Thursday, January 17, 2008

Division or Inclusion?

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Mantras and slokas often echo a thought so universal that it transcends all boundaries that are the evolute's of the human mind and its diminished perception of the 'whole'. The core practise contained in the everyday Sandhyavandhana (the thrice daily rite performed by the dwijas or twice born - at dawn, midday and dusk) is the anusandhanam (or inward contemplation/meditation) where the manifest sun is seen as the supreme Brahman and then that supreme Brahman is contemplated as non different from the self. All the Sahasranamas (1000 names) of the various deities also takes the sadhaka or worshipper through an extraordinary cosmic journey, where the main deity is seen as everything there is : manifest and unmanifest. Almost all upasana and related practices are aimed at the same thing - deconstructing the self made shackles that bind the jiva or the embodied self to a very localised and limited reality. They enable the perception of the self as an unlimited and expansive and all inclusive reality, something that reaches in to even the darkest recesses of space - something that vibrates in oneness with everything, absolutely everything!

Often though, in reality, we see the practitioners of such sublime rituals miss the point all together. They chant the mantras with almost no experiential understanding of the meaning. Perhaps they have mastered the language, its syntax and it various theoretical aspects. But it seems to fail to cause any perceivable change in the way they relate to themselves and to the world around them, even after years of repeating the mantras and rituals over and over again. But those exceptional individuals, who have actually contemplated on the essence of all such practices, show to us time and again the potency of the expansive self. Seeing or talking to or merely being the presence of such people is a boon in itself, an introduction to bliss!

I fail to see the point in talking endlessly about the all pervading Brahman, and waxing lyrical about all of us being made out of that self luminous consciousness that is the Brahman, when we cannot see its external expression. I mean, if all are one and the same, why then the division based on colour, sex, race, caste, and endless other small and superficial things?? Why then the aggressive and intolerant attitude to anything that is 'different' and does not confirm to one's own belief or thought? Will the endless reduction and subtraction (neti neti or the not this not this) attitude ever show one the all embracing reality that is God? Or is inclusion the way to that goal?

A nama in the Lalitha Sahasranama describes the supreme Devi as AbrahmakItajanani (the Mother of all things from brahma or Hiranyagarbha(the collective form of humanity) down to the smallest parasitical worm). Similar names can be found almost in every set of sahasranamas to the various gods and goddesses to reinforce the fact that the underlying principle is the same in everything, however different they might appear to be externally. The Supreme is like the tiny seed of the Banyan (fig) tree - which is the cause of the appearance of the roots, leaves, fruits, bark, stem and the infinite and expansive branches that spread to cover a huge area. All the above mentioned 'appear' to be different in their form and function, but we know the tree is the composite of all these. And if we were to differentiate this according to function for easy classification and understanding, it makes sense (albeit in a reduced and diminished way). This is the basis of the VarnAshrama classification/division. However, if we begin to qualify them in comparison to each other (as in, trying to judge them as one being better or more important than the other), it leads to a warped perception and nothing more.

The very next nama in the Sahasranama (after the above mentioned one) is VarnAshrama vidhAyini ( The establish er of the different castes and orders of life). This is often used as a reason for the argument in favour of the caste based division (saying that it stems from the Supreme itself). But I can never, for the life of me, see the supreme Devi, the Universal Mother separate Her children by personal bias or prejudice. The division spoken of here is not one that perceives one above or below the other. These are divisions based on the functions and the life path needed for the individual jiva to rise to a place where it can perceive its cosmic identity - nothing more, nothing less. It is like the separate perception of the roots, stem, bark, leaves etc of the above mentioned tree to understand and appreciate their individual functions which is ultimately responsible for the growth of the 'whole' tree. If we were to judge the root to be inferior to the leaves by virtue of its being lower than the leaves, we would be utterly mistaken. For it is but common knowledge that the leaves do not have a separate existence from (i.e. without) the roots. Likewise, if we are led to believe that the shudra (untouchable/lowest caste) is inferior to the Brahmin (priest/highest caste) by virtue of their separate functions in society, we would be grossly wrong. The four castes are said to have their origin in different parts of the supreme Purusha (see Purushashukta) : The Brahmin comes from the face of the Purusha, the Kshatria from the chest of the Purusha, the Vaishya from the thigh of the Purusha and the Shudra from the feet of the Purusha. And based on this people today talk of the castes as being one above the other. But tell me, where is the virtue (or possibility even) in having just a head without the 'lower' parts? Not only is it impossible, but without the feet or other parts to compare against, there is nothing 'higher' or 'lower'.

The differences in form and function universally, only add to the diversity of creation and help the jiva experience what is due to be experienced. The many tiered universe ('apparently' tiered - but the same one tier less thing in the ultimate transcendental aspect) is intrinsically connected to the very nature of this world cycle. Without this 'apparent' diversity there is no creation or progression of life - there can be nothing without it. So, it is not this world that is false and illusory - the real illusion is the 'apparent' perception of difference where none exists. That is Maya. And this stubborn, obstinate need on our part to differentiate is the biggest stumbling block on our path to experience the Oneness of the whole. This basic need (almost completely out of the common man's control) stems from the ahamkara or the I consciousness, which can exist only in differentiation to the 'other'. Thus the dissolution of the 'other ness' is really the awakening of the self. Like the wise say, Enlightenment is not something that is 'gained' - it is the state when the delusion is 'lost'. Like the man who on waking from sleep does not gain anything, he merely has 'lost' his sleep. And the various paths to achieve this 'dissolution' is found everywhere, in the texts and traditions of a million cultures. It can be seen echoed in everything in nature. It can be 'seen' when the eyes are closed even for a moment. That I feel is the essence of all Hindu practises and rituals - not the reinforcing of the hundred million differences.

''pUrnamadah pUrnamidham pUrnAth pUrnamudashyate
pUrnasya pUrnamAdAya pUrnam evA vasishyate.''

''That is whole, This is whole. From the whole the whole is manifest. From the whole when the whole is negated, what remains is (still) the whole.''


Anonymous said...

have been wondering about how we perceive it possible to see the true nature of things as they are....we always see the nature of things from our point of view...
for eg..i meet this person ..i assume that he is this kind of person ...someone else has a different view ..and so are many is like do we really know the taste of the vegetables in its true sense ....without the masalas that adds to its taste
will we ever be able to see things in its true nature without being tainted by our nature
it is not so superficial as it sounds.....not able to express myself.....but lately have stared to question my views...and understanding of things....people..etc

mooligai sidhan said...

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
Perception....a very complex mechanism to disect here. Unless the both of us were experts at the inner workings of the human consciousness and are following the same technical terminology words will get us nowhere.Still, a couple of words....
Perception is always 'subjective'- by which I mean, we percieve things only through our own set of objects of cognition (like you put it, through our own point of view).The triad of the mahat tattva (mano, buddhi & ahamkara)is such that the manas or mind percieves through the associated sets of instruments (senses and their seats), but ahamkara or the I ness is already there in it.Hence it will never be possible to 'see'things as they are - we only see them as what they mean to us or what they mean in connection/relation to us or our set of prejudices.
True 'knowing' that transcends this filter is of a different nature altogether and to an extent will be possible only when the limiting barriers of this and the other is removed. That is to say, unless I 'become' the apple, I can never see the apple without my individual take on it.The distinction between me and the apple has to be removed completely before that happens. The triad (jnyana, jnyatru, jneya - perception, the object of perception and the perciever)when transcended will lead to the full, clear and unbiased 'seeing'.
That transcendance is probably at the very core of the non dual mode (adwaitha)and because of the root nature of the interconnection of the jiva and the jagat (individual self and the universe)this is a very tough call! We are nothing but the aggregate of all our tendencies (past and present)and it is those tendencies and the strength of the impressions they leave on the manas (mind)that forms the filter of subject and object.I am sure that such mashing down of the limitations is what allows the jiva to experience his or her oneness with the unborn and ever lasting paramAtma that is the seed from which all else manifests.
Having said that, it is this individualised perception of things and the world that moves the jiva from birth to death and rebirth. If it percieved its cosmic oneness to the 'real' nature of things, there will be no 'world'...
hope this clears the mist and not be the cause of more 'clouds' in the perception!