Archives for posts with tag: Religion and Spirituality
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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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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.

photons1

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.

credit: scienceblogs.com

credit: scienceblogs.com

Before we continue from my last post to witness the evolution of Upanishidic thought let us savour the speculative poetry on Creation of an earlier scripture the Rig – Veda, the earliest Indian treatise known which would give one an idea about the nature of speculative enquiry in that dawn of history of man. The Rig – Veda is estimated by Western scholars to have been composed between 1700 to 1100 B.C. and would therefore be man’s earliest efforts at coming to grips with the mysteries of the world in which he finds himself:

                                           C R E A T I O N

“Then was not non-existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.

What covered it, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there,unfathomed depths of water?

Death was not then, nor was there ought immortal, no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider.

That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was undiscriminated chaos.

All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning, desire, the primal seed and germ of spirit.

Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?

There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?

The gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,

Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.”

I have yet to come across a more moving poem ( when I read this, over three thousand-year old poem, believe me my hair stands on end) as earnest uncomplicated and uninhibited and with no presumptions whatsoever yearning for an answer ( He verily knows it, or perhaps He knows not! – can any latter day believer dare ask such a question??)  – that for me was the spirit of ancient India’s quest and enquiry, fearless in its scepticism,  which eventually produced first the intense speculations of the Upanishads and later the crystalized and focussed efforts of the Gita to reply that pristine query, which for me it did.

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

The Upanishads are among the world’s oldest metaphysical treatises representing the philosophical inspirations and conclusions of Indian sages deep in their forest hermitages regarding the nature of reality. Scholars universally hold that they could not have been composed later than the 7th century B.C. and predate the glorious 6th century when a sudden spate of thinkers and prophets like Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Homer and Pythagoras propounded new philosophies and launched great religions.

Thus at the dawn of history these pioneering and extraordinary thinkers pondered answers to fundamental questions about the nature of existence, the cosmos, man and nature and their inter-relations. From their early insights they advanced to profound philosophical and spiritual revelations  which eventually crystalized into the Monism of Hindu beliefs, the concept of the unity of the created universe, integral with the metaphysical world of the spirit, the concepts of the Soul at the heart of physical reality and the immanence of the spiritual essence in all we behold – and finally the nature of the supreme Universal Essence, the supersoul and Godhead.

Further introspection produced the fundamental philosophical premises of reincarnation through transmigration of the soul, the doctrine of Karma, the concept of Illusion and their ethical and moralistic implications. The development and crystallization of the thought has determined indelibly for millennia the belief systems, spirituality and ethics of the Hindu mind right down to the present day.

All Indian philosophical and religious traditions, whether theistic, pantheistic, materialistic or atheistic derive their ultimate inspiration from this seminal body of introspection of the thinkers and sages of yore, ruminating without any inhibitions or constraints on questions about the origin, nature and destiny of man and the universe, seeking to find answers to grasp the essence of a universal truth.

The verses are presented in Socratic fashion through dialogues between seekers after knowledge and their mentors, eminent sages, who attempt to answer  questions with questions of their own, prying, so to speak, answers from the questioners themselves. The dialogues are between the sages and their wives, kin, or disciples who present theories and propositions of their own which are either inadequate or only partially true. Thus the arguments move back and forth as the intuitive knowledge enhances and evolves. Then finally the seers who have arrived at their conclusions through insight and intuition present their vision of the truth, which has continued to inspire Hindu thoughts and beliefs to this day.

What is remarkable and wonderful in all this is that there is no  predetermined assumption nor a preordained dogma but a rare and exhilarating freedom of thought which succeeded in  grasping the truth which later crystallized as established theory or dogma. It is like a clear slate suddenly filling up with extraordinary and seminal unheard of propositions dispelling confusion and untenable and naive assumptions of pre-history.

Thus in a sense the Upanishads expose the genesis and creation of Hindu beliefs and dogma. One becomes as it were, a witness to the very process whereby a body of beliefs developed and matured. Such a vision of evolving thought is rarely available generally. It is as if in studying the evolution of man one encountered the fossils of dinosaurs, apes and our immediate ancestors the Neanderthals and Homo-erectus.

This evolution of Hindu thought witnessed in the Upanishads ( ending ignorance through knowledge in Sanskrit) is replete with numerous aphorisms and superb Sanskrit poetry and mystical insights.

The Upanishads themselves form part of the Vedas, considered by Hindus in general as the repository and fountainhead of all knowledge and religious and spiritual inspiration. Emerging from the inspirational womb of the Upanishads was the primary Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita.

Thus an examination of the evolution of Upanishadic thought would prove invaluable for the scholar of metaphysics in general and Hinduism in particular in witnessing the progression of man’s quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe of which he is a part.

I shall limit this post merely to introducing the Upanishads in the interests of brevity, taking up the review of the evolution of its thought in the next post. However in closing I wish to underline that what informs the dialogues are infectous and refreshing arguments and counter arguments between curious scholar – sages and students seeking to fathom the mysteries of temporal and spiritual existence transcending limiting frontiers of understanding through an unrelenting quest for truth, which is finally presented in their verses.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad hails that extraordinary journey from ignorance to enlightenment:

” From the unreal lead me to the real

From darkness lead me to light

From death lead me to immortality” 

( Asato ma sat gamaya

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Mrityor ma amritam gamaya )

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

Credit: beforeitwnews.com

Credit: beforeitwnews.com

Ingo Swann, who died this year, was one of the most remarkable psychics of our times. Considered a pioneering figure in ESP related ‘remote viewing’, his remarkable feats so impressed the establishment that the prestigious Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Princeton, Mind Science Foundation, San Antonio and several others involved him in their ESP research programmes. The results were of such outstanding quality that the CIA ( concerned about the Russian Intelligence Organizations’ own research in the field) engaged him in what came to be known as the ‘Stargate Project’ for 25 years before abandoning it in 1995, with a change in command, on account of the results being vague and ambiguous for the purpose of intelligence gathering.

The range of ESP connected abilities attributed to him included first and foremost, ‘Remote Viewing’, then psychokinesis, mentally influencing growth of plants, influencing temperature in a controlled environment, ‘out of body Travel’ ( thereby detecting a ring of tiny asteroids around Jupiter, subsequently confirmed by scientists) and influencing stable magnetic fields of a super cooled  junction in a quark detector (considered an amazing feat by scientists).

ingo swann

Ingo Swann

In his book ”Natural ESP – A Layman’s Guide To Unlocking The Extra Sensory Power Of your Mind” ( Bantam Books 1987 ) he holds that potentially an ESP ability is present universally and is not unique to a psychic. In the book he seeks to show how anyone can develop this ability by employing his methodology for ‘remote viewing’ through drawing, sketching and doodling.

The parts of the book which interested me were not the exercises to teach ESP techniques to the common public but his deeply insightful metaphysical observations about the source and context of the phenomenon. Being an adept in the field and a gifted practitioner of the ‘art’ no one would be better qualified in providing a scientific and philosophical context for ESP

He opens by asserting that the study and practice of ESP has been stagnating for over a century since interest was first aroused in scientific circles, mainly on account of remaining in a traditional groove of enquiry fettered by labels which were not really relevant and the use of verbalization ( rather than the use of sketches and doodling) which restricted and inhibited the process rather than revealed the true nature and source of ESP.

In the course of the extensive experiments and demonstrations at the prestigious institutions he was associated with, he came to the realization that what was equally important was the mental processes as much as the results for providing a clue to the nature of the phenomenon. He therefore began to focus attention on his own mental activity to determine what was happening.

A particular experiment finally became the ‘clincher’ which opened the window to reveal the truth – Swann says ”as a result of it, my life was never to be the same”. In this experiment in ‘remote viewing’ two objects were placed in a container directly above his head which he was expected to view ‘remotely’ while he was strapped to a chair with electrodes. He then ‘remote sensed’ and sketched the following symbols which arose in his conscious mind;  (1) U T    (2)  dn-L  He wondered whether these were distorted letters from Arabic. The actual objects were  (1) a card with the figure 5 and (2) the words 7 U P . Those conducting the experiment however immediately realized what had happened. Swann’s remote sense had viewed the objects upside down – join u and T and the figure 5 appears – reverse dn – L and you get 7 UP.

In that instant Swann realized that there was a faculty within him which had observed the objects without the verbalization filters or internal editing in his conscious mind being activated. He arrived at the grand realization that the inner faculty had its own logic and rules of observation, working on a different mechanism of its own rather than a reliance on the physical senses. He named this faculty within us as the ‘ESP Core’, the psychic mind. He also realized that studies of ESP so far had concentrated on the notion that the mind ‘goes out’ and senses the target, whereas the truth was that the information is actually streaming into the mind from outside. The sensing mechanism plugs into a Universal Field of information which is beyond time and space in a ‘second reality’ beyond the physical plane. the information comes into the mind without the use of the physical senses.

He enumerates three broad categories of ESP:

(1) Sensing of physical objects ( as in the experiments of ‘remote viewing’

(2) Receiving a new idea as in inventions and creative acts

(3) Mystical insights, intuition, hunches etc.

He then postulates the concept of the Mind Mound which is ‘overgrown’ ( like in archaeological excavations) by presumptions, preconceptions inculcated by culture, education, beliefs, memory, imagination, ideas,and uncontrolled thoughts, impeding the passage of ESP signals into the conscious mind and acting as barriers. Within the mound lies hidden the ESP Core. The barriers are erected by the mind to maintain rationality and protect its own vital functions from getting overwhelmed by information streaming in from the Second Reality. This resistance can be identified as the ego which enables the physical entity to survive in its own material reality. Without the barriers the conscious mind would be inundated by more information than it could handle. Yet occasionally, vital ESP signals like strong intuition, creative ideas, foreboding, awareness of loved ones being in trouble or danger,etc are allowed through with barriers inactivated when vitally necessary.

Over the years, given his own abilities and experiences he concluded that our awareness of the physical world and our thinking experience of it is not the only form of consciousness we possess. There is a second consciousness, the ESP Core which integrates with both the physical world and with the Second Reality beyond it. By now I could guess what would be coming next.

The ESP Core he then calls the Deeper Self. The Second Reality, inevitably, he links ( as I expected him to) to concepts propounded by scientists and Quantum physicists and thinkers as the Quantum reality, the Implicate Order ( David Bohm), the Zero Point field ( Lynne Mc Taggart), the Cosmic Web ( Fritjof Capra). The Deeper Self or the psychic mind he states may not exist only in the brain but indeed extends beyond the physical body.

He then equates his idea of the Deeper Self with Rupert Sheldrake’s ‘Conscious Self’. Sheldrake, the renowned biochemist and plant physiologist, states that this is not merely derived from matter. As he puts it, while the Conscious Self interacts with the motor field of the body and the changes taking place in the brain through the body’s interaction with the environment and circumstances of life, yet it remains ‘over and above them’. The properties of the Conscious Self cannot be reduced to matter, energy and motor fields but derives from another reality beyond time and space. It has properties unlike a purely physical system and it is this that accounts for parapsychological phenomena we encounter on the physical plane.

It becomes obvious that Sheldrake’s Conscious Self and Swann’s Deeper Self, in traditional, theological terms is none other than the Soul, the Oversoul, the Superself, the divine Self and Cosmic consciousness. This begins to match the Hindu concept of the soul which I have laboured to explore and present throughout this blog. This soul according to the Gita is not the AGENT of action but the quiet unobtrusive motivator and witness. Swann’s conscious levels of the mind in the upper reaches of the Mind Mound constitutes our ego, which is the independent AGENT of action influenced but not controlled by the Deeper Self. His ESP Core is indeed the soul, situated both within us and extending beyond into the Universal Consciousness. The Second Reality beyond space and time that he speaks of , from which the ESP inputs arrive, are none other than the Universal Consciousness  (Brahman, Cosmic Web etc).

Swann’s researching the ESP phenomenon thus reveals valuable insights which parallel Eastern Metaphysics and provide an understanding from the psychological and scientific angle and the philosophical and metaphysical angle of the paranormal and ESP phenomena occurring in our daily lives.

The ESP Core ( the Pineal gland, the Third Eye, the Ajna Chakra ? ) is the seat of our soul aligned to our physical body and its ego component in the brain, seeking to reveal the paranormal and extra sensory truths derived from the cosmic Web, as intuition, creativity and the paranormal abilities of ESP, when we, the ego are willing and able to listen.

Credit; samanthanoto.com

Credit; samanthanoto.com

ram sita best

A routine visit to a place of worship could be meaningless in uplifting us spiritually and yet we make those visits imagining that by so doing we may receive grace. Some look for signs during such visits that their prayers have been answered – kind of demand and receive – I offer my prayers, now your turn, fulfill my wishes. I am sure divinity if present there remains unmoved while we continue with the rituals hoping for results. Only some go to such places for communion without expectations, which should be the only reason for such a visit.

My poem bringing this out:

 

                  T  E  M  P  L  E

 

Temple bells toll,

Marigolds,

Butter heavy burning wicks,

And sweet insense,

Make hesitant hands fold

Against the fact of stoic idols

Of marble and gold.

 

A rose falls to the joy of a wish granted,

Someone stands in the corner and weeps;

The lamp glows in understanding,

The haze of insense as it wafts afreah

Shows the marble smile grow subtle,

Meaningful, promising.

 

People finger the engraven figures

Of marble,

Finger their doubts and hope

Against hope;

Wide eyed they wander,

Circumambulating.

 

While the misunderstood idol

Of marble and gold

Turns to stone.

 

Then from across,

A little girl’s song

To herself

Shakes the temple walls

With a presence

And no rose falls.

KALI YANTRA - geometrical portrayal of Goddess Kali Credit: sics.se

KALI YANTRA – geometrical portrayal of Goddess Kali
Credit: sics.se

The primal energy of the creative force in Hindu theology is conceived as a feminine entity. This is quite remarkable for a country which is essentially patriarchical. Worship of the Goddess as mother is fairly universal with major festivals being dedicated to honouring her with chanting, prayer, song and dance. Millions also trek to pilgrimage sites with fervour, devotion and resolve to receive her maternal blessings and empowerment.

The Universal Essence is symbolized as partly masculine, the epitome of truth, consciousness, calm and bliss and partly feminine, creative, volatile, energetic and emotional. The masculine element, Shiva, contemplates creation through his eternal meditation and is regarded as the eternal yogi, while his counterpart Shakti ( energy in Sanskrit) is cosmic energy that enacts that creation. Shiva is the seed, Shakti is the womb.

LAKSHMI

LAKSHMI
Credit: vedicgoddess.weebly.com

Shakti is depicted as having three manifestations or aspects. Lakshmi is its benign form generating prosperity, growth, health, well-being and good fortune. One finds her portrait on an altar in most shops and commercial establishments, in addition to homes to ensure the success of the enterprise and well-being of the family.

SARASVATI

SARASVATI ( painting by Raja Ravi Varma)
Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Sarasvati is the intellectual aspect generating scholarship, the fine arts, music dance and  knowledge. Her images with Sitar in hand adorn the stage where dance and music concerts are to be held or at inaugurations of cultural events. Students before joining an educational institution or proceeding to take an exam will seek her blessings.

Kali is Shakti’s darker aspect, symbolizing inexorable time (Kal), mortality and the ephemeral nature of physical existence – energy in a constant state of flux. Together the three aspects of Shakti create, facilitate growth, enhance the quality of life through prosperity and the creativity of the arts and finally terminate it to recycle the process again and again.

DURGA

DURGA
Credit: hindudevotionalblog.com

The three Goddesses when combined as one force are pictured as Durga displaying beauty and strength as a many armed maiden astride a lion ( or tiger) furiously battling the forces of inertia, atrophy, darkness and evil represented as the buffalo-demon which she slays even as it seeks to change form to deceive her.

Kali  ( the dark one and time in Sanskrit) is the most striking and fearsome aspect of Shakti. She is shown as standing with one foot irreverently placed on the chest of her recumbent lord Shiva, the blissful representation of the Universal Essence whose inner force she actually is! According to myth she was conceived to destroy demonic entities who had overpowered the  demigods and subverted nature imperilling creation. Even after their destruction her furious destructive energy could not be contained thus threatening the very creation she had been produced to save ( much like nuclear energy gone awry). Shiva then as a last resort threw himself at her feet to contain her fury but she carrying forward with uncontrolled momentum inadvertently placed her foot on his breast Thus the epitome of truth, consciousness and bliss, lord of the universe, lay under the foot of his own power time, which strode over him as if to declare that she alone ruled the material world of opposites ( good and evil, light and dark, pain and pleasure, love and hate, life and death). As she places her energetic foot on the chest of the universal lord she suddenly realizes what she has done and in embarrassment sticks out her tongue, realizing that the physical world is only a mirage created by the Universal Lord. The allegory is stark. The uncontrolled physical momentum of the physical world can only be restrained and tamed when it over steps its spiritual base and in so doing is shocked back into equilibrium.

The stirring, striking and paradoxical imagery of Kali with Shiva underfoot took the Hindu psyche by storm and is abundantly on display at meditation centres and places of worship where people hope to overcome persistent obstacles in their path. In Kolkata this representation of our combined spiritualism and materialism is worshipped at the famous temples of Kaligahat and Dakshineshwar where goats are sacrificed to appease her fury. Unlike most branches of Hindu worship  vegetarianism is not observed here and in place of honey water and milk cakes being offered to worshippers as sacred blessing the practice in many Kali temples is to offer wine and preparations of meat.

It is Kali who helps brides consummate their marriage, it is she who protects us from physical traumas. I composed a poem as a tribute to the goddess who though fearsome as life itself is yet full of hope and maternal concern.

KALI

KALI
Credit: fanpop.com

 

                      M O  T  H  E  R

 

Red stamens

Stick out

Like her tongue

In hibiscus garlands,

Prescribed adornments

In Kolkata.

 

The great Shiva

Lies prostrate

Underfoot,

Holocaust inevitable

Contained

In Kolkata.

 

Life blood is stark red

Against the darkness

Of death,

But together,fundamental

Cosmic flux,

In Kolkata.

 

Her spirit is everywhere;

In the parting

Of bridal hair,

anointed vermillion,

Lissom bodies bare

In Kolkata.

 

Dear mother,

Protector,

In fearsome aspect

Is abroad;

As we are secure

In Kolkata.

 

Dakishneshwar Temple

Dakishneshwar Temple
Credit: en.wikipedia.org

 

Credit: wallpapre.brothersoft.com

Credit: wallpapre.brothersoft.com

 

In probing the ‘After-Life’, World of Spirits, we moved from Near Death Experiences to episodes of Past Life repressions by eminent psychiatrists and hypnotherapists providing glimpses of that alternative reality which many described as our real Home World. We now look at it more closely through the eyes of a renowned American psychic and medium. Sylvia Browne for the past 50 years and more has established herself as possibly the most remarkable psychic, medium, channel and clairvoyant of the New Age, whose personal experiences and hypnotic regression appear to reveal all the secrets of that mystical world where souls are at home before and after life on the physical plane.

Her findings have been steeped in controversy with allegations of fraud by none other than a former estranged husband. Many of her forecasts and predictions have been proved erroneous and eminent sceptics and atheists have challenged her claims in the public domain. Yet, police and even the FBI are believed to have quietly relied on her sixth sense to apprehend criminals with satisfaction. She claims that these challenges were indeed of her own choosing in the Theme of Life Chart of her present incarnation wherein her soul itself inserted such negativities to hone her skills and for its own evolution in overcoming them.  Frankly I don’t see why a psychic is made to indulge in the business of making forecasts. A psychic is not an astrologer or palmiest after all. There is little doubt that she has paranormal abilities which does not need to be tested in such a public manner. It is like asking a great athlete to prove himself not merely on the parallel bars but to swallow fire and pierce his cheeks with flaming rods. She is a psychic not a circus performer.

If we wander into any Barnes and Noble bookshop in NYC to the section on philosophy, mysticism, the paranormal and New Age, we would find a whole shelf dedicated to the display of her books, several of which have been on the # 1 New York Times’ bestseller list. One can also find her numerous interviews with Larry King and the Montel Williams Show and several others on the internet. She has also set up a church inspired by the Gnostics called Novus Spiritus and the Nirvana Foundation of Psychic Research. She has also studied theology and world religions and interacted with priests, yogis, Tantriks, nuns, rabbis and Zen masters.

Her psychic abilities became evident from early childhood. She claims that her family history is full of psychics for almost 300 years, including her grandmother, son and granddaughter. She began having visions and premonitions of impending events from the age of five. As she grew to adulthood and began having frequent visitations from her Spirit Guides Francine and Raheim she began to doubt her sanity believing that she now fitted perfectly the description of a schizophrenic until Francine sought to disabuse her of her fears. Francine then by pre-arrangement materialized before her sceptical parents and sister. After that she never questioned her sanity and seriously began her quest. She began to give talks and lectures, many of which were ‘delivered’ by her Spirit Guide Francine by channeling through her. She also began regressive hypnotherapy to help cure psychic conditions.

Her knowledge of the ‘Other Side’ comes from her perpetually chattering companion and Spirit Guides Francine and Raheim, her own Near Death Experience (NDE), her claims to Astral Travel together with those of her son Christopher and granddaughter  in dreams and trances ( Out of Body Experiences OBE) and her questioning of patients and clients through regressive hypnotherapy.

Sylvia Browne

Sylvia Browne

The picture she paints generally matches those of persons who have undergone NDE and the reports of Regression therapies of psychiatrists and hypnotherapists we have covered earlier:  the soul moving out of the body and viewing it, the tunnel into which it is drawn, the growing light on the other side, the reception by guide Spirits, relatives and friends, recuperation, reconditioning and healing, the review of the last life, realization, acknowledgement and judgement of ones own failures in the charted mission goals that one had set, discussions with the Council of Advanced souls, the Elders, further research and threadbare examination of the course of that life, choice of reincarnation by the soul itself rather than God or Karma or anyone else, the existence of more elevated souls that do not need to incarnate, like elders, angels, teachers and Masters, the peaceful and tranquil, non judgemental environment of the Spirit world full of love and familiarity, preparation for reincarnation into the physical world at an appropriate time of the soul’s choosing, freedom to choose location, environment, parents, family and chart of a new life, including negativities and challenges and time and manner of exit, the dire need for reincarnation for soul’s evolution through experience of negativities on the physical plane and the challenge to overcome them, the presence of dedicated Spirit Guides throughout ones life time, the acceptance of all religious denominations and cultures as equally necessary and ennobling.

While all these attributes of life on the Other Side are familiar to us from previous posts, in her path breaking book ‘Life on the Other Side – A Psychics Tour of the After Life’ ( copyright @ Sylvia Browne, SIGNET 2001, New American Library, a division of Penguins Group USA) she dwells in great detail on remarkable facts about the spiritual world on the Other Side which provide fresh insight on a topic hardly explored elsewhere.

What emerges is a kind of parallel living world in an alternate dimension ( barely a few feet away) which in many ways resembles our physical world as a kind of prototype. Incredibly, the spirit world is remarkably similar to the physical one with all the continents (add Atlantis) oceans, mountains and peoples inhabiting it as spirits. A glorious perpetual dawn ( no day and night), and clement weather (no storms) however distinguish it from the volatility of the physical one. It is also ‘timeless’ and its inhabitants are all aged about 30 years in perpetuity. Thought creates instant mobility ( no need for cars or vehicles). Thought also provides instant construction of homes, ones we have always dreamed of ( no need for masons or architects). Individual personalities and preferences are the permanent  identity and stamp of each souls’ identity, some have humour, others are serious and sedate etc all with diverse abilities and ambitions. Spirits are not intangible or wispy but have bodies and even, unbelievably, organs ( heart, lungs, kidneys – the works), though there is no production of ‘waste’, no ageing, no disease. A soul can enjoy eating what it likes in the early stages of rehabilitation, though it is not necessary for survival – you may cook your favourite meal for a while till you don’t want to anymore. There is no termination of ‘life’ which is eternal. Communication is possible through language or telepathy. Every manner of entertainment is universally available.

Flora and fauna are at their resplendent best, never withering, with unmatched scenic beauty and gardens. animals and birds abound adding to the beauty of the spiritual ‘nature, though there are no insects!. Spirits specialize in all manner of activity and research. Most inventions on the physical plane are first conceived by spirits in their research centres ( they are presently working on eradicating AIDS and Cancer)! Spirits pursue careers as scientists, artists, philosophers, students, performers, teachers, thinkers, healers – you name it. Schools, libraries, research centres, areas for socializing and recreation abound. In a word, spirits are busy with their lives and have fun also. Spirits can also adopt any appearance they wish without loosing their identity or recognition.

Spirits however do not suffer from anger, hatred, envy, greed, or any other negative quality. spirits also do not engage in sex ( sorry). However when they feel deeply intimate toward one another, they ‘merge’ exquisitely, sharing in harmony all their knowledge of one another, which is more profound, intimate and satisfying than sex could ever be !  Spirits also have gender and retain the same gender throughout eternity, despite reincarnating as either male or female for evolution. The institution of marriage does not exist on the spirit side ( redundant), nor are there any families, though there are friendly groups and clusters of like-minded souls at the same level of development who are closer than any family could be.

On arrival back at the spirit world the soul observes certain important buildings. The Hall of Wisdom where scanning machines help one to review in holograms, ones past life experiences, for evaluation. Then there are the Towers, where troubled and disoriented returnees are cacooned for healing. There are also the Hall of Records and the Hall of Justice where distinguished Elders help in a detailed examination of lives on the physical plane.The Hall of Tones is for meditation and chanting while the Hall of Voices for hearing the celestial songs of angels.

In due course spirits decide to reincarnate (reluctantly) after deciding upon a chart for a new incarnation. Before departure they have the privilege of an audience with a messiah of their preference ( Christ, Buddha etc)  which is fulfilling. energizing and empowering beyond measure. The final stage is a twilight sleep and transfer to a waiting womb of ones choice.

The story of an After Life Paradise through a psychic and medium’s perspective and experience, does appear at times like an incredible fairy tale or a scene from a fantastic science fiction movie, particularly the aspects which show that the spirit world is quite as tangible and physical as our own. But this should be neither surprising nor novel. All religions after all speak of such a Paradise, a ‘land of milk and honey’. peace and plenty, eternal fulfillment and bliss, constant satisfaction. We have the Christian Paradise full of angels, the Muslim Zannah with Houris, the Hindu Swarg Lok with dancing Apsaras – if you research these concepts in the respective scriptures you will find some echoes of Sylvia’s Paradise.

Sylvia also speaks of a dark side, though it is not ‘Satanic’ in the sense of being ruled by a Satan with horns and a pitchfork. Those beings who commit irremediable crimes with no trace of remorse or repentance are souls that deny and refuse to embrace the light and are neither received by the light, at death nor find a place in ‘Paradise’ but quickly return through a dark abyss into another womb until some action eons later provides a glimmer of hope. Even they are not eternally lost though, being doomed to return age after age as dark entities without spirit guides to help them along the way, particularly because they reject help. The effort to redeem them however continues and one day they may see and accept the light. They till then dwell in a dark and lonely isolation and they may well intrude into your charted course of life uninvited as someone in your closest circle who exhibits evil traits with little hope of redemption.

Sylvia’s ‘Paradise’ appears to reflect the beliefs of several cultures and religions. Her description of buildings and monuments in the Spirit World with gothic arches and Greco-Roman architecture clearly are Western in their inspiration. On the other hand her repeated assertion that God has a male and female aspect, intellectual and emotional, combined as one, are Eastern. The ‘Mother goddess’ she speaks of with flowing hair and a staff in one hand, though robed in a classical western gown, has a lion standing beside her, clearly inspired by the popular Hindu depiction of the ‘Mother’ (Ma), epitomizing the energy of god and the universe (the concept of Shakti in Hinduism) astride a tiger or a lion. In the Hall of Tones, the chanting actually begins with the Sanskrit word Om, common to most religions of Indian origin when commencing a prayer and referring to the sound of creation. Paradise then does not neglect either Eastern or Western inspirations in becoming their prototype!

Sylvia’s Paradise though supported by scriptural analogies, is not always easy to accept no matter how comforting. It is one thing to accept that the soul is eternal and survives after death and that it reincarnates for its own evolution through experiencing the challenges and negativities of the physical plane and that it is welcomed after death into the spirit world, embraced by divine light and love – quite another to allow magnificent and thoroughly tangible scenic beauty, bodies with organs, buildings with halls and marble benches, scanning machines with holograms, records of lives being maintained in scrolls in libraries, dressing for events with just a flicker of a thought, wandering through superb gardens and a host of other physical activities  we never imagined  spirit worlds would, could or even needed to engage in.

From a metaphysical standpoint, those of us who are so inclined, would only allow a divine spirit to confine its physical activity to the human body when incarnating on the physical earthly plane rather than carrying forward a physical ‘hang-over’ to the spiritual one. All we would allow is an urge for the soul to be finally free of the physical and as pure spirit to seek to reunite blissfully with its divine source to become one again with the creative force, rather than enjoying separation. The idea of divinity within as a drop, merging back into the divinity of the grand ocean which creates the mirage (Maya) of the physical world, rather than itself becoming yet another physical albeit elevated mirage. Even if we were to allow this physical ‘Paradise’ to have any reality, it would only be another intermediate manifestation of the divine mirage or illusion (Maya). Only another physical level to be transcended.

To be fair, Sylvia does hint or address this issue when she speaks of levels of advancement for the soul. The Seventh level ( seventh heaven?) is as she says where the ‘rare’ souls lose their very identity and merge into the ‘ uncreated mass’  or the ‘ infinite, unfathomable force field from which the love and power of God emanates’. That is surely the ulterior dimension from which it never returns either as a spiritual entity or as an incarnation. Compare this with the Hindu concept of the last incarnation of an embodied soul where after it totally merges with the Absolute it  never incarnates again. She uses the same analogy as in Eastern cultures – the drop falls back into the ocean or as she puts it ‘ a cup of water spills into the Pacific Ocean’.

She however confesses that the ‘Seventh Level’ is not for her, as she would rather remain in a ‘spiritual world’  which still resembles the physical one.

In the Hindu scripture the Gita, there is a revealing passage which says:

”Worshppers of the gods go to the gods, worshippers of the ancestors go to the ancestors, worshippers of the ghosts go to the ghosts; but those who worship Me come to Me.”

Thus those who cannot overcome the need for physicality return to those realms (Paradise?), while those that have advanced merge with the pure spirit of Godhead.

Caption: wallpapersus.com

Caption: wallpapersus.com

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