Sunday, December 9, 2007

How can I tell if I am doing self-enquiry properly?

The following is a set of questions sent (in 1997) to the publication The Maharshi and the response of the editor:

1. Have you pursued meditation in this fashion and been able to experience this in a practical manner?
2. Can you offer any insights or "tips" (so to speak) that might be helpful to approach the meditation in the proper way?
3. Do you find that there are any common difficulties or misunderstandings that seekers come up against when trying to follow this line of meditation?
4. How can I tell whether I am doing the enquiry properly?
5. In sum, what is your advice for the seeker trying to sincerely understand, apply and experience Bhagavan's meditation of Self-enquiry?
6. In the past I was associated with a teacher whom I later came to know was of questionable character. How can I safely determine which of the teachers are authentic and which are not?

I would appreciate whatever remarks you may have on these six points.

- A Devotee from California

Whenever I have visited India since the early 1970s I always made it a point to spend time with those who moved close to Bhagavan and remained His lifelong devotees. I would humbly approach them and imbibe whatever I could grasp from their life and guidance. Invariably, I would always discover that the deeper the spiritual experience these fortunate souls had, the more they would turn my attention to the ever-present Presence of Sri Bhagavan. They would always say, "He is here now just as before. Turn to Him with sincere devotion and humility and He will guide you, bless you, extend His grace to you." And after all these years, I still find this most simple instruction to be the greatest of all. Many understand the Maharshi's teachings, many may be practicing them or teach them, but there are not many with a sincere and firm faith in His Presence and guidance.

I preceded the answers to your questions with the above paragraph because I realize that these answers cannot satisfy you to the extent you desire. That fullness will only come by God's Grace and your experience of It. To experience this, faith is required: faith in the Maharshi's words, faith in His omnipresence and faith that you can realize the fullness of His teachings and His Presence.

Bhagavan's teachings are most practicable. They are like the air we breathe. It is available to the new-born babe all the way up to a mature adult. Likewise, we can experience the practicability of His teachings at any stage of spiritual development.

Teachings or "tips" are often given to meet the particular need of the individual aspirant. No two are alike and there is no teaching that will apply in all respects to all people. There are general guidelines, though. These help prevent the aspirant from deviating from the path.

I have seen some common misunderstandings in the practice of the Maharshi's teachings. Firstly, I notice that many seekers are taken up with the "Who Am I?" practice and do it enthusiastically for some time. Not finding themselves in the Supreme State, they drop it and go on to some other type of meditation practice, or stop meditating altogether. Aspirants often do not realize that only a very few are fit to jump straight to the roof from the ground (to the highest experience from the mundane). One usually has to take to additional methods to still the mind, purify it and scorch the ego. On occasions Bhagavan explained this to aspirants. The aids the Maharshi talked about were devotional practices, pranayama, service, hearing, reflecting, etc.

If one is unable to still the mind by questing "Who Am I?" the practice should not be abandoned. It should be supplemented with other spiritual exercises which curb the outward going, or selfish tendencies of the mind. When, through the steady and consistent practice of sadhana, the mind becomes fit, it will automatically sink into the Heart. There should be no doubt about this.

By the depth of peace experienced you can tell whether you are doing the practice correctly. But in general, it is difficult to judge our own progress. Bhagavan has said this on many occasions.

Dispassion and practice-these are the means for attaining the goal. Be ready to sacrifice everything for the ideal, but in doing so you should in no way make others suffer. Seek the company of like-minded aspirants. Serve all, and look on yourself as a simple servant of God's creation who has no other aim but to abide in Him.

In response to your question about teachers whose outer actions do not necessarily reflect their teachings, all I can say is to study intently the life of Sri Bhagavan. He is our yardstick. There was no discrepancy in what He taught and how He lived. He wanted nothing from anyone. He served all with His gracious glance. He loved all and experienced all as His Self. He is our ideal. Choose your company from those who most emulate these genuine qualities. Bhagavan always protects those who look up to Him. He seems to have protected you so far and kept you on the path to freedom and joy. Trust him. He is our Guru and guide.

- Editor

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