As I read up on the history of Vijayanagara, I hoped to come across a good, strong name...but history, largely, is about men and their wars and conquests. I hoped to select a name from our puranas. But nothing clicked. What about our stotras? Maybe the lalitha sahasranama? Or ashtalakshmi stotra? One evening I sat mulling on 'Kausalya'...thanks to the most famous line 'Kausalya supraja Rama purva sandhya pravarthathe' from the Suprabhata :) I went to bed with that line in my head.
The next morning, somehow, ‘Kausalya’ had transformed to ‘Kaivalya’. I did not remember coming across the name in any of my previous research. Curious, I looked up what ‘Kaivalya’ stood for. And was fascinated.
Kaivalya is a yogic state of mind – a state of complete detachment, a state of absolute alone-ness. Note that being alone is a world different from being lonely. But those are words that most of us cannot understand. I mean I understand alone-ness to a certain extent. I love and revel in my own company. But what was being described was something far too complex and metaphysical. Kaivalya is, to me, the pinnacle of yogic state. When they say detachment, they mean detached completely from this physical plane – even from one’s own body.
How is that possible? How can one be detached from one’s body? Even those who profess a level of spirituality love the body. We feed it, we clothe it, we decorate it. We love to feel pleasure – in taste, in sight, in touch, in smell, in sound. When we say ‘I’ – it more often than not includes one’s body, does it not? From time immemorial, we've believed in the dual aspects of the identity – the physical body, and the soul. Modern psychology has observed and documented the existence of a ‘consciousness beyond the five physical senses’ – that is, the concept of ‘consciousness’ does not seem to be dependent solely on physical body. We are still grappling with the definition of consciousness. What generates this phenomenon – this being aware? Sure, we know the mechanisms of the brain, we've mapped out important regions that influence our physical functions – but the main question remains unanswered – if consciousness exists outside the body, then surely there is something else that powers it?
Almost all our spiritual texts talk of this hyper state of awareness – what in psychology we usually term as ‘higher state of consciousness’. An indescribable state of bliss, weightlessness, a 360 degree vision in a burst of most radiant colours and so on. But the state of Kaivalya is much beyond that realm. It is independence from breath itself, yet, being in the super state of awareness. The closest comparison I could draw was, perhaps it was being like the sun. Self-luminous, self-sustained. The sun does not depend on the planets and galaxies for its existence. It is just there, an eternal flame. The concept of Kaivalya is perhaps elaborated more in the Kaivalya Upanishads (I’ve not ventured there yet).
What is remarkable is that way back in the 2nd century B.C. Patanjali wrote the yogasutras, dwelling on these complex metaphysical aspects of existence. I can’t even begin to imagine the exalted progress of those times. (We’ve regressed, big time.) Although modern psychology has made attempts in understanding consciousness, it is difficult to do any kind of empirical study in a scientific, testable format. In his excellent lecture/paper ‘The Varieties of Religious Experiences’ American psychologist and philosopher William James talks of experimenting with nitrous oxide. We know that nitrous oxide is an anaesthetic, induces euphoria (laughing gas hee hee) and is used as a recreational compound. In this ‘self-experiment’ of nitrous oxide intoxication, James recounts -“our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.” And this was sometime in 1902.
Well...to cut a long story short, I was hooked on to the name ‘Kaivalya’. It could be nothing else. We often view evilness as a separate entity. But in our mythology, be it Ravana or Hiranyakashyapu – they were spiritual powerhouses because of their austere penances. When that positive energy is perverted to create destruction – a very great evil is born. That very irony fascinates me no end.
‘Nuff said. Now go buy your copy!
© Sumana Khan - 2013Tweet