Covering, revealing, inhabiting the Self: Isha Upanishad, mantra 1

Isa upanisad.
Sanskrit of the Isha Upanishad. Creative commons.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of an eternal Truth discovered within the innermost Self (Atman).  In the Isha Upanishad, Isha is the eternal Truth of the Self.

The first mantra of the Isha Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: Om Isha vāsyam idam sarvam…

Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever.”[1] The first verse expresses a fundamental insight not only of Hinduism, but of a universal awareness. The verse offers a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, and a transformation in our very modes of seeing and perceiving, our means and modes of being.

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Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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Shiva Speaks: words of the supreme Self

 

 

 

Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain
Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain

Both the work of Carl Jung (CW 9ii) and Vedanta (Adi Shankara and the Upanishads) agree: the deity image represents the inner Self. In Vedanta, the deity image represents the innermost Self (Ātman)

In my last post, titled Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom, I spoke of ash as a symbol of Shiva, and thus of the supreme Self. In that post, I drew from a passage from the Brahmanda Purana. In this post, I am going to share more from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27). In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature, and thus the nature of the supreme Self.

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Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia

In the above image we see Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The painting is by Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 (via Wikimedia, US public domain).

In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Durga: goddess as libido symbol

Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem.
Durga Confronts the Buffalo Demon Mahisha: Scene from the Devi Mahatmya- ca. 1780 from the Metropolitan Musem. US public domain via wikimedia
Carl Jung says that “the goddesses… are libido-symbols.” He adds: “The libido expresses itself in images of sun, light, fire, sex, fertility, and growth” (para 324).

The image above beautifully expresses the powerful feminine form of Durga as libido, or the creative force. Durga, दुर्गा means “the inaccessible”(wikipedia). She is a form of the Goddess Shakti. In this image she rides a lion to battle a buffalo possessed by a demon. Her four arms are armed with weapons. I see a conch, a bow and arrows, a sword, a lasso, and a lotus, each holding symbiotic significance. The Hindu Society of Berbice offers an interpretation of the symbols:

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