The ground of being
The image of a single drop falling into a pool of water is symbolic of what is known as adwaita vedanta, which is the oldest school of Vedanta, the spiritual path of Hinduism. Hinduism and Judaism are the oldest religions on the planet and go as far back as the Bronze Age. The imagery relates to Brahma or brahmanism, which is the notion that the universe is the 'ultimate self' and that everything in existence has a 'self' and is conscious.
This is just one approach to the central conundrum of life.
The central conundrum of life
The central conundrum of life relates specifically to the true nature of our existence. Are we divine beings? Or are we simply physical beings who are just a little bit conscious and are no more important in the grand scheme of things than a single leaf growing on a tree? Why do we exist? Why does the universe exist? How do we relate to the universe, to this planet, and to each other?
We're all born into a life which involves a relationship with an environmental reality much of which we cannot comprehend or know that much about. Our lives are defined by our direct experience of our environment, the felt sense of immediate experience, and this experience is coming out of both actual reality - the reality of Nature and the universe - and the collective, cultural reality of Mankind, otherwise known as conceptual reality.
One of the greatest sources of human misery and conflict is that Mankind cannot be God and cannot be in control of his environment, and this is evidenced by a widespread unwillingness to connect to one's environment in any way that is meaningful and mutually beneficial, or share with others. We have everything we could ever wish for in life and more than enough to create a kind of paradise on Earth. But for many people on this planet this is not enough. They want the control, the power, and a sense of ownership.
Therefore the human experience of life is characterised by conflict, misery and suffering.
The three different approaches
There have been just three different approaches to address this conundrum. Below I give you the three different sources or approaches as a kind of abridged version of the history and evolution of spirituality. These correspond with the three different basic worldviews of the world.
Adwaita vedanta is based on the ancient Vedic texts of Hinduism (Brahmanism) developed in ancient India over 3,000 years ago. This is the source for all 'eastern' religions and philosophies arising out of India, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and the practices of meditation and yoga. There are two sources:
- tat svam asi - which literally means 'you're it'
- omkara - which is pretty much 'the one contains the many, and the many contains the one'
Out of this you get yoga and meditation, with the two derivative methods of meditation developed out of Buddhism, which are 'za-zen' (Zen meditation) and Vipassana developed out of Therevada (Southern) Buddhism. Buddhism is a derivative of Hinduism arising out of Therevada, the form of Buddhism first developed by Ananda, who was the closest disciple of Prince Shakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama, the original Buddha.
Interesting to note that Buddhism, like Islam, developed out of a conflict between different disciples.
While yoga first originated as a Hindu philosophy it didn't become a discipline until it was adopted by Buddhism diverging into the linear methods of yoga and the 'sramana' (shamanistic) syncretic methods of yoga. Pretty much all yoga in the West comes from Hatha yoga, first developed by Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk in the latter half of the 19th century who was influenced by Western occultism and the Kabalah.
It's also interesting to note that from around the 5th and 6th century AD Christianity became influenced by the Hindu Upanishads and from this Christianity developed the Eucharist, the messianic figure of Jesus Christ and through the symbolism of the cross transformed itself into a spiritual movement.
Yin yang (I-Ching)
The Yin Yang 'Naturalist' School developed out of the I-Ching and ancient China as far back as the 6th century BC, the I-Ching believed to be developed at least 3,500 years ago as the earliest recording of human thinking. As Taoism, which developed out of this yin yang school, cannot be regarded as any kind of organized religion, it is believed that Taoism developed out of an ancient order of (predominantly female) shamen and healers in ancient China.
Taoism, which later became a 'counter-religion' in the 6th century BC opposite to Cofucianism, is based on the Dao and 'wu wei'.
The Dao is simply 'the way', 'the path' and can also be seen as the 'natural order'. Wu wei, which is an interpretation of the Dao from an individual perspective, can be translated as 'informed inaction' or 'effortless living'.
In the 4th century BC Buddhism was introduced to China by Buddhist monk Bodhidharma (who founded Shaolin Kung Fu) and fused with Taoism to become Chan Buddhism, which later developed into Zen Buddhism, which is essentially Buddhism of the Far East and fused with Taoism.
The Kabbalah (also known as Qabbalah) is an esoteric method or discipline arising out of Jewish mysticism. There are various traditions within the Kabbalah and this is the source of Western esotericism through Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Kabbalah. The Jewish Kabbalah is the explanation of the relationship between Ein Sof - the permanent, unchanging God, and the mortal, finite universe (seen as God's creation). It is believed that the Kabbalah predates all known religions and is the primordial blueprint for the divine through religion, art, philosophies and politics.
With regard to Qultura
While Qultura is not based on the Kabbalah two important elements of practical Kabbalah are considered necessary and fundamental in Qultura. These are 'mitzvah' and 'pardes'.
'Mitzvah' is commitment to community through which one develops a Qultura method, and - through Qultura Core - a social commitment to the needy, the poor, the destitute, the marginalized, the stigmatized and the excluded. This commitment need not be material, but is always emotional and psychological. The premise here is very clear and very simple - development of your consciousness and mindfulness cannot either be at the exclusion of others in your community nor can it be at the expense of any other member of the community or based on their exploitation. Unity within self implies unity with other.
'Pardes' relates to the four different interpretations of language and concepts. Pardes in Hebrew means 'orchard' and relates to four possible interpretations of language and words:
- Peshat - the literal, direct meaning
- Remez - the implicit, or deeper meaning
- Derash - the comparative meaning (subconscious bias)
- Sod - the esoteric or secret meaning
'Pardes' becomes important when it comes to the following of the example set by Eve in the Book of Genesis, see What Qultura means.