Dear Francis, Are meditation disciplines like focusing on one’s breath for sustained periods useful for self-realization? I ask because I have had several sustained periods of the Absolute state, or rather, non-state. These came about through my sadhana of focusing on the space between thoughts whenever I can in my daily life. I know that this was the Absolute state because there was no entity to analyze it or to assert it as being the “final” state. It just was, undivided. But I now find my mind constantly wandering. I still have some sense being the witness consciousness, rather than any object within it, yet there has returned a sense of limitation an individuality, and thus worries and fears. One thing I have never done as sadhana is a highly regular, daily meditation practice, such as samatha or zazen. I have read sages such as Ramana Maharshi and Krishna Menon suggest that such practices can be useful in stabilizing the mind and preparing it for constant abidance in the Self, but that such practices must eventually be given up. I have never really started such practices. Aside from the witnessing of thoughts I do in my daily life (which I am very devoted to and serious about) and reading and contemplating the words of sages, I have no other practices. I don’t want to become locked in a place of subtle, though still present duality, through formalized meditation—in other words, adding to my ignorance through effort. But at the same time, these sages (especially Ramana) seem to suggest that such practices improved the mind so that it could remain in the Absolute state for longer and longer periods of time. Is such a practice necessary to aid in the stabilization of the Absolute? Would such a practice help me to make the free state, the state beyond my mind and effort, permanent?
It is a good start to read sages such as Ramana Maharshi, Jean Klein and Krishna Menon, and to try to understand what they said and to follow the practices they suggested.
The problem is that they were not writers, but teachers, who were very adamant about the fact that the highest form of teaching or transmission was through the presence of the guru. They never wrote books for reading only. Whatever they wrote was to be used by their disciples who already knew them as a reminder of the light they had received through their presence. The other function of these writings was to act as magnets to attract to them those who were ready to become their disciples. They were never meant to be the core of the teachings, which is essentially about surrender, a surrender of which the living guru is the instrument.
Therefore the practice or method which is good for you is not the one you choose, but the one your guru suggests for you.
I am fully aware that these words may be hard to accept, for they are not neo-advaitically correct. However, if you think about it, they are hard to accept only for ignorance, the dissolution of which is precisely the aim of those practices.
It would be a great mistake to believe that liberation can be achieved through books or internet connections alone. An intellectual approach may be or even has to be part of the liberation process, and this part can be communicated through verbal interaction, or through non interactive means such as books or videos (which is more difficult).
But this part is a tiny fraction of the transmission. The most important part cannot be conveyed through words.
The practice I would suggest to you is to keep doing whatever you are doing, seeking the Truth effortlessly, until it becomes clear to you that you need to find your guru; then visit with teachers until you find one you truly resonate with. Follow his or her advice as coming from the Absolute, and do so for as long as the mutual trust remains and increases. Don’t hesitate to change gurus if this trust evaporates. Your allegiance is to Truth and to Truth alone. At some point, your karana guru will take you home.