Jnana Yoga

For most of his life Sal has been void inside. Most things that Sal has done he did them while prompted either by the circumstances or by the need to survive. He has hardly ever done anything as part of a premeditated grand design for his life. And everything that has or has not happened to him happened because he does not have much of an ego to push him into action. This considerably egoless attitude, in turn, results from the fact that, because of the childhood background briefly outlined above, he was unable to develop a strong sense of identity for himself. In other words, Sal’s “ I ” never developed to the extent that most normal individuals’ “ I ” usually develops.

Thus, when I finally came into contact with Ramana and his self-inquiry method I was more than ready to follow it. At that point I did not have too many obstacles to surmount on my way to realizing that which I really am. The ego barriers standing between my weak earthly identity and my ever present universal identity were relatively thin and fragile. It took me only some three years of very intensive work to finally break them down and get through to the Atman/Ankh “ I,” which is one and the same with the universal “ I,” the One Without A Second.

From the moment I finally understood the simplicity of Ramana’s method and the high level of pragmatism involved in it I said to myself “this is a method I can practice. This is a path I can follow all the way to its end. This is something I can do.” And I did it. And I did not do it after desperately looking for it as part of Sal’s master plan. I did it because I was meant to do it, because I was born to do it, because the whole purpose of my life was to encounter Ramana and follow his Atma-Vichara.

The Beginning

It all started very casually. I was driving down a wide avenue somewhere in Cupertino, California, on a regular January afternoon in 1989, when I noticed a small store that resembled some of those head shops that proliferated in the Haight-Ashbury area up in San Francisco during the late sixties and early seventies. I was hit by a small surge of nostalgia for those careless hippie days and decided to stop and go take a look inside. The name of the shop was “East–West Bookstore.” When I got inside the store I realized that my first impression about it had been right.

There was a lot of grass and hash paraphernalia there; small hash pipes and roach-holders, along with amulets, rings and chains and, of course, lots of books about meditation, yoga, eastern religions, new wave stuff and other similar topics. I first walked around casually, often smiling at the memories that one object or another would bring back to my mind. Then I went into the book section and started browsing around, leafing through some books until I came across one written by a guy named Mouni Sadhu. I leafed a bit through it and I liked it. Then I thought I should come back to buy it some other day and walked out of the shop.

But when I was about to get into my car I thought again about the cover of the book, which had a drawing on it that resembled an Escher drawing I had seen in the past, “Bond of Union”  (Newer editions of the book have a different cover). Then I recalled that a friend of mine from my hippie days used to make very similar drawings too. At this point I thought that the coincidences had already piled up high enough and decided to go back and buy the book right there and then, which I did. A couple of days later I started reading the book and I was totally taken by it. I just could not get my hands off of it. It contained things that I had already heard many times in the past, but Mouni was phrasing them in a context that at the time I found very appealing. The name of the book is “Samadhi – The Superconsciousness Of The Future.”

I read the book attentively all the way to its end where I found out it was part of a trilogy written by the same author. I also found out what the source of the author’s inspiration was: The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi. I went ahead and bought the other two books, “In Days of Great Peace” and “Concentration” and read them as well, but I did not find either of them as interesting as “Samadhi.” When I was done with the other two books I found myself wanting to read more on the same subject, so I thought I should delve a bit deeper into the source of Mouni Sadhu’s inspiration: Ramana Maharshi. With this in mind, one day I went straight to another East-West Bookstore I had recently discovered in Menlo Park, right on El Camino Real, very near Atherton.

To my surprise, they had plenty of books about Ramana there. Particularly interesting was a series of thin booklets consisting of no more than 25 to 50 pages each, with each of them addressing a different aspect of Ramana’s teachings and of Ramana’s life as well. So I began buying and reading one or two of them at the time until I had read them all. Then I began buying and reading thicker books written by Arthur Osborne and others until one day I found and bought the thickest of them all, a book called “The Ramana Gita.”

By then I was deeply immersed in Ramana’s teachings and I was practicing the Atma-Vichara on a daily basis and during most of the day. I was now waking up early every morning to sit up in a particular chair in a corner of my living room to practice the Vichara for half an hour or so before starting my day. Then I would continue practicing throughout the day, stopping only when I had to talk to someone or when I had to concentrate on other things like traffic or things related to my job.

Between six months to a year into my practice I was already experiencing very noticeable changes in me. My mind was much more clear and orderly than it had ever been before for any similar period of time and I was drinking a lot less than at any time during the previous ten years. At one point I also noticed that whenever I drank in the evening, even if it was in moderate quantities, I would have more difficulty concentrating during my practice the following day.

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