Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Limited and Yet Limitless

Nature that fram'd us of four elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds:
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend,
The wondrous Architecture of the world:
And measure every wand'ring planet's course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless Spheres,
Will us to wear ourselves and never rest,
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect bliss and sole felicity,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

My friend on the Facebook, Kevin Walker, did a note, posting a portion of the play
“Tamburlaine the Great” by Christopher Marlowe, yesterday. The note is reproduced above. This triggered my thought on the culpability of the human race in assessing its given capacity during the earthly existence.
Describing the character of Tamburlaine, commentators write “Majestic and eloquent, with the ability to conquer not just kings and emperors but the audience of the play, Tamburlaine is one of the most important characters in Elizabethan drama. He is the source of the poetry that made Marlowe famous, and he can be both captivating and repellent because of his brutality. The key to his character is power and ambition, of which Tamburlaine has a superhuman amount, as well as the willingness to use any extreme in order to be triumphant. Unconcerned with social norms or everyday life, Tamburlaine views himself in relation to the gods, and Marlowe uses him as a tool to ask philosophical questions such as what is the furthest extent of human power and accomplishment, and whether this is significant in comparison with heaven.”
We are very arrogant in our thinking and this arises from the premises of a total lack of understanding our own true nature and where we fit in the design of things in the cosmos. We assume that rational and intellectual pursuit can take us to limitless understanding yet the greatest minds of science have humbly accepted the fallibility of their rational and scientific thinking.
Albert Einstein, probably the greatest scientific mind whose intuitions have influenced practically every arena of science, clearly positions man’s place in the cosmos and says:
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space
(the limiting dimension). He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest ... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty (a limitless potential).” {italic text mine}

Mental and intellectual aspirations have limitation. This incessant pursuit leaves one worn out and the ‘sole felicity’ which means the ‘only happiness’ is a temporary euphoria which we chase relentlessly. This is why great spiritual leaders have advised a ‘no mind’ approach to perennial happiness.
“Passions consist of conceptualizations. The ultimate non-existence of these conceptualizations and imaginary fabrications--that is the purity that is the intrinsic nature of the mind. Misapprehensions are passions. The ultimate absence of misapprehensions is the intrinsic nature of mind. The presumption of self is passion. The absence of self is the intrinsic nature of mind.
………..(Buddhism). Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 3

Love to you all

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sulphur, Salt & Soul

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
…….. Genesis 19: 24-26

Good scholarship of Bereshit - Genesis, the Jewish Tanakh or Bible, indicates that the writing was very esoteric and was meant to be interpreted to achieve deeper knowledge of Self-realization.
All alchemical processes are of evolutionary nature and the evolution must move forward towards the highest goal of purification.

Sulphur was regarded as an expression of the fiery element. Most alchemists took it as the basis of their principal processes. This sulphur was referred to, in mysterious phrases, as a stone that is not a stone, a stone so common that everyone sees it but nobody notices it. It had revealed to seasoned initiates as a method of roasting copper with sulphur in order to produce gold. Copper symbolizes a metal of good conduction of the transformative energy so that the pure heat of the soul fire can be transferred with the highest efficiency. Sulphur was produced from realgar, disulphide of arsenic, which was found in the gold mines. This mutual co-existence is symbolic of the non-differentiated aspect of the constituents of the process and the final product which is of highest value. It was considered only reasonable that the use of such initial products must have gold as the final product.
The purpose of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, through brimstone or Sulphur, should not be perceived as annihilation but a transformation from a lower state of existence to a higher state of life in the spiritual domain.

Salt is the third element in the trinity of the alchemical substances in the Great Work. As mercury is the water aspect, sulphur is the fiery aspect, so is salt the form aspect (salt is a crystalline form, or crystallized energy). So it is also a name for the ‘prima materia’, for the stone of the philosophers. The alchemists say that in its lower aspect salt is ‘bitter’. Here salt is symbol for knowledge and wisdom. Self-knowledge is bitter, painful. Sometimes they speak of the bitter ‘sea water’. As water or the sea stands for the soul, it is a reference to the same self-knowledge. The creative and transformative intelligence is coded into the ‘prima materia’ or primary cosmic consciousness.
Lot’s wife, being turned into a pillar of salt, is the symbolism of the storehouse of knowledge in the process of alchemy that has taken place. It is the blue print of the soul purification process of the humanity, symbolized by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. This knowledge is carried forward into the future through Lot, symbolizing the creative potential, and his two daughters, symbolizing the wisdom potential, in an unsullied manner as Lot’s daughters get one son each through Lot when he is drunk, symbolizing an elevated state of consciousness. The word drunk is often used in the Bible to indicate intake of intoxicating knowledge.
In Gospel of Thomas Jesus says, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended."… Logion 13

Past should be used as storehouse of empowering knowledge so that we can refine our lives to a higher state of spiritual existence.

Love to you all

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Symbolism of Descent of Ganga

In Valmiki Ramayana the descent of Ganga from the heavens is portrayed with the following myth.

Bhagiratha prayed to Brahma so that Ganga that was contained in a jar in the domain of Brahma, could be released to flow down to the Earth so that it may wash the ashes of his ancestors so that they may obtain liberation. Brahma said, “It cannot be released with a wish and prayer. When Narayana (Vishnu) takes Vamana Avatara (Dwarf incarnation – See my post "Festival of Liberation”), he will take the Visvarupa (Cosmic form); and his feet will touch all the three worlds and his toes will topple down the jar that contains Ganga and the Ganga will flow down.”

Bhagiratha took many births and waited for the Vamana Avatara. It took place, and the toe of Vishnu, in his cosmic form, toppled the Jar and it turned upside down. The whole thing fell down. And Brahma said, “Now it will go to the underworld because its force is such that you will not get the Ganga here on Earth. It will go to the nether regions. So you must do something to prevent it from going. Then he [Bhagiratha] prayed to Lord Siva to hold up the Ganga in his Jeta (matted locks). Then Siva released it through his hair. Even then Ganga came with such force, and it flowed through the Ashram of a sage called Jahnu. He was so angry he simply took the Ganga and swallowed it. Then Bhagiratha prayed to Jahnu to release it. Then he released it through his ear. Because it [Ganga] came out of the ear of Jahnu Rishi, she is called Jahnavi. Then it flowed, and it flowed through the ashes of the ancestors and then they were liberated.

This innocuous myth has a great cosmology built into it. The Ganga is the symbol all creative energy that makes up the Cosmos. Originally it is contained within the creative principle here symbolized by the jar that contained the Ganga and was in the domain of Brahma, the creative consciousness. The unmitigated release of this energy would have gone from one potential (of creation) to its negative potential (of annihilation).

In current Big Bang cosmology we are provided irrefutable proof that the initial inflation was contained so that fundamental particles such as Quarks could form. Siva as the transformative consciousness plays the mitigating or attenuating role in this symbolism. The controlled release of the creative potential over the cosmic background is seen today in the COBE (Cosmic Background Emission). This was responsible for the formation of the universe. What flows through the matted lock of Siva consciousness is the 'Matter consciousnesses' (consisting of 'matter' and 'Dark matter'). He still holds back the 'Pure Energy consciousness' (Dark Energy, which is 75% of the whole universe)

The role of Jahnu is the segregation of the manifest and unmanifest consciousness in the form of Matter and Dark matter in the creative domain(but both of which are the constituents of all manifestations in the universe). What is released through Jahnu is only the material manifestation.
(Jahnavi, the name given to Ganga in the Earthly domain, in Sanskrit means daughter of Jahnu. It is the birthing potential of the material universe that is released)

The cosmological aspects of creation, from pure energy potential, were understood by the architects of ancient Puranas.

Love to you all

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seeking True Self Awareness

Sometime back I had done a post on the first Logion of Gospel of Thomas and promised that this will continue in future and we have created a group (ESL Group) in Facebook for discussion. This post is on the second Logion.

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 all."

This is one of those sayings in Gospel of Thomas that I consider closer to the verba Iesu (words of Jesus) than the canonical parallel. The tension here appears to be on the world "troubled." That tension disappears when Logion 2 is taken in the spoken text and language in which it was delivered, Aramaic.
Jesus did not speak Coptic. He probably spoke little Greek. Semitic idiom is lost when translated to Greek and ‘Coptic Thomas’ is two translations and two cultures distant. The versions of this saying
from ‘Papyrus Oxy 654’ and Clement can be reconstructed:
“Let him who seeks continue to seek until he finds, when he finds, he will marvel; when he marvels, he will reign; and when he reigns, he will rest.”
In Aramaic, the parallelism between seeks/finds; finds/marvels; marvels/reigns; reigns/rests seems to be so typically Yeshuine style and Aramaic rhythm.*

When seeking is at the mind level of a concept, the mind itself is the limiting factor. The human mind operates in a rational and linear fashion. It is also dualistic in its approach to comprehending reality. This leads the goal to be isolated in nature from the self and open ended in attribute. When the goal is open ended, the process of seeking or the deviance from any desired goal becomes impenetrable mystery. This state of our own inadequacy is beautifully explained in Bhagavad-Gita in chapter 11: 53,54:
“The form you are seeing with your transcendental eyes cannot be understood simply by studying the Vedas, or by undergoing serious penances, or by charity, or by worship. It is not by these means that one can see Me as I am. My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding”
The 'undivided devotion' is the constant seeking that all mystics were engaged in.

In a recent Tamil film, a comedy clip is based on a mind dominated search. In this episode the comedian meets a ferocious character with a large sickle who has ordered, at the pain of death, two other persons to search the ground for something he has lost. The comedian enquires from the menacing character what they are searching and he replies that they are searching for that which he has lost. When he enquires what is lost he replies it is the item for which they are searching. This is an unsolvable challenge or conundrum. But during this search if they find a diamond then they will marvel at the find because of the element of surprise and the value of the find. This is the exact situation when one embarks upon a spiritual search for true self awareness. There is an innate desire to look for something that this material world is not giving us. When we embark on this search the goal is indefinable but as we progress the very act of constant search leads us, through a divine consciousness which is in us, towards a goal of immense value. This is the Holy Grail.

Beyond this stage there is nothing to attain and hence we have the ultimate conquest and reign over our own consciousness and through it the entire universe which is result of our consciousness. This is the final Sabbath, the rest in eternal bliss or Satchidananda. (Sat means true essence, Chit means consciousness and ananda means bliss.)


Love to you all

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nature of Human Evolution

“Considered cosmically, the Mystery of the Sun is contained in the nature of this evolution of humanity. The Divine-Spiritual Beings connected with his origin were united with that which — up to that important turning-point in his evolution — man was able to perceive in the Sun. These Divine-Spiritual Beings have separated from the Sun and have left there only the part of them that has died, so that the bodily nature of man can now receive through the Sun only the power of dead thoughts.” ……….. from ‘Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts’ by Rudolf Steiner

The words above are highly mystical in nature and come from an author who had a deep experience and insight into the process of human evolution beyond the physical level. The emphasis in studies of evolution has had a major focus on the physical dimension and only certain philosophers and spiritual masters had addressed the vital element of the life sustaining force which also is an active and indispensable partner in the process of human evolution.

I want to focus on the thoughts of Rudolf Steiner in this post. He had categorized human evolution in three major categories as evident from his writing.
“Man is a being who unfolds his life in the midst, between two regions of the world. With his bodily development he is a member of a ‘lower world’; with his soul-nature he himself constitutes a ‘middle world’; and with his faculties of Spirit he is ever striving towards an ‘upper world.’ He owes his bodily development to all that Nature has given him; he bears the being of his soul within him as his own portion; and he discovers in himself the forces of the Spirit, as the gifts that lead him out beyond himself to participate in a Divine World.”

A deeper study, with today’s science and technology, reveals that what drives the development and evolution of the 100 trillion cells in the human body, the mind or intellect which is the attribute of the soul nature and his attribute of buddhi or higher knowledge due to his spirit nature can all be all traced to one universal plenum which is Cosmic Consciousness. The understanding so far is that this Cosmic Consciousness exhibits itself as physical or sensory consciousness in the physical domain, a combination of physical and sub-consciousness (dream consciousness) at the mind or intellect level and in its pure form at the spirit level.
But current understanding from science points out that at the cell level, in plants, animals and humans, the operator is the cosmic field of consciousness which are given different names (such as morphic field in plant biology, universal unconsciousness as Jung call it or the Supermind as Aurobindo terms it). Hence the entire evolution is being driven in this cosmic field of consciousness.

Having put the frame of reference into more current context, now we can understand the deep insight of Rudolf Steiner. Prior to the transition in evolution from primates, early Homo species and then to Homo sapiens to the current level of spiritual man, man in his consciousness perceived divinity in the Sun. (It should be understood that this evolution is not an all embracing evolution of the species but currently restricted to a very small percentage of humanity.) This is the reason that Sun worship was very common in Pagan and other early spiritual practices. Once man realized his spiritual nature and started a journey towards the in-dwelling spirit, what he receives from the sun is the energy that only keeps his physical entity alive. This is through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. These energies are also operating in the consciousness field and this is the reason that Steiner calls them ‘dead thoughts’ as the Sun’s energies operate in the physical domain and has no more utility in the spiritual plane.

This is the 100th post and so I wanted to share something close to my heart which is a deeper understanding of our spiritual nature through the operation of Cosmic Consciousness which in turn drives our evolution.

Love to you all

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mohawk Thanksgiving Prayer

Wise men of the six-nation confederacy of the Haudenosaunee (the original people of Northwest United States), also known as the Iroquois, have passed down through the ages the teachings of the Great Peacemaker. A millennium ago, they had been warring tribes, caught in vicious cycles of attack, revenge, and retaliation, when the peacemaker came across Lake Ontario in a stone canoe. Gradually his words and actions won them over, and they accepted the Great Law of Peace. They buried their weapons under the Peace Tree by Lake Onondaga (near Syracuse in upper New York stae) and formed councils for making wise choices together, and for self-governance. In the Haudenosaunee, historians recognize the oldest known participatory democracy and point to the inspiration it provided to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others in crafting the Constitution of the United States.
Mohawks are one of the tribes in the six nation confederacy. Their understanding of healthy living in peace and harmony with fellow beings and the eco-system reflects in the prayer they used to recite.
The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers
We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. We send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.
Now our minds are one.

The Creator
Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the creator.
Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.
Now our minds are one.
What a beautiful prayer and very much needed to heal the world today.
Acknowledgement to citation by Joanna Macy in Shamballa Sun, Nov. 2007. pp.50-51.

Love to you all

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Song of transcendental unity

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

This is one my most loved mystical poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the title of which is ‘Brahma’.
In his later life from being a pastor, he turned to a spiritual path greatly influenced by the Vedas and Bhagavad-Gita. His essay “Over-soul” demonstrates his philosophical thinking and articulates his view of this dichotomy between phenomenal plurality and transcendental unity:

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”

All mystics longed for this transcendental union. A good example is the vision of St. Theresa of Avila as portrayed in the picture. Saint Teresa's love of God and her desire for spiritual union with him found expression in a mystical vision in which an angel pierced her heart with a golden spear and sent her into a trance. The erotic intensity of her vision is vividly suggested in the image by Teresa's swooning expression and languid pose, and by the deep folds of drapery, which convey her agitation.

The only way words can convey this state of union is through poetry, which has the unique character of presenting itself in an esoteric form to a discerning mind.

Love to you all

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cleansing through Fasting

We are in the holy month of Ramadan and it brings to our mind the need and necessity of fasting.
In Quran the verse that prescribes fasting also reminds us that it is a timeless spiritual practice and was prescribed to those who came before us.

In Exodus we find that: Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights while he was on the holy mountain with Divine Presence.
We read in the New Testament in the life of Jesus Christ how fasting was part of his inner practice as well: Jesus went into deep retreat and seclusion in the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and forty nights. And the tempter came and whispered to him: “if you are elect one of God, command these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone...” (Matthew, Luke 4:1-4)

Sufi master Vilayat Inayat Khan said, “One cannot bring to perceive the subtle levels of reality without first quieting the grosser vibrations of the outside world. Everyday reality is so striking that one has to make a conscious effort to downplay it in order to see the other reality that lies behind it.”
The Sufis says, the apparent (zahir) is the bridge to the real (haqq).
In Quranic metaphor we find when God created Adam; He breathed His Divine breath into his body. Probably inspired from this, Rumi compares the human body with the reed flute which has nine holes skilfully arranged and are played by the mysterious flute player. We need to become hollow so that the divine breath can flow through us and make sweet music. Purification of the body through fasting is a step where our body become less dense and more receptive.

In the Islamic wisdom tradition, though fasting's exterior is abstinence from food, drink, love-making for a prescribed time, but its interior is fasting from everything that is a hindrance to be mindful of God and that is against the natural disposition of human ideal, virtue (fitrah). There is fasting of the tongue not to speak abusive language, unnecessary speech and similar for ears and all part of the body. These inner components of fasting are as important as the fasting from food and drink.

We find in the Hadith: The Prophet said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and negative actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink"
“A keeper of fasts, who does not abandon lying and slandering, God cares not about his leaving off eating and drinking.”

In Rumi's words:
If your mind and stomach burn with the fire of hunger,
it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
In each moment that fire rages, it will burn away a hundred veils
and carry you a thousand steps towards your goal.

(With due acknowledgement to Sadiq Alam’s article “Inner dimension of Ramadan”)

Love to you all

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Festival of Liberation

Today we celebrate the festival of Onam in Kerala. This festival gives us a great opportunity for spiritual renewal.
A legend has it that King Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Lord Vishnu. He was sincere, honest, just and a good ruler. But he had one weakness — ego. He had conquered all the three worlds and posed a threat to the Devas (Gods), Asuras (demons) & humans. And to eradicate his pride and redeem his beloved devotee of this one sin, Vishnu came to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana.
The king in his pride asked the Brahmin what he wanted for he could give anything. Vamana asked for three paces of land and the king agreed. To humble him Vishnu, as Vamana showed Mahabali that he is just a puny creature in front of God's universal stature.

Mahabali, who was a man of principles, realized God's purpose and offered his head for Vamana's footstep, as he was sent to another world. This fatal step proved a blessing in disguise for the good king — the foot salvaged and released him from the recurrent cycle of birth and death. But Vishnu granted him a boon and Mahabali asked that he return to the people, he loved so much, every year. This day of return is celebrated as Onam.

The 20th Paasuram (stanza) of Andal Thirupavai, a great Tamil devotional poetry also praises the deeds of Vishnu in his Vamana avatar in the following lines:

“Oh Valiant Lord, who removes the trembling of the thirty three (crores of) gods, by going to battles (on their behalf) and by being in front of them (in such battles), kindly awaken from sleep. Oh Lord, who cares about our protection, and is fully equipped with enormous strength and valour! Oh Lord, blemishless and pure, and the One who defeats with vigour your enemies! Kindly awaken………………… May You give us a fan, a mirror and Your Lord as well, and at this time itself, may You help us to take our (ceremonial) bath....”

This Paasuram is a supplication to Andal, the mother Goddess, to wake up the divine from his rest for the protection of his people as well as to provide the needed state for receiving the Lord, A fan, which signifies a means to withstanding and mitigating the energy of the divine presence and a mirror, which signifies a method of perceiving through reflection in the manifest the unmanifest wholeness. This is similar to the special vision Lord Krishna grants to Arjuna when he reveals his universal from. The final supplication is for help in purification of the self through a ceremonial bath, signifying preparing the inner self for divine presence.

That is why Onam is celebrated by a ritual bath, wearing new clothes and resolving to lead a new life of truth, piety, love, and humility.

Happy Onam!!!
Love to you all