Friday, 28 October 2016

Karma and the Spiritual Path according to the Voice of the Silence

In the caves of Eastern Sibyl, what curious leaves lie hidden, or go whirling in the wind! written over with strange, hieroglyphic characters, not without deep meaning — akin to prophetic, —fragmentary — incomplete — hard to put together, yet furnishing here and there, when the attempt is made, a piece of chance mosaic that engages our attention like the forms in the moss-stone. Such a bundle of Sibylline leaves is the “Voice of the Silence”, of which we propose to put together some torn and ragged fragments pertaining to the mysteries of Karma.

Part I
If freed thou would’st be from the Karmic chains, seek not for thy Guru in those Mâyâvic regions. (the second,  the Hall of Learning, the astral plane)

Desire nothing. Chafe not at Karma, nor at Nature’s changeless laws. But struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable.

Says the same Nâda-Bindu, “A Yogi who bestrides the Hamsa (thus contemplates on Aum) is not affected by Karmic influences or crores of sins.”

This is the fourth “Path” out of the five paths of rebirth which lead and toss all human beings into perpetual states of sorrow and joy. These “paths” are but subdivisions of the One, the Path followed by Karma.

Part 2
The wheel of the good Law moves swiftly on. It grinds by night and day. The worthless husks it drives from out the golden grain, the refuse from the flour. The hand of Karma guides the wheel; the revolutions mark the beatings of the Karmic heart.

Step out from sunlight into shade, to make more room for others. The tears that water the parched soil of pain and sorrow, bring forth the blossoms and the fruits of Karmic retribution. Out of the furnace of man’s life and its black smoke, winged flames arise, flames purified, that soaring onward, ‘neath the Karmic eye, weave in the end the fabric glorified of the three vestures of the Path.

Thou canst create this “day” thy chances for thy “morrow.” In the “Great Journey,” causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid Justice rules the World. With mighty sweep of never erring action, it brings to mortals lives of weal or woe, the Karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds.

Take then as much as merit hath in store for thee, O thou of patient heart. Be of good cheer and rest content with fate. Such is thy Karma, the Karma of the cycle of thy births, the destiny of those, who, in their pain and sorrow, are born along with thee, rejoice and weep from life to life, chained to thy previous actions.

Follow the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin, to friend and foe, and close thy mind to pleasures as to pain. Exhaust the law of Karmic retribution. Gain Siddhis for thy future birth.

Behold Migmar,* as in his crimson veils his “Eye” sweeps over slumbering Earth. Behold the fiery aura of the “Hand” of Lhagpa† extended in protecting love over the heads of his ascetics. Both are now servants to Nyima‡ left in his absence silent watchers in the night. Yet both in Kalpas past were bright Nyimas, and may in future “Days” again become two Suns. Such are the falls and rises of the Karmic Law in nature. (Mars, Mercury, and the Sun are the planets named)

That Secret Path leads the Arhan to mental woe unspeakable; woe for the living Dead, and helpless pity for the men of Karmic sorrow, the fruit of Karma Sages dare not still.

If thou would’st reap sweet peace and rest, Disciple, sow with the seeds of merit the fields of future harvests. Accept the woes of birth.

False learning is rejected by the Wise, and scattered to the Winds by the good Law. Its wheel revolves for all, the humble and the proud. The “Doctrine of the Eye” is for the crowd, the “Doctrine of the Heart,” for the elect. The first repeat in pride: “Behold, I know,” the last, they who in humbleness have garnered, low confess, “thus have I heard”.

Part 3
2. Shîla, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.

Fear, O disciple, kills the will and stays all action. If lacking in the Śîla virtue, — the pilgrim trips, and Karmic pebbles bruise his feet along the rocky path.

Thou hast to be prepared to answer Dharma, the stern law, whose voice will ask thee at thy first, at thy initial step:
“Hast thou complied with all the rules, O thou of lofty hopes?”
“Hast thou attuned thy heart and mind to the great mind and heart of all mankind? For as the sacred River’s roaring voice whereby all Nature-sounds are echoed back , so must the heart of him ‘who in the stream would enter,’ thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes.”
Beware, disciple, of that lethal shade. No light that shines from Spirit can dispel the darkness of the nether Soul, unless all selfish thought has fled therefrom, and that the pilgrim saith: “I have renounced this passing frame; I have destroyed the cause: the shadows cast can, as effects, no longer be.”

Friday, 21 October 2016

Seneca's Daily Examination of Conscience

From the great Roman Stoic Philosopher, Seneca; one of the big three, along with Plutarch and Cicero, of Western Moral Philosophy. These three authors were indispensable reading in the West for over a thousand years and did so much to inculcate the refinements of culture and civilisation throughout Europe and America.

All our sense should be educated into strength: they are naturally able to endure much, provided that the spirit forbears to spoil them. The spirit ought to be brought up for examination daily. It was the custom of Sextius when the day was over, and he had betaken himself to rest, to inquire of his spirit: ‘’What bad habit of yours have you cured today? What vice have you checked? In what respect are you better?’’ Anger will cease, and become more gentle, if it knows that every day it will have to appear before the judgment seat.

What can be more admirable than this fashion of discussing the whole of the day’s events? How sweet is the sleep which follows this self-examination? How calm, how sound, and careless is it when our spirit has either received praise or reprimand, and when our secret inquisitor and censor has made his report about our morals? I makes use of this privilege, and daily plead my cause before myself: when the lamp is taken out of my sight, and my wife, who knows my habit, has ceased to talk, I pass the whole day in review before myself and repeat all that I have said and done: I conceal nothing from myself, and omit nothing: for why should I be afraid of any of my shortcomings, when it is in my power to say, ‘’I pardon you this time: see that you never do that anymore?

In that dispute you spoke too contentiously: do not for the future argue with ignorant people: those who have never been taught are unwilling to learn. You reprimanded that man with more freedom than you ought, and consequently you have offended him instead of amending his ways: in dealing with other cases of the kind, you should look carefully, not only to the truth of what you say, but also whether the person to whom you speak can bear to be told the truth.’’ A good man delights in receiving advice: all the worst men are the mort impatient of guidance. (On Anger 3,36)

ps. there is a bit of a Seneca revival these days, check out what all the fuss is about:

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Deepak Chopra - 3rd Global Conference on World Religions September 15 2016

On September 15, 2016, the 3rd Global Conference on World Religions after September 11 took place and a delegate from the Montreal Theosophy Project was duly dispatched to report on this momentous occasion. Despite the fact that scheduled Buddhist speaker Robert Thurman had to cancel as did  Native American speaker Phil Fontaine, all other speakers gave interesting talks and a refreshing theosophical spirit of open, eclectic, tolerant altruism was palpable throughout the day; we will be posting lecture reviews over the next few months...

Deepak Chopra on Science and Spirituality

Deepak Chopra gave a talk comparing and contrasting modern science and Advaita Vedanta philosophy with erudition, charm, wit, and warmth. He began sketching out the field of astrophysics and electro-chemistry, outlining the theories of dark energy and dark matter, particle and wave theory, poetically quoting Rumi:''We come spinning out of nothingness, gathering stars like dust.''

He then proceeded to question these fields by raising questions pertaining to cognitive science and theory of mind, stating that modern scientific fields are still struggling with what he terms the hard problem of consciousness: ''We do not know how we have mental and perceptual experiences'', adding, ''don't let science fool you just because it is very successful in creating technology''.
He then embarked on a summary sketch of the progress of science since the enlightenment period, ending with the quantum theories of Einstein, Bohr, Planck, Schrodinger, Dirac, Heisenberg as well as super-string theory. Musing on the immense progress in our understanding of the infinite expanses of astrophysics and the equally infinite minuteness of micro-chemistry, he wonders how we are to ''reconcile the micro to the macro''.

Making the interesting observation how modern scientific astrophysics theories on the fundamental causes of the formation of the universe seem to resolve into constructs that suspiciously resemble creation myths, he conclues that ''everything I told you doe not explain experience, which is all we have'' and ''we cannot explain consciousness on the basis of biology''.

Changing the focus at this point, he observes that ''if we start to reverse the way we think, if we change our ontological perspective, seeing consciousness as the fundamental experience, then we can begin to solve the problem'' and proceeded to embark on an accessible explanation of Advaita Vedanta philosophy, presenting such notions as ''we don't experience the body, we experience sensations, Tanmatras, in Vedantic terminology''; ''thought is a modification of consciousness''; ''the universe is what absolute consciousness looks like to itself when observed as a perceptual subject''. Quoting another poet, Tagore:''in this playhouse of infinite forms, I caught sight of the formless and so my life is blessed'' and again Rumi: ''Look at your eyes, they are so small and yet they see the whole galaxy''.

He notes that this transcendant reality can be grasped through self-reflection, with practices such as yoga. Returning to science, comparing theories of matter with Advaita notions of Maya,  he observes that ''we are the victims of the superstition of matter - no one has ever shown the existence of a substance called matter''.He pointed  out the limits of language using the example of the Buddhist Flower Sermon. Arriving at the crux of his argument, he observes how modern science balks at explaining the nature of thinking, cognition and consciousness, noting that this entails two possibilities: (either thinking, cognition and consciousness are) a hallucination, and that doesn't seem right; then if not a hallucination then they can't be material; therefore they must be out of space and time''. Hence, (referencing the Baghavad Gita), ''the real you is unborn and cannot die''.

Quoting the Vedic phrase ''Aham Brahmsi'', I am that I am, he later added that we are not the ego that the culture of narcissism  places so much value on and that we tend to sacrifice our souls for the sake of this selfish ego. As a remedy to this he proposes to listen to one's inner being and pay attention to who is listening, ''the presence you feel is the presence of your spirit or soul'', which is not the mind, and ''this presence that you feel is the presence that connects you with God''.

Chopra's lecture admirably succeeded in presenting the intricacies of modern science and ancient Indian philosophy in a contemporary language in a way that was understandable, interesting, and thought-provoking.