Monday, March 24, 2014

Universal Abode of the Divine

"My heart has become capable of every form;
It is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Ka'ba
And the tables for the Torah and the book of the Quran.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way
Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith." ...................Ibn al-‘Arabî

When I read this beautiful piece of spiritual poetry of Ibn ‘Arabî, it took my breath away.
To even more deeply appreciate one has to understand that this was written in the twelfth century which was the apex of Islamic Golden age wherein there lived this man who really experienced and understood the cosmic nature of all existence and the true nature of the Divine.
Ibn ‘Arabî studied the Islamic sciences with numerous teachers in Andalus and North Africa.
In his early teens he underwent a visionary conversion “at the hands of Jesus” (albeit the Jesus of the Koran), and this resulted in an “opening” (futûh) of his soul toward the universal divine realm.

"Another hadith (Islamic tradition) explains that the primary haqq (meaning true, real, right, worthy, and appropriate) upon which all other haqqs are based, is that “There is no god but God”, which is to say that there is nothing truly real but the Real, there is nothing truly right but the Right. In Islamic theology, understanding this notion is called tawhîd or “the acknowledgement of [divine] unity” and is considered the first of the three principles of faith; tawhîd also underlies the standpoints of the philosophers, even if some of them seldom spoke of God."[1]

As the divine speech (kalâm), the Koran is understood as nonmanifest and indistinct from the Divine Essence, though it becomes manifest in recitation and writing. God's speech reveals itself not only in scripture, but also in the universe and the soul. this deep understanding led Ibn ‘Arabî to articulate a universal theology rooted in a deeper subjective experience.

Ibn ‘Arabî ontology is based on what he terms as wujûd, existence or being, a word that had come to the centre of philosophical discourse with Avicenna [2]. In its Koranic and everyday Arabic sense, wujûd means to find, come across, become conscious of, enjoy, be ecstatic. It was used to designate existence because what exists is what is found and experienced. For Ibn ‘Arabî, the act of finding—that is, perception, awareness, and consciousness—is never absent from the fact of being found. If on the one hand he speaks of wujûd in the standard Avicennan language of necessity and possibility, he simultaneously talks of it—in terms long established by the Sufi tradition—as the fullness of divine presence and human consciousness that is achieved in realization

The heart is the very embodiment of all our emotional responses and it is here that one has to experience the mystical nature of the Divine. In this realization, all duality of religious beliefs disappear and there is only a union which is expressed as love. This love is merged in the very element of the subjective experience and this is the reason Ibn ‘Arabî says: " I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith."

Love to you all

[1] Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
[2] Avicenna- 10th century Persian polymath and Islamic philosopher

Friday, March 21, 2014

Self Consuming Lower Nature

In today's post, I wish to bring to the reader's attention the Greek mythological event involving the Goddess Artemis and the hunter Actaeon.

Artemis is associated with the bow and consequently with the hunt. She is the dealer of swift and sweet death. This is reflected in the Islamic saying about the Angel of Death, " his approach the Angel of Death seems terrible, yet when he has arrived he is sweet."

Originally Artemis herself was herself a deer and she is the Goddess who kills deer, the dual aspects of the same being. This signifies that each life is its own death, and he who kills you is somehow a messenger of the destiny that was yours from the beginning. This is also reflected in the mythological event of Adonis being killed by the Boar.

Actaeon was a great hunter who was out hunting with his friends. Having killed enough for the day and being tired wanted to cool off and sought the source of a river. It was at this very source, in a cool pool, shielded by a stone arch and leafy shade, that Artemis was bathing with her nymphs.
Actaeon arrives at the pool accompanied by his hunting dogs and chances upon the ravishing beauty of the naked Artemis bathing. Noticing the lustful look of Actaeon, Artemis sprays droplets of water on him and turns him into a stag. His own hunting hounds tear him to pieces and devour him.

This mythological story has many near parallels.

In the Old Testament, it is the story of Lot's wife turning back and looking at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and being turned into a pillar of salt.

In the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus, deeply in love with Eurydice, looses her through a bite of a deadly viper. She descends to Hades. Armed with his weapons, the lyre and voice, Orpheus approached Hades and demanded entry into the underworld. None challenged him. Standing in front of the rulers of the dead, Orpheus said why he was there, in a voice both mellifluous and disquieting. He played his lyre and sang out to King Hades and Queen Persephone that Eurydice was returned to him.  He should wait for Eurydice to get into the light before he looked at her. But he could not control his desire to look at his wife. Walking ahead, he was in the light and turned to look at Eurydice who was following him but still had not exited the door of Hades. His gaze backward sends Eurydice into the underworld forever.

Many such themes only point to two important metaphors to awaken the spiritual consciousness.

The first metaphor is the "consuming" action of the self through one's animal nature.
The beauty of creation is a Divine attribute as exhibited in the nakedness of the Goddess and any grasping or desiring through sensory perception leads to our animal nature predominating our action. This is amply evident in the desire of Actaeon and his lusting leading him to be turned into a stag and the dogs eat him up. This killing by his own hunting dogs signifies the self destructive and spiritual death dealing animal nature.

The second metaphor that is the "seeing" which is grasping through our senses and its lower spiritual nature. This is evident in all the examples cited here.
In the ascending phase of one's spiritual journey; signified here by the vision of the beauty of the Goddess, the journeying away from the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah or the ascending from Hades, the world of spiritual darkness, one has to abstain from the death dealing of our desires promoted by our emotions through a sensory mind to step backwards into our lower nature.

This is the great significance and the power of the mythological  medium which communicates the truth to our consciousness.

Love to you all

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Passage to Immortality

" Different indeed they declare what results from the manifest and distinct they say what comes out of the unmanifest. This is what we heard from the wise who explained these truths to us.
He who understands both the manifest and the unmanifest together, crosses death through the unmanifest and attains immortality through the manifest." ...........Isa Upanishad Verse 13, 14

The meanings of what is meant by "manifest" and "unmanifest" has to be very clearly understood in order to grasp the meaning of these two interconnected verses. In the human mind a manifestation occurs when any sense perception matches an a priori template generated through a past, individual or collective, experiential imprint.

In Adi Śakara's commentary as expanded by Somraj Gupta, he identifies the manifest as "born" and the unmanifest as "destruction".

Swami Nikhilananda in his commentary on these verses, identifies the manifest as " Hiranyagarbha" and the unmanifest as " Prākti"

 The Hirayagarbha Sūkta of the ig Veda (RV 10:121) declares that God manifested Himself in the beginning as the Creator of the Universe, encompassing all things, including everything within Himself, the collective totality, as it were, of the whole of creation, animating it as the Supreme Intelligence. Hence every element of objective perception is the manifest reality and cannot aid in grasping the "Absolute reality" which is the unmanifest.

The Sakhya school holds that there are only two primary principles, Purua and Prākti, and creation is only a manifestation or evolution of the constituents of Prākti due to the action of Purua's Consciousness.

All these interpretations aim at the two basic classifications; namely, causal and that which is beyond cause. All manifestations and birth are related to a preceding cause and that which remains annihilated or destroyed from all sense perception or grasping by the individuated ego consciousness is the unmanifest.

From pagan deities to later religious avatars, many deities were assigned the lunar tendencies to reflect the secondary nature of illumining light of spiritual wisdom, the Sun. By worshiping or deeply understanding the mere iconic or symbolic representation, whether they be representations of super natural attributes or pantheistic universality, we cannot grasp the absolute reality of the Godhead. That is the reason that these verses of the Upanishad stresses the need for understanding both the manifest and the unmanifest together. " Śakara calls jñāna knowledge. For jñāna means "Samatvam" which means equality between the manifest and the unmanifest, between bondage and release, between Samadhi and the mundane world, between God and the world."

All that is manifest is provided to us in the form of Saguna Brahman (all manifestations are the reflection and are the attributes of the absolute) so that it serves as a launch platform or the path for realizing the Nirguna Brahman (the one who has no attributes) who is our goal.

If we are rooted in an isolated understanding of the manifest then transcendence to immortality is not possible and we go through the cycle of Sasāra and born again. But if we relegate the manifest only a means and platform for grasping the unmanifest so that we may raise our consciousness to the Divine plenum, then we attain a final death or destruction of the physical body. This is what is meant by "........... crosses death through the unmanifest and attains immortality through the manifest."

Love to you all.