I was born a wannabe jnani, incapable of the adoration/worship of gurus, temples and holy objects that many with a religious bent incline towards. Some may consider me supercilious, simply because I am not impressed by celebrities, nor the wealthy and gorgeous. But I am prone to immense love and admiration for those whose rare qualities catch my attention. Left to my own devices, I find a truth that sings to me and play with it until it begins to make sense to me. Then I carefully weave it into my worldview and use it as a tool to slice through all the mysteries life throws at us unwary humans.
Over the years, I have cobbled together a magnificent “view” for myself from the various Eastern traditions I have delved into. Buddhist teachers in particular consider a “view” essential to seeking freedom. Many seekers from non-Indian backgrounds are stumped by the sheer magnitude of Sanskrit words and terms they have to understand before they can create this Eastern “view” for themselves. Since, right from birth, I too was educated in English, I empathize. Both my parents were comfortable in the language of our oppressors and insisted we kids spoke English at home. My father was a raconteur; aware that fluency in English would help us to advance in the material world, he gave us Spelling Bees when we were teens, and turned us all into Scrabble fanatics (some of us can compete on the international level). So, although I did pick up a smattering of Eastern languages along the way, I shared the same problem as my foreign friends who were fascinated by the process of enlightenment or moksha but had to struggle to understand the initial concepts.
My main focus for a long time has been to burn the insidious sense of a separate “me” so I can melt permanently into the blissful and immortal Self. In quest of this goal, I went from one guru and teaching to another until I struck pure gold in the Advaita masters (Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj). Once I had a general map of reality that included the two great truths of Absolute and Relative reality, I knew I could find my way home. And since my way of learning is to absorb truth by reducing a teaching to an easily digestible nugget of gold, synonyms have become critically important to my comprehension.
Following are some important synonyms I came up with that for Absolute and Relative Reality that you may or may not agree with; I am no scholar, after all, but merely an ardent seeker. Take what you like and leave the rest. The finger can only point towards the moon, it is not the moon; when we work things out for ourselves, everything becomes fluid and easy to grasp and we advance rapidly into the Spiritual Heart.
Divine; Substratum; Shunyata; Parabhrahman; Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Awareness and Bliss); Perfect Brilliant Stillness (the title of David Carse’s amazing revelation of his own awakening), and the most intriguing one of all (for me)—Nisargadatta Maharaj’s allusion to the “deep dark blue state.”
Samsara; Mundane or Conventional Reality; the repetitive cycle of birth and death prior to enlightenment.
After years of intense practice and study, I also began to realize that the words Lila (play of the gods), Maya (cosmic enchantress) and Kundalini Shakthi (the serpent fire that rests at the base of the human spine and, when awareness starts to grow, rises into the Crown Chakra and beyond) are deeply interconnected divine sisters. And that the egoic system of body and mind, which springs into being from the I AM (a rebel spark that breaks free from the Absolute and begins to think of itself as a separate entity, impregnating the budding ego with this deadly virus of “I, me and mine”), cannot move a hairbreadth without their aid.
Paradoxically, all that we learn in this luminous area has to be jettisoned at some point, so we can walk light and free into the blissful cave of the heart. If we don’t make the effort to really grasp the meaning of these words, we may think we understand what the great gurus say, but our comprehension will not be rich and we will falter when we come to tricky bends on the narrow path inwards. Anyone can buy a carton of fresh cream, but the one who milks the cow and boils the milk to extract the cream relishes the product even more. (Vegans can find another example!)
The true guru rests in deep peace and bliss and has no need of what the false gurus of our planet demand from their seekers—money, fame, adulation, sex, mindless loyalty, etc. In fact the true guru just wants to be left alone to enjoy the bliss of his or her true nature. But, out of great compassion for those who do not possess the razor-like intellect and commitment to freedom that catapulted him into the Absolute, he shares his wisdom, hoping the ripe ones among us will become gurus themselves.
But no matter how loving and compassionate a guru may be, he or she cannot do our homework for us; as the great sages say, it takes great effort to reach the effortless state.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who represents the peak of awareness and guides us out of the jungle of delusion!
A middle-aged woman, who has been visiting Tiruvannamalai for longer than I have lived here, called to ask if she could visit me. She had some important questions on Advaita she thought I could answer, she said, and I grimaced, because she has done this before, and every time I make the effort to meet her (never thought early retirement could get this busy!!!) she asks me the most ridiculous questions that have little or nothing to do with Ramana Maharshi’s Direct Path, and also peppers me with infuriating personal questions.
Despite my often deliberately hard façade, I am a softie, so I said yes, and lived to regret it. It was a case of déjà vu, for she vomited up the same stupid questions. One of her major themes is that men adore her and will not leave her alone. They ogle her and distract her from her inner work, she claimed yet again.
It’s your ego, I retorted. Male attention, especially of the lascivious kind, would have absolutely no effect on you if you really understood the basis of this practice; Eastern philosophy teaches us that our body-mind-emotional system is just a valuable vehicle to carry us forward, like a good car, and should not be your sole focus. So what if they stare at you? Ignore them.
Whereupon she proceeded to violently disagree that her reactions had anything to do with her ego, and claimed that being sexy and attractive has been a great burden to her, which only made me further wince.
I told her she was lucky that I was just another seeker on the path; had she spoken in this manner to the formidable Advaita master Nisargadatta Maharaj (known as the Hammer and for excellent reason), for instance, he would have summarily thrown her out of his humble home. Do your homework before you dare to waste everyone’s time, he might have said, as he decisively turned his back on her.
Long ago in Manhattan, my guru (a brilliant Buddhist scholar) said something I never forgot. He was addressing a bunch of students with enviable jobs in Manhattan. He said: oh, so you think you’re so cool, huh? You wear black, eat at the best restaurants and think you’re on top of the world because you work for big firms.
But really, you’ll are just slaves of the system. No matter how much money you’re making right now, your long work hours leave you with little time for serious inner practice. And the one thing no one can compensate you for is your precious time. Do your inner work now, while you are still vibrant and brimming with energy. Don’t wait until you are weary, old and gray, thinking that you have to tie samsara up in pretty little packets and ensure that your dependents are well on their way before you take the path to the heart. NOW is all that matters! Tomorrow you could be dead.
After this woman left, for some reason I ruminated on the long years of my own marriage: had I wasted my time with a mate who did not share my values or goals? The answer is a strange mix of yes and no. While I can’t know what might have happened had I had a harmonious marriage with a man who supported my spiritual and creative goals, marriage to this guy taught me that no human—however handsome, rich or charming—can make us happy. Nor can anything in the external world lead us to lasting peace and joy. How can you put a price on that kind of learning?
In fact, the end of that marriage was the beginning of the deepening of my inner path, and so it was definitely not a waste of time. But, if we are stuck in painful relationships that do not change no matter, how hard we try, then we are both fools and losers. Buddhas can only point the way; we ourselves must walk the path. And, as Gautama said, your mistake is that you think you have time.
Devouring my precious time under false pretenses is perhaps the worst crime you could commit against me. Steal my flowers or my fancy new flashlight or my money, these can be replaced, but time is a fleeting and priceless commodity that cannot be returned. Only a narcissistic egomaniac chooses to believe that only his or her time is precious. When we hold others to ransom with false promises, and trap those who trust us in a juvenile web of dishonesty, we are actually doing ourselves the greatest disservice. What goes around must comes around and eventually everyone wakes up – and then it is the waster of other people’s time who is ejected forcefully to deal with his or her own bad karma.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us wake up to the urgency of doing our work now, of striking while the hammer is hot, and of realizing that our true nature is immortal bliss!
At the millennium, I flew from Manhattan to live in Dharamsala, home of the exiled Tibetans in the foothills of the Himalayas. Months later, my precious Micron laptop (it was the rare person who owned a laptop in those days) was stolen right out of my apartment, along with the backup disks. In one fell swoop, I had lost over ten years of my writing and research. I was, as you can imagine, devastated. (I plan to explain the fascinating series of events that led to this theft in another article, but right now all I want to do is share with you what one high lama said to me in the aftermath of this mini disaster.)
A little background, so you can empathize with just how terrible I felt: I had left Manhattan after selling my beautiful apartment. Word spread that I was a “rich foreigner” and so I was besieged by both Tibetans, many of whom were desperate for financial aid, as well as by the local Indians, Himachalis, as they are known. And I did help as many as I could, not just with money, but in a variety of ways, including teaching a few a little English.
Now I had an excellent combination lock on my door and no one (especially me) could figure out how the thief had entered. Nothing else was stolen, but the fellow had not taken the adapter, without which he could not use the laptop. So at least my financial and other information was safe.
A sympathetic friend took me to consult his lama, a wise old man who looked at my tear-streaked face and nodded gently. Ah, he said, you left the West to seek enlightenment. I know you are a sincere seeker, but do you understand what you are really doing here? You are fighting the greatest fight any human can take one—you are trying to transmute the darkness of eons into light!
Doing this is like training for the Olympics, he went on. There are benevolent powers on your side, but, just as Siddhartha Gautama’s fierce desire to be free attracted the malevolent attentions of Mara, King of the Demons, you too have attracted negative entities who will seek to prevent you from reaching your goal. Yes, by coming here to purify your egoic self and leaving behind your comfortable life in the West, you have entered the Spiritual Olympics, Your opponents are deadly but you must not quail before them. They use weak humans to do their work, and you will encounter even more men and women who will harass you if you stay committed to the goal of enlightenment.
The theft of your laptop is just one example of what happens to genuine seekers. You see, there are literally mountains of bad karma you must burn before you can ascend to the heights. Now you must change your view and see what has happened as a test: overcome your negative feelings and also simultaneously do everything you can to retrieve your laptop. You may not get it back, but try anyway. That is the way of the Spiritual Warrior. The greater the light, he said, ending his little sermon, the greater the shadow.
His words sank deeply into me. I never forgot them. Even today, when things go wrong as they often do, both in my encounters with humans and in my mundane affairs, I realize I have taken on a great task and must persevere, regardless. There have been times when it is my high goal alone that keeps me going.
Back to the laptop: it was a sheer miracle, but I got it back. I will save that story for another day, but my message today is that no matter what goes wrong in our lives, whether it is the betrayal of someone you loved and trusted, the death of a close friend or relative, financial problems, or your own ill health, never lose faith in your highest goal. All of this is just karma burning itself off and if we fight what is, the pendulum only swings back with even more force. Just keep going, like the Spiritual Warrior you are, and everything, as Ramana Maharshi said so simply and lovingly, will come out all right in the end.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who allows us to suffer greatly in order to incinerate the errors of the past, so we can realize that our true nature is no less than immortal bliss!
You can pick up a volume of Chekhov’s stories and open it anywhere, and, no matter how well or poorly the Russian has been translated, you will probably have a hard time finding a sentence you can’t understand. This is because, as much as any other writer and more than most, Chekhov put such a premium on writing comprehensibly, without flowery language or unnecessary adornment.
Anna Mae Bullock was a country girl who escaped her quiet life for the big bad city in her teens and fell headlong in love with Ike Turner, a tall talented black musician with an eye for the girls—as well as an eye for pure talent. He heard Anna Mae sing and knew she was 24-carat gold. Dumping his current woman, he seduced the wide-eyed and laughing teenager, got her pregnant, gave her a new name, married her and made her a star. He also beat the hell out of her and abused her violently, for he’d started doing hard drugs and his rages were demonic and way out of control.
I watched Tina’s autobiographical movie with friends who came over to visit after my painful almost-broken toe accident. I can’t watch movies alone, so once or twice a year, I will get together with a friend/s and zone out before the screen. The first movie we watched depressed us all—a hard and gritty London-based crime movie that was violent beyond belief and ended horribly. And so, after everyone else had left, I coaxed my friend to watch the Tina movie.
Tina’s tumultuous tale brought up a lot of buried stuff within me, for things are not so different anywhere in the world. As long as ego rules, there will be hate and jealousy and violence. And if a man thinks he owns a woman, just because he gives her his name, some money or possessions, a child and a career, then there is no end to the pain and the trouble he can inflict on an innocent victim who often has nowhere else to turn.
What disturbs me is that this ugly cavalier attitude towards women is not confined to the poor and the illiterate. In fact, gender violence has little to do with money or education, although those who are in the public eye use different insidious methods to put their women down. I have seen poor (economically) men treat their wives like gold and rich men treat their spouses like offal, or even like redundant and replaceable pieces of furniture. Go figure.
What is the answer to this age-old problem? For me, it lies in the great truths of Eastern philosophy, and particularly in the wisdom that claims that what unites us into one vast and mysterious being is the common substratum of our nature (pure awareness, existence and bliss). To the one who realizes this, all relative appearances dissolve and one no longer views the world in terms of gender, status or anything else. Advaita is Not Two, and this is a mystical fact.
Back to Tina. What a hero! I said, after the movie ended (we used the forward button to move through the grisly bits when he almost kills her). Finally she left him, allowed him to keep all the money they had earned together, but fought to keep her professional name. And then she went on to become a solo star who the world loves even more today. Yes, what a hero, my friend echoed.
So many women weakly bow their heads and surrender to the bullies who make their lives hell. Even in corporate Manhattan, every now and again I would see a high-earning woman with bruises on her body and shame and pain in her eyes. Even worse, to me, is the man who hurts his wife or girlfriend in ways that are not visible: Lying, cheating, deceiving, passive-aggression, etc. All these leave deep scars on the emotional body and it is the rare woman who recognizes she is being used as a punching bag by someone with terribly low-esteem (who else would attack and harass a woman in his care but a man with no real self-respect or ethics?) and dumps him before he can crush her completely.
Many enjoy delving into the highest teachings of the East but don’t realize that, minus an ethical foundation and a transparent relative life, they cannot progress even an inch. The first thing we must do if we are genuine seekers is to truly learn to honor, love and respect our own selves; when this awesome work is done, or being done, we will automatically treat everyone else in the same holy and beautiful way. As Ramana said, at some point in our ascension to pure spirit, we will realize that there are no others.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us destroy our darkness so that we can enjoy the infinite bliss of our true nature!
NOTE: I wrote this post ages ago: Shiva’s Spectacular Gender Divide – Part 1/6 (Jul 20, 2013)
Light always wins!
According to Advaitic/Yogic sages, all sins and atrocities which are committed by individuals and nations against each other are due to ignorance of the true nature of oneness of all life.
When we view “others” as separate from us and different, we are able to justify all types of ignoble acts against them. Sometimes, even the most heinous deeds are justified in the name of God, religion, or law.
People who are blinded by fear, greed, and ignorance are not able to see outside the cycle of violence that they are part of.
Fortunately, in the history of the world, there have always been good people as well and such noble souls still walk the earth today. I feel that due to their kindness, love, and compassionate influence, there is always a ray of sunshine and a hope to make this world a better place.
She tried to sleep to kiss the dream,
Let fall the clocking time, the slumber eye,
Shifting planets, the wheeling moon.
So, with teddy bear, they flew the sky
And touched the stardust like angel wings.
She fled her mother’s eye who wept,
Fled the nightlight, its ghostly shadows,
On a cloud coast, she climbed the twilight.
Left behind her siblings under blanket and thatch
Caught the windlass winch, the night mist ride.
Softly, silently falling asleep, the inches into dreams,
The quiet dark thimbles, she knows the fairy tale thread,
Yards of the milk white rain, and sly red wind. The fables
Of yore. Leaping gnomes, and the black backed dragons
So deeply sleeping a way in the C-moon wheeling.
Copyright © 08/22/2016 lance sheridan®
Ramana says, echoing the mystics of all time,
That the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming
Are unreal, meaning that they are ephemeral, and come and go.
Oh, but last night I dreamed I was the Great God Shiva,
Draped in the furs of mighty beasts,
Cobras writhing around my blue throat,
Whipping a nine foot bully harassing
A lovely girl with shining face of gold—
And oh, how I wish that dream was real!
And then I awoke at dawn to the wondrous sight
Of a sacred hill whose crown was wreathed with
Layers of creamy evanescent clouds,
Even as peacocks shrieked and ravens cawed
For their morning feast of rice and milk—
And oh, how I wish that too was real!
And what to say about those long afternoon naps
Following a morning of writing and meditating,
When my mind vanishes into a nebulous netherworld
And my cares dissolve into blissful nothingness?
Please, can that not be real?
Amused, the Mountain whispers in my ear:
Only consider, my dear,
That if these states that are but a passing show
Are so pleasant in their aftertaste,
How nectar sweet is your true nature, which is nothing less
Than Mahaprana, Pure Life, Mahachit, Infinite Awareness,
And Ananda, a celestial fountain of bliss?
The incandescent message of Ramana Maharshi – thanks Harsh!