The Jain path to freedom
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
In this universe, all of us are on different levels of seeing, of understanding, of experiencing. Some of us are caught by the bramble bushes at the foot of the mountain. Others are halfway to the summit, but because of clouded vision, take two steps backward for every two steps forward and reach nowhere. Still others are hurtling their way downward, unable to keep their footing, unable to glimpse their purpose. Those human beings who consistently and carefully remove the obstacles, meet the challenges, and climb onward toward the peak are rewarded with the panoramic view. What we long for is that–comprehensive awareness of all life as one, the experience of completion and fulfillment, a unity of our seeing, knowing, and living. In this clarity of understanding lies our true freedom.
According to Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanu, the great masters were those who, like a doctor, knew just where to operate to remove the cataract, the confusion in thinking. Because they stood at the peak, the height of self-mastery, they were able to show others the way. In this book, Gurudev draws upon his own thirty-eight years of experience in meditation to bring to life ancient reflections on twelve different facets of reality known as bhavanas. The insights which have arisen from his authenticity of experience and which he shares with us here can help us stop clinging to a distorted or dogmatic view and correct our vision.
To the Jains, the ultimate experience of reality is one universal, unfragmented. Like a perfect diamond, it is radiant, luminous, reflecting its source, that in each of us which is flawless, enlightened, pure, conscious.
When that conscious reality comes into manifestation it has a multitude of facets, countless rays of wisdom. Individually, each living being experiences that heart of the Self in his or her own unique way. That is why an integral part of the Jain philosophy and practice is anekantavada, a deep respect for others’ viewpoints, an honest appreciation of the complementary nature of many approaches to truth. Behind this recognition, there is the feeling of wordless oneness which experiences the unity amidst all diversity. As the third in a trilogy of Gurudev’s books, Twelve Facets of Reality: The Jain Path to Freedom reflects this principle, for it complements and completes its companion volumes, Realize What you Are: The Dynamics of Jain Meditation, and The Psychology of Enlightenment: Meditations on the Seven Energy Centers. Supportive to one another, these books take a person from the beginning steps in meditation to progressively deeper levels of practice and greater dimensions of awareness of life.
Gurudev’s purpose in elucidating the bhavanas is to offer contemplations, pathways, open windows from which to see and feel the freshness of life. In each chapter, Gurudev presents a different pair of angles of vision different facets of reality. When you plunge into the meaning of each one, a moment comes and your mind calms down. It hushes its chatter and ceases to breed dissension, friction, doubt and fear. It stops clinging to the past and fantasizing about the future. It disengages. When the mind is not engaged, it is possible for you to have a genuine experience of reality. There is silence, space, receptivity. The glimpse strikes home and you bask in uncluttered awareness, in wonder and ecstasy. At that point, the window drops its frames and you are one with infinite vision. This is how these twelve facets can help you, as they have helped Jain monks for thousands of years, to take a leap beyond all limitations into your own vivid pulsating life.
Once Gurudev’s master told him, “I can give you the maps, the teachings, the guidelines, the steps, but I cannot give you the eyes.” Underlying these twelve contemplations is the same statement. Are you eager to grow? Are you willing to give up pain and suffering? Do you long to open your eyes and see clearly? If you have this quest for freedom, take this map in heart and mind. With patience and energy, enthusiasm and confidence, you can reach the peak.
In Gurudev’s words, “For those who open themselves, there is transformation, from age to youth, from misery to joy, from pain to peace, from dwelling on one’s mortal frame to feeling one’s immortal life.”
It has been a privilege and a joy to work on these chapters which were originally a series of twelve talks given by Gurudev to his students at the Jain Meditation International Center from March 2 to May 18, 1977. I am deeply grateful to three special people who gave to this book their loving help, enthusiasm, and spirit: John Miller and Richard Kleifgen, who went over the text with a careful and caring eye, and June Fogg, who coordinated many of the details which enabled this project to come to completion. In particular, a warm word of appreciation to Allan, my husband, for continuing to understand, accept, and give me the loving space I never had to ask for in order to concentrate on and complete this endeavor.
To Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanuji who has shared with us all this gift of his experience, insights, and ancient teachings, and to you, fellow travelers on the path to freedom, I bow, in deep reverence, friendship, and love.