20 December 2010

The Master's Effulgence

From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

Vedanta

"The Brahmani was the enthusiastic teacher and astonished beholder of Sri Ramakrishna in his spiritual progress. She became proud of the achievements of her unique pupil. But the pupil himself was not permitted to rest; his destiny beckoned him forward. His Divine Mother would allow him no respite till he had left behind the entire realm of duality with its visions, emotions, and ecstatic dreams. But for the new ascent the old tender guide would not suffice. The Brahmani, on whom he had depended for three years, saw her son escape from her to follow the command of a teacher with masculine strength, a sterner mien, a gnarled physique, and a virile voice. The new guru was a wondering monk, the sturdy Totapuri, whom Sri Ramakrishna learnt to address affectionately as Nangta, the 'Naked One,' because of his total renunciation of all earthly attachments and objects, including even a piece of wearing-cloth.

"Totapuri was the bearer of a philosophy new to Sri Ramakrishna, the Non-dualistic Vedanta, whose conclusions Totapuri had experienced in his own life. This ancient Hindu system designates the Ultimate Reality as Brahman, also described as Satchidananda, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Brahman is the only Real Existence. In It there is no time, no space, no causality, no multiplicity. But through maya – its inscrutable Power – time, space, and causality are projected and the One appears to break into the many. The non-dual Spirit appears as multiple individuals endowed with forms and subject to the conditions of time. The Immortal becomes a victim of birth and death. The Changeless undergoes change. The sinless Pure Soul, hypnotized by Its own maya, experiences the joys of heaven and the pains of hell. But these experiences based on the duality of the subject-object relationship are unreal. Even the vision of a Personal God is, ultimately speaking, as illusory as the experience of any other object. Man attains his liberation, therefore, by piercing the veil of maya and rediscovering his total identity with Brahman. Knowing himself to be one with the Universal Spirit, he realizes ineffable Peace. Only then does he go beyond the fiction of birth and death; only then does he become immortal. And this is the ultimate goal of Vedanta – to dehypnotize the soul now hypnotized by its own ignorance.

"The path of the Vedantic discipline is the path of negation, 'neti,' in which, by stern determination, all that is unreal is renounced. It is the path of jnana, knowledge, the direct method of realizing the Absolute. After the negation of everything relative, including the discriminating ego itself, the aspirant merges in the One without a second, in the bliss of nirvikalpa samadhi, where subject and object are alike dissolved. The soul goes beyond the realm of thought. The domain of duality is transcended. Maya is left behind with all its changes and modifications. The Real Man towers above the delusions of creation, preservation, and destruction. An avalanche of indescribable Bliss sweeps away all relative ideas of pain and pleasure, good and evil. There shines in the heart of glory of the Eternal Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Knower, knowledge, and known are dissolved in the Ocean of one eternal Consciousness; love, lover, and beloved merge in the unbounded Sea of supreme Felicity; birth, growth, and death vanish in infinite Existence. All doubts and misgivings are quelled for ever; the oscillations of the mind are stopped; the momentum of past actions is exhausted. Breaking down the ridgepole of the tabernacle in which the soul has made its abode for untold ages, stilling the body, calming the mind, drowning the ego, the joy of Brahman wells up in the superconscious state. Space disappears into Pure Being, time is swallowed up in eternity, and causation becomes a dream of the past. Only Existence is. Who can describe what the soul then feels in its communion with the Self?

"Even when a man descends from this dizzy hight, he is devoid of ideas of 'I' and 'mine'; he looks on the body as a mere shadow, an outer sheath encasing the soul. He does not dwell on the past, takes no thought for the future, and looks with indifference on the present. He surveys everything in the world with an eye of equality; he is no longer touched by the infinite variety of phenomena; he no longer reacts to pleasure and pain. He remains unmoved whether he – that is to say, his body – is worshipped by the good or tormented by the wicked; for he realizes that it is the one Brahman that manifests Itself through everything. The impact of such an experience devastates the body and mind. Consciousness becomes blasted, as it were, with an excess of light. In the Vedantic books it is said that after the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi the body drops off like a dry leaf. Only those who are born with a special mission for humanity can return from this height to the valleys of normal life. They live and move in the world for the welfare of mankind. They are invested with a supreme spiritual power. A divine glory shines through them."

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