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.