Wednesday, February 17, 2010

III: 5

Chapter 3, Verse 5

“No one, not even for an instant,
Can exist without acting.
All beings are compelled to action
By the forces of nature.”

Sri Aurobindo:

“Because we are embodied in the natural world, we cannot cease from action, not for a moment. Our very existence here is an action. The whole universe is an act of God. Mere living is his movement, as the the wave is the movement of the sea.

The Gita speaks of a self being compelled to act and bewildered by egoism, but the real Self is the divine, eternally free and Self-aware. What then is this self that is bewildered by nature? The answer is that we are speaking here of our lower or mental view of things; we are speaking of the apparent self and not of the real Self. It is really the apparent ego-self which is subject to nature, inevitably, because it is itself only an action of the three forces [Rajas Guna, Tamas Guna, and Sattva Guna] and therefore a part of nature.

Thus there are, we might say, two souls in us, the apparent or desire-soul, which changes with the mutations of the Gunas and is constituted and determined by them, and the free and eternal Self not limited by nature and her Gunas. We have two selves, (1) the apparent self, that mental center in us which takes up this mutable action of nature, this mutable personality, and which says, ‘I am this personality, I am this natural being who is doing these works,’ but this natural being is simply a composite of the Gunas; and (2) the true Self, which is the upholder, the possessor, and the Lord of nature. The way to freedom must then be to rid oneself of the exclusive identification with the apparent self and recognize the Self as our divine foundation.”

[When we put the two souls, or two selves together, we get something which may be described by analogy as a donut. In this model, the flesh of the donut consists of our senses, our bodies, and our thinking faculties. On this level, even our thoughts are considered to be part of the material nature, though more subtle than the physical body.

Now let’s look at the hole in the center of the donut. It’s empty. The hole in the center is not material, but in a certain way it is connected because you can’t have the donut without the hole. The hole is part of the donut, and yet in another way it’s not connected. There’s a connection and yet they’re also different. Paradox enters the equation whenever we’re trying to talk about matters that are deeper than the thinking mind, because if it’s deeper than the thinking process, it can’t be strictly expressed with words in a rational, logical way. All we can do is use examples like donuts until we really experience that place inside and then we KNOW it to be real.

The empty center is where the voice of intuition originates. It comes from that deep, quiet, still place inside, and what we need to do is to shift our concentration from the flesh of the donut (Buddhi turned outwards) to the hole in the middle (Buddhi turned inwards). Those of us who were born and raised in Western society were constantly taught to be “somebody.” “Be the doer. Keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.”

What Krishna is doing is leading Arjuna away from his identification with “Arjuna the archer who is going to have to fight with his own family” so that he may identify with that deep, inner, quiet place of detachment and compassion which will reveal to him that it’s his duty, his Dharma, to fight. It is what he has been allotted to do, and this intuitive wisdom will give him the courage and the strength to engage in the battle (of life).]


Krishna Jaya said...

From an email from a friend:

I really like your donut analogy. It's stuck with me the past few days.

From my response:

Thanks. What I was getting at is a way to incorporate the Gita's idea of God's simultaneous immanence and transcendence. Immanence only is pantheism. Transcendence only is theism "out there somewhere." When the two are combined, you get one of the two most popular Hindu world-views, the classical Vedanta to which the commentators Shivananda, Satchidananda, Krishna Prem, and Yogananda belong and the "qualified non-duality" world-view to which Prabhupada and Aurobindo belong (I'm not sure where Easwaran lines up and Father Bede was a Christian). Vedanta allows for the existence of a personal God, but as just another form, ultimately transient (and therefore "unreal" in the strict Vedantic sense) against the backdrop of the transcendent Self, the substratum of content-free consciousness out of which all form (including thoughts) arises and into which all form subsides. The Vedantin puts the personal God "on this side" of the substratum, while the qualified non-dualist puts the personal God "on the other side" of it, that is, uniting form and formless in a higher unity. I subscribed to the Vedantic view for decades, but the trap for me was that in denying the reality of form, I ended up denying parts of myself that festered under the repression in decidedly unhealthy ways. So today I lean more towards the qualified non-duality point of view and especially am attracted to Aurobindo's presentation.

Alan Watts described the substratum as the "undifferentiated aesthetic continuum" and then went on to say that the danger in any conceptualization is in missing the forest for the trees. This cautions me to always think of "my world-view" as tentative, a work-in-progress, a map inspire me to do the heavy lifting.

Krishna Jaya said...

(a continuation of the first comment)

Alan Watts:

"You have to be careful what sort of interpretations you put on these experiences. It is one thing to have an authentic experience of the stars. It is quite another thing to be able to describe accurately their relative positions. It is one thing to have an experience of cosmic consciousness, or liberation, but quite another thing to describe it philosophically. The experience itself is the basis of Hindu philosophy. It is as if one comes into the world in the beginning having what Freud called the 'oceanic consciousness' of a baby...the baby does not distinguish, apparently, between experiences of itself and experiences of the external world. Therefore, to the baby, it is all one. Furthermore, a baby has for a long time been part of its mother and has floated in the ocean of the womb. So it has the sense from the beginning of what is really to an enlightened person totally obvious---that the universe is one single organism.

Our social way of bringing up children is to make them concentrate on the bits and to ignore the totality. We point at things, give them names, and say, 'Look at that.' But children very often ask you what things are, and you realize you do not have names for them. They point out backgrounds, and the shape of spaces between things, and say, 'What's that?' You may brush it aside and say, 'Well, that's not important. That doesn't have a name.' You keep pointing out the significant things to them, and above all what everybody around the child does is to tell the child who he is, and what sort of part he is expected to play---what sort of mask he must wear. I remember very well as a child that I knew I had several different identities, but I knew that I would probably have to settle for one of them; the adult world was pushing me towards a choice. I was one person with my parents at home, another person altogether at my uncle's home, and still quite another person with my own peer group. But society was trying to say, 'Now make up your mind as to who you really are.' Otherwise, you are somehow phony, and the point is not to be phony but to be real.

However, this whole big act is phony, but it is a marvelous act. A genuine person is one who knows he is a big act and does it with complete zip. He is what we would call committed, and yet he is freed by becoming completely committed and knowing that the world is an act. THERE ISN'T ANYBODY DOING IT.[capitals mine] We like to think things stand behind processes, and that things 'do' the processes, but that is just a convention of grammar. We have verbs and nouns, and every noun can obviously be described by a verb. We might say 'catting' for 'cat', for example. When we want to say, 'The catting is sitting,' however, we say, 'The cat sits,' using a noun and a verb---whereas it is all verb; it is all a big act." (he winds up the section on "The Mythology of Hinduism" with the above quote)

Sometimes I get a chuckle out of visualizing a gravestone which says, under my name and the dates, "It's all just a big act."

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