The Teachings of Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar
This page: Introduction
Part 1: God is great and kind to all The Boatman Letters 1,2 How to control bad thoughts How to think of the Supreme
How to look for the Supreme How to find the right desire How we are How to work for self-realisation Illusion
How to develop detachment for the world There can be no... Practice Letter 3 Concentration The mind Letter 4
What is creation?
Part 2: The Real Man Letter 5 Stages of realisation Letter 6 Letter 7 What is yoga? Letter 8 Samadhi Letter 9
What is salvation and how? The seven stages of knowledge Letter 10 What is society? How far is God?
Mind cannot exist without an object Effect/affect
Part 3: ATMA 1 OM! When shall we get peaceful life? Is life evil? Hallucination Will power ATMA 2 Intellect
Desire for permanence Mind
Part 4: Desire for salvation Separation Freed from hope Organization This body Is visualisation imagination?
Personality/Impersonality Comments on Shankaracharya's Hymn to Sri Daksinamurthi
Part 5: Suicide - Sin? A small gap Success means losing Dharma Letter 11 - It is up to you Imagination and Concentration Shiva
Give up the habit of self-proving Alone is He Right and wrong Concentration The 3 Gunas Letter 12 - To err is human
Part 6: Desire Ahimsa/Non-violence Smoke Rama Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion) Samsara Habit
Imagination & Concentration
Part 7: Concentration - Practice Vasanas / Latent impressions The Self which is the Self is the Self alone Non-Self/Self
The Real House What am I?
Part 9: Thoughtlessness Jiva and Shiva Letter 13 Secret Wisdom One Letter 14 No Separation Letter 15 Letter 16
Letter 17 Letter 18 Letter 19 Letter 20 Two Ways to the Supreme Concept
The Teachings of Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar
These teachings are mostly contained in two quite large notebooks that I rediscovered during a recent visit to Nepal and Sri Tirtha Lal's family - although I should say families, since all four sons and three daughters have grown up and have families of their own. After 'growing up' with them and their father in my twenties and early thirties, as I grow older, I appreciate more and more the uniqueness of that experience and the love for him that I was so lucky to share then and still share, with and for them them, today.
TL, family and friends - Shivaratri Day 1971
Believe it or not, most of these teachings were written down, but not originated, to a large extent by myself. Most of the earlier passages were written as a kind of précis of Tirtha Lal's teaching day by day in the very early years after I first met him as a rather naïve 22 year-old seeker around the beginning of 1971. As I remember, he would always check what I had written.
Reading them again at such a distance in time, I realise that in essence his teaching was always the same, however, the practice which he instructed us to follow at the beginning had more emphasis on the path of Bhakti or devotion, with morning and evening meditation focussed on the feet of the deity he prescribed at initiation as one's particular image and form through which to seek and approach the Supreme Reality in all. Along with this he urged us to think as much as possible about our deity and to develop the silent repetition of his or her name as a continuous habit throughout the day.
Some readers may recoil at the traditional 'guru-devotee' attitude and instructions that begin these teachings. Some, indeed, reject all gurus as some kind of super-salesmen with an agenda of ulterior motives, either for financial gain or worldly prestige. There is no denying that there are always some such charlatans in any field, however if it were not for the writings and teachings of those we count to be genuine, who have truly gone beyond the universal human condition and have used their remaining 'life-energy' to point the way and inspire us to seek the Truth, we would have very little to go on.
In later years, as can be seen in 'Bed Crow', The Avadhuta Gita 1-60 and I and You, Tirtha Lal's teaching became more purely Advaitic, meaning 'not two', and emphasised the Supreme goal as the Self alone - Emptiness - beyond all names and forms. My own feeling about the apparent dichotomy between this and the path of devotion to a personalised form or image of that Supreme, is that there is no essential discrepancy between form and formlessness. Indeed, as long as we retain any sense of individual existence, we remain within the realm of form - which includes even our 'concept' of the formless! The path of devotion to a deity is as valid, and difficult, as any other - and none of the 'Yogas' or paths are mutually exclusive. Ideally they all garner the emotions and mind and direct and invest their concentration in a single point of origin, to the exclusion of all else. I am firmly convinced that the successful pursuit of the path of devotion, involving the personification of the Absolute Principle in the form of God or Goddess - or even a stone - can result in the devotee's ultimate vision of his/her deity and total absorption of their self in the utter bliss thereof. Yet it is the devotee's concentration and perspective of complete equanimity - developed through the practice of such surrender of the individual self or ego - that reveals itself, and indeed any and every object of its perception, to be nothing but the Self alone, leaving no trace of distinction, presence or existence of any 'other'.
In fact, Sri Tirtha Lal himself attributed everything in his own spiritual journey, in the absence of a guru or teacher, to his 'Father', Lord Shiva Mahadeva. He would compose a song to Shiva each year for the occasion of Shivaratri (some of which are included here) when he would sing this and give teaching and his blessing to friends and family at the picnic-style celebration in the woods behind Pashupati Temple. In perhaps one of the last photos of him (shown below) he is seated with his favourite picture of Lord Shiva behind him. God is the guru, and the guru is god. There is no doubt about it.
Sri Tirtha Lal
Lord Shiva Mahadev
Apart from the Vedic pronouncement "Tatvamasi" (That thou art), it is common to find in devotional hymns and texts to Lord Shiva, the words "Soham" (I am He or That) and "Shivoham" (I am Shiva) - as in the famous refrain in Shankaracharya's Nirvana Shatakam: "Chidananda Rupa - Shivoham, Shivoham", meaning "I am the bliss of consciousness - I am Shiva, I am Shiva". (There is a beautiful rendering of this hymn here: https://youtu.be/UrZUQh6SpcQ and https://youtu.be/7FZFvFWztOA but I'm not sure how long these URLs will remain valid).
Herein lies the basis for reconciling the paths of devotion and Knowledge (Bhakti and Gyana) and the teachings you will find here. If any further explanation were needed, the story of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, (briefly told here) should be enough to convince anyone of the unity of destination of all paths and the role of devotion in teaching the aspirant up to the very threshold of complete and final enlightenment - beyond form or formlessness or any semblance of duality - in which all is one and indivisible.
For those however who find the idea of devotion hard to take, may I suggest that for 'God', 'Deity', 'Lord', 'Him' and the 'Supreme', you substitute ''Self', Emptiness', 'That', or any designation of the ultimate of your choosing, bearing in mind, of course, that any attraction, dedication of mind, feeling or degree of interest is, in fact, a form of devotion. "Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also".
Interspersed here and there throughout these pages you will find some letters TL sent to me and to other followers. Then there are passages that he purposely dictated after sliding the notebook to me across the floor, some tape transcripts (unfortunately no-one thought to preserve the original audio tapes) and finally his own written pieces from earlier and later years. All of these original words (with some superficial editing of grammar etc.) are presented in green print, whereas the summaries that I wrote of his daily teachings you will see are in red.
So, please enjoy these writings - they do indeed constitute the teaching of Sri Tirtha Lal - but don't despair if you find yourself unable as yet to get this universally illusive but riddle-solving 'Supreme' or feel frustrated by his cajoling exhortations and repeated insistence that there is without doubt an ultimate, stateless state that encompasses all - and yet which is none but Itself alone. TL himself often said that only fully-realised people could fully understand and enjoy his words - but hence the teaching for those that don't! And be sure there is nothing to 'get'! It is only a question of removing the coverings (and it may take lifetimes, but patience IS a virtue!) so that the self can shine - completely untouched, as it is, the One Single Self - not even its own witness - being empty, being nothing - and absolutely pure.
January 2009 (revised May 2021)