THE STUFF BEHIND ALL LIFE
There is no difference of opinion among the various schools of psychologists about the enormous potential present in the “unconscious.” It is held that our normal waking consciousness represents only the visible peak of a huge mountain submerged under the waters of an ocean. But the submerged part, too, must have a place in the activity of the brain.
Otherwise it can never become a causative factor in dreams, in automatism, in inspiration, in hypnosis, in clairvoyance, in multiple personality, in behavioral complexes and in insanity. We do not know the nature of the relationship between the brain and the mind as here we deal with subtle entities and mechanisms beyond the frontiers reached by science.
But there can be no doubt that these entities and mechanisms do exist and are operative in us for it is to them that we owe our individuality and our life. The only channel provided by nature to reach this otherwise forbidden province is Kundalini.
The awakening of Kundalini reveals the existence and activity of “Shakti,” the Intelligent Power behind the Supra-rational world of life and consciousness. Kundalini is the key to open the door to this amazing world.
Whatever a mortal is in his thoughts, feelings, will, imagination, talents, merits or faults, all come from this world. Just as all the lights of every conceivable design in a city receive their power from one and the same source, so the light of awareness in every living creature comes from this world of Cosmic Life-Energy or Shakti. She is the World-Charmer, invisible Herself, yet enveloping the embodied soul in a veil of illusion.
She is the seductive female drawing man to the bed of enjoyment and at the same time, the compassionate Mother who, at the opportune time, breaks asunder the fetters that bind him to the prison-house of the body and the earth, leading him to the glorious summit of self-realization.
She is, in short, the arbiter of human destiny. It is through Her beguiling powers that mortals are entangled in the web of illusion and through Her liberative office that they are released from it. “How strange it is, O Mother,” says Panchastavi (IV.17), a book in verse written by a Kashmiri Sage more than a thousand years ago, “that this ocean of illusion (i.e. this creation born of maya) confusingly crowded with countless cosmic hosts like bubbles (on its surface), filled with waves of (countless) diverse kinds of affliction, with the submarine fire, generated by constant meditation on Thee, is destroyed in an instant (i.e. is dissolved into consciousness).”
The concept of “maya” or the illusive power of Shakti is extremely hard for the intellect to accept, especially one engaged in the empirical study of organic life. But the concept is, at least, as old as the Vedas and has been tested and retested in the crucible of yogic experience for thousands of years.
It is now impossible to form an idea of the colossal effort that has gone into the formation of this concept and its present position as an almost universal belief among the Hindu population of India. The germs of the theory exist in the Vedas, but the first clear expression of it is contained in the Upanishads.
How far back the concept was evolved and to what distance it must have traveled, in the proto-historic period, is illustrated by an event in the life of Janaka, a philosopher-king par excellence, and one of the key figures among the hierarchy of enlightened sages mentioned in the Upanishads.
There is a gulf between the normal human consciousness and the turiya state which not even the most fertile imagination can fill up. Wonder, unbounded and endless, is a pronounced characteristic of it. “O thou Mine of Wonders,” says the author of Panchastavi, addressing the Shakti (V.21)
It is impossible to describe the overwhelming state of astonishment which fills the soul when, with the inflow of the new psychic currents into the brain, the area of individual consciousness begins to widen until, like an ocean, it spreads everywhere as far as the mind can reach.
The surprise and the concomitant sense of unutterable happiness do not end after once they are experienced. But, like an unceasing succession of waves racing across an ocean, come again and again in an endless chain to sweep over the entranced yogi during the whole period of ecstatic contemplation.
It is not hard to imagine the state of mind of one who, in full wakefulness, finds himself lifted up by an invisible force, carried through space at unbelievable speed and dropped suddenly on the leaping waters of Niagara Falls. His amazement at the inexplicable occurrence and his terror, when he lands on the rushing torrent about to plunge into the thundering, seething, fearsome cauldron below, will know no bounds.
But inexpressible would be his wonder when he finds that he is able to tread nimbly, light as a feather, on the descending sheet of roaring water and to walk swiftly on the foaming whirlpools at the bottom, as if on a firm surface, impervious to the fury of the boiling mass raging and swirling all around him.
The feeling of stark terror, experienced at first, would yield place to a sense of overpowering awe at the uncanny nature of the whole adventure, and the person involved may pinch himself to make sure whether he is dreaming or whether what he is witnessing is really true. But his amazement would grow and grow as he continued to observe his own incredible performance in this supernatural drama, darting here and there, alive and kicking, in the dreadful maelstrom of water, just below the falls, like a dancing ray of light, as if beyond the pale of the laws of earth.
The same would be the state of breathless surprise of one dropped on the perpetual snowy cap of Mount Everest, able to roam and skip merrily from one peak to the other as if an invisible buoyant stuff helped to keep his body afloat and propelled it from one summit to another.
When the first shock is over, one who finds himself in such a strange situation, made increasingly aware that what he perceives is real, would sing ecstatically out of sheer exhilaration at the stupendous feat. Or, if of a contemplative bent of mind, he would remain absorbed in the survey of the marvelous vista opened to his eyes on every side.
Dancing with joy at this sudden release from the trammels of earth, he might never cease to wonder at this unparalleled stroke of luck, when he finds that he can now move round the earth, at will, and visit his old haunts, unseen by all, impervious to hunger, thirst, sleep and other needs of the body, as if transformed into another being and transferred to another way of life. We can multiply such examples indefinitely to illustrate the point.
The human mind, accustomed from birth to the pigeon-hole of the body, susceptible to its needs and restricted by the limitations of its senses, when suddenly brought face to face with its native state of freedom is so struck by wonder and so thrilled to the core by the new experience that language fails to describe the transport and the emotions felt.
The current misconception about Yoga and the distortions to which it is subjected are due to the fact that the stupendous nature of the transformation wrought in the entire being of an initiate by the supreme experience is still not realized clearly by those interested in the phenomenon.
The experience of flying in dreams is common to many people. So is that of falling from a height or leaping down from a summit or the roof of a building onto the ground, or of a sheet of water falling into a void below. Many people wake up suddenly from such a dream, even before the impact of the fall, with rapidly beating hearts and a sense of fear, sometimes mixed with surprise at the extraordinary escape from harm.
Since judgment is usually blunted in the dream condition and the intellect confused, the dreaming ego fails to assess correctly the impact of the experience. In real life the same experience can be shattering in the extreme. It would be an incredible and unbelievable performance.
From this one instance we can frame a hazy picture of the overwhelming effect on one's mind caused by the bodiless peregrinations of the soul in the state of samadhi with all the faculties fully alert, and even more acute than in the normal waking state.
The current misconceptions about the ecstatic state are due to the fact that we are accustomed to treat the normal waking state of the human mind as the standard of measurement to adjudge it. This is wrong, as it can never be possible to arrive at the correct evaluation of an object with a defective measuring yardstick.
The normal human awareness is a contracted and contorted form of the transcendental consciousness which is the evolutionary target of the human race. Compared to the bloom that has to occur in it one day, the present state of awareness is like the first gray flush of dawn compared to the brilliant lustre cast by the fully risen morning sun.
Dazzled by the intensity of their own vision, mystics of all ages were never able to make the curious crowds their partners in the secret. They always remained a class apart, able to command their homage, but unable to raise them to their own level. The irony is that the intellectual, well versed in the knowledge of the day and confident of his own vast range of information, is as much at a disadvantage here as an ignorant being. The reason for this is that it is an entirely foreign territory to both.
In the true mystical experience a sense of unbounded wonder and profound awe fills the mind for the whole period of its duration. The hairs literally stand on end at the solemn breathtaking nature of the spectacle. The ego, proud of its accomplishments-learning, wisdom, power, possession, wealth or beauty-is humbled to dust, completely overpowered and eclipsed by the indescribably majestic aspect of the vision unfolded before the inner eye.
Gone are the ideas of greatness, of command, of riches, of piety, superiority and of all other considerations which self-love and pride beget in us. The soul, now divested of all the appendages imposed by the body, the senses and the mind, brought face to face with its own divine substance, beyond anything encountered before, is transfixed with amazement at the stupendous transformation and plunged into such a state of wonder and rapture that it is beyond the power of pen to describe.
It is the incredible nature of the “stuff” behind the phenomenon of life that makes it so hard for the realistic to accept its existence. The moment he does so he finds the solid ground which holds the weight of all his world of thought slipping from under his feet. But for any picture of the cosmos to be complete there must be a plausible explanation for religious experience and psychic phenomena also.
No system of modern philosophy and no explanation provided by science presents a complete solution to the riddle of life. The Darwinian theory of evolution can be likened to a miller's attempt to explain the whole world of meteorological phenomena in terms of his own windmill.
A stupendous ocean of invisible activity is hidden behind every lining creature on the earth. It is the vision of this marvelous but invisible other world that makes samadhi the most breathtaking experience possible to man. The whole fabric of Panchastavi is vibrant with the stunning effect of this encounter on the author's mind.
Even in terms of the Darwinian hypothesis the drama, enacted by life on earth, is an incredible performance beyond anything our mind can visualize. We fail to notice its sublime character because every effort has been made to minimize this performance to bring it within the orbit of a narrow intellectual formulation.
The same intellect which formed the hypothesis is now gathering the data to demolish it. Direct refutation of the theory lies in the very constitution of the human mind. Its capacity to design and plan, to invent and discover, its deep-rooted sense of law and order, its love for reasoning and thought, aesthetics and ideals and its insatiable thirst for knowledge and unappeasable hunger to know itself are so alien to the forces which, according to Darwin, compassed the birth and evolution of life that no further argument to refute it is necessary.
A retrospect of the drama, even on the lines laid down by the evolutionists, presents a picture which, in the light of what we now know about the violently changing states of the earth, makes the academic story unbelievable.
Terrestrial life was born out of the battle of elements as sparks are born out of the friction of stones. It is impossible to imagine, at this distance of billions of years, the stormy condition of the earth's crust when the initial forms of life are said to have first made their appearance in the shallow, slimy waters of seas and lakes.
The scalding rays of the sun that shone upon those waters, the tempestuous gales that lashed them to violent motion and the torrential rains that furiously beat upon them are beyond our imagination now. A faint picture of this scene can be evoked by comparing it to a furious desert storm, so hot that it blisters the skin, so violent that it uproots enormous trees and so laden with dust that it buries whole cities under mounds of sand as if they had never existed at all.
The struggle for existence is, therefore, inherent in the very nature of life from the time of its first appearance on earth. When one contemplates the earth with all its countless varieties of organic structures on land, in the depths of the ocean and in the air, it seems inconceivable that any unbiased intelligent mind can be hurried into the belief with assiduous indoctrination from young age that this stupendous display could be the result of unplanned and aimless chemical organization of matter, unaware of both its beginning and the end.
The crowning glory of this battle for survival that raged on land, in the sea and in the air for millions of years, is man with his still untapped depth of imagination and thought. What, therefore, began as an infinitely minute spark of sentience in the primary forms of life and culminated in the marvelous world of thought in man through a Herculean struggle lasting for ages must, therefore, be something so tough, so indomitable, so persistent and so remote from the wildest flights of our thought that we fail to grasp its existence at all.
The invisible, tenuous medium that has been responsible for this wonderful transformation of the rocky, barren, storm-lashed and sun-scorched surface of the earth, through aeonian spans of time, the architect of countless most intelligently fashioned forms, varying in size from the giant dinosaurs to invisible bacteria, cannot be of a capricious or ephemeral nature but must have a hold on matter, a duration in time, boundless wisdom and unlimited potency beyond anything that the puny intellect can conceive of.
A mind that has no knowledge about its own nature and is not even able to fathom its own subliminal depths nor understand the intricacies of the body in which it lives is not in a position, because of its inherent limitations, to apprehend the inconceivable proportions of the super-intelligent force which runs through every creature, large and small, wherever life is found, from one end of the universe to the other.
The issue with which we are concerned here is whether the inherent tendencies of this Life-Force that has built a marvelous kingdom over the whole surface of the earth, to the deepest depths of the ocean and the highest summits of lofty mountains, can be made to deflect from its course by the willful efforts of man.
For example, if man is destined to attain to a far richer bloom of his mind by the same process of organic evolution by which he occupies the present preeminent position among all the other forms of earthly life, can any individual?or the race as a whole?by their own efforts contrive to retard this process and defeat the aim of nature in the long run? It is a momentous issue on which the future of mankind can depend.
In order to answer this question the first thing to ascertain is whether human beings, individually or collectively, have the capacity to kill completely or alter the direction of their own inherent tendencies. Have they the power to master their innate desires and passions at their own will and choice? We know that except, perhaps, in an extremely limited number of cases this has never been possible so far.
Efforts directed to inhibit a natural instinct, we find, recoil adversely on the individual. We also know that, in order to maintain an even flow of the stream of life, there exist polarities not only in the individual but collectively in the race also which correct or neutralize uneven tendencies by mutual reaction.
This conflict of trends and aptitudes among human beings can be likened to the dashing and clashing of countless waves on the surface of an ocean when contrary winds beat upon it from every side. For instance, non-violence has to contend with violence, pacifism with aggression, abstention with indulgence, charity with extortion, poverty with wealth, virtue with vice, ambition with content, cruelty with mercy, austerity with luxury, chastity with licentiousness, and so on.
What can be the incredible nature of the omniscient Intelligence whose manipulation of these innumerable things keeps a mighty host of billions of individuals on the highway prescribed for it? The present division of the human world into warring ideological camps provides a tangible proof for this fact. The whole of mankind stands helpless before this ominous rift. Why, with all our rationality, knowledge and wealth of resources, are we not able to heal it? And yet the discord might be aimed to serve a purpose essential for the evolution of the race.
There are dormant forces in the human psyche which not only regulate the behavior of individuals in their daily life and by creating conflicts and pressures sway their course of action, but which also come to the surface in large-scale countrywide revolts and revolutions or global upheavals. It is on this colossal drama of the inner world that the curtain is lifted by Kundalini.
We never know that there exists a boundless ocean of thought in which the stellar universes and the countless hosts of living creatures have their being, like bubbles on the surface of a sea, and that it is the vision of this inconceivable Reality which unfolds itself before the blessed in samadhi.
The experience can be infinitely varied because biological and constitutional factors are involved. But it is towards a perfect unfoldment of this Cosmic Vision that the human brain is modeling itself. The ideas expressed appear to us strange and our author's eulogy on the Goddess in Panchastavi seems overdone because we cannot imagine even distantly the breathtaking, stupendous Power to which he alludes.
As we have repeatedly said, mystical experience is a profound subject and, unless it is treated as a special branch of science and teams of savants dedicate themselves to its study and first-hand experimentation, it will continue to be a disputed territory as it is now.
Gopi Krishna Homepage
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