An Alternative to Scratching Yourself

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 Einstein thought the most important question to ask is whether the universe is friendly or not. Does it exist to back you up, or to put you down? Is it for you or against you?

 Some philosophies answer with the affirmation that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary - no matter how dark and grim - that, ultimately, the creation is for us, not against us. It is, as Genesis declared, not just good, but 'very good.'

 Accordingly, we can therefore trust the creation and trust as well our highest and best impulses which tell us that this life really is about something, and is leading somewhere. 

 With this outlook, our lives are significant. They are not pointless and meaningless. Our life in the world is not a show about nothing. 

 Enlightened in this way, we will not be inclined to join hands with the uninspired who merely 'eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.' Rather, we will be motivated to search for the highest, vowing never to rest content with anything less.

 Now, if you conclude with Einstein that the world is friendly, you are affirming that there is a personal dimension to ultimate reality, since only the personal can be friendly. 

 Thus oriented, we are ratifying the idea that there is some kind of love, caring and purpose in the heart of reality.

 Which is also to affirm that reality’s heart is to found in the core of you as a vital personal dimension, described as the Self within, or God within.

 The endorsement being made here is that ultimate reality is not some kind of impersonal force, or a blank, but a Light within, which, as John’s Gospel declares, 'lights up every human being who comes into the world.’ (Jn. ch 1)

 We are interested, accordingly, if we want to be aware of the highest, to find a way to be fully lit up by that Light, and not, foolishly, to be dimmed by dwelling in darkness instead.

 To contemplate that Light at the heart of reality, is to enter a certain fullness of being which will bring you into an awareness of a spiritual kinship with all beings. In the Light, there is a sense of oneness with all, who are, like you, bearers of the Light.

 But if you prefer instead to say that the universe is at bottom unfriendly and unsupportive of your highest thoughts and deepest longings, you can enter the suffering that goes hand in hand with your pessimism.

 You can become a dim light by constructing a life that tries to cover over and obscure any awareness of that underlying personal dimension of light and love

 You can live as a skeptic, and then, as you sour, a cynic, and then after a while, a fully unlit old person, from whom little children and animals will flee.

 You can practice being completely unaware of what spiritual practitioners have called that "profounder faculty” within that enables the Truth to be known. 

 You can live in what Yoga calls the malas (impurities) and pasas (fetters), which are various barriers and blockages to any kind of higher awareness. 

 Gurumayi, the meditation master, tells, for instance, the story of 'a blind man trapped in a fort,' who, quite understandably, wanted to get out.

 "He started groping along the wall in order to find a door." And behold, “there was a door in the wall.” But every time he came to it, "he would have an itch, and he would scratch himself." 

 Doesn’t this just say it all? We, too, are blind and trapped in this way or that and want to break away into green pastures and sunshine. But what do we do instead?

 On the edge of freedom, we feel an itch and scratch it.

 You’re standing there like a dork scratching yourself, even though a door to life and bliss has just opened before you!

 The same kind of thing happens when someone begins a meditation practice. She has a new cushion she's proud of. She’s searched everywhere to find it. It is just the right colour and gives the best support of any she’s tried.

 But upon sitting down on it, instead of meditating, she sits there scratching herself. Then she gives up and watches television instead. And thus it’s no mystery at all why, years later, she remains miserable. She’s spent her days, weeks and years scratching herself, instead of meditating.

 "In this way," Gurumayi continues, "the blind man kept groping around the wall, scratching himself, and missing the door." 

 "The process kept repeating itself, and he was trapped within the fort for decades."

 The sad thing is that he did not have to be trapped for decades. Nor do we. The veils or coverings to realization can be removed by the resolution to get up and turn around to face the Light, as Plato’s cave dweller did. Your whole being can move towards the Light. Do it, and do it now. Why wait?

 For it is not, as Gurumayi states, "that as human beings we are deprived of this great realm. We have been given this ecstatic realm, it is within us, but we miss our opportunites to experience it.

 A word that has long fascinated me is Pratyabhijna, a word which in its essence has to do with a deep study of man as possessing the highest potentialities

 The teachers of pratyabhijna say that we have an inheritance within. This is a reference to what is called a profounder faculty, or creative power.”

 It is sometimes called the Self, or Atman. Again, it is the profounder faculty within us.

 Pratyabhijna is the recognition of that essential dimension

 The message here is that we are incomplete until we recognize and connect with this profounder faculty.

 The idea here is that "the conscious self of each of us does not comprise the whole of consciousness. There exists a more comprehensive consciousness." (The Doctrine of Recognition, Pratyabhijna Philosophy - R.K. Kaw, p. 17)

 This is a truth that may or may not be grasped. Sadly, it remains only an unrealized potential for perhaps many. That essential dimension is unrecognized and untapped for many years, covered over by five awareness - blocking sheaths, or layers, called Koshas.

 Cloaked by the koshas, the Self, or God, disappears from view.

 We therefore need to rid ourselves of these coverings. We need to get out from beneath the koshas to spring forth into life and being!

 Otherwise we will think that we are the sheaths or coverings, the koshas.

 The Kosha model describes an inner journey, "starting from the periphery of the body and moving towards the core of the self.” (Shiva Rea)

 The first barrier (kosha) to overcome is the annamaya kosha, the food sheath. In Eastern Orthodoxy, regular fasting is expected. My experience of fasting is the same very time I do it. At first my mind protests as my stomach begins to ache. Then after several hours of hunger, the mind, amazingly, lets go. I experience a certain relief. And the discipline takes me into the spiritual dimension.

 The realization upon fasting always is: 'I have been too attached to food! I experience freedom from that controlling compulsion that 'I have to eat and I have to eat now!' 

 Thus when I discipline that food kosha, I am taken closer to the core of the self. 

 The second barrier is the manomaya kosha, the mental sheath. Here we have a reference to the overloaded mind. Shiva Rea describes it thus: ”Our minds are overloaded as a freeway in Los Angeles, constricting the flow of your journey.” 

 The discipline here is to unload the mind by focusing it. I then move from being scattered to being centered. As I focus, I find myself closer to the core of the self.

 The third barrier is the kosha of the breath, called PranamayaMy regular practice is to lie down and to put my legs up on a wall. I then begin to breathe like Darth Vedar - in through the nose, out through the nose - pausing at the end of the inhalation, pausing at the end of the exhalation. 

 Within a very few minutes, I am in another place, a place of well being. 

 It’s a very helpful practice - the control of the breath. That kosha is taken care of, and I am enabled to be in a closer relation to the core of the self.

 A fourth barrier is the Vijnanamaya kosha - the kosha of the intellect. Here we have the case of someone who thinks he’s too clever to be religious. He thinks he's beyond that. He worships his mind instead of God.

 Gurumayi says about these clever ones: "Anything you say to them has to be processed through their intellect. If their intellect does not agree with it, then you are absolutely wrong." 

 "Those who live in the intellectual sheath, remain at an elementary level, because this sheath is a barrier. They are not able to make progress because their intellect is so great it becomes the Absolute for them.” (Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Kindle my Heart, Vol. 2 p. 65 )

 Disciplining and humbling the intellect enables a closer relation to the core of the Self.

 The fifth barrier is is the anandamaya kosha, the sheath of joy. As Gurumayi states here: “Some people just want to be happy. They are totally stuck in that. No matter what happens they say, “I just want to be happy. Leave me alone.” 

 The happiness sheath has to be disciplined as well to enable a closer relation to the core of the Self.

 As I wrote earlier: "We mistakenly think that these sheaths are what we are, and that our whole life depends on what is happening in them.

 We have to on beyond the koshas. "So we meditate. "We try to go deeper. We try to remove the sheaths. As we let them go, we are able to experience the clear fresh water of the inner Self.” (G)

 Which is the alternative to spending a lifetime scratching yourself.

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Hearts Awakening, Parijat