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Great Spiritual Teachers of the East

Updated on April 26, 2011

Flight Towards Freedom

Flight Towards Freedom
Flight Towards Freedom

Making Sense of Religion

The spiritual journey towards Absolute Truth and awakening to one’s true nature is a uniquely personal experience. Today, with internet, Youtube and book shops exclusively stocking written works of a spiritual nature, more than at any other time in history people have access to the many paths and approaches to the truth that exist on this diverse and beautiful planet. It used to strike me as regretfully ironic how the truth is always pointing towards unity, love, and compassion and yet somehow we allow religion to become a divisive force in our lives and in the world. Nowadays analysis of right and wrong in terms of the way the world should be seems futile.

Personally, I was brought up with a relaxed Christian background. I believed in God as a benevolent being to whom the greatest respect should be given. God though remained a nebulous figure, for I was deeply suspicious of the pictures painted of ‘Him’ in the Old and New Testament – ‘He’ was too threatening and judgmental to love unconditionally. Ideas of God being jealous of anything or favoring those collectively huddling under a particular banner seemed absurd and insulting. As a kid I remember hearing certain passages from the bible that rang with the sweet perfume of truth , ‘Love thy neighbor’, ‘Let he who has no sin cast the first stone’, and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It was obvious that the world would be a vastly different place if we could live by these few gems of advice alone.

To resolve these contradictions, I discarded the fear driven stuff of the bible and formed my own notions about God, and managed to convince myself that despite great evidence to the contrary there must be some universally loving and trustworthy Source behind the existence of the universe. But why did this Source of all things remain so persistently silent amidst the mayhem, injustice and violence that appeared on the TV screen every night at 6 p.m.? 

Great Spiritual Teachers

Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda
J. Krishnamurti
J. Krishnamurti
Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
Sogyal Rimpoche
Sogyal Rimpoche
Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle
Sri Nisargadatta
Sri Nisargadatta
Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh
Ajaan Chah
Ajaan Chah
Anandamayi Ma
Anandamayi Ma

A Garden of Spiritual Paths

At around 15 I decided to have a look at some doctrines from the mystical, ancient land of India. I began with the Bhagavad-Gita and found it hard going to be honest. The statement, “The power of God is with you at all times; through the activities of mind, senses, breathing, and emotions; and is constantly doing all the work, using you as a mere instrument”, was hard to appreciate at the time. If God was doing all this stuff, stuff that I thought I was doing, including wagging school, smoking weed, and getting a C in math then something was seriously awry. Other gems struck a chord: “The senses have been conditioned by attraction to the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant: a man should not be ruled by them; they are obstacles in his path.” By now it was pretty obvious that greed and fear were responsible for most of the suffering in the world and this quote nailed that truth as far as I was concerned.

While I was still in my ‘India phase’ I picked up a copy of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda and found it immensely entertaining, replete with tales of mystics who could project their consciousness out of their bodies and return at will. It was this book that sparked an interest in consciousness as a phenomenon with which to experiment. The power of attention and the notable changes in perception that occurred when attention was harnessed and focused was quite a discovery. A swag of books on meditation began to fill my shelves - at this time I was also studying for my high school exams and found the ability to concentrate for long periods very helpful. It was Lawrence LeShan’s, “How to Meditate”, that was of the most practical benefit at that time; a no nonsense overview of various types of meditation.

Through my uni days I gave my obsession with reading spiritual literature a bit of a break and immersed myself in academia, girls and parties, soaking up the shamelessly hedonistic lifestyle.

The seeker’s quest began again when I graduated from uni and the reality of office work and it’s intrinsically de-spiriting nature sank in - like a man who sits in a cell and contemplates his sentence and how he will survive it, I pondered what 35 years in suit and tie behind a desk would do to me. And so began my Buddhist Period – first Zen and then Tibetan. I think I used to kid myself how much I really understood when reading Zen in the early days. I liked the sparseness of it and the word Zen itself held an allure for me. The message of Zen masters like Dogen was often deeply encrypted and I arrogantly enjoyed the feeling of Zen being hardcore and not for the soft seeker of the truth. Many of the Zen teachers were indeed hardcore – the wonderful Huang Po didn’t mince words and emphatically stated time and again that all conceptual thought must end if freedom is to be found. It was in Tibetan teachers like Chogyam Trungpa and Sogyal Rimpoche with whom I connected more intimately, with their candid discussions of the workings of the mind and the removing of obstacles that confuse and dim perception.

A girl I was dating at work gave me a book by the curious Indian philosopher, Krishnamurti – I think it was ‘Flight of the Eagle’. I was so impressed by the razor sharp logic with which he approached the subject of freedom that I proceeded to work my way through everything he had written ending with ‘The First and Last Freedom.’ Krishnamurti was unswerving in his rejection of authority figures including gurus, and suggested that the only way of arriving at the truth was through the negation of the false using the powers of attention to observe oneself in relationship with life beyond the veil of conditioning. I was in my early 20s by this stage and could no longer bear the confines of my office job and left for a life on the road, beginning in Mumbai, India.

When I found myself living in Thailand years later, I dedicated quite a bit of time to studying and practicing Theravada Buddhism and have completed several meditation retreats here. I had no idea how intense they would be - meditating all day and half the night – watching the mind as a witness and finding no entity there behind the doors of perception. A natural curiosity burned within to investigate what I was not- the body, name, memories, or the identification with an endless stream of thoughts all vying for attention like noisy little children. But to turn one's attention to what is behind all of this – this nameless witness, still and quiet and without judgment – to keep one's attention on that is daunting - a razors edge.

In recent years I’ve found teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Sri Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, and Mooji enormously inspiring and offering a valuable perspective on discovering who one really is behind the veil of this dream-like existence. They share a core message which is simply this - not to underestimate the power of attention, to bear witness to life with an open mind that seeks nothing for itself, only to look and see what is there beyond our conditioning, beyond identification with thoughts, beyond I, me, mine.

So I guess I've been a willing participant of spiritual shopping and have tried on all sorts of spiritual garb which seemed to fit for a while, and then like fashion, felt after a time inappropriate, but I think up to a point that this is just fine. I have learned a lot from the many wonderful teachers along the way. Why limit ourselves? I have faith in the counsel of the enlightened that the Divine, God, the Source, Buddha Nature, the Void, the Tao…..appears when one bears affectionate witness to the world that appears before one, remaining silent and still within, attaching to no-thing and burning the flame of attention with relentless persistence. It seems that the dream character or ego will always be denied admission to this eternal playground of pure consciousness.

For some, the search for a metaphysical truth beyond our current knowledge of the physical universe is not a pressing concern.There's so much to be explored and tasted in this world that to return to the unmanifest is undesirable and premature for many of us. It seems to be suffering that drives us to look beyond the ephemeral and a lot of beings are enjoying favorable circumstances, happily dancing and being part of the ongoing collective act of creation.

Seeing the glaring hypocrisies in humankind’s religious institutions, some cynically reject religion altogether, and that’s a totally understandable position too. Everyone is right from their own standpoint.

More than ever before, quantum physicists and metaphysicians are going down the rabbit hole together in the spirit of discovery, which is very cool, and it will be interesting to see where it leads.


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    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Horizon 

      4 years ago from Philadelphia

      Beautiful article and very well written. I too have had similar experiences. My first memory as a very young child, my hand twitched and I couldn't understand how it could move without me doing it. So I ran and asked my Grandma what we are and how this can be. I don't remember her explanation, but I do remember thinking ... I love my Grandma, but she doesn't know either. Then a few years later I was at church and the minister was talking about god being angry and only Christians know the truth and I thought he doesn't know what he is talking about. So I went about to find the truth on my own. Still searching. I don't know of all the masters you speak of, but the ones I do know about are very beautiful people. Recently found out about Mooji and he touched my heart. I really enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for posting it.

    • ocoy profile image


      6 years ago from Cedar Crest, New Mexico

      It is always interesting to see how people have grown and evolved, and what factors have fed that growth. Thanks for posting this interesting article.

    • Greenheart profile image


      7 years ago from Cambridge

      Thanks for the hub. Maharishi is inspiring. To be in relation to the Divine, to be free in the divine heart must be the purpose of existence,whichever tradition that might be!. :-)

    • VioletSun profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Life for me and my soulmate life is about Truth, we have our quality time, Satsangs in the park and release a lot of untruths which is freeing and scary bears for me at times. :) My s/o is into Niz, have to check him out him too. BTW, my older nephew lives and teaches in Bangkok, Thailand and is married to a beautiful Thai woman. He loves the culture, the people; I don't think he will come back to the USA. Checked your website and it's awesome, very artistic and well done!

    • shimla profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Great to hear from you - the lineage from Sri Ramana Maharshi - Papaji - Mooji is very powerful I find. Nisargadatta too. And of course Tolle is such a wonderful and funny teacher. I will look into Dr. Hawkins.I used to feel very strongly that I was in the wrong place too when i worked at an insurance company and though I have far less money now, i have no regrets leaving at all. For my wife and I now, Life is really only about awareness, making up from the dream of the mind-body complex and being kind along the way. Kudos to you for having the courage to follow your heart. On mass we're conned into being slaves to a lifestyle that makes a few very rich and does little to satisfy the individual's longing to be free and happy - our natural state. Peace.

    • VioletSun profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      So glad you are following me as I wouldn't have known you are in Hubpages as its such a large community. :)

      I am into Papaji, Mooji, Dr. David R Hawkins, Tolle, and other enlightened teachers, as they all point to the same Truth. I too was in the corporate world but for 23 years yet I never felt I belonged in that stifling, political environment, so quit without a plan and moved on.

      Voted up!


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