Thursday, April 19, 2018

Things are not what they seem.

Baobab Tree 
One of the most challenging spiritual matters to comprehend is the relationship between matter—which is clearly discriminately conditional, governed by the law of discernment, and karma, with a beginning and an ending—and spirit which is unified, whole without a beginning or an ending, and not subject to karma. How, we wonder, are these two dimensions NOT dual? Obviously one is conditional and the other is unconditional. Two very different natures that are somehow joined into an inseparable, single reality of unity. 

The Gita helps us to understand by grasping the philosophy and language of the time when it was written. From that frame of reference, two words/concepts are important: Purusha, (spirit), and Prakriti, (everything else). Prakriti is the field of what can be known objectively, the field of phenomena (perceived through the senses), the world of whatever has “name and form”: that is, not only of matter and energy but also of the mind.

Purusha, on the other hand, permeates and infuses Prakriti. It is everywhere present but unseen. From that perspective, the notion of duality disappears since Prakriti emanates (grows from) Purusha. Think of the relationship between the two as the perception and functioning of the strange giant Baobab Tree from Madagascar. If ever there was an odd part of Prakriti that illustrated the relationship this tree would be the perfect example. The trunk is clearly not divided yet the branches are, and they grow inseparable from a unified trunk. Obviously, neither could exist alone, both grow out of an unseen subterranean root system, unseen, beneath the ground and the spirit of the tree (sap) flows freely throughout.

The illustrated example is close except for one thing: both are phenomenal versions of Prakriti. To complete the picture (still only approximate) we need to add a dimension of reflection. In the same way that the Lotus reaches upward, originating from beneath the mud of the unconscious, and emerges into the light from the shimmering waters as discriminate form, so too we can add the waters of graduating clarity. While we can’t see into the mud of the unconscious we know it is still a version of consciousness, and by penetrating into the depths we can release the spirit until it enters the world of Prakriti.

And how exactly would that penetration be accomplished? Here again, the Gita guides the way: Samadhi. Two schools of thought exist, sudden and gradual enlightenment. Ordinarily, samadhi can be entered only following a long period of meditation and after many years of ardent endeavor. But in one verse of The Gita (5:28) a significant word sada, “always” is portrayed. Once this state of deep concentration becomes established, the person lives in spiritual freedom, or moksha, permanently. 

The enlightenment experience is a singularly intense experience which tells one his or her place in the scheme of things. This is more often than not a once and for all experience which will cause the experiencer never again to doubt his or her relationship with or to the Self, others, the world, and whatever one may believe is beyond the world. This experience is enormously validating or empowering and is unlike any other experience one can have. 

Since non-dual reality cannot be divided into incremental parts, it cannot be grasped little by little as the gradual enlightenment approach implies. The non-dual must be realized all at once (suddenly) as a whole or not at all. As sada, is always present, once Purusha is experienced it can never again come and go, as Prakriti surely does. The right vs. wrong of Prakriti becomes right and wrong of Purusha. “Things are not what they seem; nor are they otherwise.”
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