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Teaching

When and How Shall We Think?

“The heart has its reasons
that reason does not know.”

~ Blaise Pascal
“If you correct your mind,
the rest of your life will fall into place.”
~ Lao Tzu
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift,
and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant
and has forgotten the gift.”
~ Albert Einstein
“I think with intuition.
The basis of true thinking is intuition.

Indeed, it is not intellect,
but intuition
which advances humanity.
”

~ Albert Einstein
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
~ Albert Einstein
“We are formed and molded by our thoughts.
Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy when they speak or act.
Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
~ Buddha
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
~ Proverbs 23:7




When and How Shall We Think?

Q. When and how shall we think?

A. The power of rational thought is a great gift.
But, like a tool, it’s best to choose it before we use it.

Before thinking rationally, if we still the ‘voice in our head’,

we can feel and listen to our Heart – our intuition and soul.

Thus we can first hear our Heart, not our head.

In our metaphoric Heart shines the Eternal light of Truth –
the light of Love. As stated in ancient Vedic scriptures:

“There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, … beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in your Heart.”
~ Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7

Logic has its limits. When confused or misused as ego, rational thought can impede spiritual evolution, causing perpetual karmic suffering. But Truth and Love are boundless and timeless.

So, it’s best to honor our Heart, over our rational mind –
using innate intellect to serve and follow our Sacred Heart.

And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner

Invocation

May we still our minds,
to follow our Heart.

And as we so follow our Heart,

May we uncover and discover
ever expanding happiness, empathy and awareness.

With which we consciously and cooperatively
co-create an ever better world –
as we intend, intuit, and imagine it to be.


Related Post:
How Can We Think More Objectively?

Go With The Flow!

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.
Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow.
Let reality be reality.
Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
~ Lao-Tzu
“How can the divine Oneness be seen? 

In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe-inspiring miracles? 

The Tao is not obliged to present itself in this way.

If you are willing to be lived by it, you will 
see it everywhere,
even in the most ordinary things.”

~ Lao Tzu
“Those who flow as life flows,
know they need no other force.”
~ Lao Tzu
“By letting it go it all gets done.
The world is won by those who let it go.

But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”

~ Lao Tzu
“If you correct your mind,
the rest of your life will fall into place.”
~ Lao Tzu
“Tao is Now,
Tao is One,
Tao is Doer,
Tao will be done. –
Tao will be done,
So let Tao do it.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutras Sayings



Introduction to “Go With The Flow!”

Dear Friends,

The following whimsically poetic sutra verses and explanatory comments are about ‘common wisdom’ advising us to “go with the flow”. Together with posted quotations from Taoist Master Lao Tzu, these writings reveal esoteric insights into fundamental principles promoting spiritual evolution. Please enjoy and deeply reflect upon them.

May these writings inspire us to honor and yield to Nature’s flow, which will inevitably carry us back beyond ego-mind to our spiritual Source – an indescribably joyous and eternal Infinite ocean of Universal Awareness.

And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner

Go With The Flow!

Go with the flow!
Go with the flow!

Everyone says
to go with the flow.

Go with the flow!
Go with the flow!

But nobody knows
where the flow goes.

So, where will we go,
if we go with the flow?

Nobody says;
Nobody knows.


Ron’s audio recitation of “Go With The Flow”

Listen to



Ron’s explanation of “Go With The Flow”

After much reflection and observation, I’ve concluded that being “in the flow”, or “in the zone”, or “in the Tao”, are all salutary and substantially similar spiritual states. So with poetic license I’ve often equated or conflated them in spiritual writings – where “Flow” and “Tao” and “zone” are often used synonymously.

From a poetic perspective all of these concepts point to non-dualistic Universal Intelligence or Infinite Potentiality which is the mysterious Source of the universe and all energy patterns that cosmically keep it harmonious, balanced and ordered.

Definition

I’ve defined going with the “flow” or the “Tao” – or being in the “zone” – as thought-free, effortless, and focused merging of intention, action, and awareness – consciously letting Life happen through us, to harmlessly harmonize with Nature and achieve effortless action. 

Contrary to some interpretations, “Going with the “flow” or the “Tao” is the antithesis of being passive, apathetic or indolent. Or of just letting things happen without rational response.

When “in the flow” we skillfully and spontaneously respond to ever changing conditions or stimuli, like accomplished athletes, artists or stand-up performers who are “in the zone”. Such responses help us harmoniously co-create this ever impermanent world while maintaining homeostatic equilibrium and balance. And it is a sign of our spiritual progress in the evolutionary process of ultimately merging with Mystery.

Taoist Perspectives

Some of the wisest reflections on these perennial questions are in Lao Tzu’s enduring masterpiece the Tao Te Ching, including those preceding the above “Go With The Flow” verses.

And here are some further Tao Te Ching verses which have especially interested me:

“Stop thinking and end your problems.”



“To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.”



“Become totally empty

Quiet the restlessness of the mind

Only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness”



“Be still. Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.”



“Free of ego, living naturally, working virtuously,
you become filled with inexhaustible vitality
and are liberated forever from the cycle of death and rebirth.

”

“Understand this if nothing else:
spiritual freedom and oneness with the Tao
are not randomly bestowed gifts,
but the rewards of conscious self-transformation and self-evolution.”


Invocation

May these “go with the flow” writings
inspire us to honor and yield to Nature’s flow,
which will inevitably carry us back
beyond ego-mind to our spiritual Source –
an indescribably joyous and eternal
Infinite ocean of Universal Awareness.

And as we awaken to harmlessly harmonize with Nature,
may we consciously and cooperatively
co-create an ever better world –
as we intend, intuit, and imagine it to be.


And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner


Related Post:
Like A Waterfall

Divine Harmony
~ by Paramahansa Yogananda


“Harmony is the secret principle of life.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda



Swami Paramahansa Yogananda



Introduction

Dear Friends,

It is my grateful privilege to share with you Swami Paramahansa Yogananda’s enlightened aphorisms titled “Divine Harmony” as excerpted verbatim from his “Journey To Self-Realization: Collected Talks And Essays On Realizing God In Daily Life, Volume III”.

Swami Yogananda’s profound wisdom words about “Divine Harmony” are shared to help heal the world, by awakening Humankind to our spiritual Oneness and Harmony with Nature and Universal Awareness, as LOVE.

May Paramahansa Yogananda’s Divine message inspire us to BE harmonious with ourselves, with each other, and with all of Nature of which we are part.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


“Divine Harmony” ~ by Paramahansa Yogananda

Excerpted from Journey To Self-Realization: Collected Talks And Essays On Realizing God In Daily Life, Volume III.
 

·         Disharmony is misery and death; harmony is the joy of life.

·         We Live in Two Worlds

·         The outside world is the one in which your life engages in action and interaction.  The world inside of you determines your happiness or unhappiness, and also your fitness or unfitness, expressed in the world outside.  The hand of the One who made these worlds tuned them to harmonize with each other.  Harmony is their inherent nature.  If they seem discordant, that is the fault of those who misuse and abuse the potentials of these divine creations.

·         People are convinced that their own personal perceptions are “fact” until contrary evidence eventually proves otherwise.  Who can persuade biased individuals that the whole universe moves in an eternal cosmic rhythm, and that all irregularities are misconceptions due to limited or distorted vision?  Those who can hear, hear; those who can see, see; those who have a perceptive heart perceive the divine harmony that runs through all creation.

·         To penetrate into the soul of creation, yoga insight is required.

·         There Is Harmony at the Core of Disharmony

·         Things are not what they seem.

·         Consider everything that happens as a note in the symphony of the Cosmic Conductor.

·         Only those who partake of the harmony within their souls know the harmony that runs through nature. Whosoever lacks this inner harmony feels also a lack of it in the world.  The mind in chaos finds chaos all around.

·         How can one know what peace is like if he has never tasted it?

·         But he who has inner peace can abide in this state even in the midst of outer discord.

·         Harmony is born of love and wisdom.  These, in turn, are offspring of a heart that is pure and outreaching.  A pure heart is the result of pure thoughts.

·         Mental purity comes from a selective process by which the mind sorts good thoughts from bad, rejecting the latter and dwelling always on the former.

·         By repetition, and by reinforcement through application to action, discrimination becomes a virtuous habit.  When the mental conflict of divergent thoughts ceases, owing to the elimination of wrong thinking, there arises in one’s life an outward as well as an inward harmony.  Therefore, whenever your thoughts engage in a family quarrel among themselves, mediate their differences with wisdom and behold! Distressing conflicts will disturb you no more.

·         The mind is nature’s incinerator wherein you can burn to ashes all mental dross that is not worthy to be saved:  your waste thoughts and desires, your misconceptions and grievances, and your discords in human relationships.  There is not a single relationship, however estranged, you cannot reconcile, provided you do so first in your own mind.  There is not a single problem in life you cannot resolve, provided you first solve it in your inner world, its place of origin.  Be not intimidated by consequences, even though they be drastic.  Before you act, if you first harmonize the situation with the discriminative wisdom in your mind, the outcome will take care of itself.  A harmonized mind produces harmony in this world of seeming discord.

·         Inner harmony is a prolific source of power; it breeds strength.  Things that you think you are unable to bear, you can not only bear but change and improve.  To you is given the power that can move the world and alter the face of fate despite inharmonious outer circumstances.

·         Harmony conserves mental energy; disharmony dissipates it.

·         Harmony manifests itself as a natural goodness.  A man who cannot get along with others is one who does not get along with himself, he is always at war inwardly, ill at ease with his own nature.

·         Those who cannot find peace in their own hearts will not find it elsewhere either.

·         Harmony is the Secret Principle of Life

·         Good judgment is a natural expression of wisdom; but it is directly dependent on harmony within, which is poise of mind.  When the mind lacks harmony, it has no peace; and without peace it lacks both judgment and wisdom.  Life is full of bumps and knocks.  In the hours of trials, which demand your keenest judgment, if you preserve your mental equilibrium you will attain victory.

·         This is equally true in any type of organization – any structure that has interacting parts, from nature as a whole to human relationships to corporate businesses and spiritual societies.  Harmony is the soul of organization; disharmony is death.

·         Harmony is the fruit of common understanding.

·         Efforts to establish harmony among human beings or nations solely on the basis of economic equality of equivalence of military preparedness are sure to fail.

·         What is necessary is an understanding of the common higher necessities for the preservation and true happiness of the bodies, minds, and souls of all beings.

·         Love and forbearance are essential to the growth of harmony. Love nurtures all things that grow; it harmonizes and unites.  Hatred agitates and separates; and indifference destroys what could have been made good and beneficial.  Love is harmony and harmony is love.

·         “People have time to worry and to suffer, but feel they have no time to meditate and work toward being truly happy.”  Throw off difference and cultivate love, forbearance, and wisdom. Build your joys on the sure foundation of inner harmony. Cherish no thought that does not harmonize with the love and lawful ideals of God.  Thus will your whole life be flooded with the light and bliss of the Divine Harmony.


Invocation

May Swami Paramahansa Yogananda’s Divine message inspire us to BE
harmonious with ourselves, with each other, and with all of Nature of which we are part.


And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


How Shall We Solve Our Planetary Problems?

“No problem can be solved
from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

~ Albert Einstein
“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.”

~ Buddha
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

~ Proverbs 23:7
“The release of atom power.. changed everything
except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem
lies in the heart of mankind.”

~ Albert Einstein
“Ultimately, the decision to save the environment
must come from the human heart.
The key point is a call for a genuine sense of universal responsibility
that is based on love, compassion and clear awareness.”

~ Dalai Lama (From “Humanity and Ecology”)
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
 and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society  that honors the servant 
and has forgotten the gift.”
~ Albert Einstein
“I think with intuition.
The basis of true thinking is intuition.
Indeed, it is not intellect,
but intuition which advances humanity.
Intuition tells a man his purpose in life.
One never goes wrong following his feelings.
I don’t mean emotions, I mean feelings,
for feelings and intuition are one.”

~ Albert Einstein




How Shall We Solve Our Planetary Problems?

Q. How can humankind resolve its critical planetary problems?

A. By addressing them intuitively from elevated heart levels of awareness.

The critical problems now confronting humanity have arisen from low ego-mind levels of human consciousness, which must be transcended for our peaceful survival on planet Earth.

As Albert Einstein aptly observed:
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”


To resolve critical human problems we must elevate Humanity’s level of consciousness, from the human mind – which is thought – to the human heart, which is intuition. And then, with “a genuine sense of universal responsibility that is based on love, compassion and clear awareness” [Dalai Lama], we can intuitively and cooperatively resolve our problems.

Only with feelings, insights and actions arising from loving kindness and compassion for all Life everywhere, shall humankind truly transcend and cooperatively resolve its critical ecologic and economic problems.

With opened hearts we can and we shall resolve our critical planetary problems.

Invocation

May we open our hearts
to our innate empathy, kindness and compassion.

And with benevolent and focused intention,
may we so realize our ONENESS with everyone and everything;

And thereby lovingly resolve our critical planetary problems
to bless all Life everywhere – as LOVE!


And so it shall be!

Ron Rattner

Why Does Everyone Want Happiness?

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life,
the whole aim and end of human existence.”
~ Aristotle
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
~ Dalai Lama
“From the moment of birth every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.”
~ Dalai Lama
“The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self. Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self. The true Self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi.
“The purpose of religious lectures and sermons is to awaken in you that irresistible soul-longing for Him.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“The desire to be one with God is the greatest of all.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“The soul of man has been separated from its source, wandering in exile in a strange land – “I am stranger on earth” (Psalm 119:19-20) – ever yearning to return to that from which it first sprang, and cleave to the Soul of all souls.”
~ Ba’al Shem Tov, Hasidic master
“O God, you are my God – for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless and without water.”
~ Psalm 63:1
“The longing to go back to the source is present in each being from the very time that it is separated from the source by the veil of ignorance.”
~ Meyer Baba




Why Does Everyone Want Happiness?

Q. Why do all people want to be happy?

A. In seeking happiness, everyone is really seeking Self.

Knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or subconsciously, no matter who or where we are, no matter our age, gender or culture, all humans share a universal and irresistible instinct and desire to return to a soul-remembered original state of Divine Love, Peace and Oneness – a transcendent state beyond words or thoughts so marvelous that its subliminal memory magnetically attracts every sentient being to merge and be At-One with It.

No matter how spiritually evolved we may become, all incarnate human life-forms experience limitation and separation from Source. Though rare beings in deep meditation may transcend this state of seeming separation and limitation, it recurs when they are impelled to return to physicality or subtle form.

Thus great devotional beings like Rumi and Hafiz constantly yearned to return to the Beloved; ever longed for eternal transcendence of the inevitable limitations and sufferings of physical existence.

Rumi said:

From my first breath I have longed for Him –
This longing has become my life.
This longing has seen me grow old. . . .

Hafiz expressed his endless longing thusly:

“My soul endures a magnificent longing. … My pen does not have the ability to describe my condition of intense longing due to separation.”

Sri Ramana Maharshi, renowned twentieth century non-dualist sage, even after attaining self realization, reported regularly shedding tears of longing and devotion during visits to the ancient Meenakshi temple in Madurai. In recounting his experience, Maharshi explained that:

“The spirit therefore longed to have a fresh hold and hence the frequent visits to the temple and the overflow of the soul in profuse tears.”


This phenomenon of infinite longing of even “enlightened” beings was explained by Mother Meera in dialogue with spiritual author and teacher Andrew Harvey, and recounted as follows:

“Even avatars have to desire to be in God in every moment. And when avatars die, they desire with all their being to be united with God. ….. Look at Ramakrishna. How much he wept and prayed for the Divine Mother.”
~ Mother Meera to Andrew Harvey, “Hidden Journey”, Page 236


Thus, incarnation is limitation, and knowingly or unknowingly all beings – even sages – long for transcendence of that limitation. For most humans longing for transcendence is subliminal and experienced as wanting worldly contentment. But what we really seek is return to a soul-remembered state of timeless Oneness beyond any state of mind, beyond conception or imagination.

So, in seeking happiness, what we really seek is Source or Self.


Ron’s Explanation of “Why Does Everyone Want Happiness?”

Dear Friends,

The foregoing quotations and essay help explain why (knowingly or unknowingly) everyone wants lasting happiness.

For millennia wisdom teachers have counseled that
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy” (Dalai Lama). 
 
And to find timeless happiness they tell us e.g. to 
“Seek first the kingdom of heaven, which is within.”  (Matthew 6:33; Luke 17:20-21)

Most incarnate humans perceive and project their self-identity reality only as impermanent mortal beings supposedly separate from Nature and eternally indivisible inner Self-awareness.  And thus we futilely seek – but cannot find – lasting happiness through ever passing worldly pleasures and satisfactions, rather than through inner Self-identity as immortal spirit.  

“Why Does Everyone Want Happiness?” suggests that all beings at least subliminally long for eternal happiness and transcendence of inevitable earthly limitations; that knowingly or unknowingly what we all really seek is return to a soul-remembered state of timeless Oneness as LOVE – beyond mental description, conception or imagination.
 
Thus, even elevated mystics like supreme Sufi poet masters Rumi and Hafiz reveal (in above quotations) their life-long tearful yearnings and longings for return to God.

Perhaps such life-long yearnings, by even the most elevated mystics or sages, can help us understand why inevitably incarnation is limitation.  

And, perhaps our inevitable longings will inspire a new earthly era, as envisioned by Indian Sage Sri Aurobindo, who said:

“The goal is not to lose oneself in the Divine Consciousness.
 The goal is to let the Divine Consciousness penetrate into Matter and transform it.”

~ Sri Aurobindo – The Mother 15: p.191

Invocation

As each of us is drawn by irresistible inner longing toward Oneness with Eternal Light,
may we become instruments of Divine Consciousness on Earth.

And, let us thereby envision and exemplify an era of lasting peace of mind and happiness
for everyone everywhere.

And so may it be! 

Ron Rattner

Discovering Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Non-dual Devotion
~ Ron’s Memoirs

“The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.”
“Love is verily the heart of all religions.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Investigation into the Self is nothing other than devotion.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi — Vivekachudamani, verse 32
“On scrutiny, supreme devotion and jnana are in nature one and the same. To say that one of these two is a means to the other is due to not knowing the nature of either of them. Know that the path of jnana and the path of devotion are interrelated. Follow these inseparable two paths without dividing one from the other.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Only if one knows the truth of Love, which is the real nature of Self, will the strong entangled [ego] knot of life be untied. Only if one attains the height of Love will liberation be attained. Such is the heart of all religions. The experience of Self is only Love, which is seeing only Love, hearing only Love, feeling only Love, tasting only Love and smelling only Love, which is bliss.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Pure knowledge and pure love are one and the same thing.
Both lead the aspirants to the same goal. The path of love is much easier.”
~ Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
“Love is seeing the unity under the imaginary diversity.
“Love says ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says ‘I am nothing’. Between the two, my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both, and neither, and beyond both.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“He who loves me is made pure; his heart melts in joy.
He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his
higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes; his
hair stands on end; his heart melts in love. The bliss in that
state is so intense that forgetful of himself and his surroundings he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.”
~Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 – supreme devotion (para-bhakti) as described by Sri Krishna to His disciple Uddhave.
“[I]f you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.” … “Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”
~ Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Introduction

Dear Friends,

The following stories (about my memorable pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai, South India), illustrate fundamental spiritual Truths about every human being. They tell how I resolved (as illusory) a seeming paradoxical conflict between my deep devotional tendencies (as a “frequent crier”) to spontaneously cry and call out-loud to God, and my irreversible intellectual and intuitive acceptance of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s non-duality wisdom path of constant silent self-enquiry of “who am I?”.

These memorable pilgrimage stories recount how my mental dilemma was resolved, with realization of the following spiritual principles:

Just as every snowflake temporarily manifests a unique crystalline form but shares an enduring watery essence, so too every human (including Self-realized saints, sages, and seers) impermanently manifests a uniquely limited physical form and perspective in each mortal lifetime, but shares ONE immortal and infinitely potential, spiritual Source – non-dual Universal Awareness as LOVE.

The stories also reveal as ultimately illusory any apparent conflict between different spiritual paths, religious rituals, or behaviors – like Sri Ramana Maharshi’s wisdom path of silent self-enquiry and Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s devotional path of praying and crying to God, or between strict priestly conformance with religious rituals and their utter disregard by avadhutas; that all such apparent conflicts are transcended by LOVE; that even Sri Ramana Maharshi declared that “the end of all wisdom is love, love, love.”

Please read, reflect and enjoy these stories.

Ron Rattner

Discovering Non-dualism

During my early days as a “born-again Hindu”, I discovered wisdom teachings of legendary twentieth century sage Sri Ramana Maharshi about the Vedic path of Advaita, the oldest extant school of Indian Philosophy. Advaita means non-dualism and its teachings are aimed at experiencing non-dual Reality via relentless self-inquiry – incessantly asking “Who am I?”.

Intellectually I soon became convinced of the ultimate Truth of Sri Ramana’s non-dualistic teachings. Non-dualism even seemed quite consistent with my early Jewish acculturation with the fundamental prayer: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE” ~ Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29

Yet, seemingly paradoxically, I displayed preponderantly devotional propensities of calling and crying to the Divine. And I identified with Shri Ramakrishna, as a bhakta – a devotional practitioner – more than with Sri Ramana Maharshi, who was an exemplar of the silent inner wisdom path – a jnani.

Until retirement, while maintaining my busy law practice I found only limited time to read and reflect on non-duality and other spiritual wisdom teachings, mostly on weekends. So I used to jokingly tell spiritual friends that I prayed and cried as a bhakta on weekdays but on weekends I became a “Seventh Day Advaitist”

On retirement from law practice in January 1992, I journeyed to India, intending to further explore the Advaita path of non-duality. After planned visits to see my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, in Ahmedabad and my daughter Jessica at Ammachi’s Kerala ashram, the India trip itinerary concluded with a spiritual sojourn in the Tamil Nadu town of Tiruvannamalai, near sacred Mount Arunachala, where Sri Ramana Maharshi had resided for most of his adult life. This would be an opportunity to me to become an every day – not just a seventh day – advaitist.

Pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai

So, in February 1992, together with my daughter Jessica I traveled by train from Ammachi’s ashram in sultry Kerala to the Ramana ashram at the much more arid Tamil Nadu town of Tiruvannamalai. While I stayed at Ammachi’s ashram, Jessica had been so busy doing her assigned daily tasks (seva) that we had very few opportunities to visit together alone. So, I was hoping to spend ‘quality time’ with her and to have her as my Tiruvannamalai guide, since she had previously visited the Ramana ashram. But that didn’t happen.

Nonetheless, I had a wonderful stay in Tiruvannamalai with memorable experiences on and near Mount Arunachala. And at the Ramana ashram I largely resolved my confusion about the imagined conflict between non-dualism and devotion. Here’s what happened:

Ramana ashram

On our arrival at the Ramana ashram Jessica and I were assigned a pleasant cottage room with private toilet which, though quite basic, was much more comfortable than my small noisy cell at Ammachi’s ashram. Moreover, I immediately had much more vitality at the Ramana ashram than at the Kerala ashram, where I had experienced diminished energy.

But to my surprise, Jessica informed me that instead of being my guide and companion she wished to dedicate her stay in Tiruvannamalai to solitary spiritual practices. She told me that as a spiritual austerity she had decided to daily circumambulate barefooted sacred Mount Arunachala and its adjoining holy sites – an ancient practice known as giri pradakshina encouraged by Sri Ramana Maharshi and practiced for centuries by him and many other saints and pilgrims.

Ambivalently, I was pleased that Jessica was prioritizing such spiritual practices, but disappointed at not having anticipated ‘quality time’ with her. So every morning well before sunrise, while I still slept, Jessica left our cottage and each day I was on my own, except in evenings before we retired in our shared cottage.

Virupaksha cave

Most days while Jessica was walking barefooted around Mount Arunachala I walked in sandals up the mountain – from the ashram to Virupaksha cave, a shrine place where Sri Ramana had lived for sixteen years. Though the cave was a public shrine, I was always there in solitude with no other visitors present. As I meditated there, I gratefully experienced and communed with Sri Ramana’s subtle peaceful presence.

One day I departed the cave in a dream-like ‘altered state of awareness’ and began slowly walking down the mountain with a stilled mind. Dressed in white I was so descending the narrow rocky path to the ashram, when – as if in a dream – I beheld coming up the path toward me three very elderly men, with long gray hair and long beards each wearing a white robe or dhoti. Each appeared as an archetypical ‘holy man’.

When we met on the mountain path, as if in a waking dream, each of the old men silently kneeled and kissed my sandaled feet. No word was uttered. After this silent ritual they continued walking up the Arunachala path and I continued descending to the ashram with a perfectly stilled mind.

Though that experience was unforgettable, I can’t specify its significance . However, I felt I had received inexpressible blessings from those holy men; that only in such a spiritually elevated environment could such a boon occur. But, presumably, from Sri Ramana’s non-dual perspective, attachment to any such outer illusionary experience impedes ultimate inner experience of Oneness with All.

Sri Ramana’s samadhi shrine

When not on Mount Arunachala, most of my time spent at the ashram was at the large samadhi shrine hall, where Sri Ramana is entombed. There I continued to often experience the subtle peaceful presence of Sri Ramana, though not as powerfully as at Virupaksha cave.

The samadhi shrine is a memorable place which, since Sri Ramana’s mahasamadhi in 1950, has continued to magnetically attract devotees from all over the world. Sometimes I meditated sitting there, sometimes I meditatively walked around the hall, and sometimes on the porch I read books about Sri Ramana which I obtained at the ashram office.

Reconciling Ron’s Devotion with Sri Ramana’s Non-duality

Another blessing of my stay at the Ramana ashram was that while there I largely resolved the seeming dichotomy between my deep devotional tendencies and non-dual self-identity. I learned that Ramana had taught that “supreme devotion and jnana are in nature one and the same”. And I realized that perception of paradox depends on an illusory ego-mind perspective; while from an elevated perspective ultimate devotion (Divine love, bhakti) and ultimate Self awareness (wisdom, jnana) are “one and the same” – like obverse sides of the same coin.

Though not permanently abiding in a state of elevated awareness, like Sri Ramana or Guruji, I had previously been blessed with unforgettable ‘peek’ experiences of Self-identification as pure Awareness and of seeing everyone and everything as Divine. And at the ashram I read a Sri Ramana biography that sparked the bhakti/jnana insight which helped me reconcile the seeming conflict between my distinct devotional tendencies and my irreversible acceptance of advaita non-duality philosophy.

As I read about Sri Ramana’s “enlightenment” experience I discovered that, contrary to popular belief, which usually associates Sri Ramana only with advaita wisdom, the great Sage also displayed and acknowledged the bhakti emotion of devotion.

At the time of his absorption in the Self, Sri Ramana was in his seventeenth year and living in the Indian city of Madurai. Thereafter he experienced dramatic daily life changes. With the emotion of devotion, Sri Ramana began to regularly visit the renowned Meenakshi temple in Madurai. As much later he recalled for his biographer:

“One of the new features related to the temple of
Meenakshi sundaresvrar. Formerly I would go there rarely with
friends, see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred
vermillion on the forehead and return home without any
perceptible emotion. After the awakening into the new life, I
would go almost every evening to the temple. I would go alone and stand before Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja or the sixty-three saints for long periods. I would feel waves of emotion
overcoming me. The former hold (Alambana) on my body had been given up by my spirit, since it ceased to cherish the idea I-am-the-body (Dehatma-buddhi). The spirit therefore longed to have a fresh hold and hence the frequent visits to the temple and the overflow of the soul in profuse tears. This was God’s (Isvara’s) play with the individual spirit. I would stand before Isvara, the Controller of the universe and the destinies of all, the omniscient and omnipresent, and occasionally pray for the descent of His grace upon me so that my devotion might increase and become perpetual like that of the sixty-three saints. Mostly I would not pray at all, but let, the deep within flow on and into the deep without. Tears would mark this overflow of the soul and not betoken any particular feeling of pleasure or pain.”
~ Self Realization, The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, by B.V. Narasimha Swami pp. 23-24.1

Thus, even after his Self Realization, Sri Ramana had prayed for devotion. And his prayers were often accompanied by, and answered with, copious tears. Sri Ramana’s experience shows that highest knowledge is the same as the highest devotion; that jnana and Para bhakti are the same.

On reading Sri Ramana’s dramatic experience I was reminded that devotional tears are the ‘language of the heart’; that tears can express our ineffable joy in ephemerally becoming one with THAT, while also they may betoken our ceaseless longing to be merged forever as THAT.

As Mother Meera has observed:

“Even avatars have to desire to be in God in every moment. 
And when avatars die, they desire with all their being to be united with God. …..Look at Ramakrishna. How much he wept and prayed for the Divine Mother.”

~ Mother Meera to Andrew Harvey, “Hidden Journey”, Page 236

Thus, intense feelings of the heart, which are otherwise inexpressible, are communicated by tears; and, as we soulfully pray to the Beloved with love and longing, our tears may say what words can not say; and our Heart of Hearts may answer us with tears more eloquent than any other language.


Yogi Ramsuratkumar

Yogi Ramsuratkumar


Yogi Ramsuratkumar

When I visited Tiruvannamalai I was already aware that – like each snowflake – every human is absolutely unique; that thus each supposedly Self-realized spiritual teacher, seer, saint, guru, yogi, or even avatar uniquely manifests and expresses different aspects of our infinitely potential common Cosmic consciousness. While in Tiruvannamalai I was unforgettably reminded of the uniqueness of each supposedly enlightened teacher on meeting a respected local living saint, Yogi Ramsuratkumar.

People at the Ramana ashram urged me to visit this Yogi, saying that he was was an avadhuta, a mystic living simply beyond worldly social standards. I was told that he was giving morning darshans at his small house near the great Annamalaiyar temple in the center of town.

So one morning, instead of communing with Sri Ramana, I walked into town, bought fruit to offer as prasad [a divine gift] to Ramsuratkumar, and came to his house where already standing outside there was a line of devotees awaiting admittance, each also holding food or flowers to offer him. Especially noteworthy was a richly attired middle aged Indian woman, who was holding a large round silver tray laden with an elaborate array of beautiful fruits and flowers.

I took my place at the end of the line and waited with curiosity in the hot sun. Ultimately, when there were about twenty or more people standing in line, the door opened and Yogi Ramsuratkumar appeared with an attendant to greet each devotee, one by one. With most people he exchanged a few words, accepted their offering and sent them on. Only occasionally did he invite a devotee to enter his house for darshan.

Amazingly, when the woman with the silver tray proffered her elaborate offering, he not only rejected it but seemed to sternly chastise her in Telegu and peremptorily sent her away. (Whereupon I surmised that Ramsuratkumar had determined from her subtle field that the woman was an unworthy aspirant with defiled motives.)

When I reached the head of the line, the Yogi kindly accepted my modest offering and invited me to enter his house parlor with only a few others – an Indian family of mother and father with two young children and a young western woman. Each of us was invited to sit in the parlor on a plain folding chair facing the swami who was standing in front of us.

To my surprise, the house appeared to be very dusty and dirty, and the Yogi looked as if he hadn’t bathed or washed his clothes for a while. Notwithstanding his unkempt appearance and environment my subtle ‘radar’ detected this yogi’s inner purity and I began softly weeping. Later, I concluded that while an attitude of “cleanliness is next to Godliness” might be appropriate for most people, Ramsuratkumar demonstrated that in spirituality it is inner purity rather than outer appearance that is crucial.

After we were seated in his parlor, and offered tea, the yogi enquired of each guest our origins and reasons for visiting him. Thus, he asked me in English from whence and why I had come to India. With tears still seeping I explained that I had come as a spiritual pilgrim to honor my beloved Guruji in Gujurat; and that I was in Tiruvannamalai to honor Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Thereupon, while standing before me the Yogi raised his right hand in blessing pose and in English he intermittently and repeatedly decared “my Father blesses you”. While so blessing me with his raised right hand, the yogi held between the fingers of his left hand and puffed alternately on three lighted bidis (Indian hand-rolled cigarettes, like those sold and smoked by Nisargadatta Maharaj).

Though it didn’t surprise me to see a smoking saint, never before had I imagined a holy man smoking three cigarettes concurrently. So it was apparent – as I had been informed – that Ramsuratkumar was an avadhuta, who lived simply and unconventionally without concern for social standards. In all events, I was and remain ever grateful for his blessings.

Conclusion

Since my 1992 pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai (and more than ever before as an octogenarian), I have remained unspeakably grateful for my continuing “gift of tears” as a supreme devotional blessing ultimately consistent with highest wisdom of non-duality Self-identity. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/crying-for-god-and-other-kundalini-kriyas-rons-memoirs/ ) And especially since darshan with Yogi Ramsuratkumar I have gratefully appreciated the infinite human manifestations of non-duality Reality as LOVE.


How Can We Become Immortal?

The dewdrop belongs to the sea.

Separated, it is vulnerable
to the sun and wind and other elements of nature;

but when the droplet returns its source,
it becomes magnified in oneness with the sea.

So it is with your life.  United to God you become immortal.”

~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“Eternal Life is gained
by utter abandonment of one’s own [ego] life.
When God appears to His ardent lover
the lover is absorbed in Him,
and not so much as a hair of the lover remains.
True lovers are as shadows,
and when the sun shines in glory
the shadows vanish away.
He is a true lover to God to whom God says,
“I am thine, and thou art mine! ”
~ Rumi
“The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”

“The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time,
 nor does it come into being again when the body is created.
 The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless,
 and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed.
 Just as a man giving up old worn out garments accepts other new apparel, in the same way the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies.”

~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2
What is birth? Is it of the “I-thought” or of the body?
Is “I” separate from the body or identical? How did this “I-thought” arise?
Is the “I-thought” your nature? Or is something else your nature?
The “I” of the wise man includes the body but he does not identify himself with the body. For there cannot be anything apart from “I” for him.
If the body falls, there is no loss for the “I”. “I” remains the same.
If the body feels dead, let it raise the question. Being inert, it cannot “I”.
“I” never dies and does not ask.
Who then dies? Who asks?
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi


Sri Ramana Maharshi

Introduction

Today’s Q and A essay, quotations, and comments about immortality are shared to help those who fear death avert and transcend inevitable suffering by remembering that we are not merely our mortal bodies and stories, but ONE immortal spirit experiencing fleeting lives from infinite perspectives in transitory earthly space/time vehicles, which are all the same ‘under the hood’!

Though based upon perennial wisdom, these writings are particularly important in current critical times, which insanely, unsustainably and catastrophically threaten all Earth Life as we’ve known it.

So it is especially appropriate for us to now deeply reflect upon these writings.

How Can We Become Immortal?

Q. How can we become immortal?

A. To become immortal,

BE more than a mortal.

Consider:

What lives? What dies?

What exists? What persists?

Observe:

That every thing and every phenomenon
that arises and appears on the screen of our consciousness

Is but a fleeting holographic mirage projected in space/time,
by and within the Infinite Light of Eternal Awareness;

That nothing is permanent in the ever changing universe,
where all that appears, disappears.

Be aware:

That only Eternal Awareness
exists and persists beyond time.

So, to be immortal,
just don’t be a mortal –

BE:

Eternal Awareness

NOW!



Ron’s explanation and dedication of “How Can We Become Immortal?”

Dear Friends,

To reveal important information yet unknown to those who fear death, today’s Q and A essay (with quotations) asks and answers a deliberately deceptive rhetorical question:
 
 
“How Can We Become Immortal?”  

In Truth we’re already immortal – we are ONE eternal spirit. But (except for rare Buddha-like beings), we’ve forgotten our immortality, and suffer societally from universally mistaken identity.

From childhood we were taught to self-identify only with an illusory and disempowering ego-mind image: with a separate name, gender, and story about who and what we are. We were taught that we were each born into Nature as limited beings; but, not that Nature is our nature, or that we are Beings of Light sharing limitless immortal common consciousness with all life-forms.

Sages, seers and mystics have been trying to tell us for millennia that we’re not what we were taught or think we are.  That our self-identification as merely mortal physical bodies, seemingly condemned to inevitable death in space/time, is an ego-mind illusion – like a mirage; that we suffer from perception-deception; and, that our True Self-identity and Reality is not what it impermanently appears to be.


“We are not merely mortal drops
in an ocean of ephemeral forms,
but the eternally Infinite Ocean of Universal Awareness,
appearing as drops!”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings


So today’s writings are dedicated to helping us remember that we are not merely our mortal bodies – their names, genders, features, colors, religions, beliefs, emotions, habits or stories – or the ‘voices in our heads’.  That we are ONE immortal spirit experiencing fleeting earth lives from infinite perspectives in transitory physical vehicles.  But that we’re all the same ‘under the hood’! And that we can transcend inevitable suffering of ordinary human existence through Self-realization of our universal spiritual essence.

Urgency

After insanely and unsustainably pillaging and plundering our precious planet, humans are now confronting possibly imminent end of earth life as we have known it. Such potentially omnicidal ecological catastrophe can be averted only from elevated human consciousness, beyond that which created this dire insanity. So today’s writings are especially important in these critically crazy times.

We must at long last awaken from our delusion of separateness and powerlessness, to transcend the ignorance of our immortality which has spawned these crises. And we must resist control by a few hierarchic psychopaths who promote fear to dominate and greedily exploit Humankind.

Dedication

Whatever our ethical, religious, or spiritual path, if any, let us together deeply reflect upon today’s quotes and verses about our true immortality.  May they spur our inevitable awakening as the “kingdom of heaven within” – as eternal LOVE.   

Thus Awakened, may we harmoniously, cooperatively and compassionately lovingly resolve our common crises for the common good.
 
And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner



States of Consciousness?

“Consciousness is always Self-Consciousness.

If you are conscious of anything,
you are 
essentially conscious of yourself.”

~ Ramana Maharshi
“Consciousness is the basis of all life
 and the field of all possibilities.

Its nature is to expand and unfold its full potential.
The impulse to evolve is thus inherent in the very nature of life.”

~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts
in Eternal awareness or
Pure consciousness without objectification,
knowing without thinking,
merging finitude in infinity.
~ Voltaire
“Yoga is the cessation of mind.”
~ Patanjali, Yoga Sutras
Thought divides Awareness as a prism divides light.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Human consciousness is conditioned consciousness;
it is pure Awareness conditioned by conceptions.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, 
a part limited in time and space. 
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. 
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. 
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”

~ Albert Einstein ( N. Y. Times , March 29, 1972)
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“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
~ Albert Einstein





States of Consciousness?

Q. How can we enter higher states of consciousness?

A. All states of consciousness arise and subside in Infinite Awareness. We are never in states of consciousness; they are in us.

We increasingly experience elevated consciousness of Infinite Awareness, and gradually free ourselves from the optical illusion of separation from Nature and other life-forms, as we open our hearts, still our minds, and “widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”.

Living Life, Teaching Peace

“My life is my message.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“You must be the change
you want to see in the world.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“In a gentle way you can shake the world..”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“You may never know what results come of your actions,
but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Whatever we think, do, or say,
changes this world in some way.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings





Ron’s Introduction to “Living Life, Teaching Peace”

Dear Friends, 

The following “Living Life, Teaching Peace” verses, were largely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s legendary declaration that “My life is my message”
in response to an inquiry about his ‘message for the world’.

Gandhi, who was trained in England as an attorney, became a renowned advocate for civil rights and social justice, who was recognized as father of Indian democracy. During his lifetime he was loved by the Indian people and known worldwide as “Mahatma”, an honorary Sanskrit term meaning “Great Soul”, like the term “Saint” in Christianity. Gandhi helped change the world by being the change he wanted see. His nonviolent activism and relentless pursuit of Truth have inspired millions, and continue to influence the history of our times.  

Gandhi was my first known inner spiritual guide who appeared while I was in meditative states, long after his 1948 assassination. Only after his inner appearance did I synchronistically learn of Gandhi’s history as a nonviolent civil rights lawyer pursuing spiritual Truth as a Hindu Rama devotee – like my Guruji. (See memoirs posts re “Silva Mind Control” and “Gandhi the Man”)   Whereupon Gandhi became and has ever since remained for me an especially important archetypal icon and inspiration.

In comments after “Living Life, Teaching Peace” I will explain the spiritual principles suggested by its verses, with the aspiration that Gandhi’s exemplary life may inspire and motivate us to live in harmony with those principles.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


Living Life, Teaching Peace

On the Earth branch
Of the great Cosmic University,

We are all students,
And we are all teachers.

We are all learning Love.

And, as Gandhi observed,
Our lives are our teachings.

So, as we live,
And as we learn,

We each may teach –

Peace, love, and compassion.

And so it shall be!



Ron’s audio comments and recitation of Living Life, Teaching Peace

Listen to




Ron’s Explanation of “Living Life, Teaching Peace”

Knowingly or unknowingly we all influence others, often at imperceptibly subtle energy levels, whether or not we are famous people like Gandhi.

“Whatever we think, do, or say,
changes this world in some way.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Not only do we affect people we know or meet, or think about, but in our space/time ‘reality’ where everyone/everything is energy – E=mc2 – we are metaphorically like vibrating and radiating energy vortices, ‘broadcasting’, receiving, and transducing energy “vibes”, which influence all Earthlife everywhere.

So – though we’re not famous like Mahatma Gandhi – our lives are our message.

When we are loving and compassionate, we help others to harmoniously resonate those ways of being in the world. Conversely our negative behaviors and emotions such as fear, anger and hatred invariably impede earthly love and compassion.

So in skillfully and mindfully living life with Loving behaviors and “vibes”, we each reach and teach as well as learn from others.

Invocation

While we ‘matriculate’
on ‘the Earth branch of the great Cosmic University’,
may we mindfully live loving lives harmonious with Nature.
May our deepest intuitions and aspirations
encourage and inspire us
each to learn and to teach
peace, love and compassion.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner


Einstein’s Mystical Views & Quotations on Free Will or Determinism

”All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”
~ Buddha
“The Now is as it is because it cannot be otherwise.
What Buddhists have always known, physicists now confirm:
there are no isolated things or events.
Underneath the surface appearance,
all things are interconnected,
are part of the totality of the cosmos
that has brought about the form that this moment takes.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Q. “Are only the important events in a man’s life,
such as his main occupation or profession, predetermined,
or are trifling acts also, such as taking a cup of water or
moving from one part of the room to another?”
A.  “Everything is predetermined.”
~  Sri Ramana Maharshi 
“Nothing perceivable is real.
Your attachment is your bondage.
You cannot control the future.
There is no such thing as free will. Will is bondage.
You identify yourself with your desires and become their slave.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj 
In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.
~ Baruch Spinoza 
“There is no such thing as chance;
and what seems to us merest accident
springs from the deepest source of destiny.”
~ Johann Friedrich Von Schiller
“There are no mistakes, no coincidences,
all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Nothing in the universe happens by chance or accident.  The universe is a coherent concurrence and interaction of innumerable conditions attendant on the infinite number of energy patterns.  In the state of Awareness, all this is obvious and can be clearly seen and known.  Outside that level of awareness, it could be likened to innumerable, invisible magnetic fields which automatically coalesce or repel one’s position and which interact according to the positions and relative strengths and polarities.  Everything influences everything else and is in perfect balance.
~ David R. Hawkins
“Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice. .
Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.”
“…Choice in every form is conflict. Contradiction is inevitable in choice; this contradiction, inner and outer breeds confusion and misery.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Everything happens through immutable laws, …everything is necessary… There are,  some persons say, events which are necessary and others which are not. It would be very comic that one part of the world was arranged, and the other were not; that one part of what happens had to happen and that another part of what happens did not have to happen. If one looks closely at it, one sees that the doctrine contrary to that of destiny is absurd; but there are many people destined to reason badly; others not to reason at all others to persecute those who reason.”
~  Voltaire
“The assumption of an absolute determinism
is the essential foundation of every scientific enquiry.”
~ Max Planck – Nobel Laureate Physicist
“We must believe in free will, we have no choice.”
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955)

Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955)



Introduction

We honor Albert Einstein not only for his extraordinary scientific genius and moral integrity, but for his mystical wisdom and intuitive realization of ineffable Reality beyond human comprehension.

In other posts (linked below) we have shown that although Einstein rejected conventional views about God, individual survival of physical death, reincarnation, or of reward or punishment in heaven or hell after physical death, he was not an atheist but a deeply religious mystic. Though Einstein did not believe in formal dogmatic religion, his views on religion were consistent with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings, like Indian Advaita Vedanta philosophy, as well as with his revolutionary non-mechanistic science. So he was an exemplar of the inevitable confluence of Western science with Eastern religion.

Here we highlight Einstein’s unconventional views about free will and determinism and show how they were also largely consistent with highest Eastern non-duality mystical teachings.

Discussion

Until his death in 1955, Albert Einstein rejected the “uncertainty” principle of quantum mechanics advanced by most respected physicists of his time. Einstein stubbornly maintained his view, consistent with ancient mystical insights, that “God does not play dice with the universe”; that the principle of cause and effect (or karma) pervades the phenomenal Universe without exception; that the ideas of chance or “uncertainty” arise from causes and conditions not yet recognized or perceived.

In a 1929 interview, when the argument about quantum mechanics “uncertainty” was at its height, Einstein modestly said: “I claim credit for nothing”, explaining that:

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control.
It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust,
we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
[Einstein: The Life and Times, Ronald W. Clark, Page 422.]

Though theologians have mostly believed that people choose and are morally responsible for their actions, Einstein agreed with medieval philosopher Baruch Spinoza that one’s actions, and even one’s thoughts, are determined by natural laws of causality.

Spinoza said:

“In the mind there is no absolute or free will;
but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause,
which has also been determined by another cause,
and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.”

Thus, in 1932 Einstein told the Spinoza society:

“Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.”

Einstein’s belief in causal determinism seemed to him both scientifically and philosophically incompatible with the concept of human free will. In a 1932 speech entitled ‘My Credo’, Einstein briefly explained his deterministic ideology:

“I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.”

Einstein’s 1931 essay “The World As I See It” contains this similar passage:

“In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever.
Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying, that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,” has been an inspiration to me since my youth, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others’. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.”

Schopenhauer – who had studied Buddhism – postulated that human experience is but a reflection and manifestation of universal law – not human “will”; that humans must adhere to the imperatives of natural laws (like gravity and magnetism) which harmoniously rule everywhere without exception. Thus Schopenhauer said:

“The fate of one individual invariably fits the fate of the other and each is the hero of his own drama while simultaneously figuring in a drama foreign to him—this is something that surpasses our powers of comprehension, and can only be conceived as possible by virtue of the most wonderful pre-established harmony.”

So in rejecting “free will” and other prevalent theistic religious ideas while humbly expressing his awe, reverence and cosmic religious feeling at the immense beauty, harmony and eternal mystery of our Universe, Einstein was influenced by both the philosophies of Spinoza and Schopenhauer and by his intuition and his science.

But despite his deterministic philosophy and science, Einstein realized that people’s belief in free will is pragmatically necessary for a civilized society; that it causes them to take responsibility for their actions, and enables society to regulate such actions.*[see Footnote] So he said:

“I am compelled to act as if free will existed, because if I wish to live in a civilized society I must act responsibly. . . I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime, but I prefer not to take tea with him.”*[see Footnote]


Thus Einstein dedicated his life to going beyond the “merely personal” and acted morally with a self-described “passion for social justice”. In a letter to his sister, Einstein stated that “the foundation of all human values is morality”. And in addressing a student disarmament meeting, he said:

“The destiny of civilized humanity depends more than ever on the moral forces it is capable of generating.”

But, like the non-dualistic mystics, Einstein believed that morality was for humanity not divinity. He said:


“Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”


Determinism versus morality and social justice

Since acting morally implies human freedom of choice, how can we reconcile Einstein’s passion for social justice and morality with his deterministic ideology that “Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.” ?

How would Einstein explain the apparent contradiction between his many idealistic efforts as a social justice activist, pacifist, and democratic socialist and his deterministic philosophy and science? Would he attribute his efforts and passion for a peaceful, civilized society to a pre-destined causal compulsion?

We can only speculate. But it is quite possible that Einstein would have agreed with Isaac Bashevis Singer’s statement that “We must believe in free will, we have no choice.”

According to Eastern non-dualism, as long as we self-identify as limited persons within space/time/causality we have apparent free choice but are inescapably subject to the law of karmic causality. Thus our every thought, word or deed inevitably reaps its corresponding reward of either suffering or joy in this or another lifetime. Only when we self-identify with spirit or soul, do we transcend this illusory impermanent world of samsara and its inevitable causal sufferings.

This was explained by Swami Vivekananda as follows:

“[T]he soul is beyond all laws, physical, mental, or moral. Within law is bondage; beyond law is freedom. It is also true that freedom is of the nature of the soul, it is its birthright: that real freedom of the soul shines through veils of matter in the form of the apparent freedom of man.”

“[T]here cannot be any such thing as free will; the very words are a contradiction, because will is what we know and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is moulded by the conditions of space, time, and causation. Everything that we know, or can possibly know, must be subject to causation, and that which obeys the law of causation cannot be free.”

“The only way to come out of bondage is to go beyond the limitations of law, to go beyond causation.” [by self-identifying with soul or spirit] . . . . “This is the goal of the Vedantin, to attain freedom while living.”
~ Swami Vivekananda – Karma Yoga

Conclusions

Like ancient non-dualistic mystics, Einstein had realized – through his revolutionary non-mechanistic science – that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”; and that “Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think.” Consequently, he knew that from an ever mysterious Cosmic perspective, our apparent phenomenal reality is but an illusionary play of consciousness.

But, Einstein’s acceptance of the necessity for recognizing humanity’s freedom to choose a moral rather than evil destiny was also consistent with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings that we ‘reap as we sow’ until we transcend this illusionary world, as well as with prevalent Western religious ideas that we are morally responsible for our actions.

Thus, Einstein’s insistence that the principle of cause and effect (or karma) pervades the phenomenal Universe without exception and that morality is for Humanity not Divinity was consistent with ancient non-dualistic mysticism as was his rejection of a personal “God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation”.

Though Einstein had not achieved the mystic goal of attaining “freedom” from causality while living, his mystical wisdom and professed behaviors in not “taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper” were consistent with a very evolved – if not “enlightened” – state of being.

*Footnote

Einstein’s views on pragmatically living with supposed free will notwithstanding a belief in universal determinism, were similar to those of Leo Tolstoy, whose epic War and Peace novel reflected Tolstoy’s view that all is predestined, but that we cannot live without imagining we have free will. Like Einstein, Tolstoy was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer and, also, he was later enthralled by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.



How I See the World – PBS Documentary Film About Einstein:






George Bernard Shaw pays tribute to Albert Einstein