Saturday, April 23, 2011

Looking Beyond The Physical

Yesterday I picked up again a few spiritual texts and thumbed through them.  Why, I really don't know.  It was probably partly because I was trying to find a way out of dealing with a visit to a dentist (!), partly as it was Good Friday and I always ponder over the message of crucifixion. As I read and thought over the core of these texts, it seemed to me that they all dealt with looking beyond the physical- something many of us are unfamiliar with or reluctant to explore.  My thoughts continued through the evening as I attended an Odissi dance performance by Ileana Citaristi (a gifted Italian dancer who has been learning and practicing dance in India since 1979) and her group.  The first piece was a very powerful depiction of Krishna's sermon to Arjuna on the eve of the great battle as described in the Bhagavad Gita.  Krishna shows Arjuna the nature of reality and urges him to fight in a battle that involves killing most of his relatives and friends.

Though seemingly unrelated, the message from all these spiritual tales seems, to me, one that urges people to question the reality of a world that is so shifting, vulnerable and full of potential threats and sorrow.  What is the alternative and can one really accept the existence of subtle elements that one cannot describe in a physical way?  This is a difficult and highly subjective issue and I attempt merely to put down a few thoughts that arose when I tried to understand some of the words that I read.

One spiritual view is that the physical world that we experience and that drives us is just an effect of a deeper cause and the cause is really our self (the soul, the unmanifested spirit or our intrinsic nature).  This does not follow physical principles and is not bound by them.  The outer manifestation is, in essence, a kind of dream made by us and we become part of other bodies' dreams in a complex web that we see as our world (this was very cleverly depicted in the film 'Inception' that was a recent hit).  But actually, we are not the dream (or the body or physical manifestations that we see), we are the dreamer.  And so our dreams can be altered (this is the basis of healing, of miracles or events that seem to transcend or shift the physical), if we begin to align ourselves with our true nature.  Obviously, as we have no idea of our true nature, this is easier said than done.  But one way to proceed is not to put energy into changing the dream (i.e. not to focus on the physical, changing aspects of our lives - or as Krishna says to Arjuna- focus only on doing the work and not on its outcome) but into understanding the driving force behind our experiences.  In other words, to dissociate the doer from the deeds and to put more effort into understanding the former rather than judging and being driven by the latter.  And when I attempt to do this, I find I am functioning in a different way - I am less torn by events and people around, I am more relaxed and am not driven by fear of the future or anger in the present.  Of course, I have not tried this for very long, but it does add an element of calm and positivity to my mind.

I wonder if I have been able to put my thoughts down as lucidly as they appear to me, but anyway, this is the message that Easter week brings for me this year!

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