THE DICE GAME OF SHIVA: How Consciousness Creates the Universe

The Dice Game of Shiva: An Interview with Richard Smoley
by New World LIbrary

The Dice Game of Shiva—that’s an intriguing title for a book. What does it mean?

It refers to a Hindu myth in which the god Shiva plays a game of dice—essentially a kind of strip Parcheesi—with his consort, Parvati. The strange thing is that Shiva always loses. He loses everything to Parvati, even his clothing, but it doesn’t make any difference to him. He goes off to the forest and lives as a hermit. Eventually Parvati comes in search of him, and they’re reunited in the end.

That’s a strange story. What’s it about?

It’s about one of the central issues that has always perplexed philosophers—the nature of consciousness. Shiva represents consciousness—and in the book I define consciousness as the capacity to relate self and other.

And Parvati? What does she represent?

What consciousness experiences—the totality of the world, inner and outer.

This is getting kind of abstract. Why should I care about this kind of thing?

Because it’s something that you’re doing every second of your life. At the core of your being there is something that experiences, something that sees. It doesn’t do anything else; it just witnesses. It has no properties, no characteristics other than this. This is what the mystical traditions call the true Self, the “I,” Christ consciousness, the Atman. This is who you really are.

But we forget this. We think we are what we see. We become what we behold. And I’m not just talking about the physical world. You also experience your thoughts and your emotions, and you mistakenly believe that you are those things. That’s what the mystics call maya, illusion.

Parvati symbolizes all of your experience, and Parvati always “wins” the game. Why? Because consciousness in its pure form has no attributes, no qualities; it just sees. Everything you see, inner and outer, belongs to Parvati, so to speak. So Shiva always loses the game, and Parvati always wins. But it doesn’t matter to Shiva. In reality he loses nothing.

But how can I not be my thoughts, my feelings, and so on? Those are what I am.

No, they’re not! You can step back and see them; you can watch them like a film passing before your eyes. That’s the purpose of many—maybe most—meditation practices. They’re meant to show you that there’s something behind all the junk that passes through your mind, and that that something is what you really are.

So then everything in the world is just kind of a film that I’m watching?

You and everybody else. In each of us there is this true Self, which witnesses. It exists in animals, plants, even in inanimate matter.

How is that?

Well, I said that consciousness is the capacity to relate self and other. For anything to exist at all, it must have some amount of this capacity, however small. Even a hydrogen atom must somehow be able to “recognize” an oxygen atom if it is to bond with it to form water. This is not consciousness as we know it in ourselves, but still it’s consciousness of a kind.

Where is God in all this?

God is, I would say, the ineffable source out of which this primordial distinction of self and other arise. So in one sense God is yourself. Isn’t that what all the mystical traditions are saying? Jesus, in the Gospel of John, alludes to this when he says, “I and the Father are one.” Most Christians misunderstand this. They think that Jesus is talking about himself. But really this “I,” this capacity to say “I am,” is, so to speak, the point where we connect with God. Haven’t we heard any number of times that one of the most sacred and profound names of God is “I am”?

So why should I pray to God?

Well, I said that God is the source both of self and other. So we can experience God as other also. Some theologians take this to the point of saying that God is “wholly other,” but I would say that that’s just half of the picture. When you feel God as other, then you pray to God. When you rest in stillness in the center of your being, you feel God as Self. We can experience it sometimes one way, sometimes another.

Are you saying that Hinduism is the true religion?

I’m saying that at their core all religions are saying these things. In my previous book Inner Christianity, I explored these ideas in the language of mystical Christianity. For the purposes of this book, I found it more helpful to use some terms and concepts from Eastern religions.

So why isn’t all this a matter of common knowledge?

Religions talk about this in mythic terms, because if you talk about it discursively, the way we’re doing here, it can be hard to wrap your mind around. Besides, there are certain dangers in this knowledge.

What are these dangers?

If all this hits your mind in the wrong way, you can come away with the idea that your personal ego, your little self, is God. This happens sometimes, not only in people who are certifiably insane, but in certain gurus who have enough charisma to collect some followers. The gurus are right in a sense—their “I” is God—but that’s true of everyone and everything, not just the guru, however advanced he may seem.

On the other hand, there are also dangers in forgetting these truths, in failing to realize that God is not only in you, but that which says “I” in you. If you don’t remember this fact, you’re cut off from the center of your own being. People in this situation—and I would say that this is true of most of us most of the time—are weak and susceptible. They, or we, are prone to the mass hypnosis of ordinary life, in which we place our trust in money, in things, in leaders good and bad. This trust will inevitably be disappointed sooner or later. As the Bible says, “Put not your trust in princes.”

What’s the way out?

Well, the first step is awakening. Simply becoming aware of this Self in you, this “I” that witnesses. It doesn’t require great mystical powers. Deep down, we all know that there is something that says “I” in us. And that this something lies deeper than our ego with its desires and anxieties and agendas.

Some philosophers say that simply becoming aware of this fact is enough, and at times that’s true. But for most of us need something more, and I would say that a good meditation practice would be a helpful way of probing deeper into these truths. And there is also prayer in the more familiar sense, in which we approach God as other.

Of course there’s more to the situation than this. There are questions of cosmic justice, of science versus spirituality, and there’s also the most perplexing issue of all—causality—the issue of what causes what, which has perplexed philosophers more than practically any other problem they’ve had to face. In my book I go into these issues at much greater length. But recognizing the truths I’ve sketched out here is, I’m convinced, already a big step.

CONTENTS

1. The Light that governs the Universe

2. The Games of Consciousness

3. The Persistence of Dualism

4. The Problem of Causation

5. The Chain of Associations

6. A Just Universe?

7. The Dimensions of Faith

8. The Conscious Civilization

Richard Smoley is one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization.

Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, he worked at a wide range of journalistic positions before becoming editor of Gnosis, the award-winning journal of the Western spiritual traditions, in 1990, a position he held up to 1999. He is the coauthor (with Jay Kinney) of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, and of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition (Shambhala, 2002).

Richard’s latest book, The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe, was published in November 2009 by New World Library.

His previous work, Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity, was published in April 2008 by Jossey-Bass.

In April 2007, Harper San Francisco (newly rebaptized as Harper One) released the paperback edition of Richard’s Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism This is an accessible and engaging history of the secret currents of Western civilization–including Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Catharism, the Rosicrucian legacy, Freemasonry, Theosophy, and much more. It also explores how these currents have shaped modern trends and thinkers ranging from William Blake to C.G. Jung, and, in more recent times, Philip K. Dick, Harold Bloom, and A Course in Miracles.

In January 2006, Tarcher/​Penguin published The Essential Nostradamus, Richard’s guide to this fascinating but elusive prophet. The Essential Nostradamus contains fresh and accurate new translations of Nostradamus’s key prophecies, as well as an evaluation of his work–and of prophecy in general.

In June 2006, Quest Books published a new edition of Hidden Wisdom, containing a new foreword discussing the Western esoteric traditions in the light of current events, and containing valuable updates on these traditions.

Richard has also written a novel entitled The Gospel of Matthias, which tells the story of Christ in the context of esoteric Christianity.

Currently Richard is editor of Quest; Journal of the Theosophical Society in America. He is also editor of Quest Books, a publisher of books on spirituality and esotericism, operated by the Theosophical Society.

Morning Meditation Part One & Two – Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra discusses spirituality and leads a morning meditation at The Human Forum Conference. Puerto Rico 2006. Check out http://www.anhglobal.org for

Morning Meditation Part Two

The Real Jesus: Myth #7 (9 & 10 of 10)

Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
John Dominic Crossan: “Was Jesus even buried at all? … I feel terribly sympathetic toward the followers of Jesus because I hear hope there and not history.”

In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan is clear about the agenda behind his attack on the truth of the resurrection. Remember that in Crossan’s mind, the resurrection is not plausible and the Gospel accounts are not reliable. Therefore, he uses historical reconstructions based upon what he believes might have happened. Again, there are no written historical records to back up his claims. Instead, he writes:

“If you cannot believe in something produced by reconstruction, you may have nothing left to believe in” (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 426).

Crossan’s attack on the truth of the resurrection, in the big picture, is really an attack on the nature of truth itself. According to Crossan, truth fluctuates from generation to generation. He writes:

“It is not … that we find once and for all who the historical Jesus was way back then. It is that each generation and century must redo that historical work and establish its best reconstruction … it is that Jesus reconstructed in the dialogues, debates, controversies, and the conclusions of contemporary scholarship that challenges faith to see and say how that is for now the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God” (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 217).

In Crossan’s reconstructed version of the story, Jesus’ death was accidental — the type of execution that the oppressive and arbitrary justice of the Romans might carry out on any given day. In the days following the crucifixion, one or more of the Apostles may have invented a story about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in order to give themselves some credibility. And then some followers of the Apostles, who just happened to be scribes, may have recorded the event as though it were history — another unfortunate accident — according to Crossan.

But Crossan fails to answer some obvious questions: If the resurrection were a hoax, why would there be a Christian movement in the years after Jesus’ death? If Christ’s death were an accident, why would there even be a scribe who would want to record a distorted record of Jesus’ death?

Lacking answers to these questions as well any real evidence for their claims, the scholars of the Jesus Seminar speculate endlessly as to how and why the resurrection story came about.

Jennings: “Some scholars think that the resurrection stories were borrowed from eastern pagan cults called mystery religions.”

Jennings: “The mystery cults had an influence because the people who wrote the Jesus story took an earlier story and passed it on via Jesus.”

The writers of the New Testament also mention the “mystery religions” that Peter Jennings refers to here — most notably, the Apostles Peter, John and Paul. What is being described here is Gnosticism — an eastern cult that had followers the world over at the time of the Roman Empire. At the time of Jesus, even Judaism had succumbed to the effects of the ancient mystery religions.

But do similarities among stories told among cults and mystery religions disprove the resurrection of Jesus? Let’s look at some evidence:

According to the Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, there were over 500 eyewitnesses, including the Apostles, who saw Jesus after the resurrection. Many preached the Gospel and a few of them wrote books and testimonies.

There is also the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the blood of the martyrs in the first century. Many of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection died as martyrs for their faith. It would be hard to imagine people dying for what they knew was a fraudulent claim.

In contrast to this strong evidence, Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar states:

“If we don’t understand why he could be executed, then we miss the political passion that animated his mission … When we turn Jesus’ death instead into the eternal sacrifice for sin that makes our forgiveness possible, then we really set aside that which mattered so much to Him …”

The epitome of liberalism is the false dichotomy between the social Gospel and eternal salvation. Of course, there is no contradiction between the two.

Christ lived a perfect life, not only as an example for us, but actually according to scripture to be the “second Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to fulfill the covenant of righteousness so that His righteousness may be imputed to us.

In Christ’s death we find forgiveness for our sins, not only because he died as a martyr for the truth, but also because He became sin on our behalf. His eternal sacrifice through his death for sin does not in any way obscure the message of His perfect life.

The Real Jesus: Conclusion (10 of 10)

Debunking the Myths

Christians in our day do not need to be persuaded to lay aside the historical accounts of Jesus found in the Gospels, in order to find a historical Jesus. Although there is outside evidence, the greatest proof that the Bible is true comes from the Word itself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14).

The name given to Jesus is the Word. The authority of the Word of God comes from the fact that it is the testimony Jesus Christ has given of himself:

“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true … I am one who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me.” (John 8:14,18).

The authority of the Word of God does not come from the study of the historical accuracy of the Bible; the study of archaeology to prove the validity of the Bible; or the study of science to prove the account of creation. Instead we believe the authority of the Word because Jesus Christ Himself gave it.

The authority of the Word of God does not come from us being able to prove that it is true. The authority of the Word of God comes from the fact that it is God’s Word. God spoke it; it is truth.

This approach is sometimes called presuppositionalism. The authority of the Word of God is presupposed (believed ahead of time). It is the opposite of evidentialism, the idea that we must seek to prove that the Bible is true by offering evidence. Evidentialism is not wrong; it is important to defend what we believe. However, it is impossible to “prove” Scripture using evidence from philosophy, history, archaeology, science, and other rational proofs. To do so would be to claim that these proofs have the same infallible authority as God himself.

The Word of God preached is all the evidence that a person needs in order to be saved. We do not need to “prove” the Gospel in order for it to be effective. The Word of God preached is a living and powerful sword that pierces the hearts of its hearers. While the Word preached is the only weapon of our warfare, there is already much evidence of the truth in natural revelation.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

But the truth preached, not the evidence that the Word is true, is the only effective message of salvation. Paul writes in Romans 3:4:

“Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).

We should not lay aside the evidence completely. Paul preached a sermon in Athens (Acts 17:23-31), and appealed to evidences that God exists from Greek philosophy. But Paul concluded his Gospel message with this idea:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31).

Truth is revealed, not by evidence, but by the Word preached. Our problem is not that we lack understanding or need more information. Our problem is that each one of us is a sinner and needs repentance.

The Authority of the Word of God

The authority of the Bible is implied by the fact that we call it: “God’s Word.” Inspiration is the means by which the Bible received its authority. The apostolic writings of the New Testament were boldly described in the same authoritative terms that denoted the Old Testament as the Word of God. The New Testament books were called “scripture,” “prophecy,” “the Word of the Lord,” and so on.

[Scroll the following scriptures on screen over the narration in the following two paragraphs]

“Hear the word of the LORD …” – Jeremiah 31:10

“But the word of God grew and multiplied.” – Acts 12:24

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God …” – 2 Timothy 3:16

“… as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” – 2 Peter 3:16

“Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7

“So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” – Acts 19:20

Every book in the New Testament contains some claim to divine authority. The New Testament church read, circulated, collected, and quoted the New Testament books right along with the inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament.

The contemporaries and immediate successors of Jesus’ Apostles recognized the divine origin of the New Testament writings along with the Old. All of the great Fathers of the Christian church from the earliest times held to the divine inspiration of the New Testament. There is a continuous claim for the inspiration of both Old and New Testaments from the time of their composition to the present.

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