Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sacred Cow Terminology Obscures Real Meaning

"Names can be designated, but they are not fixed terms."
~ Introduction to The Secret of the Golden Flower – Thomas Cleary

No one dares speak out against word casing sacred cow terms like "enlightenment," yet few understand them, not empirically, at least. It is better to use simpler language, metaphysical in place of spiritual, for instance, because metaphysical is a term most people can agree on. It means "beyond the physical" while spiritual connotes more subjective meanings.

Arcata marsh in spring
The Incandescent Power Of Nature
Since most people’s understanding of terms like "enlightenment" and "duality' are based on their experiences in the physical world, it is only normal that their "definitions" reflect their material perceptions and experiences. In other words, the boundaries of their material concepts and their entrapment therein.

After a Kundalini awakening, one begins to experience beyond-the-physical, meta effects for the first time. This provides the subject with kind of "grokking" insight into the beyond-the-physical realm. All of a sudden he/she knows there is no death, no duality. This is both a revelation and a realization, metaphysical and empirical at the same time, a product of Kundalini awakening. Over time, one moves gradually from the physical to a greater understanding of the metaphysical, but it takes time, lots of time.

It’s like climbing a mountain. Can you describe the mountaintop before you’ve seen it? The climb takes time. You can waste a lot of energy wondering about what the top of the mountain is like. Better to spend the energy on getting there. 

Once you are there — at the figurative mountaintop — you can apply the same observational, scientific principles to your metaphysical experiences as a scientist applies to a laboratory experiment. You can even add a dash of poetic expression, elaborate on its mystical aspects. You are transformed.

Nevertheless, one term that does need a new casing is Kundalini. Not that it’s a bad or inadequate term; it’s connotations are too varied. Is it a cult, people wonder? An ancient religion? An Indian anatomical term? A biological actuality? Something I don’t need to know about? Something I should avoid because it’s scary? An imaginary force? An actual energy center in the body? A chakra? A nerve? A spiritual practice? An esoteric teaching? A holy scripture? Or all of the above?

Unlike terms such as meditation, enlightenment, consciousness, kundalini is not readily visualizable. Mention meditation and you get an across-the-board instant mental picture of its meaning and context. Mention kundalini and you get all sorts of vague connotations. Until we come up with a -tion, -ment, or -ness term for kundalini, the confusion will continue. Problem is, there just doesn’t seem to be a better term at the moment — a situation epitomized by a book like The Secret of the Golden Flower, which is all about raising Kundalini, but never mentions the word.

It’s all about spiritual transformation. And yet, the labels keep us apart. We share this goal of transformation — and yet the labels separate us, classify us, make us suspicious of one another.
The new-age spiritual marketplace can’t keep up with itself. A new teaching appears; the author tweaks the labels; adds a few new terms of his own, et voilĂ , a new sensation is born. Three weeks to enlightenment! New and improved! Tell your friends!
"Readers will also find themselves faced with differences in the way various teachers language their teachings and discrepancies in the way that each approaches this subject. In some cases, it is simply a matter of terminology (e.g., one teacher uses ‘enlightenment,' another ‘liberation'; one talks about the ‘self' being the ultimate, while another talks about the 'self' as the ego).”~ Mariana Caplan - Halfway Up the Mountain, Hohm Press, 1999.
There are many teachings out there. It’s hard to keep score in this new-agey environment. The only thing that matters — besides the labels — are the teachings that work and the teachings that don’t work. And the teachings that work for one individual, but not for another, and so on...

If we were material scientists, we’d be using the scientific method to verify each and every teaching that comes along. The ones that didn’t work wouldn’t last long. I can’t verify any teachings other than the ones I’ve tried myself, namely Raw Foods and Golden Flower Meditation.

But who says the scientific method can’t be used to verify the workability, the feasibility, the viability of a metaphysical system? Who says the scientific method doesn’t apply to the metaphysical world in the same manner it apples to the physical world?

What, after all, is the scientific method if it isn’t a system based on observation, inference, and empirical verification? A system based on doing and experimenting. On trial and error.

Can I verify all the teachings out there? No, I can only verify the ones I’ve worked with in the laboratory of my own body. That’s where this verification process takes place. Did you think it took place in a university? That you could learn it out of book, take an exam, and get extra credit? You have to do! As Bruce Lee said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Of course, before I found Golden Flower Meditation, I tried various systems. I gave them a chance, and when they didn’t work for me, I moved on.

If you're truly interested in exploring the metaphysical, forget about Terminology and Labels and just practice.
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." ~Mark Twain

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. Here is my take on the subject

    1. Yes, I agree that the term kundalini is baffling, alienating and tends to turn off people. From the marketing perspective, since we cater to a 21st century audience, one has to, whether one wants to or not, use something that would attract more people to the subject. totally with you on that one. 'Life Force' is a wonderful name (and ties into the 'Force' concept from Star Wars) I always try to tie in pop culture references like Star Wars and The Matrix to explain a lot of this stuff in my videos, simply because that has mass appeal. Also, to a lot of atheists, agnostics and people who like 'cool' sci-fi stuff, the old imagery is just boring.

    2. However, as i have written in a couple of blog posts on TKC, Sanskrit the language and the words that arise from it have a deeper connotation beyond just labels. So, the names given to things and phenomena have a resonance that activate the chakras and centers within the body. Therefore, mantras cannot be translated into other languages expect to provide a greater understanding of what is being intoned. The chanting still has to be using the original mantra if it has to have the intended effect.

    Keeping these two things in mind, the marketing aspect and the necessity of preserving some of the original stuff, I always try to present a modern, 21st century pint of view. This irks the traditionalists but opens up this fascinating subject to a wider audience. I get comments on my videos asking me to speak in Hindi and I have to politely explain to the person that my videos are intended for a global audience. That is the reason for making them in English. Also, one needs, at least in my opinion, to start to unify the various streams of thought, previously called religions, into something unitarian.