Friday, December 20, 2013

Supplication to the Cosmic Dancer





"உருவெளியே  உரு வெளிக்குள்  உற்ற வெளி  உருவே
உரு நடுவும்  வெளிநடுவும்  ஒன்றான  ஒன்றே
பெருவெளியே  பெருவெளியில் பரஞ்சோதி  மயமே
பெருஞ்சோதி  மய‌நடுவே  பிறங்குதனிப் பொருளே
மருஒழியா  மலர் அகத்தே வயங்கு ஒளி மணியே
மந்திரமே தந்திரமே மதிப்பரிய மருந்தே
திருஒழியா தோங்குமணி  மன்றில் நடத்தரசே
சிறுமொழிஎன் றிகழாதே சேர்த்து மகிழ்ந்தருளே."

"You are the embodiment of all forms and in that essence you are manifest form,
You are the unique singularity of that which is both within and without all forms
You are the immensity of the cosmos and you are its brilliant luminosity
Within that luminosity and immensity you are the element of all creation
In the flawless flowering blossom you are the quintessential fragrance
You are the supplication, you are the enchanter and you are the invaluable sustainer
You are the monarch and the perennial  pinnacle of your cosmic dance
Pray don’t ignore my insignificant words but enrich it through your finer delights!"
................................Thiru Arutpa - TirumuRai -VI part II verse 4109

This is a beautiful Tamil verse which captures the cosmic dimension of Divinity. The authorship of this composition called Thiru Arutpa is credited to Saint Arutprakasa Vallalar Chidambaram Ramalingam who lived in the in the 19th century in Vadalur in Tamilnadu, India. He is the great devotee of Lord Siva in the formless cosmic manifestation and all his outpouring in verse is addressed towards his deeper understanding of the Cosmic unity between the manifest and the unmanifest.
This verse gives you a taste of his deep understanding and the process of merging the grasping of the non-dual mind and the ultimate cosmic reality.

What we learn today, through advancement in science, is that the ultimate fundamental reality is a field of "quantum foam" below the Planck's scale (10−35 m - that is one divided by ten followed by thirty five zeros - 1/ 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). This domain encodes through information, which again consists of energy and geometry, all forms which result in manifestation of fundamental particles and the derived higher complexities such as atoms, molecules, organisms and species.

The true nature of Lord Shiva, the second deity in the trinity of "Saguna Brahma", is one of a transformative agent. This is the very basic nature of the universe itself. The billions of Galaxies each of which consists of billions of stars and inter stellar and inter Galactic gas and dust is in constant transformation through gravitational aggregation and Dark matter and Dark energy repulsion. The immense energies in star systems and their associated forces lead to supernova explosions and Black hole generation. The universe is a seething cauldron of transformation. This immense process is deified through the personification of Lord Shiva and his Cosmic Dance.

The beauty of this verse is the capture of the undivided unity of the individual devotee who while standing in awe at the cosmic scale and brilliance of a process which lies beyond the senses and the mind is able to comprehend through an intuitive devotional ardour the grand unity and singularity of the Creator and the creation.
Those of us who can read the poetical Tamil verse can feel the intimacy of the author of the verse to the cosmic reality. The translation does dilute the emotional content of the original verse but can give you a feel for the depth of spirituality that Vallalar experienced.


Love to you all 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Worship and Self-realization

"Distinct they say is the result of knowledge and distinct they also say is the result of ignorance. This is what we heard from the wise who explained these matters to us.
He who knows both knowledge and ignorance together, crosses death through ignorance and attains immortality through knowledge.
 Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the unmanifest and into still greater darkness those who take delight in the manifest." .............Isa Upanishad Verse 10-12

This is a continuation of my understanding of the Isa Upanishad. We saw in the verse 9 the hopeless situation of those rooted in the worship in ignorance and those who worship through false knowledge rooted in the intellectual domain.

The result of true knowledge is distinct from that which is derived from other false premises.
Thought, description, and language can get no more fundamental than to make a distinction, for whenever we have anything at all we have at least one distinction: the distinction between that thing and no-thing. When I say light, I clearly distinguish it from darkness. No matter what it is, whether it be a fleeting thought in the mind, a tingling sensation in the finger tip, a strand of cloud in the sky, or heavy sadness of the heart, all things rest on that one implicit distinction. Indeed, if there were no distinction at all, then there would be no-thing at all. The manifest and the unmanifest are distinguished through the senses.

Knowing both knowledge and ignorance together means the deployment of distinction. True wisdom comes from this achievement of clearly understanding both true knowledge and false knowledge or ignorance.
When we live this human life purely at the gross level through sensory attachments and pleasures, we are rooted in the 'avidya' or ignorance induced through 'maya' or illusion. But if through detachment to the sensory perceptions we move to the plane of a higher reality through worship, prayer and spiritual practice and knowledge, then we are ready to attain immortality.

Adi Shankara makes a clear distinction in his commentary on this verse, especially when defining what is meant by 'immortality', when he says that there are three levels through which one transcends from the sphere of ignorance, which is the first level, where one is rooted in Vedic acts such as 'Agnihothra' to the second level of 'qualified immortality'. Death here does not mean physical death but means a state where the one has the innate knowledge and awareness of actions of one's karmic imprints (which can be obtained only beyond physical existence or in advanced stage of awakening). At this second level we are aligned in this new knowledge in qualified immortality but to ascend to the final and third level of 'Absolute immortality' one has to have the Self knowledge.

Holy acts cannot free man from mortality but only aid in alleviating his agony of helplessness. It is only the deep knowledge of the absolute Self which can obtain him absolute immortality. Until then one has to be subject to the 'Prãrabadha Karman' or per-ordained Karma.

Let us take the ritual of 'Agnihothra'. It is a Vedic yajña (ritual or sacrifice) performed as an act of purification. The performance of Agnihotra, which has an impact both on intellect and emotion of the performer, can be termed as insight oriented psychotherapy. It brings a permanent intra-psychic change, whereby an ability to understand the inner nature of things is developed. It is the obliteration of the sensory impacts which is signified in the fire sacrifice. If this ritual is performed without this inner transformation then one is rooted in 'ignorance' which perpetuates the karmic journey of the 'atman'

In the today's concluding verse. a deeper meaning to the word worship has to be understood. Any act of worship is grounded in attachment. When one worships an idol or representation of a deity one is attached to the manifest objective reality but when one worships the an unmanifest reality, there is still a generative principle that objectifies the target of worship. Any objectifying leads to duality and hence cannot be the absolute reality; therefore it is only by transcending worship and becoming totally one with the very plenum of the Absolute Self that one can attain true Self-realization.

Love to you all.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Judgement of the Soul

In The "Egyptian Book of the Dead" it is recorded that the soul would be lead before the god Osiris and recite the forty-two negative confessions beginning with the prayer, "I have not learnt the things which are not" meaning that the soul strove in life to devote itself to matters of lasting importance rather than the trivial matters of everyday life. The forty-two negative declarations (Papyrus of Ani) which followed the opening prayer went to assure Osiris of the soul's purity and ended, in fact, with the statement, "I am pure" repeated a number of times. It was not the soul's claim to purity which would win over Osiris, however, but, instead, the weight of the soul's heart.


The `heart' of the soul was handed over to Osiris who placed it on a great golden scale balanced against the white feather of Ma'at, the Goddess of truth, of harmony, on the other side. If the soul's heart was lighter than the feather then the soul was freely admitted into the field of bliss. If the heart is found heavier, then it was cast away to the floor of the Hall of Truth where it was devoured by Ammit (a god with the face of a crocodile, front of a lion and the back of a rhinoceros) and the individual soul then ceased to exist. There was no `hell' for the ancient Egyptians; their `fate worse than death' was non-existence.

The forty-two negative confessions were also referred to as forty-two deities or judges who sat at the judgement of the soul.
The ancient Egyptians called the soul by two names - the Ka and Ba. The two owl symbols  in the hieroglyphs of the word 'Ammit' are a reminder of this.
The Ka was the life-force and spiritual essence of the soul.
The Ba was the roaming physical essence of the soul and was represented as a bird, a hawk, with a human head that symbolized the deceased.

The Akhu (Divine consciousness) was the divine spark of the soul that emerged when the Ka(Individual consciousness)  and Ba (Astral body or the physical essence which housed the individual consciousness - this is equivalent to the 'Anandamaya Kosha in Vedic spirituality) were united. The ancient Egyptians were desperate for the Ka to survive and unite with the Ba so the Akhu, the divine spark, could re-emerge and the soul could enter the world of immortality . Should they be deemed to have led sinful lives, the part of the soul called the 'Ba' would be given to Ammit, the 'Devourer of the Dead' and 'Eater of Souls'. It is only the physical essence which is devoured by Ammit. The spiritual essence is set to roam the underworld and the Egyptians feared this 'second death' more than the physical or first death.

The 'Devourer of the Dead', the deity Ammit, is represented by the three reptilian and mammalian combination in one body and is referred as a female goddess. This combination of animals represents the territorial nature grounded in the elements of water and earth, both being the essence of the physical body. The female goddess is the embodiment of wisdom but this is the degraded wisdom in the domain of good and evil which is rooted in duality.

The esoteric concept of body and soul in Egyptian spirituality can be seen in this iconic interpretations.
The clear demarcation of the physical body and the physical essence is clearly brought out. In the theory of reincarnation, the physical essence is the embodiment of the unique consciousness which takes residence in the physical body which is discarded at the time of physical death but the astral body or the unique physical essence continues its journey into immortality through multiple reincarnations only to be discarded when the ultimate merger with the Divine consciousness occurs.

The importance of the physical essence surviving the physical body is the core theme of Karma in the eternal journey in immortality. While the Soul can never have any attributes or modifications, it is the physical essence which carries these Karmic imprints. These karmic imprints can be modified in the physical essence while in the physical body only through the Divine spark that links the physical and spiritual essence.

Let this knowledge empower us to lead a life of purity.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Looking to the East

"Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. " .......Ezekiel 43:1-2
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him............. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." ..........Matthew 2: 2 and 9

In this article, I will reproduce some of the thoughts which I shared with the Salesian nuns as part of the reflection on the first Sunday of the season of Advent. We are eagerly looking to Christmas as a celebration of birth of Christ. The birth of Jesus is a historical event, riddled with doubt about the actual date and the year. We can now trace the star charts, going back 2500 years using a NASA software and there was no comet that made any appearance during the first decade of the assumed date of Jesus birth. But what is important is that Jesus  birth was a historical fact confirmed by not only the Gospel writers but by Josephus, the contemporary Jewish historian, as Jesus being the prophet preaching in Israel during this period.

It is the deeper meaning of the Gospel narrative and how this signifies a spiritual event that is important to us.
In the first reference to Ezekiel, we see that in his vision Ezekiel sees the glory of God coming from the East. Again we have the reference to the East in Matthew's Gospel where he says:

" For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." ..........Matt. 24:27

In an earlier vision Ezekiel experiences the Glory of the Divine in the East.

"The cherubim lifted up their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight as they went out with the wheels beside them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord; and the glory of the God of Israel was above them." .......Ezekiel 10:19

At the birth of Christ, we are again reminded that something significant, like His star, is seen in the East. Remember that the three wise men were travelling from the East. How could they see his star in the East and find a physical location which lies in the west.

To arrive at the true spiritual significance, we must refer to the Hebrew word for 'East'. It is 'Kedem'.
Kedem has a number value of 144 and it is translated 'Everlasting' or 'that which has no beginning or end'.
In Bhagavad Gita, the directions carry a spiritual meaning. North is the top of the head which signifies the region of intellectual or mental activity, South is the base of the spine which the region located in the material domain, West is the back of the head which is the location of reptilian and mammalian consciousness or animal nature dominated by the quality of 'Rajas' or passion and East is the 'third eye' or the spiritual centre of man. It is the spiritual portal of human consciousness.  It is this part of the human which is energized in spiritual practice. All reference in the Bible point to this deeper meaning. The 'East Gate' is portal through which we perceive the cosmic plenum of the Divine consciousness.

It is the birth of this consciousness in every human soul which is the celebration Christ birth.

Love to you all.