Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hostile brothers

"An archetypal motif associated with the opposites constellated in a conflict situation. Examples of the hostile brothers motif in mythology are the struggle between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in The Gilgamesh Epic, and the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Psychologically, it is generally interpreted in terms of the tug of war between ego and shadow." ...........................Carl Jung

This is a very important understanding in interpreting the events in mythology.
While Jung quotes the Sumerian and Biblical mythologies, it is also brought out in the epic of Mahabharata, though not is a direct relationship as brother but the sons of the brothers, blind king Dhritarashtra and King Pandu. These are the characters of Duryodhana and Arjuna.  
Duryodhana stands for the shadow archetype and Arjuna stands for the ego or the self.

Jung brings out the struggle between the ego and the shadow as the hostility between brothers in mythological characters.
The shadow, is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.

Jung suggested that the shadow can appear in dreams or visions and may take a variety of forms. It might appear as a snake, a monster, a demon, a dragon, or some other dark, wild, or exotic figure.
Though Jung had great depth of knowledge in religious mythologies, he has careful avoided positioning the negative elements and representations of one's psyche as an objective attribute such as one assigns in theology as the devil or Satan.
The negative aspect of one's ego is a purely subjective experience and hence Jung rightly called it shadow. A shadow cannot be divested from the subject which is projecting the shadow.

Now let us turn to the myth of Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
In the very first introduction of Enkidu, he was infuriated by Gilgamesh's egotist behaviour and a great battle ensued. The two mighty men battled for hours, and after their strength was exhausted, they came to realize they were equals. Later Gilgamesh realized that this was the friend of whom his mother spoke in his dream. This is a very appropriate mapping of the relationship between the ego and the its shadow and the shadow arising out of the dream consciousness. Though Enkidu dies as a result of the battle with Hambaba, he is restored to life by the Shamash the Sun god.

The roles played out by Shamash, the Sun god, as the prime mover of the adventure of both Gilgamesh (ego) and Enkidu (the shadow) as well as Hambaba, guardian of the Cedar forest (in Sumerian mythology the cedar forest was the abode of the Gods), as the demigod or the demon archetype arising out of the collective unconsciousness can now be clearly understood as a myth to evoke the seeking soul to understand its relationship with the deeper consciousness levels.

In the Biblical episode of Cain and Abel, the fight between the brothers and the final killing of Abel, the one who was acceptable to God. represents the constant struggle between the ego and the shadow elements. The rejection of Cain's offering (shadow) by God is the prime motive of the struggle of the shadow to exist in itself and the dialogue between God and Cain demonstrates the relation between the twin aspects of the psyche. When God asks Cain where is your brother and he says "Am I my brother's keeper". Yes, he is his brother's keeper and the blood of Abel appeals to God for restoration. Their coexistent nature of the ego and the shadow is brought out in the Biblical story as there is immediate replacement for Abel through Seth.

" Seth was born after Abel's murder, and Eve believed God had appointed him as a replacement for Abel." .........Genesis 4 : 25

Another Biblical story which can be seen in the light of alienation between the ego and the shadow is the story of Abraham's two sons Ishmael and Isaac. In this story the relationship between Ishmael and Isaac is looked at from the point of view of Illegitimacy and the legitimacy of the two sons of Abraham. The illegitimate son is cast out signifying the alienation. The Illegitimacy and the legitimacy of sonship has the same source and hence are the two sides of the same coin.

The reason for pointing out the various stories in mythology and sacred writings is to go beyond the literary interpretations which have been plaguing our spiritual teachings and look to the inner meanings.

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Love to you all

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Yoga - Removal of Afflictions of Consciousness

There is a huge build up towards another commercialized annual day of remembrance.
This is the "International Day of Yoga ", which coincides with the summer solstice on 21 June.
The true meaning of Yoga (the Sanskrit word yoga which is "to add", "to join", "to unite", or "to attach" from the root yuj) has been lost and it is only the Asanas (postures), the one limb of Ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga, that is promoted as the practice of Yoga probably with Pranayama (controlled breathing) thrown in as an exotic addition. It is hugely commercialized in the west.

As Patanjali, in the very second verse of "Yoga Sutra', says “Yogaś Citta Vtti Nirodha”, which means, when the chatter of the mind ceases, yoga happens. The cause for this constant chatter of the mind is the result of the afflictions (Kleshas) of one's consciousness.
“Klesha” means taints or afflictions. A klesha is something like a filter that diminishes or distorts our consciousness, this creates illusion, bringing misery and pain in some form. It also hinders clarity which is a natural property of the mind and thus preventing us from rising to the state of calm, clear concentration and samadhi.

This cause for these afflictions are:
The lack of awareness of Reality [avidya], the sense of egoism or ‘I-am-ness’ [asmita], attractions [raga] and repulsions [dwesha] towards objects and the strong desire for life [abhinivesha] are the great afflictions or causes of all miseries in life.

This article is to emphasize the fundamental importance of another limb of the eight limbed yoga which is the key element and has to be practiced by most of us. This practice then opens up the portal of our inner self to cleanse the various afflictions (Kleshas) of our consciousness

There are five Niyamas (Niyama literally means positive duties or observances) namely; Sauca, Santhosha, Tapas, Svādhyāya, and Ishvara Pranidhana which must be adhered to in order to weaken the kleshas, literally fading them out, washing them away, for they are accretions that have nothing to do with the eternal nature of our Self.

·         Sauca means inner purity. It is the constant practice of maintaining peak bodily health through ingesting Sattvic food, inhaling pure air and maintaining purity of mind and thought.
·         Santhosha is about cultivating contentment. A surrender to all that comes in our way through a perception of equanimity.
·         Tapas means a passion for disciplined practice.
·         Svādhyāya is the mode of self-study. Though one may read numerous spiritual texts and be guided by a Guru, it is the subjective meaning that one derives from these inputs that matter. and finally,
·         Ishvara Pranidhana is about surrendering to the divine. This does not mean that we surrender to some external authority but realize that not only the practitioner but the entire objective world is given to us to realize the deep truth of the all pervading Divine and to let go of causative and accusative thinking when one encounters a life event.

Note that diminishing the kleshas is enough to bring about samadhi, which will then itself erase them completely. So we are not facing a herculean task but a constant application.
As Krishna tells Arjuna:

“Even a little practice of this yoga will save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death [ mahato bhayat–great fear]” .................Bhagavad Gita 2 : 40

The Raja Yoga path, defined by the Ashtanga Yoga, is not for everyone but as indicated in this text a constant attempt to remove one's afflictions of consciousness through just the practice of Niyamas would set in motion the inner process of purification.

Combined with Niyamas and Fundamental to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga and the path that leads to this inner journey is the stilling of the mind through the three stages of Pratyahara (withdrawing of the mind from the senses), Dharana (concentration) and Dyana (deep meditation).  
This can be achieved through constant meditation to increase the awakening of our consciousness. There are innumerable studies which have been done, both on the scholarly and spiritual disciplines, on the benefit of meditation both on the mind and the body.
When the body and is in a pure state and the mind is in a state of awakened consciousness, the Divine spirit finds a resting place.
The Buddhist and the Vedic chanting and meditation, the contemplative tradition in Christian mysticism, Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning) is a form physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, are all aimed at the mind focus to do away the contamination of objective duality.

Do not be discouraged by distractions at the initial phase.
The Trappist monk and influential writer Thomas Merton was strongly influenced by Buddhist meditation, particularly as found in Zen and he was a life time friend of the Vietnamese monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. His method of contemplative outreach is as follows:
In preparation for meditation choose a holy word and in the process of meditation his suggestion is to follow the 4 Rs:

1. Restrain no thought,
2. Retain no thought,
3. React to no thought and
4. Return to the holy word.

Let me conclude this short article with the observation of Chogyam Trungpa who founded Shambhala Buddhism:

"There is no such thing as an ideal state of meditation. Awareness allows us to relate to our mental processes and to see the fundamental expression of mind as it is, including our thoughts. The meditator may find that many thoughts recur during the meditative state. These thoughts could be seen as waves on the ocean. They are part of our intelligence. When they aren’t armed or heavy-handed anymore, they have a transparent quality. Thoughts also develop an evenness when we recognize that, fundamentally, nobody is trying to fight against anything."
...................From the book "Mindfulness in Action" by Chögyam Trungpa

Let us celebrate the "International Day of Yoga" as a day of eternal beginning of inner awakening through daily meditation.

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Love to you all

Friday, June 12, 2015

How can God be Revealed

"Most pictures or statues of people honouring God or the Holy Spirit or pleading for grace show humans looking upward with their hands raised--the assumption being that God is "up there." In the great basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, where Francis is buried, there is a small bronze statue of Francis honouring the Holy Spirit. Francis' posture here is very unusual. Instead of arms uplifted and looking toward the sky, Francis has his hands folded and is looking down into the earth."
....................."The Hiding Place Is Also the Revelation Place of God "  an article by Richard Rohr

Fr. Richard Rohr is a contemporary Franciscan mystic and Catholic theologian who has a deep insight into spirituality. In the same article I have referred above, he also writes:
"Two other followers of St. Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, realized that Francis found the Transcendent not just "out there" in the heavens somewhere, but "in here." And they made it into an intellectually satisfying philosophy and theology, so it could move beyond pious sentiment. Together they saw the Transcendent within all of creation. This insight changes everything!"

To me this not an approach steeped in pantheism but a realization of the nature of fundamental implicate order from which all manifestations take place. In pantheism, one tends to objectify the elements of nature and then deify them. In the approach adopted by St. Francis, it is the common essence of both the creator and creations that is venerated. This I would call "Unqualified Monotheism" or as in Vedic theology it can be equated to "Nirguna Brahman".
This is a non-Kantian cosmotheological holistic understanding. This is also radically different from the Stoic theological definition of Cosmo-theology.

If God creates everything out of nothing then that nothing is itself God from which everything proceeds. For if God is something other than nothing then there comes into existence a duality and a great divide comes into play between the implicate nature of the Divine and the explicate nature of creation. This has been the great curse of monotheism wherein we have fossilized God with entirely unfathomable attributes and all mystical experiences are assigned to the benevolent nature of the Divine who dispenses Grace in a purely judgemental way. Fr. Richard Rohr's take on the nature of Divine grace is that it is infused and inherent in all creation.

Meister Eckhart, the Dominican mystic, has quoted St. Augustine regarding defining the ineffable nature of God in the following words:

"...... Whence do I know this, except because God is ineffable? If what I said were ineffable, it would not be said. And for this reason God should not be said to be ineffable, for when this is said something is said. And a contradiction in terms is created, since if that is ineffable which cannot be spoken, then that is not ineffable which can be called ineffable. This contradiction is to be passed over in silence rather than resolved verbally." (italics by the author) .............St. Augustine

We have spent nearly two millennia in trying to intellectually grasp the nature of the Divine and come to the realization, as the great Church father Augustine puts it, that which is ineffable can only be experienced in holy silence.

I would like us now turn to science and one of the founding fathers of Quantum physics says:

" In the enfolded [or implicate] order, space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements. Rather, an entirely different sort of basic connection of elements is possible, from which our ordinary notions of space and time, along with those of separately existent material particles, are abstracted as forms derived from the deeper order. These ordinary notions in fact appear in what is called the "explicate" or "unfolded" order, which is a special and distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the "implicate" orders" ...........David Bohm (1980)

Cosmology points out that all matter on earth comes from a supernova explosion and the atoms in our bodies are from the very beginning of the universe when the first hydrogen atoms were synthesized.
96% of the universe is beyond our comprehension and to unite all forces of nature we require eleven dimensions while we are trapped in the four dimensional space-time.

This limited perception of ourselves and the world around us has contributed our anthropomorphic visualization of God or the motive force behind creation and manifestation, with its debilitating consequences.
God is constantly revealed through the beauty and mysteries our own body and that is available to us in nature and the cosmos. I had a personal experience once when travelling in the Australian outback in a open four wheel drive. It was 8.00 p. m and the night sky in the desert was awash with millions of stars and the great arch of the Milky Way rose from the horizon to the very vault of heaven and sure that was a very spiritual and mystical experience.

 Let us like St. Francis look down into the mother earth, in silent prayer of gratitude, wherein she is constantly birthing Divine grace to nourish us and look up at the night sky and sing with the psalmist

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." ......Psalm 19:1

Let me finish this article with a thought provoking quote:

" Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping." ..............Hubert Reeves

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Love to you all

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Realigning our Perception

I will start this short article on "World Environmental Day" with an episode from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, namely the story of Uddalaka and Svetaketu. Uddalaka Aruni, the great sage, sent his son for spiritual learning to a guru and on his return, knowing that his son's learning has only boosted his ego self, he teaches him the true nature of the Self through this following example.
Uddalaka then asked his son to bring a fig fruit. When he did so, Uddalaka asked him to break it. He broke it.
Uddalaka: "What do you see in it?"
Svetaketu "I see small seeds."
Uddalaka "Break one of the seeds and say what you see."
Svetaketu "Nothing Sir."
Uddalaka: "You are unable to see the minute particles of the seed after breaking it. Now, the big fig tree is born out of that essence of that particle. Like that, the True Being is the essence of all creation."

Jesus in his teachings says: "Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." ...............Matthew 17:20

The meaning of "......... if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed" is the key to this saying of Jesus. The full potential of the mustard seed is not noticed or understood when we have only spatial perception. But if we delineate this momentary perception and extend it to a space-time domain, we can perceive the mammoth mustard tree in its full manifestation. It is not the objective perception of the smallness like that of the seed but unconditioned faith is like the full potential that resides within the smallness of the seed and this has the capacity to leverage our unlimited intuitive capacity and transform the natural to the super natural. This saying of Jesus would be better understood if we know the context of his saying and this was when the disciple complained that they were unable to drive out the devil while Jesus was accomplishing this with ease.

In his recent writing Ogyen Trinley Dorj, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, says: "The seed symbolises potential and to realise it, we need to awaken the mind. What is a seed? A seed is something that has the potential of growth inside of it. It offers limitless possibilities for life. In Buddhism, we often talk about the seed of Bodhicitta,  the potential for an awakened mind that resides in all sentient beings. All of us, no matter who we are, hold this seed within ourselves and as we are of the earth, earth itself is the very embodiment of Bodhicitta for she unconditionally provides the grounds for life and no matter who we are or what we have done, we equally receive compassion from her. It is quite amazing when one thinks about it — that every sustenance of human beings comes from nature. Aren’t these miracles that we should feel some awe towards? Instead, we are constantly exploiting these resources with a selfish motive and deprive others in the act."

Though these deeper understandings have so far been derived from sacred teachings and writings, recent findings in the field of science, points to the principle of "morphic fields and morphic resonance" as proposed by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Plant Biologist at Cambridge University, and that all the future of the plant is already encoded in the very microstructure of the seed and the environment wherein it grows. We are now moving towards a deeper understanding in knowing the world around us as well the universe we live in as a field of information which has emergent principles embedded within this field.
In the study of cell biology, the theory of gene switching at a specific stage in an organism's life, was not understood but today with morphic resonance and emergent information encoding, the role of "non-coding or junk DNA" is better understood.
Nothing in this universe is an accident and it is our limited perception that leads us to think in an extremely debilitating manner.

A realignment of our perceptions, in the light of the aberrations we have been subjected to in the past through evolutionary imprints and socio-religious compulsions and indoctrination, is urgently needed to heal the world.

In many forums we talk of "Planetary consciousness" and we need to understand that unless individual consciousness is addressed, talking of planetary consciousness would be founded on an understanding which is extremely weak and meaningless. It is the individual consciousness that gives rise to a resulting hierarchy of planetary consciousness, Solar consciousness and Galactic consciousness.

Hence in all our endeavours, whether it be education, social action, political activism or religious instruction and practice, the holistic and all encompassing nature of individual consciousness has to be understood through a realigned perception. To achieve this we need a open mindset and emptying of all the given belief system, both in science and spirituality, as the only Truth. (Read how some very fundamental principles in science are thoroughly wrong - "The Science Delusions" by Rupert Sheldrake)

At the beginning of this article, I have posted a picture a beautifully and perfectly aligned stone tower. You can imagine this to be the perfect embodiment of wisdom in a specific existence. But when we look at this structure we see that individual stones are not in the axis of alignment. The point of contact of the building blocks are at different spatial locations. This is because each stone has a different mass and density distribution.
This is exactly the same way that we need to understand the function of creation. To achieve perfect balance in our lives the value of all contributing elements both in ourselves as well as in the environment has be located at their assigned location and not in our own perception of a line of alignment that is derives from a set of subjective parameters.

This is a systemic approach and needs an intuitive access to inner wisdom which lies beyond the corruptive influence of a purely rational and objective mindset. Spiritual practices such as meditation, meaningful participation in rituals, deeper inquiry into all spiritual knowledge and an appreciation and assimilation of the wealth of scientific knowledge are the needs of the emergent individuals who would be the change makers and healers of this planet. 

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Love to you all on this World Environmental Day