Friday, May 10, 2013

The Internal Bodhisattva and the Uniting of Diverse Streams

Almost 2 thousand years ago, the Mahayana branch of Buddhism brought forth the idea of the bodhisattva, a spiritual hero who forsook the liberation of total Nirvana for the world of Samsara, in order to liberate all sentient beings without exception. The bodhisattva embodies the ideal of compassion for all beings.

I believe very wholeheartedly that actual freedom of individual movement can really only come when diverse streams come together. The place to begin looking at these diverse movements does not lie outside of us however. It lies inside.

Within all of us are multiple streams of movement, what we call our different egos or personalities. We may think of ourselves as one, but are we? Do we not have multiple desires and impulses that we want to take in the course of even one day? Multiple voices speak within our heads, funneling our energies in sometimes completely apparently divergent directions.

Dominant voices appear in our internal worlds like inner kings or queens, their agendas enforced by internal guardians who keep things in line and keep the "troublemakers" or darker elements in the dungeons. However sometimes, those in the darker areas are freed and come up to wreak havoc, until the ruler can fight back and reassert authority within the inner kingdom. Sounds like a fairy tale perhaps but I have found this to be the case with not only myself but with everyone in this world I connect with. Most in the world are facing internal war. And we are acting out these internal wars on the external world space.

Roberto Assagioli, a wonderful yogi and psychologist from the early 1900's did much work and writing at the time to explain how these divergent streams come about and as well how the union of these divergent streams becomes possible in a sort of alchemical process through his basic principles of Psychosynthesis.

I feel that this work of internal alchemy, this Psychosynthesis, uniting the divergent streams is vital as a foundation for proper authentic spiritual development and forward evolution of the individual. One of the first problems we encounter with spiritual practice is that we don't often recognize the basic patterning of how our internal kingdom is set up before we come to sadhana. Oftentimes, when we first come to a spiritual tradition such as yoga, we attempt to subvert and suppress the darker elements of ourselves and beat them down with the "spiritual" king or queen who we then place on the throne. This is most oftentimes just replacing one "material" king or queen with a "spiritual" king or queen. A deadly problem occurs here. The "spiritual" king or queen within us attempts to shape the personality with all sorts of "spiritual" work while the rest of the kingdom is pushed down. The dominant face on the throne becomes the "spiritual" face, which is supported and held together by external world consensus view and even our fellow practitioners and "sangha". "Dispassion", "non-attachment", and many other terms get thrown back and forth as "virtues" that attempt to disassociate ourselves even further from our own internal energies and streams. Instead of uniting the diverse streams however, this right-handed, patriarchal paradigm backfires on itself, and actually causes us to become more internally divided. Assagioli terms this process as the "spiritual bypass". We use our practice to actually avoid the deeper work of understanding and uniting our various energies and instead act to increase the isolation within ourselves.

Chogyam Trungpa, a very paradigm breaking buddhist of the last century, talked about this problem as well. Its interesting that Assagioli was proposing it in the early 1900's though, well before the practice of yoga hit in full force here in the west. There is a lot I have to say here about how the patriarchal paradigm has enforced this deeper underlying spiritual sickness which has permeated almost every major tradition, Eastern or Western. I'll save that for another post.

The important thing to recognize here is that the work of uniting ourselves is not only the goal of yoga but also that of the bodhisattva. Working to heal the internal splits within ourselves, unifying our internal streams of energy, teaches us to learn to work together internally and to move together as one, united in the very definition of yoga. Relative freedom becomes possible. Each of us is a macrocosm within a microcosm. Learning to listen to the different voices, teaching the different voices to communicate authentically, and allowing the different voices to sit in one circle, on common ground, with no voices on the throne and none in the dungeon, gives us a very important thing. Power is liberated (which is what the right handed patriarchal traditions are deathly frightened of). Power liberates the will. This frees us in a way that is not often discussed in even the classical texts. And the deeper processes of yoga amazingly fall right into our lap. Samadhi becomes possible. True freedom of movement becomes possible.

But the most beautiful thing that occurs is that we then have compassion. By deep and abiding love and compassion for our inner selves, for all of them without exception, we then have true and deep compassion for the world outside of our skin.

In my opinion, then and only then do we have the capacity to listen, communicate, and give wholeheartedly to the world in a truly authentic way.