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The following is a paper written in the process of creating a talk for INK, an Indian subsidiary of TED. From the information contained in this paper, the actual talk was curated down to 15 minutes and delivered at the INK conference in Kochi, Kerala from 25-27 October, 2013.


Introduction: Why am I here?

Basic Question: What are we in?

One Treasure: Many Maps

The Treasure: Achieving the State of Understanding.

The Mandala

True Gravity: From This to That

Darkness: This without That

The Velocity of Delusion


The True Gravity of Indian Genius, Delusion, and the Velocity Towards the West

William Pennell Rock

Dear Friends, I am very grateful and honored to be here, because I love and admire the great genius of India, and, like many others, I have profited from it greatly.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see what is truly valuable within a culture.

The people of Naples did not know how to value their native pizza until they were told it had become the staple of American tables. But the ancient genius of India is much more than pizza. It addresses the fundamental existential condition of being human. It has clarified an orientation to and alignment with the source of human existence that humanity needs now more than ever in its history.

I have noticed that many Indians who would be real movers and shakers in the world tend to rush West with a velocity that leaves their ancient past behind in the dust. It seems to have become fashionable to be ignorant of this heritage, as though it were a kind of embarrassment.

I am here to ignite the passion for what is anciently Indian, but still within every Indian, in your very genes. I want to point out how valuable it is to understand the wisdom in your own roots, how it is the only authentic antidote to the condition of the world, how it will inform and underscore and fulfill your journey through life, allowing you to be entrepreneurial with true purpose, in service to your own full awareness as you travel through life, and an inspiration to all those around you.

My past lives remain an intriguing mystery, a likely story, but in this life I have had three Indian incarnations. In the first I was Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study in Philosophy at Banaras Hindu University, where I headed a committee of Indian scholars who studied the Upanishads, the oldest and most important fragments of the earliest maps to the treasure of enlightenment. Later, I reincarnated in Pune as a disciple of the great tantric bad-boy Master now known as Osho. He gave me a name of Siva, Anand Veereshwar, and taught me first-hand how to find the treasure. In a third, I discovered a small Veereshwar shrine in Gujarat. The Mahant, head of the shrine, who subsists on chai and charras, befriended me, took me to the kumbha mela, renamed me Veereshwardas, and invited me to take up residence in the shrine complex in an ornate pavilion built by the local maharajah. I passed up this interesting retirement option for my own mini-ashram in California, where I am the devoted disciple of my sat guru, my own inborn awareness, because in the end this is the real guide to the treasure.

As long as I can remember hearing about India, I have understood there was a great treasure there -- something that we all really want, above all else. But how to find it? How to identify it? Studying comparative religions, I became a scholar of maps to this treasure. Many of these maps, the most psychologically detailed and insightful, have been created by the wise and holy men of India. Many, many maps.

Starting with the Beatles, many from my generation and sensibility came to India in search of the treasure. I recently read the biography of another pilgrim, Steve Jobs. Like many of us, after learning of the treasure in India, he was later inspired by Japan and Zen, which simplifies everything, including the treasure, to its essence. Jobs translated the treasure, not, unfortunately, into his own inner peace, but into my Macbook Pro, whose elegance comes from its harmony of design, a simple systemic integrity, with hardware and software tightly integrated, from source to user. This particular refraction of the treasure will interest the materialists among you. It is worth billions.

Now I want to tell you why I think the real treasure is the most important thing in the world.

What are we in?

The nature of the treasure brings us immediately to a basic question of human existence. What are you in? What are we in?

One answer might be, “one hell of a mess.” Collectively as a planet we are in unprecedented and grave danger. Like a juggernaut, we go on destroying the home that supports life as we know it. We see strife everywhere. Every faction is pitted against every other, with less and less prospect of peaceful resolution. The habitable world is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, and there is no real prospect of reversing this

Individually, what we are in may be a lot of confusion and psychological chaos. Everyone is out for themselves, driven compulsively to consume more. More. In the West we certainly have more, but no one is really satisfied. That is why our cultural sensitives have been streaming to India, where they pass trendy Indians rushing in the other direction.

In fact, there is great darkness abroad, individual and collective darkness. It is as though the world were a spinning wheel that has gone off its axle. It is for this reason that the great treasure to be found in India is more valuable than ever, because it is the authentic promise of light in the darkness.

To really understand this we must go deeper into the question of what we are in? Your ancestors understood that our well-being in this life is intimately related to the way we answer this question and live it out. The question is not mere philosophical curiosity, but vitally existential. Getting it wrong leads to the suffering we are in today.

In Western culture, the prevailing answer to our question is that we are temporary visitors in the factual world of all and everything that we call the universe or the cosmos. We became expert at studying this world through science and manipulating it through technology. These are enviable achievements, but as it turns out, not the way to the treasure, because the underlying assumption is basically erroneous. In fact the idea that the treasure can be reached through such objective and empirical methods is fundamentally misleading.

Prior to being in this world we are actually in consciousness. In the West our academics know very little about this. Stephen Hawking, the famous Cambridge cosmologist, once told me we can’t know anything about consciousness, because it is not measurable. Your ancestors fundamentally disagreed. In fact, one of them, Gautam Buddha, arguably the greatest of all treasure mappers, gave us to understand that mere knowledge as such is the booby prize. When questions about the nature of objective reality were put to him, he dismissed them outright: they do not fit the case.

Well, what then does fit the case?

Consciousness is more basic than the real world. The world is only actual if it is present to you, and this actual presence is what I mean by consciousness. What we are in, the world present to consciousness, has been called the kosmos, with a k, as opposed to the objective cosmos studied by Hawking, spelled with a c.

In fact real existential knowing is not knowledge, as such, but gnosis (skt. Jnan-). Knowledge is facts: gnosis is existential awareness of your own being. Knowledge deals with facts: gnosis is understanding the awareness into which you were born.

Your ancestors understood that attaining the treasure is not a matter of knowing information, what is to be known, but of how the real gnosis can take place. The Indian genius was fundamentally pragmatic, practical, because they discovered what works in consciousness, what works in human existence. They discovered the nature of gnosis.

So today I want to drive home two basic things about the fundamental pragmatism of Indian genius.

-Truth is not philosophy or science, but a state of being.

-Therefore you have to negate propositions or theories, while evoking the state of gnosis and showing how to reach it.

One Treasure, Many Maps

There is a saying that characterizes the genius of India.

Truth is one: wise men call it by many names.

The great seers of India came up with many, many ways of coming to realize what we are in. The reality of gnosis, is not attained by science, not even philosophy, because it cannot be known through empirical research and theory. It can only be realized through the cultivation of what you basically already know, but have yet to discern. The real genius of India was not to state accurately what we are in, but to come up with the directives for how to intuit and realize it, as that is the only response that, in Buddha’s words, truly fits the case.

Stating the truth of what we are in is not the real value. In fact any name for it is always relative. That is why wise men call it by so many different names. Truth is not a proposition or theory or metaphysics, but an experience of gnosis that generalizes into a state of being. Defining and discussing what we are in is useful only as a map. This is fundamentally different from the West where knowledge and its technological exploitations are the end product. For this reason Western philosophy can never do justice to the Indian tradition and misunderstands it -- chronically.

In the ancient West, achieving the state of gnosis did exist in the great mystery schools: for instance, the hermetic schools of Egypt and the classical Greek and Hellenic academies, including those of Plato and Plotinus. But with the rise of Christianity, gnosticism in all its forms was persecuted out of existence or sent underground into esoteric practices still to be found in the West. Since the dream of Christian Empire faded, the West dreams of a final theory or proposition about the truth, with an eye towards its technological use to alter or modify what we are in.

Philosophizing is the booby prize. You have to “get it”, “grok it”. Attaining true gnosis is an intuitive process, informed and led by the above mentioned satguru at the center of consciousness, the given awareness we all have of our own being, which must be cultivated through radical and pragmatic intuition.

The Treasure: Achieving the State of Understanding

Since truth is a state of being, the question that truly fits the case is how can we realize the truth of what we are in, that is, experience and exist in a state based on a fundamental understanding of what we are in. The truth state accords with how things stand with consciousness. Gnosis is an alignment with the Source producing a natural rectitude of Being. You know you have achieved this state when the frenzy of your addictions grows calm. You know silence and are content in it, and above all, you want to be kind. Realizing and existing in this state of being is the very nature of true value.

Each religion or path in India was founded by someone who reached the treasure and, out of compassion for the turmoil and dis-ease of others, set down the map by which he attained it. Others follow him and make of his map a religion or mystical path. India’s infinite religious paths and disciplines of contemplation may seem confused and bewildering, but each was once the vehicle by which someone attained the treasure.

This brings us to the second point I want to drive home. Since the treasure is not a proposition or a scientific theory, you have to discourage or negate the tendency to find and settle upon it intellectually and instead, evoke the state of gnosis and show how to reach it.

The gnosis of what we are actually in can only be grasped intuitively, but those who have attained this treasure have left us their maps. The truth is one treasure, but the many names are many paths, many maps. I suspected this by studying comparative religions and confronting India’s astonishing array of religions. But I really honed in on it by studying the Upanishads, the ancient completion of the Vedas. Each verse or section suggests a different way of presenting what we are in and gives a directive for attaining the treasure. Many of these differing perspectives expressed in the Upanishads have established religions or paths in their own right.

On the surface, this is very bewildering, but the very fact that the question gets approached in different ways is actually an advantage for the serious treasure seeker, a way to encourage the given intuition of gnosis and discourage engaging in fabricating mere “know-it-all” theory or philosophy. Zen deals with this very elegantly. If you start philosophizing or behaving like a know-it-all, the Master just slaps you.

I am going to demonstrate this aspect of Indian Genius: how one intuitive truth can be expressed in differing ways.

The Mandala.

When those who see the truth want to display the totality of consciousness, they use a mandala, the figure with a center. The visual metaphor is a wheel on its axis. In India mandalas are used a great deal in Tantra, which is concerned with achieving the totality of consciousness, and also in the many glorious Tibetan Buddhist tangkas that express their view of the totality of consciousness.

Like all mandalas, this one is only a graphic metaphor, a map intended to show the landscape of what you are in, and to indicate the way to the treasure, what you should do. This is the essential intention built into the form of the Upanishads. “This is how things stand, therefore do so and so.” I will illustrate this by showing you several ways of elucidating this mandala. Each map I will describe is a different way of displaying the kosmos, each a metaphor intended to provoke your own intuitive gnosis.

What these maps have in common is represented in the basic features of the graphic. The center orients the whole and holds it all together. The black square at the center is surrounded by a white circle enclosed in a larger black square. The central black square is identical in shape to the outer square. This identity is essential to each map and to the way to the treasure itself. The mandala is static, but it implies a dynamic, a true gravity, so to speak. Think of the inner square as having a gravitational pull to expand and incorporate the white circle and fulfill its identity with the outer black square. The center is drawn to unify and contextualize all that is in the circle by realizing its identity and unity with the outer black square. Another way of saying this is that the outer black square draws the inner square to expand and incorporate the circle, ultimately becoming one with its outer identity. The “whole” is the oneness of the black squares, which incorporates the white circle, as it were, setting it properly on its axle. Everything must be aligned with the center. The true gravity of alignment is the fundamental dynamic of consciousness, and allowing yourself to be drawn by it is the basic possibility for you to become one. This union is the treasure.

Remember, as you strain to understand these formulaic metaphors, each is saying the same basic thing and is only a portrayal of what your inborn awareness already knows. Try to relax into this awareness, rather than strain to understand.

Metaphor 1. Computer: Virtual reality

This map uses the metaphor of the reality generated by a computer as it is experienced by you, the operator.

- The black square is the hard drive and operating system.

- The white circle is the software and the data on the screen.

- The center of all this is you, the computer operator.

The center square as your own awareness corresponds to the outer square as the hard drive and operating system. Keep your eye on this functional identity between the black squares. This identity is the one so ingeniously streamlined and simplified by Jobs as he kept aligning user and hardware.

So, what are we in?

In virtual reality, you the operator are in the reality projected by the software and data, which functions on the basis of the hardware. But often it gets corrupted.

What should you do?

If your virtual reality is malfunctioning, you need to reboot, meaning everything goes back to its given form in the hard drive, because that is its source.

Please absorb this metaphor, and let us move on.

Metaphor 2: Theism

All religions featuring belief in a supreme God or deity construe the mandala in the same way.

- The outer black Square is God, almighty creator and sustainer. Expressing True Gravity, the deity sends emissaries of himself into the world as saviors for those who, in their own response to True Gravity, place faith in him.

- The inner white circle is the world, or the worldly reality, created by the God, but largely conceived as vanity, sin, or suffering.

- The inner black square is the I-self, created by God “in His own image”, as reflected in the identity of the inner and outer square forms. This I-self is sometimes figured as the soul whose own expression of True Gravity is the longing for God.

What are you in?

You are an I- self in the Image of God Almighty. You are in the world or reality. The nature of the world is vanity, sometimes called sin. But it is ultimately and imminently presided over by God Almighty, who issues the means, vehicle, or incarnation by which to “know Him’.

Such religions usually depend upon the belief that this is the one and only truth.

What should you do?

You should forsake the ways of the world and come to know God, through study of the scripture, faith and prayer. Prayer is communion with God. In this, the I-self is often assisted by inborn divine awareness (the Holy Spirit) and by various teachers or champions, who provide the means to unite with or rectify oneself with God. This process is assisted by uncompromising faith in the teacher/ helpers/ champions projected to exist in the world, emanations of God such as various gurus or saints, divine figures such as Krishna, prophets, such as Mohammed, or special teachers, such as Jesus.

Union with God is experienced as salvation, eternal life. It is celebrated with rituals of communion. Union with God is expressed in the Old Testament with the words “I am that I am”. In Christianity, the fundamental possibility for union of the I-self with God is Christ.

Metaphor 3: Your Existential Reality,

This portrays where you stand and what you actually experience.

- The outer black square is Being, your given nature, which you have in common with all humans, by virtue of which all humanity is one. It is full of potential, but not yet actual.

- The white circle is the reality in which you dwell, all this – your subjective and objective world -- as you experience and understand it.

- You, the inner square, are the chooser at the center of your actual reality, your universe, but in a greater context, you are also the same as the one Being you share with all humanity.

What are you in?

You are the center of Being surrounded by your subjectively understood everyday reality. However, your everyday must accord with your given reality as a human being. Otherwise your reality is, so to speak, off its axis.

What should you do?

As your awareness is given and has the form of Being itself, you must develop in such a way as to accord with Being. Therefore, expand your awareness to know your Being. This rectifies your world.

Metaphor 4: Buddhist Mind Only

This metaphor portrays the Buddhist idea that only mind exists. There is no real world at all, no real facts, only interpretations, only the mind.

- Outer Black Square – the Absolute Mind, the almighty base of all mind common to all humanity. This source surrounds the...

- White Circle – your relative mind that yields all reality as you understand it. Effectively, this means anything that IS, any fact. If you can say something IS, you are populating your relative reality. This includes your objective understanding of the cosmos as well as your personal reality. This reality is relative to your perspective, understanding, and the prevailing way that the world is understood. This relativistic understanding of the world has become fashionable as the basis of Western post-modernism.

- The Center – your given, inborn awareness. I have been calling this the sat guru, because it is this given awareness alone, when cultivated into gnosis, that is capable of bringing together the reality of the relative mind with the nature of the absolute mind.

What are you in?

You are the center of Mind. Your innate awareness is the given unity of the relative and absolute minds. Your inborn awareness alone can bring them together in gnosis. This is your unequivocal responsibility.

What should you do?

Activate and cultivate your inborn awareness in order to realize the systemic unity of the relative and absolute minds. This is the basic directive of disciplines such as yoga, tantra, and buddhist contemplation.

Metaphor 5: Vedanta

This is the traditional philosophical elucidation of the Upanishads. Vedanta means, the end or final purpose of the vedas, which is to discover the treasure. It has many words for all of these aspects. I will give a few.

- The black Square – The almighty ground of all reality (brahman) is your true Being.

- The white circle – You dwell in a reality of names and forms, (namarup). All of this moves together elegantly through lifetimes as your reality and infernally as your fate (samsara). And all of it is maya, a wonderful word that means fullness that is actually an illusion. You are in maya, a fabulous illusion that distracts you from your true Being, Brahman.

- The center - You are the atman, usually translated as “self.” In truth, atman is the same as brahman. The two squares are the same.

What are you in?

Maya, an illusory fulness that is a distraction from your true self (atman), which is actually Brahman. Maya is the world of names and forms, which moves together in a grand evolving reality over many lifetimes. It obscures, conceals, but finally reveals Brahman.

What should you do?

Come to realize through gnosis that you are brahman-atman

This is a very beautiful metaphor for an authentic experience, but as it is an easy formula, Vedanta tends to become mere know-it-all philosophy.

Metaphor 6: Actuality

Upanishad means “sitting at the feet”. The language in the Upanishads is not philosophical, but radically simple. It often plays on linguistic ambiguities inherent in Sanskrit that ingeniously reflect the actual ambiguity of existence, defying one’s philosophical tendency to become a know-it-all. Effectively, it acts like the slap of the Zen master.

- The outer square – That, whose nature is luminous bliss and clarity, the actual base of consciousness.

- The Inner circle – This, any or all this. Whatever actually is in your world.

- The center - This goes back to what I said earlier, the world “exists” only insofar as you are conscious of it. Your consciousness or presence makes it actual. You are the actuality of This. And here is the slap. The word atman is not a noun naming a self, but actually a reflexive pronoun that means “itself.” Itself means the actuality of both This and That. Again note the identical form of the two black shapes indicating the identity of That and Itself. You are the actuality (the Itself) of This as That. Does this blow your mind? Slap!

So, what are we in?

Actuality. You are presently the Itself or actuality of That manifest as any This. All This is the manifestation of That, but you do not realize it as such. You are the Itself of any This, the realization (gnosis) of which actually reveals That.

This clarifies our basic question while preventing you from settling intellectually. This Itself of That is the actuality of “what we are in? You are That.

What should you do?

Know That!

That is nothingness on the one hand and on the other, the ultimate pure form of our human consciousness, what we truly are in. To align with it clarifies everything, all This. It is clarity upon emptiness.

Enlightenment is the light that happens when That is realized as Itself. Knowing or realizing That Itself is the treasure.

True Gravity

True gravity is the force of innate awareness to know Itself as That. There is a progression to this realization. At first one gains knowledge of a map. One discovers a religion or path that seems true or attractive. With time, attention, and dedication, one comes to realize the gnosis behind the map, the intuition of That blossoms and grows. This leads to a sense of unity with all life, all sensate beings, as the expression of That. One becomes compelled by the kindness of compassion for all humans, all sensate beings. This realization of unity unfolds into bliss, and finally as Itself, or inborn awareness unites with That, there is light, there is splendor.

The light or illumination of true actuality clarifies and simplifies all This, putting everything in proportion. This profound simplification yields authentic contentment, the great peace described in Sanskrit with the word Shantih ... often repeated to express the state itself: shantih shantih shantih.

True Gravity leads thus to the treasure.

None of our metaphorical portrayals of the mandala is the truth, but all point to the same flowering of intuitive realization. Atman is your given inborn awareness of the unity of This and That. It is subject to its own form of gravity to unify This with That, which is true actuality, our true home. Any real map follows this true gravity.

American philosophy has come up with the signature methodology of Western success: pragmatism. America eschewed grand metaphysical theories for what is effective. What works is what is true. But this is the pragmatism of This, from science to technology. Indian genius created a pragmatism of consciousness, the practices by which Itself is able to follow its true gravity to realize the unity of This and That.

With keen and passionate insight, the vast Indian tradition, including Jainism and Buddhism, reveals this gravity by virtue of the incredible variety and richness of its oral traditions, scriptures, methodologies, and religions. All follow the true gravity from This to That. The varieties of maps are part of Indian genius. None really defines the truth, but all of them point the way.

Indeed, there are so many ways in India, that each Indian effectively has their own unique path, called a sadhana. Any Indian with a Sanskrit name may likely find their sadhana hidden in their name. Osho gave me the name, Anand Veereshwar. I no longer call myself by this name, but I have spent years exploring the way it indicated. It proved to be a directive pointing down a path whose true gravity led into the ancient wisdom of the tantric practices associated with Siva, the great god of transformation.

So, if you were given a name derived from Sanskrit, I would wager that it is the trace of a map, from which you can find your unique path. By following its true gravity you can make your own way to the treasure. This is likely to mean disciplined contemplation of one form or another, but I encourage you to follow your true gravity with enthusiasm. That is the Indian tradition. It is the genius within your genes.

The fundamental directive of the Upanishad is Tat tvam asi (You are That). This is not a metaphysical statement intended to puff up your knowledge of all This. It is a shorthand report of the experience of true gravity towards the ultimate human experience and state, the fruition of being human.