Free Will in the Ancient Sanskrit Texts

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V. Susan Ferguson
The question of Free Will has challenged the best minds throughout human history. In the ancient Sanskrit texts Free Will is an enigma, a veiled mystery bewildering to most westerners. The Bhagavad Gita is the brilliant essence of the earlier texts, and even directly quotes various Upanishads. The final Chapter XVIII in the Bhagavad Gita is a summation of the others and verse 61 contains the Sanskrit term yantrarudhana, which is often translated as ‘mounted on a machine’.

The Lord of all beings abides in the Heart,
Causing all beings to wander, to move (to revolve),
[As if] fixed, attached to, mounted on a machine,
By the power of Illusion (maya).

The graphic, apparently holographic image of the yantrarudhana has always fascinated me. Over the years again and again I find myself reflecting on this metaphysical construct, the invisible cosmic machine-mechanism, which enfolds us in this temporal illusory holographic universe. In my mind I have often connected the yantrarudhana with the famous elusive Sri Yantra, that one can meditate on and never quite grasp.

The Sanskrit scholar J.A.B. van Buitenen translates the yantrarudhana as ‘water wheel’ and I have thought there is value in this because water symbolizes consciousness and a water wheel is a sort of perpetual motion machine that only requires a constant flow.

The metaphysical idea is that Life, what we believe we are experiencing as life, is only the temporal illusory meeting, a marriage of sorts between our sense apparatus and the objects they are engaged in — perhaps even creating as the five-senses send data back to our brain, which we interpret as solidity, sound, sight, etc. And it’s all somehow on automatic. The yantrarudhana is comparable to a matrix that has us in its endlessly whirling cycles of birth and death, desire and disappointment, pleasure and pain, sukha-duhkha in Sanskrit.

We Are Not the ‘Doer’

The Bhagavad Gita [III.27] teaches that we are not the Doer. It is only our confused and deluded sense of ego, ahamkara, literally ‘I-making’ that makes us think ‘I am the Doer’ – kartaham meaning ‘doer I’— when in the Real, it is the material nature Prakriti performing the acts. A wonderful teacher and scholar in Kerala India, Swami Muni Narayana Prasad, refers to the yantrarudhana as Prakriti-wheel rolling on. Prakriti is the Matrix, Nature’s womb of endless creativity and shakti-power. Thus we understand that we are mounted on a holographic water-wheel machine which is rolling on and on, in yuga after yuga throughout the cycles of time.

Prakriti operates through the three qualities, the gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas). We are compelled by these three qualities, our modes of being, the gunas we ourselves have contributed to over multiple lifetimes. Their effects are the result of our acts, karma, and accumulate nested in our DNA. There is no being free of Prakriti’s gunas [BhG XVIII.40] either on earth or in any other world, even the heavenly realms. In ignorance of our Real nature and thus deluded, we are continually tossed around by our compulsions, while the Lord of our Being, the God-within sits observing, not attached, loving, patiently waiting, watching us manifest Its infinite creative potency and glory.

Thou art That

We are that One, and simultaneously mirrors for the Oneness. Yet we prefer our adventures and self-created distractions in the external hologram, pursuing our temporal desires that never bring us lasting fulfillment.

The Sanskrit texts teach that our only freedom is to Realize we never do or did anything. This wisdom-knowledge is arduous to acquire and is described as walking on a Razor’s Edge, however it is invaluable. The Recognition of the Divine Lila, the ‘Play’ — Liberates our consciousness (Moksha). We begin to understand the mechanics of bondage, the rules of the ‘game’ so to speak. The concentrated pulling back into the ubiquitous Oneness within thereby lifts the Veils of Ignorance.

So, in the Real sense — Free Will in the temporal illusory hologram is useless! Mildly amusing, isn’t it. This perplexing, often infuriating term Lila ‘play’ is ambiguous, loaded because we are more the all pervading One, God-consciousness, doing the ‘playing’ than the incarnated data-collecting vehicles being played. Subtle! In all respects we are that divine player, but we just don’t know it. . . yet. My way of understanding this switching back-and-forth between the temporal appearance of Free Will and the teaching that we are not the Doer at all is this:

When we think we have Free Will, we are not in the Oneness. When we are in the One, we realize there is only the One and the question is useless – it doesn’t matter. No sense of separateness can exist. As the Kashmir Shaivite Swami Lakshmanjoo says, “All questions disappear.” Can it be that the One enjoys the temporal illusory appearance of a limited Free Will in Its various manifested selves, you & me, as part of the entire spectrum of Its infinite possible expressions.

Siren Servers

The gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas) are the three qualities or modes that rule us and compel our acts. They are Borg-like — and surely there has never been a better material world symbol for the ‘mounted on a machine’ yantrarudhana than the massive cloud-data-collector computers that have been named Siren Servers by the very insightful programmer and computer scientist, Jaron Lanier.

“A Siren Server…is an elite computer, or coordinated collection of computers, on a network. It is characterized by narcissism, hyper-amplified risk aversion, and extreme information asymmetry. It is the winner of an all-or-nothing contest and it inflicts smaller all-or-nothing contests on those who interact with it.”

According to Lanier, Siren Servers take information without having to pay for it (Facebook, Google, etc.), secretly analyse that information, much of it personal including personal financial data, and use it to manipulate the rest of the world to the advantage of those who own and control these elite machines. Thus technology that was meant to liberate the mass of humankind has become, in the hands of tyrants, the perfect tool of our enslavement – or should I say in the pockets of tyrants.

Surely our own state of near complete disconnect with our Source has brought on the creation of machines, which reflect our current state of consciousness and are being misused to subjugate the many to the few. The clever conceit of those who care only for self-interest and profit at the expense of others and the environment is destroying the earth, her oceans, air and soil. Lightning quick, shallow thinking, using however brilliant algorithms to amass information in massive servers that only benefit the few is leading us to inevitable collapse.

Escape from the Labyrinth

Perhaps living in human form remains exciting to us only as long as the secret of life remains a mystery and an experience of the unknown. A life that has been logically calculated and predicted offers no challenge to us. Life without surprise is mechanical and dreary, ungodly, not fun. Are we appalled and bored by a life that is totally predictable?

The Siren Servers intend, it seems to corral all of us into predictable repetitive clone-like behaviour and patterns of consumption that benefit the ruling tyrants, the rich and the technocrats who serve them. When our highly complicated thought processes are entrapped in only specific areas of the brain, where will individual creativity come from?

The over use of computers and addiction to surfing the Net has been shown to actually alter the human brain physically. From ‘The Shallows’ by Nicholas Carr:

“The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our mind from thinking deeply or creatively. …Heavy use has neurological consequences. …as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the [brain] circuits that support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses…”

One wonders how this kind of entrainment by the machine will damage our capacity to meditate. Surely the rapid-fire experience of zooming around the Internet, reading dozens of articles in the most superficial way, perhaps only the first paragraph if that, is the extreme antithesis of the state of consciousness one hopes to achieve in meditation. This ‘redirection of our mental resources’ and ‘making judgements that are imperceptible to us’ as Nicholas Carr says, have been shown to ‘impede comprehension and retention’.

Carr quotes the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, who back in the 1950s said: “…the looming tide of [the] technological could so captivate, bewitch, dazzle and beguile man that calculative [quantitative] thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way of thinking.” The frenzy of quantity over quality, jumping from one focus to the next, using only a small part of the brain may destroy our capacity for quiet contemplation and meditation. The state of a calm and attentive mind cultivated in silence is not only the source of all genuine creativity and innovation, but also the only Door out of the temporal illusory holographic webs we have bound ourselves within.

Tyrants & Algorithms

How much of what we surf on the Net do we actually learn and absorb – and how much is mere titillation, escape and addiction? Where is our Free Will in formats generated by software? Are these new masters of the universe, who we are in fact allowing to transform the very way our brains operate — are they true masters of their own consciousness? Generic formats that gather our personal information exist and are used not for our benefit, but to manipulate us without our knowledge.

As Jaron Lanier says, yes it’s free – as long as we allow them to spy on us. What kind of freedom is that? Perhaps in this phase of our current Kali Yuga, the yantrarudhana has been projected externally into the hologram as these Siren Servers by our own lost and confused consciousness. The Kali Yuga is the Age of Conflict and Confusion. Rene Guenon’s description of the “Reign of Quantity” has descended into new depths. Have we created a new sort of Labyrinth to escape from, one literally and physically in our own brain?

Jason Lanier from his book ‘You Are Not a Gadget’: “It’s crazy not to worry that, with millions of people connected through a medium that sometimes brings out their worst tendencies, massive fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly.” Will the next generation be more likely to “succumb to pack dynamics” because they have grown up with “crowd aggregation, as is the current fad.” The Siren Servers make it easier than ever for tyrants to herd the crowd, manipulating masses, shoals of people who never met, on paths leading to an abyss.

We cannot abide in harmony with eternal metaphysical Truth when we are in Ignorance of what that Truth (Satya) is — and it appears obvious to me looking at the condition of human consciousness and the environment of the entire ravaged planet, that we are ever more disconnected from our Source, whirling madly towards imbalance, tilting, tipping, skewed into deeper darker chaos. Those who choose to do so, to set Right the misalignments of our era will be served by first aligning their being with the God-within, the ubiquitous One that dwells within all.

The choice is clear. We can continue to run madly, rapid-fire around the labyrinth, blind mice in ever more complex artificial fake and self-created mirage-like mazes — or we can turn within to the Source of All that has been patiently waiting throughout non-existent time for our Return. The only authentic Free Will lies within.

About the Author

V. Susan Ferguson is the author of Inanna Returns, Inanna Hyper-Luminal; her own commentary on the Bhagavad Gita and the Shiva Sutras; and Colony Earth & the Rig Veda. Her website is Metaphysical Musing.

From a series on the final Chapter XVIII in the Bhagavad Gita:
http://www.metaphysicalmusing.com/gita%20XVIII/gitaxviii-index.htm

Sources:

The Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata, A Bilingual Edition, translated by J.A.B. van Buitenen; The University of Chicago Press, 1981.

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Winthrop Sargeant; State University of New York Press, 1994.

– Life’s Pilgrimage Through The Gita, by Swami Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, 2005, 2008.

– Bhagavad Gita, In the Light of Kashmir Shaivism, with original video, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Edited by John Hughes, Co-editors Viresh Hughes and Denise Hughes; Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 2013.

– Abhinavagupta’s Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Gitartha Samgraha, translated by Boris Marjanovic; Indica Books, Varanasi, 2002, 2004.

– Satyaloka in the Rig Veda, A Study, by Dr. A. Venkatasubbiah (1886-1969); Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1974.

Who Owns the Future, by Jaron Lanier; Simon & Schuster, NY, 2013.

– ‘You are not a gadget‘, A Manifesto, by Jaron Lanier; Vintage Books, NY, 2010, 2011.

The Shallows, What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr; W.W. Norton & Company, NY, 2010, 2011.

Image of the battlefield is from Wiki Commons.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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The Purpose of Life

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“It is in the finest reach of man’s consciousness that God abides or reveals himself most fully.” –K.K. Nair/Krishna Chaitanya

The above sentence, written by the brilliant and renowned Indian scholar K.K. Nair/Krishna Chaitanya, expresses to me the most profoundly beautiful of thoughts. For after all is said and done, what’s it all about? Why did the creator make this awesome universe and wrap Itself within us mortals? Just for play? For ‘sport’ as some of the Sanskrit texts say?

Perhaps in the long run there is no possibility of ever permanently fixing, healing, and making right this world, as hard as we may try and breaking our hearts in the effort. We will always be caught in the flux of temporality as time washes over us, assailing our consciousness from storm to shore.

We cannot hope to resolve things here, especially in the Kali Yuga. We can only act in every given moment to the highest and greatest extent of our ability. That ‘momentary best’ will surely not be the result of being drowned in pop-consumer-culture, in media manipulation, or in piles of possessions that only bring a fleeting empty satisfaction.

The Quality & Consciousness of Our Actions

Thus we are left to understand this: What truly matters is that we focus on the quality and consciousness of our actions rather than their results. In these sad and degenerate days, most are driven by consumption, by stupid greed, and the anger that destroys intelligence.

Urged on by our endless fears and insecurities, perhaps under the hazy spell of alcohol or drug induced compulsions, we commit acts we inevitably regret. We take actions that leave us scarred, unfulfilled, hopeless, and isolated from our fellow man. It’s called sin. The metaphysical meaning of sin is the state of being deluded by attachment.

Happy mystics often say that God is irresistible. Surely we can all hope to reconnect with what is less temporal, less vulnerable to Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” We all carry the hope of finding and abiding in the ineluctable eternal, because we all sense its presence somewhere deep within each and every one of us, if only we could find the key.

I often try to imagine my consciousness back in the Satya Yuga, the Golden Age, when I knew that I was a particle of the Creator wrapped in the beginnings of a grand illusory adventure. The adventure is illusory only in the sense that it is temporal, subject to death and dissolution. There is nothing in the external world that will not decay, rot and ruin, and die in time. This world is an ephemeral, impermanent, fleeting adventure. It is not eternal, immutable and imperishable, like the God-within.

The illusion seems real enough when we are lost in it. Certainly the adventure is not illusory to the five senses when we run into that proverbial brick wall. Ouch! Our deluded attachment to the perceived apparent reality of the holographic illusion steadily grows, as our consciousness is ever moving through Time towards density from one cycle of time down into the next. Thus we perceive a kind of ‘solidification’ of matter (Rene Guenon). The veil we ourselves create thickens, and by the Kali Yuga, the Age of Conflict & Confusion, we have forgotten.

The Satya Yuga

I like to imagine our consciousness in the golden Satya Yuga era. We are in that time filled with bliss consciousness. We do not need other beings to experience fulfillment. We spend our time in contemplation because that is where our Bliss is! We do not need anyone to flatter our still undeveloped ego. We know to go within and create the consciousness we have always known – our eternal Self that remains forever pure and untouched by what will envelope us in the coming yugas.

Because in that now lost golden frequency, we are closer to the vast ocean of Love that underlies this universe. The comfort and strength that comes from Bliss consciousness and real Knowledge allows us to be curious, to wonder what we might do if we are cut off from such Knowledge and our source of Bliss. What will we do? We are drawn into the hologram. Will the compulsions of the five senses overwhelm our memory? Can we remain calm and serene, intelligent and therefore, courageous.

Will the God that eternally abides within reveal Itself in the finest reach of our human consciousness, even in the darkest of days here in the confusion of the Kali Yuga. Surely the exploration of this secret sacred place, meaning, the finest reach of man’s consciousness, is the reason we all came into this universe. The purpose of Life is to immerse ourselves and revel in the great adventure of God veiling Itself within us all, and to one day awaken to smile those mysterious compassionate smiles of Krishna and Buddha and many others.

About the Author

V. Susan Ferguson is the author of Inanna Returns, Inanna Hyper-Luminal; her own commentary on the Bhagavad Gita and the Shiva Sutras; and Colony Earth & the Rig Veda. Her website is Metaphysical Musing.

Sources: 

– The Betrayal of Krishna, Vicissitudes of a Great Myth. Krishna Chaitanya/K.K. Nair, Clarion Books, 1991, New Delhi
– The Reign of Quantity. Rene Guenon, Originally published in French, 1945, Sophia Perennis, 2001, Ghent, NY