Dialectics of Enlightenment

Painting of krishna’s form of vishvarupa, the cosmic Person. Unknown Date, US public Domain via wiki Commons.

In the image above, we see Vishvarupa, as the cosmic Person. The cosmic Person is the body and embodiment of Ultimate Reality (called Brahman in Sanskrit).

In art and in myth, the Cosmic Purusha is often depicted as  being comprised of worlds (called Lokas). The body of Purusha contains lower worlds and upper worlds, places where Devas and Asuras reside. It is said that Enlightenment entails a movement toward the light of the Devas (spiritual truth), and away from the darkness of the Asuras (ignorance). Ultimately, this duality is resolved as we encounter the cosmic light and heart of Purusha.  This inner heart is our own and it is cosmic. It does not find its location in any organ of the body, but is known as the center of existence. It is a symbolic heart: a symbolic light, ours and beyond ours.

It is also said that the Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts) are the body of Ultimate Reality (Brahman). As we read the Vedas, and work with the symbols and concepts contained therein we inhabit a sacred body.

One hymn in particular is known for presenting the dialectics of Enlightenment. The hymn is called the Isha Upanishad. The dialectics of Enlightenment present two opposing ideas, which are integrated as the spiritual seeker realizes higher and higher levels of synthesis and integration. In the Vedas, the supreme dialectic is found between the Innermost Self (Ātman) and Ultimate Reality (Brahman). Enlightenment is an integration and unification of these two aspects of being.

The Isha Upanishad challenges us to integrate opposing forces within our own psyche so that we might be capable of realizing the supreme unity and of individual Self with Ultimate Reality. This realization is sometimes called non-duality and sometimes Oneness depending on spiritual teaching and historical context. I am going to go into some technical detail on regards to the Isha Upanishad so as to illustrate the dialectics at play.

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The Path to Enlightenment: karma & jnana

Moksha is a Sanskrit word meaning “free, release, liberate“.  This word is related to the Sanskrit word mukti meaning “liberation”.The root word of both is muc meaning “to be free” * .

In his commentary on the Upanishads, 8th century CE philosopher and theologian Adi Shankara speaks of Moksha. Shankara tells us that the Upanishads, the Gita, and the scriptures establish a path to Moksha. Sankara says:

“The Upanishads exhaust themselves simply by determining the true nature of the Self, and the Gita and the scriptures dealing with moksha have only this end in view” [Intro to the Isa Upanishad].

The Upanishads ‘liberate’ the soul through the removal of spiritual ignorance. Shankara explains:

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Baby Ganesha: divine child as image of enlightenment

 Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. UNknown date (about 50 years old). US public Domain via wikimedia.
Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. Unknown date. US public Domain via wikimedia.

In the image above, we see the Divine Child in the form of Ganesha. The Sanskrit word Ganesha is from gana meaning “multitude” and isha  meaning lord “lord” [1]. Ganesha is half elephant and half human. In the image, Ganesha sits on his mother’s lap. She is Parvati the goddess of love, strength, and spiritual power. Ganesha’s father is Shiva, the great destroyer of ignorance and the image of the supreme Self. The Divine Child Ganesha is born of a divine polarity. The cosmic father and mother make up two poles of a sacred Oneness.

In Tantric Shaivism, the initiate meditates on the nature of Shiva and Shakti (Parvati), so as to realize the unity of their nature. Shiva and Shakti represent two aspects of existence. Shiva represents consciouness and Shakti represents life energy. The spiritual aspirant meditates on bringing these two aspects of Being together into unity and Oneness.

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Covering, revealing, inhabiting the Self: Isha Upanishad, mantra 1

Isa upanisad.
Sanskrit of the Isha Upanishad. Creative commons.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of an eternal Truth discovered within the innermost Self (Atman).  In the Isha Upanishad, Isha is the eternal Truth of the Self.

The first mantra of the Isha Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: Om Isha vāsyam idam sarvam…

Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever.”[1] The first verse expresses a fundamental insight not only of Hinduism, but of a universal awareness. The verse offers a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, and a transformation in our very modes of seeing and perceiving, our means and modes of being.

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Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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