Litmus Tests for Self-realization – 2

Abhinava Vidyateertha (standing in front of his Guru)

There is an embarrassing plenitude of teachers of Non-duality (of different shades) accessible both online and offline mushrooming  these days from all corners of the world. Some even  claim without any qualms that they have realized the Ultimate Truth; or leave enough of hints on their web sites to impress the reader that they are Self-realized. This is undoubtedly a happy situation that we have so many gurus in our midst but one is left a bit bewildered because of what Bhagavad-Gita tells us. In the Chapter VII, the third verse says:

 मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु कश्चिद्यतति सिद्धये

 यततामपि सिद्धानां कश्चिन्मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः — Verse 3, Ch VII, Bhagavad-Gita. Continue reading

Q. 433 Seeking ‘nondual experiences’

Q: For the better part of four decades, I was on the hunt for spiritual experiences that would ‘expand my consciousness.’ I now realize and understand that only Self-Knowledge can provide lasting peace, and any experience is something that comes and goes in time and therefore can never be a permanent condition. However, I still find it very difficult to drop the search for a Big Bang event, after which I can safely say: “Ok, now I am enlightened for sure.”

What is confusing about this is that there are so many teachers who seem to have a pretty clear grasp of nondual teaching and still speak in terms of what happened during their awakening or enlightenment event. Francis Lucille, for example, talks about his experience in Eternity Now. (“For a few moments, the pure I-thought seemed to vacillate, just as the flame of an oil lamp running out of fuel, then vanished. At that precise moment, the immortal background of Presence revealed itself in all its splendor.”) Franklin Merrell-Wolff provides an amazingly clear description of the ‘Recognition’ events that happened to him after studying Shankara. Ken Wilber talks of having been consciously aware for 11 straight days, even through deep sleep, etc. Clearly, Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj both went through Big Bang type spiritual awakenings, and of course, there are numerous other similar reports by various sages and gurus. Continue reading

jIvanmukti – An Illustrative Case

The highly revered Sringeri Pitham in India, as is well-known to all, is the sterling center devoutly upholding, preserving, maintaining and propagating the Shankara Advaita. The unbroken succession of the Pontiffs right from the time Shankara established the Matha to date has many a jIvanmukta in its line embellishing the holy precincts of the Ashram. Their exemplary lives illustrate the way one attains liberation while in life (jIvanmukti) and provide answers to many of the doubts a seeker may have in his/her quest to freedom from the bondage in samsAra. Continue reading

Q. 419 – E.S.P.

Q: I can hold an object that I know nothing about in my hands and start meditating .Within about 10 minutes I receive images related to the object, such as where it has been, who previously owned it, sometimes where it came from. At times I have visual images of walking through the original building or house where it previously belonged. I would like to know what this is called; is it dangerous; should I perservere and try to expand this experience? Is it valuable or beneficial to practice it?

A (Dennis): It’s called psychometry. (Wikipedia: Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, “spirit, soul” and μέτρον, metron, “measure”), also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object.”

It has nothing to do with Advaita, which is about gaining Self-knowledge – the knowledge that there is ONLY Consciousness. Pursuing this ‘ability’ will not help; indeed it will almost certainly take you away from Self-knowledge, down a blind alley, if you like. True (and worthwhile) meditation is about cultivating a still, quiet mind and the self-discipline to control that.

Pantheism, agnosticism/atheism — and Advaita Vedanta

How would you define your sense of pantheism?   www.quora.com/How-would-you-define-your-sense-of-pantheism/answer/Brad-Neil

Brad Neil, proponent of nonduality

I have devised this classification for reference: Modes of pantheism

(Divine pantheism; Natural pantheism; Spiritual pantheism; scientific pantheism)

Modes of pantheism

Within the range of categories given, I find myself somewhat ambivalent:

  • I most closely align with natural I believe the physical universe is all that there is, and that there are eternal forces and energies at play. I do not believe in the supernatural.
  • Scientific pantheism is least applicable to me because I really don’t have a problem being labeled an atheist. In my opinion, atheism and pantheism are almost (but not quite) two sides of a coin.
  • But when I’m feeling in my best of moods, I think I fall under spiritual or divine When my mood is high, I sometimes experience an awe and a gratitude that gives me a deeper feeling of connection to existence.

More generally, self-labels that I do not find objectionable include pantheist, nondualist, agnostic, atheist, and skeptic. However, I have none of these words tattooed on my forehead, and I reserve the right to change my thinking at any time. Continue reading

Q. 388 – Fear of Deep Sleep

Q: I am reading Dennis’ book ‘The Book of One’, and I am on the chapter about deep sleep.

From the age of around seven ( I am now 51), I have had a morbid terror of sleep. Not dreaming sleep which I enjoy (I am one of those rare people that has quite regular lucid dreams), but deep sleep, and equate it with “unconsciousness or non-consciousness” or death which leads to death anxiety. I understand that this fear is a result of constructs that I have devised, and am my own torturer. But the enquiry in this book and other books on Hinduism I have read seems to be returning me to the same cul-de-sac that is the dead end of my search.

Just reading the chapter now left me cold with fear and even worse complete dissappointment, as it doesn’t feel intuitive to me that this is our natural state? I really don’t want to return here at all, is this a normal reaction people feel when they are introduced to this concept?

I am not an intellectual. I have persevered with the book and it’s concepts, even though at times it is quite clearly beyond my comprehension. But is that it? Is that all there is? A kind of acceptance of annihilation of this ego-mind… forever?

I have some recollection of the Indra story where they ask the same question of Prajāpati and wasn’t quite satisfied?

Will this fear pass?

A (Dennis): You should take up meditation with the determination to practice fully. The nature of this would depend upon which method you chose. I took up mantra-based meditation similar to TM, which required 30 mins practice twice per day. This sounds impossible to begin with I know but, after a few months, it becomes part of your routine. And you benefit in so many ways, both mentally and physically. But the point is that, eventually (the time varies from one individual to another), you reach the point where you begin to experience periods of samAdhi. At these times, your mind becomes totally still. You are still aware of external and internal events but you remain entirely detached from both. You know that you are neither the body nor the mind but the observer of these. There is no ego at these times because you recognize this independence. Ego IS identification with one or other.

In deep sleep, you do not experience anything. But this is because there is nothing to experience, not because ‘you’ have disappeared. You see neither external world (because the senses are inactive) nor internal thoughts (because the mind is inactive). But the Self that is the witnessing Consciousness in deep meditation is still present in deep sleep. It never ‘sleeps’ (or dies) because it is the only thing that really exists. It is who you really are.

Hope this helps!

The Mystery – Part 7

Concluding this short series presenting the booklet by Bimal Prasad, in which he answers some ‘Rarely Asked Questions’ on Life. Primarily from the perspective of Advaita, questions addressed include the nature of happiness, consciousness, mind and ego. There is also practical guidance on meditation in this final chapter. Answers are relevant and succinct, so that many of the issues of interest to the seeker are covered.

This seventh and final part looks at the techniques and benefits of meditation for the spiritual seeker. See the Contents List or go straight to Part 7 of the series.

The complete (electronic form) booklet may also be purchased from Amazon.

dhyAna and samAdhi

Meditation

dhyAna and samAdhi are quite fascinating, pretty alluring and romantically inspiring terms for an aspirant on the spiritual path. They are almost always spoken in a tone that creates an awe. They sound mysterious, other worldly and ethereal. Many stories are told in the Purana-s about highly revered Sages lost in deep meditation or samAdhi to the extent that they were unaware of their own body being buried in heaps of sand or eaten away by critters and crawlers. Hair-rising narratives too are often reeled out about the powers that dhyAna and samAdhi lead one to – clairvoyance, multiple accomplishments (aNimAdi siddhi-s), infinite longevity (ciranjIvatva), visitations to subtler worlds inaccessible to normal human beings and so on. There is hardly a spiritual Guru who does not harangue about the glories a seeker will be bestowed through practicing dhyAna and samAdhi. Some teachers would even make these as a pre-requisite before any true ‘knowledge’ is imparted. As a result, the words dhyAna and samAdhi acquired varying meaning. Teachers too historically used or interpreted them in different ways. We shall attempt to take a synoptic view particularly from a Non-dual perspective what these terms connote and their role and relevance for a seeker who has adopted the jnAna mArga (The Knowledge Path) in his/her pursuit of liberation.

The write up is structured as a Power Point Presentation downloadable as a pdf file at: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/dhyAna_samAdhi.pdf. Continue reading

Q.384 – Dark night of the soul

Q: Please help me.I had a temporary glimpse of reality around 15 months ago by following 8 fold path. I tried to penetrate the question of suffering and learned that everything wants to come into Equilibrium (a known chemistry fact) due to which my thought trains stopped and I got an instant realization of something called reality. After that, I experienced I am a silent witness and not mind, body, ego, etc.

This faded away after some time and now I am in mental anguish and turmoil. I don’t know what is happening in my mind but it is disturbed or in what people call the “Dark night of soul”. Every joy is lost now; I get angry easily and have feelings of despair from something. Maybe it is because I didn’t discipline my mind with ethics before starting this practice for enlightenment. Please save me now. Whatever is going on in my head, save me from it. I don’t know how to complete surrender unto reality and may be this is due to the hold of ego. Please help!

A (Dennis): The teaching tradition of Advaita is all about Self-knowledge. You listen to the teaching from a qualified teacher (ideally) or read about it and discuss it (less good). You ask questions about it to resolve your doubts. Eventually, you realize that what is being said is true and that is that. In theory!

The problem is that you need a clear, self-controlled mind and some trust in the teacher, the ability to discriminate and so on. These ‘skills’ are not really a part of Advaita – they are mostly lifted from Patanjali’s Yoga system. If you have no mental discipline along these lines, you are never going to be able to assimilate the teaching. You need at least a medium level of attainment. With that you can take on board the knowledge and then continue your practices until you reap all the other benefits (peace of mind, fearlessness and so on).

From what you say, I would advise that you forget about Self-knowledge for a while and concentrate on acquiring the mental skills. Meditation is invaluable. And, if you have no religious-type outlook (praying to a god and so on), then the practices of karma yoga are the other main route – doing what is in front of you because it needs doing, ignoring desires and not expecting any results. And so on!

I do not know anything about Buddhist methods so cannot really comment. I would forget about ‘dark nights’. The main thing to remember, even if you don’t yet believe it, is that the world is not absolutely real. Your body, mind and everything else have empirical reality only, depending ultimately on Consciousness, which is the only reality. And you are That.

The Model of Insight

It occurred to me whilst reading Joseph Campbell’s Pathway to Bliss, that if we have no models of nameless now, then, well, we have no models.

Whatever conclusions we draw from this are our own doctrine(s) making themselves visible. For some the need to qualify and argue with such a proposition is tantamount (regardless of whether or not the author suggests their words be broadcast as superior wisdom or truer truths). For others there exists a desire to understand what it means for their own insight-now-moment.

660467Swami Krishnananda says there is, “a transference of human attributes to the Divine Existence [when] one contemplates the Cosmos as one’s Body. Just as, for example, the one contemplates one’s individual body, one simultaneously becomes conscious of the right eye, the left eye, [and so on] and all the limbs of the body at one and the same time, and one does not regard the different limbs of the body as distinguished from one another in any way, all limbs being only apparently different but really connected to a single personality, so in [the Vaisvanar Vidya] meditation, the consciousness is to be transferred to the Universal Being. Instead of one contemplating oneself as the individual body, one contemplates oneself as the Universal Body… The limbs of the Cosmic Person are identified with cosmic elements and vice versa, so that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara…” (p6)

He goes on to say, “[that] whatever our mind can think, becomes an object for the mind; and that object, again, should become a part of the meditator’s Body, cosmically. And, the moment the object that is conceived by the mind is identified with the Cosmic Body, the object ceases to agitate the mind anymore; because that object is not any more outside…” (pp6-7)

Then, perhaps, even though we have no models of it (at least none we recognise as such), the notion of the mind itself can be identified with the Cosmic Body, with the Cosmic Existence; and rather than ‘objects of the mind’ becoming part of the ‘meditator’s body’ (in order to transfer consciousness to the Universal Being), contemplation itself can be identified with the Cosmic.

This would ostensibly cut out the middle man, so our every moment is a cosmic contemplation, simultaneously one as the so-called appearance of not-one. Whence it would be a function of the one for what we have labelled the appearance of not-one to fathom itself however it fathoms itself (rather than a path taken or not taken by an individual). And all that is apparently different but really inter-conected to a single field or oneness, would be known-felt-explained in those terms – oneness as an organic contemplation of oneself, cosmically.

References
The Māndūkya Upanishad (1996) by Swami Krishnananda

Pathway to Bliss: Mythological and personal transformation (2004) by Joseph Campbell