May 30 2012

Grad School (part 10)

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Hinduism, seems to be a sort of microcosm of the concept of religion in and of itself. Huston Smith, in his book World Religions (which I’m reading from for this class) compresses Hinduism down to a single affirmation: You Can Have What You Want.

The question then, is “What do you want?”

There are some material things, and some not so material things that answer this question. Ultimately though, we seek infinite being, knowledge, and joy. (There’s more that leads up to this, but as I said, I don’t want to re-do all my notes again).

Eventually, to achieve this goal, there are four main ways of doing this. Hinduism doesn’t have a problem with there being four paths to the goal, as it recognizes that there are various personality types for which each will work more effectively. These four paths, are known as yoga’s, not to necessarily be confused with the physical Hatha Yoga. These are “spiritual” yogas (yoga is defined as “a method of training designed to lead to integration or union”). The four spiritual yogas are basically geared towards the reflective personality, the emotional personality, the active personality, and the experimentally inclined personality. I’ve only gotten as far as the first three, before I had to call it quits this evening. The coffee shop was closing, my brain was full, and so was my bladder after two very large iced latte’s.

So far, however, I’ve identified mostly with the jnana yoga, which is defined as “The Way To God Through Knowledge”

(and its good that I’ve identified with one, since I have to write about this as part of my final for the class)

So, here, I will type a bit up from my notes. If anyone is really interested, I’ll post the other three and some other stuff from my notes tomorrow, after I finish the chapter.

Jnana Yoga is designed for those with a reflective bent.

The knowledge involved isn’t “factual” or “encyclopedic” knowledge, but is more akin to the ideas of gnosis or sophia. It is an intuitive discernment that transforms, turning the knower eventually into that which they know.

The key to all of this, is discrimination, the ability to distinguish between the surface self, that crowds the foreground of attention and the larger Self.

There are three stages to the process:

  1. Learning: listening to sages, scriptures, treatises, the aspirant is introduced to the prospect that essential being is being itself.
  2. Thinking: prolonged intensive reflection, the hypothesis introduced in step one must assume life. Atman (the God within) must change from concept to realization. The disciple may be advised to ponder the implications of language. For example, “my” implies distinction between possessor and possessed. How does this apply to “my body”, “my mind”, “my personality”? What is the “I” that possesses my body, and mind but is not their equivalent?
    • There is nothing in my body that was there seven years ago. Not a single molecule.
    • Mind and personality have undergone comparable changes in this time
    • So, what is the consistent theme to “me”? What is the unifying enduring factor?
    An Aside:“Personality” comes from the latin “persona”, which originally referred to the mask an actor donned as he appeared on the stage to play his role, the mask through (per) which he sounded (sonare) his part. Masks registered the role, the actor remained hidden and anonymous.
    This description fits Hinduism perfectly.

    Our personalities = roles. “The ones into which we have been cast for the moment in this greatest of all tragic-comedies, the drama of life itself in which we are simultaneously co-authors and actors…we should play our roles to the hilt.” BUT “where we go wrong is in mistaking our presently assigned part for what we truly are. We fall under the spell of our lines, unable to remember previous roles we have played, and blind to the prospect of future ones.”

    [which all sounds a lot like Seth and the new physics to me]

    The goal of the yogi, then, is to cut through the layers of personality, to find the inner actor / actress.

    With continued reflection, one will eventually induce a sense of the infinite self that underlies the transient finite self. As the two separate, we can move on to Step 3.

  3. Shifting self identification to the abiding part. The direct way to do this is to identify with the atman, not just in meditation, but in daily life. One trick to this, is to think of the ego / persona in the third person. F’rinstance, “Kevin is typing this livejournal entry from his notes.” Another way, is to view events as a witness, with as much detachment as your hair blowing in the wind. Thinking in the third person drives a wedge between self identification and surface self, and forces this self identification deeper until through a knowledge identical with being, one becomes what one has always been.

Jnana Yoga is described as the “shortest but steepest” path to divine realization, and requires a mix of rationality and spirituality.

Which, honestly, to a borderline INTP / INFP Enneagram Type 5 with a 4 wing such as myself, sounds perfect. :)

Without going into the next path, Bhakti Yoga, which is a devotional form (think Christianity, and you have a pretty decent idea), doesn’t believe in an inner identification with God. God is other, where Jnana Yoga sees the divine as ultimate self, transpersonal and impersonal. I was amused by this little aphorism:

“I want to taste sugar; I don’t want to be sugar.”

Whereas, I do tend to be a “There is no God, but Man” kinda guy.

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