Monday, January 31, 2011

Withdrawal and Discrimination

"One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness.
The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.
His senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavouring to control them.
One who restrains his senses, keeping them under full control, and fixes his consciousness upon Me, is known as a man of steady intelligence”…………….Bhagavad Gita Ch 2: 58-60

The ambit of the space within the tortoise shell signifies safety from external intrusion. The existence of the tortoise is always rooted in the terrain where it has to live out its life but it has the option to withdraw unto itself when threatened by external danger or when its awareness has to be lowered.
This is exactly what happens when we are in constant contact with a world that is generated through our senses. This reality in which we live constantly modifies our awareness into believing that there is no other reality other than what our senses dictate.

Even if we go by the Kantian categorization of phenomenal and noumenal worlds, the phenomenal world is the product of the mind based on precepts provided by the senses and the noumenal world, which is based on true reality, is beyond comprehension. Hence it is impossible to fix once consciousness on God who exists purely in the pneumenal sphere. If we extrapolate pure reasoning through the mind into the realm of the pneumenal we encounter a barrier. Moving away from the sensory world is not an easy exercise as Lord Krishna points out.

This is where discrimination comes to the aid of the seeker. A linear relationship from the phenomenal world in a process of deeper awareness into the pneumenal world can only be linked through the operation of causation. Causation leads to infinities from a purely mental perspective, hence we need to make a clear cut positioning based on the understanding that though we live in phenomenal world, we need to discriminate and do away with all sensory related process and move into intuitive grasping. This entails expansion of consciousness.

What is the basic difference between withdrawal and discrimination?
The basic difference according to me is; in a process of withdrawal we are aware of the current mental construct of the object from which we withdraw and it is a positioning through duality. It is a process of conscious positioning in which the frame of reference is still situated in the object from which we withdraw. But our concept of reality is so strongly rooted in the phenomenal world that we find it near impossible to overcome the force that binds us to this existence.
In a process of discrimination, there is a shift in the frame of reference which is rooted in the deep knowledge of the object from which we withdraw as well as a new frame of reference which is rooted in an alternate reality.

Restraining one’s senses and keeping them under control means that there is a deeper understanding of phenomenal world and why it is given to us. It is not a process of discarding but a process of understanding the functional utility of the sensory world. As a result of this awareness, an expansion of our consciousness happens.

A practical example is the autostereogram. It is an optical illusion of depth usually observed by allowing the eyes to focus behind the image (diverge), or, less often, in front of it (converge). These two methods are also known as wall-eyed and cross-eyed, respectively. The slight differences in vertical repetitions of figures or random dots create the illusion of depth in the 2D image, just as the slight difference in perspective between one's eyes creates the perception of depth on 3D objects and scenes. What we do here is to defocus and allow a larger awareness to take over and then we see the extra dimension emerging.

Similarly through spiritual practices we must expand our consciousness. This is what is meant by fixing one’s consciousness on God. This is the steady process of discrimination through which the multi-layered reality is brought into cognition.

Love to you all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Festival of the Ass

I came across this strange festival in medieval Church, the “festum asinarium” (Festival of the Ass), which was celebrated mainly in France. Although considered a harmless festival in memory of Mary's flight into Egypt, it was celebrated in a somewhat curious manner which might easily have given rise to misunderstandings. A hymn that was sung at this festival is as follows:

From the furthest Eastern clime,
Came the ass in olden time,
Comely sturdy for the road,
Fit to bear the heavy load.

In Beauvais, the ass procession went right into the church. At the conclusion of each part (Introitus, Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) of the high mass that followed, the whole congregation brayed, that is, they all went 'Y-a' like a donkey ('hac modulatione hinham concludebantur'). A codex dating apparently from the eleventh century says: 'At the end of the mass, instead of the words "Ite missa est", the priest shall bray three times (ter hinhamabit), and instead of the words "Deo gratias", the congregation shall answer "Y-a" (hinham) three times.'

This makes one to stop and think why the Church should adopt this rather strange liturgy and whether it did have a deeper significance. This takes us to the episode of Balaam and his disobedience of Yahweh in the Book of Numbers. To recapitulate, I will reproduce the events here.

Balaam, the Diviner in the Book of Torah, is approached by the kings of Median to come and curse the Israelites. (Note this is at the very last stages of forty years in the desert coming out of Egypt).
In this episode, the donkey carrying Balaam sees the angel of Yahweh and refuses to move and is punished by Balaam. But later Balaam sees the angel once his donkey is bestowed with the power to speak and tell him the situation. Though persuaded three times by Balak, the Midian King, to curse Israel, Balaam prophesises a blessing for Israel and says that these words have been put into his mouth by Yahweh.

A careful analysis will reveal two reciprocal events. The first is an event out of Egypt into Israel and the second which is flight of Mary and the child into Egypt out of Israel. In both events there is an intervention and blessing by Yahweh.

Carl Jung, the father of depth psychology, identifies Jerusalem with Ignorance, a sacred geography dominated by rituals and rules. In his memorable work “The Seven Sermons to the Dead” the very opening line in the first sermon is: “The dead came back from Jerusalem where they did not find what they were seeking…” The spiritually dead are seeking the higher wisdom from Basilides, in Alexandria in Egypt, where the East and the West meets. Alexandria was the centre of Buddhism, Egyptian spirituality and the Gnostic tradition which based its teaching on inner wisdom. These episodes, at their deeper most level, reveal the movement of consciousness to a higher plenum. Christ was born of the Spirit and hence his consciousness was pure, yet it needed an ambience of wisdom, a place where East and West meets. This really means that where all dichotomies are removed and Christ is guided by the Spirit to blossom in the pure consciousness of the Father in the land of Egypt.

As the hymn in the Holy Mass on the ‘Festival of the Ass’ says the ass is from the East, which is the seat of Spiritual wisdom. In both the episode of Balaam and flight into Egypt, the ass travelled from the East. While the ass is identified as a physical load-bearing animal and hence the gross body, it is given special powers to transport not only the physicality of existence but also the individual consciousness from a lower level to a higher level.

14th January was celebrated as the “festum asinarium”, hence this post.

Love to you all

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Process of Mind Control

“The wise man overcomes anger through mind control, lust through the renunciation of desire. He can attain mastery over sleep by developing the quality of ‘sattva.’ Through steadfastness he should protect the organ of generation and the stomach. With the eyes he should protect the hands and feet. Through mind he should protect the eyes and the ears and through conduct he should protect mind and speech. Through constant vigilance he should shed fear and through the service of the wise he should overcome pride.” ……….Brahma Purana (235. 40-42)

Yesterday I had an in depth chat with my sister-in-law pointing out my increasing desire to cut down my attachments, even to the desire of becoming spiritual. I felt that any desire to become something entails craving. This leads to judgement and a constant focus on the current state with respect to the intended end state. The impediments that come in your way are the possessions we have accumulated in our life time. These possessions are not only material but also intellectual. Material possessions need upkeep and maintenance so also intellectual possessions, they have to be updated, polished so that we do not become history in our thinking. When we are unable to come to terms with this process we become frustrated and angry.

We had a washing machine which started to have a mind of its own after temperamental functioning over the last one year. We called the service technician and he did not turn up. Finally we called the selling agency to be told that the model is outdated and that another brand which is far superior is available in the market. This is a vicious cycle of acquisition in which we are caught. Take the field of particle Physics and we find that recurrently there are new models of reality but in our heart of hearts we know that there is only one reality at the most fundamental level.

It is interesting to note that the gap seems to be increasing between our level of contentment and the seemingly satisfying tools which evolve around us through increasing level of technology and the quantum of information.

During my professional career, after a number of visits to Tokyo on business and after experiencing the highly stressed out executive life style, I asked my CEO what would be the most desirable wish that he would like to have. I was surprised by his answer. He said ‘I want Japan to go back 500 years”. Slowing down is becoming mandatory for the health of body and spirit.

Confucius beautifully captured this sentiment when he said “With only coarse rice as meal and only plain water as drink, and only my arms as pillow, I still find joy in the midst of these conditions. Wealth and honour acquired contrary to righteousness are to me like the passing cloud.”

Brahma Purana brings out the basic need for every human to be constantly vigilant about the mind control so essential to attain a higher level of spiritual living through which we can obtain sound health both in body and spirit. Sex and digestion take up the maximum energy in our bodily function and by practicing restraint in these two areas the body becomes light and the mental process ever vigilant.
Tamasic qualities are eradicated and rajasic qualities are moderated in our living. Over use leads to wear and tear and hence moderation leads to protection. The instruments of action are to be protected by filtering the data which is obtained from our sensory inputs, namely; the eyes and ears. The very sensory organs themselves should be protected through our mind by selectively screening and registering only the empowering elements in our day to day lives so that our thoughts and speech are rooted in a process of consciousness elevation. By surrendering to the wise councils that we receive from teachers and gurus, we should overcome fear and realize our own inadequacy. This realization will lead us to annihilate pride. Loss of pride removes all obstacles in ascending to higher levels of consciousness.

Love to you all

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Climbing to Golgotha

Starting upon the long journey immaculate; descending more and more into sinful matter, and having connected himself with every atom in manifested Space -- the Pilgrim, having struggled through and suffered in every form of life and being, is only at the bottom of the valley of matter, and half through his cycle, when he has identified himself with collective Humanity. This, he has made in his own image. In order to progress upwards and homewards, the 'God' has now to ascend the weary uphill path of the Golgotha of Life. It is the martyrdom of self-conscious existence. Like Vishvakarman he has to sacrifice himself to himself in order to redeem all creatures, to resurrect from the many into the One Life. Then he ascends into heaven indeed; where, plunged into the incomprehensible absolute Being and Bliss of Paranirvana, he reigns unconditionally, and whence he will redescend again at the next 'coming', which one portion of humanity expects in its dead-letter sense as the second advent and the other as the last 'Kalki Avatar'……..The Secret Doctrine, i 268

What a beautiful understanding of the true journey of the human soul. It is unfortunate that we look for external events or happenings and real-time prophecies in scriptures without truly understanding as to what is written and what has been lived by great spiritual leaders is a mapping for our own spiritual journey.

Madam Blavatsky captures the true sense of avatar in this passage. The repeated statements in scriptures of both the Judaio-Christian and the Vedic spirituality stress the sequence the individual Atman has to undergo and it has been brought out beautifully in the above passage.

It is a repeated cycle of the descending and ascending atman as symbolized in the dream of Jacob as angels descending and ascending the ladder that reaches up to heaven or the seat of Godhead. By naming the place of his dream Bethel, meaning the house of God, Jacob realized that all domains whether on earth or in heaven are the embodiment of the Godhead. Always in the Judaic scriptures ascending the mountain to reach God is symbolic of moving away from the valley of material existence into the higher realms of consciousness. Moses climbs Mount Sinai to be in the presence of God. The hardships that we face in this climb are brought out in the temptations of Christ or the temptation of Gautama by Mara. The transfiguration of Christ in Mount Tabor also indicates the higher state of consciousness which is essential for one to live in the state of Paramatma.

According to the Books of Kings, Elijah's return is prophesied "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord," making him a harbinger of the Messiah and the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible. Derivative references to Elijah appear in the Talmud, Mishnah, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. This is not a physical event but a prophecy of extremely high awareness of the true nature of man which precedes the the final awakening or second coming.

In the Book of Revelation, the sequence of the Millennium, Tribulation, Armageddon and Rapture symbolizes the intention, fall, material existence and finally the restoration into Christ consciousness. But unfortunately many main stream Christian believers look to a physical second coming of Christ. Christ lived his life and the events in his life were markers for our spiritual progression from this valley of tribulation of alienated existence to our true Divine nature.

"The initial self-awakening in the earnest seeker for wisdom is the starting-point of the 'longest journey', the arduous Path pointing not merely to individual enlightenment, which is an extremely sublimated form of exalted selfishness, but even more to ultimate reunion and total identification with the Self of all, the Logos in the Cosmos and the God in Man."...Krishna Iyer

It is only by negating one’s ego consciousness to the point of self destruction to material clinging that one can reach the higher realms of Divine consciousness. Christ’s statement before the Roman governor Pilot ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ puts the seal of authority on what one should seek even to the point of self annihilation. This is the repeated cycle of the souls climbing Golgotha to be crucified in a process of redemption from spiritual ignorance.

Love to you all

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Grand Oneness

January 1, 2011 is 1-1-11 – In numerology, ones indicate a new beginning, and elevens signify mastery – a new beginning on a higher level. This New Year’s Day we have the reminder that we are indeed all connected, ONE planetary civilization evolving to its next organizing principle: the shift from power to love, or from third chakra to fourth.

This is a time of acceleration in everything we are doing. The issues are getting more extreme, the environmental situation more urgent, the politics more absurd, yet more truth coming out all the time. As creation and destruction are always happening simultaneously, it is also a time of breakthroughs: in science, technology, healing, consciousness, and a weaving together of the world’s greatest spiritual teachings.

The universe is moving towards the realisation of its purpose. This is cosmic evolution, which takes place through different manifestations. The lowest level of it is physical, the stage of material evolution. The higher is the biological evolution or growth, to become inwardly subtler, a tendency to psychological growth. This is mental evolution, intellectual ascent and so on. The whole world conceived of in any of its levels seems to be restlessly moving forward for the realisation of its one purpose. What is this purpose?

The year 2010 saw many thought provoking hypothesis in the field of cosmology and as we know that the Mayan calendar is pointing to the growth of consciousness which is supposed to reach its zenith in the winter solstice of 2012. It is exciting to discover that we are increasingly talking a language in science which closely resembles and relates to what ancient scriptures have been saying. Two of the proposals that have attracted a lot of attention are that all matter consists of, in its most fundamental level, Black Holes (which are regions of extremely heavy gravity so much so that even light does not escape).
  • The first proposal deals with the microcosm of fundamental particles in physics and in a paper titled “The Schwarzschild Proton” it is derived all manifest matter and the four forces of the universe could be comprehended if the basic constituent of matter is a pair of black hole having a radius of 1.32 Femtometre (10 -15 metre) and rotating around each other at the speed of light.
  • The second proposal is that the whole universe or the macrocosm in which we live may be inside a black hole. In a recent paper published in the journal "Physics Letters B", Indiana University physicist Nikodem Poplawski presents new mathematical models of the spiralling motion of matter falling into a black hole. According to the new equations, the matter black holes absorb and seemingly destroy is actually expelled and becomes the building blocks for galaxies, stars, and planets in another reality.
What these proposals point out is that both at the macro level and at the micro level we are dealing with invisible energy which has a singular universal attribute and ‘material nothingness’. This proves what the Aitareya and Taittiriya Upanishads propound that there is an inscrutable relationship, ‘anirvachaniya sambandha’, between the effect and the cause.

Keep your minds open and do not become slaves of dogma. There are great treasures to be discovered which will aid our evolution to a higher level.

Wish you all a awesome New Year.