Extracts from
Twenty Years in the Cycle of Synthesis:
Reflections on the Teachings of Ganesh Baba

by Eve Neuhaus

Ganesh Baba was a mendicant monk of the orthodox Dasnami order of Shaivite ascetics, a wandering renunciate of the sect of holy men, sadhus, known as the Nagas. His titles indicate that he is Shri, highly honored, Mahant, head of a monastery (Alaknath Naga Sanyasi Akhara, Bareilly), and both a member of the "mountain" or fierce warrior (Giri) and the intellectual (Saraswati) divisions of the Dasnami orders. The Naga Akhara movement was founded in the 8th century by Adi Shankara Acharya when he established a group of militant, initiated followers whose task was to protect pilgrims and sadhus from robbers and other enemies. Nagas, which means "naked,", are usually nude, or close to it, and gray with ash rubbed all over their bodies. Many Naga sadhus have very long beards and dreadlocks or "Shiva-hair" knotted in huge buns. Some carry short-range weapons like sticks, knives, or most often, tridents. They commonly smoke a mixture of hashish (charas) and tobacco in great chillums, large-mouthed, tapering cylindrical pipes, in emulation of Shiva, who is in a perpetual state of higher consciousness.

Ganesh Baba was as unconventional a guru as one can imagine. Embodying the spirit of Ganesh, the Hindu god whose name he bore, complete with potbelly, he was alternately fierce and gentle, wise and outrageous, scathingly critical and joyfully playful, demanding sweets despite his diabetes and then raging when we supplied them, opening wide the doors of perception while passionately counseling moderation.

Between outrageous outbursts of laughter or anger, Ganesh Baba always returned to his main purpose, teaching Kriya yoga, or as he began to call it, Crea — for creativity and creation — yoga. First and central to his teaching was maintaining one's posture. "Carry your cross as a cross," he would say, pulling his shoulders back and making the Sign of the Cross on his chest. Shoulders up and back, lumbar region concave, we learned to breathe from the abdomen. "Once you have accomplished these two, everything else will follow," he told us.

For many years Ganesh Baba had been formulating a synthesis of eastern and western ideas, of religion and science, of ancient and contemporary thinking.  ...  Wholeness, synthesis, often the synthesis of crea yoga and modern science, was always Baba's purpose and his passion. Almost everyone who met him was eventually given a copy of a diagram called the Cycle of Synthesis ...  But the ultimate synthesis he sought was much grander:

That Ultimate Universal Unity (U3) appears to enlightened human beings as an effulgent aura, the resplendent Light of Lights — the Source of all Lights, the Source of All. That Ultimate Universal Unity the ancient seers called by various names, Brahma, the Uncaused First Cause, Bodhisattva, God, Ahura-Mazda, Jehovah, Allah, Om, Amen. Having realized this Unity behind all the apparent diversity of the objective universe, it is easy enough to project it onto the tiniest conceivable bit of matter or into the myriad stellar constellation hurtling in the vast ocean of space; into the event of this moment or into the event of millions of eons ago or into events billions of millennia hence.

So from One we have come to All as from the All we had proceeded to the One. The One is in All and the All in in the One — that is what even the findings of modern science lead to, even as the final findings of ancient science led to.

All authentic esoteric traditions convey the same essential information, he told us. In the Sufi tradition, there is a concept, ta'wil, which indicates the conveyance of meaning through an image or experience where the experience has primacy rather than the meaning. In allegory and symbolism, Western concepts, meaning is primary. For me, Kriya initiation was an experience of ta'wil. In addition to passing on an apparently psychophysical facility to generate, or perhaps to locate, internal sound and light during meditation, it also conveyed a sort of subliminal map showing how the sensible and non-sensible worlds are connected in non-linear ways.

All this is contained in the Cycle of Synthesis as Baba used it.  ...  The diagram posits creation and evolution as a continuous cycle, beginning with pure consciousness becoming aware of itself, so creating duality, which, in turn, creates a third by combining, and then doubling so it becomes eight, an octave, which iterates until the entire diversity of our existence exists. As in Sankhya, a spark of pure consciousness (purusha), in differentiating (prakriti), becomes denser and denser until it forms matter. Matter, still containing the original spark, then begins its upward path, becoming less dense as it evolves back through the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual realms, and eventually merges back into undifferentiated consciousness. The material world, then, is created out of consciousness.

The eight divisions in the diagram correspond to the chakras, making the Tantric assumption that there is an analogical relationship between the human body and the cosmos. Ganesh Baba interpreted the levels we can sense as matter, energy, space, and time, i.e., Einstein's space-time continuum. The next four levels cannot be seen. He identifies them as life, mind, intelligence and consciousness. The more subtle levels are drawn from ancient yogic psychology. In Sankya, creation, or involution as it is sometimes called, proceeds from prakriti, undifferentiated primal matter, to buddhi or mahat, intelligence, which Heinrich Zimmer translates as "the suprapersonal potentiality of experiences", to ahankara, "egoity" in Zimmer, and "mind" on the Cycle of Synthesis, to the level of the fives: bhutas, manas, jnanendriyas, tanmatras, all of which are associated with life on Earth. All these levels of existence, according to Ganesh Baba, exist outside of space and time; they are in us and yet they surround us, and we "see" them clearly only with a trained eye.

Ganesh Baba embodied the concept of synthesis as paradox in his very being: he was truly like a mirror, becoming his surroundings. He was at once the wildest crazy man any of us had ever met and the most serious of all teachers.

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Twenty Years in the Cycle of Synthesis:
Reflections on the Teachings of Ganesh Baba

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