Questioner: What can I do to find a teacher or Guru? I notice that many people long for this encounter, therefore I think it necessary. Can you show me the way, or do you yourself wish to act as my Guru?
Raphael: The aim of life is not to seek a teacher, but truth. When you love truth more than your ego then the Guru will come to meet you; it may be through a book, a friend, or better still your own Self, the heart’s teacher.
Q: But there is a hierarchy of teachers to be sought and served.
R: You must serve only Truth and this does not dwell only in teachers, but in the hearts of all beings. When we serve teachers we may engage in mutual combat so that our teachers appear better than others’: the teacher Jesus is better than the teacher Gautama and vice versa; the teacher Ramakrishna is better than St. Francis and vice versa; the saints of one’s own religion are always better than those of another, and so on. The chain of Gurus of a certain type of yoga is better than another chain of Gurus and other types of yoga.
Love for a teacher is not our goal; it is love for Truth, the sole way to Liberation and Realization.
Q: Must we refute the teachers?
R: I did not say to refute. We are all somebody’s teacher. Truth includes the teachers and the whole of life. Therefore, by loving Truth you also love past, present, and future Gurus of any race, religion, and brotherhood, whatever they may be.
Q: Why does everyone seek a teacher?
R: Because it is simpler to seek a teacher than Truth, it is easier to serve a teacher than Truth; it is easier to surrender to another individual than to Truth; it is less tiring to serve passively than to seek in a creative way and with a positive attitude.
Q: I have always thought that without teachers humanity could not evolve.
R: As long as the Sun shines within the heart of the Solar System, it will illuminate the just and the unjust, great and small, weak and strong, criminal and saint, regardless of people’s opinions.
Q: Should I not invoke the teacher Jesus? I am a Christian and am therefore devoted to Jesus.
R: Why not evoke Love, why not seek Love, serve Love? Start serving love and you will enter into the heart—not of a single teacher, but of Divinity itself, teacher of all teachers. When you penetrate the One Essence you will communicate with all universal beings and things.
Q: Have you nothing to say about the death of Jesus?
R: Jesus’, no; Love’s, yes. Jesus came back to life again after only three days sounder than ever, but I still have to see Love arise in the hearts of people. Long ago they did not offend and trample on Jesus, but on Love, Comprehension, Charity, and Compassion.
Q: When I find myself in a state of mental silence, what can I do to go deeper and deeper into the mystery of my existence?
R: When you are in that state how can you experience thought? It would mean falling back into the mental process of becoming. On the other hand, it is opportune to remember that mere silence of the mind is simply a window upon the Self, not actual Realization of the Self. When this silence resides within us for a long time, the natural consequence of detachment eliminates superimposition, and we eventually experience awareness of the Self.
Immortality and Bliss
Q: I am deeply religious and ask you if, upon my death, I will achieve immortality, having obeyed all the commandments required of me at present?
R: Who is it within you that asks this question?
Q: What do you mean? It is “I” who asks it.
R: Allow me to explain: is it the Absolute in you, the uncaused Spirit, or your ego, your individualized, solidified mind?
Q: (After a certain hesitation) It is the ego . . . I think it is the individualized mind.
R: It is the ego-ghost, knowing that it must die, that seeks immortality. But can what is mortal ever become immortal? Can what is fleeting and passing ever perpetuate itself? Can what belongs to time ever belong to timelessness?
Q: What should I ask of God? What should I pray for?
R: Ask yourself again “who” it is within you that wants something.
Q: If we must not entreat or pray to God who is our father, why do religious teachings exist? Religions exist in every country in the world.
R: When the ego is weak, thirsty, and hungry it prays to God and obeys religious commandments, even the strictest of rules; when, on the other hand it is proud, full of itself, no longer hungry, then it turns its back upon religion and upon the temple. The ego is a desiring monster which, when satisfied, immediately turns its gaze elsewhere in search of further prey.
Q: Why should I not seek my soul’s Bliss?
R: Either the soul already has Bliss orit is incapable of ever acquiring it. We cannot attain what we do not already possess intrinsically.
Q: What must I do then to find Bliss and the grace of God?
R: You should comprehend what Bliss is, understand comprehend the obstacles that obscure its realization, and meditate upon what one essentially is. Thus, you need not await bodily death in order to discover Bliss and immortality, because you can reach it during this life, with your eyes wide open, your mind silent, tranquil and at peace.
Q: You speak of ananda (Bliss) without an object. What does this mean, can you explain it more clearly?
R: Ananda is spontaneous, natural, innocent, unsought Joy or Bliss; it does not contain the desiring ego, which seeks to grasp things in order to exalt itself. In sensorial happiness there is pleasure, an urge for enjoyment, a plan, expectations, emotional heightening, recollection. In ananda there is no duality, no emotional conflict; there is no memory, no acquisition. Ananda is not the gratification of any sensory urge; therefore, it is not relief of tension. In pleasure, the ego exalts itself; in ananda the ego is annulled.
Ananda may stem from the simple contemplation of a sod of earth, of the sound of falling water, of a field full of poppies, of a human face, a silvery reflection of the moon. If during this contemplation a quest for something, a desire, an urge to possess enters into play, ananda vanishes and pleasure emerges. This is self-indulgence, the result of dissatisfaction, of frustration. The individual is in a state of conflict and seeks to solve it by seeking pleasure; thus, pleasure is but a fleeting illusion to soothe dissatisfaction. Love is ananda because in love there is no ego, no expectation, request, or gratification.
Q: Why does the urge to be superior to others exist in so many?
R: The ego knows it is impotent and limited, therefore, it invents all possible ways of compensating for this inadequacy; but its superiority is precarious, fleeting, and illusory. No sense of superiority can provide true wholeness; at most it provides a sensorial thrill or sense of pleasure which is dualistic and therefore conflictual. There are many egos which, although they recognize the fact that others approach them and submit to them because of some particular temporal post they occupy, do not care about this.
The ego goes begging for continuous compensations to perpetuate its life; it abandons dignity entirely in order to pick up respect and recognition. The ego sells itself, even for very little, in order to appear what it is not.
Q: There are moments that I think I am not destined to achieve realization during this cycle of my existence. How can I free myself of this thought?
R: What is time? What is the past, the present, the future? What is meant by low, medium, high? To define these data we require an initial term of comparison, an “immobile” reference point. Now, where does the future lie? From what basis or point of “immobility” may we depart?
Q: From the present.
R: Which present?
Q: The state of consciousness in which I find myself at the moment.
R: The moment we are speaking of is already past.
Q: Well then, the “immobile” reference point from which the future stems is the past.
R: Thus, it follows that the future is a time that has yet to occur, while the past has already occurred; now, can “what has been” ever cause “what is yet to be”? Can what is already born produce the non-born? Can fact produce non-fact? On the other hand, in order to consider something past, we must compare it to some other datum which permits us to presume a “before” related to a “then.”
Q: We have just said that the future is born of the past; therefore, it is our term of reference.
R: But the future is the yet-to-be, the non-existent; the future is a pure abstraction, a simple mental figment.
Q: Then the present must be that “immobile quality” from which all certainty stems because I am sure of experiencing it.
R: If you are conscious of living in the present, that means that your attention, and therefore your awareness, is always in a state of Identity with your “Presence,” and this Identity is the immediate reality. But it is difficult to experience this.
Q: I have experienced the state you have just spoken of, and I must admit that in such a state one cannot entertain the notion of either past or future.
R: This man has just spoken about the notion of past and future. I think we are beginning to grasp something. Therefore, when we experience Identity we can know nothing except that our true Essence is always identical to itself. When, on the other hand, we entertain concepts, the various notions of time emerge. The past emerges from memory; if we had no memory we would have no past. Recollection is a memory of “something.” Time exists insofar as we relate to things, to objects, events; yesterday is simply a certain event, a process in which recollection brings us back, not to “yesterday-time,” which does not exist, but to today; let us say to a present with projected contents that repeats and perpetuates itself, imprisoning us in crystallization and becoming.
It follows that time is a “sensory object.” Now, all sensory objects are mental representations, which live on relativity. To emerge from representation-relativity means, furthermore, emerging from a time-event framework. Living in the present means realizing identity with Self, which depends on neither images nor time.
To conclude: time, being a simple perceptive datum, cannot be either real or absolute. Beyond time stands the solitary Witness as substratum of the entire perceptive process. The mind creates hours, minutes, seconds; it creates years and aeons, but these data are simply the mind’s fleeting figments, a crystallization, which helps it to feel reassured and tranquil. It produces “images” in order to create soothing security and perpetuity, but also strife and misery because it fails to grasp the timelessness, which is the Absolute. It creates form to compensate for its lack of wholeness.
Is it not the mind that seeks to conceptualize the nameless, the causeless, or what it considers the Unknown? Its imaginative figments are always based on the known, because the mind itself is time, becoming, and sensorial experience. Is it not the mind that has construed the idea of God, nature, the individual, and so on, according to its way of projecting and imagining? What it calls divinity is an idea limited by time and space, an object of perception, therefore a product, a process, an accumulation.
From At the Source of Life: Questions and Answers about the Ultimate Reality, by Raphael. Copyright by Edizioni Ashram Vidya. All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Ashram Vidya, Rome, Italy.
Raphael is an author and teacher in both the Western Metaphysical and Vedanta Traditions. From childhood, Raphael felt a call towards transcendence. While at college, he discovered some texts of the Orphic Tradition and from Plato, which left a deep impression on him. He subsequently came across texts from Advaita Vedanta, which resulted in the great Vedantic sages Gaudapada and Shankara becoming his spiritual guides—as though a link that once existed had been restored.
Raphael began dedicating himself intensely to spiritual practice, frequently going into retreat and silence. One day, he felt pervaded by a “Spiritual Influence” of such magnitude that a total revolution took place in his consciousness. The assimilation of this profound experience marked the beginning of a long and far-reaching teaching activity.
With the help of friends, Raphael founded an ashram called “Ashram Vidya.” Here, people come to nourish and support their inner quest, in the spirit of the One Universal Tradition. Under the guidance of Raphael, Ashram Vidya began a monthly magazine called Vidya, as well as the publishing house Edizioni Ashram Vidya.
Raphael spent over thirty-five years writing and publishing about the spiritual experience. He has commented upon and compared works from the Orphic Tradition with those of Plato, Parmenides, and Plotinus. He also authored several books on the pathway of nonduality (Advaita). Additionally, he has translated a number of key Vedantic texts from the original Sanskrit, adding his uniquely perceptive commentaries.
For Raphael, the only meaningful quest is that of solving and transcending the drama of birth and death. He says that to “know” Life, through the experience of true Knowledge (Self-Realization) should be the only essential aspiration for an individual.
Currently, Raphael lives a life of silence at the hermitage connected to the ashram. The One Universal Tradition, as demonstrated in Raphael’s life, is not a particular teaching, but rather the unity of Tradition. It does not assert itself, nor does it separate the various forms of existence. It is the offspring of Enlightenment and reflects the principle of the identity of consciousness with the Ultimate Reality—as stated by Shankara, “the One without second.”