On the first full moon in spring, we celebrate Easter. It's an old heathen celebration marking both the equinox and the fact that the days in the Northern hemisphere are starting to get longer again. During our Easter retreat at Sampurna Seminar House, we asked ourselves the question what Christian Easter and the teachings of the Upaniṣads have in common.
Blissful mind in spring
At the time of the Easter celebrations, people from our cultural sphere observe and enjoy that the birds start to sing again early in the morning, that there are the first budding plants and that they themselves experience a certain "spring fever". We often perceive this as a time when we can experience the "divine" in ourselves and at which we feel at one with nature on our first walk through the forest. Of course, the same can happen when we're leisurely browsing the weekly market and see that the first primroses, forget-me-nots and tulips in the most beautiful colors are on offer at the stalls.
The dissolution of the I-maker
The unity of our own self and God and our own self and nature are two basic thoughts of the Upaniṣads, also called "secret teachings". The R̥ṣi (= seers) of this time realized that an internal transformation or, respectively, the recognition of the divine are connected with an internal death. When the ego, or I-maker (Ahaṁkāra) as he is called in the Upaniṣads, is dissolved, what remains is a pure form of perception or consciousness. Then, we are no longer dealing with "my perspective" on things but with "perception" of the world. Then our consciousness, freed from the ego (Ahaṁkāra), can see the world as it is.
Yoga as a "near-death experience"
Such "near-death experiences" with the dissolution of our I-maker can also be had during intensive yoga practice; they allow us to intuitively grasp the essence of the Upaniṣads. From this point of view, Christian Easter can likewise gain a new significance. Symbolically, we can understand Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection as the Upaniṣhads' becoming one with the divine. Thus, the religious philosophical texts from different backgrounds describe a transformation of the human mind and soul, thereby drawing upon different images by way of illustration.