Archives for posts with tag: Self
Credit: goodfon.com

Credit: goodfon.com

 

No one is born perfect. Imperfections trail the best of us as do our shadows. Those without imperfections exist in other realms not needing to be born here.Even sages and seers who inspire us cast their ego shadows as the bright sun of our physical world glows furiously. Each imperfection reminds us why we are here. This is the great laundry, the giant washing machine. Our bodies are the garments whose indelible stains are sent back time and again for cleansing. the shining Self then dons it for another life time of energetic washing.

Some garments are spotted red with incredible anger. Another is green with envy and avarice. Yet another has obsessive yellow addictions for substance and sex. Others are purple with arrogance and pride. There are shades of grey growing darker with greed and gluttony. Shades of blue are in depression and restless dissatisfaction. Ignorance and confusion are painted in black. Deception and falsehood are silver. Every imaginable shade and colour painted by ego, fear and urge for the false security of acquisition and possession. A radiant white shroud  also awaits the soul that has no need for garment and apparel but which it nevertheless dons to become the washerman, blazing a trail for cleaning.

I offer my poem which seeks to show that while here we must reconcile ourselves to being fallible bodies attached to radiant spirits, for when the garment is totally cleaned, it will be cast away for good.

 

                 W E     T O G E T H E R

 

Facets of myself

Reminding of some genetic impropriety

I must not inherit, I disown

As enemy.

 

Facets I own

And love, espouse, protect,

Good looks, graces

Mental energy and prowess

Are friend.

 

But we move together,

Fungus and host

Conjoined,wanted

And unwanted entities,

Inextricable.

 

I know, like when I tried

From my pet fish

To peel off its fungal growth,

That peeling will kill,

That you are whole,

 indivisible.

 

Yet I abhor my spots,

Wish to extend my chin,

Cannot countenance

My inabilities, cowardice,

Or love my guilt.

 

So I compromise

As we rise together;

The shining self

Amid the shadows of the negative.

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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

                                                             

Painting - Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Painting – Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Shankaracharya ( Shanker + Acharya – sage,seer ) is regarded as one of India’s most eminent and brilliant philosophers of the post-Vedic age. He lived in the early 9th century A.D. His brief career of 31 years was remarkable for consolidating Hindu thought contained in the Upanishads ( primal musings of sages in the forest on the nature of reality) the Bhagawat Gita (India’s most sacred religious text ), the Yoga Sutra (treatises on meditation) and Vedantic thought ( post-Vedic philosophy) in his  philosophy of Advait (non dualism). At the time Hindu thought and practices had become disparate, ritualistic, conflicting and full of superstition with the fringes even adhering to  atheism and gross materialism. The genius of an earlier age which had created great religious movements reaching out to far corners of the world had lost its dynamism, clarity and momentum and was beset by confusion and strife. His writings and debates turned much of this around breathing new warmth and life into thought, belief and practice and having a far-reaching influence in rejuvenating Hindu Philosophy and beliefs.

Shanker revived and reasserted with renewed vigour the Upanishadic premise of a grand unity underlying everything. The Upanishadic aphorism ‘thou art that’ (Tat tvam asi) became the central slogan of his Advait (non-dual) philosophical teachings which were contained in a systematic and consistent doctrine. The self (Soul – Atma) and the Universal Essence (Brahman) were the only reality, the rest of phenomenal existence and the world was illusory. The apparent reality of the ego and the cosmos was the result of ignorance. But ‘Ignorance’ indeed was a positive force with the power (Shakti) to create a grand illusion. The ego and the sheaths covering the Soul, together with the phenomenal world were like a mirage in the desert. Like a cloud covering the sun so too did ‘Ignorance’ cover up the Soul. To overcome the ‘Ignorance’ which produces the magic of phenomenality, the weapon was self-realization – getting to know the Soul

The practice begins with adopting a stern morality in life (ethical behaviour – Dharma), altruistic action without attachment towards results (dispassionate action of the Gita), Yogic practices to cleanse the mind and body (Yoga Sutras). To prepare himself he must first acquire knowledge of the scriptures, have unshakable faith and adopt a Guru to guide him and draw the road map.

According to Advait interpretation God with attributes is like a mask upon the sublime Universal Essence (Brahman), which is without attributes. The adept Vedantin seeker is warned that a stage will appear in his quest for truth and spiritual evolution when the vision of God incarnate will finally appear resplendent before him. This is the final stage of phenomenality and duality. The feelings of ecstasy and euphoria arising then have to be contained and the adept has to resist the temptation to remain in that state of bliss. For he has to move on in his search for the real truth, beyond the splendid vision, towards the sublime. silent, featureless one without attributes, one who cannot be an object for a subject. When he goes beyond this penultimate stage he finally dispels ‘Ignorance’ and attains enlightenment by realizing that ‘he is that’; there is no subject any more nor an object, there is only the One.

According to Advait, Brahman (Universal Essence) is ‘the one without a second’, the one which alone exists (Sat), which is pure consciousness (Chit), and is in a state of bliss(Anand). The Soul (Atma) does not merge with it because it never really separated from it. Brahman remains the one without a second (Advait) and the Atma’s separation is an illusion, the result of ignorance which when dispelled, produces enlightenment. The influence of Shanker’s doctrine of Advait on Hindu belief systems to this day remains far-reaching. Yet, succeeding philosophers like the sage Ramanuja in the 11th century dissented from this interpretation of Vedant philosophy, holding that the incarnated Souls were separate from the Divine Essence and only finally merged with it after the cycles of birth.

Likewise thinkers and poets of the Age of Devotion (Bhakti) of the 16th century believed in a God with attributes who became very tangible when incarnating as Avatar,  and was attainable simply through love and devotion rather than scholastic and intellectual meditation.  For them the Gita became tha main vehicle of inspiration with its qualified and deistic Monism, rather than the scholastic and esoteric path shown by Advait doctrine. Shanker never rejected devotional prayer (Bhakti) or denied its value for he held that it was a necessary but intermediate stage for the adept on his journey to the ultimate realization of the true nature of the Universal Essence.

Shankeracharya’s philosophy and doctrine was enshrined in four monastic centres (Maths) which he set up in different corners of India  surviving to this day at Sringeri (South), Govardhan (East), Kalika (West), and Jyoti (North). The heads of the four monasteries are revered in India, much as the Vatican’s Pope is in the Christian world.

In addition to his philosophical treatises Shanker wrote numerous brilliant poems which are sung and recited to this day. One of his most popular songs is recited as an aid to meditation by disciples and seekers.

SONG OF ENLIGHTENMENT

(NIRVANSHATAKAM)

At dawn I dwell on the essence

Of the shining self in my heart,

Truth, consciousness and bliss,

That Supreme Essence am I,

Indivisible, without parts,

Neither body, senses nor mind,

Not the vital breath nor intelligence,

I am not my ego

I am neither male nor female

Nor am I sexless,

Indeed I am the witness

Neither born nor ever dying

I am eternal,

The inner Self,

The blissful one.

(abridged)

A related inspirational Upanishadic riddle showing the relationship between the Soul and its host the body with its senses is cited below:

The blind one found the jewel;

The one without fingers picked it up;

The one with no neck put on;

And one with no voice gave it praise.

Shankaracharya statue

credit: pradip.com

krishna radha love

Mystics and saints in India have sought through song and dance to help ordinary people to sense the presence of the soul within, over the centuries. They did not utilize theological dialectic, esoteric philosophical conundrum, demanding yogic meditative practice or incomprehensible discourses to do so. They sought simply to move the heart of peasant and king alike, to feel and sense mystically what was for ordinary folk something beyond their understanding.

The Bhakti (worship through devotion and love) movement of the sixteenth century became the vehicle for passing on such difficult concepts to every hearth and home, taking the land by spiritual storm. The songs of the great mystic poet-saints of the period – Tulsi ( philosopher – poet), Sur (blind musician), Raidas (cobbler), Kabir ( weaver, muslim mystic), Mira (princess turned mendicant), Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh faith), Bulle Shah ( Sufi poet), Shankaracharya ( Vedantic scholar and sage), Ramanujan (Philosopher poet) and a host of others, carried the concepts through poetry and devotional songs to the masses. The songs became as popular as  Bollywood hits are today and are widely sung and heard morning and evening right to this day. Difficult concepts, carried on the wings of faith and emotion, became a part of popular folk music through soul-stirring renditions in verse.

A song for instance spoke of a man searching for the divine, looking everywhere in places of worship and pilgrimage centres but found Him nowhere, till he sat quietly dejected at home and suddenly found Him glowing in his heart. Another song speaks of a musk deer roaming the forest relentlessly in search of the heady aroma, wondering where it was coming from, little knowing that the musk was indeed within him. Kabir in his poem sang of his great amusement that the fish was thirsty though immersed in water. Raidas in his songs tells God that He is the sandalwood paste and Rai is the water, together fragrant or that Rai is the wick on which the lord is the flame, that Rai is the thread on which the Lord as a pearl is strung. All similes and metaphors conveying that the Universal spirit, through the soul, was within the individual and all he needed to do was to  seek him there.

Like the poet saints, temple and court dancers in the classical traditions of Bharatnatyam (Tamil), Kuschpudi (Orrisa), Kathakali (Kerala), and the Mughal Kathak (entire north India) sought to convey the same message through movement, gesture (Mudra) and stylized eye movements. Folk dancers, village theatre, pantomime. puppetry and bardic couplets conveyed the same esoteric message simplified through the means of entertainment. Today Gurus, seers, yogis and Swamis address vast congregations assisted by television and the media to convey the same message of the presence of the soul within through analogy and metaphor.

This concludes our first exercise in exploring the concept of the soul, albeit as understood in India, the land of the spirit. We shall now retrace our steps and take another path to discover what it signifies in other traditions and for New Age thinkers.

Credit: ISKCON International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Credit: ISKCON
International Society for Krishna Consciousness

The Hindu concept of the ubiquitous presence of the Universal Essence, as souls in every individual, generated the idea of ‘Same – sightedness’ (Sama Darshinah in Sanskrit) – seeing the same essence in the highest and the lowest in creation – a democracy of the spirit. The Gita underlines this concept thus:

” Men of self-knowledge see the Eternal equally in a wise and courteous Brahmin (man of learning), a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcast.”

One then sees that the Divine essence is in all, and all are in it. This supreme egalitarianism becomes possible because the essence of the creator is present in every minute atom of his material creation.

This sense of the universal presence of divinity is further explained in the Gita in the following verses:

”He who sees me everywhere and sees all in me, he never becomes lost to me, nor do I become lost to him.”

”He who established in oneness, worships me abiding in all beings, that yogi lives in me….”

Such a mind-set creates the right attitude for engaging in the welfare of all, a humanitarianism which is concerned for the well-being not only of mankind but of the animal world as well and beyond to inanimate objects comprising nature (equally imbued with divinity) –  an attitude that would encourage the environmental consciousness of today.

The placing of a vermillion dot or mark on the forehead at religious ceremonies among Hindus and by women as a cosmetic adornment, become a daily reminder of the existence of the soul within. The vermillion mark indicates the location of the seat of the soul.

namaste

The presence of the soul as a divine fragment in every individual is further highlighted through the customary Indian salutation and greeting of one another with folded hands. People often wonder why Indian culture has adopted this mode of greeting which elsewhere is reserved for prayer in places of worship. The salutation with folded hands is not to the ego-personality you happen to meet but to his soul, the divinity within him. That explains why it looks more like a gesture of prayer than a greeting.

Likewise in Hindu temples the priest after worshipping the deity on the altar with waving wicker lamps turns to the gathering of worshippers and waves the light at them in a second gesture of worship. Here he is acknowledging the divinity within the gathered congregation. God is both on his high altar as the worshipped and in the congregation as the worshippers.

Indian culture employs these varied devices, cosmetic, religious and through the mode of greeting, to underline the presence of divinity within every individual.

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST)

a soul

In India people are enjoined to meditate on the divinity within and seek to sense the presence of the soul, as an exercise in evolution. The purpose of life is to get to know ones ‘true’ nature (Svabhav in Sanskrit), which is the perfection of the indwelling soul, itself an extension of the Universal Essence. The goal is to recognize and access this divinity within. This is enabled by prayer, contemplation and meditation but above all through dispassionate, compassionate and altruistic action. However, the scriptures mention the great difficulty of sensing the soul. The Gita cautions that the soul is indeed quite inconceivable and difficult to access. It is shown as dwelling within the gross body, divine, eternal, blissful and inactive, mysterious and virtually unfathomable. The Gita speaking of the soul says for instance:

”Some look upon the Self as a marvel, as a marvel another speaks of it and as a wonder another hears of it but though all hear of it none know it.”

According to seers, the difficulty of sensing the soul, divinity within, is so great that people find it easier to objectify divinity by worshipping or admiring a prophet, an Avatar, a Guru, a saint, or even an idol as a sacred symbol.

(CONTINUED FROM LAST POST)

credit : Elena Duvernay

credit : Elena Duvernay

In the last post we saw that the subtle body incurs the effects of action under the law of Karma but the soul, though dwelling within it ( Indweller – Sanskrit: Antaryami ) does not. Through all the actions generated by the ego – personality-body, the soul remains untouched, pure, eternal and uncontaminated by these actions of the ‘shell’ or ‘shroud’, standing aside as it were, observing but not participating. We must remember that it is indeed a part of the Universal Essence, the Supersoul. It is after all, God in miniature within your body even if that body or personality is immersed in sinful activity. Just as God is not responsible for your good or bad deeds neither is the soul. The Gita explains that the soul incurs no sins committed by the body it inhabits and forever remains untainted. Why so is the obvious question. The answer lies in several verses/cantos of the scripture:

” he truly sees who knows that all actions are done by Prakriti (nature or the acting body’s inherent characteristics and impulsions ) alone and the Atma (soul) does not act”

and again

”….he who in imperfect understanding looks upon the Self (soul ) as the agent (of action) – he does not see at all.”

and again

Having mentally renounced all actions, the self disciplined indweller (soul ) rests in the city of nine gates ( the body and the senses), neither acting nor causing action.”

The ‘agent’ often spoken of in the Gita is the ego-body complex. It is free to act the way it wishes. This is not a deterministic puppet show with human puppets on a string controlled by an inexorable fate or divine command. The human entity, the body-ego-personality, is free as was Hitler to commit the gravest atrocities based on free will while of course, accumulating negative Karmic effects with dire consequences in this and future incarnations. On the physical plane there is total freedom and free untampered will to act for good or ill. Thus the Gita explains:

”The Lord (God) does not create agency or actions for the world. He does not create fruitful consequences for actions. Nature ( the ego- personality complex as doer and the Law of Karma meting out consequences) does all this.”

The law of Karma (like the law of gravity) is the inexorable natural law at play on the earthly plane and like any body of law strictly applies measured consequences for actions committed. The soul merely councels prudence but does not dictate – it is the voice of your conscience which you are free to ignore.

(MORE IN NEXT POST)

 

universal divinity

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST)
The soul is therefore an integral part of the Universal Essence or divine source – a spark of divinity with all the attributes of the original source – indestructable, eternal, unchanging, all knowing – God in miniature. Apparently seperated and thrown up from the oceanic heart of the Universal Essence, it now journeys to the physical plane like a meteor entering earth space, bright and incandescent.

Matter is furiously attracted, as we observed earlier, to this magnificent spark of divinity, much like a mob is attracted to a film star, swarming him, or as iron filings are drawn to a magnet. Different combinations of matter – pure and subtle matter(Satvik), dynamic and passionate matter (Rajsik) and inert and fetid matter (Tamsik) – swarm the numerous falling star souls and envelop them in an irresistable embrace which cannot be deflected or denied. The soul is now entrapped in a material body and becomes what the Gita calls the ’embodied one’. Another analogy is that of a physical shroud covering a spiritual heart.

In the Gita, God speaks of the incarnation of the soul thus:

” I am the Self, seated in the hearts of all beings…”

” An eternal portion of Myself becomes the eternal soul in the living world, drawing to itself Nature’s five senses and the mind ”
(MORE IN NEXT POST)

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