Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gaudupada Re-Visited

(Musings based in part on the writings, such as the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, of Sri Gaudupada, (c. 8th century CE), a prominent early Teacher in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. He is traditionally said to have been the grand-guru of the great teacher Adi Shankara, one of the most important figures in Hinduism).

Nothing we can see, think, or know is actually real. From the angle of vision coincident with awake awareness, there’s neither birth nor death, neither appearance nor disappearance, neither creation nor destruction, neither bondage nor liberation. There’s none who works for freedom nor is there any who is liberated – this is the truth proclaimed by Sri Gaudupada, and elaborated by the sages of Advaita.

The wise know that there’s neither unity nor plurality – the world is neither one nor many. It's more like a virtual reality game, and we have taken our places here in these game bodies to test ourselves, to see what we are really made of deep down at the core. Whatever appears in life or vision is part of that test, to gauge what our reaction will be. We are not here to acquire some enlightenment that is not already true of us, and progress through various stages until we arrive at some exalted destination. We ourselves are the destination -- we go nowhere. There's never been a human being in need of honor, protection, and freedom. That's all props and stage sets for the game, the play of consciousness, the dream.

The external world has no existence independent of the consciousness which perceives it. Mere perception and practical utility cannot prove the reality of the world. For even in dreams there is perception and practical utility – water in a dream can quench the dream thirst as much as real water can quench real thirst. The waking state is on par with the dream state, and both are real within their own order -- that's important to recognize. But from the ultimate standpoint, both are unreal.

Reality is the pure Essence of Self – the ultimate subject, which is radiant consciousness. It is not the empirical self, because that which has empirical existence cannot be ultimately real. The real is pure consciousness, awareness itself, which is immanent in both the subject and the object and yet transcends them both. It transcends the trinity of the knower, known and knowledge. It has neither attachment nor connection nor relation to anything else. It is self-proved, self-existent, innate and uncaused. Even to say that it is the “unborn” is valid only from the empirical standpoint – for it is beyond the intellect.

The self-luminous Source, by the power of its own illusion (Maya), imagines itself by itself and it is this Self which cognizes the ephemeral diversity of the world, with all its drama and shifts and upgrades and downgrades, and so on to infinity. Just like a rope, which is mistaken for a snake, the Self is mistaken to be the individual subjects, the mental states and external objects that constitute our 3-D take on what's what. And just as when the rope is known, the imagined snake vanishes, likewise when the non-dual Self is realized, the duality of subject and object disappears.

The non-dual Self is realized when the individual self (soul) passes the tests it has established for itself in the 3-D program and is awakened from its amnesia. The Absolute is unborn, dreamless, sleepless, motionless. It's "where" all the categories of the intellect are merged, where all duality finally ceases. There’s neither going to nor coming from it. It is the "Lord" immanent in the universe, abiding in the hearts of all. It is realized by the sages who know the essence of reality, and are free from greed, envy, hatred, delusion, and attachment to any dreamy outcome arising from virtual causes and conditions.

The Absolute is like space, and souls are like space placed in containers of various sizes, shapes, and descriptions. When the bottle is broken open, the space in the container merges into the open space. Likewise, when ignorance is destroyed through direct recognition, the soul merges into Source. Spaces in bottles may differ in form, function and name, but still there’s no difference in space. Likewise though the souls may differ in form, function and name, yet still there’s no difference in Source. All elements, subjective as well as objective, are by their nature serene from the beginning, unborn and merged in the Absolute. They are so because they are nothing else than Source itself, which is unborn, uncaused -- only. In truth, there is only "This". All else is ignorance, delusion -- virtuality.

So what constitutes the "prison", this container, which is the apparent cause of our seeming bondage? The container is nothing but ignorance, including the belief that we are the body-mind organism. The test is to see through that delusion. Duality is the product of the intellect and when the intellect is transcended, duality disappears. What’s left is pure awareness, devoid of all thought determinations and imagination. It is the serene eternal Light behind the mind. It is incomprehensible bliss, which transcends happiness and misery. It is indescribable, unborn, changeless and non-dual.

If I was to cut to the bottom line, I'd say . . .

"It's You!"

"We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all."

~Kalu Rinpoche