Selected Correspondence Peter
Ramana Maharshi and Vivekananda
Prof. A. DEIKMAN: The Distinction Between Awareness and Contents
Certain Eastern philosophies based on introspective meditation emphasize the distinction between awareness and contents ... Awareness is considered to exist independent of contents and this ‘pure consciousness’ is accessible – potentially – to every one. Professor A. Deikman, Awareness = ‘I’
PETER: Ah, he’s playing his trump cards now. Bringing in the wisdom of the ancient cave-dwellers – the Masters of escapist introspection and fearful navel-gazing.
Prof. A. DEIKMAN: Eastern mystical traditions use meditation practice to experience the difference between mental activities and the self that observes. For example, the celebrated Yogi, Ramana Maharshi, prescribed the exercise of ‘Who am I?’ to demonstrate that the self that observes is not an object; it does not belong to the domains of thinking, feeling, or action (Osborne, 1954). ‘If I lost my arm, I would still exist. Therefore, I am not my arm. If I could not hear, I would still exist. Therefore, I am not my hearing.’ And so on, discarding all other aspects of the person until finally, ‘I am not this thought,’ which could lead to a radically different experience of the ‘I’. Professor A. Deikman, Awareness = ‘I’
PETER: This is perhaps one of the most inane examples of Guru-wisdom – it’s no wonder Mr. Maharshi stopped talking very early in his career and sat on a bed in sublime silence for years and years. Mr. Maharshi’s ‘teachings’ are currently very fashionable due largely to the stamp of approval he received from a Mr. Poonjaji – a pundit who enjoyed a loyal following of Western seekers in his latter years.
A brief bio-note on Mr. Maharshi –
I particularly like the bit about ‘self-inquiry’ and then supplying his own ready-made answer. To call this practice inquiry is to make a mockery of the word – brain-washing, self-deception or self-hypnosis would be better descriptions. ‘Who am a I?’ always leads to the startling discovery that I am not this, a mortal flesh and blood body, but I am That, the Eternal Source, and, as such, I have blissfully ‘discovered’ that I am immortal after all!
The other atypical aspect of Eastern mysticism is that once the Guru has obtained his or her own ‘liberation’, they gather disciples who are enticed to practice ‘devotional surrender’ to the Guru and to the Guru’s Guru. Now, by any sensible evaluation, devotional surrender is the very antithesis of liberation. Surrender is
whereas liberation is
It is vital to note that Mr. Ramana Maharshi’s ‘liberation’ is a belief in liberation from rebirth, an imagined freedom from the imagined bondage of being forever trapped in suffering in a corporeal body on this physical planet.
This ‘liberation’ or ‘freedom’, as it is often termed in the spiritual world, is the antithesis of Actual Freedom whereby one is actually freed from the instinctually-reinforced illusion of being an alien entity, which believes itself forever trapped in suffering in a corporeal body. As such, one is also freed from any spiritual and metaphysical belief whatsoever.
PETER to Alan: Just a little note from the far side of the planet. It is one of those particularly delicious Sunday mornings here, where after the first signs of winter and a particularly cold week, the day is warm and the air is clear and sparkling. There is something about winter sun that warms you to the bones unlike any heater seems able to do. We are heading off soon to sit on the back veranda of a near-by country pub to eat what promises to be a gourmet lunch and I thought I’d begin to relate to you a little story that happened yesterday.
Vineeto and I went to see some land that a friend had bought with the idea of building a house for herself. On the way back we stopped at a restaurant in a seaside village for coffee which, upon sighting of the menu, turned into a long lazy lunch. As lunch arrived – char-grilled king prawns and garden salad – another man I knew from my spiritual days strolled up and we asked him if he wanted to join us. Some 12 months ago Vineeto and I had, at his instigation after reading my book, a lively actualism vs. spiritualism discussion, but I had not seen him since then. He had swapped Gurus from Mohan Rajneesh to H.W.L. Poonja a few years after Rajneesh died and is a devotee-type spiritualist.
He and I chatted socially for a while, catching up on the last 12 months and he asked if I was still writing. I said I was, explaining that I was corresponding on two mailing lists at the moment, one of which was a spiritual list. He said he wasn’t into spiritual things lately but was reading a book about one of Ramana Maharshi’s devotees. He then proceeded to tell me a particular anecdote about Maharshi reported in the book that had appealed to him. A woman had evidently asked Maharshi a question about the ‘self’ and he had picked up a piece of fruit from a nearby bowl. Holding the fruit up in his hand he said
I looked at him and tapped the wooden table we were sitting at and said ‘Are you telling me that this table is not real, not actual in that I can tap it, feel it, see it?’ He said he had no trouble with that, so I pointed to a tree across the road and said that if I died tomorrow that tree would still be there unless someone chopped it down in the meantime. He started to look like he was willing to engage in an intellectual argument about my statement. I realized I had once spent an evening with this same man going around his belief-system in ever-broadening and erratic circles and I saw no sense in continuing the conversation about what is illusionary and what is actual on such a delightful afternoon. As the sun was setting behind some buildings and it was a good time to go anyway, I abandoned him in mid-objections and we paid up and left.
Later that evening, while musing about my quick departure, I saw that it simply made no sense to continue a discussion with someone who was hooked on solipsism. Of course, he wasn’t fully convinced, nor fully deluded, but he liked the appeal of a way of looking at things that made him the centre of all that was happening. So, for a little solace and respite from the real world he would indulge in a little ‘self’-ish escapist fantasy by reading spiritual books and, no doubt, a bit of going-in-and-getting-lost meditation. A few years ago I would have stayed to try and convince him of the madness of solipsism but those days of needing to convince others are long passed. The conversation did, however, remind me as to how far I have come to being seen as mad from both a real-world and spiritual-world viewpoint. I see ever more clearly how no one wants to be here and everyone is frantically and desperately trying to be ‘there’. Those who fail on the spiritual path to get so far out there that they never come back spend their lives straddling both worlds, occasionally grateful for brief moments of being ‘Present’ there but generally resentful at having to be here at all.
PETER: Just a note to confirm my rough and ready second-hand translation of what Mr. Maharshi is on about – from ‘The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi’. Edited by David Goldman. P. 187
RESPONDENT: It is not clear to me that according to you whether –
PETER: I thought it might be pertinent to discussions, given the fact that there are a number of Sannyasins on the list, to rephrase your questions regarding the legacy of the mythical Mr. Buddha.
Hence instead of the way you phrased it, your question would now become –
I always find it’s good to deal with Gurus that we know a bit about rather than Mythical Long-Dead Ones who we can but only fantasize about. There is nothing quite so pertinent and relevant to an actualist as a dearly-held, close to home, belief.
So, as for Rajneesh’s legacy, he is on record as saying ‘I leave you my dream’ upon his death bed and dictated that on his tomb in his mausoleum should be the words ‘Never Born, Never Died, Only Visited This Planet...’ The legacy he left his community was a dream that he had failed to materialize in his lifetime, hence he left it to his followers. This is a common theme with all Gurus – each and everyone has left their followers an unfinished dream. Rajneesh’s dream was that eventually the world would be full of His sannyasins bringing the ‘light’ into the world and, of course, exactly the same dream underpins each and every religion in the world. Hence the relentless drive to proselytize and spread the message – the more the numbers, the stronger the religion, the more famous and powerful the Master. What a legacy!
Rajneeshism, with its followers numbering only in the tens of thousands, is inevitably doomed to the spiritual dustbin. (...)
And it is not only Rajneesh that has left a ‘notable’ legacy. Krishnamurti has proved to be yet another of the Gurus with accounts of a vitriolic and deceitful ‘private’ life emerging after his death. And to see that all he has left behind is a residue of heady spiritualectuals willing to endlessly discuss anything, as long as it is not their feelings.
Ramana Maharshi and his self-appointed disciple H.W.L Poonja has left as a legacy the unbelievably childish message of ‘You are already God – all you have to do is realize it’ that is gratefully soaked up by the laziest of the lazy – or the meekest of the mild. And the list goes on and on ...
None of them have managed to live their unliveable teachings, all of them left behind an unrealizable dream and all of them went ‘somewhere else’ after death. All in all, a deplorable legacy.
Interestingly, I have a number of friends who turned to Buddhism after the Rajneesh thing petered out. If you have to have a religion, which everyone does, Buddhism is such a ‘safe’ religion to be in – particularly the New Age version. Modern Buddhism is baby-boomer bumf.
Surely, just surely, it’s time to admit that the tried and true is but the ‘tried and failed’.
PETER: I realize I was pushing the envelope to dare to try and talk about how to actualize peace on earth on a spiritual mailing list. Your ruling does add substance to my point that peace on earth is not on the spiritual agenda, a bit ‘less interesting’ than the main event. I have yet to see it mentioned in any spiritual teaching for all religious belief is concerned either with ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’, ‘inner’ peace or ‘Resting In Peace’, after death.
MODERATOR: Keep reading. It’s definitely out there. See Mahayana Buddhism, Sufism, the writings of Swami Vivekananda, and more recently, the works of my own teacher, Andrew Cohen, which speak extensively about this subject. Visit www.andrewcohen.org for more info.
PETER: If you want to make a point of substance and worth, it is of no use to wave your arms and say it’s somewhere ‘out there’. Please provide some evidence to substantiate your claims for saying one thing while doing another – stifling a discussion about peace on earth – does somewhat weaken your stance. However, looking briefly in the directions you indicated I find – (...)
PETER: As for the teachings of Swami Vivekananda –
In Eastern religion to become great means to become a God-man and the measure of greatness and power is measured by the number of other people he manages to convince of his Godliness. If successful, yet another religion or religious faction is born to add to the plethora of insular and competing religions already on the planet.
This is the superficial argument at the centre of Vedanta – the only reason we feel malicious and sorrowful is that we have yet to realize that we are God. Once we realize we are God, then the bad feelings disappear in a puff of smoke and everything will feel okay. This puerile belief does nothing to address or change the underlying root cause of human malice and sorrow.
In Vedanta it is not selfish to believe you are God-on-earth, ‘because you are all’. As long as you feel and show compassion for those who have not yet realized they are God then one’s exalted position is justified. The Vedanta system did very well in India where thousands would queue for hours to kiss feet the of Ramana Maharshi and worship him as God, but this adoration is usually toned down in the West to a humble form of boot-licking rather than the more traditional feet kissing.
This great ideal and faith has failed lamentably to bring anything even remotely resembling peace on earth. It is founded on the fundamental principle that earthly suffering is essential in order to undertake the great search for God-realization – if human beings didn’t fight and suffer then we would have no need for the belief in God or the need to feel we are God. Nowadays we can nip this nonsense in the bud for we now know the root cause of human suffering and go for the jugular rather than wallow in denial and God-inspired fantasies.
Life and peace after death is clearly indicated as is the continuation of his greatness after death – the longed-for immortality of each God-man’s message that inevitably forms warring and competing religions.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.