A Child’s Toy

 

The thought of people generally does not go beyond the point of liberation, which they take to be the final limit of human approach. But that is a wrong idea. As a matter of fact, liberation is one of the lowest attainments on the divine path; hence it is just like a toy for a child to play with. Beyond that there is yet a lot to be achieved. The infinite ocean lies still ahead, which is but a limitless expanse. Have your eyes fixed upon That and That alone, and go on and on to trace It out.” – Ram Chnadra, The Complete Works, Vol I, page 334

Every path is unique, despite any parallels it might have between other paths.  Sahaj Marg (Heartfulness) is no different and I think the quote above illustrates that to a degree. Certainly, we are unique in other ways. But in most of Hinduism and Sufism the idea of liberation is where things stop. After all, what more could there be once you are free?

To back up a little, let’s discuss what this “liberation” is. Most of the time, in contexts like this one, liberation means liberation from samsara. Samsara is the wheel of death and rebirth. Some view this wheel as a kind of trap but it isn’t. It’s merely a result. When we don’t direct our reactions and responses in a responsible manner, then the resultant karmas (both good AND bad karmas) bind us further to this wheel. And so we go on experiencing death and rebirth, cycle after cycle, until our personal evolution is such that we are able to step off of that wheel like an exhausted hamster and then finally to know peace. This is what most people, in this context, consider liberation to be.  (Side Note: There are branches of believers who have the understanding that God will, through immeasurable and unwarranted grace and mercy, wipe away the factors (what we call samskaras & karmas) keeping a person from reaching heavenly liberation, thus bestowing liberation to the one who believes. This is a lie.)

Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness doesn’t dispute the aforementioned idea of liberation. What makes Sahaj Marg unique in this context is that, in our understanding, this liberation isn’t the actual end goal. A lot of what spiritual aspirants take to be significant spiritual progress and developments are understood within Sahaj Marg as simple sign posts. Indications of progress, sure, but nothing more – certainly nothing to be distracted by or focused on.

In a way, we treat these experiences and developments much like any thought that arises during meditation – notice it if you must, but keep moving. Liberation is no different. It’s like our guides and gurus are saying, “Okay so you stepped off the wheel of death and rebirth. Congrats – Now keep moving.” An interesting thing to note here and which might surprise most people is that this liberation – escape from endless cycles of death and rebirth – is seen as a very low attainment and like a child’s toy. Most people would immediately disagree. But it is certain that those people view their current reality through a different and probably lens. After all, to a kindergartner learning the alphabet is daunting and quite an achievement. The idea of getting to Junior High is hardly something they understand, never mind finishing that and moving on to High School or any form of education thereafter.

The lineage of Sahaj Marg guides have always stated that religion is like kindergarten. And they’ve always gently encouraged us to keep moving. From where they sit, they speak to us kindergartners and encourage us onward. “Beyond that there is a lot to be achieved.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

From India

City_Dwellers

 

Some time ago I placed an order with the Shri Ram Chandra Mission online bookstore. Unlike the order prior to this one, my shipment was received in a very timely manner and – unlike any other time I’ve ordered in the past – a tracking number was provided! The only cause for frown this last time around was that about five of the items I ordered came as DVDs which was a big surprise to me because I only ever intend to order books.

Lately, though, the abhyasi community has been talking about and learning about the concept of “cheerful acceptance.” Obviously, this is something deeper than it sounds, but I can tell you – from a fairly superficial level – that getting DVDs when you almost never sit before the television and especially when you’re expecting books, definitely gives one a chance to practice cheerful acceptance.

Anyway, I’ve been making my way through these DVDs, watching them in order of the dates they were released. This morning I watched, “India in the West” (part one). The video, like many of the others, is of our late Master Pujya Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari telling the story of how the SRCM was introduced to the West. His own father was one of the first from the Mission to visit other countries for the sake of the Mission – and that story is a bit fantastical. Some years later the Master currently recognized as the second modern Master of our lineage (he’s not the actual second Master, of course) began traveling outside of India and the rest is history.

It’s amazing to read or hear of how small things start sometimes and then to recognize their wonderful growth. From this documentary alone, and really also from other books, I’ve learned that there was a time when an entire nation or another might have had just ONE practicing abhyasi. Just one – yet now there are centers and ashrams in many places with many abhyasis.

One thing said in the documentary that caught my attention will, here, be a quote of a quote. Chariji was quoting my now great-grandmaster Babuji during a moment when Babuji was speaking to European abhyasis. I didn’t jot down the exact wording, but Babuji said something to the effect of, “I am liberating you from India.”

Hey Bhagwan!

These words instantly brought to mind a conversation I had about a month ago with another abhyasi. He’s Indian, but looks Pakistani. He manages to maintain a “full” figure and yet remain diminutive (something I’ve noticed in many Indian men). Our conversation started out very basic and was prompted by my car’s license plate which is a specialized plate reading, “GANESHA.” He recalld driving behind me the first time and noticing the plate – and then being shocked when he pulled up next to me and saw “white” skin. He was very curious about my knowledge of Hinduism and, like so many other Indians I’ve had this same talk with, he remarked that it’s very likely I know more of our religion than even he does, having been born and raised in India and still being very traditional in many ways despite his life in America. I’m not bragging in the least about this – I’ve heard it more times than I care to recount and each time it makes me a little uncomfortable. We can maybe talk about that in another post.

So… as our conversation was nearing its end he asked me about my view of Ganesha, method of Ganesha puja, and puja timing and all that good stuff, and brought up that our masters have said a number times in a number of ways that we’re “not to worship images” … or something like that. I answered to him that I’m not a “slave” to the ritual of worshipping Ganesha, which is really what the masters’ warnings are about. I do take into consideration the “proper” methods and timing and all that good stuff, but that I can essentially “take it or leave it.” I’m not sure if it’s entirely honest to say one can “take it or leave it” regarding something for which a person has a pretty clear preference. But what I told him is close enough to the truth that my conscience rests easy. I also think this “take it or leave it” business is somewhat hinted at, in very different terminology of course, in the Bhagavad Gita.

I’m kind of getting sidetracked here, but what I’ve meant to get at is that this nice young man with whom I chatted was very clearly under the control of tradition. I mean, we even talked about it – he admitted that, like many Catholics, there’s a tendency with Indians to blindly follow whatever they’re told tradition says is right, without even knowing why it’s supposedly right. And so, there’s a certain freedom I have as a non-Indian Hindu that he will struggle to achieve because from the time he was an infant, every square inch of his life was dictated by Indian tradition. He may well struggle to have Indian spirituality without the Indian religion.

This can be good for people who seem to need a pre-established structure in order to feel comfortable in an identity. But it’s truly this same structure that limits things like understanding and experience. On a grosser level it’s very obvious for Christians and Muslims who insist that their Dharma is the only valid one. For Indians / Hindus, this manifests no less – just differently, and in a manner that usually allows for other Dharmas to also be valid. So with the Abrahamics we end up with, “My path and only my path, for everyone, regardless.” And the Dharmic version of this is considerably more tolerant but often doesn’t involve hardly any more understanding than that of the Abrahamics.

Although other sages from India had already left India’s borders to touch the West, at the time SRCM was reaching out of India much of Indian spirituality was limited to within the borders of that nation. I think it’s because of this that my Master’s master’s master, while speaking to Europeans, said what he did. “I am liberating you from India.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Jailed Jivan?

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

Recently a friend asked me about the difference I understood there to be between the term “enlightened” and “Self-Realized.” I answered him that I understand enlightenment to be something progressive and not automatically final, whereas I’ve never heard of someone being Self-Realized and still having more realization to attain. His understanding seemed to be similar.

A day or so ago, as I neared the completion of a book I’ve been reading, I came to a passage that seemed to fit into the aforementioned conversation, although … with a twist. The book is called “My Master – The Essence of Pure Love” and was written by the current and living (although that may change shortly) guru and Master of the Sahaj Marg, Shri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari, affectionately known as Chariji. He wrote this book upon a “divine commandment” received by him from his own guru, Sri Ram Chandra – also known as Babuji within the Sahaj Marg. What follows is an excerpt from the chapter called “The Gift of Liberation.”

“The ultimate aim of sadhana under the Sahaj Marg system of raja yoga is rather loosely designated as being liberation or realization. These two terms are generally used interchangeably, as if they were synonymous, and represented the same condition of state of Being. Those closer to Master who have had more experience with Master’s use of the terminology of his system, appreciate that there is not merely a difference between the two words, but the difference is indeed a large and significant one. Sometimes a third term is used, this being ‘the perfect human condition’ or the ‘condition of the perfect human being.’ Thus the goal is generally described in these terms, the exact term used depending on the person’s degree of intimacy with Master, and his own growth and experience in the system.

“As far as I have been able to understand the subject, is appears to me that liberation is a lesser order of attainment when compared to realization. In Sahaj Marg terms, liberation is indeed a far higher level than the traditional religious emancipation labeled mukti or moksha, both of which generally refer to a state of salvation from which there is no return to the physical plane of existence. They, however, do not preclude rebirth in higher non-physical realms of existence, of which Master says there are many. So mukti and moksha are limited concepts, whereas the liberation of Sahaj Marg yoga offers a permanent release from the chain of births and deaths.

“There is a more significant difference. Traditional religion seems to provide, by and large, for release only after death. This is called videha mukti, that is mukti after one has vacated the body. The jivan mukta state, that is the state of release in this life itself, while one is yet alive, is stated to be a very high order of mukti, possible only to a very few. Under Sahaj Marg the emphasis is on the attainment of liberation in this life itself, here and now, while one is living a normal life as a householder.

“When I requested Master to give a short definition of liberation, Master said, ‘In one who has been liberated what is first broken down is time. Time is destroyed first.’ This is clear enough as far as it goes, implying that one who is liberated is no longer subject to the sway of time. For such a person all temporality ceases to exist and one steps into eternity. I have long tried to understand this concept of eternity. The only clear understanding I have arrived at is that eternity does not mean unlimited extension of time. It seems to be of a different order of existence.”

I found this section of the chapter intriguing. It provides many answers if one decides to accept them, and it also certainly can be said that this section and chapter opens many questions as well. I also wonder where a term like “samadhi” fits into the Sahaj Marg understanding of liberation and realization – I’ve yet to encounter much, if anything, relating directly to that term. For now, if nothing else, this serves as an example of another perspective that might not be very prominent, but is no less valid.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Jnana-view

Prayer Hindu

The first two chapters of this copy of the Vivekachudamani are really more of an introduction than anything and so much of what is said feels like the essence of Jnana, as I understand it. I also find what I’m planning to share in upcoming posts to be essential Hinduism if ever I’ve encountered Hinduism’s essence. Surely, the rest of what devotees would identify as Sanatana Dharma has grown from this very knowledge. You’ll see.

Many people mistakenly understand Jnana Yoga to mean hardly anything deeper than intellectual wisdom. Often, in an effort to refute the immense value of Jnana Yoga, people cite texts that point out that book wisdom won’t automatically lead to moksha/liberation. However, Jnana Yoga blows book wisdom (which is highly prone to ego influence) out of the water entirely, and is directly concerned with experiential knowledge of Reality. When I superficially consider what Jnana Yoga might mean for a soul that becomes illumined, I often think of the movie The Matrix.

Neo embarks on a journey of realizing exactly who he is at his center and by the end of the movie, after the realization that the illusion everyone lives in (Maya?) has no real power of its own, we’re allowed to glimpse the new “vision” his illumination has brought. He sees that the essence of everything is The Same… Everything is swirling in binary code, although the distinct forms of various things are still distinguishable.

That is Jnana Yoga. Commitment/Devotion was fuel for the fire that drove him along his journey. His actions were certainly a part of that process, too. The culmination of his entire journey was to arrive back at an experiential knowledge of Reality. With this manifestation of Jnana Yoga, he achieved liberation and was free to not only move about existence as need willed, but could also control the “material” world and was freed from fear. He ultimately attained freedom from Illusion(Maya) as well as those agents who worked within it. Then, as a Seer, he became a bodhisattva – someone who’s vowed to forever assist others on the same journey, until all are similarly liberated.

I’ll soon be sharing some of what I’ve learned in the opening chapters – that eventually bring me to the actual Vivekachudamani in chapter three. It’s lofty stuff, that’s for sure, but it’s also Truth.

Brace yourself.

Om Shanti

New Year Jnanam

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One of my Facebook friends, a few days ago, posted something asking that others comment on it. She basically asked for people to share what their most potent lesson of 2012 had been. You’d laugh to know how many times I started to type something and stopped myself. I struggled for a few minutes to discern what THE lesson of 2012 could have been for me. Even now, I’m not sure what I think the most valuable lesson might have been.

I could say that I’ve learned that prayer/meditation/spiritual efforts do, absolutely, produce results. I could say that one should always approach a person/place/thing with the intention of leaving that person/place/thing better than when he found it. I could say that one should always strive to help, no matter what, regardless of the payoff – or lack thereof. I can’t say that these are all things I learned this year. In truth, thanks to my upbringing and making my own path in life, I knew them long before 2012 surfaced. Although I was aware of and practicing these lessons before this year came around, I should at least give them credit for helping to drive home a kind of realization that definitely was most valuable for me this year.

This is likely the first year that I’ve been able to taste Jnana Yoga as fully as I did. Beyond that statement, it’s tough to describe the form that realization took. Coming to mind is Arjuna’s experience in the Bhagavad Gita when the Vishwarupa was shown to him. A bit overwhelmed, a bit wiser, but very humbled and grateful for the (difficult) experience of seeing more of the picture of who I am -which is the same picture each of us sees when we glance deeper and deeper into our core. This same picture that we all see is the divine within each of us, God. That’s definitely been the most valuable experience for me in 2012.

On that note, and in connection with Jnana Yoga, I want to share a couple of posts from The Hindu Blog. I frequent this blog because it’s been a huge source of information for me and a couple very recent posts to it speak of Jnana Yoga and the role it plays in one’s growth, enlightenment, and moksha.

Spirituality Is Simply the Process of Not Identifying with What We Are Not -Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev -founder of the Isha Foundation

First we need to know that the basis of our misery is that we have established ourselves in untruth. We are deeply identified with that which we are not. Somewhere along the way we have gotten identified with things around us. We have got identified with our body and mind. That is the source of suffering. The whole experience of transcending your limitations must happen within you. If you want to transcend, only if you are truly willing, it can happen. Otherwise no power on earth or in heaven can move you. Spirituality is simply the process of not identifying with what we are not, to shed the layers of conditioning so that we know what we are NOT. When that is completed, we arrive at something that cannot be discounted. This discovery will be the recognition of divinity, and we will see that there is no reason for misery in the world.

Under Whatever Form One Worships That Which Has No Form, It Is Only A Means of Perceiving It -Ramana Maharishi

Surrender to Him and abide by His will whether He appears or disappears; await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you please, it is not surrender, but command. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think you have surrendered. He knows what is best, when and how. Leave everything entirely to Him. The burden is His. You no longer have any cares. All your cares are His. That is surrender. That is Devotion. Under whatever name and form one worships that which has no name and no form, it is only a means of perceiving It. To know the truth of one’s Self as the True reality, and merge and become One with It is the only true Perception/Realization/Liberation. Understand this! He whose pure mind turns inward and searches whence does this ‘I’ arise, knows the Self and merges in You, the Lord, As a river into the sea.

Happy New Year to you all. It’s my hope that 2012 brought you the same great things it brought me, and that 2013 brings us all increased realization.

Om Shanti

 

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