Theosophy | THE SENSE OF SELF – I

Feeling, while going about, that he is a wave of the ocean of self; while sitting, that he is a bead strung on the thread of universal consciousness; while perceiving objects of sense, that he is realizing himself by perceiving the self; and, while sleeping, that he is drowned in the ocean of bliss; he who, inwardly constant, spends his whole life thus is, among all men, the real seeker of liberation.

Shankaracharya

 All the varied vestures of the incarnated human being are distinct sheaths on adjoining planes of consciousness, each with its own rates of vibration, all participating in the potency of ideation and mirroring archetypal relations. What is implied in the Vedantin association of the lower vestures with unwisdom is the false sense of separateness, the illusory stability and entitative existence that we ascribe to a form. What is the significance of the seven orifices in the human face and the thirty-three vertebrae of the spine?  What is to be understood from the varying textures of the different layers of skin? Is the physical body to be analysed in terms of its constituent elements, or is it to be viewed in relation to the pulsating rhythmic movement in the heart? Such questions are rarely asked. Most human beings take for granted a haphazardly acquired and habitually retained assemblage of sensory perceptions and residues identified with a name and form which is really a static mind-image of the body. Individuals deny themselves the possibility of direct experience without the mediation of routinized anticipations or of frozen images projected upon objects. Anyone may learn to discern and comprehend the recurring patterns, resistances and responses of the body. Even more, a person may come to view the body, as the Gita depicts, as a nine-gated city. A person can learn to use the body as a musician wields a musical instrument, self-consciously impressing energy upon its myriad life-atoms caught up in chains of interconnected intelligence.

 The body is a vast and complex matrix of interdependent centres of energy, each of which puts a human being in touch potentially, and therefore in many cases unconsciously, with everything else that exists on the physical plane. The body exists at a certain level of material density, with a biological entropy built into it, as well as a degree of homeostatic resistance to the atmosphere around. This level of resistance in the physical body enables it to maintain itself and is the basis of physical survival. Those who truly reflect upon this could make a significant difference by the deliberate and creative interaction of their own ideas and feelings. For example, while eating food, a person’s thoughts, emotional states, magnetic field and inward reverence to the invisible elements of food can make a fundamental difference to the qualitative osmosis of energies transmitted to the organism. The body can be seen as a sacred instrument in rethinking one’s entire relationship with the world. There is reflective intelligence at the lunar level and the astral and physical vestures are subject to various cycles and different rates of motion. These cycles are mathematical equations and patterns at the cellular level. The mathematics of the complex system that is the physical body, with all its cycles, corresponds closely to the mathematics of the galaxies and the vast cosmos. One could come to learn from the natural cycles and then from the particular bent given to them by one’s own emanations, thus gaining some grasp of one’s dominant anticipations and typical responses. Whoever engages in daily self-study could come to discern the distinct ways in which the body affects the mind during different portions of the day and the week, as well as the succeeding phases of the lunar month.

 Shankaracharya lived at a time when ritualistic practices were widely prevalent, and many had become blindly dependent upon detailed and complex knowledge of what to do, when, during each of the many subdivisions of the day. All of this knowledge would not enable a person to get to the core of the causal body – the delusive identification through an ‘I’ with limiting conceptions of space and time, together with the persisting notion of oneself as the actor. Shankara taught that one must get to the root of the ‘I-making’ tendency  –  the illusory sense in which one is separate from the world which is supposed to exist as clay material for one’s purpose. This false conception of selfhood becomes deeply rooted because it is pleasurable, owing to passive identification with those sensations that have pleasing responses in different parts of the body. It is reinforced in the language and the milieu of those valuations of segmented aspects of conduct which tend to routinize, making a person take experience totally for granted, just as the physical senses can lead an unthinking person to take for granted that the more solid a thing seems to the tactile sense, the more it is solid in reality. There is a radical failure to understand that the whole visible world is like a screen, hiding a vast mathematical activity, and that for all its bewildering complexity, this phenomenal realm may be reduced to certain primary relationships that archetypally correspond to the numbers between zero and ten.

 By rethinking much of what one took for granted before, one could come to conceive of an exalted state such as Shankara conveyed in The Crest Jewel of Wisdom. In this serene state an individual would be devoid of all sense of psychological involvement in any of the desires and aims, any of the obsessions, passions, infatuations and concerns of the world, in any of the criteria of success and failure or pseudo-valuations of people generally. Furthermore, having no sense of tightness, of excessive anxious-ridden involvement in the activities of the body, such a person begins to experience a tremendous exhilaration, a rhythmic breathing and a profound peace. It is like seeing a part of oneself carry out its natural functions, and yet remaining totally outside every kind of manifestation in which any single portion of oneself is involved. A person who reaches this stage can combine with this detachment a deep gratitude, a joyous affirmation that there is a certain value to the body as a pristine vesture. At the causal level – in what is called the karana sarira or causal body  –  fundamental ideas prevail which are often hidden to most human beings but which, if they were examined, would wipe out whole chains of thinking, complex patterns of activity over many years. They would all be eradicated by getting to the core of a fundamental idea. A person who steadily works on the plane of ideation so renovates the thought-body that it becomes possible to release self-consciously the inexhaustible potentiality of divine energy. The entry points between the causal body and the astral vesture are made more porous and, in time, the physical body may reflect and transmit the radiant joy of universal ideation.

 A person may learn to live in attunement to the plane of those enlightened free men who are not captive even to the vast conceptions of space and time associated with the universe as a whole. Such a person will be ever engaged in intense meditation upon the Unmanifest, which increasingly becomes the only reality. A person who begins to see through the eyes and with the help of the illumination of the Guru finds that the physical body is only a dim reflector of light-energy and also provides a means of shielding the divine radiance. By extending the possibilities of human excellence to the uttermost heights of control, purification, refinement and plasticity that can be brought about by the deliberate impact of disciplined thought upon gross matter, one can revolutionize one’s conception of matter. Einstein pointed out in the twenties that a lot of what is called matter simply dissolves into a prior, primordial notion of space. The body can become an architectonic pattern in space which has within its own intricate symmetry an inherent intelligence that is not transparent at the level of image and form. It has the capacity of holding, releasing and reflecting the highest elemental associations that accompany the profoundest thoughts. Nature is the great magician and alchemist. The wise man is an effortless master of lunar forces, correlations, patterns and potencies.

Raghavan Iyer
The Gupta Vidya II

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