The Razors Edge
Papaji insisted that liberation was effortless. He famously proclaimed, “No teacher, no student, no teaching—this is the teaching!” The effortless quality of his teaching spread around the world like wild fire. It was popular to think you could be enlightened in a finger snap—no effort, no practice, no time—instant enlightenment. His perspective was seductive. It lured many into the delusion of the enlightened ego—the great misconception that a single glimpse into your true nature equates to liberation—an instant ascent into the coveted state of nirvana, turiya, and beyond—Śūnyatā. But is this the real nature of enlightenment? What if Papaji was just flat wrong?!”
No one familiar with HWL Poonja would ever imagine he was a charlatan or a fraud. He is revered around the world as one of the greatest students of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He was by all accounts a potent guru. His power and grace was a palpable experience when you sat in a satsang hall listening intently to his other worldly wisdom. He words rang true. Life itself was his famous razor’s edge—not a single thought can be carried on this razor sharp blade. But who can walk through life without the incessant plague of thought? Is this even possible? Is it realistic to walk naked through life on this mythical edge?
It is a paradox. Papaji was right. The realization of your true nature is instantaneous. He was also wrong. Any glimpse or experience of the bliss of your true nature still leaves the ego very much in tact. Realizing you are pure consciousness is a true awakening, but this realization has little to do with moksha or liberation. You see? Once you have a single glimpse into your eternity the ego still is very much alive and almost instantly transmutes itself into the enlightened ego—the arrogance of thinking you are fully liberated in the holy moment of now. “After all ,” the ego muses, “How can you practice what you always already are? Who you are is simply always here and now—the satguru—the one without the other. This is where Papaji’s perspective starts to unravel. The ego simply cannot know itself.
If you take a step back from the natural awe Papaji’s presence inspires you can realize for yourself it is simply ludicrous to think that you can become fully liberated in a single instant or that you can walk through life free of the endless gyrations of your mind without any sort of practice or due diligence. Ramana was well aware of the very real effort required to live from the effortless state of turiya—he was very clear about the essential sādhanā—the razor sharp edge of moksha or liberation from the karmic wheel—continuous practice!
The razors edge is sādhanā—the very intimate and essential process of letting go. If you apply Papaji’s teaching and make a valiant attempt to walk through life without a carrying single thought you will swiftly discover just how difficult, if not impractical, this approach to Ramana’s teaching actually is. Papaji’s idea is very effective at highlighting the essential nature of pure being, but it has little to do with the practices required to liberate your from the deeply engrained habit of you.
The habit of you is the very source and substance of suffering. This insidious wellspring of the all the undulating agony of pleasure and pain in your life is far more complex than simple thought or just the limitation of your ego—it is all of the hardwired programing implanted in the physical structure of your brain throughout your entire life as well as eons upon eons of programing implanted in other incarnations. No, the habit of you is no simple puzzle to solve. It is the complex genetics of suffering that present the almost insurmountable challenge of breaking free of its ironclad grip.
Once a Papaji student railed violently against the mere suggestion that Papaji could be wrong in any way shape of form. The idea that Papaji told the most honest lie was a preposterous notion from his point of view. “How could you even suggest you know Papaji if you were not with Papaji?!” He protested. Sadly, if he really knew Papaji he would know it is impossible not to be with this eternal guru. Clearly this student had been duped by his own master—anyone who knows Papaji knows his physical existence has little to do with him or what he taught. If you really see Papaji you see there is no space or time—you are simply in him as him—period end of story!
This student emphatically believes Papaji’s words. This makes sense. He loves his guru. But his valiant efforts to protect his master is the very fight that reveals his ego still has a strangle hold on him. Who, other than ego, would fight to protect a man who is already dead? Why is this student still staring at Papaji’s finger? If you look where Papaji is pointing is there any need to fight? The fight reveals the fallacy of Papaji and his teaching. It leads you nowhere—the proverbial tail wagging the dog. More often than not it leaves the ego in charge like the fox left to guard the hen house or the thief left to guard the bank. It is a dead end.
This is not just idol speculation. Many students of Papaji have realized that they made no progress at all since his death in 1997. One exasperated woman exclaimed, “When I was with Papaji I was in total bliss. I felt that I was enlightened that there was nothing more to gain and went back to my life. Now, three husbands and five houses later I am exactly where I was before I met Papaji—what the hell happened?! What went wrong?!”
It is simple. She had no practice—the bliss she experienced, like all experiences, was ephemeral—it changes and is dependent on the environment or specific circumstances. It was not the deeper, much more intimate, razors edge of liberation, or the realization of the stateless state of turiya that is always everywhere and nowhere at all. Words really are ineffective method for revealing this timeless truth.
The great trick of Papaji is his words. His words are not a dogma, teaching, method, or practice. The power contained in his words is the great pointing to the infinite now. But all words are limited no matter how ingenious they might appear and will not help liberate you from the habit of you or the deeply engrained patterns of suffering that are hardwired into your brain.
The only antidote to this unconscious poison of your egoic mind is the sacred fire generated by practice. What is the practice that Ramana recommended? Practice continuously by intimately examining this me you think you are—who is this me? Who is fighting? Who is lying? Who is dying? Who is this who?
It takes bone breaking strong determination for your conscious will to overcome the unconscious tendencies Ramana described as vasanas that are quite literally hardwired into your brain. If you stop and question the ‘me’ you feel very strongly that you are the fire this generates begins to annihilate the story of you that always results in the habit of you.
The habit of you is the past of you that is continuously recreated in the truth of you. The habit of you is the very source and substance of suffering.
To see through this illusion requires the great fire of sādhanā—the razors edge!