Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beware of the Parasite

In his book ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ Friedrich Nietzsche, analyses the condition of the soul as it ascends into higher levels of spirituality as revealed by Zarathustra.

“I form circles around me and holy boundaries; ever fewer ascend with me ever higher mountains: I build a mountain-range out of ever holier mountains.-
But wherever ye would ascend with me, O my brethren, take care lest a parasite ascend with you!
A parasite: that is a reptile, a creeping, cringing reptile that trieth to fatten on your infirm and sore places.
And this is its art: it divineth where ascending souls are weary, in your trouble and dejection, in your sensitive modesty, doth it build its loathsome nest”.

Imagine climbing a mountain like Everest or Kilimanjaro. You need the best of physique. Many of us can feel that we are qualified to climb but it is only the experts who will tell you that to survive in the rarefied atmosphere of the final climb you need the best of lungs to support you. The blood looses the oxygen concentration (Oxygen concentration levels drop from 98% at ground level to 65% above 6000 meters) which can lead one to hallucination and loss of concentration which is so vital in the treacherous slopes at high altitude. Many people dismiss acute headaches at higher altitude as sinus related but it is the onset of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). If untreated it leads to cerebral edema with serious consequences. This is the reason that even expert climbers have many altitude camps to acclimatize the body to varied levels of life giving oxygen.

This is the same process when one intends to take the climb in spiritual journey. So as Zarathustra points out beware of the parasites that are waiting to latch on to you and drag you down.
Parasite is an organism that lives in or on and takes its nourishment from another organism. A parasite cannot live independently. It is the personification of ‘clinging or attachment’.
The higher we climb the more care is to be taken that all parasites are weeded out from our being.

I would like to end by quoting Nietzsche:

“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values”.

Love to you all

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reincarnation and Resurrection

Today is celebrated as ‘Ash Wednesday’ by the Christian church, a day of atonement and the start of the Lenten season. Faithful are smeared with ash on the forehead and the officiating priest utters these profound words “form dust you came and unto dust you will return”. During this period we contemplate the salvific process of Jesus but tend to attach the significance to His death and resurrection rather than on the internal process that Jesus went through as a preparation for transcending the earthly existence. Many of the mystics and rishis knew when their physical existence is coming to an end. Swami Vivekananda predicted that he will not see his fortieth birthday. These enlightened souls were in constant preparation for the inevitable end. They knew that this transition is another phase of existence. Hence the concept of resurrection or reincarnation became a matter of philosophical enquiry, especially today when so much research is being done on consciousness and its nature.

This subject has been discussed over many millennia by various spiritual masters.
The view of four spiritual traditions; Vedic, Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrianism are brought out to illustrate the underlying commonality.

The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
You prefer this life, although the life to come is better and more enduring (Qur'an 87:16–17)
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor al these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change (Bhagavad-Gita 2:12-13).
You do not die when the body dies…. As a man abandons his worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out will a new one be acquired by the Self, who lives within (Bhagavad-Gita 2:20–22).
So it is with the resurrection from the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory…. It is sown in a physical body, it is raised in a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
Zardusht asked Ohrmazd: “From where shall the body be reassembled which the wind has blown away, and the water carried off? And how shall the resurrection take place?' Ohrmazd answered: 'When I created the sky without pillars...; and when I created the earth which bears all physical life ...; and when I set in motion the sun and moon and stars...; and when I created corn, that it might be scattered in the earth and grow again, giving back increase...; and when I created and protected the child in the mother's womb...; and when I created the cloud, which bears water for the world and rains it down where it chooses; and when I created the wind...which blows as it pleases-then the creation of each one of these was more difficult for me than the raising of the dead. For... consider, if I made that which was not, why cannot I make again that which was?”

..............From the 'Greater Bundahishn', ch. 34, p. 52. “Concerning the resurrection”. Boyce, M. (1984) Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism, ed. and trans. M. Boyce, Manchester: Manchester University Press

Now we come to modern science, David Bohm proposed a cosmological order radically different from generally accepted conventions, which he expressed as a distinction between the implicate and explicate order, described in the book ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’:
"In the enfolded [or implicate] order, space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements. Rather, an entirely different sort of basic connection of elements is possible, from which our ordinary notions of space and time, along with those of separately existent material particles, are abstracted as forms derived from the deeper order. These ordinary notions in fact appear in what is called the "explicate" or "unfolded" order, which is a special and distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the implicate orders (Bohm, 1980, p. xv)".

Love to you all

Sunday, February 22, 2009

True Conquest

When Alexander the Great of Macedonia, came conquering to India, he wanted to meet the Siddhis (mystic Vedic sages) because he had heard about their knowledge and spiritual strength.
On the appearance of Alexander and his army, these venerable men stamped with their feet and gave no other sign of interest.
Alexander asked them through interpreters what they meant by this odd behaviour, and they replied:

“King Alexander, every man can possess only so much of the earth' surface as this we are standing on. You are but human like the rest of us, save that you are always busy and up to no good, travelling so many miles from your home, a nuisance to yourself and to others. Ah well! You will soon be dead, and then you will own just as much of this earth as will suffice to bury you”.

What a profound statement. Why I chose this thought was because everyday when you open the newspaper or switch on the television news, we are bombarded by news of corruption, greed and avarice. The whole value system is distorted towards having.
The words of the wise men “every man can possess only so much of the earth' surface as this we are standing on” is deeply philosophical and real. That is the only real estate that you need and which gives you a spatial identity. All other spatial possessions are hypothetical in assigning a true value to your being and does not give credence to your existence.

This is the reason why Jesus says:

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”…………. Mark 8: 36.

The great Vipassana meditation teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, wrote:

“Impermanence (anicca in Pali) is, of course, the essential fact which must be first experienced and understood by practice. The experience of anicca leaves no way out but the path-for the entire phenomenal world is anicca. There can be no hope for the ambitions of the individual, despite all his narcissism and grandiosity”.

Being rooted in our true nature, which has an intrinsic attribute of impermanence in this material world, and having a focus in our transcendence towards divine merger should be the aim of our life’s conquest.

Love to you all

Friday, February 20, 2009

Desiderata - Things to be Desired

A poem by Max Ehrmann - 1926

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,

be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
Even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
For the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals,
And everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
It is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labours and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
This poem was sent by Ms. Aarti C Rajaratinam – Consultant Child psychologist, at Crea Children’s Academy of which I am the Patron.
A beautiful spiritual poem which I though I would share with you.

Love to you all

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

People Centred Practice

First we must understand what is meant by ‘people centred’. Man occupies an important place in the Gaia system. The veneration of Mother Earth in pagan and ancient religious worship was due to the innate understanding that man cannot live in isolation from his environment and must always see himself as an integral part of the ecosystem. This attitude led man to respect nature. It is the ‘ego and science’ dominated era that has distorted this holistic view and has led man to exploit nature as if nature is inexhaustible in its bounties.

To become truly people-centred, our social practice must become life-centred. We must replace an anti-life development practice, which is consumerism, with a life-affirming social way of life. An important starting point will be to replace the prevailing economics of alienation with its antithesis, an economics of community.

This is expressed in a beautiful story from the past.

"A Guru once asked his shishyas (disciples) when would be the dawning of the true light. One shishya answered; the true light dawns when along the road you notice an animal and can tell whether it is a fox or a dog. “No,” replied the Guru, “That is not the answer.” Another shishya said, “The true light dawns when you look out of your window and can distinguish an apple tree from a pear tree.” Again the Guru said, No, that is not the right answer. Then in frustration, the shishyas together asked the Guru to give them the right answer. He said, “The true light dawns when you look at any man or a woman and can recognise your brother or sister.”

The fundamental fabric of all manifestation is the same only the name and form differ.
As the Gita says:
“Just as a reservoir is of little use to people when the country is flooded all around, so the scriptures are of little use to the illumined man or woman, who sees the Lord everywhere” ….BG 2:46

This harmony of relationships is manifest in several ways. It is manifest in the injunction that when a tree is harvested, two must be planted. When nature is scarred, it must be given time and opportunity to heal. It is manifest in traditional massive Asian irrigation systems that work in harmony with natural forces. It shines forth when we respect our natural habitat as the fount of our spiritual and material wealth.

If we have to adopt 'people centred practice' the we have to adopt a 'Gaia centred practice' at every moment of our life.

Love to you all

Monday, February 16, 2009

Purpose of Prayer

What is the purpose of prayer? This is a very important question. The answer will provide a whole lot of meanings to all your experience. When people say they do not have the habit of praying they do not understand the fundamental meaning of what praying is. All of us pray. Some of us may not pray to a specified deity or in a specified format but we send out a wish or supplication when we are pushed to a corner in life situation or when we have an ailment that is nagging us and we wish that it goes away.

Classically, prayer is, in essence, an act of communication. One communicates one’s desires to, presumably, some source that has power over his or her life or power to help. Prayer is also an act of communion with the source for expression of gratitude (a heaving of sigh, a silent ‘thank you’ in the depth of our heart) and reverence (a surrendering, a genuflection or prostration before an overpowering agency, all of which could be a mental state and not necessarily a physical act).

Continuing to define the word prayer, by associated meanings of the word “communicate”, means to connect, to join, or in effect to become one. In prayer, there is always a desire, though unconsciously, to be aligned with the source to which we pray. To be deemed worthy of facing up to a superior force and finally in all humility to surrender oneself.
This is the feeling many prophets and mystics felt when experiencing the divine presence.
This was the experience of Peter, James and John on Mt. Tabor, when they beheld the divine radiance of Jesus. This was the experience of Arjuna, when he asked Lord Krishna to reveal his universal form. This was the experience of the Prophet when he was embraced three times by Gabriel before communicating the wisdom of the Qur’an.
The Prophet was so terrified that he fled from the cave of Mt. Hira (Qur'an 81: 19-29)

All this are non verbal communion and the power lies therein.

Mantra is intended to provide the needed focus and to be a vehicle in a spiritual journey but unfortunately the words of the mantra dominate our act of praying rather than being an agency or a catalyst of communication.

Every thought that goes out from us is a communication or a prayer. Thoughts cannot be perceived in isolation. When we think, we think of something or somebody. There is a source to which we connect. what else could be greater than connecting to the very source of all that exists through all these intermediary steps. This is the ultimate prayer wherein we see and feel the connection to the very fundamental source and that should be the purpose of prayer.

This is revealed in the Gita "I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge, and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed." ..........BG 9:18

Love to you all

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Persevere, Preserve and Proliferate

Long ago in an ancient land, there lived a very wise man who happened to be the Vizier at the court of a great Sultan.
Months and years passed by and the great Sultan died, and his young prince replaced him. Being young, the prince lacked experience. He started spending more than what his father used to. The wise Vizier decided to teach the brash prince a lesson!

The prince set a contest and as a reward, decided to give the winner whatever he wishes, boasting of his wealth, being under the illusion that his wealth is virtually endless. The Vizier won, and asked the prince for the prize: a single grain of wheat and a chess board!

"What?! Just a grain of wheat! Are you insulting my wealth?" yelled the prince.
"No! Your majesty!" The Vizier explained. "You have to promise to double that grain of wheat for every square in the chess board until the all squares are full.”
"I would think you being so smart", the young prince said. "You would ask for something more substantial. Anyway, if this is your wish I will grant you that."

But when the Prince started to load the board as per the wish of the Vizier he found out that on the 64th square he needed a total of 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. This quantity was way beyond all his wealth and all his land could procure.

Why I chose this story is to indicate the lack of patience in most of us in advancing towards a higher level of consciousness through our meditation, action or prayers. We seem to be discouraged by the lack of immediate or short term benefits. This action of continued and steadfast seeking is brought out in the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All."…. Saying 2

The next step in the process is to preserve and then proliferate. The entire material universe came out the initial one grain of energy. We today accept that the universe expanded in an exponential mode in the very beginning. If we believe that we are from the same source then we carry the potential to expand provided we are aligned to the same forces or consciousness that shaped the evolution of the universe. Preservation in the cosmic scale is a continuous transcendence and this is true at the human level. The fundamental energy is conserved but the nature and form can vary.
This understanding is the beginning of proliferation due to which human consciousness reaches sublime levels. Mathematics and science enables us to appreciate the grand design of the entire evolutionary process.

Love to you all

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Power of Devotion

In South India, in the Tamil country, there was a certain Adigal or Dasa (devotee), in a village, Thangalur by name. He had heard of the spiritual grandeur of Saint Appar and developed great admiration for him. So he built rest-houses in his name; named his children after him so that they might grow up in the halo of his glory; he donated lands and houses, all in the name of the Saint he had not seen. See how faith preceded experience here. There are others who require experience before they fix their faith. The first path is more thrilling and lasting.

Well, one day by chance Appar himself walked into Thangalur for he had missed his way and had to deviate. He noticed everywhere in the town Appar Rest-houses and Appar Charities, and wondered how his name had preceded him. Then Adigal ran forward to His Guru and took him home and prepared a grand feast for him. When his eldest son went to his garden to cut a few Banana leaves for a dinner, a snake bit him and he died on the spot. Adigal however, was not affected in the least; he covered up the corpse, heaping dry leaves upon it and proceeded with the formalities of hospitality for the long-sought Guru. The Guru, however, insisted on all the children of Adigal sitting around him during the meal, and he ordered the father, "Go, and call every one here." Adigal did as he was commanded. He called and the dead son rose. He too came and sat for dinner with the rest. When he knew what had happened, Appar said, "Your Bhakthi is greater than my Shakthi."

The above story is also similar to the event of Jesus bringing back to life Lazarus due to the faith and devotion of Mary, Lazarus sister.
The reason I share this story with you is that there are two important spiritual insights that are illustrated to the discerning mind.

The first is the true nature of devotion or Bhakthi. We live in this age of knowledge and rational scientific enquiry, spiritual value of devotion or Bhakthi is scoffed at as a tolerated practice of the poorly endowed. This understanding is a much distorted view due to poor understanding of what devotion really is.

In the Bible we read what Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Clearly, our humanity brings inherent limitations to our ability to engage with the transcendent. The Bible recognizes our human limitations. For example, both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul state that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Somerville writes: “What God has prepared far exceeds anything the senses can feel, the mind conceive, or the heart desire.”
And yet, in spite of our limitations, the Bible never concludes that because we can’t know exhaustively we cannot know truly. On the contrary, we may possess true knowledge of God even though it is never complete. Paul taught that “we know but in part” and “we see through a glass darkly.” But it is this partial vision of Christ that brings about our spiritual transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18). This spiritual gaze – though incomplete and imperfect – is enough to transform us.

Devotion or Bhakthi is not a mere participation in ritual or repetition of mantras, it is the unfailing belief in an entity of higher reality whose power one perceives, not through a sensory instruments but by a process of constant focus and fixation starting from adopting life enabling values and a slow but steady progress to deep insight which lies beyond the mind. This is a constant evolution in one’s spiritual journey.

The second, not so apparent lesson is that when we acquire knowledge without proper spiritual maturity it can lead to spiritual mortality rather than be a source of renewed life.
The serpent in most mythology represents wisdom. As is the case of Adam and Eve in the Genesis story, unmitigated acquisition of knowledge with the self as the ultimate beneficiary leads to death. So also the young Son of the Adigal, representing the immature mind, is poisoned by the knowledge he receives and has to be brought back to life through the mature Bhakthi element of the father.

This is a hidden dimension that enriches the story.

Love to you all