Author Topic: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:  (Read 2881 times)

Subramanian.R

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Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« on: June 07, 2013, 02:22:13 PM »

SUNYATA was born Alfred Julius Immanuel Sorenson on a small farm near Arhus, Denmark, 27th October 1890.  He left the body
in Martin County, California, in 1984, at the age of 94.  Between these bookends of his life, he worked as a gardener, lived for
nearly fifty years in India, received his initiation and name from Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and was revered as a saint by
many in Northern India. 

About seven years before he exited the stage of this life, representatives of Alan Watts Foundation brought Sunyata to
California from his Indian home in the Himalayas near Almore, Uttarakhand.  The foundation would take care all his needs
as he aged.  When he asked them what he was expected to do in America as he had nothing to teach, they replied that all
he had to do was to 'teach silence'.  Once, there, he held well attended satsanghs once a week, mostly in silence, on Alan
Watt's houseboat, the Vallejo, berthed in San Francisco Bay.   This is where I met him.  I thought of him then as a friend and
mentor and often visited him on Saturday mornings.

On one such sunny Saturday in 1981, I sighed and told him I wished that Anandamayi Ma was still alive as I was magically
attracted to her.  He gave a start and looked at me in surprise.  "But she is alive," he exclaimed, 'Though she is not in good
health and is not expected to live much longer.  You had better get over to India right away to see her.  She is the real
thing.  I have had her darsan a number of times.' 

Taking this almost an order, I secured passport and visa and, having unexpectedly come into some money, I booked my trip;
only weeks later, I was doing pranam  to Mataji in Vrindavan with tears of ecstasy pouring from my eyes.  On Dussera, her last
in the body, in Haridwar, I received a miraculous diksha from her through the vision of a mantra as I meditated that morning,
at dawn after dipping in the Ganga and through, that evening a wonderful smile directed to me as she sat behind the Durga
Murti to receive prana from thousands of devotees.

continued...

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2013, 02:37:19 PM »


continues....


Emmanuel, meaning 'God with us', as he thought of himself and was called in his youth, passed an uneventful life and happy
rural childhood, often silent, and blissfully alone in nature  In his writings he describes how he largely escaped 'headucation' and
'churchianity', and successfully fought off the tumultous rising of an 'egoji' in his early teens.  These and other novel terms he
later invented characterized his playful and joyous use of English in his speech and writing.  For example, instead of such terms
as 'egoless, thoughtless or deathless', he would always use 'ego free, thought free and death free' as closer to the true
sentiments he felt.  Moreover, he neve spoke of being free of or from ego, thought or death, but rather IN them, implying joyous
ease in conditioned existence.  For Sunyata it had lost its substance, its absolute seriousness, and was now in a place of Leela
not Maya.  'Understanding' was always 'inner standing' for him. He thought that this transliteration would one day become part
of English language.

From the age of 14, in lieu of secondary school, he was trained in horticulture, at which, at which he worked for brief periods
in France and Italy before settling down in England.  There he worked as a simple gardener, often in the nursery, on a successioin
of large estates.  His inner silence continued all the while and he nurtured his love of life by a wide reading of world literature
and poetry, branching out into Buddhist, Hindu and Theosophical texts.                 

He was employed at Dartington Hall in Devonshire, England in his thirty ninth year.  That summer he met Rabindranath Tagore
who had come to rest at the estate following a tiring lecture, and reading tour in the West.  They became friends, the young
gardener clearly awestruck by the white bearded Eastern Sage and Nobel Laureate in whom he sensed a depth of wisdom and
'inner standing' of which he had only read.  Tagore must have noticed something special in the younger man also.  Before he left
he invited him to come to India to teach silence, at his university, Shantiniketan. Much to the poet's surprise, Immanuel showed
on his doorstep the very next year, 1930.  He had taken his time getting to India, touring overland through Greece, the Middle
East and Egypt on his way, reveling, as he always did throughout his long life, in the 'delightful uncertainties' of travel and meeting
new friends all along the way.  He states that from that time, he never again had to work for his living; everything just came as
he needed, often in such abundance that he had to turn it away.  But then he never wanted much and was content with what he had.

continued..

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2013, 12:55:16 PM »

continues.....

Never able to bear the Indian heat, he retreated to Darjeeling as garmi, the season of heat came on.  With Tagore's introduction,
he spent time with the great Indian physicist and botanist Jagadish Chandra Bose, b whom he was initiated into Chan Buddhist
meditation.  In 1931, after a brief visit to Europe to settle his affairs, he emigrated to India, when he spent most of the rest of
his life, almost half a century, mostly in Himalayas.  There, he said, he felt most at home.  After Independence, he became an
Indian citizen.

These early contacts led on to others.  He soon met Nehru with whom he stuck up a life long friendship. Whenever he was
in Delhi, 'Brother Alfred', as Nehru called him, would be invited to stay with Nehru's family.  For a year or so early on, he lived on
the Nehru's Khali Estate near Binsar in the Himalayas.  Indira Gandhi, then a teenager, when informed of his passing away many
years later, wrote of her fondness for him and regretted that she had hardly been able to make any sense of the letters he
frequently sent them, so full were they of his bubbling metaphysical musings and his personal reconstructions of the English
language.  They were moreover, written in what he conceded was an almost indecipherable 'scribble'.

As his life progressed, through his contact with Nehru, Sunya the Silent would make the acquaintance of ambassadors, diplomats,
high government officials and, at an official reception in Delhi. the king and queen of Denmark who were delighted to meet this
native son so honored by the prime minister of India as an authentic holy man.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2013, 03:17:43 PM »


continues....

After a short time in India he settled down near Almora where he built several cottages on Kalimath Ridge very near Kasar
Devi Temple, an ancient Goddess pilgrimage site. He called his home Turiya Niwas (abode of the highest consciousness)
and posted a sign in front:  'Silence!' This must have reduced the traffic considerably, although the naturally open Sunyata
was friendly to all, communicated easily when outside his home and entertained many, presumably silent, guests over his
long years on what became known locally as 'Cranks Ridge'.  It was so named because of all the very individualistic, often
eccentric, expatriates who came to live there from this period on, many of them authors, artists, and spiritually oriented people.
Swami Ramanagiri, the royal Swede who was brought so quickl to awakening by Sri Bhagavan, was one of his guests,whom he
introduced to the Maharshi in late 1940s.

During the winters, when his unplastered and draughty stone kutir became quite uninhabitable, he descended to the plains,
where he stayed with the many people he had met.  As his stature became more evident, he conducted satsangh where ever
he was. 

Sannyasini Atmananda, of Austrian origin, and one of Anandamayi Ma's very close devotees, once told me that Sunyata had
a following in India.  In America too, he had a considerable following in California and also in Chicago, where he visited annually
at the guest of a Jungian psychologist.  Osho conferred a Rolls Royce on him, though it is impossible for me to imagine him ever
being chauffeured around in it. In Denmark, many people still honor him as one of that country's most famous sons and a true
saint.  I am always surprised how many people I meet know and revere him.

Sunyata's most 'Himalayan' and transforming experience, however, came through Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2013, 02:35:13 PM »

continues....

On three occasions, Sunyata traveled south from his home in the mountains to Tamizh Nadu to visit Sri Bhagavan briefly
during the cool and pleasant winter.  He spoke only once to Sri Ramana, on their first meeting in 1936, in answer to some
cursory questions put by Sri Bhagavan.  Thereafter, he always sat silently in the back of the Hall, intuitively aware that Sri
Bhagavan's power is in His silence.  After he had left for the north, on that first visit, Paul Brunton, whom he had met at the
Asramam, wrote to him that Sri Bhagavan had stated that Sunyata was a 'rare born mystic', one in whom the ego never
really developed and who was, therefore always very close to Realization.

One day on a subsequent visit, while meditating with eyes closed, Sunyata, then still Immanuel Sorensen, suddenly felt the
full power of the Maharshi fixed on him.  Sri Bhagavan's voice spoke to him telepathically and with power:  'We are always
aware, Sunyata.'  From that locution, he took his initiation and his spiritual name. Though he was never looking for a Guru,
he recognized at that moment s the crucial point in his life.  He always kept a large picture of Sri Bhagavan in a place of honor
and praised his precepts as the highest Truth, Truth that he, now Sunyata, was discovering through his own awareness of the
One Self.  He had darsan of Sri Bhagavan only one more time.

Sunyata, as stated previously, also had darsan of Anandamayi Ma many times, especially when she came to her Patal Devi
Ashram, near Almora.  She gave him yellow robes to wear.  On two occasions, he as called in to sit silently with her in private,
once at Varanasi Ashram, an occasion which, he stated, 'was a shunya darsan --- a relief like death. (Sunyata, Dancing with
the Void, Blue Dover Press, San Diego, California, 2001.)

Another time, was when Mataji was visiting Sri Yashoda Ma at the latter's Mirtoli Ashram, also known as Uttara Brindavan.
Sunyata regarded Yashoda Ma almost as his own mother,m often visiting her and the Englishman Krishna Prem at their
beautiful nearby Ashram, which was dedicated to Krishna.  Of that meditation with the two Ma's,  Sunyata said: On this
occasion,  there was inner silence for half an hour.  The shunya silence is eternally here and now.  The silence at Uttara Brindavan  is one of my richest Himalayan experiences.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   
                   
 

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 02:21:29 PM »

continues....

He also spent some time with Gandhiji at his Ashram, at Wardha and participated in the life of the Ashram. Bapuji's simplicity
and warmth resonated strongly with Sunyata.  Sunyata's silence and clear spiritual nature, his having adopted the Indian lifestyle
fully, his friendship with Nehru, all must have made an impression. 

Regarding Sunyata's spiritual status, let us now return to the Awakening story I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
I recently read (Dancing with the Void) a Danish devotee's account of the experience of one of Sunyata's frequent winter hosts,
S.N. Bharadwaj of Hoshiapur, Punjab.  The Danish devotee visited and interviewed this now elderly man.  He writes that one of
winter as Sunyata was just about to leave Bharadwaj's home, he, Bharadwaj, begged him for some personal upadesa.  Sunyata
stared at him intensely and in silence for sometime, He then intoned with great emphasis, 'You...Are....That !  Bharadwaj states,
'In this moment I lost body consciousness. I realized the ultimate reality -- being one with that.'  At some point he was conscious
of arms being rubbed by hands; he finally realized that they were his hands and his arms.  Sunyata was gone and so was
Bharadwaj's ego.  From that point those who know him said that Bharadwaj has been joyous and always smiling through all
these many years.  To ignite that fire of Awakening in another must one not be enlightened oneself?  That, in part, is what leads
me to believe that Sunyata must have been realized.

After his passing, a few paragraphs were found in Sunyata's writings which offer some insight into his Awakening process, about
which he had been silent all his life.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2013, 02:41:21 PM »

continues.....

He writes:

'When different stages of sadhana were being manifested through this body, what a variety of experiences I had then !
I thought there was a distinct shakti residing in me and guiding me by issuing commands from time to time.  Since all this
was happening in the stage of sadhana, Jnana was revealed in a piecemeal fashion.  The integral wisdom (vijanana), which
this body possessed from the very beginning, was broken into parts and there was something like a superimposition of ignorance.'

*

'IN my sadhana I was told by the invisible Monitor, 'From today you are not to make obeisance to anybody.'  Later on, I again
heard you are not make obeisance to anybody.'  Later on, I again heard the voice within myself which told me, 'Whom do you
want to bow down to?  You are everything.'  At once I realized that the universe was, after all, my own manifestation. Partial
knowledge then gave place to the integral, inherent wisdom, and I found myself face to face with the Advaita One that appears
as many.'

*

He further states, that during this period many vibhuti (powers) were manifesting, though, to anyone's knowledge, he told
no one about this during his life.  Sunyata seems to have had, among others, the siddhi of healing by touch.  When he discovered
this he was perhaps dong seva at a clinic, quite possibly that of his friend Dr Ved Prakash Khanna, now deceased, who ran a
nature cure clinic in Almora and who was the founder of the Sunyata Memorial Society.  Sunyata describes how he found that     
whenever he touched a patient, that individual would be immediately cured.  He says he tested this on a number of people
and found it to be invariably true.

 
He must have soon discontinued this seva, because this power would otherwise certainly have become known and sensationalized.
Sunyata abhorred such attention and, moreover, wrote dismissively about 'Shakti business' of various kinds as distraction and as an
impediment on the spiritual path.  He was just not interested in such manifestations and certainly realized that their display would
invariably attracted the wrong kind of attention, complicating, his life considerably.  He was clearly not averse to encouraging people
on the spiritual path but he would have been appalled by hordes of miracle seekers flocking to his humble door.  That must be why
he kept his powers secret and perhaps never exercised them thereafter.  In his short essay, he states,'... those powers are not meant
for display.  They should be kept carefully under control.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   
   

Subramanian.R

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2013, 01:53:12 PM »

continues.....

Always an enthusiastic exponent of the pure, Self revealed Advaita Vedanta, Sunyata rarely spoke of gods or goddesses and did not
participate in religious ritual.  Sri Bhagavan and Nisargadatta Maharaj were his ideals. 

And he lived his innerstanding.  Near Almora, I met a man, now in his seventies, who was a Sunyata Memorial Society member,
told me, with tears in his eyes, that he owes everything to Sunyata.  He recounted that, as a troubled teen, he had broken with
his family, and was digging postholes for a tea stall along the ride road when Sunyata, whom he knew, passed by on his way
to Almora Market, a few miles away.  Sunyata asked what he was doing and then went quietly on his way after being told.  The
next day, Sunyata came by again and silently handed him an envelope, then left.  Inside were Rs 1500/- a fortune those days.
The man has turned that gift, clearly some devotee's guru dakshina, into a general store, a restaurant and two guest houses.
With real emotion he said, 'Sunyata would let me come into his house and just sit.  I loved him. He was the quietest man I ever
knew.'

In August of 1984, in San Anselmo, California, Sunyata, still bright and active at 93, and dressed always in colorful clothes,
and turban, was struck by a car as he stepped out from between parked vehicles to cross the street, on his way to the market.
He died in coma some days later, the first time he had ever been hospitalized.  An autopsy was conducted.  The doctors reported
that all his organs looked like those of a man half his age.  He might have lived for decades more.  When his time came, it took
two tons of speeding steel, to kill his body.  He was my friend.  I loved him too.  All praise and honor to the silent shining Self
in which Sunyata is absorbed.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.       

         

Jewell

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Re: Sunyata - James Johnson - Mountain Path, Jan. - Mar. 2011:
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2013, 07:57:06 PM »
Dear Subramanian sir,

Thank You so much for wonderful posts about, to me unknown,Great Soul. I am so amazed with all i have read. Truly touching...

With love and prayers,
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 08:03:03 PM by Jewell »