A Child’s Toy

 

The thought of people generally does not go beyond the point of liberation, which they take to be the final limit of human approach. But that is a wrong idea. As a matter of fact, liberation is one of the lowest attainments on the divine path; hence it is just like a toy for a child to play with. Beyond that there is yet a lot to be achieved. The infinite ocean lies still ahead, which is but a limitless expanse. Have your eyes fixed upon That and That alone, and go on and on to trace It out.” – Ram Chnadra, The Complete Works, Vol I, page 334

Every path is unique, despite any parallels it might have between other paths.  Sahaj Marg (Heartfulness) is no different and I think the quote above illustrates that to a degree. Certainly, we are unique in other ways. But in most of Hinduism and Sufism the idea of liberation is where things stop. After all, what more could there be once you are free?

To back up a little, let’s discuss what this “liberation” is. Most of the time, in contexts like this one, liberation means liberation from samsara. Samsara is the wheel of death and rebirth. Some view this wheel as a kind of trap but it isn’t. It’s merely a result. When we don’t direct our reactions and responses in a responsible manner, then the resultant karmas (both good AND bad karmas) bind us further to this wheel. And so we go on experiencing death and rebirth, cycle after cycle, until our personal evolution is such that we are able to step off of that wheel like an exhausted hamster and then finally to know peace. This is what most people, in this context, consider liberation to be.  (Side Note: There are branches of believers who have the understanding that God will, through immeasurable and unwarranted grace and mercy, wipe away the factors (what we call samskaras & karmas) keeping a person from reaching heavenly liberation, thus bestowing liberation to the one who believes. This is a lie.)

Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness doesn’t dispute the aforementioned idea of liberation. What makes Sahaj Marg unique in this context is that, in our understanding, this liberation isn’t the actual end goal. A lot of what spiritual aspirants take to be significant spiritual progress and developments are understood within Sahaj Marg as simple sign posts. Indications of progress, sure, but nothing more – certainly nothing to be distracted by or focused on.

In a way, we treat these experiences and developments much like any thought that arises during meditation – notice it if you must, but keep moving. Liberation is no different. It’s like our guides and gurus are saying, “Okay so you stepped off the wheel of death and rebirth. Congrats – Now keep moving.” An interesting thing to note here and which might surprise most people is that this liberation – escape from endless cycles of death and rebirth – is seen as a very low attainment and like a child’s toy. Most people would immediately disagree. But it is certain that those people view their current reality through a different and probably lens. After all, to a kindergartner learning the alphabet is daunting and quite an achievement. The idea of getting to Junior High is hardly something they understand, never mind finishing that and moving on to High School or any form of education thereafter.

The lineage of Sahaj Marg guides have always stated that religion is like kindergarten. And they’ve always gently encouraged us to keep moving. From where they sit, they speak to us kindergartners and encourage us onward. “Beyond that there is a lot to be achieved.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Sams-karma-s

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

So… the title of this post is a real botch job, don’t hate me. I was combining the word karma into the word samskara. The terms are very different and yet intimately related. Karma, in its most dummied down translation, is “action” and samskara, in like form, means impression – a subtle impression that is carried with us. Have you ever reacted in a certain way and almost felt you had no choice? That was probably the influence of some kind of impression / samskara. Obviously, something like that would influence your actions (reactions) and so you can see the two are a closely knitted pair.

The Heartfulness path (aka Sahaj Marg) deals heavily with both of these concepts, although quite extensively with samskaras. The “magic” of this path and our practice is that the samskaras are “scrubbed” away through the diligent employment of our practice.

Recently, through a couple Daily Reflections delivered into my inbox, I received a nice lesson. Everyone thinks about karma and samskara in regard to thing you have done or might do. But our guru, Kamlesh D. Patel, helps us understand that there’s another side of the coin: Inaction. I guess this might mean those could’as, would’as, and should’as. The things you didn’t do or say that you should have or really needed to (not for your benefit but for the benefit of others). Many times when people speak of regret they speak of something they wish they’d said or done or somewhere they’d gone. Sometimes this feeling of regret really sticks to a person – like a subtle impression. And obviously, the application of all this is not limited to regret. After all, we’re talking about very subtle components of life. Many people wander through life practically oblivious to really blatant and mundane things, so it’s no wonder at all to consider that these impressions formed from inaction wouldn’t necessarily be on one’s radar.

In the second edition of Designing Destiny (2015), Shri Kamlesh-bhai said of inaction, “It is not only our actions that promote samskaras. Our inactions can create lethal samskaras that are worse than those created by our actions.” In the same chapter of that book, he also states, “Samskaras created by inactions, deliberate inactions, amount to the heaviest of the samskaras in our system. They can be removed, no doubt, but then a commitment of very high order is required. Your cooperation at every level is required.”

I think these quotes communicate some very serious and helpful information. Kamlesh-bhai uses the word lethal. That’s a heavy word. Means deadly, right? Without further research I won’t guess at what Kamlesh-bhai fully meant in the usage of that word, but from where I sit I see a connection to the usage of that word within the context of samskaras. For as long as we carry these impressions / samskaras, we’ll be saddled with karma. And as long as either applies to our existence, our existence will be tied directly to the wheel of samsara – which is the cycle of death and rebirth. Because death is not the opposite of life, but rather the opposite of birth, Kamlesh-bhai’s use of “lethal” seems to point directly to that connection between death and rebirth.

There are a number of things to take from our guru-ji’s words but this one implication – inaction being lethal – is really enough to give everyone pause and serious consideration to why you sometimes don’t do the things you don’t do.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Not Fair

imagesKZ1R0HVZ

A week or so ago I published a post regarding some frustration surrounding my relationship with someone I had considered my Best. Shortly thereafter, in fact the next day, we had a nice long chat. The result of that chat amounts to two realizations: The first is that I should maybe give more effort at recognizing and acknowledging what progress he does make, however much or little that might be. And the second isn’t so much a realization as a clarification between us. In our discussion, I feel I made it clear that I cannot continue to see him as I have because it’s essentially unfair to him.

That realization, and using that realization to govern my thoughts and actions going forward, have meant some real change on my part. Everyone knows it’s total shit from a bull’s ass when someone breaks up with you and they’re like, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But this experience has shown me that there sometimes can be truth to that. From the most genuine place inside myself, I sincerely feel that it’s unfair of my friendship with this human to have expectations that he simply isn’t likely ever to live up to. The reasons why he won’t pertain to his personal development and are all entirely on him and completely his own responsibility – plain and simple. But from my side of the fence it’s important to recognize the lunacy that I might be carrying: Turkeys are not capable of long distance flight. It’s terribly unfair to fault a turkey for being a turkey and being unable to fly like sparrows. The reality of what a turkey is has to be met and accepted, for at least as long as it takes the turkey to evolve into something capable of flying longer distances. Right?

In a rather unexpected turn of events, it would appear that this lesson has somehow also landed in the thoughts of my Beloved.

A little back story: Our neighbor lady has recently swapped her male companions and the new guy is a “composer.” By “composer,” I mean anything but what you’re thinking. He’s not a composer. From my own experience, the best he could be considered would be a “mixer” and I wouldn’t be surprised if he fancies himself a DJ or something. He’s a younger male (maybe early 20s), he’s fond of dragging one of their kitchen chairs out front and reclining on it in a way that just looks like slouching – all while wearing only her sunglasses and some camo cargo pants. It’s very clear that, in addition to a legit composer, he also sees himself as some kind of Armani model. Priceless, to say the least.

My Beloved and I have discussed this young wannabe a number of times in the recent weeks since he moved in. My Beloved is actually quite affected as his favorite place to hang out within our home happens to be probably the closest point between our property and the neighbors’ which means that my Beloved is subjected to the “composing process” more directly than I.

Last Friday, as we were deciding where to grab dinner he says, “Josh, we have to move.” We discussed what that would mean and require and then almost immediately reached out to a realtor friend of ours. I can tell you all about the difficulty in getting your home “staged” for showing while still living there – a process made even more difficult by a third adult who’s in the mix because he has nowhere else to go, yet who doesn’t seem to understand the urgency of trying to sell one’s home at the end of the prime home selling seasons.

I’m getting kinda wordy and side tracked here…. What I’ve been meaning to get at is that during our discussion, my Beloved actually said to me with his mouth something to the effect of, “I don’t think it’s fair to our neighbor that we can’t tolerate his work with music.” And the result of this view is that we’re now planning to sell and move as soon as we’re able.

The situation with the neighbor and the one with the person I’ve referenced before as my Best are obviously very different. However, I’m now entertaining questions in my mind about when it’s most appropriate to “lovingly step back” or to “lovingly disconnect” (as a Christian friend of mine is so fond of saying) for the sake of allowing others to be who they are for as long as they insist on not evolving and when it’s not appropriate. In the past, this wouldn’t be something I’d do. I’m confrontational and as directly honest as I’m able to be in any situation.

If how and where you’re walking ends up with my toes stepped on, do I let you know as much in no uncertain terms and expect you to become more aware of your own walking or do I simply move to stand in a different place?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

WICKED Li’l Old Me

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

Everyone seems to have the understanding that holy people, or spiritually advanced people are only humble. After all, the meek shall inherit the Earth, no? (Bible, Matthew 5:5)

However, I’d like to convince you that humility can be a problem in a way identical to that of arrogance or pride. Some posts ago I mentioned that I believe many carnivorous humans are better off from a karmic standpoint, and spiritually, simply because of the ignorant, emotional, and often irrational aversion so many vegetarians have regarding the subject. The post seemed to go virtually unnoticed, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but based on my understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and karma in general work, I really do feel that many who are vegetarian are at times hurting their own progress more than those who bite sentient beings for sustenance – not because of the vegetarianism, but because of the samsaras they build up around the choice. All of that hinges on something good and virtuous (non-violence, non-aggression, vegetarianism) being taken to an extreme.

Religions and spiritual traditions throughout time and around the globe are guilty of this in one context or another, to one degree or another. Of course, some religions are inherently more inclined toward the live-and-let-live model and so there are those who are perhaps “less” guilty of this imbalance. Still, guilty is guilty and people who live in glass houses ought not to throw rocks.

To a lesser degree I think this same principle is sometimes also at work when it comes to humility. Too many people are timid when it comes to displaying a warrior spirit in their own lives. A hymn from the Vedas, in part, says, “Ati Vinayam Dhoortha Lakshanam…” which translates as, “Too much of humbleness is an attribute of a wicked person.”

But how can this be? How can a virtue like humility lead one to wickedness?

Umm… how about by being emphasized or implemented in such a way or to such a degree that it becomes detrimental. Initially, the detriment would be applicable only to the immediate life state of the one exhibiting this imbalance. That person would end up essentially being walked on or abused throughout his or her existence, and while that saddens my heart, I can see, that on that level, it’s still only a localized misery – again pertaining to individualized samsara. If allowed to go further, however, the localization ceases and others begin to suffer, too – others who might need a so-called warrior, Vira, to help maintain or restore balance. The absence of this assertive warrior spirit is adharma, and this is why the Vedas tell us that “too much of humbleness” makes someone wicked. Too much humbleness is an imbalance and is adharmic. So much of the Hindu dharma points to the at-least-occasional need for exhibiting warrior-ness: everything from yogasanas to the Bhagavad Gita hint at this.

If someone tells you you’re going to hell for eating cows, tell them to mind their own damned business and worry about themselves not going to hell. If someone tells you your friend or guru is corrupt or fraudulent, hold them accountable for those accusations – if they refuse, they need to fuck off and you need to make them aware of as much, and if they can offer proof your life has been made better. If someone repeatedly and directly badgers you about your own ishtadevata or chosen scriptures, I do hope you have spine enough (and bhakti enough) to adhere to your spiritual home AND tell them to do the same.

So many people think that if one is humble they’re “good” and if they’re not, they’re not. But the truth is, humility is much like aggression in that it possesses degrees of expression. Ideally, humility is best expressed through patience, understanding and compassion – not necessarily meekness. If one keenly develops these traits, humility will manifest without compromising other areas and without leading to adharma/wickedness.

In posts like this, I eventually begin wondering if my point is lost. Like the vegetarian samsara post, it’s such a broad and deep subject that can be taken in so many directions. It’s actually a challenge to write about effectively without composing an entire book on the subject. If nothing else I’d like to leave you with just two recommendations:

1) Cultivate a keen inner awareness. Progress without this is infinitely more difficult.

2) Follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes we’re called to be warriors. Sometimes dharma, whether localized or general, depends on us being loud, assertive and even bossy. History has shown as much.

Om Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Dhrishti and the Divine Goose

Anser_indicus_1921I’m fond of being in the middle of reading about 9 books, and then purchasing 20 more for when I finish the first 9. I realize I have a problem. But I’ve also realized that bookcases are more handsome when they’re filled with books. Plus, I find myself with an ample supply ready for the sharing, should I encounter someone who needs or wants one of these gems. A recent purchase of mine, “Methods for Immortality, Death: Beginning or End?” has proven to be mostly yawn-provoking, but did center around a very simple meditation/mantra technique that virtually anyone can benefit from. I intend to share suchery presently.

The author of this book, Dr. John Mumford (aka Swami Anandakapila Saraswati) calls this meditation the “Gayatri Meditation,” or “Gayatri So Hum,” and insists (as may be implied by the book’s title) that its ultimate purpose is to help strengthen the meditator in such a way as to facilitate a very conscious end of one’s current human life, which he alternately refers to as death and transition. He admits that this technique is not the only way of dealing with the life/death intersection, but finds it to be a very valuable contribution and that many will find it suitable.

This Gayatri Technique is founded on the breath, about which Mumford says, “Breathing is, for the human, the most basic biological rhythm that consciousness can attach itself to, and this process of respiration goes on automatically, twenty-four hours a day, to the end of life.” Another word for death is expired, which seems to be connected to our word for breathing: respiration. When a person dies, he exhales (ex-spirates, as it were) and does not inhale (in-spirate) again. Since the beginning of human history, there has existed a perpetuated belief that the soul exits the body with the final breath. Romans actually attempted to catch the essence of the dying by inhaling his last breath.

Most people aren’t aware that one breath actually consists of four parts: Inhalation (caller puraka in yoga), retention/momentary pause (this phase is called kumbhaka), exhalation (called rechaka), and finally suspension/momentary pause (this time called sunyaka). For other 1,000 years Yoga has centered on either controlling or becoming aware of all four phases of a respiratory cycle as a means for transcending the physical body or experiencing altered states of consciousness.

Sometime around 1200 A.D., a yoga master named Goraksha authored a yoga text called Goraksha-Samhita, wherein he detailed observations that correlate with modern knowledge. He observed that a full respiratory cycle takes place every four seconds, or about fifteen times a minute. He then calculated that within one full rotation of the Earth we breathe automatically 21,600 times. Goraksha then noticed that the in-breath and out-breath make subtle subliminal sounds, which translate into a mantra, thus the name of this technique: Gayatri So Hum. Gayatri is attached to this because a Gayatri is a hymn or mantra that confers freedom from bondage, or liberation from the wheel or death and rebirth. This practice is alternately known as Ajapa Gayatra, on account of its mantra being voiceless. What Goraksha noticed, and what has been passed on through his lineage, is that the exhaled breath makes a subliminal sound “haa” and the inhaled breath makes the subliminal sound “saa.” This continuous unconscious mantric vibration, often written as “Hamsa,” or “Hansa,” beginning at birth and ceasing at death, has special qualities including piercing the veil between life and death. Although we’re starting with the in-breath (so/saa), when you string the two sounds (so/saa & hum/haa) together end-to-end, you end up with a “hansa” sound, the middle n being mostly nasal. “Hansa” is the divine goose (Anser Indicus), a beautiful white bird often eulogized in Hindu scripture as a symbol of the Soul and its ascent into heavenly places. The Gayatri So Hum is the Hansa, or divine bird, carrying us from beyond life and death into the center of the transcendental Self.

Bird332

I’d like to point out here, briefly, that the goal of any Hindu is not to make it to Heaven. Heaven and Hell are seen to be temporary, at best. Each lasts only as long as an individual’s karmas warrant. The definition of salvation for Hindus is to step off of the wheel of Samsara -the wheel of death and rebirth.

The author sums up in four steps how to begin this Gayatri So Hum/Hansa Meditation technique.

  1. Sit comfortably. Make sure all parts of the body are comfortable and supported, with the exception of the head. The head needs to be free so that you can notice if you nod off to sleep. Mumford says this isn’t a bad thing!
  2. With your eyes closed, begin to consciously become aware of your breath. Do not interfere or try to control it, just watch it.
  3. Proceed to synchronize your inhalation and exhalation with mental repetition of the Gayatri So Hum. Silently say “So” as your breath flows in, and similarly silently say “Hum” as your breath flows out.
  4. Continue this for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. Anything less is useless.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Successful Meditation

  • Relaxed Wakefulness: Subjective contentment with warming of hands and feet, slowing of respiration, and lowering of blood pressure as well as raising of GSR (galvanic skin response) threshold.
  • Dreaming: REM and sudden flaccidity of the neck muscles, producing head nodding.
  • Deep Dreamless Sleep: Often accompanied by  snoring; it is possible to retain consciousness in this state -Yoga refers to it as Turiya.

In addition to the aforementioned four steps of this technique, one last factor comes into play.

  1. Move the left ring finger toward the fleshy pad at the base of the thumb as the breath flows in, and move it away as the breath flows out.

Wearing-White-MudraWhy the left hand? The left hand is used to ensure a “slight initial dominance,” or at least a direct contact, with the right hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere of the brain encourages holistic, nonverbal, spatial integrative experiences. Why the ring finger? When we focus on the ring finger, we tap into psychic and psychological inheritance that is both East and West. the ancient Egyptians believed a special cord or nerve ran from the ring finger directly to the heart, and many have attributed this to the custom of placing a wedding ring on the ring finger. Symbolically, the ring finger represents the Shiva Lingam and the wedding ring is the Yoni. since Roman times the ring finger has been identified as the healing finger or Digitus Medicus, and in contemporary India it is still the prefered finger for anointing the forehead with kumkum powder.

Mumford indicates that it may be useful for the student to utilize the Gnana Mudra, i.e. gently touching the tip of the left forefinger to the tip of the left thumb, forming a circle. This mudra carries profound significance and in itself signals the mind to prepare for meditation and accept absorption within universal consciousness. Mumford also says that as the meditation deepens, you may find that the movement of the left ring finger slackens or drops away entirely. This is acceptable. If you find yourself surfacing from the meditation prematurely, you can resort to the ring finger movements again. You’ll find this little addition taking up an amazing amount of slack and mental restlessness that people often experience.

… And there you have it. The Gayatri So Hum/Hansa pranayama (breath-centered) dhyan (meditation). It’s simple, but effective, and makes -if nothing else- a good foundation for additional meditation styles. If you try it, I want to hear about it.

Om Shanti

Star: Three/Seven, The Soul and its universality

The third, official/unofficial start of Hinduism is the Soul.

The basics of this star include:

  • Universality of the existence of souls
  • All living beings have “soul” -not just humans
  • The same life, which is Atman/part of Brahman, exists in all living beings
  • Soul is indestructible
  • The whole Universe is one(family)

Earlier in his booklet, Thatte mentions Purusha and Prakruti. The soul is the Purusha of a being. Since the soul is essentially a living entity’s Atman, which itself is a small part of the Ultimate Brahman, and since every living thing has soul, all things have the same foundational essence and are thereby connected. Hence the Vedic sentence, “Vasudev’ Kutumbhakum.” Universal Family. Hinduism believes that the whole Universe is an intimately-connected family.

All living things have soul, which can also be called Self or jiva. All soul is part of the Universal Consciousness, aka Brahman. It’s because of this that all that is living must be treated with care and respect. This is the basis of environmental sensitivity which is embedded in Hindu philosophy.

What happens to the Atman when one dies?

You must first understand that a person dies because the Atman leaves the body, not the other way around. Once He has left the body, it is dead. The Bhagavad Gita explains, “Just as one discard old clothes when they get worn out and puts on new clothes, similarly, the Atman discards the body(at the time of death) and is reborn in another physical body.” (It should be noted that while the body is impermanent at best, Hinduism places great emphasis on physical well-being. Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra/Sutra is a great resource for this!)

The life form the Atman takes upon rebirth is determined by a staggering number of factors, not least of which is the Atman’s store of karma yet to be worked through as well as the condition/focus of one’s mind at the moment of death. It has supposedly taken “several million cycles of birth, death, and rebirth” to experience life as a human. Some believe that it’s possible for the Atman to regress to a lower life form, depending on one’s actions/karma. This is something I’m not sure I agree with entirely.

It seems to me that, if there is a hierarchy of life(surely based on the development of consciousness), it isn’t a two-way street. Evolution, whether physical or spiritual, must surely be a process that leads to ever-better states of existence, with no choice of going back really. So, I don’t see reincarnation as a matter of forward/backward movement of the Atman in its development. I see it as a matter of how much or how little the Atman progresses compared to what the potential for progress is. A life lived with intentionally more effort placed on improvement(punya- good deeds, etc…), versus the opposite which would be a life lived with tons of paap(badness) is more likely to know further and faster advancement.

This alone would constitute “heavenly” reward in the form of increased nearness to moksha/mukti/samadhi(freedom from the samsaric cycle of birth and rebirth), as opposed to the relatively hellish “punishment” of another turn around the wheel.

Thatte’s practical take-aways in this chapter include: We all have a soul and it’s because of this that we’re all connected. It’s because of this connection that we should strive to treat others with compassion and empathy. And although he doesn’t go much into these, he also claims as take-aways: You create your own heaven or hell. As well, we can train ourselves to control the desires generated by our senses. Controlling these desires isn’t the same as denying them, rather it means that the intellect is in charge of using the mind to control one’s senses.