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You Don’t Have to Go to India

June 12, 2014

By S. A. Baker

My story began when I hit twenty or so.  I had a fairly typical American middle-class upbringing, but the energy that drove and propelled me through my youth had simply run out—or, probably more accurately, was smothered in me.  A certain spark, innocence and life force that I could always rely on to keep me going was no longer there, or so it seemed. Fortunately, I wasn’t about to give in so easily to that “dying of the light.”

What came to me first was a complete change in lifestyle, starting with what I put into my body. In those days I ate a normal American diet, which clearly was not working for me.  I had become lethargic, and somehow stuck. I was fortunate then to have been introduced to a macrobiotic vegetarian diet.

Also at that time (and this was probably the most powerful change in my life), I learned about meditation and took to it immediately.  Wow, one could sit in silence and find the meaning of life — right away I knew that was for me!  Truly a life-altering revelation, and I realized that this was what would help me get the spark back.

That led to years and years of spiritual practice that included meditation of all kinds—Tibetan, Zen, insight, guided meditations taught by a Japanese spiritual practice, and in recent years Advaita—plus periods of intense martial arts and body movement practice, ACIM, workshops of many different kinds, studying the teachings of a wide variety of spiritual traditions, and so on.

As I was getting close to my 60th birthday, I started to look objectively at the many awakened teachers, Western for the most part since I hadn’t come across too many in Japan, and what I saw they had in common, at least those of the Advaita tradition, was that they had traveled to India and got their awakening through the grace of an Indian guru. So I figured, if that’s what it takes, then I ought to start looking into doing that.

But then, through some very good fortune, it occurred to me one day at the end of last year to do an Internet search for Advaita in Japan. I found that there is a teacher, Aruna Byers, who offers satsang and the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, right here in Tokyo.  Amazing!  So I started attending Aruna’s satsangs, read her book, and got to know her a bit.

Then I attended a “Radical Awakening” workshop she offers, and was “awakened”.  Which means, for me at least, seeing things as they are, far less chatter in my mind, more time abiding in the Here and Now, more peace, more presence. Yet also an intensification of my own emotional upsets and feeling even more deeply the suffering of others, being more present in my body, longer moments of thought-free well-being/bliss. But mainly just feeling more alive.

All of which saves me from having to trek to India, which never really appealed to me in the first place.  Plus I finally got back that natural state of wonder, spacious expansion, inner clarity and connection with God that I felt had been smothered out in my early twenties.

It doesn’t mean that I have arrived at some kind of final destination.  Not by any means. There is lots of “deepening” and healing work to do, as there had been before, but my approach to it is different.  It’s not going to save me.  I’m already saved.

Through Aruna comes the grace and extraordinary spiritual energy of Ramana Maharshi and her teacher Papaji.  She is a conduit for that energy, and also brings her own essential goodness, total openness, warmth and lack of pretense to anyone who wants it.

You don’t have to go to India to get awakened.  You can do that in Tokyo.


About the author: The author has lived in and around Tokyo for close to 30 years. He is married with three children and employed at a Japanese company.
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