Be Empty

Losing the self to be the Self

Teachings of TL - Introduction - Part One

THIS PAGE -  Introduction    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-realization    Illusion    How to develop unattachment to the world    There can be no...    Practice    Letter 3    Concentration    The Mind    Letter 4    What is creation?  

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The Teachings of Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar 


These teachings are contained in two quite fat notebooks that I rediscovered during a recent visit to Nepal and Sri Tirtha Lal's family. I should say families, since all four sons and three daughters have grown up and have families of their own. After many years of growing up with them and their father, 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.

Shivaratri Day 1971

Believe it or not, these teachings were written down, but not originated, to a large extent by myself! Many 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 realize 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 to a deity, and morning and  evening meditation focussed on the feet, - in fact the large toe-nail – of the deity he prescribed at initiation for each as the image and form of the Supreme. 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, we would have very little to go on.

In later years, as can be seen in 'Bed Crow', 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 this 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. 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 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 itself, developed through the practice of such surrender of the individual self, that reveals itself as the Self alone, leaving  no trace of distinction or presence of any 'other'.

Sri Tirtha Lal himself attributed everything in his own journey, in the absence of a guru or teacher, to his 'Father', Lord Shiva Mahadev, and in perhaps one of the last photos of him (shown below) he is seated with his favourite picture of Shiva behind him. God is the guru, and the guru is god.  There is no doubt about it.

The story of Sri Ramakrishna, (briefly told here) should be enough to convince anyone of the unity of destination of all paths, and the role of god as the guru, and vice versa, - in teaching the aspirant up to the very threshold of complete, final and formless enlightenment, in which all are one.

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 or feeling, and degree of a form of devotion. "Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also".

Now you may find some of my summaries at the beginning sound a little naïve. Please bear in mind that as mentioned already, I was only 22, on a search in the fabled East for the answer to life, the universe and everything! I had but a very basic knowledge or understanding of what it was all about, but I knew I wanted a path and decided to believe that this man would take me there. I have to say it was never easy, especially at the beginning, initially for my ego to accept the idea of a guru and to submit to a certain degree of discipline, and then even more so to accept the curtailment of the freedom of my erstwhile hippy days! What sustained me despite these 'deprivations', was the (naïve) enthusiasm that I would 'get this thing' in a matter of months and go home and tell my friends! So you will get the picture as Tirtha Lal started telling me what was to be done and I put my best effort into following his every word. As he has written, you are welcome to do the same!


After an initial 3 months in Nepal I returned to England for a while, and interspersed here and there you will find some letters TL sent to me there and later in Australia, and to others also. Then there are passages that he dictated after sliding the notebook to me across the floor....... eventually some tape transcripts and finally his own writing itself when he felt like putting pen to paper. I will try distinguishing between these by using different coloured fonts (green - original words, red - summarised), however, both TL's and my handwriting varied from time to time, so that I sometimes get really confused. Neither is the quality of English much of a guide because with more frequent usage, his language became much more fluent....... unless I did a bit of editing as I wrote. Sorry, I can't remember!

So, please enjoy these writings........ they do indeed constitute the teaching of Sri Tirtha Lal, and don't get frustrated if you find yourself unable as yet to 'get' this illusive, riddle-solving 'Supreme' and feel frustrated by his cajoling and insistent proclamation that there is without doubt an ultimate state that is stateless, encompassing all and yet is none but itself alone. TL himself has often said that only fully-realized people can fully understand and enjoy his words, as I'm sure they will, - 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 Self, - not even its own witness, - being empty, being nothing, - and absolutely pure.

Patrick. January 2009




The Teachings of Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar

Part One


God is Great and Kind to All


There is doubt when here is something,

Sun shines where there is nothing

Something and nothing are

Still beyond/below something.

This you will realise

When you see within, that

God is great

And kind to all.



Regarding everything as belonging to God, maintaining equality in success or failure, renouncing attachment and the desire for fruits of actions, surrendering totally thyself through mind, speech and body to the Deity, one will without doubt reach the point.



The Boatman

We cannot travel in two boats at the same time. Only when we are firmly seated in one boat according to the instructions of the boatman and obeying his orders, can we begin to cross safely to the other side. 

So we must continue to trust and obey the boatman without fail, until such time as we reach the safety of the other shore.

If one is to take the spiritual path, he must put complete faith in his guide, who knows that path and all its hidden dangers, and therefore obey his every word. Furthermore, if he is to tread this path successfully, he cannot hope to do so while looking to any other path, worldly or otherwise.

So, having once set foot on the path, we must follow it only, sincerely, with


    * PURITY *



........trusting always with complete faith in our guide until such time as we reach the end, - the point from which there is no return. Then, and only then, shall we be safe.



Letter 1:

 My dear Atman! You know this path is the most natural one. In essence it is nothing but manifesting what you are exactly. Thou art the all-pervading, immortal soul. Be rooted in this Supreme Consciousness, and be sure that eternity is your very nature. If you agree with me and want to sail in my boat for the other side, I feel always happy (for a boatman survives only for such service), but one thing you must keep in mind that the moment you step in the boat you must be strict and follow him completely til you will reach the aim. Even his self (ego) one has to sacrifice in time, then what to talk of worldly things which are related to this.



Letter 2:

People may and may not agree with you – what of that – when you have no time to think over the matter which comes in your mind except your aim of life.

Now you are for the goal, but in time later you will realise you are the goal alone, when you will have end for ever. Try to stand first in this class of the universe always. He who is first class will be rewarded, rest so so. One will get what he is badly in need of accordingly, if he will move correctly on the right path. Otherwise, one will have to face the consequence.




How to control bad thoughts

What are bad thoughts? What are good thoughts? There is only one good thought, - that of the Supreme. All other thoughts may be called 'bad'.

It is the same with all things, all actions, with people and places, - that which distracts our attention from the Supreme may be known as 'bad'. So also that which helps us to think only of the Supreme is 'good'.

If a person calls at a house and finds no welcome there at all, he will not call again. So we should have no welcome for evil thoughts until they come no more.

Similarly if a man's house be completely full of invited guests, then unwelcome visitors will be unable to enter. So if our minds are always full with thoughts of the Supreme only, then evil thoughts will find no room there and will be unable to enter.



Any time the mind gets out of control, - stop, sit, chant His name or meditate on the deity until control is gained.


How to think of the Supreme 

As a child loves its mother, so should we love the Supreme who, as a mother loves her child, provides every need and comfort.

A child that really wants to go with its mother, to be with her, will not be content with any alternative that may be offered. Sweets and toys it will not take; coins it will not take; it will not be content to play with other children, and even when its mother slaps it, the child still cries for her. What mother will not take her child with her then?

Then even as they go together and the child gets tired, even so it does not give up, but struggles all the time to keep up with its mother. What mother would not then pick up her child and carry it in her arms?

Just so, we should be devoted to the Supreme, as a child, with simplicity, purity and firm determination. 

Just so, we should want to be with the Supreme mother, and crying for her thus, who shall not be answered?




How to look for the Supreme 

Like one in a dark room looking for a box of treasure. He will begin to feel around, pick up one thing and then another and say, “This is not it; no, this is not what I'm looking for,” - and put them down again, until he finds the treasure. Then he will know, as he feels the box, “Ah! This is what I've been looking for.”

In this way we should look for the Supreme, and not hold on to anything else that we may find during the search.

In the same way, if one wishes to see in the dark with a torch, - if its beam is widely dispersed, there will not be much light, and we cannot see things clearly. On the other hand, if the beam is concentrated,we can see things clearly.

So we should always concentrate our attention on the Supreme instead of seeing many things, but not clearly. Then we will be able to see Him most clearly of all.



My dear, dive deep as much as you can, inside the ocean of Truth, with the skill.




How to find the right desire 

Life is like a train on which we all have to travel. Unhappy is he who has nowhere to go when the train stops. Happy is he who knows where he is going, - happily he can look forward to that time.

We all of us have to die some time, - that is the point to which life leads. Therefore, who would not want to know where he is going, and to take the best route possible to get there?



By reliance on the Divine Being (your aim in life), eliminate fear, care, worry and anxiety.

There are two forces in man, one leading him upward and the other leading him downward to impurity and ignorance. The tendency to think of sense-objects is indeed the cause of bondage. Liberation means nothing but the destruction of the impure mind. Treat sense-pleasures, name, fame etc. - these earthly reputations, - as paltry.

Consecrate your life to selfless task, contact then the everlasting Truth – Real in Reality, at last.




     How we are

    I. OUTER COVER (body) - mortal


        II. SELF + EGO - immortal

 - which, according to KARMA, can enter into an ant or can enter into an elephant.

- it will always be moving from one form to another.










                                                  How to work for Self-Realisation

What is dark cannot be changed into light. What is light cannot be changed into dark. We are dark, we are untruth. How then can we become light? How can we become Truth?

The light which sustains the universe, and us in it, is pure light. From our present state, however, we can only see in a dark light, as if looking through dark glasses. The sun is pure light, but what we see is dark. That dark glass is our illusion, MAYA. The light shining through from the outside is pure, but from inside it appears impure.

Our work, therefore, is to try to see through the dark glass and perceive the source of light, even as that light still shines through the same glass.

How can this be done

Just as the pure light penetrates the dark glass by virtue of its purity and fineness, so we must also make ourselves pure and fine enough that we can penetrate the glass. We must become so free of the grossness of ego, like a ray of pure light. Then we may see through the illusion.




A ring is not a "ring" as such, but the gold of which it is made. In the same way, 'I' am not the 'doer' of anything, - the 'doer' is the Supreme alone, by whose grace alone is everything done. This is our illusion, - inasmuch as the essence of a ring is not "ring", but gold alone. In the same way, the essence of our selves is not 'I', but the Supreme.

Only when we can rid ourselves of the concepts resulting from illusion will we be able to see what is Real in Reality. 

But we are deeply rooted in the dirt of illusion. Like a seed that has been fertilized by desire for God, we must strive upward with great effort and determination, with patience and with caution. 

Patience, even as we might put one tiny hair on the scales, one at a time. It will be a long time before the scales begin to move, but the time will come when the pile of hairs is so great that the scales will tip and the dish will fall with the addition of just one hair. 'Addition' - that is YOGA. In the same way, water dripping in the same place, little by little, will make a hole in the hardest rock, in time.

Again, however, even on coming at last into the sunlight, a young plant is in danger and needs protection. It can easily be broken by wind or rain, still more by insects and other animals. So it has to be securely fenced in and constantly protected if it is to grow into a strong tree.

Indeed, even an elephant can then be tied to such a tree and yet it will not move.

So we must have great effort and determination; great patience and caution. With the purest simplicity and the simplest purity, think of 'Him' only. With our love and devotion we may thus come to 'Him'.



If 'He' is testing us, why not prove to 'Him' that we are worthy of His blessing by having full faith. 

Develop the habit of blaming yourself rather than blame others. This habit will help you finish the pollution (ego). Apply this in your daily activities and you will see how fast you are moving towards the purity.




How to develop unattachment to the world 

According to the eastern ideal, when a girl gets married, her husband becomes for her the whole object of her life and duty. She regards him as the right side of her body, and herself as the left side of his. After marriage, she gives up her own family and former life and her sole duty becomes the welfare of her husband and his household. Not thinking of herself, nor yet any gain to herself, she lives only to please him.

Now, the husband, before trusting his wife with all the family possessions and affairs of life, is likely to test her to see if she is indeed worthy of his trust, - to see if her concern is for him only, or if her interest lies in his wealth and possessions. He will be very careful however, to make sure that she is unaware that she is being tested, so that the results will be genuine.  

Now the wife, if she is pure and sincere in her love for her husband, though be unaware she is being tested, will nevertheless always be behaving in the correct manner, and therefore passes all the tests.

So, when the husband is satisfied, then he will give her the keys to his house and all his possessions and affairs in life, trusting her completely.

In such a way we must have perfect, selfless love for God that our concern is only for 'Him'. Behaving thus in all situations, even though we may not see their importance, we may prove our sincerity and be trusted with the keys to "His' kingdom.

For this however, we have to sacrifice our former life, even family and friends, however close and dear to us they may be, so that we can serve 'Him' with undivided attention, wanting nothing for ourselves.

If a pin is placed between two magnets, that which is nearest will draw itself to itself. Man is like a pin placed between worldly things on the one hand, and God on the other. If he is attached to worldly things, he will be sucked deeper and deeper into their confusion. But if he should become detached from the world and work towards God, then eventually he will become free of the pull of the world and enter into the field of attraction to God, - until the latter's power begins to pull him towards itself, ever stronger untill he becomes completely 'attached'.

So, in the beginning the struggle towards the Supreme is very difficult and requires much strength. Later, as one breaks free of the world, there exists a pull from both sides, but with determination, moving more and more towards 'Him', one is helped by 'His' attracting power, and the way becomes easier.



Enquire within.

There is one essence, the all-beauty at the back of the mind and behind all objects of the universe.

You are that ATMAN in full, at the end. Realise this, that is all.




There can be...

                                     No Meditation                   withou              Concentration

                               No Concentration              without                Devotion

                               No Devotion                     without               Sincerity

                               No Sincerity                     without                Yearning

                               No Yearning                     without                Faith

                               No Faith                          without                Purity of Mind

                               No Purity                         without                Discipline

                               No Discipline                    without                Control of Senses

                               No Control                       without                Detachment from Worldly Things

                               No Detachment                 without                Discrimination

                               No Discrimination              without                Right Company



"Til this ego is here, there will be good and bad".




We are caught in the network of illusion. That which keeps us caught is our 'ego'. We must understand this.

So long as there remains a single trace of ego, we cannot be free of illusion.

As long as we feel the desire to assert this 'I', we are still caught in the trap of illusion. 

Thus, in practice, we must disown every thought and feeling of 'I', of 'me' and 'mine'. In action we must want nothing for ourselves. That which we have to do we must do only in the name of the Supreme. Every action, perform for 'His' sake alone. For it is untruth to say that 'I' exist. In truth, only 'He' exists. In truth, 'He' is everything. All that happens, whether it appears good or bad to us, is 'His' wish and therefore right.

If then, we want to reach 'Him', we must be completely unaffected by the world. By means of constant control of the ego which always wants to react and assert itself in anger, greed, lust, hatred, envy, jealousy and pride, - we must remain unmoved and see all as the will of God. Let 'His' will be done, never the will of our ego.

God has created the world as an illusion. That which binds us to this illusion and therefore prevents us from seeing God is our ego which wants only to play with the world, without which it would not exist, and vice versa. Thus:

The world is the illusion of God

The ego is the illusion of Self

By realizing our true self, we will realise God.  In order to realise our true self we must be completely free of the illusion of the ego and its world.

So, as in action, so also in thought and meditation, we must fight to be free of the world and the ego by which we are bound to it. We must realise that the world is 'His' kingdom, not ours. We must think not 'me and mine', but 'Thee and Thine'. Not 'for my sake', but 'for Thy sake', must we perform every action. Excluding all thought of ourselves, thinking only of 'Him' by prayer and meditation and love, thus may we come to 'Him', our true Self.

By constantly renouncing the illusion of world and ego, by sacrificing all actions of the body and mind to 'Him', may we thus always be striving to attain union with 'Him'. This is YOGA.



"If a man is sincere, he must realise God. It is the eternal law".




Letter 3:

"Please don't think of yourself. Think of God. "He' will supply us with the things we really need as well as test us in time. We are no better than servants in the house.

Once we get 'His' blessing, all other matters become trivial. We can't do anything. We are simply unconscious, though we feel to be conscious. If will is weak, we feel helpless. Be bold enough and fight against your environment to make your will strong. When will is strong - one encounters no opposition. One can go up easily unto the Lotus feet of Lord when one will remain equally equal all the time with this worldly pleasure and pain".






Life is like a shop where there are many things we can have if we are prepared to pay the correct price. If we don't have enough money to pay for what we want, we have to work hard until we do. Only then will the article we desire be ours, - when we pay the exact price.

Now, when we go to the shop we must be quite sure what we want, and ask for that only. If, instead, we spend our time looking at all the other things, no doubt we will be wasting the shop-keeper's time as well as our own, such that he may lose interest in our custom and no longer serve us when eventually we ask for what we want.

So, - we must first of all decide what it is that we want from the shop. If we want rice, - who would not want the best quality? Likewise, if we want knowledge, - who would not want the highest knowledge? If we want love, - who would not want the purest love? If we want security, - who would not want absolute security, - and of life, the eternal?

Having decided definitely what it is that we want, we must ask for that and not waste our time with other things that are of no use to us.

But, if we cannot pay the exact price, we cannot get what we want. However, if we are determined enough to get that, then no effort will be too great for us until we can. For any article we must pay its equivalent value or the shopkeeper will not give it to us.

Now, if we want God or the Supreme, who is everything, how much must we give? We must be prepared to give the equivalent value in ourselves, - that is, everything.

When we make an image of the sun on a piece of paper through a magnifying glass, the moment that image becomes pure and in exact proportion to the sun, it will burn, - there will be fire, even as the sun itself is fire.

Just so, by giving everything of ourselves to 'Him', we may produce such an image of 'His' purity that by 'His' grace we may receive that fire of 'His', which is truly 'He', the one Reality.




The mind

The mind is like the son of a woman who can have no children, - it is nothing but nonsense, and is the father of ego.

We must fight to be free of its illusion and constantly be on our guard against it, for it will fight for its existence, knowing all our 'loop-holes'.  We must remain unmoveable on the path towards Reality, and not be tempted into depondency and depression.  If tempted, let us ask the mind, "Where do you want to lead me?"  Its path is only that of the world, that of illusion, - that from which we want to escape.




Letter 4:

"If a man is accustomed to carry 10kg now, - to carry 2kg in future is quite easy. But at first it will be much more difficult to carry 10kg. Please don't let the chance go for nothing, without creating the strength to carry this weight gladly.

Medicine is not sweet to take, but see how it cures the disease, if taken regularly.

*There is no charm in this world except 'Him'.*

Always fix yourself up to your target and have patience to face whatever comes on the way".





What is creation?

What is creation? - It exists only in the mind of man.

For example, there is a harmless piece of rope lying in a dark corner.  When a man sees it, he immediately thinks it is a snake; he is frightened and runs away.  Now if someone should say to that man, "Come and look again, - it is quite harmless," - fearing for his life, the man would refuse to go there again, - only a few would have the courage to return.  Then, seeing that it was no more than a piece of rope, all his fear would disappear completely.

Thus we are caught in the grip of our own mind and its illusion.  We must overcome this in order to see what is really there.




"One's own duty, though devoid of merit, is preferable to the duty of another well performed. Even death in the performance of one's own duty brings blessedness; another's duty is fraught with fear". The Bhagavadgita Ch.III, v.35

We are following 'another's duty' (DHARMA), - that is why fear is there. To remain as yourself, as one forever, - that is the real Dharma in reality.

Meditation is the real food of the real aspirant. Don't waste your valuable time for all the transitory - invalid things.



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