Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Kybalion, Hindu Philosophy and the Four Maha Vaakyas (Grand Statements)

The other day, I was searching for Aldous Huxley’s writings and chanced upon a century-old school of thought, propounded by Hermus Trismegistus. The philosopher’s preaching, compiled ‘by three initiates’ in a book titled, ‘The Kybalion’, if not for its name, the contents of which, was intriguing enough for many of its similarities with the Hindu philosophy. At least to the extent that I know of.

Rather than being founded on vast internal searching, arguments, experiments and debates with other sects of philosophies and evolving on those foundations over centuries, if not millennia, allowing for constructive mutation, ‘The Kybalion’ was simple, direct, did not show any proof of long evolutionary process and yet resembles Hindu philosophy in more than many ways.

Acknowledging mind-body dualism, belief, subject-object metaphysical relation, prevalence of truth and falsity are few of those. Though, I would not completely term Hindu philosophy a typcial folk psychology, ‘The Kybalion’, which stronly resembles Hindu philosophy, seems founded and to be thriving on it.

One good example of its folk psychological orientation is where it declares that the book and its wisdom would make their appearance in one's life at an appropriated time for the person to receive them. I was reminded of so many occasions in Indian Hindu lives where we were advised to cross-over a hurdle, a misfortune or a loss caused by inexperience and ill-fortitude, as the time was not yet right for us to receive them.

Thus, being a receiver of good wisdom and fortune, henceforth also is a factor of appropriate timing in one's life, widely believed karmic, the basis of Hindu philosophy.

Hindus often undertake committed (to God, of course, by way of prayers) pilgrimage to various temples in India, though not bound by the scriptures to do so. While plans would be afoot to reach a temple shrine, mostly preceded by 40 days’ structured life style, denouncing sex, meat, smoke, liquour, comforts (even soft beds, hot water and three meals – only two are allowed and not to forget the non-usage of footwear!) and daily congregational prayers in the evenings, few may not make it to the pilgrimage, owing to many unavoidable reasons.

“The time to make the pilgrimage and be THERE to receive His blessings has not yet come”, would be the consoling words given by elders.

Receiving good wisdom, good companionship and mental peace and satisfaction, usually are connected to an appropriate divine timing, usually out of bounds for human beings' control or manoeveuring.

Comparing Hindu Philosophical Components to The Kybalion

Samkhya, the oldest of many philosophical systems of Hinduism, is a dualistic philosophy between the soul and matter, as against the Kybalion, which advocates the dualism between mind and the body. Atman, the soul, is different from mind, by its characteristics which state that atman is the absolute reality which is all-pervasive, eternal, indivisible, attributeless and the pure consciousness. It is non-matter and is beyond intellect.

Hence Hindu philosophical tenets are founded on the acceptance of atman’s existence – Jeevaatma, which is indestructible, as against Kybalion’s defining the duality with, what its calls, ‘The principle of Mentality’, the first of its seven principles. ‘All that is’, is mentality, the Kybalion states.

Four Mahavakyas (Grand Statements) of Hinduism and the seven Principles of The Kybalion

Principle of Mentalism

“All that is Mind” is the principle of mentalism by Kybalion. This connotes that the power of one’s mind is limitless. If one could master his own mind, he is mastering himself and hence could master the universe.

Equivalently, ‘Looking into thyself’, is how Hindu philosophy states. Looking into oneself is the most excruciating task in the Hindu spirituality which has led to scores of yogis penancing collectively for thousands of years.

Many great Hindu treatises have been written on just that one statement. The great sage Ramana Maharishi from the south of India had stated that ‘while trying to look into oneself, appreciate that the mind keeps wavering from one point to the other. One should not try to hard to stop it at one point, initially though, since for an untrained mind, it is near impossible. Go with it, oscillate and improve and increase the insight into the mind. This is possible only with a rigorous practice’.

There is nothing called a part achievement in this process. Either it is there or not. The Mind is everything.

The manifestations of mind, Brahma in best characterised in the four Mahavakyas - the grand statements, as it is called in Sanskrit
Delving deeper into these four grand statements, presents one with the four missing pieces of one jigsaw puzzle, which when fitted and seen together, gives a compelling and fulfilling picture of soul, mind and consciousness.

The Four Mahavakyas

1. Prajnanam Brahma - "Consciousness is Brahman" (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda)

2. Ayam Atma Brahma - "This Self (Atman) is Brahman" (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda)

3. Tat Tvam Asi - "Thou art That" (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda)

4. Aham Brahmasmi - "I am Brahman" (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)

Pragyanam Brahma - "The self or the consciousness is Brahman" or "knowledge (Pragyan) is Brahman".

This mahavakya is called ‘Lakshana vakya’, meaning that the statement explains the characteristic of Brahman.

Think this in connection with Principle of Mentality which states mind is everything, the All. Pragyanam Brahma states that consciousness, which is the manifestation and chief characteristic of mind, is Brahman or everything.

Ayam Atma Brahma- "The self is Brahman".

This statement is termed ‘anubhav vakya’, meaning that the statement originates from the direct experience when seeker’s consciousness unites with Brahman.

Tatvamasi - "Thou art that ".

This statement is called ‘Updesha vakya’, meaning that it instructs a seeker on the nature of Brahman.

Aham Brahmasmi - "I am Brahman".

This statement is termed ‘prasthav vakya’, meaning that it comes as a final, suggestive statement after merging with the Brahman.

As per the Hindu Vedas, the four states of “I am ness” are:

1. I am aware that I exist but I cannot conceptualize it
2. I am aware that I exist in relationship with things, objects and beings
3. I am aware that I exist. I am also aware that I am existence itself – tatvamasi – state of atman
4. I am I am – state of no duality. I am limitless and absolute, state of indivisible, infinite, immeasurable, unknowable state of being.

The last mahavakya, ‘Aham Brahmasmi' – ‘I am I am’ is the supreme state of self realisation and is denoted, I would believe, by the principle of Mentality in The Kybalion. All other stages of realisation in the Hindu Philosophy are more exactly capturing one’s progress in looking unto oneself and achieving higher self realisation.

However, Principle of Mentalism sums up the stages and equates to ‘Aham Brahmasmi’.

Principle of Correspondence

The Kybalion’s second Principle of Correspondence states that there is always a correspondence between the laws of phenomena of the various "planes" of being and life.

‘As above, so below; as below, so above’

This principle also states that there is a harmony, agreement and correspondence between these planes, delineated as

• The Great Physical Plane
• The Great Mental Plane
• The Great Spiritual Plane

By the above statement, one can observe that there is literally no reference point between the correspondence planes. They are, ‘as above, so below; and, as below, so above’.

Principle of Vibration

The Kybalion’s third, Principle of Vibration, states that motion is manifested in everything in the Universe, that nothing rests, and everything moves, vibrates, and circles.

This principle explains that the differences between different manifestations of Matter, Energy, Mind, and even Spirit, are the result of only different "vibrations". The higher a person is on the achievement or self initiation scale, the higher the rate of vibration will be.

However, the interesting point the principle makes, which is worth noting is, that at the ultimate level, The All is purported to be at an infinite level of vibration, almost to the point of being at rest. There are said to be millions upon millions of varying degrees between the highest level, The All, which is at highest level of vibration (or otherwise at a state of rest), other objects of the lowest vibration and objects with intermediate vibrations, all forming the universe.

The Kybalion proposes that, ‘mental transmutation is described as the practical application of this principle. To change one's mental state is to change the degree of vibration. One may do this by an effort of Will, by means of deliberately "fixing the attention" upon a more desirable state’.

It is common in Hindu spiritual knowledge to denote a spiritually acclaimed and achieved person to posses ‘higher vibration of energy’. Going one step further, different temples – the abodes of divine energy, too, are categorised as possessing various degrees of vibration.

As higher the vibration one feels in the vicinity of an achieved ‘atma’, the closer the ‘atma’ is to God, it is stated in Hindu belief. At the highest level, many yogis, sadhus and gurus are worshipped as God. All the efforts which go into achieving higher vibration is to get closer to Godhood, either by one’s one will or by the divine design.

Principle of Polarity

The Kybalion’s fourth, The Principle of Polarity, embodies the idea that everything is dual, everything has two poles, and everything has its opposite. All manifested things have two sides, two aspects, or two poles.

The next interesting facet to this principle is that ‘everything "is" and "is not" at the same time, all truths are but half truths and every truth is half false, there are two sides to everything, opposites are identical in nature, yet different in degree, extremes meet, and all paradoxes may be reconciled.

Another extension of duality principle.

So, if every truth is half false, how to accept it (the truth)? Having known that false contains truth and vice versa, how to handle that knowledge? Which is true and which should be accepted?

If what is stated in The Kybalion is to be taken as the truth and nothing but truth, then as per its own principle, it must be containing half false. The Kybalion does not address this paradox for the reader and resolve the conflict.

Principle of Rhythm

The Principle of Rhythm, is The Kybalion’s next principle which embodies the idea that in everything there is manifested a measured motion, a to and fro, a flow and inflow, a swing backward and forward, a pendulum-like movement. This principle explains that there is rhythm between every pair of opposites, or poles, and is closely related to the Principle of Polarity. It can be seen that this Principle enables transition from one pole to the other, and not necessarily poles of extreme opposites.

I believe, in effect, this principle is a combination of the two previous principles, the principle of vibration and principle of polarity. As vibration constitutes a rhythm of movements from various degrees.

Another question arises: If truth is at one pole and false is at other diametrical end, how could one reach truth from falsehood, if his path is oscillating? By one’s own will, if one intends to increase his level of vibration, to achieve the level of higher mentality, how is he to travel within these poles?

Principle of Cause and Effect

The Principle of Cause and Effect explains that there is a cause for every effect, and an effect for every cause. It also states that there is no such thing as chance, that chance is merely a term indicating extant causes not recognized or perceived.

This principle seems an extension of the Hindu Karmic principles. ‘Whatever has been given unto you, has been done so, as you have earned it’, says Lord Krishna, in his treatise, Bhagavat Gita.

‘Nothing is given to you or you are not enduring anything which is not fit of and which you do not deserve of’, is what the Lord says.

Bhagavad Gita takes it one step further, being a practical tool for a Gruhasta (a person who is leading a familial life and yet is bound by, and could perform, the spiritual and righteous duties, as against a sage), by saying that one should ‘be the cause of an activity and need not long for the effect of his activity’, which shall be given unto him, rightfully.

Principle of Gender

The last and one of interesting Kybalion principle is Principle of Gender which states that gender is manifested in everything. The three initiates or the authors of The Kybalion state that this does not relate explicitly to the commonly understood notion of sex, but rather "... to beget; to procreate, to generate, to create, or to produce..." in general. Gender is manifested as the Masculine and Feminine principles, and manifests itself on all planes.

The principle does not refer to the physical gender of someone, nor does it suggest that someone of a certain physical gender necessarily has the same mental gender. Ideally, one wants to have a balanced mental gender.

The Masculine principle is always in the direction of giving out or expressing, and contents itself with the "Will" in its varied phases.

The Feminine principle is always in the direction of receiving impressions, and has a much more varied field of operation than the Masculine. The Feminine conducts the work of generating new thoughts, concepts, and ideas, including the work of the imagination.

It is said that there must be a balance in these two forces. Without the Feminine, the Masculine is apt to act without restraint, order, or reason, resulting in chaos. The Feminine alone, on the other hand, is apt to constantly reflect and fail to actually do anything, resulting in stagnation. With both the Masculine and Feminine working in conjunction, there is thoughtful action that breeds success which points out that both the Feminine and the Masculine fulfill each other and complement each other.

The satvik and Saivistic principles of Hinduism states that all animate and inanimate things in the universe or manifestations of Shiva (the male equivalent), the doer and Shakthi (the female equivalent), the energy. They are equal and opposite, complement each other and cannot survive without each other.

If Shakthi, the female quotient, is absent and taken out of the equation, nothing could be done as only she provides the prime force for any activity. Similarly, if Shiva was not to be there, mere energy, Shakthi, will not be able to execute anything.

All these musings rendered me one inference: the great religion of Indian subcontinent had inspired Hermus Trismegistus in formulating the seven principles of The Kybalion. I am sure much deeper insights are required by experts into the understanding of dual existence and achievement of higher vibration.

Sources: The Kybalion
The Philosophy of The Panchadasi by Swami Krishnananda


ps said...

Nice article.At a given moment, each Soul sees, feels and experiences the same event not in an identical way,perhaps. These experiences over a period of time, brth and rebirth translates into vasanas, imprints and awareness depending on the impact and depth of such experience. As we strive to reduce the karmic balance in each birth the urge to know who we are in all its gamut keeps knocking relentlessly.This urge coupled with Divine blessings swells ones awareness by quantum leaps to catch up with higher levels of the vast ocean of sublime consciousness and a stage comes (eitheer in the current birth or when He only knows)when no more questions arise in ones mind. Supreme consciousness engulfs the mind, intellect and renders them a slave to Him. Till then questions, duality and inconsistencies in absorption are bound to arise and stay.Seek His blessings as a Slave and open the door to receive bliss

Kamaraj M Radhakrishnan said...

Good documentation.

Anonymous said...

really good