Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Breathing New Life into Old Scriptures - Yoga Sutra I.20


  1. Maharshi Patanjali distinguishes in this part of his work just two kind of yogis two ways of reaching the state of asamprajnata samadhi. The first type of yogis will enter that state spontaneous and natural, without any need to any yogic discipline. Some of them have been born in an enlightened state or acquire that state of consciousness very early. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was for instance a teenager of 17 when he entered that state of irreversible Union with God. In the Vedanta we call the state of asamprajanata samadhi nirvikalpa samadhi, and nir-vikalpa without variation, without change, so meant is the permanent samadhi. The ones who can reach this state in the natural way have been in their previous lives already yogis where taking just one other birth to finish there jakatamala (prayer beads of births) with an final guru-bead of an (almost) entirely enlightened life. Thereabout he is writing in Y.S. I.19. Of course these natural type of yogis is very rare.

    In Y.S. I.20 he is speaking about the others. Others - itaresam -meant be others than these natural yogis - and I prefer to call these others cultural yogis. They also have the chance to enter the state of asamprajanata - or nirvikalpa samadhi during their present lifetime, but not automatically and also not unconditionally.
    Four preliminary conditions - purvakah - Patanjali enumerates:

    1. Shraddha = faith, but actually even more then blind fate. Shraddha has been derived from shrat = truth and dha = to hold, so 'Shraddha' means to hold the truth. So be always in association with the Truth (Satsang).
    2. Virya = heroism, strength, virility, manliness, courage, will power.
    One needs to possess the qualities of a hero or heroine, so don't be afraid, know that God is with you.
    3. Smriti = literally: that which is remembered. In Hinduism it refers to the collection holy literature which appears after the Vedanta, from 500 BC on. But as I taught you somewhere else, Patanjali is influenced by the Buddha, and the seventh element of his noble eightfolded path is called samyak-smṛti or in English the right mindfulness. So on my own authority I explain this preliminary condition as: the having of a active watchful and thoughtful mental attitude.
    4. Samadhiprajna = the wisdom acquired by previous samprajanata samadhi experiences. Samprajanata samadhis are samadhi caused by religious rituals and symbols, the spiritual aid of a guru, profound practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), vitarka (reasoning), vichara (reflection). (see for the last two terms Y.S. I.17)

    No, one cannot force anyone else to move faster on the pathway onto the irreversible samadhi, by beating them up with a stick indeed; but one can for sure help one other on that same pathway by offering the other that stick as a staff to support their pace.

  2. Bart Hallema is a very smart and informed friend (he speaks and reads multiple languages, is a trained historian and a yoga teacher), whom I met on Facebook. He writes from the perspective of Advaita Vedanta, which is in some ways similar to Tantra (both are non-dual philosophies) and in other ways different (he views the Manifest Universe as an illusion, while I see it as real). Neither is "right," and each appeals to different people. I'm so happy to have his input here on my blog! Thanks, Bart...

  3. Thank you so much, dear Srishari, I really feel me honored. And thank you again for the nice opportunity you offer me to write a few true words about the general viewpoint of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy on Reality.

    Advaita means in Sanskrit non-duality; and Vedanta means ‘End of the Vedas’. Let me begin to explain this last term. Then we can orient our selves in time. I am a historian indeed, as Shari said.

    After the Vedas --the written rendering of extended collections of Sanskrit psalms from an oral tradition (just like in case of the Bible), has reached their completion between 1200 and 1000 BC, a whole serial of philosophical and instructive commentaries on these Vedic Scriptures emerged. This collection is called the Upanishads. ‘Upa’ means ‘near’; ‘ni’ ‘down’ and ‘shad’ ‘seated’, So Upanishad means ‘Near down seated (….), at the feet of the guru’, of course, which extension will be clearly understood by everybody who had experienced once the stay in an authentic Indian Ashram, even in our present age.

    This collection contents officially 108 canonical Upanishads, in reality one can count even a number of 232 in Sanskrit written scriptures calling them self Upanishad, but the collection of the oldest ones, the Principal Upanishads, all has been written between the 12th and the 6th Century BC. And it is exactly this epoch in Indian history, which we might call the Vedanta Era. Followers of this school of thinking call themselves vedantists. Most of the Upanishads have been written in a style of dialogues between a guru and his disciples; sometimes those gurus are gods, sometimes human. The philosophy, which is presented in the Vedanta-literature, is always a particular mixture of speculative theology and enlightened psychology.

    Okay, now on Advaita. First: what is Dvaita? Dvaita is duality. Dualist thought, the very most common way in religious thinking, supposes the existence of two realities: the divine one and the normal one. The first reality is metaphysical, supernatural, eternal, imperishable, ideal and perfect and is called Heaven or the spiritual universe; the second reality is physical, natural, temporary, transitory, far from ideal and imperfect, which Earth or the material universe. There are many great philosophers and theologians who have stayed the whole life long in this way of thinking, in India as well, nevertheless their great cultural heritage of the Vedanta and the present-days existence of 3000 years philosophical school of Advaita Vedanta, who do not deny the reality, but the existence of two realities, next to each other.

  4. Continued:

    There exists a group of non-dualist thinkers, without being also Vedantists, which are very well known; they call themselves Atheists. They deny the existence of God and for that reason they find no single urge to suppose a metaphysical reality, and so they belief just in the existence of one single reality, this normal ordinary measurable changeable and transitory all days reality of matter and time.

    For yogis and other spiritual and mystical oriented people this way of thinking is no option, for it doesn’t match with their life experience and it hasn’t to offer them any answer on the great questions, by which they are so fascinated. Nay, atheism is no option to them because it will lead them onto the philosophical no-through road of the solipsism. On the other hand is dualism, philosophical seen, also ugly concept of the reality. It emphasizes extremely the separation between God and man. So for that reason the Advaita Vedantists have always deliberately chosen to deny the all day reality of the material and physical world. The divine reality is the only one, which really exists, and the visible and touchable and seemly world around us is just appearance.

    A lot of Advaita Vedantists call it the Māyā and this Sanskrit word is often translated with ‘illusion’, ‘hallucination’, ‘unreality’, or ‘phantom’. There something to say for this translation, after all where is whole material universe when we are in deep dreamless sleep? Or where comes that other one from in our dreams, with other laws of nature and logic? And again where is it when we are in state of turiya, which is the state of pure consciousness, which the yogi experiences during his moments of Samadhi. So in three of the four states of consciousness the so-called normal world isn’t there. What always is there that is the emptiness, the endless void. And even the atoms, the building block of matter, are even in their small very empty spaces to, just like the cosmos self. A little bit of energy, whether or not solidified into matter in an infinite ocean of empty space, that is all there is what about this so called material universe. Why does it seem to be so big and prominent then?

    The here above given usual translations of the Māyā, are actually not so adequate. Māyā is etymological related to the English word ‘Might’ and ‘Magic’, which last word is borrowed from the Old Persian word Magus. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th Century BC) uses the term "magi" to refer to a ‘sacerdotal caste in the ancient Persian Empire. So God’s magical power to create illusions would be already a more adequate definition to comprehend the real meaning of the Sanskrit word Māyā. The Greeks and Romans bring us still closer to the real understanding of the Māyā. Both ancient Mediterranean peoples worshipped Maia (Μαῖα in Greek) as their great Mother Goddess, who was called Maia Maiestas Bona Dea (Majestic Maia the Good Goddess. The whole month of May was named after Her; She was their Goddess of the spring-season. Her name means She who makes things greater (‘maior’ in Latin).

    In the Advaita Vedanta the Highest Divinity is called the Brahman, which is not a person, but reality and the only real reality Advaita Vedantists want to recognize as the true one. But it is marvelous interesting to know the real meaning of the name Brahman of the so-called Creative Principe, and to compare it with the meaning of Maia in Latin. The Sanskrit term Brahman means names literally: That what causes growth. And Maia makes great. In Sanskrit are the words Māyā and Maha (great) & Mahattara (greater, larger) close, but not so closed that is would be able to discover this within the Sanskrit self.

  5. To me brought this beautiful semantic harmony between the names of the Brahman and the Māyā me to a personal conclusion that we might consider the Māyā as the Shakti of the Brahman. Māyā & Brahman, the Female & and Male side of the Highest Divine Principle and the only existential reality. It might be said once: this way of looking to God from the ancient Advaita Vedanta point of view, brings me very close to the ideas of the younger Tantric ways of thinking, where Shari is influenced by, and also the still younger philosophies of the so-called Kashmir-Shaivism.

    Brahma satyam jagat mithyā, jīvo brahmaiva nāpara. With this sentence Adi Shankara Acharya, (788 CE - 820 CE) the greatest Advaita Vedantist ever lived in the Post-Vedantic summarized pithy the core of the whole Advaita Vandanta Philosophy. The Brahman is the true reality; the world is untruly, and the individual Soul (jīvo) doesn’t differ from the Brahman. These three theses are indeed the eternal themes in Advaita Vedanta.