Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beheading the Lower Self

"Isn't it amazing how people everywhere hold the same false beliefs and hear the same destructive voices in our heads? We can call that the lower self. That in itself shows that we are all basically one consciousness, albeit based in physicality and duality. But to the bright side, there is also a higher consciousness, a Oneness, we share. We can wake up to that lower self, see that it has never served or protected us, and let go... into the Silence and Stillness where there already exists the freedom and peace we long for." ........................Barbara Norby

There is a very empowering little book known by the title "On Having No Head" written by Douglas E Harding. This book deals with another awareness which is not rooted in our sensory concepts but an innate capacity to appreciate and understand a broader picture. The mind operates based on objective knowledge while the soul operates on a holistic domain thus providing a platform for understanding the common fabric from which all objective manifestations evolve. In the Upanishad we read:

"God made the senses turn outwards: man therefore looks outwards, not into himself. Now and again a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.
He is the imperishable among things that perish. Life of all life, He, though one, satisfies every man’s desire. He that dare discover Him within, knows peace; what other dare know peace?” ................Katha Upanishad

This process of transcending from the clatter of the mind to the silence and stillness of the soul requires a letting go of the mind or in a metaphorical term is equated to a beheading in mythological lore. A deeper examination can reveal that four of the five senses are located in the head namely; seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting but even the sense of touch has to be processed by the brain located in the head. Hence the significance of having no head is equal to having no sensory influences.

This is demonstrated in the story of Parashurama, the son of saptarishi Jamadagni and Renuka, and who is the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu. This story is repeated in various Purana such as Brahmandapurana, Visnupurana and Skandapurana with slight variations.

In this story Renuka, who was known for her chastity and devotion to her husband, had such purity that she was able to fetch water from the river in a pot of unbaked clay, with the pot held together only by the strength of her devotion. One day while at the river, a group of Gandharvas in a chariot passed by in the sky above. she was filled with desire and through his yogic powers, Jamdagni knew what had happened and orders that his wife be beheaded. After being refused by three of his elder sons, finally his youngest son Parashurama accepted to behead his mother. When Parashuram raised his axe to kill his mother, she ran and took refuge in the house of a low-caste poor woman. Parashurama followed his mother and while performing the act of beheading, he also accidentally chopped of the head of the low-caste poor woman who tried to prevent the matricide.

Pleased with the obedience of Parashurama,  Jamdagni granted Parashurama two boons.
Parashurama asked that his brothers who were turned to stone for disobedience be brought back to life and that his mother be revived. These two boons were granted but while he tried to revive his mother, he accidentally placed the low-caste woman’s head with his mother’s body.

The spiritual significance of the story is precisely to demonstrate how even the most devote and holy person can become a slave to the mind and the eradication of the mind is metaphorically constructed in the act beheading but a reincarnation through a lower state or a suppressed state of spiritual consciousness through the symbolism of the substitution of the lower caste woman's head.

If we closely follow the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita, we can easily see that the caste system which takes a very distorted meaning in the present age, was originally intended to mean the state of one's state of consciousness. The highest state was identified to be in union with Brahma and hence the Brahmin, followed by the other lower castes. The substitution of Renuka's head by a lower caste person's head means that she had to descend to a lower level of consciousness and again start the process of spiritual advancement through various spiritual practices such as devotion and tapas.

In the story of Renuka, her original head, which represents the higher state of Divine consciousness, is worshipped as Goddess Renuka Yellamma.

I will leave you with a quote from old Zen Master of the 9th century:

"The body does not know how to discourse or to listen to a discourse. That which is unmistakably perceivable right where you are, absolutely identifiable yet without form, that is what listens to the discourse." ......................Zen Master Rinzai

Let us constantly endeavour to move from mind driven life to a soul driven life.

Love to you all

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Systemic Approach to Understanding the Feminine

On this day when the world celebrates "Women's day", why not reflect on the inseparable and integral nature of the feminine as the inner and outer polar opposite indispensable to human existence. This article brings out the role of a holistic understanding of the evolutionary process and the contribution of Jungian Depth psychology in enhancing our current understanding of the role of the feminine through a systemic approach.

The global thinking and general awareness of humanity has shifted to a perceptive 'layer of consciousness' wherein the need to reposition the role of the feminine in contemporary society has become a much needed and debated topic.

Human evolution, as we understand today, cannot be fully explained even by the tenets of 'Neo-Darwinism' which is the "modern synthesis" of Darwinian evolution through natural selection with Mendelian genetics, which combines the mutative physical evolution with added attributes through modification of characteristics inherited.
In his 'Tanner Lectures' on 'Human Value', Stephen J Gould Evolutionary Biologist, gave a lecture on "Challenges to Neo- Darwinism and Their Meaning for a Revised View of Human Consciousness". In this lecture he pointed out that;

"Four controlling biases of Western thought — progressivism, determinism, gradualism, and adaptationism — have combined to construct a view of human evolution congenial to our hopes and expectations. Since we evolved late and, by our consciousness, now seem well in control (for better or for worse), the four biases embody a view that we rule by right because evolution moves gradually and predictably toward progress, always working for the best. These four biases have long stood as the greatest impediments to a general understanding and appreciation of the Darwinian vision, with its explicit denial of inherent progress and optimality in the products of evolution.............. In this Darwinian climate, we may still view the evolution of human consciousness as the predictable end of a long history of increasing mentality."

The " inherent progress and optimality" of humanity is derived by human consciousness in an evolutionary process, driven by the imprint of Cosmic consciousness, towards the "Omega Point" as expounded by the great French Anthropologist and Theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Punctuated equilibrium, which is a long period of no evolutionary activity, and unexplained sudden expansion of cranial capacity in Homo Sapiens, in the history of evolution of Homo Sapiens also leaves much to be desired in explaining human evolution purely from a Neo-Darwinian perspective.
As some of the ancient cultures, like Mayans, were able to comprehend that planetary evolution is driven by a higher level of consciousness at the Galactic or cosmic level.

Current levels of comprehension of Homo Sapiens as to the nature of one's individual role in creation and the more important relational dimension of our species with all other elements of the planet as a mutually inclusive network of life empowering force, has resulted in increasing number of thinkers, academicians, spiritual leaders and discerning individuals to move towards an integral and systemic mind set. A number of studies in the evolution of human consciousness has revealed this tendency of emergence as the next stage of evolution of human consciousness which is termed as "Integral  consciousness".

Now when we trace the history of our own species, our male-female relation has undergone a major shift from the time 200,000 years ago to the current times. The feminine was valued and venerated as the Divine Mother and as primary deity due to humanity's great dependence on survival. The fertility of the species was of primal importance and fertility was associated with the feminine. The link to the Divine Feminine was lost from the time when the monotheistic religions were established with Yahweh, God the Father and Allah became the all male presiding deities. Further damage was done with the radical rational mindset following the Age of Enlightenment.

However, in the recent past, an increasing awareness of the egalitarian relation that needs to be instilled between the male and the female has dawned on an increasing section of society due to social, cultural and spiritual factors which have been modulated by a shift in human consciousness. Though this awareness is in a nascent stage, the sign of its impact are very encouraging. The media while on one hand portrays the feminine and its attributes as a marketable commodity, has also helped in sensitizing our awareness to the cultural and ego driven atrocities and violence against women.

First of all the very realization within our conscious awareness that something is not right prepares the ground for a consciousness shift. This shift in the human consciousness is further aided when questions regarding the very nature of creation and its reality are increasingly probed at our current level of knowledge.

The age of reason which gave the creative impulse to the emergence of Newtonian classical physics gave way to Quantum physics in the integral age that emerged in the twentieth century.
Our scientific understanding of the microcosm has radically shifted to invoke the deeper link between the observer consciousness and the resulting objective reality. Hence the perception of the feminine is an indelible projection of the male psyche. The Jungian concept of the sexual polarity, inner and outer, which symbolizes all the dynamic opposites of the psyche, is the primary modality of achieving wholeness. Sexuality in its symbolic dimension has a spiritual function; it is the means and signification of reunion with oneself, one's neighbour, and the Divine as the source of one's life.

Let me conclude with what we know from Jung's understanding of the feminine:
"The feminine is your soul-image and will lead your conscious ego safely into the unconscious and safely out again. When Theseus needed to penetrate the labyrinth in Crete in order to slay the monstrous Minotaur, the fair Ariadne, with her thread, enabled him to go in and find his way out again. If we follow Jung and translate this story into psychological terms, the labyrinth is a symbol of the unconscious, the monster is the frightening and threatening aspect of whatever in our unconscious has been neglected and has therefore 'gone wild'; the slaying of the monster means 'taming' that wild, unruly force and bringing it under conscious control. The 'slaying' can be accomplished, however, only by love (Ariadne - the feminine) - only by accepting the neglected thing, honouring it and welcoming it into our unconscious."

Let us be ever thankful for this wonderful creation in our life journey and venerate Divine feminine within and without.

Love to you all

Monday, March 2, 2015

Perception of the True Self

"The abode of all proof-entities is only the proof of direct perception in this world, as the ocean is the abode of the waters. Therefore, hear that.
It is indeed direct perception; not another. Without direct experience, the nature of the Self is not apprehended.
The Self does not exist by inference nor by the words of a trustworthy person and the like. At all times and in every way, it is present or perceptible and is everything, from direct experience.
That Absolute Reality is directly experienced by the liberated one, who knows it by intuition and is abiding in that position. It is merely described by others only through scriptures handed down traditionally." .............. Yoga Vasishtha (Chapter II: 220 - 224)

These words are taken from the text of "Vasishthadarshanam" that recounts a discourse of sage Vasishtha to Prince Rama. In a nutshell the sage Vasishtha brings out the mode of identifying one's true Self. This has to be a purely subjective experience and cannot be comprehended through instruction even from the highest authority. Spiritual masters and sages have tried to express their experience of intuitive perception through their writings or in the form of scriptures. These are tools which may be useful to the individual to seek the path of inner perception but cannot in anyway be the very source of revelation.
In this short article, I am taking the example of the inner experience of two great spiritual masters and see how they expressed their inner experience.

The first is Sri Bhagavan Ramana maharishi.
Bhagavan Ramana's practice of asking all seekers to inquire as to “Who am I?”  and to direct their full attention onto the Self. When the conscious awareness is poised in Self-Attention or Self-Abidance, the not-self (ego) naturally dissolves through lack of use, much like a plant that is not watered or a flame that is not given fuel.

“EVERY living being longs to be happy; untainted by sorrow; and everyone has the greatest of love for himself; which is solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence in order to realize that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the enquiry; "Who am I?” in the quest for the Self is the best means." ...........Sri Bhagavan

Other thoughts might come and go but this constant inward focus through meditation and mind disciplining prayer or mantra peels of the shrouding layers of the objective ego and all its associated attachment.
Bhagavan on leaving home, he left behind a note saying, “I have gone to meet my Father.” His reference to God as “Father” was evidently from his study of the Bible in the Methodist school where he studied and his love or admiration of Jesus, where Jesus Himself also referred to God as “Father.”
Sri Bhagavan’s earthly father had died a few years earlier. He also avidly sought the true 'I' when his fear of death led him to the enquiry as to whether the physical self is the real 'I'. The words of Jesus "The kingdom of God is within you" was also a very powerful thought in his mind. In all his dialogue and writing the central theme centred around "Who am I"

Another great Christian mystic who had experienced the realization of the Self and who communicated extensively with the ordinary people of Germany was Meister Eckhart, the Dominican monk of the 13th century Germany.
Eckhart's position was very clearly expressed by him:

"When I preach, I usually speak of detachment and say that a man should be empty of self (ego self) and all things; and secondly, that he should be reconstructed in the simple good that God is; and thirdly, that he should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul (the authentic Self), such that by means of it man may wonderfully attain to God (Self); and fourthly, of the purity of the divine nature."

"If we turn from conceptual forms, produced by external circumstances, and go to the root of things, we shall find that Sakyamuni (Buddha) and Meister Eckhart teach the same thing; only that the former dared to express his ideas plainly and positively, whereas Eckhart is obliged to clothe them in the garment of the Christian myth, and to adapt his expressions thereto."
........... 19th-century philosopher Schopenhauer.

Another famous quote from Meister Eckhart's sermon is:

“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”

In the 20th century, Eckhart's thoughts were also compared to Shankara's Advaita Vedanta by Rudolf Otto in his "Mysticism: East and West".

All the personalities referred to in this article such as Buddha, Jesus, Adi Shankara, Meister Eckhart and Sri. Bhagavan, have had their subjective experience of the Divine or Self within and through their own language and message which needed to be contextual to the culture in which they communicated and expressed the single truth that the Perception of the Self was their purely subjective experience.

This spiritual exercise is an arduous task and requires constant and ever present awareness.

Love to you all.