22 October 2015

When I escaped academia during the third year of an Economics Ph.D. program at Wayne State University in 1968, I never look backwards.  I hated all approaches based on sutras, words, concepts, ontology, and adapted spiritual approaches with minimal teachings, such as the transmission outside of scripture approach of Zen, and then the very simple teachings of Robert, Ramana, and Nisargadatta, where you just find the I-Thought and follow it with your attention, or to find the I-sensation and evermore fixate there.

I remember attending to several classes on various scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism at the Santa Monica Siddha Yoga ashram on Broadway around 1980 or 1981, and felt so put off by the verbal approach.

I read Jan Essman’s books with great difficulty, also of a Shaivite bent, I don't remember if he considered himself a Kashmir Shaivite, because they were so scholarly and obsessed with Shaivite concepts and terminology versus other schools.

Since the early 80s, I have never been interested in anything but understanding the I Am directly, Consciousness, the Void, the light of Consciousness pervading all, and later, Self-Realization both of the Unmanifest and of the Manifest Self.

I was very popular as a teacher when I only reflected Robert’s teachings, but once I realized God within me, with her constant presence within my heart, Her energy, her restless movements, the constant bliss states, flowing energies and flow of circulating light within, my expanding sense of presence, and far increased clarity of the entirety of the spiritual spectrum, students just began to slip or even run away.  What I was teaching now was outside of the spectrum and umbrella of Robert, Ramana’s or Nisargadatta’s simplistic teachings of transcendence.

Students told me they could not understand what I was teaching anymore, or they refused to go where I was leading because of my maturing vision.

Had Shankarananda spoke in any academic way when I first knew him in 1979, I would not have stayed around. I was anti-scholastic hten, even more than now.  However, now, 35 years later I have experienced so much, so many states, experiences, teachings that fall outside of Advaita, that although Nisargadatta and Ramana stand at the center of my guru-honoring, my present experience of Kashmir Shaivism through the very personal and joyous expression of my old friend, has allowed me to cast my current understanding and experiences in a new light of expansive spirituality, of great width, and life-affirming spirituality so very different from Robert’s and Nisargadatta’s disconfirmation of the human condition.

In my experience, the true Advaita Vedantists were a sour bunch, denying the personal, relationships, even Consciousness itself by Nisargadatta.  And, they tended to be inactive, like Ramana, withdrawn, like Lahksmanan, and all took Ramana’s sayings as the only truth.

On the other hand, Muktananda and Shankarananda, as well as Swami Chetanananda, throw the doors open and allow everyone into their tent, allowing them access to a level of teachings within that big tent that they can adopt as their own.  Shankarananda on a personal level really never offered any teachings 35-40 years ago, and because of that, I only felt his warmth and the warmth of the various Siddha ashrams, which of course disappeared once Chidvilasananda took over and she turned it into a personal cult.

Shankarananda told me back then that Muktananda told him never to offer teachings unless a student were nearly beating you up for them.  I understand this approach now. If the teachings are hard to come by, people can’t fault you; if you are open about teachings, they will conflict with those students already have, which will drive many away.  

This has been my experience.

Most students need very simple teachings, easy to understand, very little confrontations about their wrong beliefs, like some who hold that a “true teacher” does not smoke, eat meat, swear, have sex, or lose their temper.  Teachers are thus placed in strait jackets or the expectations of naïve students who are always judging based on what they think you should be and how “an enlightened being” should act.

The meditations and exercises that Shankarananda offers in his book are precisely those I have also taught over the years including his Shiva Process, which I do more directly by plunging into negative thoughts and emotions, abiding there, accepting them, even loving them, absorbing them and their energies into me.  I am sure Shankarananda would accept this too as a method as the result is the same, but I don’t use the idea that I am breaking up a contraction or sticking point.  I accept them as a form of Consciousnes that need sto be explored and loved.

I am very proud of my old friend for his genius as a teacher.  I could never have written such an academic book, nor expressed it with such love.

One more thing, all the talk has been about swamiji.  Let me make quite clear the Ma Devi has always been part of what their ashrams so sweet.  Her presence during chanting and on the harmonium was transfixitive.

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