Nome – a leading American teacher of Ramana Maharshi’s Self-Inquiry: By Richard Clarke

Birds in the sky and fish in water
Dart and leave no track behind.
And none can trace the path by which
The sages journeyed to the Self.’

(Ramana Mandiram; Sri Muruganar)

I am Being

Which alone knows.

I am Bliss,

Which along shines.

I am the Self

Known as “I” by all.

I am the Existence

That is the Existence of all.

I am the Essence

Ever undivided

(Nome, from Mandala Eight, Self-Knowledge)

Nome giving satsang

Nome, giving Satsang

Nome gives satsang at SAT (Society of Abidance in Truth, Santa Cruz, CA, www.satramana.org). He reveals the nondual Advaita Vedanta of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and Adi Sankara and the practice of Self-inquiry (Atma Vichara).

Early Life and Spiritual Experiences

Nome was born on January 23, 1955 in Long Island, New York and spent most of his childhood in New Jersey. Though not from a religiously oriented family, Nome as a child had memories and a vivid familiarity with places, images, and words that he came to know later as associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Advaita Vedanta.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

His first spiritual experience came at age 16—without previous spiritual questing (in this life), one day in a park. It was nirvikalpa samadhi, in which the meditator makes himself free from all thoughts and distinctions, free of all differentiations such as the knower, knowledge, and the known, and in which the mind ceases to be active. (A more detailed definition is found at the end of this article).

After this samadhi he sought out the solitude of mountains and woods, and spent much of his time in the forest meditating. While others were building their personalities, he took his down—for good. He lost interest in worldly acquisitions and activities. He saw that the source of happiness is within. There were further instances of samadhi.

Seeking Self-realization

After his 17th birthday, before completing high school, he left his family without telling them he was going. When asked by a friend why he was going, he said, “To attain Self-Realization.” He got an airplane ticket and flew to San Francisco.

In San Francisco he met Swami Swanandashram, who introduced him to the Vedanta teachings of Sankara, and the Upanisads, in which Ajata Vada is revealed. This is the Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Teaching, called in the west, Hinduism) teaching of the Uncreated, where there is only Brahman, only the Absolute, only God. Nome recognized this teaching as his actual experience.

Introduced to these teachings and finding materials to help deepen his practice, Nome kept the focus of his life within. He found wisdom in such books as Talks with Ramana Maharshi, the Avadhuta Gita, the Astavakra Gita and Sankara works such as Atma Bodha.

He lived in a renounced fashion, meditating, intensely practicing Atma Vichara (Self inquiry). If in line at the supermarket, he would meditate. Waiting, he would meditate. He had no documentation, and worked at the kind of jobs where none is required, rough physical labor.

Turning Inward

Nome continued to inquire, realizing that the Truth revealed by the Maharshi cuts the imagined knot that seems to tie our true being with a bodily form. During this period of practice, Nome saw that “Whoever we are, Bliss is within, and can no more be apart from us than we can be separated from our own existence.”

Now, how to turn the mind inward, and to turn it inward steadily? The answer was the Maharshi’s steady inquiry, revealing the Bliss of the Self. The search for happiness is really the search for the Self, which is Reality.

Nome realized that turning inward is essential. He felt that by the Grace of the Maharshi, this is accomplished. Self-effort is needed. When self-effort meets with Grace, the highest good results. Turning inward, how to go outward is forgotten. Accustomed to detachment, one forgets how to be attached. “Who am I?” becomes the only true question.

Asthma and the desire for Liberation

While practicing, Nome’s body was afflicted by asthma, intensifying the desire for spiritual liberation. He felt, “If I do not fully awaken to the Truth, I will live and die in an unreal world. If I practice right through the last breath, it will all be worth it; and if the Truth is realized even at the last moment, the Liberation from samsara (birth and death) will be for all eternity.”

Pictures from Sri Ramanasramam

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi

At this time, pictures arrived from Sri Ramanasramam. There had been no picture of any kind in his home for months. Then they arrived from Ramana’s Ashram on the other side of the world, beckoning Nome to leave the world altogether.

Nome felt on this day filled with a profound joy. It was the joy of devotion, of faith, of being blessed with the guiding light of the Guru’s Presence. The whole place seemed sanctified by Sri Bhagavan.

Reliance on the Guru

He placed himself in Sri Bhagavan’s hands, feeling that when the heart’s consecration is made, Grace is always present. Nome saw what the Maharshi revealed—thought’s utter unreality, and that the real Self is all. He saw the objective nature of all thoughts, and the existence of That which is formless and always nonobjective. Only the nonobjective is who we are; we cannot be a thought of which we are aware.

The senses do not determine Reality, nor does the mind.
For whom is the world?

Nome came to know experientially that the world, including the body, is the sensory experience, the sensory experience is entirely in the mind, and the mind is but “I” in different guises or forms. So he inquired, “Who am I?”

The world seemed to Nome as an unreal dream. Detached from this unreal dream, he did not take it to be the source of happiness. The inquiry “Who is bound and who desires liberation?” becomes the way the Truth is realized.

Making permanent the state without thought

Thought ceased. Then it resumed, again it ceased. And again it resumed. The focus of practice for Nome then was “How can I extend and make permanent this state without thought?”

Following the Maharshi’s teachings about the three states (waking, dream, and deep dreamless sleep), Nome saw that which is continuous, in which the states seem to appear, the one thing that does not change. “It is perpetual Existence. What is that? It is perpetual Consciousness.”

Elimination of all Vasanas

Nome would look at recurring experiences, examining them to see what brought them about, and what brought samadhi to an end. “What takes one up, and what brings one down?” was the investigation. It helped to eliminate vasanas—misidentifications and attachments. The Maharshi’s revelation of the Truth eliminated the entire field, “Who is the knower?”

Questions about samadhi were difficult to raise, for one could not expect an accurate answer in any less expansive or more formed state of mind, and in samadhi itself the questions do not arise. Meditating with Sri Bhagavan’s guidance, Nome saw that what is experienced in samadhi—the essence—does not come and go; the boundaries constituting the before-the-beginning and the after-the-end appear and disappear, for they are composed only of illusions. “Who goes up or down?” “Who enters into or merges with what?” “Who realizes what?” He cut each knot, vanquished every illusion, and dissolved every vasana.

Absence of Individuality

Nome came to know that the utter absence of individuality (called “an ego”) is Realization. The ignorance seems to rise with the ‘I’-thought and is identical with the ‘I’-thought. “I want to be free of individuality. I may be free from its appendages in the form of various characteristics, etc. but the ‘I’ itself must also disappear. How is the elimination of the individual ‘I’ to be brought about?” Like this was Nome’s meditation. Sri Bhagavan’s instructions, “Can ‘I’ eliminate itself?” and “Find out that the ego does not exist,” revealed, upon inquiry, the answer that the ego does not exist.

The Maharshi’s teaching lays out the direct path—Who am I? —and this is the ultimate guidance. “Are there two selves, one to realize the other?” This instruction blows away the dust of dualism and reveals Sri Bhagavan’s silent presence. This is what Nome’s inquiry revealed.

Final Realization

May 14, 1974, at 19 years of age, waiting in the office of an oral surgeon, meditating on a small Ramana pamphlet Self Realization (later reprinted by SAT), Nome realized finally and completely that the notion of “I” does not refer to any actually existent ego entity, and is itself unreal. This “I” does not come from the real Self, does not come from “anything else,” and is not self-generated. He realized that there was “no me,” no individual, there is only the vast Absolute, and I am That. This was the revelation of Truth, without these words or ideas. Everything objective disappeared, never to return.

This is what Ramana referred to as Sahaja Samadhi, pure, uninterrupted Consciousness, transcending the mental and physical plane, yet (to an observer), with awareness of a manifested world, and full use of mental and physical faculties.

“The Self is only Being—not being this or that. It is simply Being. Be, and there is the end of ignorance.” Meditating on Sri Bhagavan’s revelation of Reality—realizing its meaning, supremely profound—the “I” does not survive.

Speaking now about the period of practice, Nome says that persistence was important. Clearly the deep desire for Liberation was also key, as was his surrender and devotion to Sri Ramana Maharshi.

The writer observes that Nome was not satisfied with nirvikalpa samadhi at age 16. Rather this brought him to look deeply and intensely within to find the Truth that is within, to look beyond what comes and goes for what is changeless and eternal. Finding That as his identity, then to stand in Sahaja Samadhi.

After Realization

In 1978, after four years spent mostly in silence, Nome started answering questions of sincere aspirants, first in a house in San Bruno, CA, then Boulder Creek, and finally Santa Cruz. Around Nome a group of spiritual seekers formed, and was first called “The Avadhut Ashram.” Satsang was held in Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

The SAT Temple

When the room in which satsang was held got too small, a temple was built in Santa Cruz by those who practiced and meditated with Nome. The SAT temple is dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi. The doors opened on August 20, 1989. By then the name Avadhut Ashram evolved into “The Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT).”

SAT Temple

SAT Temple

The SAT Temple is nestled into the side of a hill. After entering the Temple, first comes a large hall, called the Lotus room. The Bookstore is also found here. Then, after climbing a set of stairs (and greeted by a large picture of Sri Ramana Maharshi), the shrine room dedicated to Sri Bhagavan is first encountered. Then the eight-sided satsang hall is entered. In the rear of the hall are several murtis (statues) familiar in Hindu temples. These include a bronze Dakshinamurti, Nataraja (Dancing Siva), Ardhanarisvara, and a stone Lingodbhava. This Lingodbhava is also found in any Siva temple in India, and in the Mother’s Temple at Sri Ramanasramam.

Satsang at SAT Temple

Satsang at SAT Temple

Satsang is held regularly, every Sunday morning at 10 AM. After meditation in the deep quiet that seems to envelope the hall, Nome will give a short discourse on the Nondual Truth. The listeners, absorbed in the discourse, are taken to spiritual—nondual—depths. After the discourse come questions by seekers and answers from Nome. Many questions are asked: about inquiry, about the nature of Reality, about how to deepen one’s practice. The answers plunge into the depths of the questioner, aiding the questioner to thoroughly examine his own identity, and to see what is always there, to see just who he is. Always is revealed the nondual truth of who we are, and the utter nonexistence of what is not real. Then will come a chant, often from the Upanisads, in Sanskrit then English. Finally, there is more meditation in the quiet of the Satsang Hall on what has been imparted.

The satsang hall is a place of real peace and silence. Many find this so. Old devotes that remember the silence of Sri Bhagavan’s presence, have commented that the SAT satsang hall is the place most like the old hall at Ramanasramam during the days of Ramana.

For directions to the SAT temple, go to http://www.satramana.org/html/directions_to_sat.htm

Writing, Translations and Publishing

In addition to giving satsang at SAT, Nome continues to write, translate and publish spiritual texts that support the practitioner of Self-inquiry and Advaita Vedanta. Nome started collaborating in 1988 with Dr. H Ramamoorthy, a Sanskrit and Tamil scholar, to translate original Advaita Vedanta scriptures into English. Together they translated more than 20 Advaita Vedanta texts. Of these, more than half have been published to date. The translation work proceeded from 1988 to the 2001 passing of Dr. Ramamoorthy. Nome now continues to translate and publish Sanskrit texts, including the completion of manuscripts which were started in collaboration with Dr. Ramamoorthy.

Nome is married to Sasvati. Sasvati provides much assistance with the creation and publishing of these books; Sasvati also provides spiritual guidance and support to those who come to SAT.

Nome has journeyed to India several times, staying at Sri Ramanasramam, and The Ramana Centre for Learning in Bangalore. He was invited to speak at both locations.

Books and Publications:

Below is a partial list of books written or translated by Nome. They are available at http://store.satramana.org/

Nirguna Manasa Puja – Worship of the Attributeless One in the Mind by Adi Sankara, 1993, English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Published by SAT.

Ribhu Gita – The Sanskrit Ribhu Gita, 1995, English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Introduction by Nome. Published by SAT.

Timeless Presence, 1996, written by Nome at the request of Ramanasramam for the centenary celebration of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s arrival at Arunachala. Republished by SAT.

Song of Ribhu – The Tamil Ribhu Gita, 2000, English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Introduction by Nome, with extensive glossary of nondual Sanskrit terms. Published by SAT. Reprinted by Ramanasramam.

Svatmanirupanam – The True Definition of One’s Own Self by Adi Sankara, 2002, Sanskrit with English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Published by SAT.

Self-Knowledge, 2003, written by Nome. Published by Atma Jnana Publications.

The Four Requisites for Realization and Self-Inquiry, 2003, written by Nome. Published by SAT.

Nirvana Satkam- Six Verses on Nirvana by Adi Sankara, 2004, English translation by Nome. Published by SAT.

Essence of Inquiry, 2005. English translation of Ramana’s Vichara Sangraham with Nome’s commentary. Published by The Ramana Centre for Learning in Bangalore, India.

Origin of Spiritual Instruction – an edited reprint of Sri Natanananda’s A Catechism of Instruction (republished later by Sri Ramanasramam as Spiritual Instruction). 2006. Edited by Nome. Published by SAT.

Bouquet of Nondual Texts – Eight texts by Adi Sankara, 2006,
Sanskrit with English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Published by SAT.

Glossary

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

(Definition from the Glossary of The Song of Ribhu, English translation by Dr. H Ramamoorthy and Nome. Published by SAT.)

Nirvikalpa Samadhi, in which the meditator makes himself free from all thoughts and distinctions, free of all differentiations such as the knower, knowledge, and the known, and in which the mind ceases to be active. It may be divided into two subcategories:

1. Subjective: Here the mind is steady like an unflickering flame in a windless place, indifferent to both objects and sounds and in which the ideas that arise in Savikalpa Samadhi are absent. It is likened to an empty pitcher placed in the sky having nothing inside or outside.

2. Objective: Here the meditator, plunged in bliss, perceives no external objects. He is completely absorbed in the contemplation of Brahman; all illusory phenomena are merged in Brahman; he is indifferent to the manifest world and also to such ideas as akhanda (the undivided), eka rasa (the single essence), and such. It is likened to a pitcher placed in the sea with water inside and out.

Sri Ramana Maharshi refers to nirvikalpa samadhi as complete absorption in the Self with resultant oblivion to the manifested world, as a state of blissful trance but not permanent, like a bucket of water lowered into a well. In the bucket is the water (the mind) that is merged with the water in the well (which is the Self), but the rope and the bucket still exist to draw it out again.

Sahaja Samadhi

(Definition from the Glossary of The Song of Ribhu)

The Maharshi declares that Sahaja Samadhi is pure, uninterrupted Consciousness, transcending the mental and physical plane, yet (to an observer), with awareness of a manifested world, and full use of mental and physical faculties; Sahaja is a state of perfect equilibrium, perfect harmony, beyond even bliss, comparable to the waters of a river merged in those of the ocean. Sahaja signifies what is effortless, natural, and innate. It is the state of Being the Self and the Self Alone.

This article was written by Richard Clarke, who has attended satsang with Nome since 1990. Much help and guidance in the writing was provided by Sarasvati.

Acknowledgements

Much of the material for this article came from “Timeless Presence,” written by Nome. It some cases it is quoted directly, with the permission of SAT.

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.

To Nanagaru’s Ashram: By Richard Clarke

This is from my wife, Carol Johnson. This is from an email she sent her adult children. Carol Johnson

Ho hum, just another ordinary day in Tiru. We got up really early, 5am, to walk to see Nanagaru, one of the spiritual teachers who maintains an ashram here and comes several times a year. We have a friend who is a devotee of Nanagaru, and was certain that we would find his darshan meaningful. Now, Nome has been my teacher for many years, and after coming to Tiruvannamalai I realize that Arunachala is the Guru of us all. But, they say that it is good for an aspirant to keep company with jnanis, Self-realized beings, so I’ll always want to sit with masters like Nanagaru.

It was dark when we started out, a little difficult to walk up our dirt-and-rock road, but we made it to the paved “main” road with no difficulty, not even having to negotiate the barks of the four dogs who live between our house and the road. Soon after we arrived on the road, a bullock cart stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. The cart was piled with large, stuffed burlap bags, so simply hopping on wasn’t possible. The driver pulled me up to his level “at the helm,” and I climbed over the sacks from there. Richard followed me. I made my way to the back of the cart and dangled my legs over, but the driver said something that meant that wasn’t safe. I climbed back to the center of the pile of lumpy sacks.

So here we are at 5:45 in the morning, dawn breaking, and we’re riding down the road pulled by two bony male cattle who had to be constantly prodded by the driver, who talked to them, made clicking sounds, touched a stick to them, and, oddly, kept cupping his hands under their anuses, goosing them on.

Typical Bullock Cart

When he let us off he said “Arunachalam,” which is code around here for “give me some money.” Richard gave him a 10-rupee note, worth about a quarter, which is a lot to give for an Arunachalam request. We walked down the side road that our driver, Rajan, told us to take, but got stymied by an apparent dead end near a brick “factory.” (The way bricks are made is that the clay is molded and dried, then the pieces are stacked up into an eight-foot cube. Pieces of wood are inserted into the center of the cube, set on fire, and the bricks are fired from the inside.) Some people saw us and waved us toward the right direction. After crossing a ditch and a field, we found Nanagaru’s ashram.

We were pointed to the rooftop meeting space, where we joined a group of about 60, mostly older Indian women, seated on the floor. Nanagaru was just being seated on a plastic chair in front of the group.

He’s quite old, and looked slightly shaky. He sat in silence, looking towards the mountain, which seemed very close. He said something to a young man sitting at his feet, and the man started to shake and cry, I thought, although his back was to me. This guy is pretty powerful, I thought, to cause the young man to react like that. Reminded me of those “Christian” spiritual teachers on TV in the States, where they approach a follower and the follower falls down in a swoon. Then Nanna Garu seemed to be shaking slightly. Turns out the man at his feet was giving Nanna Garu a foot massage, and the shaking was from the  vigorous effort.

Nanagaru

The massage stopped, and a woman up front stood and gestured to a certain western woman to come forward and sit at Nanagaru’s feet. The woman seemed surprised, but she went there. No fainting or swooning for her, but she sat silently facing the Master. The Master, meanwhile, stayed silent, looked around the group several times, and then said to the woman, in English, that she should go around the mountain at 3 o’clock today. She didn’t reply, and he said no more to her.

More silence, more looking at the mountain, and I could see clearly that Nanagaru had forgotten to put his teeth in. We sat like this for a while, then he stood up, gestured a pranam to the group, and was escorted down the stairs. It was a very peaceful session. Richard remarked that he was surprised that we had been sitting for an hour, a phenomenon that happens when one’s meditation is deep. I agreed that the time went by quickly, but I suspect that I would have been way more rapt sitting on a chair on MY rooftop looking at my real guru, Arunachala.

Down in the courtyard of the ashram they had metal dispensers for coffee and chai. Having the ever-scrumptious sweetened Indian milk coffee did give me a taste of nirvana, though, and it completed the peaceful experience of being with a Master. We walked back home, pleasantly spiritual, as always. And, as I write, the day is still young!

Satsang with Robert Adams: By Kheyala

image

One of the first stops after leaving Colorado that my best friend and I took in our new home-on-wheels (“Lakshmi”) was in Sedona, AZ to go to satsang with Robert Adams. Many of you may know that Robert Adams (whose body died a few years ago) sat before Ramana for years in Tiruvannamalai.

We knew that Robert Adams was aging and that a special opportunity awaited us. Now, keep in mind that my conscious spiritual journey was rather new and I had previously immersed myself in the Satsang Mecca called Boulder.

I had really gotten a feeling for what satsang was “supposed to” look like and went to Robert Adams’ place fully armed with my finest “spiritual” clothing, “spiritual” face, “spiritual” voice, and “spiritual” sitting posture.

When we arrived, spiritually carrying our zaphus behind our hips in silence, heads held humbly down, we were quite surprised to find a room full of relaxed people hanging around, just acting normal. In fact, they were so talkative with each other and easy-going and animated that it made me wonder if we were really at the right house.

I came prepared for silence and holiness and the scene was unsettling being so ordinary. There was nothing spiritual about the place, like decorations or altars or anything that I recall. There may have been a small photo of Ramana. So I sat down and prepared to “meditate.”

Needless to say, I simply couldn’t keep my eyes closed. There was too much fun going on in the room. I struggled with it for a while, but that became so darned uncomfortable. Eventually, I just sat there figuring it would get holy, maybe, after Robert came in.

You can imagine my surprise when he did come in. While I was expecting a spiritual-looking man dressed in Indian garb, what he was actually wearing was a pair of baggy, silky jogging pants and a tee-shirt and he had on a hot pink rumpled-up baseball cap that was on crooked!

Because Robert had Parkinson’s Disease, he kind of made his way across the living room in a slow-motion shuffle and sat himself in the chair reserved for him. Everyone made room for him as he passed by and with great affection touched their palms together in reverence.

Robert sat on the chair for some time. It was real quiet in the room, but not an “it’s-time-to-be-quiet” kind of quiet. It was just naturally quiet. And no one said anything. So, trained as I was to recognize a jnani, well…. no way. This guy was plainly sitting there with his mouth open and his eyes half closed. He was hunched over with his skin just hanging on his face. There was nothing that I could “read.” And boy, did I try. I looked for some kind of radiant glow, some kind of visible wisdom, some hint of Ramana, and nothing! I looked into his eyes and it was as if no one was home. My mind was just struck dumb.

Eventually, Robert jerked his arm up, sort of pointing a finger. That was the cue for the person holding the boombox to hit “play.” I thought, “Oh. THIS must be the holy part.” I closed my eyes in full expectation of sacred words or ethereal music or at least some Sanskrit bhajans. To my utter shock, the thin and twangy voice of Willie Nelson’s “Always on my mind” came singing out!

The whole room went into an uproar. Everyone was laughing and swaying from side to side in enjoyment, singing dramatic crescendos at each chorus: “Telll meeeee. Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died…etc.”

Robert? He just sat there, expressionless, his body unmoving, hunched in his chair. No sparkling eyes, no nothing. By then, my mouth was dangling open as well. My mind had completely come to a halt. It could not make sense of this at all. It didn’t know and could not begin to interpret what it was seeing.

The next musical selection was Kenny Rogers singing really sentimental love songs. These were no Sanskrit Bhajans about Enlightenment or God or anything. These were love songs riddled with illusion and duality. Rather than condemning them or spiritually correcting them, Robert Adams was just sitting there. Everyone was laughing so hard that tears were coming out. It was so infectious that before I knew it, I was singing along and laughing too. My sides were aching when we were through.

Afterwards, with everyone returning to normal breathing and with some sighs and residual giggles here and there, I had the thought, “Well, maybe now it will get serious.” There was a moment of silence. Then suddenly, someone said, “Hey! How about Mexican?!” This was met by an outburst of cheering! Soon everyone got up and grouped together in cars to go to a local Mexican restaurant.

Bewildered but happy to go along I arrived at a scene that I was dismayed to find rather loud and crowded and chaotic. Shortly after we were seated, I looked over at Robert. He had a bright green margarita in front of him.

Before leaving, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to speak with Robert even though at the time I sure didn’t know what to make of him….but all that came out was something like, “I like your hat.” And he said something like, “Thanks.”

The sweet, natural happiness that I experienced in his presence was so very thick and blatant. All the ideas I had picked up about what it is to be in the presence of Truth were permanently cracked. The mind just couldn’t get around the chasm between what it thought holiness was supposed to be like and what it had actually met that day with Robert Adams. In its attempt to cross that chasm, it had fallen into it, giving rise to an absolutely undeniable experience of joyfulness and peace.

Editor’s note: Kheyala is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh list. Her account of the Satsang with Robert Adams first appeared in Spring 2002 of the original HS-Ezine.

Hinduism and Vegetarianism: By Dr. K. Sadananda

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Editor’s note: Sada-Ji (Dr. K. Sadananda) is well known to the Hindu community in both the U.S. and in India. He is one of the most brilliant and thoughtful exponents of the Bhagavad Gita as well as the ancient philosophy of Advaita-Vedanta.

In this article, Sada-Ji discusses a practical question that frequently comes up among many students of Hinduism as well as many Westernized Hindus. The question is, “Should I become a vegetarian?”

I took the liberty to edit and restructure Sada-Ji’s original e-mail answer to this question for the purpose of this article to give it an easier reading flow. I hope that justice has been done to Sada-Ji’s explanations and that I have stayed within the limits of editorial license. Of course, any errors are mine and as soon as these are pointed out will be promptly corrected. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

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Should I Become a Vegetarian?

Recently two questions were asked – Does Hinduism require one to believe in God? Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?

In a recent article, I have addressed the first question. Here I will provide some thoughts for the second question. In relation to the first question, I have discussed what Hinduism stands for and who is truly a Hindu. In essence, Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, and that Dharma is from time immemorial; it involves pursuit of Moksha through self-reflection, inquiry, and Self-Knowledge. Self-Knowledge in Hinduism is synonymous with Moksha (Liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

Therefore, the one who is seeking to understand the ultimate mystery of existence and thereby gaining salvation or release is a true Hindu, irrespective of the nationality, caste, creed or gender. With that catholic understanding, one can see that Hinduism becomes a way of life because the pursuit of the essential purpose of life is the goal of the ideal Hindu life. If you ask most Hindus whether they believe in God, you will get a firm “Yes”, in response.

With this perspective, it is easier to analyze all other questions including whether Hinduism requires one to be a vegetarian. Since the purpose of life is securing liberation or Moksha, until we reach that we need to maintain our body. Keeping the body healthy through proper nourishment is the Hindu Dharma. The human body is considered a temple of God. Therefore, it is sacred and should be treated with respect.

You asked whether a Hindu has to be a vegetarian. Well, it is a fact that not all Hindus are vegetarians. Hindu kings and princes and the warriors have eaten meat for thousands of years. So your question is not whether a Hindu should eat but whether you should eat meat. Since such a question has already arisen in your mind, perhaps you have developed a degree of sensitivity about harming other living forms to satisfy your physical hunger. If that is true, you may be better off not eating meat. That way you will be at peace with yourself. Since you are sensitive to this issue, your intellect may be directing you towards being a vegetarian. It is a possibility. However, your mind wants the pleasure of eating meat and your body may crave it due to past habits. So you have to reflect on this. Why has this question come up for you? What is the right thing for you to do?

Follow Your Self-Nature

When you go against your own intellect and good understanding of life you commit a sin. An act that is contrary to your SWADHARMA (your own nature) creates a conflict within you. So you have to reflect on whether being a vegetarian is natural to you or not. Now, of course, even the traditional non-vegetarians are choosing vegetarianism not because of any compassion to other animals but they are recognizing that meat is not good for their health.

I have already mentioned that Hinduism does not say to you “don’t do this and don’t do that”. You must determine your own actions based on your intellectual values, culture, education and primary goal in life. You will find that following your Swadharma (your own nature) will make you comfortable with yourself. It is not for others to judge what food is right for you! It is for you to decide.

While you are trying to decide whether to be a vegetarian do this experiment. Imagine your self to be a chicken or cow who is about to be slaughtered for food. Would you not advise the guy who wants to make a dinner out of you to be a vegetarian instead? The golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” can sometimes help shape our analysis.

Life Lives on Life

Life lives on life. That is the law of nature. Whether I eat an animal or plant, I am destroying a life in some form. Among all life forms, Man is different from the rest. He has the capability to discriminate right from wrong. That gives him the freedom of choice which animals and plants lack.

According to ancient teachings and our observations, plants have just a body and perhaps a rudimentary mind. Animals have both body and mind to express their feelings and suffering, but rudimentary intellect. Man has not only body and mind but also a well developed intellect to discriminate between good and bad, and to choose.

Man always has three choices: He can choose to do something, not to do it, or find another alternative way to do it that is more satisfactory. For animals and plants there is no freedom of choice. They are instinctively driven. The cow does not sit down before meals and inquires whether it should be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Same with the tiger or the eagle. They don’t say prayers before eating like we do. They just act according to their nature. No one can hold that against them.

Man and Sin

For a Man the discriminative intellect is much evolved. Plants and animals do not commit sin in their actions because there is no will involved in their actions. For a human, the story is different.

You may wonder why I brought sin in the argument. Let me explain. Sin is nothing but agitations in the mind. It is these agitations that prevent me in my journey to Moksha. Mind has to be pure (meaning un-agitated) for me to see the truth as the truth. (Bible also says blessed are those whose minds are pure).

To define sin more scientifically: It is the divergence between the mind and intellect. Intellect knows right from wrong. But we feel like doing things even though we know they are wrong . That is, the intellect says something but mind which should be subservient to the intellect rebels and does whatever it feels like. This divergence is sin.

After a wrong action is performed there is a guilt feeling. Intellect, although it was overruled, does not keep quiet. It keeps prodding “I told you it is wrong. Why did you do it?” With peace of mind gone, Man goes through a “Hell”. Man is not punished for the sin; he is punished by the sin! Think about it. All the Yoga schools, if you analyze clearly, are bringing this integration between the body, mind, and intellect so that there can be harmony. With harmony, there is peace.

For a true Yogi, what he thinks, what he speaks, and what he does are in perfect alignment. In our case, we think something but have no guts to say what we think. Our lips say something different from what we are thinking. Sometimes people say, “Watch My Lips or Read My Lips “. They mean to emphasize that what they say can be counted on. However, if you watch their lips as requested and follow their actions these are again different! There is no integration anywhere. Our lips and our hips have divergent paths. We live a chaotic life of freestyle dancing! Besides deceiving others, we deceive ourselves, and the worst thing is sometimes we don’t even realize that.

Animals and Sin

Now, when a tiger kills and eats, it does not commit a sin. Because its intellect is rudimentary, it does not go through any analysis before it kills and asks “should I kill or not kill this cute deer”? A tiger does not ask itself, “Should I be a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian?”. When it is hungry, to fill the natures demand, it kills its prey and eats what it needs and leaves the rest when it is full. A tiger does not overeat. There are no fat tigers in nature.

A tiger is not greedy either. It does not seek luxury beyond satisfying its needs. Animals and plants and birds and bees and insects and all living things follow a beautiful ecological system. It is only man who destroys the ecology by being greedy. But Man also has the beautiful instrument of the intellect and the ability to develop it and to meditate on the reality of the universe.

Should I be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?

So yes, “Should I be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?” is asked only by a man. Why does that question come? It comes due to reflection. Because man has a discriminative intellect, he can reflect on the nature of pain and suffering. Perhaps a man may think at some point in his life whether it is justifiable to harm and kill an animal to fill his belly. A person may reflect whether eating animals is consistent with the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A man may consider whether this maxim applies to all forms of life or just other human beings.

Plants are life forms too. “Should one hurt them?” you may ask. If one can live without hurting any life forms that is the best, but that is not possible. Life lives on life – that is the law of nature. My role as a human being with discriminative intellect is to do the least damage to the nature for keeping myself alive and well.

At least, I am not consciously aware of suffering of the plants. That is why eating to live and not living to eat is the determining factor. In Bhagawad Geeta, Sri Krishna emphatically says that a Sadhaka (one who is in pursuit of Moksha) should have a compassion for all forms of life. There may come a point when it is advisable to be a vegetarian – only taking from nature what you need to keep the body in optimal health.

In one’s spiritual growth, one develops subtler and subtler intellect. That is, the mind becomes more sensitive, calmer, and self-contented. Your sensitivity to suffering of others also grows. Hence, the thought about becoming a vegetarian may come. Only you can decide what is right for you and not someone else. Any decision that is imposed on you from the outside does violence to your nature.

Many young people are now becoming vegetarians. They all have their own reasons. Fortunately vegetarianism is mainstream now and accepted. Most schools and universities offer vegetarian and even vegan meals and so the option to become a vegetarian is easier today than ever before.

Flowers grow in their own time. Whether you are vegetarian or not does not matter ultimately.

You are all flowers blooming in the light of the divine.

Hari Om and Tat Sat. – Sadananda

Sri Ramana Maharshi: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

On occasion, I am asked to give more information about Ramana Maharshi and the various dialogues and talks people had with him as well as other information about the sage. It can be found by going to the link below. It is the official page of Sri Ramanasramam in India. It is a treasure house of free books and newsletters and stories and dialogues with the sage.

http://www.ramana-maharshi.org/