“All of the traditions that came out of India – Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism – center on the idea of reincarnation. This is just as fundamental to Indian mythological thinking as our idea of Judgment, Heaven, and Hell is to our tradition. The notion is that the soul – what I will call the reincarnating monad – puts on bodies and takes them off, over and over again, as a person puts on and removes clothing.
“What is the function of the body? The function of the body is to put your “jiva,” your deathless soul, into the realm of temporal experience. The body is meant to stimulate the soul with challenges, and then, once the “jiva” has assimilated the possibilities inherent in the experiences of this lifetime, the body is flung away and another body is taken on …
“Now the individual soul may resist these experiences, in which case it fails to benefit from this lifetime. In this case, the soul is thrown right back like an undersize fish until the soul has learned the lesson. The ultimate goal for the soul is to reach the point where it does not need to put on a body anymore. It is released, to be not anybody, anything – to become one with the light.
“What is it that brings the soul back, putting on bodies like a shopper at Macy’s trying on scarves? It is desire and fear. You have a desire for life; you have a fear of death. When you absolutely quench desire and fear, those things by which all of us live, then there is no life. That is the ultimate aim of all the yogas. Of course you can go through all kinds of exercises and think you have gotten rid of fear and desire, but the very fact you are trying to get rid of them is a desire. That is the funny twist that every monk runs up against: the harder you try not to want, the more you’re wanting not to want, and so you are in a double bind. The illumination comes when you are least ready … This moment of illumination comes when you’re not quite watching for it; often, when you are striving you are actually blocking it.
“Jiva,” the Sanskrit word for this reincarnating entity, is related to the Latin “viva.” This is the living force that keeps putting bodies on. Now, on a higher level, since all beings are manifestations of that ultimate being, “jiva-atman,” all “jivas” are manifestations of the “atman,” and if you will realize that this is “nirvana,” you will lose that will to get loose and you will be loose while alive. That business of being in balance while moving in the world is key to this. Now, this is a balance; one reason that athletics and things like music performance and dance performance are so helpful as disciplines is that to do these things well you have to both be doing them and not doing them; there has to be a kind of relaxation and turning the activity over to the body, to the performing power, so that your consciousness rides along with it. That is very much like the saintly attitude. The still point rests in the middle and the activity swirls round about, and you are both the nirvanic point and the activity. The point where the Buddha sat is called the immovable point, but it is the world just as the hub is part of the wheel, and that’s because of the nondual realization we get on the other side.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light, pp. 44-46
This post really must have struck a deep cord in me, that dream last night was very real and is still hanging with me this afternoon. The dream has to do with fear and trying to let go of it. I dreamed I was part of group of people whose job it was to protect a louisana water species, I cannot recall what kind, but our only way of doing this was to swim in a group circling around this particular thing? As we swam together circling our treasure, the threat lay beneath the water, and all along the path we swam, was strange underwater animals trying to bite our legs off. We could not see what was down there, even though I did and it looked like a tiger as it lunged to take my leg off, and I swam with all I had in me to keep that from happening. And here is the really strange part, the so called “lesson” was, to let go of the fear of that happening, because, these animals underneath could sense our fear and if we were fearful they grabbed us, if we showed no fear, we were free to swim through unfettered. I made it through, but not because of having no fear, just because I was lucky that time. After learning that the only way to participate and not get hurt was to not be afraid, even though we knew how dangerous these beings were, I was completely confused. I had little confidence I could not be afraid, the water was so dark and I could not see what was lurking below? There was a little more to the dream, but this is what I remember best, so this is the important part. I feel this dream signifies much in my life today, the murky dangerous water, with unknowns all along the path we swim certainly tells of the world I live in. Me knowing how to to overcome the dangers and actually being able to succeed is the hard part, not the danger, but what is in my mind. As JC says (joe campbell that is) letting go of desire and fear is how to unite the soul with the light. desire is a tricky one, how to let go of desire without desiring to do so. How to let go of fear might be simpler? Not sure about that either, but this dream was enlightening!
One last thing I recall; I remember saying that in order to let go of fear, one must embrace the outcome as if it would be a gift. Be that loss of limb, serious injury or even death. They all told me that was true. What a way to dream~
Man doing Tai Chi on the lawn in front of County Court House here in Charlottesville, his movements are hypnotic.