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The Four Functions of Mind

With our modern emphasis on the physical practice of asana it’s hard to believe that for thousands of years yoga was a completely mental practice. The ancient yogis explored the inner workings of the mind (not the body!) in their quest to understand the nature of reality and how to attain enlightenment. In doing so, they identified what they believed to be the source of unhappiness and blocks to achieving samadhi. They believed through properly utilizing antarkarana, or the four functions of a yogi’s mind — manas, chitta, ahamkara and buddhi — a yogi’s quest for enlightenment could be realized.

Manas is the lowest aspect of our mind that oversees and manages the constant flood of sensory information entering the body. Manas directs our attention to specific sensory organs and it also measures, tests and questions the validity of the information it receives.
Chitta’s mental function is to store and organize all of the experiences of manas into samskaras – memories, impressions and emotional patterns. Chitta constantly accesses our samskara database to provide context, depth and understanding to our current experience of the world. Strong samskaras shape our overall character and behavioral traits and can color (klishta) or distort manas to create psychological projections and false perceptions.
Ahamkara is the “I-maker” function of the mind which creates our identity and sense of self. A healthy and balanced ahamkara allows us to skillfully meet all of our needs to survive and grow. Ahamkara is best utilized as a source of willpower, commitment and determination for achieving goals and attaining success in our worldly pursuits. Unfortunately, our I-maker can become unhealthy and distorted by thought patterns and false beliefs that lead to feelings of separation, pain and suffering.
Buddhi is the highest aspect of our mind, and is the pathway to inner wisdom, spiritual discernment, and eventually leads one to enlightenment. In most of us, the buddhi function is weak and hidden by the activity of manas, chitta and ahamkara. When purified and strengthened, the buddhi provides a clear reflection of consciousness, improved discrimination and a deep source of wisdom and knowledge.

Philosophy In Shakespeare

19.6.16

Introduction to Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Sonnets are Shakespeare's most popular works, and a few of them have become the most widely-read poems in all of English literature.

A sonnet is a 14-line poem that rhymes in a particular pattern. In Shakespeare's sonnets, the rhyme pattern is abab cdcd efef gg, with the final couplet used to summarize the previous 12 lines or present a surprise ending. The sonnet is further subdivided into an octave (first 8 lines) and a sestet (remaining 6 lines), with the octave being broadly expositional and the sestet reflective. The end of the octave is often marked by a particular punctuation mark, e.g. a semi colon, which is referred to as the volta or ‘turn’ .The rhythmic pattern of the sonnets is the iambic pentameter. An iamb is a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable and one unstressed syllable — as in dah-DUM, dah-DUM dah-DUM dah-DUM dah-DUM. Shakespeare uses five of these in each line, which makes it a pentameter. The sonnet is a difficult art form for the poet because of its restrictions on length and metre.

Composition Date of the Sonnets

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, likely composed over an extended period from 1592 to 1598, the year in which Francis Meres commented : “The witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his private friends...” In 1609 Thomas Thorpe published Shakespeare's sonnets, no doubt without the author's permission, in quarto format, along with Shakespeare's long poem, The Passionate Pilgrim. The sonnets were dedicated to a W. H., whose identity remains a mystery, although William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, is frequently suggested because Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) was also dedicated to him.

Narrative of the Sonnets

The majority of the sonnets (1-126) are addressed to a young man, with whom the poet has an intense romantic relationship. The poet spends the first seventeen sonnets trying to convince the young man to marry and have children; beautiful children that will look just like their father, ensuring his immortality. Many of the remaining sonnets in the young man sequence focus on the power of poetry and pure love to defeat death and "all oblivious enmity" (55.9).

The final sonnets (127-154) are addressed to a promiscuous and scheming woman known to modern readers as the dark lady. Both the poet and his young man have become obsessed with the raven-haired temptress in these sonnets, and the poet's whole being is at odds with his insatiable "sickly appetite" (147.4). The tone is distressing, with language of sensual feasting, uncontrollable urges, and sinful consumption.

An alternative reading of the sonnets sees Shakespeare as a fully-realised yogi who is addressing his verse to the Eternal Self, the Lord of life, or Brahman, and not to individual people. If we approach the sonnets with this perspective, they take on a whole new life and meaning :

As soon as we take it into consideration according to the Gita’s philosophy of Purusha and Prakriti , our problem regarding the identity of the ‘fair boy’ and ‘Dark Lady’ is solved. The sonneteer appears a perfect disciple of the integral Yoga of the Gita. In his sonnets all the disciplines of yoga exist in perfection.’

‘The Sonnets are an exposition of the inner workings of a yogic mind and heart. The personality of the sonneteer as it appears in the hymns abounds in the truth of his inner soul free from attachment to the objects of senses, ego and desire… When we study the Sonnets in its entirety, there emerges perfect evidence to view them as a divinely displayed work-out of the teachings of the Gita.

‘Shakespeare is chosen as a divine instrument, a divine worker, for he is the seer of the Self or the Soul. In his hymns, he sets conceivable examples of God’s presence as the universal Self in all visible objects.’

‘Shakespeare is a well-versed Yogi living inwardly. He is being guided by the Lord’s message : “When one does not get attached to objects of the senses or to works and has renounced all will and desire in the mind, then he is said to have ascended to the top of Yoga.”

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YOGA NIDRA

19.6.16

Yoga nidra (Sanskrit: योग निद्रा) or "yogic sleep" is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the "going-to-sleep" stage. It is a state in which the body is completely relaxed, and the practitioner becomes systematically and increasingly aware of the inner world by following a set of (audio) instructions.

This state of consciousness (yoga nidra) differs from meditation, in which concentration on a single focus is required. In yoga nidra the practitioner remains in a state of light pratyahara with four of his senses internalised, that is, withdrawn, and only the hearing still connects to the instructions. The yogic goals of both paths - deep relaxation (yoga nidra) and meditation - are the same, a state called samadhi.

Yoga nidra is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. In lucid dreaming, one is only, or mainly, cognizant of the dream environment, and has little or no awareness of one's actual environment. The practice of yoga relaxation has been found to reduce tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain respond well. It has been used to help soldiers from war cope with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yoga nidra refers to the conscious awareness of the deep sleep state, referred to as prajna in Mandukya Upanishad. To read the full article, go to : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_nidra

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1444221106Dualism and Non-Dualism

by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati.

We may believe in one or the other of the philosophies of Dualism or Non-Dualism. We may see these philosophies as either contradictory or complementary.

However, when we want food or sex, or feel threatened, we automatically respond from Dualism, not Non-Dualism. If we watch a person die, or look at a corpse, are we not all struck by the mystery of apparent matter and consciousness? The higher truth quickly goes out the window in such moments and we find we are faced squarely with the Dualistic, conditioned response of the stuff of our mind.

There is something between us and Truth, the Absolute Reality, and that is called the mind. Training the mind is the starting point for Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras. For example, one of the first things he talks about is observing which of our thoughts are useful or not useful, positive or negative. Then he directs us to learn to make choices in life on the basis of what is positive and helpful in our growth, choosing to do that which we know leads towards a stable, inner state of tranquility. Such self-observation, self-examination, and self-training are necessary in preparation for the deeper practices.

The Dualism of the Yoga Sutra gives us detailed instructions on how to clear away the clutter so we can find the door. Non-Dualistic Vedanta philosophy gives us a sound contemplative base for deeper understanding of the nature of the door and that which is beyond. Tantra shows us how to open the door, as well as how and where to knock.

To view these as contradictory leads to confusion. To view them as complementary leads to freedom. We can apply the Dualistic and Non-Dualistic philosophies as different aspects of the same one journey within, which eventually leads to the direct experience of the center of consciousness, wherein all these questions are resolved and dissolved.

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What’s The Dualism/Non-Dualism Distinction All About?

Dvaita means two or dual, and Advaita means not-two or non-dual. Whether or not a spiritual philosophy is dualist or non-dual makes a huge difference in terms of how it formulates our relationship to the world, the meaning of life, the nature of reality, why we are engaging in certain practices, what we are seeking to realize.

Just think of the (dualist) Christian idea of a soul that either goes to Heaven or Hell upon death based on one’s relationship to an invisible transcendent God. Think of the (more non-dual) pagan idea, which the Christians sought to suppress, of God(s) as existing in the natural world and of festivals that celebrated nature, the body, sexuality etc.. Consider the lack of a God in Buddhism, and the emphasis instead on one’s inner psychospiritual development.

In Western philosophy, dualism generally refers to Mind/Body dualism which we are most familiar with as the belief that there is an immaterial soul (or mind) distinct from and able to be independent of the body at death. Very few modern philosophers, biologists or other scientists find Mind/Body dualism convincing, and instead see the mind (or Consciousness)  as being entirely dependent upon the mortal physical body.

The Relationship of Consciousness and Matter

This is where it can all get a little tricky, so here’s a simple key:

Samkhya (dualist) – Consciousness (Purusha) and Matter  (Prakriti) are two distinct things, there is no God.

Patanjali’s Classical Yoga (dualist) – Consciousness and Matter are two distinct things, there is a God – by becoming identified with Purusha (Consciousness) and disentangling oneself from the phenomenal/material world, or Prakriti – including the body and mind, one can come to know God.

Advaita Vedanta (provisional non-dualist) – God is the all-pervading, ever-present nature of all things, Purusha and Prakriti are one – but we live in a world of illusion or Maya, in which we are unable to see this until we awaken.

Tantra – (non- dual) Everything that exists is a manifestation of the one Reality that is pure consciousness and bliss. Prakriti evolves through all the forms of the material world without ever losing it’s nature as pure consciousness (Purusha).

In Samkhya, the dualism (which Patanjali follows) is between Purusha (the Self/Seer/Soul/Consciousness) and Prakriti (the World/Matter/Nature). This is also an expression of a duality between the physical body and a proposed non-physical soul, and so falls into what in Western philosophy is called Mind/Body dualism, although Samkhya (and Patanjali’s Sutra) go one step further in proclaiming that Purusha is indeed distinct even from the mind. We seek to become dis-identified with Prakriti and identified with Purusha. An interesting difference between Samkhya and Patanjali is that the former denies the existence of God, whereas Patanjali (as we shall see) says that purpose of Yoga is to come to an awareness of God.

Advaita Vedanta differs from this dualism in it’s assertion that there is only God (or Purusha) – that everything, including the world and the Self are in essence one with God, but that the world of appearances casts a veil of illusion, or Maya, over the ever-present, all-pervading Divine. So unlike the radical dualism that says God and The World are two completely different things – this position says it’s all God, but until we pierce the veil of illusion we cannot see this. The fault therefore is within us – not in the world of phenomena.

Tantra, on the other hand, sees Prakriti as evolving through the forms of the world while maintaining it’s pure nature as consciousness itself. Not only is it all God, a la Adveita Vedanta, but even the illusion is God – everything is indeed a perfect expression of the Divine. Tantra is a radical non-dualism in that it challenges conventional notions of sacred and profane and seeks to affirm everything that is – hence the breaking of taboos and embrace of sexuality for which it is mostly well known in the West.

These three (or four, if we include Patanjali’s Samkhya + God formulation) different belief systems about the relationship of Consciousness to Matter are at the heart of Indian philosophy.

Julian Walker


Laurence Freeman and Christian Meditation

Benedictine Monk Laurence Freeman OSB talks about what meditation is and provides a simple meditation technique that Christians, or anyone, can practice. Father Laurence describes the primary experience and nature of meditation, and outlines a simple but effective method using a sacred word or mantra.

See the full article + video on : http://www.meditationplex.com/christian-meditation/simple-christian-meditation-instruction-laurence-freeman/

Mantra - What and Why

Written by Swami Veda Bharati

From childhood we are trained to see, examine, and verify things in the external world, but initiation, or receiving a mantra, is a step for seeing  and looking within. It is not a religious ceremony. Do not confuse a mantra or meditation with religion; they are entirely different.

A mantra is a sound, a syllable, or a set of sounds. It is known not by its meaning, but by its vibrations. It provides a focus for the mind and helps one become aware of his or her internal states. It is a way to understand one’s self and to coordinate one’s external and internal words.

The mantra is a friend that helps the mind become one pointed and slowly leads the student to a deep state of silence, to the Center of Consciousness within. It is a spiritual seed sown in the soil of the self. It is a therapeutic guide that leads one through various levels of being and finally to the unity between individual and Cosmic Consciousness.

The Mantra is an important means on the path of Self Enlightenment. You are encouraged to practice meditation regularly, to remember your mantra, and to make it part of your life.

When meditating, use the mantra silently and consciously. At other times, you can use it consciously or unconsciously. In time you will find your mantra guiding you in daily life.