Ramana Maharshi had a profound spiritual awakening at the age of sixteen after the death of his father, realising himself to be that which doesn't die when the body dies: unmoving Silence, pure Awareness, radiant Love. He lived out the rest of his life at his beloved mountain and guru, Arunachala, in Southern India, mostly in silence. The Sri Ramanasramam continues there today. Ramana's profound realisation that one's true nature is the Self—Sat-Chit-Ananda, or Truth-Wisdom-Love—is the foundation of the spiritual lineage that includes Papaji, Gangaji, Eli, Lisa, Jared, and myself.
Papaji had a number of profound awakening experiences as a child. He went on to receive the transmission of Ramana's Grace in around 1944. His physical form ended in 1997, at the age of 87 years, after many years of holding Satsang in Lucknow, India, where he shared his booming laughter and his roaring silence with spiritual seekers from all over the world. Papaji's Satsangs were infused with amusing anecdotes and his unique style of humour. The potency of his teachings are as strong today as they were when he was in form. It's through Papaji's Grace that Satsang has spread throughout the world.
Gangaji met her teacher, Papaji, in 1990, and has been teaching at his request since that time. In 2006, I saw Gangaji speak in a movie entitled Awakening Now, a compilation of spiritual teachers speaking about awakening. From the moment her face appeared on the screen my heart was pierced; I consider her my Satguru. Two months later she was visiting Sydney and I experienced Satsang for the first time. I had no idea what people were saying that evening but I knew that I was in the right place. I owe everything—my happiness, my freedom, my life—to Gangaji, and I bow humbly at her feet always.
In 2009, I had the great good fortune to attend an Enneagram retreat with Eli Jaxon-Bear. In having my particular pattern of suffering clearly demonstrated, I was finally able to begin unravelling and releasing this deeply entrenched way of reacting to the world that was continuing to perpetuate my personal suffering. Eli's patience and clarity have been a precious gift to me on my spiritual path, and I'm eternally grateful for his guidance. In 2016, Eli started the Leela School of Awakening to train therapists to support the awakening of others. I acted in the role of mentor with the school for six years.
Lisa Schumacher is my good friend, a vibrant spiritual teacher, and a wonderful poet. Lisa holds Satsang in the North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and she is one of the teachers and mentors of the Leela School of Awakening.
Lisa possesses the rare capacity to cut through the mind's doubts and objections and to point to the silent Truth that is the nature of everything.
"My teacher, Gangaji said to me, 'be your natural self.' My heart heard this somehow, and the response was, 'Yes!!' throughout my entire being." — Lisa
Jared Franks is my close friend and a companion on the spiritual journey; Gangaji and Eli are our mutual teachers. He is based in Australia, and hosts Satsang and spiritual retreats around the world. Jared is also a teacher and mentor with the Leela School of Awakening.
Jared is very adept at teaching the subtleties and complexities of the Enneagram, as well as working one-on-one with willing truth-seekers.
"When the mind is silent, our inherent happiness is revealed unencumbered by concepts and stories." — Jared
OTHER INFLUENTIAL SPIRITUAL TEACHERS AND LINEAGES
No words can describe the incredible wisdom contained in the Buddha's teachings. The difficulty I found in researching them was finding a source of this wisdom that was untainted by the human mind's interpretation of the Buddha's profound insights that occurred more than 2600 years ago. I suggest researching carefully before choosing a Buddhist teacher or lineage. I personally found much of the wisdom of the Buddha to be concentrated in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche, compiled and edited by Andrew Harvey and Patrick Gaffney.
While I rejected Christianity as a child, returning to it as an adult, and receiving the truth and beauty behind the story of the life of Jesus, has been such a precious gift. That Jesus preached unconditional forgiveness and non-violence in the face of hatred is extraordinary. Most transformative of all for me is his statement "God is Love." The Gospel according to Thomas, found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, in my mind contains the most untainted truth—the esoteric heart—of the teachings of Jesus.
The ecstatic poetry of Rumi was often a place of sanctuary and a guide for me on my spiritual path. Rumi lived in the 13th-century in present-day Turkey, and belonged to the esoteric branch of Islam, Sufism. His poetry, however, transcends all religions and is ecstatically available to anyone interested in Truth. I found Rumi's profound practice of eye-gazing with the Beloved--something which Rumi engaged in for years with his great friend Shams--to be transformative also.
The Power of Now was one of the first spiritual texts I read, and to this day it remains one of the most important for me at the start of my spiritual search. His words, "You are not your mind," stopped me in my tracks. His follow up book, A New Earth, is equally enlightening as a call to action for humanity to come together in peace and harmony.
Adyashanti is a powerful spiritual teacher of non-duality whose lineage is the Zen tradition. I personally found his teaching to be of great benefit for me in seeing through the subtle tricks of my mind. "There's a great space in which this moment takes place. There's a great silence that is listening to the thoughts." — Adyashanti.
Andrew Harvey is a passionate spiritual teacher and sacred activist. He radically changed my view on awakened action in 2014. I strongly recommend Andrew—and his wonderful book, The Hope— to anyone with an interest in activism of any kind.
THE RADIANCE SUTRAS
This sublime translation of the Vijnana Bhairava by Lorin Roche deliciously points to the divinity that is at the core of everything, every phenomenon, both mundane and elevated. It confirms the possibility for everyone to discover, and live, a life of bliss and joy that is inherent in discovering one's true nature as radiant awareness.