A Friend: I have a question: is ambition consistent with Advaita? I use the word ambition in the traditional sense (for eg: career). Is advancement in one's career, and the subsequent effort needed towards that, a worthy pursuit from an advaitic protective? The reason i ask is that Advaita views the world as unreal (when seen as separate from the Self). In such a viewpoint, all ambition to progress on one's career must also be viewed as a desire to reach an unreal state. So is it then a 'lesser' objective? Another way to look at it: when we surrender to the Supreme, then how would action be possible towards a 'material' ambition?
Reinhard: The best way would be to try and see 🙂
Not the word, but what we actually feel is what counts. Basically, it is desire that leads us into separation. But desire in the form of yearning for the Self is the power that leads us back home.
So you cannot decide this theoretically. Rather, take a look at what you truly want. Observe the difference between an ordinary desire and the 'home instinct' of longing for peace.
There is nothing really separate, no career that cannot be part of our path. But for sure: everything that forgets Truth and is an end in itself can never truly fulfill us. So take a look and see this in your own experience!
"You can feel yourself one with the One that exists: the whole body becomes a mere power, a force- current: your life becomes a needle drawn to a huge
mass of magnet and as you go deeper and deeper, you
become a mere center and then not even that, for you
become a mere consciousness, there are no thoughts or
cares any longer they were shattered at the threshold;
it is an inundation; you, a mere straw, you are swallowed alive,
but it is very delightful, for you become the very thing that swallows you; this is the union of jiva with Brahman, the loss of ego in the real Self, the destruction of falsehood, the attainment of Truth."
- Sat Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
GURU VACHAKA KOVAI
Experience of the Truth
1010 If you abide unshakeably in the Self, that state will destroy the bond created by sankalpas, like a snake shuffling off its slough. When you persevere, abiding in such nishta [Self-abidance] to the very end, that which manifests is the absolutely empty firmament of pure consciousness.
1011 When the jiva, reflected consciousness, has its inert association with the body totally destroyed and ignited by the fire of jnana, it burns in the huge and extensive cremation ground, the chidakasa. The vision of this excellent effulgence is similar to the sight of an unbounded conflagration that rages when a vast forest, dense with dried trees, catches fire and spreads in all directions.
'The root of the illusion is the thought which ignores the Self and which thinks instead, 'I am this body'. After this thought rises it expands in a moment into several thousand thoughts and conceals the Self. The reality of the Self will only shine if all these thoughts are removed. Afterwards, what remains is only Brahmananda [the bliss of Brahman].'
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan
Bhagavan once told how he witnessed the swarming of a certain insect. First just one came out of a hole in the ground (the I am body-sensation), followed by a huge number, filling the air like a cloud. He compared this scene with the waking up each morning. This makes clear how vital a sadhana is to collect all mental energies and find the origin of the mind, the birth of the 'I-thought':
"When I was staying in the Skandasramam I sometimes used to go out and sit on a rock. On one such occasion there were two or three others with me including Rangaswami Iyengar. Suddenly we noticed some small moth-like insect shooting up like a rocket into the air from a crevice in the rock. Within the twinkling of an eye it had multiplied itself into millions of moths which formed a cloud and hid the sky from view. We wondered at it and examined the place from which it shot up. We found that it was only a pinhole and knew that so many insects could not have issued from it in such a short time.
That is how ahankara (ego) shoots up like a rocket and instantaneously spreads out as the Universe."
- Talks no. 616
I find the following quote to be a valuable addition to the well-known teachings. Some authors are fond to merely quote Paul Brunton who reported Sri Ramana saying that a separate spiritual practice is only for the merest spiritual novice. That is at least one-sided, in my experience. A subtle and concentrated silent state reached much more easily during sitting meditation seems a wonderful asset for inquiry. Of course this should expand and penetrate all our daily active life as well.
"Bhagavan Ramana has unraveled the mystery of the universal truth, the real behind the apparent. It is in this context his emphasis on self-inquiry assumes importance. The penetrating search within opens up awareness of pure consciousness. Another time he said:
"Effort is needed. If the mind becomes single-pointed it becomes a great force and can turn inward to the heart easily.''
"One's effort is essential. It is only the wise endowed with equanimity and renouncing the fruit of action who are freed from the shackles of birth and death. They concentrate exclusively on Self-knowledge."
Q: At times the meditation becomes easy, but that remains only for a short period - and it is again disturbed by unwanted thoughts.
Bhagavan: "Yes - maybe - resist the thoughts - you should have more willpower to obtain steadfastness. Slight disturbances should be ignored, taking care to pursue further without break. A sustained effort will bring about results. Moreover, you may fix up a certain time for meditation as a daily routine which will go a long way for development!"
- More Talks with Ramana Maharshi, NN Rajan
N.N. Rajan was for fifteen years with Sri Ramana Maharshi with all his love and intensity. See the interview from min. 48.55.
N.N. Rajan (N.Nataraja Iyer) (1906-94), Station Master at Tiruvannamalai Railway Station, came under Sri Ramana’s influence in 1935. He authored Sri Ramana Dhyanam and The Bloom of Inner Glory.
"Being a householder, I felt that it was not right for me to follow a spiritual path alone, so I began taking my wife and children also to the Ashram. Within a few months, I found to my astonishment, quite a conspicuous change in my wife and noticed that she had outstripped me in her understanding of Bhagavan. She had become a greater devotee and was imbibing more peace from him. My children also enjoyed his presence. Bhagavan had a special fondness for children and often used to joke with them and touch or caress them, though he scrupulously avoided touching adults or being touched by them. The children themselves derived a certain peace and joy from his presence and would sometimes sit motionless before him, as though under a spell, free from childish wrigglings.
"I am not exaggerating when I say this. Once my daughter, who was only just over two, sat quietly by herself in a corner of the hall for about two hours, sitting cross-legged like adults and not even speaking. My wife and I did not notice this as we were absorbed in meditation, but the Maharshi did. When I went to the Ashram early next morning, I was surprised and delighted to hear the Maharshi telling one of the devotees, “Rajan’s little daughter Kutti was sitting cross-legged away from her parents for about two hours and she never stirred the whole time.”
It was delightful to hear him talk about the incident and to realize how closely he had watched her while we knew nothing about it. Of course, it was due to his Grace; a child would otherwise never act like that. He was omnipotent but was extremely unostentatious. He would never reveal his powers openly and behaved quite simply like an ordinary man.
The following is from Rajan’s interview as recorded in the video Guru Ramana:
"Bhagavan is the Supreme Being in flesh and blood, perfection to the core. They say an avatar, but he is not an avatar, just above that state. He is Supreme Being personified. Face to face he sat among us; we slept with him, took food with him and sat at his feet for years together.
"We hear about rishis in the annals of history, but we do not hear anything about such a great sage. He is the greatest sage of our time. In the Vedic age also there were rishis but they had their own impulses: they got anger, they got lust. Can we say any such thing about Bhagavan? No.
"As Major Chadwick said, “If at all there is anybody fit to express the greatness of Bhagavan, it is Bhagavan himself.” Will Bhagavan ever do that? That is the greatness of Bhagavan. His bewitching smile, his beaming forehead, his glittering radiant eyes, his sweet voice and measured words and his majestic form are unmatchable."
The following is from Rajan’s diary dated November 6, 1943:
After a brief discussion between Major Chadwick and Bhagavan on the necessity of periodic action to ensure that the body remains healthy, there was a ten-minute silence. Then a devotee asked, “It is stated that one should dive into oneself with a keen one-pointed mind-controlling speech and breath. Is it necessary to control the breath also?”
Bhagavan replied, “If all thoughts are controlled, automatically the breath is also controlled. By intense and sustained practice it will become habitual. Controlling the breath through various yogic exercises is like putting brakes to the train when the engine is working. But by watching the source of the mind with full concentration, the thoughts would get controlled. This method will be more effective and easy. It is like shutting the power of the engine and thereby stopping the train completely.”
- Face to Face
Friend: Recently I have been thinking a lot about something that you said to me some time ago - that in our spiritual practice, we cannot skip the level of the person. Within the teachings of Bhagavan, I perceive different levels of expression of truth, so to speak. At the highest level, or the more absolute level, there definitely is no person, everything is God, everything is predestined, everything is perfect. However, can we honestly say that we only live at this level? I know I can't claim that myself. Much of the time, I do seem to be existing in the world as a person, making choices, trying to do the right thing.
I have also experienced some moments of that higher reality, and that was very beautiful. I aim for that, and over time I certainly hope to establish myself more and more in that. But I believe it is a gradual process, and in the meantime, I do the best I can to make the right choice and to set the person as right as I can, so to speak.
I know that many people within the community of Bhagavan disagree with me on this, and think that I am wasting my time by paying any attention to the level of the person because it is ultimately not real.
When I speak to the people in the group about it, they say that I am doing the wrong thing by paying attention to this level at all and that I should just forget the whole thing and turn within.
- Reinhard: This point you bring up is of greatest importance. Let’s see it simply: would Bhagavan have ever spoken or taught if ’no one' was sitting in front of him, asking for guidance?
This is a clear water divide between what I like to call 'head-advaita‘- a religious and philosophical dogmatism with little bearing on what we actually live.
The way I approach this is a 'bottom-up-approach‘: beginning with the level of your experience and aiming at the Highest. A ’top-down-approach’ is also needed- that is the teachings, as they are written in the books.
But to claim these concepts without the experience of samadhi is just dry conceptualism! As I was always interested in REALIZATION rather than mere adoring Bhagavan emotionally and philosophizing, I had to ask myself and the students that I worked with, what they could realize in their own experience.
The beauty is: DHARMA is universal and also universally present, whether we are enlightened or not. This was stated by Bhagavan repeatedly. So in my Satsang, I emphasize this beingness and awareness, using the thoughts and emotions like trees on the roadside that help to point out the way the road takes.
We just had a weekend retreat and I can’t describe properly the power and joy of contemplating this dharma directly in our experience!
Not many people are interested in real sadhana! They like to enjoy philosophical concepts and emotions. Annamalai Swami called these people ’ticks’: they do not drink the milk of the cow but suck their blood. To actually sit down and meet your own mind is quite a task and it needs proper understanding and a lot of persistence, as we both know.
The people you mention who say that you 'should forget and turn within' probably have never done so seriously!! Because if you do, a tremendous task will be revealed: to truly surrender the inner forces to the Self! Bhagavan once expressed this, saying: If you want to regain the natural state, a tremendous fight is inevitable.
The American teacher Adyashanti coined a very fitting term for our discussion. He said if people try to jump over personal issues and fixate on spiritual concepts that is ’spiritual bypassing’. Of course, is the personality ultimately not real but it is also the only point of focus for spiritual practice! If we willfully ignore the personal reality it has nothing spiritual but is a form of escapism and harshness.
Only when we deal with personal issues for their own sake, seeking to gratify desires, again and again, it is a waste of time. Bhagavan compared this with the vain effort to quench a fire with kerosene. But if a desire, for instance, is sensing the silence of Being, it will naturally seek that rather than acting out on its own level. That is also what Bhagavan taught.
Words can be used in different shades of meaning. But if someone lives with love and awareness, free from suffering, this speaks for itself. That his why Christ said,
'By their fruits, ye shall now them.‘
He did not say by their words
"As children, our attitude to Bhagavan was perhaps slightly different from that of the adults. We, of course, knew that He was God and a wonderful person to be near - truly a magical feeling, but we accepted this quite naturally and without a feeling of awe. However, sometimes even children can be awed:
One of these memories I have is rather strange because to this day I recall my amazement and yet nothing actually happened at all. A lady came to Tiruvannamalai from North India; in those days all 'foreigners' whether they were North Indians or Norwegians were sent to our home.
I was about ten years old at the time and not an especially sensitive child but even I could not bear to stay in the room with her as she was so tense, nervous and unhappy that it made me most uneasy. Her story was that she had married a man she loved very much although her parents had not approved as he was of a different caste - however they had overcome all the opposition and they went to the seaside somewhere for their honeymoon. They had a week of great happiness until one day he was killed by a shark right in front of her eyes.
All this had happened about two years earlier and the distraught widow was traveling through India, going to various ashrams and seeing various holy men. She had a list of questions which she asked at each place - all more or less a demand why such a thing should happen if there was a God of Justice and so on. She was an unhappy and aggressively angry lady and my heart sank when my mother asked me to show her the way to the hall where Bhagavan sat.
I led in silence and she followed me, I showed her the hall and went off to play. A while later I realized it was lunchtime and I went to collect her and bring her home - most reluctantly.
I will never, never forget the change that had come over her in just an hour or so. She was calm and relaxed and peaceful and happy! I was so awed and intrigued that I hung around anxiously waiting for my mother to ask her what Bhagavan had said to her. Whatever it was it must have been words of the greatest wisdom and power to have such an effect.
Eventually, my mother did ask and the lady answered that she had gone into the hall and sat down and Bhagavan had just looked at her - just looked -with such infinite compassion that she felt that her questions were of no importance anymore. She sat there and felt the peace and no word was spoken ...." (Katya Osborne)
- photo: Katya Osborne standing beside Bhagavan
A friend wrote and asked my view about a change in his evaluation regarding the inner fulfillment through different outer experiences in his life. He wrote:
Friend: "This is the crux of the matter: I am finding more and more that I really don't want anything. The things which used to motivate me to take action, such as the desire to be recognized as a great musician, the desire to be socially and romantically successful, the desire to have particular experiences, no longer motivate me. It is not that I do not still enjoy practicing music or socializing. When I do these things, I still enjoy them about as much as I did before. But I no longer have any drive related to them. If I happen to be playing my instrument and it's going well, I enjoy that, but if I don't, I don't feel any less happy. The same is true with just about everything in my life right now. I seem to be becoming increasingly indifferent towards what happens around me in the world.
"The inner drives which so strongly compelled me to action not that long ago seem to have faded away. I'd still rather get along with people than not get along, but even if I do not go out and speak to anyone, I feel equally content.
"If anyone were to ask me right now 'What are your goals in life? What are you trying to achieve? What ends do you seek to bring about?' I would have a hard time asserting any worldly goals at all.
"I absolutely believe in the value of spiritual progress, as much as ever. Undoubtedly, there is nothing more important than following the teachings of Bhagavan. But when it comes to life in the world, I seem to have become increasingly apathetic. I don't really care what happens. I don't really care if people like me, or don't even notice me. I don't care if I have money, or survive on little. I don't care if I have exciting experiences, or just stay at home reading my book.
"It feels strange to not want anything. For most of my life, I had things I desired intensely. I had goals, objectives, drives which pushed me to and fro. I wanted certain experiences desperately. But now I find myself in strange new territory.
"I do still enjoy things - this is not the anhedonia which comes with depression, I know that well. If I go out and tell stories and converse with people, and they are laughing, and we're all having a good time, I certainly enjoy it. I still enjoy cooking a delicious dinner and serving it to my friends. My ability to experience joy from ordinary events does not seem to have diminished. But what has diminished is my drive, the inner will which compels one towards certain objectives. I find myself increasingly complacent, increasingly indifferent. I enjoy nice things when they are present, but I don't really feel any worse when they are absent. The whole inner structure of motivation seems to have collapsed."
"You have proven in the past that you have a strong willpower and lived at times this asset very expressively with music practice and girls and other issues.
"So it feels funny when this DRIVE is no longer felt as much as before. But as you point out, this is different from a depressive state you experienced in former years.
"In your breakthroughs, you have touched real Peace in different measures and such experiences are continuously working 'underneath‘ the average mentality of the person. There is no comparison doing justice to the difference of degree of the Self to ordinary experiences and their fulfillment. Nothing, really nothing, comes even close. All worldly fulfillments are fake and grey besides the true nature of Pure Being. Only because most people are unaware of this fact, they compensate with lesser joys the fulfillment of the heart.
"The fact that you are not in depressive resistance but can still enjoy relative experiences is vital in this connection. That is why Bhagavan sometimes used the example of play-acting in the world. The body-mind will run its ordinary course but we KNOW that this is just a role we have to play through prarabdha karma.
"This is actually why I always tried to bring across that you could gain a lot when you learned to refine your sadhana. Not only this powerful but also aggressive way you lived it and had temporal success with but a smoother and more flexible way. I see this process of developing equanimity as part of this refinement. Similar to practicing your music and becoming easy and natural with a specific piece, sadhana can also be compared to acquiring the musical skill and ease inside.
"So the equanimity is the symptom of a natural vairagya-unfoldment and your striving is the gross form that can find smoother ways of expression. As you write: the yearning for spiritual engagement is still there. It is an open door- be aware of that fact and accept the changes the path brings about in your emotions. Refining the seeker is the most important outcome of genuine sadhana!
"Definitely, all is GRACE! I agree 100%.
"All the best my friend in Bhagavan, always happy to assist you when it seems useful!
Reinhard: For me, there are always 2 aspects in our experience: the first is Dharma; to look to IT would be the direct route. The second is the human comfort zone everyone has. The sense of Being and thoughts. To find freedom, we must accept the challenge of the conflict between both aspects. But most people take a long time. Suffering will teach everyone in the end, though. 'Old age, sickness, and death' are the 'Heavenly Messengers'.
Friend: When you say Dharma, what do you mean?
R: The Divine law present in all creation, the law of balancing and healing on all levels.
F: You would need to expound on that for me to know what you mean. The two aspects for what? For Realization? I understand the human comfort zone. How that dominates the individual. People can be made aware of that. Divine Law is always there but not seen or understood so easily by the individual. That’s takes perception not so easily had.
R: No, i see this differently. Does anyone not know Love? Even atheists have a feel for it. Does a healthy organism not know about physical balance? That is Dharma on different levels.
What Bhagavan calls the Self is this inner essence. He sometimes also used the term essence which is adhistana in Sanskrit. So anyone can contact IT at any moment - this is actually how we work here in our Satsang. With different 'tools' we give emphasis to pure awareness, listening to the essence and presence of Being in any given moment.
In this way, the self-created barrier of the comfort zone that consists of habits mixed with emotions of fear and greed is immediately penetrated, the Center is touched and Its balancing power can become active in us. Mostly that means great relief.
But sometimes this can loosen or even remove parts of the security wall of the comfort zone and even frighten the ego controller. But the activity of the Divine is always most healthy and healing means returning into our natural condition. To touch this Being-awareness and observe Its influence in body and mind as harmonizing we call a 'moment of practice'.
These moments are attractive because they reveal in some way or other higher quality, a greater orderliness. The progress of any spiritual practice will be the collecting of such moments. That is the best we can contribute for final freedom or enlightenment.
Friend: Help me out, Reinhard! I’m being driven to the brink of despair (so to speak) over a long time dear friend who is hooked on listening to Rupert Spira’s most beautiful and eloquent “guided meditations” thinking that by doing this over time he will slowly become Enlightened! Rupert says that his guided meditation will “rewire” your mind and understanding and that over time, just by listening to his meditations one will reach the “ultimate understanding”. ....
Reinhard: Yes, i totally agree. I was listening to some videos of Rupert's and it seems obvious that he is most able to present a teaching structure. As far as that goes it is fine but 'the description is never the described' it echoes in my memory when i was sitting with J.Krishnamurti in Saanen.
As you say, there is a reason when people feel attracted to such a teacher and Rupert is good for many to gain a model of the teachings. In one place i heard him say in a conversation with Sam Harris that he remained conscious during an operation when getting anesthesia. If that is true (it could be another part of his philosophy) he is in a higher state himself, at least. I doubt that a little, but who knows. I think you have correctly seen the danger of such a presentation. In the end, everyone will become disillusioned and the ONLY DOOR will be faced. And that is nothing that could be gained from outside, no philosophy, no concept can reach HERE.
If any state is taken to be enlightenment it will wither and soon it becomes obvious. You could tell your friend (provided he is open for such pointers) that Truth doesn't need stimulation. If what Rupert says brought about something valid in him, he should stop seeing more videos and validate his own state.
The main point is to become aware of the difference between a stimulated and outwardly produced state and a true, direct experience! Sam Harris told an interesting story in that regard about what he witnessed with a Swiss student of Poonjaji.Here is a link for that: http://openheartopenheart.blogspot.com/.../advaita...
Friend: Yes! Excellent! Thank You! I have invited him to examine his own state many many many times and for him that’s the very problem. He knows after many many years it has not changed his experience of Life. I just keep pointing him back to Self Inquiry, meditation and self reflection. He knows that’s what he needs to do but listening to Rupert’s soothing British accent and mellow tones while drifting off into his happy place is oh so much easier than all that “work”...
Q: Many times when I try to do self-inquiry, I try to reach the ‘I’ asking myself ‘who am I?’, or stating ‘I am’.
But many times there's another question popping into the head: who's asking? I can hear/feel the voice in my head asking the questions.
Also many times, I keep asking but my mind keeps being distracted.
What would you suggest? And who is asking?
R: That shows you are still too intellectual with it. First do any samadhi meditation, any calming which you surely know.
When you have some basic stillness in body and mind you can be interested to BE in that. Sit erect but comfortably and feel your body,
relax all parts,feel your breath and observe it softly.
A natural stillness will arise.
BE in it with interest, explore how you ARE in it.
Q: Should I keep following my breath?
R: Yes, the breath, merely watching.
Understand that 'Who am I?' is very little like an ordinary question of the intellect.
You ARE already awareness. The first attention IS non-dual,
that means you cannot objectify it. All else you can see as an object, right?
Q: I understand. Sometimes while practicing I encountered a state of calm and I felt good in it.
R: Right. In that stay and relax, don't seek something else.
Rather sink into it with a non-articulated question as to
who or what you ARE there.
Right now: what is the ISNESS of this moment?
Q: You mean now?
R: Yes, right now ?
Q: I am afraid I do not understand ... I guess that I am typing?
R: Check if there is something in the NOW which just IS; is that changeful?
Q: No. I experience a state... it happened many times. That whatever you are is a presence, right? But I am afraid that many times I associate this with my body, my image.
R: No, must look again, I am not talking about the CONTENT of this
moment, neither of your mind nor of your senses. What is the
perception of being, that you ARE here, right now?
Q: Hard to describe. I cannot explain. And if I am trying, I think about it.
R: Don’t be afraid, thinking in order to describe is ok.
Q: Hmm... it is like when I read your question I feel it in the center of my chest like the breath, but I also associate it with my body.
R: Doesn't matter if it is associated; what is it in itself?
Q: It is beingness.
R: Exactly, this beingness explore!
These are two ways to access the Self.
First: explore who you ARE in stillness, as awareness –
Second: realize and explore that which does not change with the contents of each moment, in the midst of everyday life.
All mental elements that are attached to pure 'I' and confounded with this still, empty presence will for sure disappear, also the idea of a Universal Self with them. The 'I'-thought is a thought, an object that can never stand alone. As soon as it gives up all clinging, all seeking, all greed and remains still, it experiences its true nature which is not mental, not objective, not split.
By greater and more steadfast practice of abiding in this existence-consciousness, we will experience that this state seems to come often and take possession of us of its own accord whenever we are free from our daily work. Since this state of existence-consciousness is in fact nothing but 'we', it is wrong to think that such a state comes and takes possession of us! While at work, we attend to other things; after that work is over and before we attend to some other second or third person, we naturally abide in our real state, existence-consciousness.
Though this happens to one and all every day, it is only to those who have the experience of Self-consciousness through the aforesaid practice that the state of Self-abidance will be clearly discerned after leaving one second person thought and before catching another one (that is, between two thoughts).
"Why has it been said (in the above two verses of 'The Essence of Spiritual Practice') that one ought to make effort repeatedly to be in that state (our existence-consciousness) and ought to abide in it with more and more love? Because, until all the tendencies-habits-predispositons which drive one out of it are completely exhausted, this state will seem to come and go. Hence the need for continued effort and love to abide in the Self.
"When, through this practice our state of existence-consciousness is experienced always as inescapably natural, then there will be no harm even if waking dream and sleep pass across. For those who are well established in the unending Self-consciousness, which pervades and transcends all these three so-called states (waking, dream and sleep), there is but one state, the Whole, the All, and that alone is real! This state, which is devoid even of the feeling 'I am making effort', is your natural state of being! Be!!"