Wednesday, February 1, 2017

From ‘Ramana Maharshi’ by K Swaminathan


Sri Ramana is as typical a flower of Tamil culture with its rigorous intellectual precision, as Sri Ramakrishna is of Bengali culture with its emotional warmth, and Gandhiji of Gujarati culture with its brisk down-to-earth practicality.

“Religions – whether Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or Theosophy or any other system – can only take us to the one point where all religions meet, and no further. That one point is the understanding of the fact – in no mystical sense but in the most worldly and everyday sense and the more worldly and everyday and practical the better – that God is everything and everything is God.” But this face of the immanence of God is not to be merely intellectually comprehended but realized and experienced through continuous practice.

Paul Brunton thus describes the impact on him of the Maharshi’s silent presence: “I cannot turn my gaze away from him. My initial bewilderment, my perplexity at being totally ignored, slowly fade away as this strange fascination begins to grip me more firmly. But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind. One by one, the questions which I prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away. For it does not now seem to matter whether I solve the problems which hitherto troubled me. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest”. The primacy of living personality over doctrine, the experience attested to by the English journalist, is part of the Hindu tradition and has been affirmed recently by the Kanchi Acharya himself, who says: “No religion spreads because of its doctrines. People do not care much for doctrine. When there appears a man of outstanding goodness in life and conduct, filled with compassio0on and tranquility, people trust him the moment they set eyes on him, they accept his teaching because they are convinced that the doctrines upheld by such a man must be sound. On the other hand, a doctrine, however sound or true, has no appeal to common people, if its advocates fail in conduct.”

As long as there are vasanas in the mind, so long the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.

The ego-mind, controlled by breath regulation, can be destroyed once for all by ekachintana, aikyanusandhana, one-pointed dwelling on oneness. The mind, turned inward, kept alert and scanning its own form and nature, discovers that there is no such continuous entity as a separate mind, that one’s mind is only made up of thoughts, that all other thoughts spring from the ‘I’ thought, the source and the relentless upholder of the sense of separateness.
Searching for the source of the ‘I’-thought, the mind confronts and is overwhelmed by pure unbroken awareness, which is our true being.

Realizing the Self is only letting go the non-self. “Don’t worry about nadis, kundalinis or the six centres. The intricate maze of philosophy, instead of clarifying matters, only creates endless confusion. The Self is obvious and ever present. Why not remain as the Self? Why explain the non-self?” Religion itself he calls “a great game of pretending“. “The aim of all religions is to take us back to our pristine state of being-awareness-bliss. To teach this simple truth, so many schools, books, creeds, methods have come into being, because people want complexity. They want elaborate and puzzling things that give rise to dispute. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, within your grasp, right in your midst. This is the simple truth. But only a mature mind can grasp it in its nakedness. Instead of being and behaving as the Self and beginning a new life, people want to know all about heaven, hell, reincarnation and other mysteries, and the so-called religions pamper them. After all these wanderings you must return only to the Self. Then why not abide in the Self, right now, here? Leave off all this verbiage and be as you are, See who you are and remain as the Self, as awareness, free from birth, coming, going and returning. Why so many efforts and so much discipline to eradicate the illusory avidya?”

……. “A person who remembers the I within the heart is not concerned with questions of right and wrong. His actions are God’s and therefore are always right.” …….. “The antarmukhi, one whose mind is turned inwards, has no need of Sastra or scriptural authority. The Self is not in books. It is in us.” ……… “One must be ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of truth. The degree of renunciation is the measure of one’s progress. Desires cannot be weakened by yielding to them ……….Self-restraint is needed and it is strengthened by knowledge. Know that you are not the mind and that desires are in the mind. Knowing this helps to control them. Repeated attempts to desist from yielding, will, in due course, weaken the desires. Never forget your true nature as self awareness.”

“Self-reform automatically brings about social reform. Stick to self-reform, social reform will take care of itself. Acquire strength by surrender and you will find your surroundings improve in direct proportion to the strength acquired by you.”

Far from revealing truth,
Words only darken and conceal.
To let the truth shine of itself
Instead of being buried in words,
Merge in the hear both word and thought.     (525)

Since one’s own past effort it is
That has ripened into fate,
One can with greater present effort
Change one’s fate.                                          (692)

The boat moves in the water, but
Water should not enter it.
Though we live in the world, the world
Should not occupy our mind.                         (822)


From ‘Grist for the Mill. Awakening to oneness’ by Ram Dass. With Stephen Levine


In India when we meet and part we often say, “Namaste,” which means: I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides; I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the place within you where, if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.

……….to receive this transmission requires much more than the mind. It requires a desire in us – to use this birth in order to become who, in truth, we are. It requires a desire to become free of the kinds of clinging and attachment that keep distorting and narrowing our vision. It requires that we truly desire to know what we are doing here, what our function is here on Earth.

Meditation is a way of listening more and more deeply, so we hear from a more profound space, exactly how it is. To hear how it is, we must be open to it, thus the open heart.

……the Sixth Zen Patriarch reiterates, “Develop a mind which clings to naught.”

In Japan when a person is dying, a screen is placed at the foot of the bed showing the Pure Land of the Buddha. He can focus on that screen, so that as death occurs, the last thoughts are about reaching out.

In the Eastern tradition, the state of your consciousness at the last moment of life is so crucial that you spend your whole life preparing for that moment. ……….There is a story about an old Zen monk who was dying, who had finished everything and was about to get off the wheel. He was just floating away, free and in his pure Buddha-mind, when a thought passed by of a beautiful deer he had once seen in a field. And he held on to that thought for just a second because of its beauty, and immediately he took birth again as a deer. It’s as subtle as that.

As we get more disciplined, we keep the energy moving toward that point where form and formless meet. Were we to stay in the formless, our bodies – which we left behind – would disintegrate, for there would be no consciousness to keep them going. There are all gradations, and some beings are 99 percent in that ocean of formlessness and leave behind just a thread in form. There was a being walled up in a cave for twenty years; every year devotees would go to see him and have darshan with what was a skeleton, except the hair and the nails kept growing. He just left a thread behind to give darshan to the devotees.

How do you interpret dreams?
In general, I’m inclined to suggest we shouldn’t do too much analytic work in this dance, because our minds play too many tricks. If the dream has an immediate significance that affects you emotionally, work with it……… Don’t sit and analyze or wonder or get preoccupied with it. It all has meaning. It’s all work you’re doing on other planes. It is significant spiritually, but you don’t always have to understand it. ……….its all just more stuff. Go for broke, awake totally.


The process of purification is preparing ourselves as containers to handle more and more energy, more and more love – and for that we need quieter and quieter minds, and stronger bodies, and more open hearts.


How do you open your heart?
A good exercise is to do deep breathing in and out of the heart as though it had nostrils, right in and out of the heart. You can use that breath to ferret out those places in you where there is a deep sadness or some deep attachments that are slowing your progress.


What part does diet play in spiritual work?
…..at different stages of our sadhana, different diets are indicated. We start to be pulled toward them. These are not based on morality. They are based on what vibratory rates we can ingest and transmute. And there are stages where we can’t handle meat because of the vibratory rate, the rajasic, active quality of it, the hot intense passion of the stuff. We can’t get calm through it. So our diet starts to lighten up, to fish and eggs, and vegetables and grains, dairy products and fruit. When we can’t handle that, pretty soon we might get down to grains and dairy products, vegetables and fruit. Then there are times when we can’t handle anything but fruit. And then we may go through a stage where we are so connected and clear and beyond it that we can eat anything again.
Certain diets will help purify the system……….. Simple vegetarian diets often help. But don’t get into a good-and-evil trip about it. ……..I must honestly tell you that people have been liberated eating anything, so the game is clearly not going to be that simple.


From ‘I'm over all that. And other confessions’ by Shirley MacLaine


…..there was much for me to learn in India. The Hindu religion had a lot to teach me in terms of the spiritual sciences: yoga, meditation, diet, reincarnation, and the power of passive resistance

……..Thornton Wilder’s quote in The Matchmaker: “Money is like manure. It should be spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

When I’ve worked with brilliant actors who seem so real when they act a part, I’ve come to realize that underneath they are real to themselves

The price of freedom is sometimes loneliness. We all know that. But how many of us have found loneliness with someone? That’s the real sadness.

Hollywood is not the most conducive place to develop friendships. On the other hand, I’ve found it to be my most thorough teacher.

The secrets of the universe are in a dog’s eyes. Their eyes convey the patient wisdom of a collective understanding.

As Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created the problem.”

After so much searching and travelling, I cant get over the belief that the philosophic and spiritual centres of ancient Greece, Egypt and India were superior to our mechanistic, technological, and cynically skeptical culture of today.


From ‘Runner. A short story about a long run’ by Lizzy Hawker


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creates life. To be still and still moving – this is everything
-          Do Hyun Choe

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and
strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary
negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime.
Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from
the beginning think what may be the end
-          Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps

Life is crying out for our presence. As Alan Watts so eloquently puts it: ‘For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones – for it is the secret of proper training. No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.’

I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be
-          Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

As Carl Sagan said: ‘We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.’

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
-          Lao Tzu

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
-          Buddha (attrib.)


Jeff Lowe, a legendary mountain climber, has said, ‘Climbing can be like a meditation, where everything else falls away and you’re so focused for a long period of time that when you come out of that, you usually have a better perspective.’

From ‘The Heat and Dust project. The broke couple's guide to Bharat’ by Devapriya Roy, Saurav Jha


Outside, the bus station buzzes with activity. Already our ears seem attuned to the familiar mixed noises: travelers, conductors, salesmen, eccentrics. Among the smells that stream in, the most prominent is a stench of urine. Over the months we will recognize this as the unifying trait of bus stands across the country.

…..Robert Svoboda’s Aghora. Apparently, the only sense spirits employ is that of smell – the reason why across cultures incense is employed to show respect to ancestors or household gods and goddesses. Now, overripe jackfruit and bananas and strong oily pickles have a fecund musk that attract spirits – mostly naughty ones at that – to themselves. And with naughty spirits at play, cacophony ensues. Bad things might happen.

Gujarat is, of course, famous for ice cream …..

…..jodi hao sujon, tentul paatay no ‘jon (If your heart’s in the right place/ Nine people can be accommodated on a tamarind leaf)

….the aroma of chickpeas, that most favoured ingredient in Gujarat.

It took me quite a while to become an experienced vacationer, because travelling was not something you did much in Russia, at least not by your choice. Because we were not allowed to move freely, we used to approach our vacation time with a different attitude. We used to brag about places we couldn’t go. A typical vacation discussion sounded something like this:
Alexei: I can’t go to Miami this year!
Nikolai: Miami? You call that a vacation? I can’t go to Paris!
-          Comedian Yakov Smirnoff

….Mathura is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in India. If in the age of the Buddha, it is recorded that Mathura suffered from bad roads, dust storms and an infestation of wild dogs, between the second century BC and third century AD, it was a leading metropolis on the trade route, renowned for its magnificence, prosperity and the generosity of its populace.

…..Mathura ki beti/ Mathura ki gai/ Bhaag phute/ Toh baahar jai.’ (A daughter of Mathura/ Its milch cow too/ Only if her luck runs out/ Will she look for a city new.)

Not only is it a rich and ancient civilization but you wouldn’t BELIEVE what you can get in the chemists without a prescription.
-          Dexter Mayhew in a letter to Emma Morley……..


Sair kar duniya, ki gaafil zindagaani phir kahaan?
Zindagi gar kuchh rahi, toh raujavaani phir kahaan?

Wander the world, ay drifter, where will you get this life again?
And even if life remained, where would you find this youth again?

-          Immortal lines by Ismail Merathi. Quoted by Rahul Sankrityayan in his famous essay ‘Athato Ghumakkad Jigyasa’.

From ‘On the Wheels’ by Y S Hirlekar

[Yashwant Shankar Hirlekar’s 6000 miles of cycle travel in India and Sri Lanka in 1935]

…..Portugese Territory ….Goa ……streets are quite full of bars and toddy shops; and no one here seems to be more sober than when drunk.
Oddly enough the Roman Catholic Churches flourish alongside the pubs.

……..Gersoppa Falls …..In point of abruptness of fall it is said to stand foremost in the world.

…..Colombo ……The people are mostly Buddhists. But the advent of the Portugese has made many Singhalese take to Christian names without conversion to that faith.

…Ceylon ….The scenery on the highlands is picturesque; but the tea and rubber plantations make it somewhat monotonous……The workers in these plantations, which are mostly European concerns, are all Tamilians, as no Singhalese will work under men of other castes – so independent and proud are they. Wherever a Singhalese accepts any job, he at once develops the feeling that he is a manager and begins to issue orders. Sometimes he does not listen even to his superiors-an attitude that makes him unwelcome as a worker and brings about his speedy dismissal.
The Singhalese male workers are lazy when compared to their women. There are several instances of women supporting the idle men from the fruits of their hard work.

Jaffna ….The people here are practically Tamils….The place is a Roman Catholic See and missionaries practically control the education. Hence most of the Hindu boys and girls who attend the Christian colleges get converted; but the parents have in several instances retained their religion. The poverty of the people is yet another potent factor in the conversion of a large number of Hindus here into Christians.


From ‘The Turk who loved Apples and other tales of losing my way around the world’ by Matt Gross


In Vietnam, hierarchy is built into the language. Everyone is either your superior or your inferior, and there’s no one word for “you.”

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
-          Mark Twain.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the travelers is unaware.”
-          Martin Buber

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
-          J.R.R. Tolkien.

….. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read but one page.”