Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Swami Ramalingam

I haven't blogged for a while. For some people blogging comes naturally, but for me, especially at present, I find it is easier for me to write stuff for my website (kheper net) or my book (The Integral Paradigm) or simply reply to emails. But I do feel obligated to at least keep some updates going, and a lot's been happening, so here goes:

Swami Ramalingam (Vallalar) - About a month or two ago my friend and correspondent Rick Lipschutz told me about the work of the late T.R.Thulasiram, a Tamil devotee of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Swami Ramdas, and Swami Ramalingam (my brief (at time of writing) page, Wikipedia page), also known as Vallalar) and resident of Sri Aurobindo ashram. In 1980 Thulasiram's huge two volume 2000 page opus (Arut Perum Jyothi and Deathless Body was published by Madras University; it is long out of print and very rare (although a CD and pdf version is available on the AUMRA Trust website (dedicated to Thulasiram's work). Basically, Thulasiram's thesis is that some of these Tamil siddhas (especially Thirumoolar and Ramalingam) attained the same Supramental realisations as Sri Aurobindo. At first I was sceptical, but the more I attuned to Swami Ramalingam presence the more he affected me in a positive way. For me he combines elements of Ramana Maharshi (deep compassion for all sentient beings) with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's supramental integral yoga.

At the same time, whether separately or not I don't know, I have been inspired to upgrade and update my website (and also my book), especially focusing on the Integral Paradigm. For me now the Integral Paradigm begins primarily with the yoga of Thirumoolar, Ramalingam, Sri Aurobindo and Mirra (the Mother), although there seem to be a few amazing parallels with Christ, and perhaps one can go back further to Ancient Egypt. All this refers to the yoga of the perfection (divinisation) of the body (hence also siddha and Taoist yogic alchemy). In classic spirituality the body and things of the world are disparaged (with only a few exceptions, e.g. Paganism, Tantra etc), but this is a yoga that includes the body. I still take Sri Aurobindo's definition of Integral Yoga as the esoteric core of the integral paradigm - the complete and evolutionary divinisation of the entire being.

This is not to deny the importance of the secular Integral philosophies or studies of Teilhard, Gebser, Haskell, Jantsch, Maslow, Murphy, Paul Ray, Wilber, etc. However I do make a distinction between the radical esoteric yoga of Integral divinisation, and the "exoteric" theories of synthesis of psycho-socio developmental and evolutionary levels.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The historical and autobiographical approach

I'm going to post occaisonal updates of my progress in writing The Integral Paradigm here, as well as assorting musings and inspirations.

So, Chapter 1 - the Introduction - is pretty much completed (although there'll always be small updates and edits) so I'm mostly working on Chapter 3 - Gnosis and Esotericism, now (Chapter 2 is on the Perennial Philosophy).

This chapter turned out to be a lot longer than originally planned, because I kept adding stuff, as I usually do. It is also very different to my previous attempts at book writing, because I followed the advice and feedback of several reviewers and made it more personal and autobiographical.

This shift from impersonal, objectivist statements to personal experience is really part of the overall zeitgeist, which is moving a way from the old authoritorian model to a more participatory one, with the author as part of history, rather than standing above history. The term "postmodernist" is sometimes used in this context, although I would specify that this has nothing to do with deconstruction (I've never read Derrida and am probably not likely to), contextualism (Steven Katz on mysticism - basically the diametric opposite of Perennialism), anti-metaphysics (Wilber is an example here, although he tries to retain some of his own metaphysics, while denying everyone else's), and so on. I still fully acknowledge the transcendent reality; indeed I am compelled by gnosis to do so. Postmodernist philosophers only have the rational mind to depend on; without gnosis they cannot understand the transcendent, and hence they reject or deny it. This is the same with Western Philosophy in general, as it has lost the original Wisdom Tradition of Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, etc. This is why I have always been more attracted to Eastern Philosophy, which retains the wisdom tradition and gnostic aspects.

But it is interesting to consider that, if I were writing 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, it would have been more purely academic and "objectivist". It would have been a very different book, and, I believe, a much less interesting one.

For me, writing has always been a way to gnosis (at least to one form of gnosism, what Sri Aurobindo calls the "Higher Mental". Indeed it is only in writing this book that I have come to fully appreciate that there is no philosophy outside of history.

Even the very greatest spiritual sages, like Sri Aurobindo for example (although I could equally mention other Realized beings), were still embedded in a historical and cultural context. That is why certain fundamentalist interpretations of Sri Aurobindo, which take his words as absolute and eternal, are so ridiculous. While his Consciousness and teachings came from a Transcendent and yes an Eternal realm, they still had to be expressed through his finite personality in time and space, which was educated in England and liked classic poetry.

The problem with Religion is that it confuses Time and Space with that which is eternal and transcendent. The result is fundamentalism. This sort of frozen thinking is the very opposite of Truth, which is ever new and creative. And you can be a fundamentalist Aurobindonian as much as fundamentalist Christian or Buddhist or anything else. Just as you can be a spontaneous, non-dogmatic, free and open, Aurobindonian, Christian, Buddhist, or whatever.

I remember many years back, i guess in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was very much a fundamentalist Aurobindonian. And the wierd thing is, it was an obsessive thing, you aren't allowed to believe in anything that contradicts this. I guess I knew it was neurotic, but there was nothing I could do about it. I actually remained an Aurobindonian fundamentalist until quite recently. I can't recall when I actually was able to let go of that stuff; i guess it was a gradual process. Personally, I feel it isn't possible to really understand Sri Aurobindo, or any other great sage, if you are fundamentalist about their teachings.

I've mentioned in the past my own experiences with the Integral movement, and I was amazed how they were so fundamentalist about Wilber. Well, I can say I have been equally fundamentalist about Aurobindo. This is also part of my story; the meeting with, and growing beyond, fundamentalism and literalism in all its forms.

So, in all these ways, and many more I haven't mentioned here, my book will be as much an autobiography about my intellectual journey as it will be a description of esoteric cosmology, transcendent dimensions, cosmic evolution, an dthe Divinization (Supramentalization) of the Earth (although it will be about those things too).

It is all about balancing and integrating the transcendenta nd teh historical. What I like about Integral philosophy is that it ideally - although most people who claim to be integral (I'm thinking specifically of the Wilber movement) don't or can't seem to be able to do this - integrates the historical and the eternal (I talk about this in chapter 2, on the Perennial Philosophy).

Ok, that's all for now!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Integral Paradigm

Just cross-posting this on Gaia com (formerly Zaadz) as well.

My book, previously called Integral Metaphysics and Transformation, will now be called The Integral Paradigm (with apologies to Thomas Kuhn!). I feel that Paradigm is a broader and hence more useful term than metaphysics, even if it is a bit New Agey.

Also, the phrase the Integral Movement (which I previously used) is inappropriate for anything other than the Wilber-Beck-Cohen-etc movement (which I previously called "Integral Movement sensu stricta"). Because it is not a movement as such, but rather a frame of reference (hence "paradigm" a la Fritjof Capra).

Basically I define the Integral Paradigm in terms of seven central interrelated and interweaving themes:

1) Manysidedness (in Jainism Anekantavada), Broadness, All-Inclusiveness)
2) Metaphysics, Esotericism, Gnosis, (Absolutre Reality, Great Chain of Being, evolving body of godhead, etc)
3) Evolution, (includes Spiritual evolution, but also scientific e.g. Darwinian, evolution), Creativity, spontaneity
4) Empathy for all beings, Sentientism, I-Thou (Buber), Participatory epistemology & spirituality
5) Co-Creation, Transformation of self and society, and of all aspects of the being
6) Synthesis of all partial perspectives and practices in a larger or universal integral whole
7) Singularity, Divinization, Perfection (Omega Point, Supramentalization, Transhumanist Singularity, etc)

This represents a radical revisioning previous definitions of Integral philosophy.

Previously, the definition of Integral visionaries has been mostly limited to those recommended or described by Wilber (Integral Psychology), the EnlightenNext editors, and others. So Aurobindo, Gebser, and Wilber are considered integral but not Teilhard. Or Aurobindo, Teilhard, Gebser, and Wilber are integral but not Mahatma Gandhi, Fritjof Capra, or Peter Russell. Hence an emphasis on developmental psychology, postmodern philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, and so on, which can be found in many Integralist blogs. These are all worthy topics, but they reflect Wilber's interests, not teh Integral Paradigm as such. So the whole thing quickly deteriorates into yet another (albeit benign and useful) New Age religious movement based around a charismatic leader.

In my book I take a very different tack. This is different even to my previous essays, where I was looking for some common stream or thread that can define "Integral". But any such approach is self-limiting.

While it is easy to make fun of the belief that only those who advocate Wilber's AQAL philosophy represent the evolutionary elite, the top 2%, or whatever, what is harder is to define what the Integral Paradigm actually is. My current position is that the classic New Age movement is just as much, or as little, Integral as the Wilber-inspired movement that currently bears the name. Which isn't in any way to denegrate the latter. Or the former.

I emphasise Classic New Age, what Hanegraaff (New Age Religion and Western Culture) calls the New Age sensu stricta. By this is meant people like David Spangler, Jose Arguelles, etc, not dumbed down stuff like The Secret (my original comment on this here, while Stuart Davis provides a more detailed critique). David Spangler rightly attacks such "New Age glamour"; is it any wonder he has decided to distance himself from the whole movement!

Then there is Russian Cosmism; and you have people like Barbara Marx Hubbard; in fact it soon becomes apparent that the Integral Paradigm is much vaster than what is currently referred to as the "Integral Movement".

I've several times even considered scrapping the term "integral" altogether. This is so I don't have to be limited to the Wilber-inspired movement (which is but one contemporary stream of the Integral paradigm, albeit an important one). Unfortunately, there are no good alternatives. "The Cosmic Paradigm" sounds pretentious and silly. So it looks like Integral it is!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber on Wikipedia

In terms of the current Integral Paradigm, can there vbe any two more influential figures than Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber?

Sri Aurobindo is of course by far the more important and original; the founder of Integral Yoga, who provided both a roadmap to planetary transformation and, with his co-worker The Mother, the means.

Wilber's relevance lies more in his skill in synthesising and popularising many difefrent worldviews around the central core of evolutionary development, thus craeting a second generation New Paradigm movement. In terms of insight or gnosis however he gets no further than standard New Age/New Paradigm Advaito-Buddhist nonduality, which is only one of many aspects in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's yoga. And while if carried to its end it is able to confer Liberation, it is in insufficent on its own to bring about the required Transformation of the world, or even of the individual in the world.

Sri Aurobindo and Wilber are in fact are two extremely different and unrelated individuals. It was actually unfair of me in the past to try to compare them, because you can't compare them. One is an Enlightened Yogi-Sage, the other a spiritually orientated intellectual teacher and theorist. They have nothing in common other than that both set forward an spiritual-evolutionary worldview, and both provided an inclusive, rather than exclusive, philosophy. So if you are looking for a lowest common denominator for "Integral philosophy", that is about it. Nevertheless Wilber, as a passionate and articulate propnent of (his version of) the Integral paradigm, does have an important role to play in the current memetic evolution.

In my book in progress, I have much more to say on the Integral Paradigm, bringing in Jain and other approaches and thus going beyond the current and still very limited and exoteric Integral Movement.

But enough rambling. What inspired this present blog post is the status of the respective wikipedia pages of these two very different innovators.

Wilber's page is well referenced (32 footnotes at last count, plus a very comprehensive bibliography), dynamic, and constantly being adjusted.

Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's pages are static, in the case of Sri Aurobindo poorly refernced (only 7 footnotes), and constantly savaged by editors who for the most part don't have the faintest idea what they are talking about. Two examples. On The Mother's page, almost every reference to "the Mother" has been replaced by "Alfassa". It's a bit like replacing every reference to the 14th Dalai Lama with "Gyatso", or every reference to the current Pope Benedict with "Ratzinger", on their respective pages. If you want to know how stupid it would look, just read their respective pages accordingly. While the current version of the Sri Aurobindo page is full of "original research" tags. Not just at the top of teh page, but under almost every subheading. I scanned through teh page and it didn't look like there is original research there; the only problem is taht there are very few footnoted citations to Sri Aurobindo's works. So because there are no footnotes, it is assumed that it must be "original research", a big heresy on Wikipedia.

Of course, one can hardly blame the Wikipedia community for this sorry state of affairs. Were it not for the presence of a strong online Wilber-Integral community - both supporters and critics - the Wilber page would be just as constantly mutilated as the Sri Aurobindo and The Mother pages are.

Since it is unlikely that Aurobidonians are less passionate, nor would it be the case that Wilber is many times better kniown (if anything the opposite is the case!), what this shows is that there is a much larger online Wilber community, and hence the percentage of those motivated to work on Wikipedia would be sufficiently large as to have an effect.

Despite its vaunted NPOV ideals, Wikipedia is not and never has been neutral; it presents a selectively deletionist forum in which minor comic book and TV characters given prefernce over less famous real life biographies. And while an excellent resource in mainstream subjects and geek special interests (and I for one do appreciate and are attracted to Geek things, so this isn't an insult), fails miserably when it comes to alternative knowledge; anything outside teh mainstream consensus paradigm.

I have no doubt that many years from now, there will be enough Aurobindonians active on Wikipedia to rectify the current imbalance at least as far as the coverage of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother are concerned, but I don't envisage this happening any time soon.

A final comment, lest it be seen that I'm unduely wiki-bashing. For all its faults, and for all its decline from its pre-deletionist summit of 2005, Wikipedia still serves as a powerful knowledge-building community and invaluable resource. I wouldn't continue to be involved if I didn't think it served an essential role in the ecology of the noosphere. But Wikipedia is only as good as its contributers and contributions. Doubtless it will continue to evolve, as human knowledge does. But it will follow, rather than lead. And perhaps, as an online encyclopaedia of a traditional, rather than unconventional, mould, that's the way it should be..

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adi Da (1939-2008)

Yesterday evening I was informed by one of my correspondents/co-workers (some of whose email I have incorporated into this post, he is more an expert on Adi Da than I am) that the guru Adi Da (his official site) (my page on him) (previously Da Free John, Franklin Jones) died suddenly but apparently peacefully on Thursday 27 November (Thanksgiving Day in the US) in Fiji of a massive heart attack, just after his 69th birthday (he was born on 3 Nov 1939). Da was doing what he loved, working on his art, talking and laughing with his devotees.

His unexpected death (or "Mahasamadhi" as his devotees call it, after the Indian euphamism for the death of a Guru) was not surprising given his extreme hedonistic lifestyle and prior medical issues with severe arteriosclerosis. Followers had hoped he would come back to life as he had from other "death" experiences and kept a prayer vigil. But after a while they realised he really had left his physical body. (references: Devotee announcement and discussion, Fiji News)

Like all great Gurus, Da left no "realized" successor. As he died without warning, it remains to be seen what will happen with the group. My feeling is that it will continue like the following around other famous Gurus after their passing. The devotees continue, even after the death of the Master. It was a religion even when the Master was alive, and it remains a religion. It is the same with both Fully Enlightened and Intermediate Zone gurus.

An extraordinarily potent figure, of great intelligence, brilliance, and creativity, and (with Mahavira, St Francis, and Ramana) one of the few Gurus and Spiritual masters to go out of his way to consider the needs of the animal kingdom (as shown by his beautiful Fear No More Zoo project), Da Free John / Adi Da was someone who had impressed and even influenced me for more than a quater of a century. Originally and for many years I considered him a fully enlightened being. I wrote an initially very favourable web page on him, but was contacted by several ex-devotees who informed me of his abusive behaviour towards his devotees. When I changed the article accordingly I was contacted by current devotees who would present the other side of the coin. Thus I would swing in my understanding to and fro, not really understanding, until I came upon the thesis by an ex-devotee explaining Da's paradoxical qualities in terms of the Intermediate Zone. (this was the same ex-devotee incidentally, who yesterday notified me of Da's death ). This awakened me to the possibility of "intermediate zone" phenomenon as being a standard explanation for the paradoxical phenomenon of many "abusive" gurus. I used this thesis in a popular essay on Integral World to explain another, lesser guru, Andrew Cohen (his official site) (my page on him), an associate of Ken Wilber and a senior figure in the modern Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement (which I have previously referred to as The Integral Movement sensu stricta, but am no longer happy with this title) itself is a subset of the larger Integral Paradigm (my brief page, wikipedia page I co-authored).

I have to say, news of Da Free John/Adi Da's death left me feeling really sad. Significantly, over the last couple of months I have come to feel that my earlier stance on the Intermediate Zone gurus is much too simplistic and polarised. While there is no doubt regarding those rare individuals who are fully and completely Enlightened, such as Ramana, Nityananda, Ramsuratkumar, and of course Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I've been rethinking the whole problem of how to understand less than totally Realised Gurus, the nature of the Intermediate Zone, and so on. So for example I not longer consider Andrew Cohen even an Intermediate Zone guru (in contrast to my earlier essay).

As a result I have been feelinga lot more positively and respectfully about Adi Da. Sure he would seem to represent the classic case of the "Intermediate Zone" as described by Sri Aurobindo, but really he was very advanced, a whole class above all the others like Muktananda, Osho, etc. A really unique Teacher, although for me I prefer authentic fully Enlightened gurus. The Intermediate Zone can be a dangerous place, and by attuning to a Master coming from that space you can get sucked in too. Thus, like Ken Wilber, I prefer to respect Adi Da from afar, and really, the Da I resonate to and appreciate is not the dangerous, chaotic, inflationary Adi Dam of later years, where the Intermediate Zone shines in all its frightening terror, but the earlier, profound, nonduality realised Bubba Free John / Da Free John (I am sure Wilber feels the same).

The Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement owes Da Free John / Adi Da much much more than it realises. It was Bubba/Da Free John (I use his old names because those where the names he used when he was teaching those ideas) who first fomulated a single physico-psycho-spiritual developmental spectrum (the "Seven Stages of Life" (official page, my page, another page, with useful diagrams); itself perhaps inspired by Theosophy or Rudolf Steiner); it was this same spectrum of seven stages that Wilber used as the basis of his entire philosophy and cosmology, causing him to reject his earlier Transpersonal-Jungian model, once he became a devotee. What would AQAL (All Quadrants and All Levels (my page, another page from old Wikipedia page, official Journal) be without the Levels? And it was Da Free John who formulated the levels. Wilber's contribution was simply to add a bunch of correspondences, and more recently, lines, quadrants, post-metaphysics and so on. It was Da Free John, the master of nonduality, who introduced Wilber - and hence almost the entire Wilber-Beck stream (the only exceptions I know of are Steve McIntosh and Chris Dierkes) - to an "Advaito-Buddhist" metaphysic and spirituality. And it was also Da Free John / Adi Da who formulated it first into a grand synthesis of all spirituality, in his profound (if limited, because he acknowledges nonduality) Basket of Tolerance (detailed contents of all editions; official page)

And finally, a trivial note regarding Wikipedia. As I sometimes contribute to Wikipedia, I found it amusing to discover that Da's date of death had been added to the page very soon after the event, then removed on the grounds that it wasn't from a reliable source, then added again, then removed again, then a general notice that "this article is about someone who has recently died" was added, while the byzantine bureaucracy that is Wikipedia's workings ground on, before details of his death were finally added. History page (if you are reading this blog later, scroll to 27th-29th November 2008)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

A new way of thinking is required

I've been upgrading my website, adding some new sections and going over earlier stuff; particularily my pages on gurus and on the integral movement. It's amazing how my understand of both these themes has changed; a lot of my earlier material now seems to be very dated, even though it was only written a couple of years ago.

For example, my early views on "abusive gurus" I now feel are much too simplistic. Certainly there are some gurus who are genuinely abusive, and the situation regarding the paradoxical nature of the Intermediate Zone still holds. But for most I feel the situation is much more ambiguous. So I want to revise my pages in the light of this insight.

Regarding the "integral paradigm", my current insight is inspired by sentientism and Jainism as much as by the standard big names of the movement. At the same time it may not be possible to distinguish between Integral Movement, Global Mindshift, New Paradigm, New Age, etc, if one considers the phenomenon as a process of global spiritual renewal and restitution. So it would be better to talk of an emergent global phenomenon of spiritual awakening and renewal, triggered by the current planetary environmental crisis, and ultimately perhaps by the Supramental Descent of 1956 and later activity (this last theme of course would be rejected out of hand by mainstream conservative materialism and religionism; but such biases are little importance; what is required is creating a whole radically new way of thinking and doing.

By radical new way of thinking I mean new even beyond the the current external New Age/Mew Paradigm/Global Mindshift/Integral Movement. For example,

o there is still very little, if any, concept of Sentientism (the movement ranging from biocentric ("Green") to biocentric and anthropocentric).
o There is still the idea of a linear "map" of Reality, whether it be the Wilberians with their stages and quadrants, the Great Story process philosophers, or the Theosophically-inspired New Age movement
o there is still very little insight into the dynamics of Spiritual teachers and Realisation, with the old dichotomy (evident even in my previous writing) of good versus bad, or else the naive all good (New Age) or all bad (sceptical materiualism and fundamentalist religionism). Neither duality (good vs bad) nor all good, (no such thing as abusive guru) nor all bad (no such thing as genuine guru) is subtle enough
o Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's more radical Teachings are very slow to filter through to the rest of the movement, assuming they filter through at all. Instead, much of the New Age/New paradigm/Integral movement is still based on the outmoded "yoga of ascent" (world-negating). At the same time, within the Integral Yoga community itself there is a tendency among many (but not all) to descend into religionism and literalism.

So for those involved in the "frothy edge" (as the Wilberians would say) of planetary awakening, there is much to be challenged, and much to be done. Indeed, we live in interesting times!

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Going beyond external forms

Coming back to my book (Integral Metaphysics and Transformation) after a period of about three months, I was amazed at how heavy and intellectual it all is. The whole thing needs a lot of re-organising and trimming down. One thing especially I want to get away from is the idea that the Absolute can be described in a linear or mental-conceptual manner. So I've rewritten the chapter on the Absolute Reality, presenting it in a more non-linear way. The rest of it is probably okay as it is, although needs a lot of simplifying and getting rid of over-technical stuff. Hopefully the final version will now be a lot better, and also shorter and more readable.

More and more I am losing interest in systems that describe Reality in a purely linear-mental manner. The theoretical side of the mainstream Integral Movement for example, with its top-heavy wilberian intellectual schemata, is a good example of how not to do things. On the other hand, the more pragmatic side of that same Integral Movement certainly represents one among a number of currents in the present Planetary Revolution (Great Turning, Global Mindshift, Integral Society, or whatever you want to call it).

As I have mentioned in my Gaia (formerly Zaadz) blog, currently my interest lies much more in "Keeping the Company of Saints" (or Great Realisers or Enlightened Beings). The authentic Enlightened Being is transparent to the Light of the Supreme. So by connecting with them through photographs, books, stories, videos, or any other manner, one accesses the Light of the Divine that shines equally through all.

But where and how do Enlightened Ones fit in the current Planetary Transformation; a Transformation that is the culmination of History, and must succeed if Earth is to survive?

Well, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother - the two most Radical Evolutionary Realisers - were the ones who initiated the Integral Paradigm. Not just intellectually, but perhaps more radically occultly and esoterically as well. But the modern Integral Movement, and the Global Mindshift, and the public New Age - all are different facets of the same phenomenon - are all exoteric, lacking in transcendent gnosis. And despite the great sincerity and spiritual impulse in all of them, there is not a single authentic Enlightened Being to be found anywhere there.

Perhaps this is where the other Realisers fit in. Without the Light of such beings, who transparently reveal the Divine in their life and teachings, there is only a stumbling in ignorance when it comes to matters of metaphysical transcendence and yogic practice.

And by accessing the one Light that shines through the various Realisers, one is enabled to move beyond the limitations and religious fundamentalism of attachment to a single form, a single Teaching, no matter how sublime and profound that teaching may be.

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