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Revisiting the Upanishads

I have been browsing through the Upanishads of late, enjoying their perennial wisdom and marvelling at the common ground they share with 21st century revelations about the primary nature of the universe and with modern quantum theory. The Upanishads are a summation of the knowledge, insights and sacred wisdom of the Vedic sages and seers and date back some 4,000 years.

Tormalet

In his introduction to selected translations from the Upanishads, Alistair Shearer writes that the Vedic teachings propose ‘the ground of all being is an infinite and unified field of Consciousness, eternal and self-luminous. This Consciousness creates the universe from its own depths, by reverberating within itself….Thus, Veda is said to be the source of creation; it is the DNA of the universe, containing all manifest possibilities in seed form.’ The Upanishadic teachings also reflect the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy or ‘gnosis’ – the cultivation of true and sacred wisdom. Plato described such a philosopher as one who would ‘live in constant companionship with the divine order of the world’. Continue Reading →

What is Happiness?

The happiest man in God’s creation.

Make yourself known to humanity:
Its dark jealousy will make you unhappy.
Make yourself known to yourself:
You will unquestionably be
The happiest man in God’s entire creation.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

It might be interesting to have a look at the philosophical development of happiness in a historical context. A good place to begin a search for happiness might not be in Europe during the middle ages where life must have been pretty hard for most people, with seemingly constant wars, the threat of disease, hunger and religious superstitions all rife. Especially it would seem for women. (Please don’t burn that witch, before she cooks me my dinner) For many the idea of dying and going to a beautiful heaven was all that was worth living for! The Renaissance began a new chapter in western history and the development of perhaps a new meaning of happiness.

Take for instance Francis Hutcheson, who was born in 1694 in Ireland, to Scottish parents and later moved back to Glasgow. He is generally regarded as the founding father of the Scottish Enlightenment. He believed that man universally carried within himself the means to learn how to be virtuous and helpful to others. Men served others not because they had no choice in it, if they wanted to get along with others, but because they realized they actually enjoyed doing it. (By the way, women still really had no choice in it!) He believed that helping others suffused us with a sense of well-being and pleasure. Being good meant doing good to others. Virtue (and to some extent the ten commandments!) required it, but our feelings confirmed it.

The link between feelings and happiness was important. Man was born to make other’s lives more pleasant, and to be wicked or vicious was to be miserable and unhappy. A delight in the good of others becomes the basis of our sense of right and wrong. We decided that what helps and pleases a person, is good, because it gives us pleasure. What injures him is bad, because it causes us pain. Men begin to realize that the happiness of others is also their own happiness. Some vulgar people assumed, mistakenly, that happiness meant the gratification of the physical desires: food, drink, and sex. But for Hutcheson the highest form of happiness was making others happy. The desire to be moral and virtuous, to treat others with kindness, and the desire to be free were universal, and human beings wanted them because it made them happy.
Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 enshrined these same ideals in writing for the American people. Jefferson believed that happiness was the aim of life, and that virtue was the foundation of happiness. He wrote that, all men are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Continue Reading →

How Yama and Niyama Affect Daily Life and Yoga Practise

This is a guest post by Manatita

In this essay, the writer will first show the essentials of Yama and Niyama and its relation to Yoga, and will conclude with the practical aspect of how these two ?abstinences?, has affected his daily life and Yoga practice.

Yama and Niyama are the first steps in Yoga practice. They are considered the foundations of Yoga. They are the first two limbs of the eight-fold Path of Patanjali – the ancient sage – the rest being:-

  • Asana – bodily postures. They combine a series of exhaustive exercises, widely known in the West as Hatha Yoga, for the health and discipline of the physical. They are also useful for the movement of the life-force and the attainment of the Higher Yoga.
  • Pranayama – control of the life-force. It involves the inhaling, retention and exhaling of breath.
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from the external world
  • Dharana – concentration – control of or steadying of the mind on a particular object to the exclusion of everything else.
  • Dhyana – the gazing or fixing of the mind on a Higher Consciousness. Sri Chinmoy, in his book The Silent teaching, 1985, refers to it as conscious self-expansion?.?silence, energizing and fulfilling?the eloquent expression of the inexpressible?
  • Samadhi – profound contemplation or the tuning of the inner self with the Universal Self. This is a profound state and achieved by only a few. (Gibson, WB: The Key to Yoga, 1958)

The Spiritual Significance of the Great Pyramids

pyramids

The Great Pyramids – Egypt

Within man, there are two aspects. There is his real inner, divine self. There is also the body and intellect which, at his present stage of evolution, consider himself to be a separate egoist entity. However, there comes a time when man realises that he is not the body and intellect. His real existence is a state of being; a consciousness at one with the Universal consciousness.

The great pyramids of Egypt hold a real significance in this great spiritual quest.

Firstly, there is great significance in an equilateral triangle. The three sides refer to the tri-natured aspect of God: God the creator, God the preserver and God the transformer. This tri-natured aspect of God, can also be seen in the analogy of a seeker’s journey. There is the starting point, which represents his birth in the matter of creation, there is then the long journey of evolution and inner discovery; finally ending in the seeker’s realisation of his true identity. At this point, the seeker loses his identity and re-submerges in his original divine consciousness. Thus there are 3 aspects to a seeker’s journey. This tri-natured aspect is perfectly reflected in an equilateral triangle, which boasts a perfect symmetry. Within the 3 lines of the triangle, there is the area within. Thus we can say that the one is in the three and the three encompasses the one. This is the nature of God, 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. Thus it is said that God has four faces. Like points on the Compass; the four aspects of God, represent a different aspect of his nature.

The shape of the pyramids is chosen very carefully to reflect these underlying aspects of the divine unity. The pyramid has 4 faces. Three faces to the heavens, and one face to the earth. The pyramid is composed of 4 equilatoral triangles, which all manifest the cosmic nature of God 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. The pyramids were built with the greatest precision. It was not built by slaves, but by adepts who had mastery over nature. They used their understanding of sacred laws to make stones weightless. They could reduce the gravitational pull on huge blocks of stone, thus enabling them to be effortlessly used. The idea of a huge army of slaves building the pyramid, has only been created because many modern egyptologists cannot conceive that the ancient Egyptians may have had technology not available to modern man.

The primary purpose of the great pyramids was a place for spiritual initiation. It was in the sacred confines of the great pyramids that initiates would undergo the process of attaining real illumination. The pyramids were chosen because they are an outer symbolism of man’s inner quest. The spirituality of ancient Egypt was concerned with initiates seeking the Divine within themselves. Unfortunately, over time, the spiritual initiates who guarded the secrets of realisation, lost influence and over time, the pyramids became used for different purposes. This is why it is hard to find evidence of these early spiritual practices.

Two Books which throw much light on the spiritual significance of the great Pyramids include:

  • A Search in Secret Egypy by Paul Brunton – who spent a night alone in the Great Pyramid itself.
  • Initiation by Elizabeth Haich. In her books she recounts memories of a former incarnation in Ancient Egypt.

Photo by: Unmesh Swanson, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries.

Spirituality and Philosophy

Philosophy and spirituality share some common ideas, but also differ in their approach and practise of the truth. To some people there is a wide divergence between philosophy and spirituality. However, to some extent, they share some similarities and both have their role to play in the discovery of truth.

1. Mind and Heart.

Philosophy deals primarily with the mind. It tries to understand, solve and explain problems through mental clarity and written explanation. Philosophy can seek to prove the existence of God, but this proof is always through the medium of the human intellect. In philosophy, it is the mind that is predominant.

"Philosophy is in the thinking mind. Philosophy is of the searching mind. Philosophy is for the illumining mind."

[1] – Sri Chinmoy

Spirituality accepts the mind can have a role to play; but, at the same time it can never be satisfied solely with the reasoning of the mind. Spirituality wishes to experience the heart of reality, and not just examine life from the fringes. Spirituality is not so much concerned with proving God’s existence; spirituality teaches us to make the God a living presence in our consciousness.

"Spirituality is in the aspiring heart. Spirituality is of the liberating soul. Spirituality is for the fulfilling and immortalising God."

[1] – Sri Chinmoy

2. Proof vs Experience.

Philosophy seeks to prove and convince others. For example, philosophers seek to prove either the existence or non existence of God. A philosopher can enlighten others to a limited extent. But, in practise, few are converted by the philosophy of others. Even the most persuasive and convincing explanations of God’s existence leave us unsatisfied. Spirituality is not concerned with convincing others; spirituality is primarily a matter of personal experience. Spirituality is not something to be talked about, but, lived. It may be impossible to explain our spiritual experiences to others, but this does not matter. The belief or disbelief of other people does not impact on our experience. Practising spirituality can give us a genuine feeling of inner peace and connection with our source. When we develop this connection we have good feeling towards others, but, we do not feel responsible for their beliefs.

3. The Role of Consciousness.

The essence of spirituality is consciousness. A spiritual seeker seeks to bring to the fore his divine qualities of peace and light. These are not mere words, but, become a living presence. Philosophy can talk about these states of consciousness, but on its own it cannot bring them into the consciousness of the reader. The highest philosophy can lead a seeker along the right path; but, ultimately philosophy has limitations in moving the reader from a mental understanding to a direct experience.

4. Complexity and Simplicity

Spirituality loves simplicity. Philosophy loves complexity. Both have their roles to play; but, it is often through simplicity that we can most easily reach the goal. Philosophy takes delight in pursuing multiple lines of inquiry. Hypotheses are tested against the strictures of logic and the most developed reasoning of the mind. Spirituality does not criticize the path of the mind, but, says to the aspiring seeker. "Dive Deep within. All questions can be answered in your silent mind and aspiring heart."

Philosophy takes us along the path to our destination. It can remove the ignorance and prejudices of the mind. By illumining the mind it can aspire us to understand and grow into the truth. Spirituality urges us to make the truth a living reality. Spirituality and philosophy need not be at loggerheads. Spirituality informs philosophy, it gives added meaning to the illumination of the mind.

[1] Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality by Sri Chinmoy

Secrets of Inner Peace

"No price is too great to pay for inner peace. "

Sri Chinmoy

Consciously or unconsciously we are all searching for inner peace. Inner peace is the foundation of lasting happiness, and satisfaction. Without inner peace, man can not know, either himself, or be at peace with the world.

1. Inner Peace is a Choice.

It is our own thoughts that will either bring us peace or restlessness. If our mind is clear of useless, undivine thoughts, we can experience inner peace in abundance. When we lose our inner peace it is because of our own thoughts. It is tempting to blame our problems on the world and other people. However, a man of inner peace will not allow the outer world to disturb his inner mind. If we maintain equanimity and detachment to events of the world, inner peace will remain a permanent feature of our mind.

God has not forgotten
To give us peace.
He is just waiting for us
To ask for it.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

2. Inner Peace is to be experienced Here and Now.

It is a mistake to feel inner peace will be achieved in the future, when circumstances are more favourable. Inner peace can only be felt in the present moment. If we live only in the here and now, we will not worry about the future, or speculate on the past. If we live only for the present moment we can learn to understand the immediacy of inner peace.

3. Inner peace and Oneness are inseparable.

If we live in the critical mind and are constantly judging others, we will never experience real inner peace. When we judge others we try to assert our superiority over others, but this can never bring inner peace. When we are flooded with inner peace, we feel others are an extended part of our reality; the imperfection of others actually seem our own imperfections, just in another body.

4. Inner Peace is in the heart not the Mind.

To find inner peace in the mind, is difficult. The nature of the mind is to think, analyse and create problems. The nature of the heart is oneness, love and joy. If we can bring to the fore the qualities of the heart, we will find peace. It is also in the heart, that our Soul resides. The Soul is the divine part of our being, and is inundated with peace.

"To come back to the secret of inner peace, our questioning and doubting mind is always wanting in peace. Our loving and dedicated heart is always flooded with inner peace."

Sri Chinmoy [2]

5. Inner Peace is Dynamic not Passive.

Inner peace energises us. When we have a connection with inner peace, we spontaneously have a positive outlook on life. Inner peace is not a passive quality, it embodies great energy.

6. Inner Peace and Meditation.

If we feel inner peace remains a far cry, we should not despair. If we sincerely pray and meditate for inner peace we can achieve it. Our sincere aspiration for inner peace, is the most powerful tool for making it a living reality. We cannot expect to be flooded with inner peace if we make no effort to attain it.

"To hope to achieve peace without spirituality or meditation is to expect water in the desert." [3]

7. Peace does not Require an Escape from the world.

Inner peace does not require us to live in an himalayan cave. Inner peace can be experienced in the hustle and bustle of the world. What is important is the state of our mind, not the outer circumstances.

By: Richard Pettinger, Sri Chinmoy Centre, Oxford

References

[1] Excerpt from Peace: God’S Fragrance-Heart, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy.

[2] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. – The Secret of Inner Peace

[3] Excerpt from Eastern Light For The Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy. – The Secret of Inner Peace

Secrets of Happiness

The Secrets of Happiness by Jogyata Dallas

The quest for lasting happiness lies at the very heart of all human purpose and experience, though this much desired attainment is sought in many different ways. Among the ways that have proven successful a number of recurring themes are evident.

The perennial philosophies of our spiritual teachers urge self-perfecting, the inner way, while most of mankind is searching in the outer world ? right person, right possessions, right place.

Here are a few pointers that work:

Start Within

A huge wealth of highly credible literature and teachings concur that happiness is first of all an inner accomplishment, not just a series of circumstances. Prayer, contemplation, quiet time, simply sitting with peaceful music, the practice of inner stillness, all help in developing understanding, balance, an inner harmony and poise. Happiness arises out of these practices like the fragrance of a flower.

Visualise Your Day

Take five minutes at the start of each day to visualize what you intend to accomplish ? prepare the mind, your life energy, and burst into your day with vigour, intensity, calm resolve and joy. Every day we create our world with our mind ? our moods, emotions, attitudes and consciousness. Train the mind and fill it with inspiration and positive energies, self-faith, the bright colours of your heart and soul.

Be Healthy

Try to achieve excellent and enduring physical health through regular cardiovascular exercise and reasonable diet. The well-being of the body creates the foundations of a lasting happiness. Body, mind, heart, soul interconnect and impact on each other ? happiness is helped by physical well-being as well as by stress free living, simplicity, spiritual awakening. The body is the temple, the soul is the shrine, happiness the fragrance.

Compassion and Kindness

Practice kindness and acts of self-giving. When we use our good qualities to serve others, our good qualities multiply. When we neglect these and live only for ourselves, they wither. This is karma yoga, spirituality in action ? the ego is erased, the heart widens, our oneness with others expands and deepens. Happiness blossoms when we see and serve the divinity in everything around us.

Gratitude

Try not to feel burdened by life or see yourself as frail and vulnerable. See every trial and challenge as an opportunity to learn, grow, triumph, and see yourself as having much undiscovered strength and capacity. Feel gratitude for your life ? for what you have and what you do not have, who you are and who you are not. Feel your life perfection and your own blossoming perfection. You are the soul and your talents and capacities are boundless ? it?s really true.

Simplicity

Simplicity is the shedding of everything that prevents our enlightenment. Our world dazzles us with endless enchantments ? we will be happy if we have more, if we acquire this, that. But simplicity brings a happiness that comes through having less, achieving desirelessness. For desires do not diminish through fulfillment but deepen and multiply. The more we get, the more we want. Simplicity is an inner achievement ? ?simplicity is an advanced course? as Sri Chinmoy succinctly says.

“Desire is a cord that binds us to the world ? simplicity severs the cord and brings detachment and freedom. According to the spiritual masters, the ultimate simplicity is the surrender of one?s self-determination to God.”

Heart Not Mind

The mind plays a dominant role in our modern life and slowly fills up with the ambitions, ideas, hopes and expectations that eventually shape our lives. We superimpose upon the flowing stream of our life all the limiting impositions and plans of the mind, but often at the expense of our happiness. Learn to ?feel? your life?s direction rather than plan and change it; listen to the wisdom of the spiritual heart, not the cautious deliberations of the mind; and ?see? your way forward with intuition and instinct rather than create it with the mind?s limited intent. ?Living in the heart?, a gift earned through spiritual practice and simplicity, recognises our life?s deeper purpose and gives us the courage to follow this. The heart knows how to be happy.

Have a Sense of Humour

Although our strong sense of ?I? and ?me? makes each of us the epicentre of our universe, six billion other ?I?s? and ?mes? are also out there at the centre of their universe, all playing the leading role in their own private drama-comedy. A sense of humour gives us a light touch and reminds us that, like characters in a play, our role will be over very soon, the curtain will fall and we?ll go back to the changing room (the soul?s world) to prepare for another part. Like Groundhog Day, we wake up every day of our life (and every life in our many incarnations) and confront the same personal reality and unresolved issues until we at last get it right ? and what ?getting it right? really means is something you have to discover for yourself. Smiling about all this both unburdens us and gives us inner calm ? helpful benefits in the torrid battlefield of life.

Try Meditation

I?m serious. One day, probably too late, you?ll wake up and realise that your lifelong pursuit of material things and nest building isn?t really working ? you?ve had some fun, done pretty well, but you?re feeling unfulfilled and a bit empty inside. That?s because this isn?t really what it?s all about and real happiness, permanent happiness, is instead about personal enlightenment, freedom from suffering and egotism, discarding the ignorance that hides our true nature. So life will keep hitting you hard until you realise this ultimately liberating truth. Meditation will awaken this inner knowledge, reconnect you with your essential spiritual nature, show you a ?way out? of the discontent of your life. If you are ready and sincerely willing to try, your inner progress will be your life?s true accomplishment and finally the measure of it?s real worth.

Test these guidelines in your own life – see for yourself if they work. But make a start, for as the Latin proverb goes – Aut tunc, aut nunquam – it was then or never?.

More articles on Self Improvement and Happiness

Seven Steps to Inner Peace at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration

Jogyata Dallas.

Jogyata Dallas is a meditation Student of Sri Chinmoy and lives in Auckland New Zealand, where he gives free meditation classes on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre

 Poems on Happiness at Sri Chinmoy Poetry

The God of Wild Places

The God of Wild Places By: Roger Chamberlain

windermere

Overlooking Lake Rydal

It seems to me that this is one of the great paradoxes of our time. As a race we have been struggling for millennia to tame the forces of nature and to make for ourselves a more comfortable life than our ancestors could have dreamed of, insulated and protected from the daily hardships they suffered just to get by. Yet, now that we can live divorced from those privations and wander at our leisure through a neat and controlled world of concrete, Plexiglas and carbon fibre, our urge to return to the wild and primal world of untamed nature in search of something indefinable, but at the same time powerfully attractive, is stronger than ever.

The mountaineer, the adventure racer, the desert explorer, the backpacker trekking in remote mountains or jungles- what is it they are seeking, and why are they seeking it in the extremes of nature and the elements? Undoubtedly there is some "vital urge" in us that thirsts for new and more intense sensations and experiences, even those potentially painful or arduous. But does this urge have its roots in something deeper, a spiritual longing or impulse from the soul?

Certainly the belief that God exists intrinsically in nature, in its objects and forces, has its origin in prehistory. Early religions worshipped physical things as individual Gods that must be appeased, and it was only thousands of years later that the view of God as a being above, and separate from nature and the world became prevalent. A synthesis of these views appeared in the Upanishadic spirituality of ancient India, with God (or Brahman) defined as a Supreme consciousness pervading all things – immanent in nature yet transcending nature, experienced as a presence in the perishable things of the physical world yet at the same time immortal, eternal and infinite.

The Isha Upanishad says of Brahman:

"That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this."

The Vedic and Upanishadic seers derived their knowledge not merely from observing the outer world and theorising as to its origin or meaning, but by meditating to explore the inner nature and awaken the subtle ability to perceive the inner dimension of the world – that not revealed to the physical senses. The modern-day Indian spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy offers us a view which is accessible, simple and profound:

"The beauty of nature is the expression of the One who is all Beauty. Whenever we see something, we see inside that thing the inner presence, the inner consciousness, of its creator. The Creator of nature is God Himself. He expresses Himself in and through Nature. When we see nature’s beauty, we get overwhelming joy because the Creator and Owner is God. When we see a house, if we love the owner, we love the possession. The One who is all Beauty is inside His creation, like a mother’s heart is inside her child."

In the western world, untamed nature was seen for centuries as a hostile force, a threat, and indeed this is understandable in the context of our ancestor’s lives as subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers in harsh northern climes, at the mercy of extremes of weather and vulnerable if caught out – alone and isolated – in a remote forest or moorland. Only when sections of society had escaped this hand-to-mouth existence did we see the popularisation of the romantic view of nature as something "sublime", inspiring or innately divine. This spiritually surcharged love and reverence for nature – especially for high mountains, rivers in spate and other glorious extremes, was expressed powerfully by poets such as Wordsworth and Shelley and also explored in the philosophy of Ruskin. The Romantic poets led the way in expressing this newfound love of nature and it’s divine origin.

"How divine,
The liberty, for frail, for mortal, man
To roam at large among unpeopled glens
And mountainous retirements . . .
. . . regions consecrate
To oldest time! and, reckless of the storm
That keeps the raven quiet in her nest,
Be as a presence or a motion ? one
Among the many there;"

Later the transcendentalist poetry of Whitman brought a forceful and dynamic expression to his descriptions of the world around him and its inherent divinity. While Wordsworth offers us a sensitive voice, awestruck by nature and irresistibly attracted to it’s divinity and power, Whitman seems to merge with that natural power, and it’s potency flows through his work giving it a compelling vibrancy and urgency:

"It is that something in the soul which says, Rage on, Whirl on, I tread master here and everywhere, Master of the spasms of the sky and of the shatter of the sea, Master of nature and passion and death, And of all terror and all pain."

In quieter moments he urges us to join him on his quest:

"The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell."

While poets have sought to articulate their belief in the divinity of nature in words, there are many who have expressed their attraction in a less cerebral but perhaps more compelling form. The mountaineers and explorers, whose "golden age" ran from the nineteenth into the twentieth century, may not have knowingly shared an ideal with the romantics and transcendentalist poets and the believers what became known as the "doctrine of immanence". But we need look no further than the journals and letters of these great adventurers to see a clear parallel. Mallory, the climber who tried three times to conquer Everest and ultimately met his death on its upper slopes, famously explained his reason for climbing a mountain with the words "because it’s there". Perhaps these words reveal no more than the simple fact that his true motivation was inexpressible. Along with the polar explorer Robert Scott, who also gave his life in the cause of pushing back the boundaries of exploration and human endeavour, Mallory felt an irresistible attraction in remote or wild places and, significantly, in taking on the immense and incredibly dangerous challenge of going where no human being had gone before. This urge to go beyond the limits of experiences already attained and to push ever onward and outward into the realms beyond is surely an outer expression of the inner, spiritual force within human beings. Some have suggested that this inner drive to transcend is the same force that drives our evolution, and has seen life on earth evolve from the simple protozoan, first to plant, then to animal and finally to reach its zenith – for the moment – in humanity.

The climbers and explorers of that golden age were often trained scientists. For many of them, undertaking research to expand the horizons of human knowledge was an important part of their motivation. Others had to at least pay lip service to this scientific cause, as it helped them gain the backing of the academic world when seeking to fund their quests to the South Pole or Himalayas. Often there was an uneasy relationship between those who sought only the answers to scientific riddles and those who saw some innate value in reaching the pole, the summit or the undiscovered land. A similar antagonism existed between the romantic poets and the rationalists who saw nature from a purely scientific or utilitarian viewpoint and were unable to understand or accept any reverence for nature as something sacred or divine.

Today we still see a clear divide between the "scientism" of the rationalists who accept only physical truth and the spiritually inspired view of those we might term "seekers", who set more store by spiritual principles and inner wisdom that falls outside the narrow confines of biology or physics. The view of scientism appears to be that he physical reality is the only reality, the phenomenal world the totality of existence. Professor Martin Kemp reminds us of this viewpoint when he speaks of "the mechanisation of the world view".

The spiritual person could argue that they have experienced first-hand another world, an inner world, and that this powerful and undeniable inner experience should not be excluded merely because the instruments of the scientist fail to detect it’s existence. Sri Aurobindo, the spiritual teacher and seer poet of twentieth century India, sums up the spiritual view in a compelling anecdote from his time spent locked up alone in a cell in Alipore Jail as a prisoner of the British:

"They proved to me by convincing reasons that God does not exist; Afterwards I saw God, for he came and embraced me. And now what am I to believe- the reasoning of others or my own experience? Truth is what the soul has seen and experienced; the rest is appearance, prejudice and opinion."

To return then, to our mountaineer, explorer, trekker and extreme sports enthusiast. Something is driving them to seek out new and powerful experiences in the quest for self-understanding, and something is driving them toward nature and the elements as a part of that quest.

To me this is undoubtedly a spiritual search – a rejection of the mundane as an unsatisfying and unfulfilling sphere of experience, which the seeker longs to transcend. This inner hunger can become so intense as to drive the unconscious seeker – the explorer, the climber, the extreme sportsman or sportswoman – to be reckless even with their own life. Again Sri Chinmoy offers us an insightful explanation of this unrequited longing from within:

"The deer grows musk in his own body. He smells it and becomes enchanted, and tries to locate its source. He runs and runs, but he cannot find the source. In his endless search, he loses all his energy and finally he dies. But the source he was so desperately searching for was within himself. How could he find it elsewhere?

Such is the case with you. Your special mission ? which is the fulfilment of your divinity ? is not outside you, but within you. Search within. Meditate within. You will discover your mission."

For me, this clearly sums up the answer (to the rather nebulous questions with which I began this rambling essay). I began my own seeker-journey as a lover of nature, one who at times felt compelled to leave behind some of the twentieth century’s comforts and to live under canvas in the forest in search of some kind of answer to the questions of life. Later, when I discovered yogic philosophy and became consciously aware that the real answer must lie within, I turned to the path of meditation, just as those students of Upanishadic thought had done millennia before. A convergence, or synthesis, of both these approaches became clearly crystallised for me during a trek in the Huang Shan, or Yellow Mountains, of Anhui province in China.

mountains

Yellow Mountains

With a group of friends from my meditation centre, I began the climb in the early morning mists of a cold, wet Chinese winter’s day. Eschewing the cheap but unexciting ride in a cable car, we made our ascent on the old stone steps of a path trodden by poets, artists and ordinary adventurers for many centuries. As we gained height, we were treated to tantalising glimpses of the exquisite peaks above us as the chill wind momentarily cleared away the heavy mist, only to bring it swirling back around us moments later. Finally we found ourselves above the mist and cloud, emerging into clear and impossibly bright sunshine among dramatic mountains that seemed to form some sculpted expression of a classical heaven. After reaching the summit of the Lotus Flower, the reigning peak of the Yellow Mountains, we headed downward on a sinuous path between pine-clad slopes and precipitous cliffs, towards the Bridge of the Immortals – a famous stone structure spanning a narrow chasm between two shear mountain faces.

As the path descended we came suddenly to a rocky platform with expansive vies into a valley filled with rock y pinnacles Standing like islands in a swirling sea of cloud. It seemed too beautiful to be real – the silence and the drama of the scene took our breath away. "Okay, lets meditate here," said our de facto leader, but he spoke for all of us. We made ourselves comfortable on the ground, on rocks, or on a simple stone bench at the trailside, and meditated undisturbed to our heart’s content. The mist flowed slowly around the pinnacles like an ebbing tide; the sunlight seemed to radiate from every atom of the sky. In those moments, God’s mystical presence and profound peace came to us, in sky and mountain, in swirling cloud and silent stone. He was within all this. He was within us. Immanent, transcendence, all-where.

Article By: Roger Chamberlain

Roger Chamberlain was born in Surrey in 1968 and now lives and works in Wales. Brought up in a Quaker family, he developed an interest in mysticism and spirituality at an early age. Opting out of mainstream society in his teens to pursue the alternative lifestyle of a new age traveller, he followed "the well-trodden route to India via Glastonbury" before settling in Bristol where he was introduced to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy. Roger is now an active member of the Welsh Sri Chinmoy Centre.

Photo credit: top – Richard Pettinger

Photo credit: Bottom – Atulya Berube, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

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