Monday, 25 November 2019

Introduction to the Metaphysics of the Secret Doctrine 1/3

Parabrahm, Kosmos, Be-Ness, Space, Motion, The Great Breath
The Secret Doctrine presents an extensive scheme of spiritual evolution, from the universe to the planet earth, including humanity and all life on it. The metaphysical aspect, Cosmogenesis, is particularly intricate. The following posts aim to give a basic presentation of the basic concepts derived from the introductory chapters.

One could begin by positing a cosmological presentation in terms of a basic duality of Spirit and Matter, Heaven and Earth in mythology, Purusha and Prakriti in Indian terms.
For instance, this duality is elaborated in at least five basic ways:

Absolute Divine Spirit
Absolute Divine Substance
Divine Thought
Primordial Substance
Cosmic Ideation
Cosmic Substance

Moreover, certain complexities emerge rather quickly, this spirit-matter duality takes on subtle distinctions as all forms of primordial substance are of a quite spiritual, abstract nature in themselves and are never conceived as separate from divine thought. And as we shall see, the form of primal matter has at least five different aspects. Moreover, the presentation aims at being dynamic and holistic and so we are given some basic sketches of the interaction of spirit and matter in the transformation and creation process of the universe.
Therefore, pains are taken to avoid a hard dualism, therefore the paradoxical unity of the two principles are stressed regularly. The unity of Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti and the corresponding unity of Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance are fundamental paradoxical notions: ‘’The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also’’ (Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine I, 337).
Hence, we get a glimpse of matter and spirit dynamically interacting in a sevenfold process where matter is perceived as various forms of energy. A fundamental point that we need to keep in mind, and which is often pointed out, is that Cosmic Substance and Cosmic Ideation are two facets of the one Absolute Existence: ‘’In modern language, the latter would be better named cosmic ideation — Spirit; the former, cosmic substance, the latter. These, the Alpha and the Omega of Being, are but the two facets of the one Absolute Existence’’ (SD I, 326).
Since the SD aims to explain the creation and evolution of the universe and solar system, various terms are presented to explain Parabrahm from the perspective of a manifesting universe; and so despite being an ineffable, abstract principle, paradoxical, beyond comprehension  and yet encompasses everything, much effort is spent on attempting to explain the concept and so various terms are proposed to explain different aspects. In dealing in metaphysics, the terms are very fluid and intuitive. We’ll try to present the essential terms and explanations in order of ontological priority.
A short definition is given as follows :
Parabrahm (Sk.). “Beyond Brahmâ”, literally. The Supreme Infinite Brahma, “Absolute”—the attributeless, the secondless reality. The impersonal and nameless universal Principle (Theosophical Glossary).
The Hidden Deity or Unrevealed Deity:
In various traditions, there is a notion of a Hidden Deity; Tsi-Tai (China), Great Extreme (Confucious), Anu (Near East), En-Soph (Kabbalah) are some examples (SD I, 356-57).
A- Kosmos
a- The collective, infinite, eternal Kosmos in its totality
Parabrahm is, in short, the collective aggregate of Kosmos in its infinity and eternity, the “that” and “this” to which distributive aggregates can not be applied.* (SD I, 6)
Kosmos (Gr.). The Universe, as distinguished from the world, which may mean our globe or earth (Theosophical Glossary).
b- All-inclusive Kosmos, infinite cosmic space in its highest spiritual sense (SD I, 6).
Be-ness. as the term Sat is applied solely to the absolute Principle, the universal, unknown, and ever unknowable Presence, which philosophical Pantheism postulates in Kosmos, calling it the basic root of Kosmos. It is, as said, absolute Be-ness, not Being, the one secondless, undivided, and indivisible All—the root of all Nature visible and invisible, objective and subjective, to be sensed by the highest spiritual intuition, but’ never to be fully comprehended (Theosophical Glossary).
a- The term Be-Ness is coined to denote the nature of pure abstraction, a rootless root, with no relation to finite being.  (SD I, 14).
b- From Be-Ness, the metaphysical concepts of Space, Motion and the Great breath follow from this (SD I, 14).
a-As the Absolute All, the description for this term is similar to that of Kosmos.
Space is neither a “limitless void,” nor a “conditioned fulness,” but both: being, on the plane of absolute abstraction, the ever-incognisable Deity, which is void only to finite minds,* and on that of mayavic perception, the Plenum, the absolute Container of all that is, whether manifested or unmanifested: it is, therefore, that absolute all (SDI, 8)
b- Space is called the Seven-Skinned Eternal Mother-Father: To denote the holistic, multi-modal nature of Parabrahm as Space as the One Reality present in seven levels of being (SD I, 9).
c-Space can be included in a trinity of terms (similar to the trinity of  Space, Motion, Great Breath) along with the Germ in the Root and the Great Breath, what ever was, ever is, and ever will be (SD I, 9).
a-In terms of positing an abstract absolute principle from manifestation, motion is considered to be the next highest principle. It is important to note that these explanations deal with an Abstract concept as well as a corresponding manifested concept, Noumenal and Phenomenal.
Intra-Cosmic motion is eternal and ceaseless; cosmic motion (the visible, or that which is subject to perception) is finite and periodical. As an eternal abstraction it is the EVER-PRESENT; (SD I, 3).
b-The principle of universal motion as an expression of the Unrevealed Deity is considered  as a living Fire with Light, Heat, Moisture as the cause of all natural phenomena (SD I, 3).
E-Great Breath
From this principle of simple motion, the binary notion of the Great breath, as found, for example, in the simple aspect of breathing, becomes the third aspect of Parabrahm.
a-The second principle of the Secret Doctrine describes it as the universal law of periodicity as found in the alternation of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking (SD I, 17).
b-It is described as one absolute attribute of Kosmos, Space and Motion (SD I, 2).
c-The idea of a cosmic out-breathing and inhalation correspond to the Indian concepts of Manvatara and Pralaya, considered as a macrocosmic in-breathing and out-breathing process (SD I, 4).
d- The Second Principle of the Secret Doctrine describes this notion in the context of the eternity of the Universe, with recurrent periods of creation and destruction (SD I, 4).
“With regard to its body or Cosmic organization, though it cannot be said that it had a first, or will ever have a last construction, yet at each new Manvantara, its organization may be regarded as the first and the last of its kind, as it evolutes every time on a higher plane . . . . “ (SD I, 3).
F-Various Other Terms
Various other terms are used to describe it, such as the One-unknown ever present God in Nature to try and explain its abstract nature.
a- Some terminology from western philosophy are evoked: The Unknowable, the Causeles Cause, the Eternal, the Unknowable (SD I, 4).
b- Other terms are given to distinguish it from a concept of First Cause: Abstract All, the “Causeless One Cause,” the “Rootless Root, the One Reality, the one life (2) (SD I, 15).

Monday, 18 November 2019

Geshe Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses of Training the Mind

One of Tibetan Buddhism’s most original practices aimed at developing empathy, altruism, compassion and equanimity is known as lojong, or mind training. It’s simple and practical bodhicitta nature has made it a popular teaching among students in Western cultures.  

Lojong mind training practice was developed over a 300-year period between 900 and 1200 CE, as part of the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism. Atiśa (982–1054 CE), a Bengali meditation master, is generally regarded as the originator of the practice. The fundamental work is a set of 59 aphorisms formulated in Tibet in the 12th century by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje entitled the "7 Points of Lojong".  

The Eight Verses for Training the Mind is one of the most important texts from the lojong canon, written by Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054–1123), an important figure in the lineage of the Kadampa and Gelug schools of Tibetan Buddhism and disciple of Potowa Rinchen Sal. His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to this work as one of the main sources of his own inspiration and includes it in his daily meditations.  

1.       By thinking of all sentient beings
As more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel
For accomplishing the highest aim,
I will always hold them dear.

2.      Whenever I’m in the company of others,
I will regard myself as the lowest among all,
And from the depths of my heart
Cherish others as supreme.

3.      In my every action, I will watch my mind,
And the moment destructive emotions arise,
I will confront them strongly and avert them,
Since they will hurt both me and others.

4.      Whenever I see ill-natured beings,
Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
I will cherish them as something rare,
As though I’d found a priceless treasure.

5.      Whenever someone out of envy
Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
I will take defeat upon myself,
And give the victory to others.

6.      Even when someone I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes
Mistreats me very unjustly,
I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.

7.      In brief, directly or indirectly,
I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,*
And secretly take upon myself
All their hurt and suffering.

8.     I will learn to keep all these practices
Untainted by thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
May I recognize all things as like illusions,
And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.

*The term mother is based on the notion that since all sentient beings have been through the reincarnation process countless times, everyone has effectively been the mother of everyone else, and so should regard each other accordingly.

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Mahatma Letters on Tolerance

Who are these mysterious Mahatmas, Adepts, Brothers, Sisters...Much creative speculation has been written about them and they have many imitators - why not read the original texts? One thing that can be said, is that tolerance seems to be a primary concern of theirs (thanks to Katherine Beechey):

1-We refuse no one. ‘’Spheres of usefulness’’ can be found everywhere. (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Series 2, p.125)

2-Ever turn away your gaze from the imperfections of your neighbour and centre rather your attention upon your own shortcomings in order to correct them and become wiser. (LMW, 2, p. 158)

3-Show not the disparity between claim and action in another man but, whether he be brother or neighbour, rather help him in his arduous walk in life. (LMW, 2, p. 158)

4-Do not be too severe on the merits of demerits of one who seeks admission among your ranks, as the truth about the actual state of the inner man can only be known to and dealt with justly by KARMA alone. (LMW, 2, p. 159)

5-Do not indulge in unbrotherly comparisons between the task accomplished by yourself and the work left undone by your neighbour or brother, in the field of Theosophy, as none is held to weed out a larger plot of ground than his strength and capacity will permit him. (LMW, 2, p. 159)

6-Those who try in their walk of life, to follow their inner light, will never be found judging far less condemning those weaker than themselves. (Some Words on Daily Life, Blavatsky, CW 7, pp. 173-175)

7-Make Theosophy a living force in your lives and through your example those class and caste distinctions, which for so long have bred hatred and misery, shall at no distant time come to be but distinctions of function in the common service of the nation-family and of the World-Brotherhood. (Blavatsky, CW 7, pp. 173-175)

8-Theosophy has to fight intolerance, prejudice, ignorance and selfishness, hidden under the mantle of hypocrisy. It has to throw all the light it can from the torch of Truth, with which its servants are entrusted. It must do this without fear or hesitation, dreading neither reproof nor condemnation. (Blavatsky, CW 7, pp. 173-175)

9-Theosophy, therefore, expects and demands from the Fellows of the Society a great mutual toleration and charity for each other’s shortcomings, ungrudging mutual help in the search for truths in every department of nature-moral and physical. And this ethical standard must be unflinchingly applied to daily life. (Blavatsky, CW 7, pp. 173-175)

10-In such a great work as this movement no one should expect to find his associates all congenial, intuitive, prudent or courageous. One of the first proofs of self-mastery is when one shows that he can be kind and forbearing and genial with companions of the most dissimilar characters and temperaments. One of the strongest signs of retrogression when one shows that he expects others to like what he likes and act as he acts.  (Letter to Hartmann, #10, Blavatsky CW 8 p, 449)

11-Europe is a large place but the world is bigger yet. The sun of Theosophy must shine for all, not for a part. There is more of this movement that you have yet had an inkling of, and the work of the T.S. is linked in with similar work that is secretly going on in all parts of the world. (Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Barker, L. 47)

12-As it was our wish then, to signify to you that one could be both an active and useful member of the Society without inscribing himself our follower or co-religionist, so it is now. (ML, L. 87)

Monday, 4 November 2019

Christian Mysticism: The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (c. 1614 – 12 February 1691) served as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death, the classic Christian text, The Practice of the Presence of God.

The passage below explains a simple philosophy of life, a kind of mysticism of daily life, quite similar in spirit to the type of yoga practice explained in the Bhagavad Gita:

8. 8. Meditating with the mind engaged in the Yoga of constant practice, not passing over to any thing else, one goes to the Supreme Purusha, the Resplendent, O son of Pritha. 
Practice consists in the repetition of one and the same idea, uninterrupted by any other thought, with reference to Me, the sole object of your thought. Such a practice is itself said to be Yoga. With the mind thus solely engaged in Yoga, not passing over to any other object, the Yogin who meditates according to the teaching of the scripture and of the teacher—of the sastra and acharya—reaches the Purusha, the Transcendental Being in the Solar Orb (Sankaracharya. Sastry, Alladi Mahadeva. Transl. Bhagavad Gita with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracharya. Madras. Samata Books. 1897/1979).

The Means of Acquiring God’s Presence 

1.The first means of acquiring the presence of God is  a new life, received by salvation through the blood  of Christ.

2.The second is faithfully practicing God’s presence.  This must always be done gently, humbly, and lovingly,  without giving way to anxiety or problems.

3.Next, the soul’s eyes must be kept on God, particularly when something is being done in the outside world.  Since much time and effort are needed to perfect this practice, one should not be discouraged by failure.  Although the habit is difficult to form, it is a source of divine pleasure once it is learned. It is proper that the heart—which is the first to live and which dominates all the other parts of the body— should be the first and the last to love God. The heart is the beginning and the end of all our spiritual and bodily actions and, generally speaking, of everything we do in our lives. It is, therefore, the heart whose attention we must carefully focus on God. 

4.Then, in the beginning of this practice, it would not be wrong to offer short phrases that are inspired by love,  such as “Lord, I am all Yours,” “God of love, I love You  with all my heart,” or “Lord, use me according to Your  will.” However, remember to keep the mind from wandering or returning to the world. Hold your attention on God alone by exercising your will to remain in His  presence. 

5.Finally, although this exercise may be difficult at first  to maintain, it has marvelous effects on the soul when  it is faithfully practiced. It draws the graces of the Lord down in abundance and shows the soul how to see God’s presence everywhere with a pure and loving vision, which is the holiest, firmest, easiest, and the most  effective attitude for prayer.  (Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence)