European Masters - Blueprints for Awakening has arisen, without any personal intention, from the Blueprints for Awakening - Indian Masters project. Visiting Arunachala and Tiruvannamalai in South India each year, I naturally come in contact with many Western Masters coming to pay homage to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Living close to Cologne in the Open Sky Satsang and Art Community in the centre of Western Europe I also have the opportunity to meet many Western Masters and to interview them. The idea for the Blueprints for Awakening - Indian Masters project came to me in 1993 while living in Lucknow, North India, in the sangha (spiritual community) of my Master, Papaji. One day I received an inner message or vision telling me to go and catch the great Indian Masters on film before they were lost to the world. Ten years later, after five years living in Australia, I was on my way to Europe where I later settled down. In between I took a personal retreat of one year in Tiruvannamalai, at the holy mountain, Arunachala. During that year, after progressing with the Indian Masters interviews, it occurred to me to interview Western Masters. There is such a wealth of Western Masters that it has become necessary to make two books. This European Masters Book and Film will be followed by an American and Australian Masters project.
The Indian Masters book and film have touched many people. Interestingly, the film has created the stronger reaction. Several people have told me they have watched it thirty plus times! Whenever I have shown the film in Italy, Spain, Denmark, India, Germany, Russia or the Ukraine a profound stillness has fallen over the room, leading to a deep silence at the end before the inevitable compliments. The original question about 'dead mind' was so convincingly dealt with by the Indian Masters it is no longer a focus of this European Masters project.
European Masters - Blueprints for Awakening is for everyone who has an inner passion to know who they are and what they are doing here as a human being. It is for all who ask the question 'Who am I?' and for those who are looking for guidance on the teaching of Sri Ramana to 'be as you are'. It covers the main issues that arise on a spiritual seeker's journey to awakening to their essential nature, to Truth. It presents the fascinating depths of the Indian spiritual tradition through the eyes of European Masters who have gone to drink at that ancient well of knowledge.
We have included the complete text of Nan Yar- Who Am I? Originally, these answers were written by Sri Ramana in the sand of Arunachala in 1901, when he would have been twenty-one years old. Sri Ramana rewrote the original work in the 1920s and it is one of the few texts edited and approved by him. This is the Source text from which Self-enquiry can be understood and from which some of my questions have been taken.
Twelve questions have been asked to fourteen European Masters who have crossed my path in the last five years. There was no attempt at a special selection. These are Masters who have come into my life and who I appreciate. I did not approach them as a seeker, but rather as a teacher wishing to clarify my own understanding. I wanted to offer a platform for each Master to give his or her blueprint to be put out into the world, a world in great need, and, hopefully, a world where these teachings will find a receptive audience. The questions are referenced to Sri Ramanas teachings, even though the intention is for each Master to express his or her own teaching blueprint. Naturally, there is no actual blueprint as each person's spiritual journey is unique.
My own Master was Papaji, who met his Master, Sri Ramana, in the 1940s. Sri Ramana came into my life through an original Welling portrait that I found in a pile of debris in a room I had rented in Pune while I was with Osho in the years before I met Papaji. During my five years with Papaji he greeted a photograph of Sri Ramana every morning and on occasion said that he spoke as a channel for him. In the last fifteen years many Western Advaita (nonduality) teachers have begun teaching in the world. Sri Ramana is the spiritual inspiration for most of them. During the last years of Sri Ramana's life, in the 1940s, a small number of Westerners made it to his ashram and were touched by his presence. Wolter Keers came from the Netherlands and taught in Europe in the 1970s and 80s.
The mere sight of him made me tremble all over because I had come face to face with the Divine. This recognition affected me so much that my body shook involuntarily. As I gazed at Sri Ramana, I felt I saw God Himself sitting there.
S.S. Co hen from Iraq lived in the ashram and is buried there:
I was alone in the hall with him. Joy and peace suffused my being, never before had I such a delightful feeling of purity and well being at the mere proximity of a man. To the serious minded, Bhagwan was a beacon light in an otherwise impenetrable darkness.
The basic structure of each interview uses the same twelve questions [see Interview Questions in the front of the book. The questions are the same as the ones asked of the Indian Masters, with a few variations to more clearly reflect the Western experience. Further questions were asked spontaneously to illuminate an answer, leading to many exceptions to the basic twelve-question structure. In each interview there was the vital element and strong energy of the Master's presence, and I searched for a way to include this presence in the book. Hence you will find a DVD Sampler in the back of this book. It contains a Trailer for European Masters - Blueprints for Awakening, which is the companion film to this book, a set of the Masters' Portraits and an excerpt from the Video Website: www.blueprintsforawakening.org with one hundred and fifty small videos of the Masters.
The film includes selections from all twelve interviews and sets out important aspects of the teachings presented in this book. A series of separate films, Blueprints for Awakening - Meeting the Master, showing each Master's complete interview as well as material filmed during subsequent visits, will also be available later.
That Nondual vision - in the form of Vedanta, Shaivism, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism - is the precious gift of India to the world, and it found its purest, most elegant, most brilliant expression in the simple sage of Arunachala.
I am often asked, 'If you were stranded on a desert island and had only one book, what would it be?' Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi is one of the two or three I always mention. The Talks tops the list in this regard: they are the living voice of the greatest sage of the 20th century and, arguably, the greatest spiritual realisation of this or any time.
One of the many astonishing things about these Talks is how remarkably unwavering is the tone and style, the voice itself - not in the sense that it is fixed and rigid, but rather that it speaks with a full-blown maturity from the first word to the last. It is as if - no, it is certainly the case that - Sri Ramana's realisation came to him fully formed - or perhaps we should say, fully formless - and therefore it needed no further growth. He simply speaks from and as the absolute, the Self, the purest Emptiness that is the goal and ground of the entire manifest world, and is not other to that world.
This profound realisation is what separates Sri Ramana's genuine enlightenment from today's many pretenders to the throne- deep ecology, ecofeminism, Gaia revivals, Goddess worship, ecopsychology, systems theory, web-of-life notions - none of which have grasped the first two lines, and therefore, contrary to their sweet pronouncements, do not really understand the third. And it is exactly for all of those who are thus in love merely with the manifest world - from capitalists to socialists, from green polluters to green peacers, from egocentrics to ecocentrists - that Sri Ramana's message needs so desperately to be heard.
What and where is this Self? How do I abide as That? There is no doubt how Sri Ramana would answer those - and virtually all other - questions: Who wants to know? What in you, right now, is aware of this page? Who is the Knower that knows the world but cannot itself be known? Who is the Hearer that hears the birds but cannot itself be heard? Who is the Seer that sees the clouds but cannot itself be seen?
And so arises Self-enquiry, Sri Ramana's special gift to the world. I have feelings, but I am not those feelings. Who am I? I have thoughts, but I am not those thoughts. Who am I? I have desires, but I am not those desires. Who am I?
So you push back into the Source of your own awareness - what Sri Ramana often called the 'I-I', since it is aware of the normal I or ego. You push back into the Witness, the I-I, and you rest as That. I am not objects, not feelings, not desires, not thoughts.
But then people usually make a rather unfortunate mistake in this Self-enquiry. They think that if they rest in the Self, or Witness, they are going to see something, or feel something, something really amazing, special, spiritual. But you won't see anything. If you see something, that is just another object - another feeling, another thought, another sensation, another image. But those are all objects; those are what you are not.
No, as you rest in the Witness - realising I am not objects, I am not feelings, I am not thoughts - all you will notice is a sense of Freedom, a sense of Liberation, a sense of Release - release from the terrible constriction of identifying with these little finite objects, the little body and little mind and little ego, all of which are objects that can be seen, and thus are not the true Seer, the real Self, the pure Witness, which is what you really are.
So you won't see anything in particular. Whatever is arising is fine. Clouds float by in the sky, feelings float by in the body, thoughts float by in the mind - and you can effortlessly witness all of them. They all spontaneously arise in your own present, easy, effortless awareness. And this witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of Freedom - or pure Emptiness - and in that pure Emptiness, which you are, the entire manifest world arises. You are that Freedom, Openness, Emptiness - and not any little finite thing that arises in it.
Resting in that empty, free, easy, effortless witnessing, notice that the clouds are arising in the vast space of your awareness. The clouds are arising within you - so much so you can taste the clouds, you are one with the clouds, it is as if they are on this side of your skin, they are so close. The sky and your awareness have become one, and all things in the sky are floating effortlessly through your own awareness. You can kiss the sun, swallow the mountain, they are that close. Zen says 'Swallow the Pacific Ocean in a single gulp,' and that's the easiest thing in the world when inside and outside are no longer two, when subject and object are nondual, when the looker and looked at are One Taste.
And so: The world is illusory, which means you are not any object at all - nothing that can be seen is ultimately real. You are neti-neti, not this, not that. And under no circumstances should you base your salvation on that which is finite, temporal, passing, illusory, suffering- enhancing and agony-inducing.
Brahman alone is real, the Self (unqualifiable Brahman-Atman) alone is real- the pure Witness, the timeless Unborn, the formless Seer, the radical I-I, radiant Emptiness - is what is real and all that is real. It is your condition, your nature, your essence, your present and your future, your desire and your destiny, and yet it is always ever-present as pure Presence, the alone that is alone.
Brahman is the world, Emptiness and Form are not-two. After you realise that the manifest world is illusory, and after you realise that Brahman alone is real, then you can see that the absolute and the relative are not-two or nondual, then you can see that nirvana and samsara are not-two, then you can realise that the Seer and everything seen are not- two, Brahman and the world are not-two - all of which really means, the sound of those birds singing! The entire world of Form exists nowhere but in your own present formless Awareness: you can drink the Pacific in a single gulp, because the entire world literally exists in your pure self, the ever-present great I-I.
There is no reaching the Self. If self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now but that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say that the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already that.
Referring to Sri Ramana Maharshi is a great challenge, especially if you never met him in person. When relying on what was written about him, it is clear that this man was capable of throwing his followers back into themselves, just by being his True Self in a simple, straightforward way. Many seekers at the time were overwhelmed by the power and depth of his presence.
But what sometimes happened was that his words were (afterwards) interpreted as if enlightenment was something he attained as a person. People started to believe that he had attained 'It' - some special state which his followers hadn't reached (yet).
That presumption may be confusing because the True Self is limitless, and as a result it cannot be owned by anyone. Believing one can actually reach or attain enlightenment (as a person) only encourages the seeker to believe that he or she can find that as well. When one understands that the 'seeker' is just a mind construct, any recommendation that the seeker could attain Oneness through Self-enquiry is a contradiction in terms.
I believe that basically, all Sri Ramana pointed to was that everybody 'is' already this. That automatically means that there is no need for any purification or any spiritual search whatsoever. How can one find the Self if This is what we really are? How can one attain That which has no limits whatsoever? So in a way, Sri Ramana's Self-enquiry is like a Zen koan, as there is no answer to the question, 'Who am I?' But seeing that indeed there is no answer to this question, that there is no seeker, can bring an end to the spiritual search.
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