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


  1. To go beyond the head.............may be possible on a trial basis! beautiful piece!

  2. EMPTY, Thanks for the appreciation.
    In all your writings you go beyond the mind into your heart.