After many years as a deeply devoted student of Gangaji, I began to recognize that although Gangaji's teaching was powerful, even life changing, it was also deeply flawed. Her approach to the teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi and her master HWL Poonja, better known as Papaji, supports a profoundly deep awakening, but simply does not address the vasanas or latent tendencies of the ego and genetic mind that allows the underlying egoic identification and associated patterns of suffering to continue.
After nine long years of deep inquiry, a deep recognition of this subtle and also gross flaw in the teaching began to take root, which was a catalyst for a ruthless inquiry and profound deepening. At the time, it became clear there was a huge difference between the teaching and depth of realization of Sri Ramana Maharshi compared to the teaching and depth of realization of Gangai, but I was not sure what that difference entailed. It was October of 2010 and it was crystal clear that something was missing—It was the early stages of a surprising recognition of a pervasive flaw in the western perspective of Ramana's teaching.
From the moment I heard that Arunachala was a sacred mountain and Ramana's Master, I was in complete awe. Not only was Ramana's teacher a mountain, it was a living master that was still in physical form. Usually the master of a master has either been buried in a samadhi tomb or reduced to ashes, but amazingly Ramana's teacher is still in form. How rare is and precious is this? This profound mystery was the catalyst for traveling to Tiruvannamalai India to stand at the feet of Sri Arunachala Siva the living presence of Ramana's Master.
I intuitively felt this mysterious mountain would reveal what I was certain was the missing link. This intuition proved to be true—a great change began to take place on December 31, 2010—Ramana's Birthday at Sri Bhagavan Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai India. A few weeks after arriving at Ramana Ashram, I happened to be standing outside Bhagavan's samadhi tomb when Sri Ramana Maharshi walked out into the sunlight.
It was clearly Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi standing there and he was staring at me with his famous penetrating gaze. After what seemed like an eternity he asked, "This name of yours. Is it real?" In that instant my birth name and everything associated with it vanished—a deep realization of emptiness began to unfold and my heart opened like a lotus flower in the sun. It was only an instant, but when I looked back he was gone.
The next day I became deadly ill. I was so sick there was no real possibility of doing anything. It was my great good fortune that hotel in which I was staying had a window that looked out upon the majestic form of Arunachala Siva. As I lay there, with a fierce sore throat and fever, the question arose; "Why would Ramana call this mountain his Master?"
Since I was a prisoner in my own body, and there was no possibility of doing anything else, I surrendered to this illness as a sort of divinely ordained vision quest. For several days, I laid on the bed from dawn until dusk, in the most profound silence, and contemplated the mysterious form of Sri Arunachala Siva. All I did for days was stared out the window at this amazing eternal Master.
No words can ever describe what unfolded. It was a mysterious meeting of something that no words can ever describe. After several days of being immersed in this deep contemplation, beautiful poetry emerged from the depths, "Om Arunachala who can describe you? You are the form of emptiness," I wrote after days upon days of being enfolded in its mysterious splendor. I was completely enraptured by what I can only describe as a the living presence of Sri Sri Sri Arunachala Siva.
After seven days, I was feeling refreshed and the illness had all but vanished. It was dusk and the sun was setting low on the horizon. As the amber light of the setting sun flooded the room, I was staring out the window at the majestic form of Sri Arunachala when Sri Ramana Maharshi suddenly materialized. He was sitting cross legged and seemed to be floating a few inches above my bed. He was very alive, solid, like you could reach out and touch him, but at the same time it was like he was made out of light, like a hologram. He was completely silent and his eyes shown with an ethereal light.
He sat there in the most profound silence for several minutes when suddenly an image of a large river flowing into the Ganga appeared in front of him. Both rivers merged together and vanished into the huge expanse of the ocean on the Indian coast. As he sat there, staring deep into my eyes, he said, "Leave your name and everything it means at the feet of Arunachala Siva." He paused for a very long time and suddenly said, "Sunyata!" After saying this he vanished with an audible swishing sound and a flash of light. At the time I was completely stunned, "What just happened? Sunyata is Buddhist? Why did he say Sunyata?" I wondered in shocked amazement. In that timeless moment the name Kosi Sunyata was born.
I've been blessed with what I can only describe as several visitations from Sri Ramana Maharshi. I've also had many mysterious mystical experiences prior to these visitations, including the mysterious vision of Jesus Christ in 1997 at Gurumayi's ashram in Oakland California. I am and was always in complete awe of these mysterious experiences—all of them were infused with the highest spiritual teachings, most of which I did not understand until years later. Ramana's inexplicable appearance was shocking and deeply moving, but at the time it seemed very strange that he would use the word Sunyata—one of the highest teachings of the Buddha. Clearly it was meant a miraculous transmission of the highest teaching—the living emptiness in the core—but the deeper significance was not fully understood until many years later.
The name Kosi has always meant surrender—a river vanishing into the ocean—the vast indescribable expanse of the living truth known as the Self. As Ramana illuminated, "The Self of all the Selves." Since that time, it has become very clear that Kosi Sunyata was the full name given by Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. Taking this name on destroyed every vestige of my birth name as well as the past or any possibility of a future tied to this name—the name Kosi Sunyata represents the great and eternal surrender of the mantra, teaching, and practice of living emptiness.
Chills ran up and down the entire length of the body when someone recently informed that a man named Emmanuel was given the name "Sunyata" in the inexplicable silence of Ramana's presence when Ramana was still in physical form at Ramana Ashram in the 1946 time frame. Emmanuel was apparently much more spiritually mature and immediately recognized Sunyata as his name, mantra, and practice.
Sunyata is a vast living consciousness contained within form and free of all form. Sunyata is always aware as the mantra, emptiness, and living silence we all are. The purest of pure teachings—the clear awareness—always aware sunyata. This is the great and eternal teaching of the Buddha—form is emptiness and emptiness is form—The Heart Sutra!
Sunyata. This is the single word that describes the life and teaching of Sri Ramana. Always aware Sunyata—the living emptiness in the core.
Jai Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi! I bow to your most Holy and Eternal feet. Sunyata!