Category Archives: g. (Thoughts)

(Thoughts) on Emotions & Feelings.

There is nothing consistent about our feelings.  If we live out of or make decisions from our emotion, (non-verbal Mind/Ego) we will live life chasing desires as if in a boat tossed about on a stormy sea.  Only Bliss is consistent but Bliss is not an emotion.  Bliss is what shines when all else falls silent. And how do we know the difference between bliss and happiness?  Where there is Bliss there is no longer any longing and no longer any fear.


High Stormy Seas Photograph by Vince Cavataio –

(Letter) on Spiritual Experiences.

Dear E….

I added the Ramana Maharshi Quote and our discussion to my blog and thought I would send you the link because the distinction offered by Ramana is an important one.  Jnani is the path of Knowledge by which false understanding (ignorance) is stripped away. It asks ‘Who am I?’ As distinct from Bhakti which is the path of Devotion.  Our leaning toward one or the other is a predisposition in our Nature.

There are a handful of jewels that illuminate the path to emancipation beyond which nothing else is required.  We come with all the tools necessary to realise enlightenment.  A single idea defines the Nature of Reality.  ‘We are Consciousness’ .  That’s it.  That is the mystery.  But the realisation of the profound depth of this simple statement requires an inner condition, [Or you can say an inner stance – a way of being internally] or it cannot be a stable experience.

Ramana 02

The most important thing to understand is that there is nothing to gain.  There is nowhere to go.  The path is only a process of removing obstacles to the realisation of that Truth.  By being a conscious being you are a channel for consciousness, Now, Now, Now.  It is there always in its absolute perfection at your heart (centre of your being).  All that is required for us to experience it is the sweep away Ego/Mind.   Ego/Mind is like a forest that stands between us and the rising sun.  There is no problem with the sun.  Only the presence of the forest blocks our view.  This understanding is a Jnani concept.  Two ways fell the forest – insight (knowledge) and devotion (complete surrender to God or Self.  And by this I do not mean the God of speculation that is a mental construct).

The result of rendering Ego/Mind silent is the experience of Bliss – a property of Consciousness.  It is ‘that peace that surpasses all understanding [1]about which all sages speak and which fuels what often becomes an Ego driven craving for emancipation particularly when emancipation is seen as a panacea for mental turmoil.  That Sublime Peace is always present but drowned out by Mind.  If encountered a devotional person will likely experience this Bliss as a love for God.  We can be an atheist (rejecting of a notion of God) or a believer (accepting of a notion of God) it makes no difference because both these are attached to the Ego/Mind and not Reality. When bliss manifests in experience, concepts are irrelevant.

Many people accidentally experience a Bliss State.  History is awash with them and profound as it appears at the time this is not the stable state enjoyed by Seers because Enlightenment is a dynamic not a passive state requiring the penetrative insight that prevails in Satwic Mind (a state of harmony, balance, joy & insightful wisdom).  It can be fleeting or last for hours or even days, but in the absence of any fine understanding or guidance the individual will usually becomes mentally unstable by trying to cling to the experience and all too often will be diagnosed as delusional or even psychotic.  This premature experience is not one to invite without access to a wise teacher.  If it happens then understanding its nature and cause is everything.

In 1988 I ran a meditation course in Surrey.  Nineteen people enrolled.  Before I started the first session I asked how many people were there because they had had what they would term a Spiritual Experience.  All but two or three hands were raised.  In those days I was nowhere near a reasoned explanation.

The clue as to why it happens, unbidden, lies in our devotional nature. And this is also the key as to why it is usually intentionally unrepeatable.  Many people who have ‘enlightenment’ experiences spend years trying to repeat what they think they did or make the experience mean something when it means nothing – except to reveal only that we are Consciousness.  Actually it was what they did not do that made it occur.

Essentially one is surrendering without realising it.  In a moment of ‘Grace’ (you can say) ones Ego is set to one side and The Self, Consciousness, God is momentarily revealed. Hence Ramana Maharshi said;

“The moment when ego is completely surrendered, the Self shines”

It is the Ego that wishes to repeat the experience.   It will fade as soon as the Ego asserts itself again – as my experience.  Quite often the experience is accompanied with tears of joy, and a feeling of complete devotion to God. The experience of the Self is beyond description and life changing.  In such moments there is no desire.  One is completely fulfilled – immersed in unconditional love.

But ultimately devotion is not enough.  Anything suppressed can reassert itself so one has to realise the true nature of the Self and remove all impressions (Sanscaras) to be a completely free Soul.

<[1] “… And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” Philippians 4:4-7 (English Standard Version)

(Thoughts) on Surrender

It is the Doer that gets in the way. Which is why practice is effective when we are not doing it. How hard is that? Remember the camel and the eye of the needle? If the Doer is doing it, it is not just difficult, it is impossible. And then one day, as if by accident, something different occurs and we can be sure that it did so because for the briefest of moments we, little we, got out of the way. So what do we do – we try harder, and centuries pass, (or so it seems) and then one day, as if by accident, something different occurs… again. It is mysterious how it happens, which is why the masters call it Grace. It is Grace because We can’t do it. The Doer is powerless. The accident that made the camel slide through the eye of the needle was a moment of surrender. Every moment is potentially such a moment.


“Mind alone is the cause of man’s bondage and freedom.” Amritabindu Upanishad

Many years ago I read a book by Jane Roberts called the NATURE OF PERSONAL REALITY. Jane Robert channelled a source called Seth. Regardless of what you might think of channelling, at some point in her delivery Seth addresses why anyone would want to seek Nirvana. Why anyone would want to destroy the Ego and lose the experience of enjoyment?  He declared it to be folly.

At the time I was quite affronted by this statement and dismissed his stand.  I was after all on a mindless quest to obliterate my soul so why would I take note of such a statement?  It would have been good to take heed because it is a searching question.

“Birth and death are only ideas. They pertain to the body or the mind. The Self exists before the birth of this body and will remain after the death of this body.”  Ramana Maharshi in Talk 487.

Samkhya Philosophy is described as ‘that knowledge knowing which does away with all suffering.’ And this is the key to understanding the nature of this admittedly absurd pursuit.

In a sense the undertaking is a kind of trade, though that puts it very crudely.  One is trading one’s Ego for Bliss – not happiness, BLISS, but that is also a crude oversimplification.

Though we might enjoy moments of happiness when things are going our way; when we have our health, enough money, enough food, good company, a new something or other, but this is happiness and not Bliss.  There is no doubt that life does have a certain charm at times but there are also times when life is a torment.  Technological Civilisation with all its benefits (whatever they might be) is a recent state of affairs but such sophistication is as thin and fragile as gossamer and can be swept away by a gentle breeze.

Jesus warned us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Desire creates your universe; that’s just the way it works. Ram Dass.

Suffering is never so far away, as the Buddha declared. (Read the story of the Buddha and the Black Mustard Seed.) And for so many reasons suffering is beyond one’s control.  It is in those dark moments that we question the nature of existence and how we might be freed from suffering.  Ask any survivor in the current war zones in the Middle East right now what they would do to be free of suffering.

It is our habit to look to the world and circumstance to satisfy this desperate need but any solution obtained by materialism can only ever be temporary.  And this includes joining or belonging to groups or movements that promise Shangri-La by virtue of being one of a chosen few.  It is a fact we either accept as being the way it is or we ask that profound question, “Is there a way to be free of suffering?  And therefore how does life work if it is not to be taken at face value?”  In this pursuit there is a process and it soon becomes apparent to the open mind that suffering cannot be eradicated by any material means and that suffering is a natural part of the human condition.  It takes a wise soul to point out that to have any impact on the nature of suffering we must look inwards in a very particular way.  And thus there starts the journey that has no destination.

Hence, “There are no stages in Realization or degrees in Liberation.” Ramana Maharshi


No thought that arises as Mind is any more or less profound than any other thought despite what each promises – even those thoughts that are pregnant with charm are insignificant.  Everything we think is merely a dark cloak that conceals the Self.  Nothing we can think will liberate us, no matter how profound.  Only when thoughts fall silent are we approaching the true nature of what we are.  Nothing else matters……….


“The wanting to find something … the Mind feels if I learn enough I will learn my way into freedom maybe. That’s one of the illusions. If I learn enough, and I study enough, and people have studied tremendously, pundits of knowledge, sometimes find their knowledge gets in the way now. [They think] ‘I have studied all these things and something in me knows it is nothing’.”


Whilst I was in Canada in 1986 I met a woman called Brenda S, wife of Vijay S who had been with Swami Ji a number of years. I recall that she was happily married and had at least two very young boys.  At some time before I met her she had been terribly ill and had actually died on the operating table. She described to me the out of body experience and of moving towards a bright light, similar to those recalled by people who die and are brought back to life .

She said that as she left her body she had the thought, “I can’t leave. What about Vijay and the boys? How will they survive without me?” Then as she moved further towards the light she felt herself let them go and think to herself, “They will be okay.”

When she came back into her body and recovered she was moved into a ward. Vijay and the boys naturally came to visit.  She saw them enter the ward through the doors but it was as if she did not know them.  She felt no emotional attachment at all to either her husband or the boys.  Naturally for Vijay this was very distressing and when they next had the opportunity to speak with Guriji they asked why this had happened? His answer was an indication of the nature of attachment and of the laws that govern rebirth.

He said, that when she died she had withdrawn too far from her present incarnation, to the point where attachments bound to this life and this body were broken or lost. That it was natural and that she should not worry. She would simply have to make new attachments if that is what she wished.

So why am I telling this tale? Well it is not just our attachments that leave us when we die. Learned (bookish) knowledge is not the same as experienced knowledge. Knowing the Self is not knowing in the sense of knowing this or that. It is more like abiding in the Self and in that way it is known. All learned knowledge is also forgotten when this physical body dies and withdraws into the subtle body before we take a new birth.  Whereas experienced knowledge is always available because it does not belong to us – it belongs to no one.   It is simply there to be seen.

When Swami Ji advised me not to do a philosophy degree I was puzzled.  I now see that it makes no sense to spend years learning information that will simply be lost in favour of practice that will reveal knowledge that cannot be lost.  I trust his judgement.

There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned. – Sri Ramana Maharshi

(Thoughts) on THE JOURNEY

Meditation sometimes produces surprising insights.  Today was no exception.  Practice is a journey without a destination.  I see that for many years I was climbing a ladder to reach enlightenment but the Self I was seeking was in a sack on my back and was with me all the while.  But for years I do not realise.  Each rung I touch I learn intimately and could retrace my steps.  Even when the rungs are left behind I remember how they felt and what I learned from their touch.  All the rungs seem important and are leading me to my goal.  But I don’t need to climb the ladder, I never did, except that as I climb I get nearer to realising this, until one day I wonder in just the right way. I take the sack off my back and I look inside and find the Self that has always been there.  I realise then that the journey was not necessary, and yet had I not climbed I would not have realised that the Self was always with me.  I never was the climber, or the ladder, or the journey.  Such is the strangeness of the practice. 

(Thoughts) on THINKING

We are conditioned to accept that thinking is simply the effect of our being awake and exposed to the life around us – an inseparable my-mind aspect of actually being human.  The idea that we are not our thinking, and that the mental noise that accompanies every waking moment of most of our individual lives can be reduced to nothing, is not something we are taught about our human nature.    And despite knowing that this process is insatiable we are in fact taught to engage with and encourage this noise; to feed our desires, even though we have thoughts we would rather not think and have feelings we would rather not have to endure. We are not taught how to deal with thoughts and emotions in a way that is effective or enduring. 

The first stage in unravelling this conundrum is to accept that we are not defined by the content of our thoughts and feelings. They are not us.  Thoughts and feelings are subject to the laws of cause and effect. They arise because they do, not because you are a good or a bad person.  When our senses engage with the world, before thoughts arise there is an impulse that precedes them.  This impulse can be likened to a ball hitting a wall. The wall in this analogy is the small self or ego. The stimulus then bounces back charged with a tiny impression or sensation, (the result of past experiences) that we instinctively and habitually engage with adding to it meaning and significance.  Thus, by allowing our attention to follow the flight of the ball a dialogue ensues and continues until another impulse takes flight and catches our attention. It may be related or unrelated. If however, we keep our attention focused on where the ball hits the wall, where the sensation is actually generated, there is no ensuing dialogue. When no meaning or significance is added to the impression the ball loses it power instantly and simply, (metaphorically) falls to the ground. There is no dialogue.  One can do this even if the ball is in flight.  If we resist sensations they live on to trouble us another day. Understanding HOW we resist them becomes part of the process.

The initial impulse actually has no significance – it is, as it were, genderless.  WE provide significance out of our past experience and imagination; out of our mental habit. There is no need to understand or work it out because that is an endless process and constitutes resisting the impression.  It is beautifully simple. Once this  fact is realised, (a tiny but significant moment of enlightenment) we can begin to become Master of Mind and not its slave.

(Thoughts) on KNOWLEDGE

Controversially, mystics assert that there are two kinds or knowledge, relative knowledge and absolute knowledge (and I offer no apologies for redefining the terms if that is the case).  So what is the difference?

Relative knowledge is our best shot at defining Reality given all our abilities, learning and the constraints of our intelligence.  It is not possible to be right.  It is only possible to hold an opinion as to what might be so or not so.  Relative knowledge in this sense is a lottery.  And more often than not it is what we choose to exclude that convinces us of which model to defend or which view to hold.  Knowledge of this nature is not rooted in any reality and has the tendency to be ephemeral.  It is gleaned from what things look like or appear to be and as history has proved time and again those assumptions can often be wrong or misguided. In a world dominated by empirical science it is very difficult to hold to concepts that include the existence of God or Angels or Past Lives or that imply any ascendant dimension.

Each of us views the world through the veil of our own understanding and to a greater or lesser degree, will justify that model, and to the best of our ability, intelligently defend it.  

All models that define an existence divorced from an underlying Spiritual Reality are relative and ungrounded.  They float like feathers in the void that is material existence.  They exist as a kind of delusion.  Such is the nature of worldly knowledge.  When through some act of Grace, we touch Enlightened Wisdom all our hard won, intelligent but false speculative models, collapse as being irrelevant.

And models that cannot encompass even the notion of Enlightened Wisdom or Insightfully Doubtless Knowledge are, though seemingly plausible, the most deluded of all.  We can hold a perfectly reasoned idea that holds true within its own frame work but which is absurd when set in the context of the whole.   Absolute knowledge has no such contradictions. 

The transition from the one to the other, from a materialistic model to one that accommodates Spirituality as the orchestrating principle, is the Paradigm shift we must make if we are to move on as a species.


Many years ago now I ran the Guildford TM Centre with my then partner.  One day the centre taught a lovely gentle woman who turned up in all innocence to learn meditation.  From the outset of learning she started to see angels and divine beings and in the absence of any reasoned explanation it troubled her deeply. There was nothing we could say because the very notion of the Super Senses was of another order entirely. She came for counselling on several occasions but in the absence of any proper guidance she eventually stopped meditating.  What she experienced was almost certainly the super-sense altered state of sight triggered by starting meditation.

Experiences of altered states are not, however, confined to practitioners of meditation.  They can happen to any one of us and can last for a brief moment or for several weeks.  Many years ago when I ran meditation courses for Surrey Adult Education I first asked people how many were there because they had had what they would describe as a Spiritual Experience.  Most hands would be raised.

During the process of Yoga practice the experience of altered states is a natural, all be it relatively rare, occurrence. The general advice in practice is always that they should be ignored and not spoken about.  The reason being because exploiting the experience runs counter to what one is attempting to do in practicing Yoga – reveal the Self by sublimating the Ego.  This is a process that brings complete stillness to the Mind and not mental chaos that sometimes accompanies altered states.  This advice is therefore sound because ultimately these are stages one wants to pass through not enjoy, (or at least be aware of the consequences of indulgence).  One of these stages is the Transition of the Super Senses in which the ordinary senses are magnified and accompanied by feelings of ecstasy.

When I was taught this aspect of Samkhya I naively assumed on hearing of it that passing through this fire would be a process of simply ignoring these magnified experiences.  I did not realise; could not imagine the effect they might have on my Ego/Mind and its compulsion to exploit and possess any appearance of happiness in the form of Bliss.  Altered states do not come alone.  They are startlingly beautiful and can overwhelm the small self, fundamentally altering the core reality. They change lives and forever.

One quite literally Sees differently for a short while and without guidance it is nearly impossible to navigate this ocean.  The result of being drawn in and trying to possess the experience sets up a cyclic process that is anything but quiet.  It can produce a state of frantic mental activity and as such this should be a warning, particularly if that person suffers unduly from powerful negative emotions such as fear or shame or an ongoing feeling of flat greyness or depression.  Hence it is that psychotic episodes are more prevalent in those who have encountered abuse in their young lives. Add to this an intelligent mind and the condition worsens exponentially.

The experience itself profoundly opens up perception and it is this enhanced perception that appears to support the experience and the Bliss that accompanies it.  Unwittingly one starts to ‘talk it up’ in an attempt to perpetuate the exalted state.  This, (not the initial experience) is ‘Spiritual Psychosis’ and the episode can leave one emotionally devastated.  This is the realm of madness.  Naturally, after a period of sometimes destructive delusional activity, awareness descends back into an ordinary state.  This usually leaves one utterly bereft or in despair; a condition that is familiarly called the Dark Night of The Soul.  We treat people we find in this condition (note not with) as sick when in reality they have just sipped nectar at God’s table before they were prepared and for a while they have been intoxicated.   What they need, however, is guidance not drugs and therapy.