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Topics - Graham

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31
Cautionary advice / Depression, despair and hopelessness in sadhana
« on: December 15, 2009, 05:20:21 AM »
Many devotees get feelings of depression/despair/hopelessness at an apparent lack of progress in their sadhana or meditation. They are often overcome by the trials and tribulations of life and become despondent.

This is normal and to assist those who suffer from these problems I will relate a few incidents in my own life, to show that there is hope even in the darkest of moments.

------

I first came across Bhagavan in 1974 or 1975 after reading 'In Days of Great Peace' by Mouni Sadhu. This book changed my life completely and I became determined to attain Liberation in this lifetime.

For the first few years I engaged in what can only be described as tepid efforts as I sought to understand what exactly it was I was supposed to be doing, during which time I purchased every book published in English by the ashram. I then decided to intensify my practice to the exclusion of all else, apart from that which is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of life.

After two years of this intense sadhana I had many profound and powerful experiences, but none were permanent. Other things happened in my worldly life which at the time appeared to be extremely unhelpful, even disastrous. A period of despair and depression then followed coupled with intense meditation to try and lift it, so intense that I suffered from fits and other debilitating ailments. This continued for some time and throughout this difficult period I prayed intensely for a solution, but none came.

Then one morning whilst in the deepest of depressions, I was pleading with Bhagavan, asking 'what kind of guru are you, that you desert your devotees and leave them helpless?', when suddenly out of the air a voice thundered: "You believe the illusion is real" and then became silent.

Six words that removed the depression in an instant, all doubts dispelled. I spent the remainder of that day laughing at my past stupidity.

This was not the end of sadhana by any means and I continued my practice of meditation but with less strain, not wanting to bring about more fits.

-------------

During the next few years my worldly life collapsed completely and I was left virtually destitute, to the point of having to go out at night to look for money that people might have dropped in the street, so that I could eat.

After eleven years of this worldly struggle, with no apparent progress in meditation, I was again feeling helpless, but remained determined.

At this time an invitation appeared in the post, to attend a concert in Leicester in the UK. I would not normally attend such things, but somehow felt drawn towards it. My daughter and her friend also wanted to go. So I borrowed a friend's car and set out for the concert in good time.

Because of a error we arrived one hour later than the published start of the concert and feared the worst, but to our surprise the group was also late and had not arrived.

Finally, when all was set, we sat down in the large empty venue and the concert began - no-one else came to the concert apart from the daughter of the organiser and a small child. The group played and sang a few songs, but the flute player was especially entrancing and I was told that he was a substitute who had suddenly appeared after the group's regular player had fallen ill just before leaving India.

The concert over, we were all invited to one of the organiser's homes to eat before setting off for our destinations. After food we all shook hands, but when the flutist took my hand, it was like a powerful electric shock, the heart centre vibrated powerfully and opened. I was left in a daze and his radiant smile and slight nod of the head conveyed the reassurance that all was well and my torment was over.

I then set off for home. The group who also left at the same time followed behind me in their minibus towards the motorway. Still in a daze, I became confused about which way to go, at which point the minibus stopped and the flutist leaned out of window and said - 'you go that way', pointing in the right direction.

After arriving home safely I discovered that no-one else had any unusual experiences there.

Years later I asked the organisers of the group if they remembered the flutist, but they say they cannot remember anything about the concert at all.

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Many of the forum members will know of my work with relation to the restoration of Bhagavan's photos. This has been going on in one form or another for seventeen years and many devotees have obtained the restored versions from the ashram.

It has been very hard work, often frustrating, requiring reworking countless times, because as technology advanced errors became apparent that were invisible before. In truth, I was never happy with the results, because badly damaged images required far too many changes to be made to remove the thousands of scratches.

Obtaining accurate prints has also been a source of constant frustration and disappointment in India. So after fourteen years of problems we decided that the only way to get good prints would be to transfer the restored photos to negative and use those to produce consistent photographic prints.

With this view in mind, six months ago I started restoring the photos again with fellow devotee Karthik Venkatasubramanian (the photographer) from Chennai. But this has proven to be something of a disaster for reasons that were beyond us to understand; everything we tried went wrong, including re-scanning the negatives and producing new negatives with various service providers across the world.

To overcome the errors with negative production, we decided that the only way to do this properly would be to obtain an LVT Image Recorder (the machine that creates the negatives) and do the work ourselves, but there is only one of these machines in India and enquiries were made as to its availability. We also tried different scanning methods and still the results were not satisfactory.

We were totally bemused by it all until a few days ago, when in a moment of despair an apparently crazy idea popped into Karthik's head, which forced him to try something that normally he would never contemplate.

This resulted in the successful capturing of images from the original negatives by an unusual method, whereby the majority of scratches, fungus stains and blemishes on the negatives are almost completely removed without any retouching at all, producing sharp and clear images that look as if they were taken yesterday. Experimentation with this method continues.

You can see the results HERE - (I've called it a miracle because that is what it is).

The owner of the LVT in India, also has a very professional instant print set-up and Karthik decided to send some of the digital images to him for test printing. The results from these are perfect, for the first time in fourteen years both photographs of Arunachala and the restored photographs of Bhagavan look exactly as they do on the screen. The owner is also considering the request for the LVT.

There is lot more background to this story, most of it private details, but suffice to say that a very clear and precise thread can be seen throughout this whole sequence of events, that has drawn us inexorably to this point where years of problems are solved in a matter of a few days through what appeared at first sight to be disaster.

As a consequence of this, the entire restoration project has to be started all over again from scratch and all previous work discarded.

Do I regret it, no, of course not. We will simply continue, removing any residual blemishes that this method cannot remove automatically.

Doing all of this work repeatedly over so many years, in addition to my earlier trials and tribulations, has taught me patience, tolerance and fortitude. Furnishing me with the certain knowledge that at the right time, everything comes right by God's grace, according to His plan, not ours.

-----------

The only advice I can give is 'never lose hope and never give in to despair in your efforts to Realize the Self. Meditate when sattva is predominant and when rajas and tamas are predominant, turn to prayer until they pass'.

Above all else, have faith in God and in yourself and it will all come right in the end. Nothing is more certain than that.

-----------

The point of frustration at a lack of progress in meditation remains to be clarified.

Throughout advaitic texts you will find the statement that 'all are already Realised' is repeated over and over again. You will also find the contradictory statements that 'no effort is required to Realise the Self' and 'effort is required'. Both statements are true in the right context.

Repeated and constant effort is required to turn the mind away from the world towards its source, the Self. But it cannot Realise the Self because Self is already Realised.

To expect the mind to Realise the Self is like expecting the 'Role' played by an actor to Realise the actor, or the illusiory snake to Realise the rope. In these cases the actor and the rope are real, the Role the actor plays and snake are illusions.

There are countless projections of ego/mind, but only one Self. The ego/mind is an illusion, it is only a thought, it cannot Realise the Self, it can only surrender to it and be consumed/negated by it. So all efforts to Realise an individual Self will end in frustration and failure, because it is the ego which is trying to become Self-realised, which it can never do - it can however become ego-realised, followed by a complete descent into tamas.

Little more can be said on this point; you have to understand it yourself through practice and apply it.

32
Cautionary advice / The corruption of Satsanga
« on: December 15, 2009, 04:58:19 AM »
The real meaning of Satsang is 'association with the Wise', preferably the Self-realised Sages (Jnani's) who speak only of God and fully practice dharma (righteousness), though Sages who are not yet Self-realised, but live according to the rules of dharma are also considered to be Wise. Association with the wise is said to be the root-cause of all that is good.

Jnani's are dharma personified, they NEVER stray from it, even for a split second. They are identical with God and nothing is beyond them. They know the world to be an illusion and have little or no interest in it. They do not seek to accumulate wealth or property, they are not interested in fame or acquiring followers. They do not advertise nor entice others to advertise for them - God does not need to advertise, He is the soul of everything.

Just before Bhagavan left the body, Chadwick and others approached Him and asked Him how they could repay Him, should they write books, tell the world about Him, etc. He replied "Put my teachings into practice".

Today the word 'satsang' is widely used to promote what can only be described as talking-shops (the opposite of satsang), where self-appointed gurus pontificate about subjects they know little or nothing about, manufacture their own poisoned theories, indulge in cheap psychology and pursue their vices. They also expect you to pay for all of this in every possible way.

It is also widely used for meditation sessions, but this is not true satsang by any stretch of the imagination.

The primary requisite for those seeking self-realisation is the ability to discriminate between that which is useful and that which is useless/harmful in the search. Becoming attached to the wrong person or group can do immeasurable harm, not only in life in general, but can also disturb and even destroy budding faith; it is therefore imperative that caution is exercised in every possible way.

You must carefully weigh up everything that you see and hear. Clear teachings are available from the publications of Sri Ramanasramam and ancient scriptures such as - Tripura Rahasya, The Srimad Bhagavata, Advaita Bodha Deepika, Yoga Vasistha Sara, The Bhagavad Gita, Ribhu Gita, etc. If what you hear is contrary in any way to the essence of these works, then do not return.

People were attracted to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by his purity and simplicity. Measure anyone who promotes themselves as a guru by the conduct of Bhagavan and you will not go wrong. But also bear in mind that it is fairly easy to fake the outer appearance of a jnani, but it is impossible to fake the ananda (peace) or power that was experienced in his presence.

In the late 1990's I saw a website that listed all of the 'known' Jnani's and their so-called 'lineage'. It started with Ramana Maharshi who apparently transferred Self-realisation to H.W.L. Poonja, who in turn (if I remember correctly) tranferred it to 300+ others with lots more to follow. We all fell on the floor with laughter upon reading this ..... what is there to transfer and from whom to whom? If it can be transferred then it was not there in the first place, is not permanent and not worth the effort.

Unfortunately they have not gone away, Tiruvannamalai is plastered with posters advertising these people during the winter months.

God, Guru and Self are one and the same. True satsang is therefore association with the Self and that does not require anyone else.

33
General Discussion / The value of Certificates
« on: December 04, 2009, 08:03:43 PM »

A Russian friend came to Tiruvannamalai last week and told me about an Advaitic organisation in Russia which is offering Certificates in guruship, graded according to how many followers you get and of course passing exams.

One of these certified gurus came to Tiruvannamalai last year with five of his followers and visited other gurus here, but declared all of them fake because none of them recognised him as a jnani. Upon his return to Russia, he prepared some mushrooms for himself, his family and followers -- all of them died.

I am also reminded of a group here in Tiruvannamalai, who several years ago were offering certificates of self-realisation.

Now there is the phenomena of silent satsang by telephone and silent satsang via skype.

This is the kind of insanity that has hijacked and corrupted Advaita today.

Misplaced faith is a dangerous thing.

34
Forum advice, news & etiquette / Proposed changes
« on: December 04, 2009, 06:25:12 AM »
After reading many posts and taking into account the views and concerns expressed by members, I propose to add a new board to this forum.

This board will be dedicated to people who are new to Advaita and will be limited to simple clarification of terminology and concepts.

For instance, Nisargadatta Maharaj's apparent use of Awareness/consciousness and Bhagavan's use of the same terms.

This might well be a product of interpretation or translation and as such can cause confusion.

During my years at the ashram it became quite evident that a standard terminology was applied throughout all publications.

Sat-Chit-Ananda translates to Being-Consciousness-Bliss, not Being-Awareness-Bliss. The reason for this is that Awareness cannot exist without Consciousness ... there has to be a Conscious Entity to be aware.

The standard in the ashram books is:

Awareness and Consciousness (capitalized) refer to the higher state or Self
awareness and consciousness (lower-case) refer to the objective realm - the illusory planes or ego

It would be useful if contributors to this forum adopted uniform terminology so as not to confuse others - and indeed themselves.

Your comments are welcome

Graham

35
Find devotees in your area / Cautionary Advice
« on: November 10, 2009, 04:46:07 PM »
This board has been created at the request of a member.

It is probably a good idea, but caution should be exercised when contacting strangers.

Not everyone who visits forums, or attaches themselves to any faith structure is genuine or well-balanced.

Please be careful.

36
Having anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer does not always protect it. I had ZoneAlarm on my system when my computer became infected with a rootkit from a rogue web page - this is sometimes called a drive-by infection

This malware changed my desktop to a huge 'WARNING Your're computer is infected', etc. (deliberate misspelling), destroyed all of my system restore points, changed fonts, etc., etc. The purpose is to scare you into downloading a rogue anti-virus software package, which actually infects your system. The current  rogueware is called "PC AntiSpyware 2010", which has also been distributed in a number of other ways.

This scareware will inform you of multiple infections on your system, none of which are real (apart from itself of course) ... you are then invited to purchase the software for $90, using your credit card details, which the authors will then sell or use to purchase lots of goodies for themselves.

The rootkit is annoying, but can be removed - however your system might become slow/unstable as a result of the changes the rootkit makes.

Below are fully checked links if you need help with malware problems.


1/ The Microsoft page that deals with malware, entitled 'How to tell if your computer is infected with spyware':

http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-IN/Help/cfcec887-20ad-4602-a7a5-306298640dbc1033.mspx


2/ The link to Microsoft's Malware Removal Tool - this is useful, but quite limited in its scope - update it regularly:

http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.aspx


3/ A very useful tool, MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware, this is the free tool I used to clean my own computer when all other paid-for software failed to find it - it found 34 infections and removed them.

http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php

Update:

Malwarebytes now provides a rootkit specific tool called Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit and you can download if from here:

http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/other_tools/

You should also download the software called Chameleon which will force Malwarebytes software to run even if malware tries to prevent it - and most of the worst kinds of malware prevent all antivirus and malware removal tools from working or updating.

These are easy to use and very effective.


4/ If all else fails then go to this forum, where they will take you through every step to a clean computer.

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/



Of course, the best advice is to be careful about what you download, open or even visit, but my own experience proves that careful is not enough.

In the end, after two months of struggling with problems, I reformatted my drive and reinstalled everything - I am sure that we all know how frustrating that can be.

This was a regular occurrence when I was in the ashram computer room and we formulated a very simple solution to it - which today is even easier to implement.

After installing all of the clean software packages, configuring and updating them, we then used Norton Ghost to make a backup of the 'C' drive to an external drive (there are many other programmes out there that will do the same thing). This was then removed and used to 'ghost' the original setup in the event of problems - it took an average of 30 minutes to format and get a system back to full working order.

With the advent of USB drives it is even easier these days to copy the boot drive.

We also made a point of not keeping any data on the 'C' drive, including emails and documents - it is used only for software. This enabled us to format and reload the boot drive without having to scratch our heads to remember if there was any data we forgot to back up before reformatting.

Some malware will totally disable your drives and you won't have the option to backup any data, so I also recommend that you purchase an external drive and always back up your work on a daily basis.

These are very simple and very basic steps that will make life a lot easier in the event of infections or hardware problems.

Graham

Administrator

37
Security Issues / This Board
« on: October 03, 2009, 07:41:34 PM »
Under no circumstances should members click on any links posted in this section of the Forum without first thoroughly checking them out with Google.

I will do my utmost to prevent spammers and other internet scum from having access to the forum, but I cannot watch 24 hours a day - currently there are many dozens of potential spammers banned from this forum and hundreds of IP addresses denied access to all of my sites.

There are also many thousands of sites hosting malware, which is downloaded to your computer as soon as the website page opens - this is particularly true with Internet Explorer, which is specifically targeted by malware creators.

Fake security software and fake online virus/spyware scans are the major culprits in stealing identities and compromising computers, often subverting them into botnets. They succeed by scaring visitors into downloading compromised virus software along with rootkits and other trojans.

Please be careful.

Graham

38
Arunachala / Arunachala Photos On This Site - my mistakes
« on: September 27, 2009, 04:53:59 AM »
The photographs of Arunachala currently available on this site (as of 27th September 2009) are over-saturated with colour and contain too much cyan.

This was due to a problem with monitor calibration last year, something I was not aware of until I purchased a new monitor and calibration tool.

Update November 2009 - 90% of the photos have now been replaced with new and better ones. There are now 129 photos available for download.

Go to http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/arunachala/girivalam/arunachala_girivalam.htm

Graham

39
Current and forthcoming changes / New guidelines for posting Topics
« on: September 14, 2009, 08:40:08 AM »
I have observed some frustration from Members in their submissions and replies to Topics, with particular reference to large numbers of separate Topics on one single theme - i.e. one Topic for each Verse of a long translation.

This tends to make it difficult for visitors to navigate the site and find things of interest to them, especially for those with slower connections.

Rather than restrict the number of Posts, I have decided to move all of the long Translations and Commentaries to a new Board entitled 'Translations and Commentaries by Forum Members'.

Please use this board to post your translations, serialisations and commentaries on long works, leaving the other boards free for single Topics.

The transfer of Topics had already begun and will continue over the next few days - I also have a limited connection here in India, so it takes time.

My thanks

Graham - Administrator

40
Tripura Rahasya and other ancient works / Welcome to the new board
« on: January 16, 2009, 04:37:18 AM »
For the past twenty-odd years I have read the English translation of the Tripura Rahasya and found it to be an invaluable source of guidance.

This ancient Sanskrit work, along with the Srimad Bhagavata and Advaita Bodha Deepika, was recommended by Bhagavan for those who found difficulty in understanding His teachings.

For those who are unfamiliar with this work, you can download the entire book from dozens of websites - just do a search for Tripura Rahasya.

There are a number of errors and unclear sections in the book and I suspect different hands have been at work in editing the English translation over the years, even the most recent reprint still contains many errors.

Also a number of verses were missed out in the English translation and these should be added again.

Perhaps those members who are familiar with Sanskrit and English might consider clarifying it for the benefit of all.

41
The Srimad Bhagavata / Welcome to the new board
« on: January 16, 2009, 04:17:33 AM »
For the past twenty-odd years I have read S. S. Cohen's English translation of the Srimad Bhagavata and found it to be an invaluable source of both spiritual and day-to-day guidance.

This work, along with Tripura Rahasya and Advaita Bodha Deepika, was recommended by Bhagavan for those who found difficulty in understanding His teachings.

For those who are unfamiliar with this work, you can find extracts on this website under the News and Articles section - go to: http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/articles/extract_srimad_bhagavatam_1.htm

Link corrected


42
Forum advice, news & etiquette / Forum themes
« on: January 08, 2009, 09:58:29 AM »
I have added a number of new layout themes to the forum.

To choose a new theme select:

Profile from the top menu - this will load your registered profile - then
Look and Layout preferences from the left menu - then
Current Theme: name (change) - click on change

This will display a list of available themes and show default sample images for each one - choose a theme with a displayed sample image ... some themes do not have them because they are faulty and should not be used until fixed versions are available.

When you have chosen your theme you can preview it before selecting Change Profile

When you visit the site afterwards it will always be displayed using your chosen theme.

I am using the Life Space theme.

Graham

43
The teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi / Board pruning undertaken
« on: October 28, 2008, 05:26:13 AM »
This morning I started to prune the boards of all posts that potentially infringe copyright. I also removed those that make it difficult for visitors to find varied topics of interest to them.

About 30 pages of posts were removed from this board alone and to do this I had to be pretty ruthless. However, on the whole, the majority of posts that I removed had no replies to them and were rarely viewed.

The contributions of devotees to this forum are entirely welcome as is their enthusiasm, but virtually hijacking the forum with dozens, even hundreds of consecutive posts does not help anyone.

So, how to resolve enthusiasm with practicality?

1/ When posting on the forum, please consider that visitors might not be interested in your topic.

2/ If you are quoting from some work (with your commentary), then please contain it within one or two posts.

For example: if you are writing about a particular Upanishad with 100 verses, then please contain the entire 100 verses within the fewest number of posts and not across 100 posts.

Graham
Forum Administrator

44
Forum advice, news & etiquette / Copyright
« on: October 19, 2008, 05:37:50 AM »
Dear members,

Please be careful when you post material from other sources, breaching copyright can lead to legal problems for this site.

International Law generally permits quotes from copyright works as long as the post contains credit to the original source (many books/works do not even permit this in their copyright statement).

You are NOT permitted to quote entire books/works or large portions from copyright material without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

You can quite legally upload your own translation of original works, but not the original work itself unless the author has been dead or it has been out of print for more than 60 years.

If you have uploaded copyright material then please remove it.

Graham
Administrator

45
Forum advice, news & etiquette / Email addresses
« on: July 08, 2008, 05:48:55 PM »
I recently sent two email messages to all members. Many were returned because the addresses were non-existent. The majority of those accounts have now been deleted because there is no way of contacting the member.

The accounts of active members whose emails bounced have not been deleted. So if you are an active member then please ensure that your email address is correct.

Email verification has now been enabled for those registering for the first time or re-registering.

Graham
Administrator


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