What You See Is What You Get. This is a journal blog, an explore-blog, a bit of this and that blog. Sharing where the mood takes me. Perhaps it will take you too.

Menoculayshunal; Being Me

... the challenge of conveying the experience of Sandeepany is getting down to the whys and wherefores of my being there, as well as its effect upon me. The closer it gets to being directly personal, the tougher becomes the task. This is not an autobiography as such - a memoir being merely a historical account or an essay on a learned subject from a personal perspective. Yet, to properly communicate the purpose of the whole exercise, it becomes autobiographical. 

On a couple of occasions, I have wondered why I am bothering. Then I remember that, firstly, a few folk had shown curiosity to know more about this background. Then, that I need to write it for myself. There is much still to be fully digested from the experience, so there is a level of catharsis from producing these posts. 

We are also entering the section where the philosophy I went to study with such intensity spills over into the living of the life. As I departed the ashram, Acharya-ji's parting words to me were, "don't forget to teach, amma!" The thing about Advaita is that one doesn't have to be standing before a class of eager students to 'teach' - one merely has to live life by the tenets provided, and the light shines. Those of you who read yesterday's LLL quote and responded to it understand this. Those of you who enquired and questioned me over the years are all, in a sense, students. But we have to start with the doubts...

There are so many who will claim to not being spiritual. A ridiculous claim when it is an intrinsic part of what makes us human. Any time that a nod is given to an act of compassion, and appreciation is felt for the sight and sound of nature; any time a hand is offered without expectation of reciprocation, or a sense of empathy arises; whenever we stop for a moment and grasp the very essence of being human at all... that is our spiritual selves at work. All too readily, we seek to rationalise such experience or justify ourselves, as if embarrassed to admit such feelings. We are all at different stages of understanding the spirit and what that means to live life. For some, it plays only a minor part, being there only for escape. Going out for a walk or a swim or to a gallery or performance is denied as being anything other than an interest or hobby. The essential part these things play in keeping us balanced in our personality is actually spiritual. How often now do you see reference to the benefits of these things to the psyche? What is frequently unacknowledged is that the "psyche" in question is our spiritual selves. To what level we can see this depends largely on where we are on our karmic cycle... more on that next week.

Back to the me in this.

The calling has been with me since my earliest memory. There has never been any doubt in me that there is a part of life that is forever unseen by the physical eye; that can only be perceived by the spiritual self. Then there are the spilling out or interconnections with that other which simply defy explanation... and tend to be written off as delusional or at least fanciful. I am not going over the same territory covered before. Now I need to pick it up directly from Sandeepany.

Life having deposited me in this place, I had to ascertain the fullness of purpose and come to terms with expectations - my own and those others had of me. This existed because my Chinmaya community in Sydney expressed their support and desire to see me return in the yellow robes of mission-hood. I also saw this as a goal. First, though, the length and depth of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta had to be explored - not just academically, but in practice.

It was incredible to find myself in a place that totally accepted the likelihood of darshan - visions of the divine. Not that one announced such experiences willy-nilly. However, over time, as a bunch of strangers melded and became family, these things gradually emerged, and it turns out that at this level of spiritual pursuit, such revelations are more than one would think. Not common, definitely not that. But frequently found among advanced seekers and meditators. 

Interestingly, one also learned quickly to know when the shared experience was genuine or when someone was tending to ... embroider. Yes, even among these chosen few, some felt the need to boost their own ego, thinking they might be considered unworthy if they hadn't actually had a darshan of some sort!

I mentioned meditation there. This is a key component of following the Advaitic life. Some days, we were kept so busy that finding even fifteen minutes for meditative practice could be difficult. Before too long, though, I learned that going to Saraswati Nilaya early (say half an hour before class) and taking up position on my aasanda (seat) afforded the best space for this. Surprisingly effective actually, given that there was not the silence there which might be found, say, in the mandir. Which was a proving, too. The ability to be meditative in the melee of life is a key component of living life lovingly. 

There are four guidelines for daily practice (the saadhana chatushtaya); viveka, vairaagya, shamaadhi-shatka sampatti, and mumukshutva. These are utilised individually but are also mutually supportive.

Viveka is to have discrimination - to be able to see clearly what is and what is not. It utilises the intellect.

Vairaagya is the art of withdrawal - knowing when the mind is getting carried away and pulling it back into line, knowing when the senses are becoming overloaded or lustful, and pulling them back into order. This is to help the intellect remain focused on its practice of discernment - but also that viveka guides the decisions regarding vairaagya.

Shamaadhi-shatka sampatti is the six-fold virtues; shama (control of mind), dama (control of senses), uparati (to look inward and upward), titiksha (forbearance, fortitude), shraddha (solid faith), and samadhaana (meditative focus). The practice focused on these virtues will bring about viveka and vairagya through diligence.

Mumukshutva is to have a burning desire to work one's way through these virtues to reach the highest level of spiritual understanding.

Nobody was at Sandeepany without having proven to one of the mission swamis that mumukshutvam was present. I had first learned of these guidelines while studying the Vivekachoodamani in Sydney. A handbook of human understanding that remains one of my all-time favourites. How could it not when, among other things, it makes clear that all the rigmarole that so many put around "spiritual practice" cannot ever bring them closer to that which is worshipped. All that can do so is the application of clear thinking.

Advaitic philosophy is the underpinning of Sanatana Dharma, but - as with so many other faith structures - the Knowledge can only really be taken on by some. All others are too busy fighting life to pay attention or too caught up in the processes and trimmings of faith or the dogma of the spiritual leaders to whom they acquiesce - encumbered (as F/Tigger suggested in their comment last week) in levels of religiosity that are little more than superstition. Or, equally, dogmatic against any and all spiritual practice.

What I was finding in this philosophy was not only all the basic sciences (the atom was posited and understood by those ancient seers who had no instrumentation!) but the fullest, broadest, deepest level of psychology that no modern psycho-theorist can better. Advaita promised to provide the sort of insight that I was instinctively drawn to. It confirmed many of my own observations and helped me go beyond and dig out the parts of myself that needed to be dropped and balanced. Being at Sandeepany was like being at the airport; my practice (passport) had brought me this far, all I needed now was the 'visa' to moksha (nirvana)!!!


  1. we love that... it is THE way to bring peace if we act that way...

  2. I like your posts on spirituality because I feel the same about a number aspects of life and living that you articulate. Only that I haven't gone deep into these in a very "religious" manner.

    Thanks for those four guidelines and the six-fold virtues.

    I very much liked the last sentence.

    1. Hari OM
      LOL - thank you, Pradeep-bhai. I rather think of life as a waiting room where our patience is tested... &*> Yxx

  3. Interesting post and insight into the Advaitic philosophy. I'm not going to say I agree with all your assertions here (you wouldn't want this blog to become an echo chamber!) The difference in outlook perhaps a result of me having spent much more of my life studying and practicing the natural sciences and much less focussing on philosophical matters, and this difference of focus and interest surely arises in part from inherent personality traits as well as upbringing.

    1. Hari OM
      Discussion is encouraged, you know this about me! Your view about the differences in inherency is absolutely borne out by Advaita - as the following posts will (hopefully) explain further! This is not about saying anyone is right or wrong in their beliefs but that there will always be differences due to the patterns brought into life and the experiences within it... Yxx

  4. For some reason, your post today reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver -

    'When it's over, I want to say: all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement...'

    Thanks for the insights into Advaita. Life lived lovingly is something worth striving for.

  5. YAM well done on putting all this down in writing. Yesterday's quote was especially liked by me.
    Hugs Cecilia

  6. of the four guidlines, the first two I have pretty well most of the time, but the 3rd all of them are hard for me to do

  7. Your comments on different experiences of spirituality resonated with me.
    It seems to me that the differences between people's views - and no doubt between us too - are often more ones of perspective than anything else. What is spiritual to one is called something else by another - and yet at root, the experience is much the same and recognisably just as special.

  8. Your journey is a fascinating one. I'm so glad to learn about it.


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