Thesis On The Advaitic [Samadhi] Experience
My Notes on Excerpts from Page 1 of 5 PDF Pages
John Glenn Friesen-
Submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of Doctor Of Literature and Philosophy in the subject: Religious Studies at the University of South Africa; Promoter: Prof J S Kruger; Joint Promoter: Dr M Clasquin 2001
[maya-gaia commentary in red text: The concepts and terms defining the range of transformative mystical states identified in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions are a legacy of over a thousand years of attempts to describe the ineffable. Even in the model of transcendent consciousness that has been subjected to the most intense ontological, epistemological and phenomenological review- the Advaita- there is acute ambiguity in the distinctions ascribed to the hierarchy of Samadhi and in criteria for establishing its credibility. Dr. Friesen's thesis provides an intimate view into the reality that- despite the twelve revisions of Upanishad doctrine, the evolution of Vedanta and Buddhism and the full realizations of countless rishis and yogis- the subject of the advaita experience- Samadhi- remains a divine enigma.]
Note: My perspectives on Ramana's precepts are based on my view through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi direct experience.
Abhishiktananda An Interview with J. Glenn Friesen by Jim Arraj - When I asked Glenn to do this interview, I told him to imagine the questions that an astute interviewer would ask, and then answer them. The result is a probing portrait of Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux), the Benedictine monk who was a pioneer in Hindu-Christian dialogue in India. (with Glenn's perspectives on Ramana as a Neo Vedantan, his position regarding Nirvikalpa Samadhi which he called 'trance' and Sahaja, etc.)
Sahaja and Jivanmukta Questions- a further examination of Hindu and Non-Hindu views of Jivanmukti and the identity and character of the supreme samadhi.
Ramana Maharshi References Extended excerpts from Hindu and Non-Hindu Interpretations of a Jivanmukta by Dr. John Glenn Friesen In the following, I have excerpted passages from another of Dr. John Glenn Friesen's scholarly and penetrating essays that like his Abhishiktananda again provides an intimate look into the minds of the sage-philosopher of non-dual tradition- in this case those of Ramana Maharshi, his co-sataguru Ganapati Muni, some of his devotees and some biographers.
Happiness of Being A website dedicated to exploring in depth the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana. e-book copy of Happiness and the Art of Being, which is an in-depth introduction by Michael James to Ramana's philosophy and practice.
Dr. John Glenn Friesen - studies relating to Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi. Brunton is the author of A Search in Secrete India 1934, the book that made Ramana well known. This essay details some of the estrangements and criticisms by and about Brunton in regards to Ramana.
Ramana Maharshi, His Life and Teachings: by David Godman. 'I' and 'I-I' - A Reader's Query - Speculations about the intricate distinctions of Ramana Maharshi's "I" and "I-I" and his specific meanings for some samadhi terms found in his teachings: nirvikalpa, kevala and sahaja.
Arguing Reality Presents a synopsis of the three main approaches to arguments about the nature of reality, enlightenment and consciousness and raises questions about some specific assumptions in Ramana's self-inquiry teachings.
The French Benedictine monk Henri Le Saux - Abhishiktananda (photo portrait) saught to establish an Indian Christian monasticism emphasizing Hindu advaitic experience. He understood advaita as both nondual and non-monistic. This thesis explores his understanding and experience of advaita, comparing it to both traditional Hinduism and neo-Vedanta, as well as to Christianity and Zen Buddhism. Abhishiktananda's description of his experience is examined in relation to perception, thinking, action, ontology and theology. Special attention is given to comparing the views of the Hindu sages Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Gnanananda Niketan, both of whom influenced Abhishktananda
[mg note: and to the special relationship to his own disciple the French theology student Marc Chaduc.]
Abhishiktananda believed that advaita must be directly experienced; this experience is beyond all words and concepts. He compares Christian apophatic mysticism and Hindu sannyasa. Ab' radically reinterprets Christianity. His affirmation of both nonduality and non-monism was influenced by Christian Trinitarianism, interpreted as an emanation of the Many from the One. Jesus experience of Sonship with the Father is an advaitic experience that is equally available to everyone. Ab' believes that the early Upanishads report a similar experience. A monistic interpretation of advaita only developed later with the "dialectics" of Shankara's disciples. In non-monistic advaita, the world is not an illusion. Using ideas derived from tantra and Kashmir Saivism, Ab' interprets maya as the sakti or power of Shiva. He compares sakti to the Holy Spirit.
Ab' distinguishes between a pure consciousness experience (nirvikalpa or kevala samadhi) and a return to the world of diversity in sahaja samadhi. Ramana and Gnanananda make a similar distinction. Sahaja samadhi is the state of the jivanmukta, the one who is liberated while still in the body; it is an experience that is referred to in tantra and in Kashmir Saivism. Ab' never experienced nirvikalpa samadhi, but he did experience sahaja samadhi. At another time he suffered a heart attact which Ab' refers to as a "spiritual adventure" during which he had further experiences that for him confirmed the validity of the samadhi. [mg note: There is serious question as to what Ab' has in mind in claiming to have attained sahaja samdhi since he appears to have conflicting definitions for the term. (See also a video of a neurobiologist physiologist Jill Bolte Taylor giving her lucid account of her consciousness when she suffered a massive left-hemisphere stroke.)
Ab' understood his experience to be advaitic but not monistic. "Advaita" means "non-dual", or "not-two". For example, one aspect of his advaitic experience is that the human Self and God (Brahman) are experienced as "not two" (advaita). But although the advaitic experience is that of "not two" (or non-dual) he also says that the advaitic experience is different from "only one" (or absolute monism). Ab' emphasis on the experience being neither "not two" nor "only one" gives value to both unity and diversity. To the extent that the experience is one of unity it is "not two". And to the extent that individuality is not swallowed up or identified with the One, the experience is not "only one". He speaks of advaita-aneka [not two, not one]:
...God himself is both one and plural in his mystery- or rather to put it more accurately- he is not-one, an-eka, and also not-two, a-dvaita. The truth of the simultaneous, advaita-aneka [not-two, not-one], discovered in the nun [now] of the Present.
Advaita is not monism. The individual is the mystery of God realized in a not-one aneka way in its...indivisibility as undivided non-duality akhanda-advaita. The distinction between advaita and monism was crucial for Ab'. It was important in his attempted reconciliation of Hindu and Christian thought. Ab's use of the term aneka (not -one) will become of central importance in how the term is used to compare traditional Hinduism with neo-Hindusim.
Western interpretations of advaita describe it as monistic: For Shankara the "That art thou" is to be taken in the starkest, clearest sense. It means the eternal self within the individual is identical with Brahman, the Absolute or Ultimate Reality- non-dualism between the soul and the divine. Reality is paralled by an equally uncompromising monism in relation to the world. But there are Hindu saints who say advaita is non-monistic and Ab's view seems at the same time similar and different from Buddhist non-duality.
Radhakrishnan was of the view that all genuine religious documents and scriptures (in India) have their origin in the immediate personal experience of "seers" and rishis.
Wilhelm Halbfass says that the idea of immediate experience is more obscure and ambivalent than is usally admitted. William James: There are two ways of knowing things, knowing them immediately or intuitively, and knowing them conceptually or representatively- (knowledge by aquaintance).
Any description of the ineffable is in the realm of namarupa, names and forms. The model of Immediate Experience is often related to the idea of a Perennial Philosophy. That view holds that there is available to us an immediate religious or mystical experience which has common core characteristics across different religions.
Traditional Hindusim was xenophobic in its treatment of the mleccha or foreigner (Buddhism). Ab': "There are no non-cultural religions. As Christianity is founded, rooted in the Jewish culture and mentality. "There is no religion without a culture." [mg note: so Islam is founded, rooted in the Arab culture and mentality of the ruthless struggle for tribal survival in the harsh desert habitat.]
Steven Katz says our [religious] immediate experience is "shaped", "formed", and "mediated" by the beliefs, concepts and language that we bring to the experience. The forms of consciousness which the mystic brings to an experience set structured and limiting parameters on what the experience will be, i.e. on what will be experienced, and rule out in advance what is 'inexperienceable' in the particular, given, concrete context. [mg note: Wrong!, wrong!, wrong! That MAY apply to the states where consciousness remains in DUALITY as in savikalpa samadhi and NDEs and to the state of duality in the ascending stage of a Nirvikalpa Samadhi experience- but once transformed into the ultimate stage of non dual dissolution- all perception and belief is annihilated in the absolute purity of merging with Brahman-Isvara.]
He also says there is no "veridical truth" unless there is data. (mg: are we talking about neurophysiloloical monitoring here as a perverse notion that data resulting from intrumentents can provide anything significant to understanding numinous consciousness events?
Advaita is not an idea. 'It is!' The lightning flashes, the eye blinds, as says the Kena [Upanishad]. Then? You have either understood , or you have not understood, you keep quiet, says the Mundaka [Upanishad].
The thesis continues here with detailed discussion of phenomenology, experiential expression, etc., etc.
The jnani or realized person realizes one's acosmic nature beyond space and time.
Shankara makes no veridical claims on direct experience and had no experience himself but depended on the authority of the Vedas and Upanishad which do not reference individual experiences. So some asked whether Shankara was only an intellectual and not a realized person.
Gnanananda advocates bhakti to Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva is both male and female (androgynous character illustrating non-duality). Shiva is neither man nor woman, not half man and half woman, not man plus woman. This symbolic of the mystery of the relation between God and ourselves that cannot be expressed on the basis of our present concepts.
Death is mahasamadhi
Another definition of Samadhi: a memorial to a saint
The distinction between dvaita and advaita?
meditation is dhyana
Ab' "...we find ourselves Christian, Hindu, Buddhist."
Ab' believed that the secrets of the Upanishad can only be understood by secret meaning passed down from guru to student (not by reading) preparing the student for the advaitic experience.
About Guru refering to their own experience: The Vedantin secret should remain closed and only revealed to the adhikari (competent student- one who is authorized/initiated)-...the guru who refers to his own experience shows by that very fact that he has missed the experience. Whoever has not disappeared in the light cannot testify to the light."
An acosmic model of a monk sannyasi- 'also is the ceremony which initiates and proclaims the monk'. Ab' describes such a sannyasi he administered to his disciple Chaduc: "...entering the Ghanges he discards all his clothes in (the) water, and I receive him as from the maternal womb. We envelop him in the fire-colored dress. We communicate to him the mahavakyas, and I give him the envoi: 'Go to where is no return...' And immediataely he went on, his begging bowl in hand, to I do not know where."
It is believed Chaduc may have ended his own life [much later] by offering himself to the Ganges in the rite of jala-samadhi allowing his body to be carried away by the Ganges in order to release his atman. (Another disciple of Ab's, Sister Terese (alledgedly) also ended her life this way in 1976.)
Ab' and Panikkar says that advaita opposes simultaneously both pure monism and pure dualism. It also transcends as well as embodies both the extremes.
Ab's description of his first Advaitic Experience:
He had doubts about the authenticity of his (own) experience and whether he was risking his eternity by continuing 'experiments' with the experience. He wondered if he was misunderstanding it or confusing it with feelings, or with an implulse from the subliminal psyche. In the view of some Hindus, these doubts prove he did not attain the advaitic experience. His efforts to confirm the experience with Christain precepts are evidence that his was not authentic for the Advaitic experience transcends all concepts and does not require reconciliation with any sectarian creed.
William James offers the ways to judge the authenticity of religious experience. He sets out three criteria by which to judge whether a religious experience is authentic: (a) immediate luminousness of the experience (b) philosophical reasonableness and (c) moral effect.[mg note: My take is that James has an idealized conviction as to how the moral effect manifests. In my case my authentic samadhi embude me with a profound concerm for protecting all non-human life but the traditional compassion for all mankind was totally absent to the extent I viewed humankind as Earth's cancer.]
Levels of Realization (samadhi)
sat-cit-ananda the supreme and only Saccidananda the ultimate realization.
Ab' ...there were "touches", "tastes", "glimpes" of the advaitic experince. Wilber refers to a "Spectrum of Consciousness" which precede the advaitic experience. At one end the narrowed sense of identity associated with egoic consciousness; at the other end of the spectrum is the supreme "identity" with cosmic consciousness which is found in the advaitic experience. Hindusism identifies the first three levels- waking, dreaming and deep sleep (Gross, Subtle and Causal levels). The fourth level- turiya Wilber refers to as Absolute Spirit or Mind, transcends all three levels; it is beyond all dualities. D.K. Mehta spoke of seven levels of consciousness, corresponding to the cakras and to various angelic orders.
Ab' "everything explodes when you have reached the fourth [stage of consciousness]"
The vision of light is commonly found in reports of mystical experience. The highest mystical realization is generally referred to as "illumination", enlightenment and Ab' says, "Light is the sign par excellence of the Presence of God." One of Abs' pre-advaiatic experiences involved the feeling of being outside space and time.
Ramana speaks of the state of consciousness "waking sleep: the state of the jnani. It is neither sleep nor waking but intermediate between the two. There is the awareness of the waking state and the stillness of sleep. It is called jagrat-sushupti. It is atijagrat (beyond wakefulness) or atisupshupti (beyond sleep) and also the interval between two successive thoughts. It is the source from which thoughts spring...
Ab's First Advaitic Experience
Chaduc describes his spiritual experince as he and Ab' walked along the Ganges on a path to a small ashram for pilgrims on their way to Badrinath: "It was on the way to Phulchatti that the grace erupted...the Father was seized by the mystery of the purely acosmic one who leaves all in response to the burning invitation of God...Later we realized that this experience was the beginning of the mauna-diksha, the initiation by silence which is the work of the Spirit alone."
Ab's and Chaduc's relationship was between guru and disciple and seemed at times to merge in a spiritual/almost-erotic non-duality. Chaduc appears to have an advaitic experience in the company of Ab' (who vicariously experiences it- both claiming later to have experienced the light equally) at a time his guru (Ab') had not had his own experience. This is a reversal of the Upanishad doctrine which proscribes that the Guru inspires the advaita experience to his disciple. In his vision of light, Chaduc says Henri (Ab') is revealed as his guru. [mg note: This may simply be an imprecise description by Chaduc since no 'thoughts or concepts' are manifested while actually in the light of Nirvikalpa Samadhi non-duality nor any self-consciousness. Chaduc may have indeed experienced such a revelation in a component state of dual consciousness before or after his vision of light with this reversal in the order of Guru and disciple inspiration merely an example of how the codexes of dharma may unfold in inexplicable ways.]
Ab'writes in his Diary the next day that he knows that the experience of the Upanishads is true. Ab' does not speak of the experience as being "immediate" rather he interprets the experience by the Upanishads. This is in accord with the Yogic Model of Experience, which begins with concepts but moves beyond them. Ab' write later to a friend: "I understood there [at Phulchatti] that the Upanishad is a secret which is only properly given in the secret of the communication of the guru to the disciple." [mg note: But Ab' does not seem to acknowledge that the relationship for inspiration of the advaitic experience between disciple and guru were reversed in his experience with Chaduc.
Later Ab' developes a highly convoluted explanation for this apparent reversal by a remarkable weaving of Upanishad and Biblical themes involving the Trinity, Christ coming to the Father by the Spirit and the manifested world coming to Brahman by his sakti. Ab' writes: "What is important in the Upanishads are the "correlations" which go beyond all the words employed and pierce the living flesh like electric shocks. Neither books nor lectures can convey this experience. You have to awake to another level of experience. I now know that the Upanishad is true satyam."
But then (page 228) Ab' again superimposes Christian concepts over the advaitic experience and says: "The Christian awakes from the advaitic awakening." In Guhantara he writes that beyond advaita there is a further experience that he calls ati-advaita, or advaitatita. In this state one experiences the mystery of the Three in One and the mystery of the One in Three. This is a "trans-advaitin mystery of the Father Son and Spirit, the mystery of God in Himself, of the Self of God and of Being which is supra-personal and tri-personal. He continues with an exquisitely involved development of this theme.
Ab' later has another experience he describes almost solely in terms of light, fire, spark and flash. [all changed into light, merged in light] How keep going after that? What reading can be "interesting" what company can be interesting?...there is nothing to do except to bear witness to the fullness of light. It is pure light, supreme light...Hindu terms for light are compare to Biblical terms: Tejas, glory, is the doxa of the Gospel, the qabod of the Bible. To come near to it burns you, corntus Moses [shining of Moses' face]. The great lesson of the Upanishads: that brightness, the tejas of Being...which burns, swallows up in the Self. The immense place given to the Sun-and also to Agni and the lightning vidyut in worship and thought comes precisely from this intuition of light, jyoti, tejas, within the heart. It is the Light of the world, the rays of the sun, Supreme light, and joyful light. "God is too great a light for one to hold out in his presence. One vanishes. Absorbed in the Source who is jyotih [light]. It is an experience of Purusha shining as the self in the depth of oneself. It is the burning heat that is at the origin of everything. It is a return of the human being to the light that shines of itself svayam jyoti. He compares the experience to a Light that empties, annihilates, and fulfils one.
Ab' agonizes over not being certain of having attained the advaita experience and in a way rationalizes/philosophizes an acceptance of this reality. "As long as I think of an ego that has to be transcended or annihilated, I am simply feeding it." This is the paradox of the meditative practice. Realization is not attained as long as it is sought. As Ramana said, "One must ferry over to the shore of Liberation that Self which is immersed in the ocean of samsara." But this "further shore" is only further in relation to this shore. In other words, the truth that samsara is, nirvana is known after realization.
Ab' Heart Attack and NDE
Ramana also had an NDE and thought it an advaita experience but both he and Ab's visions contained aspects of duality- viewing oneself at a distance. [JGF Note: Is not this a function of a consciousness separate from the object being observed? Ab' records his sense of the smallness of his body. He found it "hard to be convinced that this minimum of matter is enough to support consciousness." -suggestion a distinction between matter and spirit or consciousness.]
tabula rasa- the emptying of the mind
Ab' says: the advaitic experience should not be permitted except for those who were very strong; only some are capable of it. The Vedantic secret should not be revealed except to the competent, the initiated. The experience of Vedanta drains people and is just as dangerous as drugs or phychoanlysis. "It is probably better for most people to pass the shakti by, than to be a carrier of it, without realizing it. But some are capable of it."
Ab's awakening he compared to seeing inside the Grail (the advaitic experience) or inside the divine heart that has been illumined and awakened so that it may serve as a receptacle for divine energies. Wilber refers to the Grail as the non-dual experience. Chidananda described both Chaduc and Ab's mystical experiences as: "They had both gone into the realms of the Unknown, the Undefinable, the Transcendental; not drawn into "name and form" as though they had, in their aspirations, pierced "the cloud of unknowing" and had come into pure white light.
Here the thesis presents a philosophical discussion referencing Loy, Rudolf Otto, Kruger, Bede Griffiths and Robert K. C. Forman
on non-duality and the differences between Madhyamika Buddhism and Yogacara [those who meditate] Buddhism.
Sanskrit words, definitions: "sa-vilkapa" our usual perception (with thought construction), "nir-vilkapa" perception is without thought contruction although Vedanta has no doctrine of nondual perception. Vedanta uses the word for perception pratyaksa only in relation to the world of maya. The nondual experience of nirguna Brahman is not perception at all.
...there is a seer, the Self, there is nothing to see, for 'Brahman is One without a second. There is therefore no object to perceive. As the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says, "And when [it appears that] in deep sleep it does not see, yet it is seeing though it does not see; for there is no cessation of the vision of the seer, because the seer is imperishable. There is then, however, no second thing separate from the seer that it could see. For Vedanta, perception is always dualistic. 'Brahman therefore cannot be known through them. Our perception is therefore limited to the empirical world, and to 'savikalpa' experience. In post-Buddhist Upanishads the Mandukya Upanishads, Loy says there is recognition of non-dual perception and Ab' quotes that source including the fourth, turiya.
We discussed Ramana's view that the world is not totally unreal. The world is anirvacaniya or indeterminable as either real or unreal. Both Ramana and Loy make reference from Shankara's Vivekacudamani: The universe is an unbroken series of perceptions of Brahman; hence it is in all respects nothing but Brahman. Savikalpa creates the illusion of seeing the rope as a snake.
Loy suggests Shankara adopted much from Mahayana Buddhism and was accused of being a "hidden Buddhist" supporting a doctrine of monism that denies any reality of the world.
Upanishad have early, later and post Buddhist versions- at least 13 different versions.
The Yoga Vasistha speaks of nirvikalpa samadhi in which "there is no movement of thought". But when he speaks of a state of nirvikalpa samadhi, there remains a kind of perception. It tells the story of Lila, who enters into nirvikalpa samadhi. She is in the infinite space of consciousness, and yet she can see the king, although he cannot see her. She was on another plane of consciousness. [mg note: This appears to be an utterly dual perception which I find impossible in the state of nirvikalpa samadhi I experienced and believe it to be an incorrect assumption that Lila had experienced Nirvikalpa.
Just as in deep sleep one experiences no duality or suffering, so in the vasana-less state, the knower has equanimity and a kind of coolness. This is the turiya or fourth state. There is a state beyond even this called the turiyatita, a non-dual "state" beyond great (and no) bliss. It is associated with bodiless liberation, which is even higher than liberation in the body. [mg note: This notion raises a fair skepticism to ask what possible evidence is there for this state-higher than Nirvikalpa Samadhi- and what on earth is meant by "bodiless liberation" (other than death) and "a kind of coolness". It is also quite surprising when sages give any equivalency to consciousness of deep sleep to that of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. All these vague analogies and extrapolations only further confuse an already ephemeral anatomy.]
The Heart, Nirvikalpa Samadhi, and Self-Realization: By Harsha (Harsh K. Luthar, Ph.D)
Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Sleep - Harsha Writes: The nature of Nirvikalpa is known clearly only when the Self is Known. Self is Nirvikalpa. Nirvikalpa is simply a term which means "without kalpas" or "without thoughts" or "without imagination", etc. Self is beyond words, thoughts, feelings, and imagination. Yet, it is not a state of unconsciousness like deep sleep. Those who equate Nirvikalpa Samadhi with deep sleep and make all sorts of pronouncements have only known and enjoyed the Self-bliss in complete unconsciousness of deep sleep. Self, however, is never unconscious, its nature being pure consciousness itself.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi is completely different from all types of Savikalpa Samadhis. In Nirvikalpa, the seed "I" itself vanishes. No one remains to know anything. There is only Pure Self-Knowledge, in continuous knowing of It Self. Its nature is that of Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss.
Self is fullness of consciousness, fully and perpetually transparent to itself as one whole. That is Sahaj. Sahaj means natural. Consciousness is the nature of Self. Consciousness is natural to the Self. When the Self rests in its natural state spontaneously and all effort has disappeared,
that is called Sahaj. The beauty of Nirvikalpa Samadhi lies in allowing us to clearly recognize the perpetual Self-knowing in all states as it is only the Self knowing It Self in all states of modifications of the mind and all states of consciousness.
The truth is that no matter how clever the terminology and how subtle the expression of the experience of the Self, it misses the mark. It is because the Self has no point of Reference in experience being It Self the very Foundation on which All experience appears to take place..
From "Atma Vidya" ("e;age of Arunachala"e;). "e;When you have not understood yourself, what is the point in understanding other things? When you have understood yourself, what else is there to understand?"e;
Harsha Writes: The nature of Nirvikalpa is known clearly only when the Self is Known. Self is Nirvikalpa. Nirvikalpa is simply a term which means "e;without kalpas"e; or "e;without thoughts"e; or "e;without imagination"e;, etc. Self is beyond words, thoughts, feelings, and imagination. Yet, it is not a state of unconsciousness like deep sleep. Those who equate Nirvikalpa Samadhi with deep sleep and make all sorts of pronouncements have only known and enjoyed the Self-bliss in complete unconsciousness of deep sleep. Self, however, is never unconscious, its nature being pure consciousness itself.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi and deep sleep are like night and day. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi Self Knows It Self By It Self and Through It Self. It is Fullness of Pure Consciousness and not unconsciousness. Nirvikalpa takes one beyond intuitive knowledge and Reveals the Self in Actuality as Pure Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Ramana distinguishes between a state of trance (which he calls nirvikalpa samadhi) and the highest state of consciouness, . He describes this state in terms that are clearly related to the idea of jivanmukti in the Yoga Vasistha:
In this state you remain calm and composed during activity. You realize that you are moved by the deeper Real self within and are unaffected by what you do or say or think. You have no worries, anxieties or cares, for you realize that there in nothing that belongs to you as ego and that everthing is being done by something with which you are in conscious union. Ramana says that a trance is only temporary in its effects; "there is no use of trance, unless it brings about enduring peace of mind. There is happiness so long as the trance lasts. But after rising from it, the old vasanas (latent ideas and forms of the mind) return. Unless the vasanas are destroyed in sahaja samadhi there is no good in trance."
[mg note: No Good! - except you know God, no longer fear death, may be imbued with a holistic compassion for Gaia, etc., etc.! There is no question Ramana experienced some profound trance at age 16, but it seemed not to be a direct experience leading to his realization since he has such a qualified view of nirvikalpa samadhi. It is as if the almost catatonic trance he was in for over six months was some unique psychic state that bore no resemblance to the classical samadhi but resulted in his subsequent intense reading to absorb knowledge which he integrated to the degree that he became a fully realized jivanmukta. This can be compared to Shankara becoming a sage through extraordinary intellectual insight applied to interpreting the Veda and other religious texts despite never having a direct advaitic experience. The suggestion is that there is no such advaitic experience beyond nirvikalpa referred to as sahaja samadhi but that 'sahaja' defines the quality of enlightenment that results from Nirvikalpa Samadhi, intellectual/religious integration or a combination of both- not by what experience is attained. Ramana's sometimes condescending characterizations of nirvikalpa samadhi suggest he either had no direct experience of one or simply renamed his experience sahaja since he defines that in terms that exactly apply to nirvikalpa. Further- in describing the qualities of sahaja samadhi, Ramana provides no clear differentiation between the "experience" of his samadhi and all the qualities he details regarding the resulting conscious "state" of a jivanmukta.]
To a questioner who continued to ask about the importance of trance, Ramana replied. "If you are so anxious for trance any narcotic will bring it about. Drug-habit will be the result and not liberation. There are vasanas in the latent state even in trance. The vasanas must be destroyed." [mg note: Here again- to suggest an equivalency between these two experiences- Ramana reveals a shocking naivity of the character and quality of both a drug experience and the bliss and non-duality of Nirvikalpa Samadhi.]
Sri Ramana Maharshi distinguishes these levels of samadhi:
1 Holding on to Reality is samadhi.
2 Holding on to Reality with effort is savikalpa samadhi.
3 Merging in Reality and remaining unaware of the world is nirvikalpa samadhi.
4 Merging in Ignorance and remaining unaware of the world is sleep.
5 Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi.
In nirvikalpa samadhi, which Ramana also calls kevala samadhi, the mind is alive, but "sunk in life", "like a bucket with a rope left lying in the water in the well to be drawn out." One can come out of the state. It is therefore temporary, a mere suppression laya of consciousness, a state of trance. It is the samadhi of nondifferentiation; it consists of "pure consciousness", which is capable of illuming knowledge or ignorance. Nirvikalpa samadhi is the merging in the one Reality that underlies all phenomena and the remaining unaware of all transitory manifestations. The state is compared to a waveless ocean. In nirvikalpa samadhi one is unaware of anything but the inmost Being. [JGF Note: It therefore appears that Ramana means a state of Pure Consciousness when he refers to nirvikalpa samdhi.] [mg note:
Here JGF cleans up in summation an awkward definition which includes the ambiguity as to what "illuming knowledge or ignorance" implies.]
In sahaja samadhi, the mind is "dead", "resolved into the self, like a river discharged into the ocean and its identity lost." And yet, although the mind is "dead", in sahaja samadhi one is able to continue to function in the world after enlightenment. The enlightened one lives as a jivanmukta. Sahaja, the highest state of consciousness is not withdrawal from the world or a cessation of activity. A person who has attained Realization may or may not withdraw from active life. Some realized persons carry on trade or business or rule a Kingdom like Rama as described in the Yoga Vasistha. Realization does not mean being inert like a stone or becoming nothing.
Ab' provides (Page 227) further perspective on Ramana's opinion about sahaja samadhi. In Sannyasa, the last major article that Ab' wrote, he says that for Ramana, the highest form of samadhi is sahaja samadhi, that which is completely natural ('innate'). He conrasts it with nirvikalpa samadhi, which he refers to as "ecstasy". "In this [sahaja] there is no restraint of a man's normal bodily and mental awareness, as in ecstasy (nirvikalpa samadhi), which itself implies a dualism; rather the jhani continues to be fully aware of himself and of all around him, but within the indivisible awareness of the atman." This description by Ab' acknowledges that in sahaja samadhi there is a content to the experience. One is "fully aware of himself and of all around him." In that state, unlike nirvikalpa samadhi, "there is no restraint of a person's normal bodily and mental awareness." Thus, in the terms we have been using, sahaja is not an experience of Pure Consciousness. It is an awareness of unity, an "indivisible awareness of Atman. [mg note: It would appear that Ramana has drawn from his own personal NDE or Savikalpa Samadhi-like transcendent experience and imposed its qualities of duality and content to define sahaja samadhi and then awards it the highest status above the state of non-duality and ineffability of nirvikalpa samadhi.]
Notes to Page 256
[mg note: Where the term Jivanmukta appears in any of the discourse in mg webpages it assumes the meaning ascribed in the traditional context but is overlain with mg's skeptical view about the notion that the sant is functioning normally in a permanent state of conscious non duality. Some suspect Ramana never attained an advaitic experience beyond an NDE which appeared to contain aspects of duality- or at least skipped Nirvikalpa and re-entered life as a jivanmukta. This may explain why he distinguishes sahaja samadhi from nirvikalpa samadhi by saying- In sahaja samadhi the mind is "dead", "resolved into the self, like a river discharged into the ocean and its identity lost."...but that precisely describes Nirvikalpa Samadhi and completely contradicts Ab's interpretation of Ramana's description of the nature of sahaja samadhi in the paragraph above. Ramana also says: "the trance has no good unless vasanas are destroyed." But Ramana holds a strong bias to the early Upanishad and Vedanta that essentially dismiss the advaita experience of non-duality as antithetical to their doctrine which may account for his disparaging the "trance" and "ecstasy" of nirvikalpa samadhi and placing it in a lower status than his version of a sahaja samadhi with duality and content.
In an effort to explain Ramana's distinction between Nirvikalpa and Sahaja he may assume it is not the quality of the "experience" (which may range from NDE to Nirvikalpa Samadhi) that determines rank in the samadhi hierarchy- but to what degree vasanas are permanently destroyed or (as in his own case) already highly evolved- apon re-entering phenomenal life. This appears to determine the level of enlightenment one manifests after the advaitic experience- which can range from remaining in a state of relative ignorance- as in my case where I retained many of my original vasanas- or becoming a jivanmukta like Ramana. Ramana's "latent ideas and forms of the mind" (vasanas) were already highly evolved at the time of his experience- so apon re-emergence from whatever experience he attained- his vasanas further evolved via intense intellectual perception of religious texts to the degree he could function as a jivanmukta. Thus for Ramana it is more the quality of enlightenment one retains after the transcendent experience as to what name and rank he awards the level of the original experience -and thus in my view arbitrarily applies the term 'sahaja samadhi'. In short- I assume sahaja does not enter into defining the quality of the ultimate state of a samadhic experience where Nirvikalpa is supreme- but distinguishes any level of advaitic experience which results in the experiencer becoming imbued with highly evolved vasana enabling his/her permanent enlightenment as a jivanmukta.
In a more recent take on Ramana's perception of Sahaja, in an interview at Innerexplorations (John Glenn Friesen website)-
Jim: But didn't Ramana believe that you have to first achieve nirvikalpa samadhi before achieving sahaja samadhi?
Glenn: No. He says that sahaja samadhi can be directly experienced in the heart. He makes the analogy, if you want to go to Tiruvannamalai from Madras, why go to Benares first? We should search for the origin of the ego by diving into the heart, and not waste our time in meditation on the chakras, nadis, padmas or mantras, or on the deities, or their forms. He advises against engaging in Yogic practices or incantations (and later) or seeking trance.
[mg Note: The implication is that Ramana is not comparing Sahaja to a transcendent experience of nondual realization of Brahaman as in Nirvikalpa but defines it as a state attained through gradual opening of consciousness to awareness of the absolute Self and the dissolution of vasanas to manifest the realization of a jivanmukta.]
See also: A Biographical Sketch of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) by Harry Oldmeadow - Page 12: In the years following Ramana's death Abhishiktananda spent two extended periods as a hermit in one of Arunachala's many caves. He wrote of an overwhelming mystical experience while in retreat on the mountain, an experience of non-duality (advaita), and stated that he was "truly reborn at Arunachala under the guidance of the Maharishi", understanding "what is beyond silence: śūnyatā (voidness)." "Ramana's Advaita is my birthplace. Against that all rationalization is shattered." He who receives this overwhelming Light is both petrified and torn apart; he is unable to speak or to think anymore; he remains there, beyond time and space, alone in the very solitude of the alone. It is a fantastic experience, this sudden irruption of the fire and light of Arunachala. "Ramana and Arunachala alike had", he said, "become part of my flesh, they are woven into the fibers of my heart."41
SAHAJA AND JIVANMUKTA QUESTIONS- a further examination of Hindu and Non-Hindu views of Jivanmukti and the identity and character of the supreme samadhi.
LINKS TO INSIGHTS TO SAMADHI- including some modern, first-person accounts of experiences which are essentially distinct from NDEs or OOBs in that consciousness tends to manifest the non-dual and contentless nature that characterizes the state of nirvikalpa samadhi
DUAL NONDUAL REALITY MODEL My heuristic metaphysical model for reality based on integration of revelations from my Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
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