In Vedanta, there is the 3-fold process of Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana, which leads one to complete Awakening and Realization. They are Shravana, Manana, and Nididyasana. We will discuss each now.
Shravana means hearing — Hearing the Truth!
There are two kinds of hearing… one of this world, which connects and defines our relationship with this world, and one which is beyond this world.
In the first one, our ears, mind and intellect are involved. In the other, our Heart and Being are involved. Most of the hearing and listening that involves the ears, intellect and mind can be described as routine or casual, sometimes interesting or entertaining. But the frequency or the power behind that hearing is low. That’s because whatever we learn or hear in this world will remain in this world. It is designed in such a way as to keep operating in this world and maintaining, facilitating, navigating and sustaining our existence in this world. But the power is limited and not penetrative enough due to the fact that the world and its objects are all changeable, impermanent and destructible.
In contrast, the hearing that involves the Heart and the core of our Beingness is termed Shravana in Vedanta. It is designed to work at a higher frequency and vibration, and designed to keep you operating in higher worlds. It is “Akshara” (immutable, imperishable)—not casual or interesting, but enlightening.
The instrument of Shravana is the Guru. Amongst all relationships, the one between the Guru and shisya is the most intimate, special, and pure because it is related to that part of your existence that is Truth itself. The words of Truth that pour out from the Guru create a shift in the inner space of your Beingness. You will begin to experience these shifts and immediately recognize the Truth that is spoken. By hearing the Truth, you will immediately know and recognize it (unless you have very bad karma that prevents you).
The Guru-shisya relationship is the purest and most unique because the Guru talks only from the right side of the Heart. Sri Ramana often mentioned that the Heart is the place from where both ignorance and wisdom come. In the Bible, it is written that the left side of the Heart is that of a fool and the right side is that of the wise. That’s why Sri Ramana said the Heart is at the right side.
For example, during a love affair, we experience a mixed form of awareness. What this means is that the sensation of love we feel is a mixed awareness of left and right sides of the Heart. The I-AM we feel is the koshas (“sheaths” covering the SELF), and the feeling derived from both the left and right sides—between attachment and real love. At the time of deep love, both these nadis get activated and issues related to them both get rolled onto us. That creates a spell-like situation.
To illustrate, close your eyes and imagine the person you are most intimate with. Now recollect moments of happiness with that person. Now moments that were painful. Notice how both arise from the same place… the LEFT side of the Heart. And now point to the place where you feel the “I”. It is on the RIGHT side. See! So please understand. If you simply follow love, you will eventually be led to pain. But if you follow love without ever forgetting your “I”, you will know love as well as the SELF.
The other point is “authentic” hearing. You must be authentic in hearing, and accountable for real Shravana.
You must be willing to follow and endure all the instructions of the Guru because the mind can easily mislead and trick you.
So be very aware, be open to discussion and correction, and be willing to keep hearing the Truth again and again until you “get it.”
Not everyone has the capacity to hear the Truth. Many begin on the path, stick with it for some time, and then want to move away as they are shown the path. Sometimes what the Guru shows us is very, very painful. But those committed to the path of finding ever-lasting Joy and Happiness will want to stay. Authentic listeners resist the temptations of their mind and ego, and prefer to follow the Guru’s guidance.
There used to be a Guru by the name OSHO. He allowed his students to indulge in their vasanas. My students’ name for me is similar, but with a slight difference. It is OHHO. Every time I watch a vasana arise in my students, I make them aware of it. And every time I do so, I can hear their minds whisper, “ OHHO Guruji, not again!”
I meet resistance and know it is perfectly normal. Those who are steadfast, pure, and really devoted to the path will digest my guidance and recognize the good in it; others will leave. As a Guru, I am not attached to them personally, but to their progress and their higher good. So I am prepared for whatever happens. That’s my job. If I get attached to them and not their higher good, I would fail as a Guru. I also totally understand that it’s not an easy path and that many will want to leave, to fight with their vasanas another day. Depending upon the karmas accumulated in past lives, they may feel totally exhausted and overwhelmed. I can totally sympathize with them. Rare are the ones who will be able to swim through the ocean of vasanas easily.
Again, one has to be authentic in hearing the Truth. Authentic hearing allows the Guru’s words to act like seeds that will sprout in time. The reason is that the Guru operates from the right side of the Heart. That is why one needs to be in touch with a Guru, especially when the vasanas begin to play their role, and one’s habitual tendencies create a sense of deep resistance.
From a yogic point of view, Shravana achieves immediate pratyahara—the turning of life-force inwards towards the SELF.
“Manana” means contemplating the Truth.
Just hearing the Truth won’t be enough… one has to reflect, ponder, and contemplate the Guru’s words. Most importantly, one has to USE those teachings in one’s life because vasanas are all played out in one’s waking state. REMEMBER this!
You may have to hear the Truth again and again so that it sinks so deeply inside that Maya isn’t able to pull you away from the SELF.
We can say that consistent remembrance of the Guru’s talks, and reading them over and over again is the most important step. Then putting them into practice is the next. The third step is developing discernment and discrimination in utilizing the teachings. Just like how a white swan can separate milk from water, similarly we should be able to separate what is real, necessary, and wanted from an object from what is unreal, unnecessary, and unwanted.
Through repeated hearing, you will be able to absorb the things you need to, and reject the things you don’t. This is Manana. In the example given above, when the subjects are in love with an object (each other), and instead of utilizing that love for a Divine purpose, they get lost in each other, it then becomes simply Bhoga (enjoyment). When the centre of attention diverts from our Divine goal and transfers to the other, then we will eventually experience pain and suffering.
Hearing that every object can create attachment and build more vasanas can wrongly lead us to believe that running away and escaping would be the right thing to do. This is why, perhaps, it appears to us that the Yogis and Jnanis recommended to seekers to stay away from the objects, or reject the world of objects, because then the only object would be the I-AM, SELF-love, without the stickiness or complications that can arise when associated with “others”.
This ‘staying away from objects’ is what is commonly believed and often gets circulated in spiritual books and teachings. This is simply not true.
These Yogis and Jnanis had ashrams and organizations where a lot of vasanas were triggered and where they worked closely with their inner circles to navigate their students through them. We only hear about a part of their teachings. Their real teachings included the close, one-on-one interactions with a student where a lot of vasanas surfaced and were resolved.
The correct approach is not running away or escaping from objects, but absorbing what needs to be absorbed from the objects.
You can’t just run away. You will always find ways to attach to one thing or another.
First Shravana is practiced, and then Manana.
Manana is not immediate as it takes time, faith, and lots of practical experience in your waking state to perfect it.
Most importantly, discipline and maintaining one-pointedness are necessary. These are the most difficult of all because the left and the right side of the Heart both try their best to prevail, and there is a tug of war between them.
But always remind yourself WHAT YOUR DIVINE PURPOSE IS!
If someone (or something) comes into your life and you feel attached to him or her (or whatever object) and lose focus on your sadhana, take time to die to that person or object for a few days. Take enough time and space to burn alone and dive deeper into the SELF. Always REMIND yourself that the objective of the objects is to fall back into the SELF. And one fine day you will perfect the art of Manana.
From the yogic point of view, Manana achieves Dharana—sustained focus by the sadhaka on the Truth. But it requires discipline and devotion.
“Nididhyasana” means living and breathing the Truth.
Nididhyasana is the result of Shravana and Manana. When your hearing becomes authentic, and your contemplation and action become solid, polished and refined, then Nididhyasana arises on its own. It is effortless and Sahaja (spontaneous, natural).
This is where you operate in the full power of the SELF. You feel complete and in the totality of your Being. There are no missing parts of you. Agitation, conflicts and restlessness due to the vasanas are at a minimum, and you move between the human and the Divine dimensions with utmost ease. Here all concepts that you have learned from a Guru will be destroyed… and you will forever swim in That Reality. Here you will have first hand proof of what you truly are. All mental concepts will dissolve and you will find yourself at the SELF. The mind will no longer pose any problems, and the vasanas will not burn you anymore. You will attain complete Freedom.
From a yogic point of view, Nididhyasana achieves Dhyana and Samadhi—which means ‘unwavering abidance’, much like how oil is poured from one container to another.
Please know another important point. The Guru’s Grace is 50%, and the balance is your own Grace. The Guru’s powers are always there to activate the higher centres in you; however, what is also required is your own power.
No true Guru will want to make you dependent on his powers. He wants you to activate your own powers. He doesn’t want to impose, he wants to empower.
Most importantly, it requires your own authenticity and willingness to accept the Shakti from the Guru, and also take steps to build your own power to receive and explore your own Shakti.
If there is ever even a moment of doubt or casualness in your approach, it will prove detrimental to your success. The Guru is always willing to give Shakti, but you should also be capable of receiving it, and then experiencing your own Shakti and power.
Today the Shaktipat I confer on you will be to activate your own Shakti.
It is called the “1-3-5 Rule to Self-Shaktipat”. It will enhance your capacity to listen, to contemplate, and to abide.