Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Into the Sea of Darkness

Edgar Allan Poe, whose 200th birth anniversary the literary world is celebrating this year, wrote in his short story “Eleonora”
“I am come of a race noted for vigour of fancy and ardour of passion. Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence -– whether much that is glorious –- whether all that is profound -– does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their grey visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. They penetrate, however, rudderless or compassless into the vast ocean of the "light ineffable," and again, like the adventures of the Nubian geographer, "agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exploraturi." (This translates from Latin “ventured into the sea of darkness, in order to explore what it might contain")

I had earlier written a blog on the death of Pop icon Michael Jackson titled the “thin dividing line” highlighting the blurring of the border between genius and madness. This article highlights a different approach where one knows that in his pursuit of knowledge or insight one may be called mad, this should not deter him or her from the persistent action of unrelenting search. The opening paragraph in Poe’s work positions the hero in this category. The position in the story is the permanency of love for Eleonora, sealed with an eternal oath, as the indelible and perennial state of existence in the emotional domain. Despite the physical death and separation of the ever lovable Eleonora in the valley of multi-coloured grass and the soothing ‘River of Silence’ holds the hero of the story to an invariable space-time existence, an imposed change into the unknown far from the quiet of the valley into the King’s court, exposes him to Ermengarde, a maiden to whose beauty the hero’s whole recreant heart yielded at once. There is a darkness that envelops the soul as it is torn between the oath to his older love and an emotional need to hold on to the new found object of adoration and the ineffable light that answers the hero’s turbulent heart is through a dream. A familiar and sweet voice, saying:
“Sleep in peace!–for the Spirit of Love reigneth and ruleth, and, in taking to thy passionate heart her who is Ermengarde, thou art absolved, for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven, of thy vows unto Eleonora.”

This story is something that we all live through in our lives especially in our mental domain. A social and parental conditioning in our earlier life, a comforting infatuation of external, imparted knowledge which appears so thrillingly beautiful, that we dare not venture beyond. Most of us live in this ‘River of Silence’ forever till death takes us away. We do not want to leave our Eleonora, the beloved, though she is dead. We have to venture out and dare to dream. This is the voyage into ‘mare tenebrarum’ the sea of darkness. There we may find our new love, Ermengarde.
This is the beauty of life where we allow space for an expansion of our being and this can happen only when we venture beyond the multi-coloured grass valley and river of silence into a space where there is cacophony and mind numbing and challenging darkness. Out of this cacophony and darkness we can wean out a new existence, a singular match of sound and light, wherein we find higher truth.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dark Death Dealing Deity

In Bengal the festival of Deepavali coincides with Kali Puja.
Having spent ten years in Kolkota, I can not forget the devotion of Bengalis for Goddess Kali. She was the instrument of mystical experience for Swami Paramhamsa Ramakrishna.
Swami Vivekananda, the great disciple of Ramakrishna, writing the poem “Kali, the Mother” portrays very grotesque and bone chilling image of the Divine Mother, Kali.
Alan watts, the twentieth century Zen philosopher, in his discourse on ‘Images of God’ says that Eastern philosophy and religion had understood the deep essence of God beyond the anthropomorphic trappings so rampant in Western monotheism and point to the imagery of Goddess Kali as the primal understanding of the cosmic nature of the divine.
He quotes the famous episode of an astronaut who returned from a long space flight and he was asked if he had seen God and he said ‘Yes’. He was then asked ‘What is he like?’ He said ‘She is Black’. This is the cosmic understanding of deep space away from the solar system. Many astronauts have had mystical experience when in space and some have devoted their life to spiritual seeking after these experiences. Ed Mitchell, the astronaut of Apollo 14, had this experience on his return from the moon on 9th February 1971.

What is the significance of imagery of Goddess Kali?
Kali's fierce form depicts awesome symbolism. Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: “Just as all colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her”, the primal void from which all came into existence. Her nudity is primeval, fundamental, and transparent like Nature — the earth, sea, and sky. Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all Maya or ‘false consciousnesses’. Kali's garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge.

Her girdle of severed human hands signifies work and liberation from the cycle of karma. Her white teeth show her inner purity, and her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous nature — “her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavours'.” Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness and the eight bonds that bind us.

Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit means time). The eminent translator of Tantrik texts, Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, “Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness.”

Kali's proximity to cremation grounds where the five elements or ‘Pancha Mahabhuta’ come together, and all worldly attachments are absolved, again point to the cycle of birth and death. The reclined Shiva lying prostrate under the feet of Kali suggests that without the power of Kali (Shakti), Shiva (the transformative principle in creation) is inert.

With this deeper cosmic understanding let us approach our worship.

Love to you all

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Inner Sabbath – A Singularity

Jesus said, “The person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live.
For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one.”
………. Gospel of Thomas Logion 4

This saying is potent with meaning which appears to evade us on the surface. Jesus is telling the disciples a continual comment of reaching the Kingdom through realization of the true nature of oneself. Jesus, in this saying, is not talking about a man of advanced age going to a baby who is seven days old and asking for a discourse on empowering knowledge. The true meaning of this saying is that in order to attain immortal life in the spiritual domain, human consciousness which has been contaminated through a long life in this materialistic world and which has become encrusted with trappings of pleasures through the senses, must go inward to the time of emergence of the pure consciousness in this physical body.
The seven days stated as the age of the immaculate child signifies the completion of the Genesis process of physical creation. This is the consciousness that resides in the fully created primal Adam (Adam Kadmon), the primal androgynous human and the ultimate created consciousness where in there is a divine perfection. This perfection is the eternal rest of the Sabbath on the seventh day. As Tau Malachi says “here the Master is speaking of entering into repose and seeking the wisdom of the Divine presence and power that enters the holy abode on the Sabbath”

This may sound a very tall order for common man. The moments of intuitive experience are often ignored by us as against a perception of their non occurrence. This asking the ‘child of seven days’ is experienced in our daily lives as experiences less intense than the "peak event" and are widespread, perhaps universal.

Paul Tillich, the twentieth century American Theologian and Philosopher, speaks of encounters with ‘true reality’ rather than unitive moments or mystical experiences: “Suddenly, true reality appears like the brightness of lightning in a formerly dark place.” Or, he continues, it may slowly appear “like a landscape when the fog becomes thinner and thinner and finally disappears. New darknesses, new fogs will fall upon you, but you have experienced, at least once, the truth and the freedom given by the truth.”

At the age of 33, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that he once had a moment of 'perfect exhilaration' while crossing a common (apparently Boston Common) at twilight: “Almost I fear to think how glad I am . . . Standing on bare ground,--my head in the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,--all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing, I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”

Monoimus, the Arab, a great Gnostic (who lived somewhere between 150 - 210 CE) recommended an inward search for truth: “Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as a starting point. Learn who it is within you makes everything his own and says, “My God, my mind, my soul, my body!” Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. . . And if, you carefully seek this out, you will find Him in yourself [as both] one and many things after the likeness of that one singularity. . . .”

Jesus concludes this saying that due to this process, what we considered as primal becomes irrelevant and all experience moves towards a singularity of pure bliss.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fallacy in Methodology

My friend in Facebook, Francois Buisson, asked me regarding my take on Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s philosophy and I wrote to him that Jiddu's philosophy centres around the concept which he put out in his speech in Ommen, the Netherlands, on August 3, 1929 “truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path”.
Though he had his roots in Theosophy, he departed to a self propelled seeking more in line with Buddhism where ‘attaining pure land’ can be achieved only through one's own chosen methodology and this process is unique to that individual.
There creeps in etymological fallacy when words such as ‘path’ and ‘truth’ are encountered in philosophical discussions. The concept of a path immediately takes one to boundaries and predetermined layout and this is the meaning that is implied when Jiddu talks of method of grasping or approaching ‘truth’.
A path taken by an individual while climbing a mountain peak can vary depending on your physical strength, stamina, climbing skills and how well you are equipped. In theory we have an infinite number of paths to the peak if there are infinite numbers of people aiming to climb the peak. In practice there are defined paths based on the experience of past climbers and the daring approach of one pioneer. This is what the role of religion should be in attaining the ultimate goal of one’s spiritual life. It should be a path not the only path. What has happened over a period of time is that the very peak you wanted to climb has been falsely located at a much lower altitude due to the vested interest of the custodians of the path. The path takes priority rather than the peak itself.
Jiddu’s condemnation results from this aberration and he recommends that each one of us becomes a pioneer and we find our own unique path. (While this is subject to criticism due to the assumption that everyone is an expert climber, this methodology should be addressed only to the expert climbers or the spiritually adept). Vedic methodology provides space for such variance through what are known as Bakthi, Karma, Jnana and Raja marga (Way).
Next comes, the definition of the goal, the peak. If after more accurate survey we find that we have another peak which is higher than the one which had earlier been defined as the tallest and loftiest then the target shifts. Hence defining the highest peak to be scaled becomes a knowledge dependent entity.

Truth itself is not a definable commodity but that which approaches the absolute reality, that beyond which there is no cause and effect or any form of emanation, or as Nagarjuna defines, at which stage there is no ‘dependent arising’. The pure land is the state of ultimate abode in Chinese Mahayana philosophy. In effect, being born into the Pure Land is akin to achieving enlightenment, through escaping samsara, the Buddhist concept of ‘the wheel of birth and death’. To reach this ultimate stage which is hidden from our perception we need to progress through many stages of having climbed the highest peak only to realize that there is another loftier one than one on which we are standing. To this new peak there could be a totally new path from the base camp.
This is the reason for Jiddu calling for a pathless open approach as against a rigid system to allow the inherent divine force, in each seeking individual, to take control. An organized universal methodology completely negates the role of karmic accumulation or the action of the indwelling divinity.

Love to you all

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cheating Death

In three days we are going to celebrate the festival of Deepavali.

Yama Deepdaan is the first day of Diwali celebrations in North India and Gujarat. It is also known as Dhanteras.
Legend has it that a 16-year-old son of King Hima was destined to die on the fourth day of his marriage due to a snake bite. A girl agreed to marry the unlucky prince knowing his ill fate. The young bride was confident of her spiritual wealth and decided to save the prince. On the fourth night, after their marriage, she refused to let him sleep. She collected all her jewellery, ornaments, and also the gold and silver coins in the palace and placed them in a heap at the entrance of door. Then she lit innumerable Diyas (lamps) all over the palace. To keep her husband awake, she narrated tales and sang songs.

At the stroke of midnight, Lord Yama, the God of Death, reached the palace in the guise of a snake. But Yamraj’s eyes were blinded by the dazzle of the Diyas. This prevented him from entering the room where the young bride and prince was sitting. When the attempts to enter the room failed, Lord Yama hid near the ornaments and coins, thinking that the prince might come there to look at the valuables. But the clever young bride did not allow the prince to venture out and soon sun appeared and Lord Yama returned disappointed.

As usual the legend has a deeper meaning for each one of us to move to our real purpose in life.
Visitation by death is an inevitable fact of life. All that is created must move towards dissolution or dispersion. The third law of thermodynamics also states the same and hence the entire heat energy which is the signature of created matter must ultimately move to the absolute zero temperature. This is the eternal death of this creation or Brahma’s night or the domain of Yama. This is the physical aspect of one’s life but there is also the spiritual dimension. Though there is no death of atman or the soul, in its embodiment in creation there is a process of contamination which occurs due to a lowered level of divine consciousness and the life purpose is to purify one self of the accumulated karma so that the process of rebirth or samsara can be eliminated. Death signifies another beginning and defeating death means the process of unification of the created with the creator.
Lighting the lamp to ward of death symbolizes the higher knowledge or enlightenment.
The jewellery ornaments, and also the gold and silver coins in the legend are the created realities to which the self gets attached. This is the reason that though Yama is dazzled by the light of wisdom he hides near the created reality waiting to trap the created consciousness when it approaches this false reality. Yama taking the form of a serpent, which in all spiritual tradition symbolizes wisdom, is the earthly and sense oriented knowledge that leads to lower level of consciousness that poisons one's spiritual life.

As we start the season of celebration let this thought reside in all our minds. Kama (desire) and Artha (wealth) are only a means of livelihood but should be moderated by Dharma (right conduct) and we need to move away from its false sense of permanency to focus on our life's real purpose, which is to defeat death and attain divine union.

A very Happy Deepavali to all of you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Deep Faith and Blind Belief

The following portion of a poem is taken from the Masnavi Book III of Jallaudin Rumi.

Little is known by any one but the spiritual man,
Who has in his heart a touchstone of vital truth.
The others, hovering between two opinions,
Fly towards their nest on a single wing.
Knowledge has two wings, opinion only one wing;”

It is common knowledge what a strong conviction can do to individuals. It gives enormous strength in whatever activity that one engages in and the needed resilience to strive to complete the task that is driven by that conviction. Opinion on the other hand is shallow. Opinions are subject to change but knowledge rooted in inner realization is the bedrock of one's actions and existence. This is beautifully brought out by Rumi while reciting the story of a man who prayed in all earnestness for food as he was of poor health and could not earn a living and how God heard his prayers and a cow walked into his tent to become his food.

We have today innumerable tools on how to deploy the “law of Attraction” and how the cosmos is there waiting with its abundance to provide us with whatever we want. Many a time we reduce this principle to material or the physical level.
Here the words of Rumi give us the precondition for this principle to become active in us. He qualifies that “Little is known by any one but the spiritual man”. A spiritual realization becomes mandatory as knowledge is rooted in vital truth.

What is this truth that Rumi speaks of? It is the realization of interconnectivity and interdependence off all creation. It is also the inner knowledge that we are the same energy as is all creation from which we have been created. This knowledge gives us an irreversible thrust towards our higher potentialities as symbolized by Rumi relating to the flight of a bird with two healthy wings. Such realized individuals are equated to Angel Gabriel, who was the messenger of God, symbolizing a knowledge flow from a higher realm to the creation. This knowledge insulates one from ego contamination. This knowledge makes the spiritually realized shielded from duplicity and alienating opinions.

This is as the Holy Quran says “Then is one who walks fallen on his face better guided or one who walks erect on a straight path?”… Sura 67: 22.

The straight path is the path of this inner knowledge. So strong is this knowledge that nothing can dislodge a person. Rumi again says:

“Nay, even if sea and mountains should cry out,
Saying, “Thou art mated with error,”
He would not relapse one jot into vain imaginations,
Nor would he be grieved by the reproaches of his foes.”

This is rudimentary difference between faith and a belief. Hence faith must be based on knowledge, if not it is blind belief subject to the vagaries of moods and emotions just as the buffeted bird with one wing trying to take flight.

Love to you all

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Longevity of Union

Today is the Hindu festival of Karwa Chauth in Northern parts of India. This is celebrated as Varalakshmi Vratham in South India on the last Friday of the bright fortnight of the moon in the month of Ashadha, also called Adi, which corresponds to the English months of July-August, when married women fast and offer puja for the longevity of their husbands.

The legend behind the festival is the story of Virvati.
Once there lived a pious woman named Virvati. She was the only sister of seven brothers and she was married to a prince. She used to fast for the welfare and long life of her husband on Karva Chauth.
Young Virvati was a weak and fragile woman and she could not bear hunger. But still she kept the fast. Virvati’s brothers did not like her suffering. But she was not ready to break the fast without watching the rising moon. Virvati’s brothers then thought of a plan to alleviate the pain of their sister. They decided to create the rising moon. For this they created a huge bonfire and put a big screen to make it look like the rising moon.
Virvati saw the fake rising moon created by her brothers and believed it to be the real moon and broke her fast. But before she could consume the entire food a messenger came with the news that her husband met with an accident and will die soon. Realizing her folly she sought the blessing of a old woman who foretold that she will not be widowed and tended to her husband for a year and nourished him back to full health.

For those discerning souls who want to know the deeper significance of this festival and the legend behind it, I dedicate this post. Marriage when viewed from a holistic dimension transcends all physical attributes that one experiences at the mind-body level. While the mind-body level is the platform on which the relationship starts and is very vital throughout one’s life, it is in the merging at the consciousness level that provides lasting peace and happiness. This is easily manifest in our experiences especially after a long term relationship of intense love for each other, how one can almost read the other’s thoughts or feel a pain when the loved one suffers. There can be other non local consciousness level experiences like telepathy or strong physical presence when separated from each other.

In this story of Virvati, there is a translation of the love, from that of the seven brothers for the only sister prior to her marriage, to a new level of love of greater intensity through the medium of her prince husband. Consciousness is created to flow towards its higher potentiality. The wedding of Virvati to the prince signifies this shift namely; brotherly to marital love, denoting a shift from a lower potentiality (non-creative)to a higher one (creative). The degradation or the reverse pull to a lower reality is denoted by the concern of the brothers and the fake reality that is created through the fake moon. The altruistic consciousness of Virvati is deluded through the manipulation of a self preserving act emanating from a lower level of consciousness. Ultimately the correction takes place through the medium of Divine grace and blessing and service to the higher self signified by the blessings of an older woman and the service Virvati renders to her true purpose of existence and perpetuation in the current reality.

While the festivity has its important social dimension, its spiritual dimension becomes important to those of us who can think and act beyond ritualistic faith. The fasting does nourish our body but the prayer for the longevity of the husband should be a prayer of longevity for creative potential of both husband and wife so that they can become highly realized consciousness in their purpose of creation and earthly union.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Knowing the Kingdom

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”
……… Logion 3

Continuing the interpretation of the various sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, Christ clearly articulates the location of the ‘Kingdom of God’ which is more in tune with Advaidic proposition.
First of all we should understand what the word ‘Kingdom’ means in the context of Christ saying.
Christ divine nature is manifest in this understanding through apriori knowledge of the cosmic and universal nature of the domain of God’s existence. This must take us to the Genesis and it is the primordial light of the beginning of Genesis (1:3-4). Most scriptural and Bible scholars still resort to another abstraction which is namely ‘light’ as the domain of the God’s domain. This I feel is only a slight improvement from a more earthly term ‘Kingdom’.

With the advances in our understanding the nature of reality, today there is universal acceptance that an energy field pervades the entire cosmos at the very subtlest level. This has been called by various names. But one fairly acceptable name is consciousness. Consciousness transcends the four dimensional space-time and communications at near infinite speeds have been observed in the laboratory.(Dr. Cleve Backster experiment for US Army) also another Russian study points out that if you beam laser light through DNA a wave pattern appears on the screen behind. If you then remove the DNA from the experiment the wave pattern remains on the screen as if the DNA is still there. (Study of phantom DNA effect by Russian scientists Gariaev, K.V. Grigor'ev, A.A. Vasil'ev, V.P. Poponin and V.A. Shcheglov.)
Therefore a better term for ‘light’ could be ‘consciousness’. The entire creation is pervaded by Divine or Cosmic consciousness. This is the primordial stuff from which all creations come endowed with the same pure element but sullied through layers of conditioning as a result of our alienated perception through the action of the mind.

This is the reason that Christ points out the misperception and clearly states that the original ‘kingdom’ or ‘light’ or ‘consciousness’ is within you in as much as it is in every creation that is manifest to our human senses. It can not be contained by space-time or any other physical attribute. The extreme position of this understanding is the philosophy of Advaita propounded by Sankara.

Christ further qualifies that this knowledge is of primary importance as this knowledge based living gives us the right to be called Children of the living Father because in our deeper existence, not in the physical plane, there is no death and the divine consciousness merges with created consciousness to make us immortal. This is the reason Jesus says “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”...... Logion 1
Finally the lack of this knowledge leaves us undernourished and we live only in the physical and material domain to experience degradation and dissolution. A poverty that is self imposed due to our lack of understanding our true nature.

Love to you all