ISSUE #008 - Oct 31, 2018

The Three Bears

Mary Reilly Nichols

“All things are three, and thrice is all, for, as Pythagoreans say, everything and all things are bound by threes, for the end, the middle, and the beginning have this number in everything.”

– Aristotle (4th C BC)

There is a sacred myth passed down through the ages which encompasses enduring teachings on non-duality. The story goes that a young girl comes upon a cottage in the woods. Inside, at a table set with bowls of porridge, there are three chairs. Papa Bear’s chair is too hard. Mama Bear’s chair is too soft. But Baby Bear’s chair? Just right. Then the porridge: too hot, too cold, just right. Then the beds: too hard, too soft, just right.

Within this beloved fable is a truth iterated and restated in the structure of diverse symbols of ultimate reality, such as the yin-yang, the cross, the Star of David, and the Shree Yantra. These triadic symbols all point to a common truth: that perfection, wholeness, and holiness are found at the heart of the union of opposites.

On a practical level, haṭha yoga, in stimulating the nervous system with strict bilateral symmetry, makes the practitioner somatically competent to the non-dual experience. In yoga parlance this is known as samādhi.  With such equilibrating practices as alternate nostril breathing (nāḍi-śoḍana) combined with asana, the activity of the right and left hemispheres of the brain is integrally balanced, producing a delicious sense of “just right” perfection in the midst of daily activities.

The subtle body map underlying this haṭha yoga technology is described as the unifying of the two side channels, the iḍā and the pingalā, which when equalized cause the central channel, the suṣumnā, to surge with energy.

 

St Patrick and the Shamrock

It is reasonably claimed that St Patrick used the shamrock to instruct the Celts of Ireland in the Christian doctrine of the trinity, which declared that God exists as three in one. This was not news to the Celts, whose roots in stone age ideas of the trinity are evidenced in 5,000 year old carvings of the “triskele” – the triple spiral. Moreover, the neolithic Irish constructed a temple, called Newgrange, in such perfect alignment to the winter solstice as to allow the penetration of the rising sun’s rays along a narrow passage, finally illuminating a circular chapel. In this way these early agriculturalists celebrated the union of opposites as the fruitful marriage of the Earth and Sky.

These neolithic farmers were acutely aware that the earth and the sky, and the real and the ideal, need each other in balance to flourish abundantly.

 

Shree Yantra

The ideal of energetic flourishing formed by the union of opposites is expressed in the triadic Tantric symbol of the Shree Yantra. The term Shree connotes grace, splendor, beauty and abundance.  Shree Yantra consists of nine interlocking triangles that surround a central point called a bindu. It can be used externally as a powerful visual means to transport awareness into the ecstasy of the non-dual state, but it is also an accurate depiction of some very subtle internal features of the energy body.

In a deep state of meditation the suṣumnā can be viewed from the point of the bindu at the crown of the head. From there, a series of alternately facing triangular filaments of light can be seen juxtaposed one on top of the other from the crown to the root. The triangles form a 3 dimensional Shree Yantra. This is the esoteric meaning behind the alternative term “Shree Chakra” because the triangles form structural support for the chakras. What must be understood is perfect alignment of these inward and outward facing triangles produces continuous flourishing. This is why attention to axial alignment when practicing yoga and meditation is extremely helpful.

 

The Jewish Star

The familiar Star of David is also known as the Shield of David. I pondered that meaning when I viewed the incomparable statue of David by Bernini in Rome. At the foot of that statue, you will see that Bernini has carved several objects which include a discarded breastplate of armor. The story of David has that detail in it, that he was offered armor with which to fight Goliath, but took it off considering that it hampered his freedom of movement. As an art historian described it: “Bernini by showing that David removed his armor shows his closeness to the Spirit of God.”

David needed no armor when he had the “shield” of his alignment. Thus the familiar symbol speaks of the dynamic auspiciousness of alignment with the union of opposites.

 

OM

The syllable Oṃ, designated by sage Patañjali as the “Guru of the Universe” (Yoga Sūtra 1:27) is composed of three letters: A U M. It is a phonemic expression of the tripartite constituents of the one reality. As Patañjali says, “repetition of Oṃ leads to realization of its meaning.” (Yoga Sūtra 1:29)  If you want the Baby Bear bliss of the union of opposites, chant Oṃ.

These are just a few examples of the triadic symbolism that, like Śiva’s trident, becomes a cognitive tool for penetrating beyond duality to the unifying bliss of Oneness.

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ISSUE #008

On Perennial Philosophy
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