How to Teach Enlightenment

July 30, 2009

Question from Suzanne from NothingExistsDespiteAppearances: How can you teach someone to be?

This is a truly excellent question, Suzanne, because this question delivers people from terrible suffering.

If someone who is experiencing abject suffering – the kind of pain and torment that often visits seekers – goes to a neo-advaitin and asks “how to be” then in all likelihood the neo-advaitin will say something like this:

“No one can teach you to be. You already ready are. It is not possible to become what you are right now. Everything is perfect right now, including your apparent suffering. But if you really want something to do, then abide in the Self.”

Whilst there is a factual basis to this answer, it is useless to 99% of sufferers.

(I can hear the neo-advaitin’s follwers laughing sarcastically at the sufferer and saying, “This guy thinks he’s a sufferer!”)

If someone came to me and asked “how to be” – meaning how to be free from the duality of bondage and liberation – I would tell them to follow the teachings of the great liberated masters like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Adi Shankara, Sage Patanjali, Lord Krishna, Lao-Tsu, Sage Ashtavakra, Rishi Narada, etc.

I would not refer the person to neo-advaitins who pay lip service to the above great teachers and then ignore their teaching.

These great masters have already laid out the path and the practices. They address the obstacles and challenges. Why ignore time-tested and rishi-endorsed teachings?

As Sri Ramana said, each person needs to find a practice that suits their temperament – gyan yoga, bhakti yoga, hatha yoga, raja yoga, karma yoga, tantra yoga. All of these methods that people can do lead them to realize that they are not the doer.

In advaita circles people like to talk about jnana, but do not know much about jnana yoga – ie knowledge as a path. This path of knowledge has three stages: shravana, manana and nididhyasana – hearing, reflection and realization. I discuss it at length here.

Neo-advaitins dismiss this ancient path of knowledge as mere “mental masturbation” and advise people just to skip all this mental mumbo-jumbo and just be. I cannot emphasize enough how ignorant this advice is for the majority of self-inquirers.

But the sincere seekers who want to realize “what is” and free themselves from suffering, rather than just talk about it, will not be satisfied with this useless neo-advaita stuff and will actively apply themselves until they find their way home.

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How to Get Enlightened

July 30, 2009

Robert Adams, the author of Silence of the Heart, says that the best way to get enlightened is service to the guru. By this he means a real liberated master. He says it is a better method than self-inquiry and I have to agree.

However, in the absence of a liberated master I suggest following the teachings of the liberated masters. A liberated master is someone who is self-aware and has dominion over maya (and this is infinitely different to a neo-advaitin).

Essentially, the masters advocate increasing sattva (purity) to clear the dust off the window of the mind making it transparent enough for the light of the Self to shine through.

Sattva (purity) is increased by reducing rajas (agitation) and tamas (dullness). There are many methods for this and popular ones include: mantras, self-inquiry, yoga postures, breathing techniques, selfless-service, devotion.

The cultivation of sattva is the pathway to transcending both sattva and the mind.

For those of you who favour self-inquiry as a path, here is what Sri Ramana says about sattva:

The ‘I’-thought which rises in this manner appears in the form of the three gunas, and of these three the rajas and tamas aspects cling to and identify with the body. The remaining one, which is pure sattva, is alone the natural characteristic of the mind, and this stands clinging to the reality.

Sri Ramana’s self-inquiry is not the only path to self-realisation.

The great sages give plenty of practices for purification, such as Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras (1.33 – 1.39).

At the end of the day, we cannot make ourselves enlightened. Shakti does it in Her good time. But we must do our part in assisting Her by purifying ourselves. As Sri Ramana said, effort is required right until the very end.


Rich and Enlightened

July 30, 2009

I often think that getting enlightened is like getting rich. If someone is really keen for it then they won’t just talk about it, they will do whatever it takes. That is to say, they will work really hard for it.

Neo-advaitins are like people who have won the lottery. They say, “Gee, I worked really hard, but all I needed to do was buy a lottery ticket. All of you should give up working hard and just buy a ticket!”

They give this advice because, as Buddha said, “To one who has arrived the way is foreign.”

Lottery winners can give you insights about what it means to be rich, but being rich doesn’t make them financial experts. Likewise someone who had a spontaneous awakening isn’t necessarily an expert on how to get there.


Neo-Advaitins

July 28, 2009

This is a reply to a comment from Suzanne on my KiwiYogi Blog.

IMHO the teachers who “eschew traditional advaita practice” do so out of their own limited understanding. In Kali Yuga these ignorant teachers are everywhere.

adi-shankara-acharya-shankaracharyaThe great undisputed Vedic teachers such as Adi Shanaka, the Sage Patanjali, Rishi Narada and Lord Krishna Himself all prescribe practices for awakening to Brahman, paramatman, parabhakti and Bhagavan. They even have advice for those individuals who have already awakened to their no-self nature.

They prescribe to seekers ego-based and dualistic activities for spiritual growth. For example, Sri Ramana encouraged people to walk around a mountain!

Adi Shankara declared that everything is maya and that there is no individuality anywhere, yet he still spent his life walking around India setting up monasteries. Why would he bother if there is no one to benefit from this?

Perhaps these sages don’t know what they are talking about. Perhaps Tony Parsons knows something which they don’t. But I doubt that in the extreme.

Many neo-advaitins often teach what is only appropriate for themselves – abidance in the Self. But the pathless-path of Self-remembrance is not for suitable for everyone. And neo-advaitins give very poor advice when they discourage traditional practices. Lord Krishna says of this, “Let not him who knows the whole disturb the ignorant who know only the part.” (3.29)

In the Yoga Sutras, Sage Patanjali addresses this topic of appropriate practice – particularly with regard to self-abidance versus ego-based meditation:

These afflictions, when subtle, are removed by returning to one’s original state. 2.10

When active, they are removed by meditation. 2.11

This is really a no brainer – in most people vasanas (outward going tendencies) are very strong. If someone has no conscious self-awareness, then they should purify themselves through appropriate action – mantra, vichara, asanas, pranayama, seva, etc. This prescription for action is advocated by Sri Ramana Maharshi, Adi Shankara and every other genuine empathetic sage.

Those who have what Patanjali refers to as “subtle afflictions” (vasanas) often delude themselves into thinking they are fully awakened. Most neo-advaitins fall into this category. Their mind is transparent enough for the light of the Self to shine through but this is like the dawn light before sunrise. Sri Ramana calls this Aham Sphurana and his explanation is here.

Nisargadatta was in this category for a long time. He said that he thought he was fully enlightened, but then he witnessed his own death. If someone with the stature and intelligence of Nisargadatta could make this mistake then what chance has a neo-advaitin?

Neo-advaitins, who have limited vision, do not appreciate the science behind getting enlightened. They think that because they do not know the details of spiritual evolution then no one knows. This is not true. A liberated master blessed with the knowledge of past and future lives and the gift of being able to communicate with Kundalini Shakti Herself, is able to assess an individual’s progress and determine what the seeker needs to do to realize their lack of individuality. Obviously, such insight in today’s world of teachers is so rare that it is almost academic to mention it. In more simple words, the path is not random – it is just that the past causes are obscured making the current circumstances difficult to understand for those with lesser vision.

The biggest deficiency among neo-advaitins is their lack of appreciation of what the relative aspect of creation has to do with enlightenment. A liberated master has dominion over maya, but a neo-advaitin is merely a helpless, ignorant witness. Nisargadatta was asked about this point – he was asked what was beyond simple witnessing. He said that initially awakening is like being in a cage in a jungle full of wild tigers. Next, the tigers are in the cage and you roam freely through the jungle. After that you ride the tigers through the jungle fearlessly.

Understanding how the witness and the individual are the same thing is a very difficult concept for the unenlightened mind to understand because they are entirely opposite. But there is not a Self and non-Self, there is only the Self. And that Self is Saguna Brahman – the One Without Second.

The ultimate truth as declared by the great Vedic Advaitins is Nirguna Brahman. Everything is actually uncreated – Ajata Vada as Sri Ramana calls it – something did not come out of nothing. These states can only be comprehended with experience of them.


More from Deepak Chopra

July 21, 2009

Question:

I have always been a very spiritually inclined person. For the past three years I have seen very close relatives die of natural causes, murder and now suicide.

I have learned the process of grieving, but with this one it has just left me with so many questions, about life in itself. I have always believed in destiny and Karma.

My question to you is: How do I make this type of death make sense to my spiritual and emotional grounding? It’s just so confusing since it’s completely unnatural.

I would appreciate any input you can give me to start on my spiritual path again.

Answer:

It sounds like you have found a certain solace through the ideas of destiny and karma to help you come to terms with loss in your past. However, life events can not always be easily understood and made sense of. Being at ease with the uncertainty and mysteriousness of life is one of the greatest gifts of wisdom. This suicide may be an indication that it is time for you to let go of the need to make sense of this.

You can grieve, heal and find peace even if your mind is unable to explain or comprehend why something like this happened. If your healing and growth is dependent upon philosophies and spiritual beliefs, then you are limiting your evolution to your conditioned mind—the very thing you are trying to move beyond.

So try to use this situation as a way to accept a truth and reality that is outside the reach of your understanding—and that is okay. From here you should be able to let the natural grieving process begin.

Love,
Deepak

Deepak’s point is very important: “Being at ease with the uncertainty and mysteriousness of life.” This is an essential key to inner peace because if we don’t have ease then we have anxiety and fear.


The Essence of Advaita Vedanta

July 20, 2009

adi-shankara-acharya-shankaracharya

The philosophy of Advaita Vedanta has attracted intellectuals from all parts of the world because of the fact that it adheres to the strict rules of logic and does not demand blind faith or unquestioning acceptance.

The student of Vedanta is asked to examine and think for himself before accepting the teachings of the Guru. But he must start with an open mind, a genuine desire to understand and an attitude of respect towards the scriptures.

We find in the upanishads (scriptures) that the student frankly puts his doubts and objections to the Guru and the Guru very patiently clarifies his doubts and answers his objections. The upanishads (scriptures) are not for the intellectually indolent. There is a very important place for reason in Vedanta.

The fundamental principle of Vedanta is that the final testimony of truth is actual spiritual experience. This makes it a very scientific system and therefore acceptable to intellectuals of the present day who swear by reason and the scientific method.

Dr. T.M.P.Mahadevan, the great Vedantic scholar, says in his book ‘Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence’– “We believe that Advaita is not a sectarian doctrine. It is the culmination of all doctrines, the crown of all views. Though other views may imagine themselves to be opposed to Advaita, Advaita is opposed to none.

As Gaudapada, a pre-Shankara teacher of Advaita, says, Advaita has no quarrel with any system of philosophy. While the pluralistic world-views may be in conflict with one another, Advaita is not opposed to any of them. It recognises the measure of truth that there is in each of them; but only, that truth is not the whole. Hostility arises out of partial vision. When the whole truth is realised, there can be no hostility.

Continued at Celextel.org.


Q&A from Deepak Chopra’s Blog

July 9, 2009

deepakRecently, I started following Deepak Chopra’s blog using Google Reader. To my surprise I find his posts very enjoyable. He is a talented writer in that he can take abstract concepts and present them simply.

Question:

How much of our life is really in our control? Are not the events in our life (and maybe also how we react to them) influenced and driven by a higher consciousness, which we are not aware of? Say, for example Arjuna’s life.. Isn’t his succumbing to despair in the battlefield of Kurukshetra preplanned, so that Lord Krishna’s purpose of coming to the earth gets fulfilled? Did he really have any choice to make when Lord Krishna asked him to take on the battlefield after explaining to him the Bhagwad Gita? Was there ever a possibility that Arjuna could have said no to the battle? What is the point of ‘our’ being, if we are just following a predestined plan through our hearts, and that our choices also are not actually voluntary.

Answer:

The degree of choice we exercise in our life is a function of how developed our consciousness is. The less awake we are, the more identified we are by our actions and thoughts, and that makes us more influenced and conditioned by our past actions. That is a life of limited choice. When we have recognized our true spiritual status in enlightenment, then we know that we are limitless, free, pure consciousness. That is life lived in freedom. So for most people it is not a matter of life being either predetermined or free, it’s a mixture of both.

You ask: “Are not the events in our life (and maybe also how we react to them) influenced and driven by a higher consciousness, which we are not aware of?” Keep in mind that the higher consciousness that you say is driving events, is consciousness and your consciousness is identified with and is encompassed by that same universal consciousness. When you know your individual will to be unified with the cosmic will, then events are no longer happening to you, you are participating in the co-creation of these events.

This was the evolution of Arjuna’s consciousness with Lord Krishna. You’ll recall he actually did refuse to enter the battle initially. As Krishna guided his awareness to expand, he attained the state of unity consciousness where his individuality became universality.

Love,
Deepak