The Spiritual Path
From the moment that we begin to question our place in the world, or the meaning of life, we could be said to have begun our quest for Truth. Shrimad Rajchandra has put these questions to us very beautifully in his “Amulya Tattva Vichar”:
“Who am I? Whence have I come? What is my true nature?”
This Truth lies in our own true nature. When we realise this nature, we know our Self, the Atma, the Soul, and attain Samyag Darshan, Self-Realisation. The moment of Self-Realisation is a moment of jubilation as we experience the ecstasy of our blissful nature for the first time, and it is a turning point in the spiritual journey we have been making in our infinite lifetimes.
Samyag Darshan is a guarantee of the incomparable bliss and freedom we will experience in the State of Moksha. For this is our ultimate goal, the state reached by Bhagwan Mahavir, and all the Tirthankars before him and those yet to come. This state can only ultimately be reached by the adoption of the noble state of asceticism. Even though it is said that Moksha is not possible in this time and place, Samyag Darshan is possible right here and now as long as we strive.
Given our infinite number of lifetimes, why is it that we have not attained this blessed state before? The simple answer from the scriptures and the saints is that we have never surrendered our hubris, Svachhand, the idea that we know it all and that we can practice religion and spirituality as per our own wishes. The reality is that the complex and subtle path to Self-Realisation cannot be understood without the guidance of someone (who) is himself Self-Realised. We need a True Guru. It is rare indeed to encounter such a living embodiment of the Truth. The True Seeker considers it a great privilege to actually meet such a True Guru: Within the word of a True Guru lies the very key to our own bliss and freedom!
In the Sutrakritanga Sutra (1,2,32), Bhagwan Mahavir is quoted as teaching that an infinite number of souls have attained Moksha by acting according to their Guru’s guidance. “Guruno Chhandanuvattaga”
Such a True Guru is in a state of bliss and does not want anything from us, or from the world, but that we all experience the bliss he is enjoying. We can thus have full faith and trust in him. Our obstructive sectarian prejudices and personal dogmatic obstinacy (both aspects of Matarthi) are easily shed. We are able to surrender to his guidance (Agna), in the full knowledge that it will lead us to Self-Realisation. Acharanga Sutra states: “Agna is Dharma; Agna is Tapa”
Our true nature is obscured from us by Karma, in the same way that a mirror is obscured by dust. Ultimately, it is Mithyatva, the folly that leads us to identify with the body and forget our true nature as Souls, which drives our continuous bondage by Karma. We have a sense of me (Aham) and mine-ness (Mamatva) towards the body and its circumstances and this binds us. When we recognise a True Guru, and surrender this sense of me and mine-ness to him, the process is called Arpanta. We no longer think of mind or body or possessions as ours and we develop a state of trusteeship towards them. This gradually frees us from bondage.
When a Seeker of the Truth dedicates himself to a True Guru, adopts Arpanta, he are given a set of instructions. At the Raj Saubhag Ashram, the Seeker is asked to reaffirm their commitment to the 5 vows of the Jain householder (Anuvrats), to avoid certain types of food, as well as to perform regular acts of worship of the Jina. The Seeker is also guided to recite Atma Siddhi, and a collection of poems and prose called Agna Bhakti, on a daily basis, as well as to read from Shrimad Rajchandra’s writings daily. Each of these instructions is a very powerful tool in the path to Self-Realisation, and eventually to Moksha.
When we realise that all living beings are souls like us, then we realise that all living beings want happiness and love life as we do. Ahimsa, the first vow, the avoidance of injury to any other life form in thought, word or deed, is driven by the insight. Together with Ahimsa the remaining four, Satya (Truth), Astheya (Non-theft), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and Brahmacharya (Celibacy or Spousal Loyalty for a householder), are central to Jain ethics. Bhagwan Mahavir outlined these five so as to protect our Soul from Karma and the Souls of others from harm.
Regular worship and devotion to the Tirthankaras reminds of the nobility of their achievements, and of our goal. We can make this a focus of our lives. Contemplation of the Tirthankar is an essential support to meditative practice, which is the essential mean to Self-Realisation and eventual Moksha.
The writings within the Agna Bhakti, ideally recited in the morning, contain powerful seed-thoughts that enable us to cultivate certain qualities, to see our own faults, and provide us with insights to guide our thought process. Within the Agna Bhakti is the famous “Letter of Six Affirmations,” written to the great monk Prabhushree, a key disciple of Shrimad Rajchandra, speaking of the existence and eternity of the Soul, how it is the author and endurer of its own Karma, that there is a state of Moksha and that there is a path to it. We are also introduced to ideas about the nature of the soul and its relationship with the world, and why all the various spiritual practices which we have undertaken have not yet led to Self-Realisation.
Shri Atma Siddhi Shastra, the great Poem composed for Shri Saubhagbhai of Sayla, Shrimad’s Soul-mate, contains within it the whole path to Moksha. Shrimad’s legacy to us is his living experience and the very personal and direct guidance on the path which he has shared in his intimate letters. It is very rare for us to have access to the innermost thoughts of a Self-Realised Soul, which we have in the collection of Shrimad’s writings, called “Vachanamrut” or “Nectar of Words.”
The daily recital and reflection and introspection on the concepts conveyed in the Agna Bhakti, Atma Siddhi and Shrimad’s Vachanamrut, leads us to cultivate a sense of calmness (Upsham) and detachment (Vairagya); we begin to remove many faults which have been an obstacle to our spiritual growth; and our thirst for Self-Realisation grows. In short, the essential meaning behind this daily practice is a gentle self-transformation which makes us ready, indeed worthy, for guidance from the True Guru. This daily practice makes us into genuine Seekers of the Truth (Atmarthi). In fact, it is really when we attain such a state that we can truly recognise a True Guru.
Contemplation of the many philosophical points will also lead to a state of Right Thinking (Suvicharna). We cannot underestimate the power of thought. Indeed Shrimad has said in Atma Siddhi (verse 117): “Kar Vichar to Pam,” meaning “contemplate to realise.” This leads to Calmness (Upsham) and Detachment (Vairagya) lead to clarity of thought and Discriminative Thinking (Viveka), which facilitates our progress on the path. Regular reading and contemplation thus lead to this thoughtful, reflective approach, invaluable in our progress on the path.
The True Guru will recognise when such a Seeker is ready, and then, by his Grace, the disciple will be given the key to everlasting bliss and freedom. This key is meditation. At the Raj Saubhag Ashram, when a Seeker has prepared himself, he is instructed by his Guru, Param Pujya Bhaishree, in the art of meditation. The meditation taught is known as Sudharas, and is the technique used by Bhagwan Mahavira and by Shrimad Rajchandra. It is also referred to as Mukhras, Beej Gnan, Upsham, and so many other names.
Shrimad has called this technique the easiest and simplest way to attain stillness and has described it being the technique which is closest to the Soul. When this rare, unique and invaluable gift is given to the Seeker by the True Guru’s Grace, there are no bounds to the Gratitude and Love felt, which should be translated into diligent practice.
Meditation is taught in two stages at Raj Saubhag Ashram. Once the Seeker has become worthy of it, he or she is taught the first stage, referred to as Ardha Prapti. As the Seeker continues his self-transformation or purification by bringing changes into his life, and when he grasps the technique and has increasing stillness, and has regular disciplined practice, he is taught the second stage, known as Purna Prapti. At this stage, the Seeker has now been given the full technique.
As there is increasing progress, the Seeker is guided further, in a Stage known as Chintan-Manan, and given seed thoughts to speed the process to Self-Realisation. With continued guidance from the True Guru and with regular practice and with continued Right Thinking (Suvicharna), the Seeker eventually realises their Soul, and attains Self-Realisation.
So powerful is this system, that at Raj Saubhag Ashram, under the guidance of the previous Guru, Param Pujya Bapuji, 12 great souls were declared to be Brahmnishts, which means that they are continuously in a state of reflection on Soul, among other spiritual attainments. Even they are still on a journey to completely free themselves from the cycle of life and death, to attain eternal the Bliss of Moksha.
Let us conclude, in summary, with Shrimad’s word in Atma Siddhi (verses 38-41):
“ One whose passions have been calmed and whose only desire is Moksha
Who is weary of the cycle of rebirth, has compassion for all living beings – such a Soul is a True Seeker”
Until it has cultivated such a state, the Soul has no scope
And is unable to embark upon the path to Moksha, and its inner disquiet cannot be cured
Only when that state is attained will a True Guru’s teaching be effective;
Encouraging Right Thinking thus awakening bliss
Where inner contemplation awakens, there awakens Self-Realisation
And through such wisdom, delusion is eliminated, and thus one attains the state of Nirvana