Tuesday, September 19, 2006
It was the eve of my first tabla gig, and i had just come from rehearsal. Not being completely present i broke the first rule in city living. Perhaps i was preoccupied with the current miasm circulating in my brain. I was obviously not thinking clearly when i left my tablas on the back seat in plain view. I'll admit that a large black duffel bag was probably too good to pass up to anyone in desperate need of a fix, and the broken glass that carpeted the block is a good indication of what was to come, yet i had parked in this parking space many times before and my forgetfulness was out of complacency. And after all, it was still daylight when i closed and locked the doors, and went to class.
After learning the difference between "krodah", (anger) and "kama" (desire), "paapa" (destruction) and "narakam" (hell) i left my sanskrt class feeling elated and enlightened. Saying good-bye to my last classmate, i walked a block to my car, and met Auntie a slight woman, shaken with alcohol in her veins, and a frail heart. She looked at me, her age showing on her pale skin and said, "Someone's been in your car."
Sure enough my window broken, and a mess of random items on the front seat revealed what i had feared would happen some day, and here it was.
Then i began to inventory what i had left that was of value to me. And as if in a grade "B" horror film, i slowly turned my head and looked behind the driver's seat to where my tablas were. They were no longer there. On the eve of my first tabla set, my drums were gone. The drums were history, great, now what? They were gone along with my yoga mat and my notebook from the my first year of Sanskrt class.
I ask the beaten woman with the broken heart, "Auntie, did you see anyone come leave here with my stuff?"
"No dear. I saw this the same time you did, I'm sorry." she apologized as she shrunk away into the shadows. I hopped into my beaten car, with the gaping wound in the passenger side window, bits of glass glistening on the dashboard.
I took off down the allyways, and the sidestreets in search of my tabla that i knew would be dumped somewhere, too heavy to carry, not worth the price. Stopping at various dumpsters, and trash piles, looking and searching for the only things dear to me, preparing for the journey which lay ahead.
Turning down one alley after another, i glanced into the shadows, into the places where homeless sleep with their belongings. I stop only to see if my things are among them. I pass some punk kids conversing in the street, i wonder if i should ask them if they know of a place where things are often dumped, but instead i keep turning, and traveling down south of market, Grace, Hollis, streets i have never heard of, and cant remember now. Descending into the bardo of unwanted souls, the street of Grace, i stop to look inside a dumpster, as a junkie passes and i ask him, "Have you seen a black duffel bag with a set of drums?" He looks at me, a man with a generous face, and a soft presence. "No, i was just shooting up over there, i didn't see anything, i don't rip off cars. People usually come from other neighborhoods and do that. Hey sister, if i see them i will let you know." I didn't know how to suggest he do that, but appreciated the intention. "Thanks" i replied. "You don't have a cigarette on you do you?" he asked. "No, sorry man, i wish i did for you." And i wish i did have something to give him, only his sugar to keep him balanced in this world.
I turn down the last street, nowhere else around here, nor do i know how i arrived here. Men grouped together in purposefull postures, protecting their posse, selling their stuff. I drive by and glance, but am careful not to stare. A half dead cat twitches as it lay on the cold ground, its head smashed, yet still alive, twitching nervous system an empty shell of what was once alive and vibrant. I had realized that i had finally come to the realm i could not leave. The last of the bardo. Were my precious drums so important to arrive at such a place in this underworld of humanity? And yet this too exists. As i am attached to some objects there are people living a few blocks striving to remain alive, human, intact.
So, whatever Dakini ravaged through my car, left my passport and checkbook intact. Removed my Sankrt, yoga mat, and tabla, i hope that she is having a good laugh at my expense. The inerweavings of the mind, letting me understand what we hold dear is relative in this Kali Yuga. Whether it be art in the form of drums to create music, or a hypodermic syringe.
I am grateful for the lesson, and the experience to come and go between the worlds.
Friday, September 08, 2006
According to Hindu scholar David Kinsley in his book TANTRIC VISIONS OF THE DIVINE FEMININE, he defines the "Kaalii Yuga" as; "The present cosmic era, in which morality has declined; the last four yugas." (283)
I just returned from the desert, an apparent lifeless dried lakebed inhabited by a sea of bodies searching for love. Burning Man; a vast playa with open hearts looking for meaning with each other. Filling themselves with each other, the extreme overtone of humanity broadcasting itself in expressive ways. Many people arrive and find love for the weekend at least, and many others break their vows. This is love in the time of Kali Yuga, where there is no roadmap only a vast template from which to drive across. There are no set examples, only the now moment on the vast desert floor in a dried white canvas lakebed that extends for miles.
What does it mean to share love in this time of Kali Yuga? During the festivities i was invited to two ceremonies. One, couple were having a hand fasting ceremony, committing together for the next three months. This was a big commitment for them. Another was a separation ritual for friends who had been together for three years and were cutting their cords in order to proceed on with their lives, as individuals. Each of the couples wanted and needed the support of the community in order to fulfill their mission. One was transcending their relationship and moving on in their lives, and the other was creating a union.
In the age of Kali Yuga there is no one way, right or wrong of union, only different methods to navigate whatever has lead us to this moment in time.
There are few nuclear families that i know of amongst our peers, and mostly what i see as "coping mechanisms" as a strategy for the confusion. Polyamory has resurfaced as "truth", multiple partners yielding to individual agreements. The de-secularization of the concept of "relationship". Instead of one monogamous couple there are many multiple loves, from an autopoetic standpoint, each sharing their individual expression for a night, week, a few months, and then moving on. Its as if we are caught up in some zeitgeist in the middle of a sandstorm. While lost in the whiteout we are left feeling for each other, hoping to find each other in the void, with only the sense of touch. I cant help but wonder if we are all shrouded in confusion, in the desert feeling our way to the next body to hold for a moment of safety.
We are calling into the wind, and the wind is blowing back into our faces asking us to look deeper within ourselves, instead of toward each other for salvation.
There seems to be little rhyme nor reason to what we are searching for individually or collectively. Right now we are creating new paradigms, we are caught in the middle of this shift unable to see what is happening around us.
We have only the experiments of the sixties to draw from, yet we are so far from them that few remember, their legacy seems to have ended up in monogamy once again. Here we are at the dawn of the new century with only a little bits of information to draw on from the past.
Within this paradigm i see punctuating of my beautiful, intelligent, radiant women friends whom are all feeling the same way. A bit sad, longing for love, not finding it in traditional ways. In an environment which is too dynamic to sustain the love they require. There are many of us also racing the internal clock, questioning what our families will look like. The concept of "family" is becoming extended deep communities of friends. Loving communities where we receive our needs from various people, not only one. Many people fulfilling different pieces. This is a new understanding.
Many of us share the collective vision of living together. To live in community with each other. Once we travel beyond this period of uncertainty maybe we will all begin having children together and all take care of each other. Perhaps it will look somewhat like what began in the sixties, but with an intentional focus, a life that we are co-creating, not by default.
A friend confided in me that he has no idea how love in this age, and observing the wake of disappointed women left in his path i would say that he is right. Not that he has purposefully decided to hurt anyone, but that he is just as lost between old paradigms of 'commitment or monogamy' and 'what feels good in the moment.' Its as if right now we are searching for an intelligence to mediate between these two extremes.
So what does it mean to love in the age of Kali Yuga? Perhaps this we don't know. Perhaps we are caught and blinded in the midst of this sandstorm of change, searching for others who are searching. Until the wind dies down, and we can open our eyes we wont know what the landscape actually looks like.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Mantra is a living sound healing modality. When it is used correctly with the right intention the vibrational energy can change the karma of the practitioner. Perhaps this is why in 1984, Sri Satguru Publications of Delhi inserted a disclaimer in their English translation of the 16th century treatise on Mantrasashtra. It reads; “Any person on the basis of Yantras as provided in this book commits any nefarious acts which causes loss, etc., to anybody then for his actions the authors/editors/translator, printer, and publisher will not be responsible in any way whatsoever.”
I intend to go into the details of my personal experience as a methodology, due to its relevence to this topic, however, first we must understand were this technology came from in order to understand its relationship to this modern age.
According to the “Gospel of John,” the Bible states in the fourth gospel; “In the beginning there was the word and the word was with God and the Word was God.” These words are similar to the words of the Veda;
Prajapatir vai idam asit
Tasya vaf dvitiya asit
Vag vai paramam Brahma
“In the beginning there was Brahman with whom was Vak or the Word, and the Word is Brahman.”
Where did mantra come from? And why is it so essential to an entire Indian belief system? Is it all just gibberish or is there some ordered science to the sounds? Are mantras simple poetic phrases, or do they hold a sound technology which can change one’s perception of reality and one’s karma? There is a great deal to learn about the ancient technology of mantra. I use the word ‘technology’ as defined as, “the sum of a societie’s or culture’s practical knowledge, especially with reference to its material culture.” Indian mantras have been kept intact for several thousands of years, and have influenced a culture, and shaped its belief systems.
Before “the word” according to one Hindu cosmology, there was the one supreme consciousness, Cit, or Brahman. Cit is the changless principle from which all experience is drawn. Cit is pure emptiness; without mind, without motion, without action, and without sound. Creation begins with its intial movement, or vibrations. Suspanda Prakriti Shakti, is the movement of Cit, or the power of vibration moving into matter. Before Pryalaya, the dissolution of the universe which occurs at the end of each Kali yuga, (approximately 400,000,000 years, or a day in the life of Brahman), Prakriti (form or matter) is in a state of equilibrium. Then cosmic vibration, (Spandana) realeases the equilibriated energy, and begins the cycle of creation. The sound of this movement is ‘Om’. Om was the first sound, which created dualism with all of its variences of the universe. ‘Om’ created a bifurcation of consciousness into mind and matter. Mind and matter are from the same origin. In his book, “The Garland of Letters, ” Sir John Woodroffe describes this process; “The sound is accompanied by movement. That of the causal body first projecting the minfold universe from out itself is general movement of which is the Pranava or ‘Om.’ From ‘Om’ all other mantras are derrived.”(30)
According the Vedas, the oldest Hindu texts as prayers, sound is Brahman. Joachiim-Ernst Berendt says in “The World of Sound,”
In one dictionary I find the following: ‘Brahma (Sanskrit): originally a magic formula in India, later understood as a primal creative word, the source of the world and sacred knowledge, Brahma became the central concept of Indian interpretation of the world. It is one with man’s inner consciousness.’ Thus for one thing, Nada Brahma means: Sound is God. Or vice versa: God is Sound.(17)
Om is a complete mantra. It is said to hold the entire Hindu philosophy. The mantra which is comprised of three letters, A, U, M, representing a trinity of energies. They are symbolized by Brahma, Visnu, and Siva; creator, sustainer and distruction. Since matter is never created nor destroyed, these energies are forever at play.
Mantras are said to be divined by the great Rishis, or “seers”. The earliest account written account of mantra is attributed to the RgVeda. The sounds and combination of words are also said to be divined, coming straight from the gods. This is called shruti. The saint and scholor, Sri Aurobindo, was one of the first people to defend and write detailed information about the Rig Veda mantras. He translated over 3,000 mantras, and wrote over 15,000 pages of essays on the topic. Aurobindo places the RgVeda as early as 4000 B.C.E., yet to this date the exact time period is higly disputed among scholors. What is clear is that mantra is a vibrational technology that came from the Rishis, with a highly developed and complex system of meter, tones, and sounds which when spoken internally or externally, are used to alter a person’s reality or karma. Some mantra are used for personal and spiritual growth or protection, and others are used for greater spells and incantations. The Samskrt alphabet itself was said to be divined the same way. In the essay, “Mantras-What are They?” by Andre Padoux, the author writes about the significance of the spiritual origins of mantra and the alphabet.
All the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, supposedly born in the godhead, may be regarded as mantras. Born of themselves as spontaneous movement of the divine energy, they appear ‘freely’ but according to the traditional and very rational order of the varnasamamnaya….No one finds out or coins a mantra; he recieves it ritually from a master who has it from tradition.(309)
Mantra works within a complex interaction between the energetic bodies, sound, and vibration. Vibration is the vehicle for the process. Layne Redmond talks about the power of mantra in her book, “When the Drummers Were Women,”
Through the repition of certain sounds, the practitioner creates vibratory rhythyms within the body that energize the brain and the nervous system. The sequence of syllables or sound frequencies used is called mantra. The mantra of a specific god or goddess is equivalent to the energy of the divinity itself. To repeat the mantra repeatedly is to invoke the energy of the diety itself.(65)
Mantras activate the entire being. The sound acts on the three layers of the being, the subtle, the gross, and the causal body. When the power of the force of the mantra enteres the subtle body of the reciter, the power grows internally and works on the gross or physical level, assisting the reciter in all actions which helps them achieve perfection. In the book “Vedic Mantras and Sukats,” by R.L. Kashyap, the author explains; “The power associated with the mantra are psychological powers such as the power of will, mental clarity, oveall energizing, inspiration, intuition, dispelling the depression of various types, etc.”(vi)
In order for the mantra to have power the reciter must have full knowledge of the meaning of all the syllbles in the phrase, and good prounciation. Sir John Woodruff says that without this knowledge, the “mantra sleeps.” Meaning that one will not get the full mantra-siddhi. Mantra-siddhi is the ability to effectively reap the harvest and the result of the power behind the sounds. Woodruff goes on to write about the necessary preliminatory purification processess one must undergo prior to the recitation of the mantra which include; purification of the mouth, the tongue, cleansing the body, awakening the mantra, and in the case fo Japa, forming a mental image of the diety which you are intending to evoke. Japa is the recitiation of a particular mantra, or bija (seed syllable) which is recited a specific number of times by the practitioner using a mala to count the recitation. The mala, or garland, generally relates to the energy of the mantra. For instatnce, if the practitioner is reciting a mantra for Shiva, one uses a mala made from rudraksha seeds. If they are reciting a mantra for Krsna, then they will use a mala made of Tulsi stems. If they are reciting a manra for Laxmi they will use a mala made with quartz crystals, and so on.
According to Woodruff, “Japa is the repeated utterence or recitiation of a mantra according to certain rules. “ Within this practice the mantra must recited a specified amount of times, 108 being the most adventagous. There are three ways to practice the speech of mantra. Vachika, which is spoken out loud; Upangshu-japa, which the lips move and no sound is heard, and manasa-japa, which the mantra is spoken to oneself in silence. The latter is seen as the most affective because the practitioner is fixed upon the meaning of the mantra, not only the words as they are herd. Because the mantra is internalized, there is no distraction from an external source. In “Practicles of Mantras and Tantras,” by L.R. Chawdhri the author describes how the mantra works, “…Mantras create deeper and deeper impression on the mental plane vis couscoius mind becomes saturated with impressions and thereafter the power of mantra moves to subconscious mind, hearing the singing of mantras in an uninterrupted way…creating an impression on subconscious mind. “(7)
Basically, mantras can be devided into three catagories; (1)Mantra from the Vedas, sacrificial, those used in ritual, and those used in households; (2) “Om,”the meta-maha mantra which has its own catagory; (3) Japa, which consists of some devotional and some yoga/meditative mantras (including bijas). The latter falls inside the Tantric category of Hinduism.
I would not be so interested in the topic of mantra if I had not experienced the power first hand. Four years ago I would never have thought about mantra, or the power of the ‘word.’ Although I was a musician and believed in the healing arts through sound and music, I had no contex for the power of traditional Hindu mantra. Then I went to India. As many first time travelers in a country so ancient and powerful, I went through an initiation which brought me to my knees. The heartache I experienced there was unbarable. Lukily, I went to study with a man who was an extremely learned Brahmin. He was an astrology teacher, and he saw the suffering I was experiencing. In the tradition of mantra, initiated me with a bija which has changed my life. As Marcea Elliade writes in “Yoga, Immortality and Freedom,”
The unilmited efficacy of mantras is owing to the fact that they are the ‘objects’ they represent. Each god, for example, and each degree of sanctity have a bija-mantra, a ‘mystical sound,’ which is their ‘seed,’ their ‘support’ – that is their very being. By repeating this bija-mantra in accordance with the rules, the practitioner appropraites its ontological essence, concretely and directly assimilates the god, the state of sanctity, etc. (215)
What Elliade describes here is what I experienced after I was given the perscription for Kali dhyana (meditation). At the time I never thought that such a little word would have a dramatic shift in my consciousnesss from one simple practice.
I will never forget my teacher approaching me after witnessing all of the suffering which I was experiencing and saying to me, “Indirya, I am going to give you a Dhyana, (meditation) and with this you must do it every day without fail. You must meditate on this with your heart, because this is where the Bija (seed syllable) resides. You must light incense, because the Goddesses live off of sweet scents, and prayers. You must wash your feet, hands, face and mouth before you sit down, and meditate for at least on half hour every day. When you meditate have nothing else in your mind, fix entirely on this bija, and if emotion comes, you must send it right up to her, she will take it and transform it with her fire. Anger, sadness, whatever, she will transform this for you, trust her, she is Mother, she has the ultimate compassion for her children. Meditate on her for at least six months to a year, and then we can talk about the next step; initiation to Kali Sadhana.”
About six months after beginning and practicing the Kali Dhyana every day I began to fully understand and embrace what Guruji had given me, and why he did so. I began to gain insight into this diety which I never thought of before, and with the insight came the knowledge and experience of a spiritual awakening. I would sit at my altar, light insence, begin reciting this bija to myself, and sending it to my heart where it resides. The longer and deeper the meditation, the more I opened to the information and knowledge which was coming through. Over time I recieved the siddhi of the mantra, and understood why it was important and transformative for me. I began to understand Her, (Kali) and in doing so understand the transcendental nature of myself. This is some of the information which came to me. ‘Ma’ in the form as Kali is transcendental. She stands with one foot on Shiva’s heart, her four arms blazon in mid air. One yields a bloody sword, the other a severed head of a demon while the other two arms grant boons. Her face is radiant, third eye open, safe from the maya she inflicts upon the world. She is usually ensconced in red, tongue red protruding, (with embarrassment) possibly symbolizing rajas, held by her white teeth (sattva holding rajas in place, white for spirituality). She is naked free from illusions. She wears only a garland of severed arms around her middle, representing action, gati and a garland of skulls representing the aksharas, different sounds of the alphabet. In Hindu philosophy sound is the first creation, and all of creation came from this. She is dark as night, sometimes-dark blue, the limitless darkness, shadow, or as recent astronomers findings, the space of nothing that is actually something called “dark matter” that cannot be defined. Her hair is long black flowing, disheveled, perhaps representing independence or untamed beauty. She is depicted on the cremation ground, a sea of dead bodies of her conquest surrounding her.
She is such a powerful and terrifying image so different from the compassionate angelic faces of Jesus and the saints, or the serene images of Buddha, or many other gods or goddesses. Yet upon closer inspection, perhaps no so different. Like Buddha and Jesus she is transcendent, and like mother Mary compassionate to the believer. For many used to beautiful serene images she is hideous and perhaps absurd, yet to Kali devotees she is Ma. She represents all power, and is neither good nor bad, she is Shakti. (Primordial force). On one hand we see Shakti as the energy in its potential form, this is “creation”. On the other hand Shakti is also kinetic energy, that power that has been unleashed, this is the power to destroy like a nuclear bomb. Each part of the same whole.
This force is beyond good or bad. She yields the power to create and to take away. She illuminates the duality of existence by taking away the suffering, with her fire, for her name is derived from the word Kala, time. Overall she is the Great Mother, from which all life is born. Thus Kali not only is the mistress of time, but also the creatrix given that she is pure potential and consciousness in all-living beings. It is Maya or Moha desire that brings the atma back into prakriti, the soul into form. Kali because of her pure potentiality has the ability to tare through these veils that keep one in the eternal samskara.
Mahakala is eternal time. Immortality is Brahman. Immortality is the combination of Agni, (energy) and Mahakala (eternal time) they are at the root of all which exists. Thus they are interchangeable. It is said that through propitiating her all the gods and goddesses are propitiated. She is the creatrix of the universe to fulfill her lila of Creation, Preservation, and destruction. She creates the goddesses and destroys them at the time of Universal dissolution.
Through integration of this knowledge I was able to discern what is illusion, or maya, and what was beyond illusion. I began to understand that suffering is illusiary, and through this practice I have the tools to move any suffering that comes up. This coinsides perfectly with the description which Woodroff writes;
Mantra comes from the first syllable of manana, and –tra comes from trana, or liberation from the bondage of samsara, or the phenominal world…Whilst, therefore, mere prayer often ends in nothing but physical sound, mantra is a potent compelling forece, a word of power, and thus effective to produce avaidic perception, and mukti (liberation). (85)
The category which my practice falls under in Hindu spectrum would be considered Tantric. Which is defined as; “A class of scripture; an ancient spiritual discipline relating to the power of Shakti.” More speifically in the book “Devi Goddesses of India,” the authors describe Tantra as; “An initiatory form of religion, often purposely unorthodox, in which the devotee visualizes himself or herself as the diety…”(327) What I have come to know throught this practice was gained in an excellerated time period. She has given me the knowledege, a glimpse into my own true nature which is Brhaman, or Cit. This is our endless infinite nature which never ceases to be. I atribute this to the sound and intention of mantra. I am not asserting that I am ‘enlightened’ by any means. Yet there is a palpable understanding which during those moments of suffering, or emotional upheaval come, I can draw upon for insight. Because of my experience with mantra, I understand why mantras are so ingrained into a culture from which they derrived, and have since traveled around the world. Thousands of years later they appear in many recent popular recordings here in the United States. Again Padoux writes about the magical affects of mantra;
With mantras, we are at once ihn the world of spiritual experience and in that of supernatural powers or of magical action, if we perfer to call it that. Hence, I presume, the appeal of mantras to so many people: A mantra, on the magical plane, gives them what they wish for. On the spiritual plane, it is an effective tool for concentration and , thus, can bring about the spiritual state which a person craves and which, once obtained, either confers supernatural powers upon him or brings him to regard them as despicable, the satisfaction is the same in either case.”(310)
On a truly base level, mantra affords the practitioner to sit and concentrate their mind upon a single thought for a period of time. Regardless of the meaning, pronunciation, or form, the practitioner is meditating and concentrating the mind on a single thought. Like meditation where brain waves have been studied and determined to slow to varying waves, repetative recitation of mantra probably has the same affect. The effect of mantra is also explained in the “World of Sound,”
There is a type of mantra, however, that the meditator has all to himself….When you meditate on such a personal mantra for years, an almost perfect synchronization can develop between the vibrations of the mantra given to you, and your own personal vibrations…man is vibration, just as everything else is – not only in the spiritual sense but also physically. (30)
In conclusion, mantras are like many sided instruments. They are complex interactive technology that may be understood on many different levels. Overall, they serve as an anodyne. Relief knowing that we are in control of the universe, and that our karma is not fixed, but can be changed. They also serve as tools that humans can use to overstep their limits be all powerful and free from fear. They are also a manner in which an entire society has organized its life. The Hindu civilization was formed within its belief of the power of speech and ritual gesture. Devotion to sound and sound healing is something which I have not experienced in the culture of the United States until recently, (except for the pockets of Baptist churches, and African American traditional songs, and in Native American chants and songs). Yet those examples are using sound healing in the form of prayer, while mantra is something altogether different. There is a mythical notion which exists in Hinduism about speech. Speech came from Vac, the Vedic goddess of sound, and is of divine origin. In the Hindu scripture the Statpatha-Brahmana, “mind doubltess is speech, for by means of speech one thinks everything here.”(220.127.116.11)
Mantra came out of the power of the spoken word, and was not ment to be written. In the Judeo-Christian culture of the United States, the major religious context comes from the written word, and the autor’s translation of the written word. In fact, as I mentioned before, the least spoken mantra is considered even more powerful than that spoken out loud. The heart of every utterence is actually silence. Because of the complexity of humankind, and the complexity of mantra we may never fully understand why they have existed for so long, or the effectiveness of the technology. I find it interesting that the ‘West’ is now catching on to the power, and incorperating the ancient words into pop culture. I also ponder the harmful effects of adopting a cultureal technique out of context. As mantra can be helpful, they also can be harmful, either intentionally or unintentionally. Padoux writes;
Such a use of mantras, taken from the Indian context and transferred to our own, is precisely what some Westerners now propose…I do not believe this to be ligitimate, since we cannot (or do very exceptionally) really adopt all the Indian cultural context in which they are grounded together with the mantras. For mantras to work within our own civilization, we must use them within the philisophical framework of our own, drawing to a greater or lesser extent on the fund of Western religious thought and beliefs and on our traditional notions concerning the powers of speech, which differ from Indian ones.(309)
Only time will tell how mantras will effect our Western consciousness as a whole. As we see the rise of yoga techniques becoming more and more popular, it is my hope that yoga students and practitioners, bodyworkers, and musicians will be interested in persuing the science of mantra, and learning the traditional art form of the technology, with greater understanding and a commitment to study of the ancient sources.
According to the Wikipedia definition ‘salon’ is a tradition of literary gatherings which began in Renaissance of France and Italy. It reads;
"salon is a gathering of stimulating people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings, often consciously following Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "to please and educate" (aut delectare aut prodesse est)."
The salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical salons of the 17th century and 18th century, were carried on until quite recently in urban settings among like-minded people of a 'set': many 20th-century salons could be instanced.
The word salon first appears in French in 1664 (from the Italian word sala, used to designate the large reception hall of Italian mansions). Literary gatherings before this were often referred to by using the name of the room in which they occurred, like cabinet, réduit, ruelle and alcôve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_%28gathering%29)
However, it was in eighteenth-century Paris that the salon gained prominence for lively intellectual conversation in the fields of arts and letters. The hostesses of these events were typically women of some distinction, whether by title or personal wealth. The meetings were often referred to by the day of the week on which they were held. Topics of conversation ranged from (but were not limited to) matters of literary and social taste and, increasingly, political issues. The Salon conversation was characterized by a blend of wit and oral brilliance. A notable salon hostess of eighteenth-century Paris was Madeleine de Scudéry. Famous for her "Saturdays of Sappho," she recreated salon society in her novels. What is striking about these assemblies is that they were presided over by women, a rare example of female control in a literary realm.
This paper is an expoloration into an imaginary world of the meeting of the minds and souls of some of these famous Vedantans, and some who may never be labeled as such but for this purpose. The venue for this configuration is an informal ‘salon’ style atmosphere, hosted by The Mother of Auroville, the shakti to writer, philosopher and saint Sri Aurobindo. I chose The Mother for this purpose not only because she is French, but for her sharp wit, and conscious intuition. The others I chose to be a part of this gathering are all poets, and philosophers, masters of their craft and beliefs. I chose them because I believe they all hold similar Vedantan perspectives, and yet have all evolved their spiritual belief systems differently, and perhaps independently of each other. I used a combination of direct quotes from their work, and assimilation of their ideas from reading and deducing what they might have said, or added to the conversation.
According to author Hans Torwesten in “Vedanta, Heart of Hinduism,”
Vedanta means; “the end of the vedas” a purely factual reference to the final scripures of Vedantic liturature, namely the Upanishads.” However, this notion is quite vague. One has to ponder if there is a really ‘there there.’ What is the essence of Vedantic though, and how is it that I am able to lump all of these different writers, and philosophers into the same school of pholosophy. Again, Torwesten wrote;
But just as in the eyes of the Christian the New Testament does not merely outwardly conclude the literature of the Bible but also inwardly ‘fulfills’ and transcends all that preceed it, so here too anta means not only “end” but also ‘cumulation’ and ‘going beyond’- not only with respect to the Vedic scriptures but with respect to all that we are capable of knowing. For veda means knowledge, and Vedanta is thus what transcends all (relative) knowledge. (11)
These writers, artists, philosophers that I am envoking have definitely gone beyond their cultural mimes and transcended to a path of ulitmate knowing, a space which one may call ‘Brahman’ Yet what is ironic, is that few of these philosophers I predict will be able to agree on a definition of Brahman. One of the ealiest commentators of the Brhama Sutra, Shamkara, (S`), (788-820 BCE), said to be the incarnation of Shiva, defines Brahman as; “The immediate concsiousness which shines as the self and also through the objects of congition which the self knows.”
Each of these guests who are invited to the salon this day have equally their own depth of knowledge, each have had multiple approaches at arriving at their current theories. Each use different modalities to arrive at their current transcendent belief which makes them masters in all of their own right. Wether is is through Bhakti, or poetry, scholoship, or meditation, through sadhana or activism, all have traveled different paths, and are equally learned. As “Truth cannot contradict reason and experience.” Each of these masters have ascertained their own concept of “Truth”, and this is what makes their interaction so fascinating. Vedanta is not some spiritual outlook, nor is it a closed religion with definend doctrines. Again Torwesten writes, “As far as I am concerned, one may call Vedanta a system; in doing so, however, one should never forget that we are dealing here with a system that in the end cancels itself out.”(12)
Different as these philosophers seem, they are similar in some respects. They all believe in a force bigger than themselves, which they are a part, the innately divine nature of humans, the soul or Atman, and most believe in some form of reincarnation. Most also would agree that the ‘there there’ is nothing. The there is the end of knowledge, and the beginning of pure existance. “The mere intellectual understanding is not enough. The end
of all knowledge is spiritual realisation.”
Begin the Begin
Even in Its universal being Brahman exceedes the Movement. Exceeding time, It contains in Itself past, present, and future simultaneously and has not to run to the end of conceivable time. Exceeding space, It contians all formations in Itself coincidentally and has not to run to the end of conceivable Space. Exceeding Causality, It contains freely in Itself all eventualities as well as all potentialities without being bound by the apparent chain of causality by which they are linked to the universe.
“Welcome friends. What a delightful group that have graced us with their presence for this incredible event if not for our own virtue, but for the acceleration of the supra-mental. It is for our own pleasure that we are guided to further our own growth, but when we collectively integrate our knowledge, or wisdom, it is for the grace of all. So this gathering is one for that good, the good of all. May our words and our work expand out to the planet, expanding the ‘evolution of the earth-consciousness; for its upward ascent is not ended and mind is not its last summit.’ and beyond to the outer limits of wherever it is needed, and encourage others on their paths as well. For those of you who have not yet met each other I will facilitate the discussions for the duration of our time. All of you this embodyiment, she is called The Mother. I will begin with the simple task introductions. To my right is the wandering sauka and poet Lallashvari of Kashmir. Next to her is Jelal al-Din Muhammed, also known as Rumi the sufi poet and teacher from Konya. Continuing in a counter clock wise direction is Sri Ramakrishna Paramahmsa the saint of Kolkatta, known also for his extatic trance and poetry. Next is Ramana Maharishi, or Bhagwan as his disciples call him, from the munis from Tiruvanamali. And finally, the poet, activist, and nature lover from the western continent, Walt Whitman. By the way, Sri Aurobindo is here as well, but not in form, he wants me to convey that he may be participating now and again in our discussion through me. Very good. Welcome one and all, let us begin with a silent meditaion and allign ourselves with our supra-consciousness.” Everyone closed their eyes, and began by sitting in silent meditation. After some time, the room shifted, and it was clear everyone was ready to move on.
Lalla stood up naked and spoke, “I would like to share some of what has come through this mind and body.”
At the end of a crazy-moon night the love God rose.
I said, “It’s me, Lalla.”
The Beloved woke. We became That, and the lake is crystal-clear.7
I do not know myself, nor you, my Lord.
I mistook the body for my identity.
I didn’t know that you are me, and I you,
Yet I still keep wondering who you and I are.8
She paused between poems, and the room remained silent.
Dying and giving birth go on inside the one consciousness,
But most people misunderstand the pure play of creative energy,
How indside that, those are one event.9
There is “You or “I”, no object to contemplate, no contemplation!
Everything is That lost in That.
The blind theologians didn’t understand.
Then they saw, and their seven levels of attainment dissolved to nothing.10
Ramakrisna begins to laugh, and stand up from his seat. My disciples are always asking; “Master, how do you do this? How does one kill the ego? Does anyone know the story of Shankacharya and his disciple?” Some nod, some shake their heads. He continues;
Shankacharya had a certain disciple, who served him long without receiving any teaching. One day, hearing footsteps behind him he asked, ‘Who is there? and was answered by this disciple, ‘It is I.’ Then said the master, ‘If this ‘I’ is so dear to thee, either stretch it to the infinite or renounce it altogether.’11
Laughter then fills the room, rose up and died down to a chuckle. “It is easy to say, and for some impossible to discern.” Ramakrishna said in a fit of chuckles. The Mother asks a question, “To what extent should we concern ourselves with the body, with the “I”?
“The body can help us get beyond the ego.”
Whitman interjects. “Is not nature the same stuff which is what God is made? How can we renounce perfection? That is the heart of duality. I would like to read this part of a poem I wrote that speaks to this very same issue called; “Song of Myself,”
I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God is greater to one than one’s self is…
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, nor do understand who there can be more wonderful than myself…
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters form God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come forever and ever… 12
“Just like Lalla, I agree that the flesh is sacred as is Divine. If I believed otherwise I would be of duelist thought.”
“Yes, your flesh is God, as God takes all forms, from stray cat, to a prostitute. She is all, but what is important distinction is that the ego is not God. The ego is maya.” Ramakrishna retorts slowly and with a soft tenor in his voice. “Muddy water cannot reflect the sun.” he adds. Then began staring at the window, with his finger pointed at the glass, drifts off into Samadhi. Everyone’s attention is now wrapt on Ramarishna, as if they had never seen anyone go into Samadhi before. He is standing in the middle of the room with his arm extended, and his finger is pointing at the window. His trance induced an hypnotic quality in the room. (This causes some pause in the conversation).
“I would like to talk about the battle of the ego, or the ‘nufs’ as we call it in Islam, and Sufi tradition.” Rumi begins. “I understand this very much, and have struggled with this very thing. How do we ‘extinguish the nufs’, not by putting out the fire, but by burning it up in the cauldron of the body. I would not go so far to say that our body is … (he points up and around and makes gestures with his hands, referring by body language to Allah), you know what I mean, that is another thing all together, but to use the body to burn out the ego, this is possible. I have experienced this myself. Muhammed Iqbal says; ‘Why should a dervish be concerned about his physical torment, for flames are required to give form to glass.’13 Since the Dervish has a direct connection to Divine Love in spite of whatever hardships are imposed upon the body. The body is ‘like a piece of steel ready to receive the hammer of hardship for the sake of Divine Love.’14 Fasting and prayer are great when they empty the mind and clears it of the fog. But if the prayers and fasting, and the trials on the body don’t show any result, and if they have not brought you closer to the Beloved, then they are useless. ‘This attribution of qualities is only accidental and slaughter the shadow of a goat instead of the goat itself.’15 The Beloved is not to be bought with deeds or intellect. Only by experience can it be known. Only expereince of God is Truth. As I have written,
An eye is meant to see things. The soul is here for its own joy. Legs: to run after. Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind, for learning what men have done and tried to do. Mysteries are not to be solved.
The eye goes blind when it only wants to see why. A lover is always accused of something. But when he finds his love, whatever is lost in the looking comes back completely changed. ..16
“You see friends,” Rumi continues, “we are like fish discussing the possible existance of the sea. All worldy knowledge is transient. We think that this worldly thought belongs to us. When the light of the torch of worldly knowldege is extinguished, then what? Only that knowledge which is derrived from Divine source will never burn out. It is this attachment to ‘dunya’ (ego) which endangers our life.”
Sri Ramana Maharishi, you are noted for your silence, and I understand why, but I would love to invite you into this conversation, perhaps with a poem. The Mother requests. Bagwan, is smiling and sitting on the floor on top of his tiger skin asana, wearing his traditional white longoti. (A little white cloth covering his waist). He pauses, and slowly opens his mouth to begin.
The inner silence is self-surrender. And that is living without the sense of ego. Solitude is in the mind of a man. One might be in the thick of the world and yet maintain perfect serenity of mind; Another might be in the thick of a forest, but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the mind; a man attached to the things of life cannot get solitude, wherever he may be. A detached man is always in solitude….17
He pauses to see if everyone is following him.
…deep meditation is eternal speech. Silence is ever-speaking; it is the perennial flow of ‘language’. It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstuct this mute ‘language’. Lectures may entertain individuals for hours without improving them. Slence, on the other hand, is permanent and benefits the whole of humanity…By silence eloquence is meant…It is the best language. 18
He sits there in silence, and everyone joins him. The only sound is a grandfather clock in the room which is ticking, it is so quiet we can hear the sound of people breathing.
Ramakrishna begins to emerge from Samadhi. He looks around at everyone in silence and speaks;
It is a very risky task this preaching! Sometimes it brings great harm to the preacher. As soon as he sees men doing him honour, he puffs himself up and says, ‘Hear! O ye men, what I declare!’ This sort of idea is ruinous. His further progress ends here. A little honour, that is all his reward! At most men would say, ‘How very learned!’ Don’t let the idea enter your mind that you are speaking. I say to my Mother, ‘Mother I am the tool, Thou art the hand; I do what Thou makest me do; I say what Thou biddest me say.’ 19
Surprised by his return to the group, Bhagwan turned as if a bit startled, then smiled at Ramakrishna, and nodded. “I see you have returned to us Master.” Bhagwan said with a sheepish grin. They exchange long extended glances, for which words are unncessesary.
“Perhaps this is an opportunity to share a poem which is appropriate here,” Bhagwan says returning his attention to the group. “Somasundara Swami, one of my oldest desciples had asked me to write down in his notebook at least one akshara. (An akshara is a letter, and is also means ‘undecaying’ and denotes Brahman). These are the nine verses that came through me;
(1) One syllable shines for ever in the heart as the Self.
Who is there anywhere who can write it down?
(2) Incantation reaching to the source of sound is the best course for those
who are not firm in Consciousness which is the source for the I.
( 3) This excreta-making body for Self he who mistakes
Is worse than one who, born a pig, for food excreta takes.
(4) Incessant search for Self the love supreme of God we call. For He alone as Self abides within the Heart of all.
(5) What introverted mind call Peace outside as power as shown;
Those who have reached and found this Truth their Unity have known.
(6) He who’s contented with his lot, from jealously is free;
Balanced in affluence and mishap; not bound by action is he.
(7) By him alone who’s saved himself can other fold be freed;
The help of others is as if the blind the blind would lead.
( 8) Question and answer are of speech, duality their sphere;
Impossible in Monism to find them anywhere.
(9) There is neither creation nor destruction, neither destiny nor free-will,
Neither path nor achievement; this is the final truth.’”20
Bhagwan closes his eyes, and smiling, and returns to his silent state.
After some moments pass, The Mother clears her voice and says, “There are some very wise recommendations here. And I like the part you mentioned before Bhagwan about silence. One wise counsel I was given is never to utter too many eloquent words which are not effectuated in action- speak little, act well. This is the ideal of the real karma yogin.”
“All of us have experienced the Divine in so many ways collectively. Many of us have tried to convey this feeling in the form of prose, or expression. Many of us have followers who want to know how to be with this experience of the ‘one.’ “At the beginning of my present earthly existance I came into contact with many people who said that they had a great inner aspiration, an urge towards something deeper and truer, but that they were tied down so much, subjected, slaves, to that brutal necessity of earning their living, and that this weighted them down so much, took up so much of their time and energy that they could not engage in any other activity, inner or outer. I heard this very often, I saw manny poor people- I don’t mean poor because they felt imprisoned in a material necessity, narrow and deadening. What came through me is the vision of Auroville which will create the Supermind on earth. Auroville was designed to alleviate the necessity for humans to be mired down to the earthly things like earning a living, so that they could renounce and develop the supramental. My question is, by what technologies have you discovered bring about a shift from the unconscious indiviual to one that is aligned with the supramental?” At this question eveyone nods their heads. There is an understanding in the room that humankind is on the edge of a perillous knife. Either a conscious shift has to occur soon in this time reality, or the earth and its inhabitants will suffer enormously.
Walt Whitman begins to speak; “As I understand it, those living in places like North America, or the United States, have lost connection with the land, and the native ways of knowing. The people of the ‘new world’ could learn a great deal from retracing the belief systems about living simply with the earth, as the Native tribes did. I myself have come to a greater understanding about God through nature, observation, and through Native beliefs. ‘The smallest sprout shows there is really no death.’21 And from nature I have discovered my own true nature which is infinite as nature herself. I would add that humankind must go to this source to find themselves, and go not to God to find themselves. God is on this earth, in all its glory in everything. You see I say, ‘There is something greater my brothers and sisters. It is form, union, eternal life, and this is Happiness.’22
Lalla then got up to speak. “Beyond all, loose idenity with the body. I when I realized this, I took off my clothes and danced. And it doesn’t matter who it is, or what it is that inspires the spiritual journey. ‘My teacher told me one thing, live in the soul…. The only offering you can make to God is your increasing awareness. And the last desire is to be God in human form.’ This is what happens when you mediditate on who you really are. When you realize that you and God are the same, then the celibration really beings.”
“Yes Lalla, I would agree with you, to a certain point.” Rumi begins. “I would tell anyone searching for a path to God that you must realize that you are the macrocosm. Look, the gardener would never have planted the tree or the vine if he did not hope for fruit. Not that you are the supreme reality, but that you come from the same idea, that idea which is eternal.23 The illusion of fear is a great obsticle to the pilgrim. Intelligence alone will not save you. You must seek refuge in the arms of the Beloved. Lover and Beloved must become one. What is there to fear? If the lover is the companion of the Eternal, then there is no fear. Fear is duality, separation, and so the pilgrim must offer all their love to the Beloved, and seek nothing else. And there is another thing. Move the body. Movement stirrs the soul, that is why I dance, and spin. I wrote, ‘The mystic dances in the sun, hearing music others don’t.’ 24 One must percieve the source of inspiration from the Divine world. The essence of divine inspiration belongs to the unseen world. The journey of the spirit is outside time and space. In this journey of the heart which is intoxicated by the wine of Divine Love. Let yourself drink the wine. The body learns its way throught the spirit. The physical body is composed of time, when one is freed from time, they are freed from the physical, and those that are freed from the body, are freed from the concept of time.”25
“I have said this to my devotees many times, and will say it again,” Ramakrishna began to speak. “Without single minded devotion God cannot be realized. The moth after seeing the light, never again returns to the darkness…Similarly, the lover of God gladly devotes his life to the attainment of Divine bliss and cares for nothing else. If the mind is distracted, fickle, unsteady then even though a man has a good Guru it will availith nothing. Every indivindual is connected with the higher Self. Effort is also necessary for God vision. There are pearls in the deep sea, but if diving once do not bring pearls, you need to not conclude that the sea is without them. Dive again and again. You are sure to be rewarded in the end. So it is with finding the Lord in this world. If your first attempt prove fruitless, do not loose heart. Pereservere in your efforts, You are sure to realize Him at last. And book knowledge alone will not get you there. What is there in mere book learning, if it is not accompanied with the discrimination of real from the unreal?
When I think of the lotus feet of the Lord, I forget myself so compeletely that unconsciously my clothes fall off and there is the feeling of a current of air flowing up from the feet to the head. From that state, everything belonging to the world seems to be made of straw. Chaitanya Deva in the course of his pilgrimage through southern parts of India came across a certain devotee who was in tears all the while that a Pandit was reading from the Gita. Now, this devotee know not even the letters. He could not follow a single text of the Gita. Upon being asked why he shed tears, he replied, ‘It is indeed true that I do not know even a single word of the Gita. But all the while that it was being read I could not help seeing with my inner eye the beautiful form of my Lord Sri Krisna, seated before Arjuna in a chariot on the field of Kurukshetra, and giving out all those sublime thoughts, known as the Gita. This it was which filled my eyes with tears of joy and love.’ And there is no difference in work. Do not think that this work will lead you to God and that will not. Everything depends on His grace…whatever work you have to perform, do it with sincerity and earnest longing. I would say to anyone who is seeking, that he who wants Him finds Him. Go and verify it in your own life; try for three days and thou art sure to succeed. In this Kali-Yuga, even three days are enough to make a man perfect.”25
“Anyone who has come to see me knows what I guidance I give to a prilgrim on the path of Self-realization.” Ramana Maharishi says in a hushed tone. Everyone moved closer to hear his words. “When one persistantly inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self, and when I refer to the Self I am refering to the Self as Atman. Realization is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought, ‘I have not realized.’ This is due to the identification of the Self with the not-Self. The Self is God. ‘I AM’ is God.26 When a Disciple comes to me and asks ‘How one is to realize the Self?’ I answer, ‘Whose Self? Find out yourself. Just think over and over the question; Who is the ‘I’ in your statement? Who was born?’ Whatever form your inquiry may take, you must finally come to the one, I, the Self. The ‘I-Supreme’ alone is. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as the mind, apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. The mind defines limitation, the Self is limitless. Hence I say, know that you are really the Infinite, Pure Being, and Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. True knowledge does not creat a new Being for you, it removes your ‘ignorant ignorance’. Bliss is not added to your natural state, eternal and imperishable. The only way to be rid of your grief is to know and be the Self. How can this be unattainable?27 Just as the light of the lamp is shown when there is no film to project through, so the Self alone shines without the factors of mental concepts in the form of tendencies are absent. Just as the lamp illuminates the lens, film, unaffected, the Self illiminates the ego, while remaining unaffected.”28 Ramana finishes and closes his eyes, returning to his favorite place of silence. Everyone has their eyes closed, the mood in the room is peaceful and meditative.
Suddenly, its as though there exists some other entity, a energy that was not previously felt. This consumes the room. Lalla opens her eyes and begins to look around, and Rumi gets up and begins to twirl in place. Walt Whitman stirs in his chair, and figets with his pen, scribbling frantically. Ramana remains sitting peacefully, and Ramakrishna is off in Samadhi staring with his finger pointed at the window. The Mother is smiling ear to ear with her eyes closed. “Welcome Sri Auobindo, welcome my sweet Master,” she says outloud. In a well worn armchair, his body materializes from the eathers. He is sitting up regally, with his eyes half open in a meditative state. He has a long beard and a piece of white fabric draped over his left side. Whitman looks up from his scribbling and his jaw drops at the sight of the new arrival. He continues to stare for some time. Lalla begins to laugh, loudly and joyously. Rumi stops twirling, and acknowledges the sage, and then resumes his dance. Ramana doesn’t stir, yet with his eyes closed a smile comes over his lips, and Ramakrisna remains in Samadhi.
Aurobindo having acnowleged everyone in the room begins to speak, “The thing to be done is as large as human life, and therefore the individuals who lead the way will take all human life for their province. These pioneers will consider nothing as alien to them, nothing outside of their scope. For every part of human life has to be taken up by the spiritual, -not only the intellectual, the aesthetic, the ethical, but the dynamic, the vital, the physical; therefore for none of these things or the activities that spring from them will they have contempt or aversion, however they may insist on a change of the spirit and a transmutation of the form. In each power of our nature they will seek for its own proper means of conversion; knowing that the Divine is concealed in all, they hold that all can be made the Spirit’s means of self-finding and all can be converted into its instruments of divine living.” 29 He continues to sit in silence, which in turn fills the room. Walt Whitman emerges from a stare of disbelief as though to ask a question;
“Excuse me Sri Aurobindo?” Aurobindo turns his head in Whitman’s direction. Whitman continues, “ummm, so how is it where you are? I mean, what is it like exactly, or approximately for that matter? Do you feel? Do you exist?” Again there is noticable silence in the room, as Aurobindo stares at Whitman, and Whitman returns the glance. As if they are trying to communicate in a language beyond words, as if that is the only way this question can be answered. After some time, Aurobindo began to speak; “Well, if I tried to explain what this maha-samadhi was like, it would greatly reduce the element of surprise.” Laughter again filled the room.
“Oh, are you really going to torture their little souls like that?” The Mother asks, as the laughter is calming to a few chuckles and giggles.
“What I will tell you is this.” Aurobindo speaks to his captivated audience; “I do not agree with the view that the world is an illusion, mithya. The Brahman is here (in the world) as well as in the supracosmic Absolute. The thing to be overcome is the Ignorance which makes us blind and prevents us from realising Brahman in the world as well as beyond it and the true nature of existance….30 There is possibile a realistic as well as an illusionist Adwaita. The philosophy of ‘The Life Divine’ is such a realistic Adwaita. The world is a manifestation of the Real and therefore is itself real. The reality is the infinite and eternal Divine, infinite and eternal Being, Conscoiusness-Force and Bliss. This Divine by his power has created the world or rather maifested it in his own infinite Being. But here in the material world or at its basis he as hidden himself in what seem to be his opposites, Non-Being, Inconscience and Insentience. This is what we nowadays call the Inconscient which seems to have created the material universe by its inconscient Energy, but this is only an appearance, for we find in the end that all the dispositions of the world can only have been arrranged by the working of a supreme secret Intelligence. The Being which is hidden in what seems to be an inconscient void emerges in the world first in Matter, then in Life, then in Mind and finally as the Spirit. The apparently inconscient Energy which creates is in fact the Consciousness-Force of the Divine and its aspect of consciousness, secret in Matter, begins to emerge in Life, finds something more of itself in Mind and finds its true self in a spiritual consciousness and finally a suprmental Consciousness through which we become aware of the Reality, enter into it and unite ourselves with it. This is what we call evolution which is an evolution of Consciousness and an evolution and an evolution of the Spirit in things and only outwardly an evolution of the speicies. Thus also, the delight of existence emerges from the original insentience, first in the bliss of the Spirit or, as it is called in the Upanishads, the bliss of Bhrahman. That is the central idea in the explaination of the universe put forward in The Life Divine.”30 Silence again fills the room, as if the information exchanged to this point was being injested, and well assimilated.
“It feels as though our time together is drawing to a close, although nothing is closed that begins, and nothing that begins ever closes.” The Mother observed. ‘Since the beginning of the earth, wherever and whenever there was the possibility of manifesting a ray of consciousness, I was there.’31 Our work we have done, and done it well. The hope is that one day all of our collected consciouness and that of other experimentalists and practitioners will continue these discussions, in community, universities of the Divine, and other institutes of higher living. This will be done so that the supramental Light and Force and Consciousness rush down upon earth in an uninterrupted flow. ‘The manifestation of the Supramental upon the earth is no more a promise but a living fact, a reality. It is at work here, and one day will come when the most blind, the most unconscious, even the most unwilling shall be obliged to recognize it.’32
With that statement, the sage looked at The Mother, who gazing intently back into eyes, beyond matter, substance, and grace. Eyes that held gateways to a limitless time-space portals and ever evolving tendencies of consciousness within concsiousness, within matter. The two together began to dissolve into the ethers as salt in water until their images had all but vanished. Immediately after their dissolution, strong rays of bright light shone through the window, and Ramakrishna who remained in his samadhi began to speak; “Is that you Mother? Have you come for me? My mother has come…Take me to you, take me home, take this child..” and as the light shone greater his form was absorbed into aditi, (formlessness, the unbound). Rumi who had been twirlling in place for a long while, began to spin faster and faster, until he was spinning faster than the centripical force of the earth and was no longer visible to the human eye. Whitman noticing this spectacle comments from his seat, “Well, I gues the Sufi mastered time-space travel after all. How about that.” He gets up from his chair and looks over to Ramana who is still sitting on his Tiger skin asana, blissfully in a meditative state. “Bhagwan..” he begins, but the munis puts his hand up as if not to speak. And in the quiet tone, almost not to be said aloud, he began to whisper;
In the inmost core, the Heart
Shines as Brahman alone,
As ‘I-I’, the Self aware.
Enter deep inot the Heart
By search for Self, or diving deep,
Or with breath under check.
Thus abide ever in Atman.33
“Go. I have already gone.” Maharshi explained to the poet. Walt Whitman walked over to Lalla, who was still naked. He took her hand, and said,
…Life of the great round world, the sun and stars, and of man,
I, the general soul
Here the square finishing, the solid, I the most solid,
Breathe my breath also through these songs. 34
She looked back at him, smiling, full of joy, full of bliss. They began walking toward the door which was open, and the blinding light which shone through. Before they go through the portal, Lalla stops and turns to Whitman;
I searched for mySelf
Until I grew weary,
But no one, I know now
Reaches the hidden knowledge by means of effort.
Then, absorbed in ‘Thou art This,’
I found the place of Wine
There all the jars are filled,
But no one is left to drink.35
And through the door they walked, and disappeared into the light, leaving the door ajar.
It is not explicitly clear if any of these philosophers, saints, mystics, sages, or poets knew of each other or read any of each others’ work. Even those who lived during their lifetimes, and in relative proximity to each other may never have met in person. Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi are examples of two which may never have crossed paths although they lived relatively near each other. I did not come across any cross reference of this meeting in my research. Lalla may have been inspired by Rumi, but I have not read so in her poetry, although it is certainly similarly guided. I am inspired by each of these mystics. I believe that each hold a piece to add to the common knowledge about the ineffable and have helped me in my personal journey deepening my relationship with the Self.
Aurobindo, S. (1993) The Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. p.26
_______(1971) The Isha Upanished. Pondicherry:Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
Barks, Coleman (trans) Lalla, (1992) Naked Song, Lalla. Varanasi: Pilgrims Publishing p. 137
_______(1997) The Illuminated Rumi. New York: Broadway Books, p.39
_______(1993) Rumi. Birdsong Athens, Georgia: Maypop,
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