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Parashat Vayera 5781 — 11/07/2020

Parashat Vayera 5781 — 11/07/2020

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we have 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 will be describing the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, we will lay out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we will start examining Moreh Nevukim.

The Seven States of Consciousness

Last week we described the process of transcending thought to experience a state of consciousness that is beyond thought and perception, a state of pure consciousness, alone in itself, with no object of consciousness. Since there are no objects of perception, there is no space (our conception of space is based on the relationship between objects), no motion (since there is nothing to move or change) and therefore no time (our conception of time is based on the motion of objects). This state of awareness has its own characteristic style of physiological functioning, characterized by deep rest, substantially deeper than deep sleep, and extremely high coherence of brain wave activity across the entire brain. Because its subjective experience and physiological signature are distinctive, we call it a fourth state of consciousness. It is superior in many ways to deep sleep (no awareness, some level of rest), dreaming (illusory awareness, more active) and waking (active, “real-world” perception), but of course it is non-active, and therefore unsuitable on its own for practical life in the world.

When we repeatedly alternate between transcendental consciousness and the three ordinary states of consciousness, both body and mind become accustomed to maintain the transcendental state at all times, even when engaged in the other three states. What happens is that the mind experiences transcendental consciousness, then comes out into activity, but some value of the transcendent remains in the awareness. The cumulative effect is that the experience of the transcendent grows deeper and deeper, until it is permanent, no longer overshadowed by the changing, active states of consciousness. Maharishi gave the analogy of a dyer, who dips his cloth in the vat of dye, then hangs it in the sun to fade. The color fades, but not completely. After many cycles of dipping and fading, the color becomes colorfast, no longer subject to fading when exposed to the sun.

On the side of the body, a similar process is taking place. When the mind settles down to the transcendent, the body likewise settles down to a state of deep rest, and the brain achieves an extremely high level of global coherence. Leaving the state of transcendence, the body becomes more active, and the brain wave coherence returns close to its baseline level. But again, as in the case with the mind, the return to baseline is not complete. Rather, the characteristics of the physiology of the transcendental state begin to infuse the physiology of the three ordinary states of consciousness, until eventually the body functions in a way that supports both transcendental awareness and ordinary awareness in the boundaries of existence.

There is a flip side of this growth of consciousness, and that is that the body and mind become purified during the process. When the mind settles down to pure consciousness, it absorbs, as it were, some of the purity of that state. We begin to think from subtler and more powerful levels of thought, closer and closer to the basis of all thought in pure consciousness, and this has a great purifying effect, as we shall discuss next week Gd willing. On the physical side, when the body gets deep rest it is able to “unwind” deep-rooted stresses and strains in the nervous system, which block the nervous system from being able to support higher states of consciousness. When all the stresses are released through repeated experience of this deep rest, the nervous system is completely purified and is now supple and flexible enough to maintain the delicate state of pure consciousness even when it is engaged in dynamic activity.

Once the mind and nervous system are completely purified and pure consciousness is established 24 x 7 along with waking, dreaming and sleeping states of consciousness, we have arrived at another distinct state of consciousness called Cosmic Consciousness. Cosmic means all-inclusive, and Cosmic Consciousness is so called because it includes the full value of unbounded consciousness along with all the different values of bounded consciousness. From this point, the mind is fully developed, but out perceptions are the same as always – we perceive the surface value of objects.

We know from physics, however, that the seemingly solid, rigidly defined objects we see around us have different layers of structure making them up. A solid table is really mostly empty space when viewed at the molecular or atomic level, and it is a boiling vibrating cauldron of activity of the unified field at the subtlest physical level. Once one is functioning from the level of pure consciousness, one can begin to appreciate the objects of perception more and more clearly, not only for their superficial values, but also for their deeper, more refined values. This is primarily a function of growth of the heart. An analogy would be the way a mother looks at her child – no matter what the child does the mother sees only good in the child, because she loves the child. In the same way, we approach everything we perceive more and more from a platform of love an appreciation, until we begin to actually perceive finer and finer levels of the object of perception. (Whether this means actually “seeing” atoms and molecules or not, I don’t know, but I think what we do see is the subtler levels of vibration that actually constitute the essence of the object.) Eventually, we are able to perceive the very subtlest level of the object of perception, sometimes called the “celestial” level. It is the faintest sprouting of the object from the unbounded field, the faintest level of vibration that becomes more and more expressed until it becomes the object on the surface that most people perceive. This is a very glorified state of Cosmic Consciousness, as we still have some duality between the mind, which is infinite and unbounded, and the objective world, which is still bounded, although those boundaries are almost infinitesimally faint. The traditional literature calls it Gd Consciousness, and it is a 6th state of consciousness.

Next week, Gd willing, we’ll conclude our discussion with a description of the seventh state of consciousness identified in the Vedic tradition, and relate the experience in this state of consciousness to the actual mechanics of creation. We will also consider the practical values of achieving higher states of consciousness.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayera

Genesis Chapter 18.
1. Now the Lrd appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent while the day was hot.
2. And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and ran toward them from the entrance of the tent and he prostrated himself to the ground.

When Gd appears to us, how will He appear? With a Form, or as The Formless, The Unbounded, All-Pervading, Omnipresent, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All Loving, All Joyful? Or as a Mixture of Formless and Form?

Gd appears to Abram (not yet Abraham) as Abram sits in the doorway of his home; how does He Appear? As the Formless, or with Form?

The Parshah does not tell us nor does it tell us that Gd spoke to Abram nor does it tell Abram’s reaction to Gd appearing: immediately after we are told that Gd appeared, we are told that Abram looked and saw three men.

The men turn out to be angels, messengers of Gd, Expressions of Gd, so I read between the lines and take it that Gd appeared first as the Formless and instantly! He appeared with Form, as the three angels.

When Abram was sitting at the entrance to his tent, he was the link between the inside, the Formless, Unity and the outside, the Formed Diversity. This is definitely a taste of Teshuvah, return to Primordial Oneness.

Sound of Parshah Vayera

Through the sound of Torah, we can have a taste of Teshuvah:

Although the meaning of Torah and its guidance for us in English translation may not be so easy to grasp, the sound of Torah can give us something of the feeling of the Torah as Gd, Totality, Oneness, vibrating within Gd.

Here is a recording of Parsha Vayera read by Rabbi Michael Slavin, the regular reader at Chabad’s central Brooklyn synagogue:

In listening to this recording, I felt delight and joy, flowing sweetly, an inspiration to master Torah tropes and Hebrew so I, too, can read, feel, recite Torah and share the delight and joy of Torah with others.

I hope we will all have the opportunities to fulfill this wish.

Vayera and Teshuvah

We are looking at Torah from the standpoint of it as a means to Teshuvah, return to the original state, the Primordial Oneness and as a series of accounts of individuals and the Jewish nation making progress toTeshuvah and actually experiencing Teshuvah, as Noah, “who walked with Gd” and “Was perfect in his generations” seems to have.

In this Parshah Vayeira, Gd appears, “vayera”, to Abraham once – a second time, He does not appear, but speaks with him – when Abraham is sitting at the entrance to his tent after his circumcision. Does this mean that Abraham has fulfilled the command GD gave him in the last parshah, “to walk before Me and be perfect”? Does this mean he has experienced Teshuvah?

It seems to indicate that he is making progress but not yet Teshuvah because when Gd appears to Abraham, Gd says to Himself, “Shall I reveal My purpose, to destroy Sodom?”, and thus Abraham does not yet experience total knowledge, which he would had he experienced Teshuvah.

But Gd does reveal His purpose and provides an occasion for Abraham to show his kindness, his love for his fellow human, as he pleads with Gd to save Sodom, in which his nephew Lot is dwelling, for the sake of even ten righteous men (people).

Later Gd tests Abraham, speaking to him and telling him to bring his son as a burnt offering. Abraham does this and Gd, through an angel, stays his hand and tells him he will blessed because of the purity of his faith, his descendants will be greatly numerous and blessed and will inherit the lands of his enemies.

Abraham has passed the test and will be blessed (“varaich”) but we do not know if this is a Total Blessing, Total Return.

In the next parshah, Chayei-Sarah, we do see some sign that Total Blessing is given and that Abraham has become perfect. Not only Abraham but also Sarah and Isaac, their son.

But let us not wait until next week to become perfect ourselves, to experience Teshuvah.

Today is always the best day to be kind, innocent, simple, to serve Gd, to return to One and to share the return with everyone.

Baruch HaShem