My Teacher and Sri Ramana
All of us come from different backgrounds, and we walk the path in our own unique way. Yet, we all have the same innermost longing to know the deepest mystery of our own nature and being. Reflecting on the purest teachings of the Self and on the nature of Ahimsa as nonmovement of the mind, we are bound to have experiences and openings in our consciousness.
When my teacher, Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu-ji visited Sri Ramana, he was just a teenager. Chitrabhanu-Ji became a Jain monk in 1942 at the age of 20. Prior to that, he was searching and visiting different saints in the various traditions of India and asking them questions about the spiritual path and how to become Self-Realized.
Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu
Chitrabhanu-Ji told me that of all the saints and sages he visited in India in his teen years, a few were unforgettable and stood out to…
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Michael Bowes is well known to us as an authentic and genuine and a very experienced yogi and a devotee of Sri Bhagavan Ramana. Internationally, he is well travelled and has been to India. He has visited various Ashrams and Gurus and Swamis in both the U.S. and abroad.
Michael has an uncanny ability to see to the heart of the matter and his spiritual insights pierce through the veils of sentimentality and conceptual baggage. Michael is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh community and his presence has been a gift.
Given below is the second part of a three part story from Michael about his visit to a Swami in India. This is Part II.
You can see Part I at the following link.
By Sri Michael Bowes
Many persons would love to meet their guru. Imagine meeting a Swami of the Shankara Order who was…
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Sri Bhagavan generally used two fountain pens: one contained blue ink, the other, red. Both of these pens were quite old and looked, to me at least, worn out. One day the top cover of the red-ink pen cracked, so a devotee took it to town to have it repaired. It was gone for several days. During this period Sri Bhagavan reverted to an old-fashioned nib pen which had to be dipped in an ink pot of red ink. Since this seemed to cause him some inconvenience, I decided to get him a new pen. I wrote to a friend in Bombay and asked him to send one immediately. A few days later the pen arrived by post. I went straight to Sri Bhagavan and handed over the unopened parcel containing the pen. Continue reading
For many years, I have been sharing the following quote on Facebook.
“I entered the Heart a stranger and saw that I myself am the Heart.”
Whenever I went up the hill to see Bhagavan Ramana, I used to buy something to eat and take it with me as an offering.
One day I had no money. I stood before Bhagavan in a dejected mood and said: “This poor man has brought nothing.” Continue reading
From M.G. Shanmugam’s Personal Diary
When we were living at Darapuram and I was seven years old, I was initiated into Linga puja. Such traditional upbringing gradually involved me in the study of the Sastras, doing japa, bhajan, saguna and nirguna dhyana (form and formless meditation) and regular puja three times a day. During this period I also had three gurus.
I came to the conviction that the highest human attainment was the state of Jivanmukti (full enlightenment whilst still in the body). I was then at Tiruchengode (1921-1925) studying in college. When I was 18 years old, I fervently prayed that I should meet a Jivanmukta and receive his blessings.
My prayers were soon answered! Continue reading
Note: T.K. Sundaresa Iyer (T.K.S) met Sri Ramana in 1908 when T.K.S was only a twelve year old boy. Bhagavan, although a full blown Self-Realized sage, was also quite young and in his late 20’s. Many early devotees have described how Bhagavan by his sheer look would give them experience of the Self. However, this was not true in every case.
T.K.S’s cousin Krishnamurthy had been visiting Bhagavan Ramana regularly and would sing songs of devotion to him. One day T.K.S asked his cousin where he went every day. Krishnamurthy told him about Ramana and said, “The Lord of the Hill Himself is sitting in human form, why don’t you come with me.” Both of them then climbed the Hill and went to Virupksha cave to visit the Sage.
Now the story in T.K.S.’s own words:
I too climbed the Hill and found Bhagavan sitting on a stone slab, with about 10 devotees around him. Each would sing a song. Bhagavan turned to me and asked, “Well, won’t you sing a song also.” One of Sundramurthy’s songs came to my mind and I sang it. It’s meaning was, “No other support have I, except thy holy feet. By holding on to them, I shall win your grace. Great men sing your praise Oh, Lord. Grant that my tongue may repeat Thy name even when my mind strays.”
“Yes. That is what must be done,” said Bhagavan, and I took it to be his teaching for me. From that time on, I went to see him regularly for several years without missing a day.
One day I wondered why I was visiting him at all. What was the use? There seemed to be no inner advancement. Going up the hill was meaningless toil. I decided to end my visits on the hill.
For one hundred days exactly I did not see Bhagavan. On the hundred and first day I could suffer no longer and I ran to Skandasramam, above Virupaksha Cave. Bhagavan saw me climbing, got up and came forward to meet me. When I fell at his feet, I could not restrain myself and burst into tears. I clung to them and would not get up.
Bhagavan pulled me up and asked: “It is over three months since I saw you. Where were you?” I told him how I thought that seeing him was of no use. “All right,” he said, “maybe it is of no use, so what? You felt the loss, did you not?”
Then I understood that we did not go to him for profit, but because away from him there was no life for us.
From “At the Feet of Bhagwan” by T.K. Sundaresa Iyer.
The first time I came to the U.S. with my mother and brothers was in 1965. I was 9 years old. We joined my father who was then teaching Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
We lived very close to Colby College. There was a Roman Catholic Grade School there. My father knew the Priest and the Nuns who ran it and liked them very much. The Priest lived next to our house and he and my father talked often. Within a few days of our arriving, me and my brothers were enrolled in that school.
It was a huge change going from Punjab, India to Maine, U.S.A. My brothers and myself did not speak English. We did not even understand it much. For example, it took me a few days to realize that at my school, “Rest Room” referred to the bathroom and not a place to go rest and take a nap in the afternoon if you were tired.
The saving grace in all the adjustment was that I had the most wonderful Nuns as teachers. I especially remember the Mother Superior. I think we called her the Holy Mother. There was something extraordinary peaceful about her. She was full of grace, kindness, and a quiet dignity in all her words and actions.
After we had been in Waterville for a few weeks, the Holy Mother along with the Sister Nun came over to our house. The Nuns spoke to my father. My father said to my mother and us that the Mother Superior and the Sister wanted to take us to a movie. We all readily agreed.
The Mother Superior and the Sister took us to see “The Sound of Music”. It had just come out. That was the first American Movie I ever saw. I did not fully understand the movie at the time but really enjoyed the songs in it. After the movie and some food, the Nuns drove us back. I was singing in the car that very catchy tune in the movie, “You are sixteen, I am seventeen….”. The Nuns and my mother were talking . My brothers were smiling.
In my first month, I had a lot of difficulty drinking water from the water bubbler in my school. I had never seen anything like a water bubbler before. I would squeeze and turn the knob and the water would spring up towards me and go into my nose. I did not know the method of how to get the water to jump in my mouth and somehow suck on it and gulp it down.
The water would at times spring up and go into my mouth but then go right out before I could drink it. Children in the U.S. grow up with drinking water from the bubbler. However, for me it was a formidable challenge. I was used to the Indian style of drinking water with cupped palms.
One day, in between classes, I was engaged in my usual struggle to get a drink from the bubbler. I was really thirsty and so my efforts were unusually strong. But no matter how I tried, I was not able to get the water to fall perfectly in my mouth and gulp it down. Finally, in desperation, I squeezed and turned the knob with one hand and tried to get the water to come to the palm of my other hand and drink it. It was messy. While I did manage to get a few drops of water in my mouth, the rest spilled on my shirt.
A small crowd of students now started to gather around the water fountain watching me.
The Holy Mother saw what was happening and came over. She said to me that she would turn the knob on the water bubbler and I could drink the water. So with the Holy Mother holding the knob and turning it, I put my cupped palms together to hold the incoming water. After my cupped palms were full, I drank the water in the traditional Indian way. This had to be repeated many times because I was very thirsty.
Mother Superior continued holding the knob and I kept drinking the water with my palms until my thirst was quenched. After a couple of minutes, I finished. All this time, the Holy Mother was looking at me intently to make sure that I was fully satisfied.
As she took her hand off the knob of the water bubbler, the Holy Mother said in her gentle and most dignified way, “This is how Jesus used to drink water.”
The crowd around the bubbler then dispersed and we all went to our respective classes.
Jerry Weinstein, known lovingly to his friends and admirers as Jerrysan Rinpoche, is a retired lawyer. Jerrysan gave up a very lucrative and highly successful law practice many years ago to live the quiet life of a sage and meditate on the mysteries of life. The force of an active kundalini has been with Jerrysan for many years, showing him both the beauty and the agony of being human and aspiring to the divine union.
When Jerrysan speaks to us about his suffering and lays bare his heart, he teaches us about the human condition and our collective suffering and lays bare our own hearts. In revealing himself, he reveals us.
Jerrysan once said something like, “My heart is an ocean, like a love that has no shoreline. Yet this heart must be shattered over and over again as I progress on the path of the unknown. I have been deprived of all comforts of not only outer life but inner life as well — all reliance upon scriptures, teachers and their teachings is gone. All forms of meditation and mystical experience have been given up — in order to fully realize who I am.”
A ZEN GARDEN
By Jerry C. Weinstein
I used to go to Asia every year, especially to India, but had never been to Bali. So in August 1992, l scheduled a trip there. It’s such a long flight l decided at the last minute to do a stop-over in Japan for 5 days to break up the trip. Before l left l told my caretaker to get rid of all the weeds in my back yard, which was quite a mess.
Upon arriving in Japan l immediately went to Kyoto, which l knew to be a spiritual center with a lot of zen temples. It was then that l found myself in another world, sensing at once that destiny had guided me there. I’d been doing vipassana meditation pretty intensely for several months and was starting to feel the increased concentration and depth from this practice. In addition, I’ve always had a passionately aesthetic nature. So, l think it was a combination of these things that led to not only the temples, but particularly the zen gardens being probably the most wonderful moment of discovery I’ve ever known. There were many moments of melting in tears of joy, and many others of profound meditative stillness, induced by the sense conveyed of almost perfect harmony with nature.
It was with great reluctance that l left Kyoto for Bali, which, although it has its charms, proved to be an afterthought. Then, after flying home and pulling up in my driveway, l had the sense of being someplace else. My caretaker, instead of being content to get rid of weeds, had also cut down every tree in my backyard, making it unrecognizable.
My upstairs tenant, a staunch environmentalist, was angry at me and ready to move out. The neighbors were furious. l called my caretaker and asked how he’d managed to so misunderstand me do something so unthinkable as this? He had always been a thoughtful and responsible person, and curiously, appeared to have no idea himself.
My first reaction, since l now had a bare yard, was to arrange to have a bunch of trees planted. But somewhere within me the Kyoto experience resonated enough to lead me to postpone doing anything for awhile. The idea of having my own zen garden had an allure — the problem was l was bogged down full time in my law practice and had never even planted a tree or done any gardening in my life. So the notion of my doing anything was totally impractical. My hope was that, hey, maybe something will just evolve or manifest itself out of my meditation practice.
Less than 2 weeks after my return home my kundalini process began, with energy shooting out of my brow chakra and remaining there on a permanent basis (as well as elsewhere). There were 6 months of powerful but mostly pleasant energy sensations — interestingly, every time l looked at a tree my brow chakra would go crazy. Then certain breathing practices led to a long period of continuous headaches and other problems, making any meditation impossible. So much for the idea of a zen garden — that was the least of my concerns. So my yard just deteriorated more and more as first months, then years went by.
My yard became the junkyard of the neighborhood as weeds, beverage cans and dog crap became its main constituents. My neighbors were beyond being upset — l told one of them that someday it was going to be a zen garden, which drew a mixture of disbelief and ridicule.
My kundalini hit bottom in late 95, a time when physically l felt like l was going to die. I separated from my meditation teacher (my guru at the time) and also began winding down my law practice.
lt was then that l turned all my attention to my yard. l just stood out there, day after day, getting the feel of it and recycling ideas through my system. And so began a process that lasted for over 4 years. First, l did a formal zen sitting garden in the back, with a large area of raked, fine gravel and a meditation platform — enclosed by a fence and bordered by trees, a groove of bamboo, and a small Buddha statue in the rear corner. l often asked myself, why am l doing this? l can’t even meditate and may never be able to again. l just seemed to be driven to do it. What surprised me was that it worked — the effect was magical — friends started coming over to meditate there.
Once the back was finished l figured that was it. But 2 years later l decided to expand the garden from the back to include the side area. Once again l was completely stumped at first, but I eventually came up with a moss garden with a water feature, boulders, Japanese maples and conifers, enclosed by a bamboo fence.
l was amazed at the end result. Then last year l decided to go all the way and do the front yard also. l was just as clueless as before, and again spent day after day in front of my house, as my neighbors nervously looked on. l completely redid my front yard, enclosing it with a bamboo fence on top of a low dry stone wall. l brought in several huge boulders (which required months to select) which l arranged in various combinations surrounded by raked gravel and trees. l also tore up the straight cement walkway from the street and created a curving stone path that leads to the front door and also winds completely throughout the entire garden.
So, if anyone’s still with me here (ha ha), l now have a completely enclosed zen garden which covers my entire property and consists of 3 distinct areas. At the risk of sounding egotistical, l am pretty amazed by the physical transformation that’s occurred. Several landscape architects have wandered in and have been stunned by it. Local garden associations have pestered me to take tours through here, but I’ve resisted that so far — just doesn’t feel right. And my dear neighbors have become humble admirers.
Of course, there’s a downside too — l could write a book about all the problems I’ve encountered. Maintaining the zen garden is no small thing. But l think being able to do the garden has been wonderful for my energy process, both in terms of strengthening my connectedness to the earth and in providing an opportunity to be creative in such a fulfilling way.
For all this, l can be thankful that for some mysterious reason my caretaker decided to cut down all my trees. In recent weeks I’ve found that after nearly 7 yrs, my headaches are finally getting better, and the energy is flowing more freely again. Maybe this summer I’ll get to meditate in my garden.
Editor’s note: Jerrysan Rinpoche is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh community. His article first appeared in the first volume of the old HS Ezine in 2001.