Why is it that only Mahans have divine visions and blissful experiences and not ordinary people?

Incarnations are rare indeed and their case is different.

As for the rest, God does not discriminate between any of His creations. However, the divine experiences and visions depend on the extent of Sadhanas (spiritual practices) that one has performed. The sadhana that one performs is a continuation of the sadhanas of his previous births.

One can no doubt, have divine visions and blissful experiences in this birth itself, if he incessantly chants the Maha Mantra with complete faith and devotion.

All major texts mention that Sri Adi Sankara lived about 2500 years ago. However, the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ cites that Sri Adi Sankara was initiated by Babaji around the 8th Century AD. Which one of them is right?

If Adi sankara Bhagavadpada had been initiated into Kriya Yoga by Babaji, his disciples like Thotakachara or Hastamalaka etc would have mentioned it in their works. Sri Adi sankara Bhagavadpada himself has dedicated all his works to his guru Sri Govinda Bhagavadpada. He would have mentioned his initiation by Babaji in his books, had that been the case. This being a case which cannot be concluded without any trace of doubt, we cannot say any thing further conclusively on initiation of Sri Adi Sankara’s initiation by Babaji.

I am a sincere devotee of Sri Raghavendra. Though I accept and chant the Maha Mantra with pleasure, at times, I feel I am doing injustice to Sri Raghavendra. This disturbs me. What should I do?

Sri Raghavendra was a great Mahan and a great Hari Bhakta. He is considered an incarnation of Prahalada Swami, who is the supreme among Bhagavatas. Moreover, the term ‘Raghava’ in the name of Sri Raghavendra denotes Sri Rama. Maha Mantra Kirtan is nothing but Hari Nama Kirtan,which is the favorite of the Bhagavatas. Hence chanting the Maha Mantra will indeed please Sri Raghavendra Swami. He will definitely accept your Kirtan you chant the Maha Mantra in front of his picture.

"There is no help for you outside of yourself; you are the creator of the Universe. Like the silkworm you have built a cocoon around yourself. Burst your own cocoon and come out aw the beautiful butterfly, as the free soul. Then alone you will see Truth." These are Swami Vivekananda’s words. How should they be interpreted?

Yes. What Swami Vivekananda says is absolutely right. You will need to come out of the cocoon called Samsara, to eventually get liberated. Now the question is, how do you burst your own cocoon and come out of it? The easiest and simplest way to burst open the cocoon is by chanting God’s Divine Name.

An atheist is defined as the one who refutes religion and God. Would be right to call Sri J Krishnamurti an atheist? If not, what is the difference the two?

The difference between the view of J Krishnamurti and an atheist can be likened to that between opposite poles.

The atheist or non-believer denies everything that is about God and spirituality such as the existence of God, authenticity of scriptures, spiritual ideals, role of the Guru etc from a very superficial viewpoint. There is no honest, unbiased, open-minded probe into the deeper levels or a genuine yearning to find the truth. It is more out of hatred rather than open-mindedness.

The rational approach that J Krishnamurti advocates is one that is based on a genuine thirst to know and experience the ultimate truth. J Krishnamurti says that one should find the truth all by himself and not accept it just because it is written in the scriptures or it was told by the Guru. He says that if we simply accept it making no effort to progress it is a reflection of our laziness. It takes us nowhere. That is the context in which JK denies the word of scriptures, Guru or any set of predetermined principles. It is not due to hatred but due an absolutely unbiased, open-minded, sincere, focused approach to find the truth without any presumptions. This path too, if followed in the right way, will lead to liberation because that is the Ultimate Truth.

Besides, we can view JK in this way too.

God, out of His infinite mercy towards all beings, sends Mahatmas and saints to show them the way. The world is full of all kinds of people with varying interests, attitudes and preferences. Therefore Mahatmas too, vary their approach in order to show the Truth to people based on their varying attitudes. Sri Ramakrishna came for a particular purpose and Bhagavan Ramana came for another. Likewise, JK came to show the way for those people who were not oriented towards classical Sanatana dharma and had lost faith in such things

Who are truly Sri Ramakrishna, Saradha Devi and Swami Vivekananda? Are they incarnations of God?

Sri Ramakrishna is considered as the avatar of Lord Vishnu and Saradha Devi as Mahalakshmi. Vivekananda is said to be a rishi from the Sapta Rishi Mandala.

In the book Jnana Yoga, Swami Vivekananda says that every thing that has a shape is a part of Maya. Then what about Gods? Are their shapes (idols) mere Maya or did the supreme lord Vishnu takes His shape by his power of Maya?

The answer for your question is in the book itself.

Go through the book completely - once, twice and many more times, until you find the answer.

I heard from your lecture that Lord Krishna came to rescue Senanayi. He was a great Bhakta indeed and would have chanted the Maha Mantra thousands of times a day. I am not so great as Senanayi and I don’t do as he did. Will Lord Krishna come to rescue me in the same way?

The Lord is equal for everyone. He showers the same compassion and kindness to everyone. He does not distinguish based on caste, creed, religion, color, geography, gender, wealth or status. All He longs for is love and devotion. If you have total faith and devotion to Him, He will definitely come before you some day.

It is said that "Madhava Swami was an attendant of Bhagavan Ramana. He was born as peacock in his next birth. But, isn’t this in contradiction to the statement of Bhagavan to another devotee? Specifically, the devotee who wishes to have initiation from Bhagavan only and says "if you do not give me initiation, even you have to take another birth, as only you will be my guru" -- to this Bhagavan says, "Once you come here, where is the question of another birth?" I am unable to reconcile these two statements (assuming both are factual and correct). Kindly explain

Bhagavan Ramana Himself never uttered that Madhava Swami being reborn as a peacock, nor did he confirm the statement.

It is only the belief of the Bhaktas that Madhava Swami was reincarnated as a peacock.

I was raised to believe in God and the scriptures. But, I have never seriously done any meditation or pujas. Of late, I have been reading some of Jiddu Krishnamurti's works. I desire to pursue the path of liberation. But, the 'concept of bhakti' versus 'the concept of truth' is very confusing to me. I am not sure which the right path is for me and how I should go from here. Please help!

Once Jiddu Krishnamurtiji was asked by a tradition loving person, why he is chastising tradition and scriptures so much. He immediately said, 'This place is only for those who have lost faith in the scriptures. If you still have faith in them, this is not the right place for you!'

The central theme of Jiddu Krishnamurtiji teaching is that one has observe and be a light unto one's self. So in short, one has to help one's self for finding the truth. He termed Truth as pathless. If you want to pursue a path, then Krishnaji's teachings are not your cup of tea. He has not prescribed any path. Any path supposes a tradition and discipline.

Bhakti is love for the truth. Truth is what that exists here, there everywhere, now and forever. Truth and love can’t be different. Love leads to Truth, and when established in Truth, love blossoms.

Doubts cease completely only in that final experience of truth. So, trying to get rid of doubts by intellect is to only multiply them. It is like plucking leaves of a giant tree one by one, by the time a complete cycle gets over, already new leaves have sprouted!

You used to trust our scriptures, now you tend to trust Sri Jiddu Krishnamurti. That is the only difference!

Path of liberation is really simple. Chanting Divine Names incessantly leads us there in due course of time, as pointed out by great Mahatmas.

Can you throw some light on the life of saint ‘Arana’?

Arana was a great Bhakta who lived in the recent past. He lived in New Delhi in the early days of his life and was holding a high office. Once, in his dhyana, Saint Meera appeared in front of him and blessed him. She gave him the nama ‘Arana’.

Soon he moved to Chennai and his devotion to Lord Krishna grew multi-fold. He sang songs on Krishna in different languages. His satsang was always a calm and pleasant one – that is just about performing Kirtan towards developing love for Lord Krishna. The satsang does not criticize or hate anybody or anything, for they believe that everything is a ‘lila’ of Lord Krishna.

Arana lived for a short period after which he attained the feet of Lord Krishna.

I read about Mahans taking up the sufferings of their devotees when they pray in distress. There is no question about the credibility of such incidents. But is it advisable for devotees to pray in such a manner especially when they know that their Guru will undergo suffering on their account? Would not this end-up in incessant sufferings for the Mahans when many such devotees pray? Instead, would it make a difference if the devotee ardently beseeches the God or Guru to give them the strength to go through the suffering? Is this not a better way of serving them by ensuring that no pain is caused to them on the account of the devotee?

Knowingly or unknowingly, throughout history, Mahans have taken up the sufferings of the devotees. Saints like Sri Ramakrishna and Bhagavan Ramana got cancer.

Yogi Ramsuratkumar was afflicted with cancer in His last days and suffered a lot. Then a devotee asked him, ‘Bhagavan! You have led a pure life. Then why such a suffering?’ Yogi replied, ‘to bring about a cosmic balance!’

Any Karma, whether positive or negative cannot be vanished; it has to be undergone. If one person does not undergo it, someone else should.

The moment a Mahan blesses a devotee, He takes their karma. Sins of a person who comes to a Guru will go to the Guru, provided he is a Uttama Guru. We see this not only in Sanathana Dharma but also in other faiths, and it happens according to the beliefs in each faith.

When the devotee is in real trouble, s/he prays earnestly to the Guru in just the same way as they would, to God, and an Uttama Guru never reveals that he is suffering on their behalf, for the cognizance of this very fact might upset the true devotee and make him/her feel guilty. It is the duty of the Guru to keep happy his devotee, who loves Him so much.

You have, in your speech said that we cannot see God and can only feel His presence. But it is taught earlier that Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda have seen God directly and got His blessings. I beg for your clarification.

We see because God is in us. So how to see him who is 'behind' the vision! Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa 'saw' God not with eyes. They experienced Him and to make us understand it can be expressed only as 'seeing'. Like you say, I saw in my dream. Did you see through your eyes? It was in level of mind – which is a level deeper than physically seeing, right? Likewise, God Realization is in a level deeper than mind.

Why are most of the Mahans men and not women?

This notion is not right. We have so many mahans who were women – Meera, Andal, Avvayar, Karaikkal Ammayar, Janabai, Chakkubai, Saradamani, Anandamayi Ma and so on. There have been quite a few women saints in the past who have not opted come to limelight because of the customs that prevailed during their time.

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has been described as a mahan. The Gaudiya vaishnavas believe that He is an avatar of Krishna Himself. Do you also believe in the same?

We believe so too.

Please enlighten me on what is the principal difference between Azhwars and Nayanmars.

Azhwars worshipped Lord Narayana as their ‘Ishta’ (favorite deity), and nayanmars worshipped Lord Shiva as their ‘Ishta’. This is the principal difference.

I have not been into any specific spiritual practices so far. However I would like to have the darshan of an enlightened sage. Are there any enlightened sages like Ramana Maharshi or Ramakrishna at present whose darshan I can have?

There are enlightened sages even today. However, it might not be of much use if I name one or two of them. At the right moment, you will find your Master. We shall pray for you so that you find your Guru soon.

Bhagavan Ramana’s preaching is that the word ‘I’ is the greatest mantra, greater than even the Pranava Mantra, and by constantly practicing self-enquiry, the mind will merge into its source and liberation results. But I am not able to reconcile Ramana's saying with your statement "Mahamantra of Krishna is the greatest mantra". How can somebody who has realized say that only one particular form is the greatest while every form has to be eventually abandoned. Is not the enquiry ‘Who Am I’ the only path where all other paths end? Please clarify.

In this context, please allow me to ask you a few questions –

One day while the young Ramana was at home, the fear of death gripped him. He decided to face this fear and in order to investigate, immediately rushed upstairs and lay as stiff as a corpse, pretending to be dead. He got rid of the fear of Death once for all and emerged as a Realized Being.

After the above incident happened, a visitor to his house uttered the word ‘Arunachala’ and this drew him at once to the Arunachala Hill. He narrates this account himself. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or ‘Arunachala’?

Before leaving for the Arunachalam, he wrote a letter to his family members in which he said he was going to meet his Father. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or his Father?

As soon as he reached the Holy Arunachala temple, he ran straight into the sanctum sanctorum and embraced the Lord who was in the form of a Lingam. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Lord in the form of the Lingam ?

While he lived in Tiruvannamalai, once, when his mother fell ill, he composed two beautiful poems on Lord Arunachaleswara pleading the Lord to cure her. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Lord Arunachaleswara?

Once, when the Arunachaleswara deity was taken as a procession around the Hill (‘giri valam’), as the procession passed the Ashram, Bhagavan Ramana immediately stood up in reverence. When the devotees around wondered why he did so and enquired, he replied, ‘Appavirkku pillai enrum adakkam’ (The son is always subservient to the Father). Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Father?

Bhagavan Ramana’s compositions like ‘Arunachala Aksharamanamalai’, ‘Arunachala Stuthi Panchakam’, ‘Arunachala Ashtakam’ etc. sing praise of none other than Lord Arunachaleswara. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or Lord Arunachaleswara?

The lyrics of one of his Tamil compositions read thus: ‘ninaivaru naal mudhalaaga miga peridhena…’ referring to the Arunachala which translates as ‘since the day I remember, I ascertained Arunachala as the greatest’. Now, who is greater, ‘I’ or the Arunachala?

In one of his songs, Bhagavan Ramana says that the ‘I’ is nothing but Siva who is present in all the life forms including Lord Vishnu and Brahma. He has not composed any song on Lord Vishnu or Brahma. Is he not a Jivan Mukta?

Remember that all the aforementioned incidents had happened only after He had Realized the Self.

You will find answers to your question if you can answer the above questions.