Do real gurus use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, have websites and advertise?

mike myers true guru

There is a notion going around some spiritual circles that ‘real gurus’ don’t advertise: they don’t have websites; they don’t go on Facebook or Twitter; and they definitely don’t have a blog. Of course, many genuinely awakened people don’t do any of these things – but the same could be said the the un-awakened too. ‘Real gurus’, apparently, sit around all day wearing nothing but a loin cloth, always speak in profound dolcit tones, and have a nice long wispy beard. Gotta have the beard.

Let me ask you, is life so limited? Is it really such a transgression to want to share something you’ve found? Listening to some people it does seem that way. I make no qualms about the fact that I do advertise, that there is a desire to reach out to others to share this wonderful discovery that I call Freedom. It’s not as if I try to hide it! And many people who have found ‘my teachings’ have benefitted from my sharing – not that I take any personal credit for any of this.

There is a natural desire to want to share what I have found. I don’t think this has to be the way it is for everyone, but it does seem to be the way it is over here in this body-mind called Tom. It doesn’t mean I’m not sharing something genuine. It doesn’t mean my realisation is only half-baked. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’m only in it for the money. If one day the desire to share this teaching stopped, and who knows, it might one day, then that would be fine too. For now, I’ll just keep on going. Why? Because that’s what’s happening.

Ramana Maharshi

ramana maharshi

Let’s look at a good example where the myth of not advertising comes from – the example of Ramana Maharshi. Now, many of you know that I have a deep resonance with his teachings and that a sense of devotion towards him spontaneously arose in me quite unexpectedly towards the end of my seeking journey. So I mean no offense at all when I use him as an example. Ramana Maharshi primarily taught in silence and wasn’t obviously/outwardly trying to share any teaching to the masses in an evangelical kind of way. Ramana didn’t travel around the world or even around India – he never really left the mountain of Arunachala once he got there as a teenager, and when he wasn’t being silent, he sometimes talked about the power of silence. Here is an example:

‘Silence of a realised being is most powerful. He sends out waves of spiritual influence which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence. He never needs to go out among the public. If necessary he can use others as his instrument.’

Here is another example, again from Ramana Maharshi:

‘Contact with an enlightened sage is good. They will work through silence. By speaking their power is reduced. Silence is most powerful. Speech is always less powerful than silence…’

So there we have it. One of the most revered enlightened sages of modern times has said it clear as day. We can therefore deduce that if you’re on Facebook, you’re definitely not realised…right? Well not quite. Let’s take a look.

Shankara

Shankara shankaracharya

If we take the example of Shankara, a giant of Vedic spirituality and considered to be the founder of Advaita Vedanta, we have a very different character outwardly. Shankara fervently travelled the length and breadth of 8th century India preaching and debating those who disagreed with him, setting up schools all across the subcontinent and advertising how his teachings were better and superior to those around him.

Interestingly Ramana Maharshi clearly considered Shankara to be somebody who was fully awakened or self-realised, and yet Shankara clearly went out ‘among the public’. Ramana translated several of Shankara’s works from Sanskrit into Tamil for the benefit of his devotees who were unable to read Sanskrit and described how Shankara’s teachings could lead to liberation. In Ramana’s translation of Shankara’s vivekachudamai, Ramana says of Shankara ‘Sri Sankara, guru of the world (jagathguru), shines as the form of Lord Shiva‘. A worthy complement indeed.

And yet this was a person who certainly did not just stay quiet or stay silent, and he definitely did go out into the public, contrary to the quotes from Ramana Maharshi above. What can we make of this apparent contradiction?

Nisargadatta Maharaj and his lineage

nisargadatta_maharaj

Lets take another example – that of Nisargadatta Maharaj, another revered sage from the 20th centuty. Whilst he did travel widely prior to his awakening, and a small amount afterwards too, he taught mainly from a room in a noisy street in Bombay. As far as I’m aware he didn’t really advertise much himself, but like Ramana, he permitted books about his teachings to be written and sold. So in this way, Nisargadatta would fit the model of a guru who did not solicit disciples and did not, overtly at least, go out to spread the word in public.

However, interestingly, Nisargadatta’s guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, travelled extensively around the state of Maharastra teaching those who came to him, sharing his teachings ‘out in the world’. He actively travelled around this part of India sharing his teahings with anyone who resonated with or who would listen to what he was saying.

In Nisargadatta’s lineage, they also teach using texts from Shankara. In verse 38 of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani it is written:

It is the very nature of the great souls to move of their own accord towards removing other’s troubles’

And in verse 37:

They themselves have crossed the dreadful ocean of the world. Without any selfish motive they help others to cross.

One of Ramana Maharshi’s favourite books is a Tamil  Advaita classic called Kaivalya Navaneeta, or the Cream of Liberation. In verses 34 and 35 this is written:

I have already told you that the sages, liberated while alive, appear to be active in many ways according to their parabdha*. My good boy, hear me further, the activities of the sage are solely for the uplift of the world. He does not stand to lose or gain anything. 

*Parabdha, refers to parabdha karma, which means the results of past actions that have not yet manifested. ie. the playing out of conditioning, or, if you want, destiny.

Samarth Ramdas

Dasbodh

Sri Samarth Ramdas is one of the leading figures in Nisargadatta’s lineage from the 17th century. His written text Dasbodh became one of the main texts, perhaps the main text in Nisargadatta’s lineage. There is a story of Samarth Ramdas meeting Guru Hargobind, the sixth of the ten Sikh gurus. It goes like this:

Samarth Ramdas questions Guru Hargobind about his expensive attire, comparing him to the more austere Guru Nanak: “Guru Nanak was a Tyagi sadhu – a saint who had renounced the world. You are wearing arms and keeping an army and horses. You allow yourself to be addressed as Sacha Patshah, the True King. What sort of a sadhu are you?”
Guru Hargobind replied, “Internally a hermit, and externally a prince. Arms mean protection to the poor and destruction of the tyrant. Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya, i.e. ego”
Ramdas responded by stating: “This appeals to my mind”.

Guru Hargobind here was teaching Ramdas that what is important is not the outward appearance, but the inward state of mind. Some saints are renunciates, like Guru Nanak, others are more ‘worldly’, at least in outward appearance. This is just the way it is. There is no choice in the matter.

Ramdas subsequently went on to do many things out in the world, contrary to what Ramana says in his statement above. Ramdas started to go out and gather many people around him in order to counter the recent Islamic teachings that had spread into India and convince people of the superiority of the Vedic traditions. He built temples, schools and even statues to promote his cause. In fact much of Ramdas’s magnum opus, Dasbodh, is about living in and dealing with the real world. Ramdas was also quite political, actively opposing the caste system, promoting women’s rights in both spiritual and non-spiritual arenas, recruiting female disciples and also backing a Hindu king to overthrow a Muslim one.

In start contrast to Ramana’s silent power, Ramdas said that sages who sat in one place were lesser saints than the ones who engaged in the world. Also in stark contrast to Ramana, Ramdas said that when he died it would be his books, ie. his words, that would carry the teachings forwards and these words should be cherished.

What a contrast! Here we have a silent sage promoting silence, and an active politically-inclined one promoting activity! What can we make of this?

Other examples in brief

I could go on: King Janaka is often given as an example of an enlightened sage who is wealthy and of the world. Vidyaranya, who wrote Pancadasi, a staple text in the Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta tradition, was very active politically and was political advisor to several kings of the day. More recently Swami Vivekananda and Swami Chinmayananda both set up ‘missions’ to spread the word and both travelled and advertised widely in order to do this.

Conclusion

I hope to any discerning reader, even without citing all these examples, it should be obvious that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with advertising, having a website or even, god-forbid, ‘tweeting’. These activities don’t automatically mean you are an ‘unenlightened’ waste of space. What is important is the purity of motivation and genuineness of insight-realisation. We don’t have to just believe what Ramana or Ramdas said, but we can think and see the reality of it all for ourselves.

As Guru Hargobind said, it is not about renouncing the world, but renouncing the ego. By this I mean seeing through the illusion of believing yourself to be a separate doer entity that authors its thoughts and actions (ie. insight), and the removal of the compulsive habitual tendencies (vasanas) that stem from that false belief (ie. purification).

I’ll leave you with a traditional description of an enlightened sage. It describes how a sage may be silent, but also may be active ‘like a python attacking its prey’! The point is that the unique conditioning of the purified body-mind of a ‘sage’ plays itself out in unique and often varied ways. Again we are quoting from Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, starting at verse 536 (apologies for the male chauvinist language assuming the sage is a ‘he’):

The enlightened sage (the knower of Brahman)…if people provide him with comforts and luxuries, he enjoys them and plays with them  like a child. He bears no outward mark of a holy man…He may wear costly clothing or none…He may seem like a madman or like a child, or sometimes like an unclean spirit…Sometimes he appears to be a fool, sometimes a wiseman…Sometimes he is calm and silent. Sometimes he draws people to him, as a python attacks its prey. Sometimes people honor him greatly, sometimes they insult him. Sometimes they ignore him…He acts, yet is not bound by his action. He reaps the fruit of past actions, yet is unaffected by them.

❤ ❤ ❤

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Shankara’s way to Enlightenment, with verses from Atma Bodha

Atma Bodha is a short text attributed to Shakara and was written approximately 1400 years ago. It literally means ‘Self Knowledge’ (atma = self, bodha = understanding or knowledge) and it outlines a methodology to lead a seeker from suffering to liberation. Incidentally, bodha is the same root word that forms the word Buddha, which means ‘the one who knows or understands’.

It comprises a class of scriptures called prakarana granthas. Prakarana means ‘procedure’ or ‘task’ and grantha means ‘text’. Taken together prakarana grantha means ‘instruction manual’. These instruction manuals were written for those who do not have the capacity or time to read the voluminous traditional texts such as the vedas and upanishads or for those who were looking for a synopsis of their vedantic studies, and so give us a summary teaching which we can practically apply to our lives.

Ramana Maharshi thought this text important enough to translate it from Sanskrit to Tamil so that Tamil-speaking locals who could not understand Sanskrit could still benefit from its teachings. In his introduction to his translation, Ramana describes Shankara as the one who brings forth enlightenment. Similarly in the Inchegarei Sampradaya, the lineage to which Nisargadatta Maharaj belonged, Shankara is considered an enlightened sage and his writings are studied as a matter of course.

Below are some selected quotes from Shankara’s Atma Bodha. We will see how in these quotes the basic methodology (after the entry criteria for this teaching are briefly alluded to) is:

1) Firstly viveka, or distinguishing between what is Brahman and what is not. Brahman is identified as the unchanging subject and the world of objects (ie. the body, mind and world) is said to be not-Brahman. This is an artificial duality that is temporarily set up in order to counter and remove the deeply ingrained belief in the doer-entity or ego (ahamkara). We will see how this duality is later resolved into non-duality and furthermore into non-conceptuality.

2) Once the subject-object distinction (viveka) has been properly made then this knowledge or understanding is to be practised. This is done by the practise of identification with the subject, Brahman, and turning away from the phenomena that arise in our awareness.

3) Eventually, after long practice of this, the doer-entity that we once took ourselves to be is seen to be an illusion. This ignorance is removed.

4) Once the doer-entity is seen to be unreal, then the interpretive notions of subject and object can also be done away with. Having completed their purpose, the concepts of subject and object are also seen to be false beliefs and are allowed to fall away.

5) Everything is ‘resolved into Brahman’, not literally, but in the way we label reality. Before, at the first step of viveka,  the unchanging subject was considered Brahman/Atman and the changing world of objects (the mind, body and world) were said to be not-Brahman/Atman. Now ignorance is removed, everything is seen to be Brahman and the duality set up by viveka is removed.

6) Eventually we stop needing to label reality at all. What we are left with is just this, this present experience, devoid of concepts of self or reality or even Brahman. So simple, so direct, how can it be put into words?

Verse 5. The knowledge [I am Brahman], when unceasingly practiced, drives out all ignorance, then itself disappears.

Shankara - the knowledge then itself disappears

37. The mental impression ‘I am Brahman’, created by ceaseless practice, destroys ignorance and the resultant suffering, just as medicine destroys disease.

Shankara - I am Brahman destroys ignorance (1)

41. There are no distinctions such as ‘Knower’, the ‘Knowledge’ and the ‘Object of Knowledge’ in the Supreme Self

Shankara- there are no distinctions in the Supreme Self.

64. All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else

Shankara- All that is perceived is Brahman and nothing else

Jesus: How to pray

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Alternative translation

“Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees from the hidden place will reward you.”

(International Standard Version)

Here is the context of the quote:

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets so that they might be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their recompense.
But you when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father, the One in secret. And your Father, the One seeing in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Matthew 6:5-8

Bhagavad Gita: the most secret teaching

BG fix your mind on me.png

Lord Krishna states this is his most secret teaching: to love Him, to devote ourselves to Him, to be with Him knowingly.

He is already in each of our hearts, He is already everywhere and everything, everything is already done by Him.

Here knowledge, scripture and philosophy all crumble as, through our devotion, the heart opens. All are consumed by Him, and all we are left with is Him in all His glory.

We never were. All there ever was was Him.

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As Jesus said when asked:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And he [Jesus] said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the greatest and first commandment.”

Matthew 22:36-38

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Also, as Shankara sung in his Bhaja Govindam:

“Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda,
Oh fool! Other than chanting the Lord’s names, there is no other way to cross the life’s ocean.”
(Govinda is another name for Krishna. Literally it means ‘protector of cows’ referring to Krishna’s youth as a cow herd.)

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So, all that’s left for me do to is bow down and praise Him

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Hare Krishna!

Om Namah Shivaya!

May all beings be happy and well!

Praise be to God!

❤ ❤ ❤

See also:

Was Jesus ever born?

The pre-eminent form of worship

 

Buddha: Why do spiritual people fight with each other?

buddha side.jpg

“Why is it that, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?”
“It is, brahmins, because of attachment to views, adherence to views , fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.”
Anguttara Nikaya

Today’s spiritual scene is in many ways the same as it has always been: while some people wake up to things as they are and go beyond words and scripture, others stay fixed in their views, cling to their scriptures and concepts, and in doing so remain stuck in suffering and samsara.

So, why are so many spiritual people arguing with each other? Master Kaccana was one of the Buddha’s main disciples and was said to be the most skilled in espousing the dhamma (the teaching). He says it simply: people are wedded to their concepts, their views, their scriptures and their ideas, and that is why they fight with each other.

The true dhamma cannot be spoken. The true teacher knows their words are ultimately untrue and that words are merely conceptual pointers, indicators, and not descriptions of what is. The true teacher is not wedded to a particular teaching method, or a particular form of words, and naturally adapts the teaching to the situation at hand. A single word, a prescription for practice, a gesture, a glance, a lecture: the teaching comes to us in many forms.

If we truly listen, the living teacher constantly teaches the living teaching. The teaching is inseparable from our hearts and the life we find ourselves living: it is none other than daily life.

The teaching is here, already. Are we open to it?

 

 

Zen Master Huang Po: how to remove our illusions

Q: Illusion can hide from us our own mind, but up to now you have not taught us how to get rid of illusion.

zen circle

A: The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking.

If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, illusion will cease of itself. And then if you still want to destroy it wherever it may be, you will find that there is not a hairsbreadth left of anything on which to lay hold.

This is the meaning of: ‘I will let go with both hands, for then I shall certainly discover the Buddha in my mind’.

The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory…If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as “ordinary” and “Enlightened,” illusion will cease of itself.

Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma [The Teaching, Enlightenment] to be transmitted?

A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind [Tom – note that the Chinese word for ‘mind’ can also be translated as ‘heart’, so this could be ‘heart to heart’ transmission].

Huang Po Zen Teachings

Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?

A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this implies no Mind and no Dharma.

Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?

A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received. So Bodhidharma [the first Zen patriarch, the ‘founder of zen’] said:

The nature of the Mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.

If I were to make this clear to you, I doubt if you could stand up to it.

Taken from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (Chun Chou record no. 32)

Zen Master Huang Po: stuffing yourself with knowledge

zen mountains

If you now set about using your minds to seek Mind, listening to the teaching of others, and hoping to reach the goal through mere learning, when will you ever succeed? Some of the ancients had sharp minds; they no sooner heard the Doctrine proclaimed than they hastened to discard all learning. So they were called, ‘Sages who, abandoning learning, have come to rest in spontaneity’.

In these days people only seek to stuff themselves with knowledge and deductions, seeking everywhere for book-knowledge and calling this ‘Dharma-practice’ [true practice of The Way]. They do not know that so much knowledge and deduction have just the contrary effect of piling up obstacles. Merely acquiring a lot of knowledge makes you like a child who gives himself indigestion by gobbling too many curds.

Merely acquiring a lot of knowledge makes you like a child who gives himself indigestion by gobbling too many curds.

Huang Po Zen Teachings

Those who study the Way according to the Three Vehicles [the 3 main Buddhist schools of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism] are all like this. All you can call them is people who suffer from indigestion. When so-called knowledge and deductions are not digested, they become poisons, for they belong only to the plane of samsara [the plane of suffering, the unenlightened state]. In the Absolute, there is nothing at all of this kind.

So it is said: ‘In the armoury of my sovereign, there is no Sword of Thusness’. All the concepts you have formed in the past must be discarded and replaced by void…The canonical teachings of the Three Vehicles are just remedies for temporary needs. They were taught to meet such needs and so are of temporary value and differ one from another. If only this could be understood, there would be no more doubts about it.

Above all it is essential not to select some particular teaching suited to a certain occasion, and, being impressed by its forming part of the written canon, regard it as an immutable concept. Why so? Because in truth there is no unalterable Dharma [Teaching, Teaching method] which the Tathagata [The Buddha; a term the Buddha often referred to himself by] could have preached. People of our sect would never argue that there could be such a thing. We just know how to put all mental activity to rest and thus achieve tranquillity. We certainly do not begin by thinking things out and end up in perplexity.

Because in truth there is no unalterable Dharma…We certainly do not begin by thinking things out and end up in perplexity. 

Taken from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (Chun Chou record no. 30)