Friday, February 26, 2016

Launching to the Highest Goal

"Take the Upanishad as the bow, the great weapon and place
upon it the arrow sharpened by meditation.
Then, having drawn it back with a mind directed to the thought
of Brahman, strike that mark, O my good friend —
to that which is the Imperishable." ...........................Mundaka Upanishad : 2.2.3

In the mythological purana "Mahabharata", the special devotee of Lord Krishna and a suitor of princess Draupathi, has to win a contest involving archery. The target in this contest is a complex mechanism of a mechanical bird in a rotating cage. After studying the target for some time, Arjuna closes his eyes and releases the arrow which brings down the bird. In some versions Arjuna's target is a rotating fish and he has to hit the eye of the fish. These variation do not matter. It only indicates the near impossibility of achieving the desired result if one relies on one's senses and mind.

The deeper meaning of this episode is that your sense perceptions alone tend to diminish the accuracy of the process as this is a partial input and there is no integration of the perceived object and the self in accomplishing the task. This is the shortcoming that plagues us when we are rooted in objective analysis rather than in subjective integration. This episode in Mahabharata positions the characters to evoke  the deeper spiritual meaning that is being taught. Arjuna is the seeker of higher wisdom and this is symbolized by the difficult target and it is not the immediate target that is relevant but the ultimate target of the union with Draupathi who is the epitome of wisdom possessing all attributes. The episode says that the Pandavas, who were Kshatriyas, came disguised as Brahmins. This is to indicate that though by birth you are typecast into a particular caste, in seeking highest goal, irrespective of your worldly status in life, you have to transform into a Brahmana or one who is immersed in Brahman or the true Self. This will enable the seeker to conquer the hand of the unblemished wisdom, symbolized by Draupathi. This wisdom is imperishable and enables Arjuna to be steered and instructed by Lord Krishna, who represents the imperishable Divine consciousness in his fight against  forces that assail our journey in this life.

The symbol of the Bow and Arrow can be encountered in other spiritual traditions.
In Japan the equestrian archery preceded kyūdō. Even equestrian archery required a degree of skill which lies beyond the mind. In modern sports like tennis, basketball, baseball and cricket, the response time needed from the player is far smaller than the response of the neural network in the visual and motor functional area of the neo cortex. Very accomplished players. through extreme focus, highly integrate the target, the trajectory and the resulting response obtaining an assured end result.

kyūdō is practiced in Zen tradition in Japan. Eugen Herrigel (1884–1955) was a German professor of philosophy, who studied Kyūdō (the art of the Japanese bow) under a master named Awa Kenzô. Awa taught kyūdō in a way that was regarded by some as a mystical religion, called Daishadokyo. Daishadokyo was an approach to kyūdō that placed great emphasis on the spiritual aspect and differed from much of the mainstream practice at the time

Herrigel describes Zen in archery as follows:
"(...) The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art (...)" [1]

This same process that we employ in temporal pursuits has to be extended to our pursuit of the highest goal, namely "attainment of the imperishable".

This is the message of the Upanishad

Love to you all.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_in_the_Art_of_Archery

Friday, February 19, 2016

Love Dimension of Time

After my last post, the world celebrated "Valentine Day" which no doubt has become a farce with a very heavy accent on the commercial dimension rather than on being a true celebration of authentic love.
Love plays an important role in our lives. This starts with being the recipient of parental love from which we graduate into our youth where we have our share of love through siblings, relations and  friends and in our adulthood we seek lasting relationship with a soul mate. Apart from the love for our own species we also cultivate love for knowledge and love for all that empowers our happy lives.

The standard for time is measured in seconds, minutes, hours and days. But this is a dimension which has come from a purely mental concept through the observation of the rotation of the earth around the sun.
There is no absolute dimension of time beyond this mental concept derived through human consciousness. All other standards of time such as atomic clocks and thermal entropy are theoretical constructs derived through observation from a physical or inferential perspective.
 The concept of measured time has become increasingly rigid as we evolved into Homo Sapiens Sapiens. In this consciousness evolution we have moved away from the flexible nature of time.
There are hints at this flexible and relativistic nature of time in sacred scripture and mythologies.

In the Hebrew Old Testament, we have the story of Jacob and Rachel and the concept of time compression.
Jacob sees Rachel for the first time as she draws water from the well and immediately falls in love with her. Without hesitation, he asks her father Laban for her hand in marriage. The request is granted, but Jacob is told that he will have to work as Laban’s servant for seven years in order to deserve Rachel.
“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” .................Genesis 29:20

Jonathan Lipnick, A renowned Hebrew Biblical scholar says: In Hebrew, the phrase “they seemed to him but a few days” literally means “they were in his eyes as single days”. The mention of Jacob’s eyes in the Hebrew text is significant since eyes are considered to be the window to the soul. Unlike Leah whose “eyes were weak” (Genesis 29:17), Jacob keeps his eyes strong. He is so consumed with love for Rachel that the long period of seven years passes in the blink of an eye.

In Celtic mythology, there is a tale of a man known as Ossian who was enticed into "Land Of Youthfulness"  by a beautiful Sidhe princess. They fell in love with each other, got married and lived together for 300 years in her world. Finally, however, Ossian felt an overwhelming desire to return to Ireland again.
He set out on the same white horse that had taken him to that otherworld and his fairy wife warned him not to lay his foot on the level ground (of Earth.
On reaching Ireland, he searched for his old companions but all of them had passed away and the country was quite changed. Only then did he realize how long he had truly been away. Unfortunately, at a certain point some incident caused him to dismount and on touching Earth's surface, he immediately turned into a feeble, blind old man.
 Touching the ground signifies return to temporal consciousness.

We have similar story in Japanese mythology. This is the story of a young fisherman named Urashima Tarō who rescues a young turtle which turns out to be the daughter of the king of sea. The King gives him special powers to go underwater and there meets the young turtle who is now transformed into a beautiful princess. He falls in love and spends three days. When against the wish of the princess he returns to his village, he discovers that 300 years have passed.

these stories have been devised in mythology with the intension of stressing the flexible and relative nature of time. This concept has also been introduced in films like "Interstellar".
Human consciousness, when it transcends the limiting concepts at purely objective level, can perceive a relative time dimension which would be differently scaled relative to the standard measure at purely a mental level.

People who fall deeply in unconditional love, either with a person of the opposite sex or with a metaphysical entity, experience time compression. This is because during this process the human mind is elevated to a different potential. This is the reason in mythology, the kingdom to which the arch actor enters is either the "Kingdom of Youthfulness" or the "Sea", neither of which is the permanent domain of a purely human existence.

As the great philosopher, scientist, Einstein put it

"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity." ..................Albert Einstein

There are two different dimensions which influence the scale of time one is Gravitation and the other is love. Come to think of it both exert the same force, namely a pull or attraction. While gravity requires the distance between the subject and object to be extremely small to have significant attraction, love overcomes this necessity through its capacity to eliminate space through transcending the objective concepts. This is the reason why the Hebrew meaning of the phrase “they seemed to him but a few days” literally means “they were in his eyes as single days”. The mention of Jacob’s eyes in the Hebrew text is significant since eyes are considered to be the window to the soul and a strong eye means to see beyond mental concepts.

I will close with a quote from Interstellar movie:
"Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can't understand it."

May this love dimension prevail in our travel through this life.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mother Goddess and Fairy Godmother

In native European spirituality, men and women could identify with Gods and Goddesses that appealed to them for the attributes they represented. While both sexes worshipped deities of both genders, people often had special connections to deities that related specifically to their sphere of influence.
So, Viking warriors often worshipped Odin and Thor, who represented war and death (Odin) and strength and protection of kinfolk (Thor),
The  wives and mothers often placed a high focus on Freyja (fertility) and Frigga (domesticity). And, of course, all of these figures were multi-faceted with other associations as well.

Monotheistic religions became established in the middle east, moved in and made God strictly male. Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile into Babylon in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel. The inscriptions found invoke not only Yahweh but El and Baal, and two include the phrases "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" and "Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.". Asherah was the consort of Yahweh. A strong evidence of worship of the Mother Goddess is in the writings of  Jeramiah:
"The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger." ...........Jeremiah 7: 18

Why I am citing these early development is to highlight the gradual degradation of the substrate that was the support structure for the human psyche through the iconic representation of a Mother Goddess. This was partially restored through the worship of Mother Mary as, Theotokos or Mother of God but not an equal status as a deity. But when the Protestant Reformation extinguished the veneration of Mary and the saints, that put women in a position of having to deal solely with male figures for their spiritual needs.

In contrast, the eastern religions have continued the worship of Goddesses through various attributes to the wives and daughters of the main three manifestation of the Saguna Brahma.
The female deities of Buddhism are of many types.   There are buddhas in female form and goddesses who are bodhisattvas.  There are also historical figures such as lineage founders, and they all can function as deities.  There are also yidams and dharma protectors in peaceful, semi-wrathful or wrathful form.   The dakini, a special type of deity.

 Inherently the human mind cannot operate in total isolation and need associations in their psychic and spiritual growth. The early childhood association with the mother is further strengthened through our evolutionary consciousness imprints arising out of our, mammalian and reptilian ancestry.
This association was kept alive not only through the worship of Goddesses, who were appealed to when human mind was not able to analyse or comprehend the causal nature of events both at the natural, personal as well as at the social levels. This was the reason for the creation of Gods and Goddesses with specific attributes.

As the consciousness of homo sapiens advanced from the archaic, mythological and magical level into the highly rational level, the analysing Cartesian mind through the assumed superiority of its intellect did away with symbolic representations. This was fine at the observable and objective level but cannot cope with the psychic requirements. The mythological age provided this need through characters on to which the human psyche could map and derive inner answers.

A classical category is the "journey of the Hero" in the Sumerian and Greek myths.
In the Sumerian mythology of "Epic of Gilgamesh" Gilgamesh visits his mother, the goddess Ninsun, who seeks the support and protection of the sun-god Shamash. Gilgamesh has also a love relationship with Shamhat, a temple prostitute which symbolically means a consort of the Gods, This is a single example.

In his well researched book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell defined a classic sequence of actions that are found in many stories. It is also known as the Monomyth, a term Campbell coined from James Joyce's Finnigan's Wake. Important stages in the progress of the Hero's journey in the mythological stories involve; Supernatural aid, meeting with the Goddess, woman as temptress. The role of Gods and Goddesses are very central to the ancient myths.

Similarly, figures like fairy godmothers demonstrate a female supernatural presence who watches over girls and women, and whom can be appealed to for help with the problems faced by females in their everyday lives.

Even more striking, in some versions of Cinderella, her fairy godmother is the spirit of her departed mother who lives on in a tree. Well, we know that many Northern European peoples venerated both ancestors and trees. So this example is strong evidence for the lingering of old pagan belief in fairy tales and the role played by Mother Goddess.

Hence as most humans find it to extremely difficult to reach down to the very depths of our consciousness to move it to a higher level in the process of transcendence, we need iconic representations of a Mother Goddess to birth a new consciousness through the beneficial gift of wisdom which is again an attribute of Sophia or the consort of the Deity.


Love to you all.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Concepts of Grace and Acceptance

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.” ...................Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

“To bow to the fact of our life's sorrows and betrayals is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.” .................Jack Kornfield

When we take upon ourselves the path to spiritual renewal or enlightenment, we assume that it is a task to be performed through a purely a physical, mental and emotional exercise. This attitude is nothing short of an ego driven motive in asserting its power. This is where the experience of Buddhist thinkers and Bodhisattvas comes to our rescue. Both Hermann Hesse and Jack Kornfield are essentially authors greatly influenced by Buddhist philosophy. If you carefully consider the Christian concept of grace, it is functionally identical to the Buddhist idea of non-judgemental acceptance.

I am trying to make out the subtle differences of these two concepts to make sure I am not missing any  significant differences in meaning. The only thing I see is that grace tends to be used in an active sense, and acceptance in a passive sense. But in both cases there is a process involved and hence it would be erroneous to assume an active and a passive role in a normal sense My understanding is that while Grace tends to be used when the flow of libido is away from oneself and towards the other, acceptance is from the other and towards the individual. You may be wondering why I have used the term 'flow of libido' which is normally associated with sexual desire or drive. Libido which is limited to a purely physical level cannot travel beyond the second Chakra or swadhisthana, wherein dissipation occurs and terminates as erotic love and temporary euphoria. But this same libido can raise the potential of the energy at the second Chakra when it is open fully to transcend to higher levels and gets manifest as Agape or Divine love. Every form of desire that truly emanates from the heart level, which is the balancing point of the manifested potentials and the all pervading unmanifest potentials, provides the individual with infinite capacity for acceptance and hence transcendence.

Summing up, I would say that Grace is the process of the flow of the unmanifest potential and acceptance is the process of opening all restrictions and hindrances and expanding the receptacle, at the physical, mental and emotional level.

In ancient Polynesia, Grace was a way of being, of how you treat people. grace was a state of mind where all was in acceptance. Here we can see the merging of the concepts of Grace and Acceptance as two sides of the same coin. When someone is in a true state of grace, they accept that people, things, circumstances just are. They are not to be judged, and therefore, allowed to live. The Polynesian symbol for grace is a series of wavy lines, such as a wave.
Water accepts a pebble and ripples and then becomes calm again.
A wave can assume many different shapes. This shape is determined by the sum total of the induced potential energies of the water, earth and the air which transforms into a dynamic form in bringing balance.

“As far as inner transformation is concerned there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create space for transformation to happen, for Grace and Love to enter.” ....................Eckhart Tolle

I will close this article with the following suggestion is from an article written by Stefanie Miller, who is a teacher, energy healer, spiritual counsellor:

"I think learning how to be and letting go of expectations and our agenda is a difficult concept to master. It seems quite easy, and in fact it really is. As humans our ego gets in there and we think we know how it is supposed to be done and which way things should be heading. We do not always see the big picture. The fear, anxiety, and worry that are plaguing many of us as our lives go through this recalibration can be daunting. We want to take the steering wheel and lead the way. If we can get out of our own way, allow ourselves to be, things will naturally fall into place."

Love to you all