Why undertake the practice of meditation? For some it is because there seems to be some force deep within moving them in some inexplicable direction. For others, it may simply be because they have come to understand that there are potential physical and mental health benefits to be derived. For some, it is the realization that it is perhaps the one thing that they can do to help humanity and the planet, as well as themselves. This last idea is that upon which the concept of Bodhisattva is founded.
The great Buddha Shantideva noted that:
"Relative and absolute,
These two truths are declared to be.
The absolute is not within the reach of intellect,
For intellect is grounded in the relative.
And he also said…
When real and non-real both
Are absent from before the mind,
Nothing else remains for the mind to do
But rest in perfect peace, from concepts free."
In other words, the task at hand is for the mind to be left as it is, free and untrammeled, simply aware, no longer caught up entangled in thoughts and theories and the grasping reification of self and substance. (Reification: making something real, bringing it into being, making more concrete or real)
But how do we accomplish this monumentally impossible task with the mind when in fact the mind cannot accomplish it, cannot grasp the unknowable.
We tend to believe that we can learn anything, and that if you cannot explain “it” through scientific method then it must be a fiction. Yet, here Shantideva has made it clear that the normal process of learning will not work.
There is an old Zen story of a great Chinese scholar who had mastered all the scriptures and could espouse them freely quoting as needed an answer to any question. One day he met a Zen master who asked him a simple question he could not answer. The scholar left the master and burned all his books realizing the futility of his studies. The scholar then took up residence in a graveyard tending the place and feeling a bit lost. One day a stone rolled down the hill striking some bamboo making a hollow sound and upon hearing that he had realization.
What was at work here in this moment of a note reaching the ear was there something special about that sound, no, to think so is to become mired down, yet again, in delusion.
As Zen masters have said if you go deep into this question you have the same possibility as that scholar to realize your essential nature. The question is how then do we Invoke Reality? If study fails us, and leaves us wandering the earth like a ghost with nothing solid beneath our feet, what is the secret if there is a secret at all.
In the Tradition that I belonged to, that of the Sankaracharya of Jyotirmath brought to the west by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi we have a story about one of our lineage named Trotakacharya.
Trotakacharya was a simple man who attended his master with great devotion and in the end when his master was passing from the earth was declared to be the worthiest of all the disciples to lead. There were at that time many great and learned men following the master but they were all passed over for the humble attendant. What was his secret?
The Buddha once gave a sermon on Vulture Peak, the story goes that he simply picked up a flower and twirled it in his fingers. All present were silent, only Kashapa smiled and the Buddha said, “I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the formless form, the mysterious gate of Dharma. Beyond the words and beyond all teachings to be transmitted, I now pass this on to Kashapa.” What secret caused Kashapa to smile?
Sri Aurobindo said in his commentary on the Isa Upanishad:
“In Nature, all things that exist animate or inanimate, are becoming’s of the one Self of all. All these different creatures are one indivisible existence. This is the truth each being has to realize.
When this unity has been realized by the individual in every part of his being he becomes perfect, pure, liberated from ego and the dualities, possessed of the entire divine felicity.
With this an idea is placed before us, the idea of a One and stable Spirit inhabiting and governing a universe of movement and of the forms of movement. On this conception, the rule of a divine life for man is founded, enjoyment of all by renunciation of all through the exclusion of desire.
Here too is the justification of works and of the physical life on the basis of an inalienable freedom of the soul, one with the Lord, amidst all the activity of the multiple movement.
All world is a movement of the Spirit in itself and is mutable and transient in all its formations and appearances; its only eternity is an eternity of recurrence, its only stability a semblance caused by certain apparent fixities of relation and grouping.
Every separate object in the universe is, in truth, itself the whole universe presenting a certain front or outward appearance of its movement. The microcosm in one with the macrocosm.
Yet in their relation of principle of movement and result of movement they are continent and contained, world in world, movement in movement. The individual therefore partakes of the nature of the universal, refers back to it for its source of activity, is as we say, subject to its laws and part of cosmic Nature.”
Here we are told the truth of the reality of life, it can be summed up in three Sanskrit words: Satyum Ritam Brihat or in English; the Truth, the Right, the Vast. This short phrase is referring to the Ultimate truth, the Correctness of understanding, and the Infinite oneness of all that is and is not.
Meditation in general represents a knowledge and tradition that dates from time immemorial and Maharishi Mesh Yogi’s version is one among the many. Maharishi told us that this knowledge, the knowledge of how to reconnect with our true selves comes whenever it is needed to reset mankind on the path of truth.
There is the claim that science has killed off the mystical, but because we now understand some of the fundamental workings of “life, the universe and everything in it” does that make it any less mystical.
Say you are a person who regularly leaps forward from the stoplight, this is just your normal way of driving, precise, on top of it, and sharp. Then one day you find yourself spaced out, off thinking of something else or perhaps nothing at all when the light changes and you miss that red to green moment, you just sit there. Then you notice and as you notice you see a car in the intersection who has run the red-light. You would have been right there, but for some reason you are not and realize this is a totally different moment, a moment where you stop and thank god for saving you. And, there it is, this simple thing, were you just spaced out or was it an act of grace?
What happens when something bad happens to someone good or the opposite? How do you see that, do you judge God good or bad? We are it seems a product of our conditioning, our concepts, we tend to see everything in such a way as to conform it to our ideas and beliefs. In the field of psychology this is called “Cognitive Dissonance Theory”.
My father died unexpectedly when I was fourteen years old; the life I knew was over and whatever the future held was uncertain. Fortunately, I belonged to the Boy Scouts and this gave me the opportunity to be with a diversity of young men and adults. Our Scout troop got us outdoors a lot to experience canoeing, hiking, backpacking, and horse trips.
One summer we took to hiking about 60 miles of the John Muir trail in California, it was a glorious trip. For our last day, we made camp in a valley with an easy hike out to end our adventure. The valley was magnificent, perhaps a mile wide with one end open and surrounded on three sides by spectacular mountains all above tree line. We made camp not far from an alpine lake amongst the rocks and a few weather-beaten trees. In the late afternoon, a storm of epic proportions amassed at the far end of the valley and began its march toward us. This was the real thing and quite serious to be caught out in. Lightning and thunder, the sky dark and foreboding. We were helpless in its path and everyone began prepping for the coming onslaught, tube tents went up with sleeping bags placed in side and backpacks closed up and tightened down, food stored away and the fire stoked up. But, not me I knelt in quite prayer while the other boys scrambled to secure their belongings. I asked God to somehow spare us the wrath of the storm and I was given a clear answer to not worry, that the storm would not unleash it fury upon us.
I did not setup my tube tent and just stood and watched the storms advance, it was truly an incredible and unforgettable sight. Some of the other boys wondered why I did nothing and I just said that while I did not know how the storm would pass us by, just that it would. There was something in the confidence I had that caused some astonishment but also a belief by a couple of my friends that it would be so. The tempest continued and soon there was a wall of water pouring down just a few feet away with an occasional drop of rain hitting our camp. Then as if by magic a wind came up out of the north and hit the maelstrom pushing it to the south of us, and it did indeed move but only just enough that when it continued down the valley it circled our position by just a few feet. Once it had passed us it moved back to its original path and continue on its way. We were spared without but a few drops hitting us.
That was one of the moments in my life where I felt very close to God, I knew he listened to us and took care of us with great love. Later in my life my faith did waver many times, I did not understand the harsh things that happened and lost my way a few times but that spark in my heart of hearts was there later to be fanned in to the full flame of oneness with all. is the claim that science has killed off the mystical, but because we now understand some of the fundamental workings of “life, the universe and everything in it” does that make it any less mystical. Say you are a person who regularly leaps forward from the stoplight, this is just your normal way of driving, precise, on top of it, and sharp. Then one day you find yourself spaced out, off thinking of something else or perhaps nothing at all when the light changes and you miss that red to green moment, you just sit there. Then you notice and as you notice you see a car in the intersection who has run the red-light. You would have been right there, but for some reason you are not and realize this is a totally different moment, a moment where you stop and thank god for saving you. And, there it is, this simple thing, were you just spaced out or was it an act of grace?
I believe our lives are full of mystery and magic we just don’t see it yet it is happening all the time. Later in life my first wife and I were struggling, the whole marriage was just off, no matter what I did to try and fix it, it failed. I was a Deacon at our church and had taken to talking with our priest about the situation. He stepped up and sent me to the Pecos Benedictine Abby at the churches expense so I would have time to think and pray about the situation at home.
The Abby was unique in that aside from its somewhat remote location and the exquisite beauty of the surrounding landscape it was the home to both Monks and Nuns. This was a rarity within the Catholic church, almost unheard of and they were Charismatic in their practice. The Nuns had separate quarters in their own building but were participants in the Abby’s day to day operations and worship.
I was heartily welcomed by the monastic community and began my retreat with two things I hoped to sort out and understand, first what had happened to my marriage and second I wanted to know if the transubstantiation was if in fact the wine and bread became the actual body and blood of Christ or was it just symbolic.
I took my meals in silence and sat long hours in the chapel doing my TM and in prayer. The Abby had an excellent ecclesiastical library and I spent part of my time seeking answers amount the stacks. Priests in Catholicism are forbidden from giving the Holy Sacrament to non-Catholics. But, due to the number of non-Catholics who came to the Abby they had taken to bending the rules somewhat and during communion would bless the bread and wine and then set them on the alter allow each person at the service to come up and serve themselves thus getting around the prohibition.
On the third day of my retreat I was deep into my contemplation of the transubstantiation as I went to the alter to take communion. This time instead of lifting the cup to my lips I tore off a piece of the fresh baked loaf and dipped it into the wine, this is not an uncommon practice but not my usual way of doing things. I put the wine soaked bread into my mouth and began to chew it on my way back to my pew. As I sat down I noticed that my chewing had become more difficult, which I thought strange give the only thing in my mouth was wine soaked bread, but the chewing got harder and harder, and I realized it was as if I was gnawing one a piece of meat. I was wonder struck at that possibility and quietly pulled the bread out of my and examined it. It was flesh, it was gristle, thunderstruck I just stared at it for some time. Not quite sure what to do I put it back in my mouth and contemplated this miracle. I was afraid that if I brought this to the attention of the Priest all kinds of things might happen. This might end up being examined by some Vatican committee and I would be cross examined. The whole thing might drag on for years. I would be ostracized by some and revered by others of which neither possibility appealed to me. This was an answer to my prayer and contemplation and was for me alone, a moment of profound grace.
The next day was in my room, or cell as monastics refer to it, still searching within myself for understanding about my marriage difficulties when I heard a voice or perhaps a clear thought that told me to look up Matthew 13 in the Bible. This is the parable of the Sower, it speaks of a man who goes out into his field and begins spreading seeds. Some seeds fall on good ground and some do not. The moment I read that the situation of my marriage became clear, there was no blame, the foundation it was set on was a ground that would not to bear healthy fruit.
Two years after my divorce I learned that my wife was schizophrenic, that due to that disease we never stood a chance. I could hold no blame nor give it. I only feel sadness for her and the life she ended up having.
There are difficulties in life but they are often opportunities for us to experience mystical moments of transformation and wonderment. This takes trust, patience, perseverance and downright hard work. In Sanskrit, it is called Tapas. Tapas means, action, work, austerity, spiritual effort, warmth, heat and fire. It is about the effort needed to achieve the goal of Enlightenment. We want the flashy experiences, we want to be the center of attention but we don’t want to surrender to the truth of what it takes, and it takes work, we must want it and want it like a drowning man wants air. The irony is that when we surrender, we live a rich full life, we get it all, but only by giving it all up.
Many years later I was sitting in meditation when I heard a voice so audible I couldn’t tell if it was in my mind or elsewhere. If my life had not already been one of numerous mystical experiences I would have been seeking a psychologist’s guidance. The voice simply called my name once, then nothing. A month later the voice again called my name once, and again a month later. This went on for six months, hearing my name called in a distinctive voice that I did not recognize.
I went to a meditation retreat which was fun and an opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new acquaintances. At one lunch was sitting at a table with a woman I had once been engaged to who had later married a good friend. Another woman came and sat with us she was quite beautiful and very sharp of mind, while I found her attractive I was not interested in dating anyone. I had a history of picking women to date and marry that comprised the series of disasters that had been my love life and give up on trying a few years earlier. I ran into that woman several more times at the retreat and enjoyed her company but left it at that. On the last day, I had packed and was ready to leave save for dropping my room key at the office. I walked to the office window and as no one was there I waited, then there it was again that voice calling my name. I just ignored it, at least until it repeated and then repeated louder. Quite startled I turned around and there was that women I had met saying my name. I realized it had been her voice I had been hearing all those months. We exchanged contact information and while I was amazed I really did not want to get to know her while at the same time thinking this was someone I should pay attention to.
A short time later we met at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco for tea, as we both worked in high-tech we had a lot in common but I was still quite nervous about the whole dating thing. However, I thought that given all the trouble the universe had gone to I should see where it went. We started dating on a regular basis. One evening she and a girlfriend had gone to Oakland to Yoshi’s a well-known restaurant and jazz club for a girls’ night out. Sitting at home I found myself quite tuned into her and saw in my mind that a man was paying way too much attention to them for me to be comfortable. I called her cell phone and told her to tell the black guy in the green jacket with the gold earring to buzz off. She was astonished as that was what was going on and thought I must be in the restaurant. She realized I wasn’t and that was the beginning of a long series of amazing insights ending in marriage.
Unlike the movies where a marriage signals “happy ever after” ours was a struggle, at times a real hell. Both of us suffered and we fought, by god did we fight. After nearly ten years of that we both were ready to give up. Divorce though not yet discussed was eminent.
I found out that Sri Karunamayi the Saint from India was coming to Palo Alto and as my wife and I met her a number of times I suggested we go to her retreat. This idea was categorically rejected, but on the day of the retreat as I was getting into the car she jumped in the car with me though maintained an icy silence throughout the drive. Upon arriving she took off and went into the building ahead of me and to the opposite side of the room.
Sri Karunamayi, at her retreats, gives blessings and listens to the needs, hopes and dreams of her devotees. She is kindness incarnated. At each retreat, she offers individual blessings and at the beginning of the day 3X5 cards are handed out for you to fill out with your concerns and requests. That day I wrote on the bottom of my card “please save marriage” when it was my turn to go for my blessing my wife appeared as if from nowhere and fell into Sri Karunamayi’s lap crying. Sri Karunamayi pickup my card and pointed to what I had written. She pointed at my writing and said “I will fix this, I will take care of it” …. That was many years ago and my wife and I are very much together. Sri Karunamayi did indeed fix it, within a week almost all our issues had disappeared and when we did have some problem we felt that if such grace had been given us then we ought to figure it out and make it work.
The problem of clairvoyance is not in the seeing or what is seen but in that we live with the illusion our minds are closed to anyone but ourselves. This is not the case, none-the-less we should be respectful of this and only speak up to someone we know well enough to not shock or perhaps to save a life.
Many years ago, I was highly tuned into my girlfriend at the time. She told a friend of hers who was a nurse about this and her friend was incredulous so she decided to test me one evening over diner. She had hurt her left arm and demanded I tell her what was wrong with it. I thought this to be rather rude not being one to give demonstrations. She mocked me and was quite annoying about it so I “looked” and saw that she had a hairline fracture about a half inch down from the elbow on the bottom side of the bone. She got very angry and said in no uncertain terms that was not the case because the arm had been X-rayed and nothing of the kind had shown up. That was the last time I saw or spoke to her. Not hearing from her for a couple of months I asked my girlfriend how she was and it turned out that her arm did not heal, did not feel better so an MRI was done and it revealed a hairline fracture exactly as I had seen and told her about. She just couldn’t take it, it was too much for her, she couldn’t bear the thought that someone could read her that way.
Sometimes good comes from speaking up, once a friend and I were conversing and their friend was with us and I saw that she had a lump in her right breast. I wasn’t sure if I should speak up or not but decided that at worst she would just think me a nutter. I said to her that while she didn’t know me at all I sometimes saw things that most people were not aware of and told her of the lump. She thanked me and said she would get a checkup. I found out later that this intervention had most likely saved her life. She had the lump and it was removed found to be cancerous but caught in time.
Another time a friend’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and had an operation to remove that tissue. I could see that they had failed to get all of it and that it would grow again. I told my friend and he went ballistic on me, very angry, even though I had known him for over twenty years. He did not speak to me for two years and did not tell his wife what I said for some time. I found out later when he called me one day to apologize that he had come forth with his wife and she was very upset with him for withholding that information. Regrettably the cancer had spread again and she was going through chemo. Last I heard she took a number of months off from work so they could spend some time together in case there was no recovery.
Most religious and spiritual traditions have those that see, in ancient India they are called Rishis which translates into the English word Seer. In that tradition, a seer Rishi “sees” the whole and are credited with bringing out the fine points of spiritual life through cognition and the use of their powers of discernment and discrimination as well as celestial perception.
Religions are replete with stories about seers and healers, they seem to go hand in hand. Once one sees a disturbance in the physiology, some damage, then that opens an opportunity for healing, for wellness, for wholeness. Healing may be through modern medicine or various older traditional practices such as Ayurveda, Allopathy, Shamanism, Prayer, special Mantras, etc. The healing arts can for purposes of discussion be classified into two types, the higher and the lower. All these forms have their success stories and their failures. Today, for example, vaccines have saved millions from horrible diseases while at the same time some believe they may be the cause of various hear-to-for unexplained maladies. If you break your leg there is little hesitation about going to the hospital and having it reset. Cancer is a tough one, some types are being successfully dealt while others, for some reason, the modern cure either doesn’t work or isn’t trusted.
The highest form of healing is the miracle. Healing of this nature happen in an unexplainable way, or we might say it is not understood how or why the healing took place, we just know it did. Naturally this is the preferable method of getting well but it is rare or appears to be rare. How do you arrange a miracle? The word spontaneous describes this perfectly but, is it actually?
My experience is that when consciousness is open not only do we see clearly but we also see potential leverage points that can be engaged to create change. The form that this usually takes is that of a space opening up, this is a transcendent space, it is empty or seemingly so. In that space a thought, very subtle, more like a refined feeling takes place or is taken, created, illumined, (in Sanskrit it is called a Sankalpa) and let go of. This is a cause the effect of which is healing. The swiftness of the healing is determined by the level of pure consciousness, the state of consciousness of the person taking the thought, the higher the consciousness the more force the thought has. There is also karma involved, if the damage to be healed is the result of extensive karma then the time-frame for healing may take longer or not happen in this life time. The space that opens is actually one of fullness but there is not the movement associated with manifested creation as it is “That” from which becomes creation.
Once a student of mine and his cousin came to see me and I noticed that while she was her usual self, there was some physical discomfort. There was clear trauma to her ribs and clavicle so I asked her about it. She had cracked a rib and damaged her shoulder in an accident. In that moment, the space opened and I asked her if she would like to heal. After taking the Sankalpa for her healing she felt fine, the pain had left. She felt so good that she went skiing a couple days later; she fell and had be taken off the mountain by the ski patrol and to the hospital where an x-ray and examination show a badly torn ACL. She was scheduled for surgery two days later and the doctors told her to expect to be laid up for some time. She called me and told me what had happened and asked if there was any possibility of her leg getting healed, she said she would get a ride to come and see me if there was any chance at all. In that moment, the mystical healing space opened again and I told her there was no need to come in person that it would be alright. She went in for her scheduled surgery and the orthopedic surgeon after reviewing the initial x-rays ordered an MRI do to the severity of the damage. When the MIR’s were reviewed there were no traces of any problems to the leg, she told me the surgeon was at a loss to explain what had happened. She checked out and went home without a trace of difficulty. This type of full and immediate cure is rare, usually it is more about seeing and identifying the problem and then using conventional medicine to remedy the issue.
Celestial perception is the name given to the experience of seeing into other worlds dimensions, heavens, subtle states, things that most people do not ordinarily apprehend. My teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, taught us that “knowledge is structured in consciousness” needless to say when I first heard this I did not understand what it meant. As we progress in living more and more in pure consciousness it is found that what we need to know, we know when we need to know it. That which is important becomes a thought form in our minds, it is distinguishable from regular thoughts by its clarity, its spontaneity, a certain subtle force, it is always positive in nature, and it is true. It is truth, it always turns out to be so. In the beginning, I did not trust these type of thoughts, it took many years for me to recognize the different nature of them and to accept them. Spontaneous cognition of truth is humbling, very humbling because we want to own that and make it ours and it is a gift of grace. The ego tries to take that over but that never works out well.
At times, what can be done is limited or only gives a reprieve for a short period of time. A woman was visiting with another friend who was suffering from complications stemming from diabetes and had been in constant pain for years. Like so many she had spent a number of years taking care of an elderly parent who had recently passed on without help from other family members and had suffered that way as well. As we were sitting together the space opened and the request was made. Later I received contact from my friend who told me that the women woke up in the morning pain free for the first time in years. It didn’t last however, she soon became bogged down in it again. It seems that the karma was too strong, at least for someone of my abilities and the disease to far along, while it could be knocked back it was not cured.
The second half of my Transcendental Meditation Teacher Training Course was held on the island of Majorca Spain. Upon arriving at the hotel in Majorca after the highly questionable flight with Capital Airways a charter out of LAX that departed at some obscure hour of the morning, we found that nothing was ready, no hotel staff, then two women arrived, Rikki and Ann, they had been sent to deal with us, it was now just after midnight New Year’s morning and we were tired, worn out, frazzled, and yet excited to be there.
Rikki and Ann were immediately overwhelmed and trying to figure out how to deal with us as efficiently as possible, realizing that this situation was a bit on the hopeless side I jumped behind the counter and threw myself into the task of helping to deal with it. With the three of us going at it we had the hotel filled to the brim and everyone otherwise sorted out.
Come morning everyone somehow found the dining facilities and somehow a breakfast materialized. Then came a brief meeting where the question was asked about what our meditation program should be. Maharishi had gone into silence and no one seemed to have any instructions of a concrete nature. In the end, we were told to just go and meditate and we would see Maharishi when he came out of silence on the 12th of January.
In my case I quickly settled into 10 hours of program during the day fitted around meals, some walk and talk with new made friends, followed by meditation at night until I crashed. This totaled up to around 18 to 20 hours per 24. Somewhere along the line celestial perception kicked in big time.
There were little vignettes of it, long periods, and some rather dramatic moments, like when talking with some friends and one of them began to radiate light that then spun out until all dissolved into it and I was looking out across space to the outside of the hotel, which was interesting as there was a wall and a curtained window that would normally prevented that. But, there across the road on a small hill I could see sheep grazing with their Shepard. The detail was astounding and I noticed that the sheep had tails and that was when I decided I must be hallucinating because all the sheep I had seen in the States did not have tails.
The light began to diminish and the room reassembled itself as did the people in it, and I found myself laughing with everyone looking at me in an interesting way. I told them what had happened and one guy walked over to the window opened the drapes and there on the hill across the way were the sheep exactly as I had seen them. I was as amazed as anyone in the room and I learned that in the States sheep’s tails are docked, not left long like in Spain at the time.
There were many such perceptions but I will confine myself to sharing one other. One evening I was in the hallway later then I should have been and a glowing being of some king was moving slowly along past the rooms headed my direction. I didn’t stick around but just went in for the evening.
Maharishi came out of silence and we had a meeting with him and asked us about out programs, and it turned out that most of us were doing long programs. He was clearly taken back at finding this out and cut us back somewhat. When I mentioned how many hours I was doing I was told to only do around 8 to 10 hours.
A few days later he was asking about experiences and when it was my turn at the urging of my friends I told him about seeing the glowing "light-being" moving through the hall. He asked how big was it and I fumbled and said “it wasn’t very big it was about your size”. There was an audible gasp in the room and Maharishi sat up very straight and said, “big enough” then proceeded to give us a lecture on stature.
I have enjoyed "celestial perception" all these years and have no doubts left around the subject, since my awaking they run about the same, not much difference then from before and I think that is perhaps somehow important.