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!
Envisioning the Almighty
Dr W. Raj Mohan, Coimbatore
Spirituality is man’s guide to excellence in life. I owe my present position as the chief executive and an effective HRD facilitator of a company to the spiritual guidance I got throughout my life.
I received the blessings of and initiation by Swami Satchidananda in 1975 as a young village schoolboy. His guidance and love of God inspired me to pursue spirituality actively.
Here is the method that benefited me. Every morning, visualise your life goals and feel through your five senses all that you wish to happen today. This visualisation has to be done in deep meditation. Place your wishes at the feet of God and request him to fulfil them if so inclined. At night before sleeping, recollect the happenings of the day as if watching a movie, without judging events and people as good or bad, because only God can distinguish between good and bad. We are guided by him through our inner feelings.
Swamiji said: “The mind is the main source of health and happiness.” It is really true. I fell sick many times, but never felt ill in mind and spirit. A few years ago, I met with an accident while riding on my motorcycle. My right side was damaged very badly. Despite the severe injury, I rode my motorcycle all the way to the neighbouring hospital. The doctors were amazed at my will power.
Recently, a Forest Department Official approached me to conduct a motivation-training programme for the tribes in Anaimalai hills. During interaction with them I learnt that they were struggling to survive. They eat only once in a day. My companions and I offered them food, which they ate as if they were starved. Moved, I approached many leading business houses in Coimbatore city. Many came forward to help and aid them. Today, there is hope in their life.
Cancer affected my mother and the doctors decreed that she might die within a day or two. I prayed. God assured me that she would live for more than 18 months. Almost at the end of that period, I had a dream in which, on December 18, 1999, many angels would come to see my mother and give her a violet shawl and request her to say goodbye to her children and come to stay with the angels the next day.
This very thing did happen. On the 19th, my mother called all her children, daughter-in-law, and grandson, blessed them, handed over her responsibilities and left with a smile on her face.
The art of living
Sudershan Kumar ‘Vashisht’, New Delhi
Once I thought: “Can I be able to air-condition my rocking sensations? Can I be enlightened?” The answer came to me after a year, in the form of Sudarshan Kriya. My infinite velocity of mind and small velocity of the body have been controlled by The Art of Living (AoL) basic course and its Sahaj Samadhi Meditation in 1996 in Delhi. Sudarshan Kriya was the next big step.
Now people are at ease with me. They say: “When we are with you, we can be what we are.” Sri Sri Ravishankar’s grace has helped me calm my mind and reach self-realisation. Now I can use my mind with my own accord-using the AoL practices. This has transformed me and kindled the love deep inside me. I achieved the harmony of body, mind and soul. A new kind of awareness with blossoming of spiritual energy is shining in me like a diamond.
I am in the flow of positive thoughts. I am feeling that my dormant energy has awakened, opening the locks of this subtle body. I have also attained a blissful state of contentment, like the Buddha. My biological diet pattern has changed. Tolerance has increased. I am able to control my actions within milliseconds of actual work, which is a symbol of good power.
Hence, Ravishankar’s grace has proved like a gold mine for my creative thoughts and personal growth. I can say it is a powerful yogic injection. This has infused in me an ability to take responsibility on my shoulders. It is an attitude to do what is required to be done at that moment.
AoL is based on specific physical and spiritual discipline and mental code of conduct. So let us unlock our energy to gain spiritual power and other potential benefits in the form of human progress, self-realisation, limitless joy and peace. This meditation is an effortless mental practice that provides quietness to the mind and deep rest to the body. One finds divine peace and joy that has always been one’s true nature.
Guru’s grace is always with me. But we simply need to be grateful to experience it. I observed that Sri Sri’s wisdom is beyond the power of words. He is the greatest spiritual master of the world.
Dr Rajpal Singh, Ropar, Punjab
In 1985, I realised that life is more than activity. As age grows, self-worth enhances self-respect and self-esteem. Over time, I came in contact with Satguru Thakar Singh of Ruhani Satsang, Manav Kendra Mission, New Delhi.
A pleasant state of mind, equipoise, fulfilment and bliss came into my life, after I received the powerful diksha (initiation) of light and sound meditation; the sound principle, especially, is God power translated into expression and action. Since then, I practise sadhana, seva, swadhyaya and give satsangs to fellow beings. Self-knowledge precedes God knowledge. Professionally, I am a satisfied integrated medical practitioner, besides being a preacher of Manav Kendra, which has a simple gospel: “Be God. Do Good. Be One.” Daily meditation on the sound current is a panacea for all physical, mental and spiritual knots.
The mind is a wild, restive colt or wild elephant that can only be subdued, tamed and trained by a powerful, wise, higher agency. Practice of sound current, called Naad Brahma, Akaashvani, Anahat Naad, Word or Divine Melody by the ancient mystics, is a permanent answer. Vegetarianism, teetotalism, ethical and moral living, are to be cultivated. The soul goes on awakening by the daily practice of sound current lovingly and devotedly. This meditation is not to be confused with spiritualism, mesmerism, hypnosis and faith healing, etc. It is Surat Shabad Yoga or Sahaj yoga.
During an advanced Art of Living course, I also learnt asanas and pranayama. Scientifically, meditation, guided by a competent master, co-ordinates electrical activity between the two hemispheres of the brain, the left being calculating, logical and negative and the right side being intuitive.
Now I can say that with the guru’s grace, I live in a prayerful, peaceful, and loving state, saved from lower animal tendencies.
Contact: Ph: (01881) 263527
The ancient tradition of Kashmir Shaivism is an Advaita school of philosophy with its source in the 92 tantras (texts) attributed to Lord Shiva. In recent times, its pre-eminent teacher has been the philosopher-mystic, Lakshmanjoo Maharaj. Kashmir Shaivism is so detailed in its descriptions of the ascent of individual consciousness to Universal Consciousness that it has been called a ‘mystical geography’ of awareness. It emphasises direct realisation over intellectual understanding.
Kashmir Shaivism offers different approaches depending on the ability of the seeker. Its three main upayas (means) are: sambavopaya (the highest), saktopaya (medium), and anavopaya (regarded as inferior). The highest must be tried first, and only upon failing that should the lower paths be tried.
• Sambavopaya: In this, the aspirant achieves entry into Supreme Consciousness just by the grace of his master. The yogi must possess supreme strength of awareness so that he can maintain unaided his consciousness of Self. By this strength of awareness, whatever he wills happens. In sambavopaya the aspirant has only to maintain the thoughtless (nirvikalpa) state continuously. Residing in the thoughtless state is the means and the end. Therefore in sambavopaya there are no means separate from what is to be achieved. As Lakshmanjoo says: ‘‘The means exists in the state of the meant.’’
• Saktopaya: In this, the aspirant concentrates on the Supreme Being in the junction between any two actions or thoughts. Between the end of one thought or perception and the beginning of another, there exists a gap in which the Universal Reality is accessible. The yogi is required to maintain a continuity of unbroken awareness so that he can discover this gap. In saktopaya all actions, all thoughts are fit for practice for these gaps exist everywhere—while raising your arm and putting it down, between two steps, between sleeping and waking, between the outgoing and incoming breaths.
According to Lakshmanjoo, the goal of the saktopaya aspirant is to develop an ever-increasing firmness of awareness, making one capable of receiving the guru’s grace.
• Anavopaya: This method is concerned with anu, the individual soul. Here, the aspirant needs techniques to maintain and strengthen awareness. He may employ concentration on breathing (uccara), experiencing through a particular sense organ (karana), meditative contemplation (dhyana), or concentration on a particular place (sthana-prakalpana). These may be undertaken together or separately to develop awareness. Through the strengthening of awareness, the aspirant will enter into the centre between two breaths/perceptions/thoughts
and his practice will become saktopaya. Finally, the yogi will attain the mystical realisation of sambavopaya.
Though there are different upayas, all lead to the state of one transcendental consciousness.
Contact: Kashmir Shaivism Fellowship, www.kashmirshaivism.org
The end of the journey
Susheela Raghavan, Chennai
The end of the journey is what I called this piece, but this is a misnomer, because very early during my spiritual journey some 35 years ago, I realised that there was no end, and I was already at the destination. I discovered this through the words of my Guru, Swami Suddhananda of the Foundation for Self-Knowledge, Uthandi, Chennai.
While in UK on a scholarship, I was spending Christmas holidays in London with some relatives who were visiting the country. On December 23, we got a call from India asking me to fly home immediately as my husband was critically ill. At that time my son was just 13. On hearing the news, I felt no pain or anguish but was aware of deep peace within me. However, soon the sorrow surfaced of which too, I was conscious! I felt like a mere witness and this puzzled me. I asked my relatives why I was calm in spite of the crisis. They replied that I was in a state of shock. Though it seemed convincing, deep down I refused to accept this. I flew to India the same day, and my husband passed away a couple of days later. Questions about my experience kept nagging me and subconsciously I searched for an answer. I kept looking for seven years.
In January 1976, Swami Chinmayananda set up centres throughout India for the teaching of Vendanta to householders like me and I enrolled myself in the Chennai centre under Swami Suddhananda.
In the very first class, Swamiji made us all think about what we are searching for. All of us were searching for peace or happiness. Through simple analogies, he opened our eyes to the fact that there were no agents except ourselves to obtain these qualities. Why do we look for happiness? It is our very nature.
He revealed what exactly peace meant. He explained that while watching a beautiful sunset or a favourite show, enjoying sensual pleasure with a companion or in deep sorrow, we tend to forget ourselves, i.e., our individual identities, and become one with Oneself. There is no identity left when we are with our Self; that is our True Nature or the Supreme Self. Hearing this, things fell into place. I realised then that what I had experienced years ago was being with my Self. My search had ended.
In spite of knowing that I am that Truth, I had to work on chipping off my various identities.
Swamiji stresses on being silent and observing the mind while meditating during the beginning stages. He makes us lead a life of alertness. Total awareness is possible if we take care of small moments in our life. We need to become conscious of each emotion, frustration, elation, etc. These have to be relegated to the realm of mind, which is nothing but a conglomeration of thoughts. We have no control over what type of thoughts will come, but they have no power once we learn not to identify ourselves with them.
While in meditation, he taught us to be in the present moment, in spite of the various thoughts, which are either past or future. By discovering that I am awareness, I learnt to be in the present. That is meditation; the discovery is here and now and we are in constant meditation.
Ph: (044) 2434 5110
An esoteric Vedic practice discovered by Gautam the Buddha 2,500 years ago, Vipassana is Insight Meditation that survived as a part of the Theravada school of Buddhism, preserved in its authentic form in Myanmar. Acharya S.N. Goenka, a businessman of Indian origin, learnt it from his Burmese teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. He dedicated himself to a personal mission of spreading Vipassana in India and abroad as a serious non-sectarian form of meditation. The training includes supervised 10-day residential courses and advanced courses for old students.
Practice of Vipassana involves a code of discipline, which includes ahimsa, vegetarianism, celibacy, avoidance of intoxicants and observance of total silence. It seeks to hone the faculty of observation into pinpoint sharpness and detached awareness by focussing on one’s breath without interference in its natural flow. This is followed by the practice of scouring the body parts for sensations, gross to subtle. This leads to sharp insight into the reality of self by understanding the phenomenon of impermanence within one’s body, followed by learning to centre one’s mind in equanimity. The last technique teaches us to cultivate an attitude of friendship, goodwill and compassion towards all beings.
Vipassana teaches that human suffering arises from attachment to desires, which brings the experience of happiness or sorrow. Happiness creates craving, and pain creates aversion. These impressions of craving and aversion are embedded seemingly into the very cellular structure of the body-mind organism, resulting in knots or blockages in energy flow. Regular meditation helps to release deep-seated conditioning that leads to delusion about reality, which could otherwise cause illness and disease.
Practitioners learn to detach from both fears and cravings as they arise to the surface of awareness in the form of gross or subtle sensations manifesting throughout the body. They are helped to experience unobstructed energy flow, with the insight that even the apparent solid physical reality is nothing but an agglomeration of ever changing sensations. Vipassana thus brings awareness that impermanence is the basic condition of reality. The ability to maintain unwavering equanimity brings freedom from suffering.
Justice J.N. Patel was unable to cope with his duties for a while after his mother’s death. Vipassana came as a highly recommended respite, and he returned to work fully rejuvenated. Architect Arvind Adarkar was cured of spondylosis in his first 10-day course, and he mentions getting immense spiritual benefit from regularly attending one course every year.
Ph: (02553) 244076, 244086;
Mumbai Ph: (022) 26178701
Woman Guru of the new millennium, with the universe literally in her embrace; redefining the beauty of Mother love, of unconditional acceptance and compassion. Ammachi, as she is known, translates universal love into the direct personal hug. Through this simple act, she spreads awareness of the divinity of every being.
She has developed her headquarters in Amritapuri, in Kerala, including the prestigious Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, besides hospitals, educational and social service organisations for the needy, and spiritual centres all over India and abroad. She is recognised as a spiritual leader by the UN, and the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
Mata Amritanandamayi has a large following of disciples learning spiritual practices in the ashram, where a strict code of celibacy is enforced. Selfless service, meditation, bhajans, puja, japa and satsang are all important for spiritual growth, according to her, and long hours are spent daily on the observance of these activities in the ashram. Publications like Immortal Bliss, and audiovisual material are extensively used to propagate her teachings on spirituality.
Her way is a synthesis of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. She says that different people have to follow different paths according to their individual conditioning and temperament. Knowledge of self results in bliss. Regular meditation and satsang are important. It is good to practise staying in the Now. The highest path is a combination of selfless service to humanity and devotion to God.
World is the guru
Satheesh Nair, Kottayam, Kerala
Forty years back, a boy fond of solitude and constant inner dialogue was born. Till graduation nothing extraordinary happened in his life. But a lot changed after meeting His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda in 1987.
It is he who recognised the seeker in me. I had sent a poem to him that he remarked ‘excellent’! But I was indifferent. The meeting with Chinmaynanda made no particular impact on me at that time. In 1995 I joined Chinmaya Mission for Vedantic studies. Then only I came to know about the great master.
I underwent various training programmes. My mind was unsteady, though I was seeking something unknown.
I had a strange experience on the day the great seer J. Krishnamurti died. Subsequently I went through the teachings of Krishnamurti. Those were periods of confusion and an unknown sorrow covered me. I was propelled away from traditional ways of sanyas and held the opinion of ‘renounce renunciation’.
Later in 1993, I became friendly with a Christian nun. She gave me practical insights into human nature and a true picture of salvation. She also gave me a book of Father Anthony De Mello, titled Call to Love. It was only through him that I could understand the teachings of Krishnamurti.
They make us see facts in the context of present reality. De Mello says: ‘‘God is now.’’ I reached out to a conceptual climax of Absolute reality.
In early 1990s, I took a wrong career decision. Posting in an unsuitable environment created a lot of frustration in me. Fortunately I got an opportunity to meet Mata Amritanandamayi at her ashram in Kerala. Miraculously, my sensuous tendencies were dissolved by a divinely programmed intercession.
Those days I was an ardent reader of the Bible. To me, it is not a book of moral understanding but an inspirational tool for spiritual understanding.
Around this time I again joined Chinmaya Mission. I studied scriptures at Adi Sankara Nilayam in Eranakulam. After studying a number of Upanishads, I got a notion that I knew everything. This boosted my ego. I didn’t continue in Chinmaya Mission. I met with several setbacks. Finally I decided to marry. Several hardships and turmoil followed my way.
I found if difficult to balance spiritual concepts and day-to-day life. I consistently failed to obtain jobs. Then I met a Reiki master and holistic practitioner. It is he who opened my eyes to various simple facts of life, especially married life.
Though I tread different paths and several meditation methods, I realise that it was all the same person and same sadhana.
Total emancipation happens when we drop the idea of emancipation. All the seeking must end to start actual living. When we experience God in anything and everything, that is real meditation. All these transformations occurred in me due to Reiki and Bach Flower remedies. I used these remedies for my unsteady mind and excessive emotionalism. Now I am ready to publish a book in Malayalam on Reiki and am writing more books. Lessons I have learnt are that every person or experience encountering us is our guru. It we listen attentively and cultivate the habit of wakeful awareness we can move in any direction and finally reach self-actualisation.
Ph: (0481) 791182
The journey within
Viswanath, Bellary, Karnataka
After completing my studies, I got a job, married and settled down. I used to read philosophical books and though there were variations, they all seemed to talk about the same thing. I also started practising yoga, pranayama, Gayatri mantra, etc.
At that time I had two questions: What is it that I am searching? Where am I searching? The answer to the first was ‘Purna Shanthi’ and the second answer was ‘within’.
Nobody knows exactly what God means. In books and scriptures, we find views about God, but never find Him. But if we search for God within, we experience a state of bliss and forget the search; that state of mind is God.
Everything is the mind. Manokalpitham Jagath, this world is constructed by the mind. Bandha and Moksha both are states of mind. Mind has three states, human, deva and God states. These three are called conscious, subconscious and superconscious mind.
We should rise from one state to the other. Books and gurus only help but none can give any state to anybody. Moksha is the birthright of a human being. Through sadhana one knows that he knows; this cannot be told by a third person. The divine path will be revealed naturally only at the proper time.
Believing in the Self and following it leads to realisation; everything else leads only to illusion. If a person wants to practise yoga he must understand what Patanjali has said in the Yoga Sutras, that before samadhi there are three stages: 1. Listening to Omkara from within. 2. Seeing the light before the third eye always. 3. Sidha darshana, contact with the yogis who are in the higher planes.
A person, even though he may know the ultimate truth, cannot express it. Because then it will become untruth, Maya. Everybody knows that there is blue blood inside the human body but nobody has ever seen it as blue blood coming out will immediately become red. Similarly, Truth expressed by way of books and speeches will be immediately tainted with Maya and become untruth.
God exists in religion and is beyond it. He exists in temples and scriptures and is beyond them. If at all there is an ultimate truth that is. I searched for Self-realisation and after getting a joyful and blissful state of mind, have forgotten about it.
Brahma Kumaris’ Raja Yoga
The meditation technique of
the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organisation, a vast and well-known woman-centric spiritual organisation headquartered in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, is called Raja Yoga, though it has little in common with Patanjali’s Raja Yoga.
The organisation was started by Dada Lekh Raj, an affluent businessman in present-day Pakistan, after experiencing visions of the terrible devastation of Kali Yug and the subsequent emergence of the glorious Sat Yug. Their mission, therefore, is to act as catalysts to usher in Sat Yug. To this end they carry out a range of activities, which includes conducting free meditation classes in each of their 5,500 centres spread in 80 countries of the world.
The Brahma Kumaris brand of philosophy maintains that we are souls and not the body. False identification with the body creates individual pain and suffering and societal conflicts and evils. To escape the misery of Kali Yug and equip ourselves for the spiritual purity of the New Age, it is necessary to return to soul consciousness and realise the soul’s natural attributes of joy, peace, love, harmony and balance.
Raja Yoga is the recommended technique for the task. Contemplation on God, the Supreme Soul, is conducted through a process of open-eyed meditation. God, they say, is an incorporeal point of light, whom they call Shiva, a jyotir linga (not to be confused with the member of the triune godhead, whom they call Shankar).
At the start of the meditation, a red wall lamp (all meditation centres and residential rooms are equipped with one such) is switched on, bathing the room in a strong pink light, said to resemble the colour of Heaven. In the middle of the lamp issues a point of light to which attention is fixed, while the teacher utters a combination of guided visualisations and affirmations such as “I am soul. I am eternal, immortal, conscient, radiant and self-luminous.”
Many of the practitioners claim considerable progress through this practice. Says Brahma Kumar Atmaprakash: “I used to smoke and drink. Today, I have conquered 70 to 85 per cent of my vices. I’m now looking for perfection.”
Other spiritual components are teachings on Jnana Yoga and Indian philosophy, as well as free residential programmes for the public. The organisation stresses service as a major part of the path, and indeed, their centres and retreat places are redolent with the spirit of seva, while the calm, joyful and confident faces of the Brahma Kumaris are a living testimonial to the power of Raja Yoga.
Contact: (02974) 38261-8; email: email@example.com
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