Working with a teacher who is prone to practical jokes and higher spiritual truths is a major challenge when heís in the body, never mind when heís not! Iím sure there are many things he said in jest that I took as Ultimate Truth, and just when I think Iíve got it figured out, Iíll probably finally get the joke and have a good laugh.
But, to get to your question, there is a simple strategy that you can employ in your own practice. Donít automatically buy into any teaching on blind faith; instead, try it out and see if it works. If you feel inclined, you can also try the opposite of the teaching and see what happens. Always use your common sense. Spiritual growth can be uncomfortable at times, but in my opinion, it should never be harmful.
You know your practice is working if you feel brighter and happier overall. There will always be something thatís not going according to plan, and the test of your practice is how you react to lifeís challenges. An easy way to observe your progress to is to keep a journal. Then once a year or so, take a peek and see how youíve changed.
Rama often used career as a way for the student to judge their progress. Some people like the money-making game, so he used that as the playing board. Tighten your life, channel your energy into your career, and always be open to the next best thing Ė meaning the bigger paycheck is whatís important, not the actual type of work. So if Oracle database managers were making the highest dollar, thatís what you learned. If the market shifted and Java programming became the sought-after skill, you would drop Oracle and learn Java. Other people wanted a career that would stimulate their mind, so in that case, money was not all that important (it was just a bonus). These folks would use their inner energy to become experts in their field and their occult skills to land the job that would further their knowledge.
You can use anything and everything to propel yourself along the pathway to Enlightenment. Always be honest with yourself. Only you know if your practice is really working. And of course, meditate, meditate, meditate!
Anyways, that's the one sentence answer--the long answer. The one word answer is: Meditate! Seriously, if you meditate using any technique that Rama taught (some of them are in his books), you will know what it is that you need to do in your life. It might be tightening up a particular area of your life; it might be moving or starting or ending a relationship; it might be seeing that you are in a position to help a certain individual. But when you meditate, it will be clear. Then you just have to have the courage to act on your seeing! This isn't hard--it isn't rocket science--but where I think a lot of students sometimes make it difficult is that they don't have the courage to act on what they've seen. It might be as simple a thing as realizing it's time you took out the garbage. But then you've got to act on that.
Actually, in many ways the study doesn't really even begin until you're on your own and having to scope these things out for themselves. Lots of Rama students got to be so reliant on Rama's guidance in the physical that in a real sense they weren't putting the teachings into practice themselves. Why bother meditating if you've got Rama around to do your meditating for you? So that's why, in my opinion, he often kicked students out so they would learn how to do these things for themselves. Now, in a sense, everyone is kicked out and has to learn to figure out their own tasks. In a way, this should allow a newer student to progress a lot faster!
If you have already been involved with another Buddhist tradition, you may have been exposed to the idea of reincarnation and been encouraged to celebrate the fact that you have encountered the dharma again in this life in any form...the fact that you are picking up a connection to the world of meditation again is something to be happy about.
The student-teacher connection is something that can exist across multiple lifetimes. If you absolutely require a teacher in the physical, one will show up. Rama used to say sometimes he was accepting applications from people whose primary teacher was not currently in the body at the moment, for example, Yogananda...that he was taking them on as a "referral" and this was a "professional courtesy" among enlightened teachers.
Rama told us more than once "I put it all into the books and music," meaning he packed them with enlightened energy. He said if someone was really serious and that was all they had, they could access enough energy from those alone to go all the way through to enlightenment.
So, I would take that as a strong hint to read and re-read the novels and try out the techniques described in them. The second novel has a whole section giving directions for several visualizations, some mantras and chakra techniques. If you work with those, especially when combined with some of Rama's meditative music albums by Zazen, your connection to Rama and the world of enlightenment will deepen.
Rama said there are some modules that can be done in any order and some that need to be dealt with before other teachings can be given. I can tell you time spent working on purity and humility is not wasted effort and will open doorways.
Are you currently meditating on a daily basis? Are you able to apply the energy from meditation toward improving your life or the lives of others? Is your sense of humor, including your ability to laugh at yourself, improving? "We do all this for fun," Rama said once.
Yes, new students don't know what practices to do, and yet, I certainly trust people who read Rama's two novels to pick out what techniques appeal to them. My observation is if they work with these techniques and the music sincerely, their next right steps will appear...whether that is a teacher in the physical, lessons encountered simply in life, magical dreams with Rama or some other form of feedback from Eternity.
He taught us to always follow your heart as he said it would never steer you wrong.
In the classes I teach, if a student insists on getting a structured assignment (and I am a bit Taoist and wait for them to come asking me for what can they do to make their meditations brighter, isn't there some extra task I can give them), I tell them to go clean their bedroom closet. Take everything out, vacuum, wash down the walls with water and Mr. Clean and then very carefully put things back in...but in a nicer order, maybe get some new, matching hangers, getting rid of anything old they don't use anymore, making the closet as perfect as they can. If they do that and come back and tell me they have done that, then I will give them a new assignment because they have demonstrated to me they are a "player." If they won't clean their closet, it's fine, I will not hassle them about it, and they will not experience the shift that comes from the assignment. When they are cleaning and re-ordering the closet as an assignment, I know Rama is inwardly helping clean and re-order some things in their mind. There are occult principles that are being activated through this assignment.
There is an interactive element to working with Rama or any enlightened tantric teacher...you take some steps toward any of them, they will more than match you.
Just living life while I studied with Rama was a great opportunity for learning as I observed my ups and downs, plus my interactions with other students and relatives, as I continually moved from city to city, went to computer school, became a computer programmer, a meditation teacher and a white belt in several different styles. (Well, I did earn an orange belt in one style of karate).
Although Rama is no longer on this earthly plane, life is still teaching me via many teachers -- my boyfriend, my pets, people at work, Goswami Kriyananda and many of the teachers at the Temple of Kriya Yoga, and Suddha Weixler of NU Yoga Center, to name a few. I remember Rama saying that you can tell how advanced you are in your practice by observing your reactions to others. If you sit down for a beautiful meditation and then get up and say angry words to your partner, you are not very advanced on the spiritual path. There really is not that much distinction between the spiritual life and the physical life. We are here to learn and to learn to love. My advice is to meditate daily, stick to the basics, and let life unfold the more advanced teachings when you are ready.
Hare om tat sat (Thou art That).
We all come into this world with different abilities, past life experiences and states of spiritual development. That's why not every teaching or every teacher works for every person. The only test of any practice is "Does this have power for me? Does this give me energy?" Whatever gives you a kick and makes you vibrate higher is the right practice for you at that moment. One year you might find yourself doing Japa all day, the next year silent meditation or maybe one day you'll use martial arts as your practice. Ultimately, there will be no distinction between your practice and your life.
There are many paths up the mountain, but the mountaintop remains the same (or so we've heard). Some people are comfortable with having rules to follow and some are more comfortable making their own way. There are no rules for enlightenment, although we've heard compassion rules big. The only advice we would give is this: stick with one practice for awhile before you judge it.
Rama left a gift for each of us in the form of books, tapes and videos. He also empowered many of his students to transmit his teachings. Check this site for Rama-related information and for events in your area. Good Luck!
The unasked question that lies beneath your query is why? Why would an Enlightened Master focus so much on career success? The answer is as simple as your chakras. The chakras are the various power centers that conduct the energy of the universe through your consciousness. The Chakras from the heart down use the energy to deal with the physical world. This is where most of humanity exists. The upper chakras deal with the nonphysical world. Most people have only fleeting glimpses of this world. It is the "spiritual" world.
As the soul progress it becomes less and less enchanted with the physical world. An interest starts to develop in the spiritual aspects of its being. When a beginner comes to an advanced teacher, the teacher will have them focus on the upper chakras. This practice will open up the awareness of the nonphysical. This is a necessary step in order to be complete.
The effect of this dedicated focus on the upper chakras has a predicable effect. The person starts to lose interest in the physical world and becomes enchanted with the nonphysical. At this point they are referred to as a "space cadet". In this state it is very hard to hold a job or even be interested in this world.
Now the Advanced Teacher does a needed correction. The student is forced by the teacher to go back into the world and perform a task that will challenge him to stay focused and active in the physical world while maintaining the awareness of the nonphysical. This requires the individual to center their attention on their heart. The heart is the center of it all. When a person is totally effective in keeping their awareness open in all of their chakras, then they are said to be Enlightened. This living from the heart and maintaining total awareness is also referred to as walking the razors edge. On one side of the razor is the trap of the physical and on the other, the trap of the nonphysical. We are both.
When Rama was living, he made hundreds of suggestions regarding personal practice. He never said that individual students must apply every suggestion to their own personal practice. Some students never heard that, and tried to do it all! Yikes!
The rule of thumb when Rama was alive, was something like this. "I throw out hundreds of feathers, and each student must grab the feathers that work for them." That same rule is applicable today. Listen to the teachings. Read books, study with teachers, and pull out the parts of the teachings that resonate with you, and apply them to your practice.
Remember that you change, and what works today, may work tomorrow, or not. So students have to be diligent as they discover their unfolding practice.
It is simple, really. Listen deeply to your truth, and follow your dharma. Meditate daily, stop thought. Only through daily meditation will you touch the silence, and hear your truth.
There are as many different paths to enlightenment as there are beings who walk the path of enlightenment. Rama played with many different styles to teach his students including Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga, Zen, Tantric Buddhism, career, martial arts, computers, business, music, scuba diving, golf, etc.. Rama used everything as a vehicle for stretching and raising the consciousness, and most importantly he always had fun. Rama would use both traditional practices, as well as real world activities such as career and business, as tools for attaining enlightenment. I would suggest that a good starting point would be to play with and immerse yourself in as many different styles as well, and to have fun with it all. Don't get stuck with one way of doing practice, but rather switch it around to make things more interesting. Find out what feels right to you and do it. Some people need a more structured practice (do A, then B, then C). This can be very helpful with discipline and the feeling that something is being accomplished.
For others, this approach does not work. So find out what works for you and stay committed. Commitment is very important for being on the path to enlightenment. Also, find a teacher that feels right to you and study with him/her, and always follow your gut feelings. They speak the truth.
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