Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Goraknath

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Goraknath

S tudents of Indian philosophy naturally think of Patanjali whenever the subject of Yoga arises, but in actuality the most famous and influential yogi of India was/is the sage Goraknath (or Gorakshanath), although little was known of him in the West until the middle of the twentieth century. What follows is the text that was also the table of contents in Akshaya Kumar Banerjea’s Philosophy of Gorakhnath, published in 1962.

A Yogi and a Philosopher

Both a Yogi and a Philosopher are seekers of the Absolute Truth. But they differ in their modes of approach. A philosopher advances in the path of rational logic and wants to intellectually understand the Truth, whereas a Yogi advances in the path of moral and psychical self-discipline and aspires for spiritually realizing the Truth. The conclusion of philosophical speculation cannot rise above the status of an intellectual theory (Vada), whereas yogic spiritual discipline is expected to lead to direct supra-intellectual experience of the Truth. No theory can satisfy all truth-seekers and the history of the philosophical quest of the Absolute Truth is found to be a history of continuous intellectual warfare among different schools of philosophers. The Absolute is variously conceived by various thinkers and they refute each other’s views. The Absolute Truth, which is the Soul of the universe and the Soul of every individual being, unveils its true character to the innermost illumined consciousness of a perfect Yogi in the deepest supra-intellectual transcendent state of Samadhi. This transcendent experience is distinct from normal or abnormal subjective experience as well as from phenomenal objective experience, but is not on that account a negation of experience. The exact nature of this experience cannot be intellectually conceived or defined; but it gives perfect satisfaction to the truth-seeking consciousness. When a Yogi returns from the illumined state of Samadhi to the normal plane of phenomenal experience, the deep impression of his Samadhi-experience exercises a wonderful enlightening influence upon his normal mind and intellect and behavior. The enlightened Yogis become free from ail kinds of dogmatism and bigotry and narrow outlook. They look upon all men and all affairs of the world from a spiritual point of view and live in the world as embodiments of the highest wisdom and universal love and compassion. All the highest moral and spiritual ideals of the human society originate from the enlightened Yogis. When any Yogi, out of love for humanity, assumes the role of a public teacher, he often finds it suitable to impart lessons to truth-seekers in the form of a philosophical system, which he regards as an effective mode of intellectual discipline.

Gorakhnath–A Mahayogi

Gorakhnath was an enlightened Mahayogi, and not a philosopher in the commonly accepted meaning of the term. He did not attach any primary importance to metaphysical speculations and controversies as a means to the realization of the Ultimate Truth. But he considered them valuable as modes of intellectual discipline and helpful in the path of search for Truth. He adopted philosophical reflection as a part of the comprehensive yogic self-discipline, which alone could lead to the perfect illumination of consciousness and the transcendent experience of the Absolute Truth. Gorakhnath and his Sampradaya have a vast literature, but books dealing purely with metaphysical problems are very few. All standard works are chiefly on various processes of yoga. Books on yoga incidentally discuss scientific and metaphysical topics. The ultimate basis of his philosophy was his and other enlightened yogis’ supramental and supra-intellectual experience in the highest samadhi state. He, though mainly an illustrious teacher of yoga, preached along with it a system of philosophy which has a special place among the philosophical systems of India.

Literary Sources of his Philosophical Views

Sanskrit works of Gorakhnath and his Guru Matsyendranath, Upanishads dealing specially with yoga, other authoritative treatises on yoga, and numerous old treatises in Bengali, Hindi, Rajasthani, Napalese, Tibetan, and other regional languages, based on the lives and teachings of Gorakhnath, Matsyendranath and other Mahayogis of the Nath-yogi sect, give information about his views on the Absolute Truth and other philosophical topics. Siddha-Siddhanta-Paddhati is an important philosophical work of Gorakhnath.

Contents of Siddha-Siddhanta-Paddhati

The topics are discussed under six heads, called Upadesha (lessons). The first lesson discusses Pindotpatti (i.e. the origin of the bodies, cosmic as well as individual) of the Absolute Spirit. The second lesson is on Pinda-vichara, i.e. deeper contemplation on the constitution of the bodies. Nine chakras, sixteen Adharas, three Lakshyas and five Vyomas are explained from the yogic viewpoint. The third is on Pinda-Sambitti, i.e. true insight into the spiritual nature of the bodies. It shows the essential identity of individual bodies with Cosmic Body. The fourth is on Pindadhara, i.e. Container and Sustainer of the bodies. It shows how all bodies are contained in and sustained by one Supreme Spiritual Power (Shakti) of the Absolute Spirit. The fifth deals with Samarasa-Karana, which is the supreme ideal of the life of a yogi. The sixth describes the character of an Avadhuta, i.e. a perfectly enlightened yogi.

Conception of the Ultimate Reality

The basis of Gorakhnath’s conception of the Ultimate Reality is direct transcendent experience in the highest state of Samadhi. Relation between direct experience and conception–Conception is an affair of the intellect, necessitated for rational interpretation and understanding of the contents of direct experience. Being in the domain of theory, conception cannot reach the certitude of the direct experience of the Absolute Truth. An enlightened Mahayogi does not require any conception for being sure of the validity of his transcendent experience. But he cannot but take the help of intellectual conception to explain his experience to others. Gorakhnath asserts that from the viewpoint of transcendent experience, in which the Absolute Truth reveals Itself in Its perfect self-shining nature and the individual consciousness is wholly identified with It, there is no question of the origination of the cosmic order with the plurality of individual existences, since they are all unified in Its transcendent nature. Still for the satisfaction of the rational demand of the people of the normal planes of phenomenal experience, this world-process must have to be accounted for from the nature of the Absolute Reality, and accordingly an adequate intellectual conception of the Absolute has to be formed. The transcendent experience of an enlightened Mahayogi and the intellectual demand of a common man must be linked together. Gorakhnath conceives the Ultimate Reality accordingly as Para-Sambit with Nija-Shakti–Absolute Consciousness or Absolute Spirit eternally possessed of infinite unique Power for self-expression in the form of a boundless phenomenal cosmic order evolving countless orders of finite and transitory existences in time and space and also harmonizing them into one whole.

The same Absolute Reality viewed as the transcendent self-shining self-perfect differenceless and changeless Spirit is Shiva, and as revealing and enjoying Himself freely and eternally in an ever-changing diversified phenomenal cosmic order is Shakti. There is really no difference between Shiva and Shakti. In the ultimate samadhi-experience in which the cosmic plurality is merged in absolute unity He is realized in His transcendent aspect as Shiva (His Shakti-aspect being hidden in Him), and in the enlightened phenomenal experience in which the cosmic plurality appears as an objective reality He is realized in His self-manifesting dynamic aspect as Shakti. The two aspects are in eternal union. Hence Shiva and Shakti are popularly conceived as eternally wedded to and in loving embrace with each other. Shiva is conceived as Saktiman. Accordingly Shiva is regarded as the Father and Shakti as the Mother of the universe, though there is no difference between the Father and the Mother and there is no question of gender in the nature of the Spirit. The Divine Shakti, as conceived by Gorakhnath and Siddha-yogis, is neither the non-spiritual non-self-conscious Prakriti of Sankhya, nor the illusion-producing inexplicable Maya of Advaita-Vedanta, nor the Shakti distinct from but possessed and governed by the Supreme Spirit, as conceived by many dualistic bhakti schools. She is Sat-Chid-Ananda-mayi mahasakti, i.e. self-manifesting self-diversifying all-harmonising all-unifying ever-active Dynamic Sat-Chid-Ananda. The cosmic system is conceived, not as Chid-Vivarta, but as Chid-Vilasa. The Shakti is conceived, not as avarana-vikshepatmika, but as Prakasha-Vimarsatmika. Gorakhnath and his school teach the truth-seekers to appreciate the world as Chid-Vilasa, as Saundarya-lahari, as Ananda-lahari, and not to renounce it out of disgust or to think of it as an evil. Renunciation has to be practiced for the purpose of the realization of the Ideal of Absolute Shivahood in his Divine World.

Gradual Unfoldment of Shakti

Gorakhnath and his school are upholders of Sat-karya-Vada. They accordingly hold that before creation the whole world of effects exists in an absolutely unmanifested and undifferentiated state in the nature of the Unique Power of Shiva and that destruction or dissolution consists in the merging of all the diversities in the absolute unity of the same Power (Shakti). Creation or origination of the cosmic system is thus regarded as the gradual unfoldment of Shiva’s inherent Shakti, which is essentially non-different from Shiva. The temporal process of creation and dissolution, of evolution and involution, has no absolute beginning or end in time. The Ultimate Cause and Ground and Support of this temporally eternal process of creation and continuity and dissolution, constituting the cosmic order, must be some supra-temporal self-existent Reality having the Power for such self-expression in a temporal order, and this is the Absolute Spirit or Shiva with His Shakti. The unique causal relation between the supra-temporal changeless transcendent Spirit or Shiva and the temporal ever-changing phenomenal world-order is conceived by Gorakhnath and the Siddha-yogi Sampradaya as Chid-Vilasa or Shiva-Shakti-Vilasa, which means perfectly free and delightful sportive self-manifestation of the Transcendent Spirit in the phenomenal plane. This is of the nature of a free play and self-enjoyment of one self-fulfilled perfect Spirit in the forms of countless orders of imperfect phenomenal existences evolved from His own Shakti. Gorakhnath’s Shiva-Shakti-Vilasa-Vada or Chid-Vilasa-Vada is distinguished from Arambha-Vada, Parinama-Vada as well as Vivarta-Vada. Vedanta’s Maya is given a more exalted position by Yogis, who conceive Maya as Maha-Maya or Yoga-Maya or real Cit-Shakti of Brahma or Shiva–the real Mother of the real cosmic order–and as such an Object of adoration to all individuals. The self-unfoldment of Divine Shakti is perfectly free and delightful. Shakti’s self-unfoldment is described as through five stages–Nija, Para, Apara, Sukshma, Kundalini. Gorakhnath attempts to give an idea of each of these stages. Kundalini-Shakti unfolds Herself as the glorious Mother of the unlimited spatio-temporal cosmic order and all kinds of individuals and classes within it. She is also present as the sleeping spiritual Power in every individual body.

Self-Manifestation of Shiva As Cosmic Purusha

The gradual self-unfoldment of Shakti within the spiritual transcendent nature of the Absolute Spirit, Shiva, gives birth to the Supreme Spiritual Body of Shiva, called Parapinda. The birth of Parapinda means the self-manifestation of the Absolute Spirit as the Supreme Individual–Parama Purusha–with the full consciousness of all His eternal infinite glorious powers and attributes. The Supra-personal Spirit becomes a perfectly self-conscious Personality–Brahma becomes Ishwara.

Pinda means an organized whole, a unity of diversities. Gorakhnath attaches special importance to the term, in order to show that all our conceptions of concrete realities in all the planes of our knowledge and thought involve the idea of unity of diversities. Accordingly even in the highest plane of Spiritual Reality he rejects Pure Non-Dualism of the extreme Advaita-Vadis as well as Pure Dualism of extreme Dwaita-Vadis and Pure Pluralism of Vahu-Padartha-Vadis. In the lowest physical plane also he rejects the doctrine of the plurality of unrelated material units or paramanus integrated and disintegrated by external causes. The whole universe is conceived by him as one organism consisting of countless orders of organisms–one Samasti-Pinda consisting of innumerable Vyasti-Pindas. This universe is the self-embodiment of the Absolute Spirit, Shiva, by virtue of the gradual self-unfoldment of His Shakti.

Gorakhnath describes the Para-Pinda of Shiva as consisting of five forms of spiritual consciousness, all shining at the same time without overshadowing each other in His all-comprehensive Divine consciousness–viz. Aparamparam, Paramapadam, Sunyam, Niranjanam, Paramatma. These are explained in terms of psychological concepts. This Para-Pinda is also called Anadi-Pinda as well as Adi-Pinda, implying that this Divine Individuality is without any origination and without any Higher Source of existence and that this is the Supreme Source of all other Pindas or individual existences. Anadi-Pinda is described as having the characters of Paramananda, Prabodha, Chid-udaya, Prakasha, Soham-bhava. Thus the Absolute Spirit, by virtue of the unfoldment of His immanent Shakti in the transcendental plane, reveals Himself as a magnificently glorified self-conscious self-active omnipotent omniscient playful Divine Personality embodied with an ideal universe. This Adi-Pinda is the eternal link and meeting-ground between the transcendent and the phenomenal planes of existence–between the Transcendent Spirit and His phenomenal cosmic self-manifestation.

Evolution Of The Cosmic Body Of Shiva

Having described the nature of Para-Pinda or Adya-Pinda in the supra-physical plane, Gorakhnath exposes the evolution of the physical world-system from this Adya-Pinda. Shiva as Adya-Pinda, the Cosmic Purusha, evolves from within Himself, through the further self-unfoldment of His Shakti, a Physical Cosmic Body, extending in space and changing in time, and makes it an integral part of His all-comprehending and all-enjoying Self-Consciousness. The universe, which was ideally real in the nature of Adya-Pinda, becomes physically and objectively real as the Cosmic Body of Shiva, and this Body is called Maha-Sakara-Pinda. Shiva with His infinite and eternal Maha-Shakti is seen by a Mahayogi as immanent in and revealing Himself through all the diversities of this physical order. A Mahayogi looks upon and loves this world as the sacred Divine Body.

From Adya-Pinda evolves Maha-Akasha, from Maha-Akasha evolves Maha-Vayu, from Maha-Vayu evolves Maha-Tejas, from Maha-Tejas evolves Maha-Salila, from Maha-Salila Maha-Prithvi. These five Tattwas (Basic Elements) are gradual stages of self-unfoldment of the Divine Shakti in more and more complex physical forms and they are all organised by the same Shakti into an unlimited and ever-continuous physical embodiment of Shiva. The distinctive characteristics of each of these physical Tattwas (generally called Maha-Bhutas) are described in details. General reflections are made with reference to the different schools of Indian philosophy on the relation of the basic physical elements of the universe of our experience to the Ultimate Reality or the Absolute Spirit. According to Gorakhnath and the Siddha-Yogis, this Physical Cosmic Body is the grossest and most complicated and diversified form of free self-manifestation of the Absolute Spirit through the gradual self-unfoldment of His infinite and eternal Spiritual Power, and hence it is essentially a spiritual entity. In relation to this Cosmic Order the Supreme Spirit reveals Himself principally in the forms of eight Divine Personalities, Which are called Ashta-Murti of Maha-Sakara-Pinda Siva–viz. Shiva, Bhairava, Srikantha, SadaShiva, Ishwara, Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma.

Evolution of A System of Worlds In The Cosmic Body

In the Cosmic Body of Shiva various orders of phenomenal existences are gradually evolved, and these are conceived as distinct interrelated worlds or Lokas. First, there is the world of material bodies and physical forces, governed by what are known as natural laws. This is Jada-Jagat. Secondly, there is the world of Life and Vital Forces, governed by biological laws. This is Prana-Jagat. Life and vital forces are embodied with and manifested through material bodies, but life transcends matter and exerts regulative influence upon its phenomena. Thirdly, there is the world of Mind–Mano-Jagat. All phenomena of empirical consciousness are expressions of mind. Mental phenomena are manifested through living physical bodies, but Mind transcends Matter and Life and uses them as its instruments. Mind and Body are found to act and react upon each other, but Mind does not occupy any special part of the physical body nor does it die with the death of the physical body. Mind has a higher order of reality than Matter and Life–being a higher self-expression of the Supreme Spirit. Fourthly, there is the world of Reason or Intelligence–Buddhi. Buddhi is higher than Mind, and it is manifested in the acts of discriminating between valid and invalid knowledge, correct and incorrect thought, and in the urge for the attainment of truth. Buddhi exercises a regulative and enlightening influence upon Mind. Cosmic Buddhi with Cosmic Manas and Cosmic Prana is all-pervading. Fifthly, there is a still higher world–the world of Moral Consciousness, the world of Dharma. Dharma is revealed in the form of some Ideal of goodness or righteousness or moral perfection, having the inherent claim to regulate and elevate all natural phenomena of matter and life and mind and reason towards the Ideal. Dharma governs the course of evolution in this Cosmic Body of Shiva. Though Dharma is all-pervading and underlies all spheres of phenomenal existences, it is specially manifested in the Moral Consciousness of man. Sixthly, there is the world of Rasa–Aesthetic Order. This is specially revealed to the Aesthetic Consciousness of man, to which the whole universe is a universe of Beauty. Seventhly, there is the world of Bliss–Ananda. Ananda is the real and eternal nature of the Supreme Spirit and it underlies all self-manifestations of the Spirit. To different orders of phenomenal consciousnesses different orders of existences are revealed. The infinite richness of Maha-Sakara-Pinda is unfathomable. Every world has adhyatmika, adhidaivika and adhibhoutika aspects.

The Evolution of Individual Bodies in The Cosmic Body

With the evolution of the eight Divine Personalities and their respective planes of consciousnesses and existences, the constitution of Maha-Sakara-Pinda (Cosmic Body) of Shiva-Shakti is complete, so far as the Universal Cosmic Principles are concerned. The plane of Brahma is the lowest and grossest of all and is most closely related to the gross world of our sensuous experience. Gorakhnath traces the evolution of the individual existences and consciousnesses of this world from the Conscious Will (Avalokana) of Brahma. This Conscious Will is manifested in the form of Prakriti-Pinda, from which all individual bodies (Vyasti-Pindas) are evolved. Every individual body is a particularized manifestation of Prakriti-Pinda and ultimately of the Cosmic Body of Shiva. Gorakhnath is particularly interested in the study of the constitution of the individual human body. In the human body all the external and internal organs of an individual body are fully evolved, and also life and mind and reason and moral consciousness and aesthetic consciousness are fully manifested in individualized forms. The human body is realized as an epitome of the entire Cosmic Body of Shiva. It is in and through the human body that the Divine Shakti, Who in the process of cosmic self-manifestation comes down from the highest transcendent spiritual plane of absolute unity and bliss step by step to the lowest phenomenal material plane of endless diversities and imperfections, ascends again by means of self-conscious processes of Yoga and Jnana and Bhakti to the transcendent spiritual plane and becomes perfectly and blissfully united with the Supreme Spirit, Shiva. Man with his developed individuality can experience Shiva as his own true Soul as well as the true Soul of the universe.

The Constitution of Individual Body

From the standpoint of yogic discipline, Gorakhnath conceives the human body as consisting of (1) the gross material body called Bhuta-Pinda, (2) the mental body described as Antahi-karana-Panchaka, (3) Kula-panchaka, (4) Vyakti-panchaka, (5) Pratyaksha-karana-panchaka, (6) Nadi-samsthana, and (7) Dasha-Vayu. The Bhuta-pinda is constituted of the five gross physical elements, purposefully organized by the Creative Will of Brahma with life-power and mind-power immanent in the organism and regulating ideologically the functions of its various organs. The conceptions of wholes and parts and their relations are discussed from the viewpoint of yogic Sat-karya-vada. Gradual evolution of parts within parts from the Cosmic Whole leads to the organization of the amazingly diverse parts of individual bodies of various orders and kinds. The individual minds are individualized self-manifestations of the Cosmic Mind in relation to and apparent dependence upon individual living bodies. The individual lives also are individualized self-manifestations of the Cosmic Life. Every individual human mind is manifested in five forms according to functions–viz. Manas, Buddhi, Ahankara, Chitta and Chaitanya. The functions of each are explained. Kula is here interpreted by Gorakhnath as the forces which exercise their directive influence from behind the scene upon the psycho-physical phenomena and give special inclinations and aptitudes to them. It is conceived as of five forms, viz. Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas, Kala and Jiva. These are explained. Vyakti panchaka refer to the five forms of self-expression of the individual mind and they are classified as Iccha, Kriya, Maya, Prakriti and Vak. The various subdivisions of each are described. The forms of Vak–viz. Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama, Vaikharl and Matrika, are discussed. By pratyaksha-Karana Gorakhnath indicates the efficient and material causes which practically contribute to the maintenance and development and also renewal of the individual body. He enumerates them as, Kama, Karma, Chandra, Surya and Agni. Their characteristics and influences are discussed. The knowledge of Nadi-Samsthana or the nervous system is of great importance to yogis. Of countless Nadis, ten are specially mentioned. Of these, three are highly important, viz. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Sushumna is the most important from yogic viewpoint. Vayu-Samsthana also is of special importance from the yogic viewpoint. Vayu or Prana-Shakti is essentially one, but it is conceived as tenfold, according to different functions it performs in different parts of the living organism. Of the tenfold Vayu, Prana and Apana are of special importance for yogic discipline. In this connection the nature and inner significance of breath are discussed and Ajapa-Gayatri is explained.

The Esoteric Aspects Of The Body

For the purpose of attaining true enlightenment about the inner nature of the sacred human body, Gorakhnath regards it essential to acquire insight into nine chakras, sixteen adharas, three lakshyas, five vyomans. The nine chakras are conceived as different stations in the central Sushumna-Nadi, which is called Brahma-Marga. These are centers of psycho-vital forces and indicate different planes of esoteric experience in the path of yogic discipline. They are like wheels and whirls in the path of spiritual progress, and they act sometimes as hurdles and often as revolutionary steps in the path.

Chakras are enumerated by Gorakhnath somewhere as nine and somewhere as seven (including the highest, Sahashrara). The special features of these chakras are described at some length. The underlying conception is that Kundalini-Shakti, the Supreme Divine Power, lies sleeping like a coiled serpent in the lowest Muladhara chakra of every human body, becomes awakened with the awakenment of the spiritual consciousness of every individual, rises step by step through yogic discipline to higher and higher chakras (higher and higher planes of spiritual illumination), blesses individual consciousness with various kinds of occult experiences and miraculous powers in the particular chakras, and finally ascends to the highest chakra, the plane of the perfect blissful union of Shakti with Shiva or Brahma, in which the individual consciousness becomes absolutely united with Universal Consciousness, the Absolute Sat-Chid-ananda.

After describing the chakras, Gorakhnath describes what he calls Adharas and for the students of Yoga he enumerates them as sixteen. By Adharas he refers to the principal seats of the vital and psychical functions, which have to be brought under control and then transcended by means of appropriate methods of yogic discipline. Having given lessons on the sixteen Adharas, Gorakhnath imparts instruction on the three kinds of Lakshyas–internal and external and non-located. Lakshya means an object upon which a yogi should fix his attention temporarily for practicing concentration of psycho-vital energy with the ultimate view of elevating it to the highest spiritual plane. Lastly, Gorakhnath gives lessons on Vyoma or Akasha or Sunya, which, though really one, he enumerates as five for the sake of the practice of concentration.

The Cosmos In The Individual Body

In the view of enlightened yogis there is no pure and simple matter, as conceived by scientists, anywhere in the universe. Even Akasha, which is the ultimate form of matter and which appears as pure contentless space or void, evolves from and is ensouled by the Supreme Spirit with infinite Power immanent in His nature. Through the Power’s gradual self-unfoldment the other Mahabhutas with specific characteristics emerge from it and they are all ensouled by the Spirit. In the course of this evolution, individual material bodies with apparently distinctive existences and characteristics emerge in the Cosmic Body of the Spirit, and life and mind and intellect are found to be gradually evolved in individual forms in relation to individual physical bodies, in which the character of the Spirit is more and more brilliantly reflected. Every individual body with life, mind, etc. is thus a self-manifestation and self-embodiment of the Supreme Spirit, Shiva. All causal activities of all material things and all processes of evolution and emergence of apparently newer and newer and higher and higher orders of realities in the universe are governed by the free Creative Will-Power inherent in the essential nature of the Absolute Spirit. The Spirit is revealed as the material cosmic system.

As a yogi draws upward in a systematic way his psycho-vital energy to higher and higher adharas and chakras and concentrates his consciousness upon deeper truths unveiled therein, the individual body is gradually realized as liberated from the grossness and impurity and spatio-temporal limitations and imperfections of its normal material nature and hence as a true spiritual entity. When the consciousness is adequately refined and illumined, the whole is experienced in every part, the entire cosmic system is experienced in every individual body, Maha-Sakara-Pinda is realized in Vyasti-Pinda. This realization of the Cosmic Body in the individual body is called by Gorakhnath the true knowledge of the body (Pinda-Sambitti). For training the intellect of truth-seekers Gorakhnath describes the location of all the worlds in the Cosmic Order within distinctive parts of the individual body.

Individual Souls

The individual soul and the individual body are both phenomenal self-manifestations of the transcendent Supreme Spirit. The soul is evidently a spiritual manifestation, and the body is a physical manifestation. The body appears as a finite changing composite material entity, while the soul appears as a simple self-luminous entity without any spatio-temporal characteristics and limitations and changes. The soul does not occupy any special portion of the body, but gives unity to the whole body and is realizable in every part of it. The soul is the master of the body, and all the operations of all the organs of the body revolve round the soul as their dynamic center. The soul is distinguished not only from the physical body, but also from life, mind, ego, intellect, moral and aesthetic consciousness, and even spiritual consciousness. It is the self-luminous witness to them, the innermost dynamic center of all their operations, and it realizes and enjoys itself in and through them. The individual soul is ultimately one with Shiva, the Supreme Spirit, Who in His phenomenal cosmic play freely enjoys Himself as the plurality of individual souls in relation to the various orders of individual bodies.

The souls are not really touched by the joys and sorrows and bondages and limitations and changes of the respective individual bodies. So long as Avidya or Ignorance prevails over the phenomenal consciousness, these are falsely attributed to the souls. Discussion on the conception of Vidya and Avidya from the view point of Siddha-Yogis, Vidya and Avidya are two-fold aspects of the phenomenal manifestation of the Swatantra Nija Shakti (Free Unique Power) of Shiva (Absolute Spirit). Gorakhnath and the yogi school more often use the terms Prakasha and Vimarsa in place of Vidya and Avidya. The significance of these terms is discussed. In this universe of phenomenal self-manifestations of the Absolute Spirit, His Prakasha-Shakti and Vimarsa-Shakti are apparently conditioned and limited by each other, and the Soul as manifested in each individual body appears to be conditioned and limited by the nature and limitations of the body. It is the Supreme Spirit Who reveals Himself as individual souls. The Absolute, while manifesting and experiencing Himself freely and playfully under limitations of all kinds of forms, remains eternally in His own true Self as the One Transcendent Spirit. The problems of Evil, Sorrow, Sin, Warfare, etc. are discussed and solved from this viewpoint.

The Supreme Ideal Of Life

From the earliest age of Hindu spiritual culture, Moksha or Mukti is generally accepted as the Supreme Ideal (Parama Purushartha) of human life. It is commonly understood in the rather negative sense of perfect and absolute deliverance from the present earthly state of existence subject to sorrows and bondages and imperfections. Many schools of philosophers and spiritual aspirants lay special emphasis upon Sorrow which is the most universal and the most undesirable fact of human experience and conceive absolute cessation of sorrow as the ultimate Ideal of all human endeavours. The significance of Sorrow is discussed. All Hindu saints and sages proclaim the possibility of the absolute conquest of Sorrow, not by means of external contrivances and changes of physical conditions, but by means of internal self-discipline and self-enlightenment. Perfect self-enlightenment really consists in the elevation of empirical consciousness to the transcendent spiritual plane, and the experience of this plane can not be exactly and adequately described in terms of intellectual concepts. Attempts at such description lead to different religio-philosophical views about Moksha. The transcendent experience is often described negatively as absolute cessation of Sorrow and positively as the attainment of Ananda or perfect Bliss.

The realization of Atma or the true Self is conceived as the real nature of transcendent experience and the essential nature of Moksha. The nature of Atma after absolute disembodiment is a puzzling problem, on which even the greatest saint-philosophers are found to differ. Views of Buddha, Kapila, Patanjali, Gautama, Kanada, are briefly mentioned. Discussion of the Upanishadic and Vedantic view of the realization of the identity of the individual Atma with the Absolute Spirit, Brahma, as the Ultimate Ideal. Gorakhnath agrees with the Upanishadic/Vedantic view, though he denies the illusoriness of the Cosmic Order and of the individual Atma. According to Gorakhnath, the perfect realization of Shivahood or Brahmahood by the individual soul through yoga is the Supreme Ideal. Gorakhnath’s grand conception of Samarasa-karana and his conception of the true character of a Natha or Avadhuta are explained. A Natha not only realizes the identity of himself and all existences with Shiva or Brahma and experiences the whole universe within himself, but also becomes a complete master of all physical forces in the universe.

The Evolution of Hindu Spiritual Culture (I)

Some fundamental Vedic Truths–that this world-order is essentially a spiritual and moral and aesthetic system, that all phenomena of all planes of existences are governed by Universal and Inviolable Moral and Aesthetic and Spiritual Principles, that the Cosmic System is not only an adhibhoutic, but also an adhidaivic and adhyatmic system, that in the scheme of the universe man as a self-conscious intellectual and moral and spiritual being endowed with a highly developed physical body occupies a unique position. The Vedas unveiled the inner secrets of the order of the universe and human nature and showed the way to the solution of the most fundamental problems which are puzzling to the greatest intellectualists of all ages. The principal modes of discipline taught by Vedas for elevating man to higher planes, of existence and consciousness till the highest spiritual plane is reached–the cultivation of the spirit of Yajna in practical life, the cultivation of devotional sentiments and spirit of worship to the Supreme Spirit as revealed in this wonderful Cosmic System, the cultivation of Renunciation and Tattwa-Jnana and Yoga. In the period of progressive expansion and consolidation of the Aryan society people were naturally more interested in a philosophy of action than in a philosophy of renunciation or emotional devotion, and hence the interpretation from the viewpoint of Karma prevailed in the society. The viewpoint of Jnana and Yoga and Vairagya also steadily developed and found expression in the Upanishads and the Agamas. Kapila, the founder of Sankhya-darshana, was the independent rationalist philosopher, who constructed a complete philosophical system for the explanation of the world-order and added great strength to the viewpoint of Jnana and Yoga. The development and spread of the viewpoint of Upasana and Bhakti through a good many sects and sub-sects, along with the development and spread of Pravritti-Marga and Nivritti-Marga.

The Evolution of Hindu Spiritual Culture (II)

With the progress of Hindu spiritual culture, a psychological, social, moral and spiritual necessity was more and more keenly felt for rational synthesis and harmony of Karma, Jnana, Yoga, and Bhakti, and various attempts were made by eminent thought-leaders. The most successful attempt was made by Lord Sri Krishna in His wonderfully eventful life and specially in the Bhagavad-Gita. Sri Krishna was the truest representative of the Spirit of the Vedic Revelation, and was adored as a veritable Incarnation of the Supreme Spirit in human form. His Gita was hailed as Brahma-Vidya, Yoga-Shastra, Bhakti-Shastra, as well as Karma Shastra, and as the most profound interpretation of the essential teachings of the Vedas. It gave the most enlightened conception of Yajna, Yoga, Jnana, Karma, Tyaga, Sannyasa, Upasana, and Moksha, and taught the Art of the thorough spiritualization of the entire life of a man. Sri Krishna laid far greater emphasis upon the inner spirit than upon the outer forms of religious practices and opened the door of Yoga and Jnana and Bhakti and God-realization to men and women of all grades of the society and of all sorts of occupations in practical life. In His philosophical view also He sought to assimilate all the important schools of thought. He conveyed to humanity another great message of hope and strength, viz. Incarnation of God on earth at critical times as a mark of His love and mercy for man.

The credit for propagating the teachings of the Vedas and the message of Lord Sri Krishna in the most popular and liberal forms to all sections of people and building up the structure of one universal Hinduism goes pre-eminently to Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa and his disciples. He compiled and rearranged all the available Vedic Texts with their varied interpretations, preached the Upanishads as constituting the essence of the Vedas, composed the great national Epic, Mahabharata, founded the school of Vedanta-Darshana, and initiated the composition and propagation of the Puranas. These together with the other great national Epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana, exercised a powerful influence upon the development and popularization of Hindu spiritual culture and the permanent unification of this vast sub-continent.

More than a thousand years after Sri Krishna and Vyasa, Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira, both of whom were Mahayogis and followed practically the Nivritti-Marga of the Vedas, initiated two powerful ethico-spiritual movements, which led to the creation of Buddhism and Jainism within the fold of Hinduism. They really preached the ancient Yoga-Marga with special emphasis on renunciation, universal sympathy and compassion and purity of ethical conduct, and particularly on the principle of Ahimsa. Their special contributions to Hindu spiritual culture and the causes of their conflict with the orthodox Hindu community are briefly discussed.

A few centuries later, Kumarila, Shankara and Gorakhnath appeared as very powerful exponents of Vedic Karma-Marga, Jnana-Marga and Yoga-Marga respectively, and their contributions to the restoration and consolidation of the moral, spiritual and cultural unity of the vast country on the basis of the Vedic outlook on life and the world are most remarkable. The special features of their contributions are briefly expounded. While Kumarila strongly defended Vedic Hinduism against the attacks of Buddhism and Jainism, Shankara and Gorakhnath contributed greatly to their assimilation with Hinduism.

In the Middle Ages, while the different interrelated currents of Vedic spiritual culture continued to flow on, the Bhakti-cult or Upasana-Marga got a great impetus from the life and teachings of a good number of Bhakta-saints with high spiritual attainments and magnetic personal influences born in different provinces. A good many Upasaka Sampradayas–Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava, Ramayata, etc.–worshipping the same Supreme Spirit in different Divine Names, in different visible and tangible Forms and in different methods, developed at this age throughout the country. Image-worship and Pilgrimage became very popular. Islam came and made a permanent place for itself in India at this period.

Hinduism, as it took shape and form in the middle age, continues without much substantial change in the present age, though it had to meet the challenge of the invasion of the materialistic culture and civilization of the West and had to adjust itself with new situations. The contributions of the modern saints, and particularly of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, are most remarkable

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