By Life Positive March 2001 In the last century, several Indian spiritual gurus and godmen amassed unprecedented followings in India as well as globally. The gurus of our times, quite a few of them now non-Indian, have also been unveiling hitherto secret doctrines and practices. Charismatic, great orators, motivators and organization builders, they are the glamour boys of contemporary spirituality. In Indian spiritual gurus many a restless soul find, an anchor, their queries dissolved and a path to self-discovery and salvation Applied Jainism – Acharya Tulsi By Parveen Chopra Some years ago, when work in Parliament came to a standstill following a boycott by opposition parties protesting against the ‘whitewash’ of an official report on the securities scam, Acharya Tulsi, the most high-profile Jain guru of them all, was asked to mediate. He succeeded in breaking the impasse—which could have brought the government down—using an unlikely strategy: talking to the parties concerned about anekantavada. This Jain doctrine of non-absolutism holds that all human perceptions of truth are only partially valid, and that one must accommodate points of view other than one’s own. ”Both peace and war originate in the minds of men,” he said in his address to the World Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action held at Ladnun, Rajasthan, India, in December 1995. ”We have paid little or no attention to the question of transforming the human psyche.” It is this issue that cut his life’s work out for him. The answers came in the form of the well-known Anuvrat movement in 1950, and the introduction, later, of preksha meditation and the Science of Living course for students. I met the Acharya in Ladnun. He looked remarkably fit and alert for his 83 years. A Sanskrit and Prakrit scholar, he spoke in chaste Hindi. What inspired a religious head like him to launch the popular Anuvrat movement, aimed at social reform and moral regeneration? ”Human suffering,” he replied. Since ordinary people find the five big vows (nonviolence, non-stealing, celibacy, non-acquisition and speaking the truth, common to Hinduism , Buddhism and Jainism ) too intimidating, he developed a ‘minimum moral code’. This contained vows such as: I will do my best to avoid contributing to pollution; I will observe rectitude in business and general behavior; and I will not resort to unethical practices in the elections. Anuvrat became a massive movement in the 1960s and 70s. Preksha dhyan was the next logical step. Explained Tulsi: ”I had started noticing that many people were unable to keep their vows, particularly about shedding addictions. What was needed was a method of inner purification that could give them the requisite strength.” Preksha literally means looking deeply; the technique involves engaging your mind fully in the perception of the subtle internal and innate phenomena of consciousness to control your passions and purify emotion. Jeevan Vigyan (the Science of Living) aims at the all-round physical, mental, emotional and moral development of the student. During his tenure as head of the Terapanth sect, Tulsi showed great organizational ability and the mind of a progressive man. Among other things, he instituted a rigorous training program for the monks and nuns of his order. And to obviate the injunction against monks using mechanical means of travel, he created a new order of semi-monks called Samans who routinely fly to other countries. At the core of his teachings is his slogan: Jain bano na bano, good man bano—it doesn’t matter whether you become a Jain or not, aspire to become a good man, a moral man. The Last Resort – Ramesh Balsekar By Suma Varughese ”There is no me,” asserted the voice.”What you see is a body-mind organism called Ramesh Balseker.””All that is, is Consciousness.””An individual has no free will.””Everything happens according to God’s will.””There is no birth and no death . The final truth is that nothing has happened, there is no creation. There is no seeker and no sought. We are dreamed up creatures.” Each statement hits the mind like a bullet, ripping through and shredding your conditionings, convictions, attitudes, and thoughts, destroying every comfortable crutch, every attribute of identity. Such ruthless negation can be frightening, even disorienting. Yet Ramesh Balsekar’s students cannot have enough of it. Balsekar is not a guru for the masses, but his popularity has been growing among a select band of people in India and abroad, kindled by the seminars he has conducted in the USA and Germany between 1987-93, his annual fortnight-long seminars at Kovalam beach in Kerala, India, and his talks. Lately, however, he has restricted himself to daily morning sessions at his home. Many people, however, would know him through his books. Starting with Pointers From Nisargadatta Maharaj, an expansion of his guru’s philosophy, he went on to write A Duet of One, an analysis of the Ashtavakra Gita, Experiencing the Teaching, The Final Truth, From Consciousness to Consciousness, Consciousness Speaks, Ripples and Consciousness Writes. Ramesh Balsekar is an unlikely guru, somewhat in the mold of Jiddu Krishnamurti. He hasn’t systematized his teaching nor set up an organization to promote it. A former general manager of the Bank of India and a golfer, he lives in the up market Warden Road area of Mumbai, India. Balsekar sums up his philosophy in four words: ”Thy will be done.” This acceptance of the absoluteness of Divine Will is based on the non-duality of Advaita Vedanta . Surrendering to Divine Will eliminates all sense of personal doer-ship, of pride in success , of guilt or shame in failure, or enmity at another’s actions. Isn’t the trap of fatalism lurking here? ”No,” explains Balsekar. ”Because the energy inside won’t let you do nothing.” The best plan of action, he recommends, is to continue doing whatever you are doing, safe in the knowledge that what you do is what God wants you to do, otherwise the thought would not have entered your head. This reasoning preempts the existence of individual soul or personal karma. ”When we die, we go back to the pool of Consciousness, which sends forth other body-mind organisms to continue the cycle of cause and effect. Where is the question of reward or punishment when there is no ‘you’?” he asks acerbically. His own life is proof that even spiritual seeking is due to God’s grace. His quest started when he was just 12, but in fulfillment of a prediction, he found his only true guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj, only a year after retiring from his job. Nisargadatta was a beedi shop owner whose book, I Am That, a compilation of his talks by a foreign disciple, Maurice Friedman, is a spiritual classic of our times. Even before Nisargadatta Maharaj’s death from throat cancer in 1981, Balsekar was authorized to speak on his behalf. In due time, Maharaj’s mantle fell upon him. His approach, however, is individual. Nisargadatta prescribed ways to reach enlightenment, such as staying in the ‘I am’ or practicing desirelessness and fearlessness. But for Baleskar, there is no question of getting there since we already are there. All we need is to know that. No spiritual practice can speed up the process. ‘If meditation is to happen, it will happen,’ he says. Such a rigorous approach seems to be producing results. According to one of his disciples, at least five or six of his students have realized whatever they had to realize. Balsekar himself, however, says that there is no way to judge if a person is enlightened or not from his behavior. This is because the experience may or may not bring any change in the body or the mind. What then is the benefit of enlightenment? None, because there is no one left to enjoy it, he points out. The Making of a Master — H.W.L. POONJA By Paula Horan Around the time I met Papaji (H.W.L. Poonja) in 1992, I was so disappointed with my experience with gurus that I was planning to write an anti-guru book. The first question I asked him was: ”Please help me alleviate, once and for all, my miserable monkey mind.” During that first interaction, he skillfully brought me from the head to the heart, enough to make me admit to him, tears in my eyes: ”I need you.” Many years ago, Papaji was a seeker himself, visiting every known guru. His quest began at the age of eight and continued to haunt him through his householder years. Eventually, he gave up his army job after Independence and returned to the worship of Krishna to whom he was passionately devoted. He went on a tour of India, seeking a guru, but returned home unrewarded. Back in Punjab, he asked a mendicant who appeared at his door: ”Is there a master who has seen God and who could also show him to me?” The mendicant directed him to Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai. Papaji found that there was a job going for an ex-army officer in Madras. On his way, he made a stop at Ramanashram. He peered through the window of the hall where Sri Ramana sat—and behold, it was the same mendicant he had met earlier! Just as he grabbed his bag to leave, a resident asked him why he was going away so soon. Papaji said that he wasn’t interested in any guru who was out ”collecting” disciples. The resident said that it couldn’t have been Sri Ramana whom Papaji had met in Punjab because he hadn’t left the area in 48 years! Curious, Papaji decided to stay. In a private interview, he challenged him: ”aren’t you the same man whom I met in Punjab?” The Mahar
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