Effort for Enlightenment

May 31, 2009

Atma-vichara is the Sanskrit name for the inquiry into our true nature. The widely recognized authority on this topic is Sri Ramana Maharshi. The following is based on his teaching.

In the tradition of Yoga of Intellect (Gyana Yoga) there are three stages on this path with enlightenment occurring at the end of the third step:

1) Hearing (Shravana): listening to the guru describe the Self

2) Reflection (Manana): focusing ON the Self with the intellect

3) Realisation (Nididhyasana): remaining AS the Self without using the intellect

This path of knowledge is also called the Mountain Path because it attempts to go straight up the side of the mountain, rather than making a circuitous route to the top. The path is steep, direct and difficult.

The principle difficulty in self-inquiry is ignorance. We don’t know the path, how to navigate our way or much about the goal. So we gather knowledge about it. This is the first stage.

The second stage we process this knowledge and make it our own. We take what we have learnt from books and teachers and study it deeply until we arrive at conviction and deep understanding.

The third stage is transforming our learning into direct experience.

All of these stages require a tremendous amount of personal growth and effort. After all, it is the Mountain Path. Sri Ramana says that it takes effort right up to the very end. This effort is required in different ways at different stages on the path.

In the beginning the effort is finding a way out of the jungle of life. This stage takes many lifetimes but eventually the person comes to the conclusion that the answer is found in spirituality and that becomes the focus of the person’s life.

In the later stages of the path the effort is to not be distracted by outward going tendencies (vasanas) like desires and attachments and to simply “be still.”

I’ve been told that it is okay to strain the mind resisting and breaking these old outward-going mental habits. Obviously, the ego does not want its own death and will resist enourmously – hence the great effort required.

Whilst it is easy for the mature soul to “just be,” it is definitely not easy to get to that point. It takes a lot of effort, purification and determination. The path may wander through many different methods: meditation, service, study, fasting, emotional healing, pilgrimage but the key is always to do what you think is best and to follow your intuition.

This path is a path of a thousand mistakes and 1001 corrections and it gets both easier and harder as we proceed. It gets easier because we become familiar with the path and rather than dealing with the confusion of the whole world, we are only dealing with a very specific small issue – the nature of “I”.

However, it gets harder as we face our deeper and stronger attachments (vasanas). Unraveling the subconscious often leads to major upheaval in a person’s life, both inwardly and outwardly, which most people resist. Who really chooses to lose everything? Fortunately, once the path is started Grace takes over and finishes it for us, we need only do our best to stay out of our own way.

For more about this see my previous article here.

Agni and the Fire of Self-Inquiry

May 31, 2009

Written by Vamadeva Shastri (Dr. David Frawley). The whole article may be found here.

Self-inquiry (Atma-vichara), such as taught by Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, is regarded as the simplest and most direct path to Self-realization. However, Self-inquiry is also very subtle and can be hard to accomplish even after years of dedicated practice. It depends upon a great power of concentration and acuity of mind along with an intense longing for liberation. One might say metaphorically that Self-inquiry requires a certain flame. It requires that we ourselves become a flame and that our lives become an offering to it. Without such an inner fire, Self-realization may elude us whatever else we may attempt. Therefore, it is important to look at Self-inquiry not simply as a mental practice but as an energetic movement of consciousness like the rising up of a great fire.

The Search for the Universal Self

In this psychological age, particularly seekers coming from the West tend to confuse Self-inquiry with a kind of psychological self-examination, a looking into our temporal, bodily or ego self and its fears and desires as constituting a true search for the higher Self. One examines ones personal traumas and sorrows and looks for a psychological state of peace, clarity and joy, which is a kind state of personal integration, as if it were true Self-realization.

However, according to Vedanta, the true Self that we are seeking to realize is not our human self but the universal Self, the Self that is present in all beings, in all bodies and in the entire world. It is the Self that is the witness of all time and space and transcends our psychology, which consists mainly of the incidentals and peculiarities of our personal circumstances and proclivities in life. The true Self resembles more the great powers of nature like fire, wind or sun than it does our personal thoughts and feelings. The search for this transcendent Self is very different than any psychological self-examination, which is at best a preliminary stage in its approach.

Other seekers with a more intellectual background tend to approach the Self in a conceptual or philosophical way, as if it were some category of cosmic existence to be appreciated by the rational mind. This too generally misses the living reality of the Self which has the power to consume the mind and cannot be approached by any mere logic or dialectic.

To question deeply about who we really are is to create a friction at the core of the mind that naturally gives rise to an inner fire. The inquiry “Who Am I?” is the ultimate stirring of the mind that brings forth an inner flame that can consume all other questions and doubts, like a fire burning dry grass. It takes us back to the core fire at the core of the mind, which is the inextinguishable light of the supreme I AM. That universal Self of pure light and consciousness shining deep within us is the real goal of our search.

Quotes from the Ashtavakra Gita

May 31, 2009

King Janaka:
How is one to acquire knowledge? How is one to attain liberation? And how is one to reach dispassion? Tell me this, sir. 1.1

Sage Ashtavakra:
If you are seeking liberation, my son, avoid the objects of the senses like poison, and cultivate tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and truthfulness as the antidote. 1.2

You do not consist of any of the elements – earth, water, fire, air or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as consisting of consciousness, the witness of these . 1.3

If only you will remain resting in consciousness, seeing yourself as distinct from the body, then even now you will become happy, peaceful and free from bonds. 1.4

You do not belong to the brahmin or any other caste, you are not at any stage, nor are you anything that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless, the witness of everything – so be happy. 1.5

Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences, so you are always free. 1.6

You are the one witness of everything, and are always completely free. The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than this. 1.7

Bhakti Sutras of Narada

May 29, 2009

According to the ancient Vedic Sage Narada, son of the Sage Parashara, the ultimate reality is Love. Below are some verses from his text called the Bhakti Sutras of Narada. Bhakti is the Sanskrit word for devotion to God.

I highly recommend the book The Yoga of Spiritual Devotion by Prem Prakash. The text itself is quite short, only about 80 verses.

The nature of bhakti is the supreme love.

It is the nature of peace and supreme joy.

Bhakti does not arise from desire. Its nature is a state of inner stillness.

The essential nature of love is inexpressible.

Like taste for one who is mute.

Love is manifest where there is an able vessel.

There are various descriptions of the characteristics of bhakti due to differences in point of view.

Some assert that bhakti can be developed solely by wisdom.

Intellectual explanations should not be relied upon.

They can go on endlessly without providing certainty.

Essentially, intellectual discussions such as this text are very helpful, but the fulfillment of the intellect is found in the experience of inner stillness from which bhakti arises.

In this state, when the intellect is satisfied and has come to rest, the God’s infinite love dawns. Then no doubts remain about the nature of Reality.


May 29, 2009

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value – Albert Einstein

Keep true to the dreams of thy youth – Friedrich von Schiller

Magic Powers

May 29, 2009

This is my reply to a post on my other blog KiwiYogi Blog about Megan Fox.

My friend Craig suggests that Megan must have a special aura.

Yes, auras can be very revealing. A lot of ‘beauties’ aren’t so attractive when you can see their personality – ie vanity, self-obsession, specialness, etc. They look like plastic flowers.

There are some who have the ability to “enchant” and pull you in like Star Trek’s tractor beam. I saw this once in America – I looked a very beautiful young woman in the eye as I was walking past and it was mesmerising – like a spell had been cast over me. It was like looking at some kind of seductive spinning vortex. Amazing. And dangerous because that kind of power is easily misused.

Looking at real beauty is looking at Love herself – no demands, no expectations, it does not age and it is not fleeting. Most of all it is independent of appearances – so you can look at something that appears ugly but see real beauty.

These kinds of special abilities, like enchantment, are called sidhis in Yoga. They include all kinds of magic powers and mostly they go unrecognised in our society, but when you know how to recognise them they are actually quite common.

One of the more common ones is the ability to heal. They are some people who have a magic touch – though I am very selective now about seeing such healers because their power quite often comes from undesirable sources. However, there are a few that are pure in their ability.

It is also common to find people with a great talent for charm, persuasion, fighting, intelligence, clairvoyance, to name a few. Curiously, many know about their ability but attribute it to some mundane cause or personal skill and do not see it for what it is. I consider President Obama’s great talent for oratory to be a sidhi. He does not attribute this ability to himself but simply says, “I have a gift.”

Persuasion is an interesting one. I’ve met people who can exert a very powerful influence on others without having to say much at all – like some salesmen. They can make you want what you don’t want. Again, this kind of power needs a high level of ethics and responsibility or else it can devolve into manipulation and black magic.

Black magic is usually quite easy to see. It will be accompanied with a feeling of being forced, overpowered, manipulated, coerced, compelled or uncomfortable in anyway. Sometimes it is very difficult to see and has to be determined by the context. For example, someone with the power of seduction may make you feel very comfortable and get you to forget your better judgement.

There are others with the highly developed ability to read minds. I’ve met some like this and they are essentially eavesdropping – and they never hear good of themselves.

When I was in India I asked Swami-ji how to protect myself from the myriad of powers that we may come in contact with. He said the solution is to have a strong mind free from temptations. Essentially, this means finding our satisfaction within so our desires (ie our weaknesses and attachments) cannot be exploited by others.


May 27, 2009

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and imagined.

Quotes from Vernon Howard

May 27, 2009

It is a true miracle when a man finally sees himself as his only opposition.

We are enslaved by anything we do not consciously see. We are freed by conscious perception.

All forms of self-defeating behavior are unseen and unconscious, which is why their existence is denied.

Self awakening enables you to see the human scene as it is, not as it appears to be, which frees you of its chaos.

Those who imagine they understand themselves do not want to hear anything that scares their imagination.

A sincere seeker constantly acquires self-insight, crisis or not.


May 22, 2009

Here is a reply to my brother’s insightful article on his blog:

Brilliant post, Stephen. Very enjoyable to read. 🙂

Yes, we cannot know the object until we know who is perceiving it. Therefore the validity of all objective knowledge depends on self-knowledge.

So who am I? I see many objects before me: my thoughts, my body, the world… Who is it that sees these objects?

I am not my thoughts because I can observe them – I see them as objects separate from me. They come and go, but I remain. Who then am I? What am I?

The solution to “who is the thinker of thoughts?” is found by looking very carefully at where thoughts come from. What is their source? Where do they arise from? The answer is not another thought, but a clear experience of yourself as distinct from the mind.

It is here that you find freedom from the mind and stress and worry and fear and guilt and anxiety and doubt and shame and vanity and restlessness and confusion and, actually, everything.

When we see the mind as separate from us it loses its capacity to overshadow us. The result is genuine, lasting freedom from suffering. The mind can then babble on about anything it likes and we remain at rest, in our true nature, as a simple observer of this drama.

Joel Goldsmith

May 20, 2009

The work of Christian mystic Joel Goldsmith is unlike any other that I have encountered. He was an American faith healer, Freemason, US Marine and long-time member of the Christian Science church. He subsequently broke from the church and taught his own message which was built on the principles of Christian Science though he also studied Sanskrit and other teachings.

IMHO, his teaching can be reduced to two basic principles: opening to higher states of consciousness and understanding error.

Error is a very interesting principle. It is this simple: There is no sin, sickness or death in God, and God is all there is.

If there is no sickness in God, then what do we call cancer? Joel says that it is error – a false appearance with no substance, power or reality. In the same way that we dream of being in a war, we may legitimately say, “No, this is not real, even though it is very real and painful to me. The reality is that this is just a dream.”

If you’ve ever had the experience of lucid dreaming then you’ll know that waking up in your dream relieved you of all the seriousness of it and may have even changed the course of the dream. You realise that the events in the dream were entirely unreal with no substance or power – they were only ever an appearance. The dream’s power to cause suffering came from believing it was real.

The solution according to Joel is to open ourselves to the Christ, or in other words higher states of consciousness. Automatically, this awakens us from the dream and this world stops being “reality” but more like a movie – an appearance in consciousness – or what Vedanta calls maya. Awakening from the dream is the end of suffering.

What is outside of the dream? The answer to that question only comes with experience of higher states of consciousness, but you do not awaken to another place or time or situation. This is where the usefulness of the analogy of the dream ends.

The result of this teaching, and similar ones like Science of Mind, is that many people have had healings of physical, mental, emotional or financial problems – all caused and cured by a shift in consciousness. The track record for this philosophy in healing day-to-day and existential problems is very impressive.

It has taken me a long time to get my head around this teaching, and I still have a lot to learn. It is a slow process because the brain physiology has to change – erasing the old, heavily ingrained habits of seeing the world as real and learning a new way of seeing and experiencing. Just as it takes a child many years to understand simple logic like 5+7=12, it takes many more years to understand (and experience) that life is bliss.