Nowhere Everywhere Home
We found a home. Our seventh house, this one in the city of water, feminine creative energy flowing through an enclave of muscular tech power.
Once again I set about to bring order and create a new place to call sanctuary. Once again, I open myself and hope to find community.
It dawns on me that I, who yearn for place, belong nowhere and yet have not quite made the leap to belonging everywhere. How I wish this were the truth of my experience! One cannot prematurely announce a wish or hope as truth yet space must be made for it to be born.
I listen to a lot of pod casts. There are so many wonderful intelligent well-meaning beings out there offering perspective. While it is new in its chosen manner of announcement, the message is as old as human kind. How to live a good purposeful life; one that brings meaning to the individual and adds to the universal; one that acknowledges the truth of both our aloneness and connectivity.
I hear the word surrender, in fact I contemplate it a lot, daily. Surrender, even as you tune your senses to what is possible, what is burgeoning instead of what is dissolving. The universe “has your back” for you are meant to flourish. Pray for grace in whatever manner suits your belief of existence. Listen.
Wise words. Inspiring, touching, yet they always leave me wondering how? None of these voices are actually recommending passivity but rather acknowledgement that we cannot do it from the stance of control or will power. Ah, what is my attempt at control if not desire to bring order, to contribute? Yes, but if this comes from the present mind alone then it rests in soil not fully prepared, not properly nourished. Who was it that said ‘one cannot solve a problem with the same mind that conceived it’? Was it Einstein? No matter, the truth is self-evident. Refinement is necessary.
This brings me back to all those well-meaning words. Are we to force ourselves into believing their truth even as we attempt to surrender? This strikes me as of illogical; it is unreasonable.
These words and what they represent are powerful and inspiring but what then is the method? How does one authentically come to know them? This is why practice and the theory that supports it is so important. It is vital.
I belong nowhere this much is true, but I have found the practice that offers the path to belonging more fully to myself, my most whole self and in that, I rest in the space of the Great Heart and merge, at least for a time, in the source of everything. There are glimmers of this belonging on the surface. Little by little, as in drops of water on the thirsty plant, or the removal of grime from my window of view, I feel, I see, I intuit signs.
Find one thing each day for which to give thanks. And rest in the knowledge that this is a kind of belonging. Practice. Merge individual will into the potent source of all Will. The space of creativity that both flows forth what is made manifest, be it thought, word or deed, and receives what is dissolved. Align with the power of Will, icchāśakti, and then little by little, as refinement of the senses, the entire prakritic body/mind unfolds, we come to find that our will power is formidable because it is directly linked to, and a potent reflection of, its oceanic source. Come home.
Life can be bittersweet. Loss is the partner of profit. The loss of job, and with this relocation, the loss of home and the community built up around roots planted and nurtured in a certain place; the death of loved ones.
But within this stirring, as always, the preciousness of what remains is acute. As it tugs at the heart, the balance of acknowledging what sorrow brings, and the gratitude and joy at what remains, what might be opened, is a dance on the Upanishadic Razor’s Edge. One side heaven, the other hell. Knowing it is in large degree of our own making is unhelpful and at times, down right cruel. That is unless we have the strength and self-knowledge to do something about it.
There is such tenderness in strength. Strength, the very word conjures power, a certain largeness and capacity to withstand. Yet in its most potent form, it is also simultaneously, a very quiet thing. The husband of a dear friend who passed away, defeated and spent in his grief, the howl of pain roaring silently from his entire being, stands open and strong for his five young children. There is such tenderness in true strength.
Where does this deep well of strength arise? From love, from the depths of our very being. We humans love fiercely. And we fiercely embody grief at the object of that love’s loss. So, we lean into our strength. We look to increase it but strength multiplied without tenderness, without connection to our deepest heart is brittle and often results in a kind of bullying.
The strength I speak of is woven with threads of iron that are held together with the nectar we name love. It freely, abundantly abides in each human but must be cultivated.
It is the moments spent in deep meditation, silently communing with the roaring power of source, in the fire pit of birth and dissolution that individual awareness comes home. For a time, the mind settles releasing the boundaries objective reality necessitates; awareness opens permitting fullness to flood the vessel holding individual form. This fullness is of every possible kind- light, courage, strength, compassion, love- are some of the names we give it but it is beyond, it is transcendent. Yet, because this light exists within, it is also immanent. This immanence provides the means to know what is transcendent. First within, and then little by little, over time, we begin to see the light in all its magnificence, without.
This daily practice renders the individual strong but also tender, and also every other expression of humanity possible. It is the search, the journey to reclaim our full humanity, that puts us in direct touch with our divinity. Life itself is a divine mysterious thing. We endeavor to make the most of it and wonder at where we go upon its ending. In this, meditation prepares us for both. It permits a fuller engagement with life; in joy so we may embody it, and in sorrow, so we may positively impact or at the very least, withstand; and it teaches directly of the experience of true release, thus preparation for all our transitions, including the grand one at physical form’s end.
Today, Dear Ali my heart is full of you, you and those who fiercely love you. Closing my eyes, I rest awareness in you. Though your physical form and means of expression will always be missed, you are eternally found in the great heart of home. The tenderness of strength is calling. May we, with sweet innocence, and enthusiastic determination answer.
Weaving a Good Life.
We are all weavers in our way. Taking the strands that make up a day, a week, a year and weaving them into a good life. I often think about what a good life looks like. It changes and yet at heart always contains the elements of purpose, love and connection.
The word tantra can be translated as “to weave” so, the Tantric practitioner, at heart, weaves the twine of life using deep mystical praxis as the tool that binds; the pattern that permits the picture to take its most beautiful shape.
At a certain point in life we long to contribute- each small thing contributes to the whole- each thread contributes to the fabric’s finish. Though we are always pulling out one and looking for just the right color for another, that fabric is forever a work in progress.
Many people, in many ways, in many traditions and disciplines are speaking of this, yogis, writers, artists, plumbers, even the occasional politician. There is a hunger for connection. The truth is we are already connected but for the most part we do not fully recognize the depth of it.
My meditation teacher says people are waking up - something is calling them and they need guides to assist. In my small way, I am such a one. I sometimes struggle with how I can be a guide when I have not finished the project. I have not solved the hunger issue but I have found a way to connect to my fuller self, my more whole self and in that, my better self because I have more resource and infinite support. I have spent the past 11 years studying, practicing, refining; it continues. I am more and more self-reliant. Not in an egotistical solipsistic manner, I yearn for connection and seek the council of experts, but I am able to stand strong in both the fire and joy of life.
Community connection content. We long for direct connection and community with those around us - to serve our community and this is magnificent. But something larger is needed, connection to community of life writ large. This is where meditation serves. It actually serves both- the individual and thus all she/he/they touch and, because it is the knowledge of who we are at source, it serves the community of humanity and so connects us at a deeper level. This root connection not only tolerates diversity on the surface but celebrates it.
It is not sameness that brings unity but rather recognition that we are made of the same threads woven in another pattern. Aligning at source with the building blocks of creative energy naturally assists individual manifestation and also deepens the understanding of other creative endeavors. We come to see in our way, that though different it is also same. This is the beginning of true unity. Not sameness as in beige, but unity as in rainbow. We are not trying to make connection but rather recognize its already and always prior presence.
In my small way I offer connection or rather the means to discovering true connection with the Self. Is this the only way? No. Is it a viable practical way? Yes. Is it meant for those living, or desirous of living-full vibrant lives? Yes. Is it easy to learn? Yes. Is it based on belief or any particular set of rules? No. Is it for me? Come and see; experience for yourself. From this place authentic personal value springs.
There is the teaching concept of the nyaya in the Śaiva Tantra Tradition. A nyaya is an axiomatic principle; a tool like a pair of plyers, when applied in the right way, at the right time, with the right amount of pressure yields an opening. The Coconut Nyaya teaches us about protection and layers. We build a hard outer shell - we must for many reasons- but deep within at core lies the sweetness of life we crave; this sweetness is also source. No matter what we wish to do in life this one tool will assist in doing it better. The fruits of our meditation are tender and can be damaged by exposure to the harsh and ignorant surface reactions of the world. We need to construct a protective shell, like the coconut, not for secrecy but to protect the sweetness of the fruit inside.
Then as our strength in that sweetness deepens and self-reliance grows, we are able to dip the threads of life in that ambrosial vat and weave a pleasurable, good life however defined. One that is woven with the fabric of other lives. It is in the true experiential recognition of unity that the celebration of diversity in all its glory is served.
Mother’s Day May 12, 2019
I am 64 years old. It is feasible to think that over these years I have made or bought some 60 Mother’s day cards. This is the first year I did not. My mama passed this year and with her my last, first home.
Mother. Home. The word mother is overflowing with the essence, the very core of home. Mother’s womb, Mother tongue, Mother Earth, the Mother Ship—all as reference points. Here I am always welcome; here I am understood; here is my touch star; here is where I come from. Here is home.
As an adolescent I, as all adolescents, couldn’t wait to get away from home. Then in my twenties and thirties, I couldn’t wait to come back for a home cooked meal, to let my guard down. I couldn’t wait to be met at the door by my parents eager to wrap me in their arms and heap on me all the attention I could hold.
When my father passed, I realized just how much he too ‘mothered’ me. Rubbing Vick’s Vapo Rub on my back and sweeping me in his arms, telling me I was beautiful and strong; how proud he was, in between his worried look that someone was not mothering me while I was out of his sight. Who was changing the oil in my car? But the home In Jersey I grew up in was still there with my mother in place so the illusion held for a while longer.
When we sold that house and moved mom, it was another passing for me and my siblings. But mama was still mama, still firm as beacon even though the place of residence had moved. There were visits to that home and meals still eaten together and offers of pocket money. How does a child answer the perennial parent question—are you ok? Do you need anything? Even if they could not exactly provide what might be needed the offer was balm. The knowledge that someone, in that certain place called home, looked out for you; that home was always there no matter what chaos might be occurring.
Mother and Home. As I sit in a temporary apartment, in a new city looking again for home I am keenly aware that truly I am my own beacon; there is no other light out there pulsing specifically for me. ‘Home is where the heart is’ the saying goes. But now this brings ache not solace. My heart is broken and so pieces of me are strewn across the landscape. Where is home?
Of course there are many levels to this question. I yearn for an actual home, roots. To be rooted in place and community, to be part of some whole. But I know, home truly is where the heart is, and the great heart is within one’s own being. One day, with practice, that knowing becomes so full, that it spills out onto everything, and spontaneously home is wherever the gaze falls. I am grateful for this understanding and the path that permits me to go home. There is great comfort here. I shudder to think how I would be if not for my practice.
Still, I ache for home. I will remember my mama with stories shared with my siblings. I will send flowers to my mother-in-law. I will honor Mother Earth with a silent ceremony taking in her riches. I will continue to search on Redfin and Zillow for home and hope that it shows itself soon. I am not a mother, but I have mothered, and I will continue to offer my services and be ‘as mother’ where I am able to any child of the earth in need. And I will close my eyes, take a few tremulous breaths, settle and go home. Little by little I bring the sweetness of home up to the surface and the world is transformed.
This picture is of my mother, Carmella, Millie, gazing up at my Aunt Emma. I never met my aunt but am told I am just like her. I love looking at this picture and thinking about that.
See you in my dreams mama.
There is no shortage of people willing to tell us how things are in the world on both the grand and intimate stage. I’ve just moved to a new city. It’s both exciting and daunting. While it is important in so many ways, to get the lay of the land as it were, to see through the eyes of more than one’s self, caution is necessary.
There is the risk of simply assuming they— and there are many “they” to be had — are correct and in that assumption close off to any nuance or increase of perspective we may have. Of course, not all information and opinions are equal. We look to masters in every category and weight accordingly but this too must, as all in all data, move through our individual mind. It is of necessity colored by our emotional response and never taken in as neutrally as we like to believe.
We face this every single day in ways big and small. Who do we believe? Where do we place our trust? Yes, we aspire to trust in self, to have our own opinion which means we must first have our own experience, but again, this is never neutral to begin with. We come to the table with likes and dislikes firmly in place, all colored by our past experience and knowledge. We look to increase and refine that knowledge as it should be but something more is necessary.
To see with new eyes, with clear eyes, sounds promising but in reality, is so very hard to do. I long to throw up the neatly ordered deck of cards I keep in my pocket and see where they land, what new order arises and to surrender; to have the courage, the full weight of possible knowledge, the skill at hand to act efficaciously on that reshuffling.
The world does have building blocks. There is a certain order but where does that order arise? How does it arise? In the non-dual Śaiva Tantra teaching this is the purview of krama-śakti. The cosmic sequence generator. Know this more intimately, align with this power and the cards dance.
What shapes itself inside you moment by moment? What dictates, our likes and dislikes, our interests and personality? Why are we drawn toward or repulsed away?
Experience is a great teacher and in that, leaves a strong imprint. Keep the information and release the often too powerful emotional response that causes one to immediately cling or avert without reason. Meditate.
Resting awareness in the nirvikalpa, the non-conceptual, permits an opportunity to shape closer to the source what arises on the conceptual surface. And in that to act more skillfully, closer to our dearest values. Meditate.
As I navigate this new place, searching for home, for how I may fit in, how I may serve, I am keenly aware of what I bring to the mix. In my desire to belong, I am compelled to sit and face my Self.
Gratefully I meditate. I am growing in my self-sufficiency, and still, a friendly hand, a kind word, an opinion offered is so very welcome. Yet all of it, is ultimately up to me. There is responsibility and freedom in that and I wish to be ready. Meditate.
Sitting with Sorrow
What a gift we give when we sit in silent compassion with those in sorrow.
It is ingrained in us humans to want to assist those we see hurting. Especially when it is someone we hold dear, someone we love. I have found myself wanting to fill the space with something that might ease, that might offer some balm and so words, well intentioned, tumble from the mouth.
The words used, meant to assist the one suffering, to put things in perspective, to shine the light on what is good, for in truth something good is always burgeoning if we can relax the grip of sorrow, the words that reach to say ‘this too will pass’ often have the opposite effect.
Yes, it is helpful to put things in perspective and there is always someone suffering “more or less” this is the domain of comparison, but to deny one their full expression of pain is tantamount to saying even here, even in sorrow, you don’t quite measure up to those REALLY suffering. Even in sorrow then, I am unworthy.
We feel their pain and in some way, it becomes ours too and we seek to ease it.
What a great gift we give then when we simply sit in love and compassion, allowing the space for whatever arises to be and in the being to permit dissolution. This is the path that transmutes sorrow into its constituent essence which will permit the light to rise in new and wondrous ways.
We mirror the five divine acts: creation, manifestation, dissolution, concealment and revelation in our own small world. And while we are told, and understand to some degree, that these are happening simultaneously on both the cosmic and relative level, that they are not discrete, not separate, we cannot skip any of the first four in order to arrive more quickly at revelation. No matter how deeply and sincerely we desire it.
Dissolution is the active process that supplies the energy for what is new to arise; for what is concealed to be revealed.
It is in meditation that we dissolve, for a time, our sense of limited self and in rising back to the surface, claiming our individuality once more, we are re-formed. We are always becoming. Being vs Knowing. Being takes up all the space. It moves and expands into every corner, it pervades. Knowing is the recursive response to that being, doubling back to reflect and apply at some future time.
Little by little, we become something new. A more refined version of our whole self. It is the practice of meditation that permits me to hold sorrow in a new way. It also makes me keenly sensitive to the unintentional pain caused when those who love us try to make it better, to move us forward by looking elsewhere. This has its place and will come in time, and its time is aided by permitting the fire to burn. Meditation is the fire that ignites consciousness, burning off the dross allowing sweetness to rise to the surface.
What a gift we give when we sit in silent compassion with those in sorrow. Gift yourself. Meditate.
Instinctively we humans reach for the stars. We yearn to touch the sacred, the transcendent and in doing so, be touched, held, known. We are touched by life in so many ways, large and small, sweet and bitter. Yet we ache to be touched, to be truly seen.
It is from the gift of embodiment that we may touch, be touched, that all relationships may be known. We do our best to care for this body. It is the means of experiencing life and the vehicle of our every expression.
“When the body is well the spirit rises up” This touched me deeply. Ever alert for the many ways we humans may heal ourselves, I looked up the author.
Jan Vanier philosopher and theologian is the founder of L’Arche. There are 149 L'Arche communities in 38 countries around the world. It is a community for those with and without intellectual disabilities with the fundamental notion that from the body relationship grows. The body, with all its human frailties, as a gift of communication.
It is wholly steeped in physicality, touch - without the gloss of sex- as support, giving rise to feelings of security and revelation. Touch quite literally connects and holds, not as in possession or ownership but as supportive embrace.
In meditation we touch the deepest source of Self. In the turya state, the fourth state beyond waking, dreaming and deep sleep, is the state of nirvikalpa, the non-conceptual transcendent source that is, truly speaking, not a state but the natural circumstance in which individual awareness touches the wholeness of Self and in that is held, nourished, transformed.
It is the relationship of truest Self that supports and nourishes all other relationships. We thirst to touch the depths of our very being.
Vanier says that L’Arche is “a transmission of vision not a formula” to be replicated. We want to latch onto principles, onto doctrine but experience demands we go further.
How do we cultivate our ability to experience?
Śaiva Tantric meditation holds that the body is divine; it is the very means to experience not only the world of material reality, but the highest Self. Awareness is taken deep within, held in the embrace of purest love, met by the fullness of light that is the light of our own sweet consciousness. To develop this relationship, to touch the space of transcendence is too be more fully human.
Innocently, without agenda or force, awareness naturally explores its depths, and in that, we cultivate the habit of going deep into everything. Anywhere we place our awareness on the surface of life, any teaching, any circumstance, we dive fearlessly into the center. We touch its essence.
Nurturing, stabilizing this relationship, knowing Self deeply, permits one to be present without either attachment or aversion in the space of choice. We stand apart not in disinterest or separateness but in compassion love and wholeness. To do so, we must first experience and cultivate relationship with our truest Self. We must touch, be held in the embrace of Consciousness writ large. Know Self than the knowing of all else will be nourished.
More and more I experience the significance of what it means to say that meditation is both a gift and a tool. It is the means by which each individual may realize their birthright, to know, to experience the whole self, and in that deep experience, given the means to pierce to the core of absolutely everything.
Aristotle, one of the most influential thinkers in the history of Western thought whose works cover a vast range of subjects, including logic, ethics, metaphysics, politics, natural science, and physics, has at the core of his teachings the foundation of experience not intellect. This is a conundrum for those who call themselves Aristotelians. The question is how to experience these teachings, any teachings not just as an intellectual exercise but deeply felt and known? We study and contemplate yes, but experience demands we go further.
We want the profound and beautiful teachings of the masters of consciousness, the masters of philosophy, the masters of poetry and love to come alive. Those beings who stand at the pinnacle of each tradition but whose words have become rote and dry because we attempt to replicate instead of experience. To be in relationship with Self is to be in relationship with grace. To be touched, to be held by grace. And in that, to be truly known.
All humans yearn to be touched, to be held in one way or another. It is from the gift of embodiment that all relationships may be known. Cultivate your capacity to touch your deepest heart. Meditate.
Grace hidden yet always in plain site. It is the friction, the rub of life that removes the tarnish and reveals the luster of every moment. Dull and heavy, I sink. I break down in tears. But I am not lost. Yes, sink deep, permit rest in silent harmony. Oh how grateful I am for my meditation practice and the knowledge that supports what is happening in the space of my being!
March 21, 2019
Moving on. The last night in this house. I cannot close my eyes for want of drinking in what I created with so much love, care and devotion; where family gathered and students fed; where practice flourished and study deepened.
This one hurts. It is 4 am and I have been up since 2 wandering around looking at how the moonlight falls on the fireplace, how she caresses the now empty spaces.
Empty and yet so full. I know I will create anew. I know life moves on. I know practice will continue to flourish and study deepen and family will always be, but the shape changes.
Dissolution is another name for destruction. Its kinder cousin lending some softness to the blow but a blow it remains. This one hurts.
Oh there is so much to learn about the skillful dancing of life’s rhythms. Nataraja bangs on his damaru but I am no Pinocchio. I will not be tied to invisible strings. Yet I am not the choreographer.
Enough. Sweet śakti bless a few hours of sleep before the last day in this configuration begins.
March 25, 2019
Landing. The first day in Seattle. Safely traveled 2992 miles with Karma at our feet in first class. If one needs to leave a beloved home, then traveling first class with a puppy of love is the way to go. She brought so much joy to travelers in the airport and was so good on the plane, sitting alert and patient. This change has long been in the making yet not quite revealed. Now we rest once again in the middle, in temporary housing, things in storage, searching for home. Home.
Home. Yes I do know true home exists behind my eyes and am so very grateful even as I yearn for a space that permits life to grow exponentially on the outward plane. My fervent prayer, abundance, clarity and service. Listen. Prayer is speaking to a higher wisdom. Meditation is listening. It begins. Or more accurately shifts, morphs once more. This is the tender, intimate dance of sṛṣṭi, creation and sthiti, maintenance. Again and again the next picture is revealed, perhaps looking the same but look closer, it is slightly altered. How can I participate joyful, efficaciously in its movement directing revelation before saṃhāra calls again? This is what permits concealment to unfold into full revelation. So many levels. Grace is hidden yet always in plain site.
Good morning Seattle. Reveal yourself.
If you travel on the metro in London you are familiar with the call to “mind the gap.” The gap between the train and platform that is always present yet often not seen. We are called to bring attention to it in order to navigate successfully and avoid catastrophe.
There is always a gap between the way things are and the way we would like things to be. There is a gap between my authentic emotional response and the way I would like to spontaneously react. There is a gap between what is and what will be. There is a gap between what I know and what I yearn to know. There is a gap in who I know myself to be and who I truly am.
How do we mind the gap? How is it possible to be both authentic, respectful and honoring of what is at the present moment rising, and what we would like to participate in creating?
This is the practice of yoga. We go deep inside into that space that is prior, silent and restful, yet dynamically alive. The place that is not really a place; fathomless yet as measured as the next breath. It is the sacred middle, the madhya. It is this space we naturally expand in deep meditation.
Upon emergence from this vastness we come armed with some new sense of knowingness. What is it we know? We must pull on the tender threads. We must articulate to the degree possible. And then refine again and again and again so that we may get to the essence, to the core, to the white hot molten center of what ever is.
Resting in the middle space, the space of infinite potency, possibility yet born, we increase our capacity to create, moment by moment, a life of authenticity, discernment, respect, wonderment and love. We make space, stand apart, not as other or in detachment, but rather in compassion with full access to all our tools - emotional, mental, physical and all the subtle realms between. Moment by moment we are able to truly mind the gap between impulse and action. Senses heightened, mind sharp we are poised to choose, to live the best life possible under the current circumstances. We increase not only perspective, but knowledge of every sort; knowledge of our deepest self and what is necessary to bring the desired outcome to fruition.
Mind the gap. Expand the middle. Meditate.
Knowledge is an antidote to ignorance. This is not a surprising statement. Organizations, schools, various groupings of all sorts, are built around it and profess it’s attainment.
In the Indian mystical traditions, there is an important focus upon knowledge in overcoming of ignorance; more precisely, the illusion of ignorance. The prime reason ignorance is to be overcome is for the purpose of overcoming suffering. Simply stated, we do not know the truth of who we are, what we are made of, capable of, and in that, we suffer. We are under the illusion that the limited self we come to think of as “I” is pretty much the whole subject and the world of objects and indeed other beings, are separate from us. We walk around in our own, as Muktananda says, “play of consciousness.”
The goal in these traditions then is to overcome this circumstance. In Classical Yoga we find the topic of ignorance discussed in the Yoga Sūtra. In the sadhāna pada, which focuses on practice, we are told that the agenda of yoga is two fold: (1) to become immersed in samādhi, pure awareness and (2) to weaken the kleśa-s. We must therefore engage in the steady practice of yoga to fulfill this goal. It is a lifelong process.
There are five kleśa-s, which are described as the source of suffering. These include avidyā (ignorance), asmitā (limited ego), rāga (desire; dependence upon certain experience for fulfillment), dveṣā (aversion to certain experiences), and abhiniveśā (fear of death).
The first one, is ignorance, avidyā and its place of primacy is not arbitrary. If we look at all of the other kleśa-s, besides ignorance, we can see that they too are a result of avidyā. How? To the extent that we are ignorant of our true nature, and identify solely with our mind-body as the full description of who we are, and what we are capable of, we experience craving and aversion. We further the never ending inadequate strategy of comparison, sucking up all our energy in a game that can never truly be won. If this were all it would be terrible enough, but there is more. We then act from this place and since we are ignorant as to the truth of our fullness, we must of necessity act out of ignorance regarding that fullness. Therefore whatever we do will also be limited.
The tradition tells us we must refine the space of discrimination, the place of yes and no, the buddhi. Briefly, there are three parts of the mind: the manas, the ahaṃkāra, and the buddhi. The manas is the most surface-level part of the mind. It takes in sense perceptions, does surface-level functions; it organizes and categorizes. The ahaṃkāra is literally the i-maker, Aham = "I", kara = “author, maker”, it personalizes, brings all that the mind organizes around the orbit of self. The buddhi is that part of the mind that thinks deeply, decides, discriminates. It is also the storehouse of the saṃskāras, the karmic impressions, the residue left of every experience had, positive, negative and neutral. It resides behind the sense of self as described and is closet to the doorway of what the ordinary mind thinks of as consciousness, pure awareness.
A famous metaphor that is used to illustrate the role of discrimination is that of a snake and a rope. If the appearance of a snake slithers across our path, naturally we are gripped with fear and our heart will begin to race. A few moments later, low and behold, it turns out that it is not a snake, but rather a rope. So this illustrates the notion that what seems to be the case, but is actually not, can still have profound effects. It is neither fully really, nor fully unreal. But what is crucial is having the right kind of knowledge in order to discriminate what is most fully real.
The Śaiva Tantra tradition also places a great deal of importance upon the problem of ignorance. There are two types of ignorance and two types of knowledge: that type of ignorance which is related to the puruṣa -non-conceptual- pauruṣa ajñāna. One might think of this as the soul but that is fraught with many connotations. We can frame it as our pure awareness, unrelated to feeling, thinking, perceiving, or action. And then there is that ignorance related to the buddhi, the deepest level of our mind, bauddha ajñāna.
Regarding intellectual ignorance, we want to understand two things. The intellect spoken of is not merely the mind, though indeed that is to be refined and made sattvic. What is being spoken of is a specialized intellect. Bauddha, refers to the buddhi, that level of the mind, of citta, that is the most subtle, nearest the transcendent portal on the tattva schematic and, as stated, the place of discrimination as well as the storehouse of samskāras.
The light of consciousness flows through the layers of mind, or citta and we quickly comprehend the reason we seek to make the space of the buddhi, optimal, light filled, sattvic in nature.
How? See the agenda of yoga above. The first step is introversive, meditate. All of the limbs of yoga, asana, pranyama, etc says the great Śaiva Tantric master Abhinavagupta are in service of attaining the highest truth, sat-tarka. The truth of our nature and that of every knowable object. Not as an intellectual concept, or as a wish or hope or some late night dorm room subject, but as the living experience of the yogi.
We want to understand that these two types of knowledge and of ignorance are very closely related; they feed and support each other. As we deepen in our meditation we are experiencing the puruṣa more potently and yet at the same time, this experience is reflected through the citta. To permit the light to flow fully, the vessel it moves through must be refined.
We could make a good case that it would be easier or less challenging to maintain equanimity in a renunciatory setting in which the goal is to have as little to do with the world as possible. In a householder setting, in which one is constantly engaged in different relationships, various environments, work situations, etc., there are many more ways in which one can be overwhelmed, confused, and lose one's sense of freedom, peace, and bliss.
Yet, it is the engagement in this very setting that permits the frictional transmutation of the body-mind, the prakritic vessel, to occur. This is a deepening of the “dyeing of the cloth” nyaya. We must bring awareness in and out on a regular basis to wash clean and refresh; to strengthen what is brought out so that it may be utilized, lived. This is the second step, extroversive in nature, described in the Śaiva Tantra tradition.
Meditation then not only brings one knowledge of the Self, but makes the practitioner smarter. I will never forget the first time I heard Paul Muller-Ortega say, “want a better quality of thought? change the thinker.”
Knowledge is an antidote to ignorance. Meditate.