Wednesday, December 27, 2006
celebrity death match: Buddha vs. the dog
What is our relationship to our lower, animal nature?
The famous Isabel- immersed in her essential dog nature, and loving it- doesn't worry about such things. But those of us with three brains tend to ponder. Most human beings need more than a plain old stick to keep them amused.
There are a number of different ways to understand our two natures relative to the idea of centers, or chakras. All of them have their points. Maybe rlnyc, who occasionally offers comments on this blog, will give us a few of his many insights on this matter. In any event I'm going to sketch out a few of my own ideas about this today. As we continue, please excuse me for embarking on what will be a more theoretical discussion than my ordinary posts on this blog.
We are composed of two stories which reflect our higher and lower natures. The three centers in the lower story are the root center, the sex center, and the solar plexus. Together they form a trinity. In a theoretical sense some esoteric schools associate this lower story with our lower nature.
The upper story also has three centers. Now, a few years ago I would have given you one take on what those centers are and how they are in relationship, but my understanding of it these days is different. Rather than turn back the clock or examine a dozen different systems (there may be more than a dozen) I'm going to offer my latest up-to-the minute understanding of this. Which will probably change.
There are three key centers in the upper story. Two of them represent organs for receiving and containing the energy of what Gurdjieff called the "higher" centers. In his system they are higher intellectual and higher emotional center. I don't think we need to elaborate this idea in further detail. For our current purposes, the names are not so important.
One of the three centers in the upper story is located at the throat, which is actually the back of the neck, more or less the area of the medulla oblongata. This complex includes an area at the top of the brain stem, or base of the brain. The second center is the third eye. The third is the so-called seventh chakra, which is at the top of the head. In some systems, this "upper triad" supposedly represents man's higher or more spiritual nature.
So we have two triads of centers: an upper-story triad- the Buddha, if you will- and a lower-story triad- the dog. (see my blog on man's two natures for more on the Buddha/dog koan.)
There is an inherent danger in the above interpretation. It accidentally presumes that the "higher" nature of man is somehow better than his lower nature. Much tradition draws a picture of man's existence as being a conflict between man's higher and lower natures instead of a confluence. That is, somehow we are supposed to battle and vanquish our lower impulses.
This idea is to me just plain wrong. What man needs to seek instead is unity. In a unified state the higher parts inform the lower parts. They don't control or suppress them, but help them to naturally find their right place in the context of the system.
That brings us to the keystone piece in the "magical maze" of the inner centers.
The last chakra, which I have so far willfully skipped over, is located in the center of the torso. It's the heart chakra, although its physical location is not quite exactly where the heart is.
This is a very vital area. The upper and lower triads are connected by this center, and it is one of the three classic "blockage" points in yoga. (The other two being the top of the head and the base of the spine.) In Kundalini yoga, as I understand (warning: I'm certainly no expert on theory in this area,) the object is to "store" enough energy to allow it to rise from the base of the spine and pierce all three knots.
Man, as the Gurdjieff system teaches, is designed to be a bridge between the two levels. That is, to bring unity to them. So in the life of man both levels are of equal importance and absolutely necessary. Gurdjieff's Enneagram accurately depicts the unity of the whole system and shows us why all the centers, including the lowest ones, are of vital importance in the circulation of man's energy. This diagram conveys many subtle understandings of man's inner work that only years of direct personal study can begin to uncover. Suffice it to say that with work on this we can gradually begin to understand how it is that we must bring the inner centers into relationship.
In man, the chakra or center occupying the "gap" and forming the bridge is the heart. To me the implication is clear: man's rational being may be what separates him from the animals, but it is his emotional being that is meant to do the chief work of forming a bridge between the two levels.
The chief work of religion, in other words, is to open the heart. As Yogananda emphasized, above all we must learn how to do our work through Love. That Love is not the ordinary love proceeding from what we are, as we are, but comes from a higher level that can find its expression through us. Love is what opens the gates separating man from the divine, and that Love is not discriminatory or partial. It flows through the whole system, invests itself in every center, and values all of our inner parts equally.
As Christ said, "Love they neighbor as thyself." Informed, intelligent self-love (which may bear a relationship to what Gurdjieff called "conscious egoism") begins with right valuation of all our parts.
We're blind inside. Our dog can become a seeing eye dog for us-
but not if we beat him.