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"The Sastras say that one must serve the Unmanifest Sat for twelve years
in order to attain Self-realization"


the Wanderling


Suzanne Segal (1955–1997), who, as a young woman, age 27, basically out of nowhere, waiting for a bus one day, Awakened to the Absolute. She spent the rest of her life seeking out others of similar ilk in an effort to understand and place her Enlightenment experience into context, for herself as well as others.

The following quote is from HER book "COLLISION WITH THE INFINITE" quoting words of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Below her quote, for your own edification, are the original quotes by Ramana and their source so they may be read in context:

"Reading more and more of Ramana's words led me to an astounding passage. When asked by a disciple if it was necessary to be associated with the wise (sat-sanga) in order for the Self to be realized, Ramana answered:

"...association with the unmanifest sat or absolute existence (is required).... The sastras say that one must serve (be associated with) the unmanifest sat for twelve years in order to attain Self-realization...but as very few can do that, they have to take second best, which is association with the manifestsat, that is, the Guru."

What astounded Segal about the passage is that she was closing in on the twelfth year of her experiencing of no-self or the unmanifest sat. She felt the "twelve year rule" was somehow important. When others read the same or similar passages such as the Wanderling's in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds for example, they too wonder of the importance and how or if it applies to them and any quest or search for Enlightenment. Lets explore further:

The original, citing Ramana, is from "Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga" and reads as follows:

Questioner: You say that Association with the Wise (Sat-sanga) (see) and service of them is required of the disciple.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, the first really means association with the unmanifest Sat or absolute existence, but as very few can do that, they have to take second best which is association with the manifest Sat, that is, the Guru. Association with sages should be made because thoughts are so persistent. The sage has already overcome the mind and remains in peace. Being in his proximity helps to bring about this condition in others, otherwise there is no meaning in seeking his company. The guru provides the needed strength for this, unseen by others.

Questioner: Is it necessary to serve the Guru physically?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Sastras (scriptures) say that one must serve a Guru for twelve years in order to attain Self-realization. What does the Guru do? Does he hand it over to the disciple? Is not the Self always realized? What does the common belief mean then? Man is always the Self and yet he does not know it. Instead he confounds it with the non-Self, the body, etc. Such confusion is due to ignorance. If ignorance is wiped out the confusion will cease to exist and the true knowledge will be unfolded. By remaining in contact with realised sages the man gradually loses the ignorance until its removal is complete. The eternal Self is thus revealed.

NOTE: In regards to "serving" the Guru for twelve years or otherwise, Sri Ramana, in the opening paragraphs of the same source relates the following:

This flow of power from the Guru can be received by anyone whose attention is focused on the Self or on the form of the Guru; distance is no impediment to its efficacy. This attention is often called Sat-sanga, which literally means ‘association with being’. Sri Ramana wholeheartedly encouraged this practice and frequently said that it was the most efficient way of bringing about a direct experience of the Self. Traditionally it involves being in the physical presence of one who has realized the Self, but Sri Ramana gave it a much wider definition. He said that the most important element in Sat-sang was the mental connection with the Guru; Sat-sang takes place not only in his presence but whenever and wherever one thinks of him.

SOURCE: Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga. Sri Ramana Maharshi as found in THE GURU with preamble by David Godman.

According to Ramana's quotes above, if ignorance is wiped out the confusion will cease to exist and the true knowledge will be unfolded. By remaining in contact with realized sages (i.e., sitting before Ramana for example) the man gradually loses the ignorance until its removal is complete. The Eternal Self is thus revealed. The above also quote Ramana as saying the Sastras say that one must serve a Guru for twelve years in order to attain Self-realization. But, what of Ramana himself or the young boy found in the link below who entered the ashram for the first time and within an hour experienced the Absolute under the grace and light of the Maharshi?


No twelve years in either case, Ramana or the boy. Are there then exceptions?

People get all perplexed over the aforementioned " serving the guru twelve year rule" as cited by Suzanne Segal quoting Sri Ramana, et al, and any outcome thereof of either adhering to or not adhering to it...and if NOT, how would that impact a person downstream, "Enlightenment-wise," if at all.

First, although seeping over into the precepts of other religious beliefs, the concept is primarily a Hindu belief, no doubt rising originally from a long compilation of favorable results now lost to the mists of time. Secondly, Ramana is extrapolating loosely from the scriptures and, in and by doing so, has been quoted over and over so many times in so many places it has taken on a life of it's own and become "law" without the original sastra being cited or the original words quoted. Remember, as far as steadfastly adhering to the the dictums of the written word is concerned, the all-time champion of Enlightenment, the Buddha said:

"...that neither the repetition of scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve spiritual goals." (source)

So, of course, the end result of Enlightenment itself, as well as Zen and any Self Realization as it is sometimes called in Hinduism, ultimately falls outside or beyond the written word of the scriptures...that is ANYBODY'S scriptures, sutras, sastras, or doctrines anyway, so in a sense any perplexity or anything else is moot. However, the question still arises, where does the "twelve year" idea come from? Again, it is basically a Hindu thing, more specifically from SAIVITE HINDUISM. Now there are going to be those that disagree when fine-tuning to a specific point, but in a general overall broadbrush view, the "twelve year rule" initial seed sprouts there. Saivite Hinduism believe Siva is God. Within the context of that belief is what has come to be called the Holy Order of Sannyasa.

Traditionally, Sannyasa Dīksha is restricted to unmarried men, though some modern orders have accepted qualified women. As a rule in most orders, if a candidate enters monastic training before age twenty-five and meets other qualifications, he may, generally after a minimum of twelve years of preparation and training, take the sannyasin's lifetime vows, called Holy Orders of Sannyasa. Only a sannyasin can bring another into the ancient order of sannyasa. However, since the purpose is God Realization, most candidates seek initiation from a spiritually advanced knower of God who can bring them into Parashiva. Sannyasa Dīksha is given in simple or most formal ways. The formal rites include the shaving of the head, conveyance of certain esoteric teachings, abjuration of the worldly life and Dharma, administration of monastic vows, conducting of the novitiate's funeral rites and the giving of the kavi vestments. (source)