3 responses to the Other, or to our own shadow:
1. Annihilate - remove or destroy it
2. Assimilate - engulf it and sand down its edges so that it becomes no different
In the Mahabharata, King Janamejaya thinks to annihilate the snakes, the nagas: the Other, the shadow, the dark, unseen shapes that rise from underneath. This effort at annihilation will result in self-annihilation.
Shankara's opening commentary on the Bhagavad Gita defines nivrtti vs pravrtti traditions: unless you turn from (nivrtti) the endless process of consumption of desire, you are subject to samsara.
Nivrtti or renunciate traditions have an inherently parasitic feature --- those who turn from the world are supported by those within it.
In the case of nivritti traditions, annihilation as a response and strategy toward Otherness or shadow is in this case turned inward --- it is the self that has to be annihilated.
For the early Vedic peoples, the Other is always adversarial --- there are 31 instances of snake (ahi) and the mythic archetypal demon is Vrtra, the giant serpent.
Yet no more numerically dominant feature in the Hindu temple than the naga, the snake.
The Aryan gods come from above --- Rudra (proto-Shiva) comes from the vault of the sky, and becomes Shiva, who comes from the vault of our consciousness (the skull) --- yoga becomes re-manifest and interiorized.
The Ayyappa story suggests that often the uncomfortable thing (Ayyappa) is your solution.
Indra stories suggest ways you protect yourself by creating the threat of the Other.
Masculine toxicity - only counts the self.
Feminine toxicity - fails to count the self.
Tillai Kali must further fragment herself in order to midwife the birth of Ayyappa --- striving to unify the selves only presents the Other --- "uttanita" - to turn it inside out.
We must not only reconcile discomfort, but discomfort must become our asset.
Some background comparisons:
Great Beings in the non-Vedic traditions --- Buddhism, Jainism --- are unencumbered by boundaries and are further exempt from karma (cause and effect).
For example the Buddha, the saints of Jainism.
The non-Vedic and then the later Vedic traditions, noticeably in the Bhagavad Gita, moralize karma/causality --- samsara is the result of moral failures.
Moral failures create more samsara, and the paradox of this view is that moral success does not extricate us from samsara, either.
The Vedic "great beings," on the other hand, are way more complicated than morally perfect.
The Bhagavad Gita sits at the pivot point of paradigms of morality, while early Hindu thinking binds karma in a process of realizing Dharma, or of recognizing and relating to the true natures of things, while at the same time realizing those natures are diverse, complementary and conflicting.
Early Hindu thinking also stresses that nature has no moral component --- it is about power - desire - interest - advantage - success.
Later stories conflate morality and goodness with nature.
The Bhagavad Gita reconfigures the paradox of experience and existence into a problem, which can then be solved.
The bondage/liberation models posit that there is something deeply problematic about the human experience, and they suggest there is a solution to this problem.
Finally, this model suggests you are not supposed to want the world, you are supposed to want the solution.
In this way, these models are repurposing desire --- they are telling you what you should want in the world, e.g. spiritual, not material, some capital-letter-word vs. lower-case word.
To embrace the paradox harks back to early Vedic thinking, which is built on paradox --- the Vedic world of ritual demands efficiency, not finality: the world is comprised of chronic habits, cycles, patterns --- they can't be "fixed" or "solved," rather, they are to be addressed --- again and again.
The Vedic world suggests things are true because they can be repeated --- that is, they favor predictives over outcomes. They strive to get it right rather than have it all add up, and it is a world of the relentless performance of tasks.
If you can never get it perfectly right, as in the Vedic world, and you can never find the end-point, as in the world of the ascetic --- what is the alternative?
The world is stochastic, suggesting an inherent randomness gives rise to order --- contrast with a world that was once perfectly ordered and has since decayed or "fallen."
Experience relies more on predictions than outcomes.
naga - snake; cobra; "thing that curves"
sarpa - serpent; from root meaning twist and turn
ahi - snake; from which we receive the German word "angst" and English "anxiety"
The naga is the way information presents itself, twisting and turning; it is the bits and spaces between the information; finally, it is the information itself.
The world is made of nagas, increments of constantly bending, curving information. Our job is not to resolve the naga, but to receive it.
The good news is anywhere you start in a stochastic world is fine --- you're always in the middle.
The first step is to not resist --- this is the way the world comes --- anxiety is part of the world. Limitations are not to be resisted, rather they are to be received.
We are born into a world that imposes terms on us, and that world includes your angst.
The stories find the nagas high in the sky, or deeply submerged --- deep in the subconscious.
There are 5 types of paradox, 5 keys into the mythic world:
Stories like the Mahabharata are not designed for comprehensibility --- they are designed to keep you in the game and keep you interested.
Note on the mythic character of the nagas:
Nagas are understood to be most powerful.
There are five reasons a naga will bite:
1. When threatened
3. Pursuing its own interests, or attacking
4. To eat
5. To digest
Within our venom is the alchemy of nourishment.
--- Constrictor nagas are the same --- only they squeeze rather than bite.
The naga stands for ambivalence and ambiguity, disequilibrium and destabilization, and finally twisting and turning: there's always a way in, or a way out.
Tomorrow's deity: when betrayed by Shiva, Parvati becomes Kali in her rage --- she must become Nagavaishnarupini in order to midwife the illegitimate son and reconcile with Shiva.
The naga tells us all food is a form of injury.
Jason owns and directs Portland Ashtanga Yoga.