Transpersonal review

January 3, 2022

“Throughout their long and variegated development, the religious traditions of India have never ceased to express their sense of commitment to what is often described in such negative terms as ‘renunciation’ and ‘otherworldliness.’ It would, however, be more precise to use the term worldlessness, because ‘otherworldliness’ was never the sole paradigm for the larger sphere of the Hindu cultural heritage. Those who do not make radical renunciation of the world, who live their lives in the matrix of outer relations called ‘the world,’ must nevertheless not become enmeshed in the world. For them, as well as for those who externally renounce the world, the turning around’ involves a liberation from the lack of freedom that characterizes life engulfed in the world. In this sense, for anyone who is in search of the meaning of his existence in the world, ‘worldlessness‘ embodies the greatest common denominator of the spiritual quest and represents the vocational symbol of India. Worldlessness, then, is not ‘life-and-world negation’ but reflects a spiritual mood and sense of orientation that includes a positive and a negative disposition. Worldlessness is a disposition to live in the world, singly or collectively, not for its own sake, not as a goal in itself worthy of pursuit as a sufficient ‘human end,’ but as a means or medium to life ‘in God,’ as a condition of life in the spirit…. Worldlessness is used here as the term of contrast to worldliness and its existential correlate, egoism. It is not the world as such, but the world generated and reared by the ego, individual and corporate, appropriated and owned as ‘mine’ that inhibits the expression of spirit. Spirit represents precisely that dimension which precludes the assertion of I as against you in any of its forms. True, the lure of worldliness and the thirst for life that it continually evokes also bespeak a vital urge of spirit, in response to the ‘pleasant (preyas) seizing upon a human being,’ but it has its source in a fundamental unwisdom, a primordial lack of insight into reality…. The general Hindu conceptualization of spirit is done in terms of the upanishadic notion of atman and its identity with the ground of being. Atman, the true theion of Hindu spiritual tradition, is preeminently not will or dynamic spirit as such. Itself beyond the distinction of static and dynamic, atman is rather the ‘ground’ which provides for this and similar other distinctions. It is the manifesting source of everything that is, and, likewise, negatively speaking the condition of everything that is not. But when it is discovered or realized, it is realized rather as a fullness of the depth in which everything ‘of the surface’ disappears.” — Sivaraman, from the Introduction.

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