The Four Dispositions

Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was a man who spent much of his life in seclusion. He left home at age 9 to find a guru and spent much of his life in remote forests of India. He only emerged in the later years of his life to take the role of Shankaracharya, the exponent of Shankara’s teachings in N. India. The seat had been vacant nearly 150 years.

Not only did he revive the tradition in the area but several modern teachers of high impact were his students. Millions of people around the world have taken up eastern philosophy and meditation … Continue Reading…

The Ramayana

The Ramayana is an epic story of the life of Rama, a prince in a kingdom of ancient India and an avatar of Vishnu (god in form, sent to restore balance). There are many versions of the epic tale. The original was told by Valmiki using his yogic vision. While Valmiki was visited by Rama, their time together physically was brief. He later wrote this epic poem about Rama’s life and taught it to Rama’s sons, who Rama didn’t then know existed (it’s complicated).

To give a sense of the scale of the story, it took 300 episodes to … Continue Reading…

What is a Soul?

The topic of souls came up in conversation with friends. In the west, we debate if animals have souls and talk of loosing one’s soul, splitting the soul, and so forth. A lot of that is confusing a sense of self driven by mind with the eternal, untouchable soul.

The Vedas contain several philosophies with some variation on this topic. But generally, soul is seen as equivalent to jiva, a living being with life force. In other words, a dog and a plant have a soul but a chair does not. Even though everything arises in and of consciousness, it … Continue Reading…

Perspective and Perception

I talk a lot here about stages of development in consciousness aka stages of enlightenment. This is to offer context for the various experiences and teachings out there and help us gain a better understanding of the path.

But sometimes, it’s useful to hear it all said a different way. On a recent retreat, Lorne Hoff spoke of Purusha and Prakriti. These are terms used by the Indian philosophy of Samkhya, a dualistic outlook that enumerates how the world comes into being.

In Samkhya, Purusha is the cosmic spirit and Prakriti is nature. Together, they are the origin … Continue Reading…

The Trinity of Self

Atman or the Cosmic Self has a three-fold nature. It has a subject or observer aspect, the process of observation, and the object or observed aspect. I illustrated this here.

As consciousness is aware of itself both globally and at every point, it can observe its own dynamics and experience this directly.

“Locally” or personally, we experience this as the ego or I-sense, the intellect, and the mind.

Samkhya describes how Buddhi (intellect) recognizes self as different from other, creating Ahamkara, the I-sense or ego. This arises in early childhood as a baby distinguishes itself from mother.

Manas … Continue Reading…

About the Gunas

I’ve written or commented on the gunas in a variety of articles. This includes The Gunas and Emotions, Karma and the Gunas, and The Gunas in Awakening. I talk about them regularly because they play a key roll in our style of awakening.

The gunas are the fundamental qualities of consciousness as it begins to express. As vibration arises, it has 3 qualities:

Sattva: purity or clarity of the flow (golden)
balance, harmony, goodness, purity, universalizing, holistic, constructive, creative, building, positive, peaceful, virtuous, light, buoyant
– Jupiter, Moon, Sun

Rajas: movement itself, energy or … Continue Reading…

The Means of Liberation (Yogas)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13
Verse 24
Some realize the Self by the Self in the Self through meditation, others through Samkhya yoga, yet others through Karma yoga.
 
Verse 25
Others, however, not knowing thus, sit near Me [Krishna], having heard from others, they also do cross beyond death, devoted to what they have heard.

This lays out the Yogas or paths to liberation.

The first is Dhyana Yoga, the path of meditation covered in Chapter 6 of the Gita. These days, it is often taught as Raja … Continue Reading…

The Gender of Divinity

Many religious and spiritual traditions describe God with a specific gender. For example, although there are those who worship Mother Mary, Christianity is dominated by a Father God. A lot of modern Hinduism is also directed at male deities like Shiva or forms of Vishnu.

Some modern faiths speak in terms of a Father-Mother God, likening it to a personal choice or a genderless or androgynous divinity.

What this is leaving out is direct experience. When the means to direct experience is lost, traditions devolve into systems of belief. This has happened repeatedly throughout the ages.

However, … Continue Reading…

The Source of Perception

One of the curious things I noticed many years ago was how much we agree on the appearance of the world. While there is a huge variation in emphasis and interpretation, we have no problem driving down the street. Other’s reality doesn’t cause the roads to change appearance continually as we go by.

This points to a shared reality. Modern science takes the approach that the physical world is real and we interpret it subjectively with our brains. But when we recognize that the world arises from and within consciousness, this points to a deeper shared reality.

Samkhya Continue Reading…

Once You Know

There is a curious dynamic in being human. Once we know, we know.

For example, a DNA test. They can reveal some fascinating detail about your makeup and origins. But what about the genetic markers you have for diseases such as Alzheimers? What about unknown relatives appearing that your ancestors may have hidden? There can be surprises. These are things that once you know, you cannot stop knowing. Good to know but it’s not always easy.

With knowledge comes responsibility. Even in simple things like crossing the street. Children may dart out into traffic. But … Continue Reading…

Predominance

For some, unfolding knowledge of the world follows the path of the mechanics of perception. For others like myself, it follows the path of the dynamics of consciousness. The 2 approaches unfold different understanding of the world. There are also variations within each.

On the first path, we discover a version of what Samkhya describes. From the mind arises the 5 senses out of the observer side of consciousness. From the observed arises the corresponding 5 tanmatra or essences. The first comes out of sattva guna, the second from tamas.

As the tamas (inertia) increases, those essences … Continue Reading…

Why is there a Dark Side?

It’s good to consider – why does a world expressed by the Divine have evil? The answer is all about balance.

In the Vedic perspective, there are 3 forces in creation: creation, maintenance, and destruction. Those 3 forces evolve into 3 qualities (gunas) which evolve into the 5 elements, 5 senses and so forth.

The 3 qualities or gunas are:
Sattva: creative, purity, clarity, smooth
Rajas: fire, action, energy, transformation
Tamas: inertia, rigidity, resistance

Without inertia, we would have no form. In fact, nothing would last. As Dharma is that which sustains, tamas is … Continue Reading…