Two Stories

The King of a small state in the south of India used to meditate every day on himself as a servant of God. He limited the satisfaction of his desires to what he thought appropriate to a servant, and practised a servant’s simplicity of life. After some years, this practice produced in him extraordinary energy and clear-sightedness; his kingdom was a success internally, and the neighbouring kings soon found it did not pay to venture to extend their territory. The king’s spiritual adviser (though not his Teacher) was one of his ministers, to whom the king owed, and knew that he owed, a good deal of his success. This minister was an advanced practicant of meditation. One day the king learned, by chance, that the minister’s own form of meditation was on the self as infinite shining space. He told the minister that he would like to go on to …

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The goal of yoga is defined as knowledge of Reality

The Spirit of Inquiry You ask questions more difficult, but you are a great lover of Brahman, therefore I shall tell you. Prashna Upanishad. The goal of yoga is defined as knowledge of Reality, which is stated to be of the nature of absolute bliss and freedom from all limitations. The most important factor in attaining it is Inquiry. The spirit of inquiry is fundamental in man, and demands exercise, but unless properly directed it degenerates into mere inquisitiveness. In ordinary life we recognize that some kinds of knowledge are irrelevant and pointless. There are people who feel impelled to count the panes in every window they see, but the information obtained has no value to them. It is said that an industrial magnate once pointed out to a visitor a piece of machinery in his factory and said: ” There are exactly 1,763 parts in that machine.” The visitor …

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The Moon in the Water

Truth is presented variously, because the aim is to stimulate a pupil to realize something in himself, not to parrot phrases like a man in a snowstorm desperately mumbling to himself “fire”. Teaching in an India where logical exposition was prized, Shankara explains the classic analogy of the sun reflected in water: “As in water reflections of the sun arise, so reflected in the limiting adjuncts of body and mind, the Self appears as an individualized entity.” Children think there is a sun in the water, deep down and moving with it; but one day they see the reflection in calm water and realize the real sun above, ever undisturbed and one only. In China and Japan, the pure essence of mind (what Shankara calls the Self) was often represented by the full moon. The samurai of feudal Japan were impressed by the fearlessness of Zen priests, and meditated under …

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Key verses from Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita

This article is based on certain key verses from Chapter IX of the Bhagavad Gita, which is called the Royal Secret. Knowledge (jnana) and realization (vijnana) of the secret lead one beyond all limitations. The teaching begins: ” By Me this whole world is pervaded` by My form unmanifest.” This is the secret which is to be known. Knowledge can be of different degrees, and the lowest is false knowledge. False knowledge is something positive, which makes us actively oppose truth. The history of science is full of examples of the persecution, often by scientific colleagues, of those who put forward important new ideas. In the last century a hip amputation was carried out by the surgeon Ward with the patient under hypnosis; his medical colleagues refused to accept that the patient had been free from pain` saying that he had been merely ” pretending to feel nothing “. Higher …

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Eight Short Poems of the Zen Master Mu-Nan

1.To the Seekers after the Next Life Thinking that after death he will become a Buddha, He does not realize the shortness of this life. 2.The Essence of Meditation He who knows how to meditate when not in meditation, How could he ever stray from the path ? 3.To Those Far Astray Not realizing that we are being fooled by our own selves, We are afraid of tempters and demons. 4.A Saying of Rinzai The ear does not hear, the mind does not hear, nor the ego ; The hearer of hearing, that it is we must know. 5.The Mantra NAMU AMIDA BUDDHA Unless it is recited, there is neither Buddha nor myself; This, this is the meaning of Namu Amida Butsu. 67.To Those Who Say the Mantra The net of compassion of Amida Buddha is spread wide, How pitiable the man who of his own accord slips away ! …

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Bodhidharma The First Zen Patriarch in China

There is a Buddhist tradition that when the Worldhonoured One was at the assembly on the Vulture Mount a man offered him a golden flower and asked him to preach the holy Doctrine. The Buddha twisted the flower in his fingers, showing it to the people in perfect silence. All were bewildered and at a loss for his meaning except the disciple Kashyapa who quietly smiled at the teacher. The Buddha then said there had been a transmission of the inmost spirit of his teaching to Kashyapa who was to be his successor and to whom he gave his robe and begging-bowl. Kashyapa, having thus become the First Patriarch, later transmitted the secret in the same way ” from mind to mind ” to Ananda, and so the succession continued. The patriarchs of the Buddha-mind transmission (now generally known by its Japanese name Zen) include some of the greatest names …

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Madhusudana’s Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita

Madhusudana Sarasvati is one of the greatest lights of the school of non-duality, famous not only for his skill as a philosopher but also as a devotee. He lived in the sixteenth century, under the emperor Akbar, but almost nothing is known about his personal life; he scarcely refers to himself in all his works. In his time the school of non-duality, which had been revived so powerfully by the great Shankara in the eighth century, was becoming intellectually discredited as a result of a series of attacks by the sect of Logicians, armed with a new dialectic. Madhusudana completely mastered the new logic, and reestablished non-duality on an unassailable basis. Unlike some other intellectual giants, he was never indifferent to religious devotion, and he is quoted as an example of the fact that non-duality fully realized need not impede devotion to the Lord in practical life. There is a …

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Casting off worn-out bodies, the body-wearer passes on to new ones

As the wearer casts aside worn-out clothes, And puts on himself others which are new, Even so, casting off worn-out bodies, The body-wearer passes on to new ones. Bhagavad Gita II.22 This great verse on reincarnation comes at the beginning of the teachings, and it refers to the great Self which takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies. A master of meditation remarked that the idea of reincarnation contains hints at wider truths than the bare idea of things wearing out and being replaced, which to many older people has a depressing ring. They find their bodies less and less reliable, and less competent to fulfil most of the purposes of life as they have understood them. He said: `Take the case of furniture. If a chair is reasonably well made, at the beginning it sparkles with the fresh varnish laid evenly all over it. It has …

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Caste and Action in the Bhagavad Gita

The action in accordance with one’s innate disposition, O son of Kunti, though accompanied with imperfections, One should not give up; For all undertakings are surrounded by imperfection, As afire with smoke. This Gita text is addressed directly to the disciple Arjuna, whose mother was Queen Kunti of the Kshatriya or warrior caste. The previous verses, and others in the Gita, lay down certain actions as proper to the four castes To the Brahmin: calm, self-control, austerity, purity, patience, uprightness, knowledge and actual experience, faith; To the Kshatriya: heroism, fire, firmness, skill, not fleeing in battle, generosity, natural authority; To the Vaishya (artisan): economic production and trade; To the Shudra (servant) : service. In his commentary Shankara explains that these actions are proper to each class because of the innate disposition of its members, and this is due to the dynamic latent impressions (sanskaras) laid down by action in previous …

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The Yoga of Knowledge Chapter Five of the Bhagavad Gita

Introduction The Bhagavad Gita declares the truth of the supreme Self, which manifests the universe as a magical show, and enters it as limited selves. It further declares Yoga. By Yoga, a limited self can thin out and then dissolve the magical limitations. There follows realization of its original identity with the supreme Self. There are two paths of Yoga, as the Gita says again and again. One is the path of yogic action, for one who feels himself, vividly and actively, a limited self. `I see things, I want some of them, I do, I give, I endure, I worship God’. The second is the path of yogic knowledge. The great commentator Shankara explains that it is for one who feels vividly: `I know clearly the supreme Self; it is only a false limited self that could suffer, or desire, or act; I see unity in the apparently many …

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The Spiritual Teacher in the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gitais a teaching for crisis. In many ways it is quite different from the situations in the Upanishads, where a seeker after truth attends on a teacher. The Upanishadic procedure is however described in a group of Gita verses beginning with IV.34, in the context of knowledge: Go to those who have knowledge and have realised it directly. Learn by bowing down, by questioning, and by being attentive; They will teach you Knowledge. The word translated `being attentive’ is literally `service’, but Shankara here and elsewhere explains it as basically `wanting to hear’. It is not simply slavish obedience for its own sake. At the beginning of the Gita, Arjuna is not yet a disciple in these terms. He is not seeking truth: he does ask, but not about bondage and spiritual freedom, only about what he should do in this particular crisis. He does not bow down …

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The Power of Zazen.

The Zen of Meditation Sect of Buddhism has for a long time been one of the most influential in Japan, where it has well over three million temples. Of these, by far the greater number belong to the Soto branch, the present Primate of which is His Holiness Rosen Takashina. Last year a book of his essays on Zen, written mainly for beginners, was published, and with Permission one of them is here given in translation. The title of the essay is The Power of Zazen.              `Zazen ‘ means literally `sitting in meditation’, although ‘meditation’ is hardly the right word because, when Zazen reaches maturity, the waves of mental activity called thought are given up in favour of a waveless pure consciousness of the true Self. This point is explained in another of the essays.) What is the aim of religion, and what is its raison d’etre ? People with …

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The Nature of Reality

Yoga is a process aiming at a clear-cut realisation of reality through the instruments of precision above the mind. The technique is to bring the mind under control by discipline and restraint, then to make an intellectual analysis as far as the intellect will go, then to go beyond the intellect by what is called meditation. The methods of discipline and restraint are given in full in the Gita.  The intellectual analysis can be made from various standpoints. One way is to take a tentative description of reality as given by the scriptures, and analyse that. One such description is the phrase Sat-Chit-Ananda, or existence-consciousness-bliss. This has the seal of approval of many famous Mahatmas, who confirmed it in their own experiences.      It can be partially verified by the intellect, but the full verification comes through the yogic practices. The first word of the phrase is Sat, existence. It is …

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The Mystical Death

 There is no teacher like Death.-Katha Upanishad. Since it is the same death, die now.-Zen Saying. The great Upanishad called Katha contains the instructions given by the God of Death to an inquirer, Nachiketas.            Nachiketas went voluntarily to the abode of Death, and after staying there a short time, was granted three boons by Death, who is a deva or god whose will never fails. The third boon was to be told the secret of Death, namely whether the self of man is immortal and what is its nature. Death asked to be released from granting this boon, and offered instead wealth, long life, celestial pleasures.       ” Or take any other thing you deem equal to these, but ask me not the secret of Death.” Nachiketas replied:  ” Having voluntarily approached a great god, wealth and long life come of themselves. But even the longest life is short, and what …

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The process of Yoga is recovery of an obscured fact

The Lost Memory Shri Shankara says that the process of Yoga, of which meditation is one of the main limbs, is to realize a fact. It is not creation of something, but recovery of a fact which is somehow obscured. An example of such obscuring is loss of memory. At the end of the Gita, the disciple Arjuna says when his teacher Krishna, an incarnation of the Lord, has wakened enlightenment in him : ” I have recovered my memory.” Memory of what ? ” When the confusions of the mind are dissolved, that bliss which requires no other witness, that is Brahman ; and that is my highest Self, immortal, brilliant.”  That one is omniscient and omnipotent, ever compassionate to all living beings, and engaged in sending forth, preserving and withdrawing the universes as his sport. Arjuna realizes the Lord as his own Self, and realizing his true Self …

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A spiritual chain reaction begins

Critical size The raw material of the first “atom-bomb” was a particular kind of Uranium. When a little heap of this is seen under a weak fluorescent light, it shines with a greenish radiance. The radiance is caused by the particles which are continually being emitted from uranium, which is what is called a radio-active element. The particles are shot away, and are lost in the atmosphere. But if the element is subjected to a prolonged process which can be loosely called purification, and then a sufficient quantity is brought together, something quite different happens.. When the quantity reaches what is called the ” critical size “, the particles emitted from the atoms do not all lose themselves in the environment. Some of them strike a neighbouring atom, and that in turn releases a new particle. The new particle will probably strike another atomic nucleus, and so it goes on. …

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The purpose of meditation is realization of an existing fact

In meditation practice, it is essential to remember the purpose, which is: realization of an existing fact. Meditation is not building up a dream. The traditional meditations are, however, allocated to different stages. Many people cannot yet meditate on identity of the true Self and God; it is too remote from daily experience. To them, such texts are frankly incredible. Statements such as Rama Tirtha’s main teaching, “You are infinite, God Almighty you are, Infinite God you are”, run so absolutely counter to actual experience that they are mentally discounted. Until the vividness and urgency of daily life have been considerably thinned, meditation on the true Self will be (as Shankara says in his Gita commentary) impossible. While individual concerns and trivial events continue to occupy most of the attention, there will not be conscious experience of the true Self. That experience has to be as clear and direct as …

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Meditation on the heart-lotus

There are many forms of meditation, but this article is about the meditation on a symbol, as described by Swami Mangalnath from his own experience in the book The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching by  Hari Prasad Shastri. “The hollow in the centre of your body where the ribs join just below the breast bone is the best region on which to fix your mind in meditation. You may have heard the expression `the lotus of the heart’; it refers to this point. You can apply a little sandal-paste to the spot and then concentrate your mind on it. Two hours a day is not too long a time for this practice. When you can fix your mind there at will, then visualize a lotus of bluish colour, and when this meditation is matured, imagine Om placed on the lotus, and meditate on it.” This form of meditation is …

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Reactions in Yoga

Some beginners who take up Yoga with great enthusiasm, are surprised to find their initial exaltation soon fading into inertia. To think of spiritual things then gives them a feeling of headache and they conclude that they were better off when in the world. There can be a sense of betrayal; the higher spiritual forces surely should have shown some appreciation of the great efforts expended. It is as though an offering, produced with great exertion and trouble, has been rejected. This is an experience which will be repeated at different stages of yogic progress, and it is essential to understand it. The point is that the mind is a living thing, not dead like a piece of wood. And the characteristic of living things is that they react. We can all recall that if we suddenly take unaccustomed exercise, as many people do on the first days of their …

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Spiritual Archery

“That which is bright and is subtler than the subtle, and that on which are fixed all the worlds as well as the dwellers of the worlds, is this immutable Brahman; it is this vital force; it, again, is speech and mind. This that is such, is true, it is immortal. It is to be shot at; O disciple, shoot at it. Taking up the bow, the great weapon of the Upanishads, one shouldfix on it an arrow sharpened with meditation. Drawing it with a mind fixed on Brahman, hit, O disciple, that target, the Immutable. OM is the bow; individual self is the arrow, and Brahman is said to be the mark. It is to be hit by one who is steady. One should become one with it as an arrow is one with the mark.” Mundak Upanishad In these famous verses God-realization is described by the analogy of …

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One of the great means of instruction is telling stories.

Stories One of the great means of instruction is telling tales. The Sufi classic Mathnavi, and the Zen writings, are full of them. The stories are not fully explained; we are expected to find the inner meaning by our own efforts. Pondering on a story is compared to churning milk; it has to be turned and revolved again and again without interruption for a good time till quite suddenly butter begins to appear. Sometimes disciples try to insulate themselves by simply naming some of the characters-this one represents the lower mind` and that one the teacher, and so on. Such facile identifications can be made in hundreds of ways, and they do not help in finding the secret. They are attempts to seek safety` to avoid the implication of the story. “The world”, says the Mathnavi, “resembles the great big city which you may hear of from children’s tales. In …

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The Gita on “I do nothing” “I do nothing at all”

  I do nothing at all – thus should the Truth-knower think` concentrated THIS is the first line of a Gita verse. Lethargic people quote it energetically (it may be the only energetic thing they do)` though few of them know where it comes in the Gita. And they do not know the rest of the verse exactly. Where the one who wants to use it does not acknowledge the authority of the Gita, or indeed of any authority whatever` it may be simply the idea that is taken up. The argument is presented something like this: I am asked to undertake certain items of fixed discipline. The aim is supposed to be to transcend egoistic consciousness, and realize universal consciousness. Yet I am given fixed actions and restrictions` which of course have to be executed by the individual egoistic consciousness. I am told: “Get up at an early hour` …

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The doctrine of the five sheaths as a method to obtain self-realization

The five sheaths are the limitations (upadhis) which are taken on itself by the jiva. Shri Shankara makes this analysis of the limitations of the jivatman for the purpose of liberation, and he gives the methods of meditation on the sheaths by which liberation is to be obtained. There is no other purpose ; the analysis is made for the purpose of liberation only. Man is a composite being, an individual self enclosed in various ` coverings ‘ or sheaths which are of different materials, and are related to worlds made of those materials. As we have electrical forces in the body, so there is a world of electricity ; there is matter in the body which is related to a material world. Man is therefore in touch with these worlds and in continual relationship with them. The five sheaths are : Anna-maya (maya here means vikara, product)-food or matter …

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Focusing the Mind

“The Self abiding in all beings, and all beings in the Self, sees he whose Self has been made steadfast by Yoga, who everywhere sees the same.”(Bhagavad Gita VI 29) Commenting on this verse, Shankara explains the phrase “whose self has been made steadfast by Yoga” (yoga yuktatma) as “whose inner organ (mind) is steadied by samadhi” (samahita antahkarana). Samadhi is the peak of meditation when the distinction of meditator, object of meditation, and process of meditation is transcended. In thirty-seven places in his Gita commentary, Shankara explains the word Yoga or its derivatives by samadhi or its adjectival form. The disciple Arjuna says: “I do not see how this Yoga can be maintained, because of the restlessness of the mind, as hard to restrain as the wind.” The teacher Krishna replies: “Doubtless the mind is hard to restrain and restless, but by practice and indifference it can be restrained.” …

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Heart of Religion

A certain man was crying ‘Allah’ all night, till his lips grew sweet from praise of God. The devil said: Oh, garrulous man, where is the reply ‘Here Am I’ to all this ‘Allah’ of thine? Not a single response is coming from the throne. How long will you cry ‘Allah’ with grim face?’ He became broken hearted and lay down to sleep. In a dream he saw Elijah amidst the verdia who said: Hark, you have held back from praising God. Why do you repent of having called unto Him? He said: No ‘Here Am I’ is coming in response, hence I fear I’m turned away from the door. Elijah said: Nay, God saeth that ‘Allah. of thine is my ‘Here Am I’ And that grief and ardour and supplication of thine are my messenger to thee. Thy fear in love are the noose to catch my favour. Beneath …

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From the treasury of the True Law by Zen Master Dogen

Dogen was the founder of the Japanese Soto sect, the largest Zen sect in the country. These are extracts from one of the chapters-compiled by his disciple Ejo. One day Zen master Dogen told us For Buddhism, do not begrudge body or life. Even people of the world sacrifice their lives for a principle and ignore their families for the sake of loyalty and keeping faith. Such are called faithful servants, and wise men. Long ago in China, when Kaotsu (Koso), the Han emperor, was about to make war on a neighbouring kingdom, it chanced that the mother of one of his followers was living in that enemy kingdom. The generals suspected that his loyalties might be divided, and the emperor also feared that the man might go over to the enemy on account of his mother, in which case the army would be at a disadvantage. The mother herself, …

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This Very Body The Buddha

This Very Body The Buddha What remains to be sought ?      For Nirvana is revealed before him ; This very spot is the Lotus Paradise, this very body the Buddha. Hakuin’s Song of Meditation. THESE lines expressing the peak of realization conclude ‘ the Song of Meditation. After attaining the great freedom of limitless Samadhi and the wisdom of Buddhahood, there is nothing more to seek. Before Nirvana was revealed, while the view of illusory distinctions was not abandoned, there was the Buddha to seek and the passions to be repulsed. But after realization there is no bodhi (wisdom) to be sought and no passions to be cut off. The three thousand universes become his own, he need not get out of Sansara (phenomenal existence), he need not pray for bodhi. Rinzai in a sermon says : ” The man intent on doing the practices becomes bound again by the …

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The Lord takes twenty steps towards him

One Step, Twenty Steps WHEN someone takes one step towards the Lord, the Lord takes twenty steps towards him.’ It is a striking phrase which has vivified and energized the devotion of many yogis. Nevertheless, it can be interpreted, disregarding the plain meaning of the words, into something quite different. In an off-guard period, one who believes himself a devotee can reason something like this: `What this says is, that when I take a step towards Him, the Lord takes twenty steps towards me. In fact He is doing the same as I do, and then He is adding nineteen more steps of his own. So if I take no step at all, then admittedly the Lord will not take that step either; but then He will add nineteen steps of his own to it. He won’t arrive quite so quickly, perhaps, but the difference will soon be made up.’ …

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Viryam or Virility

Literally viryam means virility, `that which characterizes a true man` and the sense includes heroism and effective power. “The Self cannot be attained by one who is without strength” by one who excited, by one whose meditation-austerity is without renunciation. But of the knower who strives with these aids (strength, absence of excitment, and meditation based on renunciation) the self enters ”into Brahman.” Viryam is created by performing the Yogic practices with Shraddha or faith, and this means a special attitude to life which is called Brahmacharya or the “path to Brahman”. By Brahmacharya the energies of body and mind are controlled and focused on the one end, and by this focusing is produced in the personality a new fount of power and courage.  If we compare individuality impelled by natural drives to an unstarted car on a steep slope, we see that it can run downhill more or less …

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Mauwiaw’s duel with Satan

Muawiya was a secretary to Mohammed, and also an able man in other fields. He was devout, and in particular had never missed the ritual prayer, performed five times a day. Upright as he was, when he spoke it was the truth. As a rule his door was open to anyone for help or advice. But one evening, physically exhausted by completing a long commission, he said the ritual prayer and then bolted the door and shuttered the windows, to get a well-earned sleep. He slept very deeply. Early in the morning he was roused by a man saying: `Rise, O good man! The hour of prayer is near’. He sprang up. `Who are you?’ ‘Why, a passer-by who did not want to see a good man sleeping through the time of prayer’. Muawiya’s eyes went to the still bolted door and shutters. The truth came to him: `You are …

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Find the undying in the dying

A questioner said to a teacher: “These scriptural texts are all dead things. Perhaps they were alive to the people who gave them, and those who first heard them, but that was long ago. Now they’re dead, and nothing can bring dead things back to life!” It is even said by some Christian theologians (if they can be called so) that Christ’s message was presented in religious terms because that was the thought of the time: today that part of the message is dead, and what remains is the duty to one’s neighbour. This is the reverse of what Christ himself said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. That is the greatest commandment. It comes first.” In the same way this man said to the teacher: “Dead things can never live again.” So the teacher took him out for …

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Emptiness bringing with it a kind of coolness and light

A teacher used to point out to his pupils that what is already full cannot take in any more. This well-known Zen principle is often illustrated by pouring more tea into a filled cup so that it overflows on to the table and floor. This teacher went on to say that when there is a vacuum in the mind, illumination can come to fill it. The pupils did not understand this but let it go, except for one who persistently asked him what he meant exactly. `How can we make a vacuum in the mind?’ he would say, to which the teacher made no reply but sat silent. After some repetitions of this, the teacher told him: `Well, as you are so keen, I’ll give you some private instruction on it, if you’re willing to prepare by purifying yourself,’ and he gave him elaborate directions for a daily ritual to …

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Discipline and Liberation

Discipline and Liberation is generally understood, the yogic discipline consists of two elements first, complete detachment from the desire for limited egoistic experience in this or another body ; and second, desire for and meditation on the consciousness of immortality and bliss which follows the realization of the true Self in the form ” I am Brahman ” or ” I am God “. The first element is common to all Yogas. But the statement” I am God ” is to some students too much of a shock to the ordinary way of thinking to form the subject of meditation ; they can follow it intellectually but cannot incorporate it at all into their life. These yogis worship God as external to themselves, by meditating and taking refuge in Him, and by dedicating the results of their yogic efforts to him. In this way, says Shri Shankara, they attain clarity …

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Attain intensification of practice and experience

A teacher told his pupils that a true yogi would attain an intensification of his practice and experience every six weeks A pupil of some years came to the master a little later, recalled the remark, and went on: `I have come across a marvellous story about this, which he helped me to understand. Arjuna used to do his devotion, with elaborate ceremony, gold and silver vessels carefuly arranged, and with long prayers and meditations. His brother Bhima did nothing like that; he simply stood for a few minute; with his hands clasped and his eyes closed. Then he would go about his daily activities. It occurred to Arjuna one day to wonder what happened to his prayers. and he came to know about a special ceremony which would give that knowledge He performed it, very carefully, and found himself in a vision looking at a great courtyard, which seemed …

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Dimensions of Mind

A teaching of self associated with three dimensions of mind is. given in the little Mandukya Upanishad` which is dated about A.D. 200 and is the last of the eleven classical Upanishads , commented on by Shankara. The three dimensions of mind are typified in Waking` Dream and’ Dreamless Sleep, experienced by three corresponding aspects of self. This Upanishad distinguishes clearly a fourth state of self` its true nature` which is dimensionless, transcendent` and without any “field of experience” specially attributed to it. The Mandukya takes another very ancient Upanishadic doctrine` OM meditation` and correlates it with the realization process. The Upanishad` though so short, is noteworthy for its logical and systematic presentation of teaching and practice. There are some verses (karikas) on the Upanishad by Gaudapada, teacher of the teacher of Shankara, which were always of immense authority and later came to be taken as part of the Upanishad …

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Concentration and Meditation

It is often recommended, that before we begin to study the spiritual texts, we should bring the mind to the central line, and one of the ways of doing it is to isolate the point in the centre of the chest: just below where the ribs meet. This is technically called `the lotus of the heart’. Just touch there, sit reasonably upright and then using the after-sensation of the touch, bring the mind back to this point. Just keep bringing the mind back to this point, until we feel it. Of the one who has controlled the mind, he is the inner Self, he is always in Samadhi. (Bhagavad Gita, VI.7) By bringing it to this point, we control the mind and tranquillize it. Then, like Paramatman, the Supreme Self within, who is always in Samadhi, we shall find that there is something here which is always calm. It is …

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Arjuna’s doubts about Krishna’s teachings

In typical traditional pictures of the Gita scene, Arjuna is shown with palms joined in reverence, looking at Krishna in an attitude of devotion and faith. Such pictures give rise to the idea: `In those early days they had simple faith. But modern man has a critical attitude.’ Simple faith, however, is not what is portrayed in the Gita itself. Arjuna shows from the very beginning that he does not have unwavering faith in Krishna as a teacher or as a god. For a long time he has little confidence in what he is told. There is a series of indications, some subtle and some very open, which are often overlooked. It is a great advantage to readers today that the doubts are brought out so clearly. In ancient times there was just as much scepticism as today. Already by the time of the Buddha (5th Century B.C.) there were …

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The savour of Love’s mystery disappears

BEARDS THE Sufi Attar relates that a certain religious man used to perfume and comb his beard for some time every day before his devotions, in order that he might appear before the Lord at his best. A saint of God had a revelation which he was to convey to that devotee: “The Lord says, he thinks more of his beard than of Me”. When that man received the message he gave a great cry of remorse. Thereafter every evening before prayer, he tore out one handful of the beard, leaving his face bleeding, that it might bear witness to his repentance. Another revelation came to the saint: “He is still thinking more about his beard than of Me”. In his Mathnavi, the Sufi poet Rumi declares that if mystical truths are investigated too methodically, so that the dialectic of question and answer becomes lengthy, then the savour of Love’s …

Read moreThe savour of Love’s mystery disappears

Spiritual realization can be tried for, and attained, in states of suffering

A Zen Story Why does Christ provoke the authorities to make away with him, and utter on the cross the first line of Psalm 22, “Lord, Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me”? (This becomes a song of triumph only at the end.) Why does Krishna, an earlier incarnation, born as a warrior and a matchlessly skilled fighter, take on himself the role of an unarmed charioteer in the great battle, so that his body is riddled with arrows? Why did Buddha, born to inherit the leadership of his people, become a wandering beggar to spread his teaching? One answer is that many of those who come for spiritual teaching are in suffering, and it has to be demonstrated by example that spiritual realization can be tried for, and attained, in states of suffering. Instruction from someone who has the same difficulties and overcomes them is more effective than that given …

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A visit to Sringeri

After the triumphs of Buddhism in India, the ancient doctrine of the Upanishads was revived and re-interpreted by the great philosopher-yogi Shankara; he achieved a religious, intellectual and mystical re-conquest of India from a degenerate Buddhism, whose former spirit had already gone East and North, where it was to create its own wonders. Shankara’s presentation is calm and appeals direct to the higher Self in each man; he did not propagandise by threats or attempting to bring force to bear on body or mind. He established ten orders of wandering teaching monks, and established four main temples, one at each corner of the diamond-shaped sub-continent of India. Two are on the coast (near Puri on the east coast, and at Dwaraka on the west), and two in the mountains-Jyoti temple in the Himalayas, and the Sarada temple at Sringeri in Mysore plateau (not quite at the tip of India, but …

Read moreA visit to Sringeri

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