Ramana Maharshi: Peace is your true nature

Ramana letters

Yesterday, two pandits came from Kumbakonam. This morning at 9 o’clock, they approached Bhagavan and said, “Swami, we take leave of you. We pray that you may be pleased to bless us that our mind may merge or dissolve itself in shanti [peace]”

Bhagavan nodded his head as usual. After they had left, he said, looking at Ramachandra Iyer,

Shanti is the original state. If what comes from outside is rejected what remains is peace. What then is there to dissolve or merge? Only that which comes from outside has to be thrown out.

“If people whose minds are mature are simply told that the swarupa itself is shanti, they get jnana. It is only for immature minds that sravana (listening to the teachings) and manana (reflecting upon the teachings) are prescribed, but for mature minds there is no need of them. If people at a distance enquire how to go to Ramana Maharshi, we have to tell them to get into such and such a train or take such and such a path, but if they come to Tiruvannamalai, reach Ramanasramam and step into the hall, it is enough if only they are told, here is that person. There is no need for them to move any farther.”

“Sravana and manana mean only those described in Vedanta, don’t they?” asked some one. “Yes,” Bhagavan replied, “but one thing, not only are there outward sravana and manana but there are also inward sravana [listening] and manana [thinking]. They must occur to a person as a result of the maturity of his mind. Those that are able to do that antara sravana (hearing inwardly) do not have any doubts.”

Whenever any one asked what those antara sravanas are, he used to say, “Antara sravana means the knowledge of that Atma which is in the cave of the heart always illuminated with the feeling ‘aham, aham’ (‘I, I’), and to get that feeling to be in one’s heart is manana, and to remain in one’s self is nididhyasa [meditation].

In this connection, it is worth while remembering the sloka [verse] written by Bhagavan bearing on this subject. In that sloka mention is made not only to Atma sphurana [the vibration of the Self] but also how to secure it. Securing means only remaining in one’s own self:

Brahman is glowing lustrously in the middle of the cave of the Heart in the shape of the Self, always proclaiming ‘I am, I am’. Become an Atmanishta, a Self-realised person, either by making the mind absorbed in the search of the Self or by making the mind drown itself through control of the breath.

19th July 1947, Letters from Sri Ramanasramam

The evolution of Tony Parsons | Radical non-duality | Neo-Advaita | Advaita Vedanta

Tony Parsons has a relatively unique expression of non-duality. His uncompromising message (which I’m sure he would point out is not his), has influenced many and now there are numerous other people who speak in a way very similar to him – apparently (the word ‘apparently’ is one of Tony’s hallmarks).

However his expression has changed significantly over the years, and for me this is quite interesting, and I hope my comments will be of benefit to the seeker who is trying to plough through all the teachers and teachings now on offer. He has now revised his oldest writings, so the extent of the change may not be apparent to those reading his older works now, but I found both an older and newer version of his first book, The Open Secret, and present some of the differences below. For those of you more familiar with Tony’s current expression, you may be surprised to read the following, which I presume he no longer agrees with:

If, however inadequately, enlightenment could be described in terms of qualities, I see them as unconditional love, compassion, stillness, and joy without cause.’

Tony Parsons, from an earlier edition of The Open Secret (this text has now removed from newer editions)

There are many more quotes like this later on in the post. Please note that my intention here is not to criticise or condemn, but to discuss how Tony’s expression has changed and offer my view on this, whilst also acknowledging that this is speculation on my part. My hope is that this may be interesting to seekers who are trying to find their way through all the various teachings and communications on offer.

Radical Non-Duality/ Neo-Advaita

Tony shares what his proponents refer to as Radical Non-Duality: in short, there is no acceptance of the reality of a separate individual seeker, a teaching, a path or an enlightened person, all of which are dualistic concepts that keep the apparent ‘me’ ensnared – apparently. There is no need to cultivate anything such as awareness or presence, there is no need to discover who you really are or be kinder, more compassionate, more loving, etc, etc, these all being dualistic illusions in the egoic game of becoming. In Tony’s own words from his website:

‘This is a communication which illuminates the paradoxical nature of non-duality and exposes the deluded idea that it is something that can be acquired and experienced….Life is not a task. There is absolutely nothing to attain except the realisation that there is absolutely nothing to attain.’

This same communication is also referred to as Neo-Advaita, a derogatory term used by his detractors. Tony says he is not a teacher, for that implies duality and separation – the teacher and the taught – and there is no duality or separation. For the same reason there is no teaching – but Tony suggests this could be spoken of as a ‘communication’ for want of a better word.

The evolution of Tony Parsons’ mode of expression

I understand from people that have met him and know him that he is open about the fact that his expression and language has changed over the years. I understand he now openly admits that when he first started to share this non-dual communication there was actually a bit of ‘me’ (ego/separation) left, and that has now since completely dissolved away, apparently.

A couple of years ago I bought Tony’s first book, The Open Secret, after having some conversations with some people who had met him. On the front cover I noted that it was first published in 1995, but that it had been revised multiple times in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005 and 2011. At the time I thought it would be interesting to see how the teaching expression had changed over the years, but at that time I couldn’t really be bothered and this was just an interesting thought that did not spur on any action.

For some reason today, I find myself writing this post. I found an earlier version of The Open Secret and compared it to my newer version and noticed that many of the older teachings have now been removed, and also in both versions there are many aspects of the teachings that are somewhat different from how he expresses himself now.

I have also looked at another book of Tony’s called ‘All There Is’ published in 2003. So, as The Open Secret was first published in 1995, the quotes below span at least the first 8 years of ‘him communicating’ this message, if not more.

Summary of my analysis

I have decided to place my summary at the start but I recommend you read the quotes below and come to your own conclusions. Is what I am surmising correct? There are also many quotes of Tony’s that I have not included as this post is already quite long, but if you are not familiar with him, just by listening to 10-20 minutes of one of his YouTube videos you will get a flavour of what he is stating.

For me, when I read how Tony’s expression has changed over the years, it seems to fit in very nicely – almost too nicely – with the classical progression of teachings in Advaita (non-dual) Vedanta. In fact, the gradual change in Tony’s expression that occurs over many years can be even found within single texts, such as Shankara’s Vivekachudamani. This is some ways is quite shocking, but in other ways is a testament to a teaching tradition which has centuries of experience underlying its teachings.

In Vedanta the teachings start off coarse and dualistic and then become increasingly more subtle and less dualistic, the idea being this will gradually but surely and effectively lead one to liberation with the least amount of suffering along the way. (This can sometimes be in direct contrast to the neo-advaita teachings which can often trigger anxiety and confusion and even worse – I have met many people like this who have come to my meetings over the years who are often very confused and anxious as their sense of self is falling away, like the rug being pulled out from under their feet. Of course, there are many advantages of the more radical expression too – see the next section in the post for links where I write about these.)

We see a similar progression with Tony’s mode of expression, with his earlier teachings being much more dualistic and a gradual progression to being less dualistic over many years. This is so strongly the case that we can see how it mirrors teachings found in single Advaita Vedanta texts. It is as if he is updating his teaching expression as his own ‘understanding’ progresses, and it is interesting how closely this mirrors the traditional progression of the teachings. I present some evidence below. Here is the basic step-wise progression that I infer from Tony’s writings.

(Of course, this is just my own theory, my speculation. I understand that Tony maintains that none of the spiritual-type activities he underwent himself had anything to do with an apparent liberation).

Step (1) Traditional spirituality, emotional healing and good works based on the notion ‘I am the body-mind’:

At the start of the Vedanta teachings, the teaching is highly dualistic – there is talk about the need for more traditional forms of Religion/Spirituality such as devotion and surrender to God and performing good works in society to purify coarser emotional and behavioural disturbances and this allows the mind to become open and receptive to higher less dualistic teachings, and also means when the rug of egotism is pull out from under you, there is much less anxiety and confusion. Tony writes in The Open secret about how he himself went through all of this, although he later says that this had nothing to do with liberation which happened later (apparently – as liberation itself is not real – we will see that the Vedanta teachings also state this, eg. at the end of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani).

Tony’s earlier writings also occasionally describe the use of ‘letting go’, something that was removed from later edits.

This stage is characterised by identification with the body-mind and practice done for the apparent body-mind.

Step (2): You are the Absolute

Now we come to what Vedanta calls Jnana Yoga or the teachings on Self-Knowledge. They state that your true nature is not that of the body-mind, but that you are sat-chit-ananda (see my section below on this) which is unchanging, eternal, ever-present, the nature of awareness and bliss. The emphasis now is on your identity – this is not something you need to acquire or attain – it is ever-attained and is already your true nature – you just have to realise this.

We can see this teaching very clearly in Tony’s earlier writings. This sat-chit-ananda is not an object – it is no-particular-thing – or ‘no thing’ as Tony refers to it – and it is also one with everything and the source of everything – again all ideas that Tony used to ‘teach’. Tony also emphases that this awareness is who we really are, that it is the only constant and that it never changes. He goes on to say this awareness is the source of all manifestation.

It should be noted that this is still a dualistic teaching, although this duality is more subtle than in the previous step. Even though relative and absolute are One, they are also expressed as being two, with the emphasis on the absolute in this part of the teaching. Also there is still a ‘me’ entity, albeit one that is now primarily identified with the absolute.

This step is characterised by identification with the absolute as opposed to the body-mind-world.

Step (3): The relative is the absolute

In this step there is no duality whatsoever – you could say there is no relative or absolute. Again we see this progression in both Tony’s verbal expression and also in texts such as Vivekachudamani and other ‘more advanced’ Advaita texts such as the Ribhu Gita and Ashtavakra Gita. Now there is no emphasis on the absolute as there was in Step 2, the relative is the absolute, beyond ideas of oneness or two-ness or any other conceptual formulation.

eg. Vivekachudamani verse 467:

Verse 467: There is only Brahman, the One without a second, which is neither to be shunned nor taken up nor accepted, and which is without any support, there is no duality whatsoever in It.

Verse 469: There is only Brahman, the One without a second, whose real nature is incomprehensible…

Before the emphasis was on knowledge – knowing your true nature – now it is stated that this is beyond all comprehension, from Vivekachudamani:

481. My mind has vanished…I do not know either this or not-this; nor what or how much the boundless Bliss (of Samadhi) is

484 …what is to be shunned and what accepted, what is other (than oneself) and what different?

485. I neither see nor hear nor know anything in this…

Traditionally texts such as the Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita and Avadhuta Gita are to be read at this point in the teaching, and you will see the same trend in these scriptures, with the latter verses removing concepts that were used in earlier verses. Even strongly help Vedantic concepts such as Brahman are also negated in the ‘final analysis’.

This stage is characterised by lack of identification. We can see that step (2) – identification with a (dualistic) concept of the absolute – is there to remove the idenfitication with the body-mind found in step (1). Both are for the ‘me’

This is now Tony’s predominant mode of expression, but he has retrospectively gone back and removed some of the modes of expression from step (1) and (2) from his earliest work, as we shall see.

Step (4): There is no liberation, no teaching, no seeker

Again, we see the same progression in Tony’s expression and in Vivekachudamani. Previously Vivekachudamani spoke of liberation and how to attain it, now it speaks of these as being illusions (Maya), fantasies for the mind:

eg. in the later verses of Vivekachudamani:

Verse 569: Bondage and Liberation, which are conjured up by Maya, do not really exist in the Atman, one’s Reality…

Verse 573: Hence this bondage and Liberation are created by Maya, and are not in the Atman [ie. reality]. How can there be any idea of limitation with regard to the Supreme Truth…?

Verse 574: There is neither death nor birth, neither a bound nor a struggling soul, neither a seeker after Liberation nor a liberated one [ie. no seeker or guru]…

This  step (4) goes hand in hand with step (3) and is not really a separate step, but I have just separated it out to make the above point.

The pros and cons of radical Non-duality/Neo-Advaita

I will not go into this too much here, but as with all modes of expression, there are both advantages and disadvantages. I have nothing against these types of more radical expression, and yes, they certainly do have advantages, but I offer my view on them in these articles (links below):

Are spiritual teachings prescriptions or descriptions? Sudden vs. gradual teachings.

3 stories of awakening: no path vs sudden path vs gradual paths to enlightenment

Ramana Maharshi on Neo-Advaita

The problem with radical non-duality or neo-advaita

Essential teachings for liberation | The ‘two wings’ of the teaching

The only one thing I will quickly add here is that there is a notable absence of any meditation or stillness type teachings in Tony Parsons’ expression, which of course is one of the hallmarks of ‘neo-advaita’.

Traditionally, without this deep stillness happening, either through deliberate practice or through spontaneous occurrence, eg. after insights or ‘awakening’, then the ananda (blissful) aspect of liberation-reality (sat-chit-ananda) and the morality aspect of the teaching (which happens when addiction/attachment to sense objects goes) will not manifest fully, and suffering will continue accordingly.

Similarly, for most, without prolonged deep stillness (abidance as the Self), whilst one may have frequent (apparent) awakenings and glimpses into non-duality, the sense of separation returns, and with it the suffering also returns. This is why these radical non-dual teachings can initially at least feel so liberating, especially when one is at the meetings, but then leave one in confusion, apparent separation and suffering.

Quotes from Tony Parsons’ Older Works

Love, Compassion, Stillness, Joy and Presence

In the earlier version of The Open Secret, there is an entire chapter called ‘Presence’, which was completely removed from the later versions of the book. Interestingly it is one of the longer chapters of this relatively short book. For that reason I thought it would be interesting to quote extensively from it. As I said, these quote are no longer present in the newer revised version of The Open Secret:

If, however inadequately, enlightenment could be described in terms of qualities, I see them as unconditional love, compassion, stillness, and joy without cause.’

This kind of expression is quite interesting and is notably absent from Tony’s current (apparent) expression. In fact he is openly dismissive now of these kinds of sentiments, eg. Tony states in All There Is page 175 he states ‘The idea that an enlightened person walks around in something which is totally blissful is complete bullshit. It comes from either a deep ignorance or a wish to manipulate.’ and on page 21 of the same he states ‘In the old conditioned idea of enlightenment we all wanted to believe, enlightenment happens and there is no character there at all – there’s just total bliss and utter goodness. It is nonsense born out of the ignorance of the mind. Awakening has nothing to do with goodness or bliss…

Here are some more quotes (bold type added by myself). We will see how the concept of there being a true self which has to be known, which here is called presence, is still there, in the expression at least, and there is also a subtle teaching of letting go, another subtlely dualistic practice for a separate ‘me’. There is also the notion that presence is the source of the manifestation. This, again, is typical of aspects of more traditional teachings.

Whilst I do not know who I am, I am bereft.’

‘Enlightenment, however, has another quality, which is the bridge between the timeless and my illusory sense of separation. That quality is presence. Presence is our constant nature but most of the time we are interrupting it by living in a state of expectation, motivation or interpretation. We are hardly ever at home. In order to rediscover our freedom we need to let go of these projections and allow the possibility of presence.’

Here above we have the notion of an ever-existing presence which we seem to interrupt, so the solution naturally is to let go or stop this interruption. Ramana Maharshi says something quite similar: ‘Peace is our true nature. We spoil it. What is required is we cease to spoil it’. Again, this is something that Tony would later criticise as a subtle form of duality. Here are some more quotes from the same chapter ‘Presence’:

‘To live passionately is to let go of everything for the wonder of timeless presence. When we are courageous enough to allow this we suddenly rediscover that we are the sole source of all and everything.’

‘At first it is enough to allow dedicated awareness to what is. Letting go of the one who is aware can easily follow, but it can never be a task.’

I cannot ‘do’ presence, simply because I am presence. So there is no process to learn because I cannot learn or achieve something that I already am.’

‘Presence is totally effortless and is nearer to me than breathing. Presence can only be allowed and recognised. What I tend to do most of the time is sidestep it or interrupt it.’

‘Existence would not be if it were not for presence. I am presence and you are presence. If we were not present, existence would not be.’

‘Presence emanates from the source of all and everything known or unknown. And that is what we are. We are the sole source of our own unique creation.’

One moment of presence brings more light to the world than a thousand years of “good works”. In presence all action is uncluttered and unsullied. It is spontaneity born from stillness.’

‘When there is presence there is awareness and this is the light that enters the darkness. The light enters the darkness and dissipates those illusions that appear to interrupt oneness. Awareness does not divide or suppress and thereby give energy to the unreal. It simply sees what is and brings the light which allows that which is illusory to evaporate.’

‘When there is presence there is total intimacy and the senses are heightened to a degree previously unrecognised … I see and touch in innocence, I taste and smell for the first time, and hear a new sound that is vital, fresh and unknown.’

You are That!

Here we have Tony proclaiming ‘You are That!’, one of the great sayings of traditional Advaita Vedanta, and clearly from Step (2) in my proposed schema above. This is from page 90 of ‘All There Is’. You can see that he is quite confident and sure in the way that he expresses himself, abruptly cutting off the questioner mid-sentence:

Tony: Awareness simply is, and you are that. It has nothing to do with great depth or great sacrifice or great intelligence. You are already that.
Questioner: Theoretically, yes, but.. .
Tony: No, you are already that. You know that you are the one that sees, that you are joy without cause.

Tony even stated above that ‘you are the one that sees’, ie. the seer or the Self, and ‘you are joy without a cause’, ie. ananda in Sanskrit.

From ‘All There Is’ page 45:

‘And there is nothing out there that says, ‘You will be enlightened’, because there is no one who will ever be enlightened. You are enlightenment – you are that.’

From ‘All There Is’ page 67:

‘So how can anyone tell you to meditate or sing mantras or be serious or be honest or any of those things? How can anyone tell you that, when already you are that? All that’s going on here is that I’m telling you it’s already like that; you already are oneness; you are already that. That’s the difference. And there are a handful of people in the world who are talking like that’

From page 97:

Q. Could you say we’re the screen on which the film is projected?

Tony: You are the light that allows the film to be. And if you see it all from another point of view, you begin to open up to the possibility of dropping the idea of a journey towards somewhere that you’ll never get to. You’ll never get there – you already are there. And so in a way, the film is sacred. It’s telling you that you are that. I want to get you out of the idea – or rather I don’t, but something wants to get you out of the idea that you’re on a journey. When there is simply presence, all meaning ends. Meaning is always attached to a story – ‘We are going somewhere’.

In the earlier version of The Open Secret we find the following from the Chapter called ‘The Park’. This was subsequently removed from the later editions:

‘It is my birthright. It is my home. It is already that which I am.’

Sat-Chit-Ananda

Here is this excerpt from All There Is, page 87, we can see that Tony is essentially talking about Sat (Tony calls this ‘presence’) Chit (Tony calls this ‘awareness’) Ananda (Tony calls this ‘joy without a cause’), Sat-Chit-Ananda being a traditional way of speaking of liberation and the absolute. This Sat-Chit-Ananda is our true nature (‘what you already are’ according to Tony) and is not a thing or a person or an object (‘no thing…) but is the Source of all manifestation (…out of which everything arises’). It is not something to attain, for it already is, as per the traditional teachings. This is very much a step (2) teaching in my stages above. See if you agree with my analysis:

Q. Tony, when you talk about the presence, is that an illusion too? There isn’t a presence?

Tony: Well, there is only no thing, out of which everything arises. When there is no one and there is only presence, then you can come and tell me that it certainly wasn’t illusory, it isn’t illusory.

The joy without cause is the only thing that isn’t illusory. It’s the only constant. Awareness is the only constant, presence is the only constant. Everything else arises out of that. Without presence, there can be nothing.

Q. What about recognition? The word ‘recognition’ came to my mind you recognise the presence.

Tony: Yes, you remember, there is a recognition of what you already are. That’s it. It’s directly behind you now – it’s just back there, watching you watching me. You are the one that sees that looking at this.

You can see in the above the questioner is asking if the notion of Presence is actually itself an illusion. Tony states that this is not the case, that presence and awareness are the only constants.

Self-Knowledge

One feature of how the teaching expression has changed is that in the earlier days there was a teaching reminiscent of Vedanta-style self-knowledge teachings, things such as ‘knowing who you really are’ or ‘what you really are’. These notions are now often criticised by Tony, and he openly dismisses many traditional Advaita and Buddhist teachings. This is from an earlier version of The Open Secret, from the chapter ‘Context’:

‘Part of that realisation was that enlightenment is absolutely beyond my effort to change the way I live, or even of changing life at all. It has to do with a total shift in the realisation of who it is that lives. For I am already that which I seek.

We can see here that Tony is using the language of identity, knowing who you are or being that which is sought. In a later version of The Open Secret the same passage reads:

‘…It has to do with a total shift in the realisation of what it is that lives.’

You can see this is a subtle change, implying that our true nature is not personal but impersonal. Of course later Tony would go on to say that there is no true nature at all, but back in the 1990s and early 2000s he spoke differently. Here is another example from the same Chapter called Context:

‘For the sake of clarity, the terms enlightenment, liberation, fulfilment, freedom, oneness, and so on, are all seen here as being the same as the absolute realisation by anyone of what they really are.

Again, the language of self-identity and self-knowledge is being used, ie. the notion of knowing what you really are. In the later version of The Open Secret this passage now reads:

‘For the sake of clarity, the terms enlightenment, liberation, fulfilment, freedom, oneness, and so on, are all seen here as being the same as what I call liberation.

We can see that the emphasis on self-knowledge has been removed entirely in the later edit. Here is a quote from the chapter called ‘The Park’, which was later removed from later versions:

‘It is my birthright. It is my home. It is already that which I am.’

From the Chapter called ‘Fear’:

‘Until I recognise who I really am, my life can be largely driven by that which I fear.’

From the Chapter called ‘Relationships’:

‘When I have rediscovered who I am, however, there is no longer any question of relationships. In this open and welcoming presence there is no need for memory or repetition, comparison or expectation. No place for one part meeting another. There is no distance between the two and therefore nothing needs to relate.’

Letting Go

Letting go could be thought of being a Step (1) type teaching according to my schema above, in that it is dualistic and equates the person to be the body-mind rather than presence-awareness (which is step (2)). The last chapter in both the earlier and later versions of The Open Secret is called ‘Seen and Unseen’. Here is an excerpt from the earlier version:

This is a book declaring that enlightenment is a sudden, direct and energetic illumination that is continuously available to anyone who is ready to let go and allow it. It is the open secret which reveals itself in every part of our lives. No effort, path of purification, process or teaching of any kind can take us there. For the open secret is not about our effort to change the way we live. It is about the rediscovery of who it is that lives.

In the later version of The Open Secret the notion of needing ‘to let go and allow’ has been removed and the in last line the word ‘who’ has been changed to ‘what’.

Neti Neti

In the Chapter entitled ‘I Am Not…’, Tony write the following:

I am not …

. . . my life story, the mind, the body, feelings, experiences of pain or pleasure, struggle, success or failure. I am not loneliness, stillness, frustration or compassion. I am not even what I think is my purpose, the seeking, the finding, or anything which is called a spiritual experience.

When I don’t know what I am I sanctify these experiences, take ownership of them and give them great significance. I believe they mean something which, once understood, will give me answers and provide formulas. But these experiences are only consciousness concealing and revealing itself in order to be recognised. When I know what I am I discover that I am not existence, I am the presence which allows existence to be. Existence either blossoms in that presence or reflects back my sense of separation.

We can see here a typical traditional ‘neti neti’ style in which various phenomena are pointed out as being ‘not me’. Interestingly at the end we can see that Tony has used several concepts, one of presence which seems to allows another concept, existence, to be. I’m not sure exactly what he is referring to but now this kind of expression is no longer used by Tony.

You are Divine

Tony: You are that, you are divine, and so what is there to find?

Q. Fine. I know that. We are all divine.

Tony: But knowing this intellectually is nothing. You believe you are Bill who is trying to find something. Be ready to be adventurous. Be ready to chop off all the heads that you have looking at you over the fence telling you how you should be. Be ready to drop all of it.

You know traditions talk about freedom, but this is the freedom – not something written on paper. Forget Buddha – chop Buddha’s head off.

Q.They say, if you find Buddha on the road, kill him.

Tony: Absolutely. And Buddha – or Buddhism – is apparently on the road telling you that you need to meditate, you need to have right mindfulness, wise action. Chop off its head and rest in the arms of the beloved.

Realisation

In The Open Secret, Tony also speaks of a realisation of some kind at times. This is from the Chapter called ‘No Achievement’, which has not been changed in subsequent edits:

‘There is absolutely nothing to attain except the realisation that there is absolutely nothing to attain.’

This sounds remarkably similar to many Zen Buddhist texts and also to Sri Ramana Maharshi who said ‘Realisation is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there.’ (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk number 245).

From the same Chapter ‘No Achievement’ in The Open Secret:

‘All that is needed is a leap in perception, a different seeing, already inherent but unrecognised.

This last quote, which was completely removed from the later edits, admits there is some kind of recognition, some kind of different seeing – you can see this is Step (2) in my analysis above. This will become clearer in later quotes below. In the next quote we also see that Tony is almost giving credence to conceptual understanding and also uses a concept of Stillness which is implied as being our true nature, rather like the vedanta concept of being-consciousness (sat-chit):

‘No amount of thinking will tell me who I am, but understanding can take me to the river’s edge. Stillness is not brought about by not thinking. Stillness is absolutely beyond the presence or absence of thought. I cannot make myself still, but when that which appears not to be still is seen, then that seeing emanates from stillness.’

Presence-Awareness-Stillness

From Tony’s book ‘All there is’, published in 2003 we can read the following on page 49:

‘What we’re talking about here is something that actually already is the case. What we’re talking about here is something that has never come and never goes away It is presence, it is stillness . . . The words don’t express it, but it’s not a state and it’s not something that is here and then isn’t here. It is actually all there is.

Again, Tony is expressing something very similar to traditional Advaita teachings, pointing out the unchanging eternal presence in which all occurs and which is all there is. We see the same kinds of teachings from page 10 of the same book. Tony even uses the phrase ‘I-thought’, which is often used in traditional Advaita:

‘When separation takes place, the ‘I’ thought comes along and, like a cuckoo bird, lands in the nest and sits on present awareness. From then on, ‘me’ thinks that it is the entirety of the universe, and everything that arises is apparently seen from ‘me’.
So when we see a tree, we think ‘me’ is seeing a tree over there, whereas the tree is arising in present awareness. That which you have always thought of as ‘me’ is, in reality, present awareness. It never went away but was only misidentified. This is the one and only constant, and everything else is transient – including the cuckoo bird.’

We can see this is a typical Advaita style teaching, in which the ever-present presence-awareness  (sat-chit), our ‘true self’ is being mis-identified as a small separate ‘me’ (jiva). We see the same idea on page 1 of ‘All There Is’:

‘And in some way or other, the mind – the ‘I’ thought, the identity, the idea that ‘I am a person’ – takes over the energy of being and identifies it as Bill or Mary or whatever. It takes over being and gives it a name. Words begin, labels begin, and the whole idea of ‘me’ becomes the main investment of living.’

From page 4 of ‘All There Is’, Tony is subtly stating that our true nature is Being-Stillness which is the source (‘from which that comes’) of the appearance of duality:

‘Awakening has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are just a character in a play. Tony Parsons is simply a set of characteristics – that’s what is sitting here, a set of characteristics and a body/mind. But what you are is the being, the stillness, from which that comes. All that’s actually sitting there is stillness, being, present awareness – call it what you like.’

On Page 6 Tony responds to a question, firstly stating that ‘no one sees’ but then states that this ‘no-one’ is in fact ‘present awareness:

Q. So is it the mind that wakes up to see that you are that? Is it the mind that sees it? Tony: No, it is no one who sees it; it is present awareness that sees it.

On page 16 of All There Is Tony talks about being ‘established in presence’, again, very Advaita style language:

Q. OK, there was a recognition that at that moment there was no one but after that the ‘me’ comes back?

Tony: Not necessarily – there can be an immediate establishment in presence. But for most people it’s a flip-flop in and out at first.

Here is more of an awareness-style teaching in which Tony appears to be describing innate consciousness or awareness. Specifically Tony states it is always present, always seeing whatever is happening, it is what we are, it is all that is, and it is what he means by the word ‘being’, taken from ‘All There Is’ p.93:

All it is is a seeing. It’s a seeing that’s beyond you looking at me. All it is is sensing that which watches you looking at me . . . in this. In this there is that which knows what is happening. All your lifetime there has always been that which knows what is happening, which sees what’s happening. And always that is there. You know that’s there; you know that there is something watching you sitting there watching me. It is what you are – it is what is – it is all that is – it is being.

The Law of Attraction

From the Chapter called ‘My World’, we have notions of attraction and things being perfectly right in terms of a spiritual journey, together with the notion of self-knowledge or knowing who/what I really am. This is all part of Step (1) in my proposed schema above:

‘When I look back at my life as openly as possible, I see how I have attracted to me the people, the events and the patterns that have been perfectly appropriate to the kinds of influences and images that my particular belief systems have been broadcasting.

Many people have become very excited about this concept and have suggested and taught that if we can change our thought patterns and our belief systems, then we can change the way we experience life. It seems this could be so, but they also entirely miss the point. For who we really are is beyond the limitation of experience and belief.

Until I have rediscovered who I am, what kind of existence am I trying to create?’

A new chapter – ‘Nothing being everything’

In the later version of The Open Secret, a new chapter called ‘Nothing Being Everything’ has been inserted which was not present before. It, being a later addition, contains many inherent criticisms and clarifications of the mode of expression found throughout the earlier version of The Open Secret. This is now step (3) in my proposed schema. In it Tony writes:

‘That which the seeker longs for cannot be known as a something and so cannot be described. Putting a word to it turns it into an object and the seeking energy will then inevitably try to find, grasp, attain or become worthy of what it believes is a something that it can possess.’

This indeed is a very useful clarification, and help the reader understand why Tony moved away from using words such as presence and awareness. Throughout the earlier version of The Open Secret, Tony has referred to the importance of knowing who you truly are, that you are really presence and awareness, but here in the newer version he writes that this has no connection to discovering my true nature:

‘However, what is referred to here has no connection to the current popular ideas of ‘being here now or ‘living in the moment’ or ‘everything being consciousness’ or ‘discovering my true nature’ and so on.

Tony’s Spiritual Journey has all the classic hallmarks of a Modern Spiritual Journey

In The Open Secret Tony write about his seeking journey. It appears he passed through all the classic stages of formal religion, meditation, self-help, psychological development, etc, ie. Step (1):

I decided to try to become a Christian. Considering the information I had at the time, it seemed that this approach was appropriate….I felt I was doing my best with what at the time I understood and sanctified, and what I anticipated and expected would give meaning to my spiritual life…

…I involved myself in the deepest and most illuminating meditations, consumed the most recent and significant books, and of course threw myself with much enthusiasm into the latest therapies. They burst out of the ground like new fruits, to be sucked and digested, or tasted and thrown away…this breathing method, that affirmation, this integration, that special and significant energy…all had a fascination for me in those early days.

I spent a year doing an intensive residential course experiencing many key contemporary therapies mixed with eastern meditations.

After a while I settled on those therapies or methods I felt suited me and brought me most benefit.

I experienced considerable movement of previously held inhibitions, and came to recognise belief systems and patterns that had strongly influenced much of my early behaviour.

Jiddu Krishnamurti Influence

As I read through the above material, another thing I noticed, more in the earlier writings of Tony’s, was a similarity of expression in some ways at some times to that of J. Krishnamurti. For anyone who has read J Krishnamurti (JK) extensively, as I have, it is very easy to see when people have been influenced by him. J Krishnamurti had a very unusual and distinct style that many others have copied and adopted, knowingly or unknowingly.

Because J Krishnamurti’s use of words is so distinctive, those familiar with it can often see when others are using similar language. Phrases in a spiritual context such as ‘what is’, ‘becoming’, and ‘choiceless awareness’ are a few key Krishnamurti phrases. I am not sure if Tony read J Krishnamurti or not, but I do know Tony was into Osho for a while, and Osho’s used to attend J Krishnamurti’s talks and the influence of J Krishnamurti can be strongly seen in the way Osho writes, with Osho often using the same phrases as J Krishnamurti.

In The Open Secret Tony narrates a story that was told frequently by J Krishnamurti, and as far as I know J Krishnamurti was the first person to tell this story. Here is Tony’s version. Click here to read J Krishnamurti’s version, as he said it way back in 1911:

I like the story of God and the Devil watching man as he discovered something beautiful in a desert. “Aha” said God to the Devil, “now that man has found truth you will have nothing to do”. “On the contrary” replied the Devil, “I am going to help him organise it”.

Here Tony uses the phrase ‘The first and last step’. This was a very famous phrase that J Krishnamurti used to use. Here is Tony in The Open Secret:

‘There is a subtle feeling of risk and serenity in presence. It is the first and last step. It moves beyond time and self-identity and provides the ground in which the discovery of what I am is made immediately and directly available.’

We have other phrasings which are also similar to JK’s: eg. what Tony writes here from The Open Secret could easily be a JK statement:

‘For life is its own purpose and doesn’t need a reason to be. That is its beauty.’

Even Tony’s use of the phrase ‘what is‘ is a phrase that, as far as I am aware, was coined by J Krishnamurti in the spiritual context. Same with the use of the word ‘becoming’ in a spiritual context. Here is a typical quote from JK demonstrating both of the above, taken from ‘The First and Last Freedom’:

‘But the real is near, you do not have to seek it; and a man who seeks truth will never find it. Truth is in what is – and that is the beauty of it. But the moment you conceive it, the moment you seek it, you begin to struggle; and a man who struggles cannot understand.’

Other Krishnamurti style language used includes the phrase ‘beyond measure’. From Tony’s Website (theopensecret.com) you can find the following:

‘Never found, never lost, never knowable, being is the consummate absence that is beyond measure.’

Here is a passage from J Krishnamurti, again from ‘The First and Last Freedom’:

‘Surely knowledge is always of the known; and with the known we are trying to understand the unknown, something which is beyond measure

In some ways there are other similarities between these two (there are many differences too!). One similarity is that earlier on in their ‘teaching careers’ both used much more traditional language in expressing themselves. Both had encountered various traditional teachings and expressed themselves in this traditional language. Later on, they both have developed very distinct styles, which has been imitated widely by others around them.


Concluding remarks

Anyway, this is what I have written so far. There is more I could write, as it seems there have been more changes in his expression in the last 10 years or so that may also be interesting to explore, but I would have to do more digging around for that, and they are pretty much among the same themes we have already mentioned of the teachings becoming progressively less dualistic in their expression.

Please note that none of this is meant to be a criticism of Tony Parsons or anyone else, just some commentary and observations, which I hope are of help to the seeker trying to find their way through all of this. Perhaps you found the above interesting, perhaps not! To read what Tony Parsons currently states please see his website and read his essays there. You will also find many clips of him on YouTube – I recommend you have a listen. And feel free to let me know your thoughts…

Namaste.

 

The Truth of Vedanta (Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai)

42-reclining-on-the-sofa-h-563x400

In the text Guru Vachaka Kovai are recorded some of the most important teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Here are verses 148 and 149 which come under the heading ‘The Truth of Vedanta’ in the text. I have also included commentary from Sri Sadhu Om, a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s:

The Truth of Vedanta

148. Those who know nothing but sense-pleasure,
To ruin and destruction doomed,
Resent transcendence of the senses
And call this fresh and fruitful wisdom
Dry Vedanta!

Tom’s comments: many seekers often resent the idea of turning away from sense pleasures, saying this is a dry or repressive path that is ‘anti-life’. Here Ramana calls this path ‘fresh and fruitful’ instead!

149. The experience of Vedanta comes
Only to those who are utterly
Without desire. Far, far it is
From those who still retain desires.
For such the penance is prescribed
Of longing for the Lord who knows
No desire, so as to end
Forever all desire.

Commentary from Sri Sadhu Om:

The term Vedanta is commonly understood to mean a particular system of philosophy, but its true meaning is the experience of Jnana which is gained as the conclusion [anta] of the Vedas.

The desire for sense objects, which are all 2nd or 3rd persons, is directly opposed to the desire for God, and so it is quite clear that God is not merely one among the many 2nd and 3rd personal objects, but that He must be the Reality of the 1st person. Therefore, we should understand that discarding all desires for 2nd and 3rd personal objects and having love for Self alone is the true devotion towards God.

Verse B 13 [which comes after verse 731] also asserts this same point.

731. The way of knowledge and the way of love
Are interwoven close. Don’t tear
Asunder these inseparables.
But practise both together holding
In the heart the two as one.

SRI BHAGAVAN 13: Meditation on the Self
Is devotion to the Lord
Supreme, since He abides as this,
Our very Self.

You should not go into Laya (trance)! Annamalai Swami | Ramana Maharshi

Here are some very important teachings from Annamalai Swami regarding some dangers of meditation and entering into laya, a trance-like state:

annamalai swami final talks

A foreign woman came to see Annamalai Swami. While she was prostrating to him she seemed to become unconscious of her surroundings and she remained lying on the floor at his feet for about ten minutes. This was not the first time that she had fallen into this state while in Annamalai Swami’s presence. After watching her for some time, he shouted at her:

Annamalai Swami: You should not go into laya [a trance-like state] like this! It is becoming a habit with you. It may give you some kind of temporary happiness, but it is not a happiness that helps you spiritually. It is the same as sleep. Even worldly activities are better than this laya. Get out of this habit!

[Addressing the other people present]

People occasionally went into states like this in front of Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi]. He never encouraged them, even the ones who appeared to be in deep meditation. I remember one occasion when Bhagavan noticed a man who had been sitting motionless in the hall for at least an hour, apparently in a deep meditation. Bhagavan was not fooled. He called to Kunju Swami and others who were present, ‘Shout at him, shake him, and when he wakes up, take him on giri pradakshina This is no better than sleep. This state is not good for him. He is just wasting his time sitting like this.’

Bhagavan warned us about this state, and he often cited stories of sadhus who had been stuck in this state for years. One of the most frequently told was a story about a sadhu who asked his disciple for a glass of water. While he was waiting for the man to return, he went into a deep laya state that persisted for many, many years. He was in this state so long, his disciple died, the river changed its course, and different rulers came and went. When he opened his eyes, his first comment was, ‘Where is my glass of water?’ Before he went into laya, this thought was uppermost in his mind, and decades later, this thought was still there.

Bhagavan’s comment on this story was, ‘These states are not helpful. They are not samadhi.’

[The woman who had been in laya then asked the next question:]

Question: Whenever I start meditating, soon after I start, I fall into these states. How can I prevent these laya states from coming and taking me over?

Annamalai Swami: Keep practising self-enquiry. This is the way to avoid laya. The mind usually has two habits; either it is occupied with many thoughts and engaged in activities, or it goes back to sleep. But for some people, there is this third option, falling into this laya state. You should not indulge in it because once it becomes a habit, it becomes addictive.

[Tom – note the habitual nature of going into laya which becomes familiar to the mind and so becomes a familiar state of consciousness:]

It is a pleasant state be in, but if you fall very deeply into it, it becomes very hard to get out of it. You know what this state is like because you have been in it many times. As soon as you feel the first symptoms of an approaching trance, get up and walk around. Don’t remain sitting or lying. Walk around or do some work, and above all, keep up the practice of self-enquiry.

If you practise self-enquiry constantly, you will never find yourself falling into laya. You can conquer this habit. You just need to be attentive and to do self-enquiry. 

[Tom – we see the same teachings in traditional Advaita texts too, eg. in Gaudapada’s commentary on the Mundakya Upanishad – see verse 3.44.]


Here Annamalai Swami gives a similar teaching, this time from the book Living by the Words of Bhagavan, page 345:

Questioner: It is clear that vasanas are not destroyed during sleep. Are they destroyed by nirvikalpa samadhi, or does this state have no effect on them?

Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan taught that we should aim for sahaja samadhi, not nirvikalpa samadhi. He said that it was not necessary to experience nirvikalpa samadhi prior to enjoying sahaja samadhi.

One form of nirvikalpa samadhi is like laya, like deep sleep. There is peace while the samadhi persists, but when the experience is over the mind rises and the vasanas become just as active as before.

Laya [temporary suspension of all mental faculties in a trance-like state] is virtually the same as sleep. Experiencing this state is not helpful to your sadhana. Laya is not meditation, it is unconsciousness; it is tamo-guna in a very strong form. Meditation needs an awake mind, not an unconscious one.

Sleep and laya increase the identification with the mind. You may feel a little peace during laya, but when you wake up from this state the mind becomes very active again and the peace is all lost.

False Gurus & Finding the True Teacher – Nisargadatta Maharaj

The following are quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj, taken from the book ‘I Am That’. The subheadings are my own additions; I have also added bold type where I felt emphasis would be useful:

I Am That

False gurus

Questioner: You were telling us that there are many self-styled Gurus, but a real Guru is very rare. There are many jnanis who imagine themselves realised, but all they have is book knowledge and a high opinion of themselves. Sometimes they impress, even fascinate, attract disciples and make them waste their time in useless practices. After some years, when the disciple takes stock of himself, he finds no change. When he complains to his teacher, he gets the usual rebuke that he did not try hard enough. The blame is on the lack of faith and love in the heart of the disciple, while in reality the blame is on the Guru, who had no business in accepting disciples and raising their hopes. How to protect oneself from such Gurus?

Maharaj: Why be so concerned with others? Whoever may be the Guru, if he is pure of heart and acts in good faith, he will do his disciples no harm. If there is no progress, the fault lies with the disciples, their laziness and lack of self-control.

On the other hand, if the disciple is earnest and applies himself intelligently and with zest to his sadhana, he is bound to meet a more qualified teacher, who will take him further.

Your question flows from three false assumptions: that one needs concern oneself with others; that one can evaluate another and that the progress of the disciple is the task and responsibility of his Guru. In reality, the Guru’s role is only to instruct and encourage; the disciple is totally responsible for himself.


On surrender to a guru

Q: We are told that total surrender to the Guru is enough, that the Guru will do the rest.

M: Of course, when there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, presents and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty; then the Guru is not important, for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.


What if both guru and seeker are inadequate?

Q: When both the disciple and his teacher are inadequate, what will happen?

M: In the long run all will be well. After all, the real Self of both is not affected by the comedy they play for a time. They will sober up and ripen and shift to a higher level of relationship.

Q: Or, they may separate.

M: Yes, they may separate. After all, no relationship is forever. Duality is a temporary state.


Is meeting a guru a chance occurrence?

Q: Is it by accident that I met you and by another accident shall we separate never to meet again? Or is my meeting you a part of some cosmic pattern, a fragment in the great drama of our lives?

M: The real is meaningful and the meaningful relates to reality. If our relationship is meaningful to you and me, it cannot be accidental. The future affects the present as much, as the past.


How can I determine a True Guru?

Q: How can I make out who is a real saint and who is not?

M: You cannot, unless you have a clear insight into the heart of man. Appearances are deceptive. To see clearly, your mind must be pure and unattached. Unless you know yourself well, how can you know another? And when you know yourself – you are the other.

Leave others alone for some time and examine yourself. There are so many things you do not know about yourself – what are you, who are you, how did you come to be born, what are you doing now and why, where are you going, what is the meaning and purpose of your life, your death, your future? Have you a past, have you a future? How did you come to live in turmoil and sorrow, while your entire being strives for happiness and peace? These are weighty matters and have to be attended to first. You have no need, nor time for finding who is a jnani and who is not?

Tom: ie. knowing yourself is the chief aim, and this should be the focus of your attention, not concerning yourself about who is a real jnani/guru and who isn’t.

Q: I must select my guru rightly.

M: Be the right man and the right Guru will surely find you.

Is it right to change Gurus? Nisargadatta Maharaj

I Am That

Questioner: Is it right to change Gurus?

Nisargadatta Maharaj: Why not change? Gurus are like milestones? It is natural to move on from one to another. Each tells you the direction and the distance, while the sadguru, the eternal Guru, is the road itself. Once you realise that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.

Questioner: So, there is no need to worship, to pray, to practice Yoga?

Nisargadatta Maharaj: A little of daily sweeping, washing and bathing can do no harm. Self-awareness tells you at every step what needs be done. When all is done, the mind remains quiet.

Ramana Maharshi: Bhakti Yoga as a complete path to Final Liberation

Here Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi speaks of Bhakti (devotion towards God or Guru or Self) as a complete path to the Divine and a complete path to Spiritual Liberation.

May we praise Sri Ramana for his words!

May we have gratitude to Sri Ramana for his teachings!

May we love Sri Ramana for His Presence in Our Hearts!

All praise to Ramana!

All praise to Him who is God!

All praise to Him in our Hearts!

42-reclining-on-the-sofa-h-563x400

SRI RAMANA GITA

CHAPTER 16: ON BHAKTI

1. Then, questioned regarding Bhakti, the best of men, the highly auspicious Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, spoke thus:

2. The Self is dear to all. Nothing else is as dear. Love, unbroken like a stream of oil, is termed Bhakti.

3. Through Love the Sage knows that God is none other than his own Self. Though the devotee, on the other hand, regards Him as different from himself, yet he too merges and abides in the Self alone.

4. The Love which flows (unbroken) like a stream of oil, towards the Supreme Lord, leads the mind infallibly into pure Being, even without one’s desiring it.

5 & 6. When the devotee, regarding himself as a separate, limited individual of poor understanding, and desirous of deliverance from suffering, takes the omnipresent Supreme Reality to be some deity and worships it, even then he attains in the end That (alone).

7. Oh best of men, one who attributes names and forms to the deity, through those very names and forms, transcends all name and form.

8. When Bhakti has grown perfect, then hearing once (about Reality) is enough, for it confers perfect Knowledge.

9. Bhakti not continuous like a stream is called intermittent Bhakti. Even this is bound to result in supreme Bhakti.

10. One who practises Bhakti for a desired end finds no fulfillment on attaining it and then again worships God for the sake of eternal happiness.

11. Bhakti, even when accompanied by desire, does not cease with the achievement of the desire. Faith in the Supreme Person develops and goes on increasing.

12. Growing thus, Bhakti in course of time becomes perfect.

By means of this perfect and supreme Bhakti, even as by jnana, one crosses (the ocean of) Becoming.

This is the sixteenth chapter entitled ‘ON BHAKTI’ in Sri Ramana Gita, the Science of Brahman, and the Scripture of Yoga composed by Ramana’s disciple Vasishta Ganapati.


Tom:

May we praise Sri Ramana for his words!

May we have gratitude to Sri Ramana for his teachings!

May we love Sri Ramana for His Presence in Our Hearts!

All praise to Ramana!

All praise to Him who is God!

All praise to Him in our Hearts!

What is True Self-Knowledge (Atma-Jnana)? Yoga Vasistha and the source of the River Ganges

The true meaning of Jnana (Self-Knowledge) is revealed by Sage Vasistha, taken from the wonderful and highly authoritative traditional Advaita text, the Yoga Vasistha.


At Rama’s request, VASISTHA narrated the following story:

Once upon a time there was a king named Bhagiratha who was devoted to dharma. He gave liberal gifts to the pious and holy ones and he was terror to the evildoers. He worked tirelessly to eradicate the very causes of poverty. When he was in the company of the holy ones his heart melted in devotion.

Bhagiratha brought the holy river Ganga from the heavens down to the earth. In this he had to encounter great difficulties and propitiate the gods Brahma and Siva and also the sage Jahnu. In all this he suffered frequent frustrations and disappointments.

He, too, was endowed with discrimination and dispassion even at an early age, O Rama. One day while remaining alone he reflected thus: “This worldly life is really essenceless and stupid. Day and night chase each other. People repeat the same meaningless actions again and again. I regard only that as proper action which leads to the attainment beyond which there is nothing to be gained; the rest is repeated foul excretion (as in cholera).” He approached his guru Tritala and prayed, “Lord, how can one put an end to this sorrow and to old age, death and delusion which contribute to repeated birth here?”

Tom – here below the first teaching will be dispensed. The teaching says that suffering will end when the self is known. How to know the self? One has to abide as the Self for a long time:

TRITALA said: Sorrow ceases, all the bondages are rent asunder and doubts are dispelled when one is fully established in the equanimity of the self for a long time, when the perception of division has ceased and when there is the experience of fullness through the knowledge of that which is to be known. What is to be known? It is the self which is pure and which is of the nature of pure consciousness which is omnipresent and eternal.

BHAGIRATHA asked: I know that the self alone is real and the body, etc., are not real. But how is it that it is not perfectly clear to me?

Tom – how often we have heard the teaching, we have heard the words, we may know the theory, but still we do not know! Let us listen to Tritala’s response, in which he will tell us the true nature of Knolwedge and the means to it:

TRITALA said: Such intellectual knowledge is not knowledge! Unattachment to wife, son and house, equanimity in pleasure and pain, love of solitude, being firmly established in self-knowledge—this is knowledge, all else is ignorance! Only when the ego-sense is thinned out does this self­-knowledge arise.

BHAGIRATHA asked: Since this ego-sense is firmly established in this body, how can it be uprooted?

TRITALA replied: By self­-effort and by resolutely turning away from the pursuit of pleasure. And by the resolute breaking down of the prison-­house of shame (false dignity), etc. If you abandon all this and remain firm, the ego-sense will vanish and you will realise that you are the supreme being!

VASISTHA continued: Having heard the teachings of his teacher, Bhagiratha decided to perform a religious rite as a prelude to total renunciation of the world. In three days he had given away everything to the priests and to his own relatives, whether they were endowed with good nature or not. His own kingdom he handed over to his enemies living across the borders. Clad in a small piece of loin-­cloth, he left the kingdom and roamed in countries and forests where he was totally unknown.

Very soon, he had attained the state of supreme peace within himself. Accidentally and unknowingly Bhagiratha entered his own previous kingdom and solicited alms from the citizens there. They recognised him, worshipped him and prayed that he should be their king. But he accepted from them nothing but food. They bewailed, “This is king Bhagiratha, what a sad plight, what an unfortunate turn of events!” After a few days he left the kingdom again.

Tom – in the following paragraphs we will see some hints, in bold type, as to how life is for the apparently self-realised sage:

Bhagiratha once again met his teacher and the two of them roamed the country all the time engaged in spiritual dialogue: “Why do we still carry the burden of this physical body? On the other hand, why should it be discarded? Let it be as long as it will be!” They were devoid of sorrow and of rejoicing, nor could they be said to adhere to the middle path. Even if the gods and sages offered them wealth and psychic powers, they spurned them as blades of dry grass.

In a certain kingdom the king had died without an heir and the ministers were in search of a suitable ruler. Bhagiratha, clad in a loincloth, happened to be in that kingdom. The ministers decided that he was the person fit to ascend the throne, and surrounded him. Bhagiratha mounted the royal elephant. Soon he was crowned king.

While he was ruling that kingdom, the people of his previous kingdom approached him once again and prayed that he should rule that kingdom also. Bhagiratha accepted. Thus he became the emperor of the whole world. Remaining at peace within himself, with his mind silenced, free from desires and jealousy, he engaged himself in doing appropriate action in circumstances as they arose.

Once he heard that the only way to please the souls of his departed ancestors was to offer libation with the waters of the Ganga. In order to bring the heavenly Ganga down to earth, he repaired to the forest to perform austerities, having entrusted the empire to his ministers. There he propitiated the gods and the sages and achieved the most difficult task of bringing the Ganga down to earth so that all the people for all time to come might offer libations to their ancestors with the waters of the holy Ganga. It is only from that time that this sacred Ganga which adorned the crown of lord Siva’s head began to flow on the earth.

Tom – traditionally the river Ganges, here called the Ganga, its Sanskrit name, springs from the head of Lord Shiva. In the picture below we can see the out-shoot of water from the crown of his head which is the source of the Ganga:

Lord Shiva Ganges Ganga Om

VASISTHA continued: Even so, Rama, remain in a state of equanimity like king Bhagiratha. And, like Sikhidhvaja, having renounced everything, remain unmoved. I shall narrate to you the story of Sikhidhvaja. Pray, listen. Once there were two lovers who were re­born in a later age on account of their divine love for each other…[and so the wonderful Yoga Vasistha continues with its interweaving stories all explaining in different ways to paths to Realisation…]

My mind is sometimes restless, sometimes peaceful, what should I do? (Ramana Maharshi)

ramana-maharshi face
Sri Ramana Maharshi

A man from Cocanada [Kakinada] asked:

‘My mind remains clear for two or three days and turns dull for the next two or three days; and so it alternates. What is it due to?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi:

It is quite natural; it is the play of brightness (sattva), activity (rajas) and darkness (tamas) alternating. Do not regret the tamas; but when sattva [peace] comes into play, hold on to it fast and make the best of it.

Taken from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk number 52

Tom: here the advice is clear; when you are peaceful, take advantage of this peace and make the most of it – abide in this peace and know yourself to be beyond all.

The four types of Liberated Sage (Jnani) | Advaita Vedanta |Kaivalya Navaneeta

Kaivalya Navaneeta front cover ramana

In the text Kaivalya Navaneeta (The Cream of Liberation; a 16th century traditional advaita text that was often recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi), four types of liberated sages are described starting at verse 94.

Understanding these descriptions can help explain and reconcile the different views of liberation one may come across, such as whether or not the body and world appear after liberation, what type of lifestyle a liberated sage would exhibit and whether or not they would experience any kind of afflictive or suffering-causing emotions at all. My comments are in italicised red:


94. The wise, remaining like ether and liberated even here, are of four classes, namely Brahmavid (i.e. a knower of Brahman), vara, varya, and varishta, in order of merit.

Tom: The four types of liberated sage are called Brahmavid, Vara, Varya and Varishta. First we will discuss the Brahmavid or or ‘knower or Brahman’ (Vidya is Sanskrit for knowledge). The phrase ‘remaining like ether’ refers to the previous verse 93 and means the wise sage abides as consciousness, fully liberated.

95. The Brahmavids who by steadfast practice have gained clear realization of Brahman, continue to perform even the hard duties of their caste and stage in life, exactly as prescribed by the shastras for the benefit of others, without themselves swerving from their supreme state.

96. Should passions rise up they disappear instantly and cannot taint the mind of the Brahmavids who live in society detached like water on a lotus leaf. They look ignorant, not showing forth their knowledge, and remain mute owing to intensity of inward Bliss.

Tom: the first type of liberated sage is called the Brahmavid. They continue to be fully engaged in society and the world whilst simultaneously being liberated. Occasionally afflictive emotions and passions arise but they are short lived and do not affect the Brahmavid. They may seem like an ordinary person with nothing particularly special about them, but they are often outwardly quiet.

97. Prarabdha, i.e., karma which is now bearing fruit, differs according to the actions in past incarnations. Therefore the present pursuits also differ among jnanis, who are all, however, liberated even here. They may perform holy tapas; or engage in trade and commerce; or rule a kingdom; or wander about as mendicants.

Tom: Prarabdha essentially refers to the destiny of the particular body mind based on its previous actions, ie. its karma . This verse states that the actions of the (body of the) jnani  or sage (jnani literally means ‘knower’, ie. ‘knower of truth’ or ‘knower of Self’) varies depending on what the activities the body did prior to realisation. So the sage may, for example, perform holy penance, or engage in the world, or be a ruler, or a wandering monk. Basically there is no fixed description of what a sage would do in daily life in terms of their ‘occupation’.

98. They would not think of the past or future; would partake of what comes unsolicited; would not wonder, even if the sun turned into the moon, or at any other marvel, whether the sky were to spread its shoots down like a banyan tree or a corpse were to be revived; nor would they distinguish good and bad, for they always remain as the unchanging Witness of all.

Tom: the last point on the Brahmavid is that they are unaffected by whatever appears to happen, no matter how marvelous, calamitous or ridiculous. Why? Because they are liberated, ‘fixed’ as the Self, remaining as the ever-unchanging ‘Witness of all’.

Now let us look at the other three classes of Jnani or Liberated Sage:

99. Among the other three classes, the vara and the varya remain settled in samadhi. The vara feels concern for the maintenance of the body; the varya is reminded of it by others; the varishta never becomes aware of the body, either by himself or through others.

Tom: Here the vara and varya are both aware of the body at times whilst the fourth type of Jnani, the varishta, is not even ever aware of the body at all, even though others may perceive him as a body. The vara has a desire to maintain the body, whilst the varya occasionally becomes aware of their body if someone else prompts them.

So which of these types of liberation is best? Let us see…

100. Although there are distinguishing characteristics in the lives of the different Sages, who are themselves very rare in the world, yet there is absolutely no difference in the experience of Liberation. What can be the use of the hard-won samadhi? The Brahmavid, who is outwardly active, seems sometimes to feel the misery of calamities, whereas the others remain in unbroken Bliss.

Tom: Here it is made clear: all of these four types of sage are rare, and all are the same in that they are all fully liberated. They all in theirselves have the same essential experience of Liberation, the differences being only superficial and present from the point of view of other non-liberated people.

However a point is raised that is dealt with in the next verse. The Brahmavid may appear to suffer and stress like the unliberated, whereas the other three categories of liberated sage are lost in eternal Peace and Bliss. How can this be? How can the Brahmavid be said to be truly liberated?

101. Now if the Brahmavids live like the ignorant, how are they free from the cycle of births, and how is their ignorance gone? The all-pervading ether remains untainted by anything; the other four elements are tainted by contact with objects. So it is with the Brahmavid and the ignorant.

Tom: The answer given is that, as Consciousness, the Brahmavid remains unaffected and untouched by whatever seems to happen in the world of objects that we ordinarily call life.


Tom’s summary: So we can see there are various types of liberated sage that are all fully and totally liberated, but appear different to each other only from the point of view of ignorance or the ‘unliberated’. Some jnanis are active in the world and appear to stress and suffer, some are immersed in constant experiential bliss, some are totally unaware of their body or only aware of it to some degree, and others seem to have a need to look after their body. Some appear to be holy sages, other just ordinary mundane people int he world.  However, all of this does not matter from the point of view of Liberation – Liberation is only One. Know Thy Self!