A Geneological Commentary on The Play of Consciousness
from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog From Magical to Analogical Thinking: The System of Corrospondences
Though Shankara's path of jnana yoga ultimately rejects the idea that the self has dimensions or a location, it does recognize the propaedeutic and metaphoric role such conceptions play within the Vedanta system of meditation-devotion (upasana). In other words, for those who require a form for meditation, such conceptions help provide a "place," an "object" upon which the mind may be focussed. The idea of relating various objects of meditation within a system of correspondences is also a central aspect of tantric theory and practice. Consider any chart of the cakras, in which each cakra has a color, a mantric vibration, a yantric design, a day of the week, an action-figure, etc. associated with it. In fact, this practice of constructing systems of correspondences goes back to the Upanishads and their reconstitution of the older Brahmanic ritual cult. Indeed, much of the more incomprehensible portions of the older Upanishads have to do with these systems of "correspondences." What they refer to are the older ritual identifications and equivalences that have been transposed into the domain of thought and imagination. Consider the opening passage from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad concerning the ancient horse sacrifice: [...]
These kind of ritual identifications occur throughout the older Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads. In many ways, the tantric tradition is the inheritor of this older form of ritualized Vedanta, even though the Tantras are considered heterodox. At the very least we can see the "as above, so below" or microcosm/macrocosm conception in both. In tantric theory, the human individual is considered to be an exact replica, in miniature, of the cosmos. Eliade, for example, phenomenologically relates the central channel or nadi of the human individual to the axis mundi of the cosmos (Atlas holding the heavens in his shoulders in Greek myth, the "navel of the ocean" in Homer, Mount Meru in Indian myth, etc.). This Hermetic maxim, "as above, so below", is also a dictum of the West Indian sants like Jnaneshvar, who expresses it thus: "pindi te brahmandi," which means, what happens in the individual body (pinda) occurs in the cosmos (Brahmanda, literally, the "egg of Brahma").
Accordingly, in many traditions, the process of yoga is considered to be the individual enactment of the process of cosmic dissolution (pralaya) that occurs at the end of every cosmic age. Both kundalini yoga and shabda yoga can be seen as instances of this type, and in a general sense can be called versions of "laya-yoga," the yoga of dissolution. Here, the idea is that grosser and "lower" structures are to be "dissolved" in "higher," more subtle structures of being in a process known as "laya-krama" (krama means gradual or incremental). Among the Naths, the instrument of this "dissolution" (laya) is the cosmic Shakti or Kundalini; among the north Indian Sants, it is the celestial sound current or Shabda. In the metaphysics underpinning the conception and rationale of such practices, each higher level of being is said to "transcend yet include" each of the preceding lower levels, a principle stated succinctly in Shankara's Upadeshashashri at 1.9.1, which reads, "It should be known that with the series beginning with earth and ending with the inner atman (pratyag-atman), each succeeding component is more subtle and more pervasive than the preceding one that has been abandoned." Ascending series of ontic structures are described in various places in the Upanishads --- the koshas of the Taittiriya Up being a paradigmatic example. The process of "dissolution" or laya-krama is explicitly described at Katha Upanishad 1.3.13: [...]
At some point, this binding force or "bandhu" that permeates the cosmos comes to be called "brahman." And he who has knowledge of this "brahman," and its unseen, inner workings is the brahmin. Given that he understands the nature of this force, the brahmin has power over it. Power also creates knowledge (in the sense of institutions ala Foucault), and so by the time of the Brahmana texts, the concept arises that the symbolic meaning of the ritual must be understood if the ritual is to be efficacious (a conception that also insures the necessity of those who understand its meaning, i.e., the brahmins). Eventually the idea of the binding force is replaced by the system of ritual and symbolic identifications, and brahman as the "binding force" becomes Brahman, the ens reale, the metaphysical principle constituting the cosmos itself. By the time of the Upanishads, the idea arises that ritual can be done away with entirely and performed in toto within the imagination of the performer.
The Upanishads say repeatedly, he who knows "thus", gains "thus." In other words, as long as the meaning of the rite is known, that is, the ritual identifications are known, the benefits of the rite accrue. Thus Prashna Upanishad 4.4 says "the mind (manas) is the sacrificer." In time, this noetic form of the rite comes to be seen as superior to the physical rite due to its release from its imperfect material basis. Gita 6.33, for example, says that the "jnana yajna", the sacrifice done within the sphere of knowledge is superior to the material rite. [...] Yogavasistha, which is a work of a general "advaitic" orientation was probably written under the influence of Kashmiri Shaivism.