What do you think?
Rate this book
464 pages, Paperback
First published September 1, 1996
what was definite and separate, what had shape. A Self, atman--that was the name it used. And the mind imagined that Self as having consistency. Thinking the mind grew red hot. It saw thirty-six thousand fires flare up, made up of mind, made with mind.
. . . a way of preventing the relationship with the wandering horse from being broken. The narrative wandered around like the horse. The secret thought of the narrative is the horse. The secret thought of the horse is the narrative.
Why should the mind be before and after every other thing? Because it can never be found in the world. You can open up any body, any element, with the finest of metal points, you can turn everything inside out and expose all that has been hidden, until matter becomes a whirr of dragonflies. To no end: you will never find so much as trace, not even the tiniest, of the mind. The banner of its sovereignty is precisely this: its not being there.
The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is a "knot" (and the books that make up the Mahabharata are called parvans, "knots"), just one of the innumerable stitches in the weave of everything with everything. Going back in time to what came before it, or forward a little, after it ended, we encounter a net that brushes against us on every side--and immediately we are struck by the conviction that we will never see the edges of that net, because there are no edges.
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge looked like a single tree: when the branches rustled, that was the Vedas who were its leaves, speaking; hen the air was still soma dripped from its trunk, offering life without end. Look at that huge plant carefully, you saw that there was in fact two trees, inextricably twisted together. One thrust its branches upward, the other towards the ground. They were a sami and an asvattha. It was hard to see which was which. On opposite branches, at the same height, two birds could be made out, "inseparable friends." One was eating a berry, the other was watching it intensely. To light a fire you need to rub a twig of asvattha against a twig of sami. Pushing out its aerial roots, the asvattha slowly strangles the sami. Consciousness slowly strangles life. But life exists--or is perceived to exist--only to the extent that it allows the parasite of consciousness to grown upon it.
"Thus, from the allusive cipher of the Ṛg Veda and the abrupt, broken narratives of the Brāhmaṇas, [...] one passed to the ruthless redundance of the Purānas, their incessant dilution, their indulgence in hypnotic and hypertrophic detail. […] And the demands on the listener changed too. There was a time when he’d been obliged to solve abrupt enigmas, or find his head bursting. Now he could heap up rewards merely by listening to the stories as they proliferated."Calasso’s return to the Rig Veda following The Ruin of Kasch. A more systematic approach than his earlier work, though correspondingly bogged in minutia. Discussion of Sacrifice, Engima, and The Modern – interesting themes – Calasso interprets the Rig Vedas as practicing a kind of negative dialectics – ideas which may have a greater impact if this is the reader’s first exposure:
”Why was the residue granted this privilege? Why, rather than representing the insignificant, did it become the place that conceals the essential?”The task of thought, rephrased:
>”What is the esoteric? The thought closest to the vision things have of themselves.”(possiblity and actuality):
"Vasiṣṭha said: “This was our axiom: that what was not manifest took precedence over what was manifest, that the manifest was subject to the unmanifest. And since the manifest, insofar as it depended on the unmanifest, was merely a consequence of it, and a consequence, what’s more, that had not been clearly and unambiguously desired, as the events of Brahmā’s early life bear witness, the manifest could be considered as a residue, a leftover, a remnant, the place where whatever was superfluous, and could not be reabsorbed in the realm from which it originated, had gathered."
-> "Every lover loves, first and foremost, an absentee. <- Absence precedes presence, in the hierarchical order of things. Presence is just a special case in the category of absence. Presence is a hallucination protracted for a certain period. "
he challenged the brahman: “I ask you what is the extreme point of the earth. I ask you what is the navel of the world. I ask you what is the seed of the stallion. I ask you what is the supreme home of the word.” Again unhesitating, the brahman replied: “It is the altar (vedi) that is called the extreme point of the earth. It is the sacrifice that is called the navel of the world. It is the soma that is called the seed of the stallion. It is the brahman that is the supreme home of the word.” What had happened? The hotṛ had put forward enigmas. The brahman had solved them. But what were his solutions? Enigmas of a higher order. This alone was enough to suggest that they were the right answers.
What does the world look like? It’s an upturned cup. What’s it made of? Bone. [...] --> What is it that hangs suspended in that upturned cup, that dark and empty hemisphere? The “glory of all forms,” they said. A brain saturated in soma: the mind
"Everything is within the sacrifice. With the sacrifice one heals the sacrifice. I say this so that you might not imagine it easy to escape from sacrifice. In every sacrifice there is the uncertainty of a journey toward an unknown destination. <- If the brahman doesn’t open his mouth to take the prāśitra [the piece of wounded flesh], the sacrifice will not be able to heal. The brahman eats the guilt, he assimilates it into his circulation. Thus he ‘restores what was torn asunder.’ The tearing is within the ceremony—and the ceremony itself serves to heal it. "The words spoken to the horse on the sacrificial altar (lies):
You do not die thus. You are not hurt. On easy paths you go to the Gods.” They were the last words the [sacrificed] horse would hear,Events and their justification:
“On my return, I told everyone of my vision. So today we know why we celebrate the mahāvrata. This is the right sequence of events. The vision comes afterward. First one must arrange the gestures. But without knowing exactly what they mean. The vision throws light on how and why things must happen as they already do. Since everything already happens. But how did it happen?”A voluntary diminishing of power:
"They thought so much about sovereignty that they no longer dared to exercise it. Their history was one of progressive abdication. Having consumed its every variation, from the most avid to the most austere, in the heat of their minds, they chose to refrain from dominion, and let the first invaders seize it from them. They would put up with anything, so long as they could think. And, if possible, think what the ancients, what the ṛṣis had thought before them." ->"A temple was unacceptable, because that would have meant using something ready-made, once and for all, whereas what you had to do was start from scratch, every day, transforming whatever clearing you found, scattered bushes and all, into a place of sacrifice, choosing one by one the positions for the fires and the altar, measuring out the distances, evoking the whole from an amorphous, mute, inert scene, until the moment when the gods would come down and sit themselves on the thin grass mats that had been carefully unrolled for them."
What would one day be called “the modern” was, at least as far as its sharpest and most hidden point is concerned, a legacy of the Buddha. Seeing things as so many aggregates and dismantling them. Then dismantling the elements split off from the aggregates, insofar as they too are aggregates. And so on and on in dizzying succession. An arid, ferocious scholasticism. A taste for repetition, as agent provocateur of inanity. Vocation for monotony. Total lack of respect for any prohibition, any authority. Emptying of every substance from within. Only husks left intact. The quiet conviction that all play occurs where phantoms ceaselessly substitute one for another. Allowing the natural algebra of the mind to operate out in the open. Seeing the world as a landscape of interlocking cogs. Observing it from a certain and constant distance.“Objective” quantitative thought of so-called Enlightenment Thinking – the Repetition:
"The tragic is the unique and irreversible act. To elude the tragic, the Buddha dilutes every action in a series of actions, every life in a series of lives, every death in a series of deaths. Suddenly everything loses its consistency. Whatever is multiplied is also extenuated. Simultaneous with this gesture came the epistemological denial of the existence of the Self, now reduced to a series of elements that can be added together and unified in conventional fashion.The practice of Enlightenment Thought against the gods:
“To attribute infinite duration to the gods, or infinite knowledge, or infinite strength, is groveling and superstitious. The gods are simply those who have come closest to brahman. It’s true that, vain and fatuous as they were, they claimed to be responsible for their victory, claimed to originate their own actions. Men do the same, to imitate them. But it is pure boastfulness."
"Impatience got the better of me, and I opened his egg too soon. Only then did I understand what a ṛṣi from a distant land, a pale and angular seer, will say one day: that impatience is the only sin."