The Soul and its Maturing Process, Part 1

This is part one of a talk by in which Bodhinatha elucidates the gradual maturing process of the soul There is no distinction between life, soul, energy, spirit. God is the essence of these -- there is no life without God. If God is the Life of life, then there is no separateness, only oneness. And God Siva is so close to us that we can experience him intimately and immediately. It is these experiences that eventually lead us to Moksha. Our soul matures over many lifetimes, from ignorance of God to direct intimacy with God. The journey of the soul's maturation is a gradual unfoldment, like a lotus blossom forming and flowering. The process can't be short circuited or rushed, so relax into the journey and enjoy it. As the soul evolves we move up through the chakras. The key is to close off access to the lower chakras to seal off the lower emotions of fear, anger and jealousy.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Nice to see so many mainland pilgrims here this morning.

I have a talk that is half done -- you get to hear the first half. It is called "The Soul and its Maturing Process". So in the second part we are trying to develop based on what Gurudeva says in the trilogy some clear image of what it means to make spiritual progress. Spiritual evolution -- what does it mean? You know, it is pretty vague, right? What is evolving? How is it maturing? So we don't quite have that part yet. [Bodhinatha and the pilgrims laugh.] It's coming together slowly. But that is the idea, trying to put a concrete image or multiple images in the mind about what it means to make spiritual progress. Spiritual unfoldment.

In Hindu thought, the concept of life and the soul are synonymous. For example, the Sanskrit word "jiva" refers to both and contains the meanings of individual soul, living being, life, vitality, energy, spirit, and strength. The Tamil word "uyir" has the same double meaning of life and soul. One of the advantages of this simple explanation of the soul which equates it with life is that it makes it easy to experience the soul. How can we do this? Simply look into a mirror. Specifically look deeply into your eyes and see the light and sparkle within them. That life is your soul, your divinity, the real you, that which continues on after the physical body's passing. We can also become aware of the life within another person and thereby see the soul in him or her as well, and thus acknowledge the person's divine nature.

Taking this concept of divinity one step further is the Tamil word "uyirkuyir" which is translated as "God, who is the Life of life, the Soul of the soul." Another useful phrase that conveys the same meaning is that "God is the essence of the soul," meaning that if you look deeply enough into the soul, you will experience God. In other words the life we see in someone is the soul, and the essence or Life of that life is God.

How do we know when seeing the life within ourselves or others, if we are experiencing the individual soul, or God as the essence of the soul, the Life of life? This is the distinction: when we are perceiving individual souls there is a sense that every soul is separate from the others. However, when we perceive God as the Life of life, that sense of separateness has been replaced with a sense of oneness. Thus, in viewing a group of people we would be aware of the oneness that pervades them all. My Gurudeva described this in saying "God is the Life of our life. Becoming aware of this life energy in all that lives is becoming aware of God's loving presence within us."

A simple analogy is to japa beads. We can focus on the beads and see them as 109 separate beads. We can also focus on the cord on which they are strung and see the oneness that pervades all the beads. This deeper experience is achieved through internalizing our awareness, going deeply inside ourselves through worship or meditation.

There is a popular story about Paramaguru Yogaswami that illustrates this point. There were four people in his hut. Yogaswami asked, "How many are here?" Someone said, "Four." Yogaswami then said, "No. Only one is here." Like four people.

Another similar story of Yogaswami is from a devotee who came to visit Swami filled with negative thoughts. The devotee entered the ashram and found Swami happily conversing with his disciples. "I have escaped" thought the devotee as he worshiped him. Then Swami looked at him with his smile and said "I know everything from your head to your toes. I know all your thoughts, not only yours but everybody's. I am in everybody. You did not know this because you think of yourself as being separate from others. Learn to consider yourself as the same as others and not separate." Then taking the camphor tray that was burning before him he gave it to his devotee and said "Take this light and considering everyone here to be Siva, worship them."

The Hindu idea that God is inside of every person as the essence of our soul and can be experienced today is quite different from the concept of Western religions that God is in heaven and therefore not able to be experienced by those living on Earth. Gurudeva often spoke of the immediacy of God's presence: "God Siva is so close to us. He is closer than our breathing, nearer to us than our hands or feet. Yes, He is the very essence of our soul."

Let's turn now to the Hindu concept of the purpose of life. As we know, the Hindu perspective is that the purpose of life is to make spiritual progress, to have deeper and deeper realizations of God which eventually result in moksha, liberation from rebirth on the planet Earth.

Let's ask the question, "What is it that makes this spiritual progress?" It is, of course, the soul. In thinking of spiritual progress, it is helpful to understand the concept of the soul, not just as life and light, but as a human-like, self-effulgent form comprised of this life and light we previously talked about. The soul body is referred to in Sanskrit as the anandamaya kosha as well as the karana sharira. Just as our physical body matures from being an infant to being an adult, so does our soul body mature from ignorance of God to intimate communion with God. In Sanskrit, this is called adhyatma prasara, spiritual evolution. And of course is a process that takes place over many lifetimes, not just one.

Gurudeva gives us an insightful description of this process:

"The soul form evolves as its consciousness evolves, becoming more and more refined. The experiences of life, in all the various planes of consciousness, are 'food for the soul', reaping lessons that actually raise the level of intelligence and divine love. Thus, very refined souls, whether embodied or in the disembodied, ajiva, state, are like walking intelligences with inventive creativeness and powers of preservation, beaming with love and luminosity in their self-effulgent bodies of quantum light particles."

That is as far as we have gotten.

We encountered an interesting tree in New Zealand -- the Kauri tree -- and I am thinking of bringing it into the description somehow. It is a pine tree and it lives to be over 2,000 years old. Imagine that -- the maturing process of this tree is 2,000 years! So, Europeans came into New Zealand and cut most of them down. A bit short sighted. You know, not realizing it might take a while for them to grow back. [Bodhinatha laughs.] About 1,000 years to be precise. What was the one that we saw -- how old was it? 800 years old? Yes, we saw one tree about 70 feet tall or so? About 70 feet tall. It took 800 years for it to grow just to be 70 feet tall. 12 feet in diameter. So I am thinking of putting that in perhaps. But it gives you as sense, you know, just simple division. 2,100 divided by 70 years, about 30 lifetimes, 30 human lifetimes would be the length of time this tree has lived, so it gives us some sense.

[Bodhinatha talks to one of the monks about the small microphone that he uses which sits on his ear.] It is falling off? It feels like it is falling off. [Bodhinatha laughs]. I move my head too much.[He laughs again.]

But the other image that I am working on is unfoldment. Gurudeva uses the example of the lotus flower and how it is a gradual process -- the lotus flower coming up, producing a bud and that bud gradually blossoming. Because one of the points that Gurudeva makes is that spiritual unfoldment is gradual. It is like this 2,000 year old tree. It is a gradual process, it is not a rapid process. Of course, in Western thinking, and Western thinking is permeating more and more of the East these days as well, [it is] almost global thinking, we are in a hurry, we are in a rush. Have to do everything quickly, including unfold spiritually. So the idea of 30 lifetimes seems too long, right? [Bodhinatha laughs.] 30 years? That seems too long. 30 hours? Well, I'd probably manage that. [He keeps laughing at that thought.] I'm willing to meditate for 30 hours if I can achieve realization, enlightenment. That is a reasonable amount of time.

So of course, it doesn't work that way. That's the point that we want to put in. It is like those of you who have raised children, you know, you want the child to mature more quickly than it is, perhaps but it doesn't help. [Bodhinatha is still laughing!] It takes time to learn to walk, to learn to talk, to learn to do everything, and you just have to relax into the process of how fast the child is maturing and enjoy it. So similarly we can do the same thing with out spiritual unfoldment -- just relax into the process and not try and rush the process. But enjoy the process as we go along.

It is Gurudeva's idea that life is meant to be lived joyously. It doesn't mean that we don't have challenging days when we are not joyous, but it means, you know, that is what we are trying to achieve -- is a joyous approach to what we have to do, to our duties in life. To our duties at home, duties at work, duties in the community. Try and do them all in a joyous spirit and enjoy the process and not feel burdened by the process as much as possible.

So I look forward to reading the ending myself [he laughs again] - see how it turns out. I'm looking through the entire trilogy to see what's there. It is amazing some of the images you forget are in there. There is one about an elevator that may work [in the second half of this talk]. An elevator is being compared to the chakras. So, we take a building, a seven story building above ground with an elevator in it, and has seven stories below the ground for parking and, um. [Bodhinatha is laughing again.] So, of course each story or level is a chakra and Gurudeva says that all the chakras are always active. So it is like those fourteen stories are always there, you know, and the lights are on and so forth. You know, it is a functioning level of a building. Regardless whether anybody's in that level of the building or not, it is functioning. So the analogy is, regardless of where our awareness is in the fourteen chakras, they are all still there. Not all turned on. But it is our presence in them, utilizing the faculties of that chakra that brings it into the forefront of our consciousness.

So Gurudeva says that most people live in around three stories or three chakras that are adjacent to one another -- in the chakras. So lots of people live in memory and reason, and then below memory is fear, so once in a while they will get fearful. Memory and reason is a normal state [for them] but once in a while they get fearful. Likewise some people live in memory and reason and sometimes get down to anger. Or some people live in anger and sometimes come up to fear. [Everyone laughs!] Gurudeva says that for some people, fear is their highest state of consciousness. My goodness! Interesting analogy. I think it has potential.

The other interesting statement that I came across was that spiritual unfoldment isn't so much being in the higher seven chakras, it is closing off the lower seven. It is not going there. That is really the crucial part of making spiritual progress -- in other words we don't get down into fear, anger, jealousy, retaliation, malice, hatred and so forth. Murder. We don't go there. You know, it is closing that off, staying above it, that is the crucial part of making spiritual progress. So that is why Hinduism is avoiding violence. Non-violence in thought, word and deed is so important because that is a sure way to get down there -- even just violent words will put you down in those lower chakras and basically inhibit your spiritual progress.

There is another analogy to spiritual progress, which is the bathtub. Bathtub analogy. In a bathtub it is very crucial that you put in the stopper, right? Otherwise nothing happens. The stopper is there, and the stopper is like the entrance -- it is like sealing off the lower chakras. You know, if you put the stopper there. So you are doing all your sadhanas, all your spiritual practices, which is like filling up the tub with water. But then if you allow yourself to get seriously angry, it is like taking out the stopper and of course, what happens? All the water drains out. So obviously the spiritual progress that you have made is lost. So you can see why Gurudeva says the key to making spiritual progress is sealing off these lower emotions because otherwise we are filling up the tub and we are emptying it, and we're filling up the tub and we are emptying it. We are never overflowing the tub. We will never get that full because we are always falling back into one or more lower emotions.

So that's the idea. We can all look forward to the end, including me, see how it works out. Have a great day, have a great phase. [Bodhinatha sings:] Aum Namah Sivaya Aum.

[end of tape.]

[end of transcription.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
Giving a gift begrudgingly in return for another gift is, of course, mere barter. Many families barter their way through life in this way, thinking they are giving. But such gifts are cold, the fulfillment is empty, and the law of karma pays discounted returns.