Category Archives: a. Philosophical Matters

(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. 

(Pictograms) by The Buddha – THE OX HERDING PICTURES.

The Ox Herding Pictures depict the seekers search for the Self.

The first seven images indicate stages in this search.  Essentially,  they depict the seekers gradual reassurance that once seen the Self will not disappear; that it is there and actually realisable.  But one cannot tether the Ox and remain at one with it because there is another aspect to this process and that is the effect glimpsing the Ox has on one’s Ego/Mind.  The peace that accompanies this realisation is beyond imagining and once experienced the thought that it might depart is unendurable.   But it departs if we try to hold onto it.  So one tries to tether it until one realises that it is Mind that is tethering it and in doing so the Self disappears from sight.  It cannot be tethered.  It was Mind after all that hid it in the first place.  The Ox will stay but only when Ego/Mind is not trying to hold onto it or possess it.  Until at last the two are as one.  The Self is fully realised and searching is over – constant Bliss prevails.  

These images were originally given to me by Geoff, (a friend) as I left for India.  It seemed appropriate that he signed it with a scrawl and that the corner of his gift had been chewed off.  Thank you Geoff.  It came into its own at last.



(Quote) from BE AS YOU ARE: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

1. THE SELF: This is the term that he used the most frequently. He defined it by saying that the real Self or real `I’ is, contrary to perceptible experience, not an experience of individuality but a non – personal, all-inclusive awareness. It is not to be confused with the individual self which he said was essentially non-existent, being a fabrication of the mind which obscures the true experience of the real Self. He maintained that the real Self is always present and always experienced but he emphasized that one is only consciously aware of it as it really is when the self-limiting tendencies of the mind have ceased. Permanent and continuous Self-awareness is known as Self – realization.

5.  JNANA:  The experience of the Self is sometimes called jnana or knowledge. This term should not be taken to mean that there is a person who has knowledge of the Self, because in the state of Self-awareness there is no localized knower and there is nothing that is separate from the Self that can be known. True knowledge, or jnana, is not an object of experience, nor is it an understanding of a state which is different and apart from the subject knower; it is a direct and knowing awareness of the one reality in which subjects and objects have ceased to exist. One who is established in this state is known as a jnani.

(Comment) Understanding the Nature of the Self as experienced through the traditional practice of Yoga and by self realized souls is not as simple as merely studying the material.  The study of the material is important as a basis or clue to the nature of Reality, but practice is equally important because practice does something remarkable. Essentially it radially alters the experiential perception of the practitioner.  One comes to realise that there is a way of Seeing that is completely different to that which we term normal perception and one can only understand this by experiencing it.  It cannot be conveyed except as an idea.  What also becomes clear is that at first this altered perception is not stable.  We pop in and out of it and eventually we come to see its absence is a kind of blindness.  In Yoga this wavering is attributed to the fluctuations of Mind Stuff or Citta. (Read: I.K.Taimni – The Science of Yoga to understand Citta).  Eventually, (through practice) this altered perception becomes stable until the state prevails.  Swami Bawra called it Stable Wisdom.   The effect of this stable perception is a doubtless knowledge, which deepens with time and practice. A dynamic state where Knowledge of Existence is Seen or perceived not learned. This Seeing eventually reveals the reality of the true Self to the practitioner. It then becomes possible to focus on anything one wishes to know about Cosmic Law and it is instantly present in awareness.  Only then can one properly realise the beauty of what is written above.

(Quote) by Satyananda – Satsang Foundaton.

Every time you feel a sense of effort in your mind, ask ‘Who am I?’, interrupt the process. You cannot negotiate with your mind, you have to go to the root. ‘Who am I?’ is the way to go to the root. Demand the Truth of who you are – not a story, not a word, not a literal description, but a live Presence.

All the confusion comes from identifying with something that is not true. Get to the root of that confusion, solve it immediately. See the Truth of yourself. In that Truth there is Peace already, there is quietness, there is wisdom, there is no need for anything.

(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.

(Precious Moments) on EGO

One day some years ago I and an English friend were standing in the Southall Ashram with Swami Ji and were looking out into the street.  It was a hot dusty summer’s day.  Bits of rubbish were lying around and the street appeared generally untidy. 

My friend observed judgementally, “It’s so polluted Swami Ji.”

“No my boy, not polluted!” Swami Ji said.

My friend objected but somehow I got the impression that my teacher was not referring to the polluted street at all but then nothing more was said.

It took me many years to understand what Swami Ji was actually saying in that moment.  My friend was not merely observing the state of the street.  He was making a value judgement and value judgements are generated by Ego/Mind. They are relative and therefore not true – they are simply relative.  Since Mind is the issue in Spiritual Practice, value judgements are counter-productive and simply affirm the illusion and where we a stuck.

During those times with Swami Bawra I would sometimes stray into Egocentric territory.  If ever I did his reaction was immediate and quite stern.  Sometime he would just look and I understood that I had made a mistake.  One time I took hold of his foot and in a gesture of affection, and shook it – not hard but in a way that could have been construed as disrespectful – enough for him to feel it at least.  He looked at me sharply and then immediately softened.  He saw no disrespect and so the moment passed but even this taught me something.  His dance was not with me.  It was with my Ego.  In retrospect he could have been harsher but that was not how he dealt with me and would I have understood?  But then he never gave too much away.  His way was to let us stumble and learn by our mistakes.