When my Raja Deekshithar proposed to me and we started working together, it was some time in the late eighties, one of our primary subjects of discussion and research was the Akasha. After all, the Shri Nataraja temple in Chidambaram is the Akasha Kshetra, the Field of Aether. And I had always been interested in cosmology and physics. Although my dyscalcula restrained me from pursuing it as a subject as a professional, this interest never left me. We talked and discussed, Raja shared his own insights, and I sifted through the literature in our small library (this was way before the internet).
Eventually by the late nineties we wrote five essays that together reflected our thinking as it had evolved by that time. We first shared them with friends and students to an enthusiastic reception. And somebody offered to set up a website for Raja, and these five essays became part of the material we shared there. At the time, and also later we decided Raja should be credited on his own. We had encountered much racism and colonial attitudes. People whose knowledge of the Chidambaram temple had been largely obtained from discussions with Raja, told him in his face that in their opinion he could not research his own temple tradition, because he was a priest and a Deekshithar.
I had no problem giving him all the credit. I loved him with all my heart, he deserved the credit for what in essence originated in his heritage. So many people had build profitble careers on his contributions, and never credited him. This I would not do. I had no problem staying in his shadow. Our work method was to discuss, research, I would write it down, together Raja and I edited. His editing was brilliant. Through this process I became a writer.
Here follows the first essay with the title “Factual Orientation and Feeling Orientation”, please continue reading and engage with Raja’s personal take on the Western and Indian knowlegde systems. The following is the edit done in 2007, when we self-published these five essays under the title “A Stream of Thoughts”.
The other four essays are:
Breath and Cosmos
The Art of Vedic Healing
Our thinking has much evolved since, and I have continued my research and studies on my own since Raja’s death in 2010. Some of that material I have presented in a lecture “Chidambaram Rahasya, Secret or Science?”. Presented at the C.P.Ramaswami Aiyer Foundation on February 2nd 2019.
Thank you for visiting,
© Liesbeth Pankaja Bennink
Factual Orientation and Feeling Orientation
I (R.N.Natarajarathina Deekshithar M.A, Raja to his friends, 1949-2010) was born nearly half a century ago in a town called Chidambaram, which is found deep down in the southern tip of India. Chidambaram is one of the holiest cities in the sacred geography of the subcontinent. According to doctrine Chidambaram is situated on the Sushumna Nadi of our planet. This is an artery through which cosmic energy flows, similar to the ley-lines found in Britain. On this Nadi Chidambaram represents the energy centre called Anahata or heart chakra. Its ancient name is Tillai, after the sacred grove of Tillai trees, which is a kind of mangrove. This is the place where Lord Shiva chose to perform His Cosmic Dance for the whole of humanity to witness.
I was born into the Deekshitar family. The Deekshitars are a community of hereditary ritual performers, selected from the earliest times to be the guardians of the temple of Shiva Nataraja and to perform His daily worship. My father was a great tantric Yogi and a martial arts master. He used to travel often to the Himalayas to meditate and meet with Sadhus and Jnanins, men of wisdom and knowledge. While I was growing up there were always masters, saints and sadhus staying with us. They came to see His Dance, and to meet my father. From my youngest years I would walk with them, and they would open my heart to knowledge. Late one night, I was maybe only ten years old, one of my masters took me aside, and laid his hand on my head. Instantaneously a white light, so bright as to be unbearable, pervaded my whole being.
Soon after my life took a different turn. I developed a strong desire for formal Western education, to learn English and speak to people from other parts of the world. Even in those early days our temple attracted Western visitors, and I wanted to communicate with them and broaden my outlook on the world. I finished my school and went to University to study English Literature. I read Shakespeare and Milton.
After my degree I grew my hair long and followed into my father’s footsteps. I was initiated into our doctrine and tradition and for over ten years I served Lord Nataraja and Mother Tillai Ambal (a form of the Goddess), and also the public, as a ritual performer. At some point foreign visitors and researchers started coming to me, to ask me about the temple and the tradition. With some I had long discussions, and I came to realize the gulf that yawns between contemporary Western thinking and the way our ancestors approached the world. For instance the Murti, which to me is the physical embodiment of a deity, or a divine energy, on the earthly plane, is to the Westerner only a statue. The two worldviews are apparently entirely contradictory. Western materialism being extremely successful in the material sciences and technology at the moment. Now we have airplanes, radio and television, and computers as proof of its achievements. But I had myself experienced and witnessed many miraculous performances and occurrences, not the least of which was my own initiation, when my father’s friend let the Cosmic Light flow into me when he laid his hand on my head.
I used to climb to the top of the great temple gateways and looked down on the Sabha with the golden roof. This golden roof was made over a thousand years ago, and nobody remembers now how it was made. Or I would sit in the pillared corridors at night and wonder about the meaning of the symbols inscribed on the pillars. I would think about the great achievements of my ancestors and those of Western technology, and wonder how the two worldviews could be so at odds with one-another.
The great pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge, and countless other monuments elsewhere in the world, stand as silent witnesses to the knowledge and abilities of our ancestors. At the same time it is the Western conviction that all real science is no more then 500 years old. The result of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution: all phenomena of European-Christian history. This Western conviction has the argument of almost absolute power behind it. Western technology works efficiently for all to witness and enjoy. It does not entail yogic practice over countless years or possibly even many lives to achieve its goal: material prosperity and comfort, and control over nature. Whereas the aim of the spiritual path, which is enlightenment and the realization of ‘unconditioned consciousness’ for the individual is difficult to reach, even more difficult to understand, and impossible to quantify. While certain results such as the siddhis or spiritual powers, like the ability to fly, or perform ‘miracles’ are considered to be only side-effects.
Still I felt convinced that the life and vision of the ancients had not been vain. I started to research. I studied Indian alchemy and medicine with a great Siddha master. I learned Indian astrology from one of my father’s friends. I talked to the Sthapatis, or architects, of the temple, and to any Sadhu visiting Chidambaram. I also worked with many Western researchers, Indologists, Anthropologists and others, to study their methodology and approach. And finally I went back to university to study Sociology. And I found that the answer lies not in opposition, but in synthesis.
The Western approach is characterized by Factual Orientation. It is not possible (in this context) to point out exactly why and how this worldview came into being, but as it is generally understood that Western civilization had its roots in ancient Greece, we may also assume that Factual Orientation was first introduced by the Greek philosophers. Factual Orientation is the materialistic pre-occupation with ‘hard facts’. Only those phenomena that can be observed through the five senses or their extensions, measuring instruments, are considered real and part of existence. Everything that falls outside this requirement is considered unreal and non-existent, and therefore immaterial to human existence and not relevant to research. The cosmos is presumed to exist only in its material substantiality. All existence is the result of the accidental interaction of material phenomena. This reduces both ourselves and everything we experience to a sum of atoms and forces of materiality. Observation and analysis constitute the methodology of Factual Orientation.
Those among our ancestors who searched for truth and knowledge were guided by what I call Feeling Orientation. Feeling Orientation is an approach which engages itself primarily with the experience of consciousness; its realization, exploration and development. For this the ancients used methods that are now all herded together under the heading of ‘mysticism’ and ‘spirituality’. The creation is acknowledged as the result of the interaction of consciousness and materiality. And both these concepts are known as expressions of the Divine Absolute. Consciousness is recognized as the first basis of all existence, with materiality functioning as its vehicle of expression. The aim of the ancient wisdom science was the understanding of the cosmos and human existence in the light of the Absolute: that which is the synthesis of consciousness and materiality, and which is at the same time beyond it. The ancient science was interested in materiality only in so far as it is the expression of the Absolute on the level of material creation. And in its being the vehicle of consciousness. Consciousness has to conquer materiality. It has to pass through it to achieve complete realization. This is called evolution. Evolution is the path through which consciousness achieves realization of its divine nature resulting eventually in the reunification and merging of consciousness and materiality into the Divine Absolute.
The methodology of Feeling Orientation is based on observation of the outer and inner manifested world. On meditation and synthesis. Material facts are important as confirmation but are not its first interest. A non-material reality is recognized besides the material reality. All human experience is considered genuine and a legitimate subject for enquiry. Through Feeling Orientation events and consequences are seen before they happen. It generates definite knowledge, where-as Factual Orientation results only in indefinite knowledge. What is considered established fact in science in the form of ‘theories’ is knocked down/reorganised time and again by the discovery of new information. On the other hand the knowledge generated through the true spiritual vision of the ancient Seers was definite even when there was no physical proof. The ancients stated ‘the planet Mars is red’. The theory of Astro-physics states ‘the planet Mars may be red’. The achievements of the Seers’ vision are laid down in countless sacred scriptures, myths and legends. And have been given material expression in ancient temples, pyramids and cathedrals. It comprises all of the human heritage.
Why and how Factual Orientation superceded Feeling Orientation and became so much more powerful and successful I can’t answer within the limits of this short article. That has to wait till some other occasion. To the question as to which of the two is more true or more valuable, I would answer both are true, and both are equally important. In truth they don’t represent an opposition, but are complementary. In synthesis they can answer many questions to which modern science has no answer. Contemporary science cannot explain phenomena like ESP (Extra Sensory Perception), for instance telepathy or clairvoyance, so its strategy is to deny their existence. The ancient wisdom science has no problem accepting this kind of consciousness phenomena, and is actually rooted in them, and can, especially when applied in combination with the appropriate technology and the findings of material science, give clear and definite answers to their how and why.
It is my strong belief that a synthesized application of the two approaches, which are both part and parcel of our human inheritance and experience, would enable us to reach new and unthought-of heights of achievement both of a material and of a spiritual nature. It would for instance allow us to reach a deeper understanding of the p[rocesses of our planet that threaten our existence as a result of the impact of our civilization on the eco-system. Allowing us to find unexpected ways to heal the wounds we are inflicting on our Mother Earth. Also if we would stop treating all ancient knowledge as superstition, but would research it with the combined approach of Factual and Feeling Orientation, a true treasure of knowledge and science would open to us. A small beginning has been made in medical science through the use of acupuncture and ayurveda. Far more is possible.
As a first step towards this synthesis I have developed several ‘mind-technologies’ to stimulate this process. From the essence of my masters’ knowledge, and my vision of the needs of the humanity in the 21st century, I have synthesized an innovative way of consciousness development called Niscintana Meditation. Its purpose is both to still the mind through the harmonization of the brainwave patterns, and at the same time effecting greater creativity, inventiveness and efficiency in the mind. This dual effect is necessary to confront the stress and pressures of modern life and to discover solutions to our many problems.
I propose to use Factual Orientation and Feeling Orientation in synthesis and in the right ratio to answer the many riddles of our universe and our existence that physics, astronomy, mathematics and the other sciences can’t answer by themselves. And to use the great practical knowledge and methodology of our ancestors in combination with modern science to face the challenges of our present day existence.