rambam 13.4 + illustrator

“Underneath the subtlest level of all that exists in the relative field is the abstract, absolute level of Pure Being, which is unmanifested and transcendental. It is neither matter nor energy. It is Pure Being, the state of pure existence. This state of pure existence underlies all that exists. Everything is the expression of this pure existence or absolute Being, which is the essential constituent of all relative life. The one, eternal, unmanifested, absolute Being manifests itself in many forms of lives and existences in creation.” [1]

I began doing TM in 1971 because, among other reasons, it specifically presented itself as not being a religion.

Yet, it ultimately opened up the meaning of Judaism and Torah to me.

One might say that it was because I was introduced to certain ideas, like the one above. Yet, visiting other meditation and yoga groups over the years, I found that the same ideas were only vaguely understood, if at all, while to even the newest TM’er, they were far more comprehensible. Why? Because Maharishi wasn’t teaching an impersonal philosophy. Rather, he was explaining to us the personal experience we were having in meditation. Part of his genius as a teacher was to take the deepest teachings and explain them without unnecessarily complicated terminology.

I admit that although terms like “Pure Being” or “Pure Consciousness” were initially puzzling to me, they didn’t seem as remote as similar terms I’d read about in Philosophy courses.

Still, there was a certain “alien-ness” about it to me at first. I’d never heard of anything like “Pure Being” in my Hebrew school classes! Nor was it familiar from any services I’d attended.

In fact, it was partly to find out what Judaism might teach about this that I began to learn and returned to attending services.

As I started, it seemed to me as if everything suggested this, usually without being explicit about it.

Eventually, I came upon Maimonides’ (Rambam’s) teaching [2] (depicted in the illustration above):

“1. The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being. 2. If one would imagine that He [or: It] does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.
3. If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him [or: It] exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them…
4. This is implied by the prophet’s statement: ‘And God, your Lord, is true’ [3] – i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah’s statement: ‘There is nothing else aside from Him’ [4] – i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.”

I recognized this as identical with Maharishi’s teaching.

It was that similarity that later inspired me to do the above illustration.

Maimonides’ wording is based in some ways on Aristotle, but the Rambam himself saw the same teaching echoed in the most primary of Jewish sources — including a major prophet (Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah); even Torah. Countless rabbis subsequently based their own teachings on the Rambam’s, further validating it as an accepted part of Jewish tradition.

Kabbalah, too, is ultimately about this fundamental unity, as shown by Rabbi Mosheh Cordovero’s illustration:

Cordovero sfirot

Rabbi Cordovero — known popularly as the “Ramak” (based on the initial letters of Rabbi Mosheh Cordovero) — shows the 10 “sfirot” or emanations from the Infinite by the initial letters of their names, one-within-the other, starting with “C/Kaph” for “Keter.” In some schools of Kabbalah, “Keter” is synonymous with what Maharishi calls “Pure Being” and the Rambam calls “Primary Being.” The Ramak  is telling us that all is emanating from the Infinite, represented by “Kaph (Keter);” perhaps even by the infinite-seeming space around and within it. To best understand this illustration, keep in mind that each successive emanation is based on the existence of Kaph/Keter; without Kaph, nothing else could exist. It is, in Maharishi’s words, the “essential constituent.” Each emanation is “Kaph” appearing in increasingly material form; yet the entire creation — including all possible multiple universes — exists as barely an infinitesimal dot in the “Mem” at the center of the illustration. Note: In other schools of Kabbalah, the Infinite, called “Ain Soph” (“No End”), is not depicted at all because, as both the Rambam and Maharishi say, it’s beyond any finite quality; nothing can “depict” or “represent” it.

Contemporary students of Kabbalah sometimes become over-entangled in the complexities and lose the over-all (or: under-lying) Unity that Kabbalah is about. Here again, Maharishi’s simple teaching clarifies it perfectly.

Interestingly, at one time, I briefly attended lectures by someone who had studied classical Vedanta under a swami (not a Western academic). “Vedanta” is the non-dual branch of Indian philosophy, and the tradition of which Maharishi’s teacher was a master. When I showed the lecturer the Rambam’s words, she commented: “That’s Vedanta!”

It’s also interesting to note here that both the Rambam’s and Ramak’s personal name — “Mosheh” — and Maharishi’s — “Mahesh” — are based on the same 3 consonants: M-H-Sh (Sh is a single consonant/phoneme in Hebrew and Sanskrit/Hindi, whereas in English, it’s made by combining 2 consonants: S and H).

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[1] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; The Science of Being and Art of Living; International SRM Publications, © 1961 (revised 1966), p. 27

[2Maimonides; Mishnah Torah/Book of Knowledge 1:1-4

[3] Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah 10:10

[4] D’varim/Deuteronomy 4:35