Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Immanence v. Transcendence: a false dichotomy

[This is the first part of a three part series. Here is Part Two, and Part Three.]

Of the Isha Upanishad, Gandhi-ji said that if
all the other scriptures ... were reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse of the Isha Upanishad were left in the memory of Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.
Fortunately we have not only the first verse, but the whole of this marvelous teaching. Other translations might be more technically accurate, but in my opinion Eknath Easwaran's is the most beautiful:
The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all.
The Lord is the supreme Reality.

Rejoice in him through renunciation.
Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.

Thus working may you live a hundred years.

Thus alone will you work in real freedom.

Those who deny the Self are born again

Blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness,

Utterly devoid of love for the Lord.

The Self is one. Ever still, the Self is
Swifter than thought, swifter than the senses.

Though motionless, he outruns all pursuit.
Without the Self, never could life exist.

The Self seems to move, but is ever still.

He seems far away, but is ever near.

He is within all, and he transcends all.

Those who see all creatures in themselves

And themselves in all creatures know no fear.

Those who see all creatures in themselves

And themselves in all creatures know no grief.

How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?

The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self,

Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise,

Immanent and transcendent.
He it is
who holds the cosmos together.

In dark night live those for whom
The world without alone is real; in night

Darker still, for whom the world within
Alone is real. The first leads to a life

Of action, the second to a life of meditation.

But those who combine action with meditation

Cross the sea of death through action

And enter into immortality

Through the practice of meditation.

So have we heard from the wise.

In dark night live those for whom the
Is trancendent only; in night darker still,
For whom he is immanent only.

But those for whom he is transcendent
And immanent cross the sea of death

With the immanent and enter into

Immortality with the transcendent.
So have we heard from the wise.

The face of truth is hidden by your orb
Of gold, O sun. May you remove your orb

So that I, who adore the true, may see

The glory of truth. O nourishing sun,
Solitary traveler, controller,

Source of life for all creatures, spread your light

And subdue your dazzling splendor

So that I may see your blessed Self.

Even that very self am I!

May my life merge in the Immortal

When my body is reduced to ashes.
O mind, meditate on the eternal Brahman.

Remember the deeds of the past.

Remember, O mind, remember.

O God of Fire, lead us by the good path
To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.

Deliver us from evil, we who bow

And pray again and again.

OM shanti shanti shanti

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