In Praise of Shri Bhagavan: By Alan Adams Jacobs

aruna_43

In Praise of Shri Bhagavan
by Alan Adams Jacobs

Let’s give thanks to great Lord Ramana,
For his boundless Grace and Jnana teaching;
He grants silent diksha without vain preaching,
And the precious gift of atma vichara,
His directly liberating, true sadhana.
His eternal presence is close; ever reaching
The hearts of all devotees, so breaching
Mad ego’s fortress of dark avidya.
We feel devotion through our gratitude,
For leading us out of dread samsara;
He bestows full faith, strength and fortitude,
He transmits the power of Arunachala.

Bhagavan27

Ever our loving guardian and guide,
Deep in our hearts his lotus feet abide.

Photos courtesy of Shri Ramanaashram

The Ribhu Gita: By Richard Clarke

Your true nature is always the undivided, nondual Brahman,
Which is a mass of Being-Consciousness-Bliss,
Motionless, ancient, still,
Eternal, without attributes,
Without confusions, without sheaths,
Without parts, without impurity,
Completely free from any illusion of duality,
Full, peerless, and the One.

From Song of Ribhu, Chapter two.

The Ribhu Gita is a spiritual text that was extensively used by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was one of the first books he read after Self-Realization, one whose message clearly accorded with what he had realized within himself. For many years during his life it was read to those at Ramanasramam. It is still read at Ramanasramam today. Ramana’s use and recommendation of this text has brought it into much wider visibility among those interested in his teachings and Advaita Vedanta.

Papaji reading from The Ribhu Gita

A number of teachers in the tradition of Sri Ramana have been using these translations of the Ribhu Gita in their teaching. Above is a picture of Papaji reading from the English Translation of the Sanskrit version.

The Ribhu Gita is a book that is best read aloud, a few verses at one time. It is in an ancient form designed to be chanted, and they way it is written is most conducive to reading aloud, even if one is reading it to oneself.

The Ribhu Gita presents the timeless teaching of Self Knowledge, emphasized by Advaita Vedanta. Its fundamental tenet is the identity of the Self with Brahman, a term signifying the vast Absolute. This scripture presents the teaching given by the sage, Ribhu, to Nidaga to become enlightened into his true nature.

According to Annamalai Swami, “Bhagavan often said that we should read and study the Ribhu Gita regularly. In the Ribhu Gita it is said, ‘That bhavana “I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am Brahman, I am everything” is to be repeated again and again until this becomes the natural state.”

In describing the Self or Brahman, negation is primarily used because the Self can never be an object, can never be what is perceived or conceived. By negation in the process of Self-inquiry, the ignorance of identifying ones own existence with an individual body and mind is destroyed. This “destruction” of ignorance is really not the destruction of anything real, as the false identification as an individual just consists of assumptions, ideas. What remains after this so-called destruction is not anything new. It is not something achieved. It is not a transformation. It is what has been your innermost identity all the time.

As all differences are an illusory appearance
On Brahman, which is not different from the Self,
Due to conditionings of the Self like the defect of nescience (ignorance)
And conditionings of Brahman like maya (Illusion, delusion),
One should realize, by a practice of negation,
That all appearances are not a whit different from the substratum
And one should cognize the originless, endless,
Undivided identity of the Self and Brahman.

From Song of Ribhu, Chapter One

“The text is a relentless reiteration of uncompromising Advaita―that the Supreme Brahman, ‘That,’ is all that exists and exists not, that nothing else exists, the Self is Brahman and Brahman is the Self, I am that, I am all, and That is myself. This Awareness is moksha (liberation) which is attained by the way of knowledge and the certitude I-am-Brahman,” says Dr. H Ramamoorthy, one of the co-translators, in his Translator’s Introduction to the English translation of the Sanskrit version published by The Society of Abidance in Truth in 1995.

The origins of the Ribhu Gita are uncertain. It is contained within the Sivarahasya, an ancient Sanskrit epic devoted to Siva. It has been compared to the better-known Bhagavad Gita, contained within the epic, Mahabharata. Similar dialogs between Ribhu and Nidagha on the Self and Brahman are also found within the traditional 108 Upanisads, so it appears that the origin of the Ribhu Gita dates from the Upanisadic period, generally thought to be about 600 BCE.

The Ribhu Gita exists in two forms, the traditional Sanskrit version, and a Tamil version rendered in the late 1800s by Bhikshu Sastrigal, also known as Ulagantha Swamigal. Both versions have been translated into English by Dr. H. Ramamoorthy, a Sanskrit and Tamil scholar, and Nome, a Self-Realized sage in the United States of America, who realized the Truth revealed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Ribhu Gita in 1974. Both books, The Ribhu Gita and The Song of Ribhu (the Sanskrit and Tamil versions of the text) have been printed by the society of Abidance in Truth (SAT) and are available from their website (www.satramana.org).

These English translations have become the basis for a widening appreciation of this ancient nondual work. Translations have been made from these English translations into a number of other languages, including Italian, and Hindi. The Song of Ribhu has also been reprinted by Sri Ramanasramam and is available from their bookstore.

In addition to these two complete translations, there have been a number of partial translations published. One is a small pamphlet, Essence of Ribhu, available by download from Sri Ramanasramam – www.sriramanamaharshi.org . The other is The Heart of the Ribhu Gita, by F Jones, Los Angeles: Dawn Horse, 1973.

Nome at satsang

Nome has been teaching Self-inquiry, as taught by Sri Ramana, for about 30 years. He gives satsangs and holds retreats at the temple of The Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), in Santa Cruz, CA, USA. For more information go to http://www.satramana.org. He has translated and published a number of books of Advaita Vedanta that otherwise would not be available in English. Many of these translations were done in collaboration with Dr. Ramamoorthy.

Meditation, Self-Inquiry, and Self-Realization: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Bhagavan Ramana Reclining

Bhagavan Ramana Reclining

The distinction between Meditation and Self-Inquiry is subtle. However, in one way, understanding this difference is central to grasping the full import of teachings of the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sri Ramana used to say that meditations, affirmations, and other similar techniques presuppose the retention of the mind. To practice a mantra, visualization, pranayama, etc., requires the use and activity of the mind as an independent agent separate from the higher power. One of Sri Ramana’s favorite analogy was that asking the mind to subdue itself is like asking a thief to go ahead and capture itself. The mind will make a game of it, pretend to control itself, but will remain engaged in playing hide and seek.

Certain meditation practices no doubt have a calming and a relaxing effect. However, Sri Ramana states that in all such approaches, the mind remains dormant only temporarily. It rushes forth after sleep or meditation in its individual form when the proper stimulation presents itself. With all practices conducted with the mind, that have an object as their focus (mantra, breath, image, etc.), the seed of duality is already built in.

Someone once asked Sri Ramana whether Self-Inquiry that he advocated was also not a mental activity. If so, it must be presumed as having the same difficulty and limitation as other meditative techniques.

Sri Ramana acknowledged that Self-Inquiry also made use of the mind in initial stages. However, he held that in asking oneself the question “Who am I?” in a serious, alert, and an intense way, the mind was being concentrated and driven inwards towards its Source. This Source is not a form or a sound but the very origin from which the mind arises.

Therefore, in Self-Inquiry, the full power of attention is brought to bear upon this question, “Who am I”? This question does not have an intellectual answer. Asking it is meant for becoming aware of consciousness as existence that permeates us as our root identity. It is this feeling and sense that everyone has of themselves as “I Am”. From childhood to old age, we are aware of this sense of existence without having to give it a name.

This subtle awareness has no form. It is this self-awareness, independent of thoughts, that one has to abide in and follow to the Source. If grace allows for that, the Supreme Heart that the ancients called Sat-Chit-Ananda, reveals It Self. It is really a Self-Revelation. The Heart is recognized as one’s own identity independent of thoughts, personality, mind, etc.

Sri Ramana maintained that although Self-Inquiry required initial use of the mind, after a certain point a spontaneous power took over. The response to serious Self-Inquiry comes from within. Sri Ramana referred to this Source within as the Heart. Self-Inquiry stirred the inner power of the Heart which then became like a magnet pulling the mind within so that Self-Recognition and Self-Realization of Supreme Bliss as our nature could take place.

Namaste

Self-Inquiry_The Science of Self-Realization: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

According to Advaita Vedanta, the science of Self-Realization (which we call Self-Inquiry), requires a different approach than the sciences involved in discovering the complexities of the Universe. Both approaches are similar in one way in that our consciousness with focused attention and awareness is used as an instrument of perception to gain knowledge.

Sciences involving the exploration of the universe and its laws focus the attention outside to perceived objects (time, space, matter, laws of motion, gravity, mass, etc.) to determine their nature. When attention and awareness are focused on such analysis, the relationships between various objects according to universal laws becomes clear. This is due to the inherent power of consciousness to discover and make known to itself anything that it focuses attention on. That is how sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Medicine, etc.) move forward.

However, the theoretical limit to understanding objective phenomena is always there to the extent that the observed phenomena is based on the very nature of the observer. It is not clear how precisely the relationship between the subject and the object can be determined scientifically. Philosophically, this is due to the logical difficulty of separating the subject from the object and demonstrating their independence.

Science of the Self, however, is a radical departure from the physical sciences and has a different aim. Here attention is directed inwards towards the subject and not outwards towards objects of perception. The classic methodology given by Sri Ramana for Self-Inquiry is to ask oneself with attention and inquire, “Who am I?” This is done in order to introvert the mind and drive it deeper into its source. In Self-Inquiry, the quality of consciousness itself becomes the center of attention. In this method, consciousness is not focused anywhere or on anything other than itself.

Language is not perfect but there are many ways to say this. Attention focused on attention itself is Self-Inquiry. Consciousness becoming self-focused is Self-Inquiry. Mind turning inwards to its source is Self-Inquiry. Awareness aware of itself is Self-Inquiry. All of these are variations of the same process and basically refer to the same thing. These statements indicate that one should quietly abide in one’s own sense of identity and being with full awareness.

This is not an easy notion to grasp. The Self-Inquiry methodology does not present the aspirant with an image or a sound to concentrate on. Because we are so dependent on our sense of hearing and sight even for meditation and prayer, Self-Inquiry presents a challenge. People often find it difficult to know what to focus in doing the Self-Inquiry because they associate their identity and thus consciousness strongly with the body.

This is why Sri Ramana used to say that Self-Inquiry is not for everyone to take on immediately. I have observed this phenomena carefully for a long time. People find meditation, yoga, tantra, chakras, and kundalini methods much more interesting and exciting to talk about and practice than Self-Inquiry. It is because all of these Yoga systems are directly or indirectly based on producing changes in the physical or the subtle bodies which one can experience.

Consumption of experience in some form or another is natural to all living beings. Self-Inquiry points, however, to the subject; the one who experiences. What is the nature of the one who experiences? Self-Inquiry shifts our attention from perception to the perceiver. Who is the one who perceives and experiences reality?

The practice of meditation and yoga leads the mind to temporarily withdraw the senses from objects of perception. However, internal perceptions in meditative states or Samadhi will most likely still exist. These internal perceptions may manifest in a number of ways including that of visions of angels, holy sages, the Goddess. Various spiritual and religious symbols often appear spontaneously in the mental eye of the aspirant during meditation or contemplative prayer and there may also be experiences of lucid dreaming states. So even in higher meditation states, the distinction between the subject and the objects of perception continues as we engage in and consume one experience after another.

Self-Inquiry, on the other hand, is found to be boring and irrelevant by many people because it promises them no special experience to enjoy other than being their own self. People should always do what feels natural. Nothing can be forced.

Eventually with the practice of meditation and other types of yogas, the mind becomes more subtle. The understanding of the nature of consciousness as free from outer perception (of physical objects) as well as internal perceptions (dreams, visions, other mental experiences) can then start to emerge. Once the independent nature of consciousness (free from all perceptions) is understood, one can recognize the essential quality of existence and pure being in the midst of various experiences.

When attention/awareness become self-focused, that is called Self-Inquiry. When attention lights up attention, awareness lights up awareness, consciousness lights up consciousness, Self is Realized as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the ultimate subject, the very core of being. Sri Ramana called it simply the Heart, whose nature is that of silence which is beyond all understanding.

The Path to Enlightenment: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

docimage138

A Popular Dichotomy

A popular dichotomy has emerged about Enlightenment in the West since the 1970s between the schools of “gradual enlightenment” and “instant enlightenment”. Some of this can probably be traced back to Poonja ji’s and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s disciples returning to the west in the 1970s and 1980s from India and bringing their understanding of Advaita Vedanta with them as given to them by their teachers. However, because many of these students deviate from traditional Advaita as taught in the classic lineage of Adi Shankracharya, they are referred to as neo-advaitins.

Given this thesis and antithesis between the gradual path and the direct path, I address the following question:

It is said that there are two approaches to the Truth of Being or Reality which some call Enlightenment or Self-Realization. A gradual path and a direct path. What is the truth of it? Are their really two paths? If not, which approach is the correct one? What road should a seeker of truth take?

First we look at the two paths and what these are about.

The Gradual Path

In the gradual path, one engages in meditation and other spiritual practices and disciplines, refines and purifies the mind over time, and is able to rise above the body limitations in ecstatic and trance states.

At some point, the mind beholds the divine directly or is able to surrender itself and be absorbed in the divine. Most yoga paths in various Eastern traditions fall into this category. One can check the ancient Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for reference.

Such schools of thought are also common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions as well. In these traditions, personal prayers, effort, and practice to reach the supreme divine is emphasized and considered vital to success on the spiritual path.

Criticism of the Gradual Path

The yogic paths and meditative approaches based on effort are criticized by the proponents of the direct path (the neo-advaitins) as being misguided.

The advocates of the direct path point out that since Advaita Vedanta states that the Self is always realized, expending effort to find it, is itself counterproductive. Their essential position is that since any effort towards enlightenment is based on ignorance, it cannot lead to true understanding or Enlightenment.

If I were to frame the objection of the neo-advaitin to the gradual path in the form of a question, it would be this: ” How can spiritual effort based on the false assumption of ignorance lead to the Truth of Reality?”.

Logically, It is a quite a beautiful and a powerful assertion.


Criticism of the Direct Path

On the other hand, the “direct path students and teachers” are viewed by many traditional yogis and practitioners of meditation as deluded individuals who at best have convinced themselves due to the power of sheer ignorance that they are enlightened. Such self-deception in the long run is bound to prove frustrating and disappointing to themselves as well as those unfortunate enough to fall for their hype of “Instant Enlightenment”.

Many traditional practitioners also claim that the “direct path teachers” tend to be on power trips and underneath the facade of their “Enlightenment” lies the basic human nature of greed and the hunger for power and the usual sexual and financial exploitation of those who follow them. They point to numerous examples of this happening in various spiritual communities and satsangh circles.

Unfortunately, the traditional practitioners and gurus are also not free from such issues. So neither can win the argument on the ground of excessive purity in behavior and conduct.

Support for Both Schools of Thought Exists

Such criticisms and counter-criticisms that the practitioners of two schools hurl toward each other all appear to have some degree of validity. Both schools also have their own particular strengths. An integrative understanding can lead one to relax one’s position on such matters.

In the direct path, the insight or the revelation is sudden like thunder. Truth of the Self appears as lightning and illuminates one’s being in a flash. The ignorance drops away as if it never was and one is at ease with one’s nature. Buddhists call it the Original Face, the Buddha mind, or the Buddha nature. Hindus and Jains call it Atma Jnana, Kevala Jnana, or Moksha.

There are various examples of this particular mode of thought in Hinduism and other religions as well. In this approach, for many, the Grace of God or Guru becomes the focal point on the spiritual path and the role of personal effort is downplayed. Support for this is found in the Upanishads (sacred scriptures of Hindus) where we see statements like, “Self reveals Itself to whom It chooses.” For reference, see the Katha Upanishad, where Yama, the Lord of Death, explains to Nachiketa,” The Self cannot be known through the study of scriptures, nor through intellect nor through hearing learned discourses. It can be attained only by those whom the Self chooses.”

On the other hand, in many schools of Hinduism, the emphasis is on works and on spiritual practices such as meditation, pranayama, fasting, etc. Similarly, in Jainism, the spiritual aspirant must bravely work out his/her karma (destiny) in this world following the path of forgiveness, compassion, and nonviolence. This was demonstrated over 2600 years ago by the Tirthankara Bhagavan Mahavira who bore physical and mental hardships with a feeling of amity and nonviolence towards all living beings. Eventually, as his karma dropped, the heavy burden of his soul becomes lighter and led to Self-Realization and Kevala Jnana (Which Jains view as Omniscience).

We see that in Jainism, the actual working out of karma through indifference to suffering, doing good deeds and by cultivating universal love for all beings is emphasized. The same is true in most schools of Hinduism. Even in Buddhism, originally Buddha taught the doctrine of effort and walking the spiritual path with care and compassion. Buddha’s last words to his students are said to be, “Work out your salvation with diligence.” Essentially, Buddha was saying to his students that after receiving his teachings, it was up to them to walk the path and attain their Buddha nature.

Where is the Truth in this Forest?

So then where lies the Truth of Enlightenment? Is the Truth of Realization achieved through walking the path gradually and carefully while engaging in spiritual practices? Or is Realization attained suddenly through a Zen like Satori or when the Zen master does something strange and shocking as depicted in many Zen stories. Can Realization really come unannounced knocking at the door as was the case with Sri Ramana Maharshi?

Sri Ramana, the great sage of Arunachala, has simultaneously endorsed both perspectives and said that the Truth of the Self is indeed simple and within everyone’s grasp. We simply mix the underlying feeling of “I AM” which is there in all of us (and always the same from childhood to old age) with the circumstances of our life, and the ever changing currents and patterns of our mood and personality.

The self-feeling of existence, the “I AM” which animates our life and consciousness and gives light to identity becomes invisible and goes in the background as we become captivated with our perceptions and invest in our daily relationships. That is only according to nature, and one is meant to engage in these things.

All relationships inevitably end. Even when we love someone dearly and they love us, eventually we are separated through circumstances, old age, or illness. If someone is married for 50 years, there is no guarantee that they will make it another year or another 10 years. In due time, one person will pass away due to old age or illness or another cause.

Coming together and separating are the nature of life. Underlying all these events and relationships is the silent presence of “I AM”. If we are paying attention we can feel it. In our quiet moments it comes upon us and we can stay with it. The truth is so simple and ordinary and that is why we take it for granted. If we remain with this self-feeling of existence, the stainless “I AM” free from the contents of the mind, we can come to see the value and beauty of it. It is only pure being. Our own being.

The Role of Spiritual Effort

The spiritual effort needed in terms of meditation and inquiry, to make the mind subtle and to refine the intellect so that this simplicity of being can be grasped with immediacy and certainty, should not be dismissed.

If some people do not need such efforts and can recognize the truth of their being immediately by hearing someone restate or paraphrase what the ancient sages have said, that is wonderful indeed. It shows that their mind already had requisite subtlety, depth, and maturity.

The Sense of Being I AM: The Open Secret

If there is a deep sense of quiet within, it can be like a mirror and we can see the image of “I AM” reflected in the mind. I am reminded of that passage where God said to Moses, “I AM That I AM”. I am not a scholar or religious expert but sometimes it seems to me that this is a symbolic message telling us to pay attention to the “I AM” within because it is God sitting in our own being and Heart saying, “Here I AM, I AM, Come to Me”.

It is said that man (woman) was made in the image of God. If the nature or identity of God can be described best as “I AM THAT I AM” it stands to reason that the nature of Man (Woman) is also similar. Our essential nature can be captured by this feeling we all have; the simple feeling of being-existing, free from conflicts, “I AM”. According to Advaita, this “I AM” within us is the link to God. Prayer, meditation, contemplation all make us reflect on this sense of being within us.

The Sahaj State

The state of the Self is natural. Easy and natural because the Self remains as It Self. It is devoid of sorrow and has nothing to attain being whole and complete and what the Advaita scriptures refer to as One without a second. Sages called this Realization the Sahaj state.

Sahaj in Sanskrit means easy and natural. That which requires no effort is Sahaj. To understand the Sahaj state of the Self, we can start and reflect on our body and see what is natural to it. What is easy and natural differs among people. Some people are able to sit in the lotus posture in an easy and natural way (see the picture of this young woman at www.harshasatsangh.com sitting in the lotus posture).

However, the lotus posture is not easy and natural for everyone. For most people, to sit like that would hurt their knees and ankles and is very uncomfortable. God did not say to Moses, “Here I Am, sitting in the Lotus Posture.” God only said, “I AM THAT I AM”. The feeling of “I AM” within us is independent of posture. Physical postures pertain only to the body and not to the spirit.

What is Natural Differs Among People

In life and on the spiritual path we have to see what is easy and natural for us. For some, walking is easy and natural and such people practice their prayers, mantras, and pranayama taking a morning stroll. Others are not satisfied unless they lift very heavy weights and scream “Oh God”, “Oh God”, and breathe rapidly and heavily. This is their form of being natural. For such people becoming very muscular becomes natural. If you were to tell weight lifters to take it easy and just take a nice walk every morning, they would not agree to it. They like to have big muscles and low body fat. That is natural for them but not for everyone.

In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that actions and paths of people differ according to their natural inclinations and therefore one should follow one’s own Dharma not someone else’s. In other words, we need not seek or follow someone’s path because it may not be natural for us. We should be natural, authentic, and true to our self. Without it, there would be inner conflict which is not conducive to being quiet and meditative.

 What Path Should One Follow?
Gradual or Direct or Just Stay Home

In this essay, I have suggested that the philosophies and perspectives of the gradual or the direct path are not inherently meaningful. Their truth lies only in being teaching tools. Words and concepts such as the “direct path” and the “gradual path” are meant to point at the truth but they are not themselves the truth. The Truth must reveal itself to us in our own Heart.

Therefore, one should not be rigid about which notion is correct or more important or higher than the other. Asking whether the direct path is better than the gradual, one misses the point. The real question is, “What feels natural to you and makes sense?”

Being rigid in one’s view, one misses the obvious. Both the notion of “direct” and “gradual” depend on each other for meaning and have no basis in the Reality of the Self.

According to Advaita Vedanta, the Self Always Is. It cannot be seen by “another” directly. Neither is it approached by “another” gradually. Self Reveals It Self Alone to ItSelf. To understand it in plain English, you can say to yourself, “I am always going to Me. And Here I Am.” Just stay with that.

You Are the Self.

Self, Shakti, Heart, and Enlightenment in Advaita: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Often on the spiritual path, the topics of best postures, best techniques of meditation, best behaviors conducive to spiritual growth, best gurus, etc., come up. All of these questions are appropriate to their time and circumstances.  Such questions were frequently put to Bhagavan Ramana.

Underlying all such questions is the fundamental theme or inquiry as to what constitutes superior spiritual practice that will lead to improvement in one’s mental and physical conditions and finally to Self-Realization or Enlightenment. From this perspective, Self-Realization is viewed as an attainment. It is something that is achieved by an individual by making the right effort. This approach in its methodology is not too different than that of a talented world class athlete, who after having trained rigorously, wins a gold medal at the Olympics.

This point of view emphasizes the need to focus the mind in order for it to expand and evolve to higher levels. Spiritual practices based on this foundation, involve meditating in a particular posture, concentrating on chakras, raising the kundalini shakti, practicing mantras, deep breathing, and doing pranayama exercises.

The Yoga paths explicitly incorporate the idea of controlling and developing the mind to gain entry into Samadhi and Super-conscious states. Most religions have this philosophy at their core; that without hard work one does not succeed either in life or in knowing God.

The General Spiritual Path Model

Buddha is supposed to have said to his disciples as he was dying, “Work out your salvation with diligence.” He meant that you have to personally work it out and attain Nirvana by right conduct, right practice, right meditation, etc.

The same principle is present in Jainism and most of the schools of thought in Hinduism. In Jainism, one attains to Moksha through one’s own individual efforts. In Hinduism, one achieves Moksha by God’s Grace. However, in most schools of Hinduism, one only benefits fully from God’s Grace, when one has made the right effort on the spiritual path by following one’s Dharma and by meditating on the nature of the Self.

Although it is a complex topic, the general spiritual model that we have before us is this: There is a spiritual path, there is the goal of Enlightenment or Self-Realization, and you have to expend much effort, and walk on the path for a long time in order to reach the destination. While you are walking, you may even have to go through the “dark night of the soul” a few times, because there are so many temptations along the way and things can sometimes appear hopeless and quite depressing.

So not only is there the possibility of tripping and falling due to worldly obstacles, but one also may give up on the whole idea of Liberation, Salvation, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Moksha, and/or getting to Heaven. Indeed many on the spiritual path do end up concluding that there is no meaning in life or the spiritual aspiration at all and kick themselves for missing out on the pleasures of their youth by having rejected the philosophy of “Eat, Drink, and be Merry” prematurely.

However, experienced sages know that what practices or behaviors will be helpful to the seeker on the spiritual path seems to depend on one’s conditioning, physiology, culture, background, etc. Although there is a general framework on how to pursue one’s aspiration for Enlightenment or Self-Realization, the truth is that one has to make the path as one walks on it because each individual is unique. Therefore, the view of “Eat, Drink, and be Merry”, within reason and in moderation, may be fully compatible with the spiritual life. It is the overall context that has to be understood.

The Self-Knowledge of a Sage

For the one abiding spontaneously and inherently in the Self-Truth of Reality, questions of methods, techniques, and practices, and the path become moot. When clarity of Self arises, any technique may be practiced and any path may be walked or one may give up all techniques and paths. For such a person, the Self-Attention itself absorbs attention regardless of where it is focused outwardly. The essential element in this understanding is the Recognition by Awareness of its Innate Wakefulness. Awareness is always self-aware by its very nature.

When awareness remains pure and spontaneously self-focused (perpetually in communion with itself), the subtle duality between awareness/attention (as Pure I AM) and its Source is seen to be illusory.

Then even the witness disappears, there being nothing to witness. The “I AM” disappears having nothing to point to. Spontaneously with the I AM Awareness/Shakti merging in its Source, the Self is Recognized. The Self Recognizes It Self by It Self and Through It Self as its own Source. It Sees and Recognizes that It has Always Been the Source. That It Is the Eternal Source, the causeless cause.

This is the Supreme Beauty of the Heart. It absorbs the Shakti, and along with it the Mind, thus swallowing time and space.

How can one speak of this Silence? The Silence that transcends all understanding and knowledge can only be indicated indirectly.

Great sages like Sri Ramana Maharshi never tire of pointing out that, —That Which is Real and Absolute Always Exists and is not absent even now—. How can Reality, whether one calls it God, Consciousness, Absolute, Nirvana, Moksha, Kingdom of Heaven, or by some other name be present at one time and absent at another? Perfection, by its nature, cannot be more perfect sometimes but not others. The approach and method of Advaita is based on this implicit axiom.

The Method of Advaita

The ever-present and eternal existence of our fundamental reality, whatever label we give it (Self-Nature, Buddha-Nature, Original Face, God, Goddess, God Consciousness, Pure Consciousness, Supreme Consciousness) must be here and now in this very moment. Otherwise, it is not Perfect!

This is the fundamental insight and conviction of the path of Advaita and the Advaitic sages. Therefore, we have to grasp the present by simply being present to it. This is the method of Advaita.

How is this done? In this way:

This present ordinary awareness, that you experience, you should notice it and then hold on to it. It is subtle and yet so ordinary. That is why we miss it. No matter how ordinary a baby looks to others, to the mother it is special. She adores her baby and to her it is the most lovely and wonderful child in the world. That is the attitude one must have towards one’s ordinary present awareness.

Like a mother holds on firmly to her child in all conditions, one should keep this ordinary self-awareness in the center of one’s consciousness knowing it to be special. The Supreme Reality It Self is hidden in it. It cannot be anywhere outside of it. If the Supreme Reality is somewhere outside of our ordinary consciousness, it is not perfect. Therefore, we can confidently look for perfection in our ordinariness, our ordinary consciousness.

Finding God in the Heart

There is a Christian saying that “Man is made in the image of God”. There is deep meaning in that. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, “I am in the Heart of all.” We find such expressions in many of the religions of the world and in major works of different spiritual traditions.

On the path of Advaita, through our present ordinary awareness, we become, or more accurately, recognize our True and Ever-Present Image in the Heart. Advaita goes one step further and states that indeed the illusion of separation between the Individual soul and God lasts only as long as God is not recognized as the Center of our Being, sitting in the Heart as the Heart.

This is the Heart, that the ancients called Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. The Supreme Self. It is beyond thoughts and concepts. Time and Space do not touch it.

As Sri Ramana has said, — that which is real is ever present—. We have to see what is present right now in this very moment. If we become quiet, we are able to feel our ordinary awareness, the sense of “I Am” as being present in this moment. That is the seed. If we water it and give it food, it grows and the Reality reveals it Self from within.

Editor’s Note:  The Feature Picture depicts photo art of brother Eden Kailash on his fb page.

Kundalini Shakti in the West: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

The notion of Kundalini Shakti is at the heart of yoga and is embedded in virtually all Eastern traditions regardless of the name or label that is given. If we carefully examine any school of yoga, tantra, or various traditions (Shakti, Shaivite, Kashmiri Shaivism), there will usually be some descriptions of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Kriyas, Mudras, Mantras, and different types of meditations on the Chakras (energy centers).

In the Shakti traditions, detailed descriptions are given of the various aspects of the visions of the Goddess that arise in meditation. Even in the school of Advaita Vedanta, which does not depend on the practices associated with Shakti Yoga, we see that the great scholar/saint Adi Shankracharya has written hymns to the Goddess who represents Shakti, the divine power.

Continue reading