Monday, October 17, 2011

Swara, Circularity, God: A little meditation on everything and nothing

I just took a few minutes to reflect on what I learnt from Casey's workshop over the weekend (for more details, see previous post). As I was reflecting, I suddenly remembered a little thought that occurred to me during yesterday morning's mysore session with Casey. Somewhere in the middle of primary series (I can't remember which posture), it suddenly occurred to me that the concept of swara encapsulates very nicely what I see as the main difference between western and eastern philosophy, and by extension, western and eastern ways of understanding the world and our place in the universe.

As I mentioned in my previous post, swara is a concept that originated in Indian music; a concept which expresses the circularity of all phenomena. Just as one starts over at the first note of the musical cycle (the octave) after playing the last note of the previous cycle, exhalation is followed by inhalation, which in turn is followed by exhalation. The ending of a sound is followed by silence, which is then followed by the beginning of a new sound. Destruction is followed by creation which, in turn, is followed by another act of destruction. This circularity is important, for without it, all events and phenomena would be congested into a great cluster-fuck of non-flow (excuse the language, but there's really no more apt expression I can think of here), and creation and destruction--indeed, the very flow of time itself--would simply become impossible.

Because much of Indian philosophy subscribes to such a circular worldview, there is no need to postulate the existence of a personified deity that is omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect. I suspect that, to a mind that is attuned to the concept of swara, the idea of a Judeo-Christian God would seem very strange; such a deity makes sense only within the context of a linear time-space continuum, in which things must have a definite end and a determinate beginning. Which, of course, brings up all kinds of intractable theological and philosophical problems (if God created the universe, who created God? Is Judgment Day really the end of time? Etc, etc.).

If one believes that all phenomena and events are cyclical and circular in nature, then one nicely sidesteps all these problems.

Well, just a few thoughts on everything and nothing, as always. :-)  

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