By Suma Varughese
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 & Dvaita
Orally 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 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
Kundalini 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 Siddha
Prema Rajan, Bangalore
Crash 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 psychic attacks created by negative energies.
I also got an opportunity to attend a pyramid workshop conducted by Dr Jiten Bhatt.
Today, I can combine all the techniques, using pyramids as cosmic transmitters to generate a lot of positive energy around me.
The world of spirituality has given me some wonderful experiences, the most profound one being astral travel. The feeling of the soul departing, then waking up to realise that you are alive, is wondrous! When I narrated the incident to my Babaji he told me calmly that I had experienced the process of negative entities leaving me.
Today, I realise the power of meditation. Of belief. I feel much younger now. I don’t find the urge to learn new methods to attain peace. During my journey I realised the significance of cause and effect. The universe is a fertile field returning to you what you have sown. So why not sow a few seeds of love and blessings?
I have spent only one-tenth of my life in spirituality but perhaps this is the only time I have lived in totality and been myself!
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Derived from the root ‘tan’, which means to spread, it refers to a body of scriptures that spread knowledge. The suffix ‘tra’ is from the root meaning ‘to save’. It is called Tantra because it spreads knowledge and because it saves. This body of knowledge is classified as the Agamas, meaning a set of scriptures dealing with the worship of divinity, which has personal attributes, the Saguna Ishvara (as against worship of the formless Absolute). The Agamas are divided into three main groups, depending on whether the Ideal worshipped is Shakti, Shiva or Vishnu. The first is the Shakta Agama, the second the Shaivagama, and the third the Vaishnava Agama or Pancharatra.
This path is traditionally open to persons of all castes and both sexes. Tantra is the result of much experimentation with practical aspects of spiritual knowledge down the years, to ease human suffering and obtain succour through the use of rituals, yantras and mantras. It bears a significant imprint to this day on daily spiritual practices for Hindus and Buddhists. Tantra is also the storehouse of occultism, much misunderstood because of false glamour, horrors and hype. At the highest levels, it represents a rigorous yogic path towards realisation, practised under the direct instruction and supervision of gurus who are themselves Tantrik adepts.
It implies working through the body and mind to experience and resolve cravings and aversions, to attain detachment. It helps resolve the illusion of duality (the veil of Maya)—by breaking strong social taboos if needs be—to reach realisation. Tantra seeks unification of Jiva and Shiva, Purush and Prakriti, the androgynous union of Shiva and Shakti, which is, essentially, a merging of the individual self and the Universal Soul. The mechanism of Kundalini is basic to all paths of Tantra. It naturally involves the attainment of siddhis or spiritual powers. According to one school of opinion, ‘siddhis are simply proof of the success of yogic sadhana’!
Noted scholar of Tantra, Sir John Woodroffe, says: “A subject of greater interest and value is the remarkable presentation of Vedantic knowledge which the Shakta Tantra in particular gives (I never properly understood Vedanta until after I had studied the Tantras) as also the ritual by which it is sought to gain realisation…. The importance of the Shakta Tantra may be summed up by the statement that it is a Sadhana Shastra of Advaitavada…”, meaning that it is a manual for the realisation of Absolute conceptualised in Advaita. Many others, like Ramakrishna, have also pointed to this link between Vedic philosophy and practical Tantra.
Mata Nirmala Devi, the propounder of Sahaja Yoga, has a stunning USP. She gives mass awakening to audiences of more than one lakh, by raising their kundalinis. Mataji’s diksha can be availed of even by following the instructions given on her website. Here they are in slightly condensed form.
Have a portrait of Mataji before you, while you sit with your back straight but comfortably. Take off your shoes if possible.
Place both hands with upward palms on your lap, look at Mataji’s photo and relax.
Say in your heart fervently: “Mother, please give me my Self-Realisation.” Say this three times.
Check if your thoughts have slowed down or even been stilled.
Check your palms and the top of the head for the feeling of a cool breeze. Place your palm above your head to affirm the latter.
If you have no sensation, you have probably not forgiven everyone. Say from your heart: “Mother, I forgive everyone” a few times and check again.
Follow the initial awakening with regular Sahaja Yoga meditations given free at any centre near you. The meditation consists of a series of affirmations, while placing your right hand on each chakra and progressing upward.
Repeat six times when at the Mooladhar: “Mother, please give me pure knowledge.”
At the solar plexus, affirm 10 times: “Mother, I am my own master.”
At the heart chakra say 12 times: “Mother I am my own atma, spirit or true self.”
At the throat chakra, turn neck to the right and say 16 times: “Mother, I’m not guilty.”
Cup your right hand on the ajna chakra and say as many times as needed until you feel released: “I forgive everyone.”
Place the right hand on the back of the head and repeat three times: “Mother, forgive me if I have done anything wrong.”
Place your right palm on the top of the head; stretch your fingers upward. Pressing down slowly rotate your hand clockwise. Ask seven times: “Mother, may I have my self-realisation”?
Now tie a bandhan to ward off negative energies. Keeping your left hand palm upward on your lap, move your right hand over the right side of the body and down. Repeat, going over the head and coming down from the left side. Do this seven times.
Place left hand on lower abdomen. Move it slowly upward, while rotating the right hand around it clockwise until both hands are above your head. Use both hands to tie a symbolic knot. Do this three times. The third time, tie the knot thrice, with your attention on the kundalini above the crown chakra.
Surrendering the ego
Maninder Sidhu, New Delhi
I do not get up at 4 a.m. for meditation. I eat non-vegetarian food occasionally. And I do not lead an austere, joyless, no-sense-objects-for-me kind of life. Nor does my guru, the Mother Shiva, conform to anyone’s idea of a guru. She may not be old or dressed in white, yet she is Truth itself and the sum total of all energies. In the last three years that I have followed the path taught by her, she has bestowed on us limitless love and compassion and as often revealed the iron fist in the velvet glove when she feels we are not making the progress we should.
Though this path may seem easy to follow on the surface, it is rigorous in the sense it demands the surrender of the ego almost from the start. Yet this seemingly impossible task is made much easier through the experiential teachings and the powerful energy of my guru, who teaches in the traditional guru-shishya style where she follows the progress of each disciple closely.
Under the guidance of the Mother, we experience the highest truths in our meditations and these cause tremendous shifts in our being because our intellectual understanding is then converted into a deep-seated knowing. There may still exist a schism between that knowing and how we live our lives and that is where Mother gives us invaluable pointers on just how to implement these experiences in our day-to-day lives. And this is what first drew me to the path—the fact that each and every one of our questions relating to life, our being and spiritual evolution were always answered clearly and to the depth we required.
v A cornerstone of this path and the first step in meditation is the meditation that connects us to the Self—a totally different, limitless, free state of being that is an inherent part of all human beings. We practised this meditation throughout the day till it became the state of being from which we lived life rather than from the limited state of the personality. Once we became adept at this, Mother then effortlessly took us to higher and higher states of consciousness to make us aware of the vast reality that exists outside this tiny speck of illusion.
There are six essentials of this path without which progress will not be as rapid as it has been in our case:
1. Detachment from the personality and false identity after becoming aware of and living from our true identity–the Self.
2. Surrender of the ego–which occurs simultaneously when we repeatedly choose the Self over the ego in our lives.
3. Devotion to the One and most importantly, devotion to the guru, who teaches you the path to the One.
4. Gratitude for all that you receive.
5. Trust that all is for your highest good.
6. And the dedication of your being to this path of enlightenment.
In our recent retreat Mother raised our consciousness levels permanently. For her it is a wave of her hand, for us this permanent change in our consciousness has been nothing short of miraculous. Even if we unconsciously stray into an old pattern of being, we become aware of snapping back into that high level again like a rubber band. For me, the most powerful manifestation of Mother’s energy has been the changes she has brought about in our physical being because changes at the densest level of our being—the body—are the most difficult to effect. My body is now much lighter, younger and more energetic.
As I go about my life, I play the roles that I have assumed in this life with great gusto, but always from the perspective of a cosmic being acting out a part in a world of make-believe, never compromising on who I am or fitting into the stereotypical moulds of such roles but from that greater reality that embodies true love, compassion and wisdom.
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Jiddu Krishnamurti is one of the most radical teachers of the modern age. Rejecting the concept of a definite path to spirituality, he steadfastly maintained that the Truth is a very personal realisation, arising from one’s own insight into the nature of the human mind.
Krishnamurti was born in May 1895 in Madanpalle, in South India. Groomed by the Theosophical Society to take on the role of the eagerly awaited world teacher, in 1929, he renounced any such claim. “…Truth is a pathless land,” he declared, “and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally.”
According to Krishnamurti, Truth, being absolute and unconditional, cannot and should not be organised or given
a form or direction. He exhorted people not to follow him and start another organisation or a religion around him that could be imposed upon others. His was only one purpose—to free man, to help him break the chains that bind him and limit him from a direct experience of the Truth.
The essence of his teaching is best found in his own words: “Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity…. Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.”
Contact: Krishnamurti Foundation India. Ph: (044) 493 7803, 493 7596
U.G. Krishnamurti (no relation to Jiddu Krishnamurti) can best be described as a spiritual nihilist. Here is a path, if you could ever call it that, of negation—complete and absolute. There is no offer of any hope or salvation in his words; rather, they only succeed in overthrowing an individual’s accepted beliefs about God, religion, mind, heart, humanity and spirituality.
UG, who apparently found enlightenment at the age of 49, says: “Whether you are interested in Moksha, Liberation, Freedom, Transformation, you name it, you are interested in happiness without one moment of unhappiness, pleasure without pain, it is the same thing.” This state of ‘moksh’ according to him is not the result of the pursuit or search for truth, because such a pursuit takes one away from the natural state in which one always is and so has no relation to it. Thus, what prevents what is there from expressing itself in its own way, is the search itself. Because it is always in the wrong direction, he says, all that is holy or profound is a contamination in the consciousness.
UG therefore considers enlightenment, when it does happen, as ‘acausal’—i.e. the search has somehow ended without any apparent cause. So, he says there is nothing one can do about it. The individual who does get enlightened is not ‘chosen’. He just deserves it, says UG, for reasons that are not known.
A pioneer of my life
Chitra Panchkaran, New Delhi
During 1995-96 I was encountered by life. “Why I am suffering in my life with no fault of mine” was the question that kept haunting me. Inner restlessness increased and I reacted to the circumstances with anger and anguish. I literally became prisoner of my circumstances.
Then, I was introduced to Silva Mind Control method by my brother. Stress was released and I felt at peace. I also started reading spiritual books and came in contact with inner realities of my being. At this time, Life Positive also entered my life. This soul-stirring magazine revealed mystical and spiritual side of life and my doubts were clarified. Since then, it has become part and parcel of my life and I feel spiritual connection with people behind this magazine.
Then I did Reiki. I experienced the power of gratitude even for bitter realities of life. I started accepting myself and began to take care of the inner child in me.
Next destination was Vipassana. Ten days of complete silence brought me in direct connection with my inner-being. A strong sense of peaceful existence inspired me to enjoy my own company.
The Art of Living course brought laughter and cheer in my life. I was able to sing and dance and could feel a sense of liberation.
Then, my office sent me to a 15-day self-defence course named Wenlido, meaning women’s path towards empowerment. This course was conducted in Rishikesh by Canada-based renowned trainer Gitta Redder. I could see through myself clearly once the course was over. I was relaxed.
Afterwards, I travelled to various spiritual places with my family. My visits to Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, the Brahmakumari centre in Mount Abu, etc, unveiled mystical realities and my closeness with nature deepened. My visit to Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh long back also contributed to awaken my spiritual self.
Recently I attended a meeting by Soka Gakkai International. My seeking soul is opened up for any spiritual experience. I was touched by the loving and compassionate people in the group.
Today I see myself as a pioneer of my life. I am no more victim of the circumstances. I live in the state of gratitude every moment. I do not react to petty talk and still feel powerful from inside. I enjoy being alone and my compassion for my family and society has increased. I believe in the law of nature and law of giving.
I am thankful to people and situations who put me on the spiritual path by breaking my ego and excessive attachments of this life. I now believe in the saying, “heal the past, live the present and dream the future”.
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