All The World’s A Stage # 51
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, said William Shakespeare 600 years ago. Some 500 years prior, in the 11th cent CE, Kṣemaraja, the foremost disciple of the erudite Tantric sage Abhinavagupta, wrote a sutra text of 20 aphorisms called The Pratyabijna Hrdayam in which he stated in sutra 8: The positions of all the various systems of philosophy constitute the very stages and planes of the great Consciousness. [translation Paul Muller-Ortega]
“Pratyabijna” means “recognition,” not as in simply remembering, but as “awareness,” awareness of who we truly are and hṛdaya, means heart. As translated by Paul Muller-Ortega this beautiful text is “The Heart of Self Recognition. In the original Sanskrit sutra 8 states, TAD-BHÚMIKÁḤ SARVA-DARS̄ANA-STHITAYAḤ. The positions of all the various systems of philosophy constitute the very stages and planes of the great Consciousness.
In his commentary Paul states: “all of the various possible stances, viewpoints, and moment by moment perspectives that arise within every conscious being, at every and all moments in time, in every plane of existence, thus each ad all represent the roles and stances that, like a cosmic actor, or life a divine dancer, the great Consciousness is enacting, experiencing, and permitting to arise within Itself.”
To be an accomplished actor, the performer must melt into the role; there must be a seamless merging such that the truth of the individual playing the part is hidden. That said, the actor knows who they truly are even as their skill permits a flawless disappearance into the role. She may be playing the Queen of England calling for heads to role, but she is not delusional, no necks will be severed; she understands it is a part.
We have reverse engineered this ‘skill’ if you will. We have taken on the many roles of life to such a complete degree, that we have forgotten the truth of who we are. We are indeed, daughter, sister, mother, lawyer, chef and much more, but this is not the whole story. These identities all emerge from a source and that source is whole full and complete, containing every possible iteration and, it has been forgotten. In fact, the great masters tell us that in some manner, we only take on all these other parts to fill the sense of incompleteness all humans feel. This sense of lack has us looking ever outward, like some heat seeking missile, for the missing piece that will complete the whole.
Meditation is the journey in to source, the mechanism that permits that remembrance. But still the question remains, how DO we ever really recognize the absolute in our planetary experience, in our personal day-to-day life, or in our meditation?
What is recognition? Past knowledge meeting present circumstances results in the light of recognition. It is the “ah ha or ah, that is what that means” moment. We have these all the time in life. A dear friend tells us of someone they just know we will love. They fill us on on all the details, why we will get along so well, what we have in common; their quirks and dry sense of humor. One day we are at a party and introduced to someone, as we are getting to know them, that dear friend walks up and whispers in our ear, “this is who I was speaking of”. Instantly we recognize the person as the past knowledge moves forward to meet the present circumstance and light dawns!
Kṣemarāja tells us in his text that we can have the experience of our deepest nature, of absolute consciousness every day, but we don’t recognize it, and in that, we fail to value the gift we hold in our very being. And in that failure to recognize, we lose so much.
Some traditions state that in order to recover this, we must relinquish, let go of the objects of life that capture our attention and prohibit awareness from traveling inward. We must renounce, as it were, our humanity in order to capture our divinity. Only then can we know the truth of who we are and while this may have some effect on our embodied life, we can never be unified, united in consciousness until we leave this body. This is the teaching of Classical Yoga as spoken of in the Yoga Sutras.
The Śaiva Tantric masters posit otherwise. Yes, we must learn how to “temporarily” release these limited roles and merge in the wholeness of source. But, and this is an important distinction, is only the first part of the journey. The second act requires us to bring the riches found there back out into life in order to serve life; in order to enrich and enhance and support all the roles we play while fully knowing, experiencing the truth of who we are as we simultaneously dance to the tune of life.
This knowing, experiencing is not something we can intellectually decide. In order to be more than a philosophical discussion there must be a method, a way for this experience to occur.
This is the hallmark of the Śaiva Tantra tradition and it is initiatory as there is something to learn. That something is natural and spontaneous and also ultra ultra subtle. It must be learned and practiced, daily. Only then can one have an experience of what is being so beautifully expressed. And experience is necessary for recognition to occur.
Knowledge and experience, in Sanskrit jñāna and vijñāna, the fundamental principle of the Śaiva Tantra. What is the knowledge that will permit the experience and how does one authentically acquire it? One without the other is incomplete. Authentic knowledge & deep experience of that knowledge: intellectual and a specialized ‘gnosis ‘or inner knowledge experienced first in interiorized states then brought out; to see, know the sacredness of life beyond what our somewhat crude gross level senses perceive; to do this we must refine on every level.
One can make all kinds of statements: I believe in ‘unity consciousness’, but the question remains, what do we experience? With out a method, a path and someone to guide you, it remains a part played. That said, there is so much to be gained in playing these roles; it is how we experience all that life has to offer. But we suffer mightily when we take them to be our sole and true identity.
I am a dancer at heart always have been. In my mind, I move with skill and grace even when it may appear otherwise. I’m learning, experiencing that because I spend time each day aligning with the very source of the music, I can partner with a kind of innocence, a non-manipulation; and in that, I actually move with skill and grace in life and not just in my mind. This is Nataraja’s dance and a taste of true freedom.
What is the Method? #50 July 23, 2018
Lately I have been taking such joy in reading and hearing about the need to return to wholeness; the implicit desire of all humans to know and return to source. Science, philosophy, social activism and spiritual traditions of every sort, speak of this esoteric teaching in one way or another. I take such delight in connecting the dots as it makes more tangible the fact that we are already connected and it is our ignorance of this fact, our insistence that the sole way to peace and wholeness is to realize connection on the surface of life, that keeps us separate. While this is necessary, it is also a puzzle that will never fit perfectly unless and until we return to the wholeness that is already our nature; claim it and live from it.
It is both comforting and exciting to hear others speak of the foundational, human need to return to wholeness, to act from wholeness, in order to more positively impact life; and I wait for the instruction. What is the path? What is the method beyond acknowledgment and need; beyond hope and good intentions; beyond actions on the surface that feel but a drop in the bucket?
In the language of the non-dual Śaiva Tantra, there is the concept of upāya, which denotes a method or a means, or a type of path. My deep respect and profound gratitude for upāya grows by leaps and bounds as it is the method, methods, that permit the individual a clear, precise path to source. The tradition instructs us that there is a way, we are not set adrift. Full knowledge of anything, even ourselves, can seem very elusive, can seem very distant from us, as if we are standing at the base of a very high mountain, gazing up toward its peak and thinking, “How the heck am I going to get up there? How am I going to reach that pinnacle of knowing?”
In some philosophical systems and spiritual traditions, there is this idea that you, as an individual, limited by time and space, wrapped in a personal identity that is really persistent in its moment-to-moment presence, must somehow make a tremendous leap from who you know yourself to be, limited and bound, to the pinnacle of perfection that you seek to become. And you must do this by your own willpower with great effort and relinquishment of all else
To attempt to traverse a ‘pathless path’ is frustrating. To try to embody the idea, “You are God, you are light” however well meaning, without a means or method to assist you, is a rather annoying, disheartening undertaking that will, most likely, be unsuccessful because without knowledge of practical ways to journey toward that highest aspiration, we are left with trying to enact the stance of attainment by making a mood or simply pretending enacting fantasy. Both of these ways lead to delusion, in Sanskrit moha. We cannot pretend our way into knowing. There must be a way up the mountain that we can actually walk.
Non-dual Śaiva Tantra tells us there is a path opened to humans to recover what has been forgotten as the dance of life plays on. The dance represented by Nātarāja, with one foot standing on Āpasmara the demon of forgetfulness. Upāya then is the method in which absolute consciousness, arises within the individual practitioner and presents the steps, the choreography. The music of life plays and we seek to be both skillful and beautiful in the dance.
We are human, and we are told that we are made of pure consciousness and thus divine in nature. Sādhana, is the path that permits this recognition, pratyabhijñā, of the divine. Pratyabhijñā, means recognition, it also connotes remembrance and a coming to one’s self. So in a very real sense, sādhana is the path that permits remembrance of one’s self and in that, defines our humanity.
It is the profound practice of deep mediation, cumulative in effect that grants entrance into the 4th state of consciousness, the turya state- turya means fourth. We have the three ordinary states of awareness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep, now we add a fourth, the turya, in which consciousness becomes conscious of consciousness alone, and thus recognition of what has always been the case occurs. It’s not something foreign to us or far away, it isn’t even separate from us. It is the wholeness and integrity that abides at the very essence of life and is concealed under layers of the relative functioning of individuality— the ‘build up of everyday existence.’
So many traditions speak of emptying, of clearing our the debris, or releasing our intense and fierce attachment to objects, including people and places, as well as belief systems in order to permit the natural expansion of light that is already there, prior, but cannot be seen through all the stuff we hold so close.
Śaiva Tantra agrees, but it’s important, as householders, that we not only understand, but embrace that our individuality and its expression in life, is not something we indict. Far from it, we seek to support, enhance and make those expressions more powerful, more reflective of our truest heart’s desire. We want to bring the riches back out. To do this, it is not enough to imagine it or to simply speak of it as a wish.
We are told, God dwells within you, go there, know him/her/they, unmitigated. Fall in love and in union, increase its potent power to heal; bring love back to heal all you touch because we are already connected. How?
This is the ‘reason d’être’ of mediation, of sādhana, the coherent set of practices, and study that supports the journey to source; to enter into that sublime state that is hidden to us under layers of the sum total of every experience we’ve ever had. The experiences positive, negative and neutral that shape, what we’ve come to call our self, but is not in fact the whole story. Whatever it is you want to do in life, absolutely whatever, it will be profoundly served with direct, full access to your light, your source, the source of all creative potentiality.
So I continue to soak up the message of wholeness wherever and whenever I hear it. And I am so very grateful that I have tools, and a map as well as destination. For what good is a destination with no means to get there? What good a path if no way to clear? Without some prior understanding, theory of the practice as it were, we miss the sign posts indicating assurance and highlighting experience. As the great Tantric master Abhinavagupta says, “a thing unknown may as well not exist.” How painful to have a deep desire that is never truly met! And because we can not satisfy this profound itch we look outward for the balm to sooth; we gather objects of every sort to fill the hole instead of turning within for sustenance in order to then come out and delight fully, more skillfully, in the play of life. Enjoy the toys and the people, but don’t rely on them to fulfill our heart’s deepest desire.
I see this more clearly, know it more intimately not as a belief but as my own true experience. One fed by my daily practice and study and deeply nourished by twice yearly retreats. Can you tell I just returned :) By all rights, this time of going in truly is, as Paul Muller-Ortega says, not a retreat at all, but an advancement. First, retreat within to advance without in all you do.
What is your method?
Why Deny Love ? July 16, 2018
why deny love?
why withhold what you crave
with your whole being?
there is more than enough.
let it pour out of you,
a river of light
seeking fertile ground.
envy, fear, sadness are all love wishing to be met.
love the one you’re with
deeply, madly, completely,
turn in and face the sun.
open your heart.
you cannot conceal your heart’s desire
you cannot deny the light its target.
oh dear one, where have you been?
here, here, here, right here.
The moment I hear of someone’s happiness or good fortune, I am filled with love. Then right behind it comes this wave of sadness, why not me? What’s wrong with me? It colors and squelches my natural light and leaves me feeling well, small.
The Dance of Śiva is composed of the 5 acts, called the panca-krityas. Every moment something is created, maintained, dissolved, concealed and revealed. Always operative simultaneously in the ‘ananda tandava’ wild dance of absolute consciousness on the cosmic macro and relative micro level. We mirror this dance in our daily existence.
As in all things there are levels and nuance. Fundamentally, what is concealed from our crude senses is the presence of the light of consciousness in and as everything. The word graha in Sanskrit means to grasp; it also means demon. The demons that posses our better angels as it were. I grasp on the surface to hold onto my “piece of heaven” and in that holding become a graha. My personal graha, well informed of my secret shame, grasping at my very own heart.
Release is what I long for, release from the tightness that catches my breath, clouds my vision and holds me hostage in so many tiny prisons of my own making. Why can I not just let go? I twist and turn searching for a way out but this only empowers my already limited agency and I dance like a puppet to the tune of “do something!”
I know better. It is only grace who will release me. What is my part to play? I want to relinquish the role of graha. How? Notice and in the space created breath, use the tools of practice. Study, understand the mechanisms at work, the theory of the practice and above all, practice. Meditate for this is the engine that supplies any other tool power. Be patient. Hopeful, expansive patience. Just this now. Be.
This came to me today, my almost primal longing for roots, community, home, a forever home are the fruits of denying impermanence. This too is concealed from our human knowing, the true knowing, accepting that all, everything, even this planet is impermanent. This circumstance is not a signal to act childish, to run up the credit cards of debt both relative and cosmic. You will pay in one form or another. It is an invitation to know as fully as possible who you are. And in that knowing to contribute because the dance will not last forever and the world needs you now
I ask, why not be free Maria? Why not enjoy the change of scenery, people, customs and traditions? As long as I am rooted in the great heart, in a very real sense, I am always in my forever home.
Envy is my sadness at not holding on tight enough; at not willing hard enough; at not being enough. I do not wish to deny love in the form of happiness at another’s joy. I don’t wish to withhold love at all and certainly not to myself. Doing so only increases suffering, my own and others and does nothing to further the light.
So then, permit the happiness instinctively felt when hearing another’s good news to blossom. There is plenty. Love is the currency of abundance and it is a well that will never run dry as long as you have direct access to its source. Meditate, love the one you’re with truly, madly deeply. Let it pour out of you like a river of light seeking fertile ground. There is more than enough.
Sign of Love # 48
This has been a time of much relinquishment, my mother’s passing, moving (again!) and the subsequent release of job, community and friends. Oh happy child who knows home!
It is a tender, sad and hopeful time. My practice supports me and has taught me how to not just look for the light, but embrace it in the most unexpected places. Rendering the ordinary extra-ordinary and symbols potent portals.
Stepping out on the balcony after a torrential rain fall, I snapped a picture of the skyline. A welcoming sign from my new home. There is gold here, nectar in the form of brotherly love. Philadelphia.
Symbols can be really powerful. They connect us immediately, unmitigated to our hearts bringing a spontaneous kind of deep knowing; igniting something intimate. They are gifts that permit us to tell ourselves into the continuing story. Weaving connection.
When my father was getting ready to make his transition he told my mother that whenever she looked up in the sky and saw an airplane streaming white smoke behind it, she should envision him polishing the Milky Way for her, so that when she was ready, it would be brilliant and beautiful for them to spend eternity together. My strong, beautiful, fierce mother just passed. Now when I look up in the sky and see that same white streak across the blue heavens I think of them together polishing the Milky Way for me.
Now I am the memory keeper. Love is the glue.
Love is a lot like gravity. It’s all around, we know this and take it for granted until we fall, lose our balance. Then it’s, ‘oh there is this energy that supports and holds me’. So too with love, it’s all around. We swim in it. When a potent carrier of that love leaves our presence we become more acutely aware of just what purpose and place they served, serve in our life.
Love is the one thing that transcends time and space that we can comprehend. We readily eagerly perceive this; even if we don’t understand that transcendence, we do experience it. Its taste never leaves. For me this is what is brought to being when a powerful symbol appears.
Of course there must be some experience had for the symbol to ignite recognition. The experience of our truest whole self, had in deep meditation, ignites love of the most profound sort. Inspiring devotion to that which ignited its presence. I say ignited because it is all around, always present but not always available. Meditation is the practice that brings water from the well and nourishes all we do with the potent power of love. Love is the result of a joining, it is unity, it is wholeness. We come into this world as a literal breach in the self contained wholeness of the womb. In meditation we return to the womb of the heart, we merge with the source of wholeness. In this way then we are continually healed and naturally love self. Not in an egotistic or solipsistic manner, but love as its purest most complete expression of union with what has always been right here in the depths of the heart.
The gift of years of practice and study is that now when a symbol makes itself known to me, be it rainbow or white streak across a blue sky I am driven straight to my heart. There the prior experience of time spent in the pulsing depths of being is stirred, and recognition flashes. It floods my body-mind and spills out as the expression of love anew.
I will always think of my parents polishing the Milky Way when I glance up at the sky and see that white line of connection. May this sharing connect us to one another and our common bond of humanity. May it feed our natural desire to be more fully realized beings. Meditate. Stir the depths of your being and know love.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation. ~ Rumi