Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wonderful World, or, the Pagan Value of Basic Goodness

Basic Goodness refers to the belief that our fundamental nature as human beings, and also the fundamental nature of the cosmos itself, is, well, basically good.

In her Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age Vivianne Crowley wrote:
Wicca honors the Gods, but like our Pagan ancestors, Witches believe that our religion should be a celebration of the life force. Wicca also teaches that we should not fear death; for Wicca teaches reincarnation. We will live not just once, but many times. Life is considered to be a journey of many stages, not just one. Death is not the end, but a new beginning.

Like other religions, Wicca accepts that there is a non-material as well as a material reality, but it does not believe the non-material is superior to the material. Matter is not regarded with horror and the emphasis is on the joy of the flesh rather than the ascetics' view of flesh as sin. This is not to say that Wicca is hedonistic, but rather that we are followers of a middle way. Our time in physical incarnation is a gift from the Gods. However, we must also seek spiritual growth that expands our consciousness and allows us to live on levels beyond the physical.

Wicca is a religion that looks to the good in human beings rather that to the evil and seeks to bring out that good rather than dwelling on people's faults. It does not seek unrealistic sainthood, but rather makes the best of what is there. It does not divide people into the chosen and the damned but sees people as being in different stages of struggling towards the same end - that of unity with the Divine.

[p. 5, emphasis added]
The idea of basic goodness is found in many, but not all, religious traditions. Almost 2400 years ago, Plato, a deeply religious Pagan philosopher, wrote in his Timaeus that the entire cosmos is beautiful (kalon), good (agathon), blessed (eudaimona) and divine (theon). He also wrote that the cosmos is an interconnected whole that is alive, deathless, ageless, and that, as a whole, it possesses not just consciousness, but an intelligence vastly superior to ours. Plato further wrote that the physical universe is ensouled "throughout", so that just as the entire cosmos is alive, so is even the tiniest bit of matter. The "body" (material part) and "soul" (non-material part) of the cosmos are described in the Timaeus from 27c through 37c, using Stephanus numbering. Here is a handy online version of the Timaeus with both the original Greek and English translation.

In most schools of Mahayana Buddhism it is taught that all beings possess Buddha-nature, that is, the potential for perfect and complete enlightenment. But this has not always been the case, for the idea of universal Buddha-nature was rejected during the early days of Buddhism in China, over 1500 years ago. At that time, one monk, named Tao-Sheng (ca. 360-434 AD), insisted that absolutely all beings everywhere throughout all space and time possess inherent Buddha-nature and are capable of achieving enlightenment. But the orthodox view of Chinese Buddhism was that there is a class of beings, called icchantikas, who are completely devoid of Buddha-nature, and, therefore, these beings are doomed to eternal ignorance and suffering. Most Chinese Buddhists were quickly won over to Tao-Sheng's point of view, although before that happened he was briefly forced to leave the monastic community because of his "heretical" ideas (he was never arrested, thrown in prison, tortured, or burned at the stake, though - just shown the door and sent on his way).

According to Tao-Sheng the only real problem faced by humans is ignorance of our basic goodness, our Buddha-nature. There is nothing that we lack, but we are nevertheless like someone who has hidden a great treasure, but who not only doesn't remember where it is hidden but has forgotten ever possessing the treasure in the first place! In his Short History of Chinese Philosophy, Fung Yu-lan describes Tao-Sheng's view of Buddha-nature like this:
[E]very sentient being has the Buddha-nature; only he does not realize that he has it. This ignorance (Avidya) is what binds him to the Wheel of Birth and Death. The necessity, therefore, is for him first to realize that he has the Buddha-nature originally within him, and then, by learning and practice, to "see" his own Buddha-nature.
[p. 251, emphasis added]
Chogyam Trungpa, a modern teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, made "basic goodness" central to his efforts to teach the Buddha Dharma to westerners. Trungpa explicitly contrasted the approach of basic goodness to that of "original sin":
Buddhist psychology is based on the notion that human beings are fundamentally good. Their most basic qualities are positive ones: openness, intelligence and warmth. Of course this viewpoint has its philosophical and psychological expressions in concepts such as bodhichitta (awakened mind), and tathagatagarbha (birthplace of the enlightened ones). But this idea is ultimately rooted in experience—the experience of goodness and worthiness in oneself and others. This understanding is very fundamental and is the basic inspiration for Buddhist practice and Buddhist psychology.

Coming from a tradition that stresses human goodness, it was something of a shock for me to encounter the Western tradition of original sin. It seems that this notion of original sin does not just pervade western religious ideas. It actually seems to run throughout Western thought as well, especially psychological thought. Among patients, theoreticians and therapists alike there seems to be great concern with the idea of some original mistake, which causes later suffering—a kind of punishment for that mistake. One finds that a sense of guilt or being wounded is quite pervasive. Whether or not such people actually believe in the idea of original sin, or in God for that matter, they seem to feel that they have done something wrong in the past and are now being punished for it.

The problem with this notion of original sin or mistake is that it acts very much as a hinderance to people. At some point it is of course necessary to realize one’s shortcomings. But if one goes too far with that, it kills any inspiration and can destroy one’s vision as well. So in that way, it really is not helpful, and in fact it seems unnecessary.

According to the Buddhist perspective there are problems, but they are temporary and superficial defilements that cover over one’s basic goodness (tathagatagarbha). This viewpoint is a positive and optimistic one. But, again, we should emphasize that this viewpoint is not purely conceptual. It is rooted in the experience of meditation and in the healthiness it encourages. There are temporary, habitual neurotic patterns that develop based on past experience, but these can be seen through. It is just this that is studied in the abhidharma, the Buddhist teachings on psychology: how one thing succeeds another, how volitional action originates and perpetuates itself, how things snowball. And, most importantly, abhidharma studies how through meditation practice this process can be cut through.

The attitude that results from the Buddhist orientation and practice is quite different from the “mistake mentality.” One actually experiences mind as fundamentally pure, that is, healthy and positive, and “problems” as temporary and superficial defilements. Such a viewpoint does not quite mean “getting rid” of problems, but rather shifting one’s focus. Problems are seen in a much broader context of health: one begins to let go of clinging to one’s neuroses and to step beyond obsession and identification with them. The emphasis is no longer on the problems themselves but rather on the ground of experience through realizing the nature of mind itself.

When problems are seen in this way, then there is less panic and everything seems more workable. When problems arise, instead of being seen as purely threats, they become learning situations, opportunities to find out more about one’s own mind, and to continue on one’s journey.

Through practice, which is confirmed by study, the inherent healthiness of your mind and others’ minds is experienced over and over. You see that your problems are not all that deeply rooted. You see that you can make literal progress. You find yourself becoming more mindful and more aware, developing a greater sense of healthiness and clarity as you go on, and this is tremendously encouraging.

[Shambhala Sun, November 2002, emphasis added]
One also finds the concept of basic goodness in Confucianism. Fung Yu-lan (see above reference concerning the Buddhist Tao-Sheng) writes that the 4th century BC Confucianist philosopher Mencius (ca. 372-289 BC) "developed the theory for which he is most famed: the original goodness of human nature." [p. 69]
All men have a mind which cannot bear [to see the suffering of] others.... If now men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress.... From this case we may perceive that he who lacks the feeling of commiseration is not a man. The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of human-heartedness. The feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and yielding is the beginning of propriety. The sense of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. Man has these four beginnings, just as he has four limbs.... Since all men have these four beginnings in themselves, let them know how to give them full development and completion. The result will be like fire that begins to burn, or a spring which has begun to find vent. Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to protect all within the four seas. If they are denied that development, they will not suffice even to serve one's parents.
[Mencius, IIa, 6, as translated in Fung Yu-lan, p. 70]
A modern Hindu teacher, Sri Karunamayi, teaches that our most fundamental nature, Atman, is pure and perfect (and in doing so she is simply expanding on the ancient pronouncement of the Chandogya Upanishad: tat tvam asi (You are that):
Sweet children, you yourself are eternity; you yourself are infinity and you yourself are immortality. Experience this especially during the Navaratri festival time. Meditate. Contemplate more and more on your supreme Self. All forms are nothing but your supreme forms only. You are Atman. You are so sweet. All sweetness is nothing but comes from Atman only. Be always in eternal peace. Be always in that Consciousness. Be always in the Oneness experience only. Experience your Atman. Experience every living being as only nothing but your Self only. Atman is beauty, Atman is perfection. Atman is knowledge, wisdom, Consciousness.
[Navaratri message, 2008, emphasis added]
Sri Karunamayi's words of encouragement to her English speaking devotees early in 21st century are very similar to what Swami Vivekananda had to say to an audience in the American Midwest late in the 19th century:
Where is the spirituality one would expect in a country which is so boastful of its civilisation? I have not found it [that is, in America]. "Here" and "hereafter" are words to frighten children. It is all "here". To live and move in God even here, even in this body, all self should go out, all superstition should be banished. Such persons live in India. Where are such in this country? Your preachers speak against dreamers. The people of this country would be better off if there were more dreamers. There is a good deal of difference between dreaming and the brag of the nineteenth century. The whole world is full of God and not of sin. Let us help one another, let us love one another.
[Swami Vivekananda, Christianity in India, lectured delivered in Detroit Michigan, March 11, 1894, emphasis added]
According to Julia Annas in her Morality of Happiness, ancient Stoic philosophers made the ultimate nature of the universe, which she calls "cosmic nature", central to their entire philosophy, including especially ethics. The result is strikingly similar to Tao-Sheng's Buddhism:
Since cosmic nature comes up in many contexts, they [the Stoics] regarded it as a unifying feature of their philosophy, a point brought out by identifying cosmic nature with many other things, notably reason, fate, providence, and Zeus.... For it is a firm part of Stoic ethics that our final end is living in accordance with nature, and some texts make it appear as though we do this by first finding out about cosmic nature and its requirements, and then conforming ourselves to those requirements. The view this suggests is clearly foundational, since to be virtuous we first have to discover nature, then follow it. Moreover, what seems to be foundational is not human nature, but cosmic nature, of which human nature is a mere part.
[p. 159, emphasis added]
We need not, in fact we must not, take Crowley's, or Plato's, or Tao-Sheng's, or Trungpa's, or Mencius', or Karunamayi's, or Vivekananda's , or the Stoics' word for it. We each possess our very own personal laboratory in which to investigate the questions (1) what is the fundamental essence of human nature? and (2) what is the fundamental nature of the cosmos? For me this laboratory is me, for you this laboratory is you. What we believe about human nature is first and foremost a reflection of what we believe about ourselves. What we believe about the cosmos as a whole is first and foremost a reflection of what we believe about ourselves.

I'll end this with my all-time favorite expression of Basic Goodness, which is not from Greek or Chinese philosophy, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Wicca. It is Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World:
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The mysterious case of the totally bogus Epicurus quote

If you do a google search on the following words (without quotes):
"Is he willing to prevent evil, but unable?"
you will get over 2 million hits. Most of those hits ascribe these words to Epicurus, who is supposed to have posed the above question concerning "God". The only problem is that Epicurus never wrote any such thing, and, in fact, directly contradicted the sentiment expressed in that question.

The quote actually comes from David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. More specifically it is found on page 134 of the 1907 edition of Hume's Dialogues (look here and search for the word "malevolent").

Hume has Philo, one of the fictional speakers of his Dialogues, say the following:
Epicurus' old questions are yet unanswered.

Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

Why does Hume attribute something to Epicurus that the philosopher never thought, said or wrote? The problem is traceable to the "Church Father" Lactantius who wrote the following:
You see, therefore, that we have greater need of wisdom on account of evils; and unless these things had been proposed to us, we should not be a rational animal. But if this account is true, which the Stoics were in no manner able to see, that argument also of Epicurus is done away. God, he says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? Or why does He not remove them?
[De Ira Dei, Chapter 13]
It is easy to produce quotes from Epicurus and also from other reliable sources, to show that Epicurus and Epicureans rejected precisely what Lactantius attributes to them.

In his letter to Monoeceus, Epicurus states very clearly that
[T]he greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the Gods....
And Epicurus further states that the Gods visit evil on the wicked and blessings on the good because the Gods "take pleasure in men like themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind."

In fact the Epicurean explanation of the origins of evil bears no resemblance to the idiotic "paradoxes" dreamt up by Lactantius. To an Epicurean, death, first of all, "is nothing to us." Physical pain, second of all, is, when intense, of proportionately short duration, and, therefore, bearable; or if of longer duration of proportionately less instensity, and, therefore, also bearable. Cicero has Torquatas, his Epicurean spokesperson in De Finibus (the link is to the Annas/Woolf translation, which is reviewed here) state this basic principle succinctly:
"[O]ne must have a strength of mind which fears neither death nor pain, for in death there is no sensation, and pain is either long-lasting but slight, or intense but brief. Thus intense pain is moderated by its short duration, and chronic pain by its lesser force.
Torquatas also tells us that
The root cause of all life's troubles is ignorance of what is good and bad.
And, moreover, that
There is never any reason to do wrong. Desires which arise from nature are easily satisfied without resort to wrondoing, while the other, empty [ie, not "natural"] desires are not to be indulged in since they aim at nothing which is truly desirable. The loss inherent in any act of wrongdoing is greater than any profit which wrongdoing brings.
Therefore, genuine evil is of our own doing, and has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the Gods. Even when the Gods punish the wicked, this is not evil, but is Just, and for the common good of humanity.

The Epicurean perspective is that what most people imagine to be evil is not really so, while that which is genuinely evil only happens to us because of our own ignorance. And this ignorance itself is completely curable. One may, obviously, disagree with the Epicurean position on the causes and cures of "life's troubles." But Lactantius, David Hume, and modern-day know-nothing atheists do not have the slightest idea of what the Pagan philosophy of Epicureanism actually teaches. They dishonestly create a fabricated Epicureanism, complete with fabricated "quotes" from Epicurus, for their own delusional purposes.

Many thanks to Darlene, whose very interesting comment on one of the previous posts on Pagan Theology was the inspiration for me to dig deeper into this "quote" from Epicurus.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buddhism Beyond Without and Within

That the self advances to the ten thousand things and confirms them is called delusion.

That the ten thousand beings advance and confirm the self is called awakening, or realisation.

[Dogen, Genjokoan]
There's no one here. There's only you and me.
[Leonard Cohen, The Captain]
The subjective ideas "inside", "outside", "near" and "far" all assume a localized, fixed self. Such a "self" is contained within some kind of fixed boundary, and we call that boundary "the body". The body begins and ends in space and in time. In space, the body begins and ends at the boundary of our skin. In time the body begins and ends at the boundary of birth and death.

The Buddha taught that we should not identify with our bodies. This is often overlooked by those who are in a hurry to reconcile Buddhism with a modern secular humanist point of view. An unquestioned identification with the physical body is the central belief of what passes today under the name of secular humanism (which is neither "secular" nor "humanist" in any meaningful sense of those terms).

The Buddhist teaching of anatman, usually translated into English as "no-self", could, in my opinion, just as well be referred to as the teaching of "no-other". We imagine ourselves as entities held within containers - in crude terms, as souls contained within bodies. Buddhism does not teach that the contents of the container aren't "real" - or even that the container itself isn't real. Rather Buddhism teaches that the nice neat picture of the world according to which I am on the inside of this container, and everything else is on the outside, is misleading if we mistakenly think it is the whole story (it is part of the story).

Some Buddhists call what I am talking about "other-emptiness" as opposed to "self-emptiness". I guess that's not a bad way of looking at it, but it does kind of divert attention from the real problem: the small self hears the teaching of anatman and says, "you talkin' to me?"

I prefer to just always try to remember that if there is no self, then there is no other.

Iran: A "Saga" not a "One Act Play"

I was relieved to learn that armchair ultraleftist James Petras and the geniuses at the Workers World Party are both giving aid and comfort to the totalitarian theocracy that currently governs Iran. It would worry me if I found myself in agreement with either of them. Just like it used to make me nervous when I read something by Jean Kirkpatrick on Tibet that I couldn't help but agree with, despite the source. In fact, if I had to choose, I prefer her company to theirs.

This news came my way by way of Louis Proyect, who calls himself simply and accurately an "Unrepetant Marxist". Click on that link to read his long and detailed analysis of some of the more idiotic stances taken by what he refers to as "Manichean" Marxists who believe that we should line up behind Iran's Supreme Leader and the assassins and thugs that he commands.

I don't check in on Proyect as often as I probably should. I've never been that interested in Marxist scholarship qua scholarship. I mention this as a segue to giving credit, once again, to Al Giordano for steering me in the direction of information that I wouldn't have found otherwise. His most recent post on Brainstorming Iran: An X-Ray of Immediate History is his own summary of a discussion he had last night (monday, june 22) with seven other individuals that he describes as:

1. a prominent Iranian human rights defender
2. an award-winning filmmaker who has spent months at a time on end reporting inside the regions of Iran
3. a veteran strategist from the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa that successfully ended apartheid
4. a Polish student of social movements
5. a Mexican journalist and civil resistance trainer
6 & 7. two individuals much like me: authors with intensive experience and study of civil resistance movements and community organizing.

Here's just one snippet, from which I stole the idea for the title of this post:
What we can see in Iran today are two simultaneous struggles, one from below (people with legitimate grievances against their government), and one up above (a power struggle between factions).

Although many had hoped that the post-electoral struggle in Iran would be a one act play, this one seems more likely to be headed into a saga that is four or five acts long. Like many previous social movements throughout history, this has turned from a hundred yard dash into a marathon.

The dynamics of this struggle are also very different than those that have occurred in other countries. The Iranian system is kind of “a state within a state.” There is an elected part of the government – the president and parliament – but they are answerable and subject to a Supreme Leader and the various bodies of Islamic clergy that choose him and that, on paper at least, serve as a check and balance to his powers.

That dual state apparatus, although designed to maintain those in power, has caused the regime of Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad – very much joined at the hip - the problem of having to defend itself on two fronts at once. If it loses control of only one of those institutions, it loses everything.
Giordano also (now, since I first started writing this post) has a new update on the call by Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami for a mass protest tomorrow. Giordano's assessment is that Khatami's call to action is "quite brilliant on a tactical level. It is a method of contributing to a General Strike without calling it one." Follow the link to read Khatami's own words (translated into English).

Note: I actually found Louis Proyect's article linked to in the comments below Giordano's article.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Whither Iran?

The Struggle Continues...
According to this optimistic, but hopefully realistic, article by Al Giordano "yesterday's wave of violent repression by the state can already be chalked up as an Epic Fail". Giordano is basing this on first-hand reports that demonstrations have taken place on Sunday that were even larger than any of the gatherings that were possible on Saturday.

If this is true then the opposition is managing to not only stay in the game, but is not allowing the government to set all the rules. Also according to Giordano, "the various tendencies in the resistance - electoral, student, religious and labor" are managing to increasingly coordinate their actions, despite repression in the streets and the great difficulty of communication under such circumstances.

Unions, student groups and also religious leaders are planning strikes and other acts of defiance and protest throughout the coming week.

Giordano also provides links to the Vigilante Journalist website, the Students Supporting the Legal Rights Movement (a facebook page in Farsi), and a youtube video of a demonstration that occured today (Sunday).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Immanence v. Transcendence, Part Trois

He That Has Gone Abroad ... The Seer, The Thinker
My first post on Immanence v. Transcendence almost entirely consisted of Eknath Easwaran's beautiful translation of the Isha Upanishad. The second post was a little essay on Hermes and Hermeticism. Now I will return to the Ishopanishad, with special attention to Sri Aurobindo's commentary thereon.

Aurobindo was a man who truly walked between worlds. He received a classical, western education in England from the ages of 7-21, and then returned to India to fight against the British colonists. Arrested for his revolutionary activities, Aurobindo experienced a spiritual awakening while in prison. He never altered his commitment to the liberation of Bharat, but he now pursued that goal by other means. The British, in their imperial paranoia, remained convinced that even his religious teachings were coded messages to bomb-planters and insurrectionists, which, in a sense, they were.

Aurobindo wrote that the Isha Upanishad was "one of the more ancient of the Vedantic writings in style, substance and versification.... The principle it follows throughout is the uncompromising reconciliation of uncompromising extremes." [p. 83] These extremes are enjoyment versus renunciation, spirit versus matter, immanence versus transcendence, ignorance versus knowledge, life versus death, etc. (Please note that all page numbers given in this post refer to the pdf version of Aurobindo's Isha Upanishad, freely available for download at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram website here.)

According to Aurobindo, this principle of reconciliation was, unfortunately, at times forgotten and left behind in some strands of Hindu thought, which chose renunciation over enjoyment, spirit over matter, etc, culminating "in Illusionism and the idea of existence in the world as a snare and a meaningless burden imposed inexplicably on the soul by itself, which must be cast aside as soon as possible." [p. 84]

The Isha Upanishad, on the other other hand, applies the principle of reconciliation and "tries, instead to get hold of the extreme ends of the knots, disengage and place them alongside each other.... It will not qualify or subordinate unduly any of the extremes, although it recognizes a dependence of one on the other. Renunciation is to go to the extreme, but also enjoyment is to be equally integral...." [pp. 84] This way of looking at things is highly reminiscent of the extremes of ascetic renunciation and passionate erotic love found in Kalidasa's Kumarasambhava.

Aurobindo's analysis is detailed. In his Conclusion he lists nine pairs of opposites:
1. The Conscious Lord and phenomenal Nature.
2. Renunciation and Enjoyment.
3. Action in Nature and Freedom in the Soul.
4. The One stable Brahman and the multiple Movement.
5. Being and Becoming.
6. The Active Lord and the indifferent Akshara Brahman.
7. Vidya and Avidya.
8. Birth and Non-Birth.
9. Works and Knowledge.
[p. 85]
And he then proceeds to show how the Isha Upanishad, in only 18 verses, resolves all these "discords". It is instructive, and possibly disconcerting, to realize that Aurobindo does not list "immanence and transcendence" among these pairs of opposites! (Nor does "good versus evil" appear, or "capitalism versus socialism" or many other pairs one could think of.)

The pair that comes the closest to "immanence and transcendence" is number 4, "The One stable Brahman and the multiple Movement". Aurobindo later on also refers to this same pair more succinctly as "The Quiescence and The Movement", of which he writes that the notions of inside, outside, near and far all relate to an ego that, in turn, views itself as being inside a body (see pp. 86-7). He does not deny the truth of that point of view, but he calls into question the tendency to insist that this is all there is to it. In my opinion, a little reflection reveals that most (perhaps all) of the "immanence versus transcendence" dichotomy results from just such an insistence.

What Aurobindo calls "The One stable Brahman and the multiple Movement" appear in verse 5 of the Upanishad, which in Easwaran's translation is
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.
Aurobindo's translation is
That moves and that moves not;
That is far, and the same is near,
That is within all this and That is outside all this
Aurobindo's "that" is (obviously) much closer to the Sanskrit "tat" (as in tat vam asi) than is Easwaran's "Self" and "he". But for the most part the translations are very close, and I still think Easwarans is prettier (and that counts for a lot in poetry). Aurobindo's commentary on this section concludes as follows:
The Upanishad teaches us how to perceive Brahman in the universe and in our self-existence.

We have to perceive Brahman comprehensively as both the Stable and the Moving. We must see It in eternal and immutable Spirit and in all the changing manifestations of universe and relativity.

We have to perceive all things in Space and Time, the far and the near, the immemorial Past, the immediate Present, the infinite Future with all their contents and happenings as the One Brahman.

We have to perceive Brahman as that which exceeds, contains and supports all the individual things as well as all the universe, transcendentally of Time and Space and Causality. We have to perceive It also as that which lives in and possesses the universe and all it contains.

This is the transcendental, universal and individual Brahman, Lord, Continent and Indwelling Spirit, which is the object of all knowledge. Its realisation is the condition of perfection and the way of Immortality.
[p. 31]
On the off chance that anyone thinks that this has cleared the matter up, lets proceed to look at verse 8, which Easwaran translates as
The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self,
Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise,
Immanent and transcendent.
He it is who holds the cosmos together.
Which Aurobindo translates, more accurately, but less prettily, as
It is He that has gone abroad, That which is bright,
Bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil.
The Seer, the Thinker, The One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent
Has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years semptiternal
The most imporant part is the third line, which in the original Sanskrit is
kavirmanîSî paribhûH svayambhû
A very literal translation of which is something like:

"The Seer (kavi), the Thinker (manîSî), the Greatest of All (paribhûH), the self-sufficient (svayambhūh)".

Here is how Aurobindo explains it:
It is He that has extended Himself in the relative consciousness whose totality of finite and changeable circumstances dependent on an equal, immutable and eternal Infinity is what we call the Universe. Sa paryagat. [Here he is referring back to the part translated as "It is He that has gone abroad ..."]

In this extension we have, therefore, two aspects, one of pure infinite relationless immutability, another of a totality of objects in Time and Space working out their relations through causality. Both are different and mutually complementary expressions of the same unknowable “He”.

To express the infinite Immutability the Upanishad uses a series of neuter adjectives, “Bright, bodiless, without scar, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil.” To express the same Absolute as cause, continent and governing Inhabitant of the totality of objects and of each object in the totality
(jagatyam jagat) it uses four masculine epithets, “The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent” or “the Self-Becoming”.

The Immutable is the still and secret foundation of the play and the movement, extended equally, impartially in all things, samam brahma, lending its support to all without choice or active participation. Secure and free in His eternal immutability the Lord projects Himself into the play and the movement, becoming there in His self-existence all that the Seer in Him visualises and the Thinker in Him conceives. Kavir manisi paribhuh svayambhuh.
[pp. 43-44]
Aurobindo also wrote elsewhere, in a footnote to his translation of verse eight:
There is a clear distinction in Vedic thought between kavi, the seer and manîSî, the thinker. The former indicates the divine supra-intellectual Knowledge which by direct vision and illumination sees the reality, the principles and the forms of things in their true relations, the latter, the labouring mentality, which works from the divided consciousness through the possibilities of things downward to the actual manifestation in form and upward to their reality in the self-existent Brahman.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Immanence v. Transcendence, Part Deux

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

The essential teaching of Hermeticism is:
As Above, So Below.
Hermes is the God of boundaries, and also, therefore, the God of crossing boundaries. This is fitting for the God who travels freely between mortal humans on earth and the Gods in the heavens. Just as it is also fitting for the God who successfully blurred the distinctions between the ancient religious traditions of the Egyptians, Hellenes and Romans, and who successfully navigated the treacherous journey from ancient to modern Paganism.

Hermes is also the God of theft and deception. He was even born in deception, for Zeus wished to keep his liaisons with Maia (from which resulted the child Hermes) a secret from the Divine Queen Hera. Maia is a Goddess herself, but by choice she lives in solitude in a deep shady cave, where Zeus visited her at night while Hera slept. It is said that Hermes was born at dawn, and by noon that day he was playing a lyre (the very first lyre, in fact, which he had made himself from a tortoise shell). The Homeric Hymn to Hermes describes him as
a son of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods.
One of Hermes' most famous acts was the theft of some of Apollo's sacred cattle, which he accomplished on the evening of the day he was born. By next morning, however, Hermes was back asleep in his own crib "as if he were a feeble babe". Only one old man, out tending his vineyard, had observed any of this, but Hermes had sworn him to secrecy:
Old man, digging about your vines with bowed shoulders, surely you shall have much wine when all these bear fruit, if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen what you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to keep silent when nothing of your own is harmed.
However, his own Goddess mother had, in fact, noticed his coming and going, and she warned him sternly of the dire consequences of angering Apollo. Hermes replied that it was Apollo who had better look out for himself, and, besides, he had no intention of spending his life living in this "gloomy cave" far away from the other Gods.

Naturally it wasn't long before Apollo discovered what had been done and who had done it. When Hermes saw Apollo approaching in a rage, he "snuggled down in his fragrant swaddling-clothes ... like a new born child seeking sweet sleep." Apollo, not impressed by Hermes' little act, searched the cave and, finding no trace of his cattle, threatened the little thief:
Child, lying in the cradle, make haste and tell me of my cattle, or we two will soon fall out angrily. For I will take and cast you into dusty Tartarus and awful hopeless darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the earth and be the leader amongst little folk.
Hermes replied that Apollo's cattle were not among his concerns, which mostly consisted of sleeping and feeding at his mother's breasts, and, besides, he was only born yesterday, so he had no idea what a cow looked like, or even what such a thing was!

Now Apollo was impressed - by the ease and skill with which Hermes lied:
I most surely believe that you have broken into many a well- built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this night, gathering his goods together all over the house without noise.
Apollo is only placated once Hermes plays for him on the lyre, a sound, Apollo proclaimed "the like of which I vow that no man nor God dwelling on Olympus ever yet has known."

Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that when the worship of the old Gods was made a crime punishable by death, Hermes was nevertheless able to fool the book-burning monotheists into believing he was one of them, and that his sacred books were not only to be spared the flames, but were even deserving of honor and respect, to be preserved with care in Christian libraries alongside their "Bible".

It should, but unfortunately does not, go without saying, that any resulting (genuinely) Christian versions of Hermeticism are worse than useless, except, perhaps, to Christians themselves. I suppose even they might be able to learn something from him. And perhaps he is the perfect Pagan God for them, since they are averse to any truths outside their own narrow creed, and Hermes can only too easily oblige those who will only accept and learn from him if he is disguised as someone other than himself. But, fortunately for the rest of us, many of those Medieval "Christian" Hermeticists (and Alchemists, and Qabalists, and Rosicrucians....), like the true devotees of the son of Zeus and Maia that they were, skillfully feigned adherence to that other creed and cunningly hid the ancient teachings of Hermes Logios beneath the swaddling clothes of that other infant God.

Sadly, for far too many Pagans today, what was once well and safely hidden is now lost, and these are unable to tell the false Shepherd from the true. Despite the fact that the Shepherd in question is himself the great master of deception and disguise, one still has to wonder at such widespread confusion. As Above, So Below. Is there any hint in those words of a world-denying world view? Is it not obvious that these words refer to a vision of the Divine that is both immanent and transcendent, and that any other Divine vision is abominably hobbled? Can anyone possibly believe that the philosophy of the Emerald Tablet is a dualistic philosophy, when Hermes' own words proclaim that "all things have been & arose from one by ye mediation of one" (in Isaac Newton's translation)?

[The colorful Alchemical images in this post are from The Gallery at the Alchemy Lab website - please visit it!]

My Kind of Movie

There are SPOILERS in this - in case you mind that sort of thing.....

OK, what do you get when you mix Raymond Burr, Robert Mitchum, Jim Backus, Vincent Price, Jane Russell - and a boatload of money from Howard Hughes?? Well, if you add in some great writing and some great directing and some great cinematography, you get one of the most unique movies I've ever seen, called His Kind of Woman.

Mitchum puts in a great performance, and if you are a fan of his you'll love the movie just on that basis. But it's Vincent Price who really steals the show. He also has one of the best delivered lines I've ever heard. Price's character kills the bad guy (played by Raymond Burr - who actually speaks in what sounded to me like passable Italian!), and when Price describes shooting him, someone asks, "what did it feel like?", to which he replies, "I don't know. (pause, wait for it...) He didn't say."

The story is pretty simple. An evil gangster, played by Raymond Burr, has been deported from the US. He is desperate to get back into the states so he can properly oversee his business undertakings there. So he hires some nice folks to find someone who, very approximately, looks like him - and whom nobody will miss very much. Enter Robert Mitchum, who is about as down on his luck as it gets, but still requires some serious "convincing" to agree to .... well, it's a little complicated exactly what it is he agrees to. Basically he agrees to take a little all expenses paid trip to a very exclusive resort down in Mexico/Baja California. He isn't told why or for how long or much of anything else.

So he goes to this place, which is a VERY nice little resort and, of course, the bad guys have no intention of doing anything other than simply bumping him off and having Raymond Burr trade places with him, permanently.

Vincent Price offers frequent and highly effective comedic relief as a love-struck, incredibly vain actor. I swear to Gods the Master Thespian character that John Lovitz used to play on SNL is based on Prices' character in this movie! Of course the object of his love-struckness is Jane Russell. But when the going get tough, Price turns into a philosopher warrior who saves Robert Mitchum's ass, kills Raymond Burr, and, like a true knight errant, gallantly accepts the unrequitedness of his love.

Russell does fine - in fact she can really sing and does a couple of very nice numbers. But even though her boyfriend at the time, Howard Hughes, bankrolled this movie just for her, it's not really about her.

This is an extremely well made movie. It might not qualify as a great film, granted - but it is absolutely a great movie! Director John Farrow also made, and I am not making this up, a film in 1935 titled Last of the Pagans, based on Herman Melville's Typee which was sub-titled "A Real Romance of the South Seas"!!! You can read the whole book online at googlebooks here. Here is a very little snippet from the beginning of Chapter XXI, Strange Customs of the Islanders:
Sadly discursive as I have already been, I must still further entreat the reader's patience, as I am about to string together, without any attempt at order, a few odds and ends of things not hitherto mentioned, but which are either curious in themselves or peculiar to the Typees.
Writers Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard did an amazing job serving up lines for Mitchum and Price, and in holding this crazy story together. According to imdb Fenton also worked on the screenplay for another great Mitchum flick, Out of the Past, but was uncredited for that.

The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

tweet n. (1) a weak chirping sound (2) a short burst of inconsequential information
Once you're already marching outside a government building even though Basij paramilitaries are shooting into the crowd, putting something on Twitter isn't really a significant additional risk.
[Mike Madden at Salon.com here]
"The government has people with stones throwing them into the government buildings .... Looking at people's communications -- at this point I don't think it's a priority."
[Evgeny Morozov, blogger and Fellow at the Open Society Institute, quoted in the above Salon piece]
I am basically a luddite and a reactionary. That is to say, I don't think social networking means jack.

When Martin Luther King was thrown into jail in Birmingham Alabama in the spring of 1963, a group of local "moderate" clergymen wrote an open letter in the local newspaper, encouraging the civil rights movement to abandon their "confrontational" approach. The clergymen titled their letter "A Call For Unity", and while endorsing, in theory, opposition to social injustice, they insisted that the fight against segregation belonged in the courts, not in the streets.

The prison guards made a point of seeing to it that King got a copy of the paper when the "Call for Unity" was published. Martin Luther King wrote his reply with a broken pencil in the margins of that same newspaper - and when he ran out of space there he used scraps of toilet paper. King's words had to smuggled out surreptitiously during visits from other SCLC activists.

The mainstream media in the US and pretty much the whole world is useless and getting more so all the time. Twitter and the Huffington Post are not the answer, though. There is nothing new under the freaking sun. People need to build, from the ground up, alternative institutions for communication. These institutions will obviously make use of any and all available technology, but they will not be primarily shaped by the latest tech fads and fancies. There is no freedom of the press, except for those who own the printing presses. Communication that is technology based is at the mercy of those who control that technology.

Maybe, just maybe, there is some hope. Perhaps a new, real, independent journalism is, just barely, already coming into existence. Al Giordano has posted, for example, an analysis of the speech just given by Iran's Supreme Leader - which Giordano characterizes as a "blundering all-turban-no-cattle attempt to defuse" the mass protest movement that shows no sign of abating.

That said, the vast majority of human beings are still idiots - and, if anything, the correlation between intelligence and propensity to blog, tweet, etc, is negative. The denominator of the signal to noise ratio has probably never been higher in all of human history, and as far as I can tell the numerator is fast approaching zero.
Just don't forget that the real action -- and the real risk -- isn't happening anywhere near a computer.
[Mike Madden in Salon]

"The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live."
[Gill Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran: 1951 ... 1979 ... 2009

Is Iran the new France? The French had revolutions in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871 - and then again in 1968!

Iran had a democratizing interlude from 1951-1953 when Mohammed Mosaddeq was Prime Minister. As revolutions go, this was a pretty low-key one. But the Cold War was in full swing, and Mossadeq was definitely not seen as a team player by Team USA/CIA. And so the bad guys swooped in and Operation Ajax, under the supervision of Kermit Roosevelt, succeeded in orchestrating a coup d'etat that restored the absolute rule of the Shah.

But that changed, big time, in 1979 - and this time there wasn't enough Ajax in the world to stop the Iranians. As deeply disheartened as many of us were by the way that the massive popular insurrection against the Shah seemed to segue so easily and smoothly before our eyes into an Islamic Theocracy, how different, really, was that from the way things turned out in France back in '89??

And now, once again, the Iranians are at it. By this point I think it's safe to say that this is the real thing. Thomas Jefferson said something about every country needing to have a revolution every 20 years, didn't he? Well, in the brave new globalized world, maybe we just need one real revolution, somewhere in the world, every 20 years - just so we remember what it looks like when people actually give a shit. For now it is the Iranians turn to show us all how it is done.

Socrates: still making people crazy after all these years

"Theorists have not been at a loss to explain; but they differ."
Aleister Crowley, Book Four, Part One

Liberal philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994) portrayed Plato as possibly the world's first fascist, and one often hears people (who have probably never read a single word written by Popper, nor even know his name) mindlessly repeating something similar. Plato also has his defenders, including even Marxists, like Sean Sayers, as well as Leo Strauss (1899-1973) and his followers (yes - the people who brought us Neoconservatism and the invasion of Iraq).

Socrates, however, continues to stir even more controversy and disagreement than his most famous student - although it is easier to find actual detractors of Plato than of his teacher. Popper, even while condemning Plato as a totalitarian, lauded Socrates as a friend of democracy. Nietzsche had imagined Socrates to be his own "greatest, and closest, philosophical rival", while despising Plato (almost as much as he despised Christianity). Strauss, for his part, devoted most of his life to developing a theory of political philosophy largely centered on Socrates and his trial. Gregory Vlastos (1907-1991) spent most of his life chasing after a "real" Socrates that was largely a figment of his own imagination.

In 1988 leftist author I.F. Stone garnered attention by claiming that Socrates so despised democracy that he eagerly sought martyrdom in order to bring shame on it. Soon after Stone's book, Thomas Brickhouse and Nicholas Smith (together) along with C.D.C. Reeve (separately) published major book length studies putting forward a new (and deeply flawed - though not as badly as Stone's) interpretation that tries to turn Plato's Apology into just an ordinary piece of forensic rhetoric, rather than a daring, and soaring, defense of philosophy itself. And just recently the general public was subjected to screaming headlines declaring that "Socrates' trial and execution was completely justified, says new study"!!! Srsly.

During his lifetime, opinion about Socrates was even more divided than it is today. By the time he was brought to trial, at the age of 70, he had already been the target of a vilification campaign, led by some of Athens most prominent citizens, that had gone on for a quarter of a century. Among some Athenians, however, and especially among the young, he was wildly popular, even adored. Of course if it hadn't been for this popularity, his enemies would most likely have simply ignored him - or, if they had bothered to have him killed, it would have passed without notice and we certainly wouldn't still be discussing it today. Of course we are discussing it 2400 years later. And in another 2400 years there will likely (hopefully!) still be passionate debates about Socrates and his trial, while very few, if any, current day persons or events will be thought worthy of even passing consideration.

Socrates was mercilessly and masterfully ridiculed in Aristophanes' The Clouds, which was entered into the comedy competition of the City Dionysia in the year 423 BC, when Socrates was 45 years old. One story holds that Socrates was in attendance during the performance, and at one point stood up and cheerfully took a bow while the play was in progress. This was just one year (or possibly even less) after Plato was born, as well as being the time of a one-year truce in the ongoing war between Athens and Sparta (a detailed "chronology of the historical Socrates" can be found here).

The year before The Clouds was first performed, Socrates had distinguished himself by his heroism during the Battle of Delium (in which Athens was defeated by the Boeotians, who were allies of Sparta). Plato's dialogue on courage, The Laches, is named for the Athenian general in command at that battle, who praised Socrates as a model of bravery [181b]. According to Plato, Socrates was also a good friend of the famous Athenian general Nicias. We also know that Socrates was very close with the most famous, and most infamous, of all of Athens' military leaders, Alcibiades.

It is difficult to assess the extent and quality of Socrates' fame and/or notoriety during these years. Aristophanes' play came in third (out of three) in the competition when it debuted in 423, which could signal, among other things, that it's anti-Socrates message was not well received, or possibly that the viciousness of its humor was not appreciated (that is, regardless of its target). But Aristophanes continued to work on the play, revising it several times and circulating it privately in manuscript form, which indicates both that there was an audience for it, and that the author was determined to reach and cultivate that audience. In that way The Clouds might actually bear comparison to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which came out at a time when George W. Bush was still quite popular, but which nevertheless resonated strongly with a significant portion of the population.

We know that Aristophanes continued polishing The Clouds possibly as late as 417. Then in 415 Athens launched the disastrous Sicilian expedition. One night just before the ships were launched, nearly all of the Herms (ithyphallic statues of the God Hermes - the God of travel) of the city were desecrated. That blasphemous act, combined with the military debacle that then proceeded to unfold in Sicily, resulted in a climate of recriminations and near-hysteria (in the city whose patron was the Goddess of Reason and Wisdom). At least five of Plato's dialogues are named for associates of Socrates' who were arrested during this time. Soon afterwards, Socrates was once again attacked in a play by Aristophanes, The Birds.

In the coming years Athens went from defeat to defeat in her war with Sparta. Even when they won a victory in the Battle of Arginusae, the generals who commanded that battle were put on trial, accused of failing to come to the aid and defense of their own wounded men, as well as failing to to see to the burial of their dead. What followed was a show trial that violated Athens' own laws. Socrates, by luck of the draw, served on the presiding committee of the Council, where he was the only member, out of 50, who raised his voice against the way in which the proceedings were conducted. That was all in the year 406 - Athens never recovered from her "victory" at Arginusae, and within two years the Spartans were camped outside the city walls.

Under siege, the citizens of Athens elected a pro-Spartan government hoping to save themselves from the worst. During this time an attempt was made to pass a law forbidding Socrates from speaking to anyone under the age of 30, a chilling testimony to his popularity among the youth. That failed attempt to silence him also showed that he had enemies among the pro-Spartan camp, although it is usually assumed that Socrates himself had strong "Laconophile" tendencies.

Political turmoil in Athens continued for years. As was the case with the pro-Spartan crowd, Socrates had both supporters and detractors among the "democratic party" (which was also the "war party", the ones who had enthusiastically supported the disastrous war with Sparta). One of Socrates' closest and most devoted friends was Chaerophon, who was considered an especially hot-headed democrat. But when the pro-Spartan "oligarchs" were defeated in a "pro-democracy" uprising, Socrates' democratic enemies were determined to succeed where his oligarchic enemies had failed. Socrates' friend Chaerophon was among those who fought to bring the "democrats" back to power, although he had died before Socrates was charged and brought to trial.

One interpretation of the trial and execution of Socrates is that it represented an opportunistic move by his long time enemies who seized what they saw as a chance to settle an old score during a time of political instability and high emotions. In a word, Socrates was presented as a "scapegoat" for the plumetting fortunes of what had once been the Athenian "Empire". He had insulted, and quite publicly, many of Athens' most illustrious citizens with his blunt and often disarmingly folksy style of philosophizing. And, a true democrat at heart, he had also wandered among Athens' less aristocratic citizens, subjecting shoe-cobblers and others to the same public humiliation, with a charm that was not appreciated by many. During his "philosophic mission", as it is often referred to, it is said that he even suffered physical abuse at times, in response to his probing questions.

The important thing here is that Socrates was neither universally hated nor universally admired. He divided people. So once again we find yet another parallel with Martin Luther King. However powerful his enemies were, we can never forget that his supporters were also numerous, and some of them were quite prominent, and they even came from across the "political spectrum" of the day. Some indication of just how divided people were is given by the jury vote. Socrates insisted on mounting an unapologetic and thoroughly "philosophical" defense, and he even lectured the jury, warning them against the negative results to their souls if they acted unjustly and convicted him, while haughtily assuring them that he himself was unconcerned about what they might do to his body. And yet despite essentially daring them to convict him, they almost didn't.

When it comes to Socrates and King, we cannot rely on the opinions of others. Even, or perhaps especially, those who praise them, often offer little of substance, since they are mostly engaging in Santaclausification. And, besides, the essence of both of their messages was a direct, and even intimate, appeal to the intelligence and the conscience of the individual. Nor can we take refuge in "taking sides". Socrates, as already discussed, divided the two main political camps in Athens, in both of which he had ardent supporters and committed enemies. And in King's famous letter from a Birmingham jail he was taking to task precisely those who claimed to be on his side. We must decide, then, for ourselves.

As Seneca wrote:
Away with the opinions of mankind, always uncertain, always a split vote.
[Epistles XXVI]
And also
Yes, I do not change my opinion: avoid the many, avoid the few, avoid even the individual.
[Epistles X]

Iran, 2009: "Revolutionary moments change everything"

Move over Al Jazeera. My favorite source of information on Iran is now another "Al", that ever irrepressible enemy of oppressors everywhere, Al Giordano of Narconews. His long analysis piece, Iran: A 1930s Level Crossroads for the International Left, includes eyewitness accounts, freshly translated from Farsi, of the crowd, that may exceed 1 million strong, gathered right now in the heart of Tehran, honoring those who have been killed or injured during the last 6 days of protests.

Giordano has the infectious optimism that is the sign of a true revolutionary. There is plenty to be depressed about in this world, and there is no guarantee that the protest movement in Iran won't be drowned in its own blood, or, worse, won't turn into yet another verse in Won't Get Fooled Again. But as Al Giordano points out, at least for now we can all take "pleasure at seeing People Power rise up" - except, of course, for anyone who doesn't take pleasure in such things.

Al's analysis is that what the people of Iran are doing right now has the potential to do nothing less than change everything. Gods, I hope he's right!

Keep an eye on Narconews in the coming hours and days. Al promises that they will be posting English translations of news coming straight out of Iran in Farsi, news that is almost impossible to get even inside Iran, with greater and greater frequency as this continues to play out.

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