Another Cliche Analogy Met With on the Ashram Circuit--The Clay Pot
Note: One of the best purchases I ever made was an outlay of 10 US dollars for a hard cover, second hand copy of the second, 1980 edition of Agehananda Bharati's memoir, The Ochre Robe. He went to India in 1949, 20 years before the Hippie Trail began. And Bharati takes you behind the scenes. His book is worth reading simply as a stunning adventure story. Bharati was born in Vienna, and gives a doozy of a story about the Nazi occupation and how he got to learn modern Indian languages in the Indian Foreign legion of the German Army.
Bharati encountered classic thought stopping cliches in India, and the kind of dumbed down mushy Hinduism that later become common place in the New Age circuit. He was kicked out of his first monastery and it took awhile before he gained access to the really high powered scholarly monastery universities that gave him the real deal..not the tea and toast Hinduism that had been filtered through Vivekananda and the Hindu reform movement. Bharati was also horrified after reaching India to learn that many considered Hitler an avatar. If you had power, power equalled legitimacy. He also tells you that the Bhagavad Gita is not really one of the canonical books of Hinduism, but its become the badge of identity for the Hindu reformers who are Western educated and lack the training to read the full texts of scholastic Hinduism...and thus try to state that such intellectual training is not necessary and actually corrupted Hinduism.
Its the Vivekananda trash that is the undergirding of the New Wage Hindu lite most commonly met with today.
Ive found at least $200 worth of inside tips, clues etc from this one book, and it is one of a handful that I will never, ever lend out. So this is one big source of my insights, folks--get a copy for yourselves. Truth warriors deserve a good set of illusion busting weapons and The Ochre Robe has been the prize sword in my armoury.
The clay-pot story seems bit less in use than the snake-and-rope, but it is still part of the tool kit of the Hindu teacher. It would also give someone that nice, familiar lullaby feeling if they've been on the ashram circuit for any length of time.
From a discussion board. The discussant here comments about both the snake and rope and the clay and pot stories, as if both are familiar landmarks in the Hindu landscape. They are.
Default Re: Is Shankara a Mayavadin?
The snake-rope and pot-clay analogy to explain or understand the world
and Brahman are often used and interesting. Shakara's analogies are
mainly to emphasize the functionings of our minds with a subtle
suggestion to go beyond.
In the snake-rope analogy, snake appears as a rope or vice versa due to
the subjective interpretation of the observer's mind and its associated
fear or lack of fear. However, both snake and rope have similarity in
their form, not in substance. Snake and rope have existence independent
of each other. Using the sense of touch one can know whether it is a
snake or just a rope. One knows the world (snake and rope) through the
senses. But the Brahman is not known to the senses. However, the analogy
drives home the point that the rope (Brahman) is real and the perceived
snake (world) is maya.
In the pot-clay analogy, one knows that the pot does not exist without
the clay. When the pot is broken the clay still exists. However, both
the pot and clay are known through the senses. But the Brahman is not
known to the senses. However, just as above, the analogy drives home the
point that the clay (Brahman) is real and the pot (world) is one
manifestation of the clay.
Both these examples are for the conditioned minds to peak out beyond
their boundaries and recognize what is not recognizable through the
A child which has not developed its mind-skills and conditionings sees
no difference between the snake and the rope nor does it differentiate
between the pot and the clay. For the child there is no difference
between the real and unreal!
An unconditioned mind is in a state of awareness and in that state "the
knowing" is not dependent on the senses and therefore it "knows" the
Brahman and all its manifestations without any effort. There are no
This story can be used in a variety of ways. Most of often it is used to illustrate unity of reality.
But sometimes a clay pot can be likened to a yogi or saint who has been fully formed by being baked long enough. Ramana Maharshi used the story both ways.
Muktananda says: O friend, as waves are in water, fragrance in camphor, ... as clay is inseparable from pots, so a Siddha is entirely one with God. ...Meditation Revolution
soundness of baked pots and find out which of the assembled saints was properly baked clay
In the first two lines of this verse Sri Ramana explains the first sentence, ‘deham naham’, saying that the body is not ‘I’ because it is jada (non-conscious) like a clay pot, because it does not have any ‘shining’ (or consciousness of itself) as ‘I’, and because our nature (or essential being) is experienced by us daily in sleep, in which this body does not exist.
Within this sheath of knowledge, the Self throbs as the self-effulgent light, the supreme soul, homogeneous, the Truth, all pervasive, complete, immutable, the supreme Lord. Yet the Self assumes limitations through the false superimposition of the intellect on it in this sheath, because this is close to it, and in fact the closest of its adjuncts. As a result it is deluded into thinking that it is this sheath. Just as a pot might seem to be different from its clay, so it imagines itself to be different from itself, to be the agent and the enjoyer, and seems to be limited in such ways, although it is like the fire in a ball of hot iron, unaffected by the shape of the ball.”
(context--The followers of (Pasupati)school recognise God as the efficient
or the operative
cause. They recognise the primordial matter as the material
cause of the world. This (Pashupati)theory is contrary to the view of the Sruti where Brahman is stated to be both
the efficient and the material cause of the world. Hence the theory of Pasupatas cannot be accepted....According to Vedanta, the Lord is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe. The Naiyayikas, Vaiseshikas, Yogins and Mahesvaras say that the Lord is the efficient cause only and the material cause is either the atoms, according to the Naiyayikas and Vaiseshikas, or the Pradhana, according to the Yogins and Mahesvaras. He is the ruler of the Pradhana and the souls which are different from Him.
This view is wrong and inconsistent
(the clay pot example is then utilized in the arguement through analogy as described by Bharati)
The Sutrakara himself has proved in the previous Section of this book that the Lord is the material cause as well as the ruler of the world (efficient or the operative cause).
It is impossible that the Lord should be the mere efficient cause of the world, because His connection with the world cannot be established. In ordinary worldly life we see that a potter who is merely the efficient cause of the pot has a certain connection with the clay with which he fashions the pot.
The Srutis emphatically declare 'I will become many' (Tait. Up. II.6). This indicates that the Lord is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe.
material cause: Hindu - Hinduism Dictionary on Cause
cause: Karana. Anything which produces an effect, a result. -
- efficient cause: (nimitta karana) That which directly produces the effect; that which conceives, makes, shapes, etc., such as the potter who fashions a clay pot, or God who creates the world.
- material cause: (upadana karana) The matter from which the effect is formed, as the clay which is shaped into a pot, or God as primal substance becoming the world.
- instrumental cause: (sahakari karana) That which serves as a means, mechanism or tool in producing the effect, such as the potter's wheel, necessary for making a pot, or God's generative Shakti.
See: maya, tattva
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That)
We understand the word mithyA as a word referring to our understanding of the reality of an object, like a pot. MithyA is not an object. Similarly, satyam is also a word revealing our understanding of reality. MithyA is understood as the reality of an object which has no being on its own. The pot doesn’t have a being without clay. Pot is not an independent object; it is a just a word, a name (name) revealing a form and a function. The weight of the pot is the weight of clay. The touch of the pot is the touch of clay. The pot is not upon the clay, nor does it come out of the clay. We cannot even imagine a clay pot without thinking of clay. From this we understand that while the pot is clay, clay is not the pot. The word satyam is therefore used for clay, in terms of its reality, and the word mithyA is used to refer to the reality of pot. This has to be understood—mithyA is nothing but our understanding of reality. How do we understand it? That which has no being of its own, which has its being or basis in something else, and is not separate from the place where it has its being (adhishtAna-ananya), is mithyA. In other words, every product is mithyA. It is not separate from the material of which it is made. And satyam is the reality (sadvastu) in which all things have their being, otherwise called Brahman.
In the Chandogya Upanishad, the word that is used is sat. That reality, that existent vastu is real (satyam) and the world (jagat) is a product (kArya) not separate from the vastu, like clay pot is not separate from the clay. As the pot is nothing but a name and form depending on the clay for its existence, the world (jagat) is nothing but names and forms depending for their existence upon Brahman. That is the existent ‘thing’ (sadvastu). Therefore this sat alone is real (sadeva satyam) like the clay alone is real (mrdeva satyam) for the clay pot. The word satyam we can finally use only for Brahman, and everything else, including space, air, fire, etc., in our elemental model of the world, is mithyA.
Therefore we say, “All this is Brahman,” idam sarvam brahma. The cause of this entire world is Brahman, and all that is here, which in reality is mithyA, is not separate from that cause.
and if you want yet more examples of teachers using the clay pot story here is a list of my OCD Google searches:
Sivananda--treatise on the 63 Nayanar Saints--yet more uses of clay analogies quoted from Hindu texts.
The Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy
The Five Activities of the Lord: The five activities of the Lord are: Creation, Preservation, Destruction, Veiling and Grace. These, separately considered, are the activities of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara, and Sadasiva.
Siva, Shakti and Maya: Lord Siva pervades the whole world by His Shakti. He works through Shakti. Shakti is the conscious energy of the Lord Siva. She is the very body of Lord Siva. The potter is the first cause for the pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes. The clay is the material cause of the pot. Similarly, Lord Siva is the first cause of the world. Shakti is the instrumental cause. Maya is the material cause.
Shakti is not the material cause of the universe, because She is of the nature of consciousness (Chaitanya). Siva is pure consciousness, but matter is pure unconsciousness. Shakti is the intermediate link between the two.
Shakti is the reflex of Siva. It has no independent existence. Siva assumes this form out of His great love for mankind. Siva wishes that all should know Him.
Evolution of the Tattvas from Suddha Maya: The world undergoes evolution for the benefit of the souls.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/01/2009 07:54AM by corboy.