Saturday, 27 June 2015

Universe As Divine Play Of Diversity and Duality

Abhinavagupta tells us in his Tantraloka that "Moksha only exists when your being becomes absolutely independent." According to him, a yogi can only be said to be liberated when he possesses this absolute independence; nothing must limit him or overshadow his universal consciousness. This process begins when the yogi is experiencing the state of internal mystical awareness, relishing the fullness of his internal God consciousness. At that moment he is pulled out of the internal world into the world of external experience. His eyes open.

The yogi may experience a chair or a tree, but the experience is filled with universal God consciousness. Everywhere he looks, whatever he sees is filled with universal God consciousness.

Then again, his eyes close and he is drawn inside. And again, after a few moments, his eyes open and he is drawn outside experiencing the world filled with the oneness of God. He cannot stop this process. This is the process known as karma mudra …

This yogi experiences the fusing of his inner and outer worlds; his universal I consciousness, is diluted in consciousness of the external world. Here, the fullness of I-consciousness absorbs "this-ness", external objectivity, and produces the oneness of samadhi or internal mystical trance and vyutthana or external experience. The nature of this yogi and the external world become one, and the yogi experiences them as being completely united, one with the other. There is absolutely no difference between them.

The process of karma mudra results in absolute oneness, the state of absolute independence. The yogi, in this state, experiences that the internal world of mystical trance and the external world are absolutely the same. This independence and absolute oneness gives rise to the state of jagadananda or universal bliss.

To explain the state of jagadananda, Abhinavagupta says, "My master Sambhunatha described jagadananda as the state that is completely unencumbered, where ananda, bliss, is found shining, where it is universally strengthened by the supreme I-consciousness of God, and where the six limbs of yoga-bhavana, dharana, dhyana, pratyahara, yoga, and samadhi-are no longer used or required."

The one whose being has become absolutely independent and who possesses the state of jagadananda, is said to be a jivan mukta, one who is liberated while living. In his Bodhapancadasika, Abhinavagupta tells us that when the aspirant attains real knowledge of reality, which is the existent state of Shiva, that is final liberation. Real knowledge exists when the aspirant comes to understand that this whole objective universe of diversity and duality is just a magic trick, the play of Shiva.
That does not mean, however, that it is a trick that creates an unreal world. For the Shaiva, this objective world, being Shiva's creation, is just as real as Shiva. The trick lies in the fact that, by Shiva's play, he causes the limited individual to experience this world of diversity as the only reality. Real knowledge exists when the aspirant becomes one with universal God consciousness, which is the same as attaining perfect Self-knowledge. He knows that the world of differentiation is not actually different from Shiva, the Supreme Reality.

The cycles of bondage and liberation are both one with Lord Shiva. It is only a trick that we think that some souls are bound in ignorance while others are elevated. It is only Shiva's play that we think that this covering of diversity actually exists as a separate reality. There is not a second being or reality. His trick, therefore, is our trick, because we are Shiva. We have concealed ourselves in order to find ourselves. This is his play; also our play. (Vijnana Bhairava)

By Swami Lakshmanjoo first published on

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Is Consciousness Impersonating Us?

Scientists have for the first time separated a particle from one of its physical properties, thereby creating a `quantum Cheshire Cat'. The phenomenon is named after the curious feline in `Alice in Wonderland', who vanishes, leaving only its grin behind.

Researchers took a beam of neutrons and separated them from their magnetic moment, like passengers and their baggage getting separated at airport security.

The researchers used an experimental set-up known as an interferometer, at the Institute Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France. A neutron beam was passed through a silicon crystal, sending it down two different paths.

By applying filters and a technique known as "post-selection", they were able to detect the physical separation of neutrons from their magnetic moment ­ as measured by the direction of their spin. "The system behaves as if the neutrons go through one beam path, while their magnetic moment travels along the other," researchers reported.

This raises serious issues about the `measurement paradox'. On the one hand we have the Lockean `realist' account, according to which perception involves the creation of an `inner reflection' of an independently existing external reality , and, on the other hand, a Kantean `anti-realist' concept of the `veil of perception'.

Separation of matter and its characteristics, attributes or qualities will be an important landmark in our understanding of the phenomenon of consciousness.

Consciousness is traditionally attributed to an emergent quality of neural networks. It is quite intriguing to note that even a single celled creature like the amoeba is conscious and takes appropriate measures to feed and avoid any hostile milieu.

Does consciousness operate necessarily through mediation by a biological matrix?

Could it be all-pervading like a magnetic field with the organic or biological substrate serving as merely a receiver and or processor?

Could consciousness be merely a form of energy that manifests in different forms by modulating its frequency and amplitude?

Can perception be merely a play of consciousness, a phenomenon that simultaneously projects and comprehends the external world as a holographic reality?

The separation and distinction of the objective world is because of external appearances. If the elementary fundamental constituent is the ubiquitous atom, then the perceived difference of the external form may just be a programme of the subject's perception. Rather than different partition. Rather than different particles carrying the information of matter and its qualities, it could be that different loci in the brain might be activated to perceive matter and its qualities simultaneously.

Monists like Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some neutral substance, of which both matter and mind are properties. The Advaita or non duality school of thought, too, believes in a non-numerical, holistic, all-pervading unity that simultaneously manifests as both the subject and the object.

The object and therefore all its qualities and attributes might just be a projection of a self-referencing subject that generates an apparition of separation as well as perception.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Taming Our Monkey Mind

Our mind, on average, has over 50,000 thoughts in a day ­ even while busy with a certain task, it is forever racing ahead with numerous other thoughts ­ of potential rewards, missed opportunities, future actions and so on. Besides, for many of us, a large proportion of these thoughts have a negative slant ­ thoughts like, "I wish i were healthier; I dislike myself for being so socially awkward; I doubt if i will ever be successful; My spouse or colleagues don't really value me; What if i don't get promoted or lose my job? I wish my children were smarter or respected me more; If only i had taken that step", are all too commonplace.

This mental chatter is no passing cloud, but a permanent `noise' in the background. Driven by our karmic imprint and our life experiences, particularly during the impressionable childhood years, the monkey mind is a result of our deep inner insecurity about our physical life form and a constant endeavour to somehow control our destiny .

While some of this noise goads us towards personal and social development, much of it is dysfunctional. It restricts us from fully enjoying the present, resulting in lower effectiveness and a diluted sense of fulfilment. The negative undertones of many of our thoughts generate heightened emotions of fear, anxiety, anger or envy, making us restless, confused and impulsive.

Here are five ideas for taming the monkey mind.

First, eliminate comparisons. We routinely judge ourselves in comparison to others.Since there's always someone who's richer, more beautiful or more knowledgeable than us, it accentuates our inner insecurity. For a quieter mind, we need to get comfortable living by our personal values and inner yardsticks of evaluation rather than any external comparisons ­ build high self-respect and recognise that only when we respect ourselves do we earn others' respect.

Second, be more grateful. In our achievement-orientated society , we get easily caught up in wanting more of everything in life, making us discontented with whatever we have. We experience a sense of lack because we are constantly thinking about what we don't have rather than be grateful for all that we do. Focussing on the numerous gifts we are blessed with strengthens our sense of inner security.

Third, realise our wholeness. At a deeper level, slowing down the restless mind involves realising how whole and complete we already are, even if our mental models, steeped in the physical and material world, make us believe otherwise. We can break a glass container into as many pieces as we want, but the innate nature of each of those pieces remains the same. Each of us is one of those pieces of the perfect universe.

Fourth, trust the universe. We need to let go of our incessant desire to control all our outcomes ­ this requires trusting the universe and its flawless evolution. The sun rises and sets, the clouds turn into rain, and plants are born ­ some to become trees and others to die early as they need to. Trusting the universe and accepting that whatever happens, happens for our highest good, slows down our thought-patterns and helps us experience greater peace.

Fifth, practise mindfulness. Mindfulness entails trusting the present moment to be as precious as any other and valuing where we are, and whatever we are engaged with in the moment, over anywhere else that our mind makes us feel we could or rather be. Practising mindfulness stills the mind, deepens our clarity and calms our anxieties ­ thereby enhancing confidence and reducing the number of our thoughts.

By Rajiv Vij first published in

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Architecture of Fear

Why do we buy things we really don't need? Why do we seek control over things and people? Why do we seek predictability in business? Why do we love brands? If wish to answer this 'why' we have to move into the realm of psychology and understand the origins of fear. The more acceptable for fear in the corporate world is 'stress'.

Every Hindu god and goddess raises his or her palm in a gesture which means 'do not be afraid' (a-bhaya), indicating that ancients knew the role of fear in day-to-day life. If there was no fear (bhaya), there would be no hunger or desire (bhook), hence no desire to consume (bhoga). Our desire to consume results in a heavy toll on resources (bali) for which we have to pay a price (karma). Thus fear is the seed of all issues we face in the business world from demand to supply, from transparency to governance. It is fear that shapes our relationship with consumers, auditors, authorities, bosses, processes. Yet, this is not part of business school curriculum. Perhaps because we are over reliant on human reason and forget that humans are essentially not reasonable but rather insecure and frightened. The word fear does not go well with the corporate image of a valorous confident warrior, dressed in a smart black suit, tablet in hand.

Stress or fear can be traced to the first life form (sajiva). Unlike inanimate objects (ajiva) it was determined to survive, fight for its life, avoid death, by seeking nutrition from the earth around. As more life forms emerged, everyone competed for food. Mutation took place and diversity emerged to improve chances of survival. The greatest mutation was the split between life-forms that move (chara) and life-forms that do not move (achara), meaning animals and plants. A plant grows towards food, but it cannot run from predators that feed on it. An animal can run towards food and away from predators. In animals we see the fear inherent in the food chain: the fear of the prey of being hunted and the fear of the predator of starvation. The other fear that is superimposed is that of the pecking order: who will be alpha and hence get access to most food and most mates. The one at the bottom of the pyramid is at a disadvantage, especially the male, who gets least food and probably no mate. Can this be the reason for the aggression seen in men? But humans are the most unique life-form. We have a mind that can imagine (manas) and so we imagine who we are and wonder if others imagine ourselves the same way. This creates anxiety, fear of invalidation. We seek status and justification and most importantly meaning (artha). We seek nourishment for our self-image, and constantly protecting this self-image from rivals and predators. This constitutes our architecture of fear.

It is significant that the word artha-shastra simultaneously means economics (do we generate and distribute enough wealth, income, revenue?), politics (do we get enough power to compete, catch prey, shun predators?), and philosophy (do we know who we really are? do we live meaningful lives?). This was a holistic approach to business and management, restricted not just to making ourselves efficient money-making businesses but locating business in society, and even the cosmos. This is missing in students one finds emerging from the best universities in the world. They are skilled warriors but clueless what are they fighting for. And this cluelessness results in strange, even dangerous behaviour.

Let us take three examples of behaviour found in the corporate world to demonstrate the key role of the fear-seed in business activities:

• Consumers and vendors constantly seek deals and discounts. It makes them feel powerful. Shopping becomes retail therapy, a chance to feel significant in a world that does not care for you. Service providers realise the value of making a customer feeling valuable. Fear is intensified by creating hierarchies amongst customers: you are level 1 customer, level 2 customer or level 3 customer. Depending on the hierarchy you get a different level of service. Your waiting time is less, if you are more loyal.

• A senior manager finds himself, or herself, being continuously judged. The auditors judge the processes he follows. The bosses judge his performance. He is constantly told what he has not achieved and how he is not adequately aligned. He discovers his compensation is never good enough, always lesser than his rivals, and this poor compensation is always rationalised and justified during appraisal time. He is repeatedly told, in quarter after quarter, he has to be better, run faster. He has to stay the ever-hungry predator who is never allowed to rest and play to satisfy the insatiable hunger of the anonymous institutional shareholder.

• A very successful investment banker wonders if people he meets knows how smart. So he buys the best car, the best house, throws the best parties, goes on the finest holidays, brags how he just works for an hour a day, or maybe an hour a week, constantly positioning his brilliance, and even doing charity, because he wants to succeed even in social responsibility. Finally, he starts seeing value in possessing a bathtub made of gold. Or gets a kick in getting freebees like celebrities.

A knowledge of fear is critical in management if one accepts that humans are animals with imagination, who cannot be domesticated using reason. Desire, greed, ambition, control, success, compliance all impact the everyone's architecture of fear. We look at institutions to raise their palm and display the symbol of a-bhaya. Instead their massive size, steel and glass coldness, impersonal business processes, swipe cards and closed circuit TVs only amplify the bhaya.