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Feb 09, 2018

The First Fundamentalist Impulse From Brahma

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There are innumerable creation myths with Shiva as protagonist because a single metaphor is never adequate to describe the mysteries of the universe. A perennially relevant myth reminds us of the perils of fundamentalism.

Creator Brahma and Preserver Vishnu came across a great pillar of fire. From this unending column of effulgence emanated the sound, Aum. Awed, they decided to investigate. Taking the form of a swan, Brahma rose high into the blue skies in pursuit of its summit. Taking the form of a boar, Vishnu bored his way deep into the universe in pursuit of its base.

Both failed. For this cosmic pillar was none other Shiva himself. How can one measure the immeasurable? When Vishnu returned, he conceded defeat. However, not wanting to admit failure, Brahma boasted that he had scaled the summit. As proof, he presented a white ketaki flower that he claimed to have discovered at the roof of the universe. The flower vouched for Brahma’s claim.

The lie cost Brahma dear. For no sooner was the sentence uttered than Shiva appeared as Adiyogi. The two gods fell at his feet. For this lie, Shiva declared, Brahma would henceforth be deprived of the privilege of worship. The flower, by becoming accomplice to this subterfuge, fell from grace. Adiyogi refused henceforth to accept it as an offering. However, an exception was made for the holy night of Mahashivaratri. To this day, the white ketaki flower is offered for worship only on this darkest night in the year, considered to be the night of profoundest spiritual possibility.

Brahma’s lie marks the first act of fundamentalism on the planet. The flower, too, is punished for offering tacit support to the fundamentalist impulse. To claim a limited end to a limitless process, to draw borders across the borderless, to make conclusions about the unfathomable -- this is the beginning of the human impulse to create certainty where none exists. It is the birth of pain, of delusion.

The spiritual journey is a journey towards clarity, but never towards certainty. When you draw conclusions about beginnings and endings, you are a believer. When you accept that you really do not know anything, you become a seeker.

To be enlightened is not a condition of certainty. It is to move from limited knowing to a boundless unknowing, from gravitas to grace. It is to awaken to a condition of borderless ignorance, of limitless uncertainty. When you are no longer bound by the limitations of creation, you are blessed with the freedom of the Creator.

Mount Kailash is an incredible reminder of the limitlessness that is Shiva. This is the world’s greatest mystical library -- not a passive repository, but a living laboratory of human consciousness.

I am often asked if Shiva lives there. And the answer is ‘yes’. For what is Shiva without his knowing? In a very real sense, he is alive – not physically, but as an immense energy form. A knowing that is hundred per cent experiential, hundred per cent alive, hundred per cent here and now: this is Shiva. And despite numerous appropriation attempts, he has never been domesticated by any sect or scripture, dogma or doctrine. He remains essentially untameable. You can dissolve into him. But you can never presume to know him. From the bluff of belief to the searing clarity of unknowing, from the fluff of pomposity to individual insignificance – this is the way to realisation.
 

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