This response to the Chandogya Upanishads was written by Loren Magruder, a student at Karuna and a regular contributor to the Thursday evening philosophy discussion group.
“Smaller than a grain of rice
A grain of barley
A mustard seed
A grain of millet
Smaller even than the kernel of a grain of millet is the Self
This is the Self dwelling in the cave of my heart,
Greater than the earth
Greater than the Sky
Greater than all the Worlds”
The Truth In Paradox- that this Self we Seek is infinitely small and unimaginably large… my mind winces as it tries to grasp the concept. Paradox seems a common theme in the Upanishads, especially this Chandogya. The word Upanishad literally means self-knowledge. The Ancients paid such close attention to the elements Within and Without that they long recognized the micro within the macrocosmos and the macro within the microcosmos. In recent times, there is an intriguing theory in Quantum Physics called Shrodinger’s cat… it still remains a theoretical supposition (I have a hunch it will always remain so as things of the Spirit are wily like that) That said it is widely discussed and books have been written on its validity. As I understand it, it basically proposes that if you put a cat in a box and close the lid that when you open the box the cat will be EITHER alive or dead but while the box is closed, the cat can simultaneously be BOTH alive and dead. When we become time-bound is when reality collapses into EITHER one possibility or the other. And the Upanishads and their truths have stood the test of time, haven’t they? Timeless, perennial wisdom indeed.
In my own life, the only force which could possibly hold this paradoxical truth is Love, the all-encompassing love some call God or Christ-Consciousness. Our yogic commitment to svadhyaya; self-study within the contexts of the spiritual books (so that one doesn’t dive off the cliff into the swamp of narcissism) gives us the lens of the heart to glimpse it. For the more one studies the self- the “mines”, the identifications, the stories — the more one recognizes how small the boxes actually are that contain these identities. Like a magnifying glass in the sun rays svadhyaya burns away anything that isn’t truth and what is left IS a kernel; and in that kernel the recognition that we are not only this or that (neti-neti) we are something so much more and- as humility teaches – so much less. This is the beginning of the journey into the Self, into clearing the channel we seek to be. Perhaps why we often get caught using substances or people to get out of our own way, inhabit the Other, to feel that fleeting sense of home in the unified field- if only for a minute. The landmine here is that all these are ultimately time-bound and if we cling in any way to the sensations or constrict to remain in that moment, there is no way This Love can fully flow. At the heart of the heart’s teaching, in the diamond center of the mustard seed is that every element in the Universe is contained in it… in US and if we accept this than how can we deny that this also exists in everyone and everything we see and commune with – indeed a common unity- “a community of light*” (thanks Hafiz)
And the more you study the Self, the closer in you get, the more you see the patterns, the samskaras embedded in the helix, the fractals repeating through the generations. Fractals are proof of this Essential Sameness no matter the scale. Polarity like gravity is a sort of container and can remind us of the One in the All, of the Yin in the Yang, of the Life IN the Death and the Death IN the Life. If we only dance with the peripheral, the superficial and the transitory time-bound and Ego-Fear of disintegration keeps us from delving deeper, we will miss the heart of this teaching. If we cast stones of judgment at those we think evil or wrong or different we will remain in darkness- for Einstein showed us that the Speed of Light is timeless indeed. So, can we – can I – hold this paradoxical truth, that the I AM is as capable of that which we fear or despise as it is of that which we love and hold dear and that individual CHOICE – the assertion of personal agency through this particular body vehicle seems to me to be the key. Perhaps it is only then that an absolute integration into this love can happen… and within that integration lies the seed. And in that seed the fruition and fuller expression of the unique individual we are in this time-bound lifetime is possible.
Loren Magruder, 500hr Karuna Advanced Teacher Training Graduate, Mother