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Parashat Vayechi 5781 — 01/02/2021

Parashat Vayechi 5781 — 01/02/2021

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Bereishit 47:28-50:26

For the past two weeks we have looked at the problem of developing the full potential of the individual in a way that will not be dangerous to himself and to his surroundings. Today we will conclude by offering some ideas how Vedic Science can fulfill this goal.

Let us summarize the problem. For action to be successful in promoting life, connection with the transcendental basis of all life is necessary. This connection gives us the broadest possible awareness, and allows us to think, and therefore act, in a way that takes into account the full range of cosmic activity. Civilizations may thrive for some time based on a shared sense of identity and a shared moral code, passed down by an enlightened leader who is thinking and acting in accord with all the laws of nature. However, unless the enlightened leader can create other enlightened leaders, and indeed a society of enlightened people, the knowledge of the transcendent and how to make it a practical reality in everyday life will fade, the moral codes associated with the previous, enlightened way of thinking are perceived as outmoded, and everything falls apart from there, sometimes slowly, sometimes with frightening, Vesuvian suddenness.

I believe it is the aim of every spiritual system to provide a means by which we can get beyond the intellect and experience the field of wholeness that lies beneath all the diversity of creation. I hope we will be able to see in Moreh Nevukim that such procedures do exist, or did exist at one time in Judaism. If we’re lucky, we’ll find hints to such practices in ancient Greek philosophy as well.

Vedic Science does explicitly have a set of techniques to reconnect the individual mind with the universal value of consciousness. As described in the introductory sections, the technique involves allowing the mind to experience thought at subtler and subtler levels until thought itself is transcended and the field of pure consciousness is experienced. As we discussed, this state of pure consciousness, free of any admixture of objects of consciousness, is unchanging, unbounded, eternal wholeness. We described the further development of consciousness to a state called Unity Consciousness, where the pure consciousness that we originally experienced only as a subjective phenomenon is now seen as the “unified field” that underlies both subjective experience and objective reality.

Just as everything in the physical world is a pattern of vibration of the unified field, so everything in creation, physical and non-physical, is just a pattern of vibration of pure consciousness. And just as the allowable patterns of vibration of the unified field of physics are structured in the nature of that field, so the allowable patterns of vibration of pure consciousness are structured in the nature of pure consciousness itself. Being unbounded and eternal, it is, as it must be, self-sufficient. All the laws of nature that govern the ever-changing, variegated patterns of vibration that we perceive as the world around us, are structured in pure consciousness.

We act from the level of our consciousness. If our consciousness is narrow and restricted, our actions will be restricted to a small portion of creation. The effects of our actions, however, are felt everywhere in creation. Since we are only taking into consideration a small area of vision, the wider effects we create may be helpful or harmful to the overall progress of creation. Actions of this sort rebound on us (and sometimes on our families or communities) and cause suffering. This is not the kind of action we want to be engaged in. If, on the other hand, our awareness is stationed on the level of pure consciousness, we spontaneously take the full range of creation into account, in the same way that nature does, because all of creation is structured out of the same pure consciousness from which we project our thoughts and actions. It is as if the cosmic computer is in our small brain.

Now having such prodigious computing power at one’s fingertips, so to speak, has long been considered dangerous, as one might misuse that power. This is the danger that the Rabbis were guarding against by prohibiting the teaching of Kabbalah to all but a very select few, who have already demonstrated, by the piety of their actions, the purity of their mind and heart. Apparently, it is possible to acquire the ability to manipulate nature on a very subtle level before one has purified oneself enough to guarantee that that power will not be used improperly.

I believe the two dangers that we have discussed – personal danger from getting in “too deep” to subtler realms, and communal danger if one’s greater powers are misused – are interrelated, as both are due to impurity in the mind and body. If the mind and body are twisted up with stresses, then the divine energy flowing through them becomes turbulent, as it were, and can cause internal damage, either physical or psychological. If that energy does flow through, it will be distorted by the impurities and lead to action that is not life supporting for the environment (or the individual for that matter).

The techniques of Vedic Science are completely natural and effortless. There is no attempt at manipulation or control – the individual intellect and will are not involved in these techniques. Consequently, one’s growth in experience of the transcendent and one’s ability to act are commensurate with the degree of purification that the techniques are effecting. It is a challenge, but the more natural and effortless the technique, the easier it is to start trying to manipulate the experience, and when this happens we are back in the danger zone, personal, communal and environmental. That is why having a qualified teacher guiding one’s growth is essential for success. Once we are on the right path, however, we need only be steady in our practice to enjoy both the journey and the goal.

Next week, Gd willing, we will start to look at some non-Jewish sources Rambam used in developing Moreh Nevukim,

Chazak, Chazak v’Nitchazeik!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayechi (And he lived)

Jacob lives in Egypt for 17 years, his end draws near, Israel asks Joseph to promise he will be buried in the Holy Land, with his fathers. Joseph swears.

From the point of view, Jacob is called “Jacob” when he toils, “Israel” when he is free from toil. When Jacob was wrestling with a man, then an angel, then Gd, he was toiling; when he prevailed, he was free from toil, and so called “Israel.”

Living in Egypt, Mitzraim, Restrictions, is living with toiling; returning to Canaan, Synchronicity, Wholeness, he will be free from restrictions, from toil, he will be “Israel.”  So as his end draws near, he is blessed with a taste of his status as Israel and it is from this level of freedom, of Joy, that he asks Joseph to swear to bury his body in Canaan, the Holy Land, the Land of Wholeness.

We do not need to die in order to be free from toil. We can simply open ourselves to the deeper and deeper levels of Torah, the levels which are deeper than the level of meaning, which is a level of restrictions. We can open ourselves to Torah, within which all levels exist, Torah which is One with Gd, Totality. This is the real Holy Land, the real Land of Wholeness.

As Jacob, he becomes ill, toiling to rise from his bed when Joseph brings Joseph’s sons to him. When he sees Joseph’s sons, he is raised in spirit and is Israel.

As Israel, he blesses Joseph’s sons, and adopts them and as Israel he blesses Joseph, too, giving one portion more than he gives to his other sons.

It is as Jacob, though that he assembles his other sons and blesses each of them, so this level of blessing involves toil, much harmony but to some degree out-of-tune with the Harmony of Gd.

But still! there is great harmony: When Jacob blesses his sons, he asks them to assemble and then he blesses them individually. This can be taken, and Rabbi Yehuda Berg of the Kabbalah Center takes it that way, to indicate that Jacob is emphasizing that the individual blessings will be fruitful when the sons act as an assembly, a unity, a family. And, when the tribes of Jacob’s sons are considered together, they are considered the Children of Israel, a unity, in Harmony, free from toil.

From this we can see an affirmation of what many of us already feel and act on: we are able to fulfill ourselves as individuals when we act together as a community, a family. It is through Love, through inclusion, gathering together, excluding no one, that we rise to the level of Israel, free from toil, completely in Harmony with Gd, with Oneness.

As the father of the Children of Israel, Israel dies and Joseph, Israel’s family and entourage (except for the youngest children who remain in Egypt tending the flocks), accompanied by Pharaoh’s ministers, and many leaders of Mitzraim, bring him and bury him in the cave of Machpelah (“Cave of the Double Caves,” integration of restrictions and unboundedness) where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca were buried.

This gathering of the leaders of Mitzraim,-Restrictions, toil–with Israel’s family, taking Israel’s body to Canaan, Wholeness, is another example of how appreciation, love, can raise us to gathering and thus to Wholeness.

Also, we can think of the “burying of the body” as “transcendence of the body, of individuality” and this takes place through Appreciation, Love, letting go the limited sense of self and rising to the Unlimited Experience of Self, the Common Self, All-in-All, One.

Physical death is not necessary to experience this transcendence: many in our congregation and many around the world experience this Unlimited Experience and, at least a few, are experiencing permanently.

May all souls experience this Teshuvah, this return to Full Awareness, so that all of Life lives in Fulfillment, in Harmony.

Baruch HaShem.