Personal Enlightenment? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Pictures in this article are by long term HarshaSatsangh member Alan Larus from his website at http://www.ferryfee.com/.

The Self as Satyam-Shivam-Sundram (Truth, Consciousness, Beauty)

The spiritual path is difficult from one perspective because the Self, the ultimate Reality that we are, is not clear to us as individuals. Some people say that Enlightenment is not personal. That is just a fashion statement.

Enlightenment is as personal as it gets. The Self is both personal and impersonal. It is personal because it is you. How can it be any more personal? It is impersonal because its existence (your ultimate nature) is not dependent on time and space bound relationships.

As a mind/body, we are subject to the whims of nature and circumstances (karma). This clouds the understanding of our essential nature. So the teacher or a friend whom we trust is needed to tell us that our nature is not that of the body.

Suffering is natural to the body because it is subject to physical forces. When the sages use the word body, they include the mind. The mental body is also a body but more subtle, made up of more subtle matter, but still matter. If we believe our Self to be the body, the inevitable changes in the body will be a source of fear and anxiety.

So the Body is one thing and the Atman (Soul or Self) is another. The mind/body complex is always subject to change, old age, illness, and suffering at some level. The Atman, who we are, though appearing to be related to the body, is untouched by these.

Bhagavan Krishna, in fact, points this out to Arjuna in the classic Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad-Gita.

Sri Krishna states:

“The Atma is neither born nor does it die at any time, nor having been it will cease to exist again. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Atma is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.” (2.20)

“Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding the old ones, similarly Atma acquires new bodies after casting away the old bodies.” (2.22)

“Weapons do not cut this Atma, fire does not burn it, water does not make it wet, and the wind does not make it dry.” (2.23).

If we fully understand this dualism, we will not have to struggle to understand nondualism.

Nondualism or Advaita (in Sanskrit) is not an understanding but our essential nature.

The nature of Atman is nondual because Atman is “Being-Awareness” resting in its own nature without any external support. Atman is not free, there being nothing to free itself from. Its very nature is that of absolute freedom.

We cannot conclude this logically but only by Being That. In Self-Realization, Knowing the Self is Being the Self. This Knowing transcends logic, because all distinctions cease. Logic needs duality in order to function. Duality ceases through Self-Knowledge alone.

If you know the Self, what does it mean? You cannot know the Self as an object. You are the Self. Therefore, it is always the Self knowing It Self. The mind cannot fully grasp this unless it has become transparent and fully saturated in the Self, where it knows that it is only the Self knowing itself through It Self.

Maharishi Patanjali says the same thing about the nature of the Self in his yogic classic “Patanjali Sutras”. Ultimately, the Seer rests in His Own Nature. That is the highest Samadhi. Self is Samadhi. Self is Nirvikalpa, beyond imagination and thought. Self is Sahaj or natural and always visible to itself as pure being despite imagination and thought. In Self, Seeing and Being are the same.

In Hinduism, the Reality is often referred to as Satyam-Shivam-Sundram. Truth-Consciousness-Beauty. That which is of the nature of the ultimate truth, pure consciousness, and the essence of beauty is the Self. One’s own Self.

It is of such overwhelming beauty because the devotee who worships the God or the Self with all love and might and with desperation suddenly realizes that the devotee and God are in essence identical. The seeker had been looking for something that constituted the core of his/her very own Being and Existence. God being infinite leaves no room for the devotee as a separate person to exist. That is Grace. That is Advaita. Imagine the shock!

First the shock, and then the smile. Of course, how could it be anything else? The Lord always sits in our Heart as our own Heart. Where else can we find the mystery of existence and our own reality except in our own Heart.

This Realization is one of supreme beauty. The one that you had been longing for has been here all along as your own Self.

That is why I say that Self is Absolutely Personal! Self is empty of all concepts. Its nature is that of completion that is devoid of all longing. Its nature is that of utter fullness that has no where to flow out to, nothing to see, nothing to be. That is why Self is also Impersonal!

Because the Self is One without a second, upon Realization, we see that both Personal and Impersonal are identical in the Self. There is no difference. That is nonduality. That is Advaita.

How can we describe the Self with mind as our tool? We can do so by our experience of this state and through the abidance of the mind in the Heart. The ancients called the Self “Sat-Chit-Ananda”. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, as one complete Whole with no parts.

It has no basis for comparison and no reference point. By inference, we can say that it is the essence of beauty and bliss. To Know It Is To Be It. In this very moment, you are the That!

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Meeting Nisargadatta Maharaj: By Dr. Lakshyan Schanzer

My name is Lakshyan Schanzer. I have been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation since 1971. I am also a psychologist and practice a meditative approach to psychotherapy. This is my first writing about my experiences with Nisargadatta Maharaj.

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By 1978 I had been practicing and teaching for about 7 years (primarily Integral Yoga) and had reached a ‘wall’ in my practice. I was having wonderful experiences/results on a daily basis. Yet, for me, these experiences were just that; only experiences. Yes, they were important and healing ones, bringing revelations and insights into my history, release of deep feelings, or guidance about the coming day or accurate premonitions about the future.

Continue reading

Icon Painting As A Spiritual Path: By Gabriele Ebert

Gabriele Ebert is a well known German librarian, scholar, and a painter. For information on her books and German translations, please go to the bottom of the article. Gabriele is a long term member of HarshaSatsangh and has been active in Sri Ramana groups for many years. She has served as an inspiration and a role model for all of us with her dedication to the interfaith approach to spirituality. Because Gabriele’s native tongue is German, I did some minor editing on this article and accept responsibility for any mistakes which may have occurred because of that. Fortunately, in this medium, mistakes can easily be corrected once we become aware of them. Enjoy the article. The Icons are stunning and beautiful! Thank you Gabriele for your generous sharing.

The Personal Story

Eleousa (Mother of Mercy)

It was 16 years ago that I discovered icon painting as a spiritual path. This door opened when at one Christmas eve my mother presented me with an icon of the Theothokos (Mother of God). Looking at it I was sure that I would start to paint as well. I felt drawn to painting and through it discovered a creative spiritual path.

Over the years I found different teachers for learning the technique – and later the Jesus prayer (see below).

Icons are enjoyed by many. Most of all it is wonderful if an icon can find its home in a meditation-room or prayer-edge, where it is dedicated to its original meaning.

This icon of St. John of the Cross has found its home in the prayer room of the Carmelite Monastery in Dolgellau, Wales.

Christ the Vine” is in the meditation-room the Christian Zen-center in Eintürnen, Germany.

Icons – What Are They?

“Sad Christ”

The home of the icons is the Christian Orthodox Church. The earliest icons were painted in the 6th century in Byzantium. From there they later came to Russia and to all other Orthodox countries. Most of the earliest icons have been lost. The oldest collection of icons is found at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai.

Icons play an important role in the liturgical service, and also in the public life and of course for the individual. An icon is a steady companion from the cradle to the grave.

The icons are not individual paintings but rather in the individual. These painting come through the individual by spiritual grace and in a sense the painter does not count. So icons are normally not signed to claim ownership. Outwardly, icons follow fixed patterns and change of the pattern is only possible in a rather limited way as they are real “copies” of the one reality, which represents itself in various pictures and stories.

Icons are of great help for concentration, for prayer, for awareness of the ever-presence of Christ or Mary or the Saints. They are called “Gates to Heaven” or “Windows to Eternity”. If you look at an icon in candle-light, the gold and painting shines in an unearthly magic. The faces are serene, the gestures and colors are full of meaning. The more one dives into this world, the more one becomes drawn into it and the mind becomes silent.

The Path of the Painter

“To paint and to pray are the same thing” (Balthus)

Jesus with animals

I have always felt that this kind of painting is by special grace and has something in it which can’t be compared with other types of paintings. This kind of painting is devotion and prayer – prayer with the brush, so to say. So this “doing” needs not only much outer care, but also inner care. One should not do it with a distracted or unclean mind. According to tradition it is good to have a prayer before starting. The inner attitude should be giving up the sense of doership – which reminds one of Sri Ramana’s instruction as well. It can also be seen as an exercise for just being an instrument of God, which should become a reality in all our actions.

The Jesus-prayer (also known as the Prayer of the Heart) is a short prayer, which should be continuously repeated. The words are: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”

Like the icons, it comes from the Orthodox church. The prayer also can be shortened to just the call: “Jesus Christ!” or whatever one prefers. One repeats it as often as one can. In some way it can be compared with nama-japa. It helps to silence the mind and lead it to one thought. With practice it starts to become automatic (self-doing) and sinks into the heart. Yet at each stage it always stays as a prayer in you. The Philokalia – a collection of texts on the Jesus-prayer – can be a wonderful companion on this path. It is recommended in “The Way of a Pilgrim”, which most know who practice the Prayer of the Heart.

It is not so long ago that I discovered – or better re-discovered – the Jesus-prayer when reading this book (“The Way of a Pilgrim”). I felt immediately that this is a wonderful complement to the icon-painting as well. From the tradition of the icon-painters I have found out that my main-model, the famous Russian icon painter Andrej Rubljow must have practiced it. I am sure that his icons reflect it and speak through it.

Icons Interfaith

“Dakshinamurti-Ramana” – an icon dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi

Icon of Narada

Mostly I am painting icons in the Christian tradition. Yet it happened that this Ramana-icon was painted and also some icons of Narada (the bhakti-musician). When being in Tiruvannamalai in 2003 and seeing the paintings in one of the shines of the Arunachaleswara-temple I was reminded of the icon-painting. Also there seems to be a connection to the Buddhist paintings as well. I am sure that the same thing has found its expressions in many religions.

If you would like to see more and get information about the technical side of this kind of painting you can visit:

http://icons.interfaith.googlepages.com/

Gabriele

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Gabriele Ebert lives in Germany and works as a librarian.

Recent Books by Gabriele Ebert are:

Ramana Maharshi: Sein Leben, Stuttgart, 2003

Sadhu Arunachala: Erinnerungen eines Sadhus, Berlin, 2004 (German transl.)

Both books are available at amazon.de and can be ordered from each German book-shop.