By Suma Varughese June 2004 The search for enlightenment is what drives us, consciously or unconsciously. however, finding the right path is no easy matter for it has to suit our inclination, interest and temperament. while we can’t promise you a custom-made path, we give you the next best alternative—a compilation of 100 paths including 59 formal paths and 41 readers’ experiences to pick and choose from. happy seeking! Vishishtadvaita & DvaitaOrally transmitted esoteric knowledge of the Vedas came to be known as the Shrutis, learned by careful listening, being beyond the reach of common folk. Three main preceptors, all hailing from the South, were responsible for interpreting ancient sacred texts into what is known today as the basis of Hindu philosophy. Adi Sankara (788-820 AD) from Kerala, propounded the monistic Advaita philosophy, that Brahman alone is the Absolute Reality, the world and its creations being indistinguishable from it once the illusion of maya is removed. Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 AD) from Tamil Nadu, developed a theist Sri-Vaishnava outlook, that the road to salvation is through Bhakti Yoga, involving dedication to Narayana or Vishnu. Unlike the formless nirguna Brahman of Sankara, Narayana has special attributes (vishesha), hence Ramanuja postulated the Savishesha Brahman. All living beings have God as their origin, but are temporarily separated from Him. True fulfilment and joy lies in re-establishing this connection with the Absolute, which is the origin of all Reality. However, the soul, sharing in omnipotence and omniscience, is still distinct from Him, and is eternal and conscious of itself, or it would cease to exist. The soul is one with God, yet separate and hence the system of Ramanuja is called Vishishtadvaita, or qualified non-dualism. Madhavacharya (1238-1317 AD) from Karnataka, belonging to another branch of Vaishnavism, broke away from the Upanishads completely and differed even from his guru Achyutapreksha, in his interpretation of the nature of God. Also recognised as Anandatirtha or Poornaprajna, he founded the system of Dvaita or duality. This is also called the ‘doctrine of reality’, where the three kinds of entities in the universe, insentient, sentient and God, are all real and the differences between any of these are also real. This is also known as Tattavavada, Bhedavada, or Bimba-pratibimbavada. It declares that Hari (Vishnu) is supreme; the universe is real; the universe is all His play; the differences are real; jivas are the cohorts of Hari and are unequal among themselves; mukti is the experience of jiva’s innate joy, free from suffering, achieved through devotion and knowledge. Ramakrishna Paramahansa explained that the three schools are complementary, suited to different temperaments, representing three stages in human progress towards Ultimate Reality. He suggests that we follow the ideal of Hanuman’s devotion to God as his servant, while knowing both Rama as the personal God and the Formless Reality. Ramana’s Self-InquiryRamana Maharshi was one of India’s greatest saints. Having attained enlightenment without a living teacher, he considered the holy mountain of Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai to be his Guru. Born to a devout family in South India on December 30, 1879, his birthday coincided with the holy day of Arudra darshan, celebrating Shiva’s manifestation before his devotees as Nataraja. The story goes that a blind midwife in attendance at the time saw a brilliant light as the baby was born. Venkataraman, as the child was named, grew to be a normal boy, interested more in sports than studies, but with a propensity for unusually deep sleep, during which nothing could awaken him. Having once heard the name Arunachala, he felt strangely drawn to it and was highly inspired when he stumbled upon a book on the lives of saints. At 17, an overwhelming fear of dying compelled him to visualise the process of death completely. This led him to experience the deathless spirit and so complete was this realisation, that thereafter he remained absorbed in the Self. Soon after he left home, the image of Arunachala beckoning him. For a while he lived around the town of Tiruvannamalai as an ascetic, oblivious to bodily needs and cared for by another seeker Palaniswami, who became his first disciple. Around 1899, he began to live in a cave in the hill of Arunachala, and gradually an ashram grew around him. He attained mahasamadhi on April 14, 1950. At that very moment of his surrendering the body, an unusually bright huge light moved northeast across the sky and disappeared behind Arunachala; thousands saw this all over India. Ramana Maharshi was one of the foremost proponents of the school of Advaita or Non-duality, of which Arunachala was a centre. Advaita is the awareness of our Universal Self, beyond all knowledge or mind. Ignorance, the root of suffering, limits us and prevents us from realising this Supreme State of Being. Sri Ramana advocated self-inquiry as the key to liberation. Only the relentless interrogation ‘‘Who am I?’’ can cut through the veils of ignorance swathing us, and permit us the experience of pure awareness. As the ‘knowledge’ of pure awareness of the consciousness of being is not conceptual and impossible to understand by listening, silence formed an important part of Ramana’s updesa. Rather than talk about self-realisation, Ramana actually lived it and millions of people, children and even animals received the love and grace of this saint. Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website. www.ramana-maharshi.org Kundalini YogaKundalini Yoga lays groundwork for spiritual realisation for many systems of meditation with varying philosophy, discipline and emphasis. The path of Shakti, it involves arousal of the individual evolutionary impulse towards unification with the Absolute, symbolised by the union of Shiva and Shakti. Kundalini is a form of energy lying dormant at the base of the spine, coiled like a serpent. The body has seven etheric chakras or dynamic centres of energy located along the spine. The harmonious functioning of these chakras regulates mental and emotional well-being, with a corresponding influence on physical health. They also govern our perception of reality, in attunement with the laws of the universe. Each chakra is assigned a particular Sanskrit letter, colour, symbol, musical note, animal and deity for purposes of meditation and ritual practice. The lower three chakras deal with survival issues, while the upper chakras bring in evolved attributes of compassion, universal love, creativity, intuition, wisdom and illumination. Three major nadis or subtle etheric channels running along the spine conduct impulses from the root chakra upwards towards the crown chakra. The nadi to the right of the spine is the solar nadi, pingala, and the left one is the lunar nadi, ida. The central channel, sushumna, when activated, brings about balance and equanimity, resulting in freedom from the delusion of polarity. Various Tantrik texts describe special techniques to arouse the Kundalini. This is to be attempted under the guidance of a realised Master, in a gradual and disciplined manner, following measures for purification of mind and body, to avoid unleashing its destructive potential. As the Kundalini rises from one chakra to the next, she dissolves mental, emotional and karmic blocks accumulated over several lifetimes, bringing about profound changes in the mind-body system of the aspirant, as well as illumination and spiritual unfoldment. This subject was earlier treated as a highly guarded secret, for fear of its misuse in the wrong hands, especially in the harmful pursuit of spiritual powers for personal gain or to abuse others. With the current speeding up of the evolutionary process, it is natural that this profound path be made available to serious aspirants on a wider scale, especially through the work of scholars like Gopi Krishna and Sir John Woodroffe. It is now open as a less intimidating and more playful path to spiritual realisation. As Santosh Sachdeva, spiritual aspirant and author of two books, including Kundalini Diary, writes: “The Kundalini introduced me to an inner world of colour, sound and fragrances. She filled my body with light, and also showered me with more light and flowers.” Graduating into SiddhaPrema Rajan, BangaloreCrash landing would be an apt description of my entry into the path. The first step was Reiki, the subtle divine force that flows through the chakras. What made me believe in the existence of the ‘violet flame’, for instance, was when a pumpkin kept in a polythene bag melted completely while I circulated the divine flame! Divinity exists. Reiki created a change in my attitude, reducing negative emotions and sparking off a strong thirst to learn more. I went on to do Magnified Healing, crystals, Merkaba, the Melchizedek method… During a Magnified Healing session I got the thrill of being able to see the aura and also channeled the voice of an entity who introduced himself as Sunflower Angel. He revealed so many interesting things from the past and the future and kept me so engrossed that I became addicted to the practice. I found little time for my meditations. I went down the ladder! Life became clouded. Around that time I read an article about Siddha meditation taught by Avdhoot Baba Shivananda in Life Positive. After nearly two years of struggle I got an opportunity in March 2001 to do it, but I found myself unable to sit in the hall. Something in me was getting so agitated, I was terrified and wanted to run away! But Babaji was adamant, forcing me to do all the levels in one go. Later, he told me that entities within me were frightened. The methods were totally different from light meditations and helped me emerge from psychi
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