My name is Sitara, I am German, living in Cologne, Germany. I was born 1954 and, as all of us writing here, have been on a spiritual quest all my life. This started in my childhood when I, born and raised loosely protestant, decided to convert to Catholicism when I was 13. After having gone through the confirmation classes of our protestant church and many inspiring discussions with the minister, I to his dismay, denied to become confirmed. I had been the only one interested in the topics while all the others – who actually became confirmed – had more or less slept through the classes.Shortly after that I joined the Catholic church. Why? Because it somehow seemed to be more authentic – which of course it wasn’t; I was just impressed by the more emotional nature of the religiousness practised there. In spite of my decision I also had my quarrels with them. Most of all I could not bring myself to believe in the doctrines around guilt and punishment – original sin, penance, hell etc.
In my student days I quickly outgrew Catholicism, left the church and for that matter left Christianity behind for good. Following were one or two years when my worldview was more of a political nature (socialism, anti nuclear power movement and feminism). In the course of that time I grew more and more frustrated with the meetings I participated in because it became so obvious that most who wanted to change the world were much in need to change themselves first.
So this led to the next logical step: psychology. This was not altogether foreign to me but it now became the focus of my life. Not only did I learn and study it intensely but also joined my first Gestalt Therapy group in order to change my own psychological make up and become more mature.
This was in the end of the 70th when the notorious Osho, then Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was much talked of. There were lots of stories of the scandalous conditions in his ashram in Poona/India and as a student you frequently came across these bright eyed young men and women, clad in flowing red robes wearing a necklace that had a locket with their Guru’s photo. They seemed brimming with life and joy – compared with the stuffy conditions of our upbringing that we were already trying to emancipate ourselves from. So, many of my fellow students were decided to go to Poona or had already been there and most had become Sannyasins (this is how I came across that term for the first time). 1)
I myself had no inclination to go to India and visit that strange place – had I not borrowed an Osho book from a friend. There was one photo of his – which pierced my heart. I fell so deeply in love with him that I knew I had to go there as soon as possible to meet him and become his Sannyasin. I was 24 then and two months later I went to India for the first time.
I did not know much of Osho’s philosophy but I knew that I had come home the moment I entered the ashram and even more so when I sat in front of him. My main motivation to be a Sannyasin was not a spiritual one, it was out of this love. Also because I wanted to get rid of my psychological hang ups and finally be happy. Although some of the therapy groups in the Poona ashram frightened me, I felt that if I did not radically change myself nothing would ever change. When I took Sannyas, Osho picked that up and told me to do lots of groups. That’s what I did, then and on and off for the next 20 years. Most of us went this way.
“Us” being men and women of all age groups from all over the world – hundreds, thousands, meeting in Poona, going apart, meeting again in many places around the globe and again and again in Poona/India. It was and still is a vast, loosely knit network – although by now most have gone onto different paths to finally find truth.
I now see this long phase of working on my personality as a kind of karma yoga as well as upasana yoga – because meditation was part of everything we did. Yet, I never was a meditator really, often wondered about these “gaps” that were supposed to become obvious after some meditation practise and which seemed to be absent in mine. Also I wondered how it was possible to not be a meditator and still become more and more meditative in the course of time – something I felt was happening with me. Anyway having struggled with meditation, after 15 years I decided to simply give it up.
But I still was very much part of Ashram life, now rarely participating in therapy processes but working in publishing and as a therapist in the Multiversity. This at that time was a huge body of personal growth schools, teaching and offering all kinds of: psychotherapy methods, body work processes, meditations, Gurdjeff methods, esoteric sciences, Tantra, meditative sports etc. etc.
In my travels in Australia I also had found a unique method of working on myself. Even though by that time my personality was definitely more cleared of all kinds of junk than most other people’s on this planet, it still was able to make me unhappy at times and I took this to mean that I had to do more work in that direction. So after returning to Germany in the end of the nineties I worked with this method on myself literally day and night to finally, finally come to an end with all personality born problems. It really is a superb method and it did work quite well but of course it also could not deliver the final relief that I aimed for.
At this point I lastly realized that what I actually was looking for had not even been touched by all my efforts; I understood that the problem in fact was personality itself – which did not need to be sorted out but gone beyond altogether. This understanding came about by meeting Dolano, a former Sannyasin of Osho’s who is an Advaita teacher now. Going through a process called Intensive Satsang which she offers exclusively to people who are exactly at the point where I was at that time, brought about a major shift: It unhooked the very basis for identification with the personality.
After this over the time of five years identifications became less and less, there simply was nothing they could hook onto any more. It was a process that I at the time did not recognize to the extent that it took place. In these years I lived a normal life in Germany (normal not compared to most people but normal for me) with many friends, working, a fine living situation, good relations to family etc. The seeker in me had dropped away, whatever I did “growthwise” was now just out of fun not anymore to get anywhere. I did not do any particularly spiritual things, except for hospice work, taking care of my aged parents (not fulltime though as they lived in a different part of Germany), staying in Rishikesh/India for 6 weeks and meeting Tony Parsons twice. Him telling me “There is nothing to be done, just wait” was what I needed to hear at that time because it made me relax into the state I was in, which, blessed as it was, still bore a subtle undercurrent of tension.
The tension consisted in a kind of a split: I definitely knew who I was – and at the same time I didn’t. Before I had not known who I was, so in that sense there had not been any split: all experiencing had been part of not knowing. Within these five years there were times when I read books of Advaita teachers such as Punjaji (Papaji), Gangaji, Tony Parsons, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi and Robert Adams – my favourite being Gangaji. Being in a particularly relaxed state lying in the sun in a thermal bath house, three sentences of her’s were what dissolved the split for good. This was in the end of 2006.
In the course of 2007, thinking about a novel I could write, I started to research into India and Hinduism. It was only then that I stumbled upon this very site of Dennis Waite’s and was immensely intrigued to discover the very roots of what I had realized to be true. I dropped the idea of a novel and gave myself fully into the study of traditional Advaita. It was an enormous challenge, having no teacher and no knowledge of Sanskrit. But I also had an enormous advantage: I did not have to learn about Vedanta but recognized in it what I knew.
Yet, I had to learn a lot, and will probably learn till I die. The truth of Vedanta is known but not the superb teaching methodology of Advaita Vedanta. I am most unlikely to ever be able to handle it properly, still I have discovered that many of its keys work miracles with the people I talk to – removing vagueness in understanding better than any other method I have come across.
I definitely do not display all those features that according to the scriptures signify a jivanmukti. So I acknowledge that there may be more to realize even though I do not feel the need to get anywhere anymore. I rest in what I have realized myself to be, yet go on studying with great joy. Meanwhile I do not have to study completely on my own any longer, having been blessed with a spiritual friendship and intense exchange with someone who has a traditional Advaita teacher. I simply love to broaden and deepen the understanding of how things are explained in the scriptures and by the Sampradaya teachers of all ages.
My observation is that Western Advaita is simply not able to help people to account for what they perceive as reality. So lots of questions and doubts remain open, which creates some underlying tension in their minds that does not allow them to recognize what is true. Even if in spite of the uncertainty they realize something, it does not come to a completion and old identifications set in again and again (ahamkara remains even if in a subtle form).
I still appreciate Western Advaita because it did help me but I also am aware of its limitations. At the same time I see that traditional Advaita Vedanta often fails to make itself understood to Westerners. I know both the worlds and have a value for both so I will go on in my endeavours to build bridges between them. 2)
 In fact Osho called it Neo-Sannyas in order to distinguish it from traditional Sannyas.
 I have started to do that in the blog that I wrote for Advaita Academy: http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/Sitara.ashx?Y=2011&M=May