Archives for posts with tag: Creation myth
dream of creation 2

Creation of Adam – Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel Rome. Credit: http://www.prlog.org

 

Meher Baba was a remarkable Indian mystic who like Prabhupad ( Hare Krishna Movement) and Yogananda ( Yogada Self Realization L.A.),  took the message of Indian mysticism to the West early in the 20Th century. I learnt about him during my posting in Sydney where I came across his ardent Australian followers. Meher Baba established a spiritual centre near Brisbane where he would visit often when not lecturing in the USA. I visited the centre, escorted by his young enthusiastic Australian  disciples deep in the woods where the Ashram was located. They had preserved the room in which their Guru resided during his visits. On entering the room I felt his aura quite distinctly. Meher Baba had passed away ten years earlier but was regarded as an Avatar by his disciples.

Meher Baba

Meher Baba

The literature which his disciples gave me left a lasting impression in shaping my concepts regarding God and the Soul. Though Meher Baba was born of Zoroastrian parents of Persian origin, called Parsis in India, his mystical inclinations were rooted in the non-dual (Advait) philosophy of Hinduism combined with Sufi metaphysics. He sought to match and correlate the two streams of mystical thought into one body, showing that in essence they conceived of the same truths regarding Godhead. Though his discourses in the West covered a range of subjects, what impressed me greatly was his seminal hypothesis regarding the nature of God and the Soul. While most of these concepts and revelations can be found in the Upanishads and the Advait ( Non-Dualism) of Vedantic philosophy, through his mystical interpretations and the correlations with Sufi thought, a fresh and wholly extraordinary presentation provided unique insights into a subject which can become tortuously difficult to grasp for the layman.

His book ‘God Speaks’ – The Theme of Creation and its Purpose ( Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1973) is aptly dedicated ”To the Universe – the illusion that sustains Reality”. He describes the primal reality of God as being the ‘Beyond Beyond State of God’ which Hindu scriptures call ‘Paratpar Parbrahma’ and the Sufis as ‘Wara – ul – Wara’. In this state God is infinite, unbounded and absolute but not conscious of his infinity and attributes of universality, infinite knowledge and infinite bliss, glory and beauty. As He is one without another, this conception of Him I like to understand as that of an innocent child without ego who is not even aware that He has a name or identity. In this pristine state of purity god is neither self conscious nor conscious of himself. Meher Baba asserts that His consciousness is in fact latent as a ‘Nothingness’.

It is in this primal state that a ‘whim’ arises like a tidal wave in a serene ocean. the sufis call it the ‘Lahar’ of God which is an original urge of self consciousness in which the first ‘word’ is uttered by god – ‘who am I’. This is the original infinite whim. This urge to become conscious produced the tidal wave of creation, a manifestation of infinite Nothing (illusion) latent in His infinite Everything. Meher Baba uses the analogy of shadow to explain the whim. The shadow of Nothingness is latant in us. So too it is latent in God. I tried to conceive what he was saying in the following manner – in a room we  may have no shadow. but out in the sun ( of self consciousness) a shadow appears. So too the whim of self consciousness of God produces His shadow of creation – like the shadow it is an illusion. The unfolding of creation through the self conscious query of the whim was no more than a shadow of god, a nothingness. Another analogy is that of a dream. The shadow of creation, an illusion, arose from what he calls the ‘Om-Point’, a finite point which produced  the infinity of Nothingness of creation. The ‘false’ apparent infinity of Nothingness of creation was a response to the primal self conscious query ‘Who am I’ which by virtue of being posed created a divine ego and apparent duality out of Nothingness, ‘entangling’ Him in the maze of most finite Nothingness. This was absolutely necessary in order that God in His infinitude acquire consciousness of His unbounded, unlimited, infinite nature of power, knowledge and infinite bliss. Not conscious God in the primal ‘Beyond Beyond State’ thus began the journey into acquiring consciousness of His Real Self through the whim of the self conscious query ‘Who am I’. This could be likened to becoming conscious of ourself when we look at the stark shadow that we see emerging from us.

Here Meher Baba draws parallels between the soul’s condition as bound in a human gross form and that of God. He asserts that the soul is in fact none other than God in His primal state of beatitude though unconscious of it.The original divine primal state of not being conscious is like the deep sleep state of the gross body where the soul has no ego, no form and no identity. In that sublime deep sleep state our souls are indistinguishable from the primal state of God in the ‘Beyond Beyond State’ of lack of consciousness. Further parallels are drawn to the dream state when we allow our sub- conscience to produce in a dream, form and images with which we begin to identify as when the whim of God produces the dream of creation with which God identifies himself initially. Then comes the waking state when we crystallize the dream concepts into the apparent reality around us. This Meher Baba interprets as consciousness as opposed to the unconsciousness of the deep sleep state and the semi- consciousness of the dream state. Here the parallel drawn is that of God awakening to consciousness through identification with man, the supreme evolution of gross matter. When God identifies with man as the ultimate form on the material plane He arises to His own initial consciousness. The soul in man is that God arisen to consciousness. (In the Mandukya Upanishad a similar presentation is made of the soul in the  waking state, dream state, deep sleep state and the beyond state – see my post  –  Upanishads: the real Atman Soul/soul).

The soul in man is however bound by the gross body, the subtle body and the mental body. Through incarnations the soul seeks to counter the impressions (Sanskars) which arise from experience on the material plane of opposites, achieving a higher physical state, eventually from gross body to astral or subtle body with which it is endowed on the astral plane and eventually to the mental body, the last remnant of physicality. When the soul evolves through incarnations to that level, cancelling its Karmic impressions it is closest to the original state of the Godhead. Thus the last vestiges of physicality are shed with the Karmic impressions being finally overcome and the mental body is also cast away. Then the soul merges with Godhead. This process, it is important to remember is what gives God the answer to His original question arisen from the whim of self enquiry – ‘Who am I’ and it is this process that assists Him in realizing his true nature as eternal, infinite, blissful, perfect and beautiful. As Meher Baba says, creation arisen from the original self-conscious whim, is God’s loving gift to man, to enable the soul’s long journey through manifestation and reincarnation to arrive at its ultimate destination where it can enjoy the infinite state of the Oversoul and it is also man’s gift to God to help him become conscious of his beatitude and infinity.

Meher Baba also provides an insightful and fascinating road map of God’s journey through the dream of creation culminating in total consciousness of His Reality. After traversing the infinite gross spheres of millions of universes He arrives on the gross world of earth moving as souls through stone and metal consciousness up to vegetable, worm, fish, bird, animal and human consciousness. He then moves up into the four planes of the subtle worlds and deeper into the fifth and sixth planes of the mental worlds ( through the evolution of the souls). On the seventh plane  known to Sufis as ‘Fana‘ and Hindus as ‘Nirvikalpa‘, the Mind (the little self) is finally superceded and the soul experiences infinite power, knowledge and bliss. With this the ‘first journey’ is complete and the soul may be said to have ‘passed away’ into God.

Then begins the second passage of the soul on the road map of God’s journey to self realization and total consciousness. The soul then becomes ‘Divinely Absorbed’ and in a state of Abiding in God. This the Sufis call the state of Baqa. The one who reaches such a state of being ‘Divinely Absorbed’ the Sufis call Majzoob-e-Kamil and the Hindus as Brahma Bhoot. Further evolution makes such a person a Divine Superman ( Sufi: Salik-Majzoob – Hindu: Paramhansa) This second journey concludes at a point called the ‘Divine Junction’ ( Sufi: Fana-ma-al-Baqa – Hindu; Turiya )

Beyond this is the third divine journey which produces advanced beings who actually experience ‘Living the Life of God’ in the penultimate state of consciousness – they have been called progressively:

1. Perfect Masters ( Sufi: Qutub – Hindu: Sadguru) – further evolution produces

2. Saviour ( Sufi: Rasool – Hindu: Avatar )

According to Meher Baba at any given time there are only five Perfect Masters on earth to guide the disillusioned souls. The evolved souls of such beings who have experienced Nirvana (Enlightenment) and gained the super consciousness of Nirvikalpa Samadhi are known as Shiv-Atma. Meher Baba asserts that there are always present on earth at any time 56 such Shiv-Atmas

It is the five Perfect Masters who precipitate the advent of the descent of God on earth in a human form at the end of a given cycle as Prophet, Messiah and Avatar. The Sufis call such a direct descent of God as Fana-ul-Fana. The term direct descent implies that God becomes man without having to pass through evolution or reincarnation. This is not the case with Qutubs or Sadgurus who have indeed to undergo the entire tortuous process of evolution.

The fourth divine journey involves shedding the gross, subtle and mental sheaths and experiencing infinite power, knowledge and bliss while ‘retaining infinite individuality’.  Souls advancing to these spiritual peaks shed all vehicles and merge back into divinity or one may say once again realize, having shed illusion, that they are none other than God. The Atma now becomes the Paramatma which indeed it always was. This according to Meher Baba is the ‘Beyond state of God‘ which the Sufis call Allah, the Zoroastrians Ahuramazda, the Vedantins as Paramatma, the Christians Father and philosophers call the Oversoul – absolute, unlimited, infinite, the one without a second.

The dream of creation thus transforms God from the Beyond Beyond State of being infinite yet not conscious into the Beyond state of God which is infinite and conscious. The divine consciousness now makes God absorbed in His Reality and fully conscious of it. The Beyond Beyond State however cannot be said to have been thus superseded. It is its own state which mystics like to perceive as beyond definitions where consciousness may appear both as absent and inherent.

What a fascinating road map for us to ponder. The whole process from unconscious bliss to self conscious whim to dream of creation to returning through evolution back to Godhead and in the process acquiring consciousness, constitutes a magnificent cycle in which both God and ourselves are intimately involved.

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Dream of Creation – Hindu temple stone sculpture Credit; yourworldreligions.blogspot.com

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credit: learn-to-be-love-.com

credit: learn-to-be-love-.com

The mystery of the Divine Essence, divinity, the Spirit and God have been the constant subject of human enquiry and conjecture, religious speculation and metaphysical research. Divinity is sought to be understood at its different levels from the virtually incomprehensible formless eternal to the more tangible Godhead conceivable with shape and form to its incarnated prophets and Avatars on the physical realm.

Yogananda sought to provide some invaluable insights and answers to what he called ‘ the seemingly unanswerable questions’, answers that he ”received from the very depths of my soul and from God”.

The basic paradox revolves  around the concept of God’s unbreachable ‘Unity’ and the untold diversity of his manifestations in the physical world. Yogananda explains that as the Unmanifest Absolute, divinity or the Spirit was solitary and absorbed in Its own peace, consciousness, wisdom and bliss. In that supreme intelligence then arose a profound creative urge – ‘why have I remained thus alone…absorbed in My own bliss…but now I am going to dream a cosmos’. This urge then translated into a magnificent cosmic dream. The dream began to manifest, causing his consciousness to divide between his absolute unmanifested nature, the still and imperturbable Spirit and a turbulant manifest nature in the form of cosmic energy consisting of ‘different vibrating perceptions or processes of His thought’. This apparent duality was an illusion, being no more than a dream state, giving rise to the law of illusion of duality or ‘Maya’. Thus a portion of that solitary consciousness separated itself from Spirit and proceeded forth as ‘an active intelligent force, restless to express its power’, much like a seed sprouts into a mighty tree his thought ‘sprouted into a vast creation’. This however did not affect  his fundamental Unity, as the apparent separation was only within the confines of a dream state.

The first manifestation was ‘pure thought’. From this primal thought emanated light, which is the same as consciousness, only with ‘greater density’. The thought of light arose first, then transformed into a more tangible ‘dream of light’ – like the difference between thinking of a horse before seeing it actually in a dream. The dream of cosmic light was further empowered to create form. At first the finer light created subtle form and then proceeded to create ‘the grosser atomic light of protons and electrons’. God then empowered electrons and protons to arrange into atoms and molecules and a further thought force impelled them to ‘condense into gases, heat, liquids and solids’ and finally forms of life with man at the apex. This matter was further ‘imbued with a dreaming intelligence’ whose evolution would awaken it to the realization that ‘matter and mind are one’. Mind being the ‘idea vibration of God’. Death became the process by which ‘dream matter changes back into the consciousness of God’. The human being is the most conscious material entity, enabled to ‘transcend His dream’. Through birth and death this highest material entity goes back and forth between the ‘gross dream world’ and the ‘finer astral dream world. Reincarnation was a ‘series of dreams within a dream, man’s individual dream within the greater dream of God’.

Thus in the stormy state of creativity, the Infinite manifests as ‘intelligence, mind, vibrations, forces and matter’ but in the unmanifest state, ‘the Infinite exists solely as Spirit in which all forces lie dissolved’.

The Avatar or prophet is that material phenomenon whose ‘consciousness is one with the Intelligence of God omnipresent in creation and is the sole perfect reflection in creation of the Uncreated Infinite’.

 

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credit: amandafroelich.com

The concept of the unity of Brahman was further examined and developed by Upanishadic seers. Brahman was both transcendental and immanent. Brahman was both physical and spiritual. Brahman was both phenomenal ( capable of being discerned through senses) and noumenal ( capable of being only intuited and not perceived by the senses). Brahman was therefore a conglomerate of the physical world and the non-physical or spiritual reality.

The Upanishads however make a distinction between the two, calling the physical as the lower aspect of Brahman and the spiritual the higher aspect. While the physical could be discerned through the senses, the noumenal was beyond descriptions or characteristics and the only attempt at defining it had produced the aphorism Neti, Neti or ”not this not that”.

Thus in  the Maitri Upanishad it is stated:

” There are assuredly two forms of Brahman: Time and the  Timeless. that which is prior to the Sun is the Timeless, without parts. But that which begins with the Sun is Time, which has parts.”

The two forms of Brahman envisaged were the formed and the unformed, the mortal and the immortal, the stationary and the moving, the actual and the Real.

The logic of Upanishadic Monism however encountered a serious problem in explaining the diversity of the manifold universe. How was this abundant diversity to be reconciled with the unshakable and uncompromising faith in an absolute unity, which was the fundamental characteristic of Brahman? Furthermore the idea of two aspects of Brahman also inclined towards a Dualism.

Thus as a corrective evolved the doctrine of Illusion or Maya, which then became a permanent feature of all Hindu thinking to the present times. The so called lower aspect of Brahman, the physical universe was declared to be a mirage, an illusion because the Upanishads had always held that ” there is only one Brahman, without a second.” The thought was then developed that Reality was indeed One and the diversity was an appearance arising from the ‘ignorance’ of the perceiver. Thus it is finally pronounced in the Maitri Upanishad:

”There are, assuredly, two aspects of Brahman; the formed and the formless. Now that which is the formed is unreal; that which is the formless is Real.”

Again in the Svetashvatar Upanishad the first word on the Maya doctrine is pronounced:

” This whole world, the illusion-maker projects….and in it by illusion the other is confined,

Now one should know that Nature is illusion and the Mighty Lord is the illusion-maker”

We then find that Brahman on the one hand, in its lower aspect becomes an illusion and in its higher aspect as unknowable  ( Neti, Neti)  The path to an appreciation of the concept of Brahman through realism had thus arrived at a frustrating impasse for seekers. those who had wished to immerse themselves in contemplating Brahman were left dissatisfied and confused in advancing any further on their metaphysical quest.

How the Upanishadic sages overcame this outcome and how the concept of Atman came to the rescue, putting the train back on the track,  we shall study in the next post.

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Credit: reality-choice.org

Credit: reality-choice.org

The blog began with a consideration of Upanishadic metaphysics culminating in Shankeracharya’s Advait philosophy of Transcendental Monism, – then moved to the metaphysics of science with David Bohm’s theory of an Implicate Order and we now reach metaphysics in biology with Rupert Sheldrake’s theory about Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance. While the first two were concerned with the cosmos ( and beyond) the last has more to do with manifest Nature.

 Sheldrake is an eminent biologist who had studied at Cambridge and Harvard, travelled widely attending conferences on holistic thought, science and mysticism, where Bohm and Capra represented physics and Sheldrake was the most prominent biologist. Renee Weber (see previous post) in her book ‘The Search for Unity’ extensively interviewed Sheldrake ( among others). Below I have sought to present the substance of her seminal dialogues with Sheldrake on his hypothesis on Morphogenetic Fields.

Like Bohm was dissatisfied with the lack of interpretations of quantum mechanics by scientists for us, being confined to math. and equations, so too Sheldrake was dissatisfied with the mechanistic – reductionist view of biology among

Credit: wikipedia

Rupert Sheldrake
Credit: wikipedia

physiologists, biochemists and biophysicists who he felt were more physicists and chemists than biologists. This he called a major internal crisis in biology. A dissident tradition was on the other hand looking for something going beyond such a view – this group consisted of developmental biologists and embryologist, according to him the true biologists with whom he identified. They dissented from the mechanist view that the DNA and chemicals in human organisms were the sole cause of their form and properties. Everything was attributed to DNA in the mechanistic model. He felt that this was grossly over-rated. DNA was attributed unexplained powers and properties which could not be specified in molecular terms at all. This he describes as the fantasies projected onto the DNA.

Like Bohm sought to make sense of quantum mechanics by proposing an Implicate Order (previous post), Sheldrake postulated Morphogenetic Fields to explain what the DNA clearly was not doing. All that the DNA did was to provide a code enabling cells to make certain proteins. How then the cells used the proteins, organized themselves into particular forms and grouped together in tissues of certain forms and shaped them into an organism of forms was still a mystery. He gave an example to explain. DNA gave us the bricks and mortar with which the organism is built but how these are assembled into patterns, shapes and structures remained beyond known capabilities of DNA.

Sheldrake said that primary forms are defined by two fields, gravity and electromagnetism. Gravity is a kind of formation field but at a lower level, creating forms like spheres. Electromagnetic fields are also simple in contributing form but neither can explain the complexity or multiplicity of forms of organisms. He explains that as animals and plants develop, the complexity of their structures becomes greater and greater – more form coming from less, defying physical explanations.

His theory of Morphogenetic Fields proposes that there is a field which is responsible for development of form (the things which the DNA evidently does not do ). The form pre-exists in the field which guides the developing organism and controls its form and development. Each organism has a field dedicated to it. The fields are derived from past organisms of the same species through ‘Morphic Resonance’. Past forms influence present ones through the field by a kind of resonance and present forms feed-back into the field in a two-way kind of on going evolution of the same form.

He explains ‘Morphic Resonance’ with the analogy of radio and TV. Wires and transistors receive transmissions from stations. The DNA of a chicken are the wires and transistors which receive the transmissions from the Morphogenetic field of Chickens. the present approach to biology is like looking at a picture on the TV screen and examining the transistors, wires and chemicals in the TV set without accounting for the fact that the transmissions are not coming from the box. Indeed he holds that Morphic Resonance can be tested. An example is that of rats learning a new trick in one place and the rats of the same breed then learning that trick more quickly all over the world (in a later post I propose to show numerous examples of scientifically tested cases of so-called Morphic Resonance).

Weber then asked Sheldrake about the nature and characteristics of Morphogenetic fields. He explained that the fields are invisible, and like gravity has spatial patterns. The spatial patterns of a magnetic field can be seen in the iron filings on the magnet. Therefore the fields are invisible but detectable only through their effects. Morphogenetic Fields are also invisible and undetectable directly but only through the Morphogenetic effects. However they are not ‘energetic’ like magnetic fields because they are outside space and time.

Credit: shift.is

Credit: shift.is

Forms are not mere archetypes in the mind of God unlike what Augustine would have said. Sheldrake proposes that they are evolutionary not fixed. While they are affected by past forms of the same type of organism through a kind of cumulative effect, the field is also affected by existing forms – a kind of two-way process through a feed-back. This is similar to Bohm’s idea of the Implicate Order ‘unfolding’ and then ‘enfolding’.

He agrees that there is a kind of persistence of memory on a cosmic scale. He then approaches the God thought. He believes that Nature itself has a source beyond the natural world. Creativity within the universe and the universe itself can only be explained through a kind of idea of transcendence – some non-physical, trans-physical reality, spiritual in nature.

Once again I sat back to allow the mind-blowing concepts to settle in. Yet another scientist, a biologist this time had opened his mind to speak of science and metaphysics seeking this time to explain development of form, their multiplicity and evolution. When the circuits had stopped whirring and the alignments had been made, once again a new mind-set had evolved. Nature was indeed alive, intelligent with memory, intent and transcendental influences. No less important the fact that we are not merely products of nature but active participants in its evolution. As Bohm’s Implicate Order was affected and transformed every time we ‘enfolded’ back into it, so too Sheldrake’s Morphogenetic Fields evolved through our individual ‘contributions’.

Credit: radiogrenouille.com

Credit: radiogrenouille.com

Winds of mysticism from the East, winds of science from the West, sometimes the stirring of the Universal Essence, sometimes the unfolding of The Implicate Order, together inspired me to write a poem of creation and dissolution which I share below:

 

                 A W A K E N I N G

 

A mere undoing of atom law logic –

For the world was not torn asunder

Nor did fires rain, no blood, no flood;

Trees, stars, motion, just vanished.

 

There was no residue, no ash after wood

Is fired, no drama for none to see;

Not anyone, not anything

In that silent dissolution.

 

Then as when your thoughts have given out

The mind withdrawn inwards no longer needs

To grasp and twist and fashion

He went blank

Unworldly, unconcerned,

 

Ending the infinite permutations,

Combinations,

Pain and pleasure, good and evil

The compares and contrasts

Of a lonesome preoccupation.

 

Unwilling to change His own supreme reality

Or divide as in his cell principle;

He had broken up into countless variety

Outside his indivisability

To which He now returned.

 

In the eternal darknesses

There was nothing but Him, reclining

If  He could do that – presumption of limbs

Contemplating, digesting, preparing,

 

That perfect principle

Conceived of by man as man

Was silent; holding back,

Holding in the supreme energy, in repose,

 

Then after eternity at will He broke,

Dividing into untold eons expanses,

Variety,

Into man trees stars,

Waving blinking days  and nights;

The bee and the rose

Outside of his real repose.

Credit: artoprecision.com

Credit: artoprecision.com

The state of total satiation where every need has been met in full measure, every urge satisfied infinitely, every growth potential achieved, every desire fulfilled, all goals reached, looks attractive but would  be a vegetal state like that of the non-living or dead.

Life on the contrary is like the action of a spring, a dynamic coil with inbuilt tension. The tortured coil produces movement, as our needs propel us forward. Total fulfilment equals uncoiling the spring. We would have no volition without need, no emotion if we were entirely self-sufficient, no mobility without deprivation, no joy without the experience of sorrow, no ability without challenge, no substance without shadow.

As the spring  is coiled, so too are we constituted of needs, psychological in the brain, respiratory in the lungs, nutritional in the stomach, reproductive in the loins. Needs which, even as they are  satisfied,  renew afresh with unmitigating vigour till the very waning of needs in old age is regarded as being symptomatic of the decline of the form we inherit, rather than an indication of the salvation of that form. It is from the repetitive and ordinary rotary motions of need and fulfilment, the motor activity of  consumption, that arise the hum of great and glorious achievements, noble thoughts, superior emotions, refined sentiments, ethereal qualities, outstanding creations, remarkable feats and extraordinary cooperation. Without need-based efforts and striving, would there be a churning out of this butter, a maturing of this wine?

 We fail to value an asset whenever there is over-supply. For instance an insensitivity may develop in the very rich and self-indulgent who have never known hunger even voluntarily from fasting, the philanderer who has never experienced the pangs of a lover’s longings, the spoilt child smothered by affection who successively becomes more and more self-centred, the quality of a person who has never suffered any deprivation, want or pain. What may such a person be like –  smug, self-centred, self-indulgent, impatient, self-opiniated, snobbish and selfish, possibly, if you believe in reincarnation, a first birth after reincarnating from an inferior, say animal existence, to make the experience of earthly life more tolerable without challenge.

It is ‘want’ then that teaches us understanding, need that inculcates appreciation of  like needs in others, pain that induces humanity, loss that develops care, hunger that refines taste, thirst that allows savouring of water’s true calibre, failure that spurs effort, absence that indeed makes the heart grow fonder, sorrow that arouses sensibilities, a restless quest that engenders great movements in art, challenge that produces evolution, toil that brings discovery and invention.

Insufficiency is motivating, anguish is humanizing, the coil of the spring powerful,  the tensing of a hungry cat’s muscles is a latent force, the heavy compact budding before bursting forth in a flower is blossoming. Then is not the ‘negative’ only another necessary side of the coin, sorrow and pain as necessary as joy?

But we cannot conclude that a painless state only arises from indulgent fulfillment. According to the Gita pain in the mortal world terminates with the termination of desire or greed! That is possible if the need is curbed and desire sublimated. Then follows equilibrium and peace, not the temporary kind resulting  from gratification but the more permanent one arising from restraint, simplicity in life style. discretion in consumption, unattached action, altruism, compassion, forgiveness, charity and consideration etc. In other words in giving rather than in receiving.

Need then is the great motive force, the civilizing energy, the secret impelling mechanism, the hidden spring, the cause of volition, the suction of vacuum, the lower threshold into which heat and electricity flow, the low pressure area attracting storms into its vortex, the problems that demand solution, the helpless infant that induces motherhood, the want that induces charity, the suffering that creates compassion, the striving that produces ability, the colours,aroma and nectar of flowers that attract bees purposefully, the twisted coils which spring into action, the pull of the catapult that activates the missile, the empty universe into which creation fills. The Universal Essence implanted need everywhere to animate, civilize and evolve  his creation.

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Credit: Artisi – Anneke Stewart
– realmagick.com/europesn.mandala/

 

The post is a kind of meditation on ‘similarity and difference’ which takes thoughts to and fro and back again making one a little dizzy in the process with possibly some meaning dawning finally at the end.

In the Big Bang of creation the unity of the Universal Essence transformed itself into an unimaginable diversity with intimate linkages to retain its essential unity. What therefore emerged was similarities and differences. Therefore even our thinking processes are marked by this characteristic process, to contrast and relate through comparisons. Our memory and ability to recognize can only work through this dual faculty of relating and differentiating. Our behaviour and emotions also arise through the application of this dual approach in observation. Racial prejudice from discerning differences in colour and feature, humanism from identifying similarities. We wish to retain our particular identity and culture (similarity) and repel alien influences  (difference) or  again imbibe appealing  foreign influences while maintaining our essential identity.

Thus our behavioural reflex begins to be determined by relationships of  brother, cousin, clansmen, racial type, foreigner, alien. Each category of similarity and difference produces a typical and strong reaction: sympathy  towards a similarity, as with ones siblings, ethnic group, race, nationality and the human species; interest in and curiosity for the difference  in  foreigners and aliens; or then, repulsion towards similarities and attraction towards differences as in sex ( the majority that is) or again antagonism towards differences as with alien forms and types that are dangerous, repulsive and sinister. In certain cases similarity appeals in others it repels, likewise in certain situations difference attracts in others creates opposition. Both help us relate to and understand the other who is linked in some way with us.

Nature also evolves by  introducing further variation (difference).  The Order Parrot has subdivided into numerous species and subspecies. Their similarity is that they share the features of the same order but thereafter they have numerous differences. In a larger spiral we link the parrot with  the class called birds and birds onwards to animals all with similarities and differences.  ( I am not a biologist so I may be imprecise in my broad definitions). Nature while producing variation is careful in maintaining distinction. Thus at the one end are the limits to hybridization and at the other the inefficacy and prohibitions of  inbreeding ( I call it the Brink or the Abyss). Nature refuses to allow untenable hybrids thus the mule ( horse + donkey) is a genetic punctuation mark beyond which no further confusion of  the species is tolerated, as the mule is always neuter. The Ligers ( tiger + lion) are neither attractive nor genetically strong and frequently sterile. The maintenance of distinction (different identities) is the necessary basis for sustaining creation. More variation is necessary for evolution but only up to a limit – man cannot be allowed to grow wings or birds develop hands – no unfettered permissiveness allowing haphazard mergers of attributes leading to an anarchy of unimaginable monstrosities leading to obliteration of identifiable and regulated entities  and types that are viable. However it appears that some mutations are experimented with, like the growth of the brain of the ape into the mind of man – risky but worth the risk! but no x- men for now.

At the other end is a danger of a different sort. We saw that through untenable mergers the death knell of creation could be sounded because it would lead to a tragicomic chaos and obliteration of definition through a kind of genetic babel. Equally the death knell can sound if too much order of uniformity was allowed, leading to a world of clones. Inbreeding taken to extremes could mean the production of  identical entities cloning out all differences, which of course would be like putting all your eggs in one basket. Linked to  the ‘sin’ of inbreeding is the phenomenon of asexual reproduction in some lizards where the offspring are all clones that perish together when afflicted by  a particular disease. As too much mixing ( difference) can erase identities, so also excessive uniformity (similarity) can merge them. Nature strikes a balance by allowing wide variation within reasonable limits, a great deal of variety without licence – a great many connecting links and similarities without a monotonous and repetitive homogeneity – nature allows a diverse essence. Furthermore even within the same species no two men are alike, neither their natures nor their fingerprints, not even for twins. Yet the linkages underlie the similarities connecting them stage by stage, level by level to the whole animal world and that world to the whole universe.

We are permitted a great many differences in a sea of similarity which links us to a common origin. Withdraw the difference and creation collapses into a great unity, supremely concentrated, supremely introspective, contemplating the next big bang of creation. Then from this unity again arises a chain reaction of variation, blossoming forth into creation, cycle after cycle after cycle.

Credit ISKCON

Credit ISKCON

The popular saying goes, to see is to believe. We all want and need to have a vision, be it at the cinema, the TV, a photograph, or best, in real just looking around at the beautiful world and its beautiful inhabitants. Like, if the subatomic world is a reality, I must look at it through the microscope to satisfy myself that it is. It is through the telescope that we get a vision of what the galaxy and the solar system and beyond may be like.

When all the discourses were done, knowledge imparted of the here and beyond, Gita’s  hero Arjun turned to his dear friend Krishna and expressed a simple but fundamental wish. The abundant information, wisdom and insights remained somewhat academic to him. All the metaphysical, philosophical and poetic explanations failed to satisfy the urge to experience the truth by being afforded a grand vision of that reality –  we cannot blame him for his childlike desire to see it. In such a circumstance we would too.

Arjun here is being real cute and careful in his pleadings. first with a hint of flattery, he expresses his profound gratitude for the discourses. He acknowledges this lovingly, by calling Krishna ‘lotus eyed’ , then summoning courage he blurts out: ‘yet I desire to see your sovereign form’. then he is afraid he may have asked too much and qualifies it by adding: ‘ if you O lord think it possible for me to see it, then do… show me your eternal form.’

”But you cannot see me with these eyes of yours” replies Krishna.

Here I am reminded of ‘The Black Cloud’, a Science Fiction novel by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle about a mysterious cloud that arrives above the Earth. Scientists struggle to decipher its message and finally receive from it the technology to communicate with it. They set up the apparatus as instructed. It wishes to communicate knowledge about itself and the mysterious universe to any representative. A volunteer is seated before the instrument panel and he is connected to it. As the information comes in, the volunteer’s brain cannot handle the complexity and overload, resulting in his brain short circuiting into insanity.

Likewise, limited by our mental capabilities, one can only absorb so much of reality and make sense of it. Scientists are familiar with the mysteries of Quantum Physics but can they truly comprehend it to make sense of it for us in our daily lives? Astronomers can conceptualize Black Holes and Supernovas but can they comprehend them in their totality? When a concept goes beyond our understanding we seek to symbolize it mathematically as a convenient way of simplifying the ultra-complex. A simple equation, E=MC square, makes us feel we have understood the inconceivable.We need giant telescopes to look at distant cosmic phenomena, electronic microscopes to look at the subatomic world, computers to engage in complicated math to understand Quantum facts.

No wonder Krishna realizes the severe limitations not only of human vision but of the human mind as well. He alone ‘knows Himself by Himself’ as Arjun puts it. But Arjun is a dear disciple and friend and his request has to be honoured. Therefore through his generosity and magical Yogic powers (Yoga Kshemum), Krishna confers divine sight on him – celestial eyes (Divyam Chakshuhu).

 Then, before him, now looking through the divine protective facility of celestial eyes, Arjun sees his friend and companion the charming Avatar Krishna begin to metamorphose into a cosmic colossus with hundreds of thousands of shapes glowing with a myriad colours. He sees the whole universe and everything else there is to see integrated within the form. One of the most beautiful passages of the Gita follows:

” If the splendour of a thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that would be like the splendour of that mighty being. There in the body of the God of Gods he then saw the whole universe with its many divisions drawn together into one” (Ch. XI- 12/13)

 Even the one sun in our world is so brilliant that were we to stare at it we would be blinded, though we like to bask in its light and warmth. The radiance of a thousand suns shining at once is beyond conception – it would be death to look upon such brilliance. Therefore Arjun was fortunate to have the filter of divine sight to sustain the experience and enjoy such mind-blowing brilliance of the Super Conscious Essence.

 The form adopted to show Arjun the universal vision was necessarily anthropomorphic, with eyes, mouths, heads, hands and legs, the multiple colossi stretching all ways. Doubtless to safeguard against jolting him into insanity like the one suffered by our Science fiction volunteer with the mysterious cloud. But in fact a form was not relevant to the content which conveyed the substance of the message of divine reality. Arjun remarks that he sees an infinity of forms on all sides without a beginning a middle or an end. We cannot then think in terms of one form only. He sees the ‘sun and the moon in the eyes’, in other words the planetary systems and the physical universe. He sees beings flowing into him in the fires of dissolution and beings flowing out in the catharsis of creation.

 Arjun is overwhelmed and fearful and his hair stands on end (Romanchit). Trembling, he confesses that looking upon this awesome reality he is bewildered and fearful. Yet he is courageous enough to ask:

”Who are you, I know not your purpose and desire to know you”. The vision has not sated his curiosity, rather he now dares to ask that cosmic colossi ‘without beginning or middle or end’ and planetary systems orbiting in what must be His eyes, who He is! Like a courageous soldier he demands to know Him. For that mighty eternal colossus the impertinence of the puny but brave soul must have been endearing.

From that radiating cosmic vision comes a deep sonorous reply:

”I am the mighty world destroying time”

 He doesn’t say much more. In the Gita, rather than the universal form speaking of His infinite greatness, it is Arjun who overawed, begins to describe Him. Wide eyed he calls out: ” You are the primal cause, abode of the universe, the imperishable, the being and the non-being, the primal god, the ancient one, the one who pervades the universe, the adorable, the greatest Guru and implores his forgiveness for his inadvertent transgressions and presumptuous behavior as a friend, asking the Lord to be compassionate ”as a father to a son, a friend to a friend and as a lover to his beloved”( not overawed enough to give up friendship and love).

 He admits that while he ”rejoices” at having seen what has never been seen before he is confounded with fear at what he is witnessing and can no longer bear to look upon such immense glory and fearful splendour and pleads that he would once again like to see his mortal friend. How very touching the melodramatic scene must have been.

 Thereupon the Great Lord, as it were, collapses in a moment the ‘Virat’ form with the brightness of a thousand suns resuming his mortal form of the Avatar, the gentle Krishna, touchingly consoling and comforting the terrified Arjun. The wonderful Arjun, quite like a Greek hero, courageous and righteous, rejoices on seeing his own familiar gentle friend Krishna once again.

The cosmic vision may appear weird to those not brought up in Hindu culture, but we must remember that it was explained in an indian scripture for an Indian audience over 2000 years ago. The vision would have been different, say like Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, painted at the Sistine Abbey, if a disciple of Christ had asked him the same question. In the Gita Krishna clarifies this in a simple verse:

‘In whatever way men seek me, in the same way do I carry out their desires, men pursue my path O Arjun, in many ways.

‘Whatever divine form any devotee with faith wishes to worship, the same faith in him I make unwavering.’

‘Endowed with that faith, he engages in the worship of that form and from it obtains his desires, which are actually ordained by Me.’

nature

Nature’s Spirit
Credit: Painting by Josphine Wall – josephinewall.com

The Gita says that the Universal Essence is everywhere, ubiquitous. I have often wondered how can we sense this phenomenal presence in our daily lives? An intuitive thought suddenly struck me one day. Before I share that thought let me quote from the Gita about the manner in which divinity manages to be universally present:

” With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes and hands and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists enveloping all.

Shining through the functions of the senses, yet without the senses; Unattached yet sustaining all; devoid of earthly qualities, yet He experiences them.

Without and within all beings; the unmoving and also the moving; because of His subtlety He is incomprehensible; He is far and near.

It does sound paradoxical and quite like a riddle in a crossword puzzle. So what thought comes to your mind? How could this universal presence without senses, hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouths manifest itself so we are sure of its existence? Returning to my eureka moment, my sudden realization was that it was so evident, why did I not see it before? Nature of course, that intangible spirit moving everywhere; teaching birds how to nest, trees when to shed leaves and when to flower; creating attraction between male and female to mate and procreate; changing the seasons; keeping the rare balances of temperature, magnetic fields, gravity, pressure and ozone covers and on and on, for survival of life and orderly behaviour of matter, solar systems and galaxies – Nature with a big N. Again the clue was already there when Krishna tells Arjun that when he releases the forces of creation he calls upon His Nature to order it:

”I animate my nature and creation occurs under her laws”

Yes, Nature is the manifestation and evidence of the universal presence of divinity, in the cell, the atom, the seasons, through instinct, reproductive drives, laws of physics, chemistry etc.

My poem seeks to bring this out:

 

                                             THE  SPIRIT

Always on the prowl,

Disembodied mind,

Urging a twig to sprout

Flower in spring, moving to bring

Two halves together in a mating.

 

More skilful than a pair of forceps

In delivering, urging a new calf

To hit the right spot for suckling,

This thing we call instinct;

 

A spirit, that cannot see or hear

With eyes or ears, nor feel

With any fingers, move on feet,

Yet it has being, materializing form

From ether with swift precision.

 

Shaping, erasing,

Severing with bacterial surgeries,

Composing diversities,

Stepping quickly back from the brink.

 

Masterly miniaturised

Double Helix

In every feature

Of moving living things;

With the alphabets of genetics

It thinks.

 

In a dimension

Of light and sound,

It has grown senses everywhere

To listen and peep from

At a living world

Of its own creation.

Plaque of a Yakshī (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta, Credit: Honolulu Academy of Arts

Plaque of a Yakshī (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta,
Credit: Honolulu Academy of Arts

Krishna enlightens ArjunCredit: International Society For Krishna consciousness - ISKCON

Krishna enlightens Arjun
Credit: International Society For Krishna consciousness – ISKCON

The Krishna of the Hindu epic the Mahabharat is no longer the adolescent, mischievous  romantic who stole the hearts of the village maidens and companions. The Avatar has now assumed kingship and matured into an astute diplomat. He is here engaged in playing the role of mediator between estranged cousins, each representing on the one hand the forces of clarity and on the other ignorance and darkness. When his mediation fails he joins the ranks of clarity and good against those of injustice, arrogance, hauteur, deceit, subterfuge, atrocity, brutality, rape, intemperance, intolerance, wrath and perverted wisdom.

On the battlefield he is the charioteer of the hero Arjun, the embodiment of righteousness and virtue. The image of Arjun, the upright and humble warrior on his chariot with his divine charioteer holding the reins, is etched indelibly in the popular Hindu psyche, with allegorical connotations: Arjun is the individual Soul(Atma). the chariot is his body, the horses are his senses, the charioteer is his conscience, the Universal Essence, the Super-soul (Paramatma), incarnated as the Avatar Krishna. The forces of good and evil are arraigned against each other on the battlefield of earthly existence.

It is in such a setting that Arjun is suddenly overcome by remorse, doubt and confusion ( as we all do from time to time) over the ethics of confronting his cousins in warfare and refuses to fight when the bugles (conches) have already sounded. He begins the dialogue by questioning the Avatar. Through the dialogue emerge Krishna’s seminal discourses on numerous themes, including the myth of creation, the nature of the soul, the attributes of the Universal Essence, reincarnation, the theory of karma, the role of Nature,  righteous action, the purpose of life and the path to liberation and enlightenment.

Below are only presented those verses which explain the nature of the Universal Essence (Brahma), the so called Godhead (Ishwara) and its counterpart the individual Soul (Atma). When Arjun asks his ‘friend’ and mentor the Avatar, time and again in the course of the dialogue, who He may indeed be, Krishna tells him all. The Gita (Song) is composed in exquisite verse in Sanskrit.

                                THE  BHAGAVAD  GITA

                              (THE  SONG  CELESTIAL)

                                          – excerpts –

Arjun, the world is made up of the perishable and the imperishable,

Perishable are living creatures, the imperishable is the Self,

I am beyond both, the Supreme Self 

Pervading the worlds as God.

 

The whole universe of the moving and the unmoving

Are joined together in Me,

The whole universe undivided, yet appearing divided

In its manifold diversity,

Are drawn together as one in Me.

I am therefore the same in all beings,

The imperishable  in the perishable,

He who sees me everywhere and sees all in Me,

He is never lost.

 

I am the same towards all beings, 

For me there are none hateful none dear,

But those who worship Me, I am with them,

And they are with Me.

 

 The one who applies the same measure for all,

For pleasure and for pain, as he applies to himself,

That one is the best of men.

 

I am the origin of all, from me all things evolve.

After an age, all beings return to my nature

And issue forth again with another age.

I animate my Nature and creation occurs under her laws,

Nature produces the moving and the unmoving

Thus the worlds revolve.

 

I am Time, mighty and world consuming.

the supreme Universal Essence,

Neither Being nor Non-Being.

If the light of a thousand suns,

Should suddenly shine in the heavens

It would be like the light of my Being.

 

I am the father of the world, the mother,

The grand-sire, and the friend,

I am the goal, the supporter, the witness, the sanctuary, 

The origin, the dissolution, the foundation

And the seed imperishable.

 

I am the taste in water, the radiance of the sun and the moon,

Manhood in man, the life force,

I am sweet fragrance in the earth, the brilliance of fire,

Austerity of the ascetics, intelligence of the intelligent,

Splendour of the splendid, might of the mighty.

Of secrets I am silence,  I am wisdom of the wise,

Of sciences the science of the Self,

I am glory, fortune, memory and patience,

Of meters I am the beat of the universe,

Of seasons the season of spring, I am victory I am resolution,

I am the goodness of the good.

Of waters I am the ocean, of mountains the Himalayas,

The seed of all existence am I.

 

Whenever there is decay of virtue

And rise of anarchy, I embody Myself.

For the protection of the good,

 Destruction of the wicked

and the establishment of righteousness,

I am born from age to age.

 

I am the Self seated in the hearts of all beings.

An eternal portion of Myself becomes

The eternal souls in the living world

Drawing to itself  Nature’s five senses and the mind.

The soul is neither born nor does it die,

Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient.

When the Soul leaves the body,

It takes along the acquired qualities of a lifetime.

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

So the embodied one, casting off worn out bodies,

enters others that are new.

The Soul is  stable, immovable, everlasting

It is not manifest, is unthinkable,and immutable, a marvel.

 

When the disciplined mind is fixed on the Soul,

Free from distraction of objects and desires,

Like a lamp which does not flicker in a windless place,

Attaining stillness, it beholds the Self

And is filled with joy.

Thus constantly holding the spirit in harmony,

It eventually senses the infinite Universal Essence

And with contact attains bliss.

He then sees himself, the same in all,

 Sees me everywhere and all in Me.

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolvedCredit ISKCON

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolved
Credit ISKCON

                                                             

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