Covering, revealing, inhabiting the Self: Isha Upanishad, mantra 1

Isa upanisad.
Sanskrit of the Isha Upanishad. Creative commons.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of an eternal Truth discovered within the innermost Self (Atman).  In the Isha Upanishad, Isha is the eternal Truth of the Self.

The first mantra of the Isha Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: Om Isha vāsyam idam sarvam…

Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever.”[1] The first verse expresses a fundamental insight not only of Hinduism, but of a universal awareness. The verse offers a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, and a transformation in our very modes of seeing and perceiving, our means and modes of being.

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Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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Shiva Speaks: words of the supreme Self

Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain
Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain

Both the work of Carl Jung (CW 9ii) and Vedanta (Adi Shankara and the Upanishads) agree: the deity image represents the Self beyond self. In Vedanta, the deity image represents the supreme Self: Shiva is one such deity image.

In my last post, titled Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom, I spoke of ash as a symbol of Shiva, and thus of the supreme Self. In that post, I drew from a passage from the Brahmanda Purana. In this post, I am going to share more from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27). In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature, and thus the nature of the supreme Self.

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Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom

Shiva with Vibhuthi on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister, 1867-1911.
Shiva with Vibhuthi (ash) on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister.

Ash is a product of fire.

When fire burns, things perish. Ash remains.

As a symbol of purification, ash is the essence that remains when all else burns away. Carl Jung speaks of such things. He says:

‘Ash’ is an inclusive term for the scoriae left over from burning, the substance that ‘remains below [1]

Ash, as a symbol, is closely linked to the Self. The Self, like ash, is that which “remains below.”

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Meditation on Ash: image of mourning

Kala_Bhairava
Śiva as Bhairava with two dogs, unknown author, circa 1820. US Public Domain

It’s a strange day
No colors or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am

When I’m with you
There’s no reason
There’s no sense

I’m not supposed to feel
I forget who I am

(Goldfrapp – Utopia)

There are moments in life when we lose ourselves completely. These moments occur spontaneously in states of love and joy, as well as pain and hardship. When we fall in love we forget ourselves: there’s no reason. And at the loss of love, we again forget ourselves: there’s no sense. These movements of love and loss are at the ends of the spectrum, the outer circumference of being human, marking an aspect of the Self that the mind simply cannot grasp.

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