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Cyclic Existence, or the House of Samsara

Joann S. Bakula
June 2010


The monthly meditation for world service at the full moon (which is Saturday, June 26, at 11:31 am UT) in June or Cancer 2010, uses, as we know, the keyword "I build a lighted house and therein dwell." The themes developed in these twelve monthly meditations are varied enough to spark the imagination and intuition of anyone and any culture, whether they elaborate on the world's wisdom traditions; the aspects and qualities of human nature; the path of initiation into higher states of consciousness; cosmology and the 12 constellations of astronomy; the 12 signs of astrology and the myth of Hercules; the qualities of light and the seven rays; or the problems of humanity. Any and all of these can result in world service if and when the intuition is functioning. When the intuition is functioning any and all of these can enable the meditator to serve the world, because, as it's put in Discipleship in the New Age, the intuition lifts us into the field of "pure and unadulterated fact and undistorted ideas — free from illusion and coming direct from the divine or universal Mind." This is how we make the mind a lighted house.

The overarching theme of all these meditations is light, love-wisdom and purpose, or mind, heart and will, universally found in every individual human being, even though the content of each is radically different from time to time and culture to culture. As we humans integrate our behavior into the one web of life, we come to realize the strengths and weaknesses of mind, heart and will in individuals and cultures, and how they affect us all and our environment. Our mantra, the Great Invocation, integrates these three. It was given to all of humanity at the end of WWII and meant to be adapted to different cultural traditions, all of whom have a different name for the avatar of compassion. Meditation on and use of the Great Invocation is a method of integration that leads to synthesis.

The Metaphor of the House
The seed thought uses the metaphor of the house, which is particularly suited for drawing analogies between the macrocosm and the microcosm, from our planetary house and solar system, to our mind or body as house. It is famous in many esoteric traditions. Esoteric philosopher and writer P.D. Ouspensky observed something especially pertinent for our time, "we have in us a large house …with a library and many other rooms, but we live in the basement and the kitchen and cannot get out of them." In these meditations we begin by centering above the diaphragm in the heart and ajna centers.

Mircea Eliade, noted religious scholar, writes that Indian religious thought made ample use of the 'traditional homology, house-cosmos-human body' and the reason is clear: "in the last analysis, the body, like the cosmos, is a 'situation, a system of conditioning influences that the individual assumes. The spinal column is assimilated to the cosmic pillar … the navel or heart with the Center of the World, and so on." He goes on to emphasize the inclusion of an upper opening: "A fact to be emphasized is that each of these equivalent images — cosmos, house, human body — displays, or is capable of receiving, an upper opening that makes passage to another world possible." The centers or chakras are often referred to as openings of ingress and egress, one of whose principal functions is to act as a door through which energy passes from within the system and without.

The Theme of Rebirth
Another theme explicated in this meditation of Cancer, is the theme of rebirth, an Eastern theme of increasing interest to Westerners. One of the best known books is The Tibetan Book of the Dead, also in Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos, which describe the cycle of existence as composed of six bardo states, or states of consciousness, three of life and three of death, leading back to rebirth. This could well be called the house of human existence and experience, or the house that samsara built. It is attributed to 8th century adept Padmasambhava, who is considered by Tibetans to be second only to Gautama Buddha, and a Nirmanakaya.

The six bardo states can be visualized as a house with six chambers or rooms, each perceived only through a special body built for that purpose. The first bardo, the waking state room of natural living is perceived with a physical body and senses, the sleep and dream state of the second bardo is perceived with a dream body, in a room that looks quite different almost every time you go there and is very different from the room of conscious waking state. The third bardo is the meditation room, where we seek the light body of perception that allows us to see the clear light; this is samadhi meditation, the lighted house built in consciousness. At death, the fourth bardo, the clear light is perceived by everyone in the light body that is always there, hidden in the darkness of unconscious living. The light body enables us to experience the bardo of truth and visions, the glorious dharmata, which is the fifth bardo room. The six room is the room of becoming, which is perceived by a mental body that eventually becomes the physical body once again. Still, all of these rooms are in one mansion all the time, our minds, and when we know and can perceive all rooms in waking or conscious state, then enlightenment dawns and we leave the house of samsara or rebirth, unless we volunteer to remain.

Bailey's Tibetan adds fine insight into both the essentials and the mistaken ideas related to rebirth, including the wrong focus on past lives and speculations that cannot be proven "as to the length of time a man is out of incarnation and in the consideration of foolish items of unproven and unprovable information, and in the puerile reconstruction of past lives." (Bailey, Esoteric Astrology, 317). Issue is taken especially with the idea that desire is the main motivation for rebirth. The "larger truths," Alice Bailey and the Tibetan write, "have not yet been sensed or noted accurately by esotericists." Desire, it is stressed, is not the driving force. "Basically, it is not desire which prompts return but will and knowledge of the plan [of love and light]. It is not the need for achieving an ultimate perfection which goads the ego on to experience in form, for the ego is already perfect." Here we run into some difficulty with language. The term ego, here with no capital, is usually written Ego and is used, perhaps, to correlate the Christian soul/spirit with what Tibetan Buddhists call rigpa, the primordial pristine nature of mind, the ground reality we are all born from and of, which gets conditioned and enculturated until layer upon layer of concepts, delusions, false knowledge, wrong interpretation and so on, totally obscure the pristine awareness which is the mind's actual nature. Sogyal Rinpoche describes rigpa (p. 46) as, "ia primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake. It could be said to be the knowledge of knowledge itself." He contrasts this with sem, "the mind that thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, that flares up in anger, that creates and indulges in waves of negative emotions and thoughts" (p. 47) and that asserts itself by "fragmenting, conceptualizing, and solidifying experience." (p. 46) This difference is much like what Heidegger, the Existentialist writer calls the 'calculating mind' and the 'meditating mind.' We all know the difference, even today, when the practices often seem to be mixed.

Bailey writes of rebirth that, "the main incentive is sacrifice and service to those … lives that are dependent upon the higher inspiration (which the spiritual soul can give)" and that "it is in order to negate the space-time concept and to prove it an illusion that the door in Cancer opens to the sacrificing, serving soul." This appears to be the Tibetan's reiteration of the bodhisattva vow, not to leave earth 'until all sentient beings have achieved enlightenment, down to the last blade of grass.' The picture we get from this is an Einsteinian one of matter becoming energy as light and back again in a continuous transformation from stardust to human form in time-space, to formless light and energy, then back into matter again and again, transforming matter into light energy until all is enlightened. The Tibetan calls this "the magnetic interplay between the form side of life and life itself" and writes that rather than rebirth or reincarnation the phrase "conscious in-breathing and out-breathing would describe more accurately this cosmic process."

As we join together in meditation at this time of the full moon when the sun is shining fully upon earth like rigpa with no obscuring mass or mem, symbolized here by the moon as an obstacle, let the clear light of pristine radiant awareness within you shine onto the world and make the darkness in this world a little lighter.

Joann S. Bakula June 21, 2010
joannsbakula@q.com

References
Bailey, Alice A. Discipleship in the New Age, Vol.I. NY: Lucis, 1972, p. 25.
----Esoteric Astrology. NY: Lucis, 1989. pp. 317, 324-325.
Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. NY: Harcourt, Brace, 1987, pp. 173-174.
Freemantle, Francesca & Chogyam Trungpa. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Boston: Shambhala, 1972.
Ouspensky, P.D. The Fourth Way. NY: Vintage Random House, 1971, p. 2.
Rinpoche, Gyatrul. Natural Liberation. Somerville, MA: Wisdom, 1998.
Rinpoche, Sogyal. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. NY: Harper Collins, 1992, pp. 46-47.