Monday, October 1, 2012

Realize Your Self System

Every choice we make has consequences, whatever obvious or not. What seems a great choice at the moment may perhaps have negative consequences later on? A holistic way to approach choices and consequences is to examine our personal value system.
There once was mountaineering team that had prepared for three years for a competitive clime. When they finally began, somewhere after the second camp they came across a seriously injured climber in need of medical assistance. Those were the days of no cell phones. One of the members of the team, seeing the dire situation, and obviously out of a strong value system, decided to drop out of the climb and help to bring down the injured person. No amount of pleading from his team convinced him to do otherwise. And their argument was that “we have our own agenda and this case is of no concern to us”.
If you have been brought up to be caring as soon as a situation presents itself, you are prompted to action. Take the example of someone with a hundred-rupee note on a busy street corner looking desperately for change today for an auto rickshaw and getting refused by people around/ As  soon as you see this you know you have the required change as well as the willingness to relieve another person from difficulty and anxiety. You also know that you might one day be in the same situation. “Do unto others what you would like them the Golden Rule, because it is an eternal value.
So you approach the person, respond to the need and walk away. You feel good about yourself because there was congruence between your value system and the choice you made.
What is this ‘congruence?’ It is a match between value and action. Sometimes we are faced with choices that are not congruent with our value system; extreme ones are like having to perhaps pay a bribe for something that is our legitimate right.
How we respond to a situation depends on how strongly we wish to uphold our personal value system. It helps if you take time to write down a set of values that you believe in. Then comes the real test, of living the value. The strange thing is that, whenever we make a commitment to ourselves, all sorts of situations pot up to test us.
Making a good living, being peaceful, helpful, sharing resources – these are all values. Out of these values we make choices and take action. Interestingly, every choice we make has a price. In the case of the mountaineer he paid the price of not reaching the summit, with all the successes that could have followed; perhaps also of having let down his team. He let all that go for saving a life.
Values determine our action preferences and priorities. When asked why he had done this, the young mountaineer’s response was, “If I had let that young man die, no matter what success I achieved, I could not have lived with the thought for the rest of my life.” A rabbinic text encourages us: “in places where there are no human beings, be one.”
The yogic scheme of yamas talks about values that are connected with interactions with others. Another is the four-fold maîtri –karuna –mudita -upeksha or universal friendship, compassion; joy in others’ happiness and consideration for others. If you add these two sets you get a comprehensive value system that can stand the test of time and you will notice that all spiritual traditions are in conformity with these.

Liberation From the Personhood

The brain’s various centers are each designated for a specific function. The senses take cognition of the environment. The anthropological basis of the nervous system was to facilitate an interaction with the environment, based on the individual’s awareness of being separate from the environment. All senses sub-serve the function of underlining a sense of discreteness. Touch, taste, sound, smell and vision are instruments of discrimination. The entity that integrates these inputs and collectively coordinates them as a subject is the assumed ‘identity. The coordinated output of separateness that the senses keep generating is ego.
The brain helps fragment awareness into the subjective ‘self’ and objective ‘non-self’ are vital for each other’s symbiotic existence. Our own identity relies on our ability to perceive our self as uniquely different and distanced from the environment. Various detrimental states of consciousness, such as feeling drowsy, deep sleep, semi consciousness or even an unconsciousness state are familiar. Therefore, it is only logical to believe in states where there is an incremental increase in the level of consciousness.
If identity was base merely on a deep rooted sense of discreteness that the senses generate, would a person, alone in a dark, quiet room – whose brain is not being fed with sensory inputs – consider himself as non-existent? N unconscious person doesn’t interact with the environment but might be assumed to possess an ‘am-ness’ that is partial and aware of only the ‘self’ without comprehending or interacting with the environment. It’s a state of partial awareness.
A seizure that arises in the portions of the limbic system – phylogenetically one of the oldest groups of neurons – could give rise to profound spiritual experiences. Repeated bursts of abnormal electrical activity can facilitate a new pathway within the compels network of neurons. This is called ‘kindling’ – where consciousness may be getting defragmenter leading to an un-split awareness.
All sense organs route their inputs through the limbic system and to various designated areas. The sensation of extreme bliss generated by un-split awareness gets triggered by the limbic system and not in the frontal lobes, the seats of intelligence and logical analysis. Such experiences are hence states of altered awareness rather than conclusions arising as a result of intellectual through processing of the brain. The experience or realization that the am-ness of subject and object are of the same essence could be that final frontier of consciousness evolution, the attainment of state of super consciousness. Faith and devotion as ways to salvation rely on the dismantling of the worshipper’s identity and becoming one with the worshipped. That is, perhaps inputs that serve to generate and maintain a separateness of the self are modulated or filtered within the limbic system – a state of comprehensive, un-resurrected oneness.
It’s a paradoxical situation of the observer becoming the observed without the meditation of sense3 organs, by expanding awareness to a supra sensory level. Realization may well be a modulation and ‘kindling’ of the neural pathways leading to a perception of oneness with the entire cosmos. It would  then really be more a liberation from the person rather than of the person.

Sex and Salvation

Salvation is the dewstination. Love is the way. However, sex provides three interesting detours – procreation, recreation and cfreation – on the path for one who wants to be God.
Recebtkt a swami from south India was caught on camera in what the media calls  a ‘compromising position; with a couple of women. There was a public uproar and he has since been arested. The swami, in his earlyu thirties, would have gotten away with what is perhaps the result of a hormonal surge had he not vowed to be, well a swami. Literally, a swami is someone who is a ‘master of his senses’. Popular culture tends look up to a saint or swami as some kind of divine entity.
Strangely but true, ther is very little room for sexual adventure on the path of salvation. Yet, Nature whole heartedly designs a 30-odd-years-old man’s body for what Nature needs to do; propagation of the species.Nature puts forth several smart promotional schemes to get this job done through its species. The physical and physiological pleasure associated with the sex surge is the soft packaging for the hard nuts and bolts reality of giving birth to a baby. It is difficult not be seduced by this pleasure when all our senses converge to draw us to it. Leonardo da Vinci  puts this procreation and the members smployed there in are so repulsive, that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, Nature would lose the human species.”
When the contraceptive pill arrived, sex evolved from the basic need of procreation to sex for recreation. The inventive human mind was apparently able to checkmate Nature’s ploy of painful procreation by recreating the pleasure of sex without producing a result. This is somewhat like sniffing around in a pastry shop with the intent to do just window shopping. Nature made sure that the residue of recreational sex remains as sensory impressions in the mind in the form of vasanas – burning embers waiting for the next gust of passion to flare up. These vasanas arew potential desires tha incarnated themselves at the opportune moment.
The real challenge for human evolution was then to put out the embers odf vasanas that transported sex in the head from where it actually belongs. This challenge of transforming sex for procreation into sex for recreation has been productively met by saints, explorers, artists, writers, inventors, innovators and wealth creators. They lifted the sexual energy from their thoughts and emotions and expressed them in their creative works. While saints like Buddha, Krishna, and Christ created new maps of human consciousness; explorers like Galileo and Columbus redrew maps of our physical world.
On the path of salvation celibacy is not a prerequisite but a consequence – an effortless by product of creativity. Celib acy is a kind of flowering of consciousness and not a moral given, as most sermons would have us believe. It is easier to cover a raging fire with a piece of cloth than to contain libido with sermons. A celibate is like an auster tree in winter that to flowering and stands to rejoice as an enthralled witness in having completed the cyclee of creation. The human consciousness scripts the whole journy from being the cteatures of sex to the Creator Herself. The “fallen” swami, like any one of us, is somewhere on the path. I would just let him be.

Finding Bliss Everywhere

Meditation is the highest spiritual technique that needs to be practiced diligently and devotedly by qualified practitioners. The essential prerequisite is a calm mind. A mind burdened with desires and attachments is unable to take off into subtler realms of concentration and meditation. Entitled: “The Yoga of Meditation, chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita elucidates meditation as the final gateway to self-realization.
Krishna begins with the definition of a sannyasi a renounced person. Renunciation is not giving up enjoyments, abandoning one’s duties and escaping to a safe sanctuary. It is this misunderstanding that has turned away genuine seekers and prevented them from accessing the benefits of renunciation. Krishna describes  a sannyasi as one who does what one ought to do, fulfills one’s duties and responsibilities fully, without depending on the fruit of action.
A Sannyasi is not one without a higher ideal, nor is he an inactive person. Krishna describes the three stages of spiritual evolution, from an active yogi to a meditative sannyasi and, finally to the exalted state of a janani, the enlightened one.
A sannyasi has offloaded the bulk of his desires and is in contemplation of the higher. He is fit for meditation and embarks on the path of deep reflection and focus on reality. A janani has reached the exalted state of enlightenment. Krishna describes the three stages in terms of mental states rather than external appearances.
Step by step, Krishna takes us through the preparatory disciplines as well as disqualifications for meditation. One must have a balanced contact with the world – neither too much nor too little. Every activity must be carefully supervised by the intellect so that no desire interrupts the subtle practice of meditation.
Krishna then gives the test of enlightenment. A realized soul is one who feels one with everyone. He sees his self as the self in all beings. In the end he worships God not in a temple, church or mosque, but in every living being. Therefore, he lives in Atman whatever his lifestyle. It is pointless to declare love for God when you cannot connect with His images everywhere.
Arjuna, like us, is afraid of leaving the safe confines of his present existence to discover the unknown realm of the infinite. He asks Krishna what the fate is of those who commit themselves to a spiritual life but die before realization. Krishna gives a fitting reply to reveal one of the most insightful laws of life. He says, “One who is righteous will never come to grief – either now or in the future.” Your efforts will not go in vain. You will carry forward the credits to your future life.
A spirituality evolved person who falls short of realization will either be born in the home of the happy and wealthy or in a family of wise yogis. There, endowed with the wisdom acquired in previous lives, he will strive even more to attain enlightenment. Thus the diligent seeker effortlessly reaches Brahman. The key words are vairagya, dispassion and adhyasa, practice. One must be convinced of the futility of worldly passions and pursue the necessary spiritual practice consistently.

Pure Love is a God

As regular at religious discourses, one often finds followers of one guru or faith criticizing those of other faiths because they think that their own philosophy is far superior.
Why is it so difficult for us to respect the right of others to follow any teaching or teacher of their choice? No one who claims loyalty to any faith that advocates compassion, tolerance and understanding can affords to ignore these tenets.
“Few, among thousands of men and women, strive for perfection; and a few perchance, among the blessed ones striving thus, know Me in reality “said Krishna to Arjuna in the Gita (7.3). Too many of us are preoccupied with unearthing details of when Krishna was born and when he actually delivered the Gita. We are more interested in knowing what Jesus looked like, and whether he really got resurrected. We tend to get ensnared in irrelevant details, and we begin to lose sight of the wood for the trees.
Few love God unconditionally. Ramakrishna would tell the story of some men who went into a mango orchard. They began counting the leaves, twigs and branches examining their color, comparing their size, and then proceeded to argue about who was right. The most sensible among them began eating the fruit. Similarly a truly spiritual person is not bothered about the history or geography of God; he simply yearns for God, he is not as keen to memorize the Gita’s verses as he is to follow its teaching.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa did not spend time reading the scriptures. He advised all seekers to ‘eat the mangoes’, leaving it to the learned to pore over the details. He knew from personal experience that God could be reached via any path. He found God by following the various paths of the Hindu faith, including the vaishnava, shiva and Tantrik path. He discovered the beauty of Christ and Mohammed by learning about them. At the end of each path God was there waiting for His beloved devotee. The only qualification needed was pure love.
A true devotee, no matter which faith he believes in goes through the equivalent of a crucifixion. Jesus was crucified, Meera was tortured by her in laws, Prahlada was terrorized by his hather, Kabir was ridiculed by society, Namdeva was labeled mad. Tulsidas was threatened by the upper caste and Socrates was given poison to drink. None was spared. The Lord demands complete surrender. He resides in our hearts. But only the pure are allowed into this sacred space, and that’s why we need the guidance of a hallowed sadhguru.
Ramakrishna said that the heart was like God’s living room. So we need to keep it clean. Ramana Maharshi explained that to seek true consciousness, you must concentrate on the heart which is the seat of consciousness – or we could say it is consciousness itself. The heart is another name for reality, he said, and this is neither inside nor outside the body.
Loving God results in ‘rising’ rather than ‘falling’ in love. Your vision gradually begins to encompass entire humankind, all living beings and inert matter as well. You become one with that loving an earthly being means possessiveness and this is restrictive. That’s why you ‘fall in love. Loving God, however, enables us to love all. This way, you can achieve ultimate oneness of existence of Brahmn.