SPECIAL EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION
DISCRIMINATIVE INTELLIGENCE AND THE SEVEN STAGES OF
The liability in the sixth stage of life is the tendency
toward the belief that the Radiant Transcendental
Consciousness is an Absolute but Exclusive and
Undifferentiated Consciousness, which may be Realized only
through the literal suppression or cessation of experience,
particularly mental or psychic experience. It is the
tendency toward the strategic exclusion of experience, and
it is founded on an intuitive penetration of the root of
attention, resulting in a temporary suspension of ordinary
psycho-physical awareness. It is a tendency founded in a
partial or conditional and incomplete intuition of the
Radiant Transcendental Consciousness.
The Way of Translation of Man into God –
7: The Enlightenment of the Whole
The mind alone is the whole universe.” (Tejobindu
Upanishad 5:98) In other words, the universe is constructed
by the mind. This summarizes the position of the experiencer
in the first five stages of life. His attention is fixed on
the experience of the manifold world of objects-be they
external or internal, ordinary or extraordinary, sensory or
suprasensory. By contrast, the practitioner who has made the
transition into the sixth stage has transcended the mind and
all mental phenomena. His attention is exclusively absorbed
in the transcendental Reality. While the processes of the
mind (and body) continue to occur, the sixth stage
practitioner is no longer bound by them. Enjoying the
unalloyed Bliss of the self-Essence, he disregards the
ephemeral pleasures associated with worldly objects. The
whole cosmos, including the dimension of the mind, has lost
all fascination for him.
All is the Brahman alone; nothing else is; that am I;
that am I; that alone am I; that alone am I. The eternal
Brahman alone am I. The Brahman alone am I, and not one of
worldly existence. The Brahman alone am I and not for me the
mind. The Brahman alone am I and not for me the intellect.
The Brahman alone am I and not the senses. The Brahman alone
am I, the body am I not.’
This ecstatic exclamation by a Hindu adept epitomizes the
sixth stage point of view, which is that of total awakening
as the transcendental Identity, the “atman” or “purusha.”
This has its parallel in Buddhism, although the sixth stage
realist language of the Buddhist adepts speaks of the
dissolution of the ego process rather than any
transcendental identification. In Ashvaghosha’s Buddha
Carita (book 2), we find this ebullient declaration:
shalt ne’er rebuild! Thy rafters all are broken now, And
pointed roof demolished lies! This mind has demolition
reached, And seen the last of all
This rare state is traditionally known as “nirvana” (in
Hinayana Buddhism) or “jnana samadhi” (in Hinduism). Many
esoteric schools consider this to be the summit of spiritual
attainment. The sixth stage realizer or jnani (“knower”) may
at times appear ascetic, disinterested, and seemingly
detached from manifest life. But there are also
Self-Realized sages, like Shree Atmananda (1883-1959), who
live as “householders,” pursuing an active life in the
Shree Atmananda was once asked, “How does the world
appear and what is its solution?” He gave this sixth stage
By accepting the medium of the mind and senses, the
appearances, namely thoughts and perceptions, seem to be
separate from the Self. . . . This is how the world
appears-though in essence it is nothing but the Self.
Therefore the solution of the world does not lie in any
objective search outside by way of the sciences or
philosophy, but in withdrawing into the real Self within
one. This may successfully be achieved by following the
ordinary mental knowledge itself to its very source, through
the most immediate expression of knowledge, namely
self-consciousness or objectless knowledge.3
Numerous philosophical teachings and meditative
techniques have been developed on the basis of a sixth stage
orientation to practice. But, as Master Da teaches, the
sixth stage approach has an inherent limitation. For, the
practices peculiar to this stage depend on the aspirant’s
capacity to withdraw attention from external or internal
objects. Jnana samadhi, which is the supreme attainment of
the sixth stage of life, is preceded by the redirection of
attention upon the Essence of awareness, prior to the subtle
states of the Life-Current and any sense of
In this samadhi of “direct perception” (sakshatkara) the
practitioner intentionally excludes awareness of the world
and exclusively identifies with the “Essential Being” or
Master Da Free John describes this exclusive (and
conditional) realization as the “sixth stage error.” In The
Bodily Location of Happiness (p. 218) he explains:
I have criticized the orientation of the philosophical
discipline of the sixth stage as it is proposed in the
traditions of Advaita Vedanta and certain schools of
Buddhism because it is associated with a samadhi that is not
identical to Ultimate Realization or Enlightenment but
rather is limited to absorption in or exclusive
identification with the internal self-Essence, the essential
quality of conscious being over against or independent of
The self-Essence is not the ultimate Realization. Its
realization cannot be called “Self-Realization,” even though
it is sometimes confused with Self-Realization. True
Self-Realization is Realization of the Divine Self or the
Transcendental Being. It is the Realization of the equation
between atman and Brahman or Paramatman. The essential self
is the atman. To identify with the atman is not to Realize
the Divine Self or Truth. It is only when the atman is
transcended, or Realized in ecstasy to be identical to
Brahman, that there is Divine Self-Realization.
1. T. R. Srinivasa Ayyangar, trans.
Tejobindu Upanishad (6:31-32). The Yoga-Upanisads (Adyar,
Madras, India: The Adyar Library, 1938), p. 77.
2. Lucien Stryk, ed., World of the
Buddha: A Reader (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1969), p.
3. Nitya. Tripta, Notes on Spiritual
Discourses of Shree Atmananda, Part 11 (Trivandrum, India:
The Reddiar Press, 1963), pp. 428-9.
4. Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse
My Real Nature Is Bliss
Supreme lustre am I, I’m everlasting, good;
Fully aware am I, devoid of death, decay;
I have not any fear. I am eternal, whole,
And free from throbs of thought. No intellect
No body nor a mind-my real nature’s Bliss.
No hunger, neither thirst, nor ego have I got;
No wish have I – I’m free from every sort of change;
No father, mother, son or family have I;
No duty, birth, no death doth appertain to
There is no dearth of
fourth and fifth stage yogins and mystics. But sixth and
seventh stage adepts are rare indeed, and still fewer are
female realizers. One of them, in this century, was
Brahmajna Ma, who was also known as Devi Ma, Thakurani, or
Brahmajna Ma was born in Bitara, Bengal (East India), in
1880. She was married at the early age of eight years and
four months. She became a widow within eighteen months. From
an early age she would think deeply about the destiny of
man, the mystery of his birth and death. She was naturally
inclined to inquire into the nature of human existence, and
in her spiritual practice or sadhana she was guided by her
own light. Brahmajna Ma did not have the help of books, nor
did she have the wise counsel and active transmission of a
guru. However, in later years she always firmly declared
that for most people a guru was absolutely essential. Her
own spontaneous adoption of the path of self-enquiry seems
all the more remarkable in view of the conventional
devotional nature of her religious environment.
After her realization in 1912, Brahmajna Ma was taken to
several crowded cities where, for some years, she became the
focus of popular religious attention. After this exposure
she preferred to live a quiet and largely stationary life.
Her life was one of great simplicity, clarity, and
saintliness. She is reported to have had a strong sense of
humor and to have been an an excellent storyteller,
punctuating her speech with dramatic gestures. Generally,
however, she was reserved and would rarely speak.
Brahmajna Ma died on November 5, 1934. One year after her
death, an ashram named Nirvan Math was established in her
memory in the village of Deoghar.
What is so special about her teaching is that she gives
central importance to enquiry in the form of the question
“Who am I?” This reminds one immediately of the late Sri
Ramana Maharshi who, during his own sadhana or spiritual
practice, had used this key question and later taught it to
those who seriously sought to take up spiritual practice.
Yet, in Brahmajna Ma’s case the emphasis lies on identifying
the unreal (as the source of all suffering) and then
withdrawing from it into the Real, the Self or Atman. This
method corresponds to the “neti neti” (“not thus, not thus”)
procedure recommended in the Upanishads.
By contrast, Ramana Maharshi concentrated not on the
unreal, that is, all that is transient and sorrowful, but on
finding one’s true Identity, which stands aloft from all
knowledge and experience. This has been presented as Ramana
Maharshi’s unique contribution to the traditional
non-dualist (advaita) practice of enquiry or discrimination.
This is a reductive process which leads away from the
ephemeral phenomena by focusing the attention within.
Nevertheless, as Master Da Free John has pointed out, the
consequence of Ramana Maharshi’s teaching method is still a
basic introversion leading to Self-Realization exclusive of
phenomenal existence rather than to God-Realization, which
is all-inclusive. It is often overlooked in traditional
Indian circles that there is a third part to the ancient
formula or “great saying,” “The world is unreal. Only
Brahman is real.” This missing part, transmitted by word of
mouth, is: “Brahman is the world.” While Ramana Maharshi, in
his own realization and his verbal testimony, incarnated
this third part, his teaching method actually took into
account only the first two parts of the formulaic
Like Ramana Maharshi, who had clearly realized the
fullness of the seventh stage of life, Brahmajna Ma also
appears to have moved beyond the sixth stage
Self-Realization into the seventh stage or God-Realization.
The evidence for this, however, is not conclusive because
the information about her saintly life is inadequate, and we
have begun to make inquiries in India to obtain further
biographical data on this great Realizer.
Brahmajna Ma’s teaching, at face value, ha; all the
elements of the strict, sixth stage approach of strategic
renunciation whereby one identifies with the Self and
negates phenomenal life. She was simply not interested in
anything but Brahman. She plainly considered methods other
than her own form of enquiry to be futile. To her it was
crystal-clear that for the unenlightened seeker the world is
a vale of tears that binds him or her through his or her
interests, desires, expectations, and anticipations. All
these, she demanded, should be understood for what they are
and simply renounced. “Just give it up!”
Indeed, she was only really interested in people who were
willing to devote themselves wholeheartedly to
Self-Realization, and she discouraged any hankering for and
involvement in cultic worship, devotional practice, and
yogic experiences or feats. This naturally tended to limit
the number of people who could benefit from her presence and
teaching, but to teach large numbers does not appear to have
been her intention in the first place. Bramajna Ma seems to
be one of those adepts who do not necessarily have a
teaching function in relation to others and, instead, embody
perfectly the ideal of renunciation. Renunciation was her
very essence and not any particular strategy, as it often
tends to be for those who seek to emulate her sublime
The following excerpts are taken from the
long-out-of-print volume entitled The Life and Teaching of
Sri Brahmajna Ma, by Swami Prabudhananda. We gratefully
acknowledge permission by the publisher to reproduce these
materials in The Laughing Man.
Brahma is the only Reality
– all else is unreal. Men are eager in their search for
happiness in unreal worldly objects and do not want to know
the truth of the Self, though in that alone lies real
happiness and bliss, for man’s mind is infatuated with
The foremost and fundamental means of realizing the Self
is dispassion. Without dispassion true realization cannot be
By the term dharma I understand the effort to cross the
sea of this world of creation. That one has come into this
world is a wrong notion; to give it up and return to the
origin is dharma.
As bubbles rise in water, so in the mind one idea after
another floats to the surface and draws the mind from one
object to another. When desire for objects disappears the
mind gradually becomes quiet. When the mind becomes quiet,
it becomes possible to approach the Self.
Too much sleep is not good. Already there exists the
sleep of ignorance, so why court sleep? Men pass away
peaceful and beautifully calm nights in sleep alone, when
night is especially suitable for meditation on the Self.
Enjoying sexual pleasures is like taking a sweetened ball
of poison. Nothing covers the Self as much as this. The more
this desire fades away, the thinner will be the cover.
As long as it is thought that an object is pleasurable it
cannot be given up. When sense objects are regarded as
dangerous and distasteful, like snakes and poison, none will
feel sorry to give them up. When it is understood by correct
reasoning that far from being pleasurable the sense-objects
cover real bliss and peace, then they will be regarded as
poison and it will be an easy affair to give them up.
Anticipation of the fulfilment of desire does not allow
men any rest, it seduces men by promising pleasure but
cannot give it. Happiness cannot be had unless anticipation
of the fulfilment of desire is given up. Renunciation of
hope alone can lead to peace. The more one gives up
anticipation, the more one’s mind becomes relieved from
The more one gives up the more one gets. When all is
given up, ALL is achieved.
To understand really the transitoriness of the world is
knowledge. Buddha had this knowledge, so he could give up a
kingdom, but for want of this knowledge a naked man cannot
give up his loin cloth.
Renunciation is peace. Some say renunciation is of the
mind so it does not matter if renunciation is not carried
into effect materially; but this is a want of
straight-forwardness. If renunciation is in the mind why
should it not be carried into practice? Those who have got
renunciation both inside and outside alone can be said to
have real renunciation.
What is the power of kundalini? If closely examined it is
found to be nothing but a strong desire to realize the Self.
The awakening of kundalini is to make the desire intense;
when this desire becomes strong a change takes place in the
flow of the breath and working of the nerves.
Men could not walk if the earth were not there to support
their feet; still they have no attachment to the earth.
Similarly though money is necessary for the sustenance of
life, it is not proper to be attached to it.
QUESTION: Is Self-Realization possible without the help
of a Guru?
ANSWER: He alone can realize the Self without a Guru’s
help in whose mind queries like, “Who am I?, What is the
world?, Where was I before, and where shall I go? and Where
is Peace?” arise from his very birth and the thought of the
futility and transitoriness of the world clearly manifests
and awakens keen dispassion and leads him to self-enquiry.
Such men are very rare.
But the man who does not find peace in the samsar
(phenomenal universe) and is unable to pursue the enquiry of
the Self, cannot proceed in the path of self-enquiry on
account of his innate habits of desires and cravings though
he may truly hanker after the Truth to some extent. If such
an aspirant goes to a Guru with this thirst for Truth, it
gradually increases under the Guru’s repeated instructions.
The Guru shows him the path to Self-realization after first
making him understand the Truth, so that he will then be
able to grasp His instructions and realize the Self by
following the path shown to him. Both a worthy Guru and a
worthy disciple are required.
QUESTION: What is the nature of a sadhaka [spiritual
ANSWER: A sadhaka’s nature is calm, quiet and gentle, and
his mind always turns towards Divine objects. His mouth is
speechless and his eyes look tearful. Full of feeling he
tends to fall down when walking.
As long as a sadhaka does not realize the Self he cannot
turn his attention in any other direction nor can he join in
fun or merriment. His mind always runs on Self-realization
(uniformly) like the flow of oil (from a pot). When anyone
is very eager to get an object he cannot bring a smile to
his face till the object is obtained, and forgetful of every
other thing, he remains absorbed in that thought alone.
Similarly a sadhaka cannot find peace in anything till he
realizes the Self and is unable to take an interest in any
other work. If it is seen that a sadhaka is enjoying fun,
amusement, laughter or jokes, or is deeply engaged in any
other work, then it is to be understood that the thirst for
realizing the Self has not truly awakened in him and he has
not got true eagerness for Self realization. The more this
thirst is kindled the more will he give up his inclinations
to pleasures from sense-objects and the more will he retire
from worldly activities.
Some come to saints and say that they are very eager to
be liberated but that their mind does not turn in that
direction. Those who say this do not understand at all the
true import of liberation. They do not realize that
liberation is the ultimate good which, according to their
impression, lies in the enjoyment of desirable objects. A
man’s mind of itself tends to follow that direction which he
knows to be good. As he regards fame, honour and wealth to
be good, his mind turns in that direction. Those who say, “I
want to, but my mind turns back,” really do not want at all.
Mind always follows the wish. Wish and mind are not separate
in substance. A strong (good) desire, by virtue of its
strength, automatically obliterates the life-long habits and
tendencies. As the kumudini (waterlily) flower blossoms with
the rise of the moon and the lotus blooms with the sunrise,
so the knowledge of the Self dawns with the desire for (the
attainment of) Truth. As neither kumudini nor lotus blossoms
until the moon has risen, so without the desire for Truth
the knowledge of the Self cannot bloom. As the thirst of a
lark is not quenched with any other water except rain, so a
seeker after the Truth finds no peace and his mind is never
engaged in any other work except meditation on the Self.
QUESTION: How is it that the great personages (Saints)
are merciful to some but not so to others, and sometimes
more merciful to some and less to others?
ANSWER: The Saints always remain unmoved; they do not
display kindness or cruelty to anyone. According to the
results of different people’s karma, their kindness or
cruelty gets expression. As the Sun remains in the same
(impartial) state but the rays shine on various objects
according to their differences of quality, but it does not
willingly shower more or less rays, so the Saints look on
all, everywhere in the same way, and men get more or less
mercy according to their karma. As the Sun’s rays do not
fall at all on a covered place, so a Saint’s mercy never
falls on one whose mind is fully covered by the ignorance of
QUESTION: Why is it that a man sometimes is deprived of a
Saint’s mercy after once having obtained it?
ANSWER: By virtue of good aspiration a man gets His
mercy, but as a result of bad karma he loses it.
QUESTION: If a Saint preserves his equanimity at all
times why does he look pleased with reverence and enraged
ANSWER: He is never pleased or enraged with anybody, but
always remains absorbed in the same Brahmanhood. No one can
cause Him to waver from this poise either by reverence or
disrespect. He always remains unmoved and effortless. In the
heart of one who reveres him, the holy state of the Saint’s
mind begins to blossom, but the disrespectful man recedes
far from it. It is this which is superficially regarded as
pleasure and displeasure. As fire is extinguished if water
is poured on it, but the same fire becomes fully ablaze if
ghee is poured instead, so by devotion (to a Saint) glimpses
of the holy state of Brahman begin to manifest, whereas
disrespect makes them disappear.
QUESTION: What is the real nature of man?
ANSWER: When you know (your real nature) you will realize
that you are all-pervasive-none
limited. You have become limited by illusion. You remain
limited because you consider yourselves as such. You believe
you are the body, but in reality you are neither the body
nor the mind but the infinite Atma. The body, the world,
everything, these are all creations of your mind. You
believe you are finite but will merge in an infinite being
by means of sadhana-to begin with you have this idea-but in
reality you are yourselves no other than the limitless
QUESTION: By means of which religious practices and by
worshipping whom can a man save himself from all misery and
pain and gain perfect peace?
ANSWER: If through contemplation of the Supreme Brahman
man can identify himself with Brahman he can free himself
from all pain and obtain peace in the fullest measure.
QUESTION: Keeping the samsar intact and leading a life of
enjoyment, is it possible to make any spiritual
ANSWER: Do you know what kind of religious attainment can
be had by keeping the samsar and sense enjoyment intact?
(Let me tell you.) Just as when a diamond is covered with
ashes its luster is not seen at all, similarly by doing so
nothing more is done than to cover the eternal, pure Param
Atman with ashes in the form of desires and cravings.
Without giving up enjoyment and luxury and following the
path of renunciation there is no other means of getting out
of the dark pit of Ignorance.
QUESTION: Who am I and wherefrom have I come and whereto
shall I go? What is in the beginning, end or middle? What is
the body and the mind?
ANSWER: You are neither the body nor the organs of the
body, because all these are inert. You are different from
all these, for you are the infinitely vast Atma, the abyss
of pure Consciousness. In illusion (you consider that) you
are confined in the body, in illusion caused by ignorance
and Maya you have entered the chamber of the body and wander
about there, thinking that there is happiness in it; you
have created the body by the modifications of your cravings
and remain there, content with the idea that you are the
jiva [individual self]. But (in reality) different
from the body, akin to the sky and brimful of consciousness
you are the Alma, the only embodiment of Bliss. Just as a
dog makes its mouth bleed by biting the dry bone of a cow
and licks the blood thinking that the bone
is very tasty, so are you yourself in truth the only
embodiment of Bliss, who, enjoying sense pleasures, like the
dog ascribe it to the senses and their objects, though, all
the time you really derive them from your own self. Getting
rid of this illusion and abiding in yourself alone you will
realize that you are the Atma, the embodiment of Bliss. You
are neither the body nor the mind, engaged in deriving
pleasures from the senses, but you are yourself Brahman.
You have not come from anywhere, nor will you go
somewhere else. You are motionless and all-pervading but in
illusion because of body-consciousness you experience coming
and going. When the body-idea is got rid of you will remain
in your own real nature.
In the middle state alone do you consider yourself as a
jiva and witness the world of creation. The middle state is
seen differentiated, though you have really neither
beginning nor end, and so no middle. As you did not
previously experience the existence of the world of material
objects, nor will it be in existence afterwards, so its
existence at present is only an illusion. Why worry over an
object which neither existed before nor will exist
afterwards? What you were before, you are even now and will
be later on as well-you are the embodiment of Brahman,
beyond the limitation of time,
1. Swami Prabudhananda, The Life and Teaching of Sri
Brahmajna Ma (Deoghar, Bihar, India: D. N. Sen, 1961), p. 40
SUGGESTED READINGS RELATED TO THE SIXTH STAGE OF LIFE
Narasimha Swami, B. V. Self -Realisation: Life and
Teachings of Sri Rarnana Maharshi. 7th ed. Tiruvannamalai,
India: Sri Ramanasramam, 1968.
Cohen, S. S. Advaitic Sadhana or the Yoga of Direct
Liberation. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
Rao, M. Sadashiva. The Direct Sadhana. Tiruvannamalai,
India: Sri Ramanasramam, 1976.
Nyanatiloka, ed. and trans. The Word of the Buddha: An
Outline of the Teaching of the Buddha in the words of the
Pali Canon. Kandy, Ceylon: Buddhist Publication Society,
Mahathera, Paravahera Vajiranana. Buddhist Meditation in
Theory and Practice: A General Exposition According to the
Pali Canon of the Theravada School. 2d ed. Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1975.
Nanosamapanno, Acariya Phra Maha Boowa. Forest Dhamrna: A
Selection of Talks on Buddhist Practice. Translated by
Bhikku Pannavaddho. Bangkok: Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa
Sankaranarayanan, P., trans. Vivekacudamani of Sri
Samkara Bhagavatpada, with an English translation of the
commentary in Sanskrit by Jagadguru Candrasekhara Bharati of
Sringeri. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979.
Thera, Narada. The Wheel: Buddhism in a Nutshell (Special
Issue) Kandy, Ceylon: Buddhist Publication Society, 1975.
The Seven Stages of Eternal Life – Laughing Man
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