Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sense of Surrender

‘God, whose love and joy are everywhere, can’t come to visit unless you aren’t there.’…………………….Angelus Silesius

It’s a great paradox, isn’t it? How can God visit us if we are not there? The human mental mode of grasping the act of an union involves physicality, that is you need two distinct entities in space and at the same time for an union to take place. But God, who transcends space and time, does not operate in these dimensions. It is only we humans, who operate in space and time, need these dimensions. It is for us to move beyond these restrictive dimensions through an intuitive process of an utter surrender. This surrender involves a process of dismantling our mental process of concretizing to the grosser level our existential reality.
In order to be who we truly are, we have to somehow surrender ourselves, to a state of non being.

This sense of surrender happens too in human relationships. Imagine two persons deeply in love and sharing a precious moment. A conversation is taking place, verbalizing the beautiful Sunset and the display of vibrant colours in the horizon. Both are very eloquent in their description and poetic in their rendering. Suddenly overcome by emotion one partner embraces the other and gives a loving kiss. I can bet there would be total silence. All chatter ceases. This is surrender or a loss of identity which had existed before and which is absolutely necessary for any conversation or dialogue.

We are loved. We are found. I think this is very much what we are offered in the spiritual life, a relationship with God in which we transcend all that nonsense about ourselves, all that chatter about not being good enough and how scary and awful everything is. If we allow it to happen, God holds us and transforms us like a lover.

A Christian contemplative who has actively pursued a spiritual life for 30 years tells this story:

‘I had always been moved by the longing of mystics like St Theresa of Avila or St John of the Cross. I spent a year at a convent after a failed relationship and family troubles; I read their words over and over. I had the romantic idea that I was going through the dark night of the soul. But for me it never ended, there was no big experience, no mystical illumination at the end. When I left the convent and became a social worker, I kept up my prayer life and contemplative practice, but it remained ordinary and dark for years. Now I realise that I was somewhat depressed and lonely — nothing very mystical about that.
‘Then, ten years ago, I made a retreat with Father Bede Griffiths, a radiant Old Catholic monk with an ashram in India. He had orange yogi-coloured robes and white hair, and deep joy beamed out of his being like daffodils shining after a long winter. We talked, and he told me that I had made up a whole story of how the spiritual journey should unfold. Then he held my face in his hands and beamed such love into me and said ‘Why not be your own unique self? That’s all God wants from you.’ And I wept and I danced and laughed at all I was trying to be. And now for years my life of prayer and contemplative practice has continued in its ordinary way, but I’m not depressed and I’ve come to love life. No great experience ever happened, but through loving myself, everything changed.’

Just being human can be very tough and lonely at times. Being human and struggling with the powers of oppression requires resistance, courage and faith, and none of these are possible, it seems to me, without love.

St John the Divine said:
‘The love of the heart is the candle flame that carries us through the road of darkness.’

And St Theresa of Avila said:
‘The important thing is not to think much but to love much.’

Love to you all

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Necessity of Contrast

“Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities,” Blavatsky wrote, “… but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being whether subjective or objective.”
“Hence it will be apparent that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the ‘Manifested Universe.’”

Whenever something is manifest, it is your conscious observation through waking consciousness that created it. Everything is created within your own consciousness. As Enoch Tan says in his article ‘You create everything within your Consciousness’

“There is nothing that would appear in your physical reality unless it had already existed in your thoughts or feelings. You might think that it is some external action that produced the result, and so you go about trying to change it. But your external action would not have taken place if it wasn’t created by your mentality and emotions. If your consciousness was different, you would receive a different set of results even if you had taken the same actions.”

This same action that an individual takes is observation which remains unchanged but the resultant manifestations are different at different points of time. This can be compared to the conscious observation of a river by someone sitting quietly on banks. The act that the person performs is looking at the river but at every moment he sees a different attribute of the river; clear water, floating debris or a wriggling water snake but if we move beyond the sensory inputs to our pure conscious perception, the river always remains a body of flowing water. This unpolluted image of the river gets modified due to the contrast provided by the senses.

In Brahma Sutra, aphorism 5 says; “Consciousness, not matter, is the primal cause of the cosmos (Eekshather na asabdam)”.

One of the subjects or themes of philosophy which Brahma Sutra refutes vehemently is Sankhya, the duality of consciousness and matter, known as Purusha and Prakriti. We are usually prone to accept the Sankhya doctrine since we ourselves feel that consciousness is inside us and the world is outside. So, there is a duality. Then, what is wrong with Sankhya? Don’t you believe that the world is material in its nature and you are conscious inside? This is what exactly the Sankhya doctrine proclaims. There are only two things in this universe, consciousness and matter. But this can not be as if consciousness and matter are distinct, how can we make a conscious observation of matter? This is the classical mind-matter dualism.

Unless matter is a subset of consciousness, it is not possible to have any conscious perception of exterior material reality.

If one could take a picture of his objective circumstances and his subjective mentality, he would find that they would be identical. For one is the cause of the other. One is the image and the other is the reflection of that image. Cause and effect are parts of a complete whole. One is the inside and the other is the outside of the same thing. Cause and effect are but two sides of thought. Spirit is both cause and effect. God makes things through the direct act of becoming the things which He creates. This is what we do, for our thought becomes the thing thought of. The thought and the thing are one, in reality.

Though there is a necessity of contrast as internal and external during manifestation, in reality cause and effect are inseparable whole.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Four Stages of Awakening

When Socrates was in prison awaiting his execution, he heard his fellow prisoner singing a complex lyric by the poet Stesichorus. He begged the man to teach him the poem. ‘But to what reason?’ questioned the other. Socrates answered ‘So I may die knowing one more thing.’

This attitude is rare because we give up a lot as we near our end. Instead of expanding our intellectual and experiential horizon, we seek to limit ourselves through a false perception that as the physical capacity dwindles; it is inevitable that all intangibles that make up the richness of our life must also taper off. Attaining awakening is a process similar to life; until the very last moment we need to acquire a capacity to let go of our innermost cravings and this can be attained only through a deeper knowledge of ourselves and the false reality in which we are situated.

The dichotomy of our understanding of human life as a composite of two entities evolves from a position that is innate to our existence. We perceive the physical realm as being separate from our consciousness. But it is consciousness which gives us the capacity for a fuller life. If we realize that consciousness is the primary building block of the material world then we will take a different view of life. Every bit of knowledge and experience continues to enrich our consciousness and this in turn gives a greater meaning for our physical existence. This is not an intellectual exercise but a deeply felt mystical experience. It involves many stages.

This is the reason why Chinese Master Hsu Yun explained before he died at the age of 120, ‘There are many minor satories before a major satori and many major satories on the path of genuine awakening.’ All spiritual traditions have different way of expressing this process. St. John of the Cross equates this process to ascending Mount Carmel so that we can clearly see from the higher slopes.

Theravada tradition of Buddhism calls it the ‘Noble Understanding’. There are four steps in this process.

First is ‘Entering the stream’. When you enter the stream, the grossness of the body seems to dissolve and it is the same experience when there is a degree of freedom which one has not experienced due to our applying focused attention. In this first step a person sees through the illusion of separate self, releases identification with the body and mind and awakens to an alternate realty beyond space-time. Even though we see the truth there is further purification required to transform our character and embody this new understanding. This is done in the second stage.
Second stage is the ‘Returning Again’. This stage involves many years of practice in becoming aware of our coarse clingings and aversions so that we can release them. The only way to do this is by going through the sufferings that result from our attachments and dislikes.
Third stage is the ‘Non-returning’. In this stage we are permanently released form our attachments and desires, never to return. But this stage can be reached only by very few who have devoted their life to this path of great awakening. In this stage wisdom finds a resting place in the self and the self is guided in the path of awakening by a superior wisdom.
Final stage is the ‘Great Awakening’ in which the last traces of subtle clinging, even to joy, freedom and meditation, fall away. There is a perennial radiance of our true nature shining unhindered throughout our existence.

For most of us this requires many life cycles but this path is there for us to follow.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10- In Fullness

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”……… Luke Ch 17: 17-19

Dear friends today is a unique day as it is the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year of the third millennium and today the Catholic church takes a reading from the Gospel of Luke wherein ten lepers are healed.

We have to pause to reflect the first reading of this Sunday which is a reading from the book of Kings. In this reading “Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times
at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.”…… 2 Kings 5:14

The symbolism is very strong in both readings. Let us delve deep in to the meaning of these words.
In the Hebrew scripture the number seven was deemed as fullness as the entire creation, where in God’s spirit is enshrined, was made manifest in seven days or phases. We are told that Naaman immersed himself in the river Jordan seven times and the restoration of fullness is dispensed through the word of Prophet Elisha. Naaman was a Syrian and he receives the grace of the Divine.
Leprosy can be seen as a decease of deformation and decay from the ordained structure. Every human being has a structure in this manifestation which is determined by the combined action of matter and spirit. Matter itself is imbued with Divine energy or Prana which in Christianity we call ‘Spiritus Sanctus’. It is only through the balanced action of these two dimensions that one can maintain the wholeness. The primacy of the action of the Divine is revealed in these passages. The unblemished fullness is indicated by the author the book of Kings when he writes that Naaman’s flesh became again like the flesh of a little child.

The all inclusive action of Divine potential is not the birthright of the Israelites and it is told in no small measure that being born in a specific community does not guarantee Divine grace. You have to earn it by faith and all humanity is included.

In Luke’s writing, we hear of the ten lepers. Luke was a Greek-speaking Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria and a great disciple of Paul. Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus ministry but compiled his Gospel to provide a deeper meaning of Christ’s message to the Greek community for whom he addressed his writing. Now we can understand the influence of Greek learning. The number ten is a full count in the Greco-Roman world and hence the fullness is devoted to the number ten.

The story then takes a different dimension. The ten are told by Jesus to go show themselves to the priest and all are healed as they undertake the journey but only one gentile returns to thank Jesus. The commentary on this portion of the Gospel is very debatable as it is argued that the nine proceeded as they did not want to disobey Jesus but as I see it the nine are on the way to see the priests, who are designated earthly source of Divine grace, but only one of them, a gentile, realizes that Jesus is the true high priest, who is the primary source of Divine grace, and returns to the source of healing. Christ delivers a very important message that there is an all inclusive opportunity for the action of Divine grace but one has to be chosen to receive this grace through utter surrender and openness. This is reason he says: “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” ……John 6: 44 and again, “No man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of my Father” ………John 6: 65.

Every moment of our life let us surrender to the Divine will so that we may be totally healed of our deformities and receive the unblemished beauty of a child like nature.

Love to you all

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mystical Opulence

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.”…………Bhagavad-Gita 9:4-5

This verse of Bhagavad-Gita is replete with contradiction and defies any mental exercise to understand what its meaning is.
If we take the first sentence it is easy to understand that the entire multiverse uses the very elemental structure of the Divine as its basic building block. (I am using the term multiverse instead of universe as current scientific knowledge indicates the possibility of many universes and our universe being one in which the physical laws make life possible. When considering the realm of the Divine, other universes cannot be excluded as the omniscience of God must be totally inclusive)

In the next two sentences, we run into a difficulty as we are told that while all beings are in the Divine plenum, you can not assume that the reverse is true. This is because we always assume a certain order of sequential logical thinking to comprehend a higher order of reality and conclude that the same sequence can be applied to understanding a lower order of reality.
Students of mathematics will easily understand my statement. This is known as ‘concept of Complementarity’

The logical conclusion is that mind is the basis of our reality, and matter evolves from it, not the other way around. A holistic logic system is postulated which could give us the reason for why Lord Krishna says: “All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.”

The wisdom of the Vedic seers is to be appreciated as nearly 5000 years ago they postulated a principle which today in science is known as ‘The Holon principle’. (A Holon (Greek: ὅλον, holos "whole") is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. Holons are autonomous, self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions. These Holons are also simultaneously subject to control from one or more of these higher authorities. This word was coined for usage only in 1967.)
There are 12 principles that govern the concept of a Holon but I would like to highlight a few that are essential to our understanding of the text we are seeking to understand in a greater depth.
  1. The whole has more dimensions than each of its constituent parts. (All beings are in Me, but I am not in them)
  2. Each part is an aspect of the whole, seen from a lower order. (Atma / Pramatma relationship)
  3. The whole encompasses all its parts. (By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded)
  4. The whole is invisible from the orders of its parts. (This is why the Divine is beyond the space-time dimension)
  5. The whole is an undivided and homogeneous entity, while its parts appear as separate individual entities in their order. (Individual ego consciousness)
  6. Both the whole and its parts are real, but the whole has a more profound reality.
  7. The parts are wholes in their own right at a lower order. (God within yet limited in our manifestation with a capacity to transcend to higher order of reality)
  8. The whole is immanent in each of its parts. (Immanence, derived from the Latin ‘in manere’ – ‘to remain within’)
  9. It is impossible to perceive simultaneously more than one aspect of a whole undistorted from a lower order.
The Holon which is the Divine plenum can only be appreciated, to a greater degree, by applying these principles but never be experienced from a lower order as a creature. To experience this dimension, we have to transcend the higher dimensions through a non-mental, intuitive spiritual process. This is how the Divine mystical revelation takes place.

Love to you all