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Religion Is A Disease:
The sages comment

Edited by Peter Holleran

   Wherein the wise give us their thoughts, and odd though it may be, may even appear in agreement with the psychiatrists in some ways - except for the remedy proposed to deal with the problem! [Note: this article may be seen as complementary - or, at least, as a humorous addition - to the article “Spirituality is Medicine” on this website]


Paul Brunton:

“Questors are strange.”

Ramana Maharshi:

“Jnana is a form of madness.”

C.G. Jung:

“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”


"He who has an egoistic feeling even towards liberation and considers even the body as his own, is neither a jnani or a yogi. He only suffers misery."

"This is your bondage, that you practice samadhi."

John Lennon:

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

"Yoga does not yield truth or liberation; Atman is known by Buddhi alone."

Sri Samartha Ramadas:

"The Bliss-Attainment of a yogi is Maya."

The Transmission of the Lamp:

“"The Sravaka is enlightened but going astray; the ordinary man is out of the right path and yet in a way enlightened. The Sravaka fails to perceive that Mind as it is in itself knows no stages, no causation, no imagination. Disciplining himself in the cause he has attained the result and abides in the Samadhi of Emptiness itself for ever so many kalpas. However enlightened in his way, the Sravaka is not at all on the right track. From the point of view of the Bodhisattva, this is like suffering the torture of hell. The Sravaka has buried himself in Emptiness and does not know how to get out of his quiet contemplation for he has no insight into the Buddha-nature itself."

Iso Upanishad:

"They enter the region of the dark who are occupied solely with the finite. But they fall into a region of still greater darkness who are occupied solely with the Infinite."

Zen Sickness:

An ancient Zen saying has it that to become attached to one’s own enlightenment is as much a sickness as to exhibit a maddeningly active ego. Indeed, the profounder the enlightenment, the worse the illness.” - Harada Roshi

"Ah, the immaculate Yogins do not enter Nirvana and the precept-violating monks do not go to hell!"

"To be conscious of the original mind, the original nature - just this is the great disease of Zen."

V.S. Iyer:

“Yoga is a self-mesmeric condition out of which it is extremely difficult to escape.”

"If you see all things in yourself, then it is Truth. If you see all in God, it is not truth...I must see everything in me and I must see everything in you, too. Then it is the truth."

"Only the insane have seen a God separate from their own Self. Others have seen their imaginations as God. For Reality is the Witness-self and it cannot see itself."

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

"Insanity is universal. Sanity is rare. Yet there is hope, because the moment we perceive our insanity, we are on the way to sanity. This is the function of the Guru - to make us see the madness of our daily living."

Shree Atmananda:

Q. “What is the most important part of my life?”
A. “Deep sleep. It really saves you from going mad.


"I have no dharma to give. I only cure diseases and undo knots. Followers of the Way who come from everywhere, try not to depend on anything...There is no Buddha, no Dharma, no training and no realization. What are you so hotly chasing? Putting a head on top of your head, you blind fools. Your head is right where it should be.”


“You don’t really understand how far man has fallen if you expect any good from him. There are all sorts of hindrances to those who seek God. You can’t go as fast as you want because your faults stop you. Your pride, and all the baggage that it carries, slows you down. At worst you think you really have abandoned everything when your selfishness is very much intact. That is probably the worst of all. When you start talking about Christianity in this light, when you speak of total abandon, people accuse you of being fanatical and imbalanced. This is because they don’t want to completely die to their own desires. Your self-interest hides in a million clever disguised. There is no end to the excuses we will come up with.”


Eckhart Tolle

"Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everyone is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being."


”People under delusion believe obstinately that there is a substance behind appearances and so they are stubborn in holding to their own way of interpreting the samadhi of specific mode, which they define as, "sitting quietly and continuously without letting any idea arise in the mind." Such an interpretation would class us with inanimate objects; it is a stumbling-block to the right Path and the Path should be kept open. How can we block the Path? By attachment to any definite thought; if we free our minds from attachments, the Path will be clear, otherwise we are in bondage. If that practice of "sitting quietly without letting any idea arise in the mind," is correct, why on one occasion was Saraputra reprimanded by Vimalakirti for sitting quietly in the forest?

"Some teachers of concentration instructed their disciples to keep a watch on their minds and secure tranquillity by the cessation of all thought, and henceforth their disciples gave all effort to concentrate the mind and ignorant persons who did not understand the distinction became insane from trying to carry out the instruction literally. Such cases are not rare and it is a great mistake to teach the practice."


"A dull-witted person becomes bewildered on hearing the real truth, but some wise man withdraws within himself like a dull person."

Baba Sawan Singh:

“Without love, yogic practices are as good - perhaps as bad - as a disease, because one cannot succeed by such methods.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

"No ambition is spiritual. All ambitions are for the sake of the 'I am'. If you want to make real progress you must give up all ideas of personal attainment. The ambitions of the so-called Yogis are preposterous. A man's desire for a woman is innocence itself compared to the lusting after an everlasting personal bliss. The mind is a cheat. The more pious it seems, the worst the betrayal."

The “Irrepressible” V.S. Iyer:

"The study of psychology will teach you that about 75% of people are insane, and hence incompetent to perceive the truth about themselves. They falsify the plainest facts dragging in God and religion; they ignore the obvious things of life in our world which touch closest in order to satisfy themselves with imaginary things of the next world. That is why we must start with doubt. Yogis and mystics make no use of Buddhi. “What we have seen is true. Don’t ask questions.” That is their attitude. It never occurs to them to doubt their knowledge.”

“The craving for religion, the fear that not to follow its rites and dogmas will bring punishment, the inability to give up the notion of its truth even when your reason demonstrates its fallacies and absurdities are merely forms of mild obsessions, i.e., a thought constantly repeating itself automatically; hence it is mental disease.”

“Mystics and yogis have got an impregnable fortress. If they say, “I have seen Brahman” or “I have become one with God,” how can you refute them? For you can’t even see into another man’s mind. But modern psycho-pathology will prove their undoing by showing similarities between mysticism, religion, and insanity.”

“When mystics say that reason and intellect should be subordinated to the soul, or intuition, or ecstasy, we ask them, “What is it that tells you so?” It can only be the thinking power, i.e., reason itself. You are unconscously using reason to decide what shall be subordinated to what! Therefore reason is supreme in value as an epistemological source of truth and above mysticism and yoga.”

"Take any Upanishad and you will see that it says Atman is known by Buddhi alone, by sharpened and purified intellect. Yet still our people worship Yoga and mysticism as the sole means of attaining Atman."

“Keeping the mind always in Brahman is not unbalanced and therefore insanity, when it is also accompanied by the awareness that you should behave quite normally and attend to all normal duties, which is done in gnana yoga, but not by ordinary yogis.”

“There is no such thing as personal salvation. It is selfishness of the worst kind.”

“Those who talk of finding moksha for themselves are dualists who harbor the false notion that the individual ego is real and who are deceiving themselves.”

“Yogis do not know they are working under a complex that nothingness, nirvikalpa, is Brahman; they do not know this complex is a kind of insanity.”

"Some yogis teach that Brahman is in the top chakra of the skull, that therefore we must ascend there. This is childish.”

“Maharshi’s statement that he lives without thoughts is a species of insanity.”

“Ramana’s statement, that we have to bring sleep into the waking state, is insane nonsense. It is utterly impossible to do it or to do its opposite. Either you are in deep sleep or you are not.”

“The yogis have dull intellect, have inferiority complex, hence he tries to appear, according to known psychopathological tendencies, as a supreme being. On the contrary, the gnani will not make any such attempt because he has no inferiority complex.”

“Those who cannot exert brains will say Philosophy is useless and they won’t study these explanations. It is their excuse for mental incapacity. They may take to religion or yoga.”

“When you meet a man who is of a temperament to run after mystics and marvels, be shrewd and not get into hot waters by trying to criticize him. He is insane on this point and therefore impervious to reason. He is fit only for such stuff.”

“You have got to have independence of mind. If the scriptures agree with pure reasoning, it has a value, but if it does not, then it has no value. The same treatment must be according to yoga and visions and revelations. We have no objections to the latter, but we say: “show us the proof that it is true.” If any man says, “I have seen in my yoga or ecstasy so and so,” put them down as insane. There is no difference between a lunatic’s visions and beliefs and those of yogis and mystics.”

"It is not generally ignored that religion is at bottom only selfishness and mysticism is intense or extreme selfishness."

"Deluded: the yogi who regards thinking as the enemy of realization."

"The mystics who say that you have to rise above Reason are insane."

"Lack of faith is the obstacle," says religion. "Lack of inquiry is the only obstacle," says philosophy."

"The highest stage is that of the man who can think for himself, he has the right to think; whereas the lowest regards questioning as blasphemous and dangerous to religion."

"The philosopher desires liberation for all, whereas the mystic seeks it for himself."

"No religionist or mystic has as yet asked himself the question, "How do I know that my experience or belief, religious or mystical, is Truth?"

"The first discipline in Vedanta is to prostrate oneself in humility and admit, "I don't know", crushing egoism and vanity."

"Unless you know that you have got a disease, you will not go to a doctor for a cure: similarly unless you are aware of your ignorance and stop saying "I know" or believing that what you know is true, you will not resort to a guru for knowledge but only for confirmation of your beliefs!"

"People who are not fit for Vedanta say that its inquiries are unnecessary, its efforts too troublesome and its analysis too burdensome; they avoid its demand for proof by resorting to imagination as easier."

"The Upanishads were secret books and their publication forbidden because the highest truth will unsettle those who are unfitted for it, without helping them up higher."

"The gnani lives like other men making use of his bodily senses and doing nothing peculiar to distinguish him, is doing all that needs to be done. He does not indulge in the childish practice of samadhi."

"God is an idea; God is the highest form of atheism. It takes courage to give up the God idea. God will never give you final liberation; His best reward to His devotees is Buddhi, i.e., discriminative intelligence. When you have first-rate intelligence of this sort, only then, says Krishna, will you come to Me."

"Brahman can never be got by practice, whether yogic, samadhi, etc. The reason is there is no such thing as causal relation, hence no practice or effort will, as cause, produce Brahman as an effect. A limited cause cannot produce an unlimited effect. Brahman is got by understanding only. But those who do not know the truth of non-causality will advocate Yoga as a means of reaching Brahman, such is their ignorance."

“Gerald Heard and Major Chadwick
[disciples of Ramana Maharshi] who are meditating six hours daily will either go insane or die without having realized their goal of suspending thought of the universe in Brahman. If they over-meditate they will spoil their brains and become unfit for the gnana path which can alone save them.”

"Those pundits and yogis who believe Brahman is world-disappearance in Nirvikalpa samadhi talk nonsense, insanity, ignorance. The world is there in Brahman and is one with it."

"Those who get disappointed with life take to Yoga, but that does not qualify them for Vedanta which requires a passion for TRUTH, not merely disgust with world. Still, later is useful preliminary stage to get the mind free for inquiry, untroubled by attainments and desires which hamper clear calm unprejudiced investigation."

"You must begin with the external world. How can you understand the inner self correctly if the world which is in front of you is not correctly understood?"

"This is absolutely avastatraya
[i.e., analysis of the three states]. Dissolution of the universe, daily, in sleep, as it has emanated from and in Me, in the making...The waking is converted into dream state and the dream is converted into sleep. We do not know this because we do not know that matter is an idea and again we are afraid that our body will go, our ego will go. How can we tolerate it. Death is the cure for it." (1)


[Note: this section written years ago is much like the article entitled “Spirituality is Medicine - Not Philosophy” on this website. The different perspectives of the two articles might perhaps be seen as a contrast between “Christian” and “Vedantic”, or Western and Eastern approaches and understanding and hopefully complement each other]

(1) Tapas

C.G. Jung:

“The fundamental cause of all mental illness is the avoidance of legitimate suffering.”

Swami Rudrananda (Rudi):

The basic reason that real growth does not occur is that no one wants to feel pain. We are animals in that respect, conditioned to seek out things that bring us pleasure, and to avoid those which hurt. Pain must occur in the growth process. When we avoid pain, we avoid growth. That is what stops ninety percent of the people dead in their tracks."

P. D. Ouspensky:

"If suffering did not exist, it would be necessary to create it, because without it one cannot come to correct self-remembering."


"That which hurts, but is profitable, is drunk by the wise like medicine. For the result, afterwards attained, becomes incomparable."

(2) Dark Night of the Soul

Paul Brunton:

"When the dark night comes, its effect stuns him. His eager aspirations fade away into despondency and his spiritual exercises fall into disuse. Nothing that happens around him seems to matter, and everything seems so aimless, futile, or trivial. He has to force himself to go on living outwardly as usual. His will is listless and his emotion leaden. He feels inwardly dead, hardly aware of anything except his own state...The inner nature becomes stiff, muscle-bound, unresponsive to the joyous evidences and serene intimations of the Overself. What is even worse, bringing a dark hopelessness with it, is the fear that this will become a permanent state...When this drying up of all aspirations comes upon him without any traceable cause, the beauty and warmth of past intuitive feeling or mystical experience will seem unreal." (3)

Madame Guyon:

The life of the believer is like a torrent making its way out of the high mountains down into the canyons and chasms of life, passing through many experiences until finally coming to the spiritual experience of death. From there, the torrent experiences resurrection and a life lived in concert with the will of God while still going through many stages of refinement. At last the torrent finds its way into the vast, unlimited sea. Even here the torrent does not totally come to be one with the vast ocean until it has once more passed through final dealings by the Lord....

“The soul, after many a redoubled death, expires at last in the arms of Love; but she is unable to perceive these arms...Then, reduced to Nought, there is found in her ashes a seed of immortality, which is preserved in these ashes and will germinate in its season. But she knows not this; and does not expect ever to see herself living again....and the soul which is reduced to the Nothing, ought to dwell therein; without wishing, since she is now but dust, to issue from this state, nor, as before, desiring to live again. She must remain as something which no longer exists: and this, in order that the Torrent may drown itself and lose itself in the Sea, never to find itself in its selfhood again; and that it may become one and the same thing with the Sea.”

Augustine Baker:

"For first He not only withdraws all comfortable observable infusions of light and grace, but also deprives her of a power to exercise any perceivable operations of her superior spirit, and of all comfortable reflections upon His love, plunging her into the depths of her inferior powers. Here, consequently, her former calmness of passions is quite lost, neither can she introvert herself; sinful motions and suggestions do violently assault her, and she finds great difficulty (if not greater) to surmount them as at the beginning of a spiritual course...If she would elevate her spirit, she sees nothing but clouds and darkness. She seeks God, and cannot find the least marks or footsteps of His Presence; something there is that hinders her from executing the sinful suggestions within her, but what that is she knows not, for to her thinking she has no spirit at all, and indeed, she is now in a region of all other most distant from spirit and spiritual operations - I mean, such as are perceptible." (5)

Anonymous internet post:

"St. John refers frequently to this inner congestion, as like being bound hand and foot and unable to breathe. He uses the Biblical reference of Jonah being swallowed in the belly of the beast to illustrate his point.This psychological congestion has a marked effect physiologically on one's breathing pattern. Breath control is often advocated as an aid to contemplation. Here we have the reverse process whereby the spontaneous contemplative process that is unleashed during the "Dark Night" itself dramatically alters one's breathing process until it is almost fully suspended. One still gradually breathes in but the corresponding breathing out is greatly suspended. So the psychological congestion one feels has a striking physiological counterpart....... One can feel as if drowning or being caught up in an internal earthquake. At other times one feels greatly parched as if one's insides had received a severe overdose of sunburn. The sense of being confined like a hostage in a dark confined space with little freedom for manoeuvre is often very strong. When these recede one begins to surface a little to restore some kind of normality. However over time one's customary framework of experience is greatly eroded....It is like a chain reaction. One has to exercise faith to literally survive in the darkness. But this growing inner light only highlights ego restrictions further forcing one into a greater exercise of faith. So the process steadily intensifies.....What is clinically diagnosed as "endogenous depression" is very likely and is associated with the loss of a general sense of meaning in one's life. As the very purpose of the "Dark Night" is to erode one's conceptual frameworks of understanding it is not surprising that this type of depression should occur.

Endogenous depression is often diagnosed by the psychiatric profession in purely physiological terms as a chemical imbalance. This is very reductionist. Certainly a chemical imbalance can be associated with the illness. However this is inseparable from changing psychological factors which tend to activate the physiological process. Other psychotic symptoms associated with manic-depression or schizophrenia may well surface at this time. However this raises a key dilemma. To diagnose an authentic "Dark Night" experience in simply pathological terms (though such elements may well be present) is to very much misunderstand the nature of the problem. So people dealing with those having the genuine "Dark Night" experience are not likely to see ..and only notice these secondary characteristics. So they are likely to confirm the aspirant's own growing fears that the whole experience has been a tragic mistake."

Jean-Pierre deCaussade:

““It is the usual way by which God conducts His chosen spouses to the perfection He destines them to attain; and I have known very few whom He has not judged it necessary to guide along this path when they give themselves up entirely to Him. Why then are there such painful states? Why this heaviness of heart which takes the pleasure out of everything? and this depression which makes life insupportable? Why? It is to destroy, in those souls destined to a perfect union with God, a certain base of hidden presumption; to attack pride in its last retreat; to overwhelm with bitterness that cursed self-love which is only content with what gives it pleasure; until at last, not knowing where to turn, it dies for want of food and attention, as a fire goes out for want of fuel to feed it. This death, however, is not the work of a moment; a great quantity of water is required to extinguish a great conflagration. Self-love is like a many-headed hydra, and its heads have to be cut off successively. It has many lives that have to be destroyed one after the other if one wishes to be completely delivered.

You have, doubtless, obtained a great advantage by making it die to nature and the senses; but do not dream that you are entirely set free from its obsessions. It recovers from this first defeat and renews its attacks on another ground. More subtle in future, it begins again on that which is sensible in devotion; and it is to be feared that this second attempt, apparently much less crude, and more justifiable than its predecessor, is also much more powerful. Nevertheless, pure love cannot put up with the one any more than with the other. God cannot suffer sensible consolations to share a heart that belongs to Him. What then will happen? If less privileged souls are in question, for whom God has not such a jealous love, He allows them a peaceful enjoyment of these holy pleasures, and contents Himself with the sacrifice they have made of the pleasures of sense. This is, in fact, the ordinary course with devout persons, whose piety is somewhat mixed with a certain amount of self-seeking. Assuredly God does not approve of their defects; but, as they have received fewer graces, He is less exacting in the matter of perfection. These are the ordinary spouses of an inferior rank, whose beauty needs not to be so irreproachable, for they have not the power to wound His divine heart so keenly; but He has far other requirements, as He has quite other designs with regard to His chosen spouses. The jealousy of His love equals its tenderness. Desiring to give Himself entirely to them, He wishes also to possess their whole heart without division. Therefore He would not be satisfied with the exterior crosses and pains which detach from creatures but desires to detach them from themselves, and to destroy in them to the last fibre that self-love which is rooted in feelings of devotion, is supported and nourished by them, and finds its satisfaction in them.

To effect this second death He withdraws all consolation, all pleasure, all interior help, insomuch that the poor soul finds itself as though suspended between Heaven and earth, without the consolations of the one, nor the comforts of the other. For a human being who cannot exist without pleasure and without love, this seems a sort of annihilation. Nothing then remains for him but to attach himself—not with the heart which no longer feels anything, but with the essence of the soul—to God alone, whom he knows and perceives by bare faith in an obscure manner. Oh! it is then that the soul, perfectly purified by this two-fold death, enters into a spiritual alliance with God, and possesses Him in the pure delights of purified love; which never could have been the case if its spiritual taste had not been doubly purified.”

St. John of the Cross:

"This purgative and loving knowledge or Divine light whereof we here speak acts upon the soul which it is purging and preparing for perfect union with it in the same way as fire acts upon a log of wood in order to transform it into itself; for maternal fire, acting upon wood, first of all begins to dry it, by driving out its moisture and causing it to shed the water which it contains within itself. Then it begins to make it black, dark and unsightly, and even to give forth a bad odor, and, as it dries it little by little, it brings out and drives away all the dark and unsightly accidents which are contrary to the nature of fire. And, finally, it begins to kindle it externally and give it heat, and at last transforms it into itself and makes it as beautiful as fire....It drives out its unsightliness, and makes itself black and dark, so that it seems worse than before and more unsightly and abominable than it was wont to be. For this Divine purgation is removing all the evil and vicious humours which the soul has never perceived because they have been so deeply rooted and grounded in it; it has never realized, in fact, that it has had so much evil within itself...This enkindling of love, however, is not always felt by the soul, but only at times when contemplation assails it less vehemently, for then it has occasion to see, and even to enjoy, the work which is being wrought in it, and which is then revealed to it. For it seems that the worker takes his hand from the work, and draws the iron out of the furnace, in order that something of the work which is being done may be seen; and then there is occasion for the soul to observe in itself the good which it saw not while the work was going on. In the same way, when the flame ceases to attack the wood, it is possible to see how much of it has been enkindled." (7)


"This affliction is not because you are despised. When you were green and fresh, you were watered in the garden; that watering was for the sake of this fire."

(3) The Intrusion of True and Right Thinking

Tim Conway:

"The great wisdom traditions of India, China, Japan and Tibet (as well as western mystical traditions) all put a strong emphasis on study of wisdom texts as an essential part of the spiritual curriculum. Consider how the eminent modern-era jñâni-sage Ramana Mahârshi, so famous for his wisdom-inducing silence and whose own powerful spiritual opening occurred without any significant intellectual preparation (he had read a book about the great Shaiva saints before his awakening in 1896), in the ensuing years actually spent much time listening to and promoting the reading of sacred texts, especially the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gîtâ, Yoga Vâsishtha, Tripura Rahasya, Bhâgavatam Purâna, Ashtâvakra Gîtâ, Ribhu Gîtâ, Avadhûta Gîtâ, the works of Shankara and stories of saints. Ch'an-Zen-Son Buddhist masters of the Far East likewise spent much time poring over classic texts of their own tradition, as well as the earlier Chinese and Indian classics. The Tibetan Vajrayâna masters are well known for their devotion to textual study. All this study promotes a balanced understanding of the various subtly nuanced teachings about authentic spiritual realization, the avoidance of common pitfalls, working through more insidious forms of delusion and attachment, and so forth. Such study is, of course, the prime ingredient in the classic "triple method" utilized in both the Hindu Advaita Vedânta tradition and Nâgârjuna's and Mahâyâna Buddhism wisdom path: hearing the teaching about our real Identity/Nature, pondering it ever more deeply through intensely penetrating reflection, and meditating upon this Truth (or having the Truth "meditate" you). (These are respectively, in Vedânta, shravana, manana, and nididhyâsana; and for Nâgârjuna: shruti, cintâ, and bhâvanâ.)" (http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org)

James Schwartz:

"In spiritual circles it has become an article of faith that a the quest for spiritual knowledge is an 'intellectual' and therefore misguided pursuit. But it should be noted that anyone seeking enlightenment through the 'heart' or other paths would necessarily be motivated by the intellectual belief that he or she was limited, inadequate and incomplete i.e. unelightened. To pursue experience is natural but to pursue it at the expense of understanding is foolish because it is only misunderstandings about our true nature that make us think we are unenlightened in the first place. The Self realized beings who went before left a vast body of information to help us purge erroneous concepts that stand in the way of appreciating who we really are." (www.shiningworld.com/Index.htm).

Swami Nikhilinanda:

"Some men would rather die than think."

Francis Wickes:

” ‘Thinking hard’ hurts. It turns the sharp point of truth back upon the thinker. It pricks the bubble of ego complacency blown up by thinking easy. Its sharp wound forbids the forgetfulness which is the goal of evasive thinking. If one can forget the inner experience and its challenge can be evaded, the ego can remain comfortably unborn in the womb of the already known.”

Paul Brunton:

"Henceforth you are not to become this or that, not to gather the various virtues, but simply to be. For this you do not have to strive, you do not have to think, you do not have to work with any form of yoga, with any method of meditation."

"To adopt the Short Path is to place oneself at a point of view where all the efforts of the Long path are seen as a sheer waste of time and where its successes are regarded as equal in value to its failures, since both are illusory experiences of an illusory entity."

"The Long Path is taught to beginners and others in the earlier and middle stages of the quest. This is because they are ready for the idea of self-improvement and not for the higher one of the unreality of the self. So the latter is taught on the Short Path, where attention is turned away from the little self and from the idea of perfecting it, to the essence, the real being."

"It must never be forgotten that the work of the Short Path could only come into being on the basis of the work of the Long one, and on the presupposition of its presence."

"His quest for God has reached its terminus but his quest in God will now start its course. Henceforth his life, experience, and consciousness are wrapped in mystery."

"The transition from the Long to the Short path is really a normal experience, even though to each person it seems like a major discovery."

"He must be willing to discard the familiar attitudes developed on the Long Path. There will be an inner struggle."

"The Short Path of recognizing the divine existence here and now, whether or not the ego feels it, is the best path at a certain stage."

"He must be free of the kind of self-consciousness which makes him aware that he is a Questor."

"The Short Path requires him to fall into amnesia about his spiritual past. The attempt to produce a perfect being and an impeccable character need not trouble him any further.....The Long Path is likely to come first in a man’s spiritual career, with the bizarre result that he is required to become much more aware of what is going on within himself - his thoughts, feelings, and character - and then, with entry on the Short Path, to become much less aware of it, even to the point of ignoring it.”

"What is the key to the Short Path? It is threefold. First, stop searching for the Overself since it follows you wherever you go. Second, believe in its Presence, with and within you. Third, keep on trying to understand its truth until you can abandon further thoughts about it. You cannot acquire what is already here. So drop the ego's false idea and affirm the real one."

"It is not a question of choice between the two paths. The beginner can hardly comprehend what the Short Path means, let alone practise it. So perforce he must take to the Long one. But the intermediate, weary of its toils and defeats, turns with relief to the other path, for which his studies and experiences have now prepared him."

"However tirelessly and relentlessly he pursues the Long Path, he may come one day to the tragic discovery that the ideal it proposes to him embodies a humanly impossible perfection. With that discovery he will fall into a numb inertness, a pathetic and hopeless state which could even bring his overwrought mind not far from a breakdown. He may feel alone and deserted. He may enter the dark night of the soul, as some mystics have named it. His ego will feel crushed. He will not know what to do, nor even have the strength of will to do anything more. At this point he must wait...out of the bleakness and weakness there will presently come a guidance, bidding him respond affirmatively to a suggestion, a book, or a teacher directing him toward what is really his first step on the Short Path."

"So long as a man stays on the Long Path alone he is clinging to the idea of his ego, which embarks on the Quest to save itself by methods and processes of purifying itself. This idea is never let go, only refined and purified. For it starts the Quest as an imperfect and low ego, finishes it as a perfectly pruned and improved one. Its own reality is not questioned, for if it were regarded as the nonexistent fiction that it is, there would be no need to purify or save it."


"The highest beatitude is not to be attained by Yoga."

V.S. Iyer:

“The religious way says: Believe! and you will be saved. The Vedantic way says: Doubt! and you will be saved.”

“Yoga sharpens intelligence only when it is immediately followed by a practice of inquiry, that is by calm thinking. If the yoga practice is not followed by such an inquiry then a man will only become a duffer, because his Yoga will kill his intelligence.”

“Ultimate truth can be known and is known in this world by human reason, nothing divine, or mystic is needed for that.”

"Because philosophy is so troublesome, people don't want to be bothered with it, but remain contented with mysticism or religion, where the need of thinking is absent."

“The yogis experiences are not lies but truly described; all these are however only relative truths, true only from a certain narrow point of view, they come and go, they contradict each other, whereas we seek the Supreme Truth which is higher than all these, which is uncontradictable and does not conflict with anything else.”

"The idealistic nature of world was usually kept secret because people cannot understand it and therefore they will regard its advocates as partly insane."

"God is the most exhalted form of atheism."
[relying as it does on mere belief, not reasoned thinking] (9)

"You must be desirous of knowing the Truth, consider the truth as nectar. Truth is the most distasteful, bitter and unpleasant thing; but there can be no question of "satisfactions" in Truth. "Is it truth" does the question occur to anyone? Imagination is rubbish. To imagine truth is not enough, know things as they are. "Know Me in Truth."..The doers, the body, the ego, the attributes have nothing to do with Me - the Truth. Let bitterness be as nectar."

"The world must be seen before knowledge can be got. The world must be seen as an idea, and to achieve this you must first examine, see the world. Yogi is only a practitioner, is following a useful lower stage, but he can't get knowledge. His flashes of illumination are mere steps, not Gnan."

"Everyone wants to please himself. Who is this himself? We need no more effort. The Brahman is so self-evident. You have just to turn your self away from the erroneous knowledge."

"Yogi does not know that after you get control of mind you have to get the distinguishing power between the true and the false, then only can you get knowledge of the universal self. That which reveals Brahman is knowledge only. Because Yogi
[so and so] has given you peace or comfort, that does not mean he has given you truth."

“If yogis practice Yoga up to the limit and extent of getting a strong and concentrative mind, and to be able to think of particular subjects, it is good; beyond that if they begin to weaken their mind and accept what they imagine as real, they begin to go insane.”

“There are various grades of insanity. It develops gradually. Spiritual belief is a mild form which may grow into yogic hallucinations and finish up in complete mystic lunacy!”

“Psychology is most valuable in dealing with religious or mystic people, for you will see their God-complex or Samadhi-is-the-way-to-truth complex popping up every time.”

"You are unattached, actionless, self-effulgent, and without any blemish. This indeed is your bondage (through ignorance), that you practice samadhi," it says. Hence yoga cannot yield Brahman even if you go on trying for a whole lifetime. It will only come through intelligence. Yoga is for preliminaries."

“”I only criticize those who say Raja yoga is the end; it is not. Gnana yoga is the end.”

“All other yogas lead finally to Gnan which transcends and fulfills them. The highest form of yoga is Gnana Yoga, according to which the individual soul realizes through knowledge its identity with the universal soul.”

"The ignorant person does not attain liberation through repeated practice of control of the mind. The blessed one through mere knowledge becomes free and is unaffected by change.”

"The ignorant constantly practice concentration and control of the mind. The wise, abiding in the real Self, like persons in deep sleep, do not find anything to be done."

"You pervade this universe and this universe exists in you. You are really Pure Consciousness. Do not be small-minded."

"Give up even contemplating anything, hold nothing in your heart. You are verily the Self and therefore free. What will you do with analytical thinking."

"My child, you may often speak upon various scriptures or hear them recited. But you cannot be established in the Self unless you forget all. Scriptures: all these are preliminary steps for mere children and slave mentalities; getting certainty, irrefutable proof, not dogmatic assertion - even of Brahman - is our attitude."

"Wise one, you may enjoy, or work, or practice mental concentration. But your mind will still yearn for your own true nature which is beyond all objects and in which all desires are extinguished....What is the unconscious goal of the search? It can only be Non-duality."

"The ignorant person does not attain liberation through repeated practice of control of mind. The blessed one through mere knowledge becomes free and is unaffected by change."

"He may try to control his mind for years but it is impossible. Outside of sleep, mind is forever active...Where is control of mind for the deluded one who strives for it? It is indeed always natural with the wise one who delights in the Self...Mind is impossible to control, outside of sleep. Patanjali was mistaken."

"They do not inquire what the sense-objects are, but run away to yogic ashrams; the man with brains (Buddhi) is not afraid but says, "These sense objects are only ideas in me: why should I run?"

"The yogi cannot remain permanently in trance. When he emerges all his own desires return again....Even hearing the Truth, the man of dull intellect does not give up his delusion. Though, through suppression, he appears devoid of mental activity, a craving for sense-objects lurks within him..Only if it is done alongside of inquiry will it be alright, for then it becomes Sahaja, effortless."

“When mystics say that reason and intellect should be subordinated to the soul, or intuition, or ecstasy, we ask them, “What is it that tells you so? It can only be thinking power, i.e., reason itself. You are unconsciously using reason to decide what shall be subordinated to what! Therefore reason is supreme in value as an epistemological source of truth over and above mysticism and yoga,”

"It is not enough to say you understand the theories of Advaita, you may grasp idealism and Mandukya, but it is not enough. The next stage after this ultimate mastery is the constant final practice of Gnana yoga. It involves pondering over and over again upon the subject until whatever object you find before you is seen as Brahman: this must become so firmly rooted that one's body seems like the body of another person."

"There is always the lurking fear in minds that are not heroes that my teaching
[Advaita] may be wrong, that I may be mistaken, that the yogis may be right or the scriptures correct. But this is caused by mental weakness."

"The Gnani is not afraid of thinking, knowing all ideas to be Brahman."

“You must begin with the external world because it lies before you first. How can you understand the inner self correctly if the world which is in front of you is not correctly understood?"

Anthony Damiani:

“Without the fullness of the understanding that comes from penetrating into the World-Idea - in other words, the full development of the faculty of understanding which comes to a soul through the World-Idea - in the trance state one would be utterly unprepared to understand the mysterious Void...Or we can put it this way: It will take all the teaching that the World-Mind can bring to bear upon the soul, in order for the soul to understand its origins, its own priors...that's what is necessary to become the sort of philosopher that not only understands the nature of the soul but also something about the prior principles that are, let's say, eternally generating it." (11)


“The triple realm is an empty apparition that is solely the creation of the individual mind. Do not worry if you cannot achieve concentration and do not experience the various psychological states. Just constantly maintain clear awareness of the True Mind in all your actions.”



“The experience one has at the time of death is as if a thorny bush were placed in the rectum and extracted through the mouth.”

Bhagwan Purana

“When the soul leaves the body one feels pain as if bitten by a million scorpions at once.”

V.S. Iyer:

"For a doubter there is neither this world or the next" means once you begin to inquire you must persevere to the end, never stop, or you will lose whatever you have and get nothing to replace it."

“You are born to know the truth and therefore the body is needed as a means of getting this higher thing, not as a means of enjoyment. Suicide is unpardonable. Even those in great physical agony should not kill themselves for it is teaching them every moment not to be attached to the body. Hence although they are not able consciously to reflect on truth they are doing so unconsciously. Moreover it will drive them to seek that which is above body and its pain.”

Paul Brunton:

"To remain faithful to the teaching when passing through a test or an ordeal becomes easier when he realizes that this is what the experience really is. He will be tested not only for sincere loyalty to ideals but also for adequate comprehension of ideas. If in the result he finds himself confused and unclear, this will be a pointer to new channels for his study. Should he desert the quest, circumstances will so shape themselves and repentances will so persistingly intrude themselves that, whether in a few years or half a lifetime, he will have to yield to the call or else suffer the penalty, which is to be struck down in premature death or life-wasting madness by his higher self."
[Note: that's a bit harsh!]

"He needs to be intellectually prepared and emotionally purified before the higher self will descend to enlighten intellect and ennoble emotion. Hence, before it sheds the sunshine of grace upon his way, it will test his perseverance in this effort and try his faith to a point of anguish which at times seems beyond endurance. In the moods of black despair which will inevitably follow each failure, he may dwell again and again on the thought of abandoning the quest altogether. Yet if he holds on an end will come and rich reward with it. If always he returns to the path in a humble, chastened and repentant mood, he will be given the right help to redeem his past and safeguard his future. Grace is ever ready to mantle its shekinah, in protection, over the truly penitent."


Richard Rose:

”The proper path is somewhere between hope and hopelessness.”

“Those who worship through the various religions should not be criticized, but encouraged. In all religions rests a grain of truth for the masses. It is a form which the masses can comprehend, no matter how erroneous it may be. As long as those individuals attempt to live their religion, instead of a life of hypocrisy, they are seekers and we cannot look down our noses at them."

"The most painful thing on earth is a pleasant memory. This nostalgia that sometimes comes over us isn't an accident. It's a message. It has something to tell us. We're programmed to indulge in life, but this haunting nostalgia is a subliminal message from another plane. It's the homing instinct of the mundane mind. At its best, it's what draws us back to the Father. Nostalgia is a window to the soul, and the soul is lost to man as he lives. Nostalgia is the soul's memory of prior experience. Touching it, you touch the Eternal.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

"Your first task is to see the sorrow in you and around you; your next, to long intensely for liberation. The very intensity of longing will guide you; you need no other guide."

Ramana Maharshi:

"If the longing is there, Realization will be forced on you even if you do not want it. Subhechcha (longing) is the doorway to realization." (14)

Paramhansa Yogananda:

"The desires of incarnations keep one endlessly wandering. Once, however, a sincere longing for God awakens in the heart, liberation is already assured, even though the process may take more incarnations. For that longing for God, too, is a desire, and must be fulfilled eventually." (15)

V.S. Iyer:

"The Vedantic ideal is to give people what suits them; to do so is no error."

"God did not create a world. There has always been only the One, no diversity. But do not tell this to all, only to those capable of understanding. Otherwise you will harm them."

“Until a man is ripe to receive Truth from a competent Guru, it is fatal to ask him to give up meditation.”

“When Buddhi is not steady - and that is the case for 98% of Europeans - yoga is absolutely necessary as a discipline to calm the mind. But it is nothing more.”

"The highest Gnanis of the past have mixed mysticism and philosophy together in order to keep the highest teaching in circulation in order to benefit the largest number of people. For truth really means not the definitions of its incontradictability - which is necessary but is only an elementary stage - but the practical seeking for the welfare of all."

"The Gnani will not unsettle the minds of ignorant yogis or religionists by denouncing their attachment to causality. On the contrary, he will encourage their belief that they will get nearer God by their efforts. He can do nothing also with such minds, and so he improves them gradually; only afterwards when they are able to ask questions "Is this truth?" not till then will he initiate them into non-causality."

"To my disciples who complain that I require them to lead a double life keeping our philosophy secret and giving out mysticism still, I reply: Yes, your objection is correct if you think only of yourselves, but it is invalid if you live for others and want to help all, not merely the one in a million who is fit for our philosophy."

"Do not create doubt whether God exists. It must come of its own accord to others."

"Dull intellects may need 20,000 years, sharp intellects may grasp Advaita in two days."

"Until people have risen to the heights of reason, it is wiser not only not to instill doubts in their religious or mystical beliefs, but even to act when among them as they do. Thus you win their confidence and eventually you will be able to influence them for the better. If, however, you refuse to do this and stand aside, indifferent to their immature play, you reveal your egoism, whereas the first way permits you to serve others and thus sink your ego."

‘in Brahma Sutras Sankara says that Brahman is the cause of the world, whereas in Mandukya he denies it. This is because he says that at the lower stage of understanding, the former teaching must be given, for people will get frightened as they cannot understand how the world can be without a cause, but to those in a higher stage, the truth of non-causality can be revealed.”

“That God created the world is an absolute lie, nevertheless you will find Sankara (in his comentary on Vedanta Sutras) clearly says this! He has to adapt his teachings to his audience, reserving the highest for philosophical minds.”

“Sankara explains in Mandukya that those who study the Sutras are religious minds, intellectual children, hence his popular view point to assist them. These people are afraid to go deeper because it means being heroic enough to refuse to accept Sruti, and God’s authority, in case they mean punishment by God.”

"Yoga is a discipline through which one has to pass "to make the mind clear" in the old Sanskrit phrase. If the mind is not strong enough to pursue truth, then yoga is prescribed to clarify and purify it. As a step, yoga or religion is welcome, but when advocated as being the highest, then it is a mistake."

"The intense concentration required to grasp the teacher's explanation of Brahman is so fine and "sharp as a razor's edge." as the Upanishads say, that we prescribe Yoga at the beginning to assist the seeker to gain it. He must be able to keep all other thoughts away in order to perceive the Non-Dual. Yoga fits him for the inquiry into Brahman, but he must afterwards make the inquiry."

"Those who get disappointed with life take to Yoga, but that does not qualify them for Vedanta which requires a passion for TRUTH, not merely disgust with the world. Still, the latter is a useful preliminary stage to get the mind free for inquiry, untroubled by attachments and desires which hamper clear calm unprejudiced investigation."

"Ramakrishna practiced meditation with yogis, and he said that all these were progressive steps and he did not condemn them...There are stages in comprehending truth. Hence Ramakrishna taught Vedanta - the highest truth - only to Vivekananda. All his other disciples were taught yoga, mysticism, or theology...I admire Ramakrishna as the only Gnani yogi because he had this universal sympathy. His samadhis are no test of his Gnan; they were merely a discipline. This is the final test: do I see everything in me?"

"There are a number of steps between the ordinary man and the Gnani. First step for the ordinary man is to do his duty, to distinguish between right and wrong and follow right. Second step is for him to purify himself by following right even at the expense of self. Third step is to practice Sanyas which may be internal alone or both internal or external. Only then will yoga practice begin to have effect. Next he will have to inquire into the nature of the mind; then into the nature of the Atman Then he will discover the meaning of Tat Twam Asi. Finally he gets rid of all ignorance."

"This wise one neither abhors birth and rebirth nor wishes to perceive the Self. Free from joy and sorrow, he is neither dead nor alive."

"There is no heaven, no and there is no hell; not even liberation-in-life. In short, nothing exists in yogic (gnana) consciousness."

"Blessed is the wise one who stands alone, who is attached to nothing, who is without any possession, who moves freely and at pleasure, who is free from the pairs of opposites, and whose doubts have been rent asunder."


“Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky.”


Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

"When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the supreme state will come to you uninvited and unexpected."


"Inexplicably it comes. When you least expect it. For a reason you can never know. One moment you are striving, figuring, imagining, and then, in the blink of an eye, it all disappears. The struggle disappears. The striving disappears. The person disappears. The world disappears. Everything disappears, and the person is like a pinpoint of light, just receding until it disappears. And there's nobody there to witness it. The person is gone. Only, only awareness remains. Nothing else. No one to be aware. Nothing to be aware of. Only that remains itself. Then it's understood, finally and simply.

Then everything—all the struggle, all the striving, all the thinking, all the figuring, all the surrendering, all the letting go, all the grabbing hold of, all the praying, all the begging, all the cursing, too—was just a distraction. And only then is it seen that the person was, is, and ever will be no more than a thought. With a single thought, the person seems to reemerge. With more thoughts, the world seems to reemerge right out of nothing. But now you know.

The incarnation is nothing more than a thought. A thousand incarnations are but a thousand thoughts. And this amazing miracle of a mirage we call the world reappears as it was before, but now you know. That's why you usually have a good laugh, because you realize that all your struggles were made up. You conjured them up out of nothing—with a thought that was linked to another thought, that was then believed, that linked to another thought that was then believed. But never could it have been true, not for a second could it have actually existed. Not ever could you have actually suffered for a reason that was true—only through an imagination, good, bad, indifferent. The intricacies of spiritual philosophy and theologies are just a thought within Emptiness.

And so at times we talk, and I pretend to take your struggles seriously, just as I pretended to take my own seriously. You may pretend to take your own struggles seriously from time to time, and although we pretend, we really shouldn't forget that we are pretending, that we are making up the content of our experience; we are making up the little dramas of our lives. We are making up whether we need to hold on or surrender or figure it out or pray to God or be purified or have karma cleansed—it's all a thought. We just collude in this ridiculous charade of an illusion pretending that it's real, only to reveal that it's not. There is no karma. There is nothing really to purify. There's no problem. There is only what you create and believe to be so. And if you like it that way, have at it!

But we cannot continue this absolute farce indefinitely. We cannot continue to pretend this game we play, indefinitely. It's impossible. Everything comes back to nothing.

And then it's a bit harder to hold a straight face consistently for the rest of your life."

V.S. Iyer:

"The Knower of truth is never miserable in this world, for the whole universe is filled by himself alone."


“The gnani’s happiness consists in being identified with the whole universe. So long as there is misery in this world, he, the gnani, is always inevitably miserable. So he always tries to remove the misery of others.” (18)

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

"Once you can say with confidence born from direct experience: 'I am the world, the world is myself', you are free from desire and fear on the one hand and become totally responsible for the world on the other. The senseless sorrow of mankind becomes your sole concern."

"With the dissolution of the personal 'I' personal suffering disappears. What remains is the greatest sadness of compassion, the horror of the unnecessary pain."

1. from Commentaries of V.S. Iyer, ed. Mark Scorelle 1999)
2. Swami Rudrananda, Spiritual Cannibalism
3.The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 15 (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Part I, 3.8, 3.10, 3.19)
4. Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism
5. Ibid, p.
6. Jean-Pierre deCaussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Book Seven, Letter XIV (Exeter, England: The Catholic Records Press, from the Tenth Complete French Edition by E. J. Strickland), pp.
7. E. Allison Peers, trans. The Dark Night of the Soul (Garden City, New York: Image/Doubleday, 1959), p. 127
8. (12)The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988) Vol. 15, Part 1, 1.76, 1.109, 4.6, 4.7, 4.54, 4.55, 4.57, 4.85, 4.94, 4.105, 4.29, 4.115, 4.148, Vol. 3, Part 1, 1.103
9. V.S. Iyer, op. cit.
10. V.S. Iyer, Ashtavakra Samhita and Commentaries, ed. Mark Scorelle 1999)
11. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996), p. 69
12. The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism by John R. McRae 1986), p.
13. Paul Brunton, Essays on the Quest (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, ), , p. 202-203)
14. Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, New Mexico: Inner Directions Foundation, 2001), p. 182
15. Paramhansa Yogananda, The Essence of Self-Realization (Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 1990), p. 94
16. V.S. Iyer, Commentaries, op. cit.
17. (Transcribed from a talk in Pacific Grove, CA, June 9, 2006
© 2006 by Adyashanti.   www.adyashanti. org)
18. V.S. Iyer, op. cit.
19. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I AM THAT (Durham, North Carolina: The Acorn Press, 2008), p. 496