PHILOSOPHY AND NATURE
PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY WORKS WITH NATURE, NEVER AGAINST
Just as the natural world is ordered and balanced by discoverable laws and regulations, so is human nature.
The three courses in this fourth year of Practical Philosophy open the realm of nature to practical discovery. The first course, The Law of Three, explores the ancient sāṃkhya teaching of the three fundamental substances running through everything and reveals how this teaching can help to bring harmony and balance into life. The second course, The Five Kosha, seeks that essence which is beyond the laws and regulations of nature and looks at how it can be revealed.
The final course in this fourth year, Harmony, brings The Law of Three and The Five Kosha together in a discovery of how an event unfolds in harmonious steps, very like the seven progressive steps in the musical octave. Harmonious action means action in harmony with things as they are and includes the idea of universal harmony as well as harmony between human beings.
“Nature is a unity in diversity of phenomena; a harmony, blending together all created things, however dissimilar in form and attributes; one great whole animated by the breath of life. The most important result of an inquiry into nature is therefore to establish the unity and harmony of this, to comprehend nature, to lift the veil that shrouds her phenomena.” Cosmos Alexander von Humboldt
“Such is the lesson of ancient philosophy: an invitation to each human being to transform himself. Philosophy is a transformation of one’s way of being and living, and a quest for wisdom.” – Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life
THE LAW OF THREE
This course takes a more systematic and practical look at the three guṇāh, introduced in the introductory course. The knowledge of the guṇāh is the key to self-mastery. Knowledge of their play brings greater understanding to all aspects of life, providing perspective, understanding and the opportunity to respond freely to every situation we meet.
Ultimately, such knowledge leads to transcendence and freedom from the influence of the guṇāh. The Bhagavad Gītā says that this knowledge releases us from bondage and carries us to liberation.
“I shall declare that supreme knowledge, the best of all forms of knowledge; by knowing which, all the sages have passed from this world to the highest perfection.”
(Bhagavad Gita 14.1, Swami Chidbhāvānanda)
THE FIVE KOSHA
The five kosha work much like clouds when they cover the sun. The sun does not stop shining and is unaffected by the clouds and yet, when covered, its light appears much dimmer. When the clouds depart the sun is seen to be shining in all its glory still.
So it is with the essence of our being. It can be hidden from sight, but this does not mean that it has ceased to be. There is a story in the Taittirīya Upanishad Knowledge about how these five kosha are like nests for being. Although the five kosha can conceal the self from view, they can also be the very means for displaying the glory of the self.
Each kosha is progressively more refined and more subtle than the one before. Understanding their nature means being free of their limits. Being free of their limits makes it possible to know your self as you truly are.
The very idea of harmony has its origins in the principles of music. In musical composition, seven principal notes are arranged and re-arranged according to time and rhythm. The variety of musical forms testifies to the infinite potential available to anyone who knows about the octave and follows the rules of music.
Just as music has rules, so does the realm of action. Nature creates mountains, builds rivers, carves out continents and regulates the ebb and flow of the oceans, all because it’s built to follow rules. Human beings, however, have the freedom to choose – if they know about how to act harmoniously, they can do so. Our minds can act in harmony with our hearts and our actions can act in harmony with the needs of the actor, the needs of others and the needs of the universe.
The result is internal harmony, harmony with the world around us and harmony with the universe.