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Spiritual Wakefulness


Paranishpanna, remember, is the summum bonum, the Absolute, hence the same as Paranirvana. Besides being the final state it is that condition of subjectivity which has no relation to anything but the one absolute truth (Para-marthasatya) on its plane. It is that state which leads one to appreciate correctly the full meaning of Non-Being, which, as explained, is absolute Being. Sooner or later, all that now seemingly exists, will he in reality and actually in the state of Paranishpanna. But there is a great difference between conscious and unconscious "being". The condition of Paranishpanna, without Paramartha, the Self-analysing consciousness (Svasamvedana), is no bliss, but simply extinction (for Seven Eternities).

The Secret Doctrine, i 53-54    

 Wakeful consciousness, Turiya, in eternal duration is the vital core of authentic participation in Brahma Vach. The practical embodiment of potent ideals depends upon the fusion of individual consciousness with boundless duration. The alchemical transformation of life into eternal Life is equivalent to the mystical passage from death to immortality. All self-conscious spiritual growth is a function of continuity and discontinuity of consciousness, associated with the phenomena of birth, death and rebirth. The more sedulously individuals sift through the world's particulars, the more meaningful and enduring are their perceptions, the keener are their differentiations between various levels of reality. Thus, they can also recognize the relative unreality of all things.

 The capacity to affirm and negate at the same time rests upon the rootedness of souls in a timeless realm of reality above the phenomenal processes of change, above the shifting dichotomies of subject and object or past and future. With abstracted attention and attained alertness, they may consider life in terms of one great forward push at the cosmic and at the human level. This evolutionary thrust is progressing neither chaotically nor arbitrarily but under the laws of cause, effect and further cause. Life may be viewed as an arrow, directed from the past to the future. It may also be seen from the standpoint of Deity, which is a circle with its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere. To combine both perspectives is the prerogative of man, who can both expand and contract, diffuse and deepen the range and reach of self-consciousness.

 Paradoxically, the more one's consciousness is located beyond the particulars of time, the more attentive one may be to them. Timelessness is neither inertia nor indifference. It is not a blurring of impressions of mortality, but an intense sharpening and heightening of perceptions relevant to learning and living and delivering one's dharma. All elemental lives, moving in and through myriad shifting shadowy forms, participate at some level in incipient or higher degrees of abstract subjectivity, the basis for the distinction between the different kingdoms. Each represents the different degrees of power of the matter-moving Nous, the animating soul of the universe immanent in every atom, manifested in man, and inseparable from the ONE LIFE, or Jivatma, the transcendental and wholly immaterial ground of all design in living nature. This soul of the world, or Alaya, has a dual aspect correlative with the alternations of Maha-Manvantara and Maha-Pralaya.

 Alaya, though eternal and changeless in its inner essence on the planes which are unreachable by either men or Cosmic Gods (Dhyani Buddhas), alters during the active life-period with respect to the lower planes, ours included. During that time not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essence, but even the man strong in the Yoga (mystic meditation) "is able to merge his soul with it."

The Secret Doctrine, i 48    


 In the Yogacharya system of the contemplative Mahayana school, Maya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept. "He who is strong in the Yoga can introduce at will his Maya by means of meditation into the true Nature of Existence."

The Secret Doctrine, i 49    

 In its absolute and eternal aspect, Alaya precedes the sevenfold differentiation of Prakriti, is the unevolved cause of comprehension of all the diverse manifestations of life in the seven kingdoms. During the period of manifestation it is the vital basis of intelligence distributed by degrees throughout the kingdoms of evolved life. The human capacity to merge through meditation the self-conscious soul – Alaya in one aspect – with Alaya in its eternal aspect is the basis of conscious immortality and boundless compassion. The more deeply and irreversibly one can do this, the more one can retain wakefulness outside the realm of temporal change and remain consciously rooted in what is called pure Being, which is also pure Non-Being. This ultimate spiritual wakefulness can only be attained by abstraction, by blanking out all impressions and by meditating upon both the ceaseless and cyclical disintegration of worlds. In Maha-Pralaya all possible concepts and worlds are reabsorbed into the one primordial material substratum, which, having reabsorbed into itself all the elements, falls into a state of total latency wherein ideation is potentially present but without any urge to manifest. It is then that the Alaya of the universe is in Paramartha, entirely transcendent comprehension and absolute true Being.

 The capacity to void the mind through meditation and to become aware of what seems like non-being whilst one's body is asleep is essential to the realization of true Being and presupposes a fundamental alteration of one's conceptions of life and vitality. To a great extent, mechanistic views of life arise because of a narrowness of perception, together with an action-centered view of vitality. A healthy antidote to societies caught up in the frenetic rush of consumption is to spend leisure time by the ocean listening to its ancient rhythms, or in the mountains silently attentive to nature's sounds. In these ways one can approach a deeper and more undifferentiated field of consciousness that is motion at a subtle level of vibration. To do this self-consciously, to establish within oneself a permanent core of silence, is the task of meditation.

 Initially, one must set aside some time daily and blank out everything: one's total sense of identity, one's memories and expectations, all images and all impressions. Doing so, one gradually enters with adoration into the most abstract homogeneous realm accessible. As one gains a progressive kinship with the realm of Divine Darkness, free of the interplay of light and shadow that characterizes the world of relativities, one begins to sense within oneself living depths upon depths in consciousness. Philosophically, this negation of all limited states of consciousness, of all illusory distinctions between spirit, soul and matter, is equivalent to the affirmation of universal life and absolute freedom. Real vitality has its basis in the realm of non-being that is beyond the calculus of sequential causation.

 As the Upanishads teach, the spiritual path is like the razor's edge. The effort to realize true immortal life in non-being requires the utmost discrimination with regard to motive. At every point, one must keep in mind the archetypal distinction between liberation and renunciation. Everything in the Teachings of the Gupta Vidya may be viewed in the context of a search for heightened awareness, or merely as a quest for escape. The desire for extinction is extremely strong throughout nature, whether conceived in terms of Maha-Pralaya at the end of an age of Brahmâ, or in terms of Nitya Pralaya, ceaseless dissolution. Everything in manifest nature is reabsorbed into the whole. In human beings this force of dissolution may be converted into a desire for extinction because many do not wish to engage spiritually in a world pervaded by shallow values, frozen expressions and limited conceptions. Through the principle of negation, nature balances the over-assertion of the manifested ray with disengagement in sleep or in death. Whilst the human desire for extinction can reflect the final reabsorption of everything into the whole, this desire itself reflects attachment to manifested existence. It betrays a wish for escape, an irresponsible quest for liberation. This is entirely different from the search for self-conscious attunement to universal self-consciousness, the state of those who are awake during the night of non-manifestation.

Without the self-conscious realization of Alaya, without Paramartha, the Paranirvana of the universe is mere extinction. Unless and until the divine essence in oneself, which is one with the essence in the heart of every atom, is made the self-conscious basis of boundless compassion towards all beings, the soul cannot realize the permanent potential of universal and eternal life.

BrahmâThus, an iron ball placed under the scorching rays of the sun will get heated through, but will not feel or appreciate the warmth, while a man will. It is only "with a mind clear and undarkened by personality, and an assimilation of the merit of manifold existences devoted to being in its collectivity (the whole living and sentient Universe)", that one gets rid of personal existence, merging into, becoming one with, the Absolute, and continuing in full possession of Paramartha.

The Secret Doctrine, i 54    

 The fundamental distinction between liberation and renunciation implies that true love is proportional to spiritual wakefulness. The capacity to love all life-atoms depends upon one's understanding of their various orders and functions within the World Soul. Through appropriate arrangement and discipline, they must be given a chance to become apprenticed in discipleship, even at the level of unself-consciousness and incipient consciousness. No mere facility with intellectual constructions or recourse to ritual techniques is going to sustain the tremendous power of attention needed for this learning. This capacity of the soul for wakefulness is dependent upon previous lives of meditation, renunciation and service. Thus, in the meta-psychological perspective of the Gupta Vidya, there is no basis for understanding soul powers and the development of magical possibilities, whether in their beneficent or maleficent uses, apart from an understanding of karma and reincarnation.

 Every human being has brought into the world some distinctive experience of the immortal soul and its theurgic powers, some indelible marks of past proficiency and past deficiency. Spiritual growth cannot, therefore, be explained by the principle of desire operating in the present. Filtered through the distorting prism of kama manas, the ideal principle of aspiration becomes a concretized impression of temporal and temporary desires. Such illusory impressions are merely projections out of tanha, the root desire to exist and subsist in a form or body in a world that is limited in space and time. There can be no true wakefulness, no release of the spiritual will, and no moral and mental growth based upon such an obscured and distorted sense of self-existence.

 The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is composed of the sum of all its various and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to its disappearance from the earth. It is these "sum-totals" that exist from eternity in the "future", and pass by degrees through matter, to exist for eternity in the "past".

The Secret Doctrine, i 37    

 The deeper conception of time which is needed to understand these karmic sum-totals can only arise from an extraordinary detachment. Burdened by individual and collective karma on the one hand, confronted by the necessity of supreme detachment on the other, many find it difficult to retain a vital enthusiasm for the world. They must realize that even the most magnanimous souls cannot give themselves fully to every living being without voiding every element of meretricious attraction to the shadowy self. Detachment from the personal self is necessary for those who wish to view the world without bondage to attachments and illusions. The inner ray of Alaya cannot be freed for the exhilaration of universal compassion until it is disengaged in consciousness from its own reflection localized in time and space upon the waves of differentiated matter. This disengagement, equivalent to awakening true continuity of consciousness, proceeds through an undivided process of unfoldment that may be represented by an orderly series of law-governed phases. If these stages are not clearly understood, the nature of detachment may be distorted and its motives debased. Each stage accompanies a growing transcendence of the illusion of time and comprehension of Karma. At the same time, each stage represents a growing awakening to essential degrees of Alaya or noetic intelligence. Souls progress from the restraint of the lower self or personality by the divine Self or individuality to the restraint of the Self divine by the Eternal, in which even the latent consciousness of desire and tanha is torn out. Thus the soul is merged in self-consciousness with the eternal essence of Alaya.

 The first problem of withdrawal of consciousness from form may be understood best through the relationship between karmic attachment and memory. So long as karmic attachment operates through personal memories, individuals will experience pleasant and unpleasant reactions. As Shri Shankaracharya taught, "So long as we experience pleasure and pain, karma is still working through us." The more violent these emotional reactions, the stronger is the dead weight of karma. In extreme cases, a terrible and intensely traumatic experience in previous lives, coupled perhaps with a short or non-existent devachan, may bring about a tremendous burden on consciousness in the present incarnation. Attracted, under karma, to parents and companions bound by likes and dislikes, one may likewise experience emotional extremism. But, whatever its cause, volatility is invariably symptomatic of a high degree of karmic bondage. Its victims must learn painfully over a lifetime to void a false sense of reality or romance, of security or expectation. The seeming burdens of karma are in direct proportion to the delusions that must be voided. An Initiate, seeing the aura of a human being mired in delusion, knows that at the moment of that being's death one question remains: Has his understanding of the ABCs of life improved since his birth? If so, the individual can begin to discharge the debt of karma. Thus, if he is fortunate, the individual will gravitate to environments where there is little attention to likes and dislikes and where the options for the personality are fewer. Through successive incarnations, Karma compassionately reduces opportunities for protracted delusion until the individual is compelled to learn essential lessons.

 In terms of the self-conscious pursuit of moral and metaphysical ideals, Karma operates with the same dispassion, progressively narrowing the margins for error. Individuals vary in their degrees of wakefulness in proportion to their kamic attachment. They burden consciousness with fragmented memories, which must be distinguished from soul reminiscence, a reflection of universal memory beyond parochial and ephemeral likes and dislikes. As an individual learns to overcome the blurring of attention induced by personal memory, he will receive greater aid through moral allegiance to chosen ideals. Plato and Gandhi wisely recognized that most people in the Age of Zeus, Kali Yuga, are burdened by hostile memories and desperately in need of hospitable ideals.

 Transmitting ideals to children and pupils through example and through precept is both beneficent and constructive. Their capacity for credible ideals increases with practice, and, as attention is focussed upon the possibilities of the future, it continues to develop. Naturally, ideals recede as they are approached, but they are nonetheless essential; they provide directions, if not destinations, and propel the individual ever forwards. As long as there are ideals, pointing to the imaginative possibilities of the foreseeable future, one can appreciate the salutary lessons of karma without becoming overburdened by collective memories of failure. Ultimately, all potent and transcendental ideals have their origins in divine thought, and their realization cannot be restricted to the solitary pilgrimage of any individual soul. As presented in the portraits of perfect enlightenment in various scriptures, they represent the source and apex of universal spiritual unfoldment. The true mystery of ideals is bound up with that of Avatars and Manus, the exalted incarnations and prototypes guiding and overbrooding manifestation, but rooted in the unmanifest divine thought and the Host of Anupadaka.

 At the simplest level, the development of a mature consciousness of magnanimous ideals is central to the ethical growth of human beings, individually and collectively. The more potent ideals any living culture can express, the greater the hope it preserves. As a society grows weary, its scintillating ideals evaporate. From the era of Arthurian legends to Victorian dreams, England was characterized by its rich, understated yet resonant ideals. Now, all those souls engaged in this exuberant period of flowering have vanished or incarnated in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Contemporary Englishmen and women find themselves unable to vitalize the ideals they inherited and succumb to nostalgia. Likewise, the Scandinavians passed through this transformation of ideals into memories long ago and then purged themselves of the corrosive tendency of self-flattery. Such purgation is particularly difficult in America, because to this day, America is the dumping ground of the world's malcontents. Whenever America begins to grow up, it receives a burden of memories dumped by new immigrants from declining or dissipated cultures. Thus, through kamic attachment or karmic precipitation, societies become weighted down by memories, and soon they find themselves caught in a downward cycle. Yet, if an individual or a society can become electrically charged by ethical ideals, can rekindle a sense of wonder towards creative possibilities, can look to the future with cool confidence, a life-giving and forward-looking current is released.

 The capacity for intense involvement with the beauty of ideals is central to the problems of pessimism and optimism, apathy and initiative, for individuals as for societies. Viewed more metaphysically, the problem of attachment and memory is founded in the illusion of time itself. If one understands the present moment as merely a mathematical line separating those logical constructs called the past and the future, the present amounts to a virtually invisible and illusory division constantly in movement. Thus, everything is constantly absorbed from the past into the future. According to Buddhist metaphysics, however, "The Past time is the Present time, as also the Future, which, though it has not come into existence, still is." From this perspective, both the future and the past exist even now, because everything that has happened to humanity over eighteen million years is summed up here and now within the subtle vestures, whilst everything that will happen in myriad lifetimes to come is already implicit in the programming of our invisible vestures. Coping with this in a meaningful philosophical way, and without costly escapism, requires a meticulous attention to timing.

 One must gain sufficient detachment from the past, the present and the future in the ordinary sense, from memories and ideals, to be able to see the abstract open texture of universal possibilities that the present, that imperceptible mathematical line, represents. Albertus Magnus is said to have made a homunculus, which could only come alive if the correct operation were performed at a certain moment. As that moment approached, the homunculus said, "Time will be, Time is, Time was." Because the key was not promptly applied as it said "Time is", it rapidly went on to "Time was". Such is the condition of human beings caught up in the past and the future, oblivious to what is pregnant in the present moment. Here one encounters the paradox of time and wakefulness. The more timeless one's consciousness in the true philosophical sense of expanding self-consciousness, the better one can appreciate the present moment and the sharper one's sense of timing.

 The so-called realists, constantly marshalling convenient or frightening facts from the past, are only compensating for their lack of lively awareness in the enigmatic present. Whilst prating of proven realism, they entirely miss the present moment. Through the karmic process of acceleration of contagious delusion, operating on the social plane, those individuals with the most constrained sense of duration and most misplaced sense of realism tend to become the strident spokesmen of declining cultures in a dark age. Under the guise of accredited authority, misusing the channels of the media, they feverishly seek to impress their own confined consciousness upon others, parading the language of fear, pragmatism and survival. As, alas, many souls are susceptible to the pulls of pleasure and pain, this pseudo-realism becomes a dominant thought-form for a generation, and is passed on from parents to children as an insidious cowardice concerning the future. True realists, however, are those who are imaginatively practical with regard to ideals. They evidence no such impotence. Knowing that the negation of form is essential to the realization of ideals, they see the present moment rather as the wise view the moment of death, the great destroyer of illusions. Only when one releases the fragments can one see the picture as a whole, distil the quintessential from every experience, and free oneself from obscuring projections and distortions.

 All negations of false continuity of consciousness are vital opportunities to awaken to a deeper continuity in consciousness. It is in this light that one should view the immemorial Teachings of the Gupta Vidya: nothing on this earth has real duration, nothing remains for a moment without change. So too Krishna asserts in the Bhagavad Gita that he, as the manifested Logos, never remains for a moment inactive. The blurring sense of duration that accompanies sensory awareness, like the blurred impression on the retina caused by an electric spark, is due to identification with transitory form. It is impossible to gain a right perception of reality, of the relationship of the immortal soul to its evolving vestures, without withdrawing attention from such nebulous images of personal consciousness.

 No one could say that a bar of metal dropped into the sea came into existence as it left the air, and ceased to exist as it entered the water, and that the bar itself consisted only of that cross-section thereof which at any given moment coincided with the mathematical plane that separates, and, at the same time, joins, the atmosphere and the ocean. Even so of persons and things, which, dropping out of the to-be into the has-been, out of the future into the past – present momentarily to our senses a cross-section, as it were, of their total selves, as they pass through time and space (as matter) on their way from one eternity to another: and these two constitute that "duration" in which alone anything has true existence, were our senses but able to cognize it there.

The Secret Doctrine, i 37    

 Fundamentally, the illusion of time must be traced to the experience and expression of ideation through a limiting vesture. Mind, at every level of manifestation, is equivalent to a summation of states of consciousness grouped under thought, will and feeling. During manifestation these mutable aggregates are the basis of capricious memory; during non-manifestation they fall into complete abeyance. Thus, when divine thought or universal ideation is unmanifest, the mental basis of temporal existence has ceased to be.

 A noumenon can become a phenomenon on any plane of existence only by manifesting on that plane through an appropriate basis or vehicle; and during the long night of rest called Pralaya, when all the existences are dissolved, the "UNIVERSAL MIND" remains as a permanent possibility of mental action, or as that abstract absolute thought, of which mind is the concrete relative manifestation.

The Secret Doctrine, i 38    

 It is from within this plenum of divine thought, eternal duration and absolute harmony that the deathless Watchers in the Night maintain their calm and compassionate vigil over the entire spectrum of manifested life. Viewing Mahat and Manas from above below, they calculate the sum-totals of collective human karma and, through benevolent ideation, ameliorate the agonizing condition of trapped human souls. This is the predicament of the parrot mind, of the partisan heart, of the deluded soul enslaved by externals. The temporal confinement of the projected personal ray has obscured the Buddhi-Manasic Ego and impeded its active realization of its authentic inheritance as a ray of Universal Mind. It is essential to strengthen the self-redemptive conception of the antaskarana bridge between the immortal and the mortal egos. Through meditation upon the higher pole of egoity, it is possible to withdraw the mind from limitations. This is the basis of true self-abnegation, self-discipline and clear-sightedness.

 As this clarity of vision matures into spiritual wakefulness, one can reverse the polarity of the different centres in the lunar vesture, thereby affecting the desire-nature, sensory states and the deepest feelings. So great is the potential of the pure crystalline ray of Alaya that even such a profound change can take place at any time. But the transformation must be thorough and fundamental, with no quarter given to mental laziness or moral cowardice. All dullness of attention is caused by a fear of non-being acting through tanhaic attachment to some limited view of life. Human beings are like shadowy creatures, clutching to the trappings of existence because they are terrified of real life, like mountaineers paralyzed by fear, grasping on to precipitous ledges. They must let go their frozen grip on the niches of illusory security, if they wish to regain the freedom to move and to aid each other. They must ever be willing to be thrown back totally upon themselves, relying upon no outward circumstances or props, but only upon invisible and unbreakable cords of compassion linking one with all. Thus, they may approach the mysterium tremendum, the noumenal realm of Non-Being, wherein true Being lies, in the bosom of the Eternally Self-Existent. By entering the Nivritti Marga, the path of inwardness, one may commence the mystic return to Maha-Shiva.

Thou hast to saturate thyself with pure Alaya, become as one with Nature's Soul-Thought. At one with it thou art invincible; in separation, thou becomest the playground of Samvritti, origin of all the world's delusions.
 All is impermanent in man except the pure bright essence of Alaya. Man is its crystal ray; a beam of light immaculate within, a form of clay material upon the lower surface. That beam is thy life-guide and thy true Self, the Watcher and the silent Thinker, the victim of thy lower Self.

The Voice of the Silence    

Hermes, February 1983
by Raghavan Iyer

Normal View