Ramana: quoting other scriptures and the role of the Guru

Ramana Maharshi sitting

One of the many things I admire about Ramana Maharshi is that he didn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He used to frequently refer people to traditional texts if it was relevant to their path, and even translated a number scriptures into Tamil for those who were unable to read or understand classical Sanskrit.

For me this was really brought home to me when reading Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. This is a collection of 40 verses that Ramana composed, except that he didn’t compose all of the verses himself. Several were taken from other scriptures, but, I assume, as they said what he wanted to convey, he just copied the verses and gave the reference of where he took them from.

Here are the first 5 verses of Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. Note how he places emphasis on the role of the guru and the guru’s power to lead those around him/her into freedom through darshan:

Verse 1

In the company of sages, attachment vanishes; and with attachment, illusion. Freed from illusion, one attains stability, and thence liberation while yet alive. Seek therefore the company of sages.

from Bhajagovindam by Shankaracharya

 

Verse 2

Not by listening to preachers, nor by study of books, not by meritorious deeds nor by any other means can one attain that Supreme State, which is attainable only through association with the sages and the clear quest of the Self, 

from Yoga Vasishta

 

Verse 3

When one has learned to love the company of sages, wherefore all these rules of discipline? When a pleasant, cool southern breeze is blowing, what need is there for a fan? 

from Yoga Vasishta

 

Verse 4

Fever is overcome by the cool light of the moon; want, by the good wish-yielding tree; and sin by the Holy Ganges. Those three — fever and want and sin — all flee at the august sight of the peerless sage.

from Subhashita Ratna Bhandargara, chapter 3 verse 6

 

Verse 5.

Holy rivers, which are only water, and idols, which are made of stone and clay, are not as mighty as the sages. For while they make one pure in course of countless days, the sage’s eyes by a mere glance purify at once.

from Srimad Bhagavatam, Tenth canto, chapter 48 verse 31

 

❤ Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya ❤

 

 

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Spiritual enlightenment: powerful teachings from Robert Adams

Robert_Adams.jpg

Robert Adams (1928-1997), who I think I can rightly call a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, taught in his later years in the USA. From what I’ve read of his teachings, they are incredibly similar to the verbal teachings of Ramana Maharshi, and also have a sense of openness, precision and clarity.

I’ve trawled through a few of his writings and put together some excerpts that I hope will be of benefit to the seeker of spiritual enlightenment. This is not meant to represent the complete scope of Robert Adam’s teachings, but just to highlight some key points that leapt out to me as I read through. I particularly concentrated on the role of thought in Robert Adam’s teachings.

I have bolded some phrases that seemed important to me and also interspersed some very brief comments in red. Again, I hope this is of benefit to you.

 

Firstly, some teachings about ‘no thoughts’, which will be expanded upon later on:


Sitting here quietly, peaceful, without thoughts then you are the unblemished Self. The ultimate reality, this is you right now. As soon as you start thinking about it, it goes away, it changes, it’s not you any longer, it’s your humanhood. So when I say to adore your Self I am referring to adoring yourself as God, as the ultimate reality which is really you. But if you think of yourself as a human being with problems who makes mistakes you cannot adore yourself at all. You condemn yourself you put yourself down.

 


Liberation means that you’re totally and completely free, without thoughts. There are no thoughts in the Self. If there were thoughts in the Self, it wouldn’t be the Self. For the Self is only one and all-pervading. When you become absorbed in the Self, it’s completely different than what you ever believed. It’s not explainable. But as far as you’re concerned, you become totally free, happy, peaceful. There is no longer anyone to argue with or become upset over. This is the Self.

 


It’s very simple, no thoughts and you’re free.

 


Now a bit about a method of creating a state in which there are no thoughts:

See what you’re doing now. You’re thinking. That spoils it. Learn to stay without thought. Even if for a few seconds. It’s hard isn’t it. This is the reason you have to ask yourself, “To whom do these thoughts come?” It’s only a modality to cause you to stop thinking. (slight pause)

Some of you are beginning to feel what I’m talking about. No thoughts. Nothing to remember. Nothing to do. When thoughts come to you about your affairs, about your predicament, realize that you have surrendered your affairs and your predicament to the Self and all is well.

In other words there should be no situation that appears strong enough to set you off. Feeling miserable or feeling too happy. No thing should have that power. It’s called the thoughtless state.

It’s really not that hard. Let go. Close your eyes, it’ll help. If you have to do something, observe your breath. But if you can’t, forget about your breath. After all, to whom does the breath come? To the body. Since there is no body there is no breath. Then what is? I-am. What is I-am? Silence. Open your heart, let go. There is no past, no future. No thing can ever harm you. You exist in eternity. Be still. The breath does not exist any longer. There never was a body.

There is only that. Silence.

 


Your job is to stop thinking. To remove the thoughts. The thoughts are your Master now. That make you feel sad or happy, good or bad. Why do you feel this way? For your thoughts since you were a little kid have been impressed by the world conditions, by your parents, by your school, by your church and they have convinced you and programmed you to believe this is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong. Only when you have this are you successful. If you don’t have certain things you are a failure. It is the thoughts that tell you these things. Again if there are no thoughts there is noone left to tell you anything. This is called liberation, moksha, freedom. You begin where you are now. You begin with yourself. You question yourself. You inquire, “Who am I?” You sit in the silence. If thoughts come you inquire, “To whom do they come? You become still.”

 


When the mind is quiet the thoughts subside. When there are no thoughts there is the self. So all these practices are really to quieten the mind, not for any other purpose. No matter what form of sadhana you’re practicing. Whether you’re a Jnana or bhakta or karmic yoga or anything else they’re really the same. All of these practices are simply to quieten the mind. To make the mind one pointed. When the mind becomes one pointed self-inquiry becomes very easy. Then the mind will disappear completely and you’ll be free.

 


And what about feelings?

Body sensations are the same as thoughts. As you keep inquiring, “Who am I?” And you stay in the space between the answer, between the question. Then the body thoughts become less and less and the thoughts become less and less, they’re the same thing. The feelings and the thoughts are nothing as you practice sel finquiry. You ask, “Who does this come to? It comes to me. I think this. Who am I?” And when you keep still your body sensations will slow down, as well as your thoughts. And soon there will be no body sensations, there will be no thoughts. There will be nothing. So body sensations are the same as thoughts. T139: Existence Is Not In Form! 1500 When one goes the other goes also. You cannot have body sensations without thoughts. There has to be a thought about a body sensation. So when the thoughts dissipate, the body sensations will also dissipate.

 


Is no-thoughts the same as self-realisation?

The no mind state is when you’ve come from practicing, to the place in the silence. Where there are no thoughts bothering you any longer. You get there through self inquiry. That is the fastest way. But that is not self-realization. Self-realization is when the mind is pulled into the spiritual heart…

…Liberation, moksha, self-realization is when the mind that’s left over in the silence is pulled completely into the spiritual heart. At that time your whole mind, the I dissolves completely and you are free.

So the no mind state is a very high state. It’s the state of bliss. But there is still somebody left to experience the bliss. When the bliss is pulled into the heart there is no one left to experience anything. Therefore you no longer say, “I’m in the no mind state.” At that time there is nothing to say. Can you understand that?

 


I’m scared. What will happen if I don’t think?

The thoughts and the ego are synonymous. As the thoughts slow down, the ego slows down, and begins to also disappear with the thoughts. When there are no thoughts, there’s no ego. When there’s no ego, there’s nobody left to think. Then the question you will ask is, “How do I function without thinking?” As I mentioned in the beginning, the sage’s thoughts are like a burnt rope. They appear to be real, but they’re not. In other words, your thoughts are not real. They are false. How do you function without thoughts? Very well, thank you.

Many of you still believe you have to have thoughts to function. You think you’ll become a vegetable, but you will be spontaneous without thoughts. You’ll be motivated by the Self. You will know what to do, where to go, whom to speak to, whom not to speak to, much better than you do now, much, much better. Things will happen to you spontaneously. Everything we always talk about is very paradoxical, and the paradox here is, even though you have no thoughts, you will still think about certain things. It has to be done. But there’s absolutely no thinker alive. There’s no thinker. There is no one left to think, yet you still appear to be thinking about certain things, so you can function. It’s similar to what we were discussing on Sunday. People always ask me, “What do you see? Do you see the world?” Of course I see the world. If I didn’t see the world, I wouldn’t be able to function. But I see the world as the Self. In other words, I see the world as images on reality, like in the movies, the images on the screen. I’m able to see the screen and the images at the same time. I see reality and I see the images. So it is with the thoughts, the same thing with the thoughts. You appear to be thinking, but you’re not thinking. This is a very important point to remember. You will think whatever you have to think about, but the thoughts will be dead, like the burnt rope, like the fan with the plug pulled out, but the blades are still spinning, until they stop.


But can we really stop our thoughts? It that actually possible?

Now really, no Sage on this earth or anywhere else really stops the thoughts. As long as you see a body, and you call that body the Sage, there will always be some sort of thinking in that body, some sort of thought. For instance I can be sitting here and I’ll say to myself “when I go home I’m going to eat a dish of ice-cream”. This is a thought. But what happens when I say it and what happens when you say it?

When I say it, when I think it, it is similar to a burned rope. A burned rope may appear to be strong, but when you pick it up, it turns to ashes. It’s burned. There’s nothing there. When you say it, it is like a real rope, not burned. You give it energy, you give it power. Again when the Sage thinks of something, it is like a fan that has been pulled out of the socket. It’s still turning, but there’s no power. The power is dead. The power has been cut off. In other words, the source of a Saint is dead. The source of the Sage has no power, no power whatsoever. This is why it is said, a Sage does not think. A Sage has no thoughts. What it really means is that the Sage’s thoughts are dead.

When the thoughts are dead, you live in ABSOLUTE REALITY. You live in PURE AWARENESS. When the thoughts are dead you live in SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, in NIRVANA. So what do you have to do to also cease thinking, so the thoughts can become dead? You simply do not attach yourself to the thoughts. By not attaching yourself to the thoughts, by not reacting to the thoughts, by not responding to the thoughts, they lose their power and begin to fade away. Yet do not give them any energy. Do not give them any power. Do not say to yourself, I have to stop my thoughts. Do nothing like this. Just slow down, slow down. Let the thoughts do what they may. Allow the thoughts to go their own way. Do nothing with your thoughts. Do not think about them. Do not fight them. And above all, do not try to stop them. You may think this is so difficult, but it’s not.

It’s like when you first wake up, before the thoughts come. You’re still drowsy from sleep. And when the first thoughts come to you, you hardly pay any attention to them. That’s the attitude to have.  


 A different approach to/clarification of the practice – no need to remove thoughts

It has come to my attention that many of you are trying to stop your thoughts, control your thoughts. You cannot really do this. Trying to stop your thoughts, as Ramana Maharshi says, is like a thief becoming a policeman to catch the thief. In other words, the thief that becomes the policeman will not catch the thief, because he is the thief himself.. And so it is with our minds. When we use the mind to stop the thoughts, the mind will not stop the thoughts at all, because the mind wants to go on living.

Stopping the thoughts is annihilating the mind, and the mind does not wish to be annihilated. The mind wants to live on to fill you full of nonsense, superstitions. Therefore we do not try to stop, the thoughts. What do we really do? We do absolutely nothing. There is really nothing you have to do to make the thoughts cease. Always remember when you do things according to the Sadhanas you’ve learned, the spiritual exercise you’ve practice, the meditations, the yoga. This will make you free for a couple of moments, and then the thoughts will come back to you with full force, knocking you over. You cannot stop the mind or control the mind with spiritual practice.

Again you cause the thoughts to cease by doing absolutely nothing. By being your SELF. And all the scriptures we read, unless the mind stops spinning there will be no realization, no liberation. Only when the mind stops, the thoughts cease to be, is there liberation. Yet we use the words “to stop the mind, to stop, the thoughts”. This is sort of a misnomer. For again you have to use the mind to stop the thoughts, and the mind does not want to do this. It does not wish to cease thinking.

Yet by ceasing to think, you do acquire unalloyed happiness, infinite peace, Divine Bliss. When the thoughts do stop, these verities come forward, and you become free. You do not have to watch the thoughts, analyze the thoughts, be the witness to the thoughts, or observe the thoughts in any way whatsoever. All of these symptoms simply make the mind stronger really.

 


Ignore the thoughts completely, totally, absolutely. Again, do not fight your thoughts. Ignoring your thoughts is not fighting your thoughts. Do not try to change your thoughts. Above all do not try to stop your thoughts.


What is the best way to deal with thoughts?

 

It makes no difference if the thoughts are good or bad, they’re both impostors. In reality there are no good thoughts, there are no bad thoughts. We’re not trying to replace bad thoughts for good thoughts. We’re trying to LEAVE THE THOUGHTS ALONE. Not to do a thing about them. I want to make this perfectly clear. This is the highest way to handle your thoughts.

 

 


Do not be in conflict with your thoughts and the self. When there is no conflict there are no thoughts. Thoughts only appear because there’s conflict. By conflict I mean, you’re worrying about getting rid of your thoughts, you’re doing sadhana, meditation, pranayamas, japa. All of these things cause conflict. For aren’t you saying, “I’m doing these things to become liberated. I’m doing these things to become free.”

The reason there’s a the conflict is because you’re already free and liberated. Therefore when you give yourself the information that you have to do something to become liberated, there is immediately conflict. This is the only problem you have. It is your conflict. And this conflict comes from programming when you were a child, from samskaras, from previous existence, things that you took with you, the habits that are inside of you, that you believe you are.

This is where the conflict comes from. For it tells you, “I’m just a human being, I’m just a frail body. I have to suffer sometimes, sometimes I have to be happy.” This is all a lie. There never was a you that has to suffer. There never was a you that has to be happy.

 


Thoughts are an optical illusion:

Do not analyze what I am saying. Do not even agree with what I’m saying. Just be open. Open your heart by remaining still, silent. Allow the thoughts to come, do try not to stop them. Do not judge your thoughts, analyze your thoughts, or try to change your thoughts, or try to remove your thoughts. This will put you back in conflict with your thoughts. Do not even observe your thoughts. Do not even be the witness to your thoughts. Why? Because in reality there are no thoughts. The thoughts that you think you’re thinking, are an optical illusion. It is false imagination. Don’t you see? Everything that you’re thinking about is false. There is no thinker and there are no thoughts. So why have you been practicing all these exercises all of your life? It’s like a person in the ocean going in search for water. Awaken. Be free. Be yourself.


 

I know it’s difficult for some of you to think that you have to do absolutely nothing to become free, because you’re already free.


No thoughts can liberate you

Just the idea of wanting to awaken is a mistake. Just the feeling that I want to become awake, I want to become self-realized, I want to be liberated, is a mistake, for it’s part of the thinking process, and the thinking process can never liberate you. There are no thoughts that can liberate you. There are no emotions or feelings that can liberate you, awaken you, make you free.


 

Question: So when you say don’t think, you don’t mean stop all your thoughts. You mean stop identifying with the thoughts that are occurring.

R: Yes. Thoughts come before the thinker comes on the picture.

Question : So is there any point where they stop, where the thoughts do stop?

R: The thoughts do stop, yes, and you just act spontaneously. But they appear like thoughts, but they are no longer thoughts. For instance if I think I’m getting up off this chair, the thought had to come to me spontaneously, but that’s the end. So I’m not really thinking about getting off the chair. I just did it.

Q: That’s like the end, the duration, is no longer present. The thought arose, died, there was no concern.

R: That’s right.

Q: There is no separation between the thought and the action.

R: Exactly. It’s all one.

Q: So really what happened is you lost all sense of division like there was separate thought entities. They come, they end, another one comes, it’s just like, right?

R: There’s no beginning and no end.

Q: So actually non-duality is the real thing, even with thoughts, and what appears to appear is the I or the one concerned with the thoughts, and that’s when duality surges up.


Does a Jnani have thoughts?

Question: Robert I have a problem with this thing about thoughts, ultimately thoughts are the manifestation of the Self. I don’t know if I’m wrong but, if that’s the case the thoughts are non-dual per se. Duality comes only when there is somebody who believes they’re the thinker. So thoughts per se like in the case of the Jnani, he has thoughts but there is nobody to think about? I mean that’s the way I see it.

R: The Self is self-contained and the Self really does not manifest thoughts to begin with. Thoughts are an illusion and like you say, the Jnani does have thoughts. But the thoughts of the Jnani can only goes this far and they stop. But they do not bring on any more karma, they do not disturb the Jnani at all. They have no value whatsoever to the Jnani. The thoughts come very lightly, very slowly, they come and they go, they come and they go. There is no permanent thought. But the thoughts do not come from the Self. The Self is the Self. They appear to come from the Self. Just like the world appears, the body appears, the thoughts appear.

Therefore when you follow the I like we said in the beginning and we realize the thoughts and the body is attached to the I, when the I goes everything else goes. Thoughts go and everything goes. So don’t try to really stop your thoughts, get rid of the I that thinks the thoughts. See the difference? Whenever I tell you stop thinking, I mean catch the I that thinks. Find the source of the I that thinks. And the thoughts will stop by themselves.


Question: Robert, in several traditions I see, I think they talk about realization it comes along with the elimination of thoughts. Is that true or is the thinker which is creating that and thoughts are still happening in the Jnani? Of course I believe that thoughts are happening in the Jnani it’s just that he doesn’t identify with them or he doesn’t think? 

R: That’s true. They like bounce off. The thoughts come and disappear at the same time. They come and they’re gone, they come and they’re gone.

Q: That’s right, you don’t dwell on them do you?

R: Exactly.

Q: But the Jnani or the realized one doesn’t see them as factual things.

R: Indeed that’s right. No the thoughts are just return to nothing. They come and they melt. Like ice. They come and they melt and they go, and they come and they melt and they go.

Q: No clinging whatsoever?

R: No clinging, no attachment.

Q: So that’s what it means, elimination of thoughts?

R: Yes, you can say that. 

Q: Because actually thoughts will always happen, within the nature of things while you are living in this world.

R: It’s not like the thoughts that the average person has. The thoughts that come to me. I realize that they’re not real. So I just look at them and they go away.

Q: So they acquire a new quality?

R: They’re a different quality of thought. But you’re right as long as there’s something present, some part of the body is still present, thoughts come, but they don’t come to me. They just pass through. Like empty mind.


Do thoughts even exist?

In reality there are no thoughts. There is no one trying to stop them. There is no liberation, there is no bondage. There is nothing. You’re using the same nothing to stop your thoughts. Do nothing. Because you are nothing. Nothing plus nothing makes nothing. Can you see why I tell you to do nothing now? Because you’re using your real nature when you do nothing. YOU are your SELF YOU are the ABSOLUTE REALITY when you are NOTHING. Consequently when you are doing something to stop your thoughts, you’re fooling yourself. Nothing will ever happen. Like I say, you will acquire a little peace, that’s it. But by slowing yourself down, saying nothing, hearing nothing, doing nothing, being nothing, your thoughts will stop completely, totally absolutely. And as I mentioned before, you will feel beautiful happiness, peace of mind, bliss, you’ll be free.


Consciousness has no thoughts. (SB: But if consciousness is all there is how can thought be outside of all there is.) Thought is not outside of all there is, thought is part of the ego, part of the non-existence. Thought does not really exist. It’s like the body that doesn’t really exist. And the world does not really exist. And the mind does not really exist. And karma does not really exist. So thought does not really exist.

Q: So the motion doesn’t really exist?

R: Motion doesn’t really exist.

Q: That is why it’s an illusion. It just appears pretty real.

R: An illusion does not really exist.


What about the doer?

Question: And the difference is between those thoughts which have a claim in it and those thoughts which do not.

R: Have a claim?

Q: Yeah, those claims that I’m doing something.

R: You have to realize, “I am not the doer.” And when those thoughts come, ask yourself, “To whom do they come?” And they’ll disappear. Is that what you mean?

Q: No, because you were talking about the thoughts of a Jnani that they had different thoughts and I would take it that those thoughts don’t have any claim of doing?

R: Oh I see what you mean, right. That’s right.

Q: And other thoughts have a claim of doing.

R: Yes.

Q: So there’s a difference between those which have a claim and those which don’t.

R: A Jnani has no attachment to his thoughts whatsoever. They mean nothing, they’re valueless.


Does the ‘illusion of life’ disappear when you are self-realised?

There’s only consciousness and whatever appears in consciousness is an image…Like still life and when you realize who you are, you realize that you are the consciousness and not the still life. And the still life becomes an illusion. But it’s still there. But you’re aware that it’s not reality. You realize that everything is non reality. But it exists as an image in the Self.

Like the images in the mirror. They appear to exist. But you can’t do anything with them, because if you try to grab them you grab the mirror not the image. Consciousness is the same way. When you try to grab anything, you find it’s illusory. It doesn’t exist. Only consciousness exists.

So you ask, what about everything in the room, it appears to be real. That’s part of the dream, it’s part of the illusion. When you have a dream, you dream that everything exists, the world exists, the universe exists, people exist and you’re going through all kinds of periods, problems and delusions, but then you wake up and it’s gone. So when you wake up you laugh, for you realize it has all been a dream and only the Self exists, and you are that.


Does consciousness even exist?

Q: But when you say that consciousness exists that’s looking at it from a relative point of view. In itself consciousness doesn’t have a feeling of I exist.

R: Of course, you’re right. But to explain it you have to use some words…There is no consciousness, there is no existence, there’s no Self. So let’s keep still then.


Final ‘thoughts’!

It is the I, or the thinker, or the knower who has to be eliminated. For in reality there is absolutely nothing to know. If you are all-pervading, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, what else do you want? You’ve got everything. You are everything.

So when you try to know something, you’re making a grave mistake. This is a very important point. Remember this. In Advaita Vedanta, the knower is the last to go. What comes after the knower? Silence! There is nothing else.

 


The highest path of Jnana is no thinker left to think at all. Nobody is home. There is a total blank. There is no one around to do any thinking or preparing anything or trying to solve a problem or trying to do anything. At that stage you’re totally free.

 


 

You always have to think. Why do you have to think? You think you have to think, yet there is no thinker. You think you have to know, yet there is no knower. You think you have to be. There is no being. There just is, and you are that is-ness.

If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it?

Q. If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it, as all practices are in the conditioned realm of cause and effect? I’ve heard teachers (some of whom claim not to be teachers) say that Enlightenment is uncaused: it either happens or it doesn’t, and there is nothing you can do about it because there is no you anyway. Does this sound right to you?

Tom: Hi _____, thanks for your question. It depends how you use the words. I actually think the more radical expression of non-duality that you describe is incredibly potent and hits right at the nub of the matter, but that it is not for everyone, and for many it can also be detrimental, at least initially, as it can lead to a premature hopelessness and despair. I say premature, as later on this may be exactly what is needed to stop the apparent seeker in their tracks and for realisation to beautifully dawn!

Enlightenment is a conditioned event in time

Regarding enlightenment, I would not say that enlightenment is unconditioned or causeless, in fact quite the opposite, but let me first explain what I mean by the word ‘enlightenment’ in this context. Enlightenment, as I use the word, is a phenomena or event that occurs ‘within the dream’, so to speak, in which, figuratively speaking, the dream character realises they are in a dream and that they are a dream. Note that I say figuratively speaking as I am not saying that life is actually a dream, but just using a dream as an imperfect analogy.

There is a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, so it is something that occurs in time. Sure, when enlightenment happens, it is also seen that the enlightenment was always fully present the whole entire time, even when it wasn’t realised, but that is only realised after enlightenment! For me, I don’t even know when exactly my enlightenment happened, as it was a slow burn, and I only realised what had happened sometime afterwards, but even in this example, we can see there was still a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, and in this way enlightenment could still be said to have been an event, albeit one that took place over a longer time-frame.

Prior to enlightenment, Freedom or Wholeness is not realised, even though it was always present. It is this realisation I am referring to here as ‘enlightenment’. So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised.

So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised. 

All events have (apparent) causes

Once we accept this, then we can start to look to see if there are any proximate causes of enlightenment. As all phenomena (apparently) exist in a world of cause and effect, in which there is the appearance of rule and laws, such as the law of gravity and so forth, we should be able to investigate and see if there are certain factors that can increase the chances of enlightenment happening. If we can find out what these factors are, then perhaps we can increase our own chances of enlightenment, and this is where various spiritual-type practices and activities can come into play.

Isn’t this all just reinforcing the false notion of a ‘me’?

At this point in the conversation, some people counter this by saying that there is nobody here who can do any of this, that there is no ‘I’. Enlightenment either happens or it doesn’t happen, and there is nothing you can do about it because the ‘I’ that thinks it can do something is actually an illusion.

Now this is true. These statements are directly pointing at the heart of the matter, pointing out to the apparent seeker the illusion of separation.

However, does relentlessly pointing this out actually help the apparent seeker break through the veil of illusion? Well, yes, it definitely can. Simple repetitive hammering home the essential point can eventually work, which is why at the start of this response I said that this type of teaching is incredibly potent.

However it is not the only way, and sometimes it is less effective than other ways (and of course sometimes is more effective than other ways too).

If someone asked you how to play tennis, would you say there is nothing you can do to play tennis? That playing tennis will either happen or not happen as the ‘I’ that thinks it can chose to learn to play tennis is an illusion? Or would you perhaps suggest tennis lessons or something similar, as you know that in the (apparent) world of cause and effect, tennis lessons increases the chances of being able to play tennis, even though this is not guaranteed?

Enlightenment is a phenomenon like any other – it has causes and effects

You see, once you have realised that enlightenment is an event like any other, that it occurs following an apparent set of causes and conditions, some of which can be determined and modified, then we can start to see how powerful practices can be along this path.

If we find a set of factors that increases the likelihood of enlightenment occurring, then we can start to put these factors into place, just like the person who wants to play tennis can book themselves onto tennis lessons, buy a decent tennis racket and a good pair of tennis shoes, and learn the rules of the game.

When looking at more traditional teachings, sages in centuries gone past have discovered a variety of these factors that increase the likelihood of enlightenment. I discuss some of them here.

The Grand Illusion

On one hand there is no choice, there is nobody here, and all there is is Freedom – yes – and there is nothing you can do about any of this. On the other hand, there are proximate causes to enlightenment, which, from the point of the (illusory) seeker who has not realised ‘there is nobody here’, can be utilised to their advantage in seeing this.

When it is seen, then it is also seen that all practices are also part of this Grand Illusion, often, at least initially, fuelling the ‘I’ and the suffering that goes alongside it.

See also: Can you teach enlightenment?

 

 

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Many ways to Freedom

There are many ways that can lead an apparent individual person to freedom, a freedom that is already totally here and present and yet not always recognised or acknowledged.  There is the method of direct pointing, the path or understanding or knowledge, the path of devotion or surrender or love, the path of mindfulness, or through meditation. These are just some of the many ways, and eventually they all converge and are seen to be the same One Path (if taught correctly).

There are paths that require no belief and no faith, and others that are faith based. Some paths delve into the esoteric whereas others do not venture away from normal, direct, everyday experience. Some ways rely heavily on words, concepts and thought, (which are hopefully later dismantled) and others transmit  the teachings non-verbally.  Some (most) paths initially seem to reinforce the sense of a separate ‘I’ whereas others vehemently deny this appearance of separation from the outset.

There are countless other adjuncts that can also be useful, such as prayer, chanting, physical exercises and other ritualistic and more formal practices.

Or perhaps none of the above are required.

My view is that all these teachings and paths (including those that deny any teaching, path or way) can often play a valuable role in the journey of a seeker, and the exact shape of a seekers path varies considerably and is ultimately unique. However there are some general trends that generally apply, and understanding these tends to quicken the path as well as make it considerably easier. I summarise these trends in this article here.

In today’s spiritual market place, many teachings are available and the seeker can often find themselves somewhat confused and disillusioned with the teaching, teacher or path that was meant to lead them home, but for some reason didn’t live up to expectation. Many teachers only teach in the way that worked for them, and sometimes they denigrate other ways that are, superficially at least, contrary to what worked for them.

When I was seeking, my journey lead me to explore quite a lot of spiritual teachings, both traditional and non-traditional, and I began to see how they all potentially fitted together. I especially explored Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhist teachings, and have been studying each of these teachings for over 20 years now. My sense is this understanding of how this realisation can be shared in a number of different ways is particularly valuable in a world of plurality where seekers come from many different backgrounds with many different experiences and there are many seemingly contradictory teachings on offer. The result is the seeker is often left in confusion and perhaps even disillusionment about how to go forwards, and there is often a sense of isolation as how best to proceed.

I humbly offer you what I have learnt in order to facilitate your Jouney Back To Your-Self, to the Here/Now, in order to recognise this Freedom that already is here. My plea is that you approach what I have to offer with kindness and an open heart, be willing to look beyond the words I use and be open to what they may be pointing to, and also to be open to the non-verbal aspects of the teaching and transmission. This plea is not for my sake, but I think you will find that this open kindheartedness is a major key in unlocking the door which is always open, but apparently hides what is already fully present.

In ages gone by, as well as today, this perennial teaching has been expressed in a multiplicity of ways, and paradoxically, the most accurate verbal expression is not always the most conducive for a genuine and full transmission to occur. In fact I have found that in many cases that when a genuine realisation have been achieved, it often leads to a unique way of talking about and expressing this, a way that is not simply a parroting of myself or any other teacher, but a unique expression due to the unique body-mind it is being expressed through.

I express this Freedom in different ways at different times, and if you decide to spend time with this expression that occurs through me, I hope you will see how there is no real difference in these expressions. Seeing unity amidst this apparent diversity will surely go a long way to improving mutual respect and understanding between individuals and traditions, as well as allow the teachings to reach those whom it may not ordinarily reach.  We can also be aware of how not all teachings are equal, how some teachings are limited and even sometimes dangerous, and when certain teachings will be more effective in given circumstances.

If you feel I can be of any benefit to you, please contact me or attend one of my meetings

With best wishes

Tom

 

 

 

The ‘ultimate means’ to liberation

om1

The following is the last few verses of Advaita Bodha Deepika, a classical vedanta text that summarises the theories and methods of vedanta. It was also a favourite text of Ramana Maharshi’s. Here is the culmination of the teaching, as stated in the last verses of Chapter 8:

Disciple: How can the mind be extinguished?

Master: To forget everything is the ultimate means. But for thought, the world does not arise. Do not think and it will not arise. When nothing arises in the mind, the mind itself is lost. Therefore do not think of anything, forget all. This is the best way to kill the mind.

To forget everything is the ultimate means

D.: Has anyone else said so before?

M.: Vasishta said so to Rama thus: ‘Efface thoughts of all kinds, of things enjoyed, not enjoyed, or otherwise. Like wood or stone, remain free from thoughts.

Rama: Should I altogether forget everything?

Vasishta: Exactly; altogether forget everything and remain like wood or stone.
Rama: The result will be dullness like that of stones or wood.

Vasishta: Not so. All this is only illusion. Forgetting the illusion, you are freed from it. Though seeming dull, you will be the Bliss Itself. Your intellect will be altogether clear and sharp. Without getting entangled in worldly life, but appearing active to others remain as the very Bliss of Brahman and be happy.

Unlike the blue colour of the sky, let not the illusion of the world revive in the pure Ether of Consciousness-Self. To forget this illusion is the sole means to kill the mind and remain as Bliss.

Though Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahman Himself should instruct you, realisation is not possible without this one means. Without forgetting everything, fixity as the Self is impossible. Therefore altogether forget everything.’

…altogether forget everything and remain like wood or stone….Though seeming dull, you will be the Bliss Itself. Your intellect will be altogether clear and sharp.

D.: Is it not very difficult to do so?

M.: Though for the ignorant it is difficult, for the discerning few it is very easy. Never think of anything but the unbroken unique Brahman. By a long practice of this, you will easily forget the non-self. It cannot be difficult to remain still without thinking anything. Let not thoughts arise in the mind; always think of Brahman.

In this way all worldly thoughts will vanish and thought of Brahman alone will remain. When this becomes steady, forget even this, and without thinking ‘I am Brahman’, be the very Brahman. This cannot be difficult to practise.

Now my wise son, follow this advice; cease thinking of anything but Brahman. By this practice your mind will be extinct; you will forget all and remain as pure Brahman.

Never think of anything but the unbroken unique Brahman…When this becomes steady, forget even this, and without thinking ‘I am Brahman’, be the very Brahman. This cannot be difficult to practise.

 

Manifesting awakening in everyday life: purification and insight

buddha leaf

Question: In my experience, waking up is a preliminary step. The real work happens in manifesting that awakening in everyday life, and that is the most difficult part. Otherwise, there is a disconnect between the awakened state and everyday experience. What do you think?

Tom: In my experience it depends on the way awakening happens. I think what you call awakening, I call insight. What you call manifesting in everyday life, I call purification post-insight. Insight refers to seeing through the illusion of separation and doership and no longer believing happiness lies in gross or subtle objects. Purification refers to a process in which the habitual tendencies that are based on ignorance (ie. a lack of insight or belief in separation and seeking to derive happiness from objects) are let go of and removed.

The essential insight(s), once realised, doesn’t change, but the habitual thought patterns, behaviours and felt levels of suffering do change, and they change gradually over time for most people. Insight is like seeing something that is already here but was overlooked. It can occur like a flash, and when seen, it is realised that things were always this way but it just wasn’t acknowledged or understood to be so.

Purification is different. It is a process, one that takes time as the body-mind catches up with the insight. Purification can occur both prior to and after insight, but is generally only able to be complete once insight has occurred. In Vedanta this process is what is usually meant by the Sanskrit term nididhyansana.

However, purification is not necessarily the most difficult part – that varies from individual to individual, depending on how purified their minds were prior to insight occurring and the context of the awakening. For some it can be a very natural unfolding of the insight that occurs by itself and without prompting. For others it can be quite a difficult process in which a more formalised sadhana has to be continued in order to weed out the vasanas/habitual tendencies that are based on the root ignorance of separation and looking for happiness is objects.

This purification can also be seen as a process by which morality is instilled into the body-mind and through which ethical behaviour manifests. When the egoic I-centred tendencies fall away or are rooted out by post-insight sadhana, then what results is a naturally more ethical body-mind entity.

Either way, I do acknowledge this post-insight process is an important part of the spiritual path, and without it, in my view, the awakening/enlightenment is not complete.

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.

❤ ❤ ❤

 

A perfect personality

funny face perfect person

Anyone else think that your personality has to be perfect and that every pore of your being has to exude an energy of loving kindness in order for the Freedom that already is to be realised? What a prison!

With respect to seeking enlightenment, what’s wrong with THIS, right now?

Freedom is already totally completely here.

Stop all this worrying and obsessing over the apparent individual and here it is, full and complete. No need to improve the individual or the world. Then things start to right themselves naturally, according to natural law. Not that you care. It’s just the way it is.

No need to judge and evaluate apparent ‘teachers’ – that’s more obsessing about the apparent individual, the individuality you project onto them.

Now there is nothing wrong with desire to improve oneself or the world. It is quite natural in certain circumstances. The desire to change something happens by itself when it happens. It too is Spontaneous Arising, a part of ‘what is’.

Look! See! Notice! All these phenomena are empty of any independent doer-self-entity.

Freedom is already here. What does it feel like? It feels like THIS. No need to seek a new or better experience, although that too is allowed.

THIS IS IT.