sadhuBy Swami B.V. Tripurari, originally published in Sacred Preface.

Mysticism is found in all of the major religious traditions. It constitutes a spiritual experiential orientation, as opposed to a socioreligious orientation to life. The mystic subset of Hinduism is yoga/Vedanta. The focus of such mysticism is to realize all of the implications of what it means to be consciousness: self realization and God realization. The means to do so is a systematic approach to isolating consciousness—one’s self/atma—from matter, both its psychic and physical dimensions. The idea is to experience and arguably demonstrate that consciousness exists independently of mind/matter. This subjective experience is arrived at by invoking a great deal of objectivity within what could be called a first person introspective discipline. The objectivity takes the form of detachment from sense objects through a gradual process of external withdrawal and internal focus.

The yogin/Vedantin is schooled in this detachment. That is, he or she is schooled as to the ephemeral nature of things—things of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch—and thoughts themselves. The yogin learns that attachment to things and thoughts creates an illusory and selfish sense of self or ego/identity that, like things and thoughts, is here today but gone tomorrow. Desire for things, the Buddha teaches, is the cause of suffering. The Gita teaches that attachment to the temporal is the womb from which suffering is born. Thus the pursuit of enduring life and happiness is not found in relation to things that are experienced. It is found in relation to the self that experiences. Armed with such reasoning, the mystic cultivates a sense of detachment. The mystic learns to control the mind and senses rather than being controlled by them and drawn through the flow of thought into an imaginary, worldly sense of self. He or she is objective to the extreme, as detachment from things allows one to look at them objectively, having dismantled one’s biases.

The “boy become man” in Kipling’s famous poem “If—” sets the bar for a believable supernatural: a human who has risen above his or her passions and who practically speaking is human no more—a sadhu. This bar is the ground of mysticism, that which the mystic’s experience is rooted in.

The ideal of science is one thing. Scientists are another. Like other world citizens in human dress, scientists are also helplessly human. But the mystic is not a world citizen in any practical sense. Passions transcended, the world holds no charm. Living within, the mystic experiences a humbled yet heightened sense of self. He or she experiences the “more” that we intuitively sense we are—more than the fleeting sense of identity derived from attachment to sense objects.

With objective sensibility as to the ephemeral nature of the world of things and thought, the mystic goes within and does not come up empty handed. Without doing and without thinking in relation to things of the world, he or she has and knows more by way of direct experience of the consciousness we are constituted of. Indeed, go within or go without is the mystic’s mantra. A person profits more by gaining deep, abiding experience of the nonmaterial self than he or she does through material acquisition. “Being” derived from or identified with “having” is an impoverished form of existence in the very least. The mystic’s sense of being has nothing to do with having and it is rich with universally desirable characteristics.

While we refer to such a person as a mystic, he or she is really what we all agree constitutes the perfect human, one who loves one’s neighbor like oneself by way of experiencing that which all beings have in common beneath the superficial dress of differences in race, religion, psychological disposition, and so on. In the language of the Gita, the perfect mystic is one who sees the suffering of others as if it were one’s own. Here we are not speaking of unverifiable subjective experiences, we are speaking about observable behavior that is rare yet undeniably ideal, sought after to one extent or another by different methodologies the world over. However, unlike all of such methodologies, genuine ego effacing spiritual discipline from mysticism is aimed exclusively at attaining this ideal.

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3 Responses to Mysticism

  1. The principles of yoga are ideally defined by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Throught His teachings, He repetitively emphasizes that the illusory connection between the conscious non-material jiva soul and the external material plane of exploitation occurs when the jiva soul is attracted to the three material modes of nature. Even the interaction between the material senses and the sense objects is further removed from the original source of illusory attractions. Krishna has thus repetitively, if not compulsively, high lights the primacy of detachment from the three modes of material nature. I encourage those interested to re-read the Bhagavad Gita in that light. Verse 13.22 and the purport emphasize this as do many, many verses 14.19, 14.20, and so on. Detachment of the jiva soul, the conscious self, from the modes of nature is the mystics’ route to brahma-bhuta self-realization. In such a state of liberation from material attachment, and guided by the vaishnava guide, one feels longing for Krishna, and chants the Holy Names of the Mahamantra with a genuine appeal for Krishna to provide shelter and spiritual nourishment for the bhakta, the fully dependent pure living entity, having no affinity to lord over matter.
    This perspective that is recommended is not so much an inward looking focus but rather a perspective of detachment, having no more any attraction to the self-centric enjoying spirit. By the grace of the Holy Name, we pray that the loving reciprocation with Krishna will causelessly manifest to fully capture the heart of hearts. Pusta Krishna das

    • Change of vocabulary does not necessarily equal a change in philosophy. The article is not stating anything different that found in the Gita and indeed references it:

      “The Gita teaches that attachment to the temporal is the womb from which suffering is born. Thus the pursuit of enduring life and happiness is not found in relation to things that are experienced. It is found in relation to the self that experiences. Armed with such reasoning, the mystic cultivates a sense of detachment.”

      Inward looking is synonymous with detachment, whereas outward looking is looking in pursuit of material acquisition and a life of material attachment.Go within or go without. The article is a short excerpt that is followed (in the book) by the differentiation between monistic mysticism and theistic Krsna-centered mysticism.

      • Dear Tripurari Maharaj, you are not being challenged by me. I do think that the topic of mysticism is very attractive to seekers. the great challenge is, as Srila Sridhar Maharaj sometimes said, the jiva soul has the option of going to the plane of dedication, or remaining entangled in the plane of exploitation.
        The transformation from the self-centric enjoying plane, even to the level of brahmajyoti, to the devotional Krishna-centric plane, requires profound perspective of the consciousness.
        The experience of detachment is certainly vital for the intellectual seeker, but the experience of very temporary relief from maya is like taking a snapshot, whereas the immersion in devotional service is like a continual movie.
        Indeed, for the experienced bhakta, when tempted by monistic merging into the brahmajyoti, the bhakta consciously rejects the offer preferring to embrace the hope of meeting Krishna.
        Also, Krishna repeatedly refers to the root cause of material delusional consciousness is the submission to the 3 modes of nature. If the advanced mystic remains detached from connection with the modes of nature (at the very least, practicing such detachment), it will become much easier for the living entity to come to the brahma bhuta clearing stage.
        During and after this stage, if one can experience yearning for Krishna, then we can hope for the mercy of the Supreme Person to come to our rescue. Indeed, without His mercy, there is no hope of ascending to the plane substantial relationship with Him.
        Pusta Krishna das

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