Conduct and observance

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Garuda in the flesh- method in silence

Over the past week, one of the symbolic images I have contemplated in a relationship to the nature of our organism is Garuda.

Garuda is the mount -- the vehicle-- of Vishnu, the supreme God, or absolute reality, of the Hindu religion. Looked at from another angle, he would be the means by which Vishnu descends to Earth. Garuda has huge wings, the fierce sharp beak of a raptor, and awesome talons. He is said to be so huge he can block out the sun, that is, obscure the light from above.

Another interesting note is that in the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that he is the son of Garuda.

In an esoteric sense, Garuda is the human being, that is, this fleshy organism we inhabit. Take a look at the potential comparisons.

First of all, the human body is a vehicle through which the higher can descend to this level, if inner connections are correct.

Secondly, this body is a hungry, fierce animal driven by passions. When I look at my own statue of Garuda, I always feel that it expresses something quite direct about the nature of the human being as an animal--"red in tooth and claw," as the saying goes. I am like this: Hungry, desirous, lustful.

And dangerous.

Thirdly, Krishna-- Christ-- tells us he is the son of Garuda. If we are willing to accept my interpretation of Garuda as the human being, we have a direct inference here that Krishna, like Christ, said he was the son of man.

It all makes a certain kind of sense, doesn't it?

Our own incarnation in flesh confuses us. Of course it's true, we absolutely require this life within this organic body in order to learn what we are. It is, as Dogen says in the Shobogenzo, a tool of the Bodhi, that is, a tool of awakened consciousness. Nonetheless, we identify with the flesh. Separated from the unity from which we spring, we desperately attempt to reconnect ourselves by action through the vehicle, that is, the body, instead of understanding that the vehicle is meant only to take us towards our destination.

It is somewhat like this: we are all particles of consciousness that need to take a journey, get into the car, and then forget that there is a destination. The car is so fascinating that suddenly it is all about the car, rather than the journey. We get so wrapped up in our relationship with the vehicle that we forget it is supposed to take us somewhere. Our identification with it blocks out the sun: the light from above no longer reaches us.

And let's face it: it is a very exciting thing being a fierce, ravenous beast.

This is why I live my life interested in sex, money, and food, and why the strongest stimulus I know is fear. All of these things are products of my inner automotive industry, an industry dedicated to the wasteful consumption of resources, mostly in the interests of vanity. As Carlos Castaneda suggested in "The Art of Dreaming," I like it here so much, I forget why I came. The only way I can change this is if I change my perspective from a focus on destinations to a focus on journeys.

One of the reasons that Gurdjieff asked us to see and to understand that we were machines, I believe, was that he was hoping we would see we are in a vehicle. We all live within the body of Garuda: wings represent the extraordinary potential that we have in relationship to the higher: lithe limbs, fearsome beak and claws represent the lower nature that our inner potential must encounter, inhabit, and master in order to make the birth of something new possible.

What needs to be made whole in life is not our relationship with the body, and with each other's bodies, but rather a relationship with each other's Being, which is a product of consciousness, not flesh. Because our carnality is so compellingly obvious, we seek each other through the flesh, and we seek our lives through the flesh. But just imagine: living within this tiny little vehicle, sitting in one place, doing no travel, what happens?

No matter how much we stuff into the car, it is only just so big. It can't hold what we need; it was never built for that in the first place. The more and more stuff we pack into it, the less room we have to move around.

We end up fat, bored, cruel and unhappy.

This brings me back to yesterday's post in which I asked questions about compassion. Compassion is not an element of the flesh, but of the soul. Conscience, the Ursprung (this is a German word meaning "ultimate source") of compassion, is, according to Gurdjieff, the only undamaged part of man's Being.

Does all of this mean that we must surrender the passions of the flesh? Or are we meant to master them by embracing them and understanding them as a part of what we are?

Both paths exist within various traditions. For myself, I would say that I cannot know what I am through a denial of my lower nature. I am here in order, in part, to experience what this is. In other words, it is not the existence or lack of carnal passions that determines my level of being, but my relationship to them. They are here to help me.

This brings me to a final question about methods of working. In the Gurdjieff work, it is no secret that we often ask a group of people who are engaged in a task to, for example, refrain from speaking much.

I have pondered this. This exercise seems all wrong to me.

One can get any idiot-- even a dog-- to be quiet for a while. I think the whole point must be not to refrain from speaking, but to assign ourselves the task of speaking only when we are aware of ourselves. Our task should be to speak all we want, as long as we exercise awareness while speaking. This task, if put in front of all those who speak, would change everything considerably.

If such a task were taken properly, it would require much more of us. It reminds me of Dogen's adage, often encountered in the "Eihei Koroku,"

"I respectfully ask you to take good care."

We cannot observe our habits by refusing to engage in them. Rather, the point is to go ahead and engage in them-- but with a more conscious effort accompanying them.

After all, one can hardly find out what a radio sounds like by turning it off.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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