Camatkāra # 39 April 30, 2018
The ever expanding exploration into uncovering what is the fundamental nature of being human invites many questions: What is the nature of consciousness? How does it move? Is it some static witness or dynamic pulsation? How do I acquire authentic insight? How do I become free of suffering? How may I contribute in some positive manner to the world? In the face of these, I diligently curiously, practice, study and write. Writing assists digestion and hopefully offers some light.
There is this beautiful, evocative word camatkāra. As in many Sanskrit words it is rich in meaning and is most commonly translated as aesthetic rapture; the complete absorption in the essence of experience, whatever experience, that awareness is bathed in; astonished wonder!
It is not the thought or understanding of what you find joyful or even disgusting, but the complete saturation of the experience. The moment before it registers as a mental construct, “I find this amazingly beautiful!” or its opposite, “I find this abhorrent!” This state can be brought about by any experience that takes us straight to the heart. The Śaivite Tantric teachings tells us we can cultivate this moment. First recognition and then practice at permitting the experience to unfold.
This speaks of the madhyama or middle; the betwixt and between places found between any two thoughts but unknown to awareness insufficiently expanded. We take awareness deep within in meditation, permitting our constricted sense of self, of identity, to be melted in its vast, eternal source. Resting here, awareness is saturated in the light of Self. Returning to the surface of life, we are changed, subtly so at first, but nevertheless powerfully, authentically changed.
In time this dipping of awareness in the vat of pure whole light, that contains every possible color, is rendered steadfast; every color, every possibility of how color might be used, all variation known. A powerful personal pallet is ours to create, talents and skills heightened. Awareness saturated in it its light becomes fully that light. The knowing imprinted in our DNA, in what yoga calls our subtle energetic body, as well as our physical one; stabilization permitting the essence of everything to be seen as its purest source. Like recognizes like.
This metaphor of the ‘dyeing of the cloth’, used to such potent symbolism in the Tantric tradition, is a wonderful way for us to begin to grasp the incredible subtle and powerful transformation that occurs via deep meditation. The cloth can only absorb so much, then it must be taken out to dry. So it is with our awareness. It is cumulative and just as the cloth is returned time and time again until it is deep and colorfast, so too is awareness returned daily and rendered steady, pure, whole.
It is this steeping that opens the space for camatkāra moments to happen more and more. While we understand even now, the capacity for art and beauty to take us to our hearts, to speak to us, we also understand that this experience is dependent upon some outer occurrence. More, we tend to seek only those experiences we have determined enjoyable and thus greatly limit the possibility for these incredible moments of astonished wonder to occur.
Open, open says the tradition, melt limited mental construct, expand into the light that shapes everything. Know your light, be that light already full, more fully. Render your mind-body optimal and thus able to naturally reflect the fullness of its light. As we do this, we not only saturate awareness as spoken of, but become capable of digesting the full essence of all experiences and in doing, release in order to permit the next its full due.
Digestion is dissolution. Dissolution is one of the panca-krityas, the five acts: creation, maintenance, dissolution, concealment and revelation occurring simultaneously on both the cosmic and individual level. We mirror the cosmic in our individual body-mind. How can we do so more closely aligned to the original?
Dissolution is a pivot point of sorts. It is a release, as in the letting go of holding awareness fixed, but it is also the moment where separation dissolves; the moment when true recognition of whatever is in awareness is known as an aspect of the self, not as a mental thought but revelation: I Am This! This is unity in consciousness. Union, harmony, wholeness.
The first instance of releasing awareness from what the senses hold tight is in fact concealment. The teachings tell us that because we do not recognize, experience unity, we conceal the truth of existence from our self. This repetition, we can call it resistance, is what results in the planting of the seed of every experience or thought had, called samskāras. These seeds then, hidden in a true ‘mind-field’, wait for a trigger to set them off. We are held prisoner of our experiences and do not know that we have the freedom to shape the contour and color of inner awareness. This is termed ignorance of the deepest order.
Camatkāra is astonished wonder at the presence of grace. Grace is easily known in moments of joy and conceptual beauty. The birth of a child, the sound of music, light glistening on a tree all have the capacity to transcend, to give taste to that which is sublime. But we are told grace is always present. How then to see, to transmute our seeing, our understanding? Grace is always present everywhere in everything but fully known if digestion takes place. This digestion is begun and continually refined in the fire of meditation. Grace is present in the fire of our purification and known when digestion, sudden, natural and spontaneous occurs.
Digestion is a natural process, the by product of a healthy body making fuel, sustenance available to live. Digest fully all experiences say the teachings in order to reveal not just intellectual understanding, but to release us from attachment to what we term beautiful and from aversion to what becomes sorrow. Digest and render all experiences potent fuel to live brightly. Free your mind to engage fully.
Dissolution is a pivot point; do we walk the path of concealment or revelation? The fire of revelation begun in the fire of meditation is continually refined, alchemically transmuting senses so that awareness moves naturally more and more to the heart, the essence of all experiences, dissolving separation and inviting astonished wonder, camatkāra, as an everyday extra-ordinary occurrence.
Some call this a practice of gratitude, to see grace inherent in life and indeed it is! And we come to know that this practice of gratitude IS the natural response, not from some outer legislation “look for the good” or “do unto others” but as the spontaneous echo of inner brightness revealed.
Expand this space, this knowing, this understanding, this experience, found most potently in deep meditation and then cultivated in life. Naturally expand the space between experiences, actions, thoughts, yoga poses, between any two breaths. Here, in this place that isn’t a place, we expand camatkāra, those moments of astonished wonder, of aesthetic rapture, of complete absorption and experience. Revel, in the ever refining revelation, I Am That! Until finally one day, the Great Mantra roars, simply, profoundly, truly, I AM! AHAM.
Know your light. Bring the light! The world needs your colors.