Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crossing the Rubicon

“When the Baal Shem had a difficult task before him, he would go to a certain place in the woods, light a fire and meditate in prayer–and what he had set out to perform was done.
When a generation later the "Maggid" of Meseritz was faced with the same task he would go to the same place in the woods and say: We can no longer light the fire, but we can still speak the prayers-and what he wanted done became reality.
Again a generation later Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov had to perform this task. And he too went into the woods and said: We can no longer light a fire, nor do we know the secret meditations belonging to the prayer, but we do know the place in the woods to which it all belongs–and that must be sufficient; and sufficient it was.
But when another generation had passed and Rabbi Israel of Rishin was called upon to perform the task, he sat down on his golden chair in his castle and said: We cannot light the fire, we cannot speak the prayers, we do not know the place, but we can tell the story of how it was done.
And, the story which he told had the same effect as the actions of the other three.”
.................Told by S.J. Agnon to Gershom Scholem. From "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom G. Scholem." Schocken Books, 1954.

I specifically opened this article with this quote as this was the trigger for my writing on this topic.
As many of you know the meaning of "crossing the Rubicon" is the crossing the point of no return, I do not intend to spend time on this title.
In a true seekers life every stage of his life is a point of no return not from a mental perspective but from an inner experience. While the accumulated knowledge one gains guides one to choose the optimum path towards a greater transformative experience, through a relation to the state of current knowledge, the relation between the knowledge and experiences themselves should be points of no return by not holding on to past illusionary realities which were mere external tools at a specific space and time. One should be vary of the immense possibility to regresses or relapses into the lower stage of consciousness by this relational attachment.

It is like the game of "snakes and ladders". While ladders are the combined aspects on one's cumulative knowledge and experience, which elevates your consciousness, the elements which constitute the aggregation of  knowledge can be useful in future exercises in gaining the higher insights but it is a pitfall if one relapses through the mouth of the snake into a lower level of consciousness by unnecessarily holding on to the rigid relation between the knowledge and experience, as this has to be continually transcended. The ability to move on beyond the past experiences with relation to tangible realities but seek something beyond in an increasingly abstract fashion is the key to sustained success.

The story told above demonstrates this truth. The path towards the mystical experience consists of a physical space, a certain level of ambient illumination and a sacred fire. The meditation and prayer used by Baal Shem was unique to his state of spirituality, ecological consciousness and mental makeup. This can be replicated only up to a certain time frame as we are in the process of continuous evolution both at the level of human consciousness as well as at the level of the planetary consciousness, which incidentally involves current state of our ecological awareness and our own relation to the increased or decreased sensitivities to factors which were relevant to our goal.
As we see in the story above, within two generations the physical ambience where Baal Shem sought and gained his transformative experience has completely changed through the loss of the sacred fire and subsequently the method of prayer and modality of meditation themselves were forgotten. The whole process of the intuitive experience was still experienced with only the forest or physical space being the common thread to the past. After a generation even that was lost and Rabbi Israel of Rishin summarises that the past knowledge only survives and all other factors have vanished but still the experience can be gained from a different set of mental positioning.

In most organized religions, this aspect of addressing the evolutionary trend in human consciousness as well as the changes in the socio-ecological-knowledge structures and the resulting impact on human consciousness are not taken into consideration. Whether it be the ancient rites and prayers or the need for certain physical, spatial and ritualistic agencies are still adhered to thus as a result the transformative inner experience is totally lost on the masses.

Increasingly, the past should serve as a coarse reference and a skeletal framework on which new meanings and deeper elements must be weaned to evolve a paradigm shift in our process of transformation.

"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky.
Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon's location.
However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger." ............ Sixth Patriach Huineng

Let our daily lives be filled with thoughts, words and actions which are focused on the goals of inner transformation.

Love to you all

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ferries to the Shores of Transcendence

"The supreme aim of Oriental mythology, consequently, is not to establish as substantial any of its divinities or associated rites, but to render by means of these an experience that goes beyond: of identity with that Being of beings which is both immanent and transcendent; yet neither is nor is not. Prayers and chants, images, temples, gods, sages, definitions, and cosmologies are but ferries to a shore of experience beyond the categories of thought, to be abandoned on arrival; for, as the Indian Kena Upanishadstates: 'to know is not to know, not to know is to know'; and the Chinese Tao Te Ching: 'Those who know are still.
 "’Thou art that," declares the Vedic sage; and the Japanese: 'It is your true self.'"
 "'O thou,' states a basic Buddhist text, 'who art gone, who art gone, who art gone to the yonder shore, who at the yonder shore hast disembarked: Enlightenment! Hail!'" ……………….. Joseph Campbell, “The Masks of God”, Volume III: Occidental Mythology

There are two levels at which the path to transcendence is initiated. They are the sensory level and the level of the psyche. It is at the level of the psyche that mythologies play an important role. The problem with the sensory level is that as the grasping of the deeper reality is initiated through objective entities such as chanting (words and intonation), images (iconic and symbolic representation), places of worship (a sacred space), Gods (anthropomorphic Divine representations through attributes such as “Saguna Brahma”) and sages (teachers),the tendency of the mind as a perceptive tool is to reside in the objective representations rather than move beyond to the deeper realms beyond these portals. It is like some visitor to a grand palace who is so enchanted with the magnificence of the fort that houses the palace and the grandeur of the massive portal decorated with gold and rubies that he returns satisfied that he has visited the palace.
The sensory inputs are supposed to lead the seeker to the level of the psyche from where one have a personal experience of the Divine.

It is in the relationship to the object and not the object itself which is relevant. As Soren Kierkegaard beautifully put it in his writing:
“If someone who lives in the midst of Christianity enters, with a knowledge of the true idea of God, the house of the true God, and prays, but prays in untruth, and if someone lives in an idolatrous land but prays with all passion of infinity, although his eyes are resting upon the image of an idol – where, then, is there more truth? The one prays in truth to God although he is worshipping an idol; the other prays in untruth to the true God and is therefore in truth worshipping an idol.”

The beauty of mythology is that it leads the individual who witnesses a mythological symbolism or dramatization or the one who reads or listens to a mythological writings or recital, to a necessary realm of further seeking.

Joseph Campbell writes:
"In the long view of the history of mankind, four essential functions of mythology can be discerned. The first and most distinctive – vitalizing all – is that of eliciting and supporting a sense of awe before the mystery of being."  "The second function of mythology is to render a cosmology, an image of the universe that will support and be supported by this sense of awe before the mystery of the presence and the presence of a mystery." "A third function of mythology is to support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group;" "The fourth function of mythology is to initiate the individual into the order of realities of his own psyche, guiding him toward his own spiritual enrichment and realization."

Though in Campbell’s definition there are four functions and defines only the fourth as ‘Spiritual’, the other three play the vital role of empowering spiritual experience. It is through the awe inspiring and mystical dimension that one is  prepared at the psychic level to grasp the ensuing deeper perceptions in a holistic manner. This holistic perception is symbiotically enhanced through the collective consciousness at the societal level. The mystery, awe and holistic approach are integral pathways to enlightenment.

To demonstrate the deeper meaning conveyed through a myth, the story of Ravana in the Hindu mythology of ‘Ramayana’ is a good example. Ravana abducts Sita, wife of Rama, who is the avatar of God Vishnu. But Ravana is a great devotee of Shiva and was engaged in the meditation on the Godhead for many years. It defeats logic why a great spiritual devotee engages in such an immoral act. But the iconic representation of the character of Ravana is the individual who seeks its liberation from Samsara or rebirth. Ravana knew that ultimately Rama will come to him to rescue his wife and kill him. It is only with the intention of redemption, through annihilation of his worldly self, that he can be elevated to a state of Divine union. Thus his long period of devotion to Shivais fulfilled through the Vishnu.

Every myth carries a hidden archetype which connects the waking consciousness of the individual to the universal unconsciousness. A spiritual experience can only be had at the deeper level of universal unconsciousness. As Joseph Campbell says it is the role of mythology “to render by means of these an experience that goes beyond: of identity with that Being of beings which is both immanent and transcendent; yet neither is nor is not.”

Love to you all

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adulterous - Christ Relationship

Then the bridegroom came down to the bride [soul]. She gave up her former prostitution and cleansed herself of the pollutions of the adulterers, and she was renewed so as to be a bride. She cleansed herself in the bridal chamber; she filled it with perfume; she sat in it waiting for the true bridegroom. No longer does she run about the market place, copulating with whomever she desires, but she continued to wait for him - saying 'When will he come?' - and to fear him, for she did not know what he looked like; she no longer remembers since the time she fell from her Father's house. But by the will of the Father she dreamed of him like a woman in love with a man." ..........Exegesis on the Soul

The Exegesis on the Soul is one of the ancient texts found at Nag Hammadi, in Codex II. Its purpose is to teach that the soul is a woman which fell from perfection into prostitution, and that the Father will elevate her again to her original perfect state. According to Irenaeus, this teaching was a foundational pillar of the doctrine of Simon Magus.
 I chose to write this article to highlight the role of Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan woman at the well, who have been associated with adulterous life, in the Biblical stories and their relationship with Jesus. There have been both historical as well as religious overtones as to the real role of Mary Magdalene ranging from the ridiculous to the literal. This study has been further distorted through fictions such as “Da Vinci Code”. The seeking soul of the woman at the well has also been assigned to that of a sinful woman who has been made virtuous by Christ. 

The passage I have quoted from the “Exegesis on the Soul” captures the more esoteric meaning behind the role of Mary Magdalene in the life of Christ and the deeper metaphorical connotation implied to invoke the spiritual message conveyed in the Biblical text. The “Exegesis on the Soul” depicts the soul as a feminine figure who has fallen into the corrupted world and must find her way back to the Divine. It is the story of the soul’s struggle and redemption that will embolden your own spiritual pilgrimage. The Hymn of the Pearl is an allegorical story about a prince sent to retrieve a precious pearl but who soon forgets his purpose and falls asleep. It is a moving tale of the importance of remembering your soul’s identity and calling—and knowing that only you can fulfil your destiny.  

Another Gnostic text which explains the nature of redemption is the “Pistis Sophia”. In this Christ himself, in his resurrected state, explains how the union of the male and the female through the androgynous light fulfils the role of salvation.  
“Again, his disciples said: Tell us clearly how they came down from the invisibilities, from the immortal to the world that dies?

The perfect Saviour said: Son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous light. Its male name is designated 'Saviour, begetter of all things'. Its female name is designated 'All-begettress Sophia'. Some call her 'Pistis'.” ………. Pistis Sophia
Christ role is that of the saviour only in as much as the individual soul foregoes its adulteress ways and is re-integrated in the pure bridal union with the primal light from which it descended to this world. 

With this background knowledge if we read the Gospels, we are able to derive a deeper meaning for the role of Mary Magdalene. The very first reference in the resurrection story is:
“Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. …” ……..Mark 16:9
The Jewish Talmud affirms that “Magdala” had an unsavoury reputation, and because of the harlotry practiced there, the city was destroyed. Doubtless it was from this tradition, and from the fact that Luke’s first reference to her follows the story of the sinful woman, that the idea developed that Mary was a prostitute, but there is not an iota of genuine evidence to suggest such a bad reputation.
Being the consort of the saviour and the historical connotation to the place from which she came and its past ill-reputation, the spiritual nature or meaning of prostitution has been lost to the general audience.  

This same applies to the woman at the well.
“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” ………….John 4:17-18
These words apply to the soul which has been corrupted and is seeking fulfilment through many sources full of ignorance and is redeemed by the Saviour through his healing androgynous light which is the absolute wisdom. 

Let us seek through true love the androgynous light which is hidden in the sacred scriptures.

Love to you all

Monday, September 8, 2014

Process of Self Illumination

“A lighted-lamp does not need another lamp to illumine its light.
So too, Atman which is Knowledge itself needs no other knowledge to know it.” ………Atma Bodha, v.29

“Out of compassion I destroy the darkness of their ignorance.
From within them I light the lamp of wisdom
 and dispel all darkness from their lives …” ……………Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10: verse 11

A visiting monk: I have been practicing to achieve enlightenment. What about that?
Bankei: Enlightenment is something that stands in contrast to illusion. As each person is a Buddha-body just as he is, he hasn't a speck of illusion in him. What is it, then, that you want to enlighten?
Monk: But master, that would mean living life as an utter fool. Look at Bodhidharma. Look at all the Zen masters after him. They realised the great Dharma by attaining enlightenment.
Bankei: It is as just such a fool that the Tathagata saves people from suffering. Neither coming nor going, being just as you are at the time when you were born, without obscuring your mind - that's the very meaning of Tathagata! All the patriarchs of the past were exactly the same as that.
…………………….. From 'The Unborn: The life and teachings of Zen master Bankei 1622-1693'

The source of Self-illumination is not from the outer world through intellectual pursuit. Both the text of Atma Bodha and the Bhagavad Gita clearly indicates that the nature of illumination. As a lighted lamp needs no further light to illumine it so also the Atma or the soul is enshrined in the body in its purest form and itself forms the source of providing all necessary knowledge to purify the Self or dispel any ignorance in this life journey. The Divine we speak of is the very essence of the soul and hence seeking an external Divine intervention is fraught with failure and illusion unless through the Self this external worship leads to the destruction of ignorance. This is the reason that Lord Krishna says the words that are quoted in the beginning of this article.

This concept of self-illumination has been explained in the dialogues of the Zen masters.
The words of the Japanese Zen master Bankei Yōtaku, very clearly illustrates as to what you are trying to enlighten. Every human is the Buddha-body which means he or she has no illusion from which to be enlightened.
The Zen master uses the word “Tathagata” and this term is often thought to mean either "one who has thus gone" (tathā-gata) or "one who has thus come" (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena.
All transitory phenomenon is the creation of the mind which is the attenuated projection of the illumined soul. This is the reason why the mind is termed as a modification or conditioned projection of pure consciousness. When the soul experiences something in the sensory realm then it projects an image which is shaped and stored as a conditioned reality in the mental realm.

All suffering results from this conditioned image projection. The process of removal of this suffering or delusion is to allow the light of the soul to shine through. In our weakened condition of existence we require a deep realization of our true makeup. This could be done through various spiritual practices or through deeper wisdom under the guidance of a Guru or Master.
The words of Bankei captures in a nutshell the concept of enlightenment.
“………..Neither coming nor going, being just as you are at the time when you were born, without obscuring your mind - that's the very meaning of Tathagata!”
Which means to be in the present moment like very little children with purity of consciousness unconditioned by the world.

This is what was achieved by all great spiritual masters.

Love to you all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sensitivity to Perception in Esoteric Teaching

Jesus taught his disciple and His followers about the "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God"

"In the original Greek these are: ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (ē basileia tōn ouranōn) and ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (ē basileia tou theou). The word ‘basileia’ comes from the Greek word for king basileus, from which we get the English words basil (a royal herb) and basilica (a royal building). The word ‘ouranos’ is the ancient Greek name of the god who personifies the sky and the origin of the English words Uranus (the planet) and the uranium (the element). Most people know that the word for God, ‘theos’, is the origin of the English words ‘theology’ (the study of God) and ‘atheism’ (the negation of God). “...............Jonathan Lipnick

The concept of teaching higher principles to a varied audience must mandate that there is high sensitivity to the perception level, both intellectual as well as psychological. It is a common delusion that many teachers that by residing in their own intellectual domain can somehow enable and energize the audience to a higher perception. The need to be tuned into audience both at the emotional as well as intellectual level through a varied objective positioning which is common and yet understood at the individual level despite their different capacities. This is exactly why we are discussing this topic today. When I read Jonathan’s explanation of the meaning with which Christ talked of the kingdom of heaven and the way it was communicated to the Greek intelligentsia, I realized that the deeper dimension of the teaching even as applicable to today’s world. The concept of heaven and its ruling principle has changed over the eons. While ‘Ouranos’ was the God of the skies in the time of the Greek writings of the Gospels, the mythological reference to this deity as the creative principle has changed with the advances of our understanding of the cosmic reality. The enfolded and universal nature of the material universe and its constituent elements has been firmly established in science in the twenty-first century.

The deeper cosmological understanding of this reality when Christ spoke of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’ can be seen in the Gospel of Thomas saying 3:

"If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.*

When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty." (* Italics and colour highlight by the author).

The all pervading nature of the fundamental reality from which our own nature, both physical as well as perceptual, arises and it is of this domain that Christ speaks. This is why He confidently says by knowing this truth we realize that we are the integral part of the creative principle referred to as “The Father”. The lack of this ‘Self’ knowledge which lead to the poverty of duality in which we are disconnected from the source. To the common man the duality of the perceiver and the object of perception, though not to the senses, is positioned for better understanding but at the same time the limited perception leading to the poverty of transcendence is exposed.

In our waking consciousness there are many co-creators of this perceived reality. There is the individual and the collective creation of the reality as perceived by the individual, the collective, and the universal consciousness are completely interconnected and interdependent. No individual is the creator of the reality one experiences. Every creation and manifestation is a unique individual expression of the creative power and hence a co-creator with God of the reality we all experience. Nevertheless, when there is a transformation in one’s own consciousness, there is an imminent and corresponding transformation in the cosmos and in the reality of one experiences.

Love to you all