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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Essay on The Atman, Chapter 14 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “All the schools of Hindu philosophy start from the Vedanta or Upanishads, but the monists took the name to themselves as a speciality, because they wanted to base the whole of their theology and philosophy upon the Vedanta and nothing else. . . . This is the non-dualistic Vedantism. It is too abstruse, too elevated to be the religion of the masses. . . . Yet there are a few brave souls in the world who dare to conceive the truth, who dare to take it up, and who dare to follow it to the end.” The question inevitably arises, “How do we know?” Vedantic epistemology is not mere intellectual cogitation but the means to discern Truth. Vedanta offers three steps to absorption in Brahman: revelation, reasoning, realization. First, it is necessary to hear about it. Then, questioning and testing. Finally, in integrating the insights gained from study, contemplation, and direct experience of the Real, there is nothing further to be known.

Swamiji teaches three divisions of orthodoxy: nyaya-vaisika (rational-atomism), samkyha-yoga (statistical-metaphysics), and mimamsa-vedanta (testimony and scriptural authority). There are six valid methods of knowledge: pratyaksa (sense-perception of the empirical world), anumana (inference divided into reasoning from cause to effect [a priori Platonic deduction – the Way of the Thunderbolt] or from effect to cause [a posteriori Aristotlean induction – the Way of the Serpent]), upamana (comparison -- a is to b = c is to x), arthapatti (postulation – if y, then z), anupalabdhi (negation), and sabda (witness to the sensible and suprasensible that does not contradict logic). Oral or written witness from a trustworthy source is the most potent instrument for knowledge transmission. Confidence in the words of an authority need no verification.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Essay on Immortality, Chapter 13 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Swami Vivekananda says, “The whole of this life which slowly manifests itself evolves itself from the protoplasm to the perfected human being — the Incarnation of God on earth — the whole of this series is but one life, and the whole of this manifestation must have been involved in that very protoplasm. This whole life, this very God on earth, was involved in it and slowly came out, manifesting itself slowly, slowly, slowly.”  A serious seeker doesn’t leave the possibility of realizing latent potential to chance. Initiation with right guidance accelerates the evolutionary process to a definite end.

In the first initiation, the body is disciplined, its impulses transmuted, and conduct reoriented toward wisdom and spiritual principles. The needs of the body for food, drink, sleep, and sex do not dominate. The aspirant moderates desire and espouses vegetarianism. Ideals of duty and mercy become strong. In the second initiation, emotional life is stabilized. The ignorance and confusion of fear and vanity is clarified and overcome through withdrawal from the senses and non-attachment. The soul is no longer stifled by animal instincts, conditioned reactions, and habituated opinions. There is no distress arising from shame, aversion, or the need to control. Sincere devotion and steady effort nurture altruism and free an initiate from burdens of the heart and distortion of thought.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Essay on The Cosmos: The Microcosm, Chapter 12 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Timeless questions puzzle humankind. Swami Vivekananda says, “These questions have been asked again and again, and so long as this creation lasts, so long as there are human brains to think, this question will have to be asked. Yet, it is not that the answer did not come; each time the answer came, and as time rolls on, the answer will gain strength more and more. The question was answered once for all thousands of years ago, and through all subsequent time it is being restated, reillustrated, made clearer to our intellect. What we have to do, therefore, is to make a restatement of the answer.” Surface appearances change, but the Reality remains the same. To know and become absorbed in the Reality is the purpose of Life.

Humanity exhibits great material progress and technical innovation, yet there is an evolution of consciousness that has thus far occurred only among a small number of the species. They stand as rare examples of human potential, and few imagine similar strength and greatness is possible for all willing to make the effort. We imagine countless projects and policies intended to improve the world, and we overlook that the greatest impact and benefit we can give to the world is the transformation of our own character and perspective. In other words, evolving consciousness toward a definite goal.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Essay on The Cosmos: The Macrocosm, Chapter 11 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Swami Vivekananda says, “Do not be frightened by theological terms; if terms frighten you, you are not fit to be philosophers.” The urgent questions of life (who am I? what is this place where I’m born? where is this going? what does this mean?) occurred also to the ancient seers, who did not invent an answer but witnessed a revealed Truth. They recorded their visions in the world’s oldest scriptures, the Vedas, transmitted orally for generations as metrical poetry before the teachings were transferred to writing 6,000-years ago. “Veda” is from the root “vid” meaning “to know.” “Veda” is etymologically related to the Latin word “video (“I see”) and also the English word “wit” (“intelligence”). It is best translated as “knowledge” or more specifically, “wisdom.”

“Vedanta” means “the end of knowledge” or “the goal of wisdom.” This definition has a literal and figurative meaning, as well as a secondary meaning. First, “Vedanta” is based on the Upanishads, which are literally, “the appendix to the Vedas” and the conclusion of the Vedic hymns, rites, and codes of conduct. Moreover, “Vedanta” is not merely abstract speculation, but “the aim of human life.” Supersensuous realization is beyond intellect and logic and more than an idealistic concept. It is a fact that can be directly experienced under the right conditions and does not contradict reason. Finally, “Vedanta” also refers to a genre of literature that explains, expands, and comments upon this teaching and perception.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Essay on The Freedom of the Soul, Chapter 10 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")  

Swami Vivekananda says, “The soul is one with Freedom, and the soul is one with Existence, and the soul is one with Knowledge. The Sat-Chit-Ânanda — Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute — is the nature, the birthright of the Soul, and all the manifestations that we see are Its expressions, dimly or brightly manifesting Itself…. This idea seems to be the most prominent in Vedanta, and, as I have said, it appears to me that every religion holds it. I have yet to know the religion which does not. It is the one universal idea working through all religions…. The monistic Vedanta is the simplest form in which you can put truth.” Truth will make you Free.

Swamiji’s fellow monastic Swami Abhedananda developed the work in New York and traveled in America between 1897 and 1921. He said, “Very few indeed in this world can realize we are living the life of a slave… the majority delude themselves by thinking that they are free, consequently, they like their present condition and do not care for any other.” He outlines initiation as seven steps. First, the awakening of the soul: “We must wake up and see things as they are in reality and not as they appear to be…. When the soul is awakened, it begins to see how far the animal nature leads us and what is the next step, where we are going, what we are doing, what all this means.” Second, purification of the heart by honesty, control of the senses and mind, disinterested love of humanity, and unselfish work. The third step is right discrimination; the fourth step is non-attachment. The fifth step is spiritual enlightenment. “We then understand we are not of this world. This world is not our home.” The sixth step is spiritual illumination. “Thereafter, nothing remains unknown.... Rising above the celestial pleasures then you will become divine.... all the divine qualities will reveal through you.” The seventh step is superconsciousness and the Vision of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Essay on Unity in Diversity, Chapter 9 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Swami Vivekananda says, “The Yoga which we are now considering consists chiefly in controlling the senses…. You will generally hear that this Vedanta, this philosophy and other Eastern systems, look only to something beyond, letting go the enjoyments and struggle of this life. This idea is entirely wrong.” Vedanta is not dry, world-negating asceticism. However, the shift of consciousness from personal sensate perception to impersonal Truth and apprehension of Reality requires austerities and discipline as a preparatory step.

Gerald Heard, author of Training for a Life of the Spirit and founder of the Trabuco College of Prayer, maps three phases of spiritual evolution: the Novice who purges for catharsis, the Proficient who is enlightened and free, and the Perfect established and integrated in the Vision of God. He writes, “To change the focus of consciousness is difficult and skilful work. It does not happen by accident nor by simply leaving the mind open.” In Pain, Sex, and Time, he outlines three ranks within a monastic society: first, the learners, who serve the senior monks without rule or direction; second, the educated, residents with a general discipline and specialization, alternating solitude with group rituals, gardening, and household duties, especially in the dining hall; third, the Doctor-Proficient who heals by teaching, a Neo-Brahmin and bodhisattva unrestricted by cloistered virtue, the incarnate good will and conscience of mankind, and the answer to the powers that hypnotize and destroy. In Five Ages of Man, he considers the evidence of the Western Esoteric Tradition and suggests five steps of initiation according to life stage, type of ordeal, and the required mode of therapy.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Essay on Realization, Chapter 8 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Swami Vivekananda says, “Religion is not in books, and temples. It is an actual perception. Only the man who has actually perceived God and soul, has religion…. Mere intellectual assent does not make us religious.” He quotes from the Vivekachudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination) by Shakaracharya (788-820 AD). There are three rare advantages in Life: human birth and strength of body-mind-will, desire for freedom, and apprenticeship to an illumined Master. The teacher should be a perfect knower of Brahman, well-read in the scriptures, and free from lust and greed. The aspirant must be intelligent, learn’ed, and able to overcome doubt by reason. Through discrimination between the Real and the unreal, and non-attachment to sense pleasures and the results of actions, the seeker gains six treasures: peace, patience, perseverance, faith, wisdom, and mastery.

Shankaracharya teaches, “A clear vision of the Reality may be obtained only though our own eyes, when they have been opened by spiritual insight—never through the eyes of some other seer. Through our own eyes we learn what the moon looks like: how could we learn this through the eyes of others?” He shows how the gross body is made of the elements and slave to the senses, desire, and the three conditions of Maya (projecting, veiling, revealing). He describes four mental functions: emotions, identity-making, deliberation, and discrimination. Swami Prabhavananda’s translation states: “In the waking state of consciousness, man finds his fullest activity in the body…. The dream-state belongs pre-eminently to the subtle body…. The mental organ identifies itself with the organs of perception and of action, as well as with the physical body.” This is a false identity. “Through ignorance, man identifies the Atman with the body, taking the perishable for real. Therefore he nourishes this body, and anoints it, and guards it carefully…. When a man becomes illumined by knowledge, there arises within him perfect discrimination which clearly distinguishes the true Being, the Atman, from the external appearances.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Essay on God in Everything, Chapter 7 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “this life in the five senses, life in the material world, is not all; it is only a small portion, and merely superficial…. The ideal of renunciation nowhere attains such a height as in the teachings of the Vedanta. But, at the same time, dry suicidal advice is not intended; it really means deification of the world—giving up the world as we think of it, as we know it, as it appears to us,and to know what it really is. Deify it; it is God alone.” He quotes the Isha (Lord, Master, Chief) Upanishad. “Whatever exists in this universe is to be covered with the Lord.” The veil of maya is the manifestation of the Absolute, not something separate. It is sat-chit-ananda (existence-consciousness-bliss). Tat tvam asi (thou art that)!

Witness the Universe, and all that lives and moves on Earth, with the Vision of God. Ignore the temporal. Find joy in the Eternal. Purify your desires, and working without attachment, you may live a long life of freedom. Whomever denies Brahman will fall into a hell of despair and death. Without moving, Brahman is swifter than the mind and faster than you can run. The senses cannot perceive Brahman. Brahman moves yet Brahman moves not. Brahman is far and near. Brahman is within all, and beyond all. There is no fear in those who see Brahman as their own being and in all beings. What delusion and sorrow can harm the soul who perceives unity in diversity? Brahman fills all with radiance, beyond form and changes. Brahman is the witness and the thinker behind all thoughts. Brahman is omnipresent and transcendent. All things reveal Brahman and point to the Eternal.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Essay on The Absolute and Manifestation, Chapter 6 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “Time, space, and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen, and when It is seen on the lower side It appears as the universe. Now we at once gather from this that in the Absolute, there is neither time, space nor causation.… The whole struggle is to get rid of this clinging on to time, space, and causation, which are always obstacles in our way.” The Absolute Reality is infinite, undivided, unchanging sat-chit-ananda (existence-consciousness-bliss), yet we experience it as a limited name-and-form (finite) bound by space (divided) and time (changing). Maya has two main aspects: samasti, the cosmic appearance and sensible world which is not a projection of the finite mind, and vyasti, the individual ignorance (avidya) which obstructs right discrimination.

If you throw a sheet over a chair, it takes on the shape of the chair and not something else. The relationship between maya and Brahman is the same; the Absolute Reality shows through the veil that hides It. According to John Dobson, author of Equations of Maya and The Moon is New, the infinite shows through in physics as the electromagnetism of the particles and atoms in the elemental realm, the undivided shows through as gravity which stops the scattering of the material universe, and the unchanging shows through as inertia, the tendency of matter to remain at rest. He further asserts that the infinite shows through in psyche as the quest for Freedom, the undivided shows through in our need for Love, and the unchanging shows through in the desire for Peace.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Essay on Maya and Illusion, Chapter 3 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Naomi Walden

Swami Vivekananda states that because we are satisfied with the sense objects and run after desires, reality is covered with a mist of ignorance obscuring truth.  The Maya of Vedanta states the world exists only in relation to the mind and a mixture of existence and non-existence.  We have to work in and through it.  Man cannot go beyond his intellect, but is aware of a power to go beyond which says unselfishness alone is good. 

Death is the end of everything, yet we cling to life – this is Maya.  The animal man lives in the senses.  As he emerges, horizons of both happiness and suffering grow.  We must work for lessening world’s misery, the only way to make ourselves happy and out of this life of contradiction.  This realization comes to all eventually.  The Absolute tries to express itself in the finite, when man discovers that it is impossible, renunciation results, the real beginning of religion.  Knowing that both good and evil are bound together, one then works with patience toward the great ideal, toward perfection, and beyond nature.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Essay on Maya and Freedom, Chapter 5 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “Those who dare, therefore, to struggle for victory, for truth, for religion, are in the right way, and that is what the Vedas preach. ‘Be not in despair; the way is very difficult, like walking on the blade of a razor. Yet, despair not, arise, awake, and find the ideal, the goal.’” He quotes from the Katha (speech, story, legend; also, suffering) Upanishad (secret teaching at the feet of a Master), the meeting between a young boy Nachiketa (non-decay, non-defeat) and Yama, god of Death. The text is divided into two chapters of three sections each. First, the tale of how Nachiketa was cursed by his selfish and proud father to death, then how Nachiketa won three boons from Yama: release from death and a path to Freedom from suffering. Yama hesitates when asked to tell the nature of the soul and the law of rebirth. He teaches the difference between the good and the pleasant, the quest for Truth and knowledge of God, and exposes the Tree of Life. He reveals a Spiritual Hierarchy and shows a need for right speech and the control of desires. He warns that yoga can be both beneficial and injurious. 

His most famous teaching is the analogy of the Horse and Chariot. “Know that the Atman (soul) is the Master of the chariot, and the body is the chariot. Know that the buddhi is the Charioteer, and manas (mind) is the reigns [bridle]. The senses are called the horses, the objects of the senses their paths” (1.3.3 – 1.3.4). The soul is the enjoyer of the mind, the body, and senses. If the buddhi becomes distracted and loses its discrimination in will and desire, as a charioteer loses control of the reigns, the horses will run wild to disaster. A variation of the story appears in Plato’s Phaedrus dialogue. In this version, the chariot is pulled by two winged horses. The Charioteer is the intellect which guides the soul to Truth. The white horse is right discrimination which follows the gods towards enlightenment, and some souls see the world of forms in all its glory. The black horse is lust and greed which causes the soul to reincarnate in descending order of witness to Truth: philosophers and lovers, civic leaders, politicians and businessmen, physicians, priests, poets, craftsmen and farmers, sophists and demagogues, and tyrants.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Essay on Maya and the Evolution of the Conception of God, Chapter 4 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “coming to our philosophers, we find that this word Maya has been manipulated in various fashions, until we come to the great Shankaracharya.” The infinite, undivided, unchanging sat-chit-ananda (existence-consciousness-bliss) is the only Reality. The empirical world (vyavaharika) is an appearance due to ignorance (avidya); it is not unreal but it is not what it appears to be. Erroneous perception mistakes Brahman as finite, divided, and changing. Shankaracharya famously uses the analogy of the rope and the snake. If you mistake a rope for a snake, you didn’t see the rope and there is no snake. Though seemingly affected by space, time, and causality in manifold names and forms, Brahman remains the same, and Thou Art That – tat tvam asi. It is due to lack of discrimination that the self is entangled with external objects and conditions and falsely identified with a limited body and its various mental states and moods.

Swamiji teaches, “the theory of Maya was manipulated a little by the Buddhists too, but in the hands of the Buddhists it became very much like what is called Idealism, and that is the meaning that is now generally given to the word Maya.” Idealism asserts that reality is immaterial and doubts the possibility of knowing anything beyond the mind. According to Buddhists, the world is “empty,” but this is not a nihilistic void. It means that forms have no independent existence. The goal of nirvana is liberation from the apparent cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) and suffering caused by desire and attachments. The Buddha, son of Queen Maya, taught an eightfold path to freedom: wisdom through Right View (inquiry and aesthetic) and Right Intention (sincerity and correct aim), virtue though Right Speech (mastery of thought and word) and Right Action (skillful means) and Right Lifestyle (ethical conduct), and Right Effort (discipline and renunciation), Right Concentration (correct practice and context), and Right Mindfulness in meditation.

Essay on Maya and Illusion, Chapter 3 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By  Patrick Horn ("Rishi") 

Swami Vivekananda asserts that the word māyā is generally used incorrectly to mean illusion or delusion. Great patience is required for right understanding. Swamiji admits that “delusion” is an early and partial definition; “delusion” arrives in late Middle English from the Latin deludere (mock) whilst the related word “illusion” is an Old French variation of the Latin word illudere (deception). Both words are derived from the Latin root ludo (play, game).

One possible construction of māyā from the Sanskrit roots is (not) (that); in other words, what seems-to-be to our limited perception and cognition is not what-is. Other meanings can be constructed from (creation, effect), may- (intoxicate, confuse), and māy- (hide, absence). In Myth and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (edited by Joseph Campbell), Heinrich Zimmer suggests that the noun māyā is related etymologically to “measure” (a specific quantity or point of reference); māyā can also mean diplomatic cunning or a political hoax. Zimmer writes that māyā sometimes means trick, fraud, sorcery, or witchcraft. Swamiji says there are passages where māyā means something like magic, or the divine power of manifestation and exhibition of forms.