God, soul and world

Bodhinatha talks about Pati Pasu Pasam, God, soul and world; the timeless teaching of the oneness of soul with God: Aham Brahmasmi, and the bonds of anava, karma, maya which blind us from that reality.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Nice to see you. Good to be back. Our whirlwind weekend. Lots of good pictures on TAKA. I've been there and I guess we have a few more coming as well, all the events. Basically, had two formal events in San Diego and two in Northern California. One was, in each place one was a satsang, and members and devotees, and the other was a reception, where a broader group of Hinduism Today readers and Iraivan donors and well-wishers and friends.

So went very well and everyone said please come back next year, so I'll certainly try to do that. I thought I'd read a little bit from this material here. It was prepared for a Saturday morning seminar in Montreal that hasn't happened yet. It's part of the kumbhabhishekam there and the temple asked us to give a forty-five minute presentation, followed by questions and answers. So I thought I'd read from part of that.

Goes through five beliefs and five practices. So this is the fifth belief: Pati, Pasu, Pasam; God, soul and world. So the God part I won't read, we all know what it's gong to say, talks about Siva and His five actions. So jump to the soul.

Let's talk about the soul. Our individual soul is the immortal and spiritual body of life that animates life and reincarnates again and again until all necessary karmas are created and resolved and its essential unity with God is fully realized. Our soul is God Siva's emanational creation; the source of all of our higher functions including knowledge, will and love. The soul is neither male nor female. It is that which never dies even when its four outer sheaths: physical, pranic, instinctive and mental; change form and perish as they naturally do.

Simple way to think of the soul is as a light that is controlled by a variable light switch. The kind where you turn it to the right, the kind where when you turn it to the right the light gets brighter. When the soul is created the light switch is turned to the left. In other words the light of the soul is dim. Each time we live a life in a religious manner the switch turns to the right and the light becomes brighter. In great satgurus the switch is all the way to the right and the light of their soul is quite bright

Many Hindu traditions believe that the soul is identical with God. There is an often quoted verse from the Upanishads on this, which is a Aham Brahmasmi, which means I am God. The idea is that if we go deeply enough inside ourselves, inside our soul, we find God and realize that everything and everyone is God.

Here's a Yogaswami story to illustrate the idea of oneness. Once a devotee of Yogaswami's had a bath, wore clean clothes and was getting ready to see swami. However, he was saddened by the thought that his heart was not as clean as his body and clothes. He couldn't control his mind and was descending further into sinful ways. His thoughts were so despicable that he could not even discuss it with his friends. He felt that even his parents would despise him if they knew. He was ashamed to go before Swami with such thoughts. But being an ardent devotee, he couldn't keep away either. So he decided he would prostrate himself before Swami and cry his heart out. On the way he hoped that Swami would not be in meditation because if He was, then He would perceive his evil thoughts. As he entered the ashram he found Swami happily conversing with His disciples. "I have escaped" thought the devotee as he worshiped Him.

Then Swami looked at him with a smile and said: "I know everything from your head to your toes. I know all your thoughts, not only yours but every bodies. I am in everybody. You do 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."

Why is it then that we feel separate from other people and from God. It is because the three bonds of anava, karma and maya veil our sight. This is Siva's purposeful limiting of awareness which allows us to evolve. Gurudeva elaborates in "Dancing with Siva."

"Just as children are kept from knowing all about adult life until they have matured into understanding, so too is the soul's knowledge limited. We learn what we need to know, and we understand what we have experienced. Only this narrowing of our awareness, coupled with the sense of individualized ego, allows us to look upon the world and our part in it from a practical human point of view. Pasha is the soul's triple bondage: maya, karma and anava. Without the world of maya, the soul could not evolve through experience. Karma is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction governing maya. Anava is the individuating veil of duality, source of ignorance and finitude. Maya is the classroom, karma the teacher, and anava the student's ignorance. The three bonds or malas, are given by Lord Siva to help and protect us as we unfold. Yet, God Siva's all-knowingness and the oneness of all, may be experienced for brief periods by the meditator who turns within to his own essence. "

Let's look more closely at the concept of anava. Anava is the impurity of smallness; the finitizing principle. The presence of anava mala is what causes the misapprehension about the nature of God, soul and world; the notion of being separate and distinct from God and the universe.

A simple way to grasp the concept of anava is to think of a bucket and the ocean waters. You can dip the bucket in the ocean and lift it up. The water that is in it is now separate from the ocean. The bucket is like anava. It is separated, a small amount of water from the ocean's water. The water is consciousness a small amount of which is now separate.

There is a verse from the Yajur Veda which describes this process: "A part of infinite consciousness becomes our own finite consciousness, with powers of discrimination and definition and with false conceptions. He is, in truth, Prajapati and Vishva, the Source of Creation and the Universal in us all. This Spirit is consciousness and gives consciousness to the body. He is the driver of the chariot."

Let's look for a moment at the Saiva Siddhanta concept of the world, which is referred to as maya or mayai. In Yogaswami's 'Words of our Master' collection of statements he made throughout his life there are two statements about the world. The first is: "The world is a training school, some are in kindergarden and some are in the B.A. Class." Yogaswami's second statement is: "The world is an ashram--a training ground for the achievement of freedom. Each one does his part according to his own measure. There is nothing that is evil."

Another view of the world of maya held by some Hindus is the perspective that the world is an illusion. This is the view that for spiritual progress to occur the world must simply be renounced. For advanced renunciate monks this can be a helpful perspective. For the rest of Hindu humanity it is definitely not a helpful perspective as it keeps us from engaging in the world with a positive spiritual attitude toward it. Looking at the world as illusion is like a schoolboy or girl looking at school as an illusion. He or she will definitely miss the value of the experience. Looking at the world as an ashram emphasizes that, being in the world is an opportunity to make spiritual progress. The question naturally arises: Are we taking full advantage of this opportunity?

A common situation we all face is being mistreated either by other's actions or other's words. The way we respond determines if we are making spiritual progress or not. Let's take the simple example of a situation at work where a coworker regularly takes all the pens from our desk for his own use. Here are some possible responses.

#1: Every time he takes pens from our desk, we retaliate and take all the pens from his desk when he is out to lunch.

#2: We hold the belief that it is wrong to retaliate, but still we hold a grudge against him for his actions. This resentment keeps the subconscious mind disturbed.

#3: We completely forgive the person for his actions and let the matter go.

#4: We buy a box of pens for him and give it to him with the statement that he always seems to be running out of pens, thought he could use a few extra.

This last response is an example of the Tirukural principle: If you return kindness for injuries received and forget both; those that harmed you will be punished by their own shame.

So that's a very high minded principle, to punish someone by their own shame. In other words you are encouraging the individual to improve his behavior by showing him kindness instead of retaliation. I'm sure you can all think of other responses that would accomplish this same high-minded purpose, as expressed by the Tirukural.

In conclusion as Paramaguru Yogaswami says: "The world is an ashram--a training ground for the achievement of freedom." It is up to us to hold that perspective when we are in the world and respond in a spiritual manner to whatever experiences we encounter. Thank you.