Ramana Maharshi at his ashram in India
It is all too easy to take mysticism less than literally, to imagine that it’s “only psychological,” by implication sub-reality.
Following after the Divine Light experience, described earlier, the next episode is usually Seeing into the nature of Reality, an out-of-body view of your immediate surroundings.
This extraordinary experience occurs suddenly and, if you are not expecting it, can be a little disorienting: “What happened? Why was I floating above my body? Am I dead?”
The answer is most emphatically No! You have been chosen to be at the cutting edge of humanity’s exploration of the real world — not the physical one given to us by science.
While you are in this state, the body and senses continue doing what they were doing in complete ignorance of the event taking place beyond them. The subject “sees” but not with human eyes, which are seeing the normal world. It is a completely separate faculty which remains totally in the background in our normal lives, but which may explain many types of extrasensory perception.
And, yet, the mystic — which is what he now is — remembers what happened during the encounter, while the bodily thoughts and emotions fail to register it, having been left behind during the experience.
We spend much of our lives sunk deep into our thoughts and feelings, mostly unaware that there is a realm beyond them which watches over us and gives us a glimpse of our immortality. We get to know that realm through direct experience and the growth of our human potential.
To understand this better, let’s take a brief look at the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest sages, Ramana Maharshi.
That there is “nothing but [God]” is the central premise from which Advaita Vedanta takes its source. All else flows from this austere statement. Vedanta’s greatest modern exponent, Ramana Maharshi, (1879 – 1950) continually emphasised the point to visitors at his ashram in Southern India.
“That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the individual soul. Self alone is this ancient world.” The mind is only a collection of thoughts, a pale reflection of God’s; and the mind distorts the light of God into the appearance of the world.
It is as if a piece of ornamental glass, irregular and multi-coloured, had been inserted between us and the pure, white light of the force that made us. The kaleidoscopic dazzle of hues refracted through it make up our world. The glass is the mind and the ego (the “I” sense) which gives rise to it.
It is the role of mystics, and religion at its best, to convince us of this reality and direct our efforts along the simplest path for achieving our own experience of it.
The admittance of other matters, or complications, for example: rituals, multiple deities, institutional hierarchies or the working of wonders, are the result of ego activity and lead us away from the goal not towards it.
By this definition of religion: non-dual, simple and direct, Ramana’s life was exemplary.
Author of: The Eternal Quest for Immortality
Coming soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world