Essays on Consciousness
The following essays are written on the topics of consciousness and the path to awakening within various Indian spiritual contexts.
Mantra has not only been a means to traverse the metaphysical universe, but it has been the scaffolding for social structures from as early as c. 1500 BCE on the Indian Continent. Since the early Vedas, the power of the word channelled by the Kavi or Vedic poet/priest held clans together by rousing a devoted heart through the invocation of inspired speech. As spiritual praxis diverges from the central Vedic fire, we can see a development of ‘tools of awakening’ through the ritual use of mantra. This paper defines distinct points of change in the uses and mechanisms of mantra from the early Vedas to 13th Century Tantra and how its maturation parallels the evolving metaphysical framework of the Sankhya Tattwa system. I have drawn comparisons of this evolving phenomena by taking a closer look at the different theories which surround the mechanism of speech, sound, thought, ritual and awakening at specific points on the continual and complex evolving timeline of mantric practice.
To understand the psychology of spiritual growth it is important to frame the meaning of awakening within the context of the tradition which is analysed. The context is the path, soteriology, textual and historical framework. Within the early Buddhist community, we often find reference to the path of insight or panna as a means to awakening through the popular practice of Vipassana. Although this is the key ingredient to the permanent psychological change involved in radical freedom, the path of jhana is often overlooked as an integral practice which supports insight. This paper focuses on the phenomenological attributes of jhanas and the importance of concentration or calm abiding on the path to awakening within the early Buddhist context.
This study is an analysis of insight into dependent origination and how these two features are positioned on the path to Enlightenment. Through a phenomenological investigation into meditation experiences of Theravada Buddhist practitioners, this paper examines the mechanisms, applications and outcomes of insight. Using interviews with Buddhist meditators, key insights are highlighted which result in the fetter breaking experience for the practitioner. By mapping these insights onto an ontological and soteriological study of the Buddhist path, we can confirm certain aspects of the path as a living tradition which leads to awakening.
Technologies which aid transcendence of the physical sphere and awaken divine insight have been a pillar in Indian culture as far back as the Vedas and possibly even further. That which could not be seen with the physical eye was declared ever-present by the Ṛshis, Munis and wandering ascetics who devoted themselves to awakening. To awaken, one had to transcend the self and 'see' the relationship between mind and matter. The vehicle through which this is made possible is the yogic body; a subtle body which vibrates beyond our normal sense perception yet governs every aspect of our being. Using the tantric model of the universe as a metaphysical framework, we will look at the union of gendered cosmic and physical principles within tantric ritual and the haṭha yogic system. Through this exploration, we look at a bi-piston subtle and biological mechanism which brings about the Kuṇḍalinī experience and the release of amṛta, a divine bliss-inducing nectar.