Sunday, May 8, 2011

8-Fold Path - Step 6 - SUPER ETHER!

The 6th Stage of the 8-Fold Path of Patanjali is called "dharana." I don't recall the literal translation of this Sanskrit word but it refers to that stage of meditation in which one or more of the eight aspects of superconscious are experienced. From the standpoint of our theme of the elements, Yogananda calls this stage SUPER ETHER. We saw in the prior blog post that the 5th stage was ETHER (space). We described that space as the calmness which precedes action. Well, SUPER ETHER is a reference to the even finer medium which is thought or consciousness itself. This, then, is consciousness before it enters a spatial awareness.

Imagine day dreaming. You are staring out the window completely lost to thought. Perhaps you don't even hear someone calling your name. Your eyes are open but you are not seeing any objects. Your mind is elsewhere. With the fifth stage (ETHER) representing the ability to shut off the five senses, it is natural that the next stage takes place on the astral plane and its perceptions are those of subtle realities.

In meditation, "dharana" means that meditator experiences peace, wisdom, energy, love, calmness, inner sound or light, and bliss as the observer. "I am feeling peaceful," for example. The meditator may hear the inner sounds of the chakras or the symphony of all of them -- the sound of AUM. He may see astral light in the forehead (behind closed eyes), or, the spiritual eye itself (3 concentric rings of gold, blue, and white).

But throughout the experience the observer ("I") is separate and aware of his separateness from the states being observed and felt. This is, in another sense, the "thinking, separate mind." Technically one doesn't have to be "thinking" a long line of thoughts in this state, but one is consciously self-aware even as one feels uplifted into a state of deep peace, love, or is receiving a flow of intuitive insights (as wisdom), and so on.

This state has its center at the base of brain and is considered to be the negative pole of the 6th chakra. It is aligned with the part of the brain called the medulla oblongata. Here also is called the "Mouth of God." As the physical mouth is the entry point to the physical body for the sustaining value of food and water, the medulla oblongata (in the astral body) is the entry point for Life Force (known as as cosmic consciousness, and also as prana). Just as a corpse cannot be revived by food and water but must first be "alive," so too that "aliveness" is caused by a flow of Life Force from the astral body which in turns receives that intelligent (causal) energy (astral) through the opening of this chakra.

When we leave the physical body at death, we leave through this doorway after rising through the tunnel of the deep spine, known as the sushummna. The light at the end of this tunnel is often reported by those who have had near-death experiences but who return to life. The light seen is the light of the astral world to which we go (in our astral and causal bodies) after "death."

The negative pole of the 6th chakra is also the seat of our I-ness, our sense of separateness, and of ego. Here ego is neutral, neither "good" nor "bad," just separate. We need ego to function in the body. When ego becomes prideful, energy is blocked at this center and the result may include a tightening of the muscles around the medulla which pulls the head back and gives the decided appearance of a person "looking down his nose!"

When we speak of the next two centers we will see that this one, the seat of ego, is the last great spiritual test of the soul in its upward journey towards Cosmic Consciousness and Oneness with God. As great as are the delusions of sense objects and of maya, the greatest test is the "pride which goeth before the fall." It is our sense of ego.

So here we see posed our human dilemma: we can see the promised land (peace, wisdom, love etc.) but the "I" cannot enter it, because I am still the observer and Peace still, yet, but an object (pleasant enough, to be sure). This basic existential relationship will only elongate and be exaggerated as we go down the spine and out through the senses into the material world. Once our soul does this it gets caught up for untold lifetimes pursuing will-o-the-wisp dreams of complete fulfillment: in possessions, positions, human love, pleasure, wealth and power.

Oddly enough those pursuits are somewhat easy to pierce the veil of delusion, but, alas, only mentally. For when one disappoints us, we simply move on in search of yet another. So, instead, here at the literal threshold of Oneness we see this promised land but, like Moses, we cannot enter it -- yet.

For the meditator on the upward path to Self-realization, however, this is a decided improvement and reward for the efforts made to date. I have said previously that these stages aren't to be taken literally or only sequentially. It's just easier to explain them intellectually in that way. For many of us have very profound experiences of superconsciousness (peace, wisdom, power, love, calmness, sound, light, and bliss), but they are fleeting and inconsistent, and, indeed, sometimes a "one-time shot." Often a person has such an experience and its purpose, spiritually speaking, is to ignite one's resolution and inspiration to embark consciously upon the inner path. After that, when the honeymoon is over, we have to do the hard daily work of spiritual disciplines and introspection.

We can bring this stage into daily life by affirming peace (etc.) in our actions, our thoughts, and our hearts as we go about the busy-ness of living. This is mere affirmation unless supported by actual inner experience in meditation, however. As we view life and others, so we become ourselves. Hence a focus and affirmation of higher values helps us, in time, to unfold and become those states of consciousness. Hence the positive and necessary value of the stage of dharana and the element of SUPER ETHER.


Nayaswami Hriman