Now we’re going to talk about Kashmir Shaivism, which may appeal to you more than any of the six insights or Darshanas. Kashmir is located in the northern tip of India. While the founder is said to be one person, it is said that he was merely the instrument, that Shiva himself revealed these insights. Kashmir Shaivism is basically Tantra, and the Tantras have to do with Shiva and Shakti. Shakti, the female side of Shiva, the consort, in asking a question, knows the answer but asks for the benefit of all beings. She wants to bring out the answer so that all beings will understand. In Kashmir Shaivism, revealed by Shiva, pure consciousness is the spiritual substance of the universe. (I think that statement means consciousness without any object to consciousness, pure consciousness.) Those of you who have done mantra meditation or other forms of meditation where you go into a trance state, no thinking and so forth but you’re not asleep, this is pure consciousness without an object. Pure consciousness is the substance of the universe. This pure consciousness is very much like a sect of Buddhism called Yogacara, which has been translated as “Thought Only.” There have been many books written on this, that nothing exists except thought. Everything is the product of thought. Now we could sit and debate that for hours, couldn’t we, although it would be better if you read the books first.

Kashmir Shaivism: Non-Dual

Kashmir Shaivism is non-dual. Pure monism. There is a single reality but it has two aspects: the transcendental and the imminent. Transcendental is that which is beyond the senses, the otherworldly. Imminent is that which is here and now. A complete cycle is creation and dissolution. There are four Yugas in one Kalpa, which they feel is 4,320,000,000 years, give or take a few minutes (laughter). Everything is governed by the law of karma, which is action and reaction. Yoga tries to keep you from having the stimulus to action, which is what causes suffering eventually. The first movement of consciousness is a reaction from past action. Therefore, it isn’t personal consciousness, is it? This is mind- boggling. If you say that God was the creator, then who created God? And if you answer that, then you’ve got to go back further. It’s what they call “Regression Ad Infinitum,” and there are ways of stopping the regression.

Shiva & Shakti

The world of matter is only another form of consciousness. How many of you have ever realized that? Through meditation, I think, you would realize that consciousness and this very material world are the same thing. Shiva is the ultimate form of consciousness, nothing else. Shiva, in a sense, is the world. When Ramana Maharshi was asked by one student, “Is Shiva real?” he replied, “Shiva is as real as you are.” That’s a trick answer. Shiva is thought to be motionless, the eternal reality which comes into action and becomes Shakti, the female consort of Shiva. Shiva and Shakti are never separated. All force or energy comes from Shakti, including chi.

Shiva is thought of as the destroyer, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver. They are the three aspects of the one reality. When I went to Elephanta to see the statues there, the guide explained Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer of ignorance, which made it much more palatable to the tourists who came. But everything that is created must be destroyed.

Everything that is destroyed must be recreated. There is expansion and contraction. The world is one big accordion.

Shakti, the female, is the kinetic aspect of consciousness. Consciousness itself, pure consciousness, is motionless. Have you ever heard the story from India where they said there were two birds on a branch? One bird is singing, flapping its wings, and the other is just watching the first bird. This is Shakti and Shiva. Shakti is the kinetic aspect of consciousness. When consciousness swings into action that is Shakti.


The name of India was Bharata. Mahabharata, “Great India,” is a collection of poems. The Bhagavad Gita is one small part in the Mahabharata. What is common to all the writings in Mahabharata? The essence of Indian spirituality and philosophy is Tat Tvam Asi, “That thou art.” This philosophy is the reason that the Indians greet you with their palms together in front of their heart. This greeting is called the pronam and means, “I greet the all-seeing One in you.” Namaste.

Theoretically, “I see the divinity in you, which is the same as in me; after all, we’re both Brahman.” Tat Tvam Asi is the essence of Indian spirituality. The neti, neti I spoke of (not this, not that) is the search for the Real. This is the viveka, discrimination, eliminating that which is not Real.


What is life composed of? According to the Indian philosophers, life is composed of Sat-Chit-Ananda, “Being-Consciousness-Bliss.” What are you really? There are many ways you can answer that question. Paul Reps would say, “You are light.” Somebody else would say, “You are sound cognized as light.” In India they are saying, “You are Being- Consciousness-Bliss,” which is very hopeful, isn’t it! It gives a wonderful feeling.

The Indians are essentially devotional. This is why I believe there is almost no Buddhism anymore in India where, ironically, the Buddha is considered the greatest of its sons. India is devotional, and devotion does not play a part at all in Buddhism – what would you be devoted to? Karma, however, is accepted by everybody in India. Action brings reaction, cause brings effect, and therefore, you can make your future anything that you want. Just plan it the way you want, act that way and

set the causes in motion. If you plant a rose seed, you’re not going to get a banana tree. Plant sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Just plant that which you want to grow. In Karma Yoga, you do the deed so you get the reward in the future. But the Indian feels that at the end of your life, your last thought is what will bring about your reincarnation or transmigration. Your next life depends on your last thought in this life. So you can say, “Well, I’m going to make my last thought a pretty good one.” But of course, your last thought is going to be based on what you stood for in your lifetime.

A Story: Your Last Thought

There was a very greedy Indian businessman who had three sons. He knew that throughout his life he was only interested in making money while alive, but he was also interested in having a good life in his next life and in salvation. Thus, he figured out a clever scheme so he could have his cake and eat it too. He reflected, “My last thought as I die is going to determine my next birth, so I’m going to make my last thought of God. Now how do I do that? I know! I’ll name each of my three sons after God. I’ll give each one a name of God. Here is Krishna and here is Rama and ahhh, Ganesh.” He then said, “I know when the end comes, that my last thoughts will be of my sons and I will be saying to them, ‘Farewell, Ganesh; farewell, Rama; farewell, Krishna,’ and I will die with the name of God on my lips.” Pretty clever scheme. The businessman went along through life. Krishna, Rama, and Ganesh worked in the business and helped him. Finally he grew old and ill and was put to bed. The doctor told the businessman’s sons he didn’t have long to live. Then finally the doctor suggested he’d better say goodbye to his sons, the time has come. The man sent for each of his sons to come to his bedside. The three of them arrived and as they approached his bedside, he said, “Ahhh, Ganesh; ahhh, Rama; ahhh, Krishna, – who’s minding the store?” (laughter) And with that he died. His last thought was “Who’s minding the store?” It was a good scheme; it just didn’t work. He gets an “A” for effort, though.

Karma & Chi

India is entirely immersed in this thought of karma, which is not exactly as we see it. Your karma is based on the habit energies you have built, these vasanas mentioned earlier. What is it that helps build these vasanas, what is the means for building these vasanas? It is the chi.

Those who have taken T’ai Chi Chih know what I’m talking about.

The intrinsic energy, the vital force, is, if you want to put it into popularized terms, the means by which the absolute comes into the everyday world, comes into being. There has to be a force by which this comes into being and it is the chi that does it. We are a product of the chi. But it is the chi, the force, which causes these vrittis, these mental disturbances, which become habit energies.

The tie between the chi and the habit energies is a very close one and this is the basis for karma. Most of the holy people in India feel that what you see, whether it’s the world or people, is karma, frozen karma. You are seeing karma. As I’ve said, I’ve been with many teachers who can read karma from your face. Sai Baba said to those who came to him, “Now there’s no sense in asking for my sympathy and pleading. I know what you’ve done in the past and I know what you’re going to be doing in the future.”

Grace versus Karma

This observation opens the philosophical question of grace versus karma. Grace says, “Okay, I’ve been bad but through God’s Grace, I’m going to be absolved of any punishment.” And there’s good reason to feel that grace. Of course, you could also say, “The guy that works hard and is bright, gets ahead and is honest. It is God’s Grace that he’s successful because of these qualities.” However, there’s always been a dichotomy between grace and karma. Karma says, “Everything that happens must have a preceding cause and that cause is final.” The Buddha said, “Set karma cannot be overturned, cannot be changed.” What is the answer to the role of grace versus karma? Does anybody have any comment on that at all? Do you understand what I mean by the disagreement between grace, which says, “Well, you don’t deserve it but we’ll see that you get it,” and karma, which says, “If you have the preceding cause, then you will reap the effects. If you earned enough money, you can go out and buy a Mercedes.” This is cause and effect. Karma almost implies, since there must be a preceding cause, that time is circular, cyclical. It should be obvious from everything in the universe, down to the smallest cells, that the universe is cyclical and circular. No beginning and no ending.

Many Yogas

As mentioned earlier, all India accepts the Samkhya cosmology. India also accepts yoga practice. As they say, “There is no wisdom like Samkhya and there is no power like Yoga.”

In fact, there are many yogas: Laya Yoga, Kriya Yoga (kriya means action), Kundalini Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Raja Yoga (which has eight steps), and various others. In Siddha Yoga they talk about the yoga of powers. We’re going to go a little bit into that. All India accepts the theory of the three gunas: sattva, rajas, tamas. Mahatma Gandhi insisted that those who lived in his Ashram in Ahmadabad had to eat only sattvic food. Onions are not sattvic because they arouse the emotions. Those in the Ashram must also have sattvic thoughts, which ruled out any sexual encounter. Gandhi himself had quite a few sexual encounters when he was studying law in England, but, at the Ashram, he insisted on sattvic food and abstinence called brahmacharya.

All Indians accept the statement Brahman is Atman. I, the individual soul, is the same as the universal soul. One day, Shankara, who was a high caste Brahmin, was on the way to bathe, to make his ablutions, when a man of the lowest caste, actually considered a non-caste, crossed in front of him. According to tradition, the non-caste man could be punished for even casting his shadow on Shankara. Shankara ordered him to bow down as befitting his high caste. The man said to him, “Is this not, too, Brahman?” When he said that, Shankara fell to his knees and worshipped the man. It is very hard for a Brahmin, a high caste man, to get over the upbringing that he had in India. But if all things are Brahman….

A letter from God to God – Swami Ram Das

When I used to have lunch or stayed at the Vedantic place in La Crescenta in California, near Pasadena, there were signs all around: “The food is Brahman and the eater is Brahman.” This is Brahman and that is Brahman. The great Swami Ram Das realized this when he wrote his letters, “Dear God, Dear Rama (Dear Ram for short), How is little Ram?” and he would sign a letter afterwards, “Yours devotedly, Ram.” (I’m talking about the real Ram Das, the one who died many years ago.) So it was Ram talking to Ram about Ram. Swami Ram Das saw everything as Ram.

Judith Tyberg brought Swami Ram Das to this country one time. She said he was like a child. He was hopping around and full of joy. One time, he was arrested in India. A bank robber got caught and with him was Swami Ram Das, holding bags full of money. The judge said to Swami Ram Das, “What is a holy man like you doing with a bank robber?” Swami Ram Das answered, “Well, by the grace of Ram, I was walking down the street and by the grace of Ram this man came running out and had several bags. He said, ‘Here, carry this,’ and so by the grace of Ram I carried it and we ran and by the grace of Ram we were arrested and by the grace of Ram we’re in court….” The judge finally threw up his hands and said, “Get outta here!” (laughter)

Swami Ram Das saw everything as Ram, as God, and I used to carry his little book along with Kabir’s book because it was so inspiring. This was not an act. This was the way he saw everything.

Brahman is Atman, Atman is Brahman. When that is known (not intellectually), this is the greatest realization that can happen.


Almost all of India accepts the theory of the Avatars, or incarnations of Vishnu. It is said there have been nine Avatars. They include Buddha as one and they sometimes include Jesus as one. The tenth one coming will be Maitreya, the coming Buddha, so he’s going to be a busy guy! It’s strange, Shiva doesn’t have incarnations, Rama doesn’t have incarnations, just Vishnu. Each Indian citizen, except Buddhists and the Jains, has his own personal Ishta-devata, his own personal God. Many Indians carry a little idol, which they worship. They’re not worshipping the idol but they want something concrete to which to show their devotion. In Buddhism and Jain, God doesn’t figure at all. The Buddha didn’t care if there was a God or not. Even if the religion says there’s no God or there is God, the Buddha said, “It is up to you. You have to work out your own salvation.” It is your karma.

The Caste System

The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Laws of Manu, and the Bhagavad Gita are all accepted scriptures in India. The Tantras, too, are accepted by many. (Tantras are very old scriptures.) Social caste is also accepted in India. If you go to India to live for any amount of time, it is very difficult to witness and approve of the caste discrimination. Yet my Indian teacher, when he was asked about the caste system said, “Any other form of life is an insult to God.” I am repeating his words. Isn’t that amazing! I’ve seen things happen with castes in India that just had my teeth on edge. There are four major castes in India and what is called a non-scheduled caste, the untouchable caste. Indians will tell you there are no longer Untouchables. Don’t believe them!

I have seen caste-like divisions in Japan, too. Very few people know that there is a caste system in Japan. Do you know that word, eta? Japan is a Confucian country. There are different levels in society according to Confucius. When I first got there, there was a big wedding at the temple in which I was staying. Five hundred people from all over Japan came to the temple where forty people lived. They didn’t all get the same food.

They didn’t all bathe at the same time. They weren’t all treated the same way and each one knew what to expect. Different levels: that is Confucianism rather than Democracy.

Those Are Not Your Mistakes

One time I was talking to Ramamurti Mishra, the Indian teacher, and he told me some positive things that were going to happen to me in the future: “Well, you’re going to do this and that….” I responded with surprise, “Gee, for a man such as myself who has made so many mistakes ” He answered, “Those are not your mistakes!” That’s pretty provocative, isn’t it? Those were not your mistakes.

Don’t ask me in a question, “What did he mean by ‘Those are not your mistakes,’” because there are many possibilities. They could be God’s mistakes. They could be mistakes of the past incarnation, which are unloaded upon me. We have that in Western teaching: the sins of the fathers. That is the meaning of Ramamurti Mishra’s statement.

Jnana Yoga

The highest form of Indian Yoga is Jnana. The one who practices it is a Jnani. I know of no instance when any Jnani has ever come to the West. Ramana Maharshi was a Jnani, Buddha was a Jnani, Vashista was a Jnani. Jnana is discrimination. It’s often thought of as the intelligence. But it is really being able to discriminate what is Real and what is not real.

Karma Yoga & Stories: Swami Krishnanand

Karma Yoga is the yoga of deeds. Many deliberately set out, not only in India, to do good deeds, hoping to claim their reward in heaven. In Japan, the one who gave rice to the monk who came around to beg would ask him not to thank him. The merit would be greater if the giver was not thanked. It seems sort of strange, because to do a good deed in order to get a reward doesn’t seem very virtuous, does it?

But the Karma Yogi…well, here is an example. There is one great Karma Yogi who is no longer alive. His name is Swami Krishnanand. Swamiji had a group that still today operates in sixty different nations. It is now overseen by Sri Dadhubhai Patel. Swami Krishnanand (Swamiji) was a famous judge in Lucknow. He left the judgeship in order to be a follower of Gandhi. When with Gandhi, Swamiji became a renunciate. As a renunciate, he didn’t touch money, he didn’t wear leather, and of course he didn’t eat meat or anything like that. Yet he did tremendous things.

One day, Swamiji read in the paper that 1500 people a day were starving in the Congo. He told me, “That is a command from God for me to go there and feed them.” I said, “Swamiji, you don’t touch money. How are you going to feed them?” He replied, “Don’t bother me with details!” He fed them for many years, teaching them Yoga if they wanted to learn.

One time I said, “Well, Swamiji, that’s all very well. Say someone sent you a ticket to come to South America, the will of God is that you go to South America. You get to the airport in South America, having landed, and nobody meets you. What do you do?” “I sit on the ground and I chant thanks to God.”

“Well, okay,” I continued to Swamiji, “Three days pass. You haven’t eaten. Nobody’s talked to you. What do you do?”

“I sit on the ground and I chant thanks to God!” he answered.

Well. You can’t overcome a man like that. He is such a powerful man. He said to me, “This work will kill me.” I said, “Swamiji, you’re already in your mid-eighties and it looks to me as though you could go on for another twenty years.” He was strong. He was tall. He had a booming voice and people were afraid of him. When he arrived in San Pablo in California, all the Indian merchants came, not because they wanted to take a day off from work, but they were afraid not to come. After all, Swamiji probably had some clout with the hereafter, you see.

(laughter) They would come and he would tell them what they were supposed to do and they would do it. In India he would walk into a wealthy businessman’s office reception area. He wouldn’t ask the secretary to announce him to the businessman. He’d walk past her and she’d be afraid to stop him. Upon seeing Swami Krishnanand, the businessman would say, stumblingly, “Ohh, ohh, Swamiji, nice to see you. Why are you here?”

“I have something to talk to you about,” said Swami Krishnanand. “Well, I’m rather busy, Swamiji.”

“I have a man who has to go to England for a heart operation.” “Yeah, yeah, well why are you telling me this, Swamiji?” answered the businessman.
“I need $2000.” “Well, that’s a lot ”

“I need $2,000!”

“Well, sure, Swamiji, if you want $2000. Will you leave after I pay?” (laughter) And he gave him a check for $2,000 because he was afraid not to give it to him.

Swamiji goes around bullying these people and they comply with his wishes. (laughter)

When I got to Baroda, after going 12,000 miles to see him, I had a hard time finding his Ashram, which is out in the country. No road leads to it. You have to walk through the cow dung and everything. There are no bathrooms there. It’s a pretty simple place. He left the day before I got to Baroda to go to the Congo to feed people. And later, to test him when I finally saw him, I said, “Swamiji, at your Ashram you don’t have any bathroom, you don’t seem to have a kitchen, you don’t… ”

He replied, “The name of God is being chanted every hour of the day in my Ashram.”

That answered the question, you see. When Swamiji came here to America and gave a talk, someone asked, “Why is India so poor?”

He said, “India poor?” He continued, “India is rich. This country is poor.”

“Swamiji, there are….ah….” the questioner continued with effort but, in the end, realized it was pointless to continue.

That is such a strong personality. You’re not going to win with Swamiji.

I did win once when he wanted to go to the Imperial Valley in California. The Imperial Valley is so hot in summer that the only people who can work there are people from India who are used to the heat. Swamiji said to me, “We’re going down to Imperial Valley for two or three days. Let Swamiji take your car.”

I said, “No.”

He said, “What?”

I said, “You understand English. No!”

I didn’t give any explanation because then you’re getting into an argument. “No!”

This article is published in Gateway To Eastern Philosophy & Religion.