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#2328 - Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz

This issue features a typed-out excerpt about the teaching of Ramana Maharshi from Coming Home: The Experience of Enlightenment in Sacred Traditions, by Lex Hixon. Foreward by Ken Wilber.  

The book was published in 1989 and while reading the passage below you might sense that since that time there has been a leveling of our regard toward enlightenment (it's not capitalized anymore), spiritual practices and experiences, and self-realized people. It's all kinda become, "Yeah, okay, whatever." It's just not a big magilla for us anymore. In other words, the timeless truths that Hixon sets forth below are placed in a setting that is now more or less out of fashion. What does that say for today's settings for expressions of truth? They too are only fashion. And with the internet, ways of setting forth truth are burned up and rendered quaint literally seconds after they appear. Tony Parsons and Sailor Bob Adamson and that whole gang of extreme nondualists are making fashion statements. They are supermodels. The Highlights is Fashion TV. Silk is the fundamental substance and great designers and models do with the silk what seems right at any moment in time.  

The book is out of print, but several used copies are available through  

Lex Hixon has appeared in about a dozen past Highlights, which you'll find by entering "hixon" into the search engine: or      


Ramana once remarked: "Realization consists only in getting rid of the false idea that one is not realized." When liberated from this false notion by Ramana's illumined affirmation, we recognize Consciousness itself to be the ultimate fulfillment that human beings have endlessly sought. Our daily consciousness is intrinsically Ultimate Consciousness. This insight, which is the dawning of Enlightenment, need not change any appearing structures. One need not be transformed from a lawyer working in the city to a monk or nun meditating in the mountains. No form of creativity is inhibited by the realization that the goal of all life has always been attained as primal awareness. Life is now no longer regarded primarily as evolution but as play.


But even after Enlightenment, there remains our karmic destiny, our particular energy pattern, our grain. Each being has its own special momentum or motivation. This is why the relative universe continues to manifest. Our karmic momentum may lead us, for instance, to reshape society. But we should realize that although there is no ultimate society, this very Consciousness that we use to design social institutions is intrinsically ultimate.


When Ramana spoke, he either instructed seekers in the practice of "Who am I?" or evoked his deepest realization: the natural Enlightenment of all beings. When he remained silent, absorbed in primal awareness, his presence both instructed seekers in vichara and fully expressed the fact of natural Enlightenment, which exists prior to any spiritual practice. Ramana teaches: "You speak of various paths as if you were somewhere and the Self were somewhere else and you had to go and attain it. But in fact the Self is here and now and you are it always. It is like being here at the ashram and asking people the way to Ramana Ashram and then complaining that each one shows a different path and asking which one to follow." This remark enables us to understand more deeply Ramakrishna's conviction that all spiritual paths lead to the same goal. The paths are illusory, and this, ironically, is why they are fundamentally in harmony. There are no separate paths. There is only Consciousness itself, which is always present and thus cannot be described as a goal. What we thought were paths to a goal are just the playfulness of Ultimate Consciousness. Any spiritual path is an illusion, because, as a path, it purports to lead us away from where we are, whereas Consciousness is always here. But we can travel spiritual paths, joyfully knowing them to be illusory, or provisional, as Ramana often venerated the holy mountain Arunachala by circumambulation, a path of worship that is, appropriately, circular in form.


Various spiritual practices impart their own flavor to Self-realization or Enlightenment. Goddess Kali, as a Divine Form assumed by Ultimate Consciousness, imparted Her lasting fragrance to the illumined being of Ramakrishna, who repeated Her mantra with his last breath. Similarly, circumambulation and praise of the holy mountain remained a form of veneration for the illumined Ramana until his death. The presence of Kali, or Arunachala, can persist for these Enlightened beings precisely because such Divine Forms are not intrinsically separate from primal awareness. Their nature is dreamlike, but their reality is more archetypal than the dream of space and time. They are comparable to the transcendental Forms of Plato's philosophy, living principles whose mode of being is indestructible because it is not substantial in any physical sense. We cannot dissolve a geometrical theorem. And countless systems of geometry, each with contrasting axioms, can subsist simultaneously. They do not impede each other. This is the nature of the various spiritual paths. They are intrinsically transparent to the Ultimate Consciousness at their Source.


Let us consider Ramana Maharshi's death. At seventy, he developed a tumor on his arm which was operated on several times without anesthetic. Ramana tried to clarify the meaning, or lack of meaning, of pain and illness for the totally illuminated person: "They take this body for Ramana and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! Where is pain if there is no mind?" The approach of Ramana was not that of the healer who removes pain but that of the sage who perceives all phenomena, including pain, as Ultimate Consciousness. Years before, Ramana had elucidated this point: "If the hand of the jnani, or knower of Truth, were cut with a knife, there would be pain as with anyone else, but because his mind is in bliss, he does not feel the pain as acutely as others do." Thus ordinary bodily experience does exist for the illumined sage, although greatly muted.


When begged by some devotees to cure himself with yogic powers, Raman replied in the spirit of vichara: "Who is there to have such a thought? Who is there to will this?" When near death, Ramakrishna received this same request from his devotees. Rather than responding immediately, as Ramana did, from the standpoint of unitary insight, Ramakrishna agreed to ask his Divine Mother Kali. He went to the temple and humbly requested, "Mother, please let me eat a little in order to keep the body together." Goddess Kali replied, "You are eating through all mouths. Why do you have to eat through this mouth?" The same truth is being expressed through both these revelatory media: the Source Consciousness of Ramana and the Divine Mother of Ramakrishna. The Source and the Mother are the same primal awareness.


During his final illness, various devotees of Ramana continued to plead that they needed his physical presence to help them in their spiritual practice. Ramana replied, "You attach too much importance to the body. They say that I am dying, but I am not going away: where would I go? I am here." Ramana, like any illumined being, is everywhere. He is with us now as we think about him. Ramana is the Ultimate Consciousness that we are. And we are Ramana. His life is an expression of our own deepest Life. His story is essentially our own awakening.


The physical death occurred on April 14, 1951. Some devotees outside his room were singing at dusk one of Ramana's own hymns to Shiva as the mountain Arunachala. On hearing the song, writes an eyewitness, "Ramana's eyes opened and shone. He gave a brief smile of indescribably tenderness." This was a poignant tenderness of a mother for her children. The devotees were singing as spiritual children to the mountain Arunachala, which Ramana knew to be actually their own primal awareness. The eyewitness continues: "From the outer edges of his eyes tears of bliss rolled down. One more deep breath and no more. There was no struggle, no other sign of death, only that the next breath did not come."


Coming Home: The Experience of Enlightenment in Sacred Traditions, by Lex Hixon.

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