Realization itself in rarity and value.

India’s caste system of old was a kind of mechanism that helped all souls who had achieved the human form and its consequent state of reincarnation to progress with most expediency and happiness to the state of involution of consciousness and its ultimate goal of God Realization. But, its efficacy was dependent upon a high degree of natural impressions impressing the consciousness of creation in the stages of evolution and most importantly, reincarnation.

Apparently we are not now is such a period of time. The Kali Yuga is a time in which non-natural impressions burden human consciousness in the state of reincarnation and that is why it is so difficult to have any real understanding of truth.

Upasani Maharaj was not arguing for the continuation of the caste system at this time, He was just reminding us of times when life was more natural—more in tune with its purpose.

Once the Brahma is attained and the actions to attain it are ceased, the only thing that remains is the state of being engrossed in that Infinite Bliss. What is that Bliss, how much it is, what is its extent, what is its nature, is only understood when one reaches it—when one attains it—it is like the old proverb, ‘Jave tyachya vansha tevan kale,’—meaning, if you want to understand a particular state, you have to go into that state.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani Maharaja, Volume 1, Part A, page 36

It is now clear why and how the Shudra becomes a Brahmana. Once the Shudra becomes a Brahmana—attains the Brahma state—though he ceases to be recognized as a Shudra, yet he shows all those real qualities of the state of Shudra, i.e., actionless, egoless, conductless, thoughtless, etc., i.e., the state of ‘Be as it may’. A person who reaches this high state of ‘Be as it may’ is the Brahmana.” –Ibid. page 37

Be as it may.” Upasani Maharaj refers to this state again and again throughout His talks. To the topsy-turvy mind of the worldly minded, “Be as it may” might suggest a state or practice of dullness, lack of ambition, drive, goalessness, or indifference—a waste of a perfectly good life.

But in the natural world—the world that understands its purpose, place, and meaning in the greater theme of creation—the state in which one actions are motivated by the needs of others, rather than the desires of oneself—Be as it may is a prescription for playing the game of life (Dharma) at the highest of levels—the highest common denominator.

Real happiness lies in making others happy.” – Meher Baba

But how can one make others happy if one is always thinking and acting on one’s own behalf? There seems to be two correct options; either act out of the real interest of others, or not act at all—beyond responding to the exigencies of the situations one finds oneself in. Recently a friend passed this advice on from a friend of his, “There are only two businesses; my business and none of my business.” My friend then went on to say, “But, in fact, there is only Baba’s business,” (God’s business). The Shudra’s business is his own business—the life he lives—the affairs of others, the affairs of the world, do not even touch him.

One who is in the real state of Shudra acts correctly, but acts without consciousness. It is a divine irony that the Shudra has to lose his Shudra state in order to regain it again consciously.

The pure Shudra and the pure Brahmana were the only two states to begin with. First appeared the pure Shudra; then he became the Brahmana with the help of Brahma-kriyas—(practices). The other two common states (castes) of Vaishya and Kshastriya, to which the majority of the human beings belong in the world, are meant for the proper working—for the stability—of the human society. For attaining the Bliss, the pure states of Brahman and Shudra are alone qualified. – Ibid. page 38.

When Perfect Masters speak about the beginning, they are speaking about a time when the sanskaras that impress consciousness were natural—about a time when consciousness did not, as it were, dote along the way of reincarnation. It appears that we are not now in that period of time.

Right to begin with, thus, there were only these two states of Shudra and Brahmana, but later, as the objects and affairs of the world began to affect them, many of these pure Shudras and pure Brahmanas could not keep up their levels and began to degrade themselves; they lost their Brahma-kriyas and thus they and their descendants became impure and degraded. To establish proper order amongst the human beings under those circumstances the four-fold class system of Brahmana, Kshastriya, Vaishya, and Shudra was instituted. If human beings behave according to what is laid down for their class, they soon attain the pure Shudra or the pure Brahmana state. This happens by exchange of births from one class to another on the strict observance of the different rules meant for each class.” – Ibid. page 39

Farmers and merchants are in the Vaishya class. They work hard, labor hard, and do spiritual practices appropriate to the state of their sanskaras. The Kshastriya class is a warrior class; they protect society. They too have appropriate spiritual practices they have to maintain. The question arises: In today’s modern western society, are these castes—these categories—even with all of their sub-categories, able to account for all of the various individualities of the modern world?

Meher Baba said many things about the caste system as it is found today; the gist of these comments is that the caste system is not necessary and that it actually has become a hindrance along the path to God-Consciousness. Instead, Avatar Meher Baba—the Ancient One—brought us The New Life—a life that is as modern as it is ancient and as eternal as it is timeless.
Reprinted here, without permission:

“This New Life is endless, and even after my physical death it will be kept alive by those who live the life of complete renunciation of falsehood, lies, hatred, anger, greed and lust;  and who, to accomplish all this, do no lustful actions, do no harm to anyone, do no backbiting, do not seek material possessions or power, who accept no homage, neither covet honor nor shun disgrace, and fear no one and nothing; by those who rely wholly and solely on God, and who love God purely for the sake of loving; who believe in the lovers of God and in the reality of Manifestation, and yet do not expect any spiritual or material reward; who do not let go the hand of Truth, and who, without being upset by calamities, bravely and wholeheartedly face all hardships with one hundred percent cheerfulness, and give no importance to caste, creed and religious ceremonies.
“This New Life will live by itself eternally, even if there is no one to live it.” – Meher Baba

“Grandfather, would you like some more tea?”

“Yes my dear.”

“And Choi?”

“Yes, thank you Mera. The tea is delicious and sharing this moment with you and your grandfather here in this beautiful garden, and talking about God and His mysteries has been special for me.”

“For me as well… Ah, Ayushya! Please come in!”

“Salam! So much time has passed since we last met!”

“Still it only seems like yesterday.”

“The heart experiences longing while the head experiences time.”

“Yes, grandfather, that is so true. May we be blessed with consciousness of that eternal ever-renewing state of the heart.”

“Inshalla!  Some tea Ayushya?”

“Yes please Mera.”

“Ayushya, I would like to introduce you to our friend Choi.”

“ Hello Choi, I  have been looking forward to meeting you ever since Mera mentioned you and your interest in Shudra and the questions you have.”

“Yes thank you. First let me begin by saying that though I have I read carefully the first 80 pages or so of Upasani’s discourses I do not claim to be an expert on his teachings.”

“Nor I.”

“So from my readings, it appears that Upasani makes clear that the four-fold caste system was inaugurated by God, since time immemorial, and will go on into the future. Yet, you state in your blog that the caste system may be for past yugas but not for now or the New Humanity which is unfolding—can you explain?”

“I will try. Let’s say you have a tool—like a screw driver—and when you are not using it you put it in your tool box. The screwdriver is still there, it is just not in use at the time.”

“But when the need arises, it is there in the tool box ready to be used again.”

“God has many tools, the greatest and dearest of which is His Advent as the Avatar—when He takes a human birth and lives amongst us—His creation—His dream— in order to help us remember the theme and purpose of creation and help us to achieve that consciousness of Self.”

“So true grandfather!”

“Mera can you find that passage in God Speaks that begins, ‘This eternally one and the same Avatar…?’”

“Yes, Ayushya, it’s here in the chapter, Evolution of Consciousness. ‘This eternally One and the same Avatar is made to repeat His manifestation from time to time, in different cycles, adopting different names and different human-forms, in different places, to reveal Truth in different garbs and different languages, in order to raise humanity from the pit of ignorance and help free it from the bondage of delusions.’

“And when that tool is out of the box—when the Avatar is among us—He takes precedent over all the other tools in the box.”

“Yes Choi, and during His time among He also sharpens and repairs all the other tools in the box.”

“Another question I would like to discuss is that in the Bhagavad-Gita there seems to be no mention of the caste system as being ‘hereditary’—it seems to be guided by ‘aptitude’—but Upasani, seems to suggest it is  that it also hereditary, at least for the Brahmans. I’m curious what your read is on this?”

 “My thinking here is that when un-natural (non-natural) impressions do not overwhelm the states of evolution and reincarnation, then, in fact, there is no distinction or conflict at all between heredity and aptitude—they are virtually the same. But in this present moment of time, when un-natural (non-natural) impressions overwhelm the states of evolution and reincarnation, a distinction between heredity and aptitude can be made because human beings sometimes attempt dharmas which are not appropriate to their own particular karmas. The Bhagavad-Gita is set in the time of Krishna—many thousands of years ago—when the cycle of yugas was transitioning from Dwapara Yuga to our current Kali Yuga. At that time, to attempt to practice another’s dharma instead of one’s own was more the exception than the rule.”

“True; I believe it is even said, ‘To practice one’s own dharma imperfectly is far better than practicing another’s dharma perfectly.”

“It does seem that it is much easier to see another’s weaknesses than to see one’s own.”

“That is very true granddaughter, very true.”

 “Choi, would you repeat that couplet that Meherwan Jessawala rapped to you? In the end, I feel it is an appropriate comment on the whole discussion of Shudra and the Indian caste system.”

“Of course Mera, Meherwanji said; 

“Repeating His name is the name of the Game!
The name of the Game is repeating His name!”

“I totally agree Mera that this couplet is a most fitting perspective on this conversation regarding Upasani Maharaj’s talk and my series of posts called Shudra. In the beginning I was attracted to this talk because I felt that in it Upasani Maharaj was reminding us again, as He and all the Perfect Masters and Incarnations of the Avatar do and have always done, that life is not meant for satisfying one’s own desires—that there was—there is—another purpose to it all and the seemingly endless rounds of births and deaths that consciousness experiences in order to finally and once and for all experience the Bliss of Self.”

“‘When he returns to the door from which he first came out, although in his journey he went from door to door.’”

“Indeed Grandfather, indeed! And do you have any final thoughts on the matter?”

“My dear, nothing is ever final until the all beginnings and endings are dissolved in the Infinite and Eternal. But I can say this; I have studied Upasani’s Shudra talk many times and feel that the caste system is like a ladder. Consciousness—souls—ascend and descend that ladder until the time ordained by God for them to depart that ladder forever. A Brahman, when it is time for him to leave his body, but whose time to depart the ladder and experience Fana—the passing away into God—takes another birth in one of the other castes depending on his karmic inclinations. Thus, there is both ascent and decent on the ladder. It is my opinion that the key that unlocks the door to the final Fana is the ability to attend adequately to one’s own karma with poise and without pride, attachment, or identification.”



                                                                                    © copyright Michael Kovitz 2018

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