About Dr. John Filo
Thinking back to the mid 90's, I remember watching a PBS special by Deepak Chopra titled "The Way of the Wizard" based on his best selling book at the time. I remember hearing the words 'the body and mind may sleep, but the wizard is always awake'. It immediately captivated me. Whether it was the mythical story of King Arthur and Merlin the wizard or Deepak's poetic charm, it had somehow unlocked a certain samskara in my own mind. The question "Who Am I?" became a relentless pursuit.
What followed were years of exploration through quantum physics, neurology and consciousness research. For an inquisitive mind, the idea of consciousness as an emerging property of the brain sounded interesting but felt incomplete. Science and spirituality seemed unreconcilable from a materialists perspective. Realizing the limitations of science and the hard problem of consciousness, I turned to the only place left to explore; the self.
The teachings of the mystic George Gurdjieff and his pupil P.D. Ouspensky stand out in the early years. The layers of our false identity and the concept of evolving towards higher levels of consciousness through inner development or 'the work' as he called it. Allan Watts was another early voice of truth, listening to hours and hours of his lectures. Reminding us of the subtle and elusive nature of the mind - what he liked to call the 'rascal' - or how consciousness could never be an object of awareness ! Eventually these early teachings, along with many others slowly cultured my mind in preparation for the wisdom of the east. I remember reading "Brahma" by Ralph Waldo Emerson for the first time - long before I had picked up the Gita - and how it spoke to the soul of the seeker.
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
The pull towards Hindu and Buddhist philosophy continued. Ram Dass' audio lectures from the 70's about his transformational experiences with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba were inspirational for those of us coming at spirituality from a western mindset. Not to mention his colourful psychedelic revelations. The deep and piercing words of Rabindranath Tagore or that of Ramana Maharishi who's presence - and silence - keenly pointed to the eternal self. All of it fed the raging appetite to know more and the desire for the mystical experience. It wasn't until I actually committed to meditation that I finally began to digest the knowledge in any meaningful way.
I enrolled in a six month mediation program at a local Buddhist temple. It was a mix of theory and practice 2hrs/day taught under the tutelage of Luangphor Viriyang Sirintharo, a Theravada Buddhist monk and Master Meditation teacher. The technique was Silent Recitation - a buddhist version of TM - and it was exactly what I needed. The mental vrittis and rajasic currents of the mind began to calm. The daily dipping into the transcendental state purified the mind. I was ready for a deeper dive into Jnana.
It was the lectures and teachings of Swami Sarvapriyananda and his predecessor Swami Vivekananda - a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna that resonated deeply. Advaita - Nondual - Vedanta is a philosophy of Hinduism that is based on the sacred texts of the upanishads. Tat tvam asi - that thou art - is the underlying essence of Advaita. In this Jnana path of Yoga, the technique is in using our every day life to make that truth be known and experienced. A sattvic mind is an essential pre-requisite to discern the seer from the seen. Using the three states of consciousness; the awakened, dream and deep sleep states, one is able to recognize the real from the unreal and ultimately realize the all-pervading consciousness that illumines it all. The purification of the mind and cultivation of the inherent sattva through the practice of meditation was the key to Nididhyasana.
From a western scientific perspective, MBT - My Big TOE (theory of everything) - by theoretical physicist Tom Campbell is one of the closest theories to Advaita Vedanta I've come across. His research into out-of-body experiences, altered states of consciousness and the underlying mechanics of the nature of reality stand as a beacon of light for the scientifically-minded seeker (Jnani). I feel it's the only viable rescue mission for the die hard western materialist stuck in an objective quagmire.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - who brought Transcendental Meditation to the west and the infamous Guru to the Beatles continues to be a refreshing spirit of integrating the rational and trans-rational, the absolute and the relative. His message was simple: Meditation - however deep you want to take it - will only heighten your experience of life and your expression in this world. Just infuse it into your daily practice and the rest will take care of it self. It's just that simple.
These days for me, it's less about Jnana and more about immersing in the Gita, Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana (Prof. Edwin Bryant) or listening to Krishna Das chant about Saraswati and Baba Hanuman. It's the poetry of Kabir and Rumi that touches the heart and lifts the spirit into the sweet nectar of devotion. The truth, once revealed through Jnana, desires for the bliss of Bhakti.
In the spirit of Sri Ramakrishna, "God can be realized through all paths....the important thing is to reach the roof".