Sunday, March 29, 2009

peradventure


Response to the last sammelana has been spirited, thoughtful, and curious, curious because I made a point of leaving the Rajanaka view of revelation unfinished.  Cheeky, eh?  I hope the irony came through: the Rajanaka say the world as we are experiencing it, our own lives are nothing less than the revelation we seek and that revelation is the wave (urmi), the undulation (vilasa), the churning stick (manthana) of our experience of Consciousness, unfinished and unresolved, an adventure into peradventure.  ---I love that word "peradventure" 'cause it's so fantastically archaic and unfamiliar.  If by chance you're uncertain about the meaning, you're onto it.

To consider that our mortal embodiment is not only yoga's goal but also the very revelation we seek means we needn't quest for an extrinsic source, wait for the guru's grace or receive it from prophet or prophecy, the burning bush or last word that will provide the missing piece, the essential understanding.  We can venture into worlds of awareness and experimentation, inside and out, without having to reach transcendence or finality, a perfectly imperfect sojourn.  What we seek is right before us and as the famous Ganesha story suggests, there's no race that doesn't end where we might just as well have begun.

It's a simple story and while I'm always sorely tempted to go on and on about the characters, the symbolism, the yada yada, we'll return again, 'cause everything goes and comes around, as we know.  Goes like this: in a moment of sibling rivalry the two brothers Ganesha and Subrahmanian accept the challenge from their wily pops to race around the world...err...the universe, the proverbial block.  Subrahmanian has a speedy carbon fiber peacock, the calves of a Tour de France racer, and plenty of attitude.  Off he goes, back in a flash to find that ol'Ganapati has merely taken a few steps around mom and pop, Shakti and Shiva who are, of course, the whole shootin' match.  Ganapati circumambulates the entire universe by merely circling his parents.  Leaving aside as well the more interesting contrasts among these provocateurs of divine self-awareness, the point is that we are always seeking what seems out there when it's really right here, can't be lost.  It also can't be found.  It can only be engaged.

But the yogas unlike Rajanaka that teach an ultimate enlightenment surely make a compelling promise and one that seems clear enough even if it's not anything much like what we are now, in our limited ways, experiencing.  There's an extra, a more we are missing to life that is right here even if it takes going there ---to enlightenment via the revelation express---to realize it. We re-cognize and all's different after that.  Most will tell you that when you get it, the world's not going to be like it was before and that important things like suffering, calamity, injustice, and even evil will either be solved or made far, far more intelligible.  Enlightenment, we are promised, makes things different because the way things are sure could use an upgrade of the final, lasting sort.  In transcendental consciousness we will find what we are looking for, what revelation alone reveals and can alone provide, re-entrance into the mundane in some continuous state of that better state?  Your call.

We'll consider more about what Rajanaka has to say about the deeper states of meditation in a future sammelana (yeah, yeah, promises, promises).  For now let's return to the ordinary world and think about what sort of consciousness, awareness we are bringing to it.  In the traditions of final enlightenment we hear that this awareness changes the world since it's rightly pointed out that when we change our awareness, we change the world.  (We change the world even when we don't change our awareness.  ---ed. note)  Most enlighteners tell us that we will see the world as we truly see ourselves, in an unconditioned state freed from the transient and free to experience our innate joy.  We'll be the ecstatic that we are, the immortal we always have (also?) been, certainly extinguishing banality.  Hmm.  That's quite the promise, however you feel about it: it's a someday-this-won't-be-like-this-anymore.

Rajanaka takes ---you're not surprised, are you?--- a different stance.  That someday will be just like the world you're in, replete with its sufferings, calamities, injustices, and indeed still with lots we must call evil.  Change the name or our attitude or wishing for utopia won't make our sufferings go away or bring an end to human evil.  Where's it gonna go?  It's not as if we can't or don't make the world a far better place by the way we enlist our presence, intentions, visions, hopes, and actions; it's not that we don't make a difference by how we view it or what we do.  Rather, it is that viewing the world with its realities of sorrow is no more a problem that we must finally solve than it is reality to claim we solve all our sorrows ---most, well at least many, will come simply with being human.  Living in a world without sorrows isn't living enough for me.  Sorrow comes with human embodiment and I'm not all that eager to transcend the gift I was given.  But not to be glum, the Rajanaka aren't much for complaining or wallowing even though the hurt is real.  It's those two Bhagavadgita teachings I like so much: Pay attention.  Stop complaining.  Grief is for healing but perhaps too it is not to be transcended anymore than sorrow itself.

Certain yoga traditions, especially in Japanese Buddhism, have a keen sense of the poignancy and importance of the mortal, the unfinished, the imperfect perfection or wabi-sabi conveyed in things and in our appreciations.  There is in mono no aware a sense of how the world brings just what it does.  This expression is more evocative than perhaps any translation can easily convey since it means something like "oh...things."  Say it to yourself breathing in and out a few times.  See what happens.  Mono means "things" as in, well, anything-- a feeling object thought. Aware suggests a sense of both surprise and recognition, an oh-I-got-it but without having been startled or shaken to insight, without too much ah-ha.  What we are being invited to is the sweet, bitter, inspiring, deflated, poignant and ordinary nature of things, ourselves wholly included.  The whole of things that doesn't exclude ourselves, treating our spirit as if it were not part of that reality.  There's a beautiful even comparable expression in Latin, it comes in the Aeneid when Virgil has Aeneas remark, "sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt."  These are tears for things, our mortality touches the heart.

I think that is the Rajanaka's point: it is our mortality that touches the heart.  The feelings Aeneas speaks to remind us that human vulnerability isn't failure but authenticity and that nature's affirmation is made whether or not we are willing or ready to receive the offering.  In Rajanaka Tantra there are many ways we talk about cultivating a deeper appreciation for life but one important term is samaya.  This Sanskrit word often means an agreement or convention; a custom, a law, or compact.  In the Auspicious Wisdom traditions of goddess Tantra where Rajanaka originates, samaya usually names the more austere, less defiant approach to certain Tantric teachings that create controversy for the orthodox and contrast with the more provocative views of the Kaula.  But in Rajanaka, samaya means quite a bit more than these familiar references.

We can look to the Japanese mono no aware and to Virgil's sunt lacrimae to gain a better sense of samaya.  As Rajanaka Sundaramoorthy explained it, samaya in the simplest sense means coming to our mutual understandings ---with nature and culture, with finite expectations and infinite hopes, with death and love and all the possibilities accomplishment and disappointment, with each other, with ourselves, with things.  We make our covenants and treaties, we engage seriously and playfully, happy or otherwise, we stipulate, forbear, agree, tolerate, endure, lavish and arrange, and sometimes we settle even though we know there is no resolution.  We come to terms though these terms may change too, adding or subtracting in meaning, in time, and with circumstances and conditions.

To create a life of "speaking to the samaya" (samayavada) we will need to find better ways to live not because everything is somehow going to work out, much less be ultimately resolved, but because there are ways to live better with, entirely, in the midst of ---all ways of understanding samaya, our coming to terms.  Samayavada can mean keeping one's word, not merely in the sense of a promise or contract but also in the ways we keep words and feelings, thoughts and experiences: where we keep them, how we keep them, and in what ways keeping them makes us more.  In the deepening of our samaya we make a commitment to the greater possibilities of our human birth, to our intuition and intelligence, to the ways we can experiment and explore the revelation that is our experience of Consciousness.  Perhaps there is more peradventure than clarity or assurance in samaya but there is engagement that touches the heart and where there is engagement, there are the revelations of yoga.

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