Kashmir Shaivism, Tantra and Advaita Vedanta – Ramana Maharshi’s view

ramana-maharshi face
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Kashmir Shaivism is a non-dual tantric tradition in which Pratyabhijna or ‘recognition’ is the goal. In Kashmir Shaivism, the absolute is termed ‘Shiva’ and the relative world of people and objects is termed ‘Shakti’ (which means energy or power). Shiva and Shakti are given equal status and are said not to exist apart from each other – where one exists, the other also exists.

In Non-Dual (Advaita) Vedanta, the Self (Atman) is the Absolute (Brahman) and it is said to project Maya-Shakti which in turn projects the world of people and objects. Maya is said to be dependent on the Absolute Self and not vice-versa, so the two are not given equal status.

This obviously causes confusion in some seekers, so here Ramana explains them both:


The following is an excerpt from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 288:

Explaining Maya of Vedanta and swatantra [tantra] of Pratyabhijna (independence of recognition), Sri Bhagavan said:

The Vedantins say that Maya is the sakti of illusion premised in Siva. Maya has no independent existence. Having brought out the illusion of the world as real, she continues to play upon the ignorance of the victims. When the reality of her not being is found, she disappears.

‘Recognition’ [ie. Kashmir Shaivism] says that Sakti (power) is coeval with Siva. The one does not exist without the other. Siva is unmanifest, whereas Sakti is manifest on account of Her independent will swatantra. Her manifestation is the display of the cosmos on pure consciousness, like images in a mirror.

The images cannot remain in the absence of a mirror.

So also the world cannot have an independent existence. Swatantra becomes eventually an attribute of the Supreme. Sri Sankara says that the Absolute is without attributes and that Maya is not and has no real being. What is the difference between the two? Both agree that the display is not real. The images of the mirror cannot in any way be real. The world does not exist in reality (vastutah).

Both schools mean the same thing. Their ultimate aim is to realise the Absolute Consciousness. The unreality of the cosmos is implied in Recognition (Pratyabhijna), whereas it is explicit in Vedanta. If the world be taken as chit (consciousness), it is always real. Vedanta says that there is no nana (diversity), meaning that it is all the same Reality.

There is agreement on all points except in words and the method of expression.

My Love. Faith & Jnana.

ramana-maharshi face
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Perfection of Faith in God/Guru/Self is the same as Jnana (spiritual ‘knowledge’ or ‘enlightenment’).

You could say that one leads to another – faith and surrender leads to knowledge, or knowledge leads to surrender and faith – and these are both true on one level, but ultimately they are one and the same – where is the difference apart from on the conceptual level?

For me Faith in the Guru, my Beloved, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, overcame me quite spontaneously, without my asking, and clinging to Him and Faith in his Word and dwelling in His Presence became the Way and the Law and my Self.

For me, whilst I like to learn a bit about Ramana’s life and I enjoy reading his teachings, gazing at His Image and feeling His Presence has often been more powerful than all the written teachings and all my efforts put together.

Someone recently approached me at the end of one of my Satsangs/meetings and asked me which book would I recommend as being the best one to understand Ramana’s teachings. I told him that Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Be As You Are are two wonderful books, but when you open the book, the most important page is the one which has a photograph of Ramana on it (most of Ramana’s books contain a photograph of him in the first few pages).

Instead of reading all the teachings and trying to figure it all out, just look at His Image, feel His Presence!

We can read and listen to the teachings as much as we like, but I have found there is power in something else, something intangible – the Guru’s grace, the eyes of the Guru, His Divine Grace…

So, cling to the Guru, cling to His Teachings. For me, that means Sri Ramana Maharshi. If it suits you, if you are drawn to Him, Ramana, take Him up as your Guru. Look at His Image, give yourself to Him, if it feels right for you. Of if you have another Guru/God you are drawn to, do the same with him/her. Or if you cannot relate to a Guru or God, try relating to Life or the Universe or Universal Energy or something similar. See what happens and feel free to let me know too!

Ramana said that life often brings us to have faith in God, then God brings us a Guru, and the Guru then directs us back to our Self and we realise all is One. Of course, we do not really realise, rather the ‘we’ or the ‘me’ that is seeking Union disappears or ‘merges into Him’. There was only ever Him/Self/Guru/God/Oneness…use any word that suits you.

Ramana also said that if we are lucky enough to be blessed with faith in something, that is a blessing to us and we should seize that faith and lean on it with loving devotion, and not to allow it to wither away.

So I encourage you to look at His Image, surrender to Him, and let me know how it goes!

‘Perfection of Faith in God/Guru/Self is the same as Jnana’

With love and best wishes

Tom

🙏🙏🙏

I don’t want to end up being a BORE!

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Many find that as they progress on the Spiritual Path, they become more peaceful, happier, but also perhaps more boring too! What is Tom’s advice in this regard? 🙂

Q. Are there different levels of Moksha (Liberation) or Realisation? If so, how many are there?

Tom: Is there even such a thing as Moksha? Even to speak of Moksha is more ignorance, as it implies some entity that can be liberated, or something to be liberated from.

However…In more conventional terms we could say there are no levels of Moksha (as there is only Moksha), but there are various levels of ignorance. So all apparent levels of realisation appear in maya/are illusory/are based in ignorance.

Gaudapada in his commentary of the Mandukya Upanishad hints at this: see the first 2 verses I quote from him here together with my commentary: Advaita Vedanta: Gaudapada’s Method

There are various stages that the seeker tends to go through, however, see this link for more: Q. What are the stages of awakening?

There are also different types of Moksha, apparently (meaning from the point of view of ignorance), such as jivanmukti and videhamukti and numerous other classifications in the scriptures. But in essence we don’t have to worry about these as this is just more book knowledge. The scriptures and sages (such as Ramana) remind us that this is really more ignorance for the mind. Instead, keep it simple and just keep on with your basic Sadhana:

1. Be still (raja yoga)

2. Know who you are (jnana yoga)

3. Adore your God-Guru-Self (bhakti yoga)

4. Give thanks for all that comes your way (karma yoga)

Note – all of the above leads to a peaceful open indestructible stillness (Mouna or Atman/Brahman)

5. Dissolve into Divine Love (Moksha/Advaita/Bhakti/Jnana)

🙂

Ramana Maharshi, Vedanta and Zen: Q: ‘What method must we practice in order to attain liberation?’ (Chan Master Hui Hai)

dazhu_huihai

Let us compare some Zen teachings with that of Advaita Vedanta and Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Hui Hai was one of the great Ch’an (Zen) masters from the 8th Century CE. This excerpt is taken from Hui Hai’s Text on the Importance of Sudden Enlightenment, Dialogue 2.

I have interspersed quotes from Ramana Maharshi and Shankara in red type to compare and contrast the teachings:

Question: what method must we practice in order to attain liberation?

Answer: It can be attained only through the gate of sudden illumination (or sudden enlightenment).

Q: What is a sudden illumination?

A: ‘Sudden’ means instantaneously ridding yourselves of deluded thoughts’. ‘Illumination’ or ‘Enlightenment’ means the realisation that illumination is not something to be attained.

[Tom – This can also be translated as ‘Enlightenment’ means the realisation there is no ‘Enlightenment’ to attain, there is nothing to attain’. Compare this with : ‘The benefit of this Light of Supreme Truth is the understanding that there is not the least thing such as ‘attainment’, since the Supreme Self is the Ever-Attained One Whole.’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai, Verse 8]

Q: From where do we start this practice?

A: You must start from the the beginning, the fundamental root.

Q: And what is that?

A: Mind is the fundamental root.

Q: How can this be known?

A: The Lankavatara Sutra says:

‘When mental processes (hsin) arise, then do all phenomena (dharmas) spring forth; and when mental processes cease, then do all dharmas cease likewise.’

[Tom – compare: ‘If the ego rises, all else will also rise; if it subsides all else will also subside.’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?]

The Vimalakirti Sutra says:

‘Those desiring to attain the Pure Land’ must first purify their own minds, for the purification of mind is the purity of the Buddha Land.’

The Sutra of the Doctrine Bequeathed by the Buddha says:

‘Just by mind control, all things become possible.’

[Tom – compare: ‘If only the mind is kept under control, what matters it where one may happen to be?’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?‘]

In another sutra it says:

‘Sages seek from [their own] mind, not from the Buddhas; fools seek from the Buddhas instead of seeking from [their own] mind.’

and

‘The Wise regulate their minds rather than their body; fools regulate their body rather than their minds.’

The Sutra of the Names of the Buddha states:

‘Evil/sin springs forth from the mind, and by the mind is evil/sin overcome.’

[Tom – compare ‘…man’s bondage is caused by the mind, and Liberation too is caused by that alone.’ Shankara, Vivekachudamani verse 172]

Thus, we may know that all good and evil proceed from our minds and that mind is therefore the fundamental root. If you desire liberation, you must first know all about the root, mind. Unless you can penetrate to this truth, all your efforts will be vain; for, while you are still seeking something from forms external to yourselves, you will never attain.

The Dhyana Paramita Sutra says:

‘For as long as you direct your search to the forms around you, you will not attain your goal even after aeon upon aeon; whereas, by contemplating your inner awareness, you can achieve Buddhahood in a single flash of thought.’

[Tom – compare: ‘Let people quote the Scriptures and sacrifice to the gods, let them perform rituals and worship the deities, but there is no Liberation without the realisation of one’s identity with the Atman, no, not even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahmas put together.’ Shankara, Vivekachudamani verse 6]

Q: By what means is the root-practice to be performed?

A: Only by sitting in meditation, for it is accomplished by Dhyana (Ch’an) and Samadhi (Ting). The Dhyana-Paramita Sutra says:

‘Dhyana and Samadhi are essential to the search for the sacred knowledge of the Buddhas; for, without these, the deluded thoughts remain in confusion and tumult, and the roots of goodness suffer damage.’

Q: Please describe Dhyana and Samadhi.

A: When wrong thinking does not arise, that is Dhyana.

When you sit and see your original nature, that is Samadhi, for indeed that original nature is your eternal unborn mind. In Samadhi, there is the natural situational response of no-mind, and the ‘eight winds’ do not function.

The ‘eight winds’ are gain and loss, calumny and eulogy, praise and blame, sorrow and joy. By practising in this way, even ordinary people may enter the state of Buddhahood. How can that be so? The Sutra of the Bodhisattva-Precepts says:

‘All beings who observe the Buddha-precept thereby enter Buddhahood.’

There are those who in this way have crossed over to the other shore and attained liberation, transcending the six rafts (the six Paramitas), and freeing themselves from the three worlds (greed, anger and delusion). The great power of the ‘Enlightened Ones’ is the infinite power of the Honoured, the Courageous, the ‘Conqueror’!

😡🤬 WHEN EMOTIONALLY TRIGGERED 😳😤

1. It’s best not to believe your thoughts when you are feeling sad/angry/emotional and also best not to talk or act or make decisions from this place.

2. Instead, find yourself a safe space where you can safely allow yourself to open up to the emotion.

3. Allow yourself to feel, fully feel, and allow emotion to flow through you. You may initially feel more angry, more sad, you may cry or scream, your body may contort or writhe, you may act out like a child, but this will pass.

4. Know that you are not the limited body-mind. You are transparent ever-present consciousness which nothing can touch or harm.

5. Give your emotions and feelings a voice. Allow them to speak, don’t hold back and feel free to use expletives… eg. ‘He/she/I/the system is such a fucking idiot…why does he/she/I have to act like such a fucking idiot?….why can’t he/she be more like x/y/z?…I am so pissed off…I am so fucking angry…I fucking hate you….I am feeling really hurt…I don’t want to be hurt….I feel so small…you make me feel so small…you are such a fucking idiot….there is so much pain…why is there so much pain?…I just want to be loved….why me?…why is my life like this?…I wish it wasn’t this way…this is too difficult…it shouldn’t be like this…it shouldn’t be so difficult….I don’t want to be here any more…I can’t do this any more….I just want peace….I do want to be here but I want the pain to stop…I want the pain to stop….I just want to be loved….woe is me…..I feel so hurt…I just feel so hurt….I… just… feel… so… so… hurt…’ etc, etc.

6. Don’t act on any of these thoughts, don’t take them seriously, allow them to be expressed and FELT and allow them to pass.

If at any time you feel unsafe or you feel you are compelled to act on your thoughts/feelings, then stop the process – see the warning/disclaimer below.

Eventually all of this passes and Peace is revealed. In this way emotions are healed, they are released and set free.

The more you have suppressed or avoided your feelings (as most of us have, unconsciously for the most part), the longer this will take, the harder it will be, and the more this process will need to be repeated.

The more loving and safer the environment is in which the above process the occurs, the safer you feel, the deeper and more effective the process will be.

Throughout the above, know that you are not the limited body-mind. You are transparent ever-present consciousness which nothing can touch or harm. Your nature is Peace. No emotions or feelings can harm you. You are one with all, everything is really just this Peace that you are.

When the emotion clears, our thoughts and judgement are often very different…so when your emotions are triggered, remember, don’t act or make decisions from this place.

Stop, relax, allow yourself to feel, fully feel, know no emotions/feeling can harm you and allow them to flow straight through you like coloured light through a transparent piece of glass. Imagine yourself to be transparent if that helps. The multi-coloured emotional light will eventually clear so only bright white light remains, and your Innate Natural Brilliance is re-revealed.

In reality there is only ever this Brilliant White Light, which is What You Are and always have been.

Ps. you may have noticed that the example thoughts I gave actually form a progression from blame to anger/resentment to hurt then to self-pity and despair and then back again to hurt…again and again we come to be in touch with the underlying hurt or pain that we have sought to avoid, and it is here that the healing really takes place 

Warning and disclaimer: This post does not constitute or replace medical advice and does not replace the need for professional therapy and treatment. If you have had deep emotional trauma or if you have certain mental health issues, the feelings and sensations that may come up may be too overwhelming for you to do this above process alone, at least initially, and this process could even be harmful for you by unlocking deep emotions and sensations that you are unable to deal with by yourself. In this instance my advice is to seek professional help as there are many ways of safely being guided to heal trauma and resolve mental health issues. If you do not feel comfortable with the above process, again, seek professional guidance. It is important that you feel confident and safe throughout the above process as your safety is paramount. 🙏

Can psychoactive drugs and entheogens such as Ayahuasca be of use for spiritual awakening?

Questioner: Hi Tom: is “dealing with” a negative emotion the same as “letting go?”

Tom: It means to resolve the emotional issue, if there is one, at the root so that it does not resurface needlessly and cause suffering

Questioner: do you recommend taking Ayahuasca with a shaman to see where these suppressions may lie?

Tom: No, there are more reliable and less potentially adverse ways as far as I can tell.

Questioner: Is Atma Vichara (Self-Enquiry) the answer or just part of that discovery of suppressions?

Tom: Atma Vichara is the answer, but it must be correctly understood

Questioner: That makes sense to me. Thank you! I will continue my practice with fervor

Questioner 2: Tom, whats your experience with plant medicine and entheogens? If its none, then unfortunately there is nothing you can bring to the table regarding such.

Tom: I am open to psychoactive drugs playing a role in the awakening process for some people (they clearly have played a role for many people), but I am nowhere near convinced enough of their need in the awakening process to actually RECOMMEND them, which was the specific question that was put to me.

As far as I can see, there are many other simpler, cheaper, safer, more reliable and more natural methods available that may not be so dramatic in their effects – often the results are more subtle – but have more lasting effects in the long term and are more reliable in transmitting a realisation that actually ends suffering. Of course this may not be true for everyone.

And this is just my personal experience of these substances in the seekers I meet. I fully admit this view may be based on lack of knowledge and expertise on my part and also the selection bias from the group of people that come to my meetings (as these people are presumably resonating with what I share).

I have seen a few negative health effects of such drugs too, so they are not without some physical and mental health risk, and I have seen that they can also foster attachment to and seeking of experiences such as ‘spiritual highs’ and while this can lead to openings, it often also reinforces and perpetuates of a sense of egoic self. Of course, this is not always the case.

At the end of the day, we each have our own unique path, and my hope is to be able to encourage, support and guide those who come my way whether or not they chose to take psychoactive drugs. If asked, I never recommend these drugs for the above reasons, but luckily people are free to chose for themselves, relatively speaking.

Thank you for your comment and contribution to this discussion! Namaste!

Discerning True Self & Emotions

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As an incentive I’ll be posting further videos in the next few days that cover the essential teachings, so if you’re subscribed you’ll automatically be notified of them.

Here is my latest video offering:

 

Ramana Maharshi on those who claim to have surpassed the traditional notion of enlightenment

Last month I wrote a post titled Q. Some teachers (eg. Bentinho Massaro, Anadi, Adi Da Samraj) claim to have surpassed the traditional notion of enlightenment and say co-creation is the next evolutionary step…any thoughts?.

There have always been spiritual teachers who claim to have gone beyond the traditional notions of enlightenment and who claim that they have had a special enlightenment that is somehow unique to them. Often their teachings, in my view, leave much to be desired and wreak of egotism, and those seekers who know what to look for sense this fairly quickly. Their teachings often rehash a mixture of traditional and non-traditional methods, which is fine in itself as far as I am concerned, but then they mix in a good helping of old fashioned ego and narcissism: ‘I am the best, follow me’. The teachings are often presented in a more glamorous way which is ultimately less effective at best and very damaging at worst.

It may interest you to know that Ramana Maharshi was also asked about these types of teachers who claim something more that ‘traditional realisation’ and something special for themselves, and in this post I will give you an example of what Ramana said in response to this.

The following excerpt is from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 201, and Ramana is initially asked about Sri Aurobindo who apparently stated that Self-Realisation was only the beginning of the journey and not the end:


They further asked for Maharshi’s opinion of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, and his claim to have probed beyond the experiences of the Vedic rishis and the Mother’s opinion of the fitness of her disciples to begin with the realisation of the Upanishadic rishis.

Tom’s comment: ‘The Mother’ or Mirra Alfassa was a westerner from Paris who taught alongside Sri Aurobindo and set up Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram

M.: Aurobindo advises complete surrender. Let us do that first and await results, and discuss further, if need be afterwards and not now. There is no use discussing transcendental experiences by those whose limitations are not divested. Learn what surrender is. It is to merge in the source of the ego. The ego is surrendered to the Self. Everything is dear to us because of love of the Self.

Tom’s comments: you can see how Ramana Maharshi’s first response is not to criticise another teacher or teaching but to find some common ground and focus upon this. This would presumably be of most benefit for the seeker, which is Ramana’s primary concern, rather than engaging in some intellectual debate or trying to prove his teaching style to be superior

The Self is that to which we surrender our ego and let the Supreme Power, i.e., the Self, do what it pleases. The ego is already the Self’s. We have no rights over the ego, even as it is. However, supposing we had, we must surrender them.

D.: What about bringing down divine consciousness from above?

Tom’s comments: this presumably was another of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, namely that divine consciousness should descend onto us from above. Here Ramana responds by quoting various scriptures:

M.: As if the same is not already in the Heart? “O Arjuna, I am in the expanse of the Heart,” says Sri Krishna “He who is in the sun, is also in this man”, says a mantra in the Upanishads. “The Kingdom of God is within”, says the Bible. All are thus agreed that God is within. What is to be brought down? From where? Who is to bring what, and why?

Realisation is only the removal of obstacles to the recognition of the eternal, immanent Reality. Reality is. It need not be taken from place to place.

D.: What about Aurobindo’s claim to start from Self-Realisation and develop further?

M.: Let us first realise and then see.

Tom’s comments: Again, Ramana’s instinct is to sidestep any intellectual argument and instead encourage the seeking in practical terms. Ramana now considers other theories on enlightenment and liberation, and again gives a practical response:

Then Maharshi began to speak of similar theories: The Visishtadvaitins say that the Self is first realised and the realised individual soul is surrendered to the universal soul. Only then is it complete. The part is given up to the whole. That is liberation and sayujya union. Simple Self-Realisation stops at isolating the pure Self, says Visishtadvaita.

The siddhas say that the one who leaves his body behind as a corpse cannot attain mukti [liberation]. They are reborn. Only those whose bodies dissolve in space, in light or away from sight, attain liberation. The Advaitins of Sankara’s school stop short at Self-Realisation and this is not the end, the siddhas say.

There are also others who extol their own pet theories as the best, e.g., late Venkaswami Rao of Kumbakonam, Brahmananda Yogi of Cuddappah, etc.

The fact is: There is Reality. It is not affected by any discussions. Let us abide as Reality and not engage in futile discussions as to its nature, etc.

The fact is: There is Reality.

It is not affected by any discussions.

Let us abide as Reality and not engage in futile discussions as to its nature, etc.

ramana umbrella

 

Q: During deep meditation peace is there all the time. But otherwise it comes and goes…I want to have the direct experience of the peace that never comes and goes | Annamalai Swami

 

annamalai swami final talks

Question: During deep meditation peace is there all the time. But there is still a feeling that peace is something that can come and go. I know that this is just an idea, but I want to eliminate this idea and have the direct experience of the peace that never comes and goes.

Bhagavan says, ‘You are always the Self. It is just your notion that you are not the Self that has to be got rid of.’ How does this happen?

Annamalai Swami: The Self is peace and happiness. Realizing peace and happiness within you is the true realization of the Self. You cannot distinguish between peace, happiness and the Self. They are not separate aspects. You have this idea that peace and happiness is within you, so you make some effort to find it there, but at the moment it is still only an idea for you.

The Self is peace and happiness...You cannot distinguish between peace, happiness and the Self.

So, ask yourself, ‘To whom does this idea come? Who has this idea?’

You must pursue this line if you want to have the idea replaced by the experience. Peace is not an idea, nor is it something that comes and goes. We are always That. So, remain as That. You have no birth and no death, no bondage and no freedom. It is perpetual peace, and it is free from all ideas.

The ‘I am the body” idea is what is concealing it. This is what has to go.

The ‘I am the body” idea is what is concealing it. This is what has to go.

Question: So the notion of being the body and the mind comes back and covers the experience?

Annamalai Swami: Yes, yes. This idea, ‘I am the body’ is not there during sleep. Everyone enjoys sleeping, and the reason we enjoy it is because there are no thoughts there. It is the thoughts that arise that cause us all our trouble. There is no separate entity during sleep because no thought has arisen to create the image of one.

When waking comes, this first rising thought, ‘I am the body,’ brings separation, doubts, and confusion. If you can be without it in the waking state there will be the knowledge, ‘I am Ramana, I am Arunachala. Everything is myself.’

…this first rising thought, ‘I am the body,’ brings separation, doubts, and confusion. If you can be without it in the waking state there will be the knowledge…

Rama, Krishna, etc., are all you. It is just this limiting ‘I am the body’ thought that keeps this knowledge, this awareness from you.

In the waking state, the jnani has no limiting thoughts, no ego that identifies with a name and a form. His state is crystal clear. Ramana Bhagavan had no ego, no limiting thoughts, which is why he knew himself to be this peace, this happiness.

Ramana Bhagavan had no ego, no limiting thoughts, which is why he knew himself to be this peace, this happiness

The above excerpt is taken from Annamalai Swami Final Talks, Chapter 14