Scientists and philosophers attempt to solve some of life’s mysteries but fail when they reach the limitations of reason and the gathering and measurement of empirical evidence. As we have discussed in the last Journal, scientists cannot even determine what is consciousness, because it is not an object. Seekers gain insight however, by following in the footsteps of mystics.
Mystery is sometimes referred to as “obscuration” in the poems of the Yoga Siddhas, such as the Tirumandiram. In these, and in the philosophical literature of Kashmir Shaivism, obscuration is one of the five actions of Shiva. The five actions are creation, preservation or stability, dissolution, obscuration and grace. From the cosmic or metaphysical perspective, the Lord creates a physical body in which every soul can experience the consequences of its karma, good and bad. The Lord preserves the body for a time and preserves some intimate relationships with others including family and friends so that the soul may grow in wisdom through life’s lessons. The Lord dissolves the physical body, relationships, and situations, when new ones are needed for the soul to grow or the soul’s karma requires it. The Lord creates obscuration so that the soul must seek truth diligently beyond life’s ephemeral pleasures and pains, and so gain wisdom, Self-realization and the awakening to the unity within the diversity. The Lord’s grace, the fifth action, permeates all of the other four actions, and supports the soul as it brings the soul into its embrace in the realization of oneness or non-duality. As Tirumular, the author of the Tirumandiram says: “They are not two”, with reference to Shiva, the Lord, and the individual jivas, or souls.
What is often not understood or fully appreciated by yoga sadhaks is that the five actions of Shiva also occur within each of us in every moment. Furthermore, Shiva witnesses the play of his creative force, known as Shakti in everything, including ourselves. You may share this cosmic perspective of Shiva when standing back from the chatter of your mind, as the Witness. When you identify with pure consciousness, or Shiva, and not the movements of your mind, you may witness thoughts, emotions and sensations being created, remaining for awhile, and dissolving. The wise appreciate how thoughts, emotions and sensations obscure the light of consciousness and our essential oneness with everything when one identifies with them. This obscurity and false identification, is born of egoism, the principle of nature, by which consciousness becomes individuated and consequently contracted and identified not only with a particular physical body, but also the individual movements of the mind. When there is attachment or aversion, desire or fear, their movement through our mental and vital bodies become caught in obsessive repetitive loops until or unless they are digested by witnessing and letting them go. Consequently, they form even more obscurity as fears and desires become habitual, and memories, pleasant or painful, are dwelled upon.
The "chitta vritti", (Yoga Sutras 1.2) keeps us in a state of obscurity, absorbed by the agents of maya, referred to as time, desire, limited power, limited knowledge and karma. Grace, operating through the practice of meditation, allows us to witness these, to metabolize them, and to bring them to completion. The study and contemplation of sacred literature also gracefully reveals wisdom, which helps us to remember what we may have forgotten to overcome suffering. Grace allows us to see clearly, to quiet the mind, to have pure awareness, and to pierce the veil of obscurity of false identification with mental and emotional movements. It may come as a peak experience, in which we “see the light” or afterwards say “It blew my mind” or “It took my breath away” or “I felt the presence of the Lord” “It was so beautiful” It is usually a fleeting experience. The goal of Yoga and Tantra is to maintain this state of Grace, by crossing the bridge of the other four actions, by ceasing to identify with their movement, in other words, egoism. Yogananda defined God as “ever new joy”.
Herein lies the beauty of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and our cause of celebration of the Grace which it has brought into each of our lives. Through continuous detachment, or vairagya, we cease to identify with, to grasp, the movements of the mind (YS 1.12). Through the practice of Kriya Kundalini Pranayama and the bija mantras, our potential power and consciousness, kundalini, a sonic needle pierces the blockages in the nodal points, the chakras, in the central channel, the sushumna. As these blockages are removed through the practice of Babaji’s five-fold path of Kriya Yoga, we see and act within the world from the perspective of the higher chakras. As mystics we realize anbu sivam, love is God, and experience our oneness within everything.
As human beings, our evolution has given to us a nervous and hormonal system which is designed to assure our survival. We have a default network, including the ego, the mind with its memory and the five senses, which enables us to meet life’s challenges and which orders our physical and emotional reactions, such as fear and desire. It is programmed through habits to react quickly, automatically, efficiently. It contracts awareness around what we need to do now. Meditation takes us into a different part of our brain, a present centered network, where we defocus, and where we can recognize negative thoughts and emotions and seek a positive response. It recognizes “there is something wrong” when we feel bad, not “there is something wrong with me”, which is the ego talking. At the beginning, during meditation, we hear “I’m resentful” or “I’m afraid” as the memories of negative emotions arise. But as we become calm, we can see these emotions as and the memories associated with them as messengers, pointing to a deeper level of vulnerability, where our need for separation or survival is no longer threatened. We can ask ourselves, “What is the most appropriate action I can take in response to this emotion from a ground of well being that would allow me to remain in balance?” When we witness emotions both as personal events and impersonal messengers we digest them, complete their cycle quickly, and they reveal their truth.
Each of us have accumulated habits of emotional reaction. We can see them as survival mechanisms. But we do not have to be limited by them. We can dissolve and heal them. They obscure the light of consciousness within, like tissue paper covering a light bulb. Meditation is like removing the tissue paper so that we can see the light of equanimity continuously and effortlessly.
The Buddha said: “It’s not the first arrow that causes the damage. It’s the second and third arrows”. He was referring to the first emotion, and the reaction to it as the second arrow, and the reaction to the reaction, that creates the samskaras (emotional habit) and vasanas (tendency to dwell on painful or pleasant memories).
The ego and the five senses maintain a sense of separation. There really is no separation. There is a harmonious unity within everything. At a social level we can be separate. But in meditation each of us can feel the underlying connection, harmony and unity with others. This is the mystery which meditation gracefully reveals.
Meditation awakens a seventh sense of unity. Life becomes an unending display of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. We can celebrate not only our anniversaries this year, but with wonder and awe all of life’s moments, no longer as seekers, but as mystic seers and yogis.
© Copyright Marshall Govindan 2018