Grace From A Distance

Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)

This has been written by Elizabeth Lok, an American Devotee of the saint known as Ramana Maharshi. She refers to him by the title “Bhagavan” here:

When did I first hear of Bhagavan? It is difficult to imagine a time when one had not. Yet I think it was from Brunton’s book Message from Arunachala (first read in the late 40′s), and many good talks with a friend of Brunton’s. Then in 1950 there was the article in an American magazine describing Bhagavan’s last days.

These sources gave no more than an elusive awareness of something I wanted avidly to learn more about. A pilgrimage to Arunachala became-and remains-an unfaltering and deep desire. Imagine my feelings around ten years later when my beloved sister De Lancey Kapleau was able to do just that! And was good enough to write fully about it and send me Osborne’s book on Bhagavan’s life!

I read through her description of her stay at the Ashram with mounting excitement; read and reread it. Then devoured the book. The last chapters were read late at night when the children and my husband were all asleep, and my heart nearly burst for joy, while grateful tears sprang from my eyes. When I closed the book I sat still for some time, then quite spontaneously prostrated myself in gratitude. Later, in bed, thinking of my sister’s letter, I felt an earthy pang of envy that she, not I, had reached the Ashram. You know the sort of thing: “Oh how wonderful-just imagine-I wish it had been I.” The jealousy surprised me, a little, but when I recognized and acknowledged it I had to laugh at the jealous one, and said to myself: “But you fool, if your sister went there of course this was part of her karmic pattern. For you, and for anybody, if Arunachala exists anywhere it must exist most truly in the hearts of those who are open to it. So the significance is always within oneself.”

At this the field of my vision was lit by a great glow of golden light, and my heart expanded in almost unbelievable joy. The joy deepened and glowed into an incredible depth of peace, which wells up again as I write this.

A few weeks afterwards I was thinking still of Osborne’s book, and particularly recalling the beautiful experience of the disciple who felt the pressure of Bhagavan’s hand on his heart, in blessing, while far from the Ashram and Bhagavan. Again a swift little pang of envy, and again a self-scolding: he to whom it happened had made himself ready for the reception of such Grace, and it could happen only to the heart which was ripe for it.

The darkness of the night around me became utterly black, and in my mind’s eye I caught a fleeting glimpse of Maharshi’s wonderful face. At the same moment I felt a sharp pressure in the chest, just to the right of the breastbone. Everything merged into unutterable peace. I was able to dwell in that peace for several days, during which time errors, disharmonies, misunderstandings, impatience and fatigue became impossible, and my family, who knew nothing of what had happened, responded radiantly in an unbroken harmonious and loving glow. The peace gradually receded, of course, but from that time conscious effort is opening my heart to Bhagavan and I could almost always restore it.

Around this time my mother was taken to a hospital, where she lived for her last three remaining years. Having small children, no household help, and the vagaries of public transportation made it difficult for me to visit her regularly. I have always been deeply fond of my loving mother, and grateful to her for her warmth and enthusiasm. As her body weakened she was much in my thoughts. I was concerned that for years she had feared death, and while my grasp of spiritual things was tentative, I felt that somehow perhaps one might help. So often at nights or in quiet moments I would think of her, wishing her, willing her peace and love and courage with all the strength of my heart. And while I didn’t speak of it, I found that she felt and responded to this. In sending love to her this way the ordinary small surface rumplings of disagreement and awareness of each other’s small failings completely disappeared, and we felt ourselves very closely united by love in a very real and freeing sense.

One afternoon on a hospital visit, my mother, who had been rather ill, drifted in and out of sleep while I was with her. I sat very close by, cradling her head in my arms, and while she drifted out, wishing her love and peace with all my heart. I nearly trembled with the intensity of effort. At one point she opened her eyes. As I looked at her it was not my mother’s hazel eyes into which mine looked, but Bhagavan’s deep brown ones. And from them flooded peace and love without measure, unfathomable wisdom and bliss, until everything disappeared into a vastness of love and peace. There was no mother, no daughter, no hospital room-only that profound peace which passeth all understanding.

Slowly-I don’t know when-it receded. But at that time I knew that my mother was soon to die, and would pass in peace. And I believed that it would be granted to me to be with her at the end. It took place within a week, and I was by the bedside watching a frail body struggle its last, while strongly aware that its soul watched with me, wondering but unafraid. How deep was my gratitude.

It has not been my privilege to have known Bhagavan while he was among us as a man, nor yet to visit the Ashram or to walk on Arunachala. But Bhagavan, the Ashram and Arunachala are eternally ready to fill me whenever I truly turn my heart and open it to them.

Related: The Story Of Ramana Maharshi: Becoming Established.

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Experiencing Wondrous Self Leads To Abundance!

Abundant Joy

This is a continuation of Bob Weisenberg’s essay: Six Big Ideas Of Yoga. This is the fifth of the Six Big Ideas:

Experiencing our wondrous self leads to an abundance of joy and goodness.

“What did the Yoga Guru say to the hot dog vendor?”

Answer: “Make me one with everything.”

Good joke. But this is, in fact, kind of the way we feel when we’re most happy–one with everything.

The great gurus of Yoga and other Eastern traditions achieve inner peace and experience the ultimate joy in life by cultivating the boundless wonder of a child. For them every moment is the occasion for innocent amazement, even in the middle of the most trying circumstances. They still experience all the ordinary pain and difficulty of being human. They just process it differently.

There are certain types of experiences that can suddenly thrust anyone into truly appreciating the utter joy of being alive. The most dramatic example is a serious illness or a near-death experience, in which we are suddenly on the verge of NOT being alive. Another example is temporary blindness. Imagine being blind for a while and suddenly being able to see.

But we can also be moved to this kind of ultimate appreciation of being alive by great music, or overpowering natural beauty, or reading about an amazing scientific discovery, or by the experience of great art.

I’m relatively new to Yoga, but in a way not so new if the subject is “transcendent consciousness” rather than Yoga itself. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to Yoga is that I’ve had semi-ecstatic “one-with-the-universe” experiences all my life. They are like the experiences Cope describes in his book as the initial basis for his interest in Yoga, but far more plentiful. I seem to be prone to them, in fact, with or without Yoga. I consider this a great blessing.

I’ve had them in music, in nature, in literature, in relationships, in tennis, occasionally in religion, in business, in my family, in windsurfing (especially in windsurfing, where one must focus intently on the wind and the angle of the sail for hours at a time), etc.

I know Yoga is a different kind of pursuit, but I believe it is closely related to, and encompassing of, these other experiences I’ve had with transcendent consciousness.

The practice of Yoga seeks to make this type of ecstatic, wonder-filled, one-with-the-universe consciousness commonplace and readily available in our everyday lives. In a nutshell, it seeks to give us unlimited joy. (Sound ambitious enough?)

Yoga knows it doesn’t have a monopoly on this kind of joy, of course. Yoga assumes itself to have discovered universal truths. If you look at almost any moment of pure joy it usually has this character of total absorption in the present moment, where all other concerns and preoccupations fade into insignificance.

So it’s not surprising that one can come up with countless examples of Yoga-type present-focused joy in every aspect of human life. Yoga is just a powerful way of discovering and exploring this aspect of our existence. Yoga didn’t invent it.

That’s the joy part. What about the “goodness” part. Why would all this self-absorbed consciousness-raising necessarily lead to goodness?

Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings, which are similar to any religion’s. Yoga assumes that when we see ourselves and the universe in their true natural wonder, we will be moved to act in a highly moral way. We are much more likely to do the right thing in any circumstance if we see ourselves, our fellow human beings, and the entire universe as wondrous, divine and inseparable.

Continued next week: The techniques of Yoga, leading to enhanced awareness, are one method for discovering our true wondrous nature.

Credit: This has been written by Bob Weisenberg. He is Editor of Best of Yoga Philosophy and former Yoga Editor & Assoc. Publisher of elephant journal. He is the author of Yoga Demystified and Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell, as well as Co-editor of Yoga in America. For more details visit:

Six Big Ideas Of Yoga
Each Of Us Is Already Wondrous!
Our Wondrous Nature Is The Same As The Wondrous Universe!
Fully Experience The Present Moment
The Mind, The Body, And The Spirit Are Inseperable

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Is Yoga Against Sex?

Yoga Sex

There is mention of the word “Bhramacharya” in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. “Bhramacharya” is a word that relates to sex and understanding this word will provide us insight on what yoga thinks about sex. But before we go there we must first step back and make sure we understand what yoga is about. The core idea of yoga is that it is a journey out of the ego and into a mental state where there are no thoughts and the mind is completely still. When we reach this state, Patanjali says, our consciousness resides with our true Self or the “Seer”.

So what are the obstacles to Yoga? One big obstacle is our obsession with sex. Studies show that we may think about sex hundreds of time during the day. Even when our thoughts are not directly about sex, it can still be the underlying root. This is because so much of our ego-identity is a product of our sexual behavior. So thoughts about what others think of us, or how we look can have their origins in sex. This begs the question: can we really put our minds in a state where there are no thoughts when so many of our thoughts are driven by sex?

This leads to another question: does this mean that to be a true yogi one must abstain from sex? To answer this one must understand the beautiful way in which yoga is structured. Patanjali realized that “having no thoughts” was something that did not get achieved overnight, so also is the case for freeing up from sexual thoughts. This is why he used the technical word “Bhramacharya”. This word is folded into the eight limbs of yoga. And just as the limbs of a tree grow slowly and simultaneously, the limbs of yoga allow you to make gradual progress in each limb.

The word “Bhramacharya” has sometime been interpreted too rigidly. Its interpretation as “complete abstinence from sex” for the previous few centuries led to the decline of yoga in India. This is because it meant that married people could not practice yoga. However in modern times we have seen a revival of yoga, and this has come about by interpreting the word “Bhramacharya” correctly. T Krishnamcharya’s teacher was married and he insisted that T. Krishnamacharya also get married too. (T. Krishnamacharya is widely regarded as the father of modern yoga as practiced in the west.) Also all key students of T. Krishnamacharya were married. This single fact has allowed the flowering of yoga in modern times as it correctly interprets Bhramacharya as a journey.

For those who are married or in a relationship, the word Bhramacharya simply means faithfulness. This means one has to be faithful in both deed and thought: Do not entertain any thoughts of sexual relationship with anybody other than your current partner. As your journey into yoga slowly unfolds and you practice all eight limbs simultaneously you will find that it becomes easier to control the sexual urge. Indeed you may find that at the outset it may increase your sexual urge but it will nevertheless allow you to channel it properly into your current relationship and remain faithful. But as you progress you will find that while love blooms in your life the desire and urge for physical sex may slowly diminish. This is a natural unfolding process and there is nothing forced about it. Patanjali realized that spiritual progress cannot be forced nor can the desire for sex be curtailed by force. Each of the limbs of yoga is like a staircase. You make progress one step at a time. Trying to rush things only backfires.

If you are in a relationship and serious about pursuing the broader aim of yoga then it helps that both partners are similarly committed. If on the other hand your yoga practice has a limited objective of improving your health and well being then this discussion of Bhramacharya and sex does not apply to you. You will find that your physical and emotional health will improve and your sexual urge becomes healthy and strong. It is only when all eight limbs are practiced simultaneously that the journey of Bhramacharya begins.

Yoga is about growth. This growth is with respect to becoming beings. The journey of yoga shows that while activity and action is part of our daily life, it is best done when it is centered on a calm internal being. The journey of yoga is about finding this inner calm. And as we integrate our identity with this calm center, we slowly realize that we are not the body, we are not our mind or our ego, and we are also not our sexual self. We are simply beings.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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