Over the past few years, quite a few blog readers have written to me appreciating the manner in which I have presented the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I would attribute much of it to my Guru whom I met early in my teenage years. My experiences with him seemed to correspond closely with the manner in which the Sri Aurobindo and the Mother interacted with their disciples. It is this correlation which has enabled me to provide an alternative perspective on their life and teachings.
Tag Archives: Ramana Maharshi
Practicing Yoga without a Guru
As seen in the previous article on “Yogic Illness”, deliberately pushing oneself into deeper Kundalini-type experiences without a Guru can be perilous to one’s health. An authentic Guru, if you can find one, is not a suave orator or an object of worship but someone who links their consciousness with yours during initiation (Diksha) and gradually elevates you to their level by transforming you from within. Such a Guru can also detect and purge the energy blockages which develop in the subtle body (i.e. aura) during the transformation process. The disciples who came in physical contact with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were fortunate to obtain this intimate guidance. What happens to those who are called to Yoga but remain devoid of a Guru? The Mother once provided a sagacious description of the meandering manner in which the spiritual path unfolds for such seekers.
Gender differences between men and women
Someone inquired if Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had made any remarks on differences between men and women. This is a compilation of remarks that I was able to find right now. It addresses topics such as : What are the cosmic origins of gender? Are women less polyamorous than men? Are women better at Yoga? Can gender change across incarnations? If I find more remarks, I will add them in the comments section to this blog post.
Dharana Shakti : the capacity to sustain spiritual experiences
The sudden inflow of energy, the rapture and the sense of release that one feels after a favourable period of meditation is not easy to sustain. The mind mostly misinterprets the experience, the heart seizes and appropriates it, while the physical body feels relieved and exhausted that it has ended. We tend to yawn and eat junk food after a period of meditation because the physical body is tamasic(dull) by nature and not accustomed to the newly attained tranquility. Instead of yawning and dissipating the energy gained during the meditation, the body needs to be molded to become more supple and receptive; the cells of the body have to be made more and more conscious through regular exercise and refined eating habits so that it can sustain longer and greater spiritual experiences. Sri Aurobindo denoted this power of the body as Dharana Shakti or Dharana Samarthya (retention capacity; Samarthya or Shakti = capacity, Dharana = retention).
How can Sri Aurobindo smoke while practising Yoga?
This article is motivated by a recent comment on this blog. Those who have gained some familiarity with Sri Aurobindo are often baffled by his conduct: How could he smoke or eat meat while practicing Yoga? Doesn’t it violate the central tenets of Yoga? If that didn’t hinder his practice, can I emulate him? The answer is: “No, you shouldn’t emulate him” as we shall see by the end of this article.
Can I have more than one Guru?
Genuine Gurus are rare these days, so this question shouldn’t arise, but for what its worth, these are some insights by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the question of multiple Gurus. The gist of the matter seems to be that as long as you don’t feel strongly drawn to any particular sage, it is permissible to draw inspiration (through reading and interaction) from multiple sages. But once you get initiated by a particular Guru, you must stick to that Guru, otherwise the spiritual energies of different Gurus can interfere to create a frightful mess within your consciousness. Furthermore, if you have reached the apex with one particular Guru, you can certainly look for another. The cases of Kapali Sastry and M.P.Pandit can be cited in support of this clause; they were initially disciples of Ramana Maharshi but later choose Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as their Guru.
On death, burials, cremations, funerals and resurrection
This article discusses an assorted range of post-mortem topics : the difference between sleep and death, the state just before death, the difference between cremation and burial, the need for funeral ceremonies, and resurrection.
Does dying in holy cities like Varanasi bring salvation?
In the centuries-old Indian city of Varanasi, there is a hotel with a weird check-out policy: if you don’t die within two weeks, the manager will politely ask you to leave. The hotel caters to a clientele of faithful Hindus who travel to Varanasi specifically to die (more on that hotel later). They are solemnly adhering to the norms laid down in the hoary scriptures that state that death in Varanasi (aka Kashi, Banaras) and some other holy cities can guarantee liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. Is this fast-track to liberation a parochial and outdated belief, or does it imply that anyone living anywhere in the world can attain liberation from rebirth by dying in an Indian holy city? In this article, we examine the continuing validity of such affirmations.
Raising a child prodigy
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married couple in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a whizkid. In today’s hyper-competitive world, harried parents are incessantly searching for and investing in innovative methods to secure the ultimate edge for their bewildered toddler. In the mad rush to turn the child into the next Einstein, one area which seems to have been overlooked is the time before childbirth. Few seem to have asked the question : can the pre-natal period be exploited to pre-select a genius? The answer is yes, and it can be done without exorbitantly priced genetic engineering; all you need is just conscious aspiration and prayer. Read on…
How to act in an unstable world
It is a commonly observed amongst those who have awakened to the spiritual path that once they have ceased to be selfish, they start thinking of ways to uplift the rest of the world. One may feel despondent at the chaos in society and seek some semblance of stability or some foothold on which a better future can be built. When we grapple with this intractable problem, we find ourselves psychologically evolving through successive stages of inner growth and along with us, the solution to our dilemma also evolves.
Receiving guidance from Masters of a bygone age
At the risk of sounding like a crackpot, the topic indicated in the title deserves exploration because it is pertinent to the spiritual quest. Many spiritual aspirants, devoid of a living Guru, do at times wonder in one of their despondent moods if it is possible to receive spiritual guidance from Enlightened Masters who had lived before. This question is all the more relevant in an age where the thirst for something spiritual is abundant and so are the charlatans who masquerade as teachers. In this article, we speculate on the prospects with a few examples.
Why does Yoga give you a “high”?
Many methods of Yoga have been developed in the Upanishads and other scriptures – Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Mantra Yoga and what not. Why do they work? What is the physiological basis for the “high” you get through meditation? This is a brief exploration of this topic.
Explaining the Ascent-Descent in Integral Yoga
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa frequently spoke of ascents and descents which occur during meditation. Ramana Maharshi, when informed of these statements, firmly denied any such occurrences. Such puzzling contradictions can occur due to different vocabularies used by various sages as well as the varied transformations by which they attain Self-realization. In this article, I will endeavour to outline the resolution to this contradiction and hopefully clear the confusion.
The spiritual aptitude (adhikara) needed for Yoga
As with every undertaking in life, so also in the practice of Yoga, some aptitude or competency is required. Some people take to meditation like fish to water, while others labor all their life to unveil the light which lies latent within. Aptitude can be developed through right living and right thinking and is carried over into future incarnations, guiding us into contact with saints and Yogis who can lead us to enlightenment. The Guru adapts his teaching based on the aptitude of the disciple since all are not capable of assimilating and realizing the Truth in identical manner. This is also the reason why different kinds of meditation techniques have developed over time. These are some selections on the subject of aptitude from various sages.
The brain is not the mind as per Yoga psychology
The current scientific consensus equates the mind with the brain and sees consciousness as the outcome of brain activity. In contrast, various Yogis have asserted based on their experience of self-realization that there is a greater consciousness that inhabits the body, and that the mind is distinct from and greater than the brain. When the thoughts which keep rattling in the brain have ceased, one begins to catch a glimpse into the truth behind yogic assertions that the brain is not the whole mind. In the state of self-realization, one no longer sees the brain as the seat of thought. The idea that “I am the body” (referred to in Sanskrit as “Dehatma-Buddhi“) becomes severely diminished. The consciousness is felt to be greater than the body, and one begins to ideate from Sahasradala Chakra above the head, turning the brain into a channel for communication between the greater mind and the rest of the body. This post collects some observations on the brain-mind contrast from a few seers of the modern age.
Distinguishing between stilling the mind and dynamizing meditation
During meditation, one may lapse into brief periods of mental silence and wake up refreshed with no memory of what happened during that interval. Various sages have pointed out that this condition verges more towards unconsciousness instead of greater consciousness, and does not imply that the goal has been reached or is nearer. One has to go further by making the meditation more conscious, active and dynamic. For that to occur, the Higher Self must always remain awake during meditation even though the mental consciousness has become immobile. These are some passages collected from various sources on this topic.
Vidyas in the Upanishads – part 2
The Upanishads feature koans for contemplation called Vidyas(literally means knowledge). They are meant to trigger the mind into perceiving yet another facet of the Divine Reality thereby guiding the aspirant into deeper grades of meditation. In a previous post Vidyas in the Upanishads, five such Vidyas were covered: Bhuma, Prana, Shandilya, Madhu and Vaishvanara. The book Supreme Knowledge by Swami Brahmananda  lists an astounding 101 Vidyas drawn from the Upanishads. This post discusses a few Vidyas drawn from this book.
How does a Guru act?
How does a Guru uplift the disciple? How does the Liberated Soul lead the aspirant to spiritual realization ? What are the methods employed by the Guru? These are some insights on this question gathered from the works of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother (Mira Alfassa) and Ramana Maharshi.
Vedic Vak: illustration of Para Vak
All great spiritual masters give instruction in silence. This silence is not absence of speech but a force-field emitted the Master which bathes the disciple and dissolves his/her questions. This eternal silence whose vibrations issue forth from the Master is the Para Vak (i.e. transcendental speech) discussed in the previous post Vedic Vak: four levels of sound.
Ramana Maharshi on World War II
Ramana Maharshi, the sage of Arunachala, seldom commented on world events but in a conversation in 1938 with Mercedes de Acosta, a screenwriter from Hollywood, he accurately predicted the outbreak of World War II. This conversation is recorded in de Costa’s book Here lies the Heart.