Search Results for Ramacharaka
Ramacharaka, Swami (1799-189?)
Hindu-influenced mystic philosopher who writes extensively on astral planes where the self allegedly resides between reincarnations.
In his book Mystic Christianity Ramacharaka offers a personally imaginative, if not scholarly, account of the meaning of the Bible and particularly of the life of Christ.
Most likely Ramacharaka had interior visions or experienced imaginal scenes concerning various personages in the Bible. But the veracity of these visions seems impossible to prove or refute.
Like so many religious thinkers, Ramacharaka seems to adapt sacred scripture to his own personal and cultural filters.
By the same token, it could be argued that most Jewish and Christian believers are prejudiced by interpreting aspects of Biblical scripture according to their respective personal and cultural biases. And the same could be said of any religious or scientific body of believers.
The debate as to ‘who’s got it right’ continues. But ultimately it seems that almost any truth claim, be it religious, philosophical or scientific comes down to belief.
On the Web:
- Wikipedia asserts that Ramacharaka is a pseudonym for William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932)
In Hinduism, jnana yoga [Sanskrit jnana: the path of spiritual knowledge] is the yoga of knowledge. But this isn’t just bookish, conceptual or intellectual knowledge. Instead, the goal of jnana yoga is to know the true self and, for believers in this path, its identity with the Godhead.
Not to say that Jnana yoga never involves erudition, or intellectual and conceptual knowledge. It certainly can. But these are seen as tools to achieve illumination instead of ends in themselves.
The dharma (sacred duty) of jnana yoga is about overcoming ignorance [Sanskrit: avidya] and clearing the path for true spiritual knowledge. And for believers, this kind of knowledge is nothing less than realizing that this changing world (and all the desires that go with it) are illusory. It also means realizing that the personal ego is not the true self.
When the aspirant reaches this stage of awareness, he or she may be confused and even wonder if they’ve gone insane (as did Sri Ramakrishna on occasion). But a healthy transition means that the seeker eventually understands that the atman and brahman are one and the same.
Traditionally associated with the Brahmin caste, the meaning of jnana-yoga would be closer to wisdom instead of erudition. But prominent figures like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Ramacharaka are both quite learned and (allegedly) illuminated.
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The word ‘mystic’ refers to one who engages in mysticism, and is often used pejoratively or as a caricature (e.g. wooly-headed mystic). This usage arguably arises, in part, from the worldly bias of contemporary consumer-oriented culture.
Many individuals, religious and secular, seem to value only that which they can buy, sell, and most of all, see. Subtle religious feelings may not be accessible to them, so naturally they’d think the whole idea of mysticism is hogwash.
Fortunately, this almost animalistic perspective of reality is not all pervasive–although it does seem to be dominant in the scientific, legal and political aspects of 21C culture.
There always have been and continues to be mystics who suggest there’s more, much more to life than meets the eye.
By the same token, some mystics seem to make grandiose claims and have allowed their sense of reason to be eclipsed by personal biases.
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Also known as metempsychosis and transmigration, reincarnation is a manmade theory based on beliefs found in different philosophical systems and religions, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, African and New Age perspectives.
Reincarnation usually involves ideas of karma and grace. It’s believed that after the death of the physical body, the soul (or in some schools, temporary personality attributes) returns for another birth.
In most traditions the self is on an evolutionary path from unconsciousness to consciousness–that is, from lower to higher, or gross to subtle forms of consciousness.
In some branches of contemplative Hinduism, the soul is said to begin in the mineral world and then move upward to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Eventually it takes birth as a human being. After learning about and practicing good ethics from innumerable human incarnations, the soul may reincarnate in astral and heavenly realms before reaching ultimate liberation, awareness and bliss.
But bad ethical choices send the evolutionary process into reverse. If a human being abuses their freedom, they may reincarnate backwards into the animal kingdom or possibly further down into one of various temporary hells.
According to popular wisdom it’s often said that God provides perfect punishments and rewards for one’s deeds. So generally speaking, if one makes good ethical choices in an embodied life, one gains merit and reincarnates into a more auspicious life the next time around.
However, if one makes bad ethical choices, one returns to a less auspicious life. Again, the alleged purpose of reincarnation is to instruct the soul, preparing it for an ultimately perfect, eternal existence. The exact nature of this perfection is described differently among various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
Once complete liberation is achieved, the soul (or temporary personality attributes) no longer returns to a body, gross or subtle. This idea is expressed in an old Taoist tale, paraphrased as follows:
A man had led a dissolute life and reincarnates as a horse. After a few years the horse grows weary of being whipped by his masters, refuses to eat and dies. He then returns as a dog. Despising this incarnation the dog bites his master’s leg who has him destroyed. He returns as a snake. By now he’s finally learned his lesson. One must play out the hand one is dealt, patiently seeing it through to learn how to be virtuous. As a reformed soul, the snake avoids doing harm to other animals by eating berries and tries to keep itself out of danger. But one day the snake mistakenly dies under the wheel of a cart. Pleading his case before the King of Purgatory, he finds himself reborn a man—a reward for his good intentions (Raymond Van Over, ed. Taoist Tales, New York: Meridian Classic, 1973, pp. 52-53).
According to this view, suicide is like ‘skipping school’ (in the cosmic sense) and causes regression to a less desirable birth.
But not all believers in reincarnation would take this attitude. Some believe that the very same kind of life situation would arise again, as if the suicide is forced to repeat the same cosmic classroom he or she didn’t pass the first time around.
Meanwhile some New Age thinkers say that every life is consciously chosen prior to birth.
In most Asian religions God’s grace can mitigate or even erase the effects of bad karma, a fact often overlooked in specious critiques of reincarnation.
African pre-colonial tribal beliefs about reincarnation differ from Asian variants. African ancestors are believed to reincarnate into one or several descendents to give a particular family more power. Somewhat similar to the Asian idea, however, the African Ibo believe that one chooses between two bundles before birth – one bundle holds auspicious fortune, the other inauspicious. While the spirit tries its best to choose a favorable incarnation, a formerly evil person undergoes a difficult incarnation as a human or animal.
In contrast to the belief in reincarnation, the Old Testament says that evil actions are repaid with evil, but not through reincarnation. Evil begets evil through one’s offspring:
The Lord…a God merciful and gracious…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:7).
For when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil…not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger.
The Christian New Testament view of the body and its relation to the afterlife is expressed in I Corinthians 15; 51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1; I Thessalonians 4:14; John 3: 4-7.
Some suggest that the Catholic notion of purgatory was created as a Christian counterpart to the temporary process of punishment and purification as found in non-Christian theories of reincarnation.
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