Tuesday, July 24, 2007

To Be or not to Be??

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

It must be the deep mystical vibrations of the approaching Guru Purnima that has me like this. The last week or so has been quite a time for my unlettered mind - deep discussions, arguments and counter arguments, dialogue, metaphysical enquiry..... From the sounds of it you might think that I have been having many satsangs, but no, its all been in my mind. Diving head first in the pursuit of more and more subtle reasoning's, I came to a familiar thought pattern. That of the intrinsic differences between the system called Tantra and the rest of the Hindu systems (dominated for the most part by Brahmin orthodoxy). The differences are many, the similarities many too. Yet, in the perception of the hindu society or the individual hindu mind, the social and cultural taboos present a serious impediment in the thorough analysis of the philosophies behind the above mentioned systems. It is almost necessary to step outside the folds of ones own religious indoctrination to 'see' things for what they are.

Here I come back to a point originally touched in a previous post some time back (Women aren't dragons) - that of the precept ion of samsara as something to be greatly feared and avoided at all costs. Just yesterday I was speaking to someone about the fears that arise when we let go of the various things we hold so desperately onto and that conversation led to the content of this post.
Most of the Hindu philosophical and psychological systems (however varied and virulently disagreed they might be on other aspects) agree in asserting that our real world is but a meaningless illusion, that the mental play of various forms which we call our experience of life and the world are utterly without value. Further, they stress that entanglement in such 'play' is the sure way to go rapidly downhill. They show that all the experiences that we normally cherish, like the love for our lovers, family, children, food, sex, the joy of nature around us, why even the adoration we may feel for our ishta devata, are all traps. And the sole intent of the wise person should be to pry loose their grip on us. And according to such systems, when we finally manage to stay permanently in a state of undivided attention to the undivided whole (i.e. Supreme Brahman) and become totally absorbed in that abstract state, we obtain Release.

To achieve such insight and absorption, one needs to dwell on the misery of the human condition. To spur a feeling of detachment (when such a feeling is not 'natural') one needs to dwell on the agonies, despair and the crimes (of which there are plenty as we well know). Further one needs to focus ones mind on the distasteful and disgusting aspects of ones own body and those of others. Thinking and perceiving them to be nothing more than transient bags of phlegm and shit! When this sort of view takes hold, it becomes easy to say 'no' to the world and pleasures enjoyed by such a body. The self of such a one can deny the claims of all apparent (physical) but vanishing possessions. The most beautiful lover, thus dissolves into a temporary illusion. And slowly there comes a state where even though others might see a physical body moving about, there will be no man in it. It remains like an empty shell or an empty nest when the bird has flown. It will then continue to exist only till the last few remaining impulses are finished. This core perception has shaped almost all of the Brahminic philosophical systems and thus no matter where one is always given many words of caution as to the transient nature of this world reality. Thus, there is a feeling of utter disgust, repulsion and a constant undercurrent of fear and paranoia of the endless cycle of life and death.

Though tantra does not dispute the fundamental truth of this position, it has a particular wisdom of its own. It believes that the methods used are absurd (as mentioned above). Crucially, it declares that there is absolutely no need for such a desperate upstream (and unnatural) struggle to reach the shore. Further it notes that such an ideal of life produces a dreadful world for those as yet unreleased! In a complete contrast to the strenuous NO that the Brahmin traditions said to the world, Tantra proclaims an emphatic YES. It stresses that instead of suppressing pleasure,vision and ecstasy, they should be cultivated and used. The principle underlying this is the observation that sensation and emotion are the most powerful human emotive forces and that they should be harnessed to the goal rather than being crushed underfoot. When properly channeled, sensation and emotion can provide an inexhaustible source of energy and aid in bringing about plenty of benefits to society as a whole while constantly increasing ecstasy for the individual. For advancing this end the physical body needs to be cared for and cultivated and thus the kaya siddhi and kaya kalpa became intrinsic steps. Tantrikas understand the no sayers to be at worst ones with a dangerous self indulgence and at best to neglect their fellow creatures.

At its very heart, Tantra deals with Love and Love needs objects. It is self evident that one cannot love nothing as love means care. And care carried out to its highest limit is probably the ultimate social virtue. Having said that, it becomes very important to observe that the different tantras cultivated extremely elaborate frameworks of qualification and complex ritual procedure to make sure that its adherents did not fall into complacent ways of self indulgence as it is so easy to do so. Millions and millions of us do so, all the time - seek pleasure, even ecstasy and make nothing of it; apart from leaving them as dead experiences in ones own past. The tantrika perceives oneness even in the everyday love and life. However, it does draw sharp distinctions between the beast like man who lives in bondage to his appetites, who seeks pleasure only for the sake of experiencing the ecstasies it may offer and the committed tantrika who treats his senses and emotions as if they were prized assets to be used as spiritual currency. Though it does not deny that our fragmented experience of reality is intrinsically of no value, it does have the courage to see that our life does contain many positive experiences which can be put to use for the pursuit of the ultimate goal. Thus is perceives everything, including the disgusting and fearsome aspects of our life experience as the interplay (or love play) of the supreme Goddess and Her consort.

Thus it happens that tantra is primarily an experiential process, one of sadhana and one of constant experience. When the yantras and other mystical rituals and accessories are viewed within the context of tantra it becomes clear that they are rooted in the realities of experience. That is to say, even the most obliquely metaphysical iconography and ritual can only mean anything at all by virtue of its semantic reference to the realities of human experience. While a glib verbalism can flatter the sense of achievement without actually committing oneself to real effort. It is by virtue of this core difference in the world view of the two systems (while the ultimate transcendental reality is the same in both) there arise the different types of sadhana and the differences in world view. One leaves a void behind as a result of the pursuit of the ultimate void while the other leaves behind the experience of fullness as a result of the pursuit of the ultimate whole.

2 comments:

Srividya Srinivasan said...

"That is to say, even the most obliquely metaphysical iconography and ritual can only mean anything at all by virtue of its semantic reference to the realities of human experience."

But metaphysics and iconography and rituals - are these not also only from the human consciousness? Don't our Gods exist only through the consciousness, created and empowered by it ?

Even when we say Anandha or bliss, where the individual consiousness supposedly merges with the collective consciousness, it is only a temporary loss of awareness of consciousness and not consciousness itself. And by being aware of its merging or loss,aren't we still some degrees away from lotal merging?

Just a thought.

mooligai sidhan said...

sri gurubhyo namaha.
@srividya
welcome and lovely to see you here.Yes indeed, metaphysics, rituals etc are only from the human consciousness - which is why I stress on the fact that all those symbols and rituals etc make sense only when they are connected to the realities of human experience.Why else would a set of triangles and a dot mean so much?!
Regarding ananda or bliss being the temprary merger of the individual consciousness into the collective, I dont think so. Ananda or bliss is not a 'feeling' or an emotion at all. It is the very 'nature' of consciousness by itself. The nature of the supreme being or Brahman is Sat, Chit Ananda (eternal,conscious,bliss). When consciousness simply 'is' without being yoked to the subject object distinction - i.e. bliss is a technical term used to describe the very nature of consciousness itself, before its vritti (modification)as the rest of the manifest universe.