Nivar-Tatvam – Go Where You Are Not

“Transcend where you are. Go where you are not.” This turns out to be deeply pivotal wisdom in our tradition.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Mark Twain once famously said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Guru Dev, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the master of Thom’s master, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, had no such problem, and was known for being economical with his words.

He was able to condense his wisdom into a one-word call to action that people would travel hundreds of miles to hear. It’s a call to action that’s available to everyone, simply by learning Vedic Meditation.

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Episode Highlights


Guru Dev – An Unusual Child



The Runaway Child



Guru Dev Finds His Master



A Solitary Life in the Forest



Monarch of All the Yogis- The Shankaracharya



The One Word Speech






Go Where You Are Not



Whatever We’ve Been Thinking Lately



The Invitation of the Vedic Meditation Initiator



Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Action



Step Beyond Thought Entirely



Dip the Cloth, Fade the Cloth



Back and Forth



The Embodiment of Nivar-Tatvam


Jai Guru Deva


Nivar-Tatvam – Go Where You Are Not

[00:00:46] Guru Dev – An Unusual Child

[00:00:46] I’d like to tell a story of a famous oft-spoke, one-word lecture from the master of my master. My teacher was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his master was Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Swami Brahmananda Saraswati went by the name Guru Dev. It’s a shorter way of saying it, but also, the name Guru Dev is shared by all masters of the tradition, going back to time immemorial.

[00:01:25] There is not just one Guru Dev, but he was the Guru Dev of his era, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. And Guru Dev had the role and his life, just to give you a little bit of backdrop on his life, the life of someone who really had some of the most unusual life experiences imaginable.

[00:01:47] Let’s start with the initial story of him being the only child of a well-to-do Indian family who were in the Brahmin caste. That is to say, the people who are the holders of Vedic knowledge coming down from generation to generation, they’re charged with maintaining Vedic knowledge, the Sanatanis, the people who practice the Sanatana Dharma, the way of natural law.

[00:02:20] And this boy starting from about the age of six, began to show ever-increasing restlessness, a disinterest in school and schooling, a disinterest in all of the usual things that children might naturally be interested in. He was not interested in toys. He was not interested in playing.

[00:02:41] The Runaway Child

[00:02:41] What was he interested in? He felt a strong need to go and find a master. He lived in the central parts of India, central part of India. North of that, way-way north, hundreds of miles north, is the Himalayas, the Himalayan Ranges.

[00:03:01] During his early life in the late 19th century, the late 1800s, and going into the turn of the century, he began to display a greater and greater interest in finding a guru, finding a master, finding someone who could be his teacher and someone who would live up to his expectation.

[00:03:27] And so he began to disappear out windows at night and be found at train stations, looking for trains that were headed north to the Himalayan Ranges. One can only imagine as a parent, the distress that this brought to the parents of this child who repeatedly ran away.

[00:03:47] They would hire ex-military people, who are readily available in India, to be detectives who would go around, hunting for him and catch him at train stations, or catch him hitchhiking, and bring him back home again.

[00:04:02] Guru Dev Finds His Master

[00:04:02] And by the time he was nine, he finally set his parents down and said, “This is going to continue. It’s only ever going to get worse for you until the day comes when you relax and let me go, because I have a destiny other than the destiny that you might have hoped for. And my destiny, as set by me, by my own big Self, is to have myself educated by a master, and I have to go and find the master on my own. No one can come with me.”

[00:04:35] His family, who must’ve been remarkable people, mother and father agreed to let him go. And at the age of nine, he left home and went north to the Himalayas, and for many years, continued his explorations, finding different masters through hearsay, who was where, who was considered to be great.

[00:05:00] Finally found his master, whose name was Swami Krishnananda Saraswati and Krishnananda Saraswati at Guru Dev’s age of 14, Guru Dev in those times when he was a boy was known as Rajaram, that was his given name by his parents, Rajaram was initiated and spent 10 years with his master until the age of 24.

[00:05:26] A Solitary Life in the Forest

[00:05:26] And then his master, at the end of 10 years, said, “You’re ready now to go to the forest,” and sent him off to the forest, initiated him first and then sent him off to the forest with knowledge about how to live a single life in a forest setting in central India. And in those days in central India, the forests were so thick, and so deep and steamy, filled with tigers and leopards and all kinds of elephants and animals that, really, ordinarily were predators of human beings, as well as other animals that they ate regularly.

[00:06:00] And this young man went off into the forest, and his first initiation required him to stay in the forest for 10 years. At the end of his 10 years, he returned, met his master again for a final time, was initiated again and was sent off to the forest indefinitely.

[00:06:21] And now Guru Dev, considered to be a very, very highly enlightened master, went off to the forest and lived in the forest for 40 years. 40 years of life in complete silence, living only with the animals of the jungle. He was known to have two pet tigers, a male and a female, who walked beside him everywhere. Occasionally people would come across him and see him there.

[00:06:53] Monarch of All the Yogis- The Shankaracharya

[00:06:53] So now this man, approached by civilized India, civilized India was on its way to, gaining its political independence from Great Britain, and they had decided that they were going to re-institute an old tradition that had been around for thousands of years prior, which was the tradition of selecting someone who would be the monarch of all the yogis, the Queen or the King of all the yogis.

[00:07:27] And they had decided that Guru Dev, as they had heard about his exploits, from time to time, people would come across him in the forest and see all kinds of wondrous things that he embodied. He was considered to be one of the most highly enlightened beings who had ever lived in India.

[00:07:50] Guru Dev was asked if he would come out of the forest, it took 20 years to persuade him, but he was asked if he would come out of the forest and accept the role of the monarch of the yogis, the Supreme Authority of the Vedic worldview. The name for the position is the position of Shankaracharya.

[00:08:10] The One Word Speech

[00:08:10] Now we have to imagine someone who between his 10 years and his 40 years of utter silence, living in a forest, emerging into public life, a highly celebrated person. It was not unusual when he would make a public appearance for up to 100,000 people to appear to attempt to listen to him.

[00:08:34] Loudspeakers had to be set up over entire fields where he would speak sitting on a dais, and people would be up to a mile away, listening in the distance to the loudspeakers when he would speak, but rarely did he speak more than a few minutes. I think his record-breaking speech ever, may have lasted half an hour.

[00:08:58] But frequently he would give a speech, after people had been waiting for, in many cases, hours, for him to appear out of his accommodations, and come out to give a speech and he would give the following speech, which I can say to you, because really it is either one word or two words, depending on how you break it down, but the word is Nivar-tatvam, Nivar-tatvam.

[00:09:27] Nivar-Tatvam

[00:09:27] Nivar-tatvam has lots of embedded meaning in it. It could mean retire, as in ‘go and rest,’ and then he would just get up and walk away and go back to his accommodations again. Or it could be interpreted, at its deepest level, which his closest disciples understood.

[00:09:50] In that deepest level, Nivar-tatvam means ‘go where you are not,’ or looked at from another perspective, it could be translated as ‘transcend where you are’, ‘step beyond where you are’, or ‘go where you are not’, Nivar-tatvam.

[00:10:10] And what does Nivar-tatvam imply for those of us who would like to enjoy its deepest context? You could either hear that and go home to bed, after having waited three hours for some wisdom and knowledge. You could go home to bed resigned to the idea that you didn’t get any wisdom or knowledge that night. Maybe if you went back, you might get it on another night.

[00:10:31] And some people would just go home to bed and think, “Well, he just wants us to rest tonight. This must not be the night of gaining any profound knowledge.” And then they would go and hear that he was going to speak at another place, a hundred miles away, and perhaps wait four or five hours for him to come out only to hear him say, “Nivar-tatvam,” yet again. That’s all. “I guess we just have to go home and go to sleep again.”

[00:10:57] Go Where You Are Not

[00:10:57] But those who are wise, those who had that depth of knowledge, could understand what Guru Dev was actually saying. “Transcend where you are. Go where you are not.” This turns out to be deeply pivotal wisdom in our tradition.

[00:11:15] To transcend where you are, let’s think about it for a moment. Where do you find yourself mostly? Well, we find ourselves mostly in the field of thought, and we identify with what we’ve been thinking about lately.

[00:11:28] “I’m a person who thinks this. I used to be a person who thought that. I had a whole cascade of thoughts once upon a time, which now, when I look at, seems to me to be very juvenile. Now I have this new, terribly sophisticated and civilized way of thinking, which now I identify with.”

[00:11:45] Whatever We’ve Been Thinking Lately

[00:11:45] It never occurs to us that with a little bit of passage of time, we might look back in the future at the current style of thinking with which we identify ourselves and say, “Ooh, I’m embarrassed about that. Now I think this other way.” But for the moment, we consider ourselves to be whatever the package of thoughts is which most dominantly visits our awareness.

[00:12:08] Sometimes people come to have a private consult with me, and they say, “I don’t know what I should be thinking or asking or doing, Thom. Will you please give me a little guidance?” And I’ll often say to them, “What is the one thought, or the two thoughts, or the three thoughts that repeat in your awareness most often? What’re one or two or three thoughts that repeat in your awareness the most often? Because whatever those thoughts are, that’s going to tell us what you need to experience next.”

[00:12:42] And so, what we find ourselves to be is whatever we’ve been thinking lately, and we have a body. We have a body that has needs, it gets hungry. It needs to defecate, it needs to urinate, it needs to be fed. We like various desires and body sensations that we wish to have, and, at certain times, we want all those body sensations to end so that we can have other body sensations and things.

[00:13:07] The Invitation of the Vedic Meditation Initiator

[00:13:07] What are we experiencing mainly? Relativity. Relativity means ever-changing consciousness state. I am an ever-changing consciousness state and my consciousness state is printing out an ever-changing body.

[00:13:23] My body is conceived and constructed and governed by whatever my consciousness state is. My body is simply a printout of my most recent reckoning about what I am. So I’m a body, and I’m all these thoughts.

[00:13:39] Nivar-tatvam, transcend where you are, go where you are not, says the teacher of Vedic Meditation. What does that bring us? It brings us the ability to step beyond thought entirely. To step beyond thought entirely is the invitation of the Vedic Meditation Initiator, the person who can teach you how to have an experience of Being, of absolute transcendence.

[00:14:07] So the Vedic Meditation Initiator shows you a technique for going where you are not. Where are you first? Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, and a lot of action coming out of those thoughts too. About one-tenth of what we think about actually gets acted upon, about a tenth, 10%.

[00:14:32] Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Action

[00:14:32] But thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, action, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, another action, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, another action.

[00:14:39] Action includes speech. Action includes communication. Action includes moving your body around.

[00:14:45] So thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, action. Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, action. Thinking, thinking, thinking behavior. Thinking, thinking, thinking, speech. Thinking, thinking, thinking, writing Instagrams. Thinking, thinking, thinking, reading Instagrams. Thinking, thinking, thinking, checking out Facebook, or now they call it, what is it called? Meta! Meta, Meta, Checking out Meta. Where’s that going? Nowhere. Thinking, thinking, thinking, do. Thinking, thinking, thinking like that.

[00:15:12] Step Beyond Thought Entirely

[00:15:12] Vedic Meditation teacher comes along and says, “We can use this thinking tendency, where your mind is always looking for greater and greater happiness, and show you how, using a pulsation of thought, which becomes increasingly charming with each repetition of it, a mantra, a Bija mantra used for Vedic Meditation.

[00:15:32] “We can teach you how to have that thought. And that thought will become progressively more and more charming, more and more charming with each thought of it. And it will take you to a new experience. What is that? You’ll step beyond thought entirely.”

[00:15:48] And so Nivar-tatvam, in this case, means ‘go where you are not, transcend where you are, step beyond thought’.

[00:15:55] They experience the unboundedness of transcendence, experience unboundedness. Now we’re experiencing unboundedness regularly. We experience it in the morning. We experience it in the evening. We meditate twice every day for about 20 minutes.

[00:16:11] How does Nivar-tatvam apply to someone who’s already meditating? Once you experience the unboundedness, the transcendent field, it’s time to come out of the transcendent field and come into activity again.

[00:16:26] Dip the Cloth, Fade the Cloth

[00:16:26] Every Vedic meditator’s heard the story of taking the cloth, the white cloth, dipping it into some deep saffron dye and then bringing it out wet and deeply saffron-colored now and putting it in the bright, hot sunshine.

[00:16:43] What does the sunshine do? It fades the color in the cloth predictably, but this fading of the color and the cloth stabilizes the color as well. It ingrains the saffron color into the white cloth. And though it’s faded at the end of the day, when you dip it again and bring it out saturated and brightly saffron-colored again, faded a second time, now at the maximum-faded point, it’s less faded than before. It’s starting to become colorfast.

[00:17:15] Dip the cloth, fade the cloth, dip the cloth, fade the cloth. By doing this repeatedly, the cloth begins to become immune to the fading power of sunshine. The cloth begins to become colorfast. It starts to become steadfast in its color.

[00:17:34] And then a day comes where, through alternating back and forth, the cloth is permanently colorfast. No amount of sunshine can fade it anymore. So the dual characteristics of the sunshine, on the one hand, fading, on the other hand, making stable, stabilizing color.

[00:17:55] Back and Forth

[00:17:55] We dip into the Unboundedness, and then we intentionally come out, and we engage in activity, and we want to engage in a thorough-going fashion.

[00:18:07] We engage our minds. We engage our senses in their objects. We engage in every way, and through all of this engaging, we naturally fade away the effect of the meditation that we just did. But this stabilizes the effect of that unboundedness. Transcend where you are means, if you find yourself in thinking, transcend the thinking, go to the unboundedness.

[00:18:37] If you find yourself having just meditated, you’ve just established yourself in Being, now transcend the transcendent, transcend that. And so we transcend that. We’re going where we are not. Transcend the transcendent, go back to the field of action.

[00:18:56] Through this, Nivar-tatvam turns into the technique of alternating. Back and forth, back and forth from unboundedness back to boundaries from boundaries back to unboundedness from unboundedness back to boundaries like this, the alternating is homogenizing the two states.

[00:19:18] The two states are no longer two states. With some practice, the meditator begins to experience, “I’m experiencing the unboundedness carrying forward with me into the boundaries of thinking and action.”

[00:19:32] And diving into the unboundedness twice, every day on a regular basis, dipping the cloth, fading the cloth, dipping the cloth, fading the cloth, the color fastness in the analogy is the steadfastness of the bondage, the binding together of the Absolute state, the source of thought, the source of creative intelligence, the source of all that is evolutionary, the source of evolutionary force itself, with all actions of daily life.

[00:20:08] The Embodiment of Nivar-Tatvam

[00:20:08] And now the final stroke in Nivar-tatvam, transcend where you are, go where you are not. How does it apply? When the alternating back and forth has given us Cosmic Consciousness. Cosmic Consciousness is a state where you can no longer go beyond, into unboundedness, or come back into thinking, because you’re experiencing both of these states simultaneously.

[00:20:38] They have homogenized. They have bonded together. The two states are being experienced at all times, at all times of day. You’re lying down in the night, you’re experiencing unboundedness in a horizontal position while sleeping.

[00:20:54] You’re awake, active during the day, you’re experiencing unboundedness while thinking, while acting, while behaving always.

[00:21:01] There’s no more alternating possible so, transcend where you are. Transcend the alternating. So the alternating is transcended. First, Nivar-tatvam means, go where you’re not, it gives us alternation between two states, and then Nivar-tatvam, go where you are not, transcend where you are, transcend the alternating.

[00:21:25] Cosmic Consciousness is that state where, whether we meditate or we don’t meditate, our awareness is permanently established in the unboundedness of Being, while enjoying all activity. This is the graduated state towards which all of us are hurtling through our twice-daily practice of Vedic Meditation, which is the embodiment of Guru Dev’s one word-lecture Nivar-tatvam.

[00:21:53] Jai Guru Deva.

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