Receiving the Fortune of Vedanta

SRV Oregon: Older Girls’ Weekend Retreat, April 2009

Our second weekend retreat with the older kids was a most precious event and a rare opportunity to participate in a full day’s ashram activities. They all arrived on Saturday night in time to help prepare for and attend SRV Oregon’s weekly worship.  Following dinner, and before bedtime, the girls returned to the shrine for a short meditation and blessing.  Annapurna then held out a jar with “Vedantic fortune cookies” [minus the cookie] consisting of ideas to ponder.  Each girl pulled out two and were told to think about them as they went to sleep.  We would discuss them the next day. Here are a few of those ideas:

  • The Seer is never the seen. Give examples.
  • “That which the eye cannot see, but which sees the eye and its sight – know That alone to be Brahman.” How would you say this for the other senses?
  • There cannot be more than one Infinite. Why?  Name things that are known or thought to be infinite or eternal.  Are they different or are they really the same?
  • A gold ring and a gold bracelet are different and they are the same. How would you explain this to someone?  What are these analogies for?
  • God is with form and God is formless, and God is beyond both. Give examples.
  • A snake at rest and a snake wriggling are the same snake. Sri Ramakrishna used this analogy to talk about Brahman and Shakti.  What do you think he meant?

There was delight and dismay depending upon how these ideas initially struck their minds — and a desire to trade fortunes! Some girls wanted to expound on their fortunes right away. The next morning, after meditation, we all had breakfast with Babaji and the discussions began!   Initially hesitant to enter into these abstract topics, soon everyone was completely engaged on a few of the above ideas, which Babaji brought to an experiential level.  At one point, someone asked Babaji, “Is there a devil in Vedanta?” Babaji gave the teaching on avidya, ignorance of our true nature as Atman. It is too bad this lively discussion on various topics was not noted down at the time.  Suffice to say, the kids were charged up with high ideas.

SRV KidsFrom Form to Formlessness and Back Again
Their first formal class of the day was with the adults in Babaji’s Sunday discourse on Teachings of Lord Buddha.  At the break, the young students were excused and went with Annapurna to prepare a mysterious project centered around Babaji’s recent chart called “From Atomic Particles to Atmic Particles.”  The first part of the teachings had already commenced at breakfast when the girls found a sugar cube placed inside their tea cups.  Tea was poured and we watched as the sugar cubes became saturated, then started losing form, dissolved and finally disappeared from view….but not from taste.  This process was the key to the theme of the day’s teachings – that is, could we get the sugar, now in a formless state, into a crystalized state again?


Chintamani pouring syrupWhile preparing breakfast the girls had espied some 10 pounds of sugar on the back table, a pretty shocking sight for most of us.  What on earth could the ashram be using white sugar for?  They were told to measure out so many cupfuls of the white stuff into a cooking pot.  Then, during the class break, we poured boiling water into it and stirred until it was all dissolved and perfectly clear.  Carefully, we carried it to the back of the shrine room and ladled the thick syrup into clear jars and suspended weighted strings into them.

step 1Stage 2










The project accomplished, we gathered around Babaji’s chart, from Atomic to Atmic Particles, and explored the limits of this realm of solid matter, the Bhutakasha.  Some of the girls had already come across words like micron, a small unit of measurement, 1/50th of a human hair, 1/millionth of a meter. Then there is the nanometer which is 1/billionth of a meter.  A glucose molecule is 1 nanometer, and a hydrogen atom is 1/10th of a nanometer.  Further, in quantum physics it has been discovered that there are even smaller particles that change at a millionth of a second. 

Thus the question was put before the young students, is it possible that particles can be so small that they do not take up physical space?  And if so, what next?  This is precisely where Babaji’s chart leads us, on a journey inward into the increasingly subtle dimensions of “particles” that occupy the space of energy/prana, the space of thought, the space of intellect, and the space of Intelligence associated with the highest causal realm.  Beyond those, all particles dissolve into the “spaceless space” of pure Consciousness, Brahman. These different kinds of subtle space are all within us.  Just as our dreams happen within our mind, even so, the heavens and angels, and gods and goddesses, seers, and the highest Trinity of any tradition are all within the mind — they are not separate from us.  And so these kinds of ideas were explored, showing the current knowledge of material science, and the higher efficacy of the spiritual sciences.

Now, what about that sugar syrup?  Well, if the one side of Babaji’s chart shows the process of involution, from gross to subtle, what about the opposite direction, that is, how do beings return to embodiment from a state of formlessness?  The other side of Babaji’s chart shows this process, wherein a person, whether ignorant or illumined, returns to physical embodiment in the reverse process, from the causal body (where desire for embodiment was stored in the form of positive or negative samskaras and karmas), to the subtle body, astral body, and finally into physical matter.  Ultimately, the point of these teachings is that none of the gross or subtle particles are the Self, for we are ever the unchanging Atman, the Witness of all changes, formless and thus particle-less. 

Stage 3However, the point of our project was to show how phenomena rises and falls, like the waves of the ocean, again and again.  Nothing is ever lost; nothing is ever new.  So, in like fashion we witnessed the sugar crystals dissolve into a homogenous liquid in a process that had several stages: clumping, melting, cloudiness, and then clearness.  And then, over time, as the water evaporated, the crystals reformed – a sweet example of how something never comes from nothing; the states of form and formless are intrinsically related and flow back and forth in cycles.  And all the while the Witness, looking on, never changes……