Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Liberated Soul After Death

Here’s an interesting question that seeks to reconcile the idea of Masters working for the spiritual upliftment of humanity with the advaitic idea of liberation as entry into pure being with no return to the world of becoming. Bodhisattvas versus Buddhas, you might say.

Q. According to Sankara in his Vivekachudamini the liberated man after death becomes like water poured into water or oil poured into oil. This implies complete absorption into the One. How does it square with your idea of the Masters who seem to be still operating in some aspect at least of the phenomenal world hence of duality? There are also contemporary teachers who say that there is no return for the liberated soul after release from the body, and that those who do communicate from the higher or non-physical worlds have not achieved liberation. What would you say to them? 

A. Regarding the Sankara quote, this is an advaita point of view and I don't subscribe to advaita, not completely anyway. I see it as true in absolute terms but one-sided and reductive in reality because reality is not the absolute alone but the absolute and the relative together, both with their own perfectly valid degree of reality even if the latter must be seen as the expression of the former. But advaita admits the relative in theory only to deny it in practice, regarding it as fundamentally unreal once the absolute is realised. A more nuanced and inclusive approach, however, sees the relative as integral to the whole even if it relates to quality, expression and relationship rather than pure being. It is a dry, life-denying sort of spirituality that refuses to allow a proper reality to any kind of form, quality or expression. It relegates love, beauty and goodness to the realm of insubstantial ephemera, but I think the very purpose of manifestation was to allow the expression of these things. That means that in some way they must be present even in the Absolute. I know that some advaitins claim that their system acknowledges the relative but it does so only in a very perfunctory way, giving it a provisional reality but then dismissing it and focusing only on the absolute. It certainly does not give the two equal footing or see that the goal of life is to unify and integrate absolute and relative rather than reject the one in favour of the other. And mitya, Sankara's word to describe the phenomenal world, (usually translated nowadays as neither real nor unreal), takes back with one hand what it gives with the other, and is consequently a very unsatisfactory way in which to view the reality inherent, subsidiary but real, in created things and the phenomenal world. To all intents and purposes advaita sees the world of duality, including individuals, as the product of ignorance, but a deeper understanding shows the One and the Many to be equally part of the whole, and that there is no contradiction in something being both individual and universal. In fact, not only is there no contradiction but that's the point of the whole show.

You talk of liberated souls but just what constitutes liberation? In advaita Vedanta realisation is exclusive, a retreat into pure consciousness, unqualified and static, but other schools of thought teach that Ultimate Reality is not just inert consciousness but has an active side to it too. For these schools true realisation only comes about when all aspects of reality, those belonging to both being and becoming, are accepted, fully integrated and made one. Anything else is incomplete. This encompasses both duality and non-duality and is a step beyond either one of them on its own. 

The Masters do operate in duality as does anything that operates at all. But they are not identified with it, and it is their compassion that brings them back into contact with our world not any need to experience it or any attachment to it. In terms of consciousness they live in non-duality. In terms of individual expression they live in duality or, I should say, they appear in duality. Again, it is not a matter of either/or but of both/and with each aspect of being in its proper place. They have certainly transcended the relative world but that is in consciousness not function or expression which are always and necessarily outward things. And, just as God has an aspect of pure being and an expressed aspect as the Creator, so do the Masters who are one in essence but who each have a unique individual quality.

Now, of course, not all liberated souls remain in touch with the outermost circles of existence (ours), and probably the majority don't. But some do (thank goodness), and even the ones that don't will still exist in some sort of relative form in so far as the expressed aspect of their nature is concerned. You might query whether they would still have an expressed aspect after liberation, but, as I have said, I don't think that death of the liberated person's physical body means unqualified entry into the limitless light with nothing left of the individual being, or water poured into water to use Sankara's words. What would be the point of manifested existence if that were so?  The liberated soul does not become God in the sense of disappear completely into the absolute so that there is nothing left of him as an individual soul at all.  He realises his being to be none other than God's being for what else could it be? There is no other being. However he does not become God qua God so much as enter a path that proceeds ever more deeply into the Divine Presence without ever exhausting the infinitude of that Presence. The fact that the Masters themselves talked of higher Masters, beings beyond even the state of liberation, points this way.

I would say to those teachers who deny the possibility of Masters communicating, how can you possibly know if you have not had the experience? They are speaking from a theoretical position and according to a mindset. I would never dispute the fact that the great majority of channeled entities are psychic beings rather than those who have achieved liberation. This is certainly the case however they may present themselves. But why should a liberated being not communicate if deemed necessary and in line with the recipient's karma? Granted, it is rare but it does happen. I do have some sympathy with the naysayers given that the bulk of channeled messages are fairly obviously not from beings of the calibre of the great saints and sages. Nevertheless I can testify from my own experience that Masters can and do communicate, and that liberated beings are not without an individual aspect even if for them now consciousness is no longer limited by that.

1 comment:

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