This film is by Stephen Wolinsky, a student of Maharaj, and produced and filmed by Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo, organizers of the Science and Nonduality Conference and principals of Neti Neti Productions.
A theme of my recent articles has been the “Sacred,” which implies reverence and devotion. One of the palpable impressions one gets from Rays of the Absolute is that it is consummately a labor of love – and devotion.
The reverence Wolinsky feels for his teacher fuels this movie at every turn. He is so obviously grateful for the time he had with Maharaj, and now, returning to India to relive some of those teachings, he is reunited with other devotees who are then interviewed about the teacher and his message.
His task with the Neti Neti film crew was to reconnect with Maharaj’s followers, students, and translators, and to ask them two questions:
- What were the main tenets of the teaching that “landed” for them?
- What had happened in their lives during the intervening years since Maharaj’s death?
The interviews are wonderfully interspersed with older clips of Maharaj himself and other vignettes which give the viewer a taste of what it might be like to follow such a guru and, perhaps more importantly, to apply his wisdom and go deeper into his ideas.
One of the great things that really comes across in the film is the amazing community which emerged around Maharaj. We also see Wolinsky’s appreciation not only for his teacher, but for those who shared his own devotion to the work.
Many documentaries affect a kind of superior tone or perspective, where an interviewer stands apart and tries to be “objective” or impersonal. While there is little romanticizing in his treatment of this subject, Wolinsky is unabashed in pouring his humanity into the project itself, exchanging warmth and appreciation with everyone with whom he comes into contact.
His relationship with Maharaj is explored and funny tales and experiences are shared with much mirth and laughter.
Two core ideas stayed with me after completing my first viewing:
“If you want to see the truth, you have to dissolve I am.”
“How can words explain that from which words originate?”
As you watch the film and absorb the ideas and context of the teaching, you also get a flavor for India; it is filmed in the city of Mumbai (which had a terrorist incident not long ago), and shows the life of the city – both the abject poverty and the stunning beauty. The humility and simplicity of Maharaj also comes across in this way – you see his house, where he taught, and the streets he walked while Wolinsky interacts with the subjects of the documentary. It is a lovely and loving ambience.
An aspect of the production that can be easily overlooked is the music – it is unobtrusive yet beautifully evocative, and sets just the right “tone” for the various inquiries. The entire film is exquisite, forming a fascinating complement to the SAND Conference, in a way, by intimately exploring a direct means of contacting the sort of sacred science that the neuroscientists, physicists, and thought leaders talk about on the stage and in meetings at the Science and Nonduality Conference – hosted by the film’s director and producer.
Another similar labor of love was William Patrick Patterson’s biography of Gurdjieff.
Like Gurdjieff, there are legends surrounding Maharaj’s magical or mystical powers, but in the film we are told that he stopped demonstrating these and instead focused on the one big idea – dissolution of the Self.
One of the stunning similarities between Gurdjieff and Maharaj is their cosmology; Gurdjieff has a precise hierarchy of levels of Being, culminating, also, in the “Absolute” – which is beyond description and language. Gurdjieff’s hierarcy is vibrational and relates to the musical scale:
Gurdjieff also referred to the “Absolute” and spoke of energetic “rays” that came from the cosmos and with which humans could align. Remember that this is decades before “WiFi” and barely the beginning of radio. And yet in many ways the teachings of Gurdjieff and Maharaj are about “tuning” one’s perceptual abilities to be able to receive such “impressions.”
Of course, critical to such a task is self-knowledge and an end to the interference by the “monkey mind” – the chattering brain from which most of us take our “identity.”
Maharaj’s methodology and attitude also mirrors Gurdjieff’s – he is uncompromising in his stance and oblivious to the acceptance or rejection of others, particularly from a conceptual or scientific perspective. The irascibility of Maharaj is one of the film’s most notable characteristics – he is a true character – and his authenticity also fuels the devotion of his followers.
At one point (Spoiler Alert), a student recalls the teacher’s annoyance at having to be translated and having a book written about him. He had absolutely no ego or pretense and eschewed fame.
The Full Movie:
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