The Means Destroy Ignorance

Recently I’ve been reading a small book called Strange Facts about a Great Saint by Dr Raj Varma. The curiously titled book was written by a student of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. The Swami was a renowned renunciate who became the first qualified Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath in some 150 years. In the Shankara tradition of India, this is somewhat like the pope. Only he was a profoundly living embodiment of the teaching. His very presence made spirit real for the average person.

You may best know the Swami as the teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the one who brought TM to the west. If you ever learned TM, you saw a picture of the Swami in the guru puja. Or perhaps you’ve heard the Beatles song Across the Universe? This is the Guru Dev they sung about. That song was literally beamed across the universe.

I’ve also mentioned him periodically on the blog, such as this article, The Value of a Life. I cannot begin to describe the profound impact he has had on my own journey and that of many others. They may not even realize it. He left the body in May of 1953.

The book was quickly printed on newsprint in 1980 with a run of only 2000 copies. The introduction apologizes for the condition of the writing itself – it is sorely in need of a good editor. Much of it is stories of his travels and the crowds who came to see him at various stops (including myself). But there are some nuggets mixed in.

This little bit from a conversation with a small group of famous philosophers, for example. “Those means are there [in Vedanta], not to illuminate the Absolute, but their object is to vanish ignorance. Means destroy ignorance, they do not illuminate the Absolute. That which is self illuminated needs no other light to illumine it. For instance the Sun is a self illuminated body. It needs no other light to illumine it. Before Sunrise, Dawn comes, but the Dawn only vanishes the darkness of night. It does not enlighten the Sun. The sun is self illuminated. All the means narrated in Vedant Shastras are simply to get rid of ignorance. They never enlighten the Absolute, the Atma. The Atma, the Absolute is self-lit and viewer of all.” (1951)

Another way to put this is techniques purify and prepare the vessel but they don’t in themselves create enlightenment. They prepare the ground for it to happen more easily and clearly. Knowledge, in the highest sense, is also a great purifier, a technique in itself. Thus, the sages recommend the study of the Shastras (texts).
Davidya

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14 Comments

  1. Em

    Hi David,
    This is not meant to be personal…I am intrigued, though, as to how old you were when you saw the Swami Saraswati as you referred to in the above article. Swami passed in 1953. You must have been in the womb, a small child or you are a VERY elderly man…too elderly to be actively in the work life!
    Thanks for piquing my curiosity!

  2. Rose Rosetree

    Davidya, the destruction of ignorance can be done on so many levels. Such as healing in a way that removes STUFF, energetic deposits in the body. That is the version I’m more familiar with.

    It does make sense to me that experiences of the Absolute shine on their own, their own kind of “PUT-IN.” While human- and astral-level healing requires something human and appropriate and individual.

    The different modalities do complement each other, in my experience. I feel quietly inspired by this post.

  3. Rose Rosetree

    Incidentally, I might mention that I was also profoundly inspired by Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, both while on TM courses with Maharishi and after I left my affiliation with the Transcendental Meditation Movement.

    It seemed to me that he helped to write the first book I wrote in the field of Energy Spirituality, “Aura Reading Through All Your Senses.”

  4. Rose Rosetree

    I mention this last part because, Davidya, you are carrying forward light that he helped to grow… while writing this magnificent blog.

    People like to talk about a candle lighting others. Probably everyone reading your blog has been moved by a ceremony where people stand in the dark, lighting candles for each other, from one light source to another until all of them shine a same light. And that light shines in so many places.

    Don’t those symbolic ceremonies symbolize a deep longing?

  5. Rose Rosetree

    Yet what fascinates me more, personally, what moves me more, is how no two candles have precisely the same flame.

    So Swami Brahmananda Saraswati lit up the world, he helped to light up you as you light up others; the same with me; the same with every single person reading your blog right now.

  6. A more gauche example I sometimes use is a disco ball. One ball with many mirrors, each reflecting the one light a little differently. Some it seems though reflect so much more light, thus lighting more of the others.

  7. Hi Rose
    Lovely comments. We might consider each form of Yoga a means of destroying ignorance as each are a means. Right action, the study of higher knowledge, tapas, meditation, asana, meditation, and so forth.

    But even more broadly, anything that truly purifies the vessel. So right food, true energy healing, and so on.

    It strikes me that a well lived life with good skills like energetic literacy and techniques of attention becomes the means itself. We become the means.

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