Why Are We Not All-Knowing? Three Bonds

Path to Siva, Lesson 23, Commentary


The three bonds/pashas, given by Lord Siva: karma, maya and anava, are there to mature the soul. At first it is natural for the soul to be totally involved in the world to gain experience through Siva's veiling grace/tirodhana shakti. As we eventually learn to exercise self control, over many lifetimes, God Siva grants His revealing grace/anugraha shakti. We claim our infinity, our oneness with God.

Path to Siva, Lesson 23.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 23.

"Why Are We Not All-Knowing Like Siva?

"Siva is perfection itself. Each soul shares His perfection inwardly, but outwardly is immature. Think of Siva as a mighty oak tree and the soul as an acorn that will one day be a mighty tree itself. Lord Siva's veiling grace, tirodhana shakti, veils the soul's all-knowingness. This is a loving power that limits and protects us so that we may learn and mature. This grace is in three parts. First, anava makes us forget that we are unlimited. Anava is that which makes the soul finite and separate from God Siva. Under its power, we are completely involved in the joys and sorrows of our particular life, not aware that we are a divine soul, one with God. Second, maya, the world, offers us vast opportunities for experience. This gift from Siva is our playground of experience. Third, karma, the law of cause and effect, is our instructor in the play of life. Together, anava, karma and maya are known as pasha, meaning 'tether.' An ancient analogy of a cowherd tending his cows illumines this idea. The cowherd is God Siva, called Pati. The cows represent souls, pashu. And the tether, or rope, with which Pati leads the cows is pasha. (Yogaswami told Gurudeva: 'Let go of the rope.' At the time Gurudeva didn't know it was this rope. Later on he found out what kind of rope it was he was supposed to let go of. The rope of pasha, a philosophical rope.) The cowherd restrains and protects the cows with the rope, just as Siva guides and protects souls with anava, karma and maya. Through many lifetimes, under the harnessing power of these three, our soul grows to maturity and the three malas begin to loosen their grip. When the time is ripe, Siva grants His revealing grace, anugraha shakti. When finally we yearn to know Siva, the satguru appears in our life and gives us disciplines to help us evolve further. Finally, through his grace, the soul realizes its true identity with Siva. The 'Tirumantiram' explains, 'When the soul attains Self-knowledge, then it becomes one with Siva. The malas perish, birth's cycle ends and the lustrous light of wisdom dawns.'"

We have Gurudeva's quote:

"Maya is the classroom, karma the teacher, and anava the student's ignorance. The three bonds, or malas, are given by Lord Siva to help and protect us as we unfold. Yet, God Siva's all-knowingness may be experienced for brief periods by the meditator who turns within to his own essence."

We have three points therefore, karma, maya and anava put fourth in this lesson. When we think of karma, you know, if I asked each of you here, well, what exactly is karma? The most common answer, which is a correct answer, is the law of cause and effect. You do something, and because of the law of karma, is an effect. We have an action, because of the law of karma, there's an eventual reaction that comes back to us. We all know that. But the point this lesson is making is more than that. It's saying karma is our teacher. It's in the lesson itself and it's in Gurudeva's quote so it's there twice. Karma is our teacher.

Well what is it teaching us? How is it teaching us? It's teaching us if we are observant of cause and effect. Otherwise, it's not teaching us anything. If we're not observant of cause and effect we don't learn. What does that mean? We pursue certain kinds of actions and eventually we realize that the reaction to that isn't something we want to experience. Therefore, we decide: Well why do I not do that anymore because I really don't want to go through this that I'm creating for myself? We learn by studying the action we do and the reaction it causes. If we do that consistently then what happens? We mature spiritually or we're refining our behavior. We're learning. We're refining our behavior through studying action and reaction. So in that way karma is our teacher but only if we think about it. We have to engage in this process otherwise it's not automatically our teacher. It's just automatically a reaction. The learning part we have to engage in purposefully.

Point I wanted to make before that point, I've got point 1, 2 and then I've got point zero. I was supposed to read point 0.0 first. But it's there unnoticed and I wasn't that sharp here so, go back to the point before karma because I wanted to go through karma then maya and anava in order but this is supposed to happen before karma. The...shakti's very important and it's nicely stated in this lesson, isn't the main theme because it's the main theme of previous lessons so I'm not dwelling on it at length.

But the idea it's showing is it's natural for the soul to be totally involved in the world and uninterested in religion as a starting point. Because the world is fascinating, huh? Just the internet without the rest of the world is fascinating. The world, oh boy. I'm awake, I can enjoy the world. So fascinating and getting even more so as we're creating realities within realities within realities, right? So got virtual realities. But it's natural for the soul not to be interested in God when it starts off. And then it starts to get a little bit bored with the world because the world, though it looks like there's a lot of different activities and possibilities in the world, there's certain basic patterns that are common to them all. And eventually the world by itself isn't that satisfying. We want a little bit more. We say: Well the world is great but you know afterwards, after I accomplish things I still feel kind of empty.

So we naturally start to turn and that's the idea as tirodhana shakti has us, let's say the world is over here. Tirodhana shakti has us turn toward the world to gain experience. And when we gain enough experience we start to get interested in what's over here which is God. So we start to turn, gradually, get more and more interested in God as the power of anugraha shakti increases. So we don't want to criticize someone who's totally interested in the world, that's ridiculous. Just a natural stage. We don't want to criticize our self if we used to be totally interested in the world. Just a natural stage. God Siva put us there on purpose to gain experience. Take us through experience we mature. So we, we naturally turn slowly and get more and more interested in God. That's the process.

So, back to anava, karma and maya. Maya is a very interesting concept. Looked it up in our lexicon. Got two long "a"s. M a y a. One of the troubles of English is we don't see the long and the short.

"She who measures;' or 'mirific energy.' The substance emanated from Siva through which the world of form is manifested. Hence all creation is also termed maya. It is the cosmic creative force, the principle of manifestation, ever in the process of creation, preservation and dissolution. Maya is a key concept in Hinduism, originally meaning 'supernatural power; God's mirific energy,' often translated as 'illusion.' The Upanishads underscore maya's captivating nature, which blinds souls to the transcendent Truth. In Adi Sankara's Vedantic interpretation, maya is taken as pure illusion or unreality. In Saivism it is one of the three bonds (pasha) that limit the soul and thereby facilitate its evolution. For Saivites and most other non-dualists, it is understood not as illusion but as relative reality, in contrast to the unchanging Absolute Reality..."

This is a very important point because the default understanding, when we say maya, this is maya, is, we're saying it's illusion. This is just maya. So, I put in the "just" right? This is just maya. All this is just maya. But there's a mind thing; it thinks we're saying: Oh, this is illusion. But imagine going to school and if while you're sitting in the classroom you're saying: This is illusion; this is illusion; this is illusion, you know. How much are you going to learn? Not going to learn anything cause you don't think you're supposed to learn. So we don't want to have the viewpoint that the classroom is illusion. The classroom has it's own reality. In English we call it relative reality meaning it's always changing. But it's real, it's there. We need to think of it as a valid environment, is put there for the purpose of learning through karma. So the classroom is very important and needs to be looked at as relatively real.

"Anava mala: 'Impurity of smallness; finitizing principle' (this is the lexicon) God's individualizing veil of duality that enshrouds the soul. It is source of finitude and ignorance, the most basic of the three bonds (anava, karma, maya) which temporarily limit the soul. Anava mala has the same importance in Agamic philosophy that maya-avidya has in Vedantic philosophy. The presence of anava mala is what causes the misapprehension about the nature of God, soul and world, the notion of being separate and distinct from God and the universe. Anava obscures the natural wisdom, light, unity and humility of the soul and allows spiritual ignorance, darkness, egoity and pride to manifest. it is inherent in a maturing soul, like the shell of a seed. When anava is ripe, anugraha, 'grace,' comes and anava falls away. Anava is the root mala and the last bond to be dissolved."

So when the seed falls off, the shell, can't put it back on, right? So, that's the idea of it, the last one to be resolved. And when it falls away then we can't, we're no longer able to think of ourselves as finite. We have to claim our infinity, if that's the right word. Conclude that we are infinite.

Then we have a related term ,as this introduced, anava mala. So mala, impurity. This is mala with two short "a's."

Impurity. An important term in Saivism referring to three bonds called pasha: anava, karma and maya. It's just another way of describing the three bonds which limit the soul preventing it from knowing it's true divine nature.

So, a common form of mala is amala. So amala is of course is without impurity. So, why did I bring it up? Because we have ma-la, not to be confused with mala. Such is the English language, confusing to us. Ma-la is a garland. Two long "a's." Mala is impurity, two short "a's". Ma-la or malai in Tamil, "A strand of beads for holy recitation, japa, usually made of rudraksha, tulasi, sandalwood or crystal." And here always made of rudraksha, right? Also a flower garland, mala. So, I just put that there to remind us that we need to be careful on the word ma-la if we want to pronounce it correctly in that it has two meanings depending on if the a's are both long or they're both short. That's something an English speaker would usually get confused on. Mala, amala, ma-la.

To summarize, the basic idea therefore is anava, karma and maya. It's there so we can mature the soul. The soul starts out immature, it matures through handling experience in a way that exercises self control. Even if we're not totally successful in exercising self control, we still get a little bit angry instead of big blow-up. You know, we're not totally successful. The act of exercising self control is what matures the soul no matter how successful we are in 100 percent or not. The fact that we exercise our self control and did better than we would have without exercising it, is strengthening the soul or maturing the soul. And when we do that over many lifetimes it becomes very mature, which is the goal.

Before we turn away from the world we want to be reasonably mature and then we naturally get more interested in God. In our pursuit of God we're a mature soul. If we were an immature soul in pursuit of God we'd always be at God's feet. God is great and all this I've done and I'm small. But no, eventually, you know, we need to see our oneness with God. And to see our oneness with God we'd have to be mature. Otherwise we won't see it. So that fulfillment is postponed until we can claim our oneness. That's the logic behind it.

Have a wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Everything in the world and everything in the mind is as it should be--in a perfect state of evolution. Superconsciously, we can clearly see this through the eyes of our soul.
—Gurudeva