Today I have decided to sleep with my mother inside the house.  I prepared my bed and began to sleep.  It is not going to be easy to sleep after experiencing the Divine. I thought for a moment why all this is happening to me.  It was difficult to get an answer. The sight of Shiva and Shakti is still lingering in my mind.  I wish that I should always carry this vision with me throughout my life. 

When I woke up, my own place appeared different.  I appeared as a stranger here. I was comparing the cosmic vision I had yesterday and the reality today.  Obviously, I could not draw any comparison between the two.  Guruji should have got up much earlier today.  When I got up, I saw him near Ganapati temple.  He had already finished his morning rituals.  He appeared to be in a hurry today.  When I saw him, he signalled me to finish my morning chores. I went to the river and had my bath.  The water appeared to be very cold today and was very refreshing. Flowers of marigold in yellow and red were flowing in large numbers in Cauvery today. I have always observed that whenever I had illness, if I take a cold water bath, my illness would go.  Particularly, Cauvery water in our place has some medicinal properties, as it reaches our land after flowing through dense forests, where there are many medicinal herbs.

There are many waterfalls in Courtalam which have high medicinal properties.  There is yet another waterfall in Kolli hills.  To reach this water fall one has climb to down several hundred steps.  This waterfall has high medicinal properties. It is always very refreshing if one takes bath in such waterfalls. Particularly many skin diseases get cured.  Another advantage of taking bath in waterfalls is the force of water which gives the feel of a good deep tissue massage.

For the past few days, my morning chores have an additional duty of maintaining the Ganapati temple.  Till I completed all my morning chores, guruji was sitting on the banks of the river, under the shade of a tree.  There are many huge trees with thick foliage on the banks.  Our predecessors would have planted these trees in order to prevent floods entering our hamlet causing damage to lands. Their barks could be ten feet in diameter.  When I came running to guruji, he was sitting in half lotus posture, where instead of crossing two legs, one leg alone is crossed. I sat opposite to him in vajrasana. If one sits in vajrasana after lunch or dinner, it enables quick digestion.  In vajrasana one has to sit on his knees, stretching his feet so that the top of the feet are on the ground and derriere rests on heels. After yesterday’s incident, my respect for guruji has gone up multifold.

“Shankaraaaa, the time has come to commence my briefing to you.  I will give you a small brief about spirituality.  I have already told you, that to attain perfection in spirituality, one has to possess thorough knowledge.  Spiritual knowledge is generally known as philosophies.  There are various philosophical systems or doctrines shedding light on God.  Though the destination is the same, the routes to reach the destination are different.  You can reach a destination either by air, rail or road.  In the same way, to realize God there are many ways.  In spirituality, it is always better to reach the destination with utmost confidence and absolute knowledge.

“Kundalini meditation is the shortest approach to reach God.  But you cannot be sure of reaching your destination.  Kundalini meditation is full of deceptive experiences and if you do not have a right guru, you are bound to suffer both mentally and physically.  Since it is also one of the ways to realize God, you will be taught kundalini meditation in due course. First you should understand about philosophies.

“These philosophies are known as Vedanta. Vedanta is derived from Veda. Vedanta means conclusive knowledge. Vedanta is a philosophy that clears doubts about God. Knowledge here means not the worldly knowledge.  Worldly knowledge is materialistic in nature and is acquired for material prosperity.  Worldly knowledge is all about temporal and corporeal objects.  Spiritual knowledge is different from worldly knowledge. Spiritual knowledge deals with infinite and eternal God. Worldly knowledge has different dimensions.  Spiritual knowledge deals only with Eternity that is beyond normal human comprehension.  It does not deal with objects.

“Let us take an example.  We call a cup, a cup.  The teacher tells her students about the cup by physically showing the cup. Therefore, students know how a cup would be.  In spirituality, this is not possible.  No one can really show God and say this is God. No body has seen the God as He is beyond human comprehension. But, the potency of God is realized through experience. Material knowledge does not deal with ubiquitousness, whereas the spiritual knowledge deals only with ubiquity.

“Vedanta is a very deep subject, involving different schools of thought, different interpretations and different aspects. The ultimate goal of Vedanta is to realise the God within. Here comes the difference between religion and spirituality.  Religions consider God as someone with different shapes and forms and different from us, whereas spirituality affirms with authority that God exists everywhere and He is One, not many.  Vedanta does not give names and forms to God.  It calls Him as the Creator, God, Supreme Soul, Self, etc.  Vedanta says that spirituality alone leads to eternal joy and happiness, known as bliss. The first step to Vedanta is a simple question “who am I”.  Vedanta answers this question from different view points.  When you find a convincing answer, you are a realised person.

“A spiritually ignorant person cannot realize God.  A religious person also cannot realize God. Both of them do not have spiritual knowledge. Spirituality exclusively deals in realizing the God, only by negations and affirmations.  He cannot be described, as He is beyond description.  At the most, God can be described sat-cit-ananda (eternality, purest form of consciousness, bliss), satyam-jnanam-anantam (truth, knowledge and infinite). 

“There are three types of Vedanta philosophy.  They are Dvaita, Vishistadvaita, and Advaita. Trika philosophy can also be included here.  Dvaita, the dualistic philosophy propagated by Madhvacharya says that the God and individual souls are different. Vishistadvaita is qualified non-dualism and propagated by Shri Ramanuja. According to him, God and soul are different, yet the individual soul is dependent on the God and has to ultimately become one with the God. The third one is Advaita propagated by Shri Shankaracharya.  According to Advaita philosophy, individual soul is nothing but the God.  All that exists in the world is only God, thereby asserting the omnipresent nature of God. It is said that Advaita philosophy is the supreme among the three.  There is also another school of thought who says that one should begin his spiritual pursuit from Dvaita philosophy, progress to Vishistadvaita and end at Advaita. Advaita beautifully answers the question ‘who am I’?  Advaita says ‘I am That’, where, That refers to the God. For knowing an object, there has to be a knower (the one who is trying to know), the known (the object) and the process of knowing.  While realising God or the Self, Advaita says that both the knower and the known are the same Self.  This is based on the theory that individual soul is not different from the Supreme Soul, the basic concept of Advaita.  There are three ways of acquiring knowledge. One is the direct perception, the knowledge acquired through sensory organs. The example is, knowing an elephant by seeing it.  The next one is inference or knowing something by inference.  When there is smoke, there has to be fire. The fire is inferred on seeing the smoke. The third one is through description.  This is by word of mouth, where sound is used to explain an object.  Typical example is pointing out to an apple and saying that, this is an apple.

“God can be realized only through inference and descriptive words and not by direct perception.  Brahma Sutra, Upanishad-s and Bhagavad Gita make one understand God by means of negations and affirmations.  Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says, “Now the description of the God. Not this, not this, because there is no other or more appropriate description than ‘not this’.”  The question naturally arises, why this negation.  If some one asks showing the sun “is this the God”, the answer has to be ‘not this’.  By showing fire if some one asks “is this the God”, the answer has to be ‘not this’.  The fact is that there exists nothing to show as an example for the God.  Everything is negated to explain the God because, He is beyond everything.  After having negated all the objects to explain the God, Upanishads proceed to affirm the God.  While affirming, they do not refer to objects, but to attributes.  For example, Katha Upanishad says, “God is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest.  Again, Taittiriya Upanishad says that truth, knowledge and infinity is God.  Shiva Sutra says that Consciousness is God.  All these go to prove that God is beyond physical description. If we look at the affirmations of Upanishad-s, they refer to truth, knowledge, infinity, consciousness, etc, which are all subtle in nature.

“Sensory organs are of no use in understanding God, as He has no form.  When we are desperate to know Him, then what is the way out?  He can be realised only through knowledge.  Knowledge dawns at the end of all negations and affirmations.  Negations lead to affirmations and affirmations in turn lead to knowledge.  Taittiriya Upanishad says  ‘knowledge is God’. Therefore, knowledge is one of the sources, through which God can be realized.

“Advaita philosophy is considered as the supreme, as according to Advaita, God alone prevails everywhere. There is no second in Advaita. Everything is superimposition on God, giving rise to various shapes and forms. When one understands that the appearance of the universe is illusory in nature and the underlying factor is omnipotent God, he is considered as a Self realised person. But this thought does not occur to a rookie spiritualist.  One may claim to be an advaitin, but in reality, he may not be. He may understand the fundamental philosophy of non-dualism; but knowledge is different from experience. Advaita says “I am God”. If one simply repeats “I am the God”, he does not become an advatin nor does he become a Self realised person. This is merely his statement.  Only when his statement transforms into experience, he is said to have mastered the true Advaita philosophy.  Therefore, in the initial stages of spirituality, one is bound to feel the difference between the God and self.  This happens because of ignorance.  This ignorance can be dissolved not only by acquiring knowledge but also by personal experience. You have to transcend several stages and cross several impediments to ultimately realise, that God and you are one. For this, practice is essential.  Practice is called sadhana.  Sadhana can be explained as the practice that ultimately leads you to your goal.” Guruji thus introduced me to the world of spirituality. 

Since guruji had exhaustively covered spirituality in a single session, I had many doubts and I got them clarified.  I thought that countdown to my spirituality has begun.  Guruji got up, stretched his arms and legs and walked towards our home for lunch. 

When guruji woke up from his nap it was close to three in the evening.  Weather continued to be hot.  In our hamlet we do not feel the wrath of the sun because of the river and the trees on the bank.  If the sun is scorching, I used to rest in my rocky bench.  Whenever I sit on my rocky bench, thought of Jimmy comes to my mind.  It is too early to forget him.  I have forgotten my father soon after his death, but with Jimmy, I am not able to do that. Jimmy loved me so deeply.  Guruji was returning from the river after washing his face to freshen him.

“I have briefed you about Vedanta.  Now I will tell you in brief about Trika philosophy. There is yet another philosophy known as Trika philosophy, declared by Kashmiri Saivism.  Trika means three fold reality - Shiva, Shakti and nara or an individual. Though advaita and trika philosophies say that the Ultimate is God or Shiva, the proclaimed paths are different. In Trika philosophy, the Supreme Shiva transcends everything and abides in transcendental eminence, because He simply wants to remain there. This transcendental eminence is known as Shakti. Practically speaking, there is no difference between Shiva and Shakti. While Shiva is called Supreme, His unsurpassable divine energy is Shakti. She is the Grace incarnate. She is present in all conditions as the divine consciousness. The divine “I” consciousness is eternally present and hence Shiva is subjective in all the actions of the universe. Thus Shiva becomes the Ultimate Reality. Without Shiva, the universe cannot exist as He alone is Self-illuminating. His Self-illuminating light is prakasha, without which no activity can happen in the universe. This light alone cannot cause activities in the universe. The light can be realised only if there are objects, as otherwise, the luminance of prakasha becomes unknown. Shiva can know His unsurpassable power only through vimarsha. Vimarsha is Shakti. Therefore, vimarsha becomes the reasoning factor of prakasha, without which, prakasha will remain obscure. In other words, without Shakti, Shiva becomes inert. It is not that Shakti is more potent than Shiva. Factually speaking, Shakti would not have originated as an independent energy, but for the will of Shiva. Shiva has given His power of authority to Shakti, without which She cannot carry out the universal process. Because of this Supreme power, Shakti manifests as ‘This’, whereas, Shiva continues to remain the Supreme “I” consciousness. It is due to the will of Shiva, Shakti creates nara or souls who get bound by Her illusionary power known as maya. You can realize Shiva only in the fourth state of consciousness known as turya. In Trika philosophy, everything originates and dissolves into Shiva and Shiva alone, with whom Shakti always stays united. Shiva has multifarious energy levels out of which five energies are important. They are energies of consciousness, bliss, will, knowledge and action.

“The difference between Advaita philosophy and Trika philosophy appears to be thin. At the same time, this subtle difference is very significant. For example Bhagavad Gīta elaborately discusses the teachings of Advaita philosophy. On the other hand, Shiva sūtra-s deal with Trika philosophy. Trika philosophy says that everything originates and dissolves into Shiva and at all the time, Shiva continues to exert His creative energy. Shakti merely represents the power of authority of Shiva and exercises control on nara or the souls. In Advaita philosophy, cause and effect play a dominant role. Advaita says that effect is non-different from cause. However cause is different from effect. This principle is called the non-difference of the effect from the cause. Trika philosophy is explained through the triad of para the highest, concerned with identity, para-para identity in difference and apara, difference and sense of difference.

“I have explained to you only the fundamentals of Trika philosophy. I have briefed you about Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta is similar to Trika in many ways, particularly in the concept of God and the way He manifests the universe. Attempting to make a synthesis of Trika and Advaita Vedanta is very difficult.” Guruji thus introduced all types of philosophies in one go.  After long lecture sessions, guruji is always in the habit of encouraging me to seek any clarifications.  He ensures that before he proceeds further, I am cleared of all doubts. 

(to be continued)