Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Ascension of the Soul, Part 2

The Ascension of the Soul, Part 2

The Ascension of the Soul into Interior Regions of Light & Sound, Part 2: Introduction to the Inner Regions/Heavens, And, The Second Inner Region: Causal Plane: Trikuti

"The ascension of the soul, stage by stage, to higher regions can be accomplished with the help pf Shabd. Hearing these Sounds, the soul will proceed from one region to another, and will ultimately reach the Highest Region, and enter into Rest."  (Huzur Maharaj, "Prem Patra Radhasoami")

The Higher Regions

One's passage into the astral plane is aided by the sound of a deeply resonant bell. A dazzle of colors immediately emerges, subsiding into a deep blue, like the blue of a late afternoon sky. Subsequently a light appears in the blue, intense but diffused, as if veiled by a gauze screen. The soul aims for the light, penetrates the gauze, and arrives at a brilliant flame surrounded by a dense blue-black sky. That area, a higher realm within the astral plane, is called shyam kunj (the thicket of darkness), and it is regarded as the divine headquarters for managing both the physical and astral realms. It is controlled, of course, by Kal; here he appears as Niranjan, the Lord of the astral realm. The soul should not be satisfied with attaining this realm, however, but focus on the flame, which replaces the blue-black sky with an intense bright white. This enables the soul to by-pass all the supernatural regions referred to in the literature of other religions: the Christians' heaven and hell, the Hindus' svarga and naraka, the Muslims' dozakh and bahisht. These all exist at the level of shyam kunj, but there is no ultimate advantage to being lodged in one rather than another. Heaven may be filled with "comfortable rooms" and hell with "painful cells," but in the last analysis all who live in either are trapped "in the same jail."67 The fortunate soul, however, has a way out. The Radhasoami master guides it to a dark spot in the light and a sound similar to that of a conch shell, which it hears at first only distantly from a tunnel high above. The tunnel is called banknal (the crooked path). Upon following the sound into the tunnel, the soul turns around and then enters the next plane.

This second region is called the causal plane, for it is from here that the phenomenal world is ultimately generated. At one spot, for example, is a four-petaled lotus from which emerge utterances that eventually issue as the four Vedic scriptures of Hinduism. The world was created in this region as a subtle, invisible form, and here karmic burdens are dispatched and reclaimed. Thus cause and effect, both material and moral, begin and end here. Brahm, the creator, sustainer and dissolver of the universe, is considered the Lord of this region, but he too is an agent of Kal, so this world, like the astral, holds its perils for the wary Radhasoami soul.

The soul, forewarned, enters the causal plane with care, listening again for the guardian sound, which in this region reverberates like the sound of large drums or rolling thunder, and which may also sound like the rumbling chant of the Hindus' om, om, or the Muslims' HU, HU. The light that the soul looks for to guide it takes on a brilliant reddish color in this realm, like that of the sun in a summer sunrise. The soul fixes on these aural and visual guides, and passes by locations where the things of our physical world were created. Within the landscape are also vistas that are well known from Hindu mythology-Mount Kailasa, for example, where Lord Shiva is thought to dwell, or the forests and gardens said to have been inhabited by Krishna. The light that the soul has followed, already brighter than many suns, becomes ever brighter as the wayfarer proceeds upward, bursting through the pyramidically shaped causal realm.

At that point the soul moves beyond the arena in which causation has meaning and transcends the last shreds of materiality. It leaves behind realms referred to by Hindus as "the three worlds" (trilok), i.e., the known universe, and moves into what Radhasoami calculates as the third spiritual plane: Daswan Dwar (the tenth door), also known as Sunn (emptiness). This transition is more decisive than any other, and is second in importance only to the initial shift from the physical to the spiritual plane, for it marks the point beyond which the soul no longer inhabits form, whether physical, astral, or causal. From here onward, the soul exists purely in spirit. It passes beyond the karmic cycle, breaking free of the bondage that forced it to shuttle from one physical life to another. The soul has now achieved moksha (release), in the Hindu reckoning, and is "rid of all covers of matter and mind, and shines forth in its naked glory with the radiance of twelve suns."68 It has a new name, too. It is called hamsa, the high-flying goose that in Indian mythology is invested with almost magical properties; in Radhasoami writings it is usually described as a swan and is sometimes identified with the phoenix. Having passed beyond the realms governed by Kal, the soul is free to revel in divine bliss and enjoy an ambiance suffused by a pleasant light and a divine sound. The light resembles that of the full moon in a clear sky, shimmering in all directions, and the sound is like that of a guitar, lute, or harp. ("Radhasoami Reality," Mark Juergensmeyer, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-07378-3)
65 Rai Saligram, Jugat Prakash Radhasoami, p. 26.
66 Misra, Discourses, p. 219. See also Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, vol. 4, pp. 132-33.
67 L. R. Puri, Radha Swami Teachings, p. 202.
68 Ibid., p. 183

The Higher Regions (Continued)

There are interesting places for the soul to visit on this plane: Maha Sunn, for example, "great emptiness," a vast expanse of utter darkness located above Sunn, where hidden spiritual secrets are revealed and where five new universes, each with its own Brahm, may be observed. Or the soul may rest in Achint Dip, an "inconceivable island" of spirituality in the midst of the void. The Lord of this region is called Parbrahm, "super Brahm." He has the power to direct the soul either downward or upward to an even higher region, and with the assistance of the master, the Radhasoami soul can make the further ascent.

When the soul leaves the third realm and ascends to the fourth, penultimate level, it finds itself in a medium that at first seems strange. The fourth realm whirls in dizzy delight and is called Bhanwar Gupha (the rotating cave). Its central sound is like that of a flute or the sound of the Vedic mantra soham (I am that), and the Lord of the region receives his name from that term: Soham Purush (the person of soham). The light is like that of the sun at midday, radiating in all directions. There are lovely islands where souls dwell and have fellowship together, but the Radhasoami soul hastens on to the fifth and final region.

This ultimate level is called Sach Khand, or Sat Lok (both meaning "the realm of truth"), and Radhasoami writers expend countless superlatives attempting to describe it: "an ecstasy of Divine Love," "intense bliss," "a beatitude indescribable."69 When it approaches this highest state, the soul first meets a sort of guardian in the form of saba; (spontaneous, intuitive consciousness).70 If it passes beyond sahaj, it is ushered into the entrance, which is like a garden or like a courtyard in a golden palace. One is surrounded by flowers of charming fragrance and fountains flowing with nectar. The sound that circulates in this ultimate realm is that of the bin, a wooden musical instrument that produces an oboe-like tone and is often played by snake charmers. Some Radhasoami writers, however, claim that the word that is intended here is actually vina, which refers to a classical stringed instrument that one Radhasoami author translates as "harp."71 The words sat, sat or haq, haq (the Sanskrit and Persian words for "truth," respectively) may be heard intertwined with the tones that emanate from the bin. The light is as strong as sixteen suns, but even with that brilliance it is scarcely able to compete with the radiance emitted from the luminous form of the Lord of the highest realm; his name is Sat Purush (the true person) or Sat Nam (the true name). The soul presently enters into the very chambers of the ultimate Lord, and the meeting that ensues is described by Swami Shiv Dayal as involving a sort of password given in response to the Lord's command. As the soul "pushes forward," it "beholds Sat Nam smiling in bliss. Out of his lotus-like appearance comes a voice: 'Who are you, and why did you come here?' The soul replies, 'A true guru instructed me in the secrets. By his graciousness I have received the grace of your presence, 0 Lord.' And as the soul beholds the sight of the Lord it becomes greatly enraptured."72

After that brief encounter, the soul rushes directly into the form of the highest Lord and "becomes one with Him in an ecstasy of Divine Love and intense bliss."73 The soul has finally reached its home. The journey is over. ("Radhasoami Reality," Mark Juergensmeyer, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-07378-3)
68 Ibid., p. 183.
69 Ibid., p. 180, 181.
70 One finds saba; also in the final stages of the Buddhist and Nath  yoga journeys of consciousness. It is the "mysterious state" that is  the goal of hatha yoga as practiced by the Naths (Vaudeville, Kabir,  p. 125), and their idea has influenced Kabir, who speaks of saba as a spontaneous experience of truth" (Hawley and Juergensmeyer, Songs of the Saints of India, p. 44).
71 Maheshwari, Truth Unvarnished, part 2, pp. 35, 107-8. The leader  of another Radhasoami branch confirms that the bin is the snake-charmer's oboe (Interview with Bansi Lal Gupta, Gwalior, August 21, 1985),
72 L. R. Puri, Radha Swami Teachings, p. 180. 73 Ibid.



"Three Prominences"

"At the apex of this Akash (in Sahas-dal-kanwal), there is a passage which is very small like the eye of a needle. Your Surat (spirit) should penetrate this eye. Further on, there is Bank nal, the crooked path, which goes straight and then downwards and again upwards. Beyond this passage comes the second stage. Trikuti (having three prominences) is situated here. It is one lakh yojan in length and one lakh yojan in width [millions of miles in inner space; an expression describing tremendous dimensions]. There are numerous varieties of glories and spectacles at that plane which are difficult to describe. Thousands of suns and moons look pale in comparison to the light there. All the time, melodious sounds of Ong Ong and Hoo Hoo, and sounds resembling thunder of clouds, reverberate there. On obtaining this region, the spirit becomes very happy, and purified and subtle. It is from here onwards that it becomes cognizant of the spiritual regions." (Soami Ji/Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama, Sar Bachan Poetry)

{Causal Plane; Universal Mind}

Progression to successively higher regions of existence is secured in Radhasoami and Sant Mat through listening to the finer shabd (sound) melodies. As remarked before, it is the bell sound which leads the soul into the first region. Subsequently, access to the next stage, Trikuti, is garnered by attaching one's attention to the powerful rhythm of drums (or, clashing thunder). However, on the sojourn between the first and second regions, one must pass through bank nal, a crooked tunnel which can ward off spirits from progressing further. An interesting description of this particular stage comes from a letter written by a disciple of Sawan Singh, dated January 30, 1945 (Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, 1974):

"My progress again started from 9th January. Sometimes I could see light and get some taste, but there was not upward progress. One day I saw three paths and after many days my soul started following the middle one. It is not a straight path but a sort of crooked tunnel which goes on narrowing as one moves forward. At one place it was so narrow that I had to crawl forward on my stomach. There were many snakes and scorpions in this path but through Your mercy they all appeared dead and did no harm to me. I felt absolutely no fear because I was conscious all the time of your presence and your Shabd Form. Further on, the path narrowed still more and a sinner like myself could never go through it without Your mercy and grace. It is like a round tunnel and it is all lightened up with a beautiful circular light like that of the morning sun. It appears as if the sun is rising. I tried to pass through this sun but could not do so and therefore came back through this tunnel. This happened about two or three days ago."

Trikuti, so named because of the three huge mountains of light situated there, is the home of the universal mind where individual karmas have their origin. Saints point out that this region is the most difficult to traverse because it means surrendering one's mind entirely. Since such a task is almost impossible immediately, the soul stays within the boundaries of the second stage for a considerable duration.

The spectacles of Trikuti are reported to be so enticing and spectacular that the meditator often does not want to go on further. Indeed, the inner master sometimes prevents the student from beholding the sights in fear that he/she will become too saturated with joy and forget his/her real mission (Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, 1974).

Faqir Chand, a radical teacher in the Radhasoami movement who presented a number of startling interpretations on the nature of religious visions (Lane, 1983), believed, on the basis of over seventy years of meditation, that the reason Trikuti is so hard to overcome is due to the fact that whatsoever one desires it manifests accordingly. Literally, worlds upon worlds can be created by sheer thought in the second stage. Thus, the soul can be trapped by an infinite set of cravings, wants, and wishes, which continually attract the mind to ephemeral pleasures (Faqir Chand, 1976).

Furthermore, in the grand design of the cosmos, there is a negative force whose sole purpose is to detain the soul from transcending to higher states. This power is known as Kal (time/death), the lord of the mind, in the terminology of the saints in the Sant Mat and Radhasoami traditions (Julian P. Johnson, 1974). Kal is the antithesis of the positive current, Sat, which constantly goes back to the Supreme Lord, Anami Purush. Kal's force is downward (instead of upward) toward the creation. Hence, Kal, though also a manifestation of the Absolute on a lower vibration, represents the main obstacle in the ascent of the soul. The only way a sincere student can conquer Trikuti is by withdrawing the spirit from the mind itself, just as the mind separated from the body.

(The Section Above is from the Book, "Enchanted Land", by David Lane, MSAC Philosophy Group)

"Saints show us the Path of Sound and Light,
They still the mind and raise it to the skies
The soul gets concentrated at the Door and
is in bliss;
Ascending the celestial skies she is in sight
of Gagan (Inner Sky of the Second Stage).
The fortunate soul sets out on its journey
along with the Divine Melody;
Listening to this Celestial Music day by day,
she becomes detached." (Bhajan of Sant Tulsi Sahib)