Author Topic: Saguna, Nirguna Nexus - Srinivasan Sridharan. Mountain Path Jul.-Sep.2012  (Read 1557 times)

Subramanian.R

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Saguna and Nirguna.

From time immemorial, Indian spirituality has had two dominant strands.  Saguna worship, the adoration of the Divine with a
particular name and form.  And a yearning for Nirguna, an inquiry and feeling into that which is nameless, immeasurable, and
indescribable.  More than just being forms of worship, they are corollaries respectively of two fundamentally different philosophies
of life and approaches to spirituality -- one leading to action in the world and the other to pure contemplation.  In this article, we
attempt to show that they are both complimentary and it is at the Saguna - Nirguna interface that Life and Yoga find the their
fulfillment. 

Whither Saguna?

The term Saguna means 'the one with qualities and attributes'  Thus the divine is conceived and meditated upon as having certain
qualities which evoke adoration as well as being a form that is delectable.  In so far as all qualities are based on sensory perception,
triggering of brain reactions to that perception and the associations based on what has already been experienced and programmed
in the brain, it would seem that Saguna worship is confined to the realm of likes and dislikes and pain and pleasure.  Clearly in
this track there is subject-object relationship between the human and the Divine.  Further, since life in general is dogged by
uncertainty, humans turn to the Divine as the redeemer, as one who would protect them from physical pain, emotional turmoil,
and the nagging insecurities of day to day life and help them fulfill their agenda, that is, whatever they seek to achieve either
for themselves or those to whom they are attached.  Given this general notion of Saguna worship, one may inquire, what power
and potential does it have, to lead man away from a life of spiritual mediocrity, into realm untouched and to a state of divine
awareness and Ananda.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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continues......

Nirguna paradox.

With respect to Nirguna worship, there is perhaps a more fundamental problem.  Indeed Nirguna worship is an oxymoron. 
How can one conceive that which has no form or attributes, much less worship it?  Obviously, the human mind does need
the medium of form however subtle, (may be some kind of light?), attributes and associations to be able to relate to the
so called Supreme Being.

The human condition.

Our day to day lives are spent in the Saguna realm in the sense of subject-object division.  To live is to be related and
relationship implies 'me' and 'the other'.  This brings in multifarious complications, such as fear, hurt, embarrassment,
self consciousness, desire to possess and control which may be collectively referred to as 'conflict'. Nature has ingrained
in the living beings the instinct of self preservation and desire to procreate -- as part of its intelligent design.  But because
of a quirk in the evolutionary process, the operation of this intelligent mechanism is rendered morbid by the mind's embroidery;
anticipation of future in terms pleasure and pain, its calculations and divisions of 'me' and 'mine' and its body consciousness
made acute by remembered pleasure-pain.  This self defensive and self aggrandizing machinery of reaction of the human brain
is its conditioning and is the source of all human conflict and sorrow.  Finally there is the inevitable deterioration and dissolution
of the body with time, bringing with it the ending of the very frame of experience.  So, human life is often declared as transient
and painful (dukhalayam asaswatham; anityam asukham).  Seeing all this, what is one to do?  Is there a way out?  However, any
effort on the part of the conditioned brain to extricate itself from itself is vain and but a perpetuation of its conditioning.                     

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Nivritti:

To a serious inquirer verbal explanations of how this question may be resolved, will appear futile.  One therefore has to take
an operational approach.  Being sceptical of the reactions of the conditioned brain, one should only watch its activity as a witness
(cf: sakshi chaitanya of Sankara, 'Will less contemplation' of Schophenhauer).  This awareness at its greatest depth exposes the
totality of the activity of the conditioned psyche to itself.  This complete exposure is tantamount to complete negation and therefore
an invitation to the fathomless depths of utter tranaqulity (parama shanti) -- an inner sanctuary beyond the tribulations and turbulences
of ego -- a sanctuary with secret door to the divinity within.

The foregoing in a nutshell is a rough outline of Nivritti way of life -- nivritti against pravritti, negation as against affirmation,
withdrawal rather than engagement in life, contemplation rather than action -- the quintessential Nirguna ethos.  In order to
appreciate this approach, one has to abandon the point of view of a particular individual and observe the entire cosmos impersonally
from an universal standpoint (something one caught in the web of day-to-today mundane problems would consider impossible.) 
Observed from this vantage point, it is clear that all actions, including all the reactions of brains, are performed by nature by the
permutations and combinations of gunas.  The individual ego, however, is deluded from thinking that he is the doer  (Prakrithe:
kriyamanani gunii:  karmani nitysha: Ahamkara vimudhtatma kartaham iti manyate).  All the choices made by the individual are
indeed by a conditioned brain and have their very root the pleasure-pain motivation.   It is then clear that the Free Will is but an
illusion,  Krishna says in the chapter 14 of the Gita that if there is a clear perception that there is no doer other than the gunas
of prakriti (na anyam gunebha; kartaram) then there is a possiblity of insight into that which is beyond the gunas (gunebhyascha 
param).

continued.....

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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What then is the action called for?  The answer follows in the last section of the chapter fourteen.  Nothing can be done
by the individual and nothing needs to be done at all.  For individuality is a construct of the brain, which is a figment of
Prakriti.  This becomes clear against the backdrop of a choice-less, effortless, total awareness of the whole movement of   
Prakriti within and without.  Any transformation that does occur is not the result of the initiative of the individual ego, but
the work of Nature.  This is a voyage into unchartered seas with results that are completely unpredictable in details, but
it does lead to true enduring freedom and fathomless felicity.  Verily our real nature, if anything, is awareness, that has
the power to burn all the vasanas, complexes, inhibitions, and contortions of the ego -- this done in its completeness,
opens the door to the expanse of the universal and transcendent on which the body- consciousness and the three states
of deep sleep, dream and wakefulness associated with it are but passing ripples (avasthaatraya sakshyasmi).

Action called for is thus inaction -- find in yourself the status of a sarvarambha parityagi (one who abandon all undertakings)
-- be the immutable witness untouched by the movements of Prakriti.  Stay focused in the understanding that you are that
light by which you know you are.  Shall we call it the Nirguna way?  How then, does action proceed -- action is that is necessary
to sustain life and its drama -- in this Saguna frame of experience?  This is a dichotomy which we shall have to resolve.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Saguna Bhakti:

While all this is intellectually enchanting and theoretically feasible, it is bound to cause confusion in those who are naturally
drawn to devotion to personal Godhead and a life of action informed by such devotion.  Krishna of Gita is well aware of this
danger (cf: na buddhi bhedam janayet agnanam karmasanginam ).  The last but one sloka in chapter fourteen is precisely
addressed to these devotees:  'One who is in a state of ecstatic and intimate personal adoration of Divinity (bhakti yogena
sevate) without a trace of worldliness (avyabhicharena) transcends the play of gunas and becomes one with Brahman.'

Human is intrinsically divine. Though enmeshed in the complex web of fear and desire, pain and pleasure, raga-dwesha
dualities, propelled by ego and attachment (ahamkara mamakara) and lost in the world of names and forms, he can be
potentially sensitive to the all of the divine and has a natural attraction to beauty, goodness and truth.  How and why
in certain (small minority?) of individuals this becomes a dominant instinct is beside the point. The fascination of the divine
name, form and attributes, be it Lord Krishna, or Goddess Lalita,  once engendered in the heart, overrides every other temporal
interest and in fact has the power to cleanse the heart of its complexities and hidden motives and dirt (kalmashas).  So the
gopis sing, 'Your story is the nectar which brings life to many a burnt out soul; cleanse the heart of its dirts.... makes one forget
all desires (tava kathamrutham tapta jeevanam ...kalmashapaham... itararagavismaranamam...)'  To the devotee, the invocation
of name and form of the ishta devata (chosen deity) brings in a flood of light, peace, ananda and indomitable courage in the                 
direst of life's crisis.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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In its highest form, Saguna worship takes place min the inner chambers of heart between the devotee and his ishta devata.
The unconditional self offering and surrender at the feet of ishta, opens the heart to the ecstasy of love and initiates him into
the beauty of a state without defenses, pretences or pretensions.  Surely, the divine reciprocates with grace which signals the
breaking down of the tightly closed doors of the chambers of heart and opens the whole psycho-somatic apparatus of the devotee
to a bliss hitherto unknown. 

Saguna Nirguna nexus:

The Saguna trajectory expands further.  Once the surrender of the devotee is complete, a transformation sets in which gives
him 'spectacles of beauty'.  He sees the divine not only in particular named and form but also sees the creation brimming with
that divine beauty, that divine essence and effulgence.  The cavern of the heart expands endlessly to cover the inner cosmos
(chidakasa).  The devotee sees One in All and All in One (yo mam pashyati sarvatra, sarvancha mayi pashynti) and he is the yogi
who ever dwells in the ishta (sa yogi mayi vartate).  This is parabhakti which is uncannily close to the universality of the Nirguna
approach.  The transition from one to the other is seamless:  Nirguna approach with a slight change of perspective opens to the
perception of the whole creation as the manifestation of the Supreme Being, (sarvam khalavidam Brahma); the Sagune devotee
dong the same just by letting his exclusive preoccupation with one particular name and form.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Action - Contemplation nexus:

The Saguna approach calls for engagement with the world which is a concrete manifestation of the divine -- but then in so doing
its practitioner might lose his hold on the ineffable peace,  freedom and silence that is the home of the transcendent.  The
Nirguna approach when carried to its logical conclusion can also very well miss the delight of existence in a world of divine Leela
which is the manifestation and realization of the divine clothed in myriads of material forms.  But it does not have to be one or
the other.  At the nexus of Saguna and Nirguna, a person finds completeness and fulfills his or her destiny of perfection.  'Man
becomes perfect only when he found in himself utter passivity of the Brahman and supports by that passivity and that silence
inexhaustible activity,'  (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter IV, 2006).  That is the beatific state of deep meditation, of samadhi
that uses the power of the mind when necessary for impersonal action while living in mindless silence.  Action then proceeds from
joy, the joy of love, expansiveness of compassion, passion of untrammeled energy and the well springs of creativity.  It can work
wonders in the world.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.