Saturday, November 29, 2008

27. Types of paths, continued, (Second installment).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

If love for God is essential for success (in the path of love for God), a logical question arises, how to get love for God?

The answer is that some get it free, as a gift from God (as this unworthy mote got it), others have to cultivate it. A devotee asked this question: "how can I develop love for God?” Sri Ramakrishna replied, "Repeat His name…..” The devotee asked the next question, “How can I take delight in God’s name?”

He replied: "pray to God with a yearning heart that you may take delight in His name.”

The essence of his reply is to pray to God to grant the person love for Him. Prayer is a mortal’s last resort

It is also mentioned by sages, that to develop longing for spirituality one must seek the company of holy men. If it is not possible to have the company of holy men, then spiritual books are a substitute. This mote has been guided and consoled by books. I was initially made aware of the world of spirituality by a book, “shahabnama” (see sidebar). I had absolutely no belief in the existence of life after death, but my views changed after reading that book. I was comforted for almost a whole year by “pilgrim of stars” (see sidebar). If book could speak, it would have testified to my anguish. Several other books, listed in sidebar, held a light, and showed me the path, in the dark night.

I cannot, ever, repay the debt I owe to these authors. Their voices, guided me, sometimes across centuries ( Brother Lawrence over three centuries, St Teresa of Avila, over five centuries, and Daata Gunj Bakhash over ten centuries). The diary entries of Nancy Mayorga, her ecstasies and her sorrows , stirred the depths of my soul.

The journeys of Paul Brunton, in foreign lands, in search of truth, and ultimately finding it, are full of suspense. They leave an indelible impression. Love for God is palpable, and drips from every page of ‘Confessions’ by St Augustine, written, sixteen centuries ago. One feels, that one is not alone, countless seekers have gone before him, and some have left their footprints in the sands of time, to guide us, to sustain us, and to comfort us. They wrote these books, not for personal aggrandizement, but to help others and to glorify God

And sometimes, some holy souls, even come back from other worlds, from where no one comes, at God’s orders, to comfort an aspirant in distress, and wipe his/her tears (see the entry 3. 'The dream', and entry 14, St Therese). I quote entry 3, because it was told to me by the person himself.

God has everything. We cannot give him anything which he does not have. He does not need anything. However, there is one thing, which we can give, and He will like our gift, and that is our love for Him. Our love, without asking for anything in return. Even He, who has everything, likes it. He is drawn by a devotee’s love. Read again the entry, 17. Brother Lawrence….

"….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.”

To be continued

Monday, November 24, 2008

26. Types of paths (To God), First installment .....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

There are countless paths to God. Imagine God as a lamp, suspended in air, and each ray being emitted from it, a path. One could reach the lamp, from any point in space, by traversing the nearest ray, back to the lamp. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “As many faiths, so many paths”

However, there are three standard paths. The path of love, the path of wisdom, and the path of action, conveniently remembered as the three ‘h’s’, the heart, the head and the hand.

The path of love is considered the easiest path, but it is said to be slower than the others. It does not require anything else as a pre- requisite, except the love for God. But it is no ordinary love. It has to be intense yearning for God. It should be a complete obsession. There is a story to illustrate it. Once a disciple asked his teacher about the longing for God that is needed for God –realization. The teacher took the disciple to a river, and immersed his head under water. The disciple panted and struggled. When he reached near drowning, the guru took him out. “How did you feel?” the guru asked. “I thought I was going to die”. “That is how you should feel about God”

Is love of God enough for God-realization? The answer is that I do not know. I am not a God-realized person to answer it with certainty. On one hand I know that the love of God, once developed, never goes away, but is it enough? It only assures that the person will continue pursuing his objective, till death. But God-realization is not in the hands of the seeker. Ultimately it is God’s decision to give him, His Grace. The grace of God is absolutely necessary to realize God. Does God, always reward a person who has pursued Him with single-mindedness? It is often said, that God never allows one’s efforts to go waste, and always rewards one’s efforts. But what is the reward in this case? Full or only partial God-realization? Does anybody really know the mind of God?

On the other hand the person may still have significant attachment to the world (for instance, family, wealth, name, fame, ego, craving for power, etc). God –realization only occurs when one’s heart is empty of all other attachments, and exclusively loves God.

Another factor to consider is that how much time is available to the person to attain his objective. Although, he may be making reasonable progress, he may die before he has reached his destination. According to Hindu philosophy, one has multiple lives. In his next life, such a person will start from the point he had reached in his previous life. But, other religions do not believe in multiple lives.
How much average time is needed to realize God? This question was asked by Brunton to Maharishee Ramana (see the sidebar, “A search in secret India"). The saint replied that there was no ‘average’. It depended upon the seeker’s mind; gunpowder lights up in a flash, whereas considerable time is needed to kindle a fire from wet wood

Whatever path one is following, two traits are a necessity for success; patience and perseverance. Progress is often slow and imperceptible. The seeker is unable to discern the progress, just as an ant climbing a hill does not know her progress. Therefore, patience is taxed to the limit. Perseverance is not at all a problem for true lovers, as I mentioned previously (25. Why do they travel, continued), they just cannot abandon.
To be continued

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

25. Why do they travel, continued ( second installment )).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

I did not do enough justice, in my first installment, to the question , that what in the first place,brings the seekers, to travel on the path of God-reaization (Post 8,Sep. 6. 08.) The answer is simple and brief, that they have hunger in their souls. I plan to discuss the hunger in greater detail, when I discuss the stages of this journey, in some future date. At this time, just remember, that whether, they are preselected, or come on their own, to start on the search of God , they must have a feeling of something missing in their life. As William Law, an 18th century British mystic said:

”The hunger of the soul is the first necessity. All else will follow.”

The Post on Sep, 6 ended with these two questions:

Do all of them travel on the same path or are there different paths?
What keeps them on the path, despite all the hardships that were mentioned previously? (6. the greatest hurdle. Aug, 30).

I will answer the second question first, because it is very brief. Why do they stay on the path, and keep travelling, despite the horrendous hardships that were mentioned on Aug, 30. The answer is that they are incapable of giving up. It is beyond their powers. They cannot abandon the pursuit of God-realization even if they wanted to.

I am only talking of the path of finding God through loving Him. I do not know of other paths. And I am only talking of true lovers of God. There are people who think that their journey on this path is for the love for God only, but it may not be strictly true. They may be in it for base motives, such as, to have name and fame or to have power. They may even have a noble motive, such as to help others. For instance, to attain supernatural powers in order to heal the sick or help the poor. They themselves may not be aware that their love is not pure. The person mentioned in Aug, 14 started on this path to attain supernatural powers, and to help others. Actually, he was doing it to satisfy his ego, but his mind was fooling him into believing that he was doing it for altruistic purposes.

Just as a ripe fruit cannot become unripe again, or a child once grown into an adult, cannot become child again, so is the person who has once developed love for God, he cannot undo or abandon his love. That is the difference between Ishaq-a-majazi ( love with anything except God )and Ishaq-a-haqiqi ( love with God). Love with material things, or creatures may end, but love with God is irreversible and never ends.

Shahab ( see sidebar) said the same thing, and the examples of fruit and child are from his book. This humble mote can attest to the truth of this statement from personal experience. Over the years of this travel, sometimes this writer would lose all hope ( occasionally, still do ). Lack of progress, and lack of response or help from God, threw everything in doubt. In despair, even the thought of ending the life has entered the head. But one thought never entered the mind, never even for one second, and that is to relinquish this journey.

As you know, the journey never ends. Even God-realized saints had their falls, because of ego. But there is a difference between the persons who have realized God, and those who are striving to realize God. God-realized persons have no fall ( or if they fall, they rise ) because God Himself protects them. Sri Ramakrishna ( see sidebar )stated in his own words :

" But one need not fear anything if one has received God’s grace. It is rather easy for a child to stumble if he holds his father’s hand; but there can be no such fear if the father holds the child’s hand.”

Swami Ramdas in his book ( see footnote ) narrates a dialogue with an abbot in Switzerland in which he expresses the same sentiments; "……… He assures you that He will never allow you to fall…."

1. World of God, by Swami Ramdas

Friday, November 14, 2008

24. Sri Ramakrishna, continued ( sixth installment ).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

All sort of visitors started turning up to his residence. They belonged to all creeds and sects. They were rich , middle class , or poor. Some were educated with college degrees, some were religious scholars, and some were illiterate. Some held important government positions and some were beggars. Virtuous women, as well as prostitutes, would come . He taught all of them from his encyclopedic knowledge and his incomparable personal experiences . Everybody was touched with his sincerity. Sometimes, he would speak twenty out of twenty-four hours. He would sing devotional songs, listen to hymns, dance, weep in ecstasy, worship, meditate, chant holy names, and sleep little.

He attracted young , inquisitive, idealistic, school and college students. SR was a great judge of character. He had the uncanny ability to discern their minds. With extreme care, he prepared future monks, and made Narindra ( future Swami Vivekananda )their leader. Fifteen disciples, all except one, were young men or boys. They renounced the world soon after his death, in 1886. This is a testament to their idealism and his poweful influence, even after death. He was fifty year old at the time of his death.

He did not perform any miracles, but several supernatural events have been recorded and well corroborated. For instance, Narendra ( Swami Vivekananda, his chief disciple ), narrated the account of his early visits to the Master (SR). On his second visit, he touched Narendra, and Narendra felt overwhelmed. ........walls whirling….. He cried in terror:”What are you doing to me…?” With a laugh, Master easily restored him. On his third visit, he narrates, ” in Jadu Mallick’s garden house , the Master one day touched me, and muttered something to himself. I became unconscious. The effect of the touch lingered in me for a month, like an intoxication.”

He had the ability to awaken spirituality, in others, by mere touch, or sometimes, even by just a glance. He had trained his mind so much against gold and lust, that he could not touch coins, or have intimate relationship with women. He regarded all women as mothers. He once said “I have never enjoyed a woman, even, in my dreams”.

He got married, but the marriage was never consummated, despite the fact, that he and his wife shared the same cot for eight months. His wife was trained by him, in spirituality, and became a great mystic in her own right. To test the fact that Master could not hold gold, Narendra, once hid a coin under his mattress. When Master sat on it, he developed sharp pain, as if he was stung by a scorpion.

Ramakrishna centers are all over the world!

The book listed in sidebar is the translation of the diary of Mr M (headmaster of a high school in Calcutta), a very close householder disciple of SR, who recorded the events, and wrote down Master’s words, with great fidelity.

What was his main message? Love God!

I conclude this narrative by giving you a taste of the fire burning in the Master. Here are the words of the Master, uttered, on October 11, 1884. He expressed such sentiments almost daily:

“I prayed to the Divine Mother:’ O Mother, I don’t want name or fame. I don’t want the eight occult powers………………O Mother I have no desire for creature comforts. Please grant me the boon that I may have pure love for Thy Lotus Feet.’” Then he addressed Ishan ( a devotee ), who was holding his feet:

“Be mad! Be mad with love of God! Let world know that Ishan has gone mad and cannot perform worldly duties any more………”

Sunday, November 9, 2008

23 Sri Ramakrishna, continued (fifth installment).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)

Now SR wanted to be in nirvikalpa samadhi , all the time, and who would blame him. After the departure of Totapuri, nobody was there to distract him,SR went into nirvipalkpa Samadhi and stayed continuously in that state for six months. In his own words:” I was in that state for six months from which ordinary mortals never return: because for the body of one attaining to that state lives for twenty-one days only, and then the body falls like a dry leaf from tree.”……….Flies would enter his mouth and nostrils , like they do in a dead body.

A holy man took care of him during that time. To feed him ,he would arouse him by beating him with a stick. Then he became sick from dysentery. Constant abdominal pain brought his mind down to earth.

After his recovery, an inner calmness returned to him. He appeared normal and sought the company of holy men and scholars. He acquired great knowledge by listening to learned people. He did not and could not read books.

He had acquired closeness to God during Samadhi. He realized that since God is only one, other religions must believe the same God, though, through different names. He wanted to explore other religions. He practiced Islam under a Muslim guru, Govinda Roy, and, in 1866, realized God through Islam. He wanted to learn Christianity. In 1874, he began listening to the teaching of Bible. Soon he had a spiritual experience through a picture of Madonna with Child. Three days later he had the following experience:

He saw a man of fair complexion coming towards him. He knew that he was a foreigner. He saw that his long eyes gave wonderful beauty to his serene face. Tip of his nose was flat. He wondered who he was. A voice rang in his soul; " Behold Jesus Christ! The great Yogi, the loving Son of God, one with the Father, who gave his heart’s blood……to deliver man from sorrow and misery". Then Jesus embraced him and merged in him. Years later, he told his disciples, that the nose of Jesus, that he met, was not aquiline.

SR used to say," Let each man follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God,…….he will surely realize Him."

His fame spread. When a lamp is lit, moths come, uninvited. People started to visit him. Articles about him appeared in the Calcutta press. Visitors would be struck by his holiness, his simple life style, his love for God, his profound spirituality, his encyclopedic knowledge of Hindu religion, and his samadhis. Many learned people declared him 'an incarnation of God’, just as Brahmini had done years ago.

Long time ago, he had come to know, through his supernatural powers, that one day he will have his own disciples. In his own word ," …. I would climb to the roof of the kuthi (house) in the garden, and writhing with anguish of heart, cry at the top of my voice ’ come my children! Oh where are you all’…”

To be continued

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

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

.He had to give up his sacred thread and the tuft of hair on his head. To avoid hurting the feeling of his mother, it was done in private. He performed the preliminary ceremonies.

Totapuri built a sacred fire on the auspicious day. Totapuri and SR sat before it. He sang the holy and profound mantras. Both performed the holy rites. SR took the vow of utter renunciation for God, a vow that has come unbroken from guru to disciple, from the beginning of time. His desire for enjoyment, here and hereafter, was the last to be burnt in that fire. SR received the ochre robe and loincloth from his guru (spiritual teacher). Totapuri began to teach:

"Brahman is the only Reality, ever pure, ever illumined, and ever free, beyond the limits of time, space or causation. Though apparently endowed with names and forms, through the inscrutable power of maya (illusion, created by Brahman), ……………, Brahman is really one and undivided……………………………."

Totapuri, then, asked SR to withdraw his mind inwards, and concentrate on the Absolute/Atman ; (Atman is the Self or Soul. According to Advaita Vedanta philosophy the Supreme Soul is one with the individual soul )

But the task was not easy even for SR. He found it impossible to take his mind beyond Kali, the Divine Mother. In his own words: " But in spite of all my attempts, I could not altogether cross the realm of name and form………I had no trouble in taking my mind from all the objects of the world. But the radiant and all too familiar figure of Blissful Mother would appear. She stood in my way. I said to Nangta (the naked one. Totapuri would often not wear his loincloth)’ it is hopeless’………".

How was this difficulty overcome?

"Totapuri cast his eyes around. Finding a piece of glass he took it up and stuck it between my eyebrows. 'Concentrate the mind on the point!' he thundered!

"I again sat to meditate. ……….this time I clove Her in two with the sword of discrimination. The last barrier fell. My spirit at once soared beyond the relative plane. I lost myself in Samadhi"

SR remained completely absorbed in Nirbikalpa Samadhi ( see footnote on 19 )for three days! Totapuri would come and go, and every time would find SR , motionless, like a statue.

"Is it true," Totapuri cried in astonishment." That he achieved in one day, what it took me forty years to attain?"

Totapuri , who never stayed in a place for more than three days, stayed in Dakshineswar for eleven month. During his stay, even he discovered a profound, new truth, about the mysteries of Absolute and its relationship with Kali. For fear of digression, this mote, will not discuss the lesson which Totapuri was taught by God.

To be continued.