Thursday, October 30, 2008

21.Sri Ramakrishna (SR), continued (third installment ) ......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

Sometimes during that time period, Mathur, the rich proprietor of the temple complex at Dakshineswar, had a vision. SR was pacing up and down the verandah, absorbed in a spiritual mood. Unknown to him, Mathur was watching from his mansion. Suddenly, Mathur came running from his mansion, bowed, clasped the feet of this poor, insignificant, temple priest, and started weeping. When he became collected, he told:” Father, as you came forward walking in this direction, I saw you distinctly as my Mother installed and worshipped in the temple, and immediately you turned about in the opposite direction, I saw you as Mahadeva Himself( Lord Siva, see footnote to previous post ). I thought first it was an optical illusion. I rubbed my eyes well and looked, but saw the same thing.”

He had no teacher (Guru) during the first four years of his Sadhana(spirtual practices ), his mind became his teacher. He had repeated visions of a young man,looking like him, coming out of his body, and instructing him.

Then two teachers appeared on the scene. First in 1861, a woman renunciant, called Brahmani. She stayed with him for six years, and taught him all the disciplines prescribed in the sixty-four main Tantras ( a system of Hindu religious philosophy, which allows worshipping of Goddess Kali, one of several forms of Divine Mother ). All these practices are difficult to accomplish. "In trying to practice which, most of the aspirants go astray. But I got through them by the Mother’s grace.” He got eight miraculous powers, as a result of those practices,but he never used them ( because such powers are often a hindrance to God-Realization)

In 1864, a tall, fearless, wandering monk, who never stayed in a place for more than three days ( to avoid attachment with a place ), arrived at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, where SR was a priest. He practiced a different system of Hindu philosophy, called Advaita Vedanta. This system is different than Tantra, which SR had been perfecting under the guidance of Brahmini. In this system only God is real, everything else is illusion. Thus, world was an illusion, and so were the gods and goddesses ( such as Mother Kali, whom SR worshipped). Prayers, rites, rituals, ceremonies were meaningless to him. He had realized Absolute (God or Brahman) after forty years of all-renouncing austerities. He spent most of his leisure time in meditation.

Totapuri had a glance at young SR, and was struck by something in his face. He studied SR carefully. He realized, that there was a fit aspirant, who could be taught Vedanta. Then he asked SR, whether he would like to learn the mysteries of Vedanta. SR, said that he has to consult his mother. After consulting with Mother ( instead of his real mother, he went into the temple and talked to the image of Kali, the Divine Mother), he agreed. As a precondition to learn Vedanta, SR had to become a Sanyasi (give up the world).

To be continued

Saturday, October 25, 2008

20. Sri Ramakrishna (SR), continued ( second installment)......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

Talking about his Sadhana days, he said:" …..I had no sleep at all for six long years. The eyes lost the power of winking….. I had no idea of the passing of the time and was not at all conscious of the body. I stood before a mirror and put a finger into my eyes to see whether the eyelids close, they did not. ……I became alarmed and wept complaining to the Mother. " Mother, is this the result of calling on Thee……..Thou have given this terrible disease to this body? Do reveal thyself to me….” (God is practiced as Mother, in those parts of India)

An intense longing for God drove him. He was not mad but helpless. Anguish in his heart ( because he was separated from God , whom he worshipped as Mother) transcended his power of endurance. Flood of tears would flow from his eyes at the time of worship; his wonderful joy on hearing songs praising the glory of Divine.

To see the Mother became an obsession with him.

He himself described his first vision of Mother;"I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel…..I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple, and I determined to put an end to my life. I jumped up like a mad man and seized it, when suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself. The building with the different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight…..….I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise…”

He collapsed unconscious. Within him was a flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and he felt the presence of Divine Mother.

Soon he started seeing Holy Mother, both in meditation and, with eyes open.
His spiritual moods deepened. He would meditate, pray, weep, be sleepless, and have ecstatic moods. He would have burning sensation in the body. He would be indifferent to the outside world and his body. To root out the idea of caste superiority (he being a brahmin, the highest caste) he cleaned, at night, the dirty places, of an untouchable’s house with his long and neglected hair. When he would sit in meditation, birds would perch on his head and shoulder, to peck in his hair for grains of food. Snakes would crawl over his motionless body.

To be continued

Monday, October 20, 2008

19.Sri Ramakrishna (SR) (first installment ) ......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

In this writer’s opinion, Sri Ramakrishna (SR) was the greatest mystic of nineteenth century (widely quoted from two books. See sidebar; The gospel of SR......., and footnote 1), and one of the greatest, of all times (prophets or messengers of God are higher than mystics or saints). I base my opinion on one fact, and that is the effect of love for God on the person. When divine mood would come on SR, which came frequently, he would visibly reel, like a drunk, or go in Samadhi (see footnote). In the words of one of his direct disciples:” ….under the overpowering feeling of that intoxication he reeled so much that he had to take hold of one of us…” To my knowledge, only St Teresa of Avila, showed similar effects (with spiritual hurricane, she would even be lifted from ground in the air)

His father made a pilgrimage to Gaya to visit the temple of Lord Vishnu. At Gaya he had a dream in which Lord Vishnu came in his dream and told him that He would be born as his son. At about the same time SR’s mother, who had not gone on pilgrimage with her husband, had a vision in front of the Siva temple, that she will have a divine child.

When he was six or seven years of age, one day, while he was walking on the balk of a corn field, and eating rice from a basket, he happened to look at a beautiful black rain cloud. A flock of milk-white cranes flew by, with the black rain cloud in the background. The young boy was mesmerized by the beauty of the scene. In his own words,” it looked so beautiful that I became absorbed in an extraordinary mood. ……my external consciousness was lost. I fell down and the rice that I was eating scattered near the balk. ……..That was the first time I lost consciousness in ecstasy.”

The Sadhana (spiritual practices carried out by a seeker in order to realizes God) of SR are a legend. The period lasted for about 12 years (1856 to1867). He almost died. During that time he was considered mad by ordinary people. He could not keep his loin-cloth many a times and would be wandering stark naked. He would take concrete steps to conquer, what he perceived as defects, in his character. For instance to remove his attachment to money, he will take a rupee ( the coin used in India ) and a clod of earth, and throw them both in the river Ganges, as if both were equal, and equally useless to him. To conquer lust, he will consider and address every woman as mother. He would eat from the leftovers of food-remnants from leaves (leaves were used as plate by the poor). To conquer pride and egoism, he cleaned like a sweeper the abominably dirty places with his own hands. He remained unfed or poorly fed for 12 long years.

To be continued.

1. Sri Ramakrishna, the great master by Swami Saradananda

2. Samadhi. Super conscious state. Trance. A state of God-union. Person becomes oblivious of the surrounding and his body appears rigid and lifeless. There are various forms of Samadhi. The initial stage is called Sabikalpa Samadhi. The highest form is called nirbikalpa Samadhi , which is the closest a mortal can be with God

3. .One of the trinity of Godhead; Brahma, Vishnu, Siva (or Shiva), whose universal work is, respectively, creation, preservation, and destruction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

18. Maxims of Brother Lawrence......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

I have already mentioned the importance of love, faith and hope in the spiritual journey of Brother Lawrence. He declares that God is in him (he does not go so far as to say that He is in everybody and everything, as many other mystics have said, or I might have missed it). In his own words:”…makes him so certain that God is in the depth of his soul, that he has no doubt about it…”

Whenever he needed help, he would ask God for help. In his own words:”…he receives constant help in every situation. "…for God never fails to come to our aid", as he often experienced. He had recently been asked to go to Burgandy to get the wine supply, a painful task for him. Not only did he lack skill in these matters, but his leg was crippled and he could only get about on the boat by dragging himself over the barrels. Yet he did not worry …….He told God "it was His problem.”

God liked his conservation with Him. So much so that if he missed talking to God, He will remind him! Here is what he says; "If occasionally he becomes too forgetful of this divine presence, God makes Himself known immediately in his soul to call him back to Himself…”. "…inner movements so charming and delightful that I am embarrassed to talk about them, call me immediately back to Him.”

Brother Lawrence reminds us that such close companionship with God requires extreme detachment. He states:”….Your heart must be empty of everything because God desires to possess it exclusively.” He has to "empty it of everything other than Himself”
If suffering is too much for you to bear. Be steadfast. Help will eventually come. "…If you do not give up, and that He will give you, all at once, what He held off giving for years.”

Wandering of thoughts is a problem that everybody faces. The saint also warns us;"….thoughts spoil everything; we must be careful to reject them as soon as we notice them…” In a letter to a nun he offers a solution; ” An easy way to keep the mind from wandering during the time of mental prayer is to keep it as still as possible----not to let it take flight-----during the day…”

If you are a true seeker of God and love Him, you need not worry, God Himself will help you .In his words,”…..God gives the necessary light to those who have the true desire to be with Him….”

"Neither finesse nor learning is required to approach God, only a heart resolved to devote itself exclusively to Him, and to love Him alone”

"…that he thought neither of death, nor of his sins, nor of paradise, nor of hell, but only of doing little things for the love of God, since he was not capable of doing great things.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

17. Brother Lawrence continued ( third instalment ) . ......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

How did he arrive at this unique method? In his own words:

"……..We must let go…………multitude of private devotions, very good in themselves…..” ……..”For these devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive the end. If, then, we are with the One who is our End by this practice of the presence of God, it is certainly useless to return to the means”

How successful was he?

Brother Lawrence was probably at the highest level of spiritual perfection. At that stage the person is connected to God all the time. Such persons are very rare. He himself stated, "I know that few people reach this advanced state. It is a grace God bestows only on few chosen souls… "Most people end up at the less advanced stage",.... ‘which greatly resembles the advanced stage…’

In a letter he states "….I eat and drink at the Lord’s Table.” In another letter he writes: "….this King, full of goodness and mercy, lovingly embraces me, seats me at His table, waits on me Himself, gives me the keys to His treasures, and treats me in all things His favorite; He converses with me and takes delight in me in countless ways….This is what I see from time to time while in His holy presence.”

He greatly extolled the virtues of faith, hope and love, all his life, especially faith. He describes faith as " Believing that God is truly in our hearts, that He sees everything that happens and will happen in us and in all other creatures; that He is independent of everything….”….”All our thought, words and actions belong by right to him "( since everything belongs to Him ). " one must entrust oneself in God’s hands. (A "total, universal surrender”)... One must have trust in God as a son/daughter has in his/her parents.

He had sciatic gout, which caused him pain and limping. He suffered from pain, which increased over years, for about twenty-five years. At his deathbed the friars(monks) asked him " if God asked you to suffer these pains for the duration of ten years would you still be content?” "I would be,” he said, ” not only for that number of years but I would willingly consent to endure them until the Day of Judgment….”
On Friday, he told a friar, that he will die on following Monday. And that is when he died.
More of Brother Lawrence in next installment

Sunday, October 5, 2008

16. Brother Lawrence continued. (Second instalment).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

The cause of his anguish and misery during the dark night of soul was that he thought that he was not doing enough for God. He had set too high a standard for himself. In his own words:

"The fear that I had not given myself to God as I desired, my sins always present before my eyes, and the great graces God gave me were the sum and substance of all my miseries.”
His biographer, who had frequent contacts with him over a period of thirty-five years states: "….in this deplorable state he often went to a private place…..his heart distraught, and completely bathed in his tears, he poured out his feelings before his God…..”

What ended this turmoil? In his own words:

"Once I accepted the fact I might spend the rest of my life in this troubled state of mind…I found myself changed all at once. And my soul, until that time always in turmoil, now experienced a profound inner peace…”

What is the purpose of the dark night of soul? Why does God, often, put the seekers through these terrible ordeals? Brother Lawrence gives two answers to it. His first answer, in his own words, is,”…that it is normal for His divine providence to abandon us to all sort of trials, miseries and temptations.”The second purpose of these tribulations is to purify the soul

For rest of his life (approximately forty years), he would be ‘enjoying continual inner consolations. sometimes so intense, that he would be forced to do childish things to conceal them’ . '….nothing worried or frightened him ‘. He told his friends that God let nothing go without immediately rewarding him a hundredfold, often giving him such exquisite experiences and tastes of His divinity that they sometimes overwhelmed him , making him say … "It is too much, Lord, it is too much for me!…”

Is this method (of constant conversation) easy? In my humble opinion, no. The greatest problem is the control of one’s thoughts, which is very very difficult. I have tried it. Thoughts keep on wandering. Sometimes hours will pass before you remember to think of God. Brother Lawrence himself admits, "The beginning is very difficult”.

And what do you talk to God about, a layman may ask? Won’t you soon run out of things to say? In reality, this difficulty is only theoretical. Actually, you hardly talk, but you bring your attention back to God, and adore Him, constantly, humbly, and joyfully. You may doubt my statement, but it is true. The reason that you are able to do so, quite easily, is that you are in love with God. Love for God is the gasoline that drives this automobile. Without love for God in your heart, you cannot travel the path of God-realization. Not by this method (there are other paths in which love for God may not be essential).

To be continued in next installment.