Lineage – Vishrant’s Teachers
Ramana Maharhshi was a guru of international renown from southern India who taught during the first half of the twentieth century.
Ramana was largely disinterested in school and absent-minded during work. He had a marked inclination towards introspection and self-analysis. He used to ask fundamental questions about identity, such as the question “who am I?”. He was always seeking to find the answer to the mystery of his own identity and origins.
In the summer of 1896, Ramana went into an altered state of consciousness which had a profound effect on him. He experienced what he understood to be his own death, and later returned to life.
He also had spontaneous flashes of insight where he perceived himself as an essence independent of the body. During these events, he felt himself to be an eternal entity, existing without reliance on the physical body or material world.
Ramana was nearing the end of high school when a careless criticism describing him as a person not fit to be a student jarred him into making a final decision to leave school. He had been reading a book on famous Tamil saints and resolved to leave home and lead the life of a religious seeker. He planned to go to Arunachala, the place which was the focal point of all his religious ideals.
When he was seventeen years old, Ramama left for Arunachala, arriving after four days of mostly train travel. He went directly to the central shrine at the temple and addressed the Shiva symbol (linga) stating he had given up everything and come to Arunachala in response to the god’s call.
Ramana spent ten years living in temples and caves meditating, and pursuing spiritual purification, keeping the disciplines of silence and non-attachment. At this point, his reputation as a serious teacher began to grow and other seekers began to visit him. His disciples, some of whom were learned individuals, began to bring him sacred books. He became conversant with the religious traditions of South India.
Early disciples had a difficult time learning about Ramana’s background and even his native language because he was silent and refused to speak. As time passed he ceased his ascetic phase and began to live a more normal life in an ashram setting. Many people came to visit him with a variety of problems, from both India and abroad.
Ramana’s disciples constructed an ashram and temple, and space the accommodate the many visitors. All ate the same food and Ramana sat with the rest of the people during meals and did not expect special treatment. The ashram was a sanctuary for animals and Ramana had great fondness for the cows, monkeys, birds, and squirrels that inhabited the grounds.
Ramana was not a guru in the classic sense of a teacher who gives instruction on a regular basis or gives mantras during initiation. In fact, if the seeker wanted to practice repetition of a mantra rather than the “who am I?” method of self inquiry, he recommended repeating the pronoun “I” or the phrase “I am” rather than repeating sacred Sanskrit words or the names of gods. This focused the person’s mind on “being itself” or the mystery of their own awareness rather than an external object or word.
However, Ramana did give informal initiations using a special glance, or touch. Ramana also initiated people by gazing intently into their eyes.
Ramana developed cancer and when his devotees voiced concern about losing him, he responded with the statement “I am not going anywhere, where shall I go? I shall be there where I am always.” He died in April, 1950, sitting in lotus position. The final word that passed from his lips was the sacred syllable OM.
Sri H.W.L. Poonja
“Who am I?” This is what we have come here to understand, and we have not done this at any time before. This question must be solved but we have postponed it. Everyone has postponed it for millions of years. We will not postpone this here. This can be done here and now – in this instant – because the Self is here. Enlightenment to know thy Self – to know, “Who I am?” This is Enlightenment.”
Sri H.W.L. Poonja, lovingly referred to as Papaji, was born on October 13, 1910, in a part of the Punjab that is now in Pakistan.
He had his first direct experience of the Self at the age of nine. He met his Master, Sri Ramana Maharshi, in 1944. Shortly afterwards he realized the Self in the presence of his Master. Being a householder, he continued to work and support the many members of his extended family until his retirement in 1966. After extensive travel Papaji settled down in Lucknow, India, where he received visitors from around the world. He left the body on September 6, 1997.
Siddhartha Gautama, who would one day became known as Gautama Buddha or Buddha (“enlightened one” or “the awakened”), lived in Northern India during the 6th to 4th century B.C.
The Buddha, or “enlightened one,” was born Siddhartha (which means “he who achieves his aim”) Gautama, a prince in northern India in the 6th century BC. His father was a king who ruled an Indian tribe called the Shakyas. His mother died seven days after giving birth to him, but a holy man prophesized great things for the young Siddhartha: He would either be a great king or military leader or he would be a great spiritual leader. To keep his son from witnessing the miseries and suffering of the world, Siddhartha’s father raised him in opulence in a palace built just for the boy and sheltered him from knowledge of religion and human hardship. According to custom, he married at the age of 16, but his life of total seclusion continued for another 13 years.
Beyond the Palace Walls
The prince reached his late 20s with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces, but one day he ventured out beyond the palace walls and was quickly confronted with the realities of human frailty: He saw a very old man, and Siddhartha’s charioteer explained that all people grow old. Questions about all he had not experienced led him to take more journeys of exploration, and on these subsequent trips he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse and an ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic had renounced the world to seek release from the human fear of death and suffering. Siddhartha was overcome by these sights, and the next day, at age 29, he left his kingdom, wife and son to lead an ascetic life, and determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity.
The Ascetic Life and Enlightenment
For the next six years, Siddhartha lived an ascetic life and partook in its practices, studying and meditating using the words of various religious teachers as his guide. He practiced his new way of life with a group of five ascetics, and his dedication to his quest was so stunning that the five ascetics became Siddhartha’s followers. When answers to his questions did not appear, however, he redoubled his efforts, enduring pain, fasting nearly to starvation, and refusing water.
Whatever he tried, Siddhartha could not reach the level of satisfaction he sought, until one day when a young girl offered him a bowl of rice. As he accepted it, he suddenly realized that corporeal austerity was not the means to achieve inner liberation, and that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve spiritual release. So he had his rice, drank water and bathed in the river. The five ascetics decided that Siddhartha had given up the ascetic life and would now follow the ways of the flesh, and they promptly left him. From then on, however, Siddhartha encouraged people to follow a path of balance instead of one characterized by extremism. He called this path the Middle Way.
The Buddha Emerges
One night, Siddhartha sat under a Bodhi tree, vowing to not get up until the truths he sought came to him, and he meditated until the sun came up the next day. He remained there for several days, purifying his mind, seeing his entire life, and previous lives, in his thoughts. And soon a picture began to form in his mind of all that occurred in the universe, and Siddhartha finally saw the answer to the questions of suffering that he had been seeking for so many years. In that moment of pure enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (“he who is awake”).
Armed with his new knowledge, the Buddha was initially hesitant to teach, because what he now knew could not be communicated to others in words though he had to try and coming across the five ascetics he had practiced with for so long, who had abandoned him on the eve of his enlightenment. To them and others who had gathered, he taught his first sermon (henceforth known as Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma), in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which became the pillars of Buddhism. The ascetics then became his first disciples and formed the foundation of the Sangha, or community of monks.
For the remainder of his 80 years, Buddha travelled, teaching the Dharma (the name given to the teachings of the Buddha) in an effort to lead others to and along the path of enlightenment.