Tag Archives: soul

Some Thoughts on Leela, the Play of God

Someone Caught God Playing With Herself

or,

Thoughts on Leela ~ “The Play of God”

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Dedicated with Love to our Prince George Yoga Tribe, Thank You Beautiful Souls! ❤

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tad ekam sat vipram bahudha vadanti
“Truth is one, yet even the sages call it by many names.”
~ Rig Veda
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Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He…
~ Rig Veda 10.129

These amazing passages from one of the oldest and most sacred of the world’s scriptures express something that attracted me from the very beginning of my love affair with yoga about India and the Hindu yoga tradition, namely, it’s open-endedness and absence of dogma.  This has translated into Hinduism’s great tolerance for even seemingly contradictory ideas.

This tolerance and flexibility, if you will, can be seen in the fact that there is no one founder of Hinduism (such as a Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Muhammed), and no one scripture that is considered to be the sole authoritative one (even the Holy Vedas are not).  Rather, there are many Hinduisms, many yoga schools, and many saints, sages, swamis, and gurus with their respective schools and lineages.   The idea, as expressed in the Vedic hymn (above), is that there are many ways to get there, numerous trails up the mountain, something for everyone in the smorgasborg of spirituality laid before us to partake.   But at the end of the day, there is only one place to go…

Truth is One, paths are many,”

said the late Swami Satchidananda, echoing the ancient Vedic dictum.

      And thus, when the student is ready for a particular teaching, the teaching will appear in some form or another, and the form itself ultimately does not matter.  And when that lesson is learned –or rather, embodied — then the next, deeper teaching will present itself to the seeker, and then the next, and the next…  At least in theory, this will go on and on until there is Nothing more to learn and Nowhere (Now Here) to go, in other words, until the point of “enlightenment” — a point to be considered in due time!

Since we’re on the subject of Creation stories… In the Hasidic tradition, there is a beautiful quote that runs,

             “God created the world because God loves stories.” 

     Whether this is at all true is also something that will be touched on here, yet I at least love stories, you?

Well, here’s a wee little one…

I believe Freud is to be credited with the observation that when we’re young, our parents are like gods to us, and up until a certain age, we treat them as such, becoming chips off the old blocks, so to speak.   When I was eleven years old, my parents went through what I experienced to be a painful separation.  Painful because the fairytale was over for me, the Queen banished forever from the King’s Castle, and my hot air ballooning sense that we would be one happy family forever deflated quite abruptly and decidedly.

So one day, a few years later after the Queen’s exile…

I was over at my dad’s house when my mom happened to call and start to berate me for something, related to the fact that I was with my dad and she didn’t like that (this happened often enough at that time).  My dad overheard some of what was happening with me and my mom there on the phone and he said something that I still have not forgotten to this day, partly because it was a little out of character for him, I thought:

                                                           “Tell her you didn’t ask to be born.”  

He said it facetiously, like to get her off my back, yet this was an idea that I had already begun to really ponder and vibe with, namely, the feeling that I could let go of all feelings of guilt and judgment because hey, I didn’t ask for this life, it was just thrust upon me (Gee, thanks, mom! )

If so, why was everyone on my case about everything?  Why this big heap of guilt and judgment all the time?  Sheeshkabob!

Of course, I could have said the same thing to my Dad when he was giving me a hard time about something.  This is all your fault, bro, lay off!

[btw, Bill Cosby, one of my favorite comedians but who has been drawn and quartered of late, has drawn much comic material from his own childhood and has a new book out called “I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was)“]

I do believe this idea of not asking to be born, if taken to its extreme, contains a very strong kernel of truth. On the one hand, from the standpoint of reincarnation (which I do believe is true in a relative sense), we did in fact ask to be born. We even planned it all out and wrote the whole bloody script, even down to who was going to be in our family, core group of friends, etc.  So we’re not off the hook that easy! And to bring the above story to a close, I never got off the hook with either of my parents that easy, either!

On a still deeper root level, though, the question arises:

Who, or what, is this “I” personality that seems to keep reincarnating lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, how did that happen?

Was that something that “I” asked for?  And again: Who, or what, is this “I”?

    Who the heck Am I anyway?

    Recently I’ve gotten very much into A Course in Miracles, recognizing it to be the next big thing in the unfolding of my own spiritual journey.  I’m noticing that a lot of other people are waking up to the profundity of this work, too. Another little story…

So I’d been living on Maui and happen to be of the Mosaic persuasion (i.e., I’m Jewish by birth — did i sign up for that, too?) and even though I didn’t make it, I heard that there was this great rabbi here who was flown in to lead Yom Kippur (aka, the “Day of Atonement” – the “holiest” day of the year on the Jewish calendar) services.  This rabbi was not traditional in the sense that he didn’t stick solely to the Torah, Talmud, and other Jewish sources.  He was just as much at home quoting Rumi, the Tao Te Ching, and guess who… our old messianic and similarly unorthodox friend, Jesus, who is the stated voice that dictated A Course in Miracles (aka “The Course”) to Helen Shuchman nearly 50 years ago now.

So I was told, the rabbi began his sermon with the opening words of the Course:

Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God.

     Wow, a rabbi on Yom Kippur quoting the words of Jesus as channeled by an atheistic Jewish psychology professor in the heart of the Big Apple some 5 decades ago (!)  Surely a sign o’ the times, which perhaps could be described as “post-traditional,” a time when the best of the world’s spiritual traditions are being brought together all on one buffet table, much as your Whole Foods superfoods section contains the most superb foods from various tradtional cultures around the globe.

Yet back to the main point, which is how A Course in Miracles views the Creator’s creation of the world.

Essentially, it never happened.

Really?  Yes, really.

    As the opening salvo of the rabbi’s sermon above indicates, if only God is real, and the world of impermanence that we feel to be so real is in reality not real, then how could God have created this world?  Why would, and how could, what is Real create what is false?

As the poet-sage of the Rig Veda humbly admits, he didn’t really have a clue either, but he was pretty damn sure it was a toss up between 2 possibilities: Either God did it, or God didn’t!  Pretty brilliant, no?  Hey, anyone’s got a 50-50 chance of getting that one! They didn’t call ’em sages for nothin’!

So later, it seems, some of these wiseacre sages got cleverer about how to answer this whole question.

God didn’t create the world, actually, but somehow it still came from God.

Whaaaaa?

um, How?

“The play’s the thing…”

(remember Hamlet?)

Yes, the idea somehow came through that God was lonely or some craziness like that and wanted to feel what it felt like to have a playmate, namely the dualistic Universe of namarupa, name and form, yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti…

This is the idea of “Lila,” that the whole cosmic manifestation that we find ourselves in is the “Play of God,” sometimes also referred to as the “Divine Drama,” in which we are all merely players/actors (again, Shakespeare).  Now, the squeaky keen reader will still be wondering WHY on earth God would/could do this if God is perfect Oneness for which nothing could possibly be added or taken away…?  Sounds preposterous, no?  Why would God need a “playmate” (the Universe) in other words when She could just Self-Pleasure Herself for all Eternity (figuratively speaking, of course ; )?

Here’s one recent, decent answer to this that I found in Gary Renard’s second book dealing with the Course, Your Immortal Reality, which is a dialogue between Renard and two ascended masters, Arten and Pursah:

Gary: “…there are people who think that God couldn’t experience Himself in Oneness, and the only way He could experience Himself was to make this world and live in it….

Pursah: “…The idea of thinking that God would have to make this world in order to experience duality so he could enjoy Himself is the equivalent of the idea that in order to experience and enjoy sex, you would have to also experience getting shot in the gut.  No. Pain is the result of the guilt that came from thinking you separated yourself from God, and you don’t have to experience pain in order to experience the pleasure of reality.  But you do have to forgive pain and suffering and give it up in order to return to reality.”

It’s at this point that the idea of paradox perhaps needs to be brought in, paradox being a Greek word that literally means “beyond belief.”  A paradox is the concept that two seemingly contradictory ideas can somehow be reconciled, like having your cake and eating it, too, or the chicken and egg manifesting at the same time, something like that.

For if the conception of God is one of Absoluteness – that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — or even that God is absolutely transcendent of everything, then we still want to say that some way somehow, God did create the world, or that it came to be through God’s agency somehow, otherwise God wouldn’t truly be God, would God?!?  The idea we find in A Course in Miracles is that a “tiny, mad idea” was somehow in the Cosmic Mind that “gee, what would it be like to be separate from God…?”

Now, most people I’ve spoken with do not find this completely satisfying, because it still seems to suggest that God had something to do with it, otherwise where could that tiny, mad idea come from?

Well, if God is truly infinite, then there might be a sense in which God contains within Godself infinite possibility. This could also mean that God contains within Godself even the thought “not-God.” Yet even that thought is still part of God and could never actually be separate from God – it’s a possibility and could even appear to become an actuality, but that would only be from within the idea itself that it would all seem real. In and of itself, however, it would really only be a possibility in the Mind of God, nothing more, but also nothing less.

To return now to the idea of “Divine Play” (lila/leela) that we find in the Hindu tradition, and one that has definitely taken hold in the minds of many…Perhaps we can now reconcile the seemingly opposing view that we find in the Course with this idea. On this view, God also did not willfully create the world, yet it still rose from God as God’s “Lila” or divine play from out of the eternal bliss of God’s Self.  As one commentator has put it:

   “Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.”

                     —Ram Shanker Misra, The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo

For those who need an answer to this question, there you have it, and I do feel that this is the closest we’re going to get to it using just our intellects.   While for those deep thinkers (or overthinkers : ) out there I realize that even this will not be sufficient, I do feel this is enough. What I especially appreciate about both the Advaita Vedanta and what is presented in A Course in Miracles is their downplaying the theological and philosophical speculation on these Big Questions in favor of the actual empirical experience of these truths through the continual practice of removing the cloudiness in our minds that have obscured the light of the sun.   As the Course famously says:

       “The ego will demand many answers this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. The ego may ask, ‘How did the impossible occur?’, ‘To what did the impossible happen?’, and may ask this in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you.”

The Course (or Jesus, the narrator of the Course) goes even further to tell us that actually, the only reason the ego has these questions to begin with is to say something like: “See, I exist! I’m real! Now tell me (or don’t tell me!) how I’m not real!” So at various places in the Course, Jesus makes radical statements like the following:

“Your questions have no answer, being made to still God’s Voice,

which asks of everyone one question only:

“Are you ready yet to help Me save the world?””

         Another way of putting all of this is that the only way for the ego to have a truly satisfying answer to these ultimate questions is for the ego to be completely dissolved – at which point there will be no more ego to appreciate the answer! Until that point, there will only be, there can only be, doubt and questions.   This is where faith must come in, and a firm commitment to keep that faith and keep practicing, even with doubts. The good news is that even just on the illusionary level at which we currently are, the practices that will “undo” the ego will also generally create a happier, healthier, more peaceful life. So we do get our cake and eat it, too!

In other words, while it is indeed helpful to be aware of the questions and these metaphysical issues, they mean nothing if there is no practical application of them.

And so I will leave you with one of my favorite philosophy jokes:

 

What is Mind?

Oh, no matter.

 

What is Matter?

Never mind!

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