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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Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom

Shiva with Vibhuthi on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister, 1867-1911.
Shiva with Vibhuthi (ash) on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister.

Ash is a product of fire.

When fire burns, things perish. Ash remains.

As a symbol of purification, ash is the essence that remains when all else burns away. Carl Jung speaks of such things. He says:

‘Ash’ is an inclusive term for the scoriae left over from burning, the substance that ‘remains below [1]

Ash, as a symbol, is closely linked to the innermost Self (Ātman). The Self, like ash, is that which “remains below.”

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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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Hiranyagarbha: the golden egg

hiranyagarbha_the_golden_embryo
Hiranyagarbha The Golden Embryo by Artist Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha, with permission from Exotic Indian Art

In the image above, we see Hiranyagarbha. Hiraṇyagarbha means the ‘golden womb’ or ‘golden egg’. It is also called the universal germ of creation. Carl Jung likens Hiraṇyagarbha to the “phenomenology of the child’s birth” saying:

“The ‘child’s’ birth always points back to an original psychological state of non-recognition, i.e., of darkness or twilight, of non-differentiation between subject and object, of unconscious identity of man and the universe.” (CW 9i, para 290)

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Atman and the Child Archetype

In Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung notes a connection between the divine child and ‘atman’. Jung says:

“The size and invincibility of the “child” are bound up in Hindu speculation with the nature of the atman [from a Sanskrit word that means ‘the Self’] , which corresponds to the “smaller than small yet bigger than big” motif. As an individual phenomenon, the self is “smaller than small”; as the equivalent of the cosmos, it is “bigger than big.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para 289)

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