SPIRITUAL EXERCISE AND THE PATH OF JOY
In this essay, Gioia Lussana explores the question of ‘spiritual exercise’, comparing two different historical contexts: inner practice in ancient Greek philosophy, and the yoga of the non-dual Tantric Śaivism of Mediaeval Kaśmīr, the ripest fruit of spiritual exercise in the Hindu framework. She lays special emphasis on the common thread of ‘joy’, a pivotal experience that permeates those spiritual practices from beginning to end.
When everything began. The Greek world
Throughout the whole ancient world of our Western tradition, spiritual exercise, i.e. inner practice, was conceived as a ‘preparation’ – meléte in Greek – for understanding the meaning of reality, with the aim of preserving it within us so that we can implement it in our daily lives. Rather than knowing, the individual at first trains him/herself to recall, moment by moment, the memory of being alive, honouring the fact of existence with its sensory and mental evidence by practical application: inner training.
‘Remembering’ means ‘recalling something from the heart’, deemed to be the seat of memory. Our basic reality is conceived as something buried in our heart, which has to be awakened and allowed to emerge. In the Greece of the Stoics, mneme (memory) and meléte (preparatory exercise) are basic elements of the inner process. The Greek term meléte can also be translated as ‘meditation’, albeit only its essential function and not something theoretical1, but embodied, as Epictetus explains2: meditation as training for life, becoming an expression of life itself. Inner exercise, thus fundamentally of a contemplative nature, was proposed as a kind of incessant recalling, a prophylaxis for learning to live, to celebrate existence just like celebrating an art, like enjoying a precious asset.
In the West, the roots of spiritual exercise derive from the birth of Greek philosophy. Rather than a mental abstraction aimed at equally abstract knowledge, Western philosophy arose from the need to incarnate the stupefying reality of being alive, through awareness and exploration of this miracle. Spiritual exercise represents the ‘method’ (méthodos in ancient Greek, which means ‘the way’) of savouring this condition, in the context of an original conception of philosophy itself as the school of life3. Literally, ‘philosophy’ is ‘taking care of knowledge’4. Spiritual exercise means implementing what is revealed to one’s conscience as clear, manifest, evident, luminous, saphés. It is significant that the Greek adjective saphés means first and foremost ‘of a penetrating taste’. The term thus has a sensory connotation, i.e. expressing a perceptive indication of taste that is then mediated intellectually. Thus, ‘to know’ substantially means ‘to taste’. From saphés derives sophós, the knowledgeable one, he who has ‘a good nose’, or ‘delicate taste’ and thus manages to understand reality. Knowledge (sophía) effectively brings to light (pháos) the truth through concrete application, giving bodily expression to the heart’s inner impulses.
Exercise was an actual conversion (epistrophé) to the concreteness of experience, converting the thought of life into life itself. This transforming path necessarily involved educating the heart, i.e. a distillation of one’s own sensory and emotional world, sifting it through the sieve of investigative awareness to find what we may call true joy, the authenticity of a pacified mind in a body lacking nothing. This path to happiness, which initially requires an intellectual sort of training of the mind and heart, can be compared to what, in the yoga of Kaśmīr, is called śākta-upāya, the most widespread form of yoga, to which we shall return below. This implies using a vikalpa, a mental construct to reach a condition of nirvikalpa, i.e. free from any intellectual construct.
Happiness, moreover – as already evident in Aristotle’s metaphysics – is itself the scope of ancient philosophy. Later on, in the Gospel of John, leaving its mark on the direction of developing Christian mysticism, we find emphasis placed on ‘a life (zoé) truly alive’, overflowing with incessant creativity, a spring ever-flowing with truth, and thus with joy. The ascetic who, in the original Greek world is also a homo philosophicus, accesses the awareness of ‘being alive’,5 with the implicit appreciation of life as such.
Rousseau6 – as we might say in tune with the early Greek world’s vision of philosophy – describes the ‘feeling of existence’ (i.e. the remembrance of being alive) as a state of happiness, complete and perfect in itself, a self-sufficient condition, independent of any external cause.
In its original sense, asceticism or spiritual exercise is essentially outlined as a search for truth that coincides with the joy of being able to enter fully into a relationship with reality. This truth is the Good itself, an order as significant as it is mysterious: spiritual exercise as the art of being able to trace in the scant horizon of any individual existence the universal prospect of the kósmos, or the coherence of a general law mirrored in the meaning of each small thing that exists7. Thus, happiness is the final outcome that allows us to glimpse our own inner order inscribed in the measureless project of universal order.
Contemplative attention: the core of spiritual exercise in the Greek world
The spur that triggers research and reveals the ultimate and infinite meaning of personal condition as the joy of existence is thaûma, the original wonder celebrated by Plato in the Theaetetus and by Aristotle in the first book of his Metaphysics, which is not merely wonder, but essentially confusion and awe in the face of all beauty, as well as all existential pain and death, as fear of annihilation8. Western philosophy arises from this background of terrified wonder with the salvific aim of rescuing mankind from suffering. The remedy, or instrument of this enterprise, is indeed spiritual exercise which, in its first form, is theoría, contemplation.
It is interesting to note that the most ancient meaning of the Greek term theoría is festive testimony, contemplation of the feast, the ritual celebration in honour of the gods. Through contemplation, the homo philosophicus or ’festive man’ feels safe (salvus), i.e. intact (solvus) with regard to the threat of ontological annihilation.
From contemplation of the original terror that the term thaûma evokes arises that impetus of spontaneous and immediate joy at being alive, which then becomes the awareness and the act of will that transforms loving ecstasy into acceptance of being-in-the-world,9 i.e. the actualisation of the concrete experience of that joy, the method of stabilising it. From this fervid and instantaneous adhesion to the sensation of being alive comes the inner inclination to awareness of that adhesion, leading to true spiritual exercise with its result of happiness achieved.
This happiness may sometimes even burst into everyday life, in a self-explicatory and self-sufficient manner, without any need for specific training, suddenly eclipsing all the egotistical and spatial-temporal limitations that structure our ordinary existence in the world. This happiness may also come through ecstatic emotion, as sudden as a lightning-bolt that illuminates the night sky, with no explicable relation to the apparent irrelevance of the situation that triggered it10. The possibility of such a spontaneous irruption of grace, needing no preparation or exercise, at any moment or in any situation, is also a characteristic element – albeit not to be taken for granted – of the non-dual Śaivaite schools of mediaeval Hinduism, of which examples will be given below. Even in this latter eventuality, however, the phase of awareness and practical training following that first and immediate spontaneous joy is in most cases a necessary path in order to stabilise attention and acquire constant access to joy.
Practice of contemplative attention (prosoché), crucial both for the Stoics and for the Epicureans, arose from a kind of ‘inner reawakening’ that allowed and facilitated existential orientation toward the Good as fundamental truth. This aptitude, at the very beginning of Western philosophy, gave rise, in the third century C.E., to the spiritual practice of the first monks, for whom attention became the ‘guardian of the heart’11, revealing in each a divine vocation.
Contemplative attention in the ancient world itself became the focus of study (in India, in the IV-V century C.E., we find the term svādhyāya, with the same meaning, ‘crucial experience’ in Patañjali’s vocabulary) to achieve an inclusive understanding of self and the world which, with Socrates, takes the external form of the dialogue, either with the self, or with an external interlocutor. What truly makes it the absolutely primary tool in any spiritual exercise is its methodical application, which increases in value with continual practice (abhyāsa in Pātañjala-yogaśāstra). Although, as we have seen, in some cases, the unveiling of reality simply occurs, i.e. without any intention of accomplishing it, without any need of repetition or even the urgency of reaching a result.
Among the Stoics, attention was essentially tónos, or dynamic tension, i.e. the leap of the heart, which instils its charge of energy into everyday activity. The Epicureans, on the contrary, emphasised the relaxing aspect of attention, a kind of remission (ánesis) – to use a medical term – that characterised a serene and pleasant disposition with regard to the real. The Epicureans thus lay emphasis more markedly on pleasure rather than on commitment. It was, in any case, a matter of conscious consent to one’s personal human condition and to the will to keep this consciousness alive through spiritual exercise, never resulting in any out-and-out effort or coercion.
Such exercise, widely known for its relatively simple nature, thus becomes the rule to be applied to the various circumstances of life, concretely recalling how to interact with them: putting one’s life constantly before one’s eyes12, thus always having at hand the possibility of congruous action, inspired by an inner understanding.
Epictetus termed prohairesis the basic moral choice that orients the ‘science of living’. This means that anyone can live in a condition of freedom and fulfilment if he/she is aware of what necessarily escapes his/her control and, as such, cannot be desirable. Choosing to desire only what is in his/her power, i.e. desiring only what is given and nothing more, one will live naturally in a state of autonomy and satisfaction13. The choice that makes one free is the one that faithfully mirrors one’s own humanity, with its privileges and its limitations, justifying the feeling of being alive and the awareness of so being. Epictetan ethics is thus based on a view of optimism. Joy is always at hand if one directs oneself realistically to desire only what there is or what in some way depends on oneself.
In 1600, Spinoza, greatly influenced by the Stoics, wrote his philosophical masterpiece: ethics, rather than metaphysics, an investigation into how one must and how one can live as happily as possible. The problem of each of us lies in the fact of allowing ourselves to be disturbed by things, not in the things that disturb us, which are innocent or – as Nietzsche said much later on, ‘beyond good and evil’. Joy is the aim of philosophy. To face this disturbance, as in ancient Greece, Spinoza’s view requires a ‘purification of the mind’ to make it ready to seek the true and shareable Good, released from small personal desires, to possess the real. “Only if I stop taking myself as the point of reference of Good and Evil can I accept that the All is Good, is Beautiful, is Divine. The All cannot be comprehended by limited human knowledge; the All is the occasion of possible beatitude and happiness.”14
Nietzsche15 too, going back to the Stoic view, speaks of amor fati in connection with the intimate contentment that comes only from what life brings us up against, as being part of a larger economy than that of personal advantage and our limited knowledge of reality16.
In the Stoic or Epicurean view, spiritual exercise as a rule gives rise to an experience of happiness deriving from the awareness of our real condition in life and from conscious gratitude towards that condition. This very kind of conscious, grateful pleasure does not belong to the temporal category of ordinary pleasure, since it does not depend on duration, but on intensity. This feature was also typical in mediaeval Kaśmīr, where ānanda – happiness – is instead an intensity animated by consciousness, rather than being a merely pleasant condition. The intensity of the experience, rather than its pleasantness or duration in time, is the true protagonist in the spiritual experience of non-dual Tantrism, because it characterises all that is alive and, as such, sacred.
As already stated by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics17, for Stoics and Epicureans, inner exercise discloses the infinite starting from the present moment, which acquires that completeness and unicity that make it perfect in itself, rendering desirable precisely what is here and now. Moreover, the context that regulates this awareness is profoundly ethical, leaving aside the short-sighted view of mere personal fulfilment. One acts in total accord with the reason that governs the cosmos. It is good and this good is exactly what is present, because it is complete in itself. The reciprocal implication of whatever is contained in any other thing is moreover one of the peculiarities of mediaeval Kaśmīri Śaivism. Sarvam sarvātmakam, says a celebrated aphorism of the Trika school: everything includes everything18.
The infinite gaze
A widespread exercise of the ancient Western world was what we might call the ‘cosmic gaze’, a work of the imagination through which the adept rises to contemplate things, as it were, from ‘on high’. For the Epicureans, it was a profound joy to imagine oneself soaring in space above worldly things. As we find in the Epicurean vision of Lucretius, starting from his observation of nature and its enigmatic grandiosity, the mind opens and widens, soaring above minor daily worries and acquiring the freedom of the infinite heavens19. Such an exercise of imagination was not an expression of the proliferating activity of the ordinary mind, but a ferment of thought serving attention, which we may define in this sense as generative or contemplative. Observation of nature using the instruments and knowledge of the time was the point of departure for this celestial journey with its raised perspective, beyond the confines of one’s habitual self, to the point of scaling down the overwhelming pressure of the passions of the life of the common mortal. From Pythagoras to Lucretius to Seneca, the exercise of cosmic flight documented in the ancient world aimed at reducing the coercive impact of the emotions that renders us slaves circumscribed in a microcosmic environment, to find ourselves unharmed, without the preoccupations of a narrow mind, living an extended, all-inclusive passionate nature. What we may call ‘an open desire’. The unconfined space that the Epicureans managed to inhabit during their ‘cosmic flight’, in the Vijñānabhairava-tantra becomes contemplation of the immensity with a mind not yet bridled by thought, but free and ‘sensitive’, like that of a child, feeling emotion in its whole range of intensity before it is transformed into the overwhelming wave of conceptual thought20.
We can still trace one element of comparison with the Epicurean exercise of the ‘infinite gaze’ in śloka 84 of the Vijñānabhairava-tantra. Here, contemplating the heavens, aimless, the self is transfigured in that infinite cloudless blue (ākāśa vimala). Fixing his gaze on that vastness, without moving (stabdhātmā), the yogin literally embodies the freedom of space. Instead of imagining soaring in flight above the turmoil of ordinary life, experienced as obstacles to be overcome, the Vijñānabhairava-tantra proposes the pure contemplation of the vast heavens, empty of everything. In the end, space is revealed as the fundamental nature of everything that lives, in a vision in which the very upheavals of everyday life are, in any final analysis, made of this same freedom. No practical instructions are provided by the text. The only indication is an absorbed attention, until the thinking mind dissolves and a mind as unconfined as the heavens is discovered, a mind made of space, a heaven-mind.
Contemplative attention in mediaeval Kaśmīr
In mediaeval Kaśmīri Śaivism too – the exceptional flowering of non-dual Hindu Tantrism – the tool of attention plays a crucial role, contributing to the characterisation of Kaśmīri yoga as eminently meditational. Inner receptivity, alerted by attention, triggers a contemplative capacity, which in turn activates the creativity of the mind. In Tantric yoga, the stillness of breath in the āsana is one of the preferred conditions for reawakening mental presence and for its creative outcome. Contemplative imagination, as we may define this development of attention, may in such a context have two different results, which may follow each other, coinciding with two of the three levels of non-dual Kaśmīri yoga: śākta-upāya (or sūkṣma-dhyāna) and śāmbhava-upāya (or parā-dhyāna), which we shall touch on.
In Plato, the path towards the Good is actually the path towards truth, méghiston máthema, supreme knowledge, which consists of the discovery of that ‘right relationship’ (lógos), harmony with things and of things to each other. Discovery of that bond, that natural manifestation of universal coherence is discovery of the thread that connects all things that exist. To make this ‘cosmic intelligence’ reveal itself, Platonic practice consists of contemplation (theoría). This shows a significant affinity to the experience of the bhāvanā, i.e. to the meditative aptitude of religious India, since it aims, rather than ‘exploring an external object, at generating lógos, the ability to understand, revealing a reality of things that is usually hidden and more intimate than what is manifested: contemplation as generative capacity.
Bhāvanā, derived from bhāvaya-, causative of the verb to be, bhū-, is for mediaeval Nyāya logicians the emergence of something preserved in the consciousness21. It implies an inner transformative – and not merely static – process, becoming the very synonym for meditational practice after the V century C.E. What bhāvanā produces is a creative or generative act that emerges from its inner custodial status. The contemplative aptitude of bhāvanā is pertinent above all in what we have denominated śākta-upāya (in the classification recognised in mediaeval Kaśmīr).
Central to this level of yoga is the practice of vikalpa-saṃskāra, i.e. the purification of the vikalpa or conceptual level of the mind, which is the fundamental application of śākta-upāya. By means of a true bhāvanā-krama or succession of meditative stages, a ‘beneficial thought’, i.e. aimed at liberation,22 may be recited or memorised as a mantra or visualised as an image and thus its authentic significance will be gradually assimilated and digested like nutritious food. Its conceptual nature is thus neutralised and the thought may literally be embodied, losing its purely intellectual value and reacquiring an energetic or transformative one. An idea of this kind, leading to freeing oneself from thought itself and materialising in a direct and living experience, is called by Abhinavagupta23 śuddha-vikalpa. This practice utilises the discursive mind with the aim of overcoming it, leaving a mind that is open, intuitive: mind freed from mind. It is consequently an imaginal activity with an aim of realisation and purification. Attention acts as its trigger. The most widely practised yoga, as Abhinavagupta maintains in the Tantrasāra (cap. IV)24, may be defined as being this ‘special type of vikalpa’ or use of thought, aimed at investigating the essence of reality. The materials with which this yoga works, called – according to context – śākta-upāya (enhanced means) or sūkṣma dhyāna (subtle contemplation), are thoughts and emotions, the activity of consciousness (citta).
This means that the yogin adopts a particular mental model to explore the nature of mind, only to discover that for this purpose he must go beyond the mind itself. The paradox of this strategy is to utilise a type of conditioning to go beyond all conditioning and let reality finally manifest itself in all its elusive vastness. This is why this model of yoga is called ‘indirect immediate’ (kramākrama).
Śākta-upāya may give rise to the yoga level handed down as śāmbhava-upāya, which is also an autonomous path of realisation and is thus traditionally considered as the first level of yoga, potentially accessible to all. It is the immediate occurrence of a non-discursive mind that sweeps away all mental constructs, without any need for a refinement of thought. This is the experience of pratibhā, creative intuition, a crucial experience in the schools of non-dual Tantrism. The adept thus already recognises in himself the divine nature of Śiva and nothing more is necessary. The joy of this realisation remains palpable. This is the spontaneous path, the highest, which is the result of grace. In Kaśmīri interpretation, śāmbhava yoga (the divine means) or para-dhyāna (supreme contemplation) is immediate (akrama). It occurs without exercise or preparation of any kind, and is consequently achieved when a profound degree of intuitive, non-discursive attention occurs spontaneously. This upāya arrives as a sudden and self-sufficient stimulus making life’s experience perfect in itself, just as it is, without the need for specific tools or techniques. It is simply being open to accept the grace of every moment. At this level, the adept sees no distinction between the spiritual and the ordinary. He perceives the divine in everything. He finds his teacher not necessarily in a person, but in all things, persons, situations. Path and destination are not distinct. It results naturally in what Abhinavagupta mentions as anupāya (non-means) which consists of an instantaneous reawakening (śaktipāta), so intense that it is permanent: a yoga that, in the end, is non-yoga; an exercise that requires no exercise, like the spontaneity of life.
In any final analysis, the use of the imaginative or discursive mind, utilising tools such as mantras or visualisation linked to the practice of attention, prepares the way for a condition of non-mind, a mind that is no longer rational and dualistic, but sensitive and non-dual. Such a mind is able to grasp not only the real, but a real that has grown in intensity. In this context, the imagination is thus revealed as a leavening and evocative power of reality itself.
Contemplative application in Kaśmīri yoga
A particular use of attention, typical of higher yoga (śāmbhava) in which proliferating thought is not active, or is as yet not activated, is to dwell on the first moment of each experience25, when one is ‘on the point of’ starting to do something, as when a bird is about to open its wings and take flight. It happens at the moment at which everything is about to begin, or has just begun (unmeṣa-daśā-niṣevaṇa), when the energy and emotion of experience are still in bud and about to burst open. Thus the initial phase of every experience is especially invested with attention. Pondering this beginning, the first-fruit of feeling, one dwells in a widened space, defined as being ‘without support’ (nirādhāra) and without thought (nirvikalpa), unmoving in the contemplation of an ‘open desire’, when all possibilities are ready to take flight in an opening that is beyond choice and without confines.
The contemplative attention in non-dual yoga, in śāmbhava-upaya also constitutes an education of mind/heart and is applied to any manifestation of emotional experience. In managing to stay present in the ‘eye of the cyclone’, in ‘passion in bud’ or the initial flowering of emotional energy, the adept also experiences his power energy charge before it triggers the dynamism of the rational mind and of the consequent proliferation of judgements. The exercise here is to halt, succeed in savouring the taste of emotion in itself, without proceeding farther, when the mind becomes overwhelming like a river in flood, taking over our feelings. The Tantric adept knows how to taste, without avidity, the rising tide of the passions, without reaching a point of no return. The exercise is that of knowing how to grasp the moment – simultaneously swirling and still – in which everything ‘is about to’ happen. The key is the tasting, without reserve.
Passions, emotions and motions of the soul in the mediaeval Kaśmīri context are thus invested with attention, as in the Greek world of the Stoics and Epicureans, but they are never deemed to be obstacles to the inner process, nor as something to be managed or avoided. Quite the opposite: it is the very intense vitality of the motions of the heart, whether positive or negative, that overflow into what we have called the remembrance of being alive, i.e. in a growing presence and tasting of reality. Here attention becomes tasting (samviccarvanā). Furthermore, this is not a state of trance (more common), but of vigilant presence, effortlessly free from all constructs of thought. On the contrary, a state of trance is relatively opaque, sometimes bright, but obtuse, lacking the acute vividness that makes the real present moment sparkle.
In the Kaśmīri non-dual yoga, the contemplative attention also constitutes an education of mind/heart.
An example of this timeless fruition by a mind that is firm even when negative and potentially overwhelming emotions arise is provided by the already-mentioned śloka 101 of the Vijñānabhairava-tantra (VII century C.E.), one of the root texts of non-dual Śaivism. Here, desire, wrath, avidity, envy are grasped by a mind that is unmoving, centred like the motion of energy at its arising, like surface waves that do not disturb the depths of the ocean, the underlying reality.
If however any effort enters the practice of contemplative attention, the adept’s level of yoga is not the supreme one – immediate and spontaneous – but the stage centred on purifying the mind and its dynamics, mentioned above as śākta-upāya, or else a purely technical yoga, deemed the last and lowest level of the hierarchy of spiritual exercise named by Abhinavagupta, who utilises the classification of the Mālinīvijayottara-tantra, āṇava upāya, minimal means (or sthula-dhyāna, unrefined contemplation) .
Practising attention in śāmbhava is, rather, abandonment and an opening of oneself; in śākta a focusing of oneself; in āṇava it becomes making an effort.
The pleasure of being in the moment
Epicurus considered philosophy as a form of therapy: a basic tool for healing26 from anxieties and regaining the joy of living. From the Epicurean point of view, mankind – distracted by daily worries – forgets the flavour of that most authentic of pleasures, that of being. Spiritual exercise is configured as the true phármakon, the powerful remedy capable of transforming any unnatural and unnecessary desire into the serene fulfilment of atarassía. The latter is a condition of quiet and stable joy, untouched either by anxieties or by ephemeral pleasures. This condition of the soul, which is neither indifference nor detachment, but on the contrary complete adherence to what is there first, before the ego gets its hands on it, recalls in some ways what Abhinavagupta, in mediaeval Kaśmīr, conceived as śānta rasa, the emotion of tranquillity, matrix and background of all the emotions. Experienced without avidity, every emotional state can be enjoyed but, rather than immediately, by dwelling – as we have described – in the spacious background from which every emotion draws its nourishment.
Epicurus celebrated the essence of pleasure as the awareness of existing, in the moment.
In the prospect of death, the fact of existing, even for a single instant, suddenly assumes an infinite value and provides a pleasure of infinite intensity27. In this view, tasting the instant, common to both Stoics and Epicureans, assumes an eternal, measureless value. The impetus of the present moment makes past and future fade and what the senses grasp here and now is the presence of life.
The full joy of the Epicureans may be compared to what religious India calls ānanda. This ancient word, which originally represented in concrete form the flow of sexual secretions in the intimacy of coitus, i.e. in orgasmic pleasure, thus comes to mean bliss beyond all pleasure (suhkha) and pain (duhkha), nourished however by the energy of both with an unfurled sensoriality open to the present moment. Kṣana, the instant, is one of the features of Kaśmīri yoga and contrasts abhyāsa, repeated practice, which in Patañjala-yoga is one of the pillars of practice. In the Kaśmīri context, emphasis lies always on the intensity and completeness represented by even a single instant of conscious presence. .
The secret of Epicurean serenity involved, at the same time, circumscribing the instant, attributing to it an infinite capacity. The present moment, experienced fully, is thus self-sufficient and complete in itself, and includes the taste of every other experience. For Epicurus, being ready to grasp this savouring is the spiritual exercise par excellence, i.e. the fundamental aptitude for undertaking any inner practice. The Stoics, too, reassess the present moment which, in such a context, becomes a feeling of intimacy with the entire universe28. For the Stoics, emphasis is laid on the will to discover the universe in an instant; for the Epicureans, the pleasure of the event in itself.
In the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, ānanda becomes bliss with an ontological value that distinguishes spiritual experience tout court. Enjoying the instant as though nothing else exists is the felicity of sexual union in śloka 69, which becomes, for example, the pleasure of the first instant of encountering a dear friend after a long time (śloka 71). The exercise is to dwell on the source of such joy that overflows at the beginning of every moment of happiness. The contemplative value of joy, with all one’s senses open to experience the present, is also clear in the subsequent ślokas of the text, which speak of pure aesthetic pleasure, like tasting good food or listening to beautiful music. The secret of this joy is always that of grasping in any experience, even the most common, that vital sensitivity that makes all things sacred, the cipher of life and its beauty, the peculiarity of being.
- Theoría is another Greek term indicating meditation or contemplation.
- Cf. for example, Epictetus, Discourses, II. 9, 13; II, 18, 26; III, 8, 1; III, 12, 1-7; IV, 6, 16; IV, 12, 13.
- Furthermore, the word ‘school’, skholé in Greek, originally indicated ‘idleness’, leisure time, in which the pleasure of learning arose spontaneously.
- Cf. E. Severino, La filosofia antica, Rizzoli, Milano 1984, pp. 15-33.
- Cf. F. Jullien, Risorse del Cristianesimo, ma senza passare per la via della fede, Salani Editore, Milano 2019, pp. 51-66.
- Cf. P. Hadot, Ricordati di vivere. Goethe e la tradizione degli esercizi spirituali, Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano 2009, p. 36. Goethe’s romantic idealism picked up this intense feeling of existing, emancipated from anything else.
- Furthermore, the literal meaning of the word ‘universe’ comes from the Latin unus and versus (past participle of vertere): “that which turns wholly in the same direction”, Cf. G. Tonelli, Genesi, Feltrinelli, Milano 2019, p.32.
- Cf. Plato, Theaetetus 155d, and Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982b-983.
- B. Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago (quoted from the Italian translation of Pietro Zveteremich), Milano 1970, p.596.
- Cf. G. Lussana, Lo yoga della bellezza. Spunti per una riformulazione contemporanea dello yoga del Kaśmīr, Om Edizioni, Bologna 2021, p.96 ff.
- Nepsis or vigilance. Cf. Dorotheus of Gaza, Didaskalíai, cit. in P. Hadot, Esercizi spirituali e filosofia antica, Einaudi, Torino 2005, p. 76-77.
- Marco Aurelio, Meditations, VII, 58.
- “If you choose, you are free”. Epictetus, Discourses, I, 17.
- Cf. C. Sini, Spinoza, Book Time, Milano 2012, pp.40-41.
- Cf. For example, in Ecce homo (in the Italian edition translated by Giorgio Colli, Milan 1991, p.206 ff.).
- Saṃtoṣa is the Sanskrit term that, in the Hindu lexicon of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (or Yoga-sūtra), is a similar fulfilment that excludes the avidity of taking what is not within our grasp.
- Cf. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1174 a 17 ff.
- “What happens to one man brings benefit to all”. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations VI, 45, 1.
- Cf. Titus Lucretius Carus, De rerum natura, II 1044-1047; III, 16-17, and Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, XI, 1.
- Swami Lakshmanjoo: “The saint is broadminded like a child”, in Vijñānabhairava-tantra, The Practice of Centring Awareness, Commentary by S. Lakshmanjoo, Ishvar Ashram, Nishat, Srinagar 2002: “If one makes one’s mind stable in the various states of desire, anger, greed, delusion, intoxication or envy, then the Reality alone will remain which is underlying them”, śl. 101, p.121.
- Cf. G. Lussana, Ibidem. p. 111.
- For example, dṛśyaṃ śarīram (all that is perceptible is my body). Cf. Vasugupta, Gli aforismi di Śiva with the commentary by Ksemarāja (Śivasūtravimarśinī), ed. R. Torella, Adelphi, Milano 2013, sūtra 1. 13.
- Luce dei Tantra (Tantrāloka), ed. and transl. by R. Gnoli, Adelphi, Milano 1999, 15. 269 – 71a.
- Essenza dei Tantra (Tantrasāra), pref. transl. and commentary by R. Gnoli, Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, Milano 1990, cap. IV, p. 102.
- In other contexts, attention enhances both the initial and final moments of the experience. In the first case, the opening is the matrix; in the second, the result. But the opening vibrating with vitality in the Kaśmīri schools may also be found in the middle, between the beginning and the end. It may be said that the open space is reality in all its interest; this completeness is what the attention grasps.
- In a very ancient language, Semitic, ‘to heal’ and ‘to live’ are expressed by a single verb. Cf. M. Vannini, Vangelo di Giovanni, Garzanti, Milano 2016, p. 97.
- Cf. P. Hadot, Ricordati di vivere. Goethe e la tradizione degli esercizi spirituali, Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano 2009, p.28.
- Cf. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 66, 6.