Mind-bending thoughts on holarchy, hierarchy, time, space, and relativity
- forthcoming -
Not only can one be reborn, one may be twenty or forty or even seventy years old in the new body though only two years after death.”
“There was a reference to reincarnation. Reincarnation of Shanti Devi tallies with the human standards of time. The latest report of a boy of seven is different. He recalls his past births. Inquiries go to show that the previous body was given up ten months ago. The question arises how the matter stood for six years and two months previous to the death of the former body. Did the soul occupy two bodies at the same time? Sri Bhagavan pointed out that the seven years is according to the boy; ten months is according to the observer. The difference is due to these two different upadhis (limiting adjunct or attribute; everything that is superimposed on Brahman, the Reality). The boy’s experience, extending to seven years, has been calculated by the observer to cover only ten months of his own time. (Sri Bhagavan again referred to Lila’s story in Yoga Vashista).”
The story of Lila in the Yoga Vashista (from The Universality of Being, by Swami Krishnananda)
Chapter 9: The Story of Liberation
The relativity of space and time is the reason why it is possible for everyone to transcend space and time, and attain realisation of the Ultimate Reality. If space and time were a hard screen of steel or iron, impregnable and impossible to cross over, they would permanently obstruct our attempt to go beyond them. Inasmuch as the whole world, including our body, is a product of the space-time operation, there is only space-time and there is nothing else anywhere. It is a dance of the activity of the space-time complex that appears as this whole world and even as individuals like us. Some philosophers say that we are totally caught within the phenomena and there is no possibility of contacting the Ultimate Reality. If that is the case, we are doomed forever.
But it is also said that space and time are relative. You must understand the meaning of the word ‘relative'. In the sense of relativity, one thing hanging on the other is called relation. If one thing exists because of another thing, neither of them exists independently. As there is a borrowed existence on both sides, no side can exist entirely independently. Time is necessary for space; space is necessary for time. In order to understand this mystery of the relation between space and time, modern thinkers have abandoned the use of the word ‘and' between space and time; they call it space-time. There are no words to say anything beyond this peculiar combination. What can we call the combination of space-time? We always see space and time, but we never see space-time. It is a necessary logical deduction that is arrived at by the observation of action through the interaction of space and time.
As we are also the product of this relative interaction between space and time, the whole world-stuff being that, there is nothing permanently existing anywhere—neither our body, nor the world of nature, nor the sun, moon and stars. The whole thing is a mysterious performance, something like a magical performance, projected by an indescribable phenomenon we poorly call space-time. It is a poor description because we have no way of saying anything more than that.
But Self-realisation is a great possibility. If we are mere puppets, products of this indescribable phenomenon of the space-time complex, then there is nothing more to say. It is like living in a concentration camp without knowing where we are staying, why we have come, and what we are supposed to think. It is a complete blockage of even the process of thinking because of space-time intervening even in the process of thinking. Philosophers who are very acute in this matter conclude that even the mind cannot act without space and time. So who is going to think that which is above space and time?
This subject, which is so intriguing to any mind, has been discussed in detail in the ancient philosophical text called the Yoga Vasishtha. The intention of the writer of the Yoga Vasishtha is that scientific arguments will lead us nowhere. We have already seen the consequence of philosophical arguments which conclude that we can do nothing as we are slaves under the pressure of the operation of space and time. But this is not so. How is it not so?
There is a story beautifully narrated in the Yoga Vasishtha, which is a long Sanskrit poem comprised of thirty-two thousand verses. It contains many stories illustrating the nature of the relativity of all things and that nothing really exists by itself.
What is this story? There was, in ancient times, a king called Padma. He had a queen called Lila, and ruled a large kingdom extending thousands of miles. The queen was so attached to her husband that she did not want him ever to die. With grief in her mind as to how the death of her husband could be averted, she consulted the courtiers, ministers and learned pundits of the king's assembly.
“Is there any way to prevent the death of my husband?” the queen asked.
They all said, “There is nobody who can prevent the death of your husband. There is no remedy for that. Everybody who is born must die.”
Shocked to the core, weeping, striking her breast with grief, the queen went inside her room and burst forth in agony, deeply praying to the goddess of learning, Saraswati. Many days passed in the queen's great austere prayer to have a blessing from the goddess of knowledge.
The goddess appeared and asked Lila, “What do you want?”
“I do not want my husband to die. Please bless me,” Lila cried. “Bless me with this boon.”
The goddess did not answer the question. She simply said, “When he dies, cover his body with a cloth, and remember me.”
After many years, the king died in a room of the palace. The queen was at her wits' end. She again wept and cried, and called Saraswati, “Please come and bless me. I have lost everything.”
Again Saraswati, the great goddess, appeared. “What are you asking for?”
“I want to see my husband, wherever he is,” the queen replied.
“Oh, I see,” Saraswati said. “I shall take you to the place where your husband is living.”
Saraswati touched the queen's head, and they were transported to another order of space and time where her husband had reincarnated and was ruling another empire.
The queen looked around. “Where am I?”
Saraswati, who was beside her, said, “This is the empire of your own husband who has reincarnated into another space-time.”
“Where is my husband? He was an old man, seventy-two years old,” the queen said. “And this husband is seventy-two years old though he died only yesterday.”
“Don't ask questions. Just listen to whatever I say,” said Saraswati.
“No, it is not possible,” Lila cried. “What are you saying? A person who died yesterday has been reborn and is now seventy-two years old? Are you saying that he was born in this world seventy-two years ago, having died only yesterday? I cannot believe this. Don't confuse my mind. Oh, Goddess, bless me. What are you saying?”
Saraswati said, “I will confuse you further. Somewhere in another space-time there was a Brahmin couple who were very poor, living in a little room. Poverty was their only property, misery was their fate. One day they saw a large procession in which the king of the country was being carried on a palanquin. ‘Oh,' they said, ‘What a glory! If only we too could have that experience of being king and queen.' With this deep thought, they died.”
Continuing her story, the goddess Saraswati said, “Listen to me carefully. This Brahmin couple who died eight days ago were reborn as yourself and your husband in another space-time, where your king ruled for fifty years, and died.”
“What are you saying?” the queen said. “People who died eight days ago have been reborn in a kingdom where the husband ruled for fifty years? What is the connection between eight days and the fifty years of our lives?”
“Keep quiet and listen to me further. This old man is your own husband, born again in another space-time. He is seventy-two years old.”
Again Lila was shocked. “How is it possible?”
Saraswati continued. “Don't utter these words, ‘How is it possible?' Yesterday can become tomorrow; tomorrow can become the present. There is no systematic arrangement of the order of space and time existing permanently everywhere in the cosmos. This idea of past, present and future is connected with the way in which the consciousness perceives the operation of space-time outside; and in the operational process of any individual observer being conditioned by space-time there is an interaction of relativity between seeing and the nature of the object, so that you cannot know what is actually happening. But if this relationship of the observer and the observed phenomena of space and time changes during the process of evolution, then immediately today becomes tomorrow, and a person can come tomorrow and leave yesterday. In this circumstance of there being an infinite number of space-time relations on the basis of infinite types of connection between the seer and the seen, there are infinite universes, and infinite gods are ruling these infinite universes.”
“Where is my husband now?” asked Lila.
Saraswati replied, “Here he is, a seventy-two-year-old man.”
As they were speaking, the empire of this seventy-two-year-old man was invaded by inimical forces. Suddenly war broke out, and the old king rushed with this military force and entered the barrage of military operations. In the Yoga Vasishtha this war is described in very great detail. Every little thing that happened in the war is described. Sometimes the invader appeared to win; sometimes the king appeared to win. Finally, the old king died.
Lila cried, “You tell me this is my husband, and now he has died a second time. Oh, I am going crazy. I don't want to hear anything more.”
Saraswati said, “No, you cannot be crazy because of my grace. I am only enlightening you. Now, what do you want?”
“I want to see my husband,” the queen said.
When Lila said she wanted to see her husband, she did not mean that she wanted to see the old man. She wanted to see that form which was dead in a room in a different place.
It so happened that the old king who had just died in battle also had a queen, and by chance her name was also Lila. This is a mystery which the Yoga Vasishtha does not explain.
Then Saraswati, the goddess, said, “Here is your husband. He has a queen like you, and she resembles you. Her name is Lila.”
“Oh! I did not expect that my husband would have another queen. I am the queen,” Lila said.
Saraswati replied, “In the relative cosmos, you cannot say ‘mine'. There is no ‘mine', and neither you nor anybody else has any interconnection. This interconnection is a false operation of a dancing process of space and time, and you are confused because you are attached to a particular relationship of space and time.”
“Now, where am I finally?“ said the queen. “I want my husband.”
Immediately Saraswati's grace operated. She allowed the soul of the old king to enter the corpse which Lila had covered with a cloth. The king got up, as if from a long dream. He could not understand that he was ruling an empire in a different space-time, and that he had waged a war and had died there. Nothing was known to him. He simply shook himself and woke up.
Saraswati, for whatever reason, also brought the second Lila back to the very room where the king had died and re-entered his corpse, so now he had two queens.
Lila could not understand this. “I don't understand anything. Don't make me mad!”
“No, you will not be mad, by my grace. I am only trying to enlighten you,” Saraswati said.
Then King Padma ruled the kingdom once again, with two queens.
“I will tell you something more,” said the goddess.
“Don't tell me anything more,” Lila said. “It is enough for me!”
“No, I want to illumine you properly. The entire kingdom of thousands of miles that your husband was ruling was actually inside the room of that Brahmin couple who died.”
Lila said, “The room was so small, approximately ten feet by twelve feet in that kingdom, whereas my husband's kingdom was thousands of miles.”
“Space-time operations are mysterious. They can delude you into the belief of anything whatsoever, and you will not know what is really happening. The large kingdom of Padma was actually inside the room of the Brahmin couple, which was so small.”
Saraswati continued. “Now I shall go further. The large kingdom of the old king is inside this room where your husband died.”
“Sufficient,” Lila said. “I don't want to hear anything more!”
The goddess said, “I am telling you all this so that you can understand that nothing whatsoever is existing independently. Neither are you existing, nor your husband, nor the world. Nothing is there. You cannot say what is there. Anything can be anywhere at any time, and in any form. Yesterday, today, tomorrow—there is no meaning in these things. A great chaos of perception has been presented before you by space-time. Because of this mysterious, unexpected, shocking operation of space-time, you are unable to know that you are also involved in it. If you are involved in the world of space and time, you cannot make any reference to the world of space and time because that reference will apply to you also. No one can say, ‘I am here' or ‘that is there' because this ‘I' is vitally connected to the existence of ‘that', and ‘that' is vitally connected to the existence of ‘this'. What do you understand from this? Everything is interrelated in such a way that nothing can exist independently. Everything exists by the operation of all the things that are taking place in the universe, so that every individual, so-called, is a universal unit.”
I will tell you something very interesting. This philosophy is the subject of the doctrine propounded by the great American philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. I am not going to say anything about Alfred North Whitehead except that he is as intricate and as surprising as this story of Lila. Nothing is in one place. That idea of space is again due to the involvement of the operation of space-time, of which you are also made.
What is the conclusion? The conclusion is that nothing is going to obstruct you in your Self-realisation. There is nobody so daring that they can put a stop to your attempt, because there is no ‘you', and also there is no separate effort. The whole universe in its totality is aspiring for itself in its highest possibilities. Sadhana is done by the universe, not by you, me or anybody. Neither you nor I exist there. It is like everything being everywhere, as the story indicates. You do not know what is where. Who is dying? Who is being born? And how much land do you have? Where is your land? “Well,” you say, “I have so many acres of land.” This is what the king said, but it was all inside somebody else's room.
Your entire property is inside the room of somebody else, but you do not know this. You are unnecessarily, madly, clinging to this and that. Either you cling to individuals, or you cling to circumstances such as your property. Neither of them exist. Can it be? It is sufficient for you to illumine yourself and awaken from the dream of this world perception.
“Are you satisfied? I have shown you your husband,” Saraswati said.
“You have shown me my husband,” Lila reluctantly replied. She was very upset. She didn't want to say anything because everything might suddenly change and her husband may be anywhere else.
King Padma, who was rejuvenated by the entry of his departed soul, along with his two Lilas, ruled the kingdom once again. The Yoga Vasishtha says that due to the wisdom imparted to the queen by the goddess Saraswati, both the king and queen attained liberation instantaneously.
This is the story of liberation, which is stunning, shocking, and impossible to understand because the world phenomena are not supposed to be understood. Who is going to understand, when the person who is trying to understand is a product of the very thing that he is trying to understand? This is why every action is a total action. Nobody does anything anywhere, and anybody who thinks that he or she is doing something is a fool because somebody else is operating in a total fashion at the back of this so-called individuality.
“Everything has been done by Me,” Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita. “I have already done what you are trying to do now.”
Here again is the question of relativity. Even before the Mahabharata war took place, Lord Krishna said, “I have already destroyed these people.”
“How is it possible, when they are still here?” asked Arjuna.
“The war has yet to take place, but I have already destroyed them. The very root of these warriors' existence in another space-time was plucked out by the universal power, and they exist only as phantoms, pantomimes. Your attacking them in war is only an instrument of action. They do not exist, really speaking. I have already withdrawn their souls. The whole Mahabharata war is only a pantomime show. Actually, nothing is happening. I have done everything,” Lord Krishna replied.
This is the Ultimate Reality speaking to everyone involved in space and time. Here is the Bhagavadgita. Nobody reads the Bhagavadgita with this kind of insight. They go on chanting it again and again, but why has the Lord said that? He says that something that has not taken place as yet has already been done.
This is the foundation through which you have to operate your mind. After hearing this, you cannot get attached to anything. The very word ‘attached' will look like a foolish description because that to which you are attached exists only because of your relation to yourself, and the meaning that you see in the object to which you are attached is due to your existing in one particular form. Unless both are there, parallelly acting, one action cannot take place in respect of another. Neither can you love a thing nor hate a thing unless there is an action and reaction between both on a common level.
The perception of this or that in any manner whatsoever is an interaction taking place, and actually it is not your work. Therefore, you can possess nothing in this world. There is bereavement everywhere. You lose everything. Whoever has possessed anything will lose it one day or the other. Whoever was born will also die. The whole misery of life is due to the wrong belief that there are permanent things, solidly existing like a stone wall. There are no stone walls here. They are all like mist appearing as a pillar, which will melt into nothing by the rise of the sun of knowledge.
This is a great subject for meditation, and cannot be forgotten by anyone. If you miss the import of what I have told you, you have missed the entire meaning of life. You may be busy in your own way, but do not be so busy that you do not know the reason why you are busy. Highly penetrating understanding coupled with true dispassion must be behind it. You do japa any number of times, but nothing will come out of it because the foundation itself is wrong. You think you are doing japa or achieving something else, but neither are you doing anything nor are you achieving something else. It is a total action taking place by the operation of space and time, of which you have no knowledge because, as I mentioned, you are in a concentration camp and are completely controlled by forces which you cannot know because you yourself are subject to these operations. You are brainwashed totally, which is why you cannot understand anything, and if you do all this activity, all this work, service and meditation with a confused mind, it will bring a confused result.
That is why it is insisted that before you start anything, you must have a clear understanding, viveka. Viveka means clear understanding of the nature of things—the capacity to discriminate between what is really there and what is not there. If this is known, if this story has enlightened you, you will know that you cannot have any kind of inward longing for anything in this world. Vairagya automatically follows, as sunlight is automatically followed by the departure of the darkness of night. Detachment and desirelessness need not be exercised with effort; they automatically go when the structure of the whole universe is understood. Therefore, viveka and vairagya are considered to be primary qualifications. They are not two things, just as space and time are not two things. They are one only. This is rational conviction, which consists of the illumined perception of things through viveka and an automatic detachment from all conditions which cause attachment.
But there is also a need for emotional training. There are tumults, cyclones and gales, tempestuous movements taking place in the feelings of a person. They have to be subdued. Generally, the intellect and the emotion do not act together. Often the intellect defeats the purpose of the emotion, and the emotion defeats the purpose of the understanding. People live a torn life, and have a dual personality. On one side they are very intelligent, and on the other side they are very foolish. It should not be this way.
Your feelings, longings, and the operation of your emotions should be harmonised with what you have concluded by your reasoning and understanding. Then this combination of reason and feeling, like a chemical action of two substances, bursts forth into what is called intuition. Intuition is nothing but the blend of understanding and emotion. When they are two different operations, you can neither know what you are doing through emotion, nor can you know what you are thinking. On both sides you are making mistakes. When they are blended together into a coherent totality, there is a bursting of the intuition directly into the nature of things. This is the second qualification. The last qualification is intense longing for liberation. Who likes to be in bondage? If you have a longing for liberation, you have done your duty. That longing itself will take you to moksha.
Multiple Emanations/Simultaneous Incarnations
And here is the nugget that we promised. One must use his imagination a bit here. If anything it may give the imagination a bit more sense of the mystery what it is to awaken to the Soul, whether considered as individual or universal, and how it may function in one who has actualized his primordial nature. What we will discuss is not an ordinary occurrence even among siddhas, who generally allow the forces of Nature to provide vehicles for their incarnations. Yet it is spoken of often enough in numerous sources, as well as personal accounts by various teachers, although still it will seem impossible and unbelievable nevertheless. I do not propose to understand it. It has given me a headache even to intellectually give it some room. But consider just a little the words of Shakespeare, “there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” This topic is to be discussed, God willing, in more depth in part four of this series, entitled "A Tale of Two Siddhis - Beyond Patanjali."
So, imagine the liberated sage dwelling in a non-state of fully actualized, completed, nondualism. He intuits Reality constantly and dwells in sahaja samadhi, his ego completely overshadowed by his Overself, while when in contemplation he either ‘exists with God as a higher creature’, as PB wrote, not ‘in the heaven of a perpetuated ego but an ethereal world rapt in mystery’, or in deep absorption into the Void-Mind. This nondual completion would be considered a ‘fifth stage of initiation’ in various planetary schemas of such things, such as the Buddha’s (where that of the Arhat was the fourth: free from birth and earth, but not yet fully, nondually liberated). Yet there are said in some systems to be four more stages or 'initiations', the domain of usually-but-not-always non-incarnate masters, such as Shankara and Buddha, who are said to have moved past the earth-domain in their spiritual evolution. For those who believe there is just 'one soup' admittedly this may be hard to take [And this aspect will be discussed in more detail in the second article in this series, “Theosophy, PB, and Non-Duality: A Fresh Look”].
Certain evolved beings, then - Buddhas essentially - are said
to have the ability, power, or destiny (destiny inasmuch as they might be said to act only as the Nous, World-Mind, or Divine Infinite Intelligence bids them to - although paradoxically they have some say in it as well), to project multiple emanations of themselves at the same or at different times in the same life. This includes such soul-emanations becoming real people and not robots - we are not referring to just an episode of the more common yogic siddhi of bilocation
. Thus, there have been episodes in recent history in fact where a certain Tibetan master was conversing with a student, then looking off into space, and returning his gaze and saying, “I’ve just reincarnated in India.” This sort of thing is mentioned in Hinduism, the Bodhisattva tradition in Buddhism, and the Tulku traditions of Tibet. Padmasambhava and many great adepts who were said to be manifestations of the Buddha have done so. Namkhai Norbu and many others in his Dzogchen lineage have spoken of it. Yet it seems impossible, doesn’t it?! One Soul (or perhaps, lower aspect of Soul that oversees the incarnations, which PB refers to as the 'demi-divine' aspect of the Soul) can only have one emanation of itself passing into the manifested realms, can’t it? An emanation that works its way to enlightenment and the awakening of self-cognition of that Soul or Void-Mind, in whatever way this process is looked at? Well, apparently not. In human logic and intelligence it may be impossible, but not in transcendental logic and intelligence. The Infinite Intelligence of God and those in communication or attunement with that are privy to mysteries beyond our wildest imagination, and can as God wills do such things. The Cypriote mystic Daskalos said that even Beethoven was such an emanation of a great master, who had several more emanations in incarnation including one violinist he was in contact with. Such multiple emanations, it has been said, can even talk among one another, evolve, get enlightened, and help work off karma in each other!! And, while some inconceivable dimension of transcendental individuality is involved, this iappears to be beyond
the realization of non-separation and nondualism - and certainly far beyond ‘getting rid of psychological suffering’ - put forth by some teachers as the goal of spiritual practice today. What we are suggesting is, as PB lamented, that there may be relatively second-tier teachers contemporarily available whose awakenings may be real but lack the depth and completeness compared to some of the greats of the past - who yet still exist today, working behind the scenes and in higher spheres. This is just a taste of the glory and immensity of the path: beyond, beyond, beyond (gate, gate, param gate bodhi svaha
), the mere contemplation of which can reduce one’s ego to ash in the process, and of course is in a sense the necessary price of admission. Please bear with this drama. Awakening may be simple, but the Mystery and
Mysteries are endless.
Tulku Thondup, in his books, Incarnation
, and Masters of Meditation and Miracles
, the latter being a series of biographies of many tulkus in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, including Garab Dorge, Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava, Longchen Rabjam, Khyentse Wangpo, and many others, argues that great Buddhas that have 'dissolved' into the Dharmakaya, whether or not they take the 'Rainbow Body' or not [i.e., dying by reabsorbing all of their bodies into their subtle essence, not via 'ordinary' siddhi but Dzogchen-like through the fruition of nondual realization], never re-appear in the mundane world after their mahaparanirvana
, but can manifest infinite incarnations for the benefit of sentient beings. He says that, one step down, so to speak, highly accomplished adepts or Siddhas may manifest several such tulkus, but not infinitely like the Buddhas. Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), for instance, was the incarnation of many past adepts and manifested six famous Tulkus simultaneously, including the well-known contemporary master, Dilgo Khyentse (1910-1991). Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) had three primary concurrent incarnations: Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866), Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887), and Khyentse Wangpo. Lesser in the hierarchy, high lamas or Saints may simply take incarnation as a tulku, both with and without karma. Without karma would mean that such an adept was liberated and would incarnate, by 'will', in whatever form was called for by the needs of those he is to serve, and yet, his apparent personality might still suffer the need to grow and develop, even seek liberation again, while at the same time his higher self would remain unbound by karma, forever dwelling as the Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya, never leaving the nirvanic condition. This is hard to understand, and, in fact, one has to be a master to understand it! Alternately, one could say he willingly took on the karma and elements of his environment to form his bodies and particular role. And in this case the forces of Nature, rather than the adept's personal impress, hold the major responsibility for providing vehicles for the incarnation (i.e., the 'Archangels of the Elements', the 'Lords of Karma', etc.).
Some great adepts as suggested above are said to have even manifested 'future' tulkus before
their own deaths!
Ramakrishna once remarked that the ten Sikh gurus were all incarnations of Raja Janaka (the famous King who was enlightened by the sage Ashtavakra). Since these gurus directly succeeded each other, and therefore two or more were alive at the same time, this means - if true - that Janaka like the Tibetans had simultaneous emanations or 'tulkus' of himself! And what is even more amazing to contemplate is that most of these gurus independently went through a process of seeking before becoming guru: it was not just handed down to them. Guru Amardas, for instance, sought for seventy long years until he found his guru.
How is all this done? And, if in fact it is
done, what then is the nature of the Soul, or Self? Can it be explained by the teaching of advaita as we know it? And isn't it odd, that great Tibetan masters who teach the oneness and nonduality of the Great Perfection, the Dharmakaya, 'no-self', the Primordial Ground, also speak of 'individual enlightened beings', not only reincarnating, helping others, but also emanating multiple incarnations of themselves
? We can only offer the wholely inadequate and awkward explanation that somehow these great beings have 'enough presence' to go around. That somehow the individual Soul fully 'dissolved' in the Whole functions differently than it did 'before'.
What then is the Soul? How hard to fathom! Perhaps a brief note on the three bodies or kayas
of the Buddha may help. In short, the Dharmakaya is described as the ultimate 'body', or primordial state of clarity and emptiness; the Sambhogaya, or 'body of enjoyment', is the spontaneous manifestation, or self-appearing without any modification of its own nature, of the Dharmakaya, consisting of 'pure forms' beyond all duality of subject and object, yet visible to liberated beings; finally, the Nirmanakaya is the enlightened body of a Buddha that is apparent to ordinary beings. Of course we all are all three of these in potentiality. What is particularly interesting is how Tulku Thondup describes the Dharmakaya: besides being the "ultimate purity, clarity, emptiness, suchness", and so on, he also calls it the "all-pervading lord of samsara and nirvana, the continuum of being, and the very essence of the Buddha nature
, as well as an oceanlike assembly of primordial wisdoms
." Sounds more ecclesiastical than monistic. Maybe this phrasing holds a key to the issue of multiple incarnations and simultaneous manifestations? Can we understand it - probably not! But it puts a feeling in the heart.
It is realized that we bear the risk of being charged with making, not only conceptual distinctions throughout this paper (Soul, God, Self, etc.), but going completely over the edge in what has just been suggested. But if it be true, how can the philosophy of advaita, with a priori assumptions of ‘self’ and ‘consciousness’, possibly account for such mysteries? To just go around saying, we are "no-self", or "the soul is a separate self, just a form of ego", or "all there is is consciousness", the "screen" on which everything appears [everything, that is, that appears out of the same screen or mirror that reflects and mirrors its own manifestations in its own mirrorness - essentially the Dzogchen model - which kind of truly backs us into nonduality, while also making it harder to just say what anything "is", consciousness per se becoming another provisional concept], does not seem to do full justice to the richness of the historical traditions and what many have experienced in actual life and practice. To be sure, one ought not to have wild ambitions of becoming such an exotic adept; the possibilities offered here are only those of those who have already been humbled unto dust, and realized the emptiness of their personal selves and their utter dependency and inseparability from the Infinite Intelligence and Mystery
, in the deepest possible degree or way. What we are discussing is only available for the most part to someone who has already
attained what is commonly considered to be enlightenment - that is, perpetual insight onto the Real, or the uttermost depths of the Soul or Void-Mind. To have already forgotten dreams of glory and become nothing, and are at peace and content within that. These are then transcendental mysteries unavailable to anything less than the enlightened Soul. Therefore, they are not something to be concerned with, rather something to be in awe and wonder about, while honing ones theoretical knowledge until it more accurately approximates a form that has room for such conceptions of Reality.
The intuition has come to mind that the schema of Plotinus and PB may offer a feel for how this multiple emanation 'divine' siddhi ('divine' in as much as it seems to go far beyond the eight common yogic siddhis outlined by Patanjali) may in fact be possible. A brief review of the philosophy of Plotinus is necessary. For Plotinus, there are three Primal Hypostases - three eternal existents: the One, the Intellectual Principle or Nous, and Soul. All three of these can be considered as 'emptiness' from the side of manifestation. That is, they are transcendental to dualistic conception. The One is undefinable, like Nirguna, the source, cause, power, and ground of all. It is never diminished in any way by granting two atemporal successive emanations from itself. It can't even be called consciousness or awareness, as these are far too dualistic in nature to serve as their source and ground. Anthony Damiani states:
"Even if we view the three primal Hypostases - the One, the Intellectual Principle and Soul - as forming an integral whole (which is often referred to as the Absolute when considered from the side of manifestation), the distinctions cannot be dissolved in such a way that the Nous and Soul, so carefully defined
[by Plotinus], become illusory principles. In our understanding of the metaphysical Infinite, we retain the view of the One as the pure and only perfect reality, as well as the view of real and distinct emanations from it. We do not violate the One's sovereignty by granting to each of the other levels of reality their proper status; they do not become null and void in the face of the One which they eternally contemplate."
Of the Soul, which is defined as "formless and infinite consciousness
," he says:
"When Plotinus considers Soul as inseparable from the One and the Intellectual Principle, he does so in order to emphasize its transcendance and inconceivability - a mysterious Void. But looked at as a distinct essence, Soul is living intelligence, the outgoing activity of the Supreme, and our inner divinity."
The second of these three primals, the Intellectual Principle or Nous, is sometimes referred to as the Absolute Soul in the Intellectual Principle when speaking of its life aspect. Absolute Soul would be considered to be the 'principle of Soul or Overself, or Soul/Overself undivided. Yet Soul has two aspects: unindividuated and individuated, as it is a "One-and-Many." This Absolute Soul in the Intellectual Principle of Plotinus might be equated with the World-Mind of PB. Inseparable from the One, it emanates individual Overselves, each of which in turn sends an emanant, i.e., a contraction, 'part', or projection of itself into creation, that is, into the World-Idea, or divine ideation of the World-Mind which is concurrently manifested through the Soul to produce a sensible world (or Nature - which includes bodies) in stages, for the ultimate purpose of the Soul's coming to self-cognition. Damiani's vision of Plotinus' system is as follows:
"Soul incarnates or participates in the idea of the planetary mind by perceiving the world and experiencing through a body what the gods think. Thus Earth - footstool of the Gods - nurses our soul to heavenly maturity and humanity. What is becoming explicit in this exegesis is a theory of the endless evolution of the content of an individual soul's awareness. through reasoning on the content of the World-Idea which it is manifesting, the soul evolves its understanding until intellection becomes predominant, and this is brought to bear on its own self-nature. if the inquiry is pursued, this process will result in intrinsic self awareness."
The realized Soul has self-cognition, and also cognition of its source or origin. As PB says, as man looks up to his Overself, the Overself in turn looks up to a higher entity (the World-Mind or intellectual Principal or Nous), with which it is inseparably linked. Now, it seems reasonable that a fully liberated sage who has achieved identity with this higher aspect of his Soul or Overself, that is, its inherence in the Absolute Soul in the Intellectual Principle - which itself emanates individual Souls or Overselves - might himself be capable of doing the same. In essence, he has God-like capabilities to an extent. Hence, multiple emanations is a impossibility, even if unbelievable. Anthony in fact once said, to wit, "you're not going to believe this, but I'll tell you anyway, that each and every Soul is in a sense a World-Mind." And other school say there are depths to this thing, and variations in the capabilities of the realized being.
As with multiple incarnations, so it is for the notion of "pure lands" in Buddhism. A pure land is not just a higher subtle plane, free of negative emotional and physical obscurations, but is defined as a "Nirmanakaya manifestation of the spontaneous qualities of a liberated Buddha's realization," a region
(such as Padmasambhava's Copper Mountain, or Amitabha's Sukhavati) visible to those still limited to dualistic vision, but who, with faith and merit, may go there after death without any possibility of falling back into samsara, experiencing only joy and peace, and destined to reach Nirvana, or the absolute Pure Land of the Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya, from there. This then, if true, is another inconceivable "God" power of the fully liberated being.
Okay, back to Earth for our concluding remarks on these themes. The One, then, appears to be a dynamic One, not static or monistic, and even this conceptual formula comes up far too short...We venture out on a limb in suggesting, then, that just as there is an individual who is ignorant (from a relative point of view), so only 'individuals' can be enlightened. Ignorance and enlightenment both happen to individuals. And therefore the Soul, as described by PB as individual but impersonal, a 'divine reflection of Mind-Alone', is not ego or separate or an 'obstacle', but rather an intrinsic element of enlightenment itself, a necessary locus for any real actualization of the Absolute, in contrast to what many teachers, past or present, sometimes assert.
So when a great sage - such as Padmasambhava - is quoted as saying: "If the seeker, when sought, cannot be found, thereupon is attained the goal of seeking, the end of the quest itself; then there is no need to search for anything and there is nothing to be practised,"
we must not necessarily interpret that as implying the final stage of actualization
of the great truth, except for rare individuals, but rather the end, or the beginning of the end, of the dualistic search. If it were not so then why did Padmasambhava first undergo a great initiation by a dakini
uniting and integrating body, mind, spirit, and the absolute - the three kayas
or bodies of Buddhism: the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya, into one, the Vajrakaya, thus passing through archtypal or primordial stages of the mind, instead of just assuming understanding of the great paradoxes of Zen, Dzogchen, or Advaita beforehand? Real practice is required to avoid falling into the trap of mental gymnastics as an ‘ultimate’ sadhana.
Perhaps the greatest eternally unanswered question is whether the higher initiation is that of the 'drop merging with the Ocean', or, as Kabir says, the 'Ocean merging with the drop' ?! While still a metaphor, the edge goes to the Buddhists and Plotinus who would side with the ocean merging into the drop, or the universal life expressing itself through the individual. (6c) Yet, paradoxically, there are ‘many’ Bodhisattvas who have sacrificed themselves for countless lifetimes even over whole ‘world cycles’ (according to tradition) for the sake of the liberation of ‘others’. We have the primary example in Lord Sakyamuni, who denied himself a short-cut to liberation in the times of the Buddha Dipankara
in order to pass through the purifying fires of suffering for innumerable rebirths in order to develop himself as a bodhisattva. For only in the Nirmanakaya can the Dharmakaya be fully expressed. This, the complete purification, integration, and transfiguration of body and mind, is the work of many enlightened lives. At least, we are led to believe something like this is feasible.