A share from a devotee’s letter on his first visit to Ganeshpuri and Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram.
I lost my mind and found God. There was that day I spent reflecting that unhappiness was a memory and that happiness was the natural state of being.
The tree out the front is a portal like Ganeshpuri is a portal. But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate.
What Bhagavan Nityananda gave me I can’t describe except in a child’s terms. It is like he gave me a Willy Wonka lolly, like the endless tasting chewing gum of Shakti. It is like he put a lingam in my head and said ‘off you go.’ It is nuts but I have the rest of the trip to bring this into a meaningful context and apply it in the real world.
From the Goddesses of the temple with eyes that emitted blue light, to seeing a blue light like a mist coming from me and in my mala beads. And some being telling me I have not left Siddha Loka yet. Then saying a week later ‘you have left Siddha Loka.’ Well what reference does even a spiritual nut like myself have to measure such experiences?
I knew my mental state had become more normal.
But other than to say Bhagavan gave me all the Shakti I needed then and more for the road.
I know I have the Shakti at home in my meditation. I feel Bhagavan has given me a great gift and I have reformed a personal relationship with a place and perhaps even a guru from a previous existence.
I can only say that Ganeshpuri felt like the most natural place on earth. There was only what was real and no unreal, no pretending. And I lost my mind. God madness is good madness.
See if you can make sense of that. I’m only just getting my head around it.
I know now why Bhagavan Nityananda did not speak or convey teachings. How can you sustain a normal conversation for longer than a few minutes in that place? It is too easy to slip away.
This week I found that my spiritual name is a name of Lord Krishna, I like it, thanks Guruji.
Steadily I’m coming down to earth and the more unreal it seems that all of this happens. But I’m not worried. I have a deep faith in God.
I am not concerned with the fluctuations of my waking mind.
It’s said that we lose the feeling of Ganeshpuri when we return to Australia. I say to that, ‘so what–why should I care?’ If it is that natural then it’s the way it is supposed to be.
Funny! I had this idea that I once lived in or close to Ganeshpuri as a Muslim. The place felt as comfortable as a childhood place I left and then returned to later in life. There was a strong sense of familiarity about the place.
Sri Ramana is the gentlest of souls. Truly the love and peace of this place is at first too much. Juxtaposed is the power of the mountain [Arunachala] which exudes Shakti.
But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate. Ramana Ashram is the perfect cure for this power and turmoil and madness.
But as time went by the turmoil settles like dirt in a jar of agitated water. And the peace of the place becomes apparent in oneself.
One Christmas when I was around fifteen I was watching a movie about the life of Jesus. I was terrified and shocked by the crucifixion and the horror people could perpetrate. But I was also in awe of the disciples. As I watched a scene in which a disciple spoke of his devotion to Christ I was moved to tears. ‘Too bad,’ I thought, ‘that a relationship like that isn’t possible today. I would like to have that experience. I would like to be a disciple.’
Many years later when I met my Guru I was overjoyed to discover that discipleship was still available. I understood that Jesus was a Guru and that Gurus exist now and will exist always.
The love of a disciple for the master is beautiful, vulnerable and poignant. A disciple who has surrendered to the Guru is naked. A disciple offers their ego to the Guru to banish individuality and to lay bare the darkest secrets of his or her psyche. The desires to remain an individual, to do well, to have approval, to be loved and accepted, to be first among many, must die.
Once before God, before the Guru, I was riding the bus downtown. As I sat there, I was aware of an ache in my heart. I looked around at the passengers wondering if their hearts also ached. As I watched them the veil between me and them faded. I could see suffering etched on their faces, masks of ugly pain. It was as though every hurtful event had left deep emotional scars. The past somehow doomed them to misery.
The vision scared me. I wondered, ‘is there a way to escape the pain of life? Is there a way to be happy? Is that going to happen to me? Is suffering going to scar me? What is the purpose of all this? What does life mean?’
Some kind of discipleship is necessary if we are going to learn anything. As children we disciple ourselves to our parents, to our teachers, and to our friends. I loved horseback riding and became a kind of disciple to my teacher, whom I loved very much. I could not find that same love or feeling in school.
By the time I could read and write I had lost what little enjoyment I found in school. My mind rebelled against using my intellect. Language was the only subject I liked because it came easily. Nothing the teachers said gave me a sense of purpose, love or self-knowledge. I was bored and the teachers seemed as uninspired as I was.
My mind wandered into gloomy feelings of doubt, disappointment and frustration. If a subject had interested me then I would have applied myself. But none did. Instead my mind dwelt on the psychic discomfort in my inner world. And, there was no subject to address it.
Disciples, on the other hand, mostly learn by osmosis, by watching and observing the Guru, by being in the Guru’s company and by soaking up the spiritual energy, the Shakti.
I love to learn at the feet of the Guru. To sit with fellow devotees in Satsang and hear the teachings on the Self, the Shakti, the Guru, and other spiritual matters is sublime. Satsang is the best company. Satsang never fails to uplift, is never dull, and always inspirational.
Studying and learning with Guruji however, is joyful, especially if the subject is Kashmir Shaivism. There is an inherent aliveness in Shaivite texts. But even Patanjali and Vedanta are pleasurable. Guruji has always taught from esoteric yogic texts with humour and warmth. He had the capacity to make clear the hidden meaning in the aphorisms. He fields questions with sensitivity and wisdom; he invites discussion, objections and skepticism.
When I first started studying these texts with him I was surprised that I could understand even the most mysterious ones. Naturally I have my own quirky way of relating to them. But that is the greatness of learning with the Guru. A wise teacher will encourage a student to take what makes sense, and discard what doesn’t. When learning with the Guru I feel the presence of God and the meaning becomes clear.
In his book Satsang with Baba, Baba said:
The Guru’s feet refer to the Being in whom the Guru stands rooted, and that Being is the Supreme Being, and that Being is the highest truth. The source of worship is the state of the inner centre in which the mind completely merges in meditation. The water of the Guru’s feet flows from the Guru to the disciple. When one attains the state beyond the distinction of you and me, beyond the distinction of mine and thine, outer and inner, Guru and disciple, then one can drink this nectar, the water of Guru’s feet.
Baba goes on to say that when a disciple merges with the Guru principle he or she becomes one with the source of stability, where the Guru’s Consciousness is anchored. That is worship, that is the source of love, that is oneness with the divine.
A disciple of a Hassidic master said:
‘I don’t come to listen to him speak, I come to watch him tie his shoe laces.’
I go to soak up Guru’s grace.
Sitting with the Guru is darshan. In darshan an alchemical synergy flows between the Guru and the disciple. It is a more intimate experience of Satsang. Like Satsang, it ignites the experience of God, the Self, and divine love. Shakti moves between guru and disciple in a Tantric flow of blissful energy. The Guru transmits grace and the disciple receives grace. This is the experience available to us when we sit with a true Guru.
Once in Baba’s Ganeshpuri ashram in the early morning I was working in the courtyard. My shift finished and I sat to meditate. Baba was sitting on his perch. His perch was like a shelf, with room only for him, some precious photos, his peacock feathers, some statues and other gifts to give away. He routinely sat here. Managers, devotees and ashramites would come and speak to him.
As soon as I sat the electric current of the Shakti moved between us. No words were necessary. I was one with him; he was my very own Self. People approached, spoke to him and walked away. These movements did not disturb the divinity that connected us. We were one being. The intimacy, love and acceptance was beautiful. I thought only about God and the present moment. I relished the love for about half an hour. Slowly as more people came my mind became distracted and I lost the thread. I still felt the connection but it was less intimate.
Sometimes darshan is divine but sometimes it can bring up the most painful and fearful thoughts and feelings. The Shakti moves to wash away negativity, blocks, all of the obstacles to the divine experience of darshan. It is painful if we let fear or desire get in the way.
Discipleship is not a career choice, it is a calling. To surrender to discipleship is a kind of self-acceptance, an acknowledgment of the yearning to know God. To deny the calling can cause unbearable pain. This yearning may make no sense from a worldly point of view. It only makes sense from an inner point of view.
Baba once said that a worthy disciple is one who becomes absorbed in the Guru. A good disciple merges with the Guru’s highest state of Consciousness, and eventually attains permanent oneness with the Self. This is my goal in life–to know God, to be close to God and to serve God.
I haven’t always been the most compliant disciple, or the best disciple or perhaps the most worthy. But, I am a disciple and, God willing, I shall always remain one.
I’m in India, Ganeshpuri sitting on the Guru’s floor. The cool of the floor meets my old knees. A soft cloth is in one hand, I am gently washing his floor. My other hand supports my body – the floor is being cleaned. I feel present, with the cloth, the hand and the Shakti. What a delight. So much Shakti.
Two devotees walk around beating their chests like bouncers in a night club. I can’t work out what’s happening, I feel incredible bliss.
My roommate and I are sick. We are drunk with Shakti. Baba talks about this, but I don’t know what it means.
So much sweat and sleep! The doctor comes and gives us medicine. We feel the cool and quiet of Mandagni, Fire Mountain. My tearing thoughts knock but I sleep, they knock again. I cry. I’m missing the Guru and satsang, but hold on.
A couple of days and nights of calm bathes us in Fire Mountain’s restorative love and our bodies are ready. Mother Shakti takes us, her children back to the Guru’s feet for more.
First published in 1938 this inspired book has been called the ‘First Tibetan Novel’. Mipam is a fictional account of a seeker’s search for love, spirituality, compassion and adventure. Our hero is beset by all kinds of temptations and difficulty before he finally finds his place in the world.
Beautifully written, and illustrated with Tibetan wood block prints, Lama Yongden shares the culture and environment of old Tibet. He draws us into his characters’ struggles between the heart and mind, the spiritual and worldly, their seeking and finding.
Puzzled by this unexpected turn of career in his life from hermit to fiction writer, Lama Yongden notes that:
“Never was the writer’s vocation more unforeseen than in my own case. My life, so it seemed, was destined to be passed, serenely and studiously, in a Tibetan monastery, and had I risen to the rank of a Tibetan writer, my works, in all probability, would have been philosophical treatises, or commentaries on one or other of the numerous doctrines which for centuries past have fed the meditations and the controversies of the learned Lamas of my native land.”
In a prose similar to his notes, Lama Yongden takes us on a tender and enlightening inner journey that is both moving and compelling. Significant portions of the book feel biographical, which adds to its mystery.
The first chapter begins:
“Portents accompanied his birth. Before dawn, a supernatural light was diffused beneath the lofty trees of the forest on the verge of which rose the rude dwelling of his parents. There alighted upon its thatched roof a pair of birds with golden crests, although it was not the season for their migration. After a long spell of drought, which had sorely tried the thirsty vegetations and the creatures that depended upon it for their food, quite suddenly, although the sun was shining, the earth was gladdened by an abundant shower of rain. A large leopard appeared close to the house, calm, dignified and unafraid, contemplating with attentive eyes the window of the room in which the child was entering the world, and the mother of the new-born babe declared that she had heard, all about her, the songs of invisible beings.”
A best selling guide to meditation, this book explores the practice and philosophy of meditation including traditional techniques of mantra (the repetition of the phrase) and witness-consciousness (watching the thoughts). You will see how to apply these teachings in every day situations, by developing a moment to moment awareness of the love, joy and peace that unfolds from the center of your being.
The book comes with a CD that, after you read the first two chapters, will have you meditating for the first time within 30 minutes.
Consciousness is the most intimate experience of life, the essence of life itself. Among the many spiritual traditions born and developed in India, one ancient philosophy–Kashmir Shaivism–has explored it completely. Until now, Kashmir Shaivism was an esoteric filed accessible only to a few scholars and other specialists.
Here, for the first time, Swami Shankarananda, a Self-realised spiritual master, presents the wisdom of this powerful tradition in a form that will delight and inspire all spiritual seekers. He explores the teachings in rich detail, elucidating ideas and meditative practices while drawing upon a vast canvas of many great beings, wisdom traditions and personal experience. This is a book that will transform you.
Consciousness Is Everything is a book that will transform you. It is a resource and guide towards investigating and deepening your experience of your own Consciousness.
Self-inquiry: Using your Awareness to unblock your life.
In this groundbreaking book, meditation master Swami Shankarananda adapts the ancient path of Self-inquiry to contemporary life.
The Shiva Process method of Self-inquiry engages your awareness to effectively remove blocks and enliven the Shakti in the areas of career, relationship, health and spirituality. Building on the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism and Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swamiji provides the tools to reveal your true nature.
The accompanying CD guides you step by step though a series of inquiries to help you connect with your inner wisdom. You will be transformed and empowered in every aspect of your life.
Swamiji responds to questions from seekers about life, spiritual practice and philosophy. It is a guidebook to the inner experience, offering insights and techniques to dissolve ignorance and live with energy and awareness.
Topics include: the Self and Consciousness, meditation, Self-inquiry, mantra, the Guru, Kundalini, Shakti, the mind, relationships, work and career, money, communicating with truth and compassion.
A Western Woman’s Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayi MaBased on the Diaries of Atmananda Ram Alexander Publisher: First Impression New Delhi
ISBN: 81 86569 32 4
Swami Atmananda never thought her diaries would be read by anyone but herself. A uniquely independent woman for her time, as a young girl maturing in the 40s she was absorbed in Western intellectual and artistic culture. At the first touch of spiritual knowledge she was inspired to explore more deeply her own nature and the nature of reality. Eventually she gave Western comforts up to seek the truth.
Her first spiritual influence was the Theosophical Society, and so she gravitated to Krishnamurti. Dissatisfied still, she was led to the great saint Anandamayi Ma but not without conflict as to whose presence she would take refuge. As a Westerner and a woman, the Brahmin orthodox tested her determination to be accepted as a disciple by Anandamayi Ma.
There is a natural mystery in the drama of her spiritual life, which she takes seriously. Her diaries are frank, honest and sometimes tortured as her spiritual unfolding progresses. She is tormented by the desire for personal love and a personal life, and the longing for liberation, which set up an internal conflict that tears her apart. Doubt is a deadly poison on the path, but ultimately she resolves these two passions and accepts her destiny as a disciple and swami.
On January 23, 1946 she writes:
I am not sincere, my surrender is only a farce. Therefore I cannot concentrate. Nowadays thoughts about the details of how I am going to drop work and what to do with all my things etc. creep into my mind. Then when I think of giving all I have to Her, it occurs to me that suppose I do not get on in the Ashram, what will I do? Suppose She won’t give me money to travel with Her, etc. Is that surrender? But I feel happy to prostrate myself on the ground before her and say: “Take all and make me the smallest particle of yourself.”
Atmananda eventually became a translator for many Westerners who found themselves at Ma Anandamayi’s Ashram. She also edited the writings and books that were published during and after her life. One of the most beautiful excerpts from a conversation Ma had with Swami Premanand was translated by her. Ma advised him:
Meditate on God all the time, whatever you do, wherever you are. Remember that whatever you see, whatever you hear, is He alone. Pain exists because you believe yourself to be separate. Don’t consider anyone as separate from yourself. Regard everyone as your friend…
This book is by Philip Goldberg, an ordained interfaith minister, and founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates who has thoroughly researched Hinduism’s impact on North America from the 50s until now.
American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West Philip Goldberg Publisher: Harmony Books, Random House ISBN: 978 0 385 52134 5
This book fills a unique niche as a commentary on the rise of Vedic teachings, and the Gurus who transmitted them in America. Philip Goldberg is a wonderful writer and spiritual analyst who examined the Vedic exodus from the East to the West, and its considerable influence on American culture.
Vedanta-Yoga is a kind of empirical science of the inner life; its postulates can be tested in the laboratory of one’s own consciousness, using the test tubes and Bunsen burners of yogic disciplines. And the goal does not have to be union with God, or Self-realisation; it can be something instrumental, like reduced stress or a clearer mind. In other words, what some saw as theology, others saw as testable hypotheses. What some viewed as spiritual practices, others viewed as therapies.
Even though Goldberg focuses on America, he addresses a dilemma a lot of Westerners face. Buddhists call themselves Buddhists, Christians call themselves Christians, and Jews call themselves Jews. But what do Westerners who have a Guru and have embraced Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation, call themselves? Goldberg made a choice to move away from calling the teachings ‘Hindu’ or ‘Hinduism’ and instead calls the movement by the book’s title ‘American Veda’.
Goldberg eloquently discusses the evolutionary relationship between East and West as a kind of cultural ‘transmission,’ which is seeping into every aspect of American thought and life. He relates stories and anecdotes of the most influential Gurus, practitioners and students of Eastern thought. He traces the spiritual history of Vedic teachings in America, from the first hatha yoga teacher, to the present teachers.
This book is readable, entertaining and immensely interesting. Goldberg is not just a scholar, he is also a practitioner who brings his years of experience and understanding of yoga to the pages.
Publisher: The Chiltern Yoga Trust (Australia) ISBN 0 9590690 0 3
The Yoga Vasishtha is one of the most noble spiritual works ever written. Translating such an epic work is not easy, but Swami Venkatesananda, a disciple of the late great Swami Shivananda, has done these teachings justice. He is lucid and devotional in his rendition.
The Gurus of this book use the stories of seekers’ lives as a teaching device. Stories cleverly avoid confronting disciples directly. They soften the teachings and the students’ responsibility is to intuit the message the guru is trying to convey. Each story unfolds as a drama of anger, fear, sorrow, vengeance and suffering but also the means to overcome them.
We begin with a question from one sage to another, ‘O Sage, kindly enlighten me on this problem of liberation—which one of the two is conducive to liberation, work or knowledge?’
The sage Agastya replies, ‘Verily birds are able to fly with their two wings: even so both work and knowledge together lead to the supreme goal of liberation.’
Agastya reminds the questioner of an incident where a King refused an invitation to enter heaven. Perplexed by his refusal Indra, the Lord of heaven, sent him to Valmiki, the narrator of most of this wonderful book, for advice.
Thus the story within a story continues when Valmiki, a great renunciant and guru, tells how the sage Vasishtha helped Lord Ram overcome the despair and sorrow inherent in life, to attain liberation.
These are some of the most beautiful yogic teachings available. They communicate the intelligence, energy and love of the Self and inspire meditation.
Translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
Vedanta Press ISBN 0 87481 041 8
I recommend this book for beginning practitioners who want to deepen their understanding of meditation and yoga.
The authors offer us a clear exposition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There are wonderful anecdotes and metaphors that explain the complex mental gymnastics of yoga.
Yogis often use sleep as an analogy to describe a deep state of meditation and how we come close to the inner Self in sleep. Sutra 1.10 states, ‘Sleep is a wave of thought about nothingness’. The writers explain that the sleep state is actually a ‘positive experience of nothingness’. There is a sense of self, a witness of our experience, even when we sleep for when we awaken we know that we slept.
In my early years of meditation I went into a deep trance state that felt similar to sleep except that when I came out of it I felt a lot of energy. Over time I became more awake in my meditation, more conscious of what was happening in my mind. My meditation went from ‘sleep’ to ‘waking’. True to Patanjali’s sutra, I was aware of what had happened both when I was ‘asleep’ and when I ‘awoke’.
Another striking commentary is Sutra 1.36: ‘Concentration may also be attained by fixing the mind upon the Inner Light, which is beyond sorrow.’
‘The ancient yogis believed that there was an actual centre of spiritual consciousness, call the “lotus of the heart”, situated between the abdomen and the thorax, which could be revealed in deep meditation. They claimed that it had the form of a lotus and that it shone with an inner light. It was said to be “beyond sorrow”, since those who saw it were filled with an extraordinary sense of peace and joy.’
Their writing is inspirational and encouraging. They reassure us that with perseverance we can attain ‘peace and joy.’