Archives for the month of: March, 2015

HOUSES -PLANETS- SIGNS

F O U R T H          H O U S E

The House is concerned with the mother and is therefore the House of security, happiness and home comforts.  It also indicates dwelling place, immovable property, ancestral home in which the subject was born, ancient monuments and architecture. It also is concerned with ones conveyance facilities. The house is also concerned with piety, moral virtues, righteous conduct and ability to meditate, depending on the influence of beneficial planets on it. It also indicates ones level of intellect, qualifications and knowledge of religious texts.

The presence of Libra in this house for the chart of the subject we are examining makes him equable and of a friendly temperament, humourous, well-educated and learned. He has a strong sense of family ties. his home will be well decorated and he will have a good collection of art objects. His mother will have exceptional beauty, with elegant taste and be fond of perfumes and jewellery. She will be house proud.

The lord of Libra the Sign located here, is Venus located in the seventh House, a Central House (Kendra) and it is unaspected by any planet. Thus, so far as property, conveyance and home comforts which provide happiness are concerned this is positive. furthermore the Moon, which is the lord of the ascendant for this chart, directly aspects this House from the tenth House, creating more fortunate domestic circumstances.

But there is a serious blemish too. Venus lord of Libra, the Sign in the Fourth House is unfortunately situated in it’s enemy Sign, Capricorn. This casts a shadow over the otherwise favourable position of Venus as lord of the Fourth House. Scriptural injunction also warn that if the lord of the eighth House, Saturn in this case, is in the eleventh House and the Moon has malefic planets on either side then it is going to create a ‘Dukh Yoga’, or conditions for sorrow. Saturn the lord of the Eighth House is indeed in the Eleventh House. Furthermor the Moon, well placed otherwise and powerful in providing other creature comforts on account of its aspect on the Fourth House, unhappily has Saturn on the one side in the eleventh House and Mars on the other in the ninth House and both are malefic planets. Thus as the Moon is significator for Mother, her longevity is seriously jeopardized and the subject may lose her even in infancy. The Fourth house, House for mother, is also aspected by Mars and Ketu, both malefic, creating further uncertainty for the mother’s life span. Add to this an affliction on account of an aspect of Rahu, the malefic Lunar Node, on the Moon, significator of Mother and the sorrowful ‘Dukh Yoga’ is undeniable. Thus the subject is unlikely to be blessed with mother’s love.

However, aside from this major negative factor, for the rest, the circumstances of the House for other issues remain quite favourable and uncompromised. As they say, in the game of fate, you take some and leave some (sigh). 

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HOUSES -PLANETS- SIGNS

The Third house is mainly concerned with the self, younger siblings, courage, patience and diligence. For the subject we are studying, the Sign located in his Third House is Virgo whose lord Mercury is in the Fifth House with the Sign Scorpio. Mercury’s coordinates at birth indicate that it is too close to the Sun and it is therefore deemed to be ‘combust’. This makes the lord of the Sign in the Third house, Mercury, ineffective and this is a negative factor for the House. However both the House and its lord are aspected by Jupiter which is a redeeming factor (‘wherever Jupiter’s aspect falls it is like nector”), eroding some of the negativity. The lord of the House, Mercury is also aspected by Saturn which would create problems for younger siblings of the subject but they would manage eventually to sort them out on account of Jupiter’s aspect. The House is also aspected by Mars which is also problematic for the subject’s younger siblings. Death of younger siblings may even precede that of the subject.

The Sign Virgo located in the Third House would make the subject excel in analysis, writing and languages. He may even write books in a foreign language. He will be well behaved but critical of those who come in contact with him. He will travel from time to time and live away from home. His profession would bring him in contact with persons living abroad, those living in jails, hospitals and asylums.

The presence of the owner of the Sign in the Third House, Mercury, placed in the Fifth House will make him take care of his children. Their ambitions will be fulfilled and they will acquire wealth. The subject will be charitable and long lived. He will pursue knowledge at all times. He would be the host of several functions.

tantra

Hinduism’s long journey finally arrives at the philosophy and practices of Tantra, having moved from the pre – Aryan pessimistic Dualism of Jainism, Sankhya and Yoga to the affirmative Monism of the Vedas and Upanishads and finally the emphasis on non-Dualism (Advait) of Shankar’s stoic and ascetic Vedanta and onwards through the intense devotional theism of the Bhakti movement of the 16th century. Tantra on the one hand incorporated the devotional worship of Bhakti and on the other the esoteric Yogic practices, combining both to reveal the profound mystical secrets of the Kundalini and its arousal as a means of realizing Brahman, providing an elaborate discipline for the adherent to attain to Brahmanhood. Tantra thus became the final synthesis emerging from the stirring philosophical cauldron of India’s diverse disciplines. Today it is fully integrated into Hindu beliefs, rites, rituals and Yogic practices. 

While Tantra fully acknowledged the authority of the Vedas, the non-dual Vedantic ideal of a formless Brahman (Nirgun Brahman) was marginalized in favour of a personal God symbolized as Shakti, the goddess. The resultant Tantrik theism was essentially dualistic, drawing a clear distinction between the subject as the ardent worshiper and the adored object of his worship the goddess. Tantra reasserted the pre-Aryan cult of the goddess after millennia of domination by the masculine principle of Godhead. Now, all gods were depicted with their consorts as their energy counterparts symbolizing their dynamic energy. The last Veda, the Atharvaveda is considered to be a Tantrik scripture. The other Tantrik scriptures the Agamas appear to have been composed between the 5th and the 9th century A.D.

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Yogini

Unlike the Vedantin, the Tantrik aspirant was less interested in seeking to merge with the absolute through the liberation of Nirvana, than in savouring the bliss of the object of his devotion,the divine presence of Shakti in all her forms. Thus Ramakrishna, the great 19th century Tantrik sage and votary of goddess worship would often joke with his disciples that what the devotee really wants is to ”eat the sugar rather than become sugar”. The object of spiritual attention was neither the Vedantin’s Brahman, nor the Yogi’s Supersoul but the single-minded pursuit of the vision of a personal God ( Bhagawan, Isht Dev) in the form of primal energy or Shakti. Moreover, the Tantrik viewed the Goddess as the illusory creative power (Maya-Shakti) of Brahman and went so far as to withdraw the distinction between them by asserting that the two were in fact identical.

The ideal process of meditation  no longer sought to define Brahman through negatives, not this , not this (neti, neti) and engage in ascetic renunciation to realize Him, but on the other hand sought to affirm that the resplendent glory of divinity was present in everything and one should rejoice in beholding its ubiquitous presence and joyously immerse oneself in Her magnificent creative diversity. Thus Ramakrishna said on one occasion that he had fed the ritual offerings meant for the Goddess to the cat, not desiring to make any distinction. The essence of Tantra  was thus life affirmative unlike the austere abnegation of the Vedanta. the Tantric was overwhelmed by his love for his Goddess and equally with Her divine creative play (Lila) which manifested itself in every facet of life. One sees evidence of this joyous affirmation in Ramakrishna’s writings in his gospel:

” The very world is a mansion of mirth. Here I can eat, drink and make merry.”

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Tantra sculpture – Khajuraho temple

Tantra applauds the illusory creative force of Maya, refusing to reject phenomenal life as suffering and sin and urges that one fully enjoy and experience it to know his Goddess more intimately and to fully appreciate her creation. Thus the rites involved in certain Tantric rituals allow the five forbidden Ms, as all things are holy and pure being reflections of the Goddess: wine (Madya), meat ( Mansa), fish (Matsya), parched grain (Mudra) and sexual intercourse (Maithuna). This is not a sanction for revellery and debauchery. The rituals are undertaken under the stern and disciplined guidance of a Guru to invoke a realization of non-duality through practices that produce a state of egoless bliss and euphoria, transporting the practitioner to a realization of transcendence without guilt. The principle is that the individual must act through nature ( rather than reject nature) but without the ego, not as an individual satisfying his desires but as the Supreme Essence experiencing itself. Through these esoteric experiences he gains release from the illusion. Such rites were sanctioned for a practitioner in a special category called the Vira (hero), though he was warned that it could have disastrous consequences if the initiation was not professional or if the rites were not practiced properly. The sage Ramakrishna had frequently cautioned that the option was not desirable, was difficult,and could cause the practitioners downfall.

The second category of aspirant is defined as the herd (Pasu). This is the non controversial practice which is universally recommended for all. For them wine is interpreted as milk or coconut water; meat is substituted with beans, garlic and ginger; fish by radish, lentils and white egg plant; parched grain by rice and wheat and in place of sex, the aspirant must adopt the attitude of a child towards it mother rather than lover.

The third category is Divya, for the elite Sattvik godman. For him there are no external objects or sacrament. For him wine is interpreted as the intoxicating knowledge of Brahman; meat translates into consigning all his acts to God; fish is the compassion by which he feels the pain and pleasure of all beings; the parched grain becomes avoiding all evil which leads one to bondage; and sex translates as the union of the two Chakras, the lowest, symbolizing the female and the highest as the male – the union of Shakti and Shiva.

According to Tantra nature is composed of three facets of energy, the Gunas, which in the unmanifested form are at equilibrium but when disturbed, the manifest world appears ( this has been taken from Sankhya philosophy). The first Guna, Sattva is the Essence, the second, Rajas is activity, the third,Tamas is inertia. The three emotive states of man are called Pasu, Vira and Divya. Pasu the state of consciousness dominated by the inertia of Tamas; the Vir state is dominated by Rajas and Divya (godlike) is dominated by Sattva (clarity and purity). The aim of Tantra is to enhance the levels of Sattva over Rajas and Tamas. Rituals and exercises are prescribed to suit individual temperaments characterized by different combinations of the Gunas.

The individual is said to be composed of five elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth. The individual has four subtle organs – the mind, intellect, memory and egoity. Tantra then undertakes a psychological analysis of the brain. bipolarity and dichotomy of the brain produce the experience of duality. the lower brain is primitive and reptilian. The upper brain has two hemispheres – the right is feminine emotional and intuitive, the left is masculine, rational and analytical. Lack of coordination between the two produces dichotomy and imbalance.While the upper brain can be influenced to change the lower is more stubborn and resists change. The Tantra Yoga rituals and practices seek to control the lower brain and end duality and conflict between the upper and lower brains and the two hemispheres. The duality can only be overcome by perfecting the self and mastering the body and mind. Identification with the ego is the central problem to be overcome. Tantra seeks to correct this mis-identification through rituals to eliminate the ego and raise ones level to the highest state of consciousness, the Turiya. This is achieved when through Tantrik practices the energy (the Goddess as Shakti), resident in the Kundalini at the base of the spinal column, breaks through the Chakras reaching the final Chakra at the roof of the head.

The central purpose of Tantra is to purify the five elements of which the body is composed. In this context, at the heart of Tantra are the concepts of Kundalini and Chakras. The cleansing of the elements is achieved by rousing the dormant primal energy (Shakti) which lies coiled like a serpant at the base of his spine, in the Chakra known as the Muldhara (the root). The five elements are located in the five lower Chakras. Through Tantric practice the dormant energy awakens and rises up passing through each Chakra. When the energy enters the final Chakra at the roof of the head the aspirant attains the enlightened state of Turiya. With this stage the ego is finally overcome and the upper and lower brains and the two hemispheres then are in perfect synch.

The tools for achieving this are Yogic meditation and practices, breathing exercises (Swara Yoga), recitation of Mantras (chants) and visualization exercises with the aid of Yantras ( geometrical diagrams and illustrations of divinities and Chakras)

basic-facts-about-kundalini-yoga_139358766200The Chakras represent the seat of the five elements that compose the body. The Muldhara at the base of the spine is the seat for ‘earth’. It is represented as a crimson lotus with four petals. the next is Svdhisthana (abode of Shakti) at the level of the genitals and is the seat of the element ‘water’. It is pictured as a vermillion lotus with six petals. The next is at the level of the naval known as the Manipura (the city of the lustrous gem) and is the seat of ‘fire’, represented as a blue-black lotus of ten petals. These three are the lower Chakras which normally control the life and inclinations of the individual. The Chakras above the three represent higher levels of spiritual experience. Thus the fourth is at the level of the heart. When the Kundalini force ascends to this level it provides the aspirant the first direct contact with divinity and he begins to hear the resounding primordial resonance of Brahman in the sound of Om, which is the Goddess in the form of sound. This centre is therefore called the Anahata Chakra ( primordial sound) and is depicted as a lotus with twelve petals and is the seat of the element ‘air’. The fifth Chakra, the seat of the last element ‘ether’ is pictured as a purple lotus of sixteen petals at the level of the throat. This is called the Visuddha Chakra (the purified centre). Next at the point between the eyebrows is located the Ajna Chakra, depicted as a white lotus with two petals. This is the seat of Godhead and when the force ascends to this level, the devotee has a vision of his personal God. Till this point the aspirant is still in a state of duality between himself and his Lord. The next and final stage takes him beyond duality – the multi-coloured lotus of a thousand petals located at the crown of his head called the Sahasrara is the final destination of the Kundalini force. Here the Shakti that arose from the base of the spine joins Shiv, Brahman, her male counterpart in climatic union, ending all duality of sound, form and contemplation. At this stage the worshiper becomes one with divinity.

For the ordinary practitioner the process of raising the Kundalini force to the apex is in the realms of imagination rather than actuality. It is only an adept yogi who performs the miracle of actually raising the force to the roof of the head. This process is achieved through meditation, recitation of  primal chants(beej mantra), postures of hand and body (Mudras) and placing the tips of his fingers on various parts of the body while invoking the gods to enter the Yantras. This practice has been likened to the Christian practice of touching the head as father, the heart as son, the left shoulder as holy and the right shoulder as ghost. The practitioner then imagines that all the elements of his body represented by the Chakras have been thoroughly cleansed and that he has attained to the level of divinity.The Gandharva Tantra states: ”A man should worship a divinity by becoming a divinity himself”.

The worshiper knows that he and his God are essentially one and that Brahman manifests itself thus in the world of duality and Maya full of opposites. Beginning in a dualistic state as worshiper and his God, through total surrender of his ego and self to his God he achieves finally a unity where both become one. This is the purpose of Bhakti and all the Tantrik rituals to conjoin his essence the Atma with Brahman. At the final stage the Yogi is said to have achieved the state of Nirvikalpa ( beyond all limitations) Samadhi (intense concentration) where there no longer exists the distinction between the subject and his object.

It is important to emphasize that Chakras are not material and cannot be defined from a purely materialistic stand point. They are psychic centres which have a subtle reality which work in coordination with nerves, cells, and fibres of the gross system. Kundalini is a vital force but cannot be attributed to any gross organ, though their approximate locations superimpose on the cranium, the forehead, thyroid, heart, naval, genitals and anus. Metaphysically, the Kundalini is an aspect of the eternal supreme consciousness –  without attributes (Nirguna) it is pure consciousness, with attributes(Saguna) it is the Goddess as pure energy, shakti.

According to Tantrik scriptures the Chakras are interconnected by a complex network of subtle channels called Nadis through which the life force, Prana flows and the Kundalini energy can ascend. The main Nadis are Sushumna, the Ida and the Pingala. The nadis being subtle cannot be physically defined though they correspond with sections of the nervous system. The main Nadis are connected with the so-called 10 gates or openings of the body. The primary Nadi is the Sushumna connecting the tail bone with the top of the head. Other subsidiary Nadis are connected to the left and right nostril, the left and right eyes, the left and right ears, the mouth, the genitals and the anus. The Nadis in Tantrik practice are used to generate different effects. While Chakras and Nadis cannot be defined on the basis of the gross body, some scholars have equated the meridians of Acupuncture as approximating to the Nadis through which the life force, Prana flows. This meridian has been defined as rising from the coccyx (tailbone), ascending the spine and arriving at the top of the head, then flowing down along the meridian lines to a point below the naval.

Tantra holds that worship and practice can produce any desired result. Worship done for liberation is different from worship for fulfillment of worldly desires.

Tantric thought and practices are today entrenched in modern Hindu belief systems and have become an integral part of the Hindu way of life from the humble villager to the erudite wealthy urban dweller, from pauper to prince. Tantra has spread from India to Tibet, Nepal, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Tibetan buddhism shows the greatest influence of Tantra. The Chakra and Kundalini concepts have also crossed Indian shores to become hugely popular in New Age and  esoteric circles in the West as a ”cult of ecstasy” combining sexuality with spirituality and engendering the belief that sex should be regarded as a sacred act capable of elevating its participants to a higher spiritual plane.

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The Goddess being worshiped by the Tantrik sage Ramakrishna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sattvik gift

”That gift which is made to one who can make no return, with a feeling that it is one’s duty to give and which is given in the right place and time and to a worthy person, that gift is Sattvik (pure, perfect, transparent).”

 

”And that gift which is given with a view to receive in return or looking for gain, or again grudgingly, is considered Rajsik (arrogant, purposeful, motivated).”

 

”The gift that is given at the wrong place or time, to unworthy persons, without respect or with insult, that is declared to be Tamsik (depraved, deviant, inferior, base)

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Throughout its course, the central quest of Brahmanical thought has been to gauge the essence which binds the universe together, the unity that lies behind the diversity of the phenomenal world. The early Vedic religion had sought to deify the forces of nature as anthropomorphic gods whose power could be harnessed by propitiating them through magical rituals. Yet even in that early Vedic period the same obsession was discernible in their  simplistic efforts to examine the nature of a unifying principle, arriving at naive conclusions. Thus they pronounced that Food was the fundamental essence of the universe:

”I – the Food – am the cloud, thundering and raining.

They feed on Me – I feed on everything.

I am the real essence of the universe, immortal.

By my force all the suns in heaven are aglow”

This unrelenting search for a unifying force led to the devaluation of Vedic gods and ritualism. At the stage of the Upanishads the naive invocation of the gods through rituals gradually transformed into profound philosophical introspection and insight. The sages of the Upanishadic period, looking outward sought to find the unifying link in the phenomenal world and looking inwards to find the connecting source of ones own being. Thus arose the concept of Brahman, the all-embracing universal essence and the parallel emergence of the concept of Atman as the innermost essence, a reflection within of that external unifying force which was  at once both ubiquitous and immanent.

Numerous were the dialogues wherein the sages explained through analogy, the manner of comprehending that unifying reality that underlies all diversity: the analogy of salt dissolved in water which is no longer visible and can only be detected through taste, whichever part of the water one sipped; the analogy of the fig whose seed when split open revealed nothing, yet was responsible for creating a giant Fig tree; the analogy of the broken earthen pot which despite the destruction of the pot was still clay; the analogy of the chariot and the charioteer to explain the presence of the soul within the body; The analogy of the spider that spins a web and sits at its centre like Brahman creating the world and then entering into its every atom; the metaphor of the two birds on a fruit tree, one eating the fruit the other watching it eat, representing the Atman and Brahman; the metaphor of butter inherent in milk which  was like Brahman discernible through the churning of meditation; the analogy of  sparks that fly out of fire and return to it as souls emerging from Brahman and merging back into it.

images (18)The Atman was the innermost essence of every being. The Atman was also the reflection of the Universal Essence and eventually the concepts of Atman and Brahman became synonymous. The Atman in fact embraced all states of man’s consciousness as explained in the famous verses of the Mandukya Upanishad – the waking state, the dreaming state, the dreamless deep sleep state and the final state beyond all states of silent, peaceful bliss. In the waking state it looked outwards experiencing gross matter; in the dream state it looked inwards and experienced subtle objects accumulated in dream memories; in the deep sleep stage which is deesireless it experienced spiritual bliss. In the third sublime and thoughtless stage of deep sleep the Atman reflected the supreme Godhead, the source of all, the creative principle. But it was in the last stage of ‘Turiya’ that the true nature of the Atman was revealed – neither inward nor outward consciousness, nor both; neither knowing nor unknowing; it was without characteristics, undefinable and inconceivable, one without a second, quiescent, peaceful and blissful – Brahman. The Atman was in fact all four stages combined together. The Atman is described in the Bhagvad Gita thus:

” It is neither born nor does it die, coming into being and ceasing to be do not take place in it. Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient, it is not killed when the body is slain……Weapons do not cleave it, fire burns it not, wind dries it not…..it is eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable and everlasting…..It is unmanifest, unthinkable and immutable…….Some look upon the Self as a marvel, as a marvel another speaks of it, and as a wonder another hears of it, but though all hear of it none know it.”

In contrast with Jain and Sankya theology which regarded matter and spirit as distinct, in Brahmanism the Atman was both matter and spirit at once, the source of all and the essence of all. This was the Monism of Brahmanical thought as contrasted with the mechanical Dualism of Jain and Sankhya theology.

It was in the Bhagvad Gita that the ancient pre-Aryan Dualistic Sankhya theology and cosmology got merged and synthesized with Monist Brahmanical thought. Matter and Spirit as Purush and Prakriti were terms continuing to be used but now with a totally different inflection – they appeared distinct to the mind of the thinker on account of the workings of Maya illusion, while in fact being two sides of the same coin of Brahman, two conjoined aspects of the Universal Essence merely appearing as two.

dropFurthermore the Purush, Jiva or Atman did not ascend to any summit of the universe upon liberation to abide in total isolation (Sankhya and Jain theology) but merged with Brahman of which it was always an inseparable part, like a spray of water drops thrown up by the turbulent ocean through the force of its illusory power of Maya. the Atman did not experience any isolated bliss separated from matter as the Sankya Purush did at the roof of the universe in a state of Kaivalyam nor did it like the Jain Tirthankars remain detached and aloof. The Godhead in Brahmanical thought on the contrary at the macrocosmic level was the creator of the mirage of the world, a glorious dream of His, and at the microcosmic level incarnated into His dream world as an Avatar time and again when that world experienced atrophy and lack of cohesion on account of the erosion of righteousness (Dharma). The Godhead far from being in a state of isolation was thus perpetually concerned and active in ordering His universe and restoring equilibrium to it. As Krishna in the Gita asserts ”If I did not act relentlessly, these worlds would perish”

As compared with the isolation and disinterested detachment of Sakhya’s Purush and the Jain Tirthankars, the Supreme Being in Brahmanism thus engaged Himself fully in the joys and sorrows of the phenomenal world through His incarnations as Avatar.

The Sankhya idea of the three Gunas of Prakriti, attributes of Nature,was also wholly incorporated into the Gita’s parlance with a whole chapter dedicated to qualifying attributes of each Guna as affecting man. But the Gunas were as illusory as the world in which they played their role. They did not affect the  Godhead which transcended them. For Sankhya the Gunas were substantial.

The extreme asceticism of Jainism and Sankhya with corresponding total renunciation of action as pathways to salvation and liberation from matter do not find sanction in the philosophy of the Gita The central doctrine of the Gita on the contrary is concerned with the discharge of ones duty and the commission of righteous action (Karmayoga). Krishna calls those who refrain from action under the impression that this is a form of renunciation, as hypocrites and urges that nothing is more important than to do the duty to which one is born. He also condemns extreme asceticism as needlessly inflicting punishments on the body and the indweller within:

”Yoga is not possible for him who eats too much or for him who abstains too much from eating; it is not for him…. who sleeps too much or too little.”

”Those who practice grim mortification….torture their bodily organs and Me too, who dwells within the body…”

According to the Gita the path to salvation is not through renunciation and asceticism and withdrawal from active life, rather true renunciation consists in acting wholeheartedly, with dexterity in a dispassionate manner not seeking rewards and being neither euphoric in success nor dejected in failure. The true ascetic is one who has equanimity in all circumstances. This philosophy of commitment to action and total engagement in the world of the living, even for the Godhead as Avatar affirmed life and  Krishna asserts that no living being can remain without action. Even when inactive his bodily functions in fact continue with furious activity therefore denial of action was a false renunciation and was hypocritical.was in total contrast to the life-denying pre-Aryan philosophies of abstention and resignation:

”None can remain really actionless even for a moment, for everyone is driven to action by the Gunas of Prakriti. That deluded man is called a hypocrite who sits controlling the organs of action, but dwelling in his mind on the objects of the senses.”

Brahmanism was also by contrast fully theistic and deeply concerned with devotion and worship of the Supreme Being. A whole chapter on Bhakti (devotional worship) is dedicated to ardent and personal devotion to the godhead. Krishna says in the Gita:

”with the heart serene and fearless, firm in the vow of continence (celibacy), with mind controlled and ever thinking of Me, let him sit having Me as his supreme goal”.”

This alone leads to enlightenment. Krishna explains whom he finds most devout and dear among men;

”….steady minded and full of devout self-surrender – that man is dear to me.” 

All actions must be undertaken on behalf of Brahman and for Him alone.

No such call to devotional prayer towards a Godhead exists in the pristine philosophies of Jainism and Sankhya. Their spiritualism consists in emulating the example of the Tirthankars and individual release from the entanglements of matter.

The theism of Brahmanism was unequivocal and without qualification, a fundamental doctrine of faith to be pursued diligently as a primary goal to liberation. the very act of devotion won for the worshiper the path to liberation. This was different from the path to liberation in Sankhya and Yoga involving disciplines and practices leading to abnegation.

The theory of Karma and reincarnation existing in Sankhya and Jainism  which was not present in the Vedas or the early Upanishads, also became a central doctrine of the Bhagvad Gita as clearly brought  out in the analogy of casting off worn out garments to don new ones for a soul shedding the body and reincarnating into another. The concept of reincarnation even of the Godhead as Avatar, time and again, was however an innovation and refinement of Jain and Sankhya theology. No such reincarnation of the Godhead ( there being no Godhead) exists in the pre-Aryan philosophies of India.

With the passage of time however the pre-Aryan Indian disposition and obsession with resignation, renunciation and asceticism reasserted itself in the later epochs of Brahmanical thought, particularly in the non-dual Advait philosophy of Vedanta attributed to the sage-philosopher Shakaracharya in the ninth century A.D.  The euphoric world affirmation so evident in the Vedic and Upanishadic periods disappeared, to be replaced by a concept as ascetic and passive as existed in the earlier indigenous thought of India, though now garbed in the sophisticated language of the non-dualist Advait philosophy. The Atman now began to resemble more and more the Purush of Sankhya as a passive, unattached, unconcerned and non-acting nucleus residing within. The Gita had already proclaimed that the Atman was actionless and not the agent of action, Prakriti (Nature)and its attributes the Gunas alone were the cause of activity:

” He truly sees who sees that all actions are done by Prakriti alone and the Atma is action less…. he who in imperfect understanding looks upon the Self as the agent (of action) – he does not see at all”

The Sankhya concept that ignorance (Avidya) caused the entanglement of the Purush (Soul) was also applied to Shankar’s Vedantic thesis. The sheathes of gross body (waking state), subtle body ( dream state), and causal body ( deep sleep state) now in Vedanta were illusions created by Avidya, ignorance, which both hid the Self and created the mirage of phenomenality. again like Sankhya, Shankar asserted that the illusion was to be dispelled by knowledge and Yoga disciplines which would reveal the radiance of the Soul within.

In Shankar’s Advait philosophy there is also a subtle veering away from theism, matching the atheism of Sankhya. At the preparatory stage the initiate is permitted indulgence in all the normal virtuous activity of a householder – performance of good and charitable deeds, without attachment to rewards or fruit, austerities and self-denial ( celibacy etc), worshipping in the normal dualistic manner with prayers to deities and ancestors.  As he proceeds to advance in his meditations a stage comes when his efforts are rewarded by a vision of God. He is warned to exercise restraint for this vision is no more than a sublime manifestation of dualistic ignorance, Avidya, and must be transcended. The divine personality superimposed on Brahman is no less a mask than ones own personality is a sheath veiling ones innermost Self. The temptation to persist with such a sublime error at the penultimate stage of realization of truth must be strongly resisted and overcome as nothing more than a final delusion. The Adept would then pass beyond the illusory creator of an illusory creation to the ultimate reality of the supreme truth, consciousness and bliss (Sat-Chit-Anand) which alone is Brahman.

For Shankar’s Advait, a personalized God or creator was an illusion to be overcome. Brahman appearing as the Supreme Lord God was no more than enacting an illusory play (Leela) , and remained beyond all definitions and to be realized and experienced as such through thoughtless meditation. This rejection of the Godhead appears to go against the theistic premise and begins to resemble more and more the Sankhya pilgrim’s path seeking salvation devoid of any God like inspiration, with the difference that in Advait the soul is not isolated but is an integral part of a holy supreme unity, Brahman.

We thus appear to have come full circle from the atheistic and pessimistic pre-Aryan philosophies of abnegation, through the glorious life affirmation of the Vedas and Upanishads, to the synthesis and amalgamation of the Sankhya philosophy into the language of the Gita and finally to a revived stoic asceticism and denial of any reality to a personal Godhead in Shanker’s Vedanta philosophy. Yet the force of theism reasserted itself. First the sage Ramanuja in the eleventh century A.D. challenged the erudite Vedantic non-dualism with his dualistic approach to worshiping a personal God, believing that love and adoration of God (Bhakti) won liberation and not knowledge to end the Avidya of ignorance. He won an eager and significant following. More significantly in the Bhakti movement of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D. poet-saints like Sur, Tulsi, Meera, Raidas, Kabir and Nanak, among others, enthralled the multitudes with their ardent devotional songs to a personal God in a theistic storm of revival. They took the cue for this from the invigorating devotional premise of the Bhagvad Gita. 

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The trinity of Sagun Brahman – Brahma-Vishnu-shiva

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Temple deity – Lord Rama

In the ultimate analysis, Hinduism today is an amalgam of all these diverse streams of thought.The concept of a Universal Essence, ubiquitous as Brahman and immanent as Atman is entrenched in Hindu psyche and theology, both respected and revered. At the same time the personal Godhead appears to have displaced Brahman in popular imagination, in temples, hearth and home becoming the real objects of worship. The philosophically inclined veer towards Advait practices of meditation for the realization of the unequivocal truth of Brahman, while the vast majority of humbler folk gravitate towards a personal deity whether as the supreme godhead or its Avatar, for worship and spiritual sustenance. That Godhead’s threefold representation as creator, sustainer and annihilator, Brahma (distinct from Brahman), Vishnu and Shiva, and their feminine counterparts, Shakti, are the major deities to whom temples are dedicated together with their reincarnated Avatars, Rama and Krishna.They are the subject of colourful invigorating mythology, the grand epics and scriptures, art and culture, and the daily religious rituals, worship, prayer and deeply felt faith. The only depiction of Brahman is in the syllable Om which is pronounced before every prayer and adorns places of worship and homes symbolically inscribed within a glowing sun.

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The symbol Aum representing Brahman

There are no temples dedicated to Brahman ( Nirgun brahman – Brahman without attributes) The supreme Godhead now represents him wearing a mask of personality and form as the favoured option (Sagun Brahman – Brhaman with form and attributes). Shanker’s Advait monastries (Muths) are the secluded substitute to temples where Brahman is to be realized by adept monks and followers through esoteric practices stern disciplines and meditation.

To complete the picture of amalgamation, the cosmology of the pre-Aryan religious disciplines have bequeathed the concepts of Karma, the soul, its transmigration in rebirth and its eventual liberation aided by Yogic disciplines of the Yoga Sutras to Hinduism becoming embedded in Indian culture and civilization as the pillars of the faith.

The further evolution of this grand synthesis of diverse spiritual inspiration and philosophical disciplines have further spawned the philosophy of the Tantra, Kundilini, Yoga and an accompanying range of meditative practices into the daily spiritual lives of the Hindu. 

The absence of a  centralized Church, leaves the worshiper free to move from one to the other at will, selecting the spiritual experience of his choice without fear of excommunication or digression from inviolable dogma. He can practice Advait meditation in the morning, worship at a Rama temple in the afternoon and seek to arouse his Kundilini in the evening with total freedom., or worship not at all as a soul suffused by the darker shades of matter with many reincarnations awaiting him before liberation which is eventually guaranteed in any case.

 

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