Blog: Women Saints and Masters
Becoming Enlightened takes courage, perseverance, trust, faith, surrender, and Grace. In the end you have gone nowhere, come full circle, walked the pathless path, and passed through the gateless gate. Enlightenment is for everyone, it matters not if you were born a man or a woman. Here are a few short stories about some of my favorites quoted from different sources.
Zongchi appears in a well-known story. One day Bodhidharma addressed his disciples, asking them what they had attained. Daofu said, “My present view is, without being attached to the written word or being detached from the written word, one still engages in the function of the Way.”
Bodhidharma said, “You have my skin.”
Then Zongchi said, “It’s like Ananda seeing the pure land of the Buddha Akshobhya. Seen once, it isn’t seen again.”
Bodhidharma said, “You have my flesh.”
Daoyu said, “The four elements are originally empty; the five aggregates are nonexistent. There’s not a single dharma to attain.”
Bodhidharma said, “You have my bones.”
Huike made three bows and stood still.
Bodhidharma said, “You have my marrow.”
Huike had the deepest understanding and would become the Second Patriarch.
Zongchi was the daughter of a Liang Dynasty emperor. She was ordained a nun at the age of 19 and eventually became a disciple of Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of Zen. She was one of four dharma heirs of Bodhidharma, meaning that she completely understood his teachings.
(A dharma heir is also a "Zen master," although that term is more common outside of Zen.)
Gargi Vachaknavi was born about the 7th century BC and was an ancient Indian philosopher. In Vedic Literature, she is honored as a great natural philosopher, renowned expounder of the Vedas, and known as Brahmavadini, a person with knowledge of Brahma Vidya. In the Sixth and the eighth Brahmana of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, her name is prominent as she participates in the brahmayajna, a philosophic debate organized by King Janaka of Videha and challenges the sage Yajnavalkya with perplexing questions on the issue of atman (soul). She is also said to have written many hymns in the Rigveda. She remained a celibate all her life and was held in veneration by the conventional Hindus.
Gargi, was the daughter of sage Vachaknu in the lineage of sage Garga (c. 800-500 BCE) was named after her father as Gargi Vachaknavi. From a young age she evinced keen interest in Vedic scriptures and became very proficient in fields of philosophy. She became highly knowledgeable in the Vedas and Upanishads in the Vedic times and held intellectual debates with other philosophers.
Liu Tiemo was a Zen Master borne around 780-859, was known as the "Iron Grindstone” she was a peasant girl who became a formidable debater. Liu was called the "Iron Grindstone" because she ground her challengers to bits. Liu Tiemo was one of 43 dharma heirs of Guishan Lingyou, who was said to have 1,500 disciples.
Blog: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras opens with:
“Here, now, is the teaching of yoga.”
We can take this first sentence from Patanjali and break it down, if we do that we find that you could just use the word “Here” or the word “Now” and that is enough to communicate the entirety, the whole intent.
There is nothing but “yoga” nothing but Union, a unified diversity in its fundamental nature, omnipresent, infinite, the present moment, the true sacred space.
The word “yoga” means to “unite” except this in and of itself is problematic as the suggestion of uniting implies that there is a separation… there is not.
All spiritual teachings are for the unenlightened, for the “Enlightened”, those who have realized the truth of their essential nature, the Self, there is only Unity whether it is called the Absolute, Being, Amness, Oneness, or “the Relative” the essence of all there is.
The moment you become a seeker, someone on the spiritual path, there is separation, there is duality. Life lived in duality is a life of subject and object this is a mistake of the intellect. A covering, a veiling has taken place. Even that veil is the Absolute pure oneness.
It is not that seeking is bad or irrelevant as it is a means to Self discovery, in fact seeking is a prerequisite for Self realization. But, seeking can build a wall between the self and the Self; in the end the self must be given up in self surrender.
Enlightenment is not an end point, it is a coming home, it is, as Maharishi noted, it is “normal” life, it is a constant unfoldment of wonder and infinite possibilities.
Blog: How Realized men and women can make mistakes.
For a long time I have been bothered by the fact that the Realized man or woman can make mistakes. I remember reading a Sage once said that in matters of the Spirit and one's personal evolution you can take the Master's words to heart and base your life on them, but in maters of the "relative" you may ask but you should make the decisions on your own as the Master's may or may not have any knowledge of what you are asking and can get it wrong. In doing research on this I came across the following in "Pathways through to Space" by Franklin Merrell Wolf.
The Meaning of Omniscience
"What is Omniscience? Those who have familiarized themselves to any extent with mystical or quasi-occult literature will have found it stated there are levels or states where a man becomes Omniscient, and yet, at the same time, it will be emphasized that no man is infallible. From the relative standpoint these two statements seem incompatible and the result is mystification, to say the least. But when properly understood both statements are true. The fact is, no man is omniscient on the relative level; and though the knowledge of such a one may be very great, transcending even the relative knowledge of any figure that has appeared upon the screen of history, yet beyond his attainment, whatever it may be, there lie further mysteries awaiting his resolution. In other words, We find no conceivable end to evolution. But while all this is true, there is another sense in which a man may Awaken to Omniscience, and may do so instantaneously. In fact, such an Awakening cannot be a matter of gradual attainment, for the Infinite is never Realized by progressive additions of finite manifolds. It is all a question of level or state. The SELF is All Knowledge and, as It encloses, but is not enclosed or restrained by, space, time, and causality, there is no question of development on this level, in the sense of progression by finite steps. He who has Realized himself as the SELF is at once Omniscient. But it should be remembered that the SELF is absolute Emptiness, Darkness, and Silence, from the relative standpoint. The SELF is the Knowledge whence all proceeds, but this Knowledge is not of the subject-object type nor anything that could be conceived within the cognitive framework of the latter. The Silence is All-Knowledge, while knowledge in the field of subjective-objective becomes, and of this it is impossible to predicate infallibility".
and another paragraph...
"Now, on the level of Meaning a man may Know with absolute certainty and yet express himself incorrectly when trying to fit his ideas within the already existing forms of expression. In this case, he shows himself to be quite fallible and yet Knows what he is talking about, however incorrect his expression may be. If careful discrimination is not employed, it is easy for the outer man, even though he has Awakened to Realization to fall into confusion at this point. Knowing the certainty that applies on the level where He really IS, then as outer man he attaches this certainty to his formal expressions and thus falls into error. Outer correctness, or approximation to correctness, must be acquired by effort, even though the man has attained to a high order of Realization. In formal knowledge, including all knowledge of things, whether gross or subtle, and all knowledge of relationships, processes, etc., technique is essential, including all possible methods of checking and control. Naturally, some men have gained more capacity in this than others and so, in matters falling in their respective fields, have relative authority not possessed by others. Thus, in a matter of formal or empiric knowledge, it may often happen that a man who has not reached beyond the egoistic or 'self-conscious' level can very easily correct another who is genuinely implanted in the Silence. The latter does have, however, decisive advantages when seeking mastery in any relative field. He can acquire knowledge in the relative sense in but a fraction of the time required by others, for H has the advantage of commanding perspective. But in any case, even for Him some effort and time are required. Transcendent Knowledge, or Knowledge on the level of Meaning, is acquired instantaneously and with certainty, but the attainment of relative knowledge always demands some time and effort, and never gives certainty".
I hope you find this useful in understanding how mistakes are made even by those of Realization.
Question: What is the value of a long-term meditation practice?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that for pure consciousness to be gained and supported the physiology needed to become robust, stable, and flexible. That the Samskaras, the stresses lodged in the physiology need to be burned up, unwound, lessened… Maharishi was once asked if a man could get enlightened in 10 minutes and he replied “yes but it would take 10 men to hold him down”. The idea of this is that it is better to systematically work over time and not force. The reason for this is that although it is rare sometime some individuals may become insane due to the intensive release of stress or suffer extensive agony.
In the Vedic literature there are writings about 108 holy ways of ‘transcending’ or experiencing higher states of consciousness and 8 unholy ways. The general idea of that statement appears to be that with all the options for spiritual growth available why take unnecessary risks. However, it is important to note that, transcendence can come through unexpected experiences, such as physical or mental trauma. If we have moments or openings into insights and experiences through traumatic experience that may be a gateway that helps us seek out a qualified spiritual teacher who can help us to understand what has transpired and follow a spiritually oriented life.
If we do take the practice of meditation seriously then over time we build a physiology that can support higher consciousness. In the end, spiritual literature, such as the Veda, Kashmir Shaivism, Christian, Buddhist, etc., usually state that enlightenment comes through Grace. That it is our spiritual practice that creates the space for that Grace to take place. No one comes into higher consciousness unless the Grace is there. Grace is earned by right spiritual practice like proper meditation. Once the physiology is stable it may be possible to attempt special practices to speed up the process but only under the guidance of a qualified master.
Question: RASA as taught by Ramaji and Ananda?
I have personally worked with Ramaji and know others who have had excellent experiences and were skillfully guided into higher consciousness through this technique.
I do not know how it works or why it does but for those who have done extensive spiritual work it may provide a way to complete the journey.
Blog: I love the old Zen story about life before and after enlightenment, before we chop wood and carry water and after we chop wood and carry water. This raises the question what is the difference before and after.
Spiritual seekers tend to have lots of questions around enlightenment, these questions are usually based on some expectations that stem from our unenlightened perspective that is based on stories we have read, religious teachings, meetings with saints, gurus, teachers, experience in meditation and a host of other influences.
For me the difference before and after is one of intimacy, with enlightenment being the ultimate intimate experience. This kind of intimacy is born out of oneness. Once all the conditioning and concepts fall away and the heart and mind finally surrender in that moment all is won precisely because all has been given up. You can’t get any more intimate then that.
Blog: “When a pickpocket meets a Saint all he sees are his pockets.” Some who come to a Teacher/Guru/Saint/Master come because they have an agenda, they want something and think it is the Teacher’s job to give it to them. In the Vedic teachings this type of relationship with a Master is considered legitimate but a lower path. My Master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once told us to “Deserve then Desire” so sometimes the Master may give what is desired, but it is far better to come to the Teacher with an open heart and mind seeking only spiritual teaching and Moksha – release from ignorance, liberation, Realization, Enlightenment.
Some who don’t get what they want become very upset with the Teacher but in reality, the Teacher gives what is needed to help the student in that moment to break free of their attachments. This can be a painful lesson for some. I know of two very wealthy men who became frustrated with their Master because they donated a considerable amount of money and when it wasn’t used how they thought it should be got angry and left the Master. They went to a world-famous Saint and secured a meeting with her. Upon telling them her of what had happened, she said to them “if your Master takes all your money and burns it, get down on your knees and thank him, now go back to him and ask for forgiveness.”
We should make wise choices when it comes to choosing a Teacher and remember the Master works with us out of compassion and does not need us in any way, they act in ways that may or may not meet our expectations but know they are doing what is best for us.
Question: What is non-duality?
Non-duality is consciousness without an object lived as the realization of your life, that there is One not a multiplicity. There are complex arguments around whether or not there is One or if there is multiplicity of which I won’t go into here. However, Shankara pretty much settled the question in the 8th century through rigorous logic and intellectual argument. All is One, there is only One without a second might be the short version of his answer. Suggest reading Shankara’s “Aparoksanubhuti”, his “Panchikaranaam” his “Vivekacudamani” and his “Upadesa Sahasri” for further intellectual understanding of this subject.
Question: What is a Mystic?
Throughout time the Mystic has restored faith in things beyond normal modes of understanding and perception through the process of self-surrender to Divinity. A Mystic is a person who is devoted to living a life of fullness and cognizes “truth” through spiritual growth and methods that are beyond the normal intellectual understanding.
“The doctrine of the Mystics recognizes an Unknowable, Timeless and Unnameable behind and above all things and not seizable by the studious pursuit of the mind. Impersonally, it is That, the One Existence; to pursuit of our personality it reveals itself out of the secrecy of things as the God or Deva, nameless though he has many names, immeasurable and beyond description through he holds in himself all description of name and knowledge and all measures of form and substance, force and activity.” – Sri Aurobindo
Blog: Once I took a dear friend and his wife to Mt. Shasta, he is a Pundit from India and felt drawn to the mountain. We drove up from the San Francisco area on a Friday for a three-day weekend. On Saturday morning, we drove up the mountain until the road stops where there once had been a ski lift, now a rough excuse for a parking lot. From there we hiked up to Sargent’s ridge and down a bit into the magnificent alpine space. We settled in for a moment to the side of the trail and my friend began to perform a Vedic ceremony to Lord Shiva. On the celestial level, there appeared a mirror image of the mountain above it in the sky, an upside-down version from our perspective. From it emanated beams of light connecting the two worlds, and upon those beams there rode thousands of celestial beings who began to fill the mountain valley as they gathered around the ceremony being performed. These were beings of light somewhat translucent and garbed simply though magnificently. They were tall, about twelve feet in our terms and some carried weapons like warriors of ancient times. Their presence was palpable, the air vibrated with a vital energy and light. When the ceremony finished the whole seen dissolved and all was normal, save for the three celestial's who walked back to the car with us and the one who spent the rest of the weekend looking after us. I asked my friends if they had seen what I had and they did.
Sometimes the things that are seen or cognized are not pleasant. Once I saw a rather evil looking phantasm and watched it rear up and bite a friend in his lower back. I yelled to him but it was too late, however fortunately it let go quickly and disappeared out of my sight. Many years later I was in one of Europe’s great art museums viewing a show of Hermes Bosch and other like-minded artists where one painting caught my eye. In the work, there was a perfect depiction of the creature I had seen attack my friend, the color, shape, form was exact. When I got back to the US I looked up the artist and found that he had been a Belladonna user. As Belladonna has psychotropic and hallucinogenic properties it was likely he had visions that included seeing the creature.
Question: What is the difference between the slow path and the fast path to enlightenment?
Everyone is on the “slow path” whether they are conscious of it or not. Some individuals have purposely chosen this method because they are more comfortable and do not wish to challenge themselves too much, it works well for where they are in their spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with this. Many teachers have taught this way as there is great beauty, patience, and love to be lived and enjoyed.
Being on the “fast path” just means that the methods used within the various teachings provide the opportunity become “enlightened” in one lifetime. There is not a guarantee but a shot at it. The traditional “fast path” methods of teaching are often Tantric in their teaching and lineage of teachers. Transcendental Meditation is a “fast path” teaching as are a number of the Tibetan Buddhist practices, the Nas teachings of India, and some Advaita teachings for example.
It should be noted that traditionally there are considered 108 holy ways of experiencing pure consciousness and 8 unholy. The unholy are considered as such because there is great risk in using those methods, risk of death, going insane, or getting sidetracked to the point where getting back on a true path is unlikely. Regardless of which one chooses it is best to go with the holy paths.
Question: In the state of enlightenment, when one has access to the supreme knowledge of truth; in a larger sense why can’t we solve society’s challenges or for that matter our own personal challenges? Is it all linked to Karma only?
These questions arise due to our concepts about what enlightenment is, those concepts are usually incorrect and stand between us and truth and reality. When we abandon concepts, we begin to appreciate life as it is and enjoy an unencumbered relationship with all. Maharishi used to tell us to “get enlightened then do what we want” which is a bit of a conundrum because with enlightenment the doer ceases to exist so who is there to do what. Once the doer is recognized as being the three gunas, as described in the Gita, we live a life in freedom. Living in this state of absolute freedom we find the universe to be operating perfectly, we accept what comes to us without judgement, whether or not what we used to view as “good” or “bad” comes we no longer resist; life is fuller and richer and every moment is appreciated. Sri Ramakrishna died of throat cancer, Jesus was crucified, Even with the great pain of his cancer Ramakrishna went on with his life giving selflessly to all who came to see him and Jesus asked God to forgive his tormentors. Work to rid yourself of concepts and live life in pure consciousness, living a life in pure consciousness is living life enjoying the highest knowledge, the highest knowledge is that which sees our Self in all things, and sees all things in the Self.
Question: Many yogis (at least the ones who are well known and we read about) have achieved their enlightenment in the early years of their life. Does that mean if we are into middle-age or older, it will be that much more difficult towards reaching enlightenment?
We should understand that enlightenment is not “achieved” seeing enlightenment as something to be achieved puts it outside of ourselves, something at a distance, this is not the case, not the truth of it. Given that there is no future, only now, there is no distance to go, no traveling, no movement involved. Rather it is when we come to a halt, a full stop, a surrendering of all our concepts, our minds then open and realization may take place.
Age is not a factor, because pure consciousness is the infinite underlying space of all and nothing, the pure being, it is omnipresent and the basis of all manifestation, and is not separate from the manifest so we find it available to contact and live in space and time independent of age or anything else. I have several friends who were in their fifties and sixties when they came into Realization. Age is no barrier to enlightenment, nor does it make it more difficult.
Question: How did you develop your mystical life?
My spiritual life unfolded in a natural and spontaneous way, it is something that has always been with me. Sometimes it has been intensely present but for the most part it has been in the background and is the backdrop of my life. Mystical experiences are not something that I consciously tried to have or create in my life, rather it is just the normal state of living.
We think things are mystical when we do not have knowledge and understanding sufficient to see the reasons for what is going on, what is or has happened to us so we call it mystical. It is a matter of perspective, for example prior to many scientific discoveries the origins of many diseases where attributed to “mystical” forces, but now we have shined the light of science and medicine on them and the mystery has dissolved.
Even though most religious traditions have writings about angels if someone claims to have seen one it is usually met with a hearty skepticism, yet we know from modern science there are multiple dimensions, many possible worlds. (see the url below for a great article from Scientific American on this). Our sensory perceptions are limited, for example we don’t normally see X-rays but they are there. In the same way, we may not normally see things that exist beyond our regular capabilities, but that does not mean they do not exist.
Unfortunately, some people are driven by a need for self-aggrandizement and make wild claims while others may be suffering from delusions produced by psychosis, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorders. To separate the fact from fiction requires diligent sharpening of our powers of perception and discernment, and years of spiritual work usually with qualified teachers.