PASSION OF THE UPANISHADS PART THREE


T
his inseparable relationship between the individual soul and the universal spirit vibrates at the center of the Upanishads. As we descend into the depths of our individuated soul, we merge into the universal Self. According to the sages, this unity can only be experienced in an intuitive state of consciousness, an awareness as different from ordinary functional thinking as a light is different from the drawing of a flame. 
 
Beliefs, even pious ones, cannot contain much less express this presence. It is beyond the reach of beliefs. However there is an inner voice, one that speaks from stillness, that can reach us on the soaring wings of inspired writing. When listening to the Upanishads, their weaving of images, thoughts and sounds is an experience of a familiar, yet almost forgotten whisper of who we really are. Some say the Upanishads are like the breath of the divine, blowing on a tiny trail of hidden embers, rekindling fires that trace a long forgotten path through the dark forest of our oldest memories back to the garden - Eden
 
This is the Atman,
pure consciousness
free and uncontrollable
surpassing all outer attention,
transcending inner awareness,
and conveying both
through the experience
of oneness.

Beyond thought
unimaginable
beyond body
untouchable
beyond senses
ineffable 
beyond the end
of evolution,
beyond you and I
and our private oneness.                                                                     
 [14]
 
 
The Upanishads firmly declare that our mind is rooted in our heart. When our heart rests, cradled in a calm abiding presence, our mind settles into a relaxed stillness. By descending into the safety of a nurturing heart, we regain confidence in our inner voice. Returning into silence, the absence of word and thought realigns each of us with a calm, abiding presence. In meditative silence we hear our inner calling, find and refine the light of wisdom shining in our minds, and learn to distinguish genuine insight from merely mental ideation. Spiritual wisdom, like poetic vision, is not an analysis of the problem of being human. It is beyond a synthesis of the separate parts of our selves. It is a direct, unwavering, passionate perception of our wholeness, realized in joy, and lovingly revealed with great imagination to the living soul. 
 
For many of us the creative, transformational power of our imagination has atrophied through being degraded, cast aside, and replaced by an overly rational, materialistic intellect. If we have been trained to look outside ourselves for recognition, and to listen to external voices for validation, we can now return our attention to an inward path, retrain our concentration to experience this present moment, and regain our native ability to use all of our senses on behalf of stimulating a numbed soul.
 
This wisdom,
discovered by imagination
nurtured by love
hidden in the heart
of each one of us
as our own Self, 
lies in the tiniest core of the atom,
and weaves itself as the farthest fibers
of an endless universe,
spinning smoke into stars
and molding their dust
into mountains and moons.

An unending fire of creation,
it pours itself into a vast ocean of emptiness,
birthing time and worlds
with seeds of lightning,
that fertilize oneness
and change it
into
us.                                                                                                        
 [15]
 
 
Our creative imagination can be a song, sung in call and response - with universal consciousness for our partner. The uplifting conversation of the Upanishads can be fuel to reignite a dull inner light. If we are to have a passionate inner life, feel the resounding pulse that vibrates in the hearts’ core, and roar with delight from the expressions of our ecstatic self, then we must reclaim our inner voice, refine our inner vision, and relinquish all the controls we have placed on our spirit. To revisit the ancestral home of our soul’s imagination can be one of our greatest journeys, and one of our richest learnings as human beings. As we refine our inner listening, we find the subtle song of spirit is present, ready to guide us from here to eternity.
 
Hearing the call of spirit, awakening from the sleep of unawareness, and realizing the unity of soul and Self is the dharma of Yoga. To settle the individual mind of the practitioner into stillness, and thereby reunite with the universal mind of the Self - this is the aim of yogic scriptures. All the traditions and translations of yoga speak to this union. Yoga is skillful action, a self-training in which body and breath are played like an instrument, the nervous system is attuned to subtle vibrations, and the key to the mind is revealed.
 
Align your spine within your body,
open into the space that you are,
let your mind refine itself
and find its roots
in your heart.
This Om is the wind,
and Atman is the vessel by which you sail
across the sea of suffering,
to release your body
from it’s prison of isolation
and fear.
 
Now
in silence breathe easily
through the chambers of your nostrils.
With a steady rhythm
let the tides of your breath rise and fall
peacefully.
Rest evenly in the eye
even while
the whirlpool of your mind
spins wildly
out of control,
somewhere else.                                                                                        
[16]
 
 
Each time we realize that we are not alone, but an inseparable part of the universe, and the universe is not out there, outside of us, but resonates in our physical body like a tuning fork, a generous and expansive sensation of fresh, pulsing energy streams through us, breath flows open, even and strong, and we feel alive, present and full of gratitude.
 
On this homeward journey of the soul, we have to take the road less traveled to fully and intimately explore the unknown territory of our inner self. The Upanishads can be an evocative reminder of what we look for, long for and yet secretly know already. They can help us find our intuition, follow our heart’s call, and reclaim the trust in our own inner knowing. The reality expressed by these master teachers - that we are both the individual, blissful Atman and the indivisible, universal Brahman - is offered with a promise that we will surely pick up the thread of truth, follow it back through the weaving of our life, and eventually find the weaver.
 
You
will one day find a place
quiet, still, peaceful
sheltered from the wind
embraced by the breeze.
There your practice of oneness
can be balanced, pure and simple
free of clutter, smoke
and the noise of ignorance, anger
and loud criticism.
Hear the music of water
where the beauty of sound
serve stillness,
awareness, and concentration.

You will go there
not in a day or a lifetime
but in an instant
and find your soul
a spirit light, illuminating creation
and the source of creation,
now, into forever
and beyond that too.
[17]
 
 
 
 
 

NOTE: All verses here are my impressions, stimulated and inspired by reading and meditating on verses in the Upanishads. I do not present these as literal translations.

 
Inspired by the Mundaka Upanishad:
      Part 2, Chapter 1: Poems [1], [2], [3], [4] & [5]
      Part 2, Chapter 2: Poems [6], [9], [10], [11] & [12]
      Part 3, Chapter 1: Poem [14]
Inspired by the Mandukya Upanishad: Poem [13]
Inspired by the Svetasvatara Upanishad:
      Part 2: Poems [8], [16] & [17]
      Part 3: Poems [7] & [15]
 
For my source material and literal translations I used Juan Mascaro (Penguin Books, ISBN 0 -14 -044163 -8) and Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiri Press, ISBN 0 -915132 -39 -7). I am greatly indebted to them for their passionate scholarship and highly recommend these editions for their inspired translation and commentary.
 
My heartfelt thanks and namaste to Karen Landrum, whose transcriptions of my original seminar and generous support of my heart and work made this possible, Joan Halpern (Phalini), whose insightful editing revealed my real possibilities and Amy Weintraub, whose articulate comments revealed the core. 


2003 Christopher Baxter
For seminar information and other resources visit

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