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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Shiva Speaks: words of the supreme Self

 

Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain
Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain

Oneness is a “state of being unified or whole, though comprised of two or more parts.” Carl Jung understood that the Self is the archetype of wholeness (CW 5, 9i, 9ii), meaning that the Self is realized when opposites are unified. The spiritual path of Vedanta understands that the only true Identity is between the individual Self and Ultimate Reality.  In Shaivism, the supreme identity is Mahādeva. Shiva is an image and representation of Ultimate Reality, and thus also an image of our potential union with Ultimate Reality. The union between the Self and Ultimate Reality is known as Oneness. In this post, I am going to continue my exploration of various spiritual traditions. I am going to share some passages from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27), a Hindu Sanskrit text. In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature.

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Vishvarupa: Cosmic Man

Vishnu as the Cosmic Man (Vishvarupa), Jaipur, Rajasthan- c. 1800-50. US Public Domain, Wikimedia
Vishnu as the Cosmic Man (Vishvarupa), Jaipur, Rajasthan- c. 1800-50. US Public Domain, Wikimedia

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung speaks of the ‘cosmic man’, drawing upon a passage from the Shvetashvatara Upanishad:

“Without feet, without hands, he moves, he grasps; eyeless he sees, earless he hears; he knows all that is to be known, yet there is no knower of him. Men call him the Primordial Person, the cosmic man. Smaller than small, greater than great ….” (cited in CW5, para. 182)

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Yakshas: personifications of spirit

Terracota Yakshas, Sunga period- 1st century BC; found in West Bengal)- Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York. US public domain via wikimedia
Terracota Yakshas, Sunga period- 1st century BC; found in West Bengal)- Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung calls spirit an “immaterial substance or form of existence”. Yet this “immaterial substance” tends “towards personification” [1].

In the image above, we see Yakshas as personification of the nature spirits. “Yakshas were deities connected with water, fertility, trees, the forest, and the wilderness. Yakshis were their female counterparts and were originally benign deities connected with fertility.

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Purushkara Yantra: in the deepest layers of the psyche the world itself is speaking

Purushkara Yantra with Sanskrit syllables, Rajasthan, 18th century. India. Gouache, opaque watercolor paint, on silk. 18th century. Public Domin in India via wikimedia.
Purushkara Yantra with Sanskrit syllables, Rajasthan, 18th century. India. Gouache, opaque watercolor paint, on silk. 18th century. Public Domin in India via wikimedia.

The image above is of the Purushkara Yantra. This is a cosmic man figure from the 18th Century.  The cosmic body contains the different levels of being.

Yantras such as this one offer a means of Self-realization in the Hindu tradition. They are used in meditation along with a mantra for Self-realization. The yantra represents the relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Through meditation on the yantra, one turns within to discover he cosmos within. The Mundaka Upanishad (8:1) speaks of the cosmic man:

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