All Life Is Sacred

All life is sacred

Ahimsa (Nonviolence) is listed as the highest principle among all others in the ancient Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanajali.

Indeed, it is the universal declaration of sages in all spiritual traditions that one should not harm other living beings as the same life energy permeates everyone.

All beings love life, want to be happy, and thrive. According to the law of karma, what one gives to others, one gets as well. Therefore, the secret to happiness is simply to support others in finding their joy.

Namaste.

Yoga And Advaita: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Yoga and breath Jnana and mind

These questions came up some years ago. My responses are included. (Photo art above is from Andreas Farsatis).

Question: Is the way and goal of Patanjali’s Yoga and  Sri Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta the same?

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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!

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.

Wisdom Eye: The True Guru: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

“Who is a master? He is the Self after all.” Ramana Maharshi

The company of peaceful Sages (Satsangha) and living in Ahimsa (harmlessness) is considered the primary influence that leads to Self-Realization. The forced attempts to discard various habits and conditioning and practicing different techniques to calm the mind have built in limitations. However, such methods can be pursued with benefit if one is already inclined towards these practices.

When strong inner motivation is present, one is automatically propelled towards Self-Awareness and Meditation. The fog of confusion then quickly evaporates and leads to Self-Seeing, Self-Being, Self-Realization, and Silence of the Heart.

Meditation and mind calming methods, can be effective at many different levels if practiced in the context of a clear understanding. Such practices, however, cannot by themselves end the fundamental agitation of the mind which continues at more and more subtle levels and causes suffering.

The nature of the mind is to hanker after that which is not real and is constantly subject to change. Not knowing who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, we still continue chasing after dreams built on the sand castles of desires.

If we become aware of this, we can see the primary nature of suffering, and direct our attention to the mystery of life and the nature of our perceptions.

In Indian spiritual traditions, a guru serves as a conduit to help us along the path. However, many things we hear about gurus these days are not appetizing. Still, if we realize the truth of the pure teachings, that the Supreme Reality is indeed our own Heart which guides us, then we can walk the path lightly without being misled.

The Self Always Reveals It Self from Within. Listen. Remain aware.

Be utterly indifferent to the clever words, miracles, and magical techniques that promise salvation. If you have the courage, open your wisdom eye and see clearly what attracts you to such things and people.

What is it that these gurus have to give you that you do not have? Question seriously and honestly and investigate the root of your hopes and fears.

There are many active marketers of “spiritual wisdom.” It has now become a public relations game with the many modern gurus as they compete in the free market of spirituality. Many spiritual teachers today attempt to distinguish themselves on the basis of their “enlightenment”, their spiritual experience, and how “awake” they are. Some claim that by their magical touch, shaktipat, or willpower, they can create miracles and remove obstacles from someone’s path. We cannot say that all such teachers and gurus are good or bad. But we have witnessed enough scandals among spiritual teachers to conclude that there is a need to be alert to the human tendency of those in power to exploit others financially and even sexually. Some teachers, giving satsang, and teaching yoga and advaita, are no doubt good and genuine people, but others may be quite ignorant and have generally bad tendencies.

I will share with you briefly a story. One time, I was walking my teacher, Chitrabhanu-ji, back to his apartment and we were speaking about the guru-disciple relationship. During the conversation, he said to me, “You should never follow any guru.” I was quite surprised to hear him say that because you see Chitrabhanu-ji was my spiritual teacher and mentor and I referred to him as Gurudeva. All Indian spiritual traditions in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, in fact, have the guru-disciple relationship at their core. So I asked Chitrabhanu-ji, “Gurudev, why do you say this? Why do you say that I should never follow any guru?” My teacher smiled and said, “Well, what if the guru goes crazy and starts acting nutty?” So I had a good hearty laugh.

My teacher, Gurudev Chitrabhanu-ji, was also my friend. I was only 21 when I met him. He was then 56 and now he is in his mid 80s (written in 2006). During the time spent with him, I had the sense that he wanted to make sure that I understood the realities of life and was fully independent and able to think on my own. His success as a teacher was that he made me independent of himself as well. Chitrabhanu-ji used to say that…” a real guru is like an ice cube. He cools your consciousness and then disappears without a trace.” From my teacher I learned the sacred philosophy of Ahimsa (harmlessness), which is the cardinal principle of Jainism. Mahatma Gandhi of India was an exemplar of the practice of Ahimsa in the last century.

After some years, when I left my teacher to go back to graduate school, he said that I should always remember the principle of Ahimsa and keep that as my ideal. From Ahimsa follows being able to understand many different points of view and to approach situations with awareness and compassion. During the years that I studied with my teacher, he never asked me for anything. No money, nothing. Actually, I had nothing to give. At that time I used to teach yoga to earn a livelihood and it was barely enough to pay the rent and eat.

Sometimes I see gurus who treat their students badly and even exploit them financially and in other ways. I see the huge contrast between that and how my teacher treated me, despite my youth and immaturity, with the utmost respect and courtesy as a human being and his equal. So I tell students on the spiritual path that it is never a good idea to hang around a so called guru or a spiritual teacher who demeans you or insults you or disrespects you in any way. It does not matter if such a person is charismatic or if your friends adore him or her. In Patanjali’s ancient yoga sutras, Ahimsa (harmlessness or nonviolence) is mentioned as the first principle of yoga. A guru or a teacher whose words and attitude carry and convey violence cannot be good for you.

Understand that, like you, most gurus and spiritual teachers today have their own personal challenges and suffering. You need not judge others too harshly. Yet at the same time one must be free to follow one’s own vision. With compassion for others and one’s own self, one should keep one’s focus utterly, totally, and completely pure. This means that you should not give in to the attraction of confusion, and compromise in seeking the Truth by creating a permanent dependence on another person. If a guru creates circumstances and subtly encourages you to do become dependent or submit to his/her will, know that such a person is controlled by his or her own power needs and greed. What can such a person give you?

When I first met my teacher he told me frankly, “I cannot give you enlightenment. Gurus who claim such a thing deceive their students. To become Self-Realized, one must carefully investigate the mind and perceptions and meditate on the nature of the Self.”

I pass this on to you. No one can give you the Truth. Truth is always revealed from the inside. And when it comes, you see that your own essence is that of Truth. That is our mystery that the perfect and complete love that we long for is ultimately seen in our nature and our own heart. The ancients called it the Heart, Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, which is our very being.

Do not settle for anything less than the Heart, your own Heart. Do not settle for anything – keep going until there is nothing left to settle for.

Let your effort be absorbed in peaceful Self-awareness. There is absolutely nothing else to be done.

Nothing given,

nothing taken.

See the sights,

be not mistaken.

You have everything you need.

Think not that you must awaken,

now or at some later date.

Know this for certain,

That You Are Already Wide Awake!

Abide in that Heart of Being.