Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Symbolism of Goddess Saraswati


"May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-coloured moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Saraswati Puja. It happened that I was listening to the renowned Tamil scholar, Suki Sivam, explain the significance of the puranas and how one should look for the deeper layer of knowledge that every story in the purana imparts. He explained the various symbolism that we see in the iconic representation in the image of Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas, and chants to her, called the 'Saraswati Vandana' often begin and end Vedic lessons.

In this article I would like to provide not only the gist of what was told by Suki Sivam but also a cosmic view of this powerful symbolism.

The image that we see of Goddess Saraswati is that she is seated on a white lotus, She has four arms and holds the Veena in two hands and has palm leaf scroll in another. The fourth arm is seen in some images to hold a prayer bead of transparent stones and in some a small sceptre. She wears a white sari and has for her vehicle the white swan and accompanying  peacock. Her necklace is made of transparent crystalline beads.

The image of this Goddess of knowledge reflects various aspects of both the quality of knowledge and wisdom and at the same time the attributes of the source or giver of this knowledge.
In classical explanation the four arms represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. But I feel there is another reason why there are four arm assigned to this image, All human learning and knowledge is derived from the four dimensional space-time. The embodiment of this space-time is the body of the Goddess and hence the origination of this knowledge is within the deeper aspects of the domain and not in the perceptual domain of space-time.
The Veena, as a string instrument, is the vibrational source of reverberating energy. Manifest consciousness is the resonance of hyper-dimensional energy of the cosmos. Hence this symbolism represents the higher aspect of learning from a source both within and beyond the perceptual domain of the senses.
In the ancient times during the evolution of Vedic teaching the role of woman was equal to that of men. This we can see in Chandogya Upanishad and in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Gargi Vachaknavi was a renowned Vedic sage as illustrated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. When they taught it was customary to wear a white sari to symbolize the purity of both their knowledge and their individual self. This is why the Goddess of knowledge wears white. White is the only colour which is the resultant of non-retention. The pure light spectrum when it falls an object and the object reflects and radiates all that it receives, then a perception pure whiteness results.
The scripture in the hand represents the Vedas or the primordial knowledge.
The sceptre represents authority to impart the true knowledge as well as the pure crystalline prayer beads and the necklace which the Goddess wears, represents the quality of purity and resonance. We know that pure quartz crystal, based on its structure, resonates to a specific frequency. So also any devotee or seeker of spirit empowering knowledge can tune into Divine wisdom depending his or her individual frequency or capacity.
The lotus which is the seat of the Goddess represents the Sahasrara chakra which is the seat and entry point of the cosmic energy or cosmic consciousness.

This beautiful symbolism must enable us to venerate in a more meaningful way the divine feminine, the Sophia, without which our human existence is meaningless.

Love to you all.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Process of Free Will Action


“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” ………..Deuteronomy 30:19-20

“There is a path of joy and there is the path of pleasure. Pondering on them, the wise (one) chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure. Both the good and the pleasant approach a man. The wise man, pondering over them, discriminates. The wise chooses the good in preference to the pleasant. The simple-minded, for the sake of worldly well-being, prefers the pleasant.” ………….Katha Upanishad 1:2:1-2

I have specifically taken two different verses from the Judeo-Christian and Vedic scriptures to illustrate the purpose of free will operating in man. There is a huge debate as to whether we seriously have free will. Theologically the investment of free will to man by God to make conscious choice in his day to day existence is more tenable in the Judeo-Christian belief system. While in the Vedic philosophy which promotes the concept of Karma and reincarnation, it is rather difficult to accept that man is invested with truly a free will. The purpose of this article is to clarify the deeper meaning of choice as illustrated in the Bible and also to look at the operation of choice in a milieu where predestination appears to dominate.

In the Biblical passage of Deuteronomy there is a choice between life and death given to man by God. This life, of course, we understand is not the physical life. It is life of the spirit in man. But having said that we are faced with another contradiction, namely; knowing that the soul is immortal what is this talk of death? Hence ‘death’ requires a new definition. To aid this definition the second part of the verse is useful. The promised land of which God spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not a physical location but a state of the spirit or the soul. 
This is illustrated in the Gospel of Luke; "And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom” …….Luke 16:22
Life is associated with an integration with the Divine spirit and death is signified by dissociation from this state of ultimate union or the wandering in the wilderness before reaching the promised land.

The action of free will is not to be associated solely with the human mind. Human mind acts as a an interface between the pure pre-emptive act of consciousness and the physical plane, namely; the brain and associated emotional and physical actions.

This is why the Katha Upanishad verse associated the path of joy or ananda, which is a pure consciousness experience, with the elevated state of soul and the path of pleasure, which is an emotion, with the lower mind dominated choice.

Since the primary causation is at the pure consciousness level the corruptible nature occurs due to the modifications at the subsequent levels of awareness that come into play. When we view the whole process of choice as emanating from the pure consciousness, the action of karma can also be explained as there is an act of predestination or Divine will. But to the  human mind it appears as free choice due to the action of the ego conditioned response to the primary cause. Whenever we make a life / spirit empowering choice, the primary causation is not filtered through layers of contamination. That is we allow the will of the Divine to operate in us. These layers of contamination can be removed through spiritual sadhana. But when we allow the ego dominated mind to filter the primary life empowering choice there is spiritual decay or death. Even in physical death, the spirit is not yet ready to enter the promised land and has to wander in the lower plane or wilderness until the purification is complete.

Love to you all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cosmic Tuning through Meditation


"Teach me not to drug myself with the opiate of restlessness. Each day I will meditate more deeply than yesterday. Each tomorrow I will meditate more deeply than today.
Today, with the soft touch of intuition, I will tune my soul radio and rid my mind of static restlessness, that I may hear Thy voice of cosmic vibration, the music of atoms, and the melody of love vibrating in my super-consciousness.
I will find perpetual celestial happiness within. Peace will reign in silence, or in the midst of activities. Let me hear Thy voice, O God, in the cave of meditation.” ………Paramhansa Yogananda

Deep spiritual sentiments expressed through beautiful words. The benefit of meditation is well known in today’s world. It is highly recommended both in spiritual practice as well as in bodily healing. But there are many misconceptions about meditation. Many believe that the meditator has to completely avoid all thoughts and also that the mental process has to be totally quietened to the point of absolute silence. These are only possible by the most adept practitioners in an advanced stage of the sadhana of meditation.

Meditation has more to do with focusing our awareness to a specific bandwidth. Paramhansa Yogananda says it is like tuning a radio. A badly tuned channel has a lot of static and you can hear the crackling in the speakers but a well tuned channel faithfully reproduces the content of the channel in high fidelity. The right frequency is the most desirable factor in tuning the channel. This frequency is not determined by the receiver but by the broadcaster. Human beings are endowed with the wisdom and capacity to scan the full range of the Cosmic broadest but in our evolution we have limited ourselves to a very narrow bandwidth through our sensory conditioning. The perception of reality has been limited by the mental imagery predominated by objective desires and possession.

The process of meditation is to tune into the deep reality that underlies the cosmos. This intuitive process enables us to reside in celestial happiness which is true form of our being called Anadamaya kosha. At a practical level, one can experience this state momentarily in the elation we experience when we are one with nature and its beauty or when we encounter a sacred site. Recently I traveled to the Whitby Abbey, which was once a thriving Benedictine monastery, in the Yorkshire coast and as I sat in an alcove in the abbey ruins alone, far from the ambling tourists, and closed my eyes to take in the deep spirituality of the place, I could, in my mind, hear the subtle chanting of the Gregorian chant of the monks. It is the cosmic vibration, which had been generated ages ago in the early morning chillness, the devote intentions of the monks and the supplications chanted by the pure spiritual consciousness, lingers for eternity in the Akashic field.

Finally the last sentence of Paramhansa Yogananda in the above quote is to be understood for its full implication namely “Let me hear Thy voice, O God, in the cave of meditation.”
To every single human being there is a specific revelation of deeper reality possible. This depends on the level of progress one makes in their karmic and spiritual journey.
The reason why the master calls the place of meditation a cave is because of the perceptual isolation that is needed to achieve a state of absolute stillness. In another part of his writing he states: “I will make my inner environment perfect through meditation, that it be impervious to all adverse outside influences.”
The allegory of the cave is to emphasis the isolation and protection that is needed to remain in a state of singular focus and awareness. The past and the future impacts the mind and hence isolation from memories, anticipation and anxieties are essential when one undertakes an inner journey.

May the words of this great sage guide us in our spiritual progress.

Love to you all