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Muktanananada and Michael Graham
Melbourne Airport, Nov 1970
Muktananda & Michael arriving

 

 

 

Muktanananada
Swami Muktananda Paramahansa
(Michael far right)

 

 
Muktanananada
Muktananda in regal get up
on a special celebration day, 1969
 

Michael Graham - Guru to God

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Michael Graham

REFLECTIONS ON SALVATION versus ENLIGHTENMENT—A Hypothesis.

By Michael Graham

As a man formerly persuaded by the Far Eastern spiritual tradition out of India, with 28 years of disciplined practice, thousands of hours of meditation, and multiple charismatic experiences behind me, I feel qualified to comment upon and make a distinction between the concepts of “Salvation versus Enlightenment.”

Drawing from over 45 years of experience in spirituality, Far Eastern, “New Age” and finally Christian, I continue to speculate on spiritual themes, seeking to unravel elements of the Mystery. In approaching conclusions, I value the distinction between the concepts of improbable, possible, probable and certain. Though I believe that absolute certainties, (within the confines of reason) are dodgy to proclaim, I do hold that matters can be established as true beyond reasonable doubt.

It is in this spirit that I offer the following reflections as a hypothesis, though I have had serious doubts about mentioning it at all, since credibility can be unnecessarily damaged by saying too little rather than nothing at all about a topic that requires more explanation than has yet to be given here.

I am aware that those heavily invested in a romantic relationship with Far Eastern spiritual systems and gurus may recoil from my conclusions. If the reader does so, I respectfully invite you to relax and consider the following thought I coined in my book, From Guru to God—An Experience of Ultimate Truth:
“A thinker is someone with whom you can raise any subject and receive a reflective rather than a reflexive response.”

I have had my own experiences of Enlightenment in three forms variously named. The first one occurred at age 19 before ever going to India to absorb myself in Indian metaphysics. I considered this first spiritual experience to be an experience of Ultimate Truth. I had walked onto the back verandah of my father’s home and seen a seagull passing across the sky through the silhouette of a tree at dusk. For some reason, the moment struck me as immensely beautiful. What instantly followed was beyond words and beyond even experience. In that moment there came a total annihilation of self and an ineffable ecstasy. The moment I realized what had happened, the experience disappeared. The experience could not co-exist with the recognition of its being had. Its most distinctive feature was an absolute dissolution of self. Very strictly speaking what happened could not be even described as an experience. An experience consists of someone, a self, experiencing something. No one was left to experience anything, yet…? In this there was no union or oneness, only dissolution absolute. And somehow it was accompanied by unalloyed ecstasy. This experience was the end of the road. There was no question of beyond. The concept of beyond or more is always attendant to a notion of self or a “than” or a point. When the whole dichotomy of self and other disappears, when there exists not even the oneness or union, then nothing can be said, yet…this was the essence of Godhead before all forms and labels. This apperception was non-conceivable—beyond self, thought, space, time and all existences. To the enquirer, bound by reason alone, this is absurd, but to “me” more real than reality itself. It remained for me the Ultimate and Absolute Reality at the time.

Years later, concerning this experience, I found the Sufi term, fana, which means ‘annihilation in God.’ This was close, but annihilation…with no notion or label to follow was closer, since we are talking about God before ‘He’ is named. Upon reflection it seemed to me that the Hindu term sat-chit-ananda (meaning: existence, consciousness, bliss) indicating the highest reality in that tradition, would better conform to my experience, if translated as a double negative: not-not existent, not-not conscious, bliss. There was another term, ‘Nirvakalpa Samadhi,’ designating the highest state in some schools of Hinduism, this being not so far removed from the ‘nirva’ in nirvana in Buddhism, the designation for “blowout of self” indicating the state of Enlightenment. Then there was the yogic concept of ‘laya yoga,’ one of about fourteen different schools of yoga, the word laya meaning ‘dissolution.’ However, this word is used to denote different things in different Sanskrit scriptures making it hard to pin down the word’s true meaning. So, these various terms within the context of the Traditions most aptly fit my experience.

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