The Holy Tradition and The Role of Gurus in Modern Times
Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.
[00:55] The Role of Tradition in Vedic Worldview
Today we’re going to talk about the role of tradition, specifically tradition in my teaching, my tradition, and why it is that we give such emphasis and importance to understanding the process of custodianship of the body of knowledge which we refer to as the Vedic worldview and all of its practices and techniques.
Vedic Meditation and all of the techniques associated with Vedic Meditation that have come down to me through my master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his master Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, his master Swami Krishnananda Saraswati and so on in an unbroken tradition going back to time immemorial; we know it’s thousands of years.
Nobody really quite knows who lived when beyond five or 6,000 years ago, but we do have a list of names of who was the teacher of whom and where the knowledge came from.
Why does it matter? Why should it matter? And this is a very, very interesting topic, the topic of awareness of, and then one more step, acknowledgement of, and then one more step, reverence for the custodianship because there’s something for you, the individual meditator, the consumer of the body of knowledge that I’m releasing, and these regular talks that I give that are recorded for time immemorial…
There’s something for you as a recipient that you can receive that will be a great value add, a great value constructor, and that is getting an understanding of the cumulative effect of knowledge moving generation after generation.
After all, evolution is a process of ever-increasing sophistication, ever-increasing depth of understanding, ever-increasing as a result of all of this capability.
[03:37] Irrelevant Reaction
We know that a fundamental tenet of information theory goes like this, “Knowledge has organizing power.” Knowledge has organizing power. From this we can derive many different things that, if you have knowledge, for example, you can eliminate fear.
If you happen to see a particular serpent moving on the ground and you have an irrational fear of all serpentine things, but you don’t happen to know that this serpent is completely harmless to a human and incapable of doing anything to you, however, it will actually remove certain pests that might be overpopulating your garden or overpopulating the forest through which you’re walking and is a fundamental and essential member of the ecosystem.
Then your irrational terror of the serpent that you just saw go past might not actually be serving you in any way, because you don’t have knowledge, you don’t have the organizing power that comes from it.
What you have is an irrelevant reaction to a form and a phenomenon, and irrelevancy and irrelevant reactivity is the barrier to living a life that is significant. A life that is filled with complete happiness and fulfillment.
We have a brain that is beyond redundant in terms of its multiplicity of neurons. These are brain cells, and inter neuronal that is between-neuron connections. The intracranial brain is somewhere between 10 to 12 billion neurons. That’s the gray matter that’s compactified into your casing of your skull.
The rest of the brain, your central nervous system, which extends from there, makes up a total of about 100 billion neurons.
[06:04] Our Brain is Not Being Used to Its Full Potential
Everything that the most capable human on earth is able to do — all the chess playing, all of the thinking, all of the writing, all of the poetry, all of the wonderful art, all of the eloquence, all of the athletic capability, everything we know about the magnificence of the human condition, could be achieved with a portion of gray matter neurons about the size of your thumb. That’s your brain stem.
And yet we have a central nervous system and brain whose neurological mass should be giving us tens of thousands of times greater capability than what is expressed by the average human being, even the ones who are the award-winning human beings, the ones whose actions and behavior make them exceptional, not just excellent, but exceptional performers of any kind.
Musicians, artists, athletes, intellectuals, great achievers of any kind, motivators of other people, heroes and heroines of every type in every area of life all of that could come from a tiny proportion of the brain power that exists in our existing brain.
Human beings are landing on the earth right now at a rate of tens of thousands per hour, and every one of the human beings who lands on the earth, a baby being born, the tens of thousands per hour, is equipped with a brain capable of thousands of times more than what humans on average actually achieve.
[08:19] The Brain as a Machine
So our threshold for what we refer to as genius, someone who is a genius anything, athlete, genius performer, genius musician, genius painter, genius intellectual, genius writer, genius, you name it, philosopher, is actually coming from a tiny percentage of use of the brain’s actual capability.
If you’d like to read more about this, I strongly suggest you read anything written by one of my mentors, Sir John Eccles, E-C-C-L-E-S.
Eccles was a Nobel Prize winning neurologist who gained great fame, and I wasn’t able to meet him till after his retirement, but I still consider him to be one of my mentors.
And he was one of the first to identify exactly what the capability of the human brain is compared with how much we actually use it, even the geniuses amongst us use it.
So there is this incredible resource, the brain. Let’s think of that as being a machine, a computer, but it requires a kind of a fuel. The fuel of a computer is electricity. If you don’t have the right kind of electricity, the right voltage, the right flow, the right alternating current, then your computer is going to behave in a way that gives you access to only a certain amount of circuitry.
If we think of a cruder juxtaposition, that of an engine, the engine of a motor vehicle of some kind, which requires fuel. It requires fueling. It requires a certain kind of fuel to make the engine fully capable.
The fuel, the energy, the electricity of the engine of the brain is consciousness. When consciousness is not fully awakened to its fullest potential, then it cannot fuel the brain in such a way that awakens the brain’s fullest capability, the brain’s fullest available power.
[10:33] What is Our Brain Capable Of?
The brain, as it is today, is about the same brain that existed more than a hundred thousand years ago in the human species. It appears as though our brain has surpassed the need for any further evolution. An astonishing statement to make, but the statement is agreed to by the vast majority of neuroscientists.
Why? Because we’re not even using the capability of the brain beyond a certain very small percentage of its available computing power.
So what is our brain capable of? Think of asking a four-year-old child, “All right. You know, you’re playing with your trucks, and you’re playing with your little cars, and you’re playing with your dolls, and you’re playing with the sandpit, and you’re playing with certain things, and you’re coming up with concepts and painting little pictures? Do you have any idea what you’re actually capable of?”
And, of course, the child’s response will be, “I’m just capable of more playing. Tomorrow is another day, I’ll do some more playing. I’m capable of enjoying my favorite foods. I’m capable of running away from mummy when she brings me vegetables that she wants me to eat.
“I’m capable of a certain level of adaptability and stability. I’m capable of maybe learning how to be a better sibling to my siblings. I don’t know what I’m capable of.”
[12:08] Brain Development
Ultimately, the answer of a four-year-old is they have no idea what their brain will be capable of when they are, let’s say, 25. In the case of a female of the species, perhaps 18 or 19, which is when brain maturity has occurred.
In the case of a male of the species, we have a slower maturation process of our brains. 23, 24, 25 the brain completes its development in the male of our species.
“What am I capable of when I have a fully matured brain? I don’t know what it is I don’t know.”
And so, what is the human capable of if its brain were being used to its fullest potential? The fact is we don’t know what we don’t know. However, what we do know is that human brains, as currently they’re being used, are being grossly underused.
We do, very unconsciously, design for ourselves all kinds of unhappiness, in our interaction with the environment, in our interaction with other humans, in our incapacity to see cascades of cause and effect.
We design for ourselves unconsciously all kinds of unhappiness and suffering, which really we should be able to rise above and do better for ourselves and for all those who surround us who are concerned with our daily life.
[13:50] This is Veda
What does all of this have to do with a tradition of Gurus? The knowledge that comes to us from the Vedic tradition, the tradition of Veda means that body of knowledge which has its origins in ancient India, but the Veda itself is not a human creation. It is the capability of the human mind to cognize, with clarity of consciousness, the workings of the laws of Nature with reference to human interaction with those laws of nature.
This is Veda. The ability to cognize how the laws of Nature work with reference to human interaction with the laws of Nature in order to minimize resistance to the process of evolution.
Veda, Veda is a layer of experience where human and Nature meet, where individual human capability and intelligence meets its cosmic counterpart. We can call this Veda, V-E-D-A. Vedic is the adjective we create to make that noun into an adjective, Vedic body of knowledge.
How do you allow your individual awareness to experience, with the greatest proficiency, on a regular, systematic basis as a strategy in life, how do you get your individual awareness to experience its source?
Well, first of all, you can’t think your way into Vedic knowledge. Vedic knowledge is not one of those things where you can sit down and create mental equations and think your way into it. Vedic knowledge is knowledge that arrives in the form of what we call cognition.
What is cognition? It is the capacity to have an instantaneous burst of seeing all the dots connected. From the Vedic worldview perspective, there’s no such thing as just pure inventiveness or creativity in the human.
The human has ever-increasing capability to see the existing potential knowledge that’s right in front of them to create out of already existing forms and phenomena, a realization of how these forms and phenomena connect.
The realization of how they connect. That realization, that kind of ‘Eureka’ phenomenon, “I get it. I understand,” was the greatest aid to some of the greatest thinkers.
Leonardo and Einstein, just to use two, pulling straight out of my immediate awareness, both of whom were great cognizers, not inventors. Einstein did not invent the theory of special relativity. He was able to give a mathematical formulation that explained what is right in front of us. It was always there.
To what extent can you see what’s right in front of you? To what extent can you describe it and by virtue of describing it, gain the ability to make maximum use of it?
Without the preservation of the knowledge of techniques that humans can use to awaken their cognizing capability, without the curators, without those who carefully preserved as against the constant demand for changing things, who were able to maintain the purity of a teaching?
Somehow, and we’re not exactly sure how, because it was so many thousands of years ago. Somehow, someone began a process of taking from one generation to the next a body of knowledge about how Consciousness conceives and constructs, governs, and becomes forms and phenomena.
[18:49] Maintaining the Purity
Someone took that knowledge of how to then take human awareness back into its source, to experience the abundance of creative intelligence that is there in the human mind, to refine the fuel that could run the engine of the brain, the consciousness fuel so that the brain could become fully activated.
Someone took that knowledge and said, “It looks as close to perfect as we can get it. Let’s pass it along to the next generation in a way that doesn’t take away. It doesn’t remove these cognitions, these discoveries, that preserves the discoveries. Let’s create a format of the purity of a teaching.”
And as we move forward from one generation to the next, though each generation will make demands upon the Gurus, the teachers of the tradition, to try to “modernize” the knowledge, which means, “Let’s remove features of it that don’t look as though they are really addressing modern fads. Modern fads, whatever those modern fads may be.”
Let’s maintain the purity of the way that it’s taught, the purity of memory, of its perfection, and move it forward from generation to generation so that every generation of humanity can come to the table and sup upon a body of knowledge that is pure, a body of knowledge that is complete, a body of knowledge that is inexhaustible.
[20:51] The Vedic Worldview is Inexhaustible
The Vedic worldview is an inexhaustible body of knowledge. Any question asked from any perspective can be answered in such a way as to demonstrate to the experiencer of that answer, the connectivity of that answer with all other answers that were previously given.
A contiguous body of knowledge that is completely consistent right across its entire theory base. Right across it.
So just to give you an example of what I mean by that, the most successful theory of modern science is the theory of quantum mechanics. I’m not going to go into great detail about quantum mechanics here. There’s been a lot written about it.
But it’s the most successful theory on the basis of its capability, with many, many decimal places of accuracy, to predict the appearance of a form or a phenomenon, both in time and in space, time and place.
Something on the order of eight or nine decimal points of accuracy in time, and an equivalent number of decimal points of accuracy in place, quantum mechanics can predict the appearance of a form or the appearance of a phenomenon down to trillionths of a second or, super high degree of accuracy in place in space, of a form appearing or performing in a particular way, or a phenomenon appearing and performing in a particular way.
There’s no other theory of modern science that can do anything like this.
[22:48] Limitations of Newton’s Theory
When we go back to Newtonian mechanics, the great cognitions of Newton, who talked about the material world, its energies, what happens if one thing collides with another thing, his cognition of the way that gravitation, at least earthbound gravitation, works, and an idea of space and time operating independently to serve the laws of gravitation.
For his day, an amazing discovery, but it has limitations. It cannot explain how it is that gravity curves space and causes space itself to go into a curvature, so that light traveling through space and seeing how light will actually curve in its trajectory if it goes past a gravitational body. Newton couldn’t explain anything about that.
Even though observations about that kind of thing could be made with the occulting of the sun during a solar eclipse, where stars were seen that were very close to the edge of the corona of the sun would shift position evidently when looked at through a light-occluding device that kept you from getting blind from looking at the eclipse, you could see stars that were close to the edge of the sun suddenly shifting their position. Nobody could explain why.
Einstein could explain that easily. Einsteinian knowledge triumphed over Newtonian knowledge.
[24:31] Quantum Mechanics Can Explain Things
The knowledge of quantum mechanics, which was only just in his birth beginnings in the time of Einstein’s latter part of his career before his death. Quantum mechanics can explain things that Einstein and physics cannot explain.
In fact, quantum mechanics is very close to the much wanted scientific theory of everything that it can explain almost all observations with one fundamental theory, the Vedic worldview, as a spiritual, philosophical understanding operates on a level which is superior, even to that of quantum mechanics.
It has an answer for almost any, for, no, I shouldn’t say almost, for any question that one can come up with. Any question about why it is so that certain observed phenomena, or forms or people or things or societies… why is it that things behave the way that they do, and what should you do about those observations?
This Vedic worldview, extremely complete in its capability to generate knowledge, which, if acted upon, will bring only good both to the Knower and to all those who are impacted by the action, not only for today but for all future generations.
This is a unique claim to efficiency and the bringing forward of that from one generation to the next. Through the knowledge itself, the techniques of how you yourself can become a Rishi to verify and validate personally yourself, the tenets of the Vedic worldview. That knowledge, that capability, the knowledge of the techniques that you’re gifted with.
[26:38] Maharishi Gifted Me…
People often say to me, “Thom, you seem to be able to talk for 25 years continuously, and yet you only spent 25, 26 years with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, your teacher. How did you have the time for him to sit down and to unload all this knowledge on you, and where’s your notebooks and all of that?”
I don’t really have any notebooks. The main thing Maharishi did to me was he gifted me with the technique of becoming a Maharishi. He verified and validated my correct practice, and he corrected and fine-tuned my practice where that was necessary.
He gave me verification and validation of the way that my thinking was aligning with that of Maharishi Consciousness, and effectively, he transferred into me that Maharishi Consciousness, that great seer Consciousness.
So, I never sat with him and went over every detail of everything to do with the Vedas. I did learn a lot of detail in that way, but really what he gifted me with was the capability to be him, to be him.
He gave me the capability to take the Maharishi Consciousness into the next generation and to answer specific questions that come up that are generationally topical and relevant in a way that’s consistent with all of the entire rest of the body of knowledge.
[28:12] How Do You Get That?
How do you get that? It’s not through a process of indoctrination. It’s from a process of direct capability of cognition. And who is it that can give that to you? Only somebody who has developed it in herself or himself directly, as a direct conscious experience they’ve had.
These are the people who, though they could have had many other things that they could do in their lives. Maybe they could run a hardware store, or maybe they could become a successful manufacturer of archery equipment. Or maybe they could paint beautiful art, or maybe they could write beautiful music.
Instead of doing all of those other extracurricular things, they made it their curriculum to be the icon of, and embodiment of, the exemplar of, the preceptor, someone who teaches by precept, of the specific body of knowledge, and with that, with each passing generation, a cumulative effect of being one of those masters in society.
The implications of that knowledge for human physiological health and longevity, the implications of that knowledge for living a life in relationship and alliances, the implications of that knowledge for social expansion into happiness that is inclusive of all of the vast variety of human beings.
[30:00] Why Do We Exist?
The implications of that knowledge for understanding purpose, why do we exist? Where are we headed? What’s the mission?
All of that has been brought forward, generation after generation, by people who willingly surrendered all other preferences just to be and to become the preceptors, the exemplars, the people who had this knowledge in their awareness and could be relied upon to exemplify it.
The ones who taught by example and the ones who taught in a direct teacher-to-student relationship and alliance.
And so then our acknowledgement, our first of all becoming conscious of, and then next, acknowledging what it took to live entire lives dedicated to this knowledge and how the only way that we, the recipients in modern day of this knowledge, the only way this could possibly have happened would be as a consequence of someone dedicating their life to it. They made sure that they didn’t have anything else to do.
[31:28] The Dishwasher
Now, in my life as a Guru, I’ve done a few other things here and there. I remember once when I was trying to make sure that I could afford the needs of my little family as it was at the time, and needed to pay rent or actually pay regular mortgage payments on my residence and meditation teaching center, I took a job across the street at a restaurant as a dishwasher.
But even as a dishwasher, I did my best to exemplify what it meant to be a Rishi dishwasher. I was cheerful, I was energetic, I was thorough, and I set a standard that had never been set in that French restaurant.
So much so that, after six months, when finally my teaching activities across the street at my home had risen to a level that people’s individual contributions to the group effort, when they learned to meditate, were able to meet the need of the time regarding rent and food and whatnot, and I offered my two weeks’ notice to the owner of the restaurant, he cried, and he offered me the position of being manager of the restaurant, if only I would take it.
From dishwasher to manager, and I very politely refused cuz I needed to get back to my true role, which was to be a Guru, a master of my Tradition.
[33:13] The Gardener
I spent a little bit of time in that same epoch, This was some 50 years ago or so, being the head gardener of a National Trust home in Sydney, Australia, surrounded by trees and gardens and so on.
A place that tourists came to visit to see what life was like in the 19th century in Australia, a place called Vaucluse House, and I was the chief gardener there for about a year.
Starting my job at seven o’clock in the morning, carrying out my gardening with a team of people, including local residents, until about three o’clock each afternoon, and then retiring from there and riding the bus back to my home and meditation center, and teaching meditation.
But when I was offered higher and higher roles and positions within the structure of the National Trust Foundation that was showing this home to the world, I was able easily to refuse promotion based on my certain knowledge of having a higher calling. And that was to become full-time and being a master within my own Tradition.
And so then, who are those who’ve dedicated their lives to this? By dedicating their lives, we mean virtually every waking hour.
[34:44] The Colorless Sap
Even when gardening, I was creating analogies. Here is the flower. It has so many different petals, say, red petals. It has a stem that’s green. It has thorns that are sharp and pointy and protect it from bugs and other animals that want to nibble at it.
It has beautiful fragrance, but this fragrance, this red color of the petals, the softness of the petals, the sharpness of the thorns, the green of the stem, and all of that… When we analyze, where does it come from?
All of these forms and functions come from colorless sap from within the flower, it’s the colorless sap, which can make itself into a red petal.
It’s the colorless sap that can make itself into the beautiful fragrance. It’s the colorless sap that can make itself into a sharp thorn, the defense department of the rose. But the colorless sap itself is unmanifest, from the unmanifest into the manifest. This was my analysis as I was pruning the rose bushes.
The colorless sap of Consciousness, the colorless sap of the human condition, is that state of consciousness that is that unboundedness that we touch upon when we meditate.
[36:13] Refining My Capability
When you awaken the colorless sap, you awaken that which is going to be the home of all knowledge, the home of all capability.
In a flower, if you don’t water the root of the flower and the colorless sap becomes somewhat anorectic, then the whole flower begins to go into one uniform color, brown. The green goes brownish, the red goes brownish, and everything gets limp, and it all loses its integrity.
Whereas if you water the root and you awaken the color of the sap, the red becomes better. The sharp thorn becomes sharper, the green becomes greener, the stem becomes more round, and so on. Like that, differences thrive from the oneness of the colorless sap.
These were my thoughts while I was gardening. I was continuing to refine my capability to understand my actual calling, my actual profession, which was to become and to be a member of a tradition of masters that was going to extend into the world for thousands of more years after my time, thousands of more years.
[37:26] My Great Joy
It’s been my great joy to be a teacher in this Tradition and I take great honor in bowing my head to all of the Masters of the Tradition who came before me, whom I know by name.
Their qualities, their cognitions have been passed forward and inherited by me because of the dedication that they showed in their own lives. Their writings are the writings that verify and validate my own experiences. My own experiences are simply verified and validated, not created by their writings.
The techniques they passed forward created the experience in me. The writings that they produced, if any, were the verification and validation of that direct experience, the principles that upheld the direct experience that could be had by any meditator.
The importance of tradition, the importance of acknowledgement and recognition of tradition is the imporatnce of underscoring an unbroken chain of enlightened people going back to time immemorial.
When you consider the alternative, “Oh, here’s some knowledge you might like to learn it. It was invented by some experimental scientists in the psychology department at Stanford last year during the pandemic, when they didn’t have anything else to do. Would you like to try this and dedicate your life to it?” Probably the answer would be no.
[39:01] The Meaning of Jai Guru Deva
And so, taking this beyond the jocular, we have to look at the effect of being able to offer a body of knowledge, which has been known, thoroughly examined, thoroughly tested, and proven, not for a few weeks or a year or two, not for a hundred years, not for merely a thousand years, but for tens of thousands of years.
This is the value of the certainty of knowledge that comes from an ancient tradition, and maintaining our understanding and appreciation of its being ancient is part of the solidity, stability of this body of knowledge, which will allow it to move forward and continue teaching, with purity, the same, easy, effortless, universally applicable technique, generation after generation.
And for this, we say those beautiful words, Jai Guru Deva. Jai means victory to, glory to. Guru Deva means all of the teachers who have taught me. All the teachers who have taught me, Guru Deva.
Sometimes Guru Deva means specifically Maharishi’s teacher, whom he referred to as Guru Deva, but Guru Deva to him was his own teacher, and Guru Deva to that teacher was his own teacher, and going back in an unbroken tradition like that. Guru Deva just basically means the entire tradition of the lighthouse of knowledge.
Jai Guru Deva.