Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:
|Intro||Ch 1||Ch 2||Ch 3||Ch 4||Ch 5||Ch 6||Ch7||Ch 8|
|Ch 9||Ch 10||Ch 11||Ch 12||Ch 13||Ch 14||Ch 15||Ch 16||Ch 17|
|Ch 18||Ch 19||Ch 20||Ch 21||Ch 22||Ch 23||Ch 24||Ch 25||Ch 26|
|Ch 27||Ch 28||Ch 29||Ch 30||Ch 31||Ch 32||Ch 33|
Previously…On Plane Talk
In Part 10, we discussed that the bindu is like a harmonic transition, allowing us to “quantum jump” amongst the different layers of the mind. Part 11 introduced George Berkeley’s idealism. According to Berkeley there is no such thing as a material world. Instead, God “excites” in our minds Ideas (roughly translated as “perceptions”) of the appearance of an external world. Our mind, our existence, is inside of God’s mind. When we think it is also God thinking, when we see it is also God seeing.
The subsequent development of idealism had to back down from Berkeley’s original grand (or absurd, depending on one’s bent) conception. Kant could neither confirm nor deny the material world or God. Instead, Kant’s legacy was the dualism of our immediate awareness verses a postulated transcendental world of “things-in-themselves”. By the early 20th century, the neo-Kantian critique plus 100 years of experience with science led Hermann Weyl to recognize that the light of consciousness can, in bits n’ pieces, reflect the transcendental through the game of science where patterns in mathematical symbols are mapped to patterns in our sensory experience.
Idealism couldn’t maintain what Berkeley had started. As Weyl commented:
“It was an error of idealism to assume that the phenomena of consciousness guarantee the reality of the ego in an essentially different and somehow more certain manner than the reality of the external world”
Of course he was quick to add:
“But the one-sided metaphysical standpoint of realism is equally wrong….”
Why did idealism essentially flop in the West? I suggest because it was forced to remain confined to the surface mind for lack of anything resembling yoga. Idealism provided no concrete experiences to back up its assertions. Thus, realism co-opted experience, hid the mind in a closet, and has dominated the interests of practical people ever sense.
Meanwhile, starting around the time that Berkeley lived, and continuing until now, the ideas of the West have diffused (perhaps “crashed” is a better word) into Hindu culture. Asymmetrically, Hindu thought has only slowly diffused into the West, a diffusion which is still ongoing.
Via this flow of ideas, we saw that Taimni came to the same conclusion as Berkeley. Taimni described two “streams of thought” in our minds: one originating from our self, the other from “the Logos”. Taimni drew these conclusions not from philosophical idealism, but from his Westernized interpretation of Hindu and yogic teachings.
Taimni, however, did not recognize only two streams of thought existing within our minds. There were other streams too. We now discuss these. I’ll tell the story in this post as a “yogatism”. Subsequent posts will fill in the details to “un-yogatism” the story.
Ready? It’s time to go Through the Looking Glass.
Through the Looking Glass
The first thing we see as we step through the mirror is Taimni saying the following (Man, God, and the Universe [MGU], page 205):
“…all states of consciousness right from that of the personality to that of the Cosmic Logos are hidden one within the other in a continuous manner behind the physical consciousness working through the human brain. All these states may be considered to be centred round the Mahabindu or the Great Centre from which manifestation of the cosmos takes place. The unity of the spiritual consciousness which is finding expression through the Cosmic Logos, Solar Logoi and the Monads can be represented diagrammatically by [the following figure] and all the Solar Logoi and the Monads may be considered as raying out from the centre representing the Cosmic Logos.”
Figure 1, as the caption indicates, summarizes Taimni’s view of the structure of the manifested existence. It is meant to illustrate a set of minds within minds within minds, where each circle in the diagram is a mind. The lines linking the minds are bindus. Not all the minds (circles) are shown; it would get too crowded and make no sense. The lines without circles at their ends should be imagined as having circles. And the lines should be as dense as are the real numbers on the continuum.
The image shows how the myriad minds form a hierarchical network. But it is a network of a very abstract kind. It all happens inside a single mind: the main one in the middle.
Each mind is a relatively discreet stream of consciousness. The lesser minds “bleb” off of the main mind via the constrictive process of ahamkara discussed in part 2. The diagram is meant to show how streams of consciousness exist inside of streams of consciousness exist inside of streams of consciousness. That is, it is self-similar like a fractal (we’ll pursue this line of thought in the next post).
Berkeley’s idea was that God “excites” our minds from the inside, making it appear as if there is an “outside”. As you can see, Taimni quite simply trumps Berkeley by asserting that our individual minds are nested inside of multiple other nested streams of consciousness. Of course, Taimni wasn’t trying to trump Berkeley. It is likely he didn’t even know who Berkeley was (Taimni was trained as a PhD chemist afterall). Instead, Taimni was trying to express ancient Indian ideas in modern English.
This is Taimni’s “big picture”. If it seems weird to you, it is. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. We now start the process of breaking this picture down. This will spread out over a few posts. The place to start is with the big stream of consciousness at the center of all the action, the Mahabindu.
What the Heck is a Mahabindu?
Recall the Hindu creation story: from the Brahmanda (cosmic egg) burst forth the Manifestation. This bursting forth, however, didn’t happen out of the blue. Stuff happened before the Brahmanda. Going back to the very beginning, the story goes like this.
There was just the Absolute: perfect, pristine, undisturbed, infinite, zero. Then the most fundamental event of all occurred in the Absolute: a point (bija; seed) appeared. A point is nothing; therefore nothing occurred within the Absolute. Within the seed-point, a polarization occurred. The seed-point partitioned part of itself to one pole, and the opposite part to the other pole. 1+ (-1) = 0 and the net result was still zero.
The polarized bija is the primordial, meta-cosmic “Adam and Eve” known in Hindu thought as the Shiva-Shakti Tattva. These are unmanifested events because they equal zero. Shiva is the cosmic observer; the root of all consciousness. Shakti is the cosmic observed; the root of the gunas.
Even Hermann Weyl had a faint intuition of this process when he said:
“…the thou and the world rise into existence indissolubly connected and, as it were, at one stroke”
These are the first events: The Mahabindu, then Shiva-Shakti. They precede everything, are the root of everything. They are unmanifest because they equal zero. Everything comes from zero.
Then a bunch of other stuff happened, some of which is illustrated in the beautiful image below taken from the Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition which I previously discussed. The top of the picture shows Krishna as Bhagavan. Below is Krishna’s creation in the form of Vishnu reclining in cosmic repose as infinite universes, each containing its own Brahmanda, emanates from Vishnu’s being.
“O Devarsi! The egg (born of Mûla Prakriti) that was floating in the waters for a period equal to the life period of Brahmâ, now in the fullness of time separated into two parts. Within that egg there was a powerful Child, lustrous like one thousand millions of suns. This boy came to be denominated afterwards by the name of Mahâ Virât…”
“…In his every pore countless universes are existing. So much so that even S’ri Krisna could not count them. If it were possible to count the number of dust particles, it is impossible to count the number of universes. So there are endless Brahmâs, Visnus, and Mahes’varas.”
(Finally! the reveal of why I keep making “universe” a plural. A wink and a nudge to the multiverse while we’re here, and look! (points)…there’s Peter Woit rolling his eyes at the incredulity of it all).
Each universe has its own Brahmanda. And…to make a long story short…here we are.
The seed-point that appeared in the Absolute, is what Taimni called the “Mahabindu”. It’s not so exciting to visualize it. Imagine an infinite blankness. Now imagine an infinite blankness with an infinitely small dot in it. There you go: The Mahabindu. Not as pretty as the above picture.
Nonetheless, consider this: if you have an infinitely big space, and there is an infinitesimal point in it, then how big is the point? Let that bounce around in your mind as we proceed.
Thoughts on the Mahabindu
The Mahabindu is the “Great Point” or “Great Seed”, the cosmic source of both the unmanifest and the manifest. Taimni spent a great deal of words explaining the Mahabindu in MGU. I will not try to repeat nor quote all of it. Instead, I will offer a few comments about the idea.
No Western Equivalent of the Mahabindu
First, there is no idea equivalent to the Mahabindu in Western thought. The Christian concept of “God” in the West corresponds to the alinga gunas of yoga (see here if the reference makes no sense to you). The God of the New Testament, the one Jesus was always going on about, is the Divine Unity from which all the diversity of existence springs. Christianity was never able to clearly intuit the distinction between alinga gunas and The Absolute.
Islam did. Mohammed understood this distinction. If one reads the Koran, it is clear that Allah is conceptually closer to the Hindu Absolute (Parabrahman). I don’t know Islamic teachings well enough to know if they have an idea similar to the Mahabindu.
The Big Bang is not the Mahabindu, not even close. The Big Bang describes the emanation of the visesa level of gunas, the absolutely lowest, crudest level of manifestation. The product of the Big Bang, physical space-time, is the lowest structural world that exists in yogic cosmology. Nothing in Western science even remotely approaches the ideas we are discussing now.
There is simply no widely-known equivalent to the idea of Mahabindu in Western thought. The Mahabindu is the point, seed, source, the nexus, whereby the Absolute begins the processes of transforming into the seemingly not absolute.
The Mahabindu is Right Here, Right Now
Second, the way I told the story above was as if it was history, as if it all happened in the past. This is not accurate at all. I only told the story as a creation story to make it go down easier on a first hearing, if this is all new to you.
The Mahabindu is not something that existed in the past and went away after doing its job. It exists right now. It is doing its job right now. The Mahabindu is the source of everything. It never did not exist and never will not exist. Time doesn’t make sense when discussing the Mahabindu. Time is a limit of our mind, not of the Mahabindu.
The Absolute exists right now, as does the unmanifest, and manifest. Right now, you and I are sitting at the periphery of manifestation, sitting at the crudest level, using our vitarka consciousness to perceive the visesa gunas. The physical world is just the periphery of the entire show; the outer rim; an infinitesimally thin skin. What’s going on out here on the periphery has very little impact on the Mahabindu.
One often hears analogy to the ocean in this context, as the following quote from Taimni conveys (The Ultimate Reality and Realization, pages 131-132):
“An example from ordinary life will make this point clear. An individual who is an ordinary swimmer who enters the waters of sea disturbed by a storm will see nothing but disturbance everywhere. But an expert diver can dive into the deeper levels of the sea and be in a perfectly tranquil environment in spite of the fact that a storm is raging at the surface.”
“Even if he comes to the surface and sees and feels the external disturbance he will not be disturbed mentally because he has experienced and knows that there is a perfectly tranquil region down below and he can retire into it whenever he wants. He is really conscious of the sea as a whole and while the disturbances at the surface affect him physically they do not touch him mentally.”
“In some such way we can imagine the manifested world with all its disturbances existing within the consciousness of the Logos who exists within it and yet above it.”
At the center of the storm where everything is calm, peaceful, infinite, Absolute.
Everything we know and experience stems ultimately from the Mahabindu. Everything we do in this life has an effect on the Mahabindu similar to how a little surface wave out in the middle of the ocean affects the ocean floor. Which is to say, barely, if at all.
Top of the Morning to You
The quick run-down on yogic cosmology presented above is intended to illustrate that the Mahabindu is the top level of things. That is why it is called the “Great” (maha) bindu. The bindu that you and I have in our minds emanate from the Mahabindu, and are still intimately connected to it. The light of consciousness in our minds is an infinitesimal spark of what emits from the Mahabindu.
As is hopefully now apparent, I introduced the bindu in a very simple way in the early posts by talking about it as a “doorway” between our individual minds and The Absolute. Now we have a fuller picture. In our minds, the bindu is a harmonic transition linking the inner layers of the mind. It is also the “doorway” through which the Mahabindu projects not only our personal existence, but all of existence. At the very end of yoga, during dharma mega samadhi, the yogi passes through the Mahabindu into Kaivalya.
But wait! There’s more!
Where are we?
We need now to recall the discussion that our perceptions of the physical world are analogous to how a fly perceives our human world. The fly perceives us, certainly, but has no idea, nor could she ever have any idea, of human life in human terms. This is how it is when we look at the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, and our Universe as a whole.
These are the main natural structures we perceive via our physical senses. We haven’t always perceived the Universe this way. The ancients knew of the planets, but, like the fly, had no idea what they were, other than just being little points of light “wandering” in the sky.
Part 3 discussed the uphill battle that Galileo and his peers had, a mere 350 years ago, trying to convince a bunch of know-it-alls that the Earth is a huge, spinning, relatively spherical rock. Once the idea caught on, it was certainly a turning point in our perception of whatever this thing is we find ourselves inside of.
Once the heliocentric view caught on, the Earth and the solar system became Big Things. Our Big solar system appeared to float in an ocean of stars, which people came to accept were other suns, vindicating Giordano Bruno, who previously was burnt at the stake for this and other heresies. Even Einstein saw the Universe as the sea of stars through which our solar system floated for a good part of his career.
Edwin Hubble was the tip of a spear that recognized that some of the “stars” out there weren’t stars at all. Instead, these “nebula” appeared to be made of millions or billions of stars. In addition, the stars around our solar system were found to be part of a greater structure. I am of course talking about galaxies. This brings us up to about the 1920s. Not even 100 years ago. Not even 100 years ago people came to understand with certainty that stars form Super Gigantic Whirlpools called galaxies. It’s not that we live in a sea of stars. We live in a sea of galaxies.
This is what we know today. Unfortunately, the story of where we live will not keep growing the same way it did in the past. We can only see so far. We can only see as far as light rays have time to travel. This is called the “cosmological horizon” of the universe. If we happen to be inside of some kind of structure in which the galaxies are basic units in the same way that stars are basic units of galaxies, we will never be able to physically observe it. We may be able to mentally infer such a structure one day, but we will never observe it. Hence all the hoopla currently about “multiverse mania”. [Please note, I am aware of the filaments of the large scale structure of the Universe. I am saying we will never see the whole structure of which these filaments are sub-structures.]
So, Western science has discovered, in its brief 400 year existence as a member of the Human Knowledge Team, that the Earth is a Big sphere-like rock, spinning around a Super Big Sun, all of which is part of a Really Super Big solar system. And this Really Super Big solar system is on the scale of being a grain of sand in the Massively Giant Really Super Big galaxy we live in called the Milky Way Galaxy. And this Massively Giant Really Super Big Milky Way Galaxy is like less than a proton in this Unbelievable Outrageously Super Ginormous Massively Giant Really Super Big thing we call the “observable universe”.
Given this whole picture is less than 100 years old, I am simply shocked that so many pygmies out there are so smug and arrogant to think they understand where we really are and what all this means.
Well, here’s the punch line: Each of these natural systems we have observed, the Earth, our Sun, our Galaxy, and the Universe as a whole (and what might be between galaxies and whole universes, which we won’t ever know physically), each of these is a LOGOS.
What the Heck is a Logos?
The term “logos” has its roots in ancient Greece. Click the Wikipedia link and see the ontological confusion surrounding this term. In Western parlance it is related to our modern term “logic”. Logic is a mental thing, a mental pattern, a “plan” perhaps. But yet, according to the ancient Greeks, it was also some type of a being—they gave it the name “Demiurge”—that had something to do with creating something: the universe, reality, the “world”? As with most things Western, it’s not quite clear and a bit confusing.
The Eastern ideas are not so confusing, but clarity comes with increased abstractness. Logoi are beings, just like you, me, a cat, and a fly. They are the higher order forms of life in the Universe that we humans are simply not equipped to directly perceive as beings. A fly sees me, but has no idea, nor can it ever have any idea, that I am a being like it is. Likewise, in our physical form as humans, we’ll never be able to perceive or comprehend a logos.
In our perception of the physical world, one species of logos look like planets. Another species of logos look like stars. Yet another species of logos look like galaxies to our little human minds. And the biggest species of logos we can spot looks to us like a whole universe. Since we can only and forever see one of that type of logos, we should perhaps be respectful and call it the Logos.
As a human being, in the state of paranga cetana, with one’s consciousness directed outwardly, we simply cannot perceive these different grades of logoi any differently than we do. They appear to us to be the environment that we are inside of.
However, when one practices yoga and masters samadhi, one can travel through the realms of the gunas, the unmanifest, and the Absolute. Then, one gets, to purposely use understatement, a different perspective.
Did you think the picture above of Vishnu literally sweating universes in uncountable numbers was just some fanciful creation of a human imagination? Well, I am sorry to disappoint you if that is what you thought. Not so. The image comes from what advanced yogis directly perceive in the depths of samadhi.
Van der Leeuw described as much:
“Let us then once again withdraw from the contemplation of our own world-image and turn inwards through our centre of consciousness, entering the world of the Real. In the world of the Real…all things there are essentially the same, an atom of matter as well as a living being. They are all modes of the Absolute and their differences are not differences in being, but only in fullness of realization…”
“In the world of the relative truly there is always greatness beyond greatness, and when we have reached the greatest, noblest we know or dimly apprehend, yet wider vistas open up before us and we see a greatness undreamt of at our previous level of understanding.”
He presents these ideas (Chapter 4 for you citation checkers out there) in much the same context I am using here. He is discussing the ascending hierarchy of beings within beings within beings, inside of which we live, which is always the vision of all those who have learned how to see it.
Wrap Up for This Post
So, yeah…this thing we are inside, that we call “the universe” and glibly act as if we know what it is, is WAAAAAY more abstract and freaky than our little fly-like imaginations can grasp.
Like the snake shedding its skin, some humans have been able to shed the encumbrances of the lower forms of being human that we call “physical” and have had glimpses, via samadhi, into the real nature of this thing we are inside of. What we are inside of they call “The Absolute”. In this Absolute are all manner of levels that are completely invisible to our physical senses. What’s more, the different levels are living beings, like us. The Universe, the Relative Manifestation, is a vast hierarchy of minds within minds within minds, of conscious beings within conscious beings within conscious beings.
This is not to say or imply physics is wrong. Not at all. It is to say that the picture physics has concocted in its mere 400 years, and really in less than 100 years, is hardly the whole story. The physics story is missing essential parts like, say: “What is the mind?”, “How do minds relate to this physical universe we perceive?”, “What does it even mean ‘to perceive’?” and so on.
When these missing pieces start to get added into the picture, as the yoga methods allow us to do, it “disturbs” the rather smug, small, and prematurely confident picture of a ginormous universe of useless, “dead” matter that materialism, using physics as its bitch, wishes us to believe in.
Instead, yoga paints a picture of the universe that is both infinitely more terrifying, yet infinitely more comfortable than the “dead universe” of European materialism and modern physicalism. We live, move, and have our being inside of a hierarchy of minds. Here are the streams of consciousness running in each of our minds:
- Our own personal stream of consciousness
- The Earth’s stream of consciousness
- The Solar System’s stream of consciousness
- The Milky Way Galaxy’s stream of consciousness
- [Others we don’t know about]’s stream of consciousness
- Our Universe’s stream of consciousness
Each is a mind, inside of a mind, inside of a mind. All of the minds are connected by their bindus. The light of consciousness shining in our mind is also the light of consciousness of the Earth, the Sun, the Galaxy, the [unknown others], and the entire Universe.
This is what Taimni’s picture above is meant to represent.
Perhaps by now you think I am batshit crazy. Nope, again, sorry to disappoint. Just abstract is all. I told you we were going Through the Looking Glass. You’re the one that followed me in here, so don’t blame me, I’m just the tour guide.
One last thought to drive home what has been said above. Do you know why God knows everything? It is because God sees out of the eyes of every creature and being that exists. God does not have some all-knowing book or computer data bank, or special “equation of the universe” that has every fact about everything programed into it. It’s not like that at all.
No, God is there, present always and at each moment in your awareness, in my awareness, in my cat Ashna’s awareness, and in Mr. and Mrs. Fly’s awareness, and in all awareness wherever and in whatever form it is to be found. God co-perceives what all beings perceive, co-thinks what all beings think.
God sees out of everything’s eyes all at once.
George Berkeley would sob with uncontrollable happiness at this vision, and is probably doing so in Heaven right now.
Please join me next time as we begin to make sense of this seeming nonsense.
Go to Part 13