Archive for the ‘Sri M – Mumtaz Ali’ Category

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

It is in that calm, mirror-like, pure mind that the ultimate, absolute, blissful Reality, the Brahman is reflected.

This is what the Kenopanishad means when it says: “That which even the mind cannot reach but because of which the mind acquires the faculty to comprehend; That, O seeker! is the true Brahman, nothing that you worship here.”

M: But, doesn’t the mind become inert like that of an idiot by ceasing to think and reason?

Master: How can the mind which reflects the very seed and source of intelligence ever become inert? Such a mind is ever active, ever engaged in doing what has been ordained as its duty. Such a mind, blessed by an abundant rush of energy, as it is linked to the very fountainhead of the tremendous energy that operates the entire universe, is not ruffled by obstacles or failures. It gets neither dejected by failure nor overjoyed by success. It is a mind that works steadily without the distractions that the ordinary person has. It is only such a mind that can be truly said to function, charged as it is with the energy from the Universal Generator. The rest are all inert because they have not discovered the secret of work.

The only experience or state of being whose content cannot be subrated (subrate–a mental process whereby one disvalues some previously appraised object or content of consciousness because of its being contradicted by  new experience) in fact and in principle by any other experience—which no other experience can conceivably contradict—is the experience of pure Spiritual Identity; the experience wherein the separation of self and non-self, of ego and world, is transcended.

Let us look at the minds of some great persons who were not merely thinkers but doers. Adi Shankara was one of the foremost exponents of Advaita Vedanta—I shall go into it later—and he was a sannyasin par excellence. In a short span of 32 years, he did what ordinary people would have taken a hundred years or more to accomplished, or perhaps, would not even have accomplished in quite a few lifetimes. He travelled on foot through the length and breadth of this vast country, wrote voluminous commentaries on the scriptural texts, engaged numerous scholars of the day in debates, and renovated temples wherever he went. And he was successful in everything, for he had understood the secret of work.

Take a more recent example, the great Vedantist, Swami Vivekananda. One cannot but be overawed by the stupendous work that the Swamiji did. What a towering personality and what a tireless worker for the good of humanity! You yourself can think of many examples like these.


Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

M: If knowledge refers only to memory, what is it that can know Brahman?

Master: To understand it even conceptually, we may have to go into different kinds of knowledge. At the lowest end is ajnana, knowledge about the world obtained through our sense organs. Higher than ajnana is jnana or knowledge of the Self and other things acquired through the reasoning intellect, buddhi, and from scriptures and teachers. Still higher is vijnana, discriminative knowledge, that is able to differentiate the real from the apparent or relative.

One who has reached the level of vijnana can hone it to perfection by trying to remain constantly on that level. If this is done, the intellectual understanding of jnana and the passion-arousing ajnana and even the earlier stage of the discriminative capability, vijnana, are overcome or transcended, thereby attaining the intuitive and unitive experience of Brahman.

In this context, even the word ‘experience’ is  a misnomer, a wrong term, because it implies an experience and, therefore, an object of experience. All that can b said about such a state is that it is a mental/spiritual enlightenment where nothing but an all-pervasive knowledge exists without the duality of the knower and the known.

M: Am I then to understand that knowledge, as we generally understand the term, is useless?

Master: No, certainly not. The capacity for knowledge, whatever its level fo perfection, is the highest faculty of man. Each level in the hierarchy of knowledge I talked about has its proper place. Without experience derived through our senses, however unreliable or unreal they may be, we cannot apprehend our immediate world of living. They may lead to passions, attachments, and so on, to cause misery or fleeting pleasure. Yet, it is the same misery or pleasure that often moves one towards jnana or reasoning intellect to assess and evaluate the condition we are in. Reason, then, leads to vijnana through an intellectual appreciation of a higher Reality. However, reason itself can show that reason is often unreliable, coloured as it is by our subjective prejudices. When reason is aided by intuition from a source unknown and unknowable, one reaches the level of vijnana, and the Ultimate Reality becomes no more an intellectual concept but a potentially and presently experiential one.

Constantly remaining in that state, one attains Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. In other words, Brahman is beyond ajnana, jnana and the early stages of vijnana and is realised in deep meditation when the mind, which is nothing more than a collection of thoughts, is transcended. Knowledge, which is memory, a thing of the past, comprehends fully how finite it is, and therefore, how it cannot reach out to the infinite from which intelligence itself proceeds. Giving up all reasoning, arguments and doubts, it then lets go of th echain of thoughts and becomes as still and placid as an infinite expanse of clear water without a single ripple in it.

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

Master: Now, be alert son. To be alert is not to strain but to relax and let the teachings sink deep so that you’ll have no more doubts. Listen carefully, and after that, as k me further questions if you have any. We’ll discuss matters as two close friends discuss their intimate problems. Let’s have complete frankness and love between us.

Yes, many have been perplexed by the apparently contradictory statements of the Upanishads. But, if you examine them carefully, there are no contradictions.

“They who worship ignorance enter into darkness.” Isn’t that quite clear? Ignorance, avidya, is lack of knowledge, nescience. It is by acquiring knowledge, jnana, that ignorance is destroyed. Nowhere does the Upanishad say: “Don’t acquire knowledge”, for knowledge is the only instrument that can dispel ignorance. Everything that we learn is knowledge, including what you are hearing from me now. Then, how can knowledge lead to darkness?

Listen carefully. The Upanishad doesn’t say that knowledge leads to darkness. All it says is that those who ‘worship knowledge’ enter into greater darkness. This is to be examined closely.

Let us say that you have walked into a field full of thistles and you have quite a few thorns lodged in the feet. You did not know—you were ignorant—that it was thorny terrain. You try to pull them out with your bare hands, but to no avail; they are in too deep for that. So, you find a sharper, longer, sturdier thorn to remove them. Similarly, you remove the thorns of ignorance and pain with the thorn of knowledge. Tell me, will you, after getting rid of the painful thorns, stick the larger thorn into your feet? No, you won’t; you will throw it away. So is it with the thorn of knowledge used for removing the thorn of ignorance. Both of them are discarded by the yogi, the seeker, whose aim is liberation.

Before we go further, let us see what knowledge itself is. You understand a thing or an event and say, “I’ve acquired knowledge of that.” This means that you have stored all the information or as much as you can get regarding that thing or event in your memory, so that you can refer back to it, recognise and react to it, in the future. All knowledge is like that—that which is stored in one’s memory. Can you think of any other? The moment you have listened to my words, they have vanished from the present and have become things of the past. They constitute memory, and memory is a thing of the past. Knowledge, as we know it is then something that you remember, whether it is from the recent past, a split second ago, or years ago. That is, it is memory. All knowledge is, therefore, memory—a thing of the past.

On the other hand, Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is never a memory, never a thing of the past. It is the living present, the eternal, immediate present and , therefore, can never be comprehended by knowledge, which has only the past as reference.

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

This was the first day of the fortnight I spent with him. I had so many questions to ask and so many doubts to clear. I didn’t know when again I would get such an opportunity.

And we began.

M: Sir, I have studied Vedanta for many years. When I began, I thought I understood everything, but as years passed and I went deeper into the subject, I began to realise how little I had grasped. There are so many questions that have remained unclear.

First, unravel the mystery of knowledge itself, since this very path of the seeker is known as the path of knowledge, jnana marga. I am as confused as many by the statement made in the Isha Upanishad:

Andham tamah pravisanti ye vidyam upasate

tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam tatah.

(They who worship ignorance enter into darkness And they who worship knowledge enter into greater darkness.)

The first part is clear. We have always been taught from childhood that ignorance is to be overcome by acquiring knowledge. So, it is quite baffling to hear the rishi say that, to worship knowledge is to enter into greater darkness. How can this be? If both ignorance and knowledge lead to darkness, is there something beyond both knowledge and ignorance? If even knowledge leads to darkness, what is it that one can reach which is beyond both knowledge and ignorance?

{please follow the answer from Master in next post}

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

It was a chill Himalayan night. We sat facing each other on a large flat boulder in front of the cave. Around us, the silvery, snowclad ranges glowed in celestial light. In spite of the crackling fire we had earlier set ablaze and the thick blankets wrapped around me, I was shivering when the icy wind blew across my face. My guru presented an utter contrast to my swaddled and cocooned form; he sat there bare-bodied save for the single knee-length cotton loin-cloth tied around his waist. He had, I learnt later, mastered the yogic technique of adjusting his body temperature by the practice of what the Tibetan yogis call tumo. He appeared very comfortable on the folded woollen blanket. Sitting in padmasana (lotus posture), he looked at me with a kind and beatific smile.

“Relax,” he said. “There’s nothing to fear. Be comfortable.” I don’t know what happened then. His words acted as magic on me; my tired body, hauled all the way up the almost inaccessible peak, was miraculously revived. My aching muscles no longer ached; my blistered feet tortured me no more; even the wind seemed to stop its needle-pricks. A soothing warmth flowed from him to me and permeated my whole body. I suddenly found that I was not hungry anymore, though I hadn’t eaten for three days and had been ravenous till then. I was once again steady of body and mind; I became alert with an acuteness I never knew I had possessed before.

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

An interesting aspect of this conversation is that it was not recorded mechanically or manually at the time of its occurrence. It was not due to M’s lapse or lack of eagerness, especially as he was sceptical about his, as he thought, too fallible a memory. His Master dissuaded him from such an attempt; he said that this was unnecessary. He assured M of a total recall at the right time, though what that ‘right time’ was left unclear.

A few years later, M was working as a journalist in the Andamans. Often the afternoon time lay heavily on his hands and he decided to test his ability for total recall. He won—rather, his Master did not fail him. To his amazement and delight, the entire dialogue began to unspool, and words flowed as if he was engaged in automatic writing on the papers in front of him. It is hoped that the result—a permanent record of the dialectical exchange—will clear some of the doubts of the readers as it did that of M himself.

Jewel In The Lotus – Thus Spake the Master

sri m

Though M came across many saints and sages who helped him in their own way during his years of extensive wanderings as a spiritual seeker, he never regarded any of them, albeit his respect for them, as his guru. He knew he would have no guru other than the Master (as M calls him) whom he had seen, as it were in a vision in his childhood, and who had promised to be M’s spiritual mentor. However, M did not deliberately seek him out, confident that his Master would meet him at the appropriate time. In the event, not only did he meet him many times, but once, on their third encounter, they spent a fortnight together in a cave at Kedarnath. This stay turned out to be a watershed in M’s life; the course his life took from then on changed and led him where he is now.

The following chapter is a recollected transcript of the dialogue between the Master and M. The latter asserts that many of his doubts were cleared by these sessions of questions and answers stretching over the length of his stay. To reproduce it in the same format is warranted by a noble tradition—a tradition by which most religious literature of the world (the Bhagavad Gita to name but one) is handed down in the form of catechisms, prashnottara. An advantage of this method is that, as a form of communication, it is far superior to a discourse. In this method, the teacher answers questions from an earnest student rather than haranguing a medley of captive students with different degrees of interest in the subject. Hopefully the spirit of the dialogue informs this reproduction.