Archives for category: The Soul

lord-kapila (1)

SAGE  KAPILA  DISCOURSES  ON  SANKHYA

Sankhya and Yoga are twin disciplines that compliment each other. While Sankhya philosophy speaks of the Soul as Purush, its entrapment by matter (Prakriti) and its eventual release (Moksha) in the context of the human circumstances, Yoga concerns itself with the process by which such liberation can be achieved through disciplines, exercises and modes of meditation.

patanjali

Sage Patanjali father of Yoga

Sankhya philosophy is attributed to the pre-Vedic sage Kapila who stands apart from the galaxy of great Vedic thinkers. There are references to him however in the epic Mahabharata. Historians place him in the period before the sixth century B.C. The discipline and techniques of Yoga are to be found in the Yoga Sutras attributed to the sage Patanjali and the Yoga Bhasya of the legendary poet-sage of the Mahabharata, Veda Vyas.

The indigenous thought of India as represented by Jainism, Sankhya and Yoga bequeathed to Brahmanism which evolved in India following the Aryan advent, ideas about the Soul, Matter and reincarnation, which eventually became firmly embedded in Hindu philosophy as a fundamental premise.

The evolution of the concept of the Soul in Hindu philosophy can thus be traced from the Jain concept of the Jiva to the Sankhya concept of Purush and eventually to the Brahmanical concept of Atman. We saw in the post on Jain philosophy that Jain cosmology was dualistic, conceiving the universe as composed of Jiva the soul force and Ajiva or Cosmic Matter. The process through which Jainism portrays this has been termed as realistic and mechanistic. Both the Jiva and Matter were real not illusory. The Jiva suffered influx of Matter depending on Karmic actions performed. The ideal state of total release from Karmic consequence achieved by the path blazing Tirthankars, by ridding the Jiva of the polluting colours of Matter, led to salvation and liberation in a state of blissful isolation (Kevalam) at the apex of the universe. The components of the universe then were the Tirthankars with other liberated souls, the other Jivas still enmeshed and engulfed by matter and Matter.

In the Sankhya and Yogic view the Soul called the Purush, likewise experienced shrouding by matter, now explained as being composed of three attributes or Gunas – those of clarity (Sattva), passionate activity (Rajas) and inertia (Tamas). In its primal state, the Gunas  of inertial matter were explained as being in a state of equilibrium and at rest. The presence of the Purush created a turbulance of excitement in inert nature on account of the brilliant radiance of these soul forces. Thus stimulated and attracted towards the Purushas, matter acted as iron filings would towards a magnet. Though Purush did not will such an outcome, nevertheless its proximity aroused a consciousness in inert matter in the form of subtle bodies and finally gross bodies which then enveloped the soul force in a material embrace. To use an analogy, the Purush could be compared to fire turning an iron molten. Sankhay does not regard the world as coming into being as a result of the act of a Creator. Creation takes place as a result of  pre-existing matter being thus stimulated by the presence of Purush. Inert matter stimulated by the radiance and proximity of Purush transforms into a subtle body of Mind, Ego, Intellect and Sense Faculties and a corresponding gross body with sense organs.

In Sankhya philosophy the process of the creation of the subtle and gross bodies is developed and presented in immaculate detail in a theory of evolution. This later was adopted in entirety by Hinduism in its explanation of the Soul, Matter and transmigration, making it a major contribution of Sankhya to Hindu philosophy. Briefly, the theory goes thus: the stimulation of Purush’s radiance causes inert matter to acquire consciousness first in a subtle body through the creation of  Mind (Buddhi) from which emerges the Ego (Ahankar) and onwards to the creation of faculties of action (Karmindriya), Intellect (Manas), Faculties of Sense (Gyanindriya), Subtle Counterparts of Sense Experience (Tan-Matra), the Subtle Atoms of the Subtle Body (Param-Anu) and finally a gross body (Sthula-Bhutani) through the interaction of gross elements. As this process of evolution from subtle to gross body takes place, there is a manifold increase in the Tamas Guna, the inert aspect of Prakriti which is responsible for holding together the created entity. In this regard Tamas can be compared to a gravitational force that binds its environment together. When the Yogi through meditation and exercise achieves enlightenment and liberation the Tamas Guna (the glue holding the physicality together) begins to erode and finally dissolves. What then remains is the Sattva Guna of clarity which in the absence of the other two Gunas facilitates authentic understanding, that ones true identity is not the ego personality but the indwelling Purush soul.

However, before such a liberation is reached if the gross body terminates in death, the surviving subtle body retaining the residual traces of many life times of desire, aspirations, potentials, habits, inclinations, patterns of behaviour etc as so many fragrances, odours and scars (Vasanas and Sanskars), determines the nature of a new existence and reincarnates. Reincarnations can continue from one life to another indefinitely. The Purush however remains untainted and pure as ever without attributes, qualities or movement – imperishable, inactive, impassive, indifferent and unaffected though its radiance continues to induce life and stimulate activities. When perfect knowledge of the Purush is gained by a seeker or Yogi, at the end of such a life not only the  gross body perishes at death but the subtle body also dissolves with all its Sanskaras being eliminated and the Gunas of matter are released back to their inert equilibrium, the Purush resuming its isolation from matter as an independent entity. While in this state, in Jainism the Tirthankar though isolated is omniscient, in Sankhya the Purush abides in eternal unconsciousness as one would in the deep sleep state. The Purush in this state is not described as being blissful – it merely is itself. This portrayal of the Purush also contrasts with the Brahmanical concept of the liberated Atman as pure consciousness merging with Brahman, the super-consciousness.

According to Sankhya what obstructs liberation and helps to consolidate the subtle and gross bodies and their tendency to falsely identify with ego are the afflictions (Klesh). The afflictions consist of ignorance (Avidya), false impressions of ego, attachments, aversions, the wish that life goes on forever – in a word ones personality. Whereas Jain philosophy spoke of the soul being infiltrated by matter, Sankya’s emphasis (being psychological rather than material) is on ignorance (Avidya) as the main cause for soul’s entrapment. Here there is no actual influx of Karmic matter which needs to be resisted and repelled, rather there is the need for the Yogi to overcome his ignorance caused by the Gunas of action (Rajas) and inertia, slothfulness, dullness, and indiscretion (Tamas) and then with the remaining Guna of clarity (Sattva) to behold and discern the truth of ones reality. As the Gunas of action and inertia wash away the radiance of the Purush shines forth and the realization dawns that one is not the personality, that ones essence is the luminosity within which was hitherto shrouded by the body and its personality. Now finally one becomes aware of ones true identity. This is called the discrimination of insight (Vivek) which alone overcomes ignorance (Avidya) and frees one from the entrapment of the Gunas of Prakriti (Nature). The insight takes one to the state of isolation (Kaivalya) which truly reflects the state of the Purush (Soul).

The Dualistic and atheistic philosophies of Jainism and Sankya being pre-Aryan and indigenous, treat the soul forces as being plural and the field of nature as substantial rather than an illusion generated by Maya as in Vedanta Hinduism. Brahmanism on the other hand being Monist and non-dualistic emphasizes that there is only one essence Brahman which creates a mirage of numerous souls that regard themselves as individuals when there is nothing other than Brahman though each soul entity experiences that Brahman as its Self. The mechanistic and materialistic approach of Jain Philosophy and the psychological approach of  Sankhya thought was superseded by the deeply metaphysical and spiritual interpretation of Brahmanism in a grand synthesis in contemporary Hindu thoughts and beliefs.

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He truly sees, who sees that all actions are done by Nature alone and the Soul is actionless.

 

Having no beginning and possessing no Gunas ( natural qualities), the Supreme Self, imperishable, though dwelling in the body,…., neither acts nor is tainted ( by actions).

 

…. he who in imperfect understanding looks upon the Soul as the agent – he does not see at all.

 

The Lord does not create agency or actions for the world; He does not create fruitful consequences of action; Nature does all this.

 

Having renounced all actions, the self disciplined indweller ( the Soul ) rests happily in the city of nine gates, neither acting nor causing action.

 

brhaman

Credit : neevintegralliving.com

Now, that light which shines higher than this heaven, on the backs of all, on the backs of everything, in the highest worlds, than which there is no higher – verily, that is the same as the light which is here within a person.

There is this seeing of it – when one perceives by touch this heat here in the body. there is this hearing of it – when one closes his ears and hears as it were a sound, as it were a noise, as of fire blazing,  one should reverence that light as something that has been seen and heard. He becomes one beautiful to see, one heard of in renown, who knows this – yea, who knows this.

Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7

 

He who consists of mind, whose body is life, whose form is light, whose conception is truth, whose soul is space, containing all works, containing all desires, containing all odours, containing all tastes, encompassing this whole world, the unspeaking, the unconcerned – this Soul of mine within the heart is smaller than a grain of millet, or the kernel of a grain of millet; This Soul of mine within the heart is greater than the earth, greater than the atmosphere, greater than the sky, greater than these worlds.

Containing all works, containing all desires, containing all odours, containing all tastes, encompassing this whole world, this unspeaking, this unconcerned – this is the Soul of mine within the heart, this is Brahman. Into him I shall enter on departing hence. If one would believe this, he would have no more doubt. Thus used Shandilya to say – yea, Shandilya.

Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.2-4

 

( Chandogya Upanishad –  the earliest Upanishad  before the  8th Century B.C. – Shandilya was an important sage of the period )

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Credit : International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( ISKCON )

 

 

As the indweller  ( the soul ) in the body experiences childhood, youth and old age in the body,

So does it pass on to another body. Therefore the wise  man is not confused.

 

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

( it does not cease to exist when the body perishes)

 

As a man casting off worn out garments puts on new ones,

So the embodied one ( the soul) casting off worn out bodies enters into others that are new.

Moonpic

CREDIT: whitewolfjourneys.com

The journey of this blog, has taken us through varied interpretations of the Soul from the Hindu Eastern ‘Atma’ to the Western and Middle Eastern Judaic versions and again to the modern fusion achieved in ‘New Age’ insights. Personally what sticks with me is the Hindu concept of Soul and Reincarnation, garnished with the New Age concept of  ‘Choice in Reincarnation’. The idea of Choice appealed greatly to me and I allowed it to help me reinterpret my Hindu beliefs. The theory of Karma and its consequences in reincarnations were logical and ancient and initially satisfying – yet it appeared to have one drawback – on the one hand it was too mechanical ( in the Gita Krishna underlines that the Lord – i.e. God – does not produce fruitful results of action – Nature does this through the law of Karma ) the law therefore appears to be unfeeling and automatic like gravity, just too mechanical (like blind justice). It also imposes judgement in observing suffering around us – a beggar, invalid, deformed, bereaved or otherwise suffering individual we encounter must have ‘earned’ his sorry state from previous misdeeds – this produces a judgmental reaction in the observer even when laced with compassion and condemns the unfortunate sufferer as suffering the consequence of his actions  – ‘as you sow so shall you reap’  /  ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ – and so on. The introduction of the concept of CHOICE OF REINCARNATION   by New Age thinkers has changed this entirely giving Karma a totally new interpretation. All these old and new elements have gone into the present post in personally, restructuring the concepts of Reincarnation and Karma experienced by the Soul. The first post explains my new understanding and the second which follows, presents it as a one-act play which I composed to help comprehend and dramatically visualize the points made.  The first is therefore an Exposition of the One-Act-Play that follows it . This reinterpretation is quite radical and may not appeal to many who may be appalled by the thought that their present plight ( if unfortunate) arises from their own choice. Some people would prefer to accept the idea that ones unfortunate condition may be the result of a Karmik fate rather than one resulting from ones own  conscious choice. In both cases what it boils down to is that we are responsible for our present situation.

 

                                                                                                                                 A    VALIANT    CHOICE    ( A Play )

PART  I  –  EXPOSITION

(An imaginary Soul preparing to reincarnate)

It was very difficult to make the right choice. Nothing could be gained from pleasurable plentiful easy options alone. The handicaps, obstacles, trials were the more important choices, the fundamental experiences to improve the quality of ones being.  There was complete freedom to make the right combination of choices or to make no choices at all. There never was any compulsion here, no peer pressure, no fear, no punishment.

There was no hunger as existence was not reliant on consumption but was self-sufficient. the only hunger was for experience on the physical plane.

There was no fear of mortality. the only concern was for one’s further evolution.

There was no procreative sexuality as survival of one’s kind did not depend on reproduction – though there were attractions and appreciation of others and great affairs of love extending over eons were quite common place.

Fear did not exist. Motivation arose from creativity and a sense of duty and dedication.

Anger in grosser states was here a kind of unbending determination.

It would be meaningless to lie when the truth was known to all and no thoughts could be secret and there was no room for deception.

There was nothing to steal as possessions were beyond your reality.

Nobody could be hurt so the question of inflicting injury never arose.

There was no judgement because you were your own harsh judge, jury and executioner.

Your primal essence glowed with clarity in an ambiance of bliss and perfection. Of course, there were higher  levels and there were peers but you were left to evolve at your own pace.

There was complete harmony, equilibrium and freedom. No disturbance of any kind, nothing painful, nothing enforced in that timeless essence.

Then  from the heart of this equilibrium arose a whim,  inventing opposites as a means of comprehending equilibrium, the postulate of two notes making a  harmony, the promise of a finite time to measure infinity, the concept of mortality to define immortality better, the idea of material diversity arising from essential unity. The hallmark of  material creation  was  mortality, a  finite, diverse world under the sway of the law of opposites – . good, bad, light and shadow, water and fire, pleasure and pain, male and female.

To comprehend one’s own reality, it was desirable to materialize and experience mortality, to be in the full glare of the law of opposites. So the choice was yours – first whether you wished to materialize and then the nature of your materialization.  To materialize meant to become embodied.

The choices were unlimited and came to you in your contemplation and discussions with companions and peers. Pain and suffering were the constant accompaniment to mortality, where the experience you wished to undergo was entirely of your own choosing. Was it to be one in which towering ego had to be overcome; obsessive attachments shown to be illusory; an acquisitive nature’s ultimate realization that possessions were meaningless; restraint and control to be learnt in a life driven by lust; addictions to be remedied; language of exchange and service to be perfected; the lessons of want to be learnt in poverty; compassion to be perfected in a life of suffering through disease; frugality, temperance and charity to be learnt through a life of billionaire abundance; the appreciation of perfection learnt in a lifetime of deformity or hardship; anger to be sublimated in a lifetime of raging insanity; innumerable relationships and interaction between two personalities worked out in different situations and combinations.

It was not as if soul forces were riven with imperfections needing remedy. Soul forces were the essence of perfection and equilibrium but the need to evolve necessitated the experience of mortality, the trials and tribulations of a material existence. The choice of category of experience and level and quality of existence was its own, like one’s choice of a book from a library.

The planning for a re-entry into Earth-World  was intricate and thorough. The combinations which would sustain a  life span without allowing the incarnation to founder from excessive trials while facilitating the desired experience, had to be carefully worked out. The negative elements needed to be balanced with positive ones. Strengths were available to all in many forms ( as weapons of defence to be selected carefully) in such a way as to ensure that the desired experiment was not nullified. Much like weapons of defence available to a Roman Gladiator. Weapons such as beauty, riches, nobility, generosity, special skills and talents, genius and creativity, spouse’s love, parental love, love from progeny, people’s love or acclaim and admiration, animal loyalty, successful career, great achievements, winning nature, power and prestige, to name a few. Handicaps and obstacles were also aplenty, to be judiciously combined like heavy weights with a sound diet. The choice of most trying circumstances could include abject poverty and hunger, shame humiliation and infamy, disease deformity and physical ugliness; orphanage and loneliness; persecution and victimization; guilt and ignominy of heinous crimes; insanity derangement and depression; insatiable greed, lust and addictions; ignorance and illiteracy; dogmatism and fanaticism; consuming hate and a life time of revenge; faithlessness and cynicism; over bearing ego and compulsive need for domination; cruelty, wastefulness and destructiveness etc.

The heaviest crosses could well be borne by the worthiest souls, having chosen to carry them – not unlike the choice of the most difficult course for graduation. Better or easier circumstances therefore did not translate into presumption of superiority of the embodying soul.

Sometimes companions would incarnate together, while other companions would assist in the difficult planning and materialization process, overseeing the incarnation as Guides and Guardian souls. Peers and even Masters were available for consultation. Some companion Guides would then attach themselves as boatmen to steer the adventurer soul on its courageous journey across the ocean of matter, to ensure that the journey of life played itself out and did not come to an abrupt and ignoble end nor  was the incarnated personality so discouraged as to quit midway. The Guides provided succor, assistance and relief from extremely untenable and unpredictable situations, while the general tenor of a chosen life story unfolded along its determined course to provide material experience and help  in evolution and understanding the material aspect of the spirit. Guides had a difficult job being present as it were between two worlds simultaneously. Masters came with great transforming messages and experienced the suffering inherent in mortal existence.

Preparation for departing souls was always full of compassionate congregation and support before its descent into the grossest elements and there was constant concern to see that its courage was rewarded by a successful and complete sojourn of the chosen life-span. Souls also undertook to incarnate together as relatives, spouses, friends, enemies and numerous other relationships to help in working out an issue of common interest on the material plane – the themes were varied – love, betrayal, exploitation, sacrifice, revenge, addictions, superiority or inferiority complex, majority or minority community, differences of race, colour, caste, sex, creed etc. Often familial relationships and circle of friends and acquaintances were the same group of participants in succeeding reincarnations being switched or shuffled about. The soul assuming the role of father  might seek to experience a switch with the soul playing the role of son in the next incarnation. Friends might opt to play the enemy in the next. Masters became servants, wives husbands or an intimate relationship in one might become nothing more than an acquaintance in the next.

It is for this reason that it was ‘unethical’ during an earth life to be judgemental. Compassion became important for the same reason. This of course did not mean that the development of negativities in a life being played out was unreal or to be condoned or that sufferings were not real enough or that punishments imposed during earth life were undeserved or that crimes were not real. Each life’s circumstances contained certain compulsions and the results were not always predictable.

The physical incarnation necessarily was made oblivious of its spiritual lineage and purpose and identified totally with its physical persona acting and reacting to its environment with the totality of its physical aptitudes and shortcomings. The thick earth medium of senses and their objects quickly grasped the incarnate spirit in the flux of temporal life, thrusting forward from one challenge to another without respite, much like a the breath-taking ride on a roller-coaster. The spirit generally emerged at the end strengthened and more luminescent.

The incarnating soul force in the company of interested companions was at all times also able to observe its incarnate self-acting and reacting to the given circumstances much like one would a video of oneself and capable of beaming in some influences or corrections to improve the experiment, but the incarnation was no puppetry and could produce unpredictable results both appalling and exhilarating .  The spirit was often amazed by the behaviour of its incarnation. There was always the risk that a dismal outcome of an incarnation gone wrong might affect the resonance of the incarnating soul, diminishing the level of its clarity. Equally a successful engagement with physical trials would enhance that clarity with accompanying evolution to a higher order of Spirit. Eventually all souls felt encouraged to take the risk of material reincarnation for evolution to a higher level of being, rather than stagnating blissfully at their own level.

 

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Credit: blog.richhealing.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Credit: shift.is
Credit: shift.is

The great Indian sage – philosopher – poet Shankaracharya, the apostle of Vedanta, the Advait or Non-Dual tradition of Hindu philosophy, in the 8th century A.D. composed many immaculate poems and chants for his disciples to recite in meditation to experience the essential truth of the inconceivable nature of the soul. The Atma (Soul) Shatakam ( a composition in six stanzas) also known as the Nirvana (enlightenment) Shatakam was one such which when recited through Vedic musical chants moved my innermost being to a rare and ecstatic realization of ones deepest essence, as was intended by him for disciples, The singer Ashit Desai’s rendering of the chant in his ‘Himalayan Chants’ is perhaps the most exquisite in conveying the full spiritual essence of the poem. Repeating the Sanskrit chant with closed eyes one gets a glimpse of what our virtually incomprehensible innermost core is. I have placed the original Sanskrit verse, transliterated in Latin text for those who wish to read the original composition, together with my attempt at a translation in English.

                               ATMA SHATAKAM

                                ( Song of the Self )

Mano buddhya-hankara chittani naham
Na cha shrotra jihve, na cha ghrana netre
Na cha vyoma bhumirna tejo na vayuhu
Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham . (1)

Not mind, intellect, memory or ego
Nor the sense of hearing, taste, smell or sight
Not the sky, the earth, wind or light, I am not these,
I am consciousness I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.
( Shivoham Shivoham )

Na cha prana sangno na vai pancha vayuh
Na va sapta dhatur na va pancha koshaha
Na vak pani padau na chopastha payoo
Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham .(2).

Neither am I life nor breath
Nor matter nor form, organs or senses,
Not sheaths of personality, gross or subtle,
I am consciousness I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.

Na me dvesha ragau na me lobha mohau
Mado naiva me naiva matsarya bhavah
Na dharmo na chartho na kamo na mokshah
Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham .(3).

Neither with likes nor aversions
Nor wants nor attachments
Nor competition or envy
Neither pursuing righteousness, nor wrong,
Neither wealth, nor passions nor even liberation
I am consciousness I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.

Na punyam na papam na saukhyam na dukham
Na mantro na tirtham na veda na yagnaha
Aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta
Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham .(4).

Neither saintly nor sinful
Nor joyous nor sorrowful
I have no need for pious chanting or pilgrimages
Scriptures or sacrifices,
Neither edible nor the consumer nor the consumption,
I am consciousness, I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.

Na me mrutyu shanka na me jati bhedah
Pita naiva me naiva mata na janma
Na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyah
Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham .(5).

Neither afflicted by death, nor distinctions of race and class,                      

 Unborn, without father or mother                                                                      

 Without kin or friend, Guru or disciple,                                                                          

 I am consciousness, I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.

 Aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo                                                                              

Vibhur vyapya sarvatra sarvendriyanam                                                                        

  Sada me samatvam na muktir na bandhah                                                            

Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham .(6). 

Inconceivable and formless,                                                                                            

 All pervading and omnipresent,                                                                          

 Inherent in all senses,                                                                                          

   Impartial, neither in bondage nor in freedom,                                                                

 I am consciousness, I am bliss, I am the primal eternal essence.

Swami Yukteswar Credit: bolstablog.wordpress.com

Swami Yukteswar
Credit: bolstablog.wordpress.com

The rarest revelations, for anyone curious about the mysteries of the spirit and the Soul, are to be found in Paramhansa Yogananda’s autobiography, in Chapter 43, ‘The resurrection of Sri Yukteswar”, his beloved deceased Guru. It had me completely enthralled and totally nonplussed. The latter because the language of the ‘spirit’ appears often to be totally beyond our materialistic earthly comprehension when we are not adept or evolved sufficiently to understand what indeed is being said. Yet, with minimal discernment, some ideas do come through to provide some framework of the spirit world and the stages through which the Soul passes from one realm to another of the spirit world and eventually beyond even that, into the release of the Soul and ultimate ‘Union’ with the Godhead, what we may call the Universal Essence.

I was amazed beyond comprehension to read of the manifestation of Yogananda’s beloved Guru, in Bombay at the Regent Hotel, on his Indian sojourn after decades in the USA when he so mourned the passing away of his Guru Yukteswar during that visit. First he saw the vision of the Avatar ‘ Lord Krishna’  in a ‘shining blaze’ over the roof top of a building across the street ‘ waving and nodding greeting’ before the vision disappeared. Then he was accosted by a ‘beatific light’ in his hotel room with the ‘flesh and blood’ form of his Guru Yukteswar.

Yukteswar Credit: rockyourboatyoga.com

Yukteswar
Credit: rockyourboatyoga.com

The apparition claimed that he was indeed a ‘flesh and blood’ body whom he hugged with reverence. Yukteswar asserted that he was now a ‘saviour’ on an illumined astral planet called Hiranyalok, to help advanced beings there to rid themselves of ‘astral Karma’ to attain liberation from ‘astral rebirths’. The people on this astral planet plane were highly developed spiritually, yet were bound by karmic effects which yet needed to be cleansed.

The Guru Yukteswar then remarks to Yogananda that the Soul was shrouded in three layers or ‘bodies’ – the gross, the subtle and the causal ( see my posts: The subtle Body and the Law of Karma & The Soul’s Reincarnation and Rebirth ).The gross shield is what we have on earth as the physical body of senses. The subtle shield is that which adheres to the Soul  (after death on the physical plane)  on the astral plane, consisting of consciousness and feelings with a body made up NOT of matter but of ‘lifetrons’ or light. The astral subtle body has to evolve to the Causal stage which is a’blissful realm of ideas’. Yukteswar’s role in the astral plane was to elevate the astral beings to the still higher realms of the Causal world.

According to Yukteswar the astral world  is ‘ hundreds of times larger than  the material cosmos’. The astral world is ‘ infinitely beautiful, clean, pure, and orderly’ when compared to the physical one. The astral world is both ‘gross’ and ‘subtle’. The gross aspect has millions of astral beings arrived from earth on different astral planets depending on their karmic evolution.

The astral beings live on cosmic energy and light. They are ‘exact counterparts’ of their last physical forms, with the same appearance which they possessed at youth on earth. However, they possess a ‘sixth’ sense, intuition, with which they sense their world and a Third Eye over their forehead, ‘open’. The astral bodies can heal by will when ‘hurt’. Yet they suffer ‘mental agonies’ if the truth is not fully comprehended. They communicate through telepathy and television. They ‘consume’ ‘nector’ from glowing fountains of light’. Only later at an advanced level in Hiranyalok ( its subtle level ) are they freed from the necessity of ‘eating’ anything but the ‘manna of bliss’

Life on this astral plane is not however eternal. It could range to a thousand earth years. Often astral visitors, when not ‘permanent’ return to earth when their Karma commands. At astral ‘death’ a being could thus return to the physical plane.

At the Causal level, which is more advanced than the astral, desires manifest as something superior to physical or astral sensations. The  existence of a body ‘would signify that its existence is made possibly by unfulfilled desires’.

The Soul when freed from the gross body at death is still covered by the astral and causal sheaths which debar its union with the Absolute.

When the astral sheath is shed there remains the Causal sheath. This is a mould of ‘thought’. The Causal body ‘feasts’ only on ‘knowledge’, ‘drinks from the springs of peace’, ‘roams on the soil of perception’, ‘swims in bliss’.

Beings remain in the ‘Causal condition for thousands of years. The Soul then tries to shake free from this last bonding or sheath to join the ‘Causal consciousness’ – ‘all the separate eddies of ideas,…. waves of power, love, will, joy, peace, intuition, calmness, self-control, and consciousness melt into the ever joyous Sea of Bliss’. The Soul then is no longer individualized consciousness but merges with the ‘Cosmic Ocean’ of ‘laughter, thrills and throbs’.

The Soul thus released from this last confinement, encompasses and becomes ‘IT’. It ‘expands into the spirit’, ‘in the region of lightless light, darkless dark, thoughtless thought, full of the ecstasy of joy or ‘God’s dream of cosmic creation’.

It becomes one with the infinite, yet without losing its individuality, like ‘Christ had won the final freedom even before he was born as Jesus’. However, such a freed soul may return to earth as a prophet to bring other souls back to God – whether on the astral plane or the earthly plane.

The law of Karma has to be completely worked out before graduation to the astral plane, the Causal plane and beyond into Unity. When the earthly Karma is not redeemed fully after even an astral death they cannot enter the Causal realms of ‘ideas’ but must go back and forth from physical to astral levels for further lessons on earth. Others that are freed  of physical Karma graduate to the Causal plane. When ‘seeds of past desires’ are extinguished finally, the soul emerges from the Causal sheath into the eternal.

Having explained the mysteries of the soul’s release from the triple bondage of physical, astral, and causal captivity, the great guru Yukteswar then vanished from Yogananda’s sight saying as he departed ”tell all….that your earth is a dream of God.”

This experience of Yogananda, though hardly fully comprehensible to a soul like mine covered in all the three sheaths, did reveal the mysterious workings of the spiritual realms and its master, the Universal Essence showing the long and arduous path to final liberation.

Yukteswar and Yogananda

Yukteswar and Yogananda
Credit: yogananda.us

Credit: creative.sulekha.com
Credit: creative.sulekha.com

The Svetashvatara Upanishad dwells on the nature of Brahman, the universal and individual soul, illusion and  immanence with  soul stirring poetic analogies and has  enthralled, inspired and enlightened me for decades.

The Fourth Chapter ( Adhyaya ) of the Svetashvatara is the most beautiful and enlightening:

 

(excerpts)

 

The One, himself without colour, by the manifold application of his power

Distributes many colours in his hidden purpose,

And into whom, its end and its beginning, the whole world

Dissolves – He is God !

May he endow us with clear intellect!

 

That surely is fire (Agni), That is the sun (Aditya)

That is the wind (Vayu), and that is the moon,

That surely is the pure, That is Brahma,

That is the waters, That is the Lord of Creation (Prajapati).

 

Thou art woman, Thou art man,

Thou art the youth and the maiden too,

Thou as the old man totterest with a staff,

Being born, thou becomest being in every direction.

 

Thou art the dark blue bird and the green with red eyes,

Thou has the lightening as thy child.

Thou art the seasons and the seas.

Having no beginning, thou dost abide with immanence,

Wherefrom all beings are born.

 

With the one unborn female, red, white and black

(i.e. nature, Prakriti with three qualities – pureness, passion and darkness)

Who produces many creatures like herself,

There lies the one unborn male ( cosmic person, father of all being)

Taking his delight,

Another unborn male (the individual soul) leaves her

With whom he has had his delight.

 

Two birds, fast-bound companions,

Clasp close the self-same tree,

Of these two, the one ( the individual) eats sweet fruit;

The other ( Brahman) looks on without eating.

 

On the self-same tree a person, sunken

Grieves from his impotence, deluded;

When he sees the other, the Lord contended,

And his greatness, he becomes freed from sorrow.

 

Now one should know that Nature is illusion

And the mighty lord is the illusion maker

The whole world is pervaded

With beings that are parts of Him.

 

More minute than the minute, in the midst of confusion

The creator of all, of manifold forms,

The One embracer of the universe –

By knowing Him as kindly (Shiva) one attains peace forever.

 

That God, the All worker, the Great Soul

Ever seated in the heart of creatures,

Is framed by the heart, by the thought, by the mind –

They who know That become immortal.

 

When there is no darkness ( of illusion and ignorance),

Then there is no day or night,

Nor being, nor non-being, only the kindly One alone (Shiva),

That is the imperishable, That is the splendour of the sun (Savitr)

And from that was primeval intelligence created.

 

His form is not to be beheld,

No one soever sees Him with the eye,

They who thus know Him with heart and mind

As abiding in the heart, become immortal.

ardhnareshwar2

Shiva – Ardhnareshwar – both male and female

Credit; urday.in/shandilya.htm

Sage Sandilya
Credit; urday.in/shandilya.htm

Sandiliya the great sage in the Chandogya  Upanishad sought to explain and speculate on  the difficult concept of Brahman they had intuited in the following manner for disciples and followers:

MY  SELF  WITHIN  THE  HEART

All this is Brahman. let a man meditate on the visible world as beginning, ending and breathing in it, the Brahman…… The intelligent, whose body is spirit,whose form is light, whose thoughts are true, whose nature is like ether, omnipresent and invisible, from whom all works, all desires, all sweet odours and tastes proceed, he who embraces all this, who never speaks, and is never surprised, he is my Self within the heart, smaller than a corn of rice, smaller than a corn of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a canary seed or the kernel of a canary seed. He also is my Self within the heart, greater than the earth, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds….. when I shall have departed hence, I shall obtain him ( that Self). He who has this faith has no doubt; thus said Sandiilya, yea, thus he said.

Another sage Svetashvatara ( owner of a white mule) speaks of Brahman in the Svetashvatara Upanishad thus:

Those who know the high Brahman, the vast, the hidden in the bodies of all creatures, and alone enveloping everything, as Lord, they become immortal. – I know this great person (Purusha) of sunlike lustre beyond the darkness. …. This whole universe is filled by this person to whom there is nothing superior, from whom there is nothing different, than whom there is nothing smaller or larger, who stands alone like a tree in the sky.

That which is beyond this world is without form and without suffering. …. he dwells in the heart of all beings, he is all pervading, therefore he is ..omnipresent…. the person, not larger than a thumb, dwelling within… in the heart of man, is perceived by the heart, the thought, the mind, they who know it become immortal……

He is the one God, hidden in all beings, all pervading, the Self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, , the only one, free from qualities. … the wise who perceive him within their self, to them belongs eternal happiness…

Credit; shivadarshana.blogspot.com

Sage Svetashvatara
Credit; shivadarshana.blogspot.com

Credit: speakingtree.in

Credit: speakingtree.in

At the dawn of history, Indian sages sought to explain their profound esoteric insights not through academic discourses but through parables and simple analogies, succeeding splendidly thereby in imparting knowledge of their insights more convincingly than would have been the case with the pedantic verbiage of philosophical concepts. Svetaketu was thus instructed by his father Uddalika in the knowledge of the Self or Soul in the Chandogya Upanishad, making him understand a central truth through the aphorism ”That thou art” – Tat Tvam Asi, which appearing in this parable became famous: ( excerpts )

THE    EDUCATION    OF    SVETAKETU

There lived once Svetaketu Aruneya…to him his father Uddalika said: ” Svetaketu go to school; for there is none belonging to our race, darling, who not being studied in the Veda (knowledge of the scriptures), is, as it were, a Brahmin ( learned priestly class) by birth only.”

Having begun his apprenticeship with a teacher when he was twelve years of age, Svetaketu returned to his father when he was twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas- conceited, considering himself well read and stern.

His father said to him: ” Svetaketu, as you are so conceited, considering yourself so well read, and so stern, my dear, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known?”

” What is that instruction, Sir?” he asked.

…. ” If someone were to strike at the root of this large tree here, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living self the tree stands firm, drinking in the nourishment and rejoicing; but if the life (the living Self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers;…if it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree withers. In exactly the same manner, my son, know this. The body, indeed withers and dies when the living Self has left it, the living Self dies not. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.

“Please , sir inform me more” said the son.” ” Be it so, my child,”  the father replied.

” Fetch me thence a fruit of (yonder) tree.” ” Here is one, Sir.” ” Break it.” ” It is broken, sir.” ” what do you see there?” ” these seeds, almost infinitesimal.”              ” Break one of them.” ” It is broken, sir.’ what do you see there?’ ” not anything, Sir.” The father said: ” My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great tree exists. Believe it, my son. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.’

“Please , Sir, inform me still more,” said the son. ” Be it so, my child,” the father replied.

” Place this salt in water and then wait on me in the morning.”

The son did as he was commanded.

The father said to him:” Bring me the salt which you placed in the water last night.” 

The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted.

The father said: ” Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” ” taste it from the middle. how is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” “Taste it from the bottom. how is it?’ The son replied: ” It is salt.” the father said; ” Throw it away and then wait on me.” He did so; but salt exists for ever. Then the father said: ” Here also, in this body, forsooth, you do not perceive the True, my son, but there indeed it is. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.”……..ENDS  – ( after many more analogies Svetaketu’s education regarding the nature of the soul was completed).

Thus through a parable and analogy was the learned yet ignorant  Svetaketu imparted the knowledge of the Soul. The Upanishads throughout employ such dialogues to convey their message.

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