During Babaji's last visit to Oregon, he gave classes at TRCI in Umatilla, DRCI in Madras, OSP in Salem, and the women's prison, CCCF, in Wilsonville. Notes from these wonderful classes — 26 hours of classes in all — follow the article below.
The Oregon Department of Corrections' Religious Services Department should be commended for its open-minded welcome of different religious approaches. Christianity appears to draw the largest population and have the most programs, but side by side are Islam/Sufism, Native American, Judaism, Buddhism, Vedanta, other India-based programs, Essene, Wicca, Nordic, and Western mystical school approaches. Despite differences of approach and the usual presence of fundamentalism, which infects more than one of these, there is relative harmony and respect among the volunteer chaplains. On a typical Tuesday evening, OSP has Buddhist meditation and sutra study, Catholic teachings, Vedanta, and sometimes one other group, all offering teachings in classrooms with paper-thin walls. Camaraderie is necessary! Before passing through security and the various gates, the leaders of these different programs exchange news, personal and religious, sharing information about a saint or a teacher or events they are sponsoring.
Given the negative atmosphere of prison generally, a certain proportion of the inmates seek a reprieve, solace, and even transformation in religious service programs, spiritual studies and practice. Many who lean toward the Eastern or mystical aspects of the different traditions listed above, often attend several meetings a week, each in a different tradition. Those who take to meditation have learned how to transcend the noises, frequently vulgar and/or angry, of nearby inmates. Others have difficult cell-mates who cause almost all their sadhana to be centered on forbearance and patience. Religious service programs are one of the important, maybe even primary, ways that inmates work on heart and mind...and against great obstacles, internal and external.
Despite such a tamasic (heavy, negative, lethargic, depressed) atmosphere, the religious programs in Oregon prisons are thriving, and some prisons out in eastern Oregon have a hard time getting enough non-mainstream religions to come. At the four prisons that we serve, the people who come to Vedanta are trying for various reasons to improve their character, attain equanimity, and even liberation, and at the very least, have some holy company. Concepts such as karma/reincarnation/samskara, the Gunas, the Yamas and Niyamas, the Five Koshas, Universality, the Three Bodies, and so much more, provide tools for our prison students to practice in their current circumstances and for later. They are encouraged to write with personal questions and a few have regular meetings with Babaji. And importantly, through Vedanta and Buddhism they get the all-healing foreknowledge of Advaita, nonduality, and our birthless, deathless, ever-pure, ever-free Soul.
We recently learned at one prison that there is a separate library for "segregation." Segregation is the official term for when someone is sent to the hole. It is relatively easy to end up in segregation for a period of time. Inmates can only bring a single religious item in with them, but they can ask for books from the segregation library. The segregation library we visited did not have any Vedantic or Hindu books available. We left some Nectars that we had with us. Only soft cover books are allowed, most likely. If you have books you can donate, Vedantic periodicals, or even a donation so that we can purchase books when we go to India, that would be most appreciated. Further, most inmates haven't the means to buy a lot of books for study, so we are giving quite a few out in support. On our next trip to India this February, we hope to purchase a lot of books inexpensively. Please consider donating to this fund. Contact Annapurna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are some of the teachings Babaji gave during the last visit. Just like at the ashram, Babaji uses the charts and elucidates them. These notes do not reflect complete commentaries on the charts, but rather special points he made, which have been thematically arranged.
Waking up in Vedanta
Dreamer awake! Utisthata! Jagrata! You've become acclimatized to ignorance and sleepiness. People can't awake these days; they have to have their coffee or other drugs. People are drugging their minds just to get physically awake and are thus enforcing the veils to Consciousness. For, as people turn to the subtle and spiritual, it is a process of acclimatizing to more and more subtle states of consciousness.
Anything that changes can't be depended upon. Matter changes at a millionth of a second. I can't put my hat there. Don't build your house on sand (matter) but on bedrock (Spirit). What are You? Pure Consciousness. Pure Consciousness doesn't transform.
Vedanta is all about the unseen, but first you have to get past the appearances. Mithya jnan (false knowledge) causes us to project things that aren't there, and then those projections waylay us from higher living. For instance, your friend has fallen down a well. You go to help him but see a snake instead of the rope that is lying nearby. You run in fear and don't use the rope to save your friend.
You enter into a dark room and bump into the objects there. It is the same with peoples' ignorance — they are constantly bumping into things: relationships, money, objects. They do not know how to handle them, and create karma as a result.
Vedantic teachings are based upon appearances. Although this is a nondual philosophy, we have to approach it from relativity, even though that is not ultimately real. The one who wants to penetrate through appearances has to do it at the individual, collective, and cosmic levels. You cannot get rid of the Cosmic Mind (Mahat); you have to transcend it. If you want to know the origin of everything, you have to transcend Mahat which forms everything.
What does a philosophical system do for you? It destroys doubts, fears, and clarifies the mind. Vedanta doesn't propose that God is a creator. It says that mind is a creator and God is the Substratum. God is not limited by mind.
In Buddhism, ignorance (avidya) is the failure to affirm the suffering-ridden nature of the world. Vedanta and Buddhism, then, aren't life negating, unless you mean by life, living with anger, lust, greed, jealousy, or birth, disease, decay, hunger and thirst — yes, that's the life we negate. We must bring to the fore that Brahman reality.
One of the things that flummoxes us most in Maya is vaichitra (the infinite variety). Reality is One, but all this diversity distracts and deludes us. In order to live life adeptly you have to have the single eye of Wisdom, jnana chakshu, otherwise vaichitra will delude you. Those who live in the single eye are nondualists. They have done their viveka (discrimination between the real and unreal). They can get out of the river of time, with its activities and resultant karmas...and sufferings.
A man goes to work, comes home, has dinner, has relations with his wife, sleeps....and none of it happens, just like a runner in a dream. These are all zeros. But what if you put the 1 in front? That "1" is Brahman. You would then have a huge number. Now that's the philosophical side, but what is the deeper meaning? There is an old adage, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, does it make a sound? Well,this only hedges around the main point. Even if someone were there, There, it would not make a sound! Because there are no objects, sound, etc., in Brahman.
The ten senses are based on vibration. That's why people seek meditation: to calm the mind. In deep sleep there is no mind, objects, enjoyments, ego, etc. You are in peace; the peace that passes understanding. You are perfectly content there. Nothing happens but there is subtle bliss. Every night we meditate perfectly in deep sleep. But we are not conscious of it. People practice meditation to enter into that state of peace consciously.
The ajnanis, those persons unaware of their true nature, are running a race in a dream. Is God subject to loss and gain? We are cast in God's image; we shouldn't cut God in our image. Don't pull God down to that level. Leave It as It is — formless and pure — and raise yourself up to It.
Dreaming is futile. Dreamer Awake! Utisthata jagrata.... The Vedic rishis likened the states of waking, dream, dreamless sleep, and Turiya (the state of all-pervasive Consciousness that is the witness of these three states) to four feet and called these the Four Feet of Brahman. Brahman "uses" waking, dream, and dreamless sleep to get Consciousness to associate with form. The key word here is "associate." Never identify with form....unless you are a past master.
We have to become aware in all 3 states: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. We must live in the Witness, the Sakshi Bhutam.
You may bump your head and become unconscious and then wake up again, but Consciousness is like a big eye that is always open.
Act with knowledge. It is like fencing with 2 swords, one of knowledge and the other of action. Know first, then act. This is like rubbing coconut oil on your hands before opening the very sticky jackfruit. You avoid creating karma in this manner. Know that the fruits of all actions are futile.
Once you recognize the Gunas you can transcend them. You are supposed to transcend them. [The Gunas are the three modes of nature interwoven into the entire universe as qualities of harmony, activity, and inertia. In the mind they manifest as balance and intelligence, restlessness and passion, laziness and stupor.]
What is Maya? The presence of something that is naturally veiling Reality. It is the worlds of name and form in time and space.
Attachment and aversion is what everyone is laboring under. Torn between these two you are decentralized (scattered). Maya is unreal, but we are pretending it is real and building this entire structure of unreality and trying to get satisfaction out of it. Science, conventional religion, society, etc, wants us focused on pleasure-seeking. Science invents things for the purpose of pleasure.
Maya is a four letter word, potentially more terrible than any other four letter word.
Maya is like water that fish don't see. It's indeterminable. We can say lack of money impedes me, or my husband impedes me, or society — but who recognizes Maya?
Whether you go for medical health, or psychological, or theological, or scientific help, you're only going into Maya. All of these only deal with individual and collective levels at most.
The maya at the Cosmic level is beyond our ken; you just have to transcend it. You go to Brahma/Mahat and say, "I'm finished. Please take it, the creation, back."
There are six question words, and only one leads directly out of Maya:
What? — connects you to objects
Where? — keeps you in space
When? — fastens you to time
Why? — concerns cause and effect
How? — good question because it leads to a path: "How do I get out?"
Who? — Ask this, "Who am I" (the true I is not in Maya, Maya is in It.)
There's no meaning in Maya. Is there direction in space? The seer blasts all this, forbears everything, and transcends.
If my body is my soul (a great mistake), then my actions are real! Anyone can say "I'm not the body" but no one acts like it.
The body-mind mechanism acts as a separator, and that deludes us.
Mithya jnan — this is false knowledge adhered to by the mind in ignorance. False superimposition distracts and takes you away from the point of existence.
Seers keep company with Spirit; they always keep in mind that there is oil in sesame. This means that all this is maya, but Brahman is pervading it.
The Mayavadins made the observation that all is Maya, but they made the mistake of stopping there. Like Christianity, they made it into an incarnate evil. Thus they rendered it real and uncaused. But even a mirage is caused by something. Where there's smoke, there's fire. This is inference. Thus, where there's a world, there must be Brahman.
Om is a mantra in itself. Its significance can't be overestimated. It is beyond even the Great Mind (Mahat). It emanates off of Brahman. It is Intelligence itself coming off the Ocean of Light. Inside of that Light of Awareness, realms exist, worlds grow - it is natural. This is why everything is Brahman. Yes, it is Maya, but Maya is in Brahman. It is all a manifestation of Jnana, Intelligence.
The Five Akashas
[Yoga Vasishtha delineates five akashas, or atmospheres, of varying subtlety. These different realms exist simultaneously, and only in the first, the bhutakasha, are there dimensions like up, down, thick, thin, near, far, etc. All the others do not have dimension in that way, and yet they exist, the more subtle ones being the cause of the grosser. These akashas are as follows from gross to subtle:
Bhutakasha: the space of objects (the physical realm)
Pranakasha: the space of vital force
Manakasha or chittakasha: the space of thought
Jnanakasha: the space of Intelligence
Chidakasha: the space of Pure Consciousness that is indivisible, the substratum of the other four akashas.]
When you transcend the bhutakasha in deep sleep or samadhi, you encounter another akasha that hasn't dimension in the same way. If a particle gets so tiny it disappears, then space disappears — it isn't needed. When the physical particles go away, you end up with particles of intelligence.
If you meditate on ether (physical space), you find the bhutakasha has dimension; but prana doesn't. When you study ether, space, the akashas open up to you. All these akashas are in you. You can explore them. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within," or, "My Father's mansion has many rooms." Your body has sheaths with nerves inside, but inside those gross nerves are subtle nerves that can't be seen. These conduct vital force (prana in the pranakasha), and when you go beyond vital force, you come across Intelligence, and find that all we see is Intelligence (jnanakasha). Here, you are getting to the point of a sugar cube placed in tea. What happens when there is an amorphous mass of sweetness and no crystals? - that is samadhi. Even particles of intelligence have dissolved there.
There are lots of dangers in the bhutakasha. There are birth, growth, disease, old age, decay, and death. When Brahman doesn't transform, then what are we doing transforming? or thinking that we transform?
The brain is an organ; but mind is a state of consciousness. All the worlds are in the mind.
[Babaji presented several charts from the Yoga system of Patanjali. These charts are concerned with the limbs of Yoga, with opposing "pain-bearing" thoughts with "non-pain-bearing" thoughts, separation between the Seer and the seen, and with the stages of samadhi (absorption in Reality). The limbs of Yoga consist of: five yamas: truthfulness, nonviolence, noncovetousness, continence, non-receiving of gifts; five niyamas: austerity, purity, contentment, study of scripture, worship of God; sitting for meditation, purification of the vital force, withdrawing the senses from their objects, concentration, meditation, and samadhi.]
Pratyahara, withdrawing the senses from their objects, is sense control. Tackle it! Practice asamvedana, nonreceptivity to desire. See through it all; think about the root of desire, detach from it, witness it. If you can do this, then a whole world opens up to you: concentration, meditation, and samadhi.
In the human being, the mind is the king. The intellect is the minister that guides the king/mind. The senses are the subjects and the body is the kingdom, the land. A deluded intellect misinforms the mind or doesn't guide it properly But a refined intelligence informs and guides the mind. It tells the mind not to be attached to objects.
People do not think of the connection between objects, senses, and mind. Basically your mind created this world with the help of others' minds and in cahoots with the Cosmic Mind, of which your mind is a part. [Babaji then told the Vedic story of when the gods (who are the powers of the senses and vital force with its aspects of hunger and thirst) went to God and asked for a body in which to enjoy objects. At first they were shown the body of a cow, which they declined. Then they were shown the body of a horse, and this, too, they said was inadequate. Finally they were shown a human body, to which they responded, "Well done." Indeed, then, mankind is well done. Continuing, Babaji said,] But it seems to me that mankind is undone these days, so these teachings will help you get redone! But here is the rub with Vedanta and Buddhism: they insist that you have to renounce. If you know that the world is unreal — that the senses give a false reading and that you must meditate on higher things, and meditate for a long, long time — then you can be free.
Science has found that the atomic particles of matter that make up an object are changing at a millionth of a second. How real can objects be, then? An object is to be used not for pleasure, or for possession, but for meditation; it is a pointer to God. Science has taken objects from their apparently solid mass, to molecules, atoms, etc; but yogis and seers have taken objects to their pranic particles, then their intelligent particles, and by pursuing in this way one realizes that all comes out of oneself.
[Patanjali, the father of Yoga, takes the Sankhya system of the 24 Cosmic Principles of Nature, and has us look upon these principles as supports for meditation, called alambanas. Babaji frequently reminds us that all objects suffer the fate of decay, loss, theft, or even our own boredom with them. Our happiness or sorrow over this is because we think of objects only in regard to how they might satisfy our desires. This perspective binds us to matter. Patanjali's shift of perspective, making the principles of Nature into objects of meditation, leads to recognition that the Self is different from Nature. We are the seer of objects, which include even the subtle principles of Cosmic mind, intellect, and ego, and never the object itself. In this yogic method, one realizes that everything proceeds from the Self and Its inherent Intelligence.]
[The 24 Cosmic Principles/Yogic Alambanas are given below from subtle to gross. The yogi or yogini meditates on these from gross to subtle, a practice called involution.
Cosmic Mind, Cosmic Intelligence, Cosmic Ego, Individual Mind, five senses of perception (hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling), five senses of action (speaking, handling, moving, excreting, procreating), five subtle senses (audibility, visibility, tangibility, flavor, odor), and five elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth).]
Notice the difference between worldly people attached to objects and those who are unattached. The key is not to judge or criticize, but to see what method was used to get free. In Yoga, what you want is to meditate on those objects — their origins, when they enter your mind, their good and bad qualities, what they consist of. Then you come to know, without a doubt, that you are separate from them. Such knowledge culminates in samadhi.
If you've lost your connection with nature, then take the five elements as your alambanas (objects of meditation) and get reconnected. The Self isn't any of those alambanas. This is not a study for name and fame, as in academic settings. We meditate on them to realize that they are the non-Self. Niralambana means you no longer need supports; you are that support.
A glow worm once came forth into the night and thought, "I'm shining, I'm shining." But a flashlight was soon turned on it and it went underground, humiliated. Then the full moon came out and rendered the flashlight useless. Finally, morning came and the sun caused the moon to disappear from view. Each one of these self-proclaimed luminaries became lost in the brighter light of the next. Unlike those physical lights, the Light of Intelligence is connected to the mind - and the potential there is infinite.
In the higher samadhis called sananda and sasmita, you begin to lose the sense of who you think you are and encounter who you really are. It is just like a sugar cube in tea, dissolving into liquid formlessness.
Sri Ramakrishna would say, how can you put three seers (a measurement) into a one seer glass cup? The mind is too narrow. That's why we have to "destroy" the mind, that is, get more subtle than mind. But you can expand your cup by taking it to the glassblower. The glassblower is your Guru. Heating your cup is sadhana, spiritual discipline. This is the key to everything — discipline.
The whole thing in Yoga is to get the Seer away from the seen. You take mind and senses off of objects (pratyahara). This helps you master meditation. When you get full knowledge of something, meditation comes naturally. By gaining knowledge of all the tattvas (24 Cosmic Principles), I now know that I am different from all of these. Now I can meditate.
The best way to worship the sun is not as fire, or something mystic, but as the Light in which there can be no darkness.
[Klishta vrttis are pain-bearing thoughts. They are oriented towards objects with the aim to fulfill desire or avoid pain, which includes simply brooding on the past, present, and future. Aklishta vrttis are not pain-bearing. They lead us to detachment and equanimity.]
[Babaji opens his classes by reciting Vedic chants.]
Why do we recite the Peace chants? Because they have the power to center us. This Peace is already within us. Chanting brings it out.
The klishta vrttis are based upon the 5 Kleshas: ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life (fear of death)
Aklishta (non-pain-bearing thoughts) are those aimed at freedom, not pleasure.
You want to overcome klishta vrttis with aklishta. This is what we call pratipakshabhavanam, raising an opposite wave. Aklishta thoughts have to be thoughts that ennoble you, thoughts that engender detachment. You don't want to replace unhappy thoughts with, say, the happier thought of a refrigerator full of food. That refrigerator full of food will cause other klishta thoughts to arise, all based on pleasure/aversion, i.e. eating, cleaning the fridge, the cost of food, gaining weight, eating alone, etc. Rather, thoughts of one's guru, a saint or incarnation, a verse from a scripture, a spiritual teaching, one's mantra - these thoughts engender discernment, detachment, inner peace, self control, and so forth.
Keep the passions in the condition of a charmed snake. You can't destroy them; you can only send them to their source. Surrender them to Maya. Remain in your Witness state, which means practicing samadhi. Regarding anger, a yogi can feel anger coming days in advance. If you know everything is akasha, then you know that you are experiencing vibration. So in the case of anger, a yogi can feel good and bad karmas coming toward him via prana and manakasha, and step aside. It is like feeling the gentle lap of a tiny wave of water (vibration) produced by a steamship (karma) headed your way from across the lake. Sadhana attenuates these karmas. If a sword is destined, a pin will prick. A bad karma is like a freight train headed toward you. As you do japa it can veer off and you just get some dust in your eyes. Your sadhana - meditation, study, japa - these are aklishta vrttis. Klishta vrttis are the field of karma.
The mind contains the eight fetters (Hatred, Shame, Lineage, Pride of Good Conduct, Fear, Secretiveness, Caste, and Grief) and the six passions (Lust, Anger, Greed, Delusion, Vanity, and Jealousy). When these get ahold of you then you obsess over objects.
You've become so externally oriented that you've forgotten you are birthless, deathless, pure, and unchanging — you've forgotten also your connection with nature and have no reverence. And so your mind begins to brood on objects and then gets obsessed, despondent, etc. Sri Krishna delineates the road to ruination thusly: "Brooding on the objects of the senses, man develops attachment to them; from attachment comes desire; from desire anger sprouts forth. From anger proceeds delusion; from delusion, confused memory; from confused memory the ruin of reason; due to the ruin of reason he perishes."
What we are doing as collective humanity is brooding on objects. Vedanta and Buddhism don't pull any punches; the world is to be renounced. Why? Because it is unreal. Besides, it makes you brood and suffer.
A bird flies through the sky and leaves no trace; a zen monk walks on rice paper and leaves no wrinkle. This is the way the illumined live here — leaving no trace. The householder has it hard. He or she has to live in the world, raise a family, live a dharmic life, and not be attached. He or she has to learn to not let the mind run in the groove of klishta vrttis. He or she has to learn to water the flowers and not the weeds. One's duty as a spiritual aspirant is to neutralize one's karma and not plant any more seeds.
What is a flower and what is a weed? Basically, thoughts that lean toward objects are klishta. Those that go inward are aklishta. Choose thoughts that are not "sweet in the beginning and sour at the end." You don't need to "get rid" of the negative thoughts, just replace them with positivity. They will dissolve into their source.
You are, right now, resting in the mind. Everything has come from it via projection due to vibration. Thus, will you want to rest in a land of negative vibrations, klistha vrttis?
When a baby is born, an ignorant person says, "Oh, a clean slate." But a wise person says, "Let's see what's in that mind?" It is the parent's duty to water the good samskaras.
Outer things do not affect a yogi, a seer, or a Dalai Lama. They've given them all up, so naturally these don't affect them. When things go well and you think "I'm great, all's well," but then a negative thing happens and all is wrong again — where did your peace go?
The great thing about Christ, Buddha, and others is that they didn't come into form to learn anything, to get pleasure from the body, but just to serve.
People depend on food for their prana/energy, but the yogis get their energy from their mind.
Form and Formlessness
Question: How is one to worship the Divine Mother and maintain an Advaitic perspective?
Babaji: An aspiring advaitist is still grappling with form and formlessness. This process takes a long time. He still has to deal with the world. True advaitists are rare, and nothing affects them - nothing. Some people say that God sports (the world is the result of that). Gaudapada, an ancient seer and uncompromising advaitist, won't have that. Then there is the Boddhisattva view that one embodies to help other forms of God get free. Form and formlessness is one of the last dualities to go.
Turn off the mind so nothing comes out of it — that's called formless meditation. Turn on the mind and you get worlds, angels, etc.
[A student mentioned she couldn't see her Chosen Ideal in meditation. Babaji asked where she was meditating and she replied in "the third eye." Babaji replied, humorously:] You say you can't see anything? No wonder. The third eye is the beginning of formlessness. To see God with form, meditate in the heart. Further, you cannot meditate with a restless mind. You have to master your mind first.
Be content when nothing is there, and adept when it is there.
[Babaji was referring to attachment and aversion to objects. We should be content in formless meditation and not drawn out by the thought of or desire for objects. And when moving about the world, we should be adept in detachment and selfless action.]
Matter and energy all come from Brahman. A dancer needs a stage. The dancer is matter and her movement is energy (shakti). The stage is the formless Brahman.
Things to know in Spiritual Life
There is a difference between Divine restlessness and restlessness. Sri Ramakrishna told the story of the person who went to have the value of a diamond assessed by various merchants. First he went to the eggplant seller, and that merchant said he would give a bushel of eggplant for it. Then he went to the cloth seller who offered some rolls of cloth. Finally he went to a jeweler who offered him a huge sum of money for that diamond. Likewise, one won't recognize a spiritual person until he himself becomes spiritual.
A Truth lover is like a flint. If you put a flint in the river in one lifetime, and then incarnate later in another and pick it up — it will strike a spark. So if you are a Truth lover, then when you reincarnate, you will duly find a path to Truth.
Sacrifice is the first duty. Actions done as sacrifice are in keeping with the harmony of the universe, and doing it with love is best.
The fruits of spiritual life are not like results for worldly pursuits. You have to be willing to become a seer of the subtle. You don't get a pair of horns. The results are subtle and take a long time.
Compassion doesn't remove suffering, Knowledge does. Becoming realized and a Seer, then, helps others remove their ignorance.
The problem with altruism is that it fattens the ego.
The Fruits of spiritual life are eternal, but they are intangible, not visible. The fruits of the world are fleeting.
Spiritual Knowledge has to "irritate" you, like a grain of sand in an oyster.
The difference between a jnani (one who has spiritual Knowledge) and a vijnani (one who has realization), is that a jnani who is a teacher has to educate you, but a vijnani can transmit the Truth and teachings directly to you.
There are two kinds of temperaments: those who want peace and those who want power. The saints, seers, and sages are the former.
What is the body and brain in the end? Just a few pounds of ashes. Mind? That goes with you into the next life.
Everything has a little truth in it. Even the mirage causes you to seek knowledge.
It isn't that an object is not to be owned — this is a moral teaching. It is really that it can't be owned. You can't take it with you.
[There are two main points in Babaji's book, The Avadhut and His Twenty-Four Teachers in Nature.]
1 — Have reverence for nature. Everything comes from the Word — and we have reverence for It — so why should we lose reverence for the Word simply because it is in its objective form?
2 — Follow the instruction of the teacher. Reduce resistance. Let spiritual practice become your life. Become one-pointed — then dangers can't find you. Through practice one gets that "flat line" where karma and yama (death) can't find you.