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:
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.’
‘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’!
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. 🙏
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!
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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.
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
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Here is my latest video offering exploring transmission of enlightenment or liberation, enjoy!
Perhaps the most important single text that traditionally outlines the Jnana Marga (Path of Knowledge) is Shankara’s Vivekachudamani. This text has been used for centuries as a step by step manual to take one from (apparent) ignorance to Moksha (liberation) in which there is no suffering and it has been recommended by all the great Advaita sages including Sri Ramana Maharshi.
There are many gems littered throughout the text, and here is one of them which you may have missed:
160. The stupid man thinks he is the body, the book-learned man identifies himself with the mixture of body and soul, while the sage possessed of realisation due to discrimination looks upon the eternal Atman as his Self, and thinks, “I am Brahman”.
In verse 160 Shankara tells us that the one who is book-learned in Vedanta considers himself to be a mix of ‘body and soul’. In doing so, the one with mere book-learning still retains identification with the body, and so remains in ignorance and continues to suffer. In verse 162 Shankara, as is characteristic of the writing in Vivekachudamani, repeats his point and elaborates on it to make the meaning clear and beyond doubt:
162. As long as the book-learned man does not give up his mistaken identification with the body, organs, etc., which are unreal, there is no talk of emancipation for him, even if he be ever so erudite in the Vedanta philosophy.
There are many who know the scriptures, know the teachings, but still identify with the body in some way. These verses are a warning against this view. Shankara concludes this small section as follows, dispensing his sagely advice:
163. Just as thou dost not identify thyself with the shadow-body, the image-body, the dream-body, or the body thou hast in the imaginations of thy heart, cease thou to do likewise with the living body also.
164. Identifications with the body alone is the root that produces the misery of birth etc, of people who are attached to the unreal; therefore destroy thou this with the utmost care. When this identification caused by the mind is given up, there is no more chance for rebirth [ie. liberation is attained].
So don’t take yourself to be the body, just as you do not take your shadow to be yourself, do not take your body to be your-Self. Also, do not take yourself to be both the body and something else and in doing so retain a sense of limitation. You are That alone, you are the Self.
You are That alone,
You are the Self.
Tom is the only one [teacher] I’ve seen who doesn’t come from his point of view, he always comes directly from the silence and meets the seeker exactly where they’re at. If they need a practice, he has it, if they already have one but are stuck he knows how to move them, if they’re just beginning he knows how to guide them…it’s wonderful to see.
To arrange a 1 to 1 session with me please contact me via the contact page.
I offer 1 to 1 sessions either in person or via zoom. These sessions can be a wonderful way of clearing apparent blocks and confusion and can provide a much needed short-cut on your spiritual journey.
I meet you wherever you are in your journey and guide you from there – whether you’re completely new to this or are a seasoned seeker, whether you want to focus purely on non-duality or instead want to heal emotional issues, deal with practical aspects of life or explore relationship issues.
Even if you don’t have a specific question or issue in mind, I often find I can intuitively feel where you are and advise you accordingly.
Here are just some of the many things I have helped guide those who have approached me:
- Total Freedom – right here, right now!
- Clarity around the teachings with a focus on ending suffering in daily life
- Awakening & enlightenment experiences: making sense of what may have happened to you and where to go from this
- Going ‘in and out’ of enlightenment – why this is happening for you and what to do about it
- Reconciling various traditional approaches such as Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Zen, Advaita, Vedanta as well as non-traditional approaches such as law of attraction, new-age teachings, direct teachings, neo-advaita, etc.
- Dealing with practical issues such as various aspects of daily life and earning money
- Relationship issues eg. with partners, family and children
- Not really feeling happy, peaceful, whole & complete despite intellectually understanding the teachings
- Healing emotional trauma and distress
- Resolving addictive or habitual egoic tendencies (vasanas)
- Addressing various issues related to being a ‘spiritual seeker’, eg:
- a sense of isolation or loneliness
- loss of interest or passion for various pursuits
- other more specific issues such as psychic and energetic experiences.
Cost for an online 1 to 1 session: £75 for 1 hour; £50 for 30 minutes
Cost for in-person 1 to 1 meeting (in the London area, UK): £100 for 1 hour
To arrange a 1 to 1 session with me please contact me via the contact page
Meetings and sessions are not intended as a substitute for professional therapy, medical care, or legal advice. Please consult a licensed professional in these matters.
Tom is the easiest person to talk to and he gave me the support I needed.
Tom’s teaching is unique. His guidance is a non-dual lighthouse emitting a bright light-beam across life’s turbulent expanse to steer the seeker from crashing on the rocks of ignorance, misunderstanding and delusion, to reach the shore of Timeless Being.
His gift is discerning where the individual seeker is at and what is required specifically for that ‘individual’ to support them in their thirst for freedom from suffering. His maturity, as a guide, is evident in how he can appreciate the wisdom teachings, the ‘treasure in the field’, in traditions not generally associated with non-duality.
This breadth of understanding sets him apart from the smorgasbord of spiritual snake-oil merchants, pedlars, ‘evangelical’ non-dual purists and genuine teachers which, in practical terms, allows a welcoming and genuine spirit of inclusivity for anyone attending his satsangs.
I find Tom’s teachings clearer, simpler, and less encumbered by BS than just about anyone out there whom I have encountered. I’ve had teachers from Alan Watts to Adi Da, to Andrew Cohen, and others. Tom has the least ‘baggage’ I think…
Your words always affect me like a clear, clean breath of fresh air in the midst of what is often a lot of misconception and gobbledygook about what there is to ‘attain’ and all the rest of it.
I chanced upon Tom’s website at a very interesting time in my journey. I had studied traditional Vedanta for many years. I had some good understanding about the concepts and was doing some serious self inquiry or Atma Vichara. That’s when I started tying myself into all sorts of knots. I wasted a lot of time confused by concepts and was in a very frustrated place until I spoke to Tom.
I believe things happen for a reason and you meet the right people at the right time in the journey. Within a couple of sessions, Tom was able to help me unravel some of these knots. As the layers started peeling off and more layers and depth opened up the journey started taking a different shape. Throughout this, Tom was able to ask just the right question and clarified many concepts that would have otherwise taken a life of their own.
I found his teaching style refreshingly down to earth and humble and since he was able to speak from his direct experience, it made everything so real and relatable.
In the traditional path of Knowledge or Jnana, first we are to know our True Self (Atman) and know this to be the same as the Absolute (Brahman). Then we are to be still and renounce all desires.
This spiritual knowledge (Jnana) of ‘I am Brahman’ (Aham Brahmasmi) allows the mind to become still and desireless. Note this does not mean that the body becomes totally inert – no – rather it continues to function naturally according to its destiny (Prarabdha Karma) until the body dies.
Shankara states this multiple times, eg, in Vivekachudamani, and also in his many commentaries, eg. in his commentary upon the Kena Upanishad – in his introduction to the Kena Upanishad Shankara writes:
And [the Self] being eternal, it is not to be secured by any means other than the cessation of ignorance. Hence the only duty is to renounce all desires after the realisation of the unity of the indwelling Self and Brahman.
This is akin to Self-Surrender, as spoken by Sri Ramana Maharshi:
There is no destiny. Surrender, and all will be well. Throw all the responsibility on God. Do not bear the burden yourself. What can destiny do to you then?”
and again here:
Question: Surrender is said to be Bhakti [the path of devotional love]. But Sri Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi] is known to favour enquiry [ie. the path of Knowledge or Jnana] for the Self. There is thus confusion in the hearer.
Ramana Maharshi: Surrender can take effect only when done with full knowledge. Such knowledge comes after enquiry. It ends in surrender.
This above post was an excerpt from The ‘ultimate means’ to liberation