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..:: Liberation I / The Body ::..


Alan Schneider


              We all seek liberation from the many known (and unknown) forms of bondage that typify human experience and consciousness.  The Sanskrit term for this condition is moksha, an indication of the importance and recognition granted this concept in Hindu scripture, and, indeed, the associated experience of freedom is perhaps the single most important condition to be attained by human beings, and the most difficult one to preserve, as well.  Our human personal liberation is the subject of this essay series. 

            From the perspective of the naïve observer of physical events, liberation appears to be primarily the release from physical bondage, but, with depth of observation comes the realization that it is much more than that.  It is not merely that the body can become imprisoned – the body is itself the prison of the physical sensory awareness that it sustains as one form of consciousness.  And true freedom involves much more than the physical ability to travel about unrestricted – it necessitates the ability to travel within oneself in search of all the extended states of higher manifestation attainable, and then travel externally and communicate the information about these states to other interested parties that may be in a position to benefit from this knowledge.   Do you doubt the validity of these contentions?  Well, my friend, you must then still be steeped in youth’s radiant glow, and free for that reason to believe that my words are foolish, for, with the advance of age, we all tend to discover through the growing discomfort of the body their truth – while it is a youthful, comfortable, and hopefully enjoyable prison, we tend not to complain so much!  Yet, a wise youth will still be capable of pondering the wisdom of my observations, and can benefit from the line of inquiry presented here.  

            Now, there is nothing to say that the removal of physical constraints is not an important part of the process of liberation, and so is empowerment on the Physical Plane in the physical sense – increased financial, literal, and social influence are all significant elements present in the liberated condition.  But, there have been absolute prisoners of many types of confinement that have discovered that they could be more truly free in that condition than they had been on the outside of the bars – in fact, the individual involved in generic awareness who does not think to investigate the world lives in an utterly trapped state of being whether cognizant of this or not.

            Thus, let us begin with the examination of the constraints imposed by the body on waking consciousness.   Probably the most exhilarating physical experience, and the one most likely to be perceived as “free” for that reason, is the sex orgasm, and this particularly in one’s youth.   Following this in not necessarily rank order are eating to fullness, resting to one’s requirement, drinking as one chooses (of whatever type of liquid one chooses!), exercising as one sees fit, and otherwise stimulating the organism by whatever other means one chooses in what one finds to be a pleasurable context.  Beginning with the first example cited, the sex orgasm, regardless of extensive foreplay, is a phenomenon of very short duration, followed by an afterglow period of also relatively short duration, and a period of appreciably dissipated libido of (perhaps) a day or two until we are hormonally compelled to begin the gratification cycle again.  Obviously, we cannot live in a prolonged state of orgasm, Tantra and Tantric theory notwithstanding!  And the attempt to live in a prolonged state of arousal is equally problematic – this is inherently frustrating for the organism, and breeds all manner of physical dysfunction in its wake.   So, we are left to consider the more commonly experienced baseline state of neutral waking consciousness, which, for the purposes of this argument (and giving human beings the benefit of the doubt) can be defined as a state of casual and relatively satisfied well being.  But, if this supposed state of comfortable baseline awareness is observed carefully, many objections to its authenticity arise. 

            Perhaps the most crucial one is that the maintenance of this condition requires the ongoing application of what the Buddha referred to as desire action – the efforts on the Physical Plane geared toward obtaining and repeating gratification episodes. This tendency and the associated social maneuvers remain subconsciously active in the mind even while we are engaged in other mental and physical behaviors – they are central to the ego, and the ego is itself central to the experience of waking awareness.   The ego has no real purpose other than to seek out and obtain physical gratification for the organism of which it is an incident part.  So, we can say that the apparent baseline comfort of the satiated organism is still subject to an ongoing, low grade state of agitation, and agitation is, by definition, uncomfortable.  Since this agitation, like many other related conditions of negative organismic arousal, only subsides in the absence of ego activity, we are left to conclude that “neutral waking consciousness” does not really exist as such, in direct consequence of the inherently turbulent nature of the body and its processes. 

            Desire action represents addiction waiting for an opportunity to manifest in individual existence.  In fact, anything present in a physical, zoological form amounts to a mobile addiction to sense objects – we humans are relatively fortunate as conscious beings because we have the sentient capacity to recognize this fact and take appropriate counter measures.  The Buddha defined many such measures in his life and discourses, all of them geared toward neutralizing and dissolving the body’s addictive potential and the related influence on consciousness.   This is where real freedom and liberation begin for the person – recognizing desire and desire action for what they are – jail!  

            It may well be that sensory consciousness itself is so inherently flawed in view of its relationship to and dependence on ego awareness that our entire evolution and existence as a species should be called into moral question.  Since this is the commonly experienced state of human baseline awareness, we would appear to be hopelessly entrapped in desire and desire action, regardless of the Buddha’s contention that the Noble Eight Fold Path can deliver liberation in this life eventually.   We, and every other physical being in creation, are quite possibly doomed from the outset of conception to struggle with physicality for the term of incarnation, only to be genuinely “liberated” at death, often referred to in Hindu scripture as MahaSamadhi – literally “the great combining”.  Short of this event, we are confronted with the essentially transitory and superficial nature of sensory gratification on the Physical Plane, and the necessity to mentally transcend this condition somehow to attain what liberation may be possible while still incarnate.  

            The Buddha was well aware of what was involved in his personal search for liberation – he passed through many years of the most severe austerities, culminating in his decision to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree (actually a pipel tree) until either MahaSamadhi or liberation (termed enlightenment in this case) took place, regarding the problem of suffering inherent in the human condition.  Accounts vary, but he remained there in the deepest possible state of meditation, eating only one grain of rice a day, for from sixty to ninety days!  Finally, the blessed event of enlightenment took place, and he realized the root of suffering to be desire, and the curative to be the Eight Fold Path of right living.   He also foretold of a succession of Buddhas to follow him, but no one is sure (the Lamas notwithstanding) that any more great luminaries of his stature have ever appeared.   Thus, we are left with the difficult application of what effective techniques may exist to lift ourselves out of the incarnated morass.   Unfortunately, these all require great sacrifices akin to those of the Buddha to achieve – there is no easy way to be free from the bondage of the flesh!  OM Name Shiva...  

            If worldly awareness is so fallen, what else are we to do with our condition?  Such answers as may be available appear to lie within the mechanism of consciousness.  If we investigate this mechanism through meditation and reflection, turning away from the physical world and senses, and probe deeply within ourselves, the answer of enlightenment – of liberation – may yet be found.   The precursive condition for this investigation resides in cultivating a considered mistrust of the gratification process on the Physical Plane.  Only if we learn to view this psychological activity with suspicion can we then hope to look away from it successfully, otherwise we remain hypnotized by our physicality and physical edifice.   When what has here to fore been regarded as benevolent is progressively revealed to be deceptive and negative, then we are ready to move forward along the Path of Liberation. 

            Thus are the body and physical, sensory awareness shown to be the elements of mental bondage, and the first ones requiring neutralization for freedom to be realized.   As we pursue the path of inner exploration, the only real path of liberation, many obstacles will be encountered – the actual form of the human entity – the extended form of “many bodies” encountered in enlightened awareness – is exceedingly subtle and complex, and shrouded in layers of difficulty and confusion that frustrate human perception and investigation.   What one finds eventually is that our perception of existence is literally created from inside out, however external the events surrounding us may seem to be, and that the core structure that is finally encountered at the center of everything (whether internal or external) is the Self of Jung, Yogananda, and Maharshi, to name a few of those others who solved Buddha’s riddle.   And it certainly can be solved by the very determined investigator who is willing to pay the price in terms of the exchange of personal illusion for universal truth.  

              This series of essays will investigate the process of liberation attainable from the incarnate perspective – the only one of which we can, after all, be certain.   Many spiritual insights from several traditions will be brought to bear on this inquiry, which will be focused primarily through the lens of Jungian psychodynamics as the most scientific theory among the plethora of such theories in existence.  The reader is invited to return to this series as we illuminate the Self!


                                                                                  - With Love, Alan -

                                                               (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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