"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, May 30, 2011

On Non-Duality, Karma and Consciousness

"All philosophies, all science, all religions, inform us that this world of shapes, forms and names is but a phenomenal or shadow world—a show-world—back of which rests Reality, called by some name of the teacher. But remember this, all philosophy that counts is based upon some form of monism—Oneness—whether the concept be a known or unknown god; an unknown or unknowable principle; a substance; an Energy, or Spirit. There is but One—there can be but One—such is the inevitable conclusion of the highest human reason, intuition or faith."
-- Yogi Ramachakara --
["Lessons in Gnani Yoga," Chap. 1.]
Mars Hill, Athens
One of my favourite passages from the New Testament is Paul's "Sermon on Mars Hill," in which he is asked by the Athenian Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to expound upon what was then a  new philosophy/religion.
"God that made the world and all the things therein," observed Paul, "seeing that he is the Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all things life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth . . . For in him we live and move and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:24-28)
It is among my favourites because (a) it speaks of the omnipresence of a higher order in which everything exists, (b) it brings the reality of this higher order out of religious places and frees it of ritual worship, and (c) it recognizes that all true philosophies, religions and wisdom traditions, alike, speak of the same higher order or Godhead, and that each of these is non-exclusive.

As the Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, observed: "Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web."
[Marcus Aurelius,"Meditations," 4:40]

Physicists have demonstrated the conservation of mass and energy. With each inhalation of the cool morning air and each warm, moist exhalation of carbon dioxide, this is demonstrated. Indeed, every atom of our bodies, save hydrogen, was forged many billions of years ago in the implosion of some unnamed star, and our very bodies are thus a testament to the preservation of mass and energy.

Yet what about consciousness? How can it be that this seeming third aspect of the manifest universe, which along with mass and energy (themselves interchangeable) pervades and precipitates even the smallest sub-particular interaction, alone perishes?

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us "the universe"," Einstein noted, "a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical illusion of consciousness."

"This delusion is a kind of prison for us," he observed, "restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

"In God," Emerson wrote, "every end is converted into a new means." This, to me, seems inherently true; it has the "ring of truth" to it. It circumscribes the law of karma, in which each moment is seen as an effect produced by a chain of causation stretching back to the very first movement of the universe, and each such effect becoming a further link in this causal chain. Thus, everything that is reaped has been sown, over and over, many times.

If as has been said (and demonstrated, it seems, in science), "Nothing is wasted in God's economy," how can it be that the one perceptual sense underlying all others - that being consciousness itself - is the one and only thing in this 'Great Economy' that perishes? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; but where except back to the Universal consciousness - that which underlies and pervades the manifestation of all mass and energy in the universe's singular field - goes the consciousness, the soul of each being? For has not each individualized consciousness been at all times part and parcel of this Whole?


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  2. Perhaps it is better understood as a state of Self rather than a state of no self. It should be understood however, that the Self is not a "state". non duality teachers