Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grace and Free Will

“Grace is necessary to salvation, free will equally so but grace in order to give salvation, free will in order to receive it. Therefore we should not attribute part of the good work to Grace and part to free will; it is performed in its entirety by the common and inseparable action of both; entirely by grace, entirely by free will, but springing from the first in the second.” …….St. Bernard (1090 – 1153)

" ...................The creature has nothing else in its power but the free use of its will, and its free will hath no other power but that of concurring with, or resisting, the working of God in nature.
The creature with its free will can bring nothing into being, nor make any alteration in the working of nature; it can only change its own state or place in the working of nature, and so feel or find
something in its state that it did not feel or find before.” ………….William Law (1686 – 1761)

These two insights from two different centuries have a common theme in identifying the role of grace and free will.
If man had free will, the philosophical question that is asked is ‘what degree of freedom does free will enjoy? Is the choice itself truly free when activated through free will? What does twenty first century scientific studies in the field of brain neurology and consciousness reveal? How can these findings be fitted with the theological positioning that we have been accustomed to?

I would like to start with what has been found in experimental neuroscience in recent years which are challenging the very basic concept of free will. “Neuroscience of free will” refers to recent neuroscientific investigation of questions concerning free will. It is a topic of philosophy and science. One question is whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions or decisions. As it has become possible to study the living brain, researchers have begun to watch decision making processes at work. To give a short account of the conclusion of these studies have pointed out that the electrical activity in the brain called the “readiness potential” starts half a second before the actual choice is made. There are many disputing viewpoints from contemporary philosophers and scientists. But the basic question that needs to be asked is “Who is this I who says I have free will  and make the resultant choice?” If we say it is the physical self with associated brain function then science is proving you wrong. But if it is your consciousness, which is a unique field within the universal consciousness, then a linkage gets established wherein the linkage can not be perceived or measured beyond a certain threshold.

In different language the ancient mystics have voiced their intuitive understanding of what we have just stated. St. Bernard talks of salvation or liberation. This liberation is the liberation from ignorance of our true Self. The true theological concept of sin should be rooted in the state of ignorance, a state of being banished from Eden which is the true state of every human consciousness in its four dimensional existence.
In order to obtain this liberation, the knowledge of which resides in a higher dimension, individual consciousness through the operation of its free will choice has to open up to receiving the out pouring of grace, which is the higher level of wisdom, from the Universal consciousness.

William Law, who was a great British mystic of the eighteenth century and a devote follower of Jacob Boehme, beautifully, places the human free will in the operating hierarchy of Divine action in the entirety of creation. Nature, as he states, may better be understood as the cosmic plenum of all that is manifest and unmanifest. While at the limited perceptive level of the individual ego, we think we have free choice in reality this choice has to operate within the cosmic (nature) framework. Nothing in the cosmic dimension gets affected by the action of the individual free will but we are under the illusion that we are independently acting while in realty every choice we make is an action that cosmic (nature) framework imposes upon us.

Here we can see the merger of mystical intuition and scientific enquiry.

Love to you all

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mode of Soul Liberation

“My dear mother, in a restaurant or place for drinking cold water, many travellers are brought together, and after drinking water they continue to their respective destinations. Similarly, living entities join together in a family, and later, as a result of their own actions, they are led apart to their destinations. The spirit soul, the living entity, has no death, for he is eternal and inexhaustible. Being free from material contamination, he can go anywhere in the material or spiritual worlds. He is fully aware and completely different from the material body, but because of being misled by misuse of his slight independence, he is obliged to accept subtle and gross bodies created by the material energy and thus be subjected to so-called material happiness and distress. Therefore, no one should lament for the passing of the spirit soul from the body.” ………SB 7.2.21-22

Hirayakaśipu, brother of Hirayāka, consoles his mother after Lord Viṣṇu in the avatar of Varāha, the boar, had killed him in a thousand year battle, in the words that we read above. 
This is taken from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Canto 7, chapter 2 and verses 21and 22.

Why I chose this verse for reflection is because of the nature of treatment of human existence.
I just completed reading the book “The Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav. It is a classical treatment of the distinction between the 'personality' and the 'soul' in human existence. The personality is the result of perceptions resulting from a five-sensory consciousness while the soul nature can only be intuited through a multi-sensory approach.
Gary states: "The purpose of our journey on this precious Earth is now to align our personalities with our souls. It is to create harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life. It is to grow spiritually. This is our new evolutionary pathway. The old pathway - pursuing the ability to manipulate and control - no longer works. It now produces only violence and destruction.”
The violence and destruction is the personality of Hirayāka, our lower nature of consciousness.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam puts it neatly in the very first example which Hirayakaśipu gives. Earthly life is a watering hole. This place of nourishment is not for nourishing the physical nature of manifestation but the underlying soul nature. This nourishment is a process of making whole that which is splintered in our karmic journey through many manifestations. The spirit soul has no death and is immortal but as long as it is associated with the material mode it is misled, in its associative nature, to attachment, suffering and pain.

In describing the killing of Hirayāka in SB 3.19.28, Lord Brahma says:

“He was struck by a forefoot of the Lord, whom yogīs, seeking freedom from their unreal material bodies, meditate upon in seclusion in mystic trance. While gazing on His countenance, this crest jewel of Diti’s (Diti is the mother of Hirayāka) sons has cast off his mortal coil.”

Liberation is the freeing of the mortal existence and it is the same Divine will which engineers the process irrespective of whether one is in a spiritually advanced sage or a demon who is steeped in the mire of material existence.

Varāha avatar was for the purpose saving the earth, representing entire human consciousness, which was usurped by the demon of material nature to the bottom of the ocean. Ocean in spiritual mythology symbolizes created consciousness. To be hijacked to the bottom of the ocean means that human nature has been submerged in the lowest level of spiritual consciousness. It is by eliminating the material nature of our consciousness that one has to be elevated to a higher level.
Hiraṇyakaśipu, brother of Hirayāka, understands the process and explains it succinctly to his mother. Hence whether it be the killing of Hirayāka or Ravana, the deeper meaning that one should understand is that it is a process of liberation that is at work in the cosmic order. In this avatar, Lord Viṣṇu marrying Bhudevi (Prithvi) signifies the restoration of the Divine within the human.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Consciousness and its Recipient

"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
"On the western wall, lord."
"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"
"On the ground, lord."
"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"
"On the water, lord."
"And if there is no water, where does it land?"
"It does not land, lord."
"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food... contact... intellectual intention... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or increase. Where consciousness does not land or increase, there is no alighting of name-&-form. Where there is no alighting of name-&-form, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair." ………..Samyutta Nikaya SN 12: 64

The deep and perceptive teaching of Lord Buddha, in Samyutta Nikaya with regard to consciousness, is simple and yet very illustrative.

In the last article I had written about the hierarchy of the mind in the created environment. The nature of the mind mirror which due to its defilement distorts the pure consciousness, which in its pure nature is a state of being, is a collecting surface. This surface is shaped by the self in delighting, craving and by intentional intellectual volition.

A parallel can be seen in Kabbalah where the Divine consciousness descends from the Keter (Crown) to the Malkuth (Kingdom of matter) through the ten Sephirots. ‘Sephirots’ means ‘vessels’.
Each Sephirot acquires a specific attribute depending on the level at which modifications take place.
The three highest levels of consciousness are above the emotional level and operate through intellect under the influence of Divine wisdom. To amplify the categorization the lower seven levels are each subdivided into seven levels each, thus constituting 49 levels. This is the reason that the elevation of the apostles consciousness to the level  of Christ consciousness is celebrated as an event 50 days after Christ resurrection which is the day of the manifestation of the pure Christ consciousness divested of the human embodiment. (Pentecost).
In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. The Talmud derives this from a calculation based on Biblical Texts.
Exodus which is historically the freedom from Egypt, illustrates the freeing of the bondage to the slavery of the body. It requires the fifty days or transcendence to ascend to the level of Sinai which signifies the seat of Divine wisdom.

Lord Buddha uses a very direct language and in a more practical way to illustrate the reason for mental trappings and the reason they appear. Scriptural writings using mythological symbolism or allegorical chain of events are many a time distorted into a non existent factual and historical dimension.

All aggregation of energies requires a storage medium. But the introduction of the storage medium results in two important compromises; they are distortion or loss of authenticity and loss or decrease in efficiency. This is exactly what happens when we try to grasp Divine consciousness through a mental and rational path. Direct access is the only way as we are also made up of the same fundamental consciousness. Kabbalah sees the human soul as mirroring the Divine (after Genesis 1:27, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them"). Here the creation of ‘male and female’ does not define a sexual segregation but that each and every human being is created ‘male and female’ so that through constant intercourse a creation of the Divine in the human can be established.

Love to you all