By Life Positive
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)
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)
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 some days in this state, I came to hear the Mother’s command: ‘Remain on the threshold of relative consciousness (bhavamukha) for the instruction of mankind.’ Then appeared blood dysentery. There was acute writhing pain in the intestines. Through this suffering for six months the normal body consciousness slowly reappeared. Or else, every now and then the mind would, of its own accord, to the nirvikalpa state.
‘The natural tendency of this (my) mind is upwards (towards the nirvikalpa state). Once that is reached, it does not like to come down. For your (disciples’) sake I drag it down perforce. Downward pull is not strong enough without a lower desire. So I create some trifling desires, for instance, for smoking, for drinking water, for tasting a particular dish, or for seeing a particular person, and repeatedly suggest them to my mind. Then alone the mind slowly comes to the body. Again, while coming down, it may run back upward. Again it has to be dragged down through such desires.’
(From the words of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, as spoken to his disciples during the latter part of the 19th century)
An experience in Cosmic Consciousness
My master, Sri Yukteswar, spoke caressingly, comfortingly. His calm gaze was unfathomable. ‘Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.’ He seldom indulged in riddles; I was bewildered. He struck gently on my chest above the heart.
My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap.
The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive. Through the back of my head I saw men strolling far down the lane, and noticed also a white cow that was leisurely approaching. When she reached the open ashram gate, I observed her as though with my physical eyes. After she had passed behind the brick wall of the courtyard, I saw her clearly still.
All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materialisations of form, the metamorphosis revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.
An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realised, exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae, and floating universes. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being. The dazzling light beyond the sharply etched global outlines faded slightly at the farthest edges; there I saw a mellow radiance, ever undiminished. It was indescribably subtle; the planetary pictures were formed of a grosser light.
The divine dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal Source, blazing into galaxies, transfigured with ineffable auras. Again and again I saw the beams condense into constellations, then resolve into sheets of transparent flame. By rhythmic reversion, sextillion worlds passed into diaphanous lustre, fire became firmament.
I recognised the centre of the empyrean as a point of intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendour issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. Blissful amrita, nectar of immortality, pulsated through me with a quicksilver-like fluidity. The creative voice of God I heard resounding as aum, the vibration of the Cosmic Motor.
Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs. With a disappointment almost unbearable, I realise that my infinite immensity was lost. Once more I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body, not easily accommodative to the Spirit. Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosmic home and had imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm.
My guru was standing motionless before me; I started to prostrate myself at his holy feet in gratitude. He held me upright and said quietly: ‘You must not get drunk with ecstasy. Much work yet remains for you. Come, let us sweep the balcony floor; then we shall walk by the Ganges.’
(From Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda)
I am not the body, I am the Self
It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was seldom sick and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. I did not try to account for it or to find out whether there was any reason for the fear. I just felt, ‘I am going to die’, and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends; I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, there and then.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying?’ ‘This body dies,’ and at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ nor any other word could be uttered.
‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inner but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’
All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centered on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination.
Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else, I was still centered on ‘I’. Before that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.
One of the features of my new state was my changed attitude to the Meenakshi Temple. Formerly I used to go there very occasionally with friends to look at the images and put the sacred ash and vermilion on my brow and would return almost unmoved. But after the awakening I went there almost every evening. I used to go alone and stand motionless for a time before an image of Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja and the 63 saints, and as I stood there waves of emotion overwhelmed me.
The soul had given up its hold on the body when it renounced the ‘I-am-the-body’ idea and it was seeking some fresh anchorage; hence the frequent visits to the temple and the outpouring of the soul in tears. This was God’s play with the soul. I would stand before Iswara, the Controller of the universe and of the destinies of all, the Omniscient and Omnipresent, and sometimes pray for the descent of His Grace upon me so that my devotion might increase and become perpetual like that of the 63 saints. More often I would not pray at all but silently allow the deep within to flow on and into the deep beyond.
(From the words of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and those close to him in his early life)
The universal love of an avatar
When the five perfect masters brought me down, they drew a veil over me. Hazrat Babajan was one of the perfect
masters, and she unveiled me to my present form. With just a kiss on my forehead,between the
eyebrows, Babajan made me experience (in May 1913) thrills of indescribable bliss that continued for about nine months. Then one night (in January 1914) she made me realise in a flash the infinite bliss of God-realisation.
At the time Babajan gave me the nirvikalp experience of my own reality, the illusory physical, subtle and mental bodies—mind, worlds, and all created things—ceased to exist for me even as illusion. Then I began to see that only I, and nothing else, existed.
The infinite bliss of my self-realisation was, is, and will remain, continuous. At the moment I experience both infinite bliss as well as infinite suffering. Once I drop the body, only bliss will remain.
But at the time, I could not have said all this. During the first three days of my superconscious state, I was truly dead to everybody and everything other than my own infinite Reality, although my physical body continued to function more or less normally. Actually dead, though really living, I was considered by others to be seriously ill. I remained in bed, with wide open, vacant eyes that saw nothing.
On the fourth day, and after I was slightly conscious of my body, I began to move about without any consciousness of my surroundings. I received no promptings from my mind, as would an ordinary man. I had no knowledge of the things I did or did not do. I did not sleep and had no appetite. I did everything by instinct, like an automaton.
Although the infinite bliss I experienced in my superconscious state remained continuous, as it is now, I suffered agonies in returning towards the normal consciousness of illusion. Occasionally, to get some sort of relief, I would knock my head so furiously against walls and windows that some of them showed cracks.
In reality there is no suffering, only infinite bliss. Still, within the realm of illusion, it is suffering. My reality, although untouched by illusion, remained connected with illusion. That was why I suffered spiritual agonies.
Nine months after my self-realisation, I began to be somewhat conscious of my surroundings. Life returned to my vacant eyes. Although I would not sleep, I began to eat small quantities of food. I now knew what I was doing but I continued to do things intuitively, as impelled to do them by inner forces. I did not do things of my own accord or when asked by others.
Later, I began travelling long distances. Once, I left Poona by rail for Raichur, but felt the urge to get off at Kedgaon. There for the first time I came in physical contact with Narayan Maharaj (one of the five perfect masters) whose ashram is not far from that railway station. Similarly, from time to time I was drawn to see masters like Banemiyan Baba at Aurangabad, Tipoo Baba at Bombay and Tajuddin Baba (another perfect master) at Nagpur.
Finally, in December 1915, I felt impelled to call on Shirdi Sai Baba. The perfect Master among Masters. At the time he was returning in a procession from Lendi (in Shirdi). Despite the crowds, I intuitively prostrated myself before him on the road. Sai Baba looked straight at me and exclaimed: ‘Parvardigar’ (God-Almighty-Sustainer).
I then felt drawn to walk to the nearby temple of Khandoba in which Maharaj (Shri Upasani) was staying in seclusion. He had been living on water there under Sai Baba’s direct guidance for over three years. When I went near him, Maharaj threw a stone at me that struck me on the forehead exactly where Babajan had kissed me. That blow was the stroke of gyan (Marefat of Haqiqat, or divine knowledge).
(From Hazrat Babajan by Meher Baba and A.G. Munsif)
The awakening of the kundalini
A colleague and I were walking leisurely, discussing work, when suddenly while crossing the Tawi Bridge (near Jammu), I felt a mood of deep absorption settling upon me until I almost lost touch with my surroundings. I no longer heard the voice of my companion; she seemed to have receded into the distance, though walking by my side. Near me, in a blaze of brilliant light, I suddenly felt what seemed to be a mighty conscious presence, sprung from nowhere, encompassing me and overshadowing all the objects around, from which two lines of a beautiful verse in Kashmiri poured out to float before me like a vision, luminous writing in the air, disappearing as suddenly as they had come.
When I came to, I found my colleague looking at me in amazement, bewildered by my abrupt silence and the expression of utter detachment on my face. Without revealing to her all that had happened, I repeated the verse, saying that it had all of a sudden taken form in my mind in spite of myself, and that it accounted for the break in our conversation. Until that hour all I had experienced of the superconscious was purely subjective, neither demonstrable to, nor verifiable by others. But now for the first time I had before me a tangible proof of the change that had occurred in me, unintelligible to and independent of my surface consciousness.
That night, while still in the same condition of semi-entrancement, I stopped abruptly in the middle of dinner, contemplating with awe and amazement which made the hair on my skin stand on end, a marvelous phenomenon in progress in the depths of my being. Without any effort on my part while seated comfortably on a chair, I had gradually passed off without becoming aware of it, into a condition of exaltation and self-expansion similar to that which I had experienced during my first kundalini awakening in December 1937, the only difference being that in place of a roaring noise in my ears there was now a cadence like the humming of a swarm of bees, enchanting and melodious, and the encircling glow was replaced by a penetrating silvery radiance, already a feature of my being within and without.
The marvellous aspect of the condition lay in the sudden realisation that, although linked to the body and surroundings, I had expanded in an indescribable manner into a titanic personality, conscious from within of an immediate and direct contact with an intensely conscious me. My body, the chair I was sitting on, the table in front of me, the room enclosed by walls, the lawn outside and the space beyond, including the earth and sky, which the material cosmos shrank to the subordinate position of an evanescent and illusive appendage.
I awoke from the semi-trance condition after half an hour, affected to the roots of my being by the majesty and marvel of the vision, oblivious to the passage of time, having in the intensity of the experience lived a lifetime of ordinary existence. During this period, probably due to fluctuations in the state of my body and mind caused by internal and external stimuli, there were intervals of deeper and lesser penetration not distinguishable by the flow of time but by the state of immanence, which, at the point of the deepest penetration, assumed such an awe-inspiring, almighty, all-knowing, blissful, and at the same time absolutely motionless, intangible, and formless character that the invisible line demarcating the material world and the boundless, all-conscious reality ceased to exist.
The two fusing into one; the mighty ocean sucked up by a drop, the enormous three-dimensional universe swallowed by a grain of sand, the entire creation, the knower and the known, the seer and the seen, reduced to an inexpressible sizeless void which no ordinary mind could conceive nor any language describe.
(From Living with Kundalini by Gopi Krishna)
I am God-intoxicated
I meditated regularly for about 30 minutes every morning. I could concentrate with ease, and within a few days I began to see clearly where I had failed and where I was failing. Immediately I set about, consciously, to annihilate the wrong accumulations of past years.
Some days later, I felt acute pain at the nape of my neck and I had to cut down my meditation to 15 minutes. The pain, instead of getting better as I had hoped, grew worse. The climax was reached when I could not think, nor was I able to do anything, and was forced to retire to bed. Then I became almost unconscious though I was well aware of what was happening around me. I came to myself at about noon each day.
On the first day while I was in that state, I had the most extraordinary experience. There was a man mending the road—that man was myself; the pickaxe he held was myself; the very stone which he was breaking was a part of me; the tender blade of grass was my very being, and the tree beside the man was myself. I almost could feel and think like the roadmender, and I could feel the wind passing through the tree, and the little ant on the blade of grass. The birds, the dust, and the very noise were a part of me. Just then there was a car passing by; I was the driver, the engine, and the tyres; as the car went further away from me, I was going away from myself. I was in everything, or rather everything was in me, inanimate and animate, the mountain, the worm and all breathing things. All day long I remained in this happy condition. I could not eat anything, and again at about six I began to lose my physical body, and naturally the physical element did what it liked; I was semi-conscious.
The morning of the next day was almost the same as the previous day, and I could not tolerate too many people in the room. I could feel
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