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If you can resist the impulse to claim each and every thought as your own, you will come to a startling conclusion: you will discover that you are the consciousness in which the thoughts appear and disappear. You are allowed to run free. Like the snake which appears in the rope, you will discover that the mind is only an illusion which appears through ignorance or misperception.

You want some experience which will convince you that what I am saying is true. You can have that experience if you give up your life-long habit of inventing an "I" which claims all thoughts as "mine". Be conscious of yourself as consciousness alone, watch all the thoughts come and go.

Come to the conclusion, by direct experience, that you are really consciousness itself, not its ephemeral contents. Clouds come and go in the sky but the appearance and disappearance of the clouds doesn't affect the sky. Your real nature is like the sky, like space. Just remain like the sky and let thought-clouds come and go. If you cultivate this attitude of indifference towards the mind, gradually you will cease to identify yourself with it.

Question: When I began to do sadhana [spiritual practice] everything went smoothly at first. There was a lot of peace and happiness and jnana [true knowledge] seemed very near. But nowadays there is hardly any peace, just mental obstacles and hindrances. Annamalai Swami: Whenever obstacles come on the path, think of them as "not me". Cultivate the attitude that the real you is beyond the reach of all troubles and obstacles.

There are no obstacles for the Self. If you can remember that you always are the Self, obstacles will be of no importance. One of the alvars [a group of Vaishnavite saints] once remarked that if one is not doing any spiritual practice one is not aware of any mind problems. He said that it is only when one starts to do meditation that one becomes aware of the different ways that the mind causes us trouble.

This is very true. But one should not worry about any of the obstacles or fear them. One should merely regard them as being not me. They can only cause you trouble while you think that they are your problems. The obstructing vasanas may look like a large mountain which obstructs your progress. Don't be intimidated by the size. It is not a mountain of rock, it is a mountain of camphor. If you light one corner of it with the flame of discriminative attention, it will all burn to nothing. Stand back from the mountain of problems, refuse to acknowledge that they are yours, and they will dissolve and disappear before your eyes.

Don't be deluded by your thoughts and vasanas. They are always trying to trick you into believing that you are a real person, that the world is real, and that all your problems are real. Don't fight them; just ignore them. Don't accept delivery of all the wrong ideas that keep coming to you.

Establish yourself in the conviction that you are the Self and that nothing can stick to you or affect you. Once you have that conviction you will find that you automatically ignore the habits of the mind. When the rejection of mental activities becomes continuous and automatic, you will begin to have the experience of the Self. If you see two strangers quarrelling in the distance you do not give much attention to them because you know that the dispute is none of your business.

Treat the contents of your mind in the same way. Instead of filling your mind with thoughts and then organising fights between them, pay no attention to the mind at all. Rest quietly in the feeling of "I am", which is consciousness, and cultivate the attitude that all thoughts, all perceptions are "not me". When you have learned to regard your mind as a distant stranger, you will not pay any attention to all the obstacles it keeps inventing for you.

Mental problems feed on the attention that you give them. The more you worry about them, the stronger they become. If you ignore them, they lose their power and finally vanish.

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Question: I am always thinking and believing that there is only the Self but somehow there is still a feeling that I want or need something more. Annamalai Swami: Who is it that wants? If you can find the answer to that question there will be no one to want anything. Question: Children are born without egos.

Guru Ramana, Memories and Notes

As they begin to grow up, how do their egos arise and cover the Self? Annamalai Swami: As young children may appear to have no egos but its ego and all the latent vasanas that go with it are there in seed form. As the child's body grows bigger, the ego also grows bigger. The ego is produced by the power of maya [illusion], which is one of the shaktis [powers] of the Self. Question: How does maya operate? How does it originate? Since nothing exists except the Self, how does the Self manage to conceal Its own nature from Itself?

Yet within this indivisible Self there are five shaktis or powers, with varying functions, which operate simultaneously. The five shaktis are creation, preservation, destruction, veiling [maya shakti] and Grace. The fifth shakti, Grace, counteracts and removes the fourth shakti, which is maya. When maya is totally inactive, that is, when the identity with the body and the mind has been dropped, there is an awareness of consciousness, of Being.

When one is established in that state there is no body, no mind and no world. These three things are just ideas which are brought into an apparent existence when maya is present and active. When maya is active, the sole effective way to dissolve it is the path shown by Bhagavan: one must do Self-enquiry and discriminate between what is real and what is unreal. It is the power of maya which makes us believe in the reality of things which have no reality outside our imagination.

If you ask, "What are these imaginary things?

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The Self alone is real; everything else is a figment of our imagination. It is not helpful to enquire why there is maya and how it operates. If you are in a boat which is leaking, you don't waste time asking whether the hole was made by an Italian, a Frenchman or an Indian. You just plug the leak. Don't worry about where maya comes from. Put all your energy into escaping from its effect. If you try to investigate the origin of maya with your mind you are doomed to fail because any answer you come up with will be a maya answer. If you want to understand how maya operates and originates you should establish yourself in the Self, the one place where you can be free of it, and then watch how it takes you over each time you fail to keep your attention there.

Question: You say that maya is one of the shaktis. What exactly do you mean by shakti? Annamalai Swami: Shakti is energy or power. It is a name for the dynamic aspect of the Self. Shakti and shanti [peace] are two aspects of the same consciousness. If you want to separate them at all, you can say that shanti is the unmanifest aspect of the Self while shakti is the manifest. But really they are not separate. A flame has two properties: light and heat. The two cannot be separate. Shanti and shakti are like the sea and its waves. Shanti, the unmanifest aspect, is the vast unmoving body of water.

The waves that appear and move on the surface are shakti. Shanti is motionless, vast and all-encompassing, whereas waves are active. Bhagavan used to say that after realisation the jivanmukta [liberated one] experiences shanti within and is established permanently in that shanti. In that state of realisation he sees that all activities are caused by shakti. After realisation one is aware that there is no individual people doing anything. Instead there is an awareness that all activities are the shakti of the one Self. The jnani, who is fully established in the shanti, is always aware that shakti is not separate from him.

In that awareness everything is his Self and all actions are his. Alternatively, it is equally correct to say that he never does anything. This is one of the paradoxes of the Self. The universe is controlled by the one shakti, sometimes called Parameshwara shakti [the power of the Supreme Lord]. This moves and orders all things. Natural laws, such as the laws that keep the planets in their orbits, are all manifestations of this shakti. Question: You say that everything is the Self, even maya. If this is so, why can't I see the Self clearly? Why is it hidden from me? Annamalai Swami: Because you are looking in the wrong direction.

You have the idea that the Self is something that you see or experience. This is not so. The Self is the awareness or the consciousness in which the seeing and the experiencing take place. Even if you don't see the Self, the Self is still there. Bhagavan sometimes remarked humorously: "People just open a newspaper and glance through it.

Then they say, "I have seen the paper". But really they haven't seen the paper, they have only seen the letters and pictures that are on it. There can be no words or pictures without the paper, but people always forget the paper while they are reading the words. With this kind of partial vision it is easy to come to the conclusion that all forms are unconnected with each other and separate from the person who sees them.

If people were to be aware of the consciousness instead of the forms that appear in it, they would realise that all forms are just appearances which manifest within the one indivisible consciousness. That consciousness is the Self that you are looking for. You can be that consciousness but you can never see it because it is not something that is separate from you. Question: You talk a lot about vasanas. Could you please tell me exactly what they are and how they function? Annamalai Swami: Vasanas are habits of the mind.

They are the mistaken identifications and the repeated thought patterns that occur again and again. It is the vasanas which cover up the experience of the Self. Vasanas arise, catch your attention, and pull you outwards towards the world rather than inwards towards the Self. This happens so often and so continuously that the mind never gets a chance to rest or to understand its real nature. Cocks like to claw the ground. It is a perpetual habit with them. Even if they are standing on bare rock they still try to scratch the ground.

Vasanas function in much the same the way. They are habits and patterns of thought that appear again and again even if they are not wanted. Most of our ideas and thoughts are incorrect. When they rise habitually as vasanas they brainwash us into thinking that they are true. The fundamental vasanas such as "I am the body" or "I am the mind" have appeared in us so many times that we automatically accept that they are true. Even our desire to transcend our vasanas is a vasana. When we think "I must meditate" or "I must make an effort" we are just organising a fight between two different vasanas.

You can only escape the habits of the mind by abiding in consciousness as consciousness. Be who you are. Just be still. Ignore all the vasanas that rise in the mind and instead fix your attention in the Self. Question: Bhagavan often told devotees to "Be still". Did he mean "Be mentally still"? Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan's famous instruction "summa iru" [be still] is often misunderstood. It does not mean that you should be physically still; it means that you should always abide in the Self.

Stimuli from the man enter the senses and drop into the mind, causing the mind to take the form of the stimuli and this is where our man is located. So how far is the self from experience? Is there a gap, perhaps a tunnel down which the self must travel from its world to the world of experience? There is not. In fact experience is the self taking form like the ocean takes the form of waves.

If I m looking for the self as an object, a transcendental experience, for example, or taking the experience of the self as an object, I am deluded because whatever experience I m having is nothing but me. This, however, does not mean that experience in anyway invalidates or validates me because it depends on me but I do not depend on it.

Vasanas and Sahaja

If Vedanta were a philosophical school of thought all that would be required to grasp it would be that one memorize the concepts. Whatever ignorance about the nature of oneself was in place before one s study began would remain But because it is a means of knowledge it needs a teacher, someone abiding 9 as the Self who can skillfully wield the teachings according to the traditional methods. And, like advanced studies in worldly subjects, the person on whom the teachings are wielded needs to be qualified or prepared to receive the teachings.

If the teacher does not know who he or she is, or his or her enlightenment 11 is formulated in terms of experience, then all he or she can do is present the Self as an object to be attained and recommend certain practices which he or she believes will give the student access to the self. Because it is a means of knowledge Vedanta is not a practice that will bring about experience of the self, nor is it a theory about the existence of transcendental state. It s subject matter is awareness and because awareness is the content or essence of every experience, Vedanta need only reveal the self to grant one permanent self experience Discrete experiences come and go but the I, the self, precedes, pervades and succeeds every experience.

The access to the self that Vedanta provides is in terms of the removal of ignorance and not in terms of a mechanical technique like arresting the mind. You can lead a horse to water but you can t make it drink. While a teacher is necessary because one cannot apply the prakriyas on oneself merely by studying the ancient texts, the teacher cannot willy-nilly grant enlightenment to any qualified aspirant simply by unfolding the teachings.

Because ignorance is tenacious the student needs to practice knowledge. The coming down or falling back that one suffers on experiential paths like Yoga also occurs in Vedanta. Understanding the teaching and seeing how the teacher wields it allows the self inquirer to apply the appropriate teaching to the mind as needed outside the teaching situation, until every last vestige of ignorance is destroyed. Because life in this world without the understanding of oneself as limitless awareness involves considerable suffering, human beings universally want to feel good. This craving has created the belief that there is an experienceable state of permanent bliss, ananda , that is available through certain practices.

This belief stems from an incorrect understanding of the word ananta , which is used by the Upanishad to describe the self. Ananta is invariably mistranslated as bliss when the actual meaning is limitlessness. Anta means end and a is a negative meaning not so the word means what doesn t end. So the actual meaning of the word is the self, awareness.

The light knows the darkness but the darkness does not know the light. Like all experience, bliss, which is produced when the mind is temporarily free of fear and craving, is unconscious. It does not know the self. But it is known and experienced because the self, awareness, illumines it. The best one can do with the word bliss is to see it as a symbol of the self, a statement that the self is full, a partless whole. When someone who has been suffering the changes in the body mind initially wakes up to the self, the self seems to feel very good.

But the feeling, which is an interpretation by the mind, is not the presence of a positive self state but simply the appreciation of the absence of change. As one abides as the self over time and the memory of suffering diminishes, the feeling of bliss gradually dissolves into non-dual partless wholeness.

As the self I have no need to feel good because I am good , meaning I am the essence of every experience. When self realization is touted as the experience of limitless bliss it is usually believed that this self bliss is infinitely superior to the transitory blisses one encounters in daily life.

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The recognition of this fact removes the belief in oneself as unhappy, limited and mortal. Another ill-considered belief enjoying considerable currency in the modern spiritual world is the idea that self knowledge is intellectual and that self realization is experiential.

Because of this confusion it is thought that the study of the scripture is merely for knowledge while other practices, like the samadhis of Yoga, are for practical, experiential enlightenment. This confusion between knowledge and experiential realization is caused by not recognizing the invariable presence of the self in all situations. If the self is always present and available, the scripture wielded by the self in the form of a teacher is the most direct way of experiencing the self because it reveals the nature of the self. And if only knowledge sets one free because ignorance is the problem, a technique that is meant to give experience of the self would in fact be indirect realization since the experience would have to be converted into knowledge for it to last.

The absurdity of the experiential view is apparent when we consider that whatever experience one is having at any time is the self Knowledge is only direct or indirect. Direct knowledge arises simultaneously with perception. Indirect knowledge is inference. I see smoke and infer fire. The derogatory adjective intellectual is completely unwarranted unless there are other kinds of knowledge like physical, emotional, intuitive, etc.

In fact all knowledge is intellectual because the intellect is the only instrument capable of knowing. Because it is the product of unconscious impersonal forces, a feeling or an intuition is not self-knowing. It becomes known because the self illumines the intellect in which feelings and thoughts arise.

Usage shows that what is actually meant by the word intellectual is knowledge not backed by experience. A person can intellectually know what love is without ever having been in love. But the self is not an experience like love. If I exist I am the self so I am not short of self experience. Therefore the need to experience myself is illegitimate and I need another way, knowledge, to gain the experience that I already have. The many seekers of self experience that eventually become disillusioned because they are unable to obtain a permanent experience of the self need to convert their quest for experience into a quest for understanding if they wish to free themselves from bondage to their attachment to experience The idea that self knowledge can be gained in four different ways is a corruption that took place in India long before Vedanta was exported to the West.

According to this idea, each path is called a yoga and is different from the other three. Each was meant for a different type of person. The path of devotion was meant to serve the needs of predominately emotional persons. The path of action was intended for extroverted action-oriented people, and the path of knowledge was designed for those with an intellectual orientation. And Raja Yoga, the eightfold path, was for a person who was anyone who was not one of the other types. That one can gain self knowledge through action is an obvious absurdity because knowledge requires a means and action is not a valid means of knowledge.

In fact action to gain something someone already has is motivated by ignorance. Rather than erase one s ignorance of oneself, it will only serve to reinforce the ill-considered belief in oneself as a doer of selfless action, a devotee of God, or a knower of truth The Vedas actually only prescribe two lifestyles relevant to the quest for liberation; that of the householder and that of the renunciate.

The renunciate pursues self knowledge exclusively and has no obligatory duties. The householder is enjoined to perform action in a certain spirit to prepare his or her mind for self knowledge. So, in fact this person is just a karma yogi, a doer of ritualistic actions. Additionally, devotion is not a quality unique to any individual or path but is found in anyone pursuing a spiritual goal.

One does not pursue self knowledge or self experience without devotion, for example. So the idea of devotion as a particular path is not found in the Vedas.

May I Answer That?

Although not found in the Vedas proper, the idea of integral yoga became associated with Vedanta in the last century primarily through the writings of Sri Aurobindo. Devotional practice is meant to be useful in transforming gross emotions into devotion for God who is non-separate from the self. Action yoga is helpful in identifying ego and wearing away its concept of itself as a doer. And the practice of knowledge trains the mind to think from the Self s point of view, rather than the ego s, eventually harmonizing the individual with the natural order of things, thus reducing stress and conflict.

At best this view is helpful in preparing the mind for self knowledge but it does not, for the reasons mentioned above, qualify as a valid means of self knowledge. One of the most popular and misguided views at the heart of Yoga doctrine 12 that became associated with Vedanta is the idea that liberation is the elimination of all thoughts in the mind. This idea came about because the scripture describes the self as thought free and because experientially many epiphanies occur when the mind is temporarily arrested in the waking state. But if a thought-free mind was liberation everyone would already be enlightened Even between two thoughts there is a tiny gap, an absence of thought.

If absence of thought for a split second is not enlightenment, absence of thought for an hour or two is not going to amount to the liberating knowledge I am limitless awareness. Realistically, the idea that no thought is enlightenment means that there is no such thing as enlightenment. Finally, if one is enlightened only when the mind is thought-free, what happens to enlightenment when the mind begins to think? The mind is not going to free itself of thought because it is not capable of knowing that thought is a problem. So someone else would have to do it.

The only someone capable of removing the thoughts would be the self but the self is already free of thoughts so there would be no reason for it to destroy the mind. From its non-dual point of view although the mind is a lesser order of reality it is still the self and therefore not a threat. Because enlightenment is the nature of the self the idea that no mind is enlightenment implies a duality between the self and thought.

That the self does not exist when the mind exists means that the self and the mind enjoy the same order of reality like a table and a chair. But this is untrue. If one exists only in the absence of the other they enjoy the same order of reality, like illness and health. But does the existence of thought deny the existence of oneself?

Is there thought without you? In fact thoughts come out of you but you are not just a thought. They depend on you but you do not depend on them. So whether they are present or absent you, the ever- free ever-present self, can always be directly known. The thoughts and feelings in the mind are not self-generating but are the effects of subtle causes called vasanas , sub or unconscious tendencies accumulated from past experience.

The sum total of these tendencies is often said to be the individual. And since they are the cause of all the individual s habits they are prior to the individual and therefore bind the individual to a repetitive cycle of experience. To free oneself of this bondage it is believed that the vasanas must be completely exhausted. Since there are no longer any tendencies to constitute an individual or to keep the individual together it is believed that the individual dissolves and the self, which is what remains, is realized by default.

But if the individual is gone who is there to realize the self? The self obviously does not need to realize anything because it is already realized. A second problem with this theory is that nobody knows how many vasanas are stored in the unconscious, perhaps billions or more, so it might take millions of lifetimes to exhaust them. A third is that in a non-dual reality there are not two separate principles, the self and the vasanas. If the self alone exists as scripture says, and the vasanas exist, they would only exist as the self.

In other words they would be dependent for their reality on the self, just as a clay pot is dependent on clay for its reality. Anything that depends on something else for its existence is not real. Experienciable, yes, but not real, meaning unchanging. If vasanas are the self but the self is not the vasanas , it is already free of them and no work needs to be done to gain the self. But if enlightenment is the knowledge I am the self, limitless awareness, this knowledge would necessarily take place in the mind.

Furthermore, if the mind were excessively disturbed by thoughts and feelings in the form of likes and dislikes and these likes and dislikes, fears and desires, were conscious effects of which the vasanas were the cause, as scripture states, then the mind could be brought to a clear, calm state, by exhausting the vasanas disturbing it Therefore, vasana exhaustion is useful to prepare the mind for self knowledge but is not tantamount to enlightenment. If the problem is ignorance and enlightenment is the understanding backed by experience that I am limitless, to say that there are stages ofenlightenment is like saying that a woman is a little bit pregnant.

Contrary to popular belief no enlightened person 13 is more or less enlightened than any other because the self is one unchanging awareness. Then how does one account for the apparent differences in understanding and experience that one sees from one enlightened being to another?

There is no question of enlightenment from the self s point of view because there is no ignorance. And because the self is non-dual there is no experience in it. But the self is capable of creating the appearance of duality. Just as a spider is both the substance of its web and the intelligence that shapes it, the self appears as the world and shapes the individual entities in it.

What is called experience is the self functioning through the various entities plant, animal and human just as electricity functions through various appliances. Expressing through a bulb it produces light, through a heater heat, and through a radio sound. Though the manifestations are superficially different all are just electricity transformed by its contact with the appliance.

There are no enlightened beings because there is only one formless self. So when knowledge destroys a person s sense of individuality, the individual becomes the self by default. The becoming is not a physical change or the experiential removal of the individual. It is a change in understanding. Just as knowledge of the nature of a mirage will prevent one from taking it to be water, the knowledge that I am the self allows one to understand that the experiencer, the individual, is only an apparent, not a real self.

An enlightened being is just the self functioning through a mind whose self ignorance has been removed. But the removal of self ignorance does not automatically remove the vasanas in the mind although it eventually renders them non-binding since they bind only because of ignorance. Since from the self s point of view all the vasanas are known to be only the self, it has no preferences as to the type of vasana it illumines. Therefore it works through the existing vasanas. Because the vasanas are the cause of the mind s energy, attitudes and opinions, ignorance and knowledge and every mind has unique and varied experiences, the self seems to be unique and varied.

This seeming is caused by lack of discrimination, the power to separate the real from the experiential, so that an indiscriminate person will wrongly assume that there are many types of enlightened beings and many stages of enlightenment. Nonetheless, from the individual s point of view there are three stages of enlightenment. The first stage might well be called endarkenment. We come into this life experiencing our limitlessness and oneness with everything but, because the intellect has yet to develop, we do not understand what we are experiencing.

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  8. When the intellect does develop it is trained to think of the self as a limited, incomplete, inadequate creature and encouraged to solve the problem of inadequacy by picking up experience in life. At a certain point, the individual comes to realize that no matter how much experience he or she can garner, the experienced objects and activities do not do the job. This is usually an unpleasant realization, often resulting in a profound disillusionment with life and is frequently referred to as the dark night of the soul in religious literature or hitting bottom in popular culture. And at some point during this period the person becomes convinced that he or she can find happiness within or in some relationship with God.

    The second stage might be termed the seeking or questing phase and usually heads off in two apparently separate directions. The religious road leads to the development of a personal relationship with God who is conceived as a pure and perfect someone other than one s self. The idea of the self as inadequate, incomplete, and separate is retained and often conceived of as corrupted by sin. Salvation is meant to lie in invoking the grace of God through prayer and the study of scripture and working hard here on earth for a place in the promised land, a heaven far from this veil of tears which can only be accessed by relinquishing the physical body.

    The religious life offers a positive alternative to the belief in the world as a source of meaning. The other branch of the road leads in a less doctrinal and belief-laden direction into the experience of the inner world and an investigation of the self. In its worldly form it may incline one to the study of psychology but in its spiritual form the person experiences epiphanies, fleeting samadhis, satoris 14 and the like that give rise to the conviction that the the truth dwells within as the higher or inner self or as some transcendental state of consciousness.

    Many of these experiences can truthfully be described as the experience of oneness with all things, limitlessness, and of transcendent bliss. During this stage which might be also called the meditation stage, the mind, formerly riveted on happenings in the outer world turns inward and fixes itself on the self, the light within, and at some point, usually after intense investigation, realizes the self, since the self is the source of all experience.

    This realization is always in the form of an experience and is thought by many to be the end of the search But Vedanta says that while this is a welcome and enjoyable state it is not the end because there is still a sense of separation between the experiencer and the object of experience, the self. When there is separation there is doubt and the doubt is always that this state, like all states will end, plunging the experiencer back into darkness This doubt is due to the failure of the experiencer to understand that what is being experienced is just his own self The failure to convert the experience to knowledge is usually caused by the belief in the experiencer that knowledge is merely intellectual and that there is such a thing as a permanent experience.

    So when the experience happens the intellect gets submerged in the bliss, peace, and radiance and switches off, as it does in most intense sensuous experiences, and stops inquiring. To enter the final stage, which is not a stage, inquiry must continue during the experience of the self. In ordinary perception a thought wave arises in the mind that corresponds to the nature of the perceived object. You see a tree and you know it is a tree because the self, awareness illumines the thought of tree as it arises in the intellect.

    Similarly when the ego experiences the reflection of the self in a pure mind a thought corresponding to the nature of the self, called an akandakara vritti , an unbroken I thought arises, and this thought needs to be owned. At this point everything stops and there is a subtle shift in awareness in which the foreground becomes the background and the background the foreground. And this never changes because it was obtained through the knowledge that what I experience is me but I am not what I experience. In other words, one becomes the Self. Unlike an experience, the self can never be lost because it is me, the basis of everything A major misconception brought on by human being s fascination with and craving for experience is the belief that enlightened beings have a special kind of energy and that that energy is a consequence of their enlightenment.

    But experience confirms and scripture states that the self is energyless, so if I am the self I have no energy. Then how does it appear as if it were energy? The self does not appear as energy until it illumines a given mind. The mind is just the vasanas of a given individual entity. These vasanas are subtle matter. Matter is inert.

    But when it is illumined by the self it becomes dynamic, just as a seed will remain dormant until it gets water and sunlight. The vasanas are conditioned by three types of energy: sattvic , rajasic , and tamasic. Tamasic energy 16 is a heavy,dull, sleepy energy, as if the mind were under a cloud. Rajas 17 is a projecting energy, a passionate, dynamic, outgoing unsettling energy.

    And sattva 18 is the state when the mind is luminous, clear, still, and aware. When the self illumines the tamasic vasanas the person appears to be ignorant and sleepy and lack motivation. When the self illumines rajasic vasanas , the person is exceptionally dynamic and powerful, often highly motivated.

    When the self illumines sattva the person is clear and bright, very knowledgeable and loving. Most beings, because of their sense of incompleteness, chase tamasic objects physical things and sensual pleasure with rajasic passion. Therefore their vasanas are predominately tamasic and rajasic. So if a person who has tamasic vasanas somehow wakes up and discovers that he or she is actually the self, his or her energy will be predominately tamasic and rajasic even if the knowledge is firm A small class of people realize that tamasic and rajasic vasanas produce the unpleasant experiences of craving and aversion and evolve methods to rid themselves of them.

    If and when they realize the self, they will be exceptionally luminous, because the mind is so still it accurately reflects the radiance of the self. There is one more so-called spiritual phenomenon, the shaktipat guru, a person with exceptionally powerful and radiant energy, energy that is capable of creating intense experiences in proximate minds. It is often assumed that such gurus are enlightened.

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    They may be if they have the firm knowledge that I am limitless awareness and the mind is particularly sattvic , but there is another way to account for this phenomenon that has nothing to do with enlightenment. There is a group of scientific yogic practices handed down from antiquity that accumulate energy. The practice of accumulating energy is called tapas or heat producing. The idea behind tapas is that energy flows from the subtlest layer of reality, the unconscious mind, into the conscious mind, and out through the senses into the world at large. The source of this energy, the self which is not energy is limitless so the energy is limitless. This is why the universe, which is just energy, is limitless. In any case, if the energy is blocked at the sense level, not allowed to flow into objects activities that dissipate it , it will accumulate in the mind which is also limitless because it is just the self in a particular form of energy called chitta.

    The practice involves considerable will power because the vasanas are dynamic and need to express themselves so when they are frustrated they remain in the mind in the form of heat. When enough energy accumulates in the mind it produces light. This kind of mind energy is like water behind a dam. It appears still and luminous but it has a tremendous potential. So when it is allowed to escape from the mind it flows into less dynamic minds and lifts them up, just as water flowing fills a hole in the ground.

    The primary purpose of this practice is to incinerate vasanas for the purpose of gaining the kind of pure mind necessary for enlightenment. When the mind accumulates energy in this way, the energy can activate latent tendencies in the chitta and certain miraculous supernatural powers may appear including the power to spiritually awaken others. In fact, there is nothing particularly spiritual about the experience spiritual awakenings happen in every conceivable worldly circumstance more often than they do in apparently spiritual settings 19 except the association with such a person in a spiritual setting.

    If the aspirant is unclear about the goal, enlightenment, he or she may be tempted to capitalize on this situation to impress an ever-gullible sensation-seeking public who has no idea of the true nature of enlightenment. And, because the goal has not been reached, the yogi often assumes that the experience of intense energy is the goal and propagates the belief that enlightenment is a particular kind of experience. The New Age culture and the recent satsang gurus are especially guilty of spreading this frustrating 20 belief.

    But because a person has extraordinary energy does not mean that he or she is not enlightened. Indeed, if the person has purified the mind before enlightenment, he or she will have energy and enlightenment. If the enlightenment came in spite of the condition of the mind, the mind can be quickly purified from the self s position, rendering the person energetic and wise.

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    Very often an unenlightened person with a particular gift attracts many people. Being the focus of many minds increases the energy in his or her mind and that energy flows back into the surrounding minds producing a range of experiences from sublime to demonic This person, like the shakti -pat yogi, is often considered enlightened because he or she seems to be very powerful.

    Because the mind has not been properly purified it is incapable of functioning normally at high states of vibration and it becomes unstable. Then the person loses his or her discrimination and makes foolish decisions that effectively ruin his or her life and the lives of those who associate with them. Recent spiritual history is replete with tales of this sad phenomenon. It is quite possible, and indeed the rule rather than the exception, that a regular person with a normal state of mind wakes up and goes on to attain 21 enlightenment.

    In this case the person, who is actually the self and knows it, operates through a very ordinary life, and anyone coming into contact with him or her would have no idea of his or her state. Two languages obtain in the spiritual world. The most popular and most imprecise is the language of experience which has been propagated by the yogic tradition. The least popular and most precise is the language of identity or knowledge employed by Vedanta.

    In the best of all possible worlds there should be no cross-pollination. Each has its value and is specific to its view of enlightenment. Because the yogic view of enlightenment is experiential it employs a dualistic language because experience is dualistic, the relationship between a subject and an object. According to this view enlightenment is a unique, permanent experience of the Self.

    The problem with this view is that the Upanishads, the ultimate authority on the nature enlightenment, describe the self, which is everything that exists, in the language of identity as a non- dual reality and enlightenment as the knowledge I am the limitless self 23 based on the discovery 24 of oneself as such. The usual progression in understanding takes one from the language of experience to the language of identity.

    There are many people in the spiritual world who have had considerable experience of the reflection of the self in the mind when the mind was in a sattvic condition and who would be classified as self realized according to the stages of enlightenment mentioned above. But, rightly, these people are not satisfied and continue to entertain doubts about their state.

    Usually the doubt has to do with making the state permanent, which is impossible since the person and his pure mind is still in the realm of time. In other words there is always the realistic fear that the experience will not last. And even though they are so close to enlightenment experientially, it still eludes them. And the reason? Because they are prisoners of the language of experience. The language we use indicates the way we think. And at this stage, when the experience is more or less continually available, the only barrier to converting the experience to a permanent state, not that enlightenment is a state, is the way one thinks.

    What needs to happen at this point is that the individual needs to convert the language of experience to the language of identity. The language of identity states that the experiencer and what is being experienced are not two separate things, that they are in fact the same. When any object is experienced the knowledge of that object arises simultaneously in the intellect.

    And if the mind in which the reflection of the self is pure, the knowledge of the self will arise with it in the intellect. This knowledge is in the form of a thought, an akandakara vritti , an unbroken idea that I am the whole and complete actionless awareness that I am experiencing. If the person is accustomed to thinking of the self as an object, he or she will be reluctant to surrender the experiencer, and the self will continue to remain as an experienced object. The surrender is in terms of letting go of the idea of oneself as an experiencer and embracing one s limitless identity.