By Life Positive March 2002 Authentic accounts of God-realization by spiritual seekers are rare, even though many mystics over the centuries have experienced it. Presenting enlightenment experiences of nine mystics, which can be a beacon of inspiration for all seekers • Gautama Buddha• Leo Tolstoy• Ramakrishna Paramahansa• Paramahansa Yogananda• Ramana Maharshi • Meher Baba• Gopi Krishna• Jiddu Krishnamurti• Mata Amritanandamayi GAUTAMA, THE BUDDHA The final liberation The Bodhisattva had triumphed over Mara. The full moon rose in the sky. The Bodhisattva, unmoving, entered into the first level of meditation. The night was utterly silent. As the moon continued to rise, the Bodhisattva’s composure deepened, and one by one he mastered the levels of meditation until he reached the fourth. His concentration was bright and unblemished, full and balanced. Then through great confidence and trust, he relinquished the watcher, and his mind entered into a fathomless openness untroubled by content. Here the Bodhisattva naturally rested until a profound contentment pervaded him. But as one who already knew the way, he did not become caught up in this. Rather, with utter clarity and tenderness, he turned his mind to untying the knot of birth, old age, sickness, and death. He saw that the condition for old age, sickness, and death is birth. He saw that the condition for birth lay in processes of becoming already set in motion; that the condition for this was grasping or craving; that the condition for this was desire; and the condition for desire, feelings of happiness suffering, or indifference, and the condition for these, sensual contact; and the condition for sensual contact, the fields of the senses; the condition for sense fields, the arising of mind-body; the condition for mind-body, consciousness. He saw that mind-body and consciousness conditions each other to make a rudimentary sense of self. He saw that the condition for consciousness was volitional impulses, and finally that the conditions for them was ignorance. Thus he saw that the whole process ending in old age and death begins when basic intelligence slips into unawareness of its own nature. In this way all-pervading intelligence strays into the sense of a self. After the Bodhisattva had penetrated the nature of the process of birth, old age, sickness, and death, the clarity and openness of his mind increased. His inner vision became completely unobstructed. This is called the opening of the divine eye. Then he turned his attention to the past, and saw his and others’ countless past lives. Then, moved by compassion, he opened his wisdom eye further and saw the spectacle of the whole universe as in a spotless mirror. He saw beings born and passing away in accordance with karma, the laws of cause and effect. Just as, when one clears one’s throat, one is next ready to speak, past deeds create a certain inclination. When the basic condition of ignorance is present, the inclination takes shape in a kind of volitional impulses, which engender a consciousness, and so on up to old age and death, and then once more into ignorance and volitional impulses. Seeing birth and death occurring in accordance with this chain of causality, the Bodhisattva saw the cyclic paths of all beings. He saw the fortunate and the unfortunate, the exalted and the lowly going their various ways. Then he applied himself to rooting out this suffering once and for all. He had clearly understood the wheel of dependent arising in which each stage follows from a preceding cause, beginning with ignorance. And he saw how beings were driven on it by the powerful motive force of karma. He saw that through the cessation of birth, old age and death would not exist, through the cessation of becoming, there would be no birth; through the cessation of grasping, no becoming-and so back through the sequence of causation to ignorance. He saw suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and at last also the path to cessation. At first light of dawn the Bodhisattva saw through the very trace of ignorance in himself. Thus he attained complete and utter enlightenment and became the Buddha. (A compilation from the Pali Canon, the Lalitavishtara Sutra, and the Buddhacharita) LEO TOLSTOY The Count’s existential crisis I felt that something had broken within me on which my life had always rested, that I had nothing to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible force impelled me to get rid of my existence. Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding the rope in order not to hang myself, and no longer going shooting lest I should yield to the temptation of ending myself with my gun. I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life; I was driven to leave it; and in spite of that I still hoped something from it. What will be the outcome of what I do today, or tomorrow? What will be the outcome of all my life? Why should I live? Why should I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which inevitable death does not undo and destroy? These questions are in the soul of every human being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as I experienced, for life to go on. ‘But perhaps,’ I often said to myself, ‘there may be something I have failed to notice or to comprehend. It is not possible that this condition of despair be natural to mankind.’ I sought an explanation in all branches of knowledge. I sought like a man who is lost and seeks to save himself—and I found nothing. Yet whilst my intellect was working, something else in me was working too—a consciousness of life. During the course of this year, my heart kept languishing with another pining emotion. I can call this by no other name than a thirst for God. This craving had nothing to do with the movement of my ideas—in fact, it was the direct contrary of that movement—but it came from my heart. One day in early spring, I was alone in the forest, lending my ear to its mysterious noises. My thought went back to what for these three years it always was busy with—the quest for God. But how did I ever come by the idea? Again there arose in me, with this thought, glad aspirations towards life. Everything in me awoke and received a meaning… Why do I look further? A voice within me asked. He is there—he, without whom one cannot live. To acknowledge God and to live are one and the same thing. God is what life is. Well, then! Live, seek God and there will be no life without him. After this, things cleared within me, and the light has never wholly died away. I was saved from suicide. How or when the change took place, I cannot tell. But as insensibly and gradually as the force of life had been annulled within me, and I had reached my moral deathbed, just as imperceptibly did the energy of life come back. This energy was nothing new. It was my ancient juvenile force of faith, the belief that the sole purpose of my life was to be better. I gave up the life of the conventional world, recognising it to be no life, but a parody, which its superfluities keep us from comprehending. (From The Varieties of Religious Experiences by William James) RAMAKRISHNA PARAMAHANSA The ecstatic lover of Mother Kali Describing his God-experience, Ramakrishna said: ‘The room, the temple and everything around me, vanished from sight. I felt as if nothing existed, and in their stead I perceived a boundless effulgent ocean of intelligence. Whichever side I turned my eyes, I saw huge waves of that shining ocean rushing towards me, and in a short while, they all came, and engulfed me completely. ”Thus getting suffocated under them, I lost my ordinary consciousness and fell down. At the same time I was also conscious, to the inner core of my being, of the hallowed presence of the Divine Mother.’ About his nirvikalpa samadhi, Ramakrishna said: ‘After the initiation, ‘the naked one’ began to teach me Advaita Vedanta and asked me to withdraw the mind completely and dive into the atman. I had no difficulty in withdrawing from all objects except one, this was the all-too-familiar form of the Blissful Mother—radiant and of the essence of Pure Consciousness—which appeared before me as a living reality and would not allow me to pass beyond the realm of name and form. ‘In despair I said to ‘the naked one’, ‘It is hopeless. I cannot raise my mind to the unconditioned state and come face to face with the atman.’ She sharply said: ‘You can’t do it! But you have to.’ She cast her eyes around for something, and finding a piece of glass, took it up, and pressing its point between my eyebrows, said: ‘Concentrate your mind on this point.’ ”With stern determination I again sat to meditate, and as soon as the Divine Mother appeared, I used my discrimination as a sword and with it severed it into two. There remained no more obstruction to my mind, which at once soared beyond the relative plane, and I lost myself in samadhi. ‘I was for six months in that state of nirvikalpa. Days and nights succeeded unnoticed. Flies would enter the mouth and nostrils without producing any sensation. Hairs became matted with dust. Sometime even nature’s calls were answered unawares. Hardly would the body have survived this state but for a sadhu who recognized my condition, and also understood that the Mother had yet to do many things through this body—that many persons would be benefited if it were preserved. So at mealtime he used to fetch food and try to bring me to external consciousness by administering a good beating to the body. As soon as traces of consciousness were perceived, he would thrust the food into the mouth. ‘After s
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