The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment
Last Revised: 10 February 2005
Details of bibliographic acronyms are available here .
Subject: William Wordsworth
'Such was the Boy -- but for the growing Youth
What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He looked --
Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth
And ocean's liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him:-- Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read
Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank
The spectacle: sensation, soul, and form,
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being; in them did he live,
And by them did he live; they were his life. (ECST, 399.)
Subject: Honore de Balzac
Are you certain that your soul has had its full development? Do you breathe in air through every pore of it? Do your eyes see all they can see? (CC, 204.)
Subject: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tradition: Unitarian minister and philosopher.
No man ever forgot the visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry, and art. (ESS, 166.)
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within. (SW, 258.)
Subject: Alfred Lord Tennyson
(Tennyson describes his enlightenment at the hands of an angel.)
I stood upon the Mountain which o'erlooks
The narrow seas....
A curve of whitening, flashing, ebbing light!
A rustling of white wings! the bright descent
Of a young Seraph! and he stood beside me
There on the [mountain] ridge, and look'd into my face
With his unutterable, shining orbs.
So that with hasty motion I did veil
My vision with both hands, and saw before me
Such colour'd spots as dance athwart the eyes
Of those, that gaze upon the noonday Sun....
I felt my soul grow mighty, and my spirit
With supernatural excitation bound
Within me, and my mental eye1 grew large
With such a vast circumference of thought,
That in my vanity I seem'd to stand
Upon the outward verge and bound alone
Of full beatitude. Each failing sense,
As with a momentary flash of light
Grew thrillingly distinct and keen. I saw
The smallest grain that dappled the dark Earth,
The indistinctest atom in deep air,
The Moon's white cities, and the opal width
Of her small glowing lakes...
... The clear Galaxy
Shorn of its hoary lustre, wonderful,
Distinct and vivid with sharp points of light,
Blaze within blaze, an unimagin'd depth
And harmony of planet-girded suns
And moon-circled planets, wheel in wheel,
Arch'd the wan sapphire....
... my human brain
Stagger'd beneath the vision, and thick night
Came down upon my eyelids, and I fell.
With ministering hand he rais'd me up:
Then with a mournful and ineffable smile,
Which but to look on for a moment fill'd
My eyes with irresistible sweet tears...
"There is no mightier Spirit than I to sway
The heart of man: and teach him to attain
By shadowing forth the Unattainable...."
(Alfred Lord Tennyson in ECST, 401-2.)
Subject: Walt Whitman
O the joy of my spirit -- it is uncaged -- it darts like lightning. (Whitman in CC, 78.)
The ocean filled with joy -- the atmosphere all joy! Joy, joy, in freedom, worship, love! Joy in the ecstacy: Enough to merely be! Enough to breathe! Joy, Joy! All over joy. (CC, 78.)
When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man. (Whitman in CC, 78.)
What have I to do with lamentation? (CC, 86.)
You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart.
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and joy and knowledge that pass all the art and argument of the earth;
And I know that the hand of God is the elder hand of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,
... and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of creation is love. (CC, 227-8.)
Thou O God my life has lighted,
With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of Thee,
Light rare untellable, lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages;
For that, O God, be it my latest word, here on my knees,
Old, poor, and paralyzed, I thank Thee. (CC, 233.)
Subject: Lahiri Mahasaya (born Shyama Charan Sharman Lahiri)
Dates: 1828-1895 A.D.
Tradition: Kriya Yoga
I sat that afternoon on my blanket, hallowed by associations and past-life realizations. My divine guru [Babaji Mahavatar] approached and passed his hand over my head. I entered the nirbikalpa samadhi state, remaining unbrokenly in its bliss for seven days. Crossing the successive strata of Self-knowledge, I penetrated the deathless realms of Reality. All delusive limitations dropped away; my soul was fully established on the altar of the Cosmic Spirit. (AY, 313.)
Subject: Paramahansa Ramakrishna (born Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya)
Dates: 1836-1886 A.D.
Tradition: Avatar; Hinduism.
Due to the length of the entry for Sri Ramakrishna, a separate page has been set aside for it.
Subject: Maurice Bucke
It was in the early spring, at the beginning of his thirty-sixth year. He and two friends had spent the evening reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, and especially Whitman. They parted at midnight, and he had a long drive in a Hansom, (it was in an English city). His mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful. He was in a state of almost passive enjoyment. All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around, as it were, by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant, he thought of fire -- some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next (instant) he knew that the light was within himself. Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exaltation, of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which ever since lightened his life. Upon his heart fell one drop of the Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven. (CC, 9-10.)
Infinite and inextinguishable confidence ... is in my heart. ("Dedication" to CC, n.p.)
It is not supposed that in the case of any man so far born has the Cosmic sense been constantly present for years, months, or even weeks -- probably not even for days or hardly hours. In many cases it appears only once and for a few moments only, but that flash is sufficient to light up (more or less brightly) all the subsequent years of life. In the greatest cases it may be present for many minutes at a time and return at intervals of weeks, months or years. Between these extremes there would seem to be a vast range of greater and [lesser] cases. (CC, 235-6.)
Tradition: Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
At the last moment, we were seated around [Balaram Bose], while his wife, stricken with unspeakable grief, was in the inner apartment with Golap-ma, Yogin-ma, and others. Just then she noticed something like a piece of black cloud in the sky, which became denser by stages and began to descend. Soon it assumed the shape of a chariot and alighted on the roof of Balaram Babu's house. The Master came out of that chariot and proceeded towards the room where Balaram Babu lay. Soon after, he issued forth, taking Balaram Babu by the hand, and entered the chariot again, which then ascended and vanished in the sky. This vision raised [Balaram's wife's] mind to a very high plane where there could be no touch of grief or sorrow. When she returned to normal she related this to Golap-ma, who came to apprise us of the fact. Balaram Babu had passed away just a little while before. (Swami Shivananda in TLG, 133.)
Subject: Edward Carpenter
All sorrow [is] finished. (CC, 77.)
The [cosmic] sense is a sense that one is those objects and things and persons that one perceives, and the whole universe. (CC, 89.)
Subject: Mabel Collins
Tradition: Theosophist, channeling the Master Hilarion.
When after ages of struggle and many victories the final battle is won, the final secret demanded, then you are prepared for a further path. When the final secret of the great lesson is told, in it is opened the mystery of the new way -- a path which leads out of all human experience, and which is utterly beyond human perception or imagination. (Mabel Collins, LOP, 11-2.)
Mind, heart, brain all are obscure and dark until the first great battle has been won. (LOP, 15.)
Look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm, not till then. ... Then will come a calm such as comes in a tropical country after the heavy rain, when nature works so swiftly that one may see her action. Such a calm will come to the harassed spirit. And in the deep silence the mysterious event will occur which will prove that the way has been found. Call it by what name you will, it is a voice that speaks where there is none to speak -- it is a messenger without form or substance or it is the flower of the soul that has opened. It cannot be described by any metaphor. But it can be felt after, looked for, and desired, even amid the raging of the storm. The silence may last a thousand years. But it will end. Yet you may carry its strength with you. Again and again the battle must be fought and won. It is only for an interval that Nature can be still.
... The opening of the bloom is the glorious moment when perception awakes; with it comes confidence, knowledge, certainty. The pause of the soul is the moment of satisfaction -- that is the silence. (LOP, 16-8.)
To learn is impossible until the first great battle has been won. The mind may recognize truth, but the spirit cannot receive it. Once having passed through the storm and attained the peace, it is then always possible to learn, even though the disciple waver, hesitate, and turn aside. The Voice of the Silence remains within him, and though he leaves the Path utterly, yet one day it will resound, and rend him asunder and separate his passions from his divine possibilities. Then, with pain and desperate cries from the deserted lower self, he will return. (LOP, 19.)
The soul of man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendour has no limit. (LOP, 20; IWL, 114.)
When you have found the beginning of the way the star of your soul will show its light. (LOP, 22.)
To have seen the soul in its bloom is to have obtained a momentary glimpse in thyself of the transfiguration which shall eventually make thee more than man. (LOP, 22.)
To have attained self-knowledge is to have retreated to the inner fortress whence the personal man can be viewed with impartiality. (LOP, 22.)
Inquire of the inmost, the One, of its final secret, which it holds for you through the ages. .. When the time of learning ... is reached, man is on the threshold of becoming more than man. (LOP, 29-30.)
Subject: Tota Puri
Tradition: Advaita Vedanta
Whatever is within the domain of maya is unreal. Give it up. Destroy the prison-house of name and form and rush out of it with the strength of a lion. Dive deep in search of the Self and realize It through samadhi. You will find the world of name and form vanishing into void, and the puny ego dissolving in Brahman-Consciousness. (GSR, 28.)
Tota Puri was a tall and stalwart figure. he was able to make his mind still and devoid of any functions whatever, in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, as a result of practising mental abstraction and meditation for forty long years in solitude as an all-renouncing ascetic. ... [On one occasion] he had a severe attack of blood dysentery. On account of the wringing pain in the intestines day and night, his mind, although calm and tranquil and accustomed to Samadhi, moved away from its abidance in Brahman and came down to body-consciousness. ... The Swami then became terribly annoyed with his own body. He thought, "Even my mind is not under my control today on account of the trouble from this 'cage of bones and flesh'. Away with this nuisance of a body! ... I will put an end to all suffering by immersing it in the Ganga at this dead of night." (Saradananda, SRGM, 1, 546, 558-9.)
Suddenly, in one dazzling moment, [Totapuri] sees on all sides the presence of the Divine Mother. She is in everything; She is everything. She is in the water; She is on land. She is the body; She is the mind. She is pain; She is comfort. She is knowledge; She is ignorance. She is life; She is death. She is everything that one sees, hears, or imagines. She turns "yea" into "nay"; and "nay" into "yay". Without Her grace no embodied being can go beyond Her realm. Man has no free will. He is not even free to die. Yet, again, beyond the body and mind She resides in her Transcendental, Absolute aspect. She is the Brahman that Totapuri has been worshipping all his life. (Nikhilananda describing Tota Puri, Vedantic guru to Sri Ramakrishna, in GSR, 31.)
Subject: Swami Vivekananda (born Narendranath Dutta)
There are two kinds of samadhi. The one is called savikalpa. In it one feels a trace of duality, of distinction between subject and object. The other kind is called nirvikalpa. In that samadhi one effaces, in the depths of meditation, all distinction between the knower and the goal of knowledge. (VYW, 562.)
At the marvellous touch of the Master [Sri Ramakrishna], my mind underwent a complete revolution. I was aghast to realize that there really was nothing whatever in the entire universe but God. I remained silent, wondering how long this state of mind would continue. It didn't pass off all day. I got back home, and I felt just the same there; everything I saw was God. I sat down to eat, and I saw that everything -- the plate, the food, my mother who was serving it and I myself -- everything was God and nothing else but God. I swallowed a couple of mouthfuls and then sat still without speaking. My mother asked me lovingly, "Why are you so quiet? Why don't you eat?" That brought me back to everyday consciousness, and I began eating again. But, from then on, I kept having the same experience, no matter what I was doing -- eating, drinking, sitting, lying down, going to college, strolling along the street. It was a kind of intoxication; I can't describe it. If I was crossing a street and saw a carriage coming towards me I didn't have the urge, as I would ordinarily, to get out of its way for fear of being run over. For I said to myself, "I am that carriage. There's no difference between it and me." During that time I had no sensation in my hands or feet. When I ate food, I felt no satisfaction from it; it was as if someone else was eating. Sometimes I would lie down in the middle of a meal, and then get up again after a few minutes and go on eating; thus it happened that on those days I would eat far more than usual, but this never upset me. My mother became alarmed; she thought I was suffering from some terrible disease. "He won't live long," she'd say.
When that first intoxication lost part of its power, I began to see the world as though it were in a dream. When I went for a walk around Cornwallis Square, I used to knock my head against the iron railings to find out if they were only dream-railings or real ones. The loss of feeling in my hands and feet made me afraid that I was going to be paralyzed. When I did at last return to normal consciousness I felt convinced that the state I had been in was a revelation of non-dualistic experience. So then I knew that what is written in the Scriptures about this experience is all true. (RHD, 206-7.)
Narendra, consumed with a terrific fever for realization, complained to the Master that all the others had attained peace and that he alone was dissatisfied. The Master asked what he wanted. Narendra begged for samadhi, so that he might altogether forget the world for three or four days at a time. "You are a fool," the Master rebuked him. "There is a state even higher than that. Isn't it you who sing, 'All that exists art Thou'? First of all settle your family affairs and then come to me. You will experience a state even higher than samadhi." (Nikhilananda, "Introduction" to GSR, 70.)
One day when Narendra was on the ground floor, meditating, the Master was lying awake in his bed upstairs. In the depths of his meditation Narendra felt as though a lamp were burning at the back of his head. Suddenly he lost consciousness. It was the yearned-for, all-effacing experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, when the embodied soul realizes its unity with the Absolute. ... After [a] long period Narendra regained full consciousness. Bathed in peace, he went to the Master, who said, "Now the Mother has shown you everything." (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 71-2.)
Subject: Swami Turiyananda (born Hari Nath Chattopadhyay)
One day [Sri Ramakrishna] told [Hari, later Swami Turiyananda]: "Why do you think of Nirvana as the goal of life? There is a state higher than Nirvana, and it can be attained."
Hari had never head this before. "Can I attain that state?" he asked.
"Certainly," Sri Ramakrishna replied. "By the grace of the Divine Mother one can attain it." (ST, 15-6.)
Sri Ramakrishna taught that the vijnanas accept God both with form and without.
The vijnanis are greater than the jnanis, those who simply attain Nirvana or Samadhi. In Sri Ramakrishna's words: "Jnana is the realization of the Atman through the process of 'Not this, not this.' One goes into Samadhi through this process of elimination and realizes the Atman. ... But vijnana means Knoweldge with a greater fulness. Some have heard of milk, some have seen milk, and some have drunk milk. He who has merely heard of it is 'ignorant.' He who has seen it is a jnani. But he who has drunk it has vijnana, that is to say, a fuller Knowledge of it. ... To know by one's own inner experience that God exists is jnana. But to talk to him, to enjoy him as Self, as Friend, as Master, as Beloved is vijnana. The realization that God alone has become the universe and all living beings is vijnana." (ST, 17-8.)
Subject: Swami Saradananda (born Sarat Chandra Chakravarti)
During deep meditation, the experiences of the realm of ideas become so powerful in the mind of the devotee that he does not have the slightest knowledge of the external world for the time being. This condition of the devotee has been designated by the scriptures as Savikalpa Samadhi. Although, owing to the strength of his mental power, the external world vanishes from the mind of the devotee at the time of such Samadhi, the realm of ideas still persists. His experience of the chosen Ideal in that world of ideas and the joy he derives from it are in no way less intense and real to him than that of the waking world and his contacts with men and things in that world. All the ideas that arise at that time in his mind have only his chosen Ideal for their object. The scriptures have called that condition of the devotee's mind as Savikalpa Samadhi, because at that time the series of the mental modifications of the devotee have only one thing as their main object.
Thus the gross external world vanishes from the mind of the devotee owing to the meditation on a particular object of the ideal world. ... The attainment of the Nirvikalpa Samidhi is not very remote from this devout aspirant who has been able to advance so far. Thus the mind of the person, who gets rid of the belief in the existence of the external world to which he has been accustomed for an infinitely long time, becomes endowed with much power and determination. The whole of his mind goes forward with enthusiasm in the direction of the enjoyment of divine bliss, when once there arises the conviction that the enjoyment of that bliss becomes more intense if the mind can be made completely free from modifications. He then ascends to the highest plane in the realm of ideas by the grace of the teacher and God, and establishes himself firmly in the non-dual knowledge and attains eternal peace. (SRGM, 1, 104-5.)
Attaining to non-duality and the knowledge of the One without a second, the origin of all the worlds of name and form, they reach perfection and the acme of their powers. (SRGM, 1, 113.)
A man cannot be fit to realize the eternal peace, till he has reached the Nirvikalpa state through the cessation of all mental modifciations and the non-dual state has become natural to him. (SRGM, 1, 402.)
When the Master inquired whether there was any particular form of God [Sarat, after Swami Saradananda] wished to see, the boy replied that he would like to see God in all the living beings of the world. "But," the Master demurred, "that is the last word in realization. One cannot have it at the very outset." Sarat stated calmly. "I won't be satisfied with anything short of that. I shall trudge on along the path till I attain that blessed state." Sri Ramakrishna was very much pleased. (GSR, 62.)
The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment
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