Category Archives: a. Philosophical Matters


“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……….

(Quote) on BEING STILL

I needed to know this even before I learned to speak!

D.: Cannot samsara (Literally means: journeying. [cycle of birth, death, and rebirth]) be got rid of by any means other than making the mind still?

M.: Absolutely by no other means; neither the Vedas, nor the shastras (In essence, the shaastra is the knowledge which is based on principles that are held to be timeless.) nor austerities, nor karma, nor vows, nor gifts, nor recital of scriptures of mystic formulae (mantras), nor worship, nor anything else, can undo the samsara. Only stillness of mind can accomplish the end and nothing else.

D.: The scriptures declare that only Knowledge can do it. How then do you say that stillness of the mind puts an end to samsara?

M.: What is variously described as Knowledge, Liberation, etc., in the scriptures, is but stillness of mind.

D.: Has any one said so before?

M.: Sri Vasishta had said: When by practice the mind stands still, all illusions of samsara disappear, root and branch. Just as when the ocean of milk was churned for its nectar, it was all rough, but became still and clear after the churn (viz., mount Mandara) was taken out, so also the mind becoming still, the samsara falls to eternal rest.


4. Is the state of ‘being still’ a state involving effort or effortless?

It is not an effortless state of indolence. All mundane activities which are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the Self (atma vyavahara) or remaining still inwardly is perfect effort, which is performed with the entire mind and without break.
Maya (delusion or ignorance) which cannot be destroyed by any other act is completely destroyed by this perfect effort, which is called ‘silence’ (mouna).

Spiritual Instruction, revised form by David Godman, chapter 2


(Selected piece) Introduction to JNANI and BHAKTI

I am adding this to the blog because this is a really significant piece.  And this principle is not only applicable to Yoga.  It is a universal principle that applies to human nature (though in other esoteric traditions the terms may be different).

Source and sincere thanks go to:

The term jnani means seer, or one who has pursued spiritual growth through wisdom or insight. It is used as a noun to describe a type of person, or an individual like Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), and is also used as an adjective to indicate the concepts and practices of a particular path. In India the term is often contrasted with the term bhakti, meaning devotee or devotion.

 ”The understanding of the differences between jnani and bhakti is vital in one’s spiritual journey, and also in understanding the sometimes bewildering diversity of the spiritual life”

The real significance of jnani and bhakti is as a personal orientation to the spiritual, though we can often describe a whole religion as having either a jnani or a bhakti emphasis.

Jnani individuals: make their initial response to the spiritual through the mind; their attitude is one of enquiry and doubt; their stance is aggressive in that they wish to penetrate the divine; their instinct is to understand.

Bhakti individuals: make their initial response to the spiritual through the heart; their attitude is one of love and trust; their stance is passive in that they wish to be penetrated by the divine; their instinct is to surrender.

Note that care has been taken to point out that these are initial responses. The jnani grows in love just as much as the bhakti grows in understanding. These are preliminary definitions which will be expanded upon and illuminated with examples in the various sections of this site.

The significance of jnani and bhakti can be vividly seen in the life of the great 19th century Indian saint, Paramahansa Ramakrishna. Romain Rolland, Ramakrishna’s biographer, quotes him as saying:

 “Greeting to the feet of the Jnani [seeker on the path of awareness (knowledge)]! Greeting to the feet of the Bhakta [seeker on the path of devotion]! Greeting to the devout who believe in the formless God! Greeting to those who believe in God with form! Greeting to the men of old who knew Brahman! Greeting to the modern knowers of Truth.”

This quote captures the breadth of Ramakrishna’s vision, a breadth that is aspired to in the contents of this website. However it is the specific interaction between Ramakrishna and fellow seeker Tota Puri, and between Ramakrishna and his disciple Vivekananda that most vividly illuminate the distinction between jnani and bhakti (see ‘selected Masters / Ramakrishna’ for an account of this).

Amongst religions we can cite Christianity as having a mainly bhakti emphasis, and Buddhism as having a mainly jnani emphasis. Hinduism, being such an ancient and eclectic religion, incorporates both orientations, for example showing a pronounced bhakti emphasis in Krishna-devotion, and a pronounced jnani emphasis in the Advaita tradition of non-dualism.

(Quote) by Ramana Maharshi – on IMPRESSIONS

All the age long vasanas (impressions) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that effort is necessary, for most people.

(Ramana Maharshi, GFB, chapter 8.)

Vasanas which do not obstruct Self-Realization remain [after Self-Realization]. In Yoga Vasistha two classes of vasanas are distinguished: those of enjoyment and those of bondage. The former remain even after Mukti is attained, but the latter are destroyed by it. Attachment is the cause of binding vasanas, but enjoyment without attachment does not bind and continues even in Sahaja.

(Ramana Maharshi, GR, 89.)

There are not two minds – one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds – auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.

(Ramana Maharshi, WHO,16.)

Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage. That being so how can the tendencies of karma affect him who is entirely unattached to activity? 

(Ramana Maharshi, SI, Chapter 2, Question 26.)


“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