Traditions of Himalayan Masters

By Pandit Rajmani Tigunait Courtesy and Copyright Himalayan Publishers

I was gifted this book by the Publishers and enjoyed reading it. The world’s most complex truths are presented in simple English, so easy to understand yet so difficult to imbibe and practice. The content is verbatim from the book.

“ The tradition of Himalayan masters refers not so much to a geographical identity as to a symbolic representation of the heights of spiritual wisdom. Shankaracharya established the tradition of the Himalayan masters some 1200 years ago. However, written record of this tradition first appears in the Vedic literature. The Chhandogya Upanishad which was compiled app 900 B.C. mentions an unbroken lineage of more than 60 generations. Even if we to assign only 25 years to each generation, it would take us back to 2400 B.C. According to oral tradition, the history goes back to atleast 5,000 years.

These masters who were freethinkers, explorers of truth, and the architects of human civilization. It is they who drew the blueprint of spirituality, and the philosophers, saints and yogis who came later built and elaborated the structure on the basis of this blueprint. A number of yogis go to the Himalayas for higher training. If they are well prepared they are able to join the cave monasteries that are hidden in the interiors of the Himalayas.

From the literary point of view, the tradition of the Himalayan masters refers to the tradition that was expounded in the Vedas, and then gradually evolved while passing through the development of the Upanishads and Puranas, all the way to the saintly literature written in the regional languages of India. Thus, in essence, the tradition of the Himalayan masters is the tradition of the Vedic stages.

The breath and scope of spiritual literature that issued from the sages of the Himalayan tradition is enormous. After some thought, we elected to include only the eight masters whose teachings have the most direct bearings on the questions that confront most serious seekers today. Accordingly this volume has chapters on Sanatkumara, Vashistha, Dattatreya, Parashurama and Shankaracharya. Vyasa, the most famous of all the ancient masters was excluded because his work is widely available. The other three masters Vidyaranya Yati, Maadhusudana Saraswati and Swami Rama are considerably more modern.

This piece is divided into five chapters.
1. Sanatkumara -  is a conversation between Sage Narada and Sanatkumara taken primarily from the Chhandogya Upanishad on how to attain happiness. Acquisition of intellectual knowledge is not enough, we need to practice what we know. Some super simple tips.
2. Vasistha - tells about the Philosophy of Reflectionism. It has the complete inner dialogue that Vashistha had with his mind is beautifully narrated by Valmiki in the Yoga Vashistha. This work is a treasure house of Vashistha’s spiritual experiences, spiritual experiences, which he shared with his beloved student Lord  Ram. There is also problems of the mind, taming the senses and mind and six qualities of mind that speed transformation.
3. Dattatreya - is a conversation a King and Dattatreya where the latter tells the former about who his twenty-four gurus are and why.
4. Parashurama - is a conversation between Dattatreya and Parashurama. It covers mind, meditation and self-mastery, purposes of spiritual practices and categories of enlightened beings.
5. Shankaracharya - tells you about his visit to Benaras and his arguments with the husband wide duo of Mandana Misra and Bharati.


The teachings and spiritual techniques that the great sage, Sanatkumara, shared with aspirants have been preserved in a variety of works, among them the Chhandogya Upanishad, the Mahabharata, Harivamsa Purana, Vamana Purana, Skanda Purana, Brahmanda Purana, and the Mahatymya Khanda of Tripura Rahasyam. Information about this sage also appears in the writings of prominent scholars who contributed articles to the multi-volume publication, Kalyana (which has not been translated into English). The teachings, presented here in the form of a dialogue between Sanatkumara and Narada, are taken primarily from the Chhandogya Upanishad.

Friends Sage Narada was a very knowledgeable man but unhappy. It was only Sanatkumara who helped Narada find happiness. What you read is a conversation between Sanatkumara and Narada where the former gave Narada tips on how to attain happiness.

Narada’s Dilemma
Once there was a learned yogi named Narada. In addition to his knowledge of the scriptures and spiritual disciplines, he was expert in philosophy, history, grammar, mathematics, economics, ethics, logic, mythology, astrology, astronomy, medicine, and a host of other disciplines. He had mastered sixty-four different branches of art and science. His students revered him for his knowledge and he was recognized everywhere as a person of highest wisdom.

But one day he began to have second thoughts about his accomplishments. As Narada pondered his true Self, he not only began re-evaluating his way of life, but also his wisdom. He realized that he wasn’t truly happy, even though he taught others the art of happiness.

Narada pondered this and concluded that the methods that he taught for removing frustration, dejection, depression, and loneliness could not really help students if they did not help the teacher. He was not happy, despite his abundant knowledge in a variety of subjects. He found this bewildering. And what of others whose knowledge was much more limited than his? How could they be happy? As he considered this, he began to wonder if anyone in the world was happy.

The more he thought about it, the more he became determined to find true happiness. Not knowing what else to do, he handed all his responsibilities over to his senior students and set out on a quest. He was greeted with honor wherever he went, but although he expressed his doubts and spoke of his search, no one took him seriously. People thought he was simply being humble, so no one offered to help.

Sanatkumara Enlightens Narada
Finally, Narada met Sanatkumara and asked the great sage to help him attain happiness and direct his energies to the attainment of the highest truth. Sanatkumara agreed to help and asked Narada what he had already learned. Narada went over the long list of arts and sciences that he had mastered and had been successfully teaching others. When he finished listing his accomplishments, the following dialogue transpired:

Sanatkumara: You know so much and still you are not happy with yourself.

Narada: My knowledge has not brought me peace or joy. It does not help me overcome my fear of death, and thus its value is compromised. I’m tired of knowing and drowning in misery. Take me beyond knowing to where I may find freedom.

Everything I have learned so far seems to be means of exercising my skills or gaining worldly recognition. How can the knowledge I have obtained through years of arduous study have real value when I will lose it at death and have to start all over again in the next lifetime?

Sanatkumara: The problem is that you confuse true knowledge, which is gained directly from within, with mere information, which is gained through words and sentences. All the branches of art and science that you mentioned are mere collections of words-they have no substance. You learned them in the form of words, and you pass them on to your students in the form of words.

Your knowledge of these disciplines gave you the means of maintaining your existence on this earthly plane, which is why most people master these subjects. It is the nature of our economy that some are employed as teachers and others are students even though what they are teaching and learning fails to bring true happiness.

But the book of life remains unread, and the part of you that is destined to unveil the mystery of life prompts you to open this book and read attentively. While you are engaged in mundane activities, you are ignoring the call of the soul. Thus, you create a ground for inner conflict. This inner conflict, which arises from ignoring the soul’s constant reminder of the goal of life, results in frustration, destroying your peace and happiness.

You may be able to hide yourself from the rest of the world, but you cannot conceal yourself from yourself, from your inner soul. Without achieving true happiness from within, you cannot convince yourself that you have found peace without. The only way to achieve real peace and happiness is to know yourself at every level.

Narada: How can I know myself at every level?
Sanatkumara: Your speech is a reflection of your thoughts. Your inner life is created by the way you think. If you want to know your inner life, first examine your speech. The more you study your speech, the more the contents of your mind are revealed. Study the connection between speech and mind, and you will find that speech is the means through which the mind expresses itself.

By observing silence, you can attain some degree of control over your speech, but this will not bring you peace and happiness. Once the disturbance at the level of speech is quieted, you will notice unexpected turbulence in the mind. In order to attain peace, you must work systematically. First, bring peace to your tongue. This means speaking sweetly and making sure that you do not harm either yourself or others through your speech. Avoid meaningless talk. This observance will lead you to mental peace. By observing this discipline of speech, you maintain awareness of Brahman-the highest truth. Practicing Brahman awareness helps you create and maintain an environment of satsanga, the company of the wise.

The next step is to study your mind, for mind is subtler than speech: contemplate on what you think, why you think, and how your thoughts affect your speech and actions. If you cannot quiet the mental noise, then fill your mind with Brahman consciousness.

While trying to understand your mind and attempting to fill it with Brahman consciousness, you will notice an even subtler force called samkalpa, the power of determination. The mind cannot think unless you decide what it will think. At your behest, your mind thinks, and only when your mind thinks do the words come forward. The power of determination, which is a subtle desire springing from the core of your being, is the driving force behind the activities of your mind.

Narada: If samkalpa, the power of determination, is even subtler than the mind, then why can’t we make our minds do what we want them to do? Furthermore, it seems that we have very little control over our samkalpa and, thus, the mind’s activities go unchecked.

Sanatkumara: You are right, Narada. Your samkalpa is affected by the subtle impressions of the past and by thought, speech, and actions that you have stored in the chitta, the mindfield. Because you have forgotten the subtle impressions of the past, as well as the place where you stored them, they become unconscious; thus, the storehouse is called the unconscious mind. The material in the unconscious mind affects your samkalpa outside of your conscious awareness. In turn, your samkalpa loses control over the conscious part of the mind.

For example, sometimes you think thoughts you don’t want to think, speak words you don’t wish to speak, and perform actions that you do not want to perform. Or you postpone certain thoughts or actions. All this is due to the unconscious.

Narada: These unconscious impressions in the mind seem to be completely autonomous. Is there any rule governing how and when the subtle impressions of the past arise?
Sanatkumara: Contemplation awakens these subtle impressions. Without thought as an instigating factor, they cannot become active. The law is simple: Similar attracts similar. Nothing is totally unconscious. The unconscious mind cannot function if part of it is not conscious in some way. Therefore, your conscious thinking, which you may call contemplation, triggers corresponding samskaras, subtle impressions of the past, which, in turn, affect your samkalpa and your conscious mind, as well as your speech and action.

Beyond the conscious mind, all other principles-such as samkalpa, the unconscious mind and, ultimately, this power of contemplation-gradually become more subtle. For a novice, it is hard to work at the level of contemplation. In this context, contemplation means to dive into the depths of your thinking process. You must aim to penetrate the nature of the unconscious mind.

Contemplation prevents the unconscious mind from controlling the conscious mind. However, it is your samkalpa shakti that makes contemplation effective. This power of decision is more powerful than the unconscious mind.

Remember, Narada, all the subtle impressions of the past stored in the unconscious mind lie dormant there. Unless something awakens them, these samskaras have no power to affect either your determination or your conscious mind.

First, you make a decision and then based on that, you contemplate. Implementation of your ideas comes later. Contemplation is far subtler than actually performing a task. Before executing a task, a decision has to be made. That process of deciding is affected by your previous experiences. Before the force of contemplation triggers the power of determination and reaches the conscious mind, it awakens the unconscious material. Thus, in a sense, the unconscious and the other faculties of our inner being such as the power of determination and the conscious mind-become active simultaneously. Therefore, Narada, from the very beginning contemplate on the principle that is contrary to your negative samskaras.

Because it is hard to penetrate these subtle layers of our being in the early stages of our sadhana, it is advisable to fill our contemplation with Brahman consciousness, while simultaneously working toward self-transformation and self-improvement.

The power to contemplate on truth, which is conducive to peace and happiness, springs from the knowledge of the truth. Unless we know the antidote for the negative samskaras, we cannot begin to contemplate such principles. Therefore, knowledge is subtler than the contemplation itself. I am not speaking of intellectual knowledge, but of self-revealed, intuitive knowledge. This knowledge does not come from books, discourses, or reasoning. You maintain Brahman consciousness by keeping the highest goal in mind throughout your study of the scriptures, through your discourses, and in your reasoning. As a result, the lower knowledge that you gain through worldly sources becomes a means of gaining the knowledge of the highest truth.

Narada: All these years I thought that I had a goal. I believed that the way I was studying and teaching was a definite method of suadhyaya, self-study.

Sanatkumara: Your studies and teaching activities were a means of entertaining yourself, of gaining recognition, of finding some intellectual satisfaction, and of keeping yourself busy and earning a living. Such studying and teaching is mere action. No one can achieve freedom through action.

Narada: Without knowing what else to do, should I abandon all these actions? Aren’t these actions better than many other action? Aren’t they better then not performing any actions at all?

Sanatkumara: That’s not the point, Narada. It’s a mater of gathering your courage and tapping your inner strength. Mere knowledge regarding action or inaction is of no use. Your resolve to act works only if it is accompanied by inner strength. Gather that inner strength. Such strength comes, not from the surface of your mind or from your intellect, but from the depth of your soul. Only such inner strength is unalloyed and divine. You will persist and accomplish your task only with the help of inner strength, which you may call the divine force-shakti. Without shakti, the knowledge about action and the resolve to act will come to nothing.

Make your knowledge functional. Unless it is functional, knowledge is a burden. Knowledge that doesn’t wake you up and make you move forward is dead. Knowledge must be active and vibrant. It is from the womb of active knowledge that the power of action is born. Knowledge derives its life from the unrestricted power of will. This unrestricted power of will is known as iccha shakti. Iccha shakti is the intrinsic characteristic of the highest truth, the supreme consciousness. This iccha shakti is also kama kala-initial or primordial, divine desire. Therefore, to make your knowledge active and vibrant you must meditate and thereby unfold the supreme power of will within. The power of will, the power of knowledge, and the power of action go together.

Narada: How can I understand the nature of shakti and unfold that force within?

Sanatkumara: This primordial, divine force manifests in all the diverse names and forms that you perceive. If you want to attain a full understanding of that, you must understand the subtle mysteries of food.
Before a living organism evolves, food must exist to sustain it. First comes the food; then the organism. The life force is in both the food and the organism. Thus the life force is both consuming and consumed. Unless you know who the consumer is and who is being consumed, you will never overcome the fear of death. Unless you know the intrinsic nature of the life force within you and within the objects that nourish you, you live with the fear that you will be unable to sustain your life.

There are two forms of fear-the fear of not having enough to maintain yourself and the fear of being consumed by the objects you possess. In either case, you remain involved with objects-either in acquiring those that make you feel secure or in ridding yourself of those that threaten you.

It is not enough to know that you need solid food, water, light, heat, and air to live. You must also know what it is that you actually receive from these things. How is the life force different from these things, and why is the life force supplied through them? Ultimately, you need to know under what conditions you receive and assimilate (or fail to receive and/or assimilate) the life force from these substances. At this point, Narada, the inquiry moves across the boundary of physics and into the realm of metaphysics, or even into pure spiritual science. The nature and structure of the universe, its functioning forces, and its constituent components are thoroughly studied in the science of shrividya.

Sanatkumara explained this science in detail in the prominent text on shrividya, Sanatkumara Samhita. In it, the sage leads Narada, step-by-step, unveiling the mysteries of the power of memory and its connection with the principles of hope, pranic, energy, the power of decisiveness, faith, conviction and, ultimately, happiness. Sanatkumara stresses that true happiness cannot be limited by time, space and causation. True happiness cannot be compared with any experience at all. It cannot be put in the categories like “less and more,” “small and big,” or “short lived and long-lasting.”

Sanatkumara: You have come from bliss, Narada, and no matter how much you get lost in the world, part of you remains aware of your blissful nature. It’s that part that reminds you, from within, to attain eternal, boundless bliss and to become one with it.

The urge to attain happiness is the driving force behind all pursuits in life. Because of the charms and temptations of worldly objects, you think that you don’t have enough time to turn inward and find happiness within yourself. This frightens and frustrates you. On the other hand, you miss that happiness, and in order to rid yourself of that feeling of “missingness,” you try to find happiness in the external world.

Before you undertake a task, there is the light of hope. That hope itself gives you some degree joy. Hoping to find happiness by obtaining objects, you work hard, all the while telling yourself that you are very happy to be working. When you obtain an object, you may feel delighted for a moment, but that delight is soon replaced with dissatisfaction. And so you look for something else. In this way, you go on performing your actions in the external world with the elusive hope that the next action will make you happy, even though the last one did not. Every experience you have of failure to find satisfaction is a lesson. It teaches you that there is no real happiness in the external world. But your own insecurity and skepticism about finding happiness in the unknown inner realm, possibly at the price of losing the pleasure of the external world, frightens you. Your attachment to worldly objects and your ignorance about the infinite wealth within is the source of all fears. Fear and happiness never co-exist. As long as you have no direct experience of the wealth of happiness that lies within you, you must trust the experiences of the sages and find the courage to turn the mind inward.

Resolving to find the happiness within solely on the basis of the experiences of the sages or the testimony of the scriptures is called “standing on the ground of faith.” Before you again direct experience of the truth within, faith is the only force that can loosen the fetters of desire and attachment to worldly pleasure. Faith is higher knowledge in its own right. It gives you the courage to turn away from the external world and find the truth in the place where all limitation ends.

Narada: In practical terms, how do I begin my search?

Sanatkumara: You begin with food. Through ahara shuddhi, by eating pure food, you purify your body. Then just as your gross body needs solid food to maintain its existence, your pranic body needs pranic energy to sustain itself. Senses, mind, ego, and intellect all require their own kind of food.

Sattvic food, which is fresh, light, and nutritious, taken in the appropriate quantities, at the right time, and with the right attitude of mind, provides a pure diet. Similarly, breathing clean air, with a regulated dominance of right and left nostrils, nourishes the pranic body. Maintaining positive thoughts in a cheerful mind provides nutritious food to the mental body. Constant awareness of the fact that anything indicated by the words “my” and “mine” belongs to prakriti-whereas the truth indicated by “I” is pure consciousness-supplies nutritious food to the ego. Purify yourself by maintaining the constant awareness that all objects belong to nature and that it is a mistake to identify with them. Similarly, remaining aware of your pure existence, consciousness, and bliss is the way to supply food to the anandamaya kosha, the body made of bliss.

By creating a bridge between different aspects of our being and strengthening rather than weakening each of these aspects, we attain perfect realization o the Self. Know yourself at every level and find yourself perfect in every respect. That is the only way to attain true happiness.

You purify your external and internal life by purifying the food you provide to every level of your being. As a result your memory becomes sharp and stable; then you begin to glimpse your inner Self and eventually come to know it well. As these glimpses of your inner Self becomes brighter and steadier, your attachment to worldly objects and desires for pleasure becomes thinner and weaker. The weaker your desires and attachments, the fewer obstructions they create to the illumination your inner Self. And the fewer obstructions in the light that radiates from within, the brighter you will see yourself both within and without.

By imparting this knowledge Sanatkumara removed all Narada’s questions regarding worldly and spiritual knowledge and external and internal life, and thus helped him attain freedom from the frustration caused by “missingness” and loneliness.

This dialogue between Sanatkumara and Narada is just a fragment of the sage’s teachings, which are documented in the vast literature of the Upanishads and Puranas, and later, in the Agamas and Tantras. In the more accessible literature, Sanatkumara is portrayed as “paramahansa,” the highest-grade jnani (knower of truth), perfectly and eternally established in the principle of vairagya (non-attachment). He is brahmarishi, the knower of Brahman, who guides the prepared students on the path of knowledge.

On one hand, his body is made of pure light and descends in the pure mindfield of the yogis, imparting the highest wisdom. On the other hand, to those who have not reached the high degree of purify acquired through yoga and, thus, are unable to face the brilliance that emanates from his presence, he materializes himself in human form and lovingly guides them on the path of truth, usually through bhakti yoga, the path of devotion.

In tantric literature, Sanatkumara is the primordial master, from whom flows the wisdom of tantra, especially the wisdom of the ten mahavidyas-the sublime paths of shakti-oriented tantric practices. In the splendid tree of the tradition of the sages, Sanatkumara is like the root and the others are like the trunk and the branches.

Receive Site Updates