The entire world owes a profound debt to the Eastern tradition of philosophy and its radiant and awesomely penetrating apex in the Indian spiritual heritage. It is a tradaition which has delved into the void of the self to a depth of personal experience and sheer concentration that makes the Judeo-Christian tradition amateurish and petulant by comparison. Pervading this ancient heritage is an appreciation for the transient nature of mortality and subjective experience and the deep creative far within the soul, which is at once the very motivating force, not only for this universe, but for ages and epochs on a scale which stands beyond and before time in the eternal existential condition for which the very universe comes into being. It has spawned many other great religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, which despite being centuries older than Christianity, stand as relative newcomers. t has withstood the Aryan invasions and the Mogul conquests of Islam. It is perhaps the only remaining fully-fledged ancient religion of many Gods and Goddesses which contains within its gambit all the extremes from the pinnacle of chauvanistic male aristocracy burning their wives on their funeral pyres to the unrestrained Goddess at her most bloodthirsty and destructive. Yet within these extremes lies a path of meditative renunciation from worldly attachments which carries philosophy of mind self and consciousness to its deepest and most profound.
This tradition has a risen from a cultural dissonance as great as any imaginable, the repression of the ancient cultures of the Indus valley with their planter Goddess queen and her rustic sacrifical consort and Lord of the animals by a warrior caste of Aryans with a new and different breed of warrior Gods casting bolts of lightning upon their defeated opponents. However, instead of obliterating these traditions they have superimposed as ripples and eddies to create a cultural martix perhaps more complex than that of any other society, riddled with extremities and inconsistencies but echoing with rich mythopoetic imagery in which human life passes on the great yugas of time like a spring sunshower passing on a breat of breeze.
Woven into the lives of the Gods and the the Mahadevi is the mighty Ganges, that ancient river from which time and culture itself springs, herself a Goddess and the life of her people from her tumbling Himalayan cataracts to her sultry and treacherous deltas as she finally flows like the snake Ananta in a hudred mouths to the ocean an eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
Closely associated with her is a sacred herb, the province of the Lord of death and of altered states Shivai, a tradition as ancient as the river which bears its name and central to the spiritual life of many of the sadhus or holy men who wander the continent in saffron robes in the name of God, from the mountain caves to the alleyways and burning ghats of the river's ancient city Varanasi.
The meditative tradition did not begin with the Aryans and their Brahmin descendents, because already at Mojendaro, we can see the image of Shiva with trident, Lord of the Beasts sitting in yogic posture. An image that comes out of the mists of time on the mirages that shimmer in the hot seasons preceding the monsoon.
I shall always hold a deep affection for India and for its gift to humanity. I have travelled the continent from end to end, always as a man of God in the tradition of the sadhu. I have found divine wisdom, friendship and grace emanating not from gurus or famous spiritual men, but from beggars, from hotel proprietors from street hoodlums and little wayside baba's sitting covered in ashes in all sincerity. Somehow the river of the Ganga is and always has been the source and the destination of all things, as life flows to itself and the great ages come and go. This lesson to us all is one we should cherish for all time.
Soma: and the Rig Veda
The Five-fold Nub of Indian Philosophy
Five key points emerge from Indian philosophy which we should all be cogniscant of:
The first is that matter is a grosser accumulation of substance than the subjective mind. Mind is finer. This is central to the dilemma of the hard problem in consciousness research and is not at all comprehended by the Western scientific description of reality. Physical reality constitutes the stabilitiy states of conscious subjectivity. The conscious consensus. The reverse materialistic description is incomplete. Physical reality is objective and cannot describe the subjective state within its parameters.
The second is that the ultimate nature of reality lies in the abyss of the subject. The entire creative force of the universe somehow resides in the nature of Self and this Self in turn creates world. Thus, rather than submitting all responsibility to an external deity, we practice meditative realization of the divine nature realized in the impersonal divine within. This is a path of renunciation from attachment but it is also a path of wisdom and personal empowerment.
The third is that there are synchronistic connections which go beyond the gross mechanical level to form all the curcumstances and accidents of fate in which our lives are embedded. This is the so-called law of karma, which is much more ancient than Buddhism. While this law may not be one of moral determinism and may not involve literal cyclic reincarnation, it may well be a manifestation of quantum non-locality which modern western science is only beginning to come to grips with.
The fourth is the image of the yugas of the universe as a whole created and possibly coming to an eventual heat death in the very process of the Self dreaming. The image of Vishnu the sustainer dreaming the epochs while the lotus coming out of his navel contains Brahma producing Brahman, the entire universe of objective and subjective manifestation, is as true for the inflationary universe as it was in India centuries ago. The universe is both, in its becoming and in its passing, entirely inhospitable to life. It is thus a gesture in space-time whose mid-point is a supreme biological manifestation of awareness of the deepest Self coming to recognise itself in meditative reflection.
The fifth is the Tantric creation of subject and object as dualities emerging fromthe totality in the dance of form, of wave and particle, of male and female coming to recognise itself through its very fragmentation. This Tantric creation is at once the Fall seen in its proper light with the knowlege of good and evil, the very knowledge of opposites. By contrast, the Eden myth forces the separation without the vision of unity which provides the coherence of the Tree of Life. This is the tragedy of dominion.
In deference to this ancient tradition I leave you just the following two fragments, one from the Upanishads and the other from the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. However short and fragmentary, these at least provide a window into the tradition as it evolved in the history of the culture.
From the Ten Principal Upanishads (Quotations from Purohit and Yeats)
The earliest Upanishads date from 900 to 600 BC. The fundamental concern of the Upanishads is the nature of reality. They teach the identity of the individual soul (atman) with the universal essence soul (Brahman). Because they are the final portions of the Vedas, they are also known as Vedanta, "the end of the Vedas," and their thought, as interpreted in succeeding centuries, is likewise known as Vedanta.
Death said: "The word the Wedas extol, austerities proclaim, sanctities approach - that word is Öm. That word is eternal Spirit, eternal distance, who knows it attains to his desire. That word is the ultimate foundation. Who finds it is adored among the saints. The Self knows all, is not born, does not die, is not the effect of any cause, is eternal, self-existent, imperishable, ancient. How can the killing of the body kill Him? He who thinks that He kills, he who thinks that He is killed, is ignorant. He does not kill nor is He killed. The Self is lesser than the least, greater than the greatest. He lives in all hearts. When senses are at rest, free from desire, man finds Him and mounts beyond sorrow. Though sitting, He travels; though sleeping is everywhere. Who but I Death can understand that God is beyond joy and sorrow. Who knows the Self, bodiless among the embodied, unchanging among the changing, prevalent everywhere, goes beyond sorrow. The Self is not known through discourse, splitting of hairs, learning however great; He comes to the man He loves; takes that man's body for His own. The wicked man is restless, without concentration without peace how can he find Him, whatever his learning?"
"The individual self and the universal Self, living in the heart, like shade and light, though beyond enjoyment, enjoy the result of action. All say this, all who know Spirit, whether householder or ascetic."
"Eternal creation is a tree, with roots above, branches on the ground, pure eternal Spirit, living in all things and beyond whom none can go; that is Self. Everything owes life and movement to Spirit. Spirit strikes terror, hangs like a thunderbolt overhead; find it, find immortality."
"Through terror of God fire burns, sun shines, rain pours, wind blows, death speeds. Man, if he fail to find Him before the body falls, must take another body. Man, looking into the mirror of himself may know Spirit there as he knows light from shade; but in the world of spirits. It is known distorted as in a dream, in the choir of angels as though reflected on troubled water. He who knows that the senses belong not to Spirit but to the elements, that they are born and die, grieves no more. Mind is above sense, intellect above mind, nature above intellect, the unmanifest above nature. Above the unmanifest is God, unconditioned, filling all things. He who finds Him enters immortal life, becomes free. No eye can see Him, nor has He a face tliat can be seen, yet through meditation and through discipline He can be found in the heart. He that finds Him enters immortal life. When mind and sense are at rest, when the discrimination of intellect is finished, man comes to his final condition."
"From Him, gods, angels, men, cattle, birds, living fires, rice, barley, austerity, faith, truth, continence, law. From Him seven senses like ritual fires, seven desires like flames, seven objects like oblations, seven pleasures like sacrifices, seven nerves like habitations, seven centres in the heart like hollows in the cavern. From Him, seas, rivers, mountains, herbs and their properties: in the middle of the elements the inmost Self. My son! There is nothing in this world, that is not God. He is action, purity; everlasting Spirit. Find Him in the cavern; knaw the knot of ignorance."
"Shining, yet hidden, Spirit lives in the cavern. Everything that sways, breathes, opens, closes, lives in Spirit, beyond learning, beyond everything, better than anything; living, unliving. It is the undying blazing Spirit, that seed of all seeds, wherein lay hidden the world and all its creatures. It is life, speech, mind, reality, immortality. It is there to be struck. Strike it, my son! Take the bow of our sacred knowledge, lay against it the arrow of devotion, pull the string of concentration, strike the target. Öm is the bow, the personal self the arrow, impersonal Self the target. Aim accurately, sink therein. Into His cloak are woven earth, mind, life, the canopy, the Kingdom of Heaven. He is alone and sole; man's bridge to immortality."
"Welcome to the Lord! The word Öm is the Imperishable; all this its manifestation. Past, present, future-everything is Öm. Whatever transcends the three divisions of time, that too is Öm. There is nothing that is not Spirit. The personal self is the impersonal Spirit. It has four conditions.
God thought: "I would be many I will procreate." And in the heat of his meditation created everything. Creating everything He entered into everything. Entering into everything He took shape yet remained shapeless, took limits yet remained limitless, made his home, yet remained homeless; created knowledge and ignorance; reality, unreality; became everything; therefore everything is reality. Here is my authority: "In the beginning there was no creation; then creation came. He created Himself, out of himself. Hence He is called Self-Creator." Everything is Self-created. He is that essence. Drinking that essence, man rejoices. If man did not lose himself in that joy, he could not breathe; he could not live. Self is the sole giver of joy.
Selected quotations from the "Aphorisms
of Yoga" of Patanjali
Patanjali is supposed to have lived sometime between the 2nd century BC and the fifth century AD. (Quotations from Shree Purohit Swami 1938).
Sampradnyata Samadhi is that condition of conscious illumination, where mind is mixed up with consciousness of sentiment, or consciousness of discrimination, or consciousness of joy, or consciousness of personality.
Meditation on nature begins with meditation on Her form, meditation on God begins with meditation on His form.Meditation on nature or God without form, though not impossible, is extremely difficult., for we meditate with the help of mind, which Indian philosophy considers material, though the object of our meditation be immaterial. When the yogi goes beyond attachment to form he becomes free. Ultimately he finds the material root is perishable. This discrimination goes on until he attains self, the real root of nature.
Asampradnyata samadhi is that unmixed condition of conscious illumination, where, by constant renunciation of all knowledge, mind retains past impressions only. They who have lost attachment to body or have merged in nature, attain this condition when they are born again, but others have to attain it through faith, effort, recollection, concentration, or discrimination. Illumination is also attained by devotion to God.
Mind attains peace when meditation produces extra-ordinary sense perceptions. Or by meditation on the inner light that leads beyond sorrow. Or by meditation on the knowledge gained through dream or sleep.
Illumination with seed may be with or above sentiment with or above discrimination. Illumination above discrimination, being pure, brings spiritual contentment. When even this has been suppressed, seedles Samadhi is attained.
Austerity, study, devotion to God, constitute practical yoga. The aim is to attain illumination and to destroy afflictions. Ignorance, egoism, desire, aversion, fear are afflictions. The finer afflictions disappear as mind disappears in illumination. The grosser afflications dissappear through meditation. Karma, whether fulfilled in present or future life, has its root in afflictions. Asana (posture) implies steadiness and comfort. The next step is Prajnayama (breath control) the cessation of exhalation and inhalation. Then the cloud that obscures light melts away. Pratyahra is the restoration of sense to the original purity of mind by renouncing its objects. Then follows complete subjugation of sense.
Attention, union and illumination form concentration.
Finally by renouncing even these powers, the seed of bondage being destroyed,the yogi attains liberation.
Powers are either revealed at birth, or acquired by medicinal herbs, or by repetition of sacred words, or through austerity, or through illumination.
He who sees clearly refuses to identify mind with Self. Intent on discrimination, the mind longs for liberation. When the yogi attains final discrimination, renounces even that , he attains the condition called "Rain Cloud of Divinity". Mind without impurity and impediment attains infinite knowledge, what is worth knowing in this world becomes negligible. The dissolution of Qulaities in their source, when nothing remains to be achieved, is liberation; the revelation of the power of Self, the foundation of the beauty of Self.
Shiva and the Mahadevi of India
Of all the Gods, Shivai is the lord of death and the Lord of deep transcendental meditation. He is traditionally the shaman in leopard skin with the crescent moon at his brow. He is the Lord of altered states, traditionally associated with Ganga the sacred herb of the Ganges and its ritual consumption by sadhus.
He is also the ancient trident-bearing yogic sacred king, Lord of the cattle of Mojendaro and the Indus valley civilizations, who also worshipped the agricultural fertility Goddess in her unrestrianed form. This is why to this day Kali remains the dark Goddess of the Dravidians, who still bears all the marks of sacrifice in her demeanour and who dances over the lifeless body of Shiva in consummation of the sacrifical sacred marriage.
For this reason Shiva is again the only God in the Indian pantheon who really associates with the Goddess in her undiminished power, whose name is simply Devi or Maha-devi - "Great Goddess" just as was al-Lat. He is variously associated with Kali the Goddess in her fierce aspect, with Sati his first wife who immolated herself in shame at his exclusion from her father's sacrifice, and her reincarnation, Parvati who is peaceful and domesticates the ascetic Shiva. Her anger manifests in succession as Durga the warrior Goddess and finally Kali herself.
Both Shiva and Indra as male hero Gods were said to have been emasculated in a sacrificial misadventure in the tradition of the sacred kings. Indra was given the balls of a ram. Shiva's emasculation turns the world dark, cold and impotent and he has to be propitiated by the worship of the lingam. When Shiva and Parvati first made love, the Gods interrupted them, fearing the birth of one with excessive powers. Shiva's sperm was so hot however that none of them could handle it and it passed to the Ganges to be incubated. Shiva sometimes acts as destroyer. His third eye of illuminationis also destruction. From theangry sweat of his brow came disease. But he is also the sustainer and savior of life. He swallowed the poison from the churning of the cosmic ocean and broke the fall of Ganga when she crashed down from heaven to cleanse the world.
The Implicit Chauvanism of India's High Gods
All the other Gods are by comparison male chauvanists. Although Vishnu and Shri Lakshmi are associated with sustain the epochs and with fertility, Shri became symbolic of the loyalty of the model Hindu wife, loyal and submissive to ther husband. Such male dominion became in turn a travesty of the Goddesses descent in the rite of Suttee, although as we have just seen suttee actually comes for Sati.
Being Krsna Consciousness
By the same token, Krishna, who represents much more closely the male fertility deity surrounded by devoted cowgirls, nevertheless is represented as a supreme transcendent Lord encumbered with mere mortals. Even Krishna's affair with Radha, which is a motif not unlike the Song of Songs for the splendour of pastoral fertility, is merely an allegory for the intimacy of deity and devotee - "Christ and his Church".
When I began to write the Genesis a Hare-Krishna girl tried to turn me on to Krsna. I said "The feminine is returning. This is the epoch of wave and particle. This is the epoch of the Bride, we have neglected the natural and the physical to our folly." She said "But that's just the material plane. God is transcendent. This world is just a husk." I said "Without nature we are the destroyers of ourselves. Only when the two become one will we have a living future." As I walked down the road she called after me "Who do you think you are! Krsna?"
This is a deep parallel. Krsna and Christ are one. Both are the Bridegroom, Jesus with Salome, Mary and the five good virgins, Krsna with Radha and the cow girls. Both are defenders of the transcendent father, despite courting the female as Lord. For both the relationship is a marriage to their church.
This presents a dangerous mix. There is a deep and very powerful and truthful vision in transcendence. The Gita puts it perhaps the best way it has ever been expressed. In this vision, nuclear holocaust is but a shadow alongside the almighty eternal Self:.
The Spirit kills not, nor is it killed. 'It was not born; It will never die: nor once having been, can It ever cease to be: Unborn, Eternal, Ever-ensuring, yet Most Ancient, the Spirit dies not when the body is dead. 'He who knows the Spirit as Indestructible, Immortal, Unborn, Always-the-Same, how should he kill or cause to be killed? 'As a man discards his threadbare robes and puts on new, so the Spirit throws off Its worn-out bodies and takes fresh ones. 'Weapons cleave It not, fire burns It not, water drenches It not and wind dries It not.'It is impenetrable; It can be neither drowned nor scorched nor dried. It is Eternal, All-pervading, Unchanging, Im- movable and Most Ancient. 'It is named the Unmanifest, the Unthinkable, the Immutable. Wherefore, knowing the Spirit as such, thou hast no cause to grieve (Purohit 1935)
'Even if thou thinkest of It as constantly being born, constantly dying; even then, 0 Mighty Man! thou still hast no cause to grieve. 'For death is as sure for that which is born, as birth is for that which is dead. Therefore grieve not for what is inevitable. 'The end and beginning of beings are unknown. We see only the intervening formations. Then what cause is there for grief? 'One hears of the Spirit with surprise, another thinks It marvellous, the third listens without comprehending. Thus, though many are told about It, scarcely is there one who knows It (Purohit 1935)
Now that is a truth which is immutable. But look what happens next, we are suddenly into Armageddon here, the male combat myth is unleashed with full fury:
'Be not anxious about these armies. The Spirit in man is imperishable. 'Thou must look at thy duty. Nothing can be more welcome to a soldier than a righteous war. Therefore to waver in thy resolve is unworthy, 0 Arjuna! (Purohit 1935)
'Blessed are the soldiers who find their opportunity. This opportunity has opened for thee the gates of heaven. 'Refuse to fight in this righteow cause, and thou wilt be a traitor, lost to fame, incurring only sin. 'Men will talk forever of thy disgracer and to the noble, dishonour is worse than death. 'Great generals will think that thou hast fled from the battlefield through cowardice, though once honoured thou wilt seem despicable. 'Thine enemies will spread scandal, and mock at thy cour- age. Can anything be more humiliating? 'If killed, thou shalt attain Heaven; if victorious, enjoy the kingdom of earth. Therefore arise, 0 son of Kunti! and fight. 'Look upon pleasure and pain, victory and defeat, with an equal eye. Make ready for the combat, and thou shalt commit no sin (Purohit 1935).
Here we have unrolled all that is dangerous and violent in male dominion. Herein lies crusade and jihad. Herein lies violent martyrdom. Herein lies the will to violent conflict. Herein lies the morality which curses with shame.
Here we have a lesson, for Jesus overthrew this order of violence by saying to turn the other cheek and to love your enemies. To live in a finite planet we have to learn ways of coexisting that do not lead to full-on confronataion again. We will anihilate ourselves if we don't. This doesn't mean to take everything lying down - love is tough too, but love is the key. The feminine, nature and the physical are all demoted to the inferior gross realm. The fallacy is that the physical is inferior rather than complementary. The fallacy is that the female is inferior to the male.
Nevertheless there is one sense in which the entire following dialogue on action is true and that is that birth and death are our reality and action is our fulfillment. Because in the physical we live in space-time, we need to accept that we are here to participate fearlessly in the course of history. In this sense the Krsna girl was absolutely right. In writing the Genesis of Eden I am also writing the Gita because there is a living battle involved to free the mind of Homo sapiens before he destroys nature and the physical. Unfortunately this battle is against the male combat myth and Armageddon. It is a battle but it is a battle of love. It is not an easy one to fight, precipitous and dangerous but it is a path of reconciliation. Whose side am I on? On the side of Immortal Wisdom! Is that Krsna's side? Well yes because it is my side too as a male wishing to see life go on. Hence this voila.
'He who wherever he goes is attached to no person and to no place by ties of flesh; who accepts good and evil alike, neither welcoming the one nor shrinking from the other-take him to be one who is merged in the Infinite' (Purohit 1935).
We stand refreshingly beyond good and evil, accepting the mutuality in all natural encounter. The impersonal nature of the Self is stressed by disengagement.
A Shrine to Sati and the wives burned to their husbands memory
The architectural records of Ur include a whole kingly court apparently buried alive after the death of a king (Wooley 1954). This practise was widespread across the ancient and neolithic world (Campbell 1962). We have also seen how sacred kings often suffered the same fate and the priestess of the Goddess was likewise regularly flung off a precipice to her doom, as Inanna descended to the underworld to rot on a peg. However the practice of suttee in India became a unique cultural expression of male dominion unparalleled in quite the same way anywhere else. In this twist, the myth of the Goddesses descent has become woven into that of Shiva's wife Sati and held up as a social necessity, a gruesomely enforced ideal whose horrors match the witch burnings of Europe and are scarcely mitigated by the equally gruesome sacrifices to the bloodthirsty Kali as fertility Goddess in rural India through to last century.
Indra and Mortal
(Illustrations from Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth - TV)
At Puri, the site of the dreaded Juggernaut of, the religious procession to the great Jaganath Temple, which devotees used to throw themselves under the wheels of, the proprietor of the little Santana hotel on the beach looked at me and said "Have you been given a name as a Baba?" I said "No". He then looked at me very carefully and said "Yogindra Baba".
Indra typifies the Aryan warrior god-king, who descended on the Indus valley civilizations with their culture of the planter Goddess and yogic trident-bearing Shivaic consort. This twin-layer typifies the deepest mysteries and torments of the Eastern tradition, the most sublime expression of spirituality and the most abhorrent human practices of caste untouchability and blood sacrifice.
Indra, like Christ, sets out to conquer the devil in the tradition of male combat myth and like Zeus brandishes a thunderbolt to achieve the task. When he succeeds, he settles down to build a palace. However, being the proud young tyrant, he is never satisfied and asks the archtiect to build and rebuild the palace in ever more indulgent splendour.
The exhausted architect entreaties Vishnu the sustainer, who is lying in deep trance on the snake Ananta, resting between cycles of emanation and reabsorbtion of the epochs to come to his aid.
Out of his navel springs a lotus upon which sits Brahma the creator, emanating both the material elements of the universe and the mental concepts through which we perceive and understand them.
The next day a beautiful Krishna-like blue boy appears at the palace, surrounded by cheering and drumming children. [Krishna and Buddha are described as the last two incarnations of Vishnu.]