Posts Tagged ‘desire’

The Thing About Desire

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Living the Bhagavad Gita

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In the last post in the Living the Bhagavad Gita series, we saw that no matter who we are, our desires are fall into one of the four universal categories. We also saw that as we move from tamas to rajas to sattva, there is a simultaneous and related movement to moksha, the attainment of which leads to desirelessness.

This whole discussion brings up a very relevant and often misunderstood concept, of being desire “less”. Understanding this concept is necessary in order to grok the true meaning of yoga, be it in the context of karma yoga, bhakti yoga or jnana yoga. How can we possibly act without desire? Action arises from desire. In fact, the entire cosmos arises from desire. Desire is what drives us to get out of bed, to get ready for bed, to go to work, raise children and all of the things we do over lifetimes. However, when we talk about desirelessness being the result of liberation, we will first need to understand what is so undesirable about desire.

The quality that degrades desire to being undesirable is that of attachment. When we act out of attachment to a specific outcome, we become enchained to the action-thought-emotion complex arising as a result of that attachment. Let us take a common example – say I am a long-term employee of a corporation. I have invested my life-blood into this company, and am finally qualified for a big promotion. As soon as I find out I am in the running, my entire focus as a person, my self-image seems to miraculously rest on it. As the announcement draws closer, I begin to think of all the ways my life will change in this new position. I feel much of my thought process during the day being drawn to it, and begin to daydream about the bigger salary, the new car I can buy, the debts I can repay, the long-awaited vacation I can take. At night, I find myself unable to sleep, thinking about the other possibility – what if I do not get it? How will I show “face”? How can the company do this (hypothetically)? Is there no value for loyalty? It is a shark-eat-shark world out there..

And so the day arrives, and I find that I did not make the cut. A younger, newer employee is given the position. What happens next? Every action arising from this initial attachment-driven desire is colored by my disappointment and resentment. My self-image goes for a toss and I feel humiliated. My mind goes haywire in thoughts of self-pity, the unfairness of it all, the pointlessness of working for this inhuman company (that only recently was seen with pride when the initial announcement was made) and how it should not have happened to “me”. Whether I stay on in the company or move on, the resentment from this incident will continue to color my thoughts and subsequent actions. In other words, I have created a strong vasana or impression. And this is how our lives are lived for the most part, between polarities of likes and dislikes, loves and hates, mine and not mine. Every action arising from such polarities creates more vasanas. And vasanas are what bind us to being limited and small.

What if, on the other hand, the scenario were different and I have cultivated the ability to live and act from a desireless state? I was up for a promotion. I acknowledged it and continued with my life, with no second thought given to it. I am completely okay whether I get it or not. It does not define my self-image, my self-worth,  my happiness or how I view the company or the world. Any outcome is welcomed, and day-to-day work is done for the mere joy of it. I find out I did not get the promotion, that a younger, newer employee made the cut. I seek out that person, genuinely congratulating and celebrating his new position. It is all as it should be. No vasana is created with this.

The difference between desire-driven and desirelessness is attachment. And this is Arjuna’s conundrum as well. He is so attached to the outcome of the war that it has led to depression and delusion, causing him to freeze. Ambition, rivalry, jealousy, anxiety, anger and even day-to-day stress is a result of attachment. Tamas has this attachment to the greatest degree. Sattva has the least attachment with the greatest degree of equanimity. Equanimity is to be completely okay with whatever results from a particular action. And equanimity is the first cousin of trust, that whatever happens is for our highest good.

How and where does this incredible trust come from? How do we deal with vasanas? We will see in subsequent posts.

Dasha Mahavidya – Chinnamasta

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Tantric Practices

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Brilliant as lightning, She stands luminously naked, her body covered carelessly by a garland of human skulls. In one arm, She bears a scimitar and in the other, Her own freshly severed head. Three streams of blood spout forth from the neck, the central stream feeding Her own mouth, the other two lapped up by Her two attendants, Varnini and Dakini. Such is the dramatic iconography of the terrifying Chinnamasta. In some depictions, She dances (or sits calmly) upon a couple in embrace – Kama, the lord of desire and his beautiful wife, Rati.

Chinnamasta represents the force of creation as well as the force of transcendence. The limitation of the limitless light of Brahman (prakasha) in space (akasha) is symbolized by Bhuvaneshwari and in time by Kali. The involvement of the Supreme in all of creation as immanence even while transcending all forms is represented by Tripura Sundari. The primordial, unexpressed, unmanifest sound (nada) self-absorbed in itself in all of creation is symbolized by Tara, while nada (primordial sound) turned toward creation in all of the myriad vibrations as consciousness is represented by Tripura Bhairavi. Chinnamasta represents the coming together of prakasha (light) and nada (sound) to begin the process of creation. In the physical world, the forceful union of light and sound is depicted by lightning. Thus, Chinnamasta is known as the Goddess that shines like a streak of lightning. Brahman is described as the triune of Sat-Chit-Ananda (truth-consciousness-bliss), moving into creation as the other triune – of physical body-subtle body-causal body. The movement of Brahman into creation is forceful enough to seemingly behead the higher triune from the lower triune; the knowledge of Sat-Chit-Ananda is forgottten and the separate self is born, identifying itself as the physical-subtle-causal body, instead of as its true nature, truth-consciousness-bliss. However, this is the play (Lila) of the divine; it is in this forgetfulness that the One can revel as the many. Chinnamasta is this force of separation of the higher from the lower on the macrocosmic level.  

At the time of creation of the individual being, it is Chinnamasta that brings the macrocosmic energy into the individual being through the brahmarandhra, the topmost point of the head. With the descent of Life thus, the brahmarandhra closes, and the individual “forgets” that the energy that runs the cosmos also runs his/her being. In this, the identification as the separate entity is complete. This energy, once descended, courses through innumerable nadis (lines of energy) running throughout the being and bringing life and intelligence down to the cellular level. Of all these nadis, the three most important ones are those that arise from the root or base of the backbone and run along the spinal cord – the ida and pingala flanking and entwining the central sushumna and criss-crossing at various levels along the spine. These three channels are well-represented by the Greek symbol of medicine, the caduceus. The ida and pingala end in the left and right nostrils while the sushumna terminates in the brow center. In ordinary beings, the ida (lunar, cool) and pingala (solar, hot) currents dominate the energy circuit and life is torn between dualities of good and bad, joy and sadness, right and wrong, and so on. The sushumna remains dormant until awakened by various means and is symbolized by Chinnamasta, while Ida and Pingala are Her two attendants, Varnini and Dakini. Once awakened, the sushumna (through the tapas of Tripura Bhairavi) opens progressively up to the brow center where Chinnamasta severs open the brahmarandhra; in Her self-beheading, the identity as the separate self dies. In Her infinite compassion, She nourishes Her dualistic attendants. In being nourished thus, all opposites and paradoxes are reconciled in unity consciousness.

Thus, Chinnamasta is both the force of separation and of unity of the created from the Creator. In fierceness, She is much like Kali; while Kali is known as Chandi, the fierce one, Chinnamasta is known as Prachanda Chandi, the fiercest. Yet, the two are distinct in their modes of action. Kali is the power of action and emotion, and Her mode of action is that of evolution through time, which is often gradual and progressive. On the other hand, Chinnamasta resides at the brow center (ajna) and is the power of will and inner vision, and Her mode of action is also one of evolution, but is instantaneous and forceful. Kali’s work, combined with the tapas of Tripura Bhairavi, and support of Sundari and Bhuvaneshwari prepares the sadhana for this definitive beheading by Chinnamasta. All too often, grosser vices of the ego (tamasic and rajasic) are replaced by subtler (sattvic) ones that are far more difficult to recognize and surrender. We can go from being ignorant to being excessively “full” of intellectual knowledge gained through reading, satsang, discussions and so on. This “fullness” (known as shastra vasana) can pose the most challenging obstacle to liberation and true “knowing”. Hence the saying, “Zen mind, beginner’s mind” that calls to becoming “empty” of such knowledge. The beheading in the iconography of Chinnamasta symbolizes this breakthrough, the result of emptying and cutting through the mind’s self-inflicted veils. It is Her lighting bolt that results in instantaneous destruction of ignorance (identity as the separate self) and transformation into knowledge (of one’s true nature).

As the thunderclap, She is known as Indrani, the Shakti of Indra. In the Vedas, Indra is given the position as the Lord of Lords. He rules over the triple worlds of matter, spirit and life, and governs over the Universal (One or Divine) Mind. As Indra’s Shakti, Chinnamasta rules over the Universal Mind and acts through the human mind, as the power of perception behind all senses. Thus, sense organs are called “indriya”, after Indra, the ruler of the mind who operates through Chinnamasta. In sadhana, as we continue with the practice of Self-abiding, deeply hidden vasanas (conditioning) arise from the subtle and causal bodies in the form of impulses pertaining to the “indriyas”, the sense organs. The mind that registers sense organ perceptions continues to bring up long-ingrained and habit-enforced reactions and impulses. Of all sense-driven impulses, the sexual impulse is the strongest in sentient beings. Whether procreative or perverted, this impulse is the most difficult to control after prolonged sadhana. Even when the impulse no longer arises in the conscious mind, it can continue to arise in the subtle and causal bodies. This procreative energy is the most potent of all; however, in its ordinary impulse and release, it is ill-utilized to fulfill baser desires. Cultivated and directed upward by the grace of Chinnamasta, the procreative impulse loses its hold at the conscious and subconscious levels. At last, it ceases to be an obstacle to sadhana and is instead used to ascend to greater and greater heights. Thus, Chinnamasta reigns supreme over Kama and Rati, whose combined force is irresistible and essential for propagation of life. By this symbolic beheading, the sadhaka is reborn into a different life, one far removed from ordinary consciousness and desires.

It is only the fierceness of Chinnamasta that can instill sadhana with the courage needed to face the next Mahavidya, Dhumavati.