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Sant Mat: A Comparative Analysis of the Path of the Masters - Part Two

by Peter Holleran

   The inward and outward are indissolubly united and fom a single great eternal Current.” - Anandamayi Ma

   "Nada, the first Sound of Creation, the Breath of Brahma who can never sleep, can never rest, otherwise the Creation will disappear into Nothingness." - Irena Tweedie

   “The Word or Naam is synonymous with all that is Life. We can reach it only through a living spiritual Master.” - Sant Darshan Singh

   [Note: upon re-reading the following it is clear to the author that this section, while overall of use to suggest alternate ways of viewing certain metaphysical concepts, still needs much work. Part of the problem is that it was written in piecemeal fashion over a long time, and covering so much ground has not been re-editted for better articulation. In time hopefully this will be done. So for now we beg the reader's patience. In particular, there remains too much use of assertion, especially in the beginning sections, where words such as, "perhaps", "maybe", this is one way of looking at things", "the Sat Purush might be thought of in this way", or "it is uncertain", would be better choices of words. So take what seems valuable to you, and see if by the end certain ideas become more clear. It is difficult to do such a comparative study, and this is more or less virgin territory. Above all, we suggest not holding too tightly any particular doctrine or point of view]

   13. The Nature of the Planes and Bodies

   Okay. Now it is time to put much of this together so that we can understand it, perhaps in a new way. The next few sections may be the most important part of this paper. How is Sant Mat unique, and how does it differ from Buddhism, Ramana, and other sages? What happens after death for the initiate? How is Sant Mat a non-dual path after all? In the next three sections I have had significant help from a sharing of ideas with a co-writer named Mark. That's the only satisfactory way of with dealing with this material, to get more than one mind working on it, it is so complex. Much of this is a reasonable summary based on a combination of personal experience, best intuition, and a general consensus of views from many sources based on both study and personal contact. As always, the reader must exercise his discrimination and due diligence while reading this material. No claims are made for its complete perfection. The same process of sharin. As always, the reader must exercise his discrimination and due diligence while reading this material. No claims are made for its complete perfection. The same process of sharing and checking may some day be said of an evolutionary synthesis among the world's spiritual traditions, which may be an eventuality we are only now seeing the beginnings of.

   First, here is a more concise but also intricately described and compiled version of the Sant Mat schemata given towards the beginning of Part One this article, with some new points of interest, which one might do well to read. Besides the usual advise to avoid the 'left-hand path', it also mentions that in higher regions there is the possibility of being allured onto a 'right-hand path' which will lead one to higher places but which are essentially dead-ends. Hence the necessity of a living master who can guide the soul. All of the descriptions of tunnels, left and right, etc., in higher regions, have made me at times wonder if these regions are in the folds of the brain, but on closer inspection, with what little experience I have had, has led me to a different conclusion. When one goes deep enough in meditation with the help of the shabda-brahman - the real higher Power, Enlightening Presence, Saguna Brahman, Adi Buddha, Cosmic Christ, or Logos built into the relative worlds, created and uncreated - one knows one is beyond the confines of the physical body. The 'silver cord' mentioned in the Bible remains uncut, and one can come and go at will.

   My limited experience is that these inner experiences are mostly non-physical. They are no less real than the physical world, in some ways more, being less veiled, but still relative, until one sheds all coverings and reaches Sat Lok or Sach Khand. While relative experience they should not be called imaginary, as some vedantins and Upanishads such as the Mandukya say, as they are real projections of Isvara, the Creator or Sat Purush. To say, as the Mandukya does, that Hiranyagarbha and the dream state (taijasa) are identical in essence, does not seem to do justice to the actual experiential nature of reality. The true nature of all these phenomena is, of course, nondual - when realized as such - and so cannot be categorized one way or another - real/imaginary, inner/outer, up/down, descending/ascending. Phenomena like nadis or tunnels are part of relative experience, but referring to them in relative ways like imaginary can have a teaching value, but is only a tool rather than a 'true' picture of reality. In a certain sense we can say that the sense of solidity of a door is 'imaginary', maya, unreal, illusion, but until a rather advanced level of realization, we had better open the door to pass into the next room. So from deeper levels all these things are not the deepest understanding - chakras, planes, ascending/descending, trances, karma, bodies, time, tunnels, etc. But just as walking through doors is not a relative experience most of us are likely to transcend in the near future, so all this other stuff is a 'relatively' real part of experience. Some of it, though, is more subject to our personal beliefs than others, so experiences like what happens during death is not entirely the same from person to person. Sri Aurobindo spoke of 'annexes to the subltle realms', that is, personal hells superimposed on the relatively real universal projections. So, some aspects are universal, and some are personal. But overly simple dismissive statement such as calling the light and sound illusory, or, as Ramana once told someone, a 'deep samskara or tendency for experience', or similarly calling planes or tunnels maya, is awkward and incomplete metaphysics - not the most elegant way to honor both absolute and relative dimensions of experience. A great Zen master was once asked 'how do you relate to the idea of karma?' (a relative principle) He said 'a Zen master does not ignore karma?' Nor does he probably ignore doors and walls.

   The various higher planes are not contained in the brain. Yogis who say so are experiencing reflected versions of the higher planes. This is also the Sant Mat position. But one does go through the brain-core, as Rumi mentioned in some of his lyrical verses, and many people experience visions of light and subtle audition there. But it is only a step on the way.The inner realms and bardos are definitely trans-physical. When one passes through the visions of light that are within the reach of the brain, pierces the moon, star, and sun, and is then pulled up by the big bell sound, he exits the brahmarendhra at the top of the head and enters the astral world. This is not the thousand-petalled lotus and the end of the road, but just the beginning of the progressively real journey to the Godhead. It cannot be bypassed through trickery, or a non-dual realization that is solely physical plane based. Such paths dismiss the soul in a cavalier way. True, these planes with corresponding bodies of one's own (astral and causal; or astral, mental, and causal, depending on the system) are temporary and within the realm of space and time (in Sant Mat, Kal and Maha-Kal), compared to our formless identity on the spiritual planes beyond. That is why Sant Rajinder Singh says you will know for sure you survive death when you reach the third plane, Daswan Dwar, in my estimation, as this is the plane of final rest for many initiates between rebirths - for those who need to reincarnate. The average soul does not have access that far up, and is limited to experiencing one or the other of the astral heavens before passing into unconsciousness before rebirth. To complete the death process, one must also drop the astral and causal bodies, which is normal. This is known as the 'second death'. Therefore, to be beyond these bodies is to know that something real survives, even if the knowledge is not permanent, when and if one is reborn with a new body and brain.

   One of the great modern masters of these regions with a highly sophisticated knowledge of the workings of the planes, reincarnation, and so on, was the master from Cyprus named Daskalos. He made a point about this issue in an interesting way - he said 'the brain cannot think. The mind thinks. The brain is simply a receiving station where the mind imprints its thoughts in the physical body'. In other words, not only are these lower planes not enfolded in the brain, even the power of thought does not have its seat there, but rather is in the mind, which by a kind of vertical telepathy, imprints in the brain thought and reason. [This might serve as an explanation for the possibility of animals becoming liberated. While it is usually accepted in the yogic traditions that only in the man-body, with an advanced brain equipped with a self-reflective neo-cortex, is the process of self-realization possible, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi felt that animals, too, could also attain salvation. If such a brain is not really necessary, and although it might be the exception to the rule, dependent on a Master's direct influence, then that would account for the famous case of Lakshmi the cow abiding in nirvikalpa samadhi and also reaching mukti, according to Ramana's own words].

   Daskalos' teaches that the soul knows its deeper self behind the outer personality of the three bodies, and comes to final rest between incarnations at the third inner plane. Reaching even the first inner plane can bring strong conviction that one survives death, but at this level one has not yet fully dropped identification with the astral and mental (or causal) bodies, which are also not only temporary like the physical, but are also veils that usually obscure the consciousness of the higher, formless 'bodies' beyond these, which include formless realization of a continuity of experience beyond each cycle of incarnation. Hence the temporary bodies are ruled by Kal, a type of 'time' linked to form experience, while the supracausal planes are ruled my Maha Kal, which rules the meta-time of the higher self that remains conscious of the story of evolution from life to life. So coming to that level of identity really drives home the relative truth of this deeper level of our spiritual nature beyond temporary bodies, physical and subtle. That is likely why Rajinder Singh made the remark about the third plane.

   Again, even when going to the lowest of these inner regions, if done so with real clarity and presence, one immediately feels one is in a realm with greater relative reality greater intensity of feeling, greater vividness of sensation and perception, by comparison with which the physical world seems foggier, denser, heavier. When experienced in a way that reveals the relative nature of each realm, physical and astral, for instance, the physical by contrast seems less substantial and more restrictive. From a nondual point of view this difference is relatively inconsequential, for in the nondual view one no longer identifies with a sense of limitation versus freedom. But this non-duality must be realized on every plane. That is the reason for the various jhanas or degrees of absorption - combined with vipassana or cultivation of mindfulness and insight - in Buddhism. [This is not to say that the various samadhis and jnanas in Buddhism correlate to the planes in Sant Mat; after reading the above material, it seems likely that they do not. One big potential difference is that they are described without the help of the shabda-brahman, the primal manifestation of the Sat Purush, and the grace of the Master Power, or the human master who is at-one with that God-Power].

   However, the Buddha himself warned that one can get attached to these higher experiences, and without understanding one may return without realizing the non-dual truth. This is why traveling to a higher plane by itself is not necessarily wisdom - though it can be used to cultivate wisdom - for just because a higher, heavenly world allows greater freedom of expression and fulfillment of desire, does not mean that one no longer has desire or the dualism that desire is rooted in. That is why non-dual contemplation and cultivation optimally must occur at each level. So the true nature of what these various planes really are, and how that relates to spiritual development, is quite complex. It is possible that the current systems that exist in our world for understanding them will be considered very primitive from the point of view of future cosmologies.

   Doubts can come up, and that is why it can be good to keep sharing our experiences and such with each other (the general world 'sangha'), to reinforce our understanding.

   Kirpal was asked if he thought Anami was the highest plane, and he apparently said "I think so, but if you here of anything higher, tell me - I want to know about it". The following may not be higher, but it is a teaching worth mentioning - and then perhaps forgetting. The teachings that Theosophists like Blavatsky say they received from higher bodhisattvas in various parts of the world like Tibet, India and the Middle East, included a cosmology that said that, not only, as many teachings say, are the divisions of the universe into great planes mirrored in each plane so that each plane has many (usually said to be seven) subplanes, but that also this mirroring works in reverse, so that the various world or planes we know from various systems are actually the subdivisions of the cosmic physical universe. And in this view, there is another octave of 'planes' beyond the highest normally spoken of, but that any contact with them will appear completely transcendental to our physical consciousness.This is very advanced, and would be like trying to teach calculus to a one year old. If this is true, it is a good thing that one does not seem to need to ascend through all these world to have liberation, as liberation seems to almost move in a different direction, as if the planes were layed out in one direction, say vertically, whereas access to the Absolute is more of a horizontal awakening. There are states that feel more whole, transcendent, liberated, universal, and that they can be accessed in our ordinary state, and that the more we develop them, the more peaceful, free, compassionate and lucid we become.

   Kirpal himself, in his book Wheel of Life/Mystery of Death quoted Guru Nanak, saying:

   "He who goes beyond the Sat Lok,
   He knows the Incomprehensible and the Inexpressible.
   It is in the Nameless that the Saints live,
   The slave Nanak finds peace in Him."

   This is enigmatic, as Sat Lok (composed of Sach Khand, Alak, Agam, and Anami - the Nameless) is usually spoken of in Sant Mat as the First Grand Division that came into being by Divine Will, and yet we are here advised to go beyond Sat Lok. We then also have the enigmatic words of Kirpal, who said to his master, Sawan Singh:

   “Hazur! The peace and security that I have in sitting at thy feet here cannot be had in higher planes.” (10b)


   "When Baba Sawan Singh once wrote that he did not even yearn for Sach Khand (literally “True Region,” or the home of the Soul, a division of Sat Lok) but only prayed that he had “Love and faith at the Satguru’s holy feet,” Baba Ji was extremely pleased and replied that such self-surrender was “indeed the highest karni” (discipline) and assured him that “he who had such a love for the Master would certainly reach Sach Khand, and passing through Alakh, Agam, and Anami-Radhasoami, get merged in the Wonder Region.” (10c)

   So there is a great mystery hidden in the words of these saints. Daskalos put it in another way:

   "Suppose you ask me, "Where do you prefer to be, within the self-abundance of non-conceiving being, where we find what we call happiness, or within the trials and tribulations of our phenomenal existence?" Believe me if I have a beloved person near me, to gaze into the eyes of, to smell and cafess the loved one's feet, I would say I prefer that. Call it weakness, call it whatever you like, still it is an attribute of our beingness not of our existence. Maybe this is the same urge within the Absolute Beingness itself that brought about the creation of the worlds." (10d)

   I myself have felt deep wretching feelings well up in me as of late, with the words coming out, "I don't want to go to any planes, I don't want to go to Sach Khand, I just want to see you again!" So maybe it is something like that.

   “I saw You and became empty.
  This Emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
  it obliterates existence, and yet when It comes,
  existence thrives and creates more existence! “
- Rumi

   There was a story about a great Zen master who preached all of his life about the unimportance and illusory nature of the material world. At his deathbed his disciples gathered around him for some words of wisdom and all he said was, "I want to live, I want to live." Dismayed, they asked him how he could say that. "Really, really, I want to live," he repeated before passing away. That was his final lesson.

   Let's look at this all again from another perspective. Part of the problem is that we have a bunch of terms from different traditions and individuals, some of which are the same, but sometimes given different meanings, and other times the words may be different, but with basically the same meaning. What a mess - atman, rigpa, soul, monad, spirit, true nature, pure awareness, buddha nature, purusha, wisdom mind, permanent personality, Self. Which of these is the same? Which are different? What are they all? Let's take soul. Some people use it to mean one's inner nature, i.e., mind and emotions. Other define it as the same as the atman (Daskalos, Sant Mat). Some use it to mean the spiritual self that is in between the atman and the outer ego. For purposes of illustration, let's say the three main lower levels of our nature are the self that arises from identification with our temporary bodies - physical, emotional/astral and mental/causal. This can be called the temporary personality, some say personality, or the empirical psyche. Then, again using Daskalos, there is the permanent personality. Some systems call this the soul or higher self or inner self. This is a state of consciousness/identity that is made up of some combination of the higher mind (vijnandamaya) and intuitive (anandamaya), with some degree of atmic, depending on how evolved the soul is. These bodies are not dissolved eventually at the conclusion of each incarnation. Then there is the Atman in its pure nature. To me (Hindus seem to have differing definitions) this is the level at which our identity is already in nondual realization. But here is the challenge. The Atman (or rigpa) level of our nature, though not veiled by the lower bodies and so not involved in dualism the way the selfhood of those levels can be, is still subject to evolution in that the brightness and richness of its nondual realization can grow. So during the course of our evolution through lives and other experiences, the Atman's realization evolves. So this aspect of our nature is paradoxical, somewhat, to the intellect. Because it is both realized in nondualism, but is part of relativity at the same time, and so evolves.

   We have an even deeper nature beyond the Atman. This is the level of our nature that realizes it's unity or participation in the Paramatman or Oversoul or Sat Purush. The atman seems to be realized in this understanding, but higher planes may represent quantum jumps in realizing this truth. Further, not to say that this covers all the levels, there is that aspect of our nature that is the ground or nondual nature of everything: the so-called Absolute. It is best to understand this not as a plane or realm or level of identity in the normal sense. It is quite difficult to place these experiences into a conceptual model. This seems to be a general problem that many people don't want to acknowledge - for if it was straightforward to translate experience directly into good models, then surely there would be much more consensus about all this then there appears to be.

     One of many questions is: where do the lower 'selves' come from, and how do they relate to the Atman? We have outlined a possible schema in the article, "The idea of Man." on this website. We do not claim it is entirely accurate, but it mirrors much of the Sant Mat description, as far as it is describable in human language.Something like this 'happens'. A 'ray of spirit' emanates from a 'deeper source' from a higher plane, which is like a breath of spirit emanated or breathed forth. It passes through different transcendental archetypes or Ideas in formless realms that condition its nature. If one of these emanations 'choices' to pass through the 'Human Idea', it will form an Atman on the fifth plane. This Atman will be the individualization in the archetype of the Human Idea of that spirit, which becomes the seed potential for that Intelligence or atman to become Self-Realized within Absolute Realization. In a qualified nondual cosmology, like Aurobindo's, this would be seen to serve a larger function of some idea like allowing God to know Itself, or evolving God in some way. In one understanding of nondualism, there is a way in which these Ideas can have a relative truth to them, and yet they are not the Absolute truth, as this is beyond concepts of causality. There can be no improving that which is beyond perfection and imperfection. What does make potential sense is that  the Cosmic Presence emanates these rays of 'spirit-potential' are vehicles of serving the collective liberation/realization of worlds.

     Once having passed through the Human Archetype or Idea, the atman is formed at the seed of our potential to become Buddhas or Christs. It is therefore, in its nature of remaining close to the source that emanated it, and having its same nature, it partakes of a pure form of nondual realization. But this realization has the potential to interact with the local environment that it was emanated into, via the Human Idea, and both be actualized in its potential for realization, as well as to illuminate the worlds it was emanated into. From here the atman's own consciousness emanates into the anandamaya and vijnandamaya bodies, forming a formless spiritual identity that, while still more 'permanent', is able to participate in the relative experiences of time, space and form in the lower planes. This becomes the center of our nature that, although illumined by the nondual atman deeper within its nature, is, at this stage, more naturally identified with an intuitive/discriminating wisdom orientation, and is more concerned in most people with cultivating spiritual qualities (character) and relative wisdom. In service to that process, this level of selfhood will repeatedly be offered opportunity by the Nature or the Holy Spirit, the Shakti aspect of the Cosmic Presence that works through nature, to incarnate in the lower worlds through a set of three bodies. These form the temporary personality, which is fresh in each incarnation as bodies, but the elementals of thoughts, desires and emotions we have created life to life will be carried over as part of the karmic patterning of experience that we are learning through. As bodies are provided in each life, just as the atman was formed by an emanation from Beyond through the Human Idea, and the Atman emanated the permanent personality/soul, so the soul or higher self will emanate a ray of itself into the temporary bodies that make up the personality. And just as the Cosmic Presence that emanated the ray that became the Atman remains on its own plane, having both remained Itself and emanated a ray of itself, so the Atman remains on its own plane, while a ray of its consciousness/beingness mixes with the first two bodies (ananda and vijnanda) and make a new level of identity that is the soul, so too the soul or permanent personality, in emanating a ray that will mix with the lower bodies becoming the temporary personality, will also remain on its own plane as well. This is the same way as the fact that the sun can emanate rays and yet remain in the sky, so do our inner selves. Each time the ray reaches a new plane, it is further veiled, and looses some light, and forms an identity our of identifying with that sheath and its world. In its essence, there is one self, like a cord or thread that links all the apparent selves together. From the point of view of the atman, their is only one self on all these planes, and they only appear to be different. But from the point of view of the other selves, until the total nature is nondual realized, they will have their own understanding of what they are, which will cause them to believe they are separate. The soul or permanent personality, is much closer to the Atman and so has much less of this dualism, but still will not be fully nondual in its perspective until jivanmukti is achieved.

   As we grow from life to life, two things are happening. The quality of the elementals (vasanas, samskaras) of thoughts, emotions and desires that make up our personalities are gradually refined. Old ones are transformed and purified, new ones are constantly created. And as we grow the overall trend will be the refinement of these bodies and the consciousness in them, which is significantly conditioned by the quality of the elementals that are part of them. The other process that is going on is the the inner selves, soul and atman, are gradually growing in realization, which arises from the transformation of experience in a kind of upward flow or enrichment. It is as if the experience of our personalities in incarnation is food for our souls, which digest this experience and turn it into wisdom, virtue, and nondual realization. Even in the average soul with dozen or more lives of experience, these higher levels of identity have accumulated a fair amount of wisdom and character, even if this is not entirely evident in their personalities. This is because there can be a lag between the point at which a certain stage of realization is reached inwardly, and adequate transformation of the karma in the personality will allows that realization to shine through. Also, as the inner self comes to various stages of development, within its own world it can realize and express a particular level or understanding and quality of presence.

   But it is another thing altogether to express that realization in the denser bodies that make up the personality. They are not only filled with the heavier elementals of thoughts, emotions and desires generally reflecting a lower stage than the soul, but the natural state of the bodies themselves is less realized, and so it takes greater illumination from the soul to create a personality that has a given level of realization and virtue than it does for the soul to actualize that stage in its own realm. So even the permanent personality of the average soul is a rather wise being, it is just not so deeply luminous that is can illuminate three more dualistic veils 'below' it and generate a physical personality that is enlightened. Once a personal leaves incarnation, they will be gradually re-assimilated back into their soul, while their unresolved karma (as elementals on all planes) goes back into the storehouse, into a quiescent state. During this process more learning takes place as the assimilating aspects harvest wisdom from the incarnation. So, a triple process is going on in a human being. Their atman is gradually gaining richer and richer nondual realization. Their soul is getting wiser and more luminous, and the personality's karma is generally evolving (with various ups and downs) and the quality of the elementals that make up the form level character is also generally improving. As this process proceeds from life to life, the awareness of each of these levels is will overlap the others more and more. At a certain stage, the soul will have become more nondual in its realization, but not fully yet, and the personality bodies and energy/character will have become refined enough that it is much more profoundly mirroring the souls realization and will. This stage we could call 'man-making' (Sant Mat) or soul-personality integration. Daskalos, Psychosynthesis and Sant Mat, for examples, also call this stage Self-Knowledge, but they mean the self as soul, not Atman.

   When this process is very far along, where the identities of the personality and soul are basically integrated, then the personality will experience itself as soul and not be identified with the bodies anymore, and much of the wealth of realization and wisdom of the soul will be actualizing in the personality. Due to the inherent differences on the various sheaths, though, it will never be possible to fully express the soul through the personality, and so their will be much that the soul understands that the personality expression will never, in a given life, actualize of realize. But the essence of the realization of the soul level, which at this stage is a level of discriminating wisdom and virtue, illuminated by, but not yet fully identified with, the fuller nondual realization of the Atman. So even though the essential relative love/wisdom presence of the soul was first developed on the higher planes, it has now infused into the lower bodies. In subsequent incarnations, the karma of the bodies may be rather good and so more easily be made to actualize the soul realization, but this is not always the case. The next stage is that the soul, having fulfilled its 'job' of guiding, nurturing and illuminating the personality, and harvesting wisdom and character from the personality level of experience, will not be free to fully cultivate nondual realization culminating in jivanmukti. At this point not only will the nondual realization of the atman be extended further, but will deeply illuminate not only the soul levels, but, since the soul and personality are essentially integrated, then the realization will extend further downward as well. As this is an even more rarefied realization, it must be very bright in the Atman to illuminated all the way down to the physical body so that the outer personality goes beyond soul consciousness into sahaja samadhi. The Atman was always in this state, thought the richness and intensity has continued to grow, and now the personality is more and more integrated into this state. Sant Mat would call this stage God-knowledge, Daskalos would say Theosis, Vedanta sahaja or jivanmukti, Buddhist the arhat or nirvana, and Dzogchen various things like 'rigpa united with activity'.

     So why does all this happen? From an absolute point of view - it is part of the Mystery. Or - it just Is. It just sublimely, tragically, beautifully, blissfulness, catastrophically, ecstatically, poignantly Is. From a relative point of view, a human being seems to be a composite entity, having an aspect of our nature elemental forces/beings provided by the Holy Spirit/Nature as both vehicles of experience and service, through which we not only learn, but also contribute to the evolution of the very lives that make up our bodies, as well as the world around us. As these energies mix with deeper parts of our nature, it forms a suffering, deluded being that yearns for liberation, which is accomplished inevitably through the process. We are also made up an emanation from a Cosmic Intelligence, who seeds us with a ray of its own nature, out of a spirit of universal compassion and enlightenment, which acts not only as a source of grace acting from within our very own nature for our human personality, but also extends to become a source of upliftment for the whole. Humans are a multilayered sacred process though which various relative lives from particles of matter to elementals, souls, Atmans and the Cosmic Soul all interact and realize their nondual nature and serve collective evolution.

   “The man in the soul, transcending angelic being and guided by intellect, pierces to the source whence the soul flowed. There, intellect must remain outside, with all named things. There the soul is merged in pure unity. This we call the man in the soul, and you should understand it thus: the man in the soul is he who has accomplished all this, so that he needs no further help. What he did hitherto, God now works in him. God knows him as he knew Him, God loves him as he loved Him. Thus God performs all work, and the man in the soul is bare and empty of all things. You should know what a man is like who has come to this: we can well say he is God and man. Observe, he has gained by grace all that Christ had by nature, and that his body is so fully suffused with the noble essence of the soul, which she has received from God and the divine light, that we may well declare: That is a man divine! Alas, my children, you should pity these people, for they are strangers, unknown to anybody. All who ever hope to come to God may well be mistaken in these folk, for they are hard for strangers to perceive: none can truly recognize them but those in whom the same light shines. This is the light of truth.” - Meister Eckhart

   Sach Khand and the Soul - are they nondual, or is only Anami or the One nondual?

   This question arises because in Sant Mat teachings, Sach Khand ( a division of Sat Lok, or the region of Truth) is described in terms that suggest the Soul, even after dropping all of its koshas or coverings - the usual perceptual apparatus in the created realms - and being of the nature of pure consciousness - which is essentially nondual by definition - still sees light and sound and scenes of one sort of exhalted variety or another. Yet philosophical schools will insist that this can only be metaphorical, not literal. So this question is important in regards to those contemporary nondual teachings that maintain that everything that is not the One is just of the ego, that the Soul as such doesn't exist, and also esoteric schools such as Plotinus and Plato, where the Soul, while not the One, is definitely an eternal existent, and transcendant to the ego with all of its intermediate regions. Let us, therefore, look at this in some detail. Sant Darshan Singh stated:

   “After we cross the first three regions, the physical, the astral, and the causal, we reach the fountainhead of the Water of Immortality. And when we drink at that fountain, our soul is purified. It shakes off the shackles of the mind.”

   Then, in Sant Mat, after crossing the next region, the supercausal, the anandamaya kosha is shed, and one is pure Soul in a ‘realm’ known as Sach Khand, the 'native home' of the Soul. From there could be said to be the ‘flight of the alone to the alone’ - or Soul to the One - of Plotinus, or, as mystic Daskalos put it, ‘enlightened ascent to infinity’, or, in Sant Mat, absorption of the Soul into the Sat Purush which is imbedded in the Source termed Anami.

   So the question is whether in Sach Khand the Soul - as pure consciousness, with no bodies or koshas, beyond all created realms, mind and matter, as well as maya - is really seeing lights and scenes and hear sounds, or is that only metaphorical? And, is Soul and Sach Khand nondual, or is only Anami or the One nondual? First, let us propose a way of viewing the ancient aphorism, "Atman and Brahman are One", such that the criticisms of advaita (and Buddhism) regarding the non-existence of the soul or any form of individuality are put in their proper place and ancient yoga paths such as Sant Mat are not negated in an often cavalier fashion

   Atman and Brahman are One - but not the same: an attempt at clarification

   The claim that “Atman and Brahman are One” is a stumbling block in the debate between advaitic schools and those that posit the reality of a Soul. It is even imbedded in some of the Upanishads, where the two in fact are often confused. Many advaitists claim that through inquiry one realizes the truth of Atman or Brahman, the terms seemingly used interchangeably as if it really didnt matter. Yet we suggest that this can have a large impact on how one visualizes and actualizes the nature of both the path and reality. Why, one may rightly ask, have two words if there is not a distinction? While it is in one sense true to say that Atman is not the same as Brahman, in yet another sense, of course, nothing is different from Brahman. The way we would like to articulate it, however, begins by asserting that Atman is the essence of, and beyond, the five koshas, and is the first level of self-nature that has as its foundation a direct realization of its identity with Brahman. On a path of inversion or ‘ascension’, Atman would be on the fifth plane (i.e., Sach Khand in Sant Mat). Yet as all planes intepenetrate, it can said to be the reality of the subjective essence of all planes or modes of the individuated being. Atman is still ‘individualized’ - PB calls it Overself (‘individual but impersonal’) while anadi calls it Soul (‘individual impersonality’) - but it is a type of individuality that realizes all is Brahman (that which includes both individual and universal impersonality and its manifestation, and is ‘techincally’ beyond even this classification). Brahman is the totality, and 'an Atman' is an individual locus of Nondual/Brahman realization. So looked at from one point of view, they are the same, and from another, they are different. Thus those schools that speak of Self-realization and God-realization are not incorrect. Yet, the God-Realization part has many depths.

   So, is Sach Khand or Anami the main locus of nondual realization? The following is rather deep. My co-writer's comments are in italics:

   “Sach Khand is nondual enough! Beyond the higher mental or causal plane, states are formless. This means that one does not have a body in the ordinary sense. But...one way to understand how higher planes relate to lower planes is that increasingly higher planes are more essential than the lower. So anything that exists or expresses on a lower plane will be found in essence on higher planes. This is because these are planes of universality, soul, archetype, Pure Ideas, Laws, Principles. The are realms of formless Mind, Divine Abstraction, Universality. So space does exist there, but it is Space as a Platonic Idea, and it can be explored and realized through attunement and at-one-ment, rather than through senses or reason, which gives a more profound, intuitive realization of it. So, too, the senses exist in essence form in these 'worlds', but there we do not have concrete names or even distinct or discrete sounds as in the lower, individualized dimensions, but universal sound patterns that are the vibrations of the souls of beings and things and ultimately of the Sat Purush. The deeper the plane, though, the more apparently different experiences/ideas like senses, mind/understanding, experiencer and experienced, are all collapsing into a more nondual type of experience. Light, for instance, isn't any longer a medium of sense contact with an object that is perceived to be separate - Light is the knowing of a being or principle, it is the Light and you are the Light and the L:ight is the Knowing of it all at once. So light does not bridge a gap of separation between you and what is perceived, it is the very experience of the Knowing of it, and in that moment of Knowing you and it/they and the Knowing and the Light are all the same. So it is and isn't Light, as a human being knows it. It is the nondual essence of Light. Or Sound. Or Feeling. Or Time. Or Space. And so on. And all of this arises as such because it is held in, and is inseparable from, the emptiness or suchness which is the nondual nature of everything Known.”

   “To my mind, anyone talking any more concretely than this about the nature of experience in planes beyond the causal as having bodies, senses, locations, scenery or whatever, is talking metaphorically.”

   “Granted, it is extremely difficult for us to describe or conceptualize the difference between Sach Khand and Anami, or Soul and the Absolute. But here is an attempt. All levels are 'expressions' or 'part of' the nondual or primordial reality, but Sach Khand or Soul or Overself is a state of realizing this truth within Relativity. Sach Khand is a type of Anami or the One, but actualized or realized within Relativity, at least to a greater extent than Anami itself, which is 'beyond' Relativity, but also the seed of the state of Sahaja Samadhi when actualized in physical consciousness. The peace emanating from Sach Khand or the Soul is the blessed result of Divine Grace liberating one from the craving for separate existence. Anami or the Absolute is radically transcendental and cannot be described at all, but is certainly not 'inferior' to Sach Khand, which, as its direct, inseparable expression, cannot also not really be spoken of in human language adequately. It is true, though, that often experiences of any of these states do not at once lead to profound transformation of our human nature. Hence, different degrees of 'adeptship'. But actual mastery of access to these states, especially as attained in higher realms of existence, because it infuses our being and consciousness with such illumination, wholeness and love, can be very purifying, inspiring and fortifying, and even add to our wisdom. Much depends on one's prior understanding and overall maturity. For ultimately it is wisdom that is liberating, by whatever path we attain it."

   "To put this another way, Anami, as experienced exclusively in inversion, is a form of nondual realization that is not one that is being experienced as actualized within the context of relativity. Sach Khand is, although it is actualized within the formless planes. Sahaja samadhi, however, is the form of nondual realization that is actualized on every plane of Relativity. Anami and Sach Khand are both seeds of sahaja, while also the already existent presense of nondual realization that is eventually manifested as sahaja."

   "More concisely, Anami, Sach Khand, and sahaja samadhi are all forms of nondual realization experienced in different contexts. Therefore, in their essence, they are the same. We can say, however, that sahaja represents an important stage in the individual's process of enlightenment as they illuminate all the bodies with nondual realization, culminating in its realization on all planes, not just Sach Khand and above. From the point of view of the human desire to attain liberation, sahaja samadhi is 'better', not because it is different in its essence from Anami or Sach Khand, but because it represents the fulfillment of realizing nondualism at the level of human nature that expresses the liberation of human nature from dualism and personal suffering. Realization of nondualism in inversion in higher planes (such as Sach Khand and Anami) deeply transforms the essence of individuality that has inverted and absorbed itself into those levels as an 'inner' experience, but, until that same nondual realization is manifested, such experiences do not yet necessarily represent the stage for the individual of illuminating the lower consciousness with enlightenment. Only to a degree. Not completely yet. So it is possible to, for instance, gain access in trance to experiences of the nondual nature or essence of reality, but not yet have attained sahaja samadhi, because the latter requires integrating that into the lower planes. So the essence of nondual realization is the same at any level, but, from a relative point of view, we can talk about ways and stages of realization and actualization of it."

   "One more thing. Just as there is an individual who is ignorant (from a relative point of view), so only 'individuals' can be enlightened. Ignorance and enlightenment both happen to individuals. And therefore the Soul is not an 'obstacle' but an intrinsic element of enlightenment itself, a necessary locus for this actualization, in contrast to what many nondual teachers may assert to the contrary."

   Even in Sant Mat, then, there may be a 'stage' beyond Anami, which would be full integration of the relative nature, in thought, feeling, will, and intelligence, with the Anami realization, as true and complete sahaj samadhi or its equivalent as described in many teachings. This would be Nanak's, "truth is above all, but higher still is true living." This cannot just be handed over by a guru. It is a product of long discipline and development. Even if it could be granted, in most cases one would not be able to bear the strain. Kirpal used to say to people who even asked for just higher experiences, "If a parent was asked by his child for poison, would he give it to him?" The rapid infusion of light would reveal so much of our dark nature that we would be overwhelmed with the worst in us, which must be faced gradually to be safely achieved. For any real enlightenment must be an integral one. Similarly, one longtime devotee who had done much intimate service asked Kirpal to 'take him up' to higher planes, and Kirpal replied, "well, that sort of thing could be done, but I am afraid that you would not be able to carry on here once you came back. Plus there is still some work the Lord still wants to take from you." The message here is also that in Sant Mat much is veiled until the necessary karma is cleared, and the more karma you have volunteered (knowingly or unknowingly) to be cleared, will determine when and how much in the way of such experiences one will have in this life. The second point, as mentioned, is that it is wisdom that ultimately liberates consciousness, not just experience - even seemingly of the highest kind. The meaning of any experience must be extracted, not just the having of the experience, which isn't always an automatic result. One must rationally and intuitively understand and embody one's experience for enlightenment to turn into liberation. There must be the moral development, both seeing the negatives in oneself, amending them, and also actualizing the positives, that is, aspiring towards one's sacred ideal. The good, the true - and the ancient Greeks would add the beautiful - must simultaneously become known. There is no having the one without the others. In fact, they are synonymous. So the path is a delicate and complex matter.

   “Can we then even speak of the longing of the Soul as existing between Sach Khand and Anami, or from the Soul to the One, in the same way as the emanant of the Soul in the created realms 'longs' for its source in Sach Khand? Not really, as desire has been so illumined by the time one 'reaches' the state or realm (for it is both) of Sach Khand that from there to Anami it does not feels like longing any more. Human terms are simply too difficult to apply there.”

   The Sants simply call the force propelling the Soul onwards and higher "love". Anami is the "ocean of Love", the "wonder region," yet, paradoxically, also described as without attributes, in almost every school. For some it may seem rather cold and impersonal to pass from Sach Khand to 'nirguna' Anami, or from relative Divinity to a transcendental Void. However, this great Void is the 'fullness of Reality', and such concerns are unjustified. The same trepidation may be said of the transition to each higher, more abstract and formless plane, such as from the lower to higher astral, or from the astral to the causal, and so on. This is due to one's attachment to the lower nature. It is not just our blemishes but our limited understanding that holds us back. But as one matures, the more subtle qualities of the higher (which contain the essence of the lower, so nothing is really 'lost') becomes more appealing and attractive.

   "From what I do know, and also from various other sources I have read and encountered, it works like something like this: each plane can seem, especially the higher ones, when viewed from lower planes, like they are more 'empty', have less 'juice', are less appealing. This is due to one still being attached to some relatively lower level of experience. But however sublime the states may be, adequate experience will eventually lead the practitioner to ripen into an attraction to what is beyond, and to become 'disillusioned' with the lower planes, as they are more veiled and therefore reflect less of the fullness of the transcendent reality. If one tries to approach a higher plane or realm before one is ripe, it may appear boring, confusing or even scary. But with adequate ripeness, it will begin to appear more profoundly fulfilling, blissful, complete and sublime. By the time one reaches Sach Khand, the veiling is so thin that the radical, primordial Reality is shining through so much that the sense of oneself as separate or needing anything else is deeply eclipsed by absorption in nondual Presence. From here to Beyond, human language fails complete to not only describe the State, but also to explain why one 'goes higher', or 'does' anything at that stage. Perhaps one could say that it is not one's individual will or longing or desire or aspiration that leads one further, but the very nature and momentum of spirit and the Universal Will that brings the Spirit to Anami. But frankly, these are terribly inadequate words. From another point of view we could say that, since some very fine veils still remain, that the power of one's realization, and one's communion with the Transcendental, continue to fuel a process that inevitably leads to higher and higher states of realization. For these are not simply realms of immense quiet and stillness and peace, but unimaginable realms of transcendental realization."

   While difficult to put into words, nevertheless the saints have tried to 'describe' it, albeit metaphorically. Plotinus also makes a lyrical attempt, which we shall soon see, which puts a sublime feeling in the heart.

   First, however, how do we reach there, knowing that our source in 'Sach Khand' is also our True Nature? The sages have always placed a great emphasis on the developing of intense longing as preliminary. True, some teachers, both traditional and modern, say longing is a desire, and all desires are of the ego, and thus to be eliminated. But previously one had a million desires, and now there is only one. And, as Paul Brunton wrote, "since the last act in this spiritual drama is played by the Higher Power, why not let it decide what to do concerning the matter?" (10dd) Sri Nisargadatta calls this ‘earnestness', or the ‘homing instinct’. How to achieve such a quality, such a state - which is natural to our Soul - is what the quest is all about, to which there are many, many aspects. A simple analogy may be derived from the natural world. To get fruit, what must happen? First, there is preparation of the ground. Then a seed is planted - maybe many seeds. Then the tree begins to grow. To get fruit, first here will be blossoms. Before the blossoms appear, there must be rain. Need this be explained? Preparation of the ground is the building of an ethical base: self-control, kindness, truthfulness, patience, ahimsa, and the enduring of the furnace or tapas of psycho-physical purification, a key to which is faith and trust in the adept's influence. The sowing of seeds are good thoughts, words, and deeds. The rain are our tears of longing, born of the conscious experience of separation. No tears, no blossoms. As PB states:

   "It is better for his real progress that his eyes should fill with tears of repentance than with the tears of ecstasy." (10ddd)

   The blossoms are insight and compassion for others. The fruit is the true man, and it falls when it is ripe, as we pass into a higher life. PB speaks of this quality of longing, of aspiration, as follows:

   “Aspiration which is not just a vague and occasional wish but a steady settled and intense longing for the Overself is a primary requirement. Such aspiration means the hunger for awareness of the Overself, the thirst for experience of the Overself, the call for union to the Overself. It is a veritable power which lifts one upward, which helps one give up the ego more quickly, and which attracts Grace. It will have these desirable effects in proportion to how intensely it is felt and how unmixed it is with other personal desires.” (10dddd)

   This longing - in a rarified and essential form - may justifiably be said to be what 'carries' the Soul, already beyond time and space, to ultimate union with its own, higher Principle(s), its own Source. Potinus calls these the Nous and the One, in Sant Mat, Anami. However, it does not reside there permanently (again, limited language as she is also eternally one with it), but 'returns' as Soul, since she is herself eternal. In fact, Soul and the One, or Anami, are so closely related that Kirpal once wrote that between a Sant (one who has access to the fifth plane, or Sach Khand), and a Param Sant (one who reaches to the eighth plane - Anami) 'there is no difference except in nomenclature'. Was he purposely vague? I don't think so, just facing difficulty translating transcendental experience into human terms. Plotinus tries, however, and speaks of it beautifully:

   “Suppose the soul to have attained: the highest has come to her, or rather has revealed its presence; she has turned away from all about her and made herself apt, beautiful to the utmost, brought into likeness with the divine - by those preparings and adornings which come unbidden to those growing ready for the vision - she has seen that presence suddenly manifesting within her, for there is nothing between: here is no longer a duality but a two in one; for, so long as the presence holds, all distinction fades: it is as lover and beloved here, in a copy of that union, long to blend; the soul has now no further awareness of being in body and will give herself no foreign name, not man, not living being, not being, not all; any observation of such things falls away; the soul has neither time nor taste for them; This she sought and This she has found and on This she looks and not upon herself; and who she is that looks she has not leisure to know. Once There she will barter for This nothing the universe holds; not though one would make over the heavens entire to her; than This there is nothing higher, nothing of more good; above This there is no passing; all the rest however lofty lies on the down-going path: she is of perfect judgement and knows that This was her quest, that nothing higher is. Here can be no deceit; where could she come upon truer than the truth? and the truth she affirms, that she is herself; but all the affirmation is later and is silent. In this happiness she knows beyond delusion that she is happy; for this is no affirmation of an excited body but of a soul be come again what she was in the time of her early joy [as Soul]. All that she had welcomed of old - office, power, wealth, beauty, knowledge - of all she tells her scorn as she never could had she not found their better; linked to This she can fear no disaster, nor even once she has had the vision; let all about her fall to pieces, so she would have it that she may be wholly with This, so huge the happiness she has won to.” (10ddddd)

   He here gives the One attributes (i.e., ‘happiness’), although elsewhere he does not. Such is the paradox these sages face in describing what can not truly be described.

   So, study this with discrimination and see if it fits. We think the saints are being kind to us in their descriptions of these lofty states, which are truly beyond human imagination - when they say one will see 'God as a person', or that the master's form, after undergoing transformations in the different subtle planes, will be seen once again as a man on a throne in Sach Khand - but this analysis correlates with the Buddhist explanation of the realms of form and formlessness, as well as with that of some traditional Hindu yoga schools.

   Sant Mat and Non-Duality continued

   "If we wish to overcome duality, we must allow love to take possession of us. As this love takes greater hold, the sense of ego begins to disappear, and God increasingly fills our heart." - Darshan Singh (Streams of Nectar, Chapter 17)

   "The difference between knowledge and love is that knowledge continually tries to banish duality but love retains it as a precious treasure and itself remains without duality." (Philosophy of the Masters, Series Two, p. 188)

   Here is another way of looking at non-dual realization in terms of Sant Mat. In the state of nondual presence (atmic realization, rigpa), when integrated with human experience, there is awareness of the world as sensations, thoughts, desires, emotions, and so on, and even advanced experiences like the Sat Purush. But, as these phenomena arise, they are accompanied by a lucid wisdom, a direct spiritual realization (beyond not only intellect but even intuition) that each phenomena that arises in one's consciousness is actually buddha-nature (or whatever one wishes to call it - emptiness, the Tao, Brahman). So there is a kind of dual perception where maya presents itself to nondual presence/ awareness, moment to moment, as experiences of apparently separate phenomena, and remaining rigpa or atmic vision means that one does not slip into experiencing this phenomena as of a separate nature from oneself. The witness is empty. The phenomena is empty. The Sat Purush is empty. Nothing but emptiness witnessing emptiness. The power of this realization liberates the phenomena that is arising as well, so that the karmic power driving some of these phenomena is liberated by the power inherent in the fact that one 'perceived them nondually' (to use a clumsy phrase). This state is different than nirodha, or internal nirvikalpa samadhi, in which all phenomena have temporarily ceased arising. Many Vedantists immersion in this kind of nirvikalpa can have great power to enhance the clarity of one's nondual realization, but it has no power to liberate remaining karma/vasanas because they are not being allowed to arise so the can be liberated in the presence of nondual realization. They have been set aside in order to enter nirvikalpa trance. But it may be that this state does strengthen the state of rigpa or nondual presence when one does re-emerge. [That is the value of repeated immersion in the shabda-brahman and higher planes].

   In Dzogchen various stages of nondual contemplation are described that are determined by the depth of power one has developed in the intensity of rigpa or atmic realization, so that, for instance, vasanas may need to arise repeatedly to be fully liberated, while in the more advanced stages the liberation of vasanas is instantaneous. Further, advanced Togal practices are employed to cause a more enhanced expansion of nondual realization that is more like turning on a light in a room full of karmas, liberating many at once rather than in succession, as vasanas usually arise in human consciousness. But all this business of karmas/samskara/vasanas being liberated as they arise in nondual presence is really a relative and progressive view of what is happening. In the state of rigpa, there is not concept of changing, liberating, transforming, purifying. All phenomena arising are seen as a nondual energetic (shakti) display of one's own nature, self- perfected from the beginning, and not obscuring anything. At a higher stage, the practitioner gains the ability to access the nondual view or realization, but only in meditation. The karmas that remain in one's nature are experienced as an obstruction that block out nondual awareness, but one has the ability to use one's will to penetrate through the obscurations and enter 'the view' at will, nondual presence, rigpa. At an even higher stage, one is continously stabilized in nondual realization, but some personal karma remains. This would be just before Sach Khand, if one is practicing non-dual vision simultaneously with meditation. But one's point of view is that these karmas, arising in one's experience, are no longer 'in between' oneself and emptiness, causing obscuration. It is as if one has moved to the other side of the cloud of thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. that continue to arise, but now one experiences them as nondual, so they are no longer experienced as an obstruction to nondual realization. This is a harder realization to attain than simply accessing nondual realization in trance, because in the latter, one has set aside these apparent obscurations to make it easier to see behind them to emptiness. This can help gain access to the nondual state of presence, but it will not be stabilized in one's ordinary awareness until it has gained an intensity werein phenomena are no longer experienced as an  obstruction to  realization, and further, each moment of phenomena  is fully  experienced nondually, on all planes. This takes greater  intensity of realization. In Sach Khand, personal karma has been exhausted, so that the  intensity of nondual presence is not only greater, but is more  fully integrated with the lower bodies, releasing more of their   latent potential for expression. This is probably why there  has been debate in Vedanta about whether nirvikalpa or sahaj samadhi is Self- Realization. Technically nirvikalpa feels like liberation,  and in a  very real sense, is, because one is in a liberated state of presence. But one's karma is not fully liberated until Sainthood is reached, so one could say that the bodies will express a higher degree of liberation at that stage, especially the causal body.

   As each plane is mirrored in every other plane, then Sach Khand, for instance, has a reflection in each form dimension. Every incarnate master who is in atmic or nondual realization is a type of reflection of Sach Khand in the physical world. 'Shambhala' would be the planetary manifestation of a kingdom that reflects Sach Khand in the physical world (though many believe, as makes sense to me, that this would be more 'etheric' physical, as that is the physical subplane that mirrors Sach Khand). Since each plane reflects a version of each other in a way that is conditioned by the reflected plane, the reflection of the lower planes in the higher is more difficult to comprehend, as it realized as the essences of lower manifestations. So, for instance, we do not have earthy objects in the formless planes, but the Idea/essence of the earth element as a pure light/sound/Idea exists there. So, too, does Time exist there, but as a pure Idea, not as an sequence of events and a sense of duration.

   There is a reflection of Sach Khand on all three of the lower planes, and it is perfectly real. It is not someone's imagining of it. It is just as real as any physical place, though in a certain relative sense, it is more real, as it vibrates with a much greater sense of Beingness, or Reality, and so leaves one with a more powerful sense of the 'substance' of it than physical experience does, by comparison. But, when talking about journeying to higher planes, if we are talking about the deepest meaning of moving plane by plane, withdrawing from each body in turn until reaching Atman/Sach Khand, then it would be more allegorical to talk of form environments and such, even though that is very real too. The formless experience of Sach Khand, though to our ordinary human nature may sound unappealingly impersonal or abstract, is actually even more sublime in its purity than the form level reflection. But since the part of our nature that is attuned to that level is, whether form or formless, in a more nondual state, then the difference doesn't matter so much.

   In a sense the higher realms intermediate between the lower three worlds and the divine planes are the realms of Platonic Ideas and Ideal Forms, not forms in the material sense, but the abstract archetypes upon which manifestation is based, as well as the primal causes behind manifestation. Some of the keys to understanding the realms to my mind are these:

   (1) From a nondual point of view, the essence of the realms must be the same. Ultimately the essence of all planes is Brahman or the Nondual.

   (2) At the level of dualism, again the nature of the planes is the same. So if a lower plane can be said to be 'material', then in some essential way, all the planes are material. And if some planes can be said to be planes of spirit, then all planes must be spirit in some sense. Since one meaning of Spirit is the Nondual, which is not against or in contrast to anything, then when we say that the higher planes are purely or deeply spiritual, then what does this mean? They are spiritual in two ways. They more readily reflect 'realization' of the Nondual, so they seem more spiritual than the lower planes. But the lower planes can reflect nondual realization as well, as in sahaja samadhi, so that is not a characteristic that is limited to the higher planes. The atman may be the part of us that always realizes its nondual nature, but all planes can do that. So another meaning of spiritual that can be applied to the higher planes is that they are more universal. This is a key understanding. The nondual and the universal are not the same, though they are often confused. The universal is part of relativity and duality, for it gets its meaning in counterrelationship to the particular, the individual, the specific.

   (3) All of the planes, then, represent a spectrum of states from what, to our dualistic perception, will appear at one end of the spectrum as a plane of almost pure form, the material plane all the way up to a plane that is almost pure Spirit or Mind, ultra-universal. This last plane reaches into the very foundations of the essence of mind and consciousness itself, like the notion of Unity, Polarity, Selfhood, Infinity, or Eternality. These kinds of Pure Ideas, liberated from being perceived as being tied to any specific manifestation of them, form the very highest planes - Luminous, Eternal, Infinite, Expansive, Liberated. But they are not the final nondual, because they are part of a spectrum of experience from form to formless, specific to universal, finite to infinite, which still partakes of dualism, and so is not fully liberated, in the original Buddhist sense.

   (4) The formless, Mind, universal planes are planes of greater wholeness, cohesion and unity, because the nature of Formless Abstraction is that is moves deeper and deeper into identification with Categories of Reality, Universal Ideas, Principles, Archetypes and Laws. We shift our focus from the realm of particulars that these Universals are the Soul of, the underlying Formative Patterns that hold all specific forms in shape, as well as provide the forces that interrelate forms as laws from Love and Gravity to Karma and Time, to the realm of Universal, and we will feel timeless, blissful, whole, unified, silent, peaceful. This provides a powerful foundation for nondual realization, but is not the same.

   (5) It is easier to reflect nondual realization in our nature that exists in these higher planes, so if we journey to, or attune to, this higher level aspect of ourselves, we will not only be aware of the universals (sometimes, at first, only as simple qualities like silence and eternity), but we will also connect with a level of our nature that has already developed a good measure of nondual realization. This can confuse people about the nature of these planes, making people believe their inherent nature is nondual realization. That is kind of true, but not really.

   (6) The planes can be looked at as existing in a continuum divided into three main groups. The first set of planes is dominated by form, bodies, objects, individuality, matter. The highest set is dominated by Spirit, Universality, Pure Mind. The third set of planes is in the middle between these two, and has a relatively greater balance of spirit and matter, universality and individuality. (7) There are three form planes - physical, emotional and mental (this last is really a material form of mind, not true Universal, Abstract Mind. It is filled with images, words and other forms of mind that are very personal, earth bound, form-based.)

   (8) The highest three planes are planes of pure Mind - Universality. It is very hard to name these planes. The lowest of these is the fifth plane counting from the densest, most material, and is the home of our Atman. (9) The middle plane, making seven in all, is the plane of spiritual intuition.

   (10) All the planes have seven subdivisions that mirror the greater seven planes. So, for instance, the physical plane has seven subdivision, the highest three being ethereal or energetic/pranic, and is the formative foundation for the dense body. These three levels mirror the highest three planes, which in the larger divisions are the 'ethereal, Universal Planes. This etheric or pranic aspect of the physical level of our bodies is where the seven chakras are to be found. These have a profound relationship to the seven major planes, but also have other levels of meaning and functioning. The other four planes are the planes of earth, water, fire and air. They make up the dense physical body. (11) The next two planes are also planes of form, so they are realms of shape, form, bodies, environments, objects, events, etc. They are also divided into the etheric aspect and the dense aspect. They are the astral and mental. The dense aspect of the mental plane can be called the concrete mind, as it is the aspect of our human intelligence that visualizes and names forms. The etheric aspect of the mental plane can also be called the higher or abstract mind or mental body. In some systems it is called the causal body. It is used by the higher self (atma/buddhi) for interacting with the lower planes.

   (12) The fourth plane, the intuitive, is more formless, being in the middle, but still has what some have called 'formless form'. It is a meeting place between the higher and the lower, and a plane where the levels of pure mind can interact with form, and a level where our form-based human consciousness can begin to look directly into the more purely Universal planes.

   (13) Mirroring the larger pattern of dividing the planes into three groups, this middle, soul/intuitive plane can be also divided into three levels. In Sant Mat the lower aspect, which is more 'tainted' with form, is Daswan Dwar, and the higher, etheric aspect is Bhanwar Gupha. This latter is the threshold to the higher trinity of planes. The exact mid-point, an point of profound equilibrium and balance between the lower and higher, is the fourth sub-plane of the fourth plane. This is called Mahasunn is Sant Mat. The place of perfect balance is also the point of darkness.

   (14) Beyond all the planes is the ground of them all - the Nondual, the Absolute. This reality can be accessed in different ways. The part of one's nature that is identified with the densest plane, the physical, and ascends through the planes, thus gathers experience and a more balanced relationship to all of them, and can then experience transcending them all 'through to the top', in which case the nondual will seem like it is another plane above the seven planes (or nine if you count the subdivisions of the intuitive). But it is also possible to pierce through the planes directly to the nondual from any plane. Doing this will also bring with it increasing access to all the other planes, as this liberates one from the dualistic identifications that give rise to the separate planes in the first place, so they all become accessible from the base of nondualism.

   (15) In this schemata, the anandamayakosha is the same as the intuitive body. As this is a plane that still has a balance of spirit and matter, the matter aspect gives rise to 'bodiness'. But as it is relatively more formless, partaking deeply of the qualities of the higher planes, it does not have the kind of shape the lower bodies do. It is a formless body. Hence it blissfulness. This body is also beyond the vijnandamayakosha (discriminative sheath), so lacking the more dualistic judgmentalness of that sheath, the anandamaya is free of self-judgment, guilt, condemnation, and the like, which is another reason it is blissful. It is not the bliss of SatChitAnanda, though. The latter is the bliss of nondual awakening. This sheath is the home of a very conscious aspect of ourselves. In the average person, it is not as nondual realized as the Atman, but it is wise and compassionate. If the average person where to immerse themselves in the anandamayakosha without actually transforming into the consciousness of that level of realization, it would go into an kind of unconscious blissful sleep, deep sleep. That does not mean that this body is an unconscious body, but rather that is how the ordinary jiva or incarnated self would experience that level. But if one is raised to that level by transforming into the anandamayakosha-self, one would experience a great illumination and expansion of consciousness. It is only one veil removed from the atman. Kirpal Singh said that it is almost like an integral part of the Soul itself.

   A few words might be said about the Intuitive Body, midway between the lower three bodies and the spiritual planes above, as this is not discussed very much in any of the literature. Although not having a three-dimensional shape like the physical, astral and mental bodies, and also being beyond time and space as experienced in the psychophysical levels, the intuitive body does have a kind of ‘formless form’ and as such is still considered a ‘body’ or ‘sheath’ that covers the innermost Self, Spirit or atman. The intuitive body contains the pure archetypes, ideas and principles that form the foundational matrix for our more concrete personality and physical life. The intuitive body is also the more permanent aspect of our reincarnating identity, being the body where the seeds of karma generated in each incarnation, as well as in our experiences in the astral and mental worlds, are stored between incarnations. It is also the level of our nature where the essential wisdom and character developed through each incarnation is integrated and preserved. While each of the three more spatially manifested bodies (physical, astral and mental) have seven major chakras, along with the primary channels or nadis, that form the foundation of each body, the intuitive body contains a more essential version of these etheric centers that expresses as a single, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional chakra or lotus that is the essence of the intuitive body of a human being. This may be called the ‘soul body’ and has also been called the ‘egoic lotus’. As this ‘meta-body’ or lotus manifests on the lower planes, beginning at the etheric mental level, it differentiates into a more three-dimensional shape with seven spatially distinct chakras and numerous lesser centers and channels. The intuitive body has been called the karana sarira or ‘causal body’ in yoga, the ananda-maya-kosa in Vedanta, the soul or higher self, and the permanent personality (Daskalos). This level of consciousness and identity is but one level removed from the atman or liberated spiritual Self.

   (16) The vijnandamayakosha correlates to the higher mental body - the reasoning, discriminating, thinking body. When this sheath is illuminated with higher realization, it becomes a source of relative wisdom and moral discrimination.

   (17) The manomayakosha is a combination of the lower mind and the emotional bodies. It is also sometimes called the kama-manas, or desire-mind.

   (18) The pranamayakosha is the etheric physical body, with chakras, nadis, and meridians.

   (19) The annamayakosha is the dense physical body, the lower 4 subplanes. The body dependent on food.

   (20) Ultimately all the planes are actually interpenetrating, so that manifest throughout the whole form dimension are the universal dimension. They have no meaning without each other. And, implicit within universals are their particulars that 'express' them. The two realities are mutually interdependent and co-arising. So, if one deeply investigates the physical realm, one will gradually discover the underlying univerals that the physical is founded on, and so will find the univeral expressed in the particular, and the particular implicit in the universal. We can separate them out in our consciousness for various purposes, but in nondual awareness we grow in our appreciation of their profound interdependence. This is a basis for the jnana path.

   Karma, as such, is 'plane specific'. Any attachment or aversion to anything and a given plane forms a karmic link to that plane. This is one way of looking at things. One is liberated from a plane by ceasing to be anything but purely equanimous towards it. This can be accomplished in various ways, but results in the same thing. One must not only cease to be currently tied to that plane, but must also neutralize past tendencies of attachment or aversion formed in relation to that plane. Since the physical is the coarsest plane, it is generally easiest to develop equanimity towards that plane first, then refine our detachment and realization towards subtler worlds. More advanced initiates are developing a most sublime form of nondual realization that comes from complete indifference even to the most sublime formless realms. This, of course, is the hardest level of equanimity to develop.

   Since the three bodies are the ones that are the lower three vehicles that are temporary with each incarnation and define our human nature as beings manifest in form, when one has completed karma at those levels, one is fully liberated from human karma. There are two ways to define liberation, one, as a state of mind, and, two, as freedom from karma. At the fifth level (Sach Khand)one is both in a nondual state of mind and has fully exhausted all three levels of human karma. At the fourth level (Banwhar Gupta) one is also in a 'liberated' state of mind, sahaja, but the very subtle mental/causal karmas are not yet fully exhausted. But this is not so much karma that it obscures the ability of the individual to remain in a nondual state in which they no longer experience dualism, nor do they experience the remaining karma as a problem. Since they are in the nondual view at the fourth already, they are liberated, though they have some remaining subtle or causal karma. The inner realization of a master is uneffected by whether or not they have karma yet to play out. But if there is some karma left, some integration to achieve, it will contribute to conditioning the manifestation of the body(s) of the master. Thus there may be greater degrees of Mastery despite realization of Sach Khand.

   In Sant Mat, there are apparently considered to be several levels beyond the Atman: Alak, Agam, and Anami, the latter variously also called Nirala, Radhasoami, Maha Dayal, etc.. These levels are also recognized by many schools such as in Buddhism, some schools of Hinduism (Sri Yukteswar, for example), and certain schools of Western esotericism. They may have been referred to by even Zen Master Seng Ts'an as the "realms of Suchness." One reference speaks of Hakuin referring to eternal realms for the Srakakas and Pratyekabuddhas (Arhants), Bodhisattvas, and the Buddha, beyond the tradtional six cyclic samsaric realms of birth and death. The Tushita heaven is mentioned as the liberated abode where await the Bodhisattvas destined to incarnate on this earth as Buddhas. Shakyamuni was said to have waited there. This sounds much like Sach Khand.

   Beyond all planes of the relative universe is Brahman or the Tao, the nondual or primordial reality. The Nondual is beyond all these levels and yet is the essential nature of all levels. No level is closer to Nondual than another, although some levels, particularly the subtlest three, are much more conducive to direct realization of the nondual or Absolute. We can group the highest planes together as formless planes that give easier access to increasingly liberated nondual realization. In these planes or levels one’s awareness and being are not only infused with direct perception of the Absolute, but also an awareness of one’s relative Self or Atman (rigpa in Dzogchen) as liberated and luminous, and being of the same substance as the Absolute. Here one also encounters the Universal Presence or Logos, the essence of all awakened Being. But even the realization one has on these planes grows, and so we must not equate these worlds with a particular level of developed enlightenment.

   The densest three planes are the most veiled. These are often called the realms of separation or maya, not because they are intrinsically less divine, but because these realms are characterized by a perception that everyone and everything is separate, limited and imperfect. Remember, each of these worlds are really states of consciousness or understanding, even though the greater maya or ‘veiledness’ of the densest realms gives rise to the illusion or appearance of concrete forms, beings and an objective universe.

   Once again, the intermediate or intuitive plane is a transitional realm, with two or three divisions, depending on classification, partaking of the characteristics of both the higher and lower trinities. It is therefore a kind of doorway between the formless realms of nondual illumination, and the more concrete realms of form, time, space and activity. We might also say that the subtlest three planes are planes of purely universal states, and the densest planes are the realms more dominated by awareness of particulars. The middle realm is the realm of intuitive awareness of the interrelation of the universal and the particular, the unity in diversity.

   Even though the higher worlds, being less veiled, can make access to nondual realization easier to develop, this direct perception of the nondual can be had from any plane or world, because each level can be purified and transformed so that it can reflect the Absolute. And each level gives a new richness to nondual realization, so that until nondual realization is developed in all levels, one has not yet developed the fullest, most balanced awakening.

   All of the planes and bodies interpenetrate. There is only one reality, although we must respect the apparently real distinction between the absolute and the relative, which have their own laws, until we achieve full transcendance. All planes are aspects of one truth, the truth of our individual nature and the nature of the universe (the macrocosm being in the microcosm). In Tibetan Buddhism they speak of the three kayas: Dharmakaya (or body of truth), Sambhogakaya (or body of light), and Nirmanakaya, (or physical body). Everyone has these, but they may be experienced both from a dualistic or enlightened point of view. The totally realized individual may manifest these bodies at will, for the sake of others. Thus, the Perfect Master has a human body, A Radiant form, and a Truth 'Body' or Sat Purush. In the non-dual perspective or complete realization of the adept, all of these and their corresponding energies and/or worlds may be enjoyed separately and non-dualistically as spontaneous manifestations of ones own true nature, while also knowing that they are not in essence separate from one another. They represent unlimited possibilities for the completed, non-dually realized Master, who can therefore meet you and be with you at all times and anywhere, since, in truth, he is not separate from you either. One need only be open and available to this truth. That one must do, yet even if one lacks this capacity, even then Grace will find a way to make itself own. That is one special gift of this Path. One initiate wrote:

   "Sant Kirpal Singh often repeated, “If you knew how much I love you, you would be dancing all around kissing the ground and hugging the trees.” How can we understand these words correctly? The lucky souls who have been honored with the gift of this peerless heavenly Light and Celestial Music are the most blessed beings on this planet. Such like grace is unfathomable, and incomprehensible..It is a love that has no burden, knows no burden and beatifies everything it touches. It is a love which is eternal, everlasting and unconditional. It is in fact the Love of our Creator for us...I had the truly amazing blessing to be with His Holiness Sant Kirpal Singh in Kashmir, India in 1973...As it happened the great Master had taken us on a picnic one afternoon to a remote spot near a sparkling river at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. The scene could not have been more idyllic. The snowcapped Himalayas glistened in the distance, their scintillating presence encircling us like great ancient kings. We sat on the banks of a gushing river with water as clear and pure as a heavenly fountain. On either side lush green grass and tall pine trees cloistered around us providing shade from the afternoon sun. Master Darshan who was then the gurmukh disciple of Sant Kirpal Singh, began reciting some of his poetry in praise of Hazur Baba Sawan Singh. Suddenly a great wave of love descended upon us permeating every particle of our being. At one point he remarked, “It is a great blessing to have a living Master.” Master Kirpal abruptly interrupted him and added, “No it is the greatest blessing.” His words were so charged with love everyone immediately fell into a kind of divine stupor. With those words a single tear gracefully fell from Master’s eye and with it all creation seemed to weep. We too were carried off by this heavenly rain of grace and every eye became filled with these precious pearls of divine love. To this day, I cannot find words to express the immense love and grace I have felt then and now. Having met these great beings of Light even once in my life would have been a blessing beyond my comprehension. But to have spent countless hours, days, weeks, and months in their divine presence is a gift which is unfathomable. Each of these great Masters Param Sant Kirpal Singh, Gracious Master Sant Darshan Singh and His Holiness Sant Rajinder Singh is a gift to humanity so immense it is beyond human description and reckoning. Each has brought such precious and wondrous gifts of love and compassion to each of us and to millions of souls. How can one repay such blessings? Such divine grace is worth sacrificing thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of hearts. I am constantly and continually in awe of their unending beauty, love and perfection."

   Each of these planes of consciousness has seven subplanes that mirror the major planes. The subtlest three subplanes of the form planes are called the etheric aspect or dimension of each plane. The three lower worlds, being realms of form, time and space, are populated by many forms of life, and are made up of countless worlds and landscapes. Just as the physical universe is made up of vast numbers of worlds such as subatomic realms, jungles, oceans, continents, planets, solar systems, galaxies, and so on, so too the astral and mental planes comprise an even greater variety of these realms, all just as relatively ‘real’ as the physical universe. So, for instance, there are astral and mental dimensions that are equally a part of the total reality of our planet, where there are events and dramas transpiring that affect the totality of the Earth. The psychological worlds (astral and mental) are populated by countless beings, all inhabiting regions that resonate with their karmic conditions. Subsequently, the various realms may be categorized according to their level of consciousness and karma, which we find named in various traditions by such terms as heaven realms, hell realms, purgatories, the realm of ‘hungry ghosts’, etc. Thankfully, on the path of Sant mat the intitiate is led straight through or beyond all of these bewitching and bewildering sub-regions.

   The advantage of the non-dual view

   One of the perks of the nondual view is that is collapses stark distinctions and appearances of separation. The notion of many planes to traverse to reach a certain realization or state has the disadvantage of reinforcing dualism, making it seem like these state, experiences, realizations are so far away. That is a common criticism of paths like Sant Mat. Even though the guru (the good ones) will remind us that "in Him we live, move, and have our being", that the planes interpenetrate and so the eradication of karmas is possible continuously while in the physical form, that they are all even accessible to our intuition even though the mystical faculty is not fully developed, we still are posed with a goal that seems a long way off. Those on many so-called direct paths face the same reality, only they don't know it. For instance, many nondual teachings like Zen or Advaita help cut through these separations, but stably realizing the desired state takes a long time, in most cases years. Integrating the implications of nondual realization with the relative level is an almost endless process and accounts for the many stages (who knows how many?) beyond jivanmukti. When one looks at the careers of many spiritual teachers, especially it seems like for those of a nondual bent, one may notice that it is often clear that this maturing of realization that has to do with integration with relativity is very evident, at least in their early stages of experience and teaching, and often problems in this area continue throughout the rest of their lives. Nondual spirituality in particular is very subtle and difficult to integrate maturely, and so many realizers have weak areas of this integration on various levels. Moreover, actually having not only authentic nondual realization, but one so integrated as to reveal all the levels of the universe and our nature to us in a state of nondual presence, is very difficult to actualize. The pointing out instructions can make it sound so easy - just rest in your nature state; surrender to your true nature; be here now; embrace choiceless awareness. But anyone who has really tried to do this, and has any insight into what it actually does mean to realize these things will find that it is, for most people, a long path. An advantage to paths like Sant Mat is that the process describes a series of experiences and attainments that are harder to delude oneself about whether they are happening or not! If you can't rise above body consciousness, you certainly haven't reached a higher plane than that either. Now, some people who are following more nondual paths will say that those types of experiences are not necessary, that you can attain realization without them. Well, that may be true. Many masters say so. But a true test is that anyone with significant nondual realization theoretically should more easily develop the ability to traverse the meditative path described by Sant Mat, because significant nondual realization will express as freedom from believing you are anything but buddha-nature, and so it should be easy with a small amount of practice for a true nondual realizer to drop body awareness and traverse the planes, if they want. Most say they don't want to, but I challenge them to consider the same if they are actually dying!

     An example of this is Dipa Ma. In her fifties she began doing vipassana. Within a year or two she attained a high level of realization (obviously advanced from past life practice). Her teachers then wanted her to develop samadhi power and siddhis to demonstrate to other students that these aspects of the training were also possible in modern times, and that, since she was so gifted, they figured she would develop in these areas to a high degree. They were right. Since from her vipassana practice she had advanced very far in transcending dualism and ego identifications, within a few months she mastered all eight jhanas, could enter nirodha or nirvikalpa at will, and then proceeded to master all the traditional siddhis. She mastered the elements, so she could do things like imagine the ground was water, then dive into the 'ground' and emerge all wet. She could manifest more than one body, levitate, read minds, travel into the past or future - the whole works. She did not have any of these powers for samadhi or siddhi before the training, but it all came very easily because of the depth of her nondual realization. It may be the case that if a person does not have easy access to these kinds of states and abilities (whether or not they choose to develop them), than their nondual insight is limited, that it won't last through the after-death states, for instance.

   If an initiate of Sant Mat is really in the doldrums because of their supposed 'spiritual density' - the result of the liability mentioned above - might remember this. Saguna Brahman (the Master, the Word, Shabd, Cosmic Christ, Adi Buddha) and Nirguna Brahman (the Absolute) are both inside but also right here. They are the true nature of our experience and being here and now - not only in some other world. It is possible to experience them that way also. It is a particular approach to go within and drop the veils one by one and experience a type of journey to uncover these Realities. But it is not necessary, say many sages. Because at a deeper level, it is really just a change of understanding of the nature of what is right here. So some folks might talk about it as a path, a journey, a quest, and so on, which draws on a spacial aspect that, if approached a certain way, will be quite (relatively) real and powerful. But to the jnani (in all of us) it is also to be realized through an awakening, a change of perspective, that can take place right here in the context of our ordinary experience. If we pursue the first approach, we invert awareness and follow the sound current or a mantra (which will merge like a stream into the sound current eventually), or other methods. If we wish to realize it here and now without inversion, there are also many methods. Some of the most direct and simple are to cultivate basic qualities like awareness, presence, equanimity, contentment, peacefulness, calm, and so on. They are part of the basis for Sant Mat as well. By doing so, awareness is gradually purified, karmas released, and the nondual will be revealed to us here and now (and Saguna Brahman, too, if we are directed how to see it, or if it just comes naturally to us due to karma). In this approach, the same veils are 'cut through', but they are not set aside, but rather more like cleansed so that they reflect the nondual. So in this approach we can experience awakening an liberation without the inversion. For many people that is the most suitable approach, more natural or accessible. Anyway, it is worth considering this even if one is successful in their practice in Sant Mat. A little contemplation never hurt one's meditation, but will only make it stronger and more productive.

   A scan of some Sant Mat sites show them trying to correlate certain states and practices with specific inner planes. For example, 'nirvikalpa samadhi' is equated with Parabrahm, 'bhakti yoga' below that (super-causal, anandamaya kosha), gnana yoga below that (mental plane) and so on. The problem of this type of topology where one identifies different paths with different planes and bodies is, precisely, that it assumes an inversion path. It assumes that if one holds to a form like inquiry, which is presumed to be located on the intellectual plane (already an uninformed view), then one cannot pass beyond that plane with that technique. But from the point of view that all planes interpenetrate, and any plane or state can be 'realized' on any level (for instance, nirvikalpa samadhi can be realized from any dimension), then wherever one may hold a focus becomes a plane one is limited by. But the real heart of a path is the state of consciousness/realization it cultivates, which may use a seed or focus such as a verbal inquiry, mantra, breath, visualization, nada, formless awareness, etc. but that does not mean that one's realization that unfolds is limited by the plane that the focus is 'situated' on. If that were so, then it would not be possible to bring nondual realization into the physical world, as the objects of physical consciousness would obstruct it. But they do not - not in sahaja samadhi. So this whole notion is false. A path is only limited by the practitioner's ability to realize the whole in the context of whatever their path is - devotion, inquiry, discrimination, mantra, breath, vision, etc. Anything can become a doorway to everything if the practitioner opens to that realization.

   But this notion has definite meaning in the context of inversion paths, as one does need to relinquish the content of one plane to ascend to the next, and so in that context, some paths are able to go higher. In Sant Mat, one must even relinquish the Nada to get to Anami. In that sense, all paths are limited unless one makes the final move to drop the path and surrender to that which transcends all paths. So it is understandable why inversion practitioners believe this. But what they do not understand is that not all paths use this approach. Ramana said it was usual to go from savikalpa to nirvikalpa to sahaja, but that it was also possible to skip the inversion phases and go right into sahaja. And, of course, this is well known to all the Buddhist who use awareness/non-inversion practices like vipassana, shikan-taza, zazen, mahamudra and Dzogchen. None of these require inversion or relinquishing an object of focus such as the breath.

   Of course, there is also the 'path of fire'. Whether set in motion by past life practices, the guru, or even the Sat Purush, once the 'fire' is activated, it can take one to the goal. Also, remember that Patanjali said liberation can result from meditation, kriyas, austerities, or the grace of the guru. So even all the above debate about inversion versus awareness modes of practice, is not the only way!

   Kirpal Singh, in referring to someone's comment about the noble spirituality of an old initiate, said, "Look here! If you spend your whole life by the fire, don't you think you will get some heat?" So guru-yoga, when by great fortunate it becomes one's only option, or when it becomes activated within you, can accomplish the whole thing without techniques or technology. One is reminded of a Tibetan lady who spent her days watching her Lama eat his breakfast, someone who just wanted to watch his Rabbi tie his shoes, or the man who spent forty years simply fanning Ramana Maharshi. Of the latter the late Robert Adams remarked, "He's not coming back!"

Shabd-Brahman as the Creator of the Worlds: A non-dual perspective

   Some with a non-dual bent, such as an ajatavada vedantin, would not agree that there is causality or Creation, per se, or therefore a Creator. No one denies manifestation, but the notion of creation is not proven. Creation implies causality, and in the non-dual perspective, there is no such thing. The One is what it is, and does not change or 'create.' This is laid out in Sankara's commentary on Guadapada's karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad.

   Yet saying that manifestation is 'an appearance' or an 'idea' does not seem to do full justice to the mysterious nature of relativity, for many if not most seekers at least. Actually, this topic is too huge for this paper, but let it be said that it is possible to give due credit to the greatness of the Shabda-Brahman without the notion of it as the 'Creator'. For non-duality, as mentioned, being beyond polarities, is incompatible with the notion of a Creator. In Sant Mat this realization might be the last perspective gained on the path. So let's just say that the Absolute and the relative are intimately and mysteriously interwoven. Let's say also that there is a type of Universal Presence within relativity that could be called Ishvara, Saguna Brahman, Adi or Primordial Buddha, Shabda-Brahman, or the Cosmic Christ. In this view, this Presence is the Universal personification/integration of all enlightened realization throughout relativity. But it did not cause or 'create' relativity or Maya itself. This is, of course, just one view, and it is one of if not the most difficult principle to grasp for all but the committed non-dualist. It is the cosmic principle or Presence of the guru/savior/master/liberator. This Cosmic Presence does have vast creative capacity (reinforcing peoples misunderstanding that it is The Creator), and is active in profound ways throughout the universe, not just inspiring beings towards awakening individually, but also expressing through cosmic hierarchies of buddhas, bodhisattvas, principalities, archangels, logoi, etc. to create environments (like Earth) and opportunities (like the human form) for beings to use to accelerate their awakening.

   The origin of the Universal Presence is as mysterious and transcendentally unanswerable as all the other 'imponderables' like the why and how of relativity, or what is the self. Pure nondualism views relativity as having as its true nature the nondual absolute. Therefore, questions about the cause of origin of relativity are ultimately trying to separate something nondual into 'beginnings' and 'endings', 'causes' and 'effects' (such as God and Creation). In the nondual view, these categories don't apply. They are much too small to come close to capturing the infinite Mystery of the absolute and how relativity 'is' within and as the absolute.

   So, from within this cosmic Presence within relativity arises the human Guru as well as the Shabda-Brahman, which is an enlightening agent for human beings. Within this greater Presence, mysteriously pervasive within relativity, are Cosmic Enlightened Intelligences responsible for creating systems such as the planets, the human forms, the elements, reincarnational sequences (in this instance,the 'Lords of karma') and so on, but they did not create the Maya in the first place out of which all of this is built. This may all be mind-boggling, as it was to me when I first heard of it. To sum, the Shabda-Brahman is an enlightened Presence within relativity that can appear to pull a ripe soul into itself, to such high levels that one becomes one and indistinguishable from it, and its non-dual saturating capacity. At its highest levels, we realize that the essence of the 'Name' is the truth of non-dualism, indistinguishable from the truth of our soul. We realize the nondual truth underlying it all, which is the foundation of the realization of Shabda Brahman.

   One can say that the Shabda Brahman (the 'nada' or ‘Sound of God’), expresses the realization and presence of the universal Logos (the ‘Word’), the Transcendent Personality or Primordial Buddha. Beyond this lies the Void or Nirguna Brahman. We might think of the nada, then, when fully realized, as the ‘sound of nondual realization’, or the ‘sound of the Christ Logos’. Another way we can come to understand the nada is as the audible vibration or emanation of sat-cit-ananda, or ‘transcendent Beingness, Consciousness and Bliss’. This is also referred to as pranava, sphota, Naam, anahata nada (‘the unstruck sound’), the ‘music of the spheres’, the ‘sound current’, the ‘flaming sound’, the ‘sounding flame’, the Celestial Sound, Bani, Logos and Kalma. The fullness of awakened or Christ consciousness is manifest as the nada, and contains and emanates such qualities a universal love, bliss, power, creativity, joy, purpose, wisdom, illumination, clarity, harmony, equanimity, devotion and beauty – all arising from the ground of nondual Presence. The essence of the nada is the song of this universal Presence. it is all this, but doesn't have to be seen as the 'Creator' Itself!

   On lower planes, names are signifiers, pointers at things or beings. But at deeper levels of experience, the 'name' of something is how the Beingness of someone or the Sat Purush vibrates to our transcendental soul hearing. At this level there is little distinction between 'name' or intrinsic sound vibration, presence/beingness and realization. They are merging and increasingly hard to our increasingly nondual perception to separate into aspect or part. Name, form, mind, soul, heart - all one in Sach Khand. The 'name' of the Primordial One is Shabd, The Word, Logos. If we use our intuitive hearing to listen to the sound vibration of the 'realization' of the Sat Purush of Adi Buddha, we will hear the Shabd. We will hear it according to our own realization. So at the beginning, we don't hear it at all. Not enough spiritual development. Then we hear it and it just sounds like an impersonal sound. It is like we are too far away, so we don't hear it with much realization of what it really is. But at least we hear it! Then as our intuition grows, it becomes sweeter, more alluring, more blissful, more uplifting. Our realization of what we are really attuning to be listening to the sound current is growing. Eventually it will grow into a experience where the sound is not separable from the direct understanding of the Cosmic realization that the 'name' is the Presence, is the Realization, is the Sat Purush, is one's own Soul.

   In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a verse that Ramana Maharishi sometimes quoted; it is, "The 'I' became the Name, 'Om' came later." The implication, in my understanding, is that the Soul exists 'before' the Om or sound, and that, as Ramana stated, listening to sound is good, it will lull the mind to sleep, as it were, but listening along with enquiry is better; that will bring one to the realization that the sound is a manifestation of ones own self, and not only something only taking you to that self. [Of course the neophyte may easily confuse this self with the ego].

   Sant Mat may in fact not be in disagreement with this understanding. Kirpal Singh said that vivek or discriminative understanding will come automatically as one progresses on the path. Our problem is that many sages have disagreed in their expressed understanding of even the highest experiences that they have had - i.e., such as shabd being the creator!

   At a relative level, one way of looking at the nature of the Adi Buddha or Universal Enlightened Presence is that it is fueled by the same process of awakening that is underlying each person's individual Self-realization. It is the sum total of all wisdom and virtue arising throughout relativity. One of the polarities we find in relativity is Universal - Particular or Personal. Just as we have personal, individual, particular expressions of Realization, there is also a Universal Personification of Realization. That is the Cosmic Christ, Adi Buddha, Sat Purush, Saguna Brahman, Universal Presence, as those terms are defined in a nondual context. As a Presence within relativity (just as a jivanmukti is), it has attributes of being enlightened, omnipresent (hence 'universal presence'), loving, liberating, wise, creative, etc. Hence 'saguna'. It is the actualization of nondual realization within relativity on a universal, personal/impersonal cosmic scale.

   On a relative level, the ripe soul will experience the Shabd as a power or current drawing one into deeper awakening. How one concentrates on it will determine the way one experiences that unfoldment. If one does it in a Sant Mat style or like Sri Yukteswar, then it will unfold as a journey through planes. If one does it, for contrast, as in Dzogchen, then one will integrate the unfolding realization into the continuous awareness of body and mind rather than going into trance. The latter will inevitably come to those on the trance path also, but, as we have said, by a gradual infusion of the trance states with the human level.

   Relativity is that dimension of reality that has some apparent veiling over the Truth. And in the end, it is only at the level of relativity that the questions arises 'what is the Absolute? What is relativity? How do they relate? Why did it all happen? There can only be two ways to attempt to answer these questions - one is two look for the answer at the level at which the question is posed - at a relative level. And there you will always get a relative answer! If you want an absolute answer, you must go to the level of the absolute, because that is the Truth. There, the question is 'answered' by realizing that having the question was the problem. The question poses the issue in terms it can understand within its own current context. The final answer comes from liberation from the context in which the answer arises - relativity, duality. So while in a way there is no path, there is a way out.

   Non-causality/non-creation is the most difficult problem in epistemology. Bhaktis usually want nothing to do with it! We have tried as best we can to show a way of easing into it, in the context of the practice of Shabd Yoga, to present Sant Mat in a favorable light to the non-dual spiritual schools such as Advaita, Zen, etc..

   So, to summarize the non-dual view, where the polarity of Creator-Creation, or Absolute God-Isvara is still only a relative one, the Shabda-Brahman can be the liberator or Principle of liberation, the ‘ hook of grace’ as teacher Edward Salim Michael termed it, and not be the Creator at the same time. This is how to interpret the issue from a non-dual, non-creation level. Get it? Nothing essential is lost by taking this view, it is just another way of looking at things.

   Kirpal Singh in The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga said that there was no creation per se for the Absolute, but championed the view of shabda-brahman being the divine, ancient, eternal way provided for man by God. To offer a parallel, simplified yet ancient schemata, we will refer to the explanation given by the great Paramahansa Yogananda, whose teaching, with minor modifications, is very much like that of Sant Mat. Yogananda's tradition was steeped in both yoga and classical vedanta. He taught, in essence, based on Hindu and Christian scripture (and his own inner experience), that the ineffable absolute Spirit (Nirguna Brahman) produces a divine illusion (Maya) from its own desireless-desire or causeless-cause - much as Sankara argued - thus becoming an as-yet-unmanifested Trinity of transcendant Father (Saguna Brahman/Isvara), Christ-Logos, and Holy Ghost (creative power of 'Aum' or shabda-brahman). So far, the Vedantins and ajatavadins should be satisfied satisfied, because the veil of maya is cast by the Absolute in order for 'creation' to proceed. There is really no creation in or from the One, the ineffable Absolute, and all explanations or stories given for it becoming Saguna or a Trinity are only stories. We can not know why it 'heaved' and produced something apparently other than itself as IT is, even though, in our exegesis, as yet only transcendentally (prior to manifestation). Thus, the domain of relativity is produced through Maya, which is none other than the supreme Spirit. However, this truth is only known to Isvara and those who know Isvara.

   The Christ-Logos is the pure reflection of the intelligence of the trancendant Father of this Trinity within creation and is inseparable from and directs the Holy Ghost or Aum vibration in creating universes, and which is also itself a liberating presence within creation. "No man can come to the Father except through Me," said Christ, which did not mean him personally or exclusively, but that no man could come to the transcendant Father beyond creation without attuning to the 'Son' or Christ Consciousness, its pure reflection within creation. Creation is thus a divine illusion with a divine liberating principle inherent within it. This is what Christ taught, according to Yogananda. (10e) As Isvara or God is itself one with Nirguna Brahman or the original Spirit, and not itself veiled by maya, realization of it (God) is the goal for man, 'beyond' which are mystery and paradox. [Sankara himself, says Yogananda, was one of the great siddhas who realized Christ-Consciousness, which may surprise many advaitins, who do not realize that he was a great yogic adept and not just a champion of the talking school of jnana yoga]. This is very similar to the teachings of creation in Sant Mat, with any apparent differences being in the description and enumeration of the various planes and bodies. Yogananda tended to simplify them, while his master Sri Yukteswar, used a more elaborate explanation. Yogananda also distinguished between maya and avidya. Often these are considered interchangable by philosophers, both Vedantic and Buddhist alike. However, maya for Yogananda is Universal or divine illusion, which 'allows' for creation, while avidya is individual ignorance which is responsible for man not perceiving or knowing the presence of the Christ-Logos and Holy-Spirit within creation. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." - John 1:10.

   This idea of the Shabda-Brahman as a liberating presence rather than “Creator” seems compatible with some statements made by Sant Kirpal Singh. In Heart to Heart Talks, p. 208/285, he says:

   “When you are in control, there’s no world. We create the world…You sit in meditation, the world is not there. When you come out the world is there. It is you who make the world. Yes?”


   “We can look into our own selves. That is why it is said: Self-Knowledge precedes God-knowledge, or, Self-knowledge is God-knowledge.”

   This is very advaita-like and also very zen-like. It could be that the notion of a creator per se is one of the last standpoints to go prior to enlightenment. Compare this quote from zen master Kusan Sunim:

   “The nature of the entire universe is your own mind [note: in Buddhism, the word ‘mind’ generally refers to the principle of awareness or consciousness, and not ‘manas’ or ‘manomayakosha’ as in Hinduism or Sant Mat] All things are created by the mind and arise from it. So where is the creation of the universe? Your own mind alone is the creator. There is no one else who created it for you; therefore, this universe is your own universe. The universe can be affirmed or negated only because we are here now.” (The Way of Korean Zen, p. )

   “What you see is you,” said Kirpal Singh.

   An interesting perspective, isn’t it?

   To calm any heated brains, burdened with talk of levels and planes, Self and/or God, we offer the following excerpt from the famous Lankavatara Sutra which should be a healing balm, with which we will close this section:

   "Thus passing beyond the last stage of Bodhisattvahood, he becomes a Tathagata himself endowed with all the freedom of the Dharmakaya. The tenth stage belongs to the Tathagatas. Here the Bodhisattva will find himself seated upon a lotus-like throne in a splendid jewel-adorned palace and surrounded by Bodhisattvas of equal rank. Buddhas from all the Buddha-lands will gather about him and with their pure and fragrant hands resting on his forehead will give him ordination and recognition as one of themselves. Then they will assign him a Buddha- land that he may possess and perfect as his own."

   "The tenth stage is called the Great Truth Cloud (Dharmamegha), inconceivable, inscrutable. Only the Tathagatas can realise its perfect Imagelessness and Oneness and Solitude. It is Mahesvara, the Radiant Land, the Pure Land, the Land of Far-distances; surrounding and surpassing the lesser worlds of form and desire (karmadhatu), in which the Bodhisattva will find himself at-one- ment. Its rays of Noble Wisdom which is the self-nature of the Tathagatas, many- colored, entrancing, auspicious, are transforming the triple world as other worlds have been transformed in the past, and still other worlds will be transformed in the future. But in the Perfect Oneness of Noble Wisdom there is no gradation nor succession nor effort, The tenth stage is the first, the first is the eighth, the eighth is the fifth, the fifth is the seventh: what gradation can there be where perfect Imagelessness and Oneness prevail? And what is the reality of Noble Wisdom? It is the ineffable potency of the Dharmakaya; it has no bounds nor limits; It surpasses all the Buddha-lands, and pervades the Akanistha and the heavenly mansions of the Tushita."

   Does one get a sense from all of the preceeding that the depths of spirituality and actual nondual realization described herein makes much of contemporary teachings, and some traditional ones, seem like a very small slice of reality, a little quiet mind and sense of presence, behind which lies unfathomable depths? Surely something to ponder thoroughly. Of course, many such teachers will say, "you are only making conceptual distinctions, just forget all these 'stories' and the problems of life and death will be solved." Yet, is it really so, or a all-too-common misunderstanding?

   What exactly is the Sat Purush?

   To recap, in Sant Mat, the exfoliated soul, having left behind all koshas, is said to meet the Sat Purush in Sach Khand, the true Home of the Father, who absorbs it into itself and 'takes' it to the nameless and formless realm, Anami Lok, which is technically not a region per se but Reality. The soul in Sach Khand has gone past the realization in Bhanwar Gupta where it first (in the downward direction) could be said to be felt individualized as a distinct soul, albeit vast and interdependent, with but one covering, the anadamayakosha. In Sach Khand one could say that the soul realizes a nonduality of both both oneness and difference as the same, or indistinguishable. In terms of the three eternal Primal Hypostases of Plotinus, one might say it realizes its inseparability and oneness yet distinctness within the Absolute Soul. The perfect Param Sant is generally said to have become one with the eighth plane consciousness or Anami, 'beyond' even the august realization of Sach Khand. The very word 'beyond' is limiting, as we are beyond time, space, and the mind at this point. Thus, in his 'Dharmakaya' form or 'body of Sat or truth' the Master personifies the Sat Purush for his disciple. Hence come the metaphors in the tradition of disciples seeing their guru on a throne in Sach Khand and being thus amazed that their very own master is 'God'. But how may we express this function of Sat Purush in a more non-dual way? For certainly, how can 'pure consciousness' be said to 'move' or 'go anywhere'? It is quite mysterious, is it not? Here is our attempt:

   Sat Purush is the Eternal, Universal Guru

   All talk of this reality is limited, metaphorical, and of necessity stepped down. It, in reality, is a vast, mysterious, transcendental reality that the individual Soul will always be in awe of, growing forever in realization of It's nature, and empowered by. Do not go in for glib pseudo-nondual teachings that dismiss it (or similar ideas/terms like Saguna Brahman, Ishvara, Narayana, Adi Buddha, Absolute Beingness, etc.) as a subtle 'maya', the last veil over the 'real truth', and similar superficial condescensions. The true nature of the Sat Purush is an eternal, transcendental Mystery. It's reality is fully compatible with nondual understanding (though many people mistake it for a 'first cause' Deity), and It can, with a certain superficial simplicity, be defined as the sum total of all nondual realization throughout the universe, even transcending time, meaning all nondual realization that ever was or will be. And, of course, it is not 'located' on some plane, but is equi-present to all planes, being the Perfection of Universal Nondual Presence. The individual only seems to first contact it in inversion paths such as Sant Mat in 'higher planes' as that reflects the individual's experience of setting aside enough veils to be able to perceive it. But at deeper stages of realization, its Presence is throughout all planes. And, of course, each Soul is one with the Universal Soul (Sat Purush).

   Phrases like 'It takes you into the Nameless One' are our clumsy human ways of trying to talk about stages of realization that are truly transcendental, and so fully transcend any words or descriptions about them. The Sat Purush is in a state of Nondual realization, so it 'showing us' our nondual Anami Reality is paradoxically really only also bringing us to a deeper realization of It's own Emptiness, which is not beyond the Sat Purush, but our deeper appreciation of that 'aspect' of It's nature and our's. Words so fail here, but those advaitins who argue that Sat Purush is 'just maya , or a concept', are seriously short-changing the path and reality, in our opinion. The Sat Purush is God and all that entails, as far as man is concerned.

   Let us examine this issue of the soul, or individuality beyond ego - a stickler for advaitists and traditional Buddhists - a little further. Although while enwrapped in anandamayakosha (in Bhanwar Gupta) the Soul is very individualized in its own Self/Soul realization, this is not an 'aloneness' per se, but a state of deep wholeness and interdependence consciousness. It is relatively formless and immersed in virtue, so that one feels great interconnection with others and a feeling of a larger Presence. It is beyond birth and death, a 'semi-eternal realm', at least until a 'Grand Dissolution'. [Be it noted that in Buddhism they refer to realms such as this as - beyond the six samsaric existences as the 'Pure Abodes' (suddhavasa), accessible after death only to non-returners [agami: a person who has abandoned the five lower fetters (satyojana) that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth, there to attain nirvana, never again to be compelled to return to this world]. But in Sach Khand one is reborn into a more deeply trans-virtue state of nondual Being that, while not the highest state, brings forth a much more immediate sense of our nondual nature, as well as our 'integration' with the Sat Purush. Mystics, in their physical consciousness, will emphasize different aspects of these states depending on their nature and training. Some emphasize 'oneness with God', other nondual awareness, some both. But states beyond even this ("realms of Suchness" in Buddhism, or those for the Arhants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas') - or in Sant Mat, Alakh, Agam, Anami - and, in some lineages, Radhasoami or Dayal Desh beyond this - and ever-deepening, become increasingly difficult to fully realize in a body, so that aspects will be 'missed', and the nature of these states are typically oversimplified - 'no-self', 'differences transcended', etc.. The whole affair is more subtle than that. Also, the notion that there is no individuality beyond ego or the mind is not so cut and dried (emphasis on 'dry'!) as it is in advaita and some Buddhist schools.

   Consider this: it is a given that the planes and bodies all interpenetrate yet without co-mingling, so inversion is not necessary for non-dual realization. However, on an inversion or ascending path, for example, how could one pass 'upwards' into higher states like Sach Khand or Sat Lok and beyond, and be 'lead' anywhere, and have this result in growing spiritual attainment, if there was no individual that this is happening to? There is a type of individuality on every plane, but beyond the mental plane it takes forms rather unfamiliar to humans in a physical body. Even the true nature of astral and mental consciousness and experience is a greater form of identity (traveling from one location to another by thought, communication by telepathy, synaesthesia, etc). But the nature of individuality in each higher plane becomes more 'realized' and deeply interdependent with everything. And the levels at Sach Khand and beyond (and their correlates in other systems) include a direct perception of the nondual nature of everything as well. But nondual realization is so nondual that it does not negate or reject anything, including individuality (i.e., hence the saying 'samsara and nirvana are one'). In fact, nondual 'realization' requires individuality as a focus. Only 'individuals' can have nondual realization. Perhaps this is why some teachings, such as the Avadhuta Gita, say 'It' is beyond duality and non-duality, although these are only concepts. The essence of the very nature of individuality at these 'levels' is that they are based in the realization that all relative phenomena and truths perceived are nondual in their nature, but without eclipsing any of them. Individuality, universality, eternity, time, space, love, bliss, Shiva, Shakti, karma, Sat Purush, forms, bodies, planes, elements, realization - all these and more are realized as nondual in essence, and simultaneously illuminated by this realization at a relative level in a way that does not erase them, but instead reveals increasingly profound and subtle insights into the vast interdependence of all these relative realities. There is no need to negate individuality, but only continually deepen our realization of its transcendental and mysterious nature, deeper and deeper. At a certain stage of this realization it becomes apparent that the 'presence' of the experience of individuality does not obstruct this endlessly deepening realization, but is basic to the experience of nondual realization within relativity. So do we really get rid of self or individuality, or rather go deeper into more profound realizations of what it 'really' is, outgrowing lesser, more limited, more superimposed understandings. It is suggested that many teachings and practitioners that feel they have radically and finally transcended relativity and realized an Absolute may not have really done so.

   Having said all this, the argument of advaita vedanta is persistent and must be considered. An example is this:

   "The difference between us and other schools is that they have the erroneous belief that there is some Reality, apart from us, which is unborn and eternal, whereas we know it to be our very own Atman."

   "...those who talk of the 'I' becoming merged in Brahman are not philosophers but mystics. Vedanta does not admit even the existence of the 'I'."
(V.S. Iyer, Advanced Commentaries, ed. Marlk Scorelle, 1999).

   Let the devotee perhaps ease himself into this viewpoint by reconsidering this salient point:

   "Satguru is ever-present, never think He is far away." - Sikh hymn

A few points on Simran, spiritual intuition, and hierarchies of 'inner' masters

   There are many masters who don't currently have bodies who have disciples and 'colleagues' in the physical world, so there is a need for 'inner' contact in such instances. In a few cases fellow disciples with more advanced access may also be used as intermediaries for messages that those without such inner access need to hear. Usually the person receiving such advice will be spiritually sensitive and equipped with the discrimination to appreciate that guidance; otherwise, such special communications will not be forthcoming.

   Another topic is that there is also a spiritual hierarchy so that even some advanced masters on earth may still have 'superiors' that are not in bodies yet from whom they receive inspiration. For instance, the Buddha posited eight levels to full liberation. The fourth level was that of the realized soul or Arhat, which might be considered the equivalent of Sach Khand or Atmic realization. Above that were more advanced levels of mastery. Bhai Sahib (Irena Tweedie's guru) talked about receiving guidance from his 'higher ups'. Its just the way it is. But it brings up some issues - how do we know when it is true contact? This is very important.

   One can certainly use repetition of the Sant Mat mantras as advised by the masters to 'verify' the positive nature of the being one is in contact with, especially and mainly in the lower planes of form, and also especially for those who have not yet grown to spiritual maturity. This is something each person must determine for himself, keeping in mind - without paranoia - the traditional stories of even great yogis 'falling from the heights'. But there is eventually an even more essential method. Similar to the way we all grow in maturity as human beings, and as we do, we become better judges of character, so that when we met someone, for instance, we gain greater ability to see their strengths and shortcomings, we also overall learn to have a sense of the quality of their presence. People would ask Ramana how, when chosing a guru, do you know if they are Self-realized?, and he would say things like, 'by how much depth of peace you feel in their presence'. In the inner planes it is even easier to do this, because people and beings are less veiled than in physical bodies. So someone may try to present themselves as being enlightened, but if you have some basic intuitive ability to sense beyond surfaces and contact their inner nature, their character/motives/energy/presence - that cannot be faked. Peace, love, clarity, joy - these are not qualities the Negative Power, or others who would mislead or deceive, are able to fake. So the deepest way to know who you are dealing with is to develop enough soul awareness yourself so that you know soul when you see it, so to speak, and then you can't be fooled. Moreover, at some level it is much easier and faster, more economical, to communicate without words.This is not a common ability, to be sure. Many people these days make these claims, but do not have real experiences, or lack consistency, so that it is made a travesty.

   Simran is a temporary technique for stilling the mind, opening doors, purifying energy, building positivity, and dispelling darkness and dark powers. Its value is largely transcended at higher stages when one has a greater knowledge of soul, and finally, has the wisdom to clearly and unequivocally distinguish Truth and Maya. The Dark Power is a maya. When one is far enough along the path, one knows what is what and is not easily deceived. Since Dark Forces have no access to planes beyond the lowest three (up to the mind or causal), nor do the mental faculties that could repeat a mantra then access to those above them, which in wisdom terms means adequate insight into, and identification with, soul, means that the use of tools like simran as a method of discrimination are not only not possible, but are no longer needed, for your intuition is now trustworthy. Most of the people who think they can do this are not there yet. This is why it is safest to tell people to use simran all the time. But at some point one must use ones own direct realization to make this determination.

   Another point. Masters in their inner nature have a much greater depth of perspective than in their physical personalities. So if you contact a master directly in their higher bodies, they may know things that their physical personalities do not. For instance, any master who is fully honest will tell people that, when they have come into the student's meditation or dreams, for instance, that usually the masters physical consciousness was unaware that this was happening. If they are advanced enough, they will be able to confirm that it did happen (or not). But that does not mean they were aware of it when it was happening. Bhai Sahib acknowledged this, for example. There are many things masters know at higher level that are not known to their outer selves. This is because the veils of the lower vehicles may have been thinned and illuminated by their spiritual development, but they are still veils, and so diminish realization, power and understanding in their bodies. A great master still brings through a lot of Soul/God Consciousness into their bodies, but not anywhere near what they have on the inner levels. This is why masters who have reincarnated in bodies for centuries can be said to be so much more richly realized than a younger master, even if there inner level of spiritual evolution is the same. Because it takes time to ground more and more realization. It is not just a matter of reaching a certain level but also of integrating that with the physical consciousness. There is a thing called the enlightenment of the intelligence. Some say this takes much longer than just reaching a certain inner state. This is part of the value behind a lineage, where the masters can, so to speak, ‘watch each others back’.

   One reason that some 'hidden' or 'ascended' masters also work through disciples via inner contact is that they are expressing an aspect of their service/dharma on this planet that may not be what a specific personality they may also have in incarnation at the same time is designed to understand, due to the time or place.

   For instance, when a person leaves their body and has realization in a higher world, they are not always able to bring it back. For instance, it is possible for someone who was advanced enough and living a thousand years ago to go to higher world and to realize The General Theory of Relativity. But when they went back into a 1000 A.D. body and brain, they would not have the context for writing a paper on it like Einstein did. There was not advanced enough science and physics around to allow the brain to realize it. They may be able to have a mystical, poetic insight into it. But not the detailed, sophisticated version. This is also true in spiritual science. The personality, karmic past, culture, spiritual lineage, special training, etc. that are the context and co-creative conditions for that body will influence what intuitive realizations can be brought back from higher planes, and in what way. Some realizations on those planes are so profound that masters can experience them there, but by the time they come down through the bodies it will be filtered into a profound, mystical, incomprehensible feeling, with little content.

   Two thousand years from now future masters will be able to bring down much more of that realization. This is part of the mystery of how the relative and transcendental levels or realization interact. Masters have penetrated the transcendental so that they are Self-Realized, or God-conscious, but the relative aspects of their realization will be influenced by their own unique development in these areas, what they have studied intellectually and intuitively, what there lineage understands and does not. This can be seen in how widespread outdated and limited and silly ideas are in various traditions made up of great masters. When they go to higher planes, they merge into levels of themselves that often have contrary ideas to what there outer personalities still participate in. We can think of it as one of the ways that masters take on the karma of the world. It is not just as taking on physical or psychological karma . They also take on the beliefs of humanity, their culture, their lineage, and gradual transform and illuminate it all. But some of it will not be transformed yet, but will influence their outer self. Much of these limitations are not what the inner master believes. One might call this a virus affecting a lineage. So in Sant Mat, for instance, we get outer masters saying things like "avatars go only up to the causal plane," or "only our masters go to the highest," or even "Anami lok is the final plane." Whereas some sensitives have received inner confirmation saying things contrary to all of that. In Christianity, as another example, they say that Jesus was not a man who became God-realized, but God-incarnate come down to earth, but, how do they know that? Who had the acuity of discernment to distinguish the Christ-Logos from the Solar Logos, or the planetary Logos, or simply an advanced realized Master? To use another analogy: what if a Master's higher self, as far as relative wisdom and knowledge, is like a professor in a university. On the higher planes, they have mastered half of the departments at the university, while at the absolute level they are Self-realized. So they have professorship in a large number of areas. In the human world, it is not only not necessary for them to bring through all this into their physical brains, but it is even impossible for some to come into our world at this time in history. It would be like trying to teach the full spectrum of Tibetan Buddhist teachings to cave people. Not only is it not useful, it could not be done, because the level of development of the whole of humanity, the particular culture and tradition, would also influence what could be incarnated in their bodies as relative understanding. So much will always remain, for various reasons, on the higher levels of a masters consciousness. So sometime even a living master will say one thing on the physical plane, but if you could ask the same question of their inner self, they would have another answer! These ideas in their physical brains are part of the cross they carry in choosing to remain in the world for the good of others. They could just go on to higher planes and be an actualization of themselves that is freer of these burdens.The inner self of a master is a vast presence that has many facets, that far transcends what any given personality they may have in this world can express. So they might express other aspects of themselves through inspiring disciples who are more resonant with those other aspects.

   One may question why do many masters work behind the scenes. This is fairly esoteric. Take it with a grain of salt, if you will. In fact, please do! It is one suggested explanation, but with some reasoning backing it up. A relevant issue is that having achieved liberation, a person's will/individuality is deeply realized as non-dual, and from the relative angle is realized as inseparable from the Sat Purush or Adi Buddha. So at this stage it is said both that a person has a choice, or is assigned by the Higher Will, a dharma of service, because the individual karma is over, and so is personal desire. There are, then, two paths: to return to Earth to serve humanity, or be assigned work somewhere else. [Some say there is a third: to be absorbed into the absolute]. When Sri Yukteswar appeared to Yogananda after he had passed on, he said he had been assigned to be a teacher on an astral planet. That is an example of the second possibility. There are many possibilities in this category, including working with humanity but from higher dimensions. Of those that are assigned to return to human incarnation, there is a limited number at this stage who are allowed to do this. This is because there cannot be too many so as to cause a presence of liberated souls in the world that exceeds human karmic requirements. It is a pure expression of grace, but it must still follow laws that include not violating free will. It can also, according to Sant Mat (and some other traditions as well), cause problems with the Negative Power, so there must be an arrangement. Too much influx of light too fast can stir up subconscious karmas faster than is possible for integration. These conditioning elements of the human situation dictate how many of these masters can work openly, and how many must remain behind the scenes. Some are allowed to work openly (more than just one as many of the Sant Mat masters seem to believe - Kirpal, for one, did not believe this), and most of these have achieved the fifth or sixth stages. There are only a couple dozen in the world beyond the sixth, and these almost always work unknown to the world, or little known, such as Babaji. Some who have appeared openly were Shankara, Padmasambhava and the Buddha. Alice Bailey's 'Tibetan' was one who worked behind the scenes, though he was known to thousands of Tibetans. This was his assignment. It does not have anything to do with how compassionate he was, as many mistakenly believe about these masters. Most of the masters Blavatsky studied, including her own master, were ones who in that life worked behind the scenes. Many of these masters cycle back and forth, some lives working one side of the 'curtain', other lives the other side. Very high masters commonly don't take more public incarnations unless they are starting religions, reformers, or major lineage holders.

   There are said by some (and denied by others) for there to be masters who live in secret, in the Himalayas, Central Asia, or the Kunlun mountains of China, who are very, very advanced, but who do not come down themselves and interact with common people, but send 'representatives', who are high initiates themselves. Or who restrict themselves to working in higher spheres. Many of the greatest Masters are said to not frequently incarnate unless they wish to purify or start a tradition, such as Babaji, Nanak, Christ, or others. Nityananda said he could do much more work from the subtle realms than he could in the physical. This is a vast area of investigation.

14. Sant Mat versus Buddhism

   It appears at first glance, and in popular versions of these teachings, that Zen and vipassana Buddhism do not emphasize or pursue trance, while shabd yoga and some vajrayana buddhist paths do. Vipassana per se is not a trance practice, but the Theravada/Hinayana schools that most purely reflect the Buddha's original teachings do include the jhanas or states of absorption, which are 'samadhi' or 'trance' practices, to be followed or complemented by vipassana or insight practices, which, in this tradition, alone can give final enlightenment. The practice of (tranqulity) or samadhi (concentrative absorptions or trance states) prepare the mind by eradicating temporarily the various hindrances (restlessness, dullness, etc.), but they return when the trance is over and one returns to the world. It is insight practice that grants liberation. That, in fact, was how the Buddha won his enlightenment. As we have seen from an early exchange of letters between Sant Mat two initiates in Part One, both of who had gone far within but apparently lacked relative wisdom, that samadhi, even at a deep level, can only do half of the job. However, it also does appear that if one goes deep enough, such as passing beyond the supercausal level in Sant Mat, or reaching the Heart-root as Ramana Maharshi taught, that such deep samadhi may have a more lasting and purificatory effect than the vipassana jhanas generally have. Absorption in the shabda-brahman is itself purificatory,and a special feature of this bhakti path. And in Sant Mat the factor of Grace is much more prominent a feature than in Buddhism, which must be taken into account. Still, it is unproven assumption that viveka jnana or discriminative wisdom is completed by the course of shabda meditation, and whether or not the highest inner goal reached must also be combined with an insight practice or realization as its final 'capstone'.

   Similarly to vipassana, madyamika or mahayana Buddhism recognizes jhanas, or deepening states without full trance in order to find the ground or primordial consciousness. The jhanas of various schools of Buddhism, however, (in which they are variously called states of absorption, samadhis, concentrative states, tranquity states, jhanas, etc.) are in fact trance states. The preliminary state of access concentration described in some schools of Buddhism is not a trance state, and can be used as a doorway either into trance states (samadhi) or vipassana practice. The next four levels are called form-absorptions, because one is still aware of form, such as sensations, memories, thoughts, etc., though one's concentration is unusually deep, and the mind very still. The next four levels are called formless absorptions. These are the levels of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and the stage of neither perception nor non-perception. In some schools, depending on approach, the first four are considered deep meditations, but not yet fully beyond body consciousness. In other school, all eight levels are considered trance states (no awareness of the body). All schools of Buddhism agree, though, that the last four are samadhi states of profound concentration, bliss, and lucid, expansive awareness. Very unified and pure. The traditional teachings, verified by modern practitioners, is that with the onset of the formless jhanas, the various bodily states nearly cease, such a breathing and heart rate.

   The Buddha believed that these where powerful states to cultivate, and could lead to profound purification of character, expansion of consciousness, and siddhis, among other things. But he did not feel that one could achieve full enlightenment through this approach. The Buddha also said that none of these states where the highest 'Truth'. And he said it was especially important not to confuse the various formless jhanas like infinite space, infinite consciousness, or nothingness, with the 'ground' or unconditioned reality.

   For the Buddha, all these levels where 'not It'. Yet he did describe a samadhi oriented practice that could give trance access to the 'unconditioned', which in this context he called nirodha, meaning cessation - the complete transcendence of all relative experience, form or formless. To access nirodha in trance one has to first master all eight jhanas and also be good at vipassana, which is quite an achievement. Then one learns to enter each jhana one level at a time, and in each one in turn practice vipassana so as to cultivate the wisdom of seeing the relative and incomplete nature of each level of samadhi. If one did this while progressing from one level of trance to another, upon reaching the highest jhana, one would simply rest in that level until a ripeness occurred that would allow an effortless movement into nirodha. [This might be considered by some to be the same as nirvikalpa samadhi or anami, but it is not certain, for one can experience nirvikalpa samadhi from any plane. Vedantist James Swartz describes becoming absorbed into Ramakrishna's belly on a subtle plane and going into nirvikalpa samadhi! See www.shiningworld.com]). Interestingly, the Buddha claimed that it was not possible to gain access to nirodha until one had reached the stage of enlightenment called the 'non-returner' (one stage before the arhat), a stage wherein one no longer had any physical karma and so would not need to return to the physical world out of karmic necessity. Many or all of the various jhanas would be accessible before this stage, but not nirodha.

   This matter of becoming free from karma is one that major emphasis is placed on in Sant Mat. They claim that no other school knows how to accomplish that, but the Sants do. Moreover, the notion of only reaching the higher jnanas after one is free frmo karma should give great pause to the contemporary non-dual teachers, who feel one can go from the empirical reality straight to the absolute reality, suchness, or void-mind, solely through understanding. The question is what ground are they talking about - the ground of the mind, the ground of the soul, or the ground of the Oversoul or absolute Void-Mind - anami for the Sants? The problem is there are different voids, which are not just conceptual distinctions, although many modern as well as ancient non-dual teachers might have one think so. This is a problem that has been an issue and source of debate over the millennia. Hence, for instance, the Buddha mastered the jhanas and then felt, much to his teacher's dismay, that this was not the true or final 'void' or ground, but some still relative one. It is not beyond suspicion that, since many modern nondual teachers lack adequate understanding, training, and guidance to distinguish these states, they commonly confuse much of this, misjudging their own and other's level of realization.

   Some great mystics may conceivably reach Maha Sunn, for instance, and believe it is the Absolute Void or Dharmakaya (Reality), when it is actually a phenomenal void, although beyond the mental vehicles.

   Zen tries to get to the suchness - emptiness or reality much like mahayana, but without much in the way of metaphysics. Traditionally, there actually is a fair amount of sophisticated theory in the Zen tradition, but it is usually not offered to students, unless they have progressed far and are being trained to teach. Then it is considered useful and not a distraction. In modern times zen has degenerated significantly in many instances from the zen of the great patriarchs, especially in the moral arena.

   The problem lies in recognizing what one in fact experiences. Unless your master is very great you may not be able to get clear verification. And, again, there are different degrees of penetration into reality. Read and you will see that even after multiple outstanding satories he still had to practice thirty more years for enlightenment in that school. Same for Hakuin, two of the greatest Zen Masters.

Sant Kirpal Singh had Zen masters come to the ashram, and they had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard with him, so he knew alot more than satsangis might think he did. One may also be aware that this was true for Ramana. People have the impression that his teachings were very simple, perhaps at times oversimplifying and maybe not adequately honoring the various stages other less advanced yogis were at. Actually, a thorough study of Ramana shows that not only was he very learned, rich and sophisticated in his understanding and teachings, but frequently said things that directly contradict what he said at other times, such as whether one needed for the mind to "sink into the heart and die", or "just be who you are." Most teachers today opt for the later as it is easier.

   He was skillfull with other styles of spiritual practice that he never openly taught. There is a story, for instance, of an advanced tantric practitioner who came to Ramana because the kundalini had risen into the head chakras but he could not 'get it' to reach the crown. Ramana took him into a private room, but some students went to listen at the window, curious what Ramana would say to this yogi. What they heard was Ramama becoming a a tantric adept and giving this yogi a sophisticated understanding of what was going on and how he need proceed, including giving him a mantra to use for his case.

   In Dzogchen these days some try to keep the mind free and open, some calling that in itself enlightenment, the problem being that until one has been able to find a stable center of conscious-awareness to return to, letting the mind be open can lead one to stagnate ina relatively subconscious state. I am thinking of the popular work by the venerable Dilgo Gyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen in Ordinary Life. This is a complex issue, but most true Dzogchen teachings that work with this 'free and open' awareness are very aware of and have complex strategies for preparing students to practice in this way, as well as ways to work the these practices to remain balanced and alert. Dzogchen is generally taught in the context of the Nyingmapa lineage, and is considered the final of nine stages or tantras, all of which are preceded by preliminary practices. For the Buddha, vipassana was they practice he taught that was based in 'free and open' awareness. But he said that should first get a foundation in right conduct, then a preliminary foundation in deep concentration, and only then switch to cultivation vipassana, which should then ideally be pursued alongside trance or samadhi practices. The threefold foundation of practice he taught is therefore also somewhat sequential - sila (morality), samadhi (various concentration, trance, and purification practices) and prajna (wisdom developed through vipassana).

   Unfortunately in the West, practitioners here generally developed their approach to various forms of Buddhism backwards - typically becoming enamored of vipassana and other 'higher' practices such as Dzogchen, while ignoring or tying to skip over the traditional order of approach as taught by the Buddha and others. Everyone likes the idea of doing the "keep the mind in its natural state" practice. They forget , for instance, that Dilgo Rinpoche he spent fifteen years in caves and meditated six hours a day for years afterwards and probably teaches differently to the monks who have taken vows than they are aware of. For a sobering description of the sadhana of the venerable vipassana master, Luangta Maha Boowo (1913-2011, and the skillfull interconnection of moral virtue, concentration/mindfulness, and wisdom/insight practice, see the free on-line version of his new book, Samana, in particular the chapter "From Ignorance to Emptiness." In this short section he explains how the samadhi of emptiness [the theravada equivalent of nirvikalpa], as well as the stabilisation of that under the conditions of ordinary life, both advanced stages on the path, are yet, in essence, "fetters" to the Nibbana of the Buddha, the 'ultimate emptiness'. This is a worthwhile read.

   The power of 'free and open' awareness is that it is a particularly suitable practice for opening to nondual realization, for when awareness is balanced with equanimity, concentration and investigation (as is the method of vipassana), and all levels of experience from physical to psychological to spiritual, are allowed to arise without preference, this openness is actualizing nondualism in its aspect of not preferring one object of awareness to another, one plane to another, etc. The danger of trance states is that they express an inherent preference for higher and higher planes, allowing for the danger of attachment to these planes. Vipassana is the antidote to this.

   Mahamudra is a pinnacle practice in some Tibetan teachings, just as Dzogchen is in others (particularly Nyingmapa and Kagyu). In all these traditions, an open focus meditation that integrates nondual awareness with all other levels of experience, including activity in daily life, is the final practice (if not employed in some form at other stages). In all lineages Mahamudra or Dzogchen is always preceded by various tantric practices (such as the Six Yogas of Naropa that Milarepa and Marpa used, which is basically a form of kundalini yoga), or Deity Yoga (also a tantric practice as used in Vajrayana), as well as various preliminary practices such as Ngondro. So at the heart of all major Buddhist lineages is a practice that the Buddha taught originally as vipassana, and later was spun in various ways as zazen, shikan-taza, Mahamudra, Dzogchen, etc. all of which have at the essence to be fully present with all that is arising moment to moment, cultivation no attachment to any technique, plane, or viewpoint, which leads to realizing sahaja samadhi or what the Buddha called 'nirvana with elements', meaning the experience of nondual realization/liberation while fully aware of the relative level of experience.

   A main question has long been: does shabd yoga strictly and merely by inversion even to the highest levels of mystical ascent realize the natural state of sahaj samadhi spoken of by the great sages like Ramana, Ashtavakra, Sankara, Buddha, etc.? I think there have been Sant Mat saints who have - like Kabir, Rumi, and Kirpal -, but that it is not a given just through the mystical process. Moreover, are the various trance or samadhi states as taught by the Buddha, for instance, or in other school such as Vedanta or Raja Yoga, not to mention the vast array of other schools, more or less the same as the stages/states of Sant Mat? I believe some are, and some are not. One of the key differences is that what the various levels of trance accomplish, how they are experienced, and what one gets out of them, depends a lot on how one approaches them. For instance, the Buddha actually taught two types of trance samadhi practice. One was normal jhanas/samadhis, the other jhanas in which one also cultivated vipassana within that particular trance state. A different approach, with different consequences. Plotinus said that we must "teach our souls." In other words, if we don't have the right doctrine or view, we won't understand the experiences we do have.

   The Buddha, as far as we can tell, used the term jhana in two ways - trance jhanas, but also what he called vipassana-jhanas. The former where absorptions leading to samadhi trance, and the later simply designated the various stages to absorption or deep concentration in various states of contemplation/realization as they arise doing vipassana. There were four of these basic vipassana-jhanas that one progresses through stage by stage, culminating in a satori experience (a kind of fifth stage). [This occurs in each of the four archtypal stages or lifetimes he originally proposed: stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, and arhat]. Then one returns to the second vipassana-jhana, which would again ripen by doing vipassana through a deeper version of the second, third and fourth vipassana-jhanas a second time, culminating in a second satori or nondual awakening. Again one would return to the second vipassana-jhana, ripen through more realization stages culminating in a third satori (now one is a non-returner). At this point one has completed physical karma, but is not yet in sahaja samadhi (though it is a very peaceful, virtuous, conscious state with easy access in meditation to nondual awareness). Proceeding through the vipassana-jhanas a fourth time culminates in a fourth and final satori from which one does not 'come back out'. One is now an arhat, permanently established in what Ramana called 'external nirvikalpa samadhi', which he distinguished from internal or trance-based nirvikalpa samadhi. One is jivan-mukti, liberated while embodied. Many adepts may have attained the non-returner stage and have access in samadhi to nondual awareness (and so believe they are fully enlightened), but are not fully liberated jivan-muktis (arhats) because they have not taken the final step to bring that nondual awareness fully into waking awareness. of course, this is what Paul Brunton (PB), Atmananda Krishna Menon and others have argued. For instance, PB wrote:

   "The Overself should not be reached merely in trance; it must be known in full waking consciousness. Trance is merely the deepest phase of meditation, which in turn is instrumental in helping prepare the mind to discover truth. Yoga does not yield truth directly. Trance does not do more than concentrate the mind perfectly and render it completely calm. Realization can come after the mind is in that state and after it has begun to inquire, with such an improved instrument, into truth." (10g)

   The result of this is a state that is constant, whether one is in meditative trance or not, and requires no further practice or even vigilance, as the condition, the natural state, maintains itself. Needless to say, this is the culmination of a great maturity, and few have attained it. PB describes this condition in the following way. I offer this as another example of another ancient teaching that is something for meditators on trance-samadhi mystical types of paths to consider along with their devotional search for the soul, and for those teachers also to ponder if they need to seek further training in order to realize the condition known as "open-eyes." He states:

   "The "natural" philosophic attainment gives insight as a continuity whereas meditation gives it as an interruption. More, its attitudes are so relaxed, its operations so effortless, its outlook so carefree, that those who have to work hard to get the temporary enlightenment know that nothing else in life has the same importance, the same value." (10h)

   "A tacit insight, nothing more," is a saying that has been attributed to the Buddha upon his enlightenment, after he had passed through the eight progressive jnanas of meditation and realized that they were not 'it'.

   And what does one get for his labors? The sense that he is a "conscious co-worker of the divine plan", as Kirpal Singh would sometimes say? Again there is paradox. The answer is, "yes," if the meaning is that one sees the God-Power as the real doer; and "no," if one if takes oneself as an independent agent. For what has one become when he reaches Sach Khand or Anami Lok, the great Emptiness? Kirpal would even more often say that he was "nothing," a "mere pipe," helpless without his Master's grace." As PB wrote:

   "Those who find that beyond the Light they must pass through the Void, the unbounded emptiness, often draw back affrighted and refuse to venture farther. For here they have naught to gain or get, no glorious spiritual rapture to add to their memories, no great power to increase their sense of being a co-worker with God. Here their very life-blood is to be squeezed out as the price of entry; here they must become the feeblest of creatures." (10i)

   This is an important point to think over. It has the potential to draw together many different paths. For the Master is even more vulnerable than his disciples!

   Continuing, in Theravada, in the first significant stage, one has the samadhi of emptiness; then he comes out of it and continues to inquire, investigate mental states, etc., until he overcomes the attachment to the samadhi of emptiness and reaches emptiness in natural life. Then he goes beyond even this 'attachment' to the final emptiness or the Nibbana of the Buddha, beyond all categories and concepts.

   According to anadi, each state must be realized, then cultivated, stabilised, and integrated. Then one can move on to the next true stage. That takes care of the argument of many newer teachers.

   In true Dzogchen, this liberation is the third of three stages - first gain samadhi access to rigpa or nondual presence, then stabilize rigpa in non-trance meditation (like vipassana), then integrate it into daily activity. Ramana taught, similarly, that raising the kundalini to the crown chakra brought internal nirvikalpa samadhi, but not full jivanmukti. To do this on the kundalini path, one needed to bring the kundalini back to the heart and establish it there through the channel he called the amrita nadi, an extension of the sushumna which curved back from the crown center to the heart. The kundalini, completing this deeper movement, established one as a jivanmukti. Of course, this is not what the Sants teach, and it is not clear proof that one is free of karma and totally non-dual realized throughout the planes by this approach. It is not clear that realizing yogic nirvikalpa is the half-way house to realization, in other words. Even Ramana went back and forth teaching this and also teaching the ever-attractive, "just be who you are." For example, he, like PB above, said:

   "We try to grasp something strange and mysterious because we believe happiness lies elsewhere. This is the mistake. The Self is all-pervading. Our real nature is liberation, but we imagine that we are bound, we make strenuous efforts to become free, although all the while we are free. Birth and death pertain only to the body, they are superimposed upon the Self, giving rise to the delusion that birth and death relate to the Self. The universe exists within the Self. Discover the undying Self and be immortal and happy. Be yourself and nothing more. Thoughts change but not you. There is neither past nor future; there is only the present. Yesterday was the present when you experienced it; tomorrow will also be the present when you experience it, therefore, experience takes place only in the present, and even the present is mere imagination, for the sense of time is purely mental. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than  that? Your true nature is that of infinite spirit." (Ramana Maharshi, source misplaced)

   Ramana basically offered two paths to realization. One would be the trance path which would be savikalpa samadhi, to internal nirvikalpa samadhi, then to external nirvikalpa or sahaja samadhi. But he also taught that one could bypass the two internal stages of samadhi and go directly into sahaja samadhi. This could be done, by ripe souls, by doing self-inquiry in the spiritual heart.

   What is not commonly known, however, is that even Ramana, who never himself practiced self-inquiry, but nevertheless was his preferred method (combined, it must be mentioned, with his potent transmission), also recognized the path of nada or sound-contemplation as a legitimate way to the goal!

   “Iyer sought more light on nada (sound).
   M.: He who meditates on it feels it. there are ten kinds of nadas.
   After the final thundering nad the man gets laya. That is his
   natural and eternal state. Nada, jyoti (light), or enquiry thus take
   one to the same point. (The former are indirect and the last is direct).
   D.: The mind becomes peaceful for a short while and again emerges forth. What is to be done?
   M.: The peace often gained must be remembered at other times.
   That peace is your natural and permanent state. By continous
   practice it will become natural. That is called the 'current'. That is
   your true home.”

   But back to Buddhism. Vipassana and other integrated presence practices are methods of direct realization of sahaja without need for trance states. In fact, the Buddha said that one of the fetters that remained after one achieved nirvikalpa samadhi (and becoming a non-returner), and that could be removed by doing vipassana, was attachment to higher planes. Because in a very profound sense, the nondual is not really one of the planes, it is the ground of all the planes, and so can be accessed from any level. It is just easier to initially access it in trance, which can give the illusion that it is a higher plane.

   [For a detailed discussion/recap of this concept of progressive stages, please see The Depths of This Thing on this website].

   So, can the path of Sant Mat bring one to sahaja samadhi? Yes, the difference is that, in the trance path, one must pass back and forth from internal states to outer consciousness many, many times, which leads to gradually integrating the inner realization with ordinary consciousness. Eventually, the stage is reached of internal nirvikalpa samadhi (for the Sants, anami, which may possibly be much deeper than nirvikalpa as traditionally described) which, when experienced often enough and then returning to the physical world enough times, leads to nondual realization being integrated with the physical body. I don't think it happens by itself necessarily, however, and I also realize it is not on the top of the list of concerns for most of us! But for a saint or a sage it would be. This point merits further exploration:

   Shabd Yoga As A Jnana Path

   “In Buddhism, we distinguish between spiritual experiences and spiritual realizations. Spiritual experiences are usually more vivid and intense than realizations because they are generally accompanied by physiological and psychological changes. Realizations, on the other hand, may be felt, but the experience is less pronounced. Realization is about acquiring insight. Therefore, while realizations arise out of our spiritual experiences, they are not identical to them. Spiritual realizations are considered vastly more important because they cannot fluctuate.”

   “The distinction between spiritual experiences and realizations is continually emphasized in Buddhist thought. If we avoid excessively fixating on our experiences, we will be under less stress in our practice. Without that stress, we will be better able to cope with whatever arises, the possibility of suffering from psychic disturbances will be greatly reduced, and we will notice a significant shift in the fundamental texture of our experience.”

   This is a common criticism of mystic paths, of which Sant Mat is one. But can we re-categorize it so that it reflects the aspects of a jnana path, rather than only an emanationist bhakti path? I believe we can. Sant Kirpal Singh wrote:

   “By a process of self-analysis, He (a Sadh) has known the self or the spirit in Its real form - to wit, that it is of the same essence as God; and now He strives for God-knowledge.”

   Each spiritual path makes use of some constellation of spiritual qualities more than others. Some emphasize love, devotion, surrender, faith. Another may emphasize self-analysis, discrimination, inquiry, wisdom and realization. Yet another may focus on compassion and service. And a fourth will emphasize esoteric technical knowledge, skills, power and mastery. There are other leanings as well. Many paths have a variety of these facets, and different people may practice within the same tradition with different approaches.

   A path and a specific practice is like a person – it has a form or body(s), a soul (virtue and relative wisdom) and a spirit (basic spiritual sensibility – such as nondual, theistic, nature mysticism, etc.). So, when looking at a path or specific practice, we can understand the overall approach or practice by looking at the specifics of the form used (mantra, following the breath, visualizations, pranayama and so on), but also we can understand the soul of the practice by looking at the specific qualities that are emphasized, and also the deeper ‘spirit’ or essence of the practice in terms of the spiritual vision, philosophy and ultimate goal of the path or practice. So, for instance, a path with the outer form of repeating a mantra can be the expression of various orientations in that the inner soul and spirit of the approach may differ. The same mantra (form) may be repeated by one person with a quality of faith, surrender and devotion and with the underlying spirit of Theistic sensibility, seeking union with God. Another practitioner may use the same mantra with an emphasis on technical precision, concentration and discipline, with the aim of leading the kundalini to a particular chakra, with the ultimate aim of impersonal liberation. Many combinations are possible with different forms, qualities and spiritual sensibilities, even when the outer form of the practices are more or less the same.

   Since all qualities are interconnected, emphasizing some leaning will ultimately bring development in other areas as well. Someone emphasizing technical development or devotion will ultimately develop wisdom and realization. While someone leaning towards discrimination and equanimity will ultimately develop love and compassion. But…. it seems to generally be true that the fastest route to the development of specific qualities is to actively include them in our path.

   Shabd or nada yoga is a form of spiritual practice that is practiced in various contexts. In the Sikh tradition it is most commonly associated with a bhakti style emphasizing faith, simplicity, purity, surrender, devotion and love. In that context it may not be a form of practice that is based primarily on using discrimination, awareness or inquiry to cultivate wisdom and liberating realization, but it does, secondarily, lead to a powerful process of insight and awakening. It may be argued that if the context and attitude to practicing shabd yoga included a stronger aspect of these qualities, then the wisdom fruits of this path may arise more immediately and richly. But that does not mean they are not inevitably present in that approach already to some degree.

   There are other traditions that use nada/shabd yoga strictly in a context of nondual wisdom development, or in the context of raja yoga, or in the context of technical kundalini/tantric yoga approaches. Also these paths vary as to their core cosmologies, some being Advaita, other qualified, and even some with purely dualistic cosmologies.

   So in what way does shabd yoga act as a form of discriminating wisdom practice, generating self-knowledge and culminating in Self-Realization? Through the following:

   (1) By meditating on the inner sound, the practitioner is first learning to concentrate. In this phase awareness moves back and forth between the sound current and distractions of sensation, emotion, memories, plans, etc. This helps to develop a foundational insight, a discrimination between the sound current and the personality/ego. This leads to greater self-knowledge about the contents of one’s personality, and the difficulties they pose to deeper concentration and peace of mind.

   (2) Gradually, as concentration develops, attunement to the sound current reveals soul qualities of peacefulness, awareness, concentration, detachment, love, surrender and so on. The movement of awareness back and forth during moments of distraction and periods of concentration continue to deepen the intuitive insight not only into the difference between soul qualities (which the sound current is now a focus for attuning to) and the lower bodies, but also gives rise to increasing insight into the value or desirability of soul-identification over identification with the lower bodies and ego.

   (3) Further, this growing insight and deepening attunement to soul throws into greater relief the nature of the ego, its various expressions as anger, selfishness, loneliness, pride, inferiority, sadness, attachment, manipulation and so on. The contrast between these states of ego and qualities of soul become clearer and clearer as the practitioner gradually deepens concentration on the sound current and loosens identification with the personality limitations. The dukkha or unsatisfactoriness of the separate ego, and the deep spiritual satisfaction of soul grows clearer and clearer over time.

   (4) Eventually, enough purification of karma, release of attachment, and disidentification from the lower bodies allows the consciousness to become absorbed enough in the sound current and inner soul qualities that the individual is able, in meditation, to withdraw from body awareness. This deepens the insight that one is not the body, because one is now directly aware of not only existing 'outside' of the body, but also of a finer astral body that one now finds oneself in. This expresses a clear moment or transition in self-knowledge, not the last, but an important turning point.

   (5) Through further meditation on the sound current, one gains further insight into one's higher nature, especially at this stage one's spiritual self or soul as a center of formless identity, wholeness, peace, virtue and wisdom. Dropping awareness of the physical body and extended meditation on the sound current allow for a greater participation in soul experience at this stage, more fully clarifying the difference between soul and lower states of consciousness.

   (6) Eventually the practitioner of shabd yoga raises above the astral and causal bodies as well. These each lead to new levels of self-knowledge as the distinction between one's lower and higher nature becomes clearer and clearer. At this stage, have moved beyond the causal level of our nature, the practitioner is immersed in a profound level of soul identification, which continues to deepen throughout the process of moving through the mahasunn and Bhanwar Gupha. At this stage the aspect of the soul that becomes more vividly aware of its union with the Oversoul or Sat Purush comes to the forefront, deeply enhancing that dimension of one's spiritual understanding.

   (7) Rising above this plane and merging in the atman at the level of Sach Khand, the soul experiences final realization of the difference between itself and the lower bodies or sheaths. This wisdom is fundamental to the agency that has provided the capacity of the soul to realize this truth.

   (8) Inherent in this realization is the deepening Realization that the nature of the atman is inseparable from the Sat Purush.

   (9) Stages of ascent beyond Sach Khand refine this nondual illumined state further and further.

   Therefore, even though in the Sikh tradition the qualities emphasized in the practice of shabd yoga are not ‘jnani’ qualities per se but those deepening concentration that lead to movement from plane to plane, there is still secondarily and inevitably a growing realization/wisdom that comes from proceeding through these stages and experiences.

   Returning to the lower bodies at the end of each cycle of meditation also serves to enhance the intuitive wisdom of the soul in its realization of the difference between these levels of its nature, continually enhancing the wisdom that leads to awakening from false identifications, first by contrast and disillusionment, later by profound illumination.

   Practice over time furthers the ability of the soul to stage by stage bring more of this realization back into waking day to day consciousness, both by the deepening inner realization in meditation, and by the gradual purification of the sheaths that also results from the process, allowing the soul to reflect more its realization in the lower bodies as they get saturated with the higher love, light, and wisdom.

   "Sound arises in the inner sky of pure consciousness, the heart-space in the head, the sky of the heart. What manifests is Life-Power, the One." - Nityananda

   Some thoughts for contemplation on the notions of dissolution and grand dissolution in Sant Mat

   Sant Mat teaches that lesser yogis and yogeshwars, etc., fail to be 'protected' from the cosmic dissolution and grand dissolution that Hindu teachings have mentioned for millennia. These periodic -'return to zero's' of the cosmos have been called days and nights of Brahma, pralaya and mahapralaya, and so forth. One extends up to the astral universes, the other up to the causal universes (or planes). Since Sach Khand is higher than either of these the soul who reaches there is said to then be immune to getting 'wiped out' or otherwise being at a spiritual disadvantage during these dissolutions.

   We are not going so far as to say that such dissolutions are not real or never happen. But consider a few things. What could get 'wiped out'? The ego? Yes, but then, that gets wiped out every night in sleep. Yet it reappears again each morning. Who is afraid of such dissolution? The soul, or the ego? Most likely the ego, right? And the ego doesn't make it to Sach Khand in any case. It is not protected. Yet consciousness is what witnesses the ego - how could that get wiped out? Further, time and space are acknowledged to be categories of the mind - the way the mind structures its experiences - and as such do not exist outside the mind (we can't really say 'outside' either inasmuch as that is a spatial reference), so how can one even speak of a time or duration that such a dissolution lasts, such that one is protected from loss while it happens? What does that even mean? See the problem? Is there even a possibility of duration of a dissolution? No, by definition it is impossible, as time only exists when the mind is there. So what is the real meaning of dissolution? Let us inquire. For example, what dissolves? The creation, or a substance we call matter? But vedanta in fact denies there is ever a creation, or that there exists a 'something' real called matter. Sure there is an appearance, that is not denied, but, they ask, has anybody ever saw it being created? What evidence is there that it has been created? The universe, the body, the ego, are all considered 'ideas', ideas which arise or subsist in Mind and only return to Mind when they seem to disappear. But as they exist always in Mind, they do not really disappear. Then what is dissolution?

   Furthermore , any dissolution is only for an instant - that is to say, since a period of dissolution is by definition one of timelessness, we cannot truly or meaningfully speak of its duration at all. The notion that a soul can reach a place beyond dissolution seems to be one of a goad to practice, a promise of pseudo-emancipation where the ego is satisfied with bliss (ananda) and doesn't have to die! But of course, it is dying all the time. These are things to contemplate, particularly when one is afraid and seeks consolation in the idea that he will somehow be immune to death. There is no need to fear, but there is a need to understand.

   V.S.Iyer writes from a vedantic perspective:

   "The ancient Hindu tenet borrowed by theosophists of universal appearing and dissolving, days and nights of Brahma, entering into pralaya, etc., is intended for mediocre intellects who cannot rise to truth. It is a convenient fable representing the philosophic truth that the whole universe dissolves in your mind in deep sleep, thus entering pralaya, and rises again next morning, i.e., it is all imagination, idea. The Brahma-God has nothing to do with it."

   [Note that the phrase "dissolves in your mind" might better be expressed, "dissolves in Mind," as in vedanta there is ultimately only one mind or consciousness expressing from many different viewpoints (i.e., souls). You as personal ego are definitely not the creator of the world or 'world-idea'].

   The point vedanta drives home is that there are pralayas, per se, in the gap between every thought, every night during sleep, as well as between each lifetime. 'You' as you imagine can't get 'beyond' them - you can only understand and realize their nature. And a way to do that is, as one teacher has said, to 'close the gap' - in every moment see how one thinks the problem into existence again and again. What problem? The conceived problem, and assumed fear, that one is not there now and needs to do something to reach a goal somewhere outside of himself and outside of now. This means a steady inquiry over time; it is a discipline or practice, not a one-shot thing of simply saying it is so.

   "It is this universe that bothers you, and so stand on this universe with a firm foot and inquire; don't fly to Atman, kicking this universe behind! That is not the way to Brahmagnanam, to truth."

   "The wonder consists in the disappearance of the universe in Me. I survive even the destruction of the world. Why worry?"
- V.S. Iyer

   He seems to be saying that the delusion is that I am a something alive in an objective world which dissolves by some mysterious power outside of myself and which can be protected from such an inevitable process, whereas the truth is that I am the witness of all and survive the death and dissolution of all things. Nothing that is really 'us' will disappear in a dissolution.

   The view of Ramana Maharshi, as expressed by his reading of the second chapter of Guadapada's commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, a text considered the epitome of advaita vedanta, is worthy of consideration in this regard:

   "There is no creation and dissolution, there is no bondage, no one doing spiritual practices, no one seeking spiritual liberation, and no one who is liberated. One who is established in the Self sees this by his knowledge of reality."

   Surely there needs to be a meeting ground with this point of view within Sant Mat.

   Another thing to think about: the universe we know of is at least several billion years old, according to science, with at least a few billion more years to go before its time is over. In Sant Mat the initiate is promised to attain the state, or reach the level, of Sach Khand (which is in any case a realization of timelessness), in a maximum of four lives. Surely that is a lot less 'time' than billions of years - so why worry about dissolutions?!

   Beyond and Beyond the Beyond

   Sant Mat often speaks of having a peek into the Beyond at initiation, or fully entering the 'Beyond' in meditation or at death. Then mention is made of a 'Beyond the Beyond' state, and 'More.' What do they mean by these terms? The 'Beyond' usually seems to be used to signify the inner planes of form, in which case the 'Beyond' is being opposed to 'here.' 'Beyond the Beyond' is then reserved for 'spiritual or soul planes' beyond form, presumably super-causal and Sach Khand. If this is so, then what does the 'more' mean? I don't know, but it could mean what other traditions mean by 'Beyond the Beyond'! In those traditions, sometimes the Beyond includes all inner realms and states up to the extreme limit of innerness or inversion as the subjective source of consciousness itself, while 'Beyond the Beyond' refers to the non-dual realization beyond the opposites of inner (Beyond) or outer (here). Does that help?! [Probably not! If so you might see the article "Sarmad's Renunciations" for more help on this]

   [End of "Shabd Yoga As A Jnana Path"]

   Vipassana practices hold a key to efficiently integrate higher realization with the human personality and physical body, because one practices holding as deep a realization as one can in direct relationship to those levels of experience, integrating that level of realization into the human aspects. Both aspects transform over time (the depth of one's realization and the various dimensions of our human nature - body, emotions, thoughts) eventually leading to integrated nondual realization. So both the Buddha (and Ramana as another example) taught that it is possible to cultivate sahaja samadhi without cultivating trance states.

   So what is the value of trance states? One important one is that they are, for many people, the fastest way to develop a deeply peaceful, centered, concentrated state of mind. And even vipassana (zazen, Dzogchen, etc.) will progress much faster with that foundation. The approaches normally used for vipassana allow for reliable progress without significant samadhi power developed first, but it is widely believed, and was considered by the Buddha, to be better with it. Deep concentration can and is developed within vipassana practice, but it is often easier to develop concentration when focusing on a specific subject (visualization, mantra, shabda) rather than while cultivating the open awareness at the heart of vipassana. There are also many other advantages and values of using samadhi/trance practices. In fact, the Buddha had many of his liberated arhat disciples continuing to expand and enrich their 'post-realization' states, to enhance their relative wisdom and expand their capacity for service. This included enhancing access to higher worlds, developing siddhis, and expanding relative knowledge. This is, of course, totally consistent with Sant Mat.

   In light of all this, the teaching of Nisargadatta that after death one is simply absorbed back into the absolute seems extreme.

   There is a special value unique to Shabd Yoga which the Buddhist style jhana, or vipassana, practices do not cultivate. And that is that the Shabd itself is a special focus of concentration. The Shabd is the Logos, Shabda Brahman, or, to translate into Buddhist terminology, the Sound of the Primordial or Universal Buddha. So to meditate on the Shabd is to directly attune to the Universal Presence of Nondual Enlightenment, a living, dynamic Presence that transmits realization directly into the meditator.

   In other words, most of the Buddhist versions of samadhi practice do not involve the immersion in a source of grace the way Shabd yoga does. This is a great advantage for the path of Sant Mat. But is it still a samadhi path, so it is not necessarily as efficient at bridging that realization back into the body. That is why combine Shabd Yoga with a vipassana-like practice or insight-contemplation may be useful. [However, it must also be said that when one investigates what it takes to pursue the path of the Buddhist jnanas, in this current age Sant Mat looks like a breeze by comparison].

   Also, the way one learns to move from plane to plane in each approach makes it possible that the nature of the realization and transformation that is taking place at each stage and plane is not the same. In shabd yoga, it is not just 'trance', but an actual death and rebirth, in stages. So, for instance, reaching Sach Khand in Shabd Yoga is the result not just of samadhi but a transformation resulting from communion with the Sat Purush that is not the same as what transformation has transpired for a Buddhist using the typical jhana practices and reaching the same 'plane'.

15. After Death: What Happens?

   This is what is generally understood to take place after death for non-initiates. First, the consciousness 'in the body' withdraws and is located now in the astral world. If it is a naturally more conscious individual, there will be some awareness that it has died. Karmic connections will tend to dictate who will be available to help after transition. For most souls these will be extended family members. For more advanced souls, mentors, elder initiates and masters. The more conscious the person, the more rich the process of transition, the higher the aspect of the astral world entered into. Very advanced initiates often skip over the astral and even some higher planes. It depends on many factors. Many souls will experience the first stage of transition as like a dream, and due to their confusion about what has transpired, they will carry over in the own subconscious the elementals of this life (as in a dream) and continue experiencing a 'life', believing they are still living in the physical, and will behave accordingly. This is not necessarily a painful state. They are working out astral karma, but not very quickly. For many of them it is not hard to convince them that they have died, and then with that simple realization, their experience shifts and they move into higher astral worlds. For many normal souls, and 'junior' initiates, there will be awareness that dropping the body has taken place, and a more or less smooth transition will take place, in which the person will assimilate into a new life in the astral world. Whether the transition was more conscious or not, the fact of having dropped the physical sheath will gradually have its effects, for the lack of a dense body will cause various heavier desires to fall away, allowing the soul to become more conscious and begin to have deeper understanding of what has happened and where they are. Depending on the person, this can take anywhere from seconds to years.

   Initiates will usually make this transition very quickly because of two facts - the grace of the master, and the power of their own consciousness, which by virtue of the fact that they are initiates, generally means that they are not young souls who are likely to be more confused and take longer to awaken. Having dropped the body will make it easier to expand into a more conscious experience of the next world, and the help of friends, family and sangha and guru all make this inevitable. And if their level of consciousness is adequate when they die, they don't even need any help, but will simply make a conscious transition, understand what is happening, and typically have a very positive transition.

   Now, here is the key. A human soul has two basic parts. A part that exist in higher planes, which has different aspects, and an emanation from this part that forms another self on the lower planes, the incarnate self. They are the same soul, in two levels of expression. The essence of the higher self is the atman, spirit, Overself or rigpa. This part rests in nondual realization and does not 'descend' into incarnation. This is the part of us that 'lives' in Sach Khand and is already illumined. Although the intensity of this realization can grow, it is still nondual realization. The atman's realization also shines into the anandamaya sheath 'below', creating a formless, higher dimensional 'body' that also has a type of identity that remains close to the atman, but in the average person does not have as much nondual awareness. This body is also called the causal body in Vedanta, because in it are stored the seeds of the karmas that give rise to rebirths in the realms below. These two levels comprise not just planes or worlds, but also we have a permanent form of identity on these planes, permanent in that they provide continuity from birth to birth. These levels of self do not get dropped after each incarnation ends. The bodies below these get gradually dropped after each birth (in some schools the basic divisions at these levels is physical, astral, mental. In the five body Vedantic system they are divided somewhat differently and are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya kosas). These bodies are temporary each life. The consciousness of the higher self, atma/buddhi, grows from life to life, assimilating wisdom, character (virtue), and nondual realization that is never lost, but 'remains in the higher worlds', so to speak. From life to life as the higher consciousness grows, the bodies generally get more refined, and reflect more of the higher realization that is developing in the higher self. Eventually the combined effect of extensive soul development in the higher planes, and finer bodies developed in the lower planes (through transforming karma and 'upgrading' the elementals that make up one's manifest character), allows the consciousness of the deeper self [this is similar to what Sri Aurobindo referred to as the 'psychic entity'] to shine through the lower bodies, giving rise to more and more illumined states of consciousness expressed in the lower bodies.

   After death, the individual in their astral body will become more permeable to the higher self's consciousness, allowing more wisdom and virtue (and ultimately nondual illumination) to shine through, how much depending on the state of evolution of the soul, but always more that the physical self experienced because there is now one less sheath to veil it. So the consciousness, now shedding its vasanas that had to do with being in a physical body, will be integrating more with the inner self. This, for most people is a gradual process. Eventually it is time for the second death where the astral is also shed. This allows the consciousness to become even more permeable to the higher self, their consciousnesses merging even more. By this time the awareness of the person is no longer very similar to what it was when they were in incarnation. They have significantly awakened to remember much that their soul or higher self already knows on its own plane (anandamaya/atman). Finally, after some time, a third death will ensure, and the consciousness will fully assimilate back into the higher self, enriching the higher self with experience. The aspect of the higher self that is the anandamayakosa 'self' is somewhat veiled with dualism, yet it is mild. This self has discriminating wisdom. One might call it 'enlightened dualism'. That is, it discriminates about virtue, distinguishes good and bad karma, strives for enlightenment, functions as true conscience, and tries to guide each incarnation, within the limits of karma. So each life enriches the relative wisdom and virtue of this level of our nature, even if it has not been a very good life karma wise for the outer personality. The inner self still harvests wisdom from the experience, because its core nature does not fall into identification with the lower bodies, maintains perspective, and assimilates wisdom. Since this self is pretty wise in most people, especially those on the path, one method of growth is to simply clear the lower bodies of obstructions, allowing the inner wisdom and virtue to naturally shine through. But that will only take one so far. This anandamaya self must eventually complete its process of becoming illuminated by the atman or nondual self through both developing virtue and surrendering to nondual presence, which are all interrelated. So the lower ego self, identified with the lower bodies, gradually integrates its identity with the anandamaya self, attaining what in Sant Mat is called Self-Realization (prior to God-Realization), which in Sant Mat does not mean Atmic or nondual realization, but rather advanced virtue and relative wisdom realization, beyond the temporary bodies and bondage in the realms of Kal and MahaKal. Then the anandamaya self is fully liberated into nondual realization (in degrees).

   So, in between lives a temporary version, in the ascending model, of this larger process takes place wherein the lower self is gradually assimilated into the higher, anandamaya self. As this gradual assimilation progresses, both selves are enriched. The anandamaya self 'digests' the consciousness of the lower self, harvesting wisdom and virtue. And the lower self is infused with the much greater realization of the higher self. So by the time it reaches Daswan Dwar, it is no longer the incarnate identity it was, it is essentially transformed back into union with its self at the anandamaya level, reawakening to this much deeper level of awareness, like coming home, or as if it had been asleep, identified with the lower bodies. Not the home of Sach Khand, but still a much more spiritual and wise level. The higher self is the ongoing accumulation of all the wisdom and virtue of all the previous experiences, both in physical and subtle realms. This level is sometimes (as in Vedanta) called the causal level because, though the higher self here is not consciously identified with all the unresolved vasanas or karmas that are yet to be liberated, they do exist there now in seed form, to re-emerge in future births, sprouting forth through the lower bodies. So even though the higher self at that plane is not identified with these vasanas, it is limited by the subtle veil their presence as seeds creates between its consciousness and deeper nondual awakening.

   So, does the consciousness of the individual that dies go back to Daswan Dwar? In our tentative view, yes and no. No in the sense of not as it was. But yes in the sense that it is gradually assimilated into that level, with the unresolved vasanas return to seed form. The self that arrives at Daswan Dwar is, in a certain sense, not the same self that died, but a transformed and purified self. To learn to go to Daswan Dwar in meditation is to learn to 'die daily', so that the mutual infusion of these levels goes forth during life, rather than after death. This way the lower self is gradually assimilated and transformed into the higher self during life, and the lower karmas and experiences are transformed by the soul, enriching its realization and preparing it for the final stage of assimilation into the atman (and beyond). If Daswan Dwar has been reached during meditation while still alive, then one does not need to gradually assimilate during the after death stages, and will simply go to that level or beyond, or continue, like many do, to retain a lower body to be of service on those planes.

   Being an initiate ensures that one's master will be there when you pass over, and will guide you though these states. There is nothing to fear about all of this. For initiates, death is a primarily a beautiful experience. There is a sense of liberation (relatively) and often a feeling of revelation. Often, though, there is a period first of gaining perspective on the past incarnation, which at first may be difficult, as we may have carried over the tendency to judge ourselves too harshly for our human weaknesses and limitations. But eventually, usually fairly quickly both due the nature of the process and to the help of others, our consciousness shifts. We gain more perspective about why our life took the form it did, we see the karmic patterns behind it, we see what we learned, what karma was worked out, and what hidden grace helped us, and greater understanding and compassion emerge. Then we come to balance and peace about our life, and we move on. If one cannot do a specific practice like absorption in the nada at the time of death, then simply remember the master, even repeating his name, for this will ensure one will recognize His presence more immediately. He will definitely be there, but we may blind ourselves to this at first by our doubts, fears, and self-judgments.

   One experience of my co-writer in this section, a Darshan Singh initiate who will remain unnamed, professed to having had a numbers of higher plane masters before his initiation, whom he said that Darshan recognized as real. He has himself integrated various practices within one another, and in the following correspondence sheds light on a broader vision of this process. This is not advice for anyone to follow, just food for thought for the curious or hungry, so take it on face value. We have tried to be impartial throughout this paper and are not departing from that guideline now:

   "Although I have used many spiritual practices, the heart of my path is nondual transmission by grace. I was initiated by my lineage back into conscious awareness of my dharma and relationship to them in 1982, at which time a 'process' was started that involves, among other things, the transmission of Shakti/nondual realization in a sustained form ever since. This has been both a very inspiring and extremely demanding process, because, as you know, strong initiation brings up vasanas that are unresolved. In our lineage, this is done by degree. But once the disciple has reached the stage where surrender is adequate, a more profound transmission of fire/consciousness can be released. If adequate surrender is not developed yet, this can cause a backlash reaction from the ego that is counter productive. So it needs to be gradual and regulated to the stage of development. But even when surrender is more developed, the process of compressing that much transformation into so short a time can be very stressful. So, I am very familiar with various forms of the dark night, kundalini-process symptoms, etc. My teaching cycles tend to correspond to when I have stabilized a new plateau. Although I do meditation practices and karma yoga, the real power of my awakening is from this transmission, which aims to directly actualize realization in day-to-day awareness, without the need for travel to higher planes. But I do meditate also, emphasizing a vipassana-like practice because it most directly helps to surrender to the transmission and integrate it into daily life. For other reason I often use other practices, especially meditation on the naam, but more as a supplementary practice. But the naam at this stage is also present in my awareness throughout the day, and feels more like an integral part of my awareness and presence, rather than something only heard in meditation and experienced as something outside of myself. So an aspect of shabd yoga for me is attuning to the nada during activity as an energetic or vibratory aspect of the state of presence itself, rather than more of an inner and trance practice (though I also do that too, usually during the night).”

   “Although I do not currently emphasize trance practices, I have had many experiences of those dimensions. In the early stages these were facilitated by my inner teachers much of the time. During this stage I was introduced to various levels of the inner worlds. So, though I am not as masterful at accessing these planes as people like Daskalos or the Sant Mat gurus, I do have some personal experience to base my 'opinions' on about these realms. But also we must remember that contact with so-called higher planes does not only happen in trance. These planes are all interpenetrating vibratory/consciousnesses and can be attuned to while in one's body at any time. Since I am already have a strong connection with higher planes by nature, much of my practice is geared towards integrating realization in the lower planes, rather than trying to access higher worlds. So most of my contact with higher worlds is done in the context of remaining in my body, so that I do not over stimulate myself (the energy is already very strong and so there is a danger of over stimulation), and so I attune to the realization, quality and experiences of other realms in a state of 'integrated presence' to keep balanced.”

   “My inner lineage first showed me what this state of integrated presence could be like in 1984. To make a longer story shorter, I was with a client doing spiritual counseling, he was talking about a relationship. I was starting to identify with him and judge his partner for her behavior. I noticed this and pulled back to a deeper state of presence. Then I felt a Greater Presence 'reach into me' and expand my consciousness. This began to emerge in me as a feeling of my deeper self 'incarnating' into my body. As my consciousness was expanding, I noticed that, to be in this state at my stage, my unresolved karma/vasanas had to be set aside temporarily to allow this sahaja state to manifest. I felt these energies being kind of pushed down my spine into my lowest chakras until they were pushed out the back with a pop. When this happened (it all took a short time) I simply snapped into a new state that it is nearly impossible to describe. The foundational aspect of this state was that everything just 'was'. The judgment I had felt a minute before was now replace with such a profoundly embracing state that there didn't seem to be room anymore to step back and judge anything. Also, I remained 'in my body', though in fact the nature of the body as I was aware of it in this state was radically transformed.”

   “For one, the presence of nondual realization was so pervasive that there was no discernable boundaries any longer between planes. The various planes now stood revealed as a seamless continuum of consciousness that embraced what we would ordinarily call the physical plane (which was now not material but a form of conscious) through the subtle planes, into spiritual planes. Since all were illumined from a nondual state, they were seamlessly integrated, none higher than another, and certainly not stacked up, one on the other in a two dimensional fashion. They were part of a multidimensional wholeness that revealed patterns and beings and yet was nondual at the same time. In this state, I 'saw' the nondual nature, evolving soul, and personality/karmic aspects of not only the client, but also the woman who he was involved with, and others who were part of their story. I could see the karmic conditions of their lives, and the way their souls were 'incarnated' into them, how they mirrored their stage of evolution, and how it was all absolutely perfect, in the sense that their karmic situation in incarnation perfectly mirrored the stage of the soul's evolution and they were all, therefore, incarnated in the right experiences for their spiritual evolution, like a glove perfectly fitting a hand. There was nothing to judge. These were not ideas I was having in my mind in that state. They were part of a multilayered, direct intuitive/nondual realization of the nature of what was so. I was directly realization these things through a profound oneness with them. In that state, I no longer had ordinary sensation, but yet was aware of the physical world, I did not have emotions, but was aware of the psychological dimension, and I did not have ordinary thoughts, but had superconscious realization. As usual with these things, my description feels very inadequate. Gradually a reflective self-awareness began to emerge, and I slowly started to emerge from the state. I began to have a part that was observing what was happening to me, and having thoughts like 'this is interesting', 'I wonder how long this will last', 'gee, I wonder if I can talk while I am in this state, integrating it with behavior'. I could, for while still hold a certain level of this while talking with the client, but the thinking that emerged gradually drew my back out the state. I have been in various forms of these states many times since, including in trance as well, but I do not grasp after them. They served to directly introduce me to the nature of more realized states, that not only helped transform my consciousness in the moment, but provided direct insight that helps to gradually surrender to higher realization over time."

   It must go without saying that this is but an example, and not a prescription for anyone to follow. Each must find his own way. He concludes with what seems to me a note of sanity for our day and age:

   "As we move towards a more scientific approach to evolving our understanding of the spiritual life, our experiences are our data, which we need to share with each other to expand our mutual base of experience and enrich understanding. We are the experiments, and so we need to share that with each other."


   For more on death and dying, see Dying in the Master's Company and In the Bosom of the Lord: Death for the "Unliberated" on this website.


   Part Three


(10) Kirpal Singh, Life and Death: The Wheel of Life/The Mystery of Death (Sanbornton, New Hampshire: Sant Bani Ashram, 1980), p. 124
(10b) Kirpal Singh, The Way of the Saints (Sanborton, N.H.: Sant Bani Ashram, 1976), p. 27
(10c) Kirpal Singh, A Great Saint: Baba Jaimal Singh (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1968), p. 79
(10d) Kyriacos Markides, The Magus of Strovolos (London, England: ARKANA, 1985), p. 133-134
(10dd) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 5, Part 1. 4.56
(10ddd) Ibid, 1.453
(10dddd) Ibid, Vol. 12, Part 2, 1.53
(10ddddd) Plotinus, The Enneads, VI.7.34
(10e) Paramahansa Yogananda, The Second Coming of Christ, Vol. 1 (Self-Realization fellowship, 2004), p. 1-32
(10f) from The Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter 11, trans. D.T. Suzuki, as condensed in The Buddhist Bible, by Dwight Goddard
(10g) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, 7: 122
(10h) Ibid, Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.187
(10i) Ibid, Vol. 15, Part 1, 8.59
(10j) Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Directions International), p. 218
(10k)Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, "Letting Go of Spiritual Experience," (Tricycle, Fall 2004