Description: Spiritual connections: how to find spirituality throughout all the
File name: Spiritual connections: how to find spirituality throughout all the
Questions and Answers on Nondual Spiritual Awakening
© Copyright 2007 by Timothy Conway
This long webpage addresses people's practical concerns about authentic nondual spiritual awakening or enlightenment. We address or annihilate (!) the usual issues concerning "how to spiritually awaken from the 'me'-dream?" We consider people's apparent "blocks" to awakening or "problems" in "staying awake" or "living this awakening within the world." And so forth.
Please NOTE that this webpage will mainly appeal to persons of an "intuitive mystic sage" temperament, combined, perhaps, with some of the other temperaments ("devotional," "compassionate server," etc.). I have written more about the "12 Spiritual Temperaments" at this other webpage.
The rest of this webpage contains actual responses to some recent emails that have come in from people worldwide with concerns and questions about their spiritual awakening process. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but should suffice.
The Q&A exchanges presented here will likely resolve any issues that spiritual aspirants may have. If you have a burning question that you don't see addressed here, feel free to write an email me at the e-address given at the bottom of this page. I may not immediately have the time to respond, but will try (in the midst of a very busy earthside schedule) to get back to you as soon as humanly possible. And if it seems fruitful, i may get around to posting the exchange here, for the edification of others (changing names to protect anonymity).
Obviously, the best questions have their own energy that can serve the aspirant as a form of self-enquiry / âtma-vicâra, a kind of Zen kôan. Such questions need not be "answered" in a merely conceptual way that dismisses or suppresses the deep passion and healthy curiosity underlying the question or inquiry. When you sift out the inessential questions from the superficial levels of the mind and come to your most basic and deep existential issues, the questions arising from this level will have a great sincerity and forcefulness about them. This vital spiritual intensity or earnestness of inquiry will either "answer itself" or else elicit the kind of living answer from a helpful spiritual friend that will, in either case, awaken you to Your Real Divine Nature: unborn, undying, unchanging, absolutely real and solid, all-embracing Being-Awareness-Bliss-Peace-Light-Love.
Excerpt from Article: "Nondual Awakening: Its Source & Applications"
[Note: Here are excerpts from Part 3 and all of Part 4 from a paper that appears in the book Listening from the Heart of Silence: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, Volume II (John Prendergast & G. Kenneth Bradford, Eds.), Paragon House, June 2007. These excerpts are copyrighted 2007 by Timothy Conway. Part 3 may be considered a long answer to the question, "How does spiritual awakening happen?"]
III. Four Modes of Awakening
Just how Awareness awakens from the me-dream is wondrously mysterious. [...] Awareness evidently uses any of four modes to awaken from its own Divine Comedy or Playful Game of apparent (not actual) “Self-forgetfulness.” [...]
• Completely stopping/dropping/letting go the illusion of being merely a separate, personal self. There’s no sense of movement, direction or shift in this radical stopping/dropping, only the cessation of me-and-mine via the realization of “Be Still.” In this inner stillness, the obsessive dream of myself/my-world simply falls off and Divine Freedom remains as pristine, Self-luminous No-thing amidst the Everything of spontaneous bodymind activity.
• The way a lens suddenly shifts from being blurry to clearly focused, one clearly Re-cognizes or “Knows again” that one’s real Identity or true Nature is the infinite Openness-Emptiness-Fullness that never moves, changes, shifts, goes anywhere, diminishes or improves. [One's True Nature is not perceived as an object, but Subject-ively it is now clearly re-cognized or known that One is Infinite Awareness.]
• A third mode that Awareness deploys to awaken ItSelf to ItSelf is returning Home, “coming back from” the changeable sense of personal selfhood, usually through the inquiry that asks, “Who am I?” and doesn’t settle for or identify with any image, concept, felt-sense, or storyline that might arise. This Who/What am I? self-enquiry has a way of “pulling” the Self out of its outward-turned mind, the pravritti mârga or “outward path” of involvement with worldly objects or one’s own thoughts or emotions “back into” one’s native, natural condition of ego-free Awareness right HERE. Many folks actually report that, upon awakening, they suddenly feel like they abide in this mysteriously “placeless” place behind their old sense of self; they feel spontaneously, immediately Here, whereas before they felt identified with a superficial entity or process “out there.” Medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart eloquently put it: “God is at Home, man abroad.”
• A fourth way that Awareness awakens itself from feeling identified with dream-circumstances and the dream-persona seems opposite to mode #3. Awareness, so to say, suddenly “penetrates” or “bursts forth beyond”—and thereby annihilates the dream of limited identity, the apparently solid world of me-and-my-objects. This “feels like” a forward movement, a blasting through an old, actually flimsy veil of ignorance, grasping, fear, and any sense of egotism defining itself through this separative ignorance and attachment-aversion. Awareness explodes whatever apparently limiting self-concepts or world-concepts and all binding likes and dislikes (samskâras, vâsanâs) that have arisen as old conditioning. Nothing can bind or limit anymore. One is free, floating, flying, frolicking as the One Alone. Any arising appearances-events are transparent forms or energy-vibrations of this Formless Reality.
In some cases, this awakening happens quite abruptly and “dramatically,” a bright light suddenly switched on, whereas in others it occurs gradually, like sunlight dawning very slowly yet inevitably.
In final Awakening, all selfish “seeking” ceases, yet a natural, non-egoic “healing aspiration” continues, a thorough establishing of Awareness-Freedom-Love-Compassion in all aspects of living, spontaneously clearing out much old shadow-material and habitual bodymind tendencies. [...]
I’ve seen over the many years that excessive use of absolute-level speech by teachers is not fruitful for most individuals. Indeed, “nondual (advaita) talk” can too often be abused in a contrarian one-upping manner that is merely a disguised power-trip on the part of the wise guy/gal. A client or student asks about some personal or social justice issue, to which the “wise one” retorts, “That is just a dream—nothing is really happening.” Such chronic use of absolute-level parlance may look and sound impressive, but is actually corrupt at the core, because it often serves as a subtle put-down rather than loving empowerment. A blend of compassionate, conventional-level psycho-spiritual counsel along with Absolute-level teachings seems to work best for most folks to awaken from the me-dream in a mature, balanced way.
Spontaneous silence can allow our intrinsically mind-free Identity to abide unto ItSelf. Partners or groups relax back into their primordial sahaja (“inborn”/intrinsic) Awareness-Openness. Yet silence done as a “method” can also become ignorant posturing when there is attachment to physical silence and any aversion toward “disrupting” sounds or useful conversation. Nisargadatta Maharaj, faced with people who claimed they only wanted to “meditate with him in silence,” insisted, “Words first, then silence. You must be ripe for silence.” Anyway, in genuine awakening, it doesn’t matter whether the Silence of the Self occasions physical sounds (i.e., words) or their absence. An active mind is no problem for the sage, just as an active body is no problem—indeed, both are dream-like instruments for spontaneous expression and service.
IV. Common Questions About Awakening
Certain questions often arise for those in the awakening process. For example:
1. Q: I cannot seem to find, know or perceive the Self or Awareness. I get a vague sense of the Self, but I can’t seem to bring it clearly into focus.
An oft-heard complaint. The Self is not an object to be rendered “clearer” or “more focused.” The clarity of focus is in realizing that one’s true nature as Awareness is not any kind of object, thing or entity at all. Awareness need only rest or abide as ItSelf, sheer Isness-Aliveness-Sentience-Intelligence, the basic roomy Capacity for experience. Invisible and imperceptible, Awareness need not go in search of ItSelf or try to make an object out of ItSelf, just as a fingertip is not “designed” to touch itself and will only convolute or dislocate itself in trying to do so. If you want to perceive the Self [objectively], behold the world and all its beautiful beings—Divine Forms of the Formless.
2. Q: What basic attitude should be maintained?
Just be capacious no-thingness, with a simple, keen curiosity or affectionate amusement over Who/What am I? And what the hell/heaven is going on here? What is the true nature of this arising pain or pleasure, this discomfort or comfort, this confusion or clarity? What is the real nature or underlying reality of this “me”-subject and “my” objects of experience?
In general, one enquires “What is this? What is this particular saliently-arising state (fear, lust, anger, shame, envy, euphoria, pride, numbness, tightness, nervousness, body sensations, thoughts, memories, images, psychic impulses...)? And for Whom does it arise?”
Awareness being the only Reality, when Awareness investigates Its own emanations-productions, It deconstructs them and knows neti, neti, “I’m not this, not this.” The Buddha often put it, “this [whatever aggregate or state] is not mine; this I am not; this is not my self.” [N'etam mama, n'eso 'ham 'asmi, na meso atta.] This is Buddhist mindfulness, Hindu witnessing, Christian-Sufi watchfulness. No need to get heavy or obsessive with it. There’s nothing to “do” and nobody to “become.”
Just be, just remain as you are, in the relaxed, “natural state,” lucidly dreaming the life-dream, freely noticing-enjoying the basic fact of Awareness and Its objects. And plainly know that You are both this Formless Awareness and these “Form-full” objects. Thus, you can be fully engaged while freely unengaged, compassionately involved while transcendentally uninvolved.
3. Q: Why are we here in the first place?
This, along with many other similar “why” questions, can, of course, be “answered”—e.g., “to love and serve and to enjoy the adventure of being the Formless playing the dance of Form.” Yet “why” is more usefully re-directed to How is it that there is an arising sense of self and world at all?
A related “why”-question is “Why did the Divine Self dream up this painful illusory world and self-sense?” This, too, can be therapeutically shifted to “Precisely how is it that I identify with and problematize any painful situations and self-sense?”
4. Q: [One is often then asked:] “So, ‘how’ come there is suffering?”
One can always point the questioner back to classic Advaitin or Buddhist self-enquiry, “Who or What is aware of ‘suffering’?” The knowing Awareness, after all, must be quite different in kind from its object. This Changeless Principle Right Here recognizes various changing emotional, mental, psychic and physical states like suffering, ennui, loss, desire. The Changeless Awareness is not part of or tied to those changeful aspects of experience. If the person further responds, “well it feels like my suffering is changelessly part of my life,” one can reply, “where is it, then, in deep, dreamless sleep?” as evidence that suffering comes and goes and is not always, changelessly part of one-self.
But it is also therapeutically useful to sometimes speak on a more conventional, psychological level by distinguishing between intensity, pain, and suffering. Basically, any form of physical or emotional pain is a form of intense energy that one does not know how to process psycho-physiologically. There is an ancient, evolutionary programming within different species to perceive and judge certain intense stimuli: “Owww! Painful!” Without this discrimination, most animal species never would have survived, lacking incentive to run away from predators chomping on one’s limbs. So pain is a useful alarm signal. Suffering comes in with neurotically self-obsessing thoughts like “Why is God always doing this to me?” or “I must have lots of really bad karma to have this happen to me.”
One can drop the “suffering” of certain painful situations by letting go inner judgments, resentments, regrets, expectations and the sense of being the hapless target-entity afflicted by cruel outside forces, and instead simply notice pain, along with intelligently making any changes needed (e.g., pulling the hand away from the fire or moving beyond a chronically abusive relationship). This shift from conflicted suffering to fully experiencing pain is well-known to many professionals working in pain-management clinics, where the emergent wisdom has been to teach clients how to meditatively be-the-pain. Studies indicate that many people’s felt-sense of even physical pain actually diminishes considerably, by up to 80%, by focusing upon pain’s raw sensations and not getting entangled in self-obsessing thoughts about the pain and its relation to “me.”
Marathon runners, swimmers, cyclers, weight-lifters et al. routinely take on extremely painful situations while training. Their muscles and entire physiology painfully “scream” as these athletes repeatedly go beyond their normal felt-sense of physical and mental limits, stretching into greater excellence. Most persons suddenly placed into this stressful situation of athletic training would complain of being put into hell. But athletes seek out this situation—they know they can “become the pain” and realize it as passionately-intense energy. It’s not just that the body-mind starts releasing endorphins and other natural pain-managing chemistry. No, these aware athletes often feel that they’ve been released into nondual aliveness, pure intensity—no more subject of experience, object of experience or dualistic process of experiencing. Just pure experiencing.
This is, notably, one of the very definitions of Brahman in [the classic nondually-oriented Hindu medieval text] Yoga Vâsishtha.
Likewise, we “become one with” any painful physical or emotional situation upon losing the dualistic sense of subject and object and realizing we are really this Formless Awareness nondually being various forms of intensity. This is Shiva experiencing ItSelf as Shakti, Awareness experiencing ItSelf as the sacred world of intense energy.
5. Q: I feel emptiness, but it feels like a dead, disconnected, nonblissful, meaningless emptiness.
Classic self-enquiry, again, would have one enquire “Who recognizes this emptiness as such?” Alternatively, the individual is invited to explore the precise nature of this dead emptiness—or any bodymind state of suffering or dis-ease (e.g., anger, fear). It is Guest—You are non-separate Host. What are its dynamics? How, precisely, does it manifest for each of the senses and the emotions? How, specifically, is it that the Infinite Being-Awareness-Bliss has packaged ItSelf in such an interesting masquerade? One explores the dead emptiness with that intense curiosity and “lurking suspicion” that it is really an opaque window onto the Divine Reality. So one makes this dead emptiness the object of an informal, ongoing mindfulness or witnessing meditation and, through the clarifying and dissolving power of Awareness, one witnesses it unravel and reveal itself as the Divine temporarily appearing in phenomenal form. As Advaita Vedanta says, whatever is, is Brahman. There’s no other Reality than this. When Awareness focuses on any object/state, it will eventually dissolve it, like sunlight melts a hard solid ice cube into water then into vapor. Awareness ultimately dissolves everything back into pure Aliveness-energy.
It helps here to know that such “dead emptiness” states of feeling hapless, helpless and hopeless are an almost standard crisis (Self-intended!) to render the “me-dream” so intolerable that one ceases to invest or cathect any more energy in “normal” living and instead awakens to Vastness. In other words, when the dream becomes stultifyingly banal or painfully nightmarish, there’s motive to wake up altogether from dreaming. The me-syndrome becomes so “insufferable” that one melts, transcends or simply pulls back from or snaps out of it by resuming one’s real Identity.
6. Q: I feel lots of energy coming through me and certain powers. How can I become a “co-creator” with God?
This question arises when one believes that there are two Selves, God’s and “mine.” But there is only the nondual Self. Sagely tradition argues here for total humility, clarity and transparency to preempt narcissism, pride, and megalomania. All that is meant to appear will spontaneously happen in and through the various selves as the Self’s play. One need not push the river or add legs to a snake, as Zen says.
7. Q: I feel an expanded sense of Awareness in meditation and especially here in satsang/therapy, but then I lose it at other times, like at work. I feel I’m only aware of being Awareness some of the time, not all of the time. How to have more consistency?
This very common concern presumes that Awareness is a special state of mind coming and going in time and can somehow be made “constant” by some special discipline, when in fact Awareness is timelessly/always the Constant Substratum of the dream or movie of life. Our Real Nature is this Self-evident, Obvious ISNESS, the only non-changing aspect of our life. All else changes but THIS. And, as Shankara and Ramana Maharshi frequently pointed out, people already know they are constantly the Self and really don’t doubt it. Otherwise, if they were only their changing mind-states with no continuity, they would be incessantly shocked, over and over, moment by moment, by the sudden re-appearance of discrete, discontinuous bodymind states.
So we all know, deep down, subconsciously, that we are the One Self-Awareness. All that’s “needed” is to stop presuming that we are the changing, limited states of the bodymind and stop searching for some special new bodymind state called “enlightenment.” The only way we miss Spiritual Truth is by searching for it on the “object”-ive level of body, mind or psychic-soul.
The fact is that the God-Self—Infinite, Unborn Awareness—is equally present in human confusion and clarity, struggle and ease, failure and success, misery and joy, just as present as when one is on the meditation-seat, the car-seat or toilet-seat. Where else could God be but right HERE? When could God be but right NOW?
Wisely knowing-being this grand yet simple Truth is what allows for deep relaxation, real freedom, blissful peace, and all-embracing love.
Excerpts from Actual Responses to People's Questions about Nondual Spiritual Awakening
[Note: The following are actual, unpolished emails from various correspondents who have visited this Enlightened Spirituality website or been in classes or Satsang with me. Some of the emails are written in a very heartfelt, "stream-of-consciousness" mode, so i have not presumed to edit them beyond the occasional typo or punctuation mark for clarity. In my responses to my dear correspondents, all wording from them is prefaced by a ">" mark, and italicized. In my own responses, a fair amount of italicizing and boldfacing is done for emphasis. A certain repetition on my part occurs in the following exchanges, sometimes even with the same correspondent, for the sake of emphasizing the one, universal, timeless Truth. All names and any other identifying details have been changed for the sake of confidentiality and protecting anonymity. I am very grateful to the following souls for their honesty and their earnest and sincere interest in authentic spiritual awakening. May all beings (disguises of the One) be awake to their ever-Awake Awareness, happy in the Unborn Bliss of their Real Being, and at peace in "the Peace that surpasses all understanding!"]
April 28, 2007
Dear Timothy, ... I have passed your website on to many of my friends and have just read about your criteria for authentic spiritual realization [at the Healthy Spirituality section of this www.enlightened-spirituality.org website]. It is a beautiful work. I have a sense of the abiding presence of God that is within and yet beyond, I can "feel" the reality of love that includes the other that is not really the other, BUT I have much restlessness and many fears and anxieties that betray my inner divisions. I am selfish and fall too easily into anger. I know that these things are happening to me and am aware even as they are happening. This often leads to disappointment and a bit of despair at my own lack. I feel that I have been at this place of "looking in" but not entering before (other lives) and it is so easy to pull back due to attachments to a glass of wine, a day of diversions, a plunge back into the "life-style to which I am accustomed". As St. Paul said, I know better, but the flesh is weak and I do that which I do not want to do.
I sense in you a possible answer, you have probably already given it on your website, I already know it, but I need help.
A friend who sends you love and energy,
Hi Marshall. Thank you for your kind words about the website and for referring your friends to it.
You so very honestly wrote:
Marshall, all these states (restlessness, fear, anxiey, disappointment, despair) are NOT who you are as Awareness. As Ramana Maharshi [1879-1950, the eminent modern era "nondual wisdom" sage of India] would say: these things are of the mind, and you are not the mind--your real nature is this Pure Awareness or Self (the pure I Am that Am even before the "i"-thought). Now, there has been an apparent momentum of identifying with these finite mind-states. This momentum can seem like a formidable force. But the truth is that every night in dreamless sleep, and probably many times throughout the day, these mind-states don't operate. They are not permanent or solid. What is permanent or solid is the fundamental Awareness that you ARE. In time (and time is nothing in eternity), your own real nature as solid, seamless, infinite-eternal Awareness affirms ItSelf as Witness and, in a forceful, uncompromising way, "sees off" all these various mind states as impermanent (actually vanishing, moment by moment), hence insubstantial, hence not worth indulging. This Witness function that sees and dissolves and vanishes all passing states can come Alive quite suddenly, or else gradually. In any case, sooner or later, you wake up to this Superior Principle of Awareness, in Whom we (the egomind and body) "live, move and have our being" [as St. Paul wrote about our essential being in God].
This awakening to Truth is inevitable!--because Divine Being-Awareness-Bliss is the real nature of everyone and everything--the only true Reality! (The early Christian teaching on apocatastasis, or universal redemption, as taught by Clement and Origin of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa, and later figures like John Scottus Eriugena, but largely forgotten by Christianity today, is relevant here. [The apocatastasis teaching is that God's Love is all-powerful and all-accomplishing; therefore, this Divine Love will ultimately "retrieve" all "self-exiling" souls, no matter how lost or evil they seem, from their private hell-states and then merge these souls back into the Divine Presence. All will realize God because ultimately there is only God--the Divine Spirit is the Essence of each and every soul.])
It's so very helpful to realize that all mental-emotional-bodily states are vanishing, moment by moment. They get re-created as apparently solid by the mind in each moment, but the truth is that they are not solid. Moreover, at the beginning of each moment, and actually during the "duration" of each moment, we are always ever and only Free as this gloriously open-empty-full Substratum of Awareness. To speak metaphorically, our real nature is like the projection screen on which is displayed a wild, wacky, violent movie. The movie-screen is never for a moment tainted by the projected images--there's not a single bullet hole or drop of sweat or blood to be found on the screen before, during or after the projection of the movie. So, if you feel fear or despair, as you so honestly and candidly mentioned, Marshall, what is it that is aware of the fear or despair? This Awareness is itself neither fear nor despair, not at all tainted by the "movie" of fear, despair, etc.--rather, this Awareness is the "Unfelt Feeler of feeling," to paraphrase India's old Brhadaranyaka Upanishad [compiled around 900 BCE]. Awareness is the one Divine "Host"-Space in which happen all "guests" (phenomena in the form of sensations, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, etc.). This "Host" that you really are is intrinsically open, free, pure, untaintable, unimprovable--Divine.
>I feel that I have been at this place of "looking in" but not entering before (other lives) and it is so easy to pull back due to attachments to a glass of wine, a day of diversions, a plunge back into the "life-style to which I am accustomed". As St. Paul said, I know better, but the flesh is weak and I do that which I do not want to do.
Marshall, this is old conditioning. Instead of trying to resist it, why not get very curious--with a consummate, affectionate amusement--at what this "ego" is up to? If you were taking a dog for a walk, wouldn't you be wonderfully curious about how the little canine friend operated and functioned? Bring the same benevolent curiosity to what the ego-mind is up to, moment by moment, and what happens is that ego-tendencies are simply seen for what they are and any old unnecessary tendencies sooner or later fall off. When you're coming from true Awareness, so much will fall off. As [Japan's 13th-century Zen Patriarch] Dogen Zenji said: "Shinjin datsuraku--Body-mind fall off!" Another way of saying, "letting go, letting God."
We need not make a problem out of ego tendencies. In Zen they say "don't make anything at all." My dear old enlightened friend Sunyata [a Danish mystic who lived in India for 45 years and died upon being hit by a car at age 92, the coroner reporting "he had the internal organs of a 30-year-old"] used to endearingly refer to ego as "ego-ji," as in "Baba-ji" or "Swami-ji"! The ego-mind is like a rambunctious puppy dog, playing out all sorts of conditioned tendencies. There's no need to reify (thing-ify) these tendencies, and no need to indulge them, and no need to try to suppress them, either. Just penetratingly witness them and "see them off" as passing dreams, and they can't get a grip on you or drive you into misery.
Thus, being the simple, boundless, Divinely-natural Awareness that we always already are allows the powerful Divine Light to illumine all apparent "darkness" and slowly or suddenly transform everything into Light. There is only this Divine Light, through and through. All else is imagination. And one day, by Divine Grace, even that imagination (which is "God's original whim") is purified and transmuted into Divine Essence--pure Love-Bliss-Peace.
So... right now breathing is happening, a mind is functioning, life is unfolding. No problem. Only God.... Only God..... Only God. (Allelujah! [Praise God!])
Love from your brother,
May 1, 2007
Timothy, something has happened. I found your wonderful reply yesterday on my email and absorbed some of it through tears of joy and gratitude. The presence of true God in you and this light and love are so filling. Last night as I laid down in bed i took a copy of this reply and read it slowly and absorbed as much as i could. It was feelings and expansions and peace.
Today I am in a new state... something has happened. If this lasts for another minute it will have been enough. I will test this, if it is real it will endure and flourish. Whatever happens I am profoundly, deeply, infinitely (beyond words) in love with what you have done for me just by being you. I do not know what to say.... I can only project to you my profound open heart for you, myself, and every particle and potential of created and non created Source and Creation. WE are indeed ONE. I cannot claim, only experience. I will write again. At your service.
--Your servant and friend, "Marshall"
Namaskaram, dear Marshall
Thank you for your really kind words!
Now: let's hone in very, very deeply on the Divine Truth underlying all of us and our passing, transient states of consciousness. You already know this, but this Timothy fellow is going to presume to say it anyway.... :-) 8-o) [Note: These funny marks are internet "smileys," to be viewed sideways, right side at bottom.]
Marshall, you wrote:
Marshall: nothing has happened! There is only God—changeless, eternal, infinite, vaster than vast, Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss-Peace-Love. All that can come and go is of the dream—transient, fleeting. Even states of mind that feel "realized," blissful, peaceful, clear. All of this is to say that, by Divine Grace, all sorts of wonderful happenings will happen—but the Divine One, formless and invisible and unexperiencable (as an object), the one Subject beyond all subject-object experiences, is always right HERE and NOW "underneath" the play of persons and their experiences of the Divine. Our deepest, deepest, subtlest, subtlest Divine knowingness-gnosis-jnana-prajna [Vedanta and Buddhist terms for "wisdom-knowing"] knows ItSelf by being ItSelf (this Self of Absolute Awareness), before and beyond the mind and its experiences.
You also wrote:
The mind may try to reassert itself or it may have, in fact, irreversibly relaxed its grip and sunk in full surrender to its Source, Our Lord of Love, the Divine One, the One who ALONE IS, the Self of all, the transcendent-immanent Spirit. Regardless... be very careful not to look for fulfilment, completion, or closure on the level of the mind and being able to sustain a state, any state, of mind. There's a great old Zen story, which i actually have at the Zen Humor page of my website (www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Zen_Humor.html) which goes as follows:
A student went to see his meditation teacher and said, “My situation is horrible! I feel so distracted most of the time, or my legs ache, or I’m repeatedly falling asleep. It’s terrible.” Said the teacher matter-of-factly, “It will pass.” A week later, the student returned to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive!” “It will pass,” replied the teacher.
Now, Marshall, you already know all this. For you have written:
>Whatever happens [my emphasis], I am profoundly, deeply, infinitely (beyond words) in love with what you have done for me just by being you. I do not know what to say....
Marshall, there is nothing to say—and everything to say—and, as our Zen friends put it, "no mouth is big enough to utter It."
>I can only project to you my profound open heart for you, myself, and every particle and potential of created and non created Source and Creation. WE are indeed ONE. I cannot claim, only experience.
Yes. The Divine has come up with a way of experiencing Itself as experiences, forms, phenomena, body-mind-soul states. And yet there is nothing really happening but the one, changeless, absolutely empty-full Divine Being-Awareness. O what wonder, O what miracle. To this One (Who is no one and everyone) we can always spontaneously and with such gratitude thank and praise....
Love to you always, dear Marshall (the One Alone!)
May 2, 2007
Dear Timothy, peace upon peace—even when the surface gets ripples they do not reach so deep now. I have printed your words and carry them folded in my back pocket. I read them as a meditation. In my lifetime i have had many teachers, certainly including those i call "myself teaching," who have taught me, but never have i had a source that i felt an unconditional confidence in, that is until you so graciously answered my first email to you so beautifully and promptly. Everything you have said has so wonderfully resonated with my own experience and understanding. Our common Source sent you to me in the form of your teaching and then so marvelously in your dear person. My gratitude for you and our Lord is so deep emotions well up at the thought. I have the feeling that this is just the beginning of a new life—to use the words of Jesus, there has been death and rebirth, i am but a tender infant in this Way. Glorious Lord i give praise and thanksgiving. [Wonderfully kind words about Timothy from Marshall are deleted here.] —your student, your friend, your brother. Peace love and light. —"Marshall"
>peace upon peace—even when the surface gets ripples they do not reach so deep now
This is wonderful!
I really do appreciate all your kind words— (and yet) you and i know that all thanks and praise can only be for this magnificent Divine One in Whom we (the personalities) live, move, and have our being, as St. Paul wrote.
>i will go on your website and try to buy some of your books, which ones do you suggest?
At this point, i still only have the one book available, Women of Power & Grace [about the nine great female mystics of the modern era]. The India's Sages 2-volume book project should be in print in the years ahead. Subsequent to that will come the trilogy of books on spirituality in the new millennium. [Realistically, the India's Sages project won't be ready until at least 2014 due to other commitments and very little time anymore for writing, and i will most likely be publishing Liberating Zen Sourcebook before i finish the India's Sages project.]
There's virtually several books up there [here] on the website in the form of the different essays and teaching-excerpts of the sages and saints at the Religion / Spirituality section. Feel free to download and read those as may interest you....
And please feel free to email me if you ever have any burning questions that pertain to your deepest freedom in God. Just that burning or longing for real God-realization tends to elicit all-powerful, all-dissolving Grace from the Divine Within, the Beloved Inner Guru.
Love to you, Marshall, and to all beings, the One Alone
June 10, 2007
Dear Dr. Conway, I am writing to see whether if it would be possible to meet with you on a weekend. I live in Los Angeles and work full time, so it would be difficult for me to visit Santa Barbara on Tuesday [for the ongoing evening Satsang]. I have been struggling on this path without having any teacher and I would be grateful if you could give me some pointers on this path. I have studied Zen and met with Wayne Liquorman [chief disciple and publisher for Ramesh Balsekar of Mumbai/Bombay] but have been sorely disappointed with the personal conduct of many of my teachers.
One question that has been bothering me for a while and no teacher has been able to answer satisfactorily is: “If the ‘I’ is a product of thought and is an Illusion, how can any action free me, because any action that is a product of ‘I’ is necessarily within the field of thought.” Where does this “I” begin and end? As I see it, I cannot grasp this “I” and follow it to its source, now matter how hard I try. Is there a different way of looking, that I should be aware of?
Thank you for your deep and sincere interest in spirituality!
Yes, despite a tremendously busy schedule, i would be willing to meet with you for an hour or so on a weekend day—either Saturday or Sunday usually works for me. My sense, however, is that you will not need to drive all the way up here to get really clear on WHO and WHAT you so gloriously are in your True Identity.
Yes, most people who "teach" these things don't really live up to the teachings. And many of them labor under teachings that are not complete, not in alignment with the Sanatana Dharma [the classic, "eternal Way" of virtuous spirituality]. (God bless them—they are helping some people and they, too, will one day fully wake up to Truth.)
Vinod, you also wrote:
No action can free you, Vinod. This was exactly Sankara's supremely clarifying point 1300 years ago, for the very same reason that you identify. So the "solution," as he and the Upanishad sages and all other genuine sages would say, is to find out—with your own intrinsic Divine intuition or "wisdom-knowing" (jnana, prajna, vidya)—what you already are, right HERE and right NOW, prior to the rise of the entire world of the "me" and its "thoughts" about a "world." The very nature of your "unborn/inborn" (sahaja) Awareness is that this Awareness is without attributes (nirguna), free, open-empty (shunya), and whole/full (purna). Hence there is nothing to "do" but to relax and abide as (simply be) THIS basic, fundamental, immediate Awareness.
At first this Awareness feels like mere, vacuous "nothingness" to the mind (with which Awareness has whimsically identified on-and-off for so long—though not in deep sleep, when Awareness rests fully unto Awareness without any mind, body, ego-sense, or any"thing"). But sooner or later Awareness wakes up to ItSelf as the magnificent "No-thingness," the Source of all things/events/phenomena.
In other words, at first one's sense of one's true Self seems barren, paltry, not very "substantial." Yet sooner or later you wake up to the fact that YOU, as simple, clear Awareness, have always been the Absolute Substance of everyone/everything, YOU have always been this amazingly solid and seamless yet open and free "Host" Presence for whatever happens. The world is repeatedly arising and merging in YOU, witnessed by YOU, made of YOU. YOU are the only Reality, the Infinite Vastness in which this Divine-dream of cosmos happens...
And upon awakening to Your Real Identity as Awareness, it is clear that THIS Awareness has always been right HERE and right NOW as the Self-same One Who Alone IS.
So... all that is needed is dis-identifying by letting go, dropping the idea that you are a body-mind-soul or "thing-like" entity that needs to find or achieve anything. Only openness-emptiness, wholeness-fullness remains: the Truth of your real Nature as Being-Awareness-Bliss-Peace-Love.
Please be aware, Vinod, that this is not dead-end "solipsism," the ridiculous teaching that "my consciousness is alone real—all of you folks and things out there are mere projections of my mind." That is an utterly false, dangerous teaching—the path for becoming a sociopath. And yes, this solipsism is what some pseudo-advaitins [the neo- or "nihil"-advaitins] are essentially teaching. The deeper truth is that all personal consciousnesses are being conjured by the One Supra-Personal Consciousness, which has this miraculous, i.e., wondrous ability to come up with inter-relationships among multiple viewpoints, with concomitant individual memories.
The pure Awareness or real I (what i was referring to earlier as the real YOU) is not the finite, limited, strategizing ego-sense, the "me." This pure Awareness or real I is the loving and beloved Self of all selves, the Being of all beings. Speaking from the human personality's viewpoint, we are all being dreamed by THIS glorious Divine Dreamer!
Vinod, you further wrote:
If you're talking about the sense of being "me," this ego-sense arises/begins and dissolves/ends moment by moment. It is only creative Divine "whimsy" and old samskara patterns (binding likes and dislikes) that mysteriously re-create the ego-sense. Everything about "you" as body-mind-soul personality arises and vanishes, moment by moment. The body-mind-soul personality is merely phenomenal, changing, a product of causes and conditions, as the Buddha pointed out 2500 years ago. Yet, as the Buddha says in the Udana Sutta (viii.3) and Itivuttaka Sutta (43), "There is the Unborn, Uncompounded, Unmade, without which there would be no release (Pali: nibbana / Skt: nirvana) from that which is born, compounded, made...." Elsewhere the Buddha speaks in a few places of the "attributeless Consciousness" (Pali: anidassanam Vinnanam or, in Sanskrit: asamkrta Vijnana) beyond the 5 skandhas (physical form, sensations, perceptions, samskaric-reactions, and changing ego-consciousness [vijnana]). This Absolute Consciousness or Pure Awareness is what we spacelessly, timelessly really are.
This Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncompounded, Simple, Free, Peaceful, Clear-Light Consciousness or Pure Awareness is always our real Nature, Vinod. You could not "leave" it—or "arrive" at it!—if you tried.
Vinod, you also wrote:
Yes, Vinod. No need to grasp the limited "I" or "me" sense. And no need, either, to try to grasp onto or even perceive the real I, Pure Awareness.
You are this I or Pure Awareness. You never need try to make a perceivable "object" out of THIS which is always the SUBJECT beyond egoic-subject and perceived object. The classic advaita text Yoga Vasishtha makes it clear that our real nature as Atman/Brahman (Self-Reality) is Pure Experiencing, beyond the fragmentation and division of "experiencer and experienced," or Pure Being-Awareness (Sat-cit) beyond the knower-known-knowing triad.
The "way," therefore, is (as my old mentor Nisargadatta told us) simply: "Just BE—and don't get restless 'trying to be.' JUST BE."
Alright, Vinod. There's nothing to "do," just use your natural, innate power of discerning/discriminating (viveka) the Real from the relatively real/unreal to "see off" all passing, dreamlike illusions—illusions such as that You are any kind of "thing" or "limited 'me'" that needs to expand, go somewhere, attain some kind of special "state" or "experience" "something."
You are the Source and Witness and Substance of whatever happens in this dream, O Divine One, Self of us all.
In the Light of Your Self-Shining Splendor.
P.S.--for further clarification, please consult the following brief essay at our website:
June 11, 2007
Dear Dr. Conway,
Thanks for your detailed email. It was very helpful and clarified many things but some questions remain.
a) Nisargadatta Maharaj always said that one should abide in the feeling of "I AM". What exactly does this mean? How does one abide in this feeling of I AM?
b) You said one should use "Viveka" [discernment] to determine right action, but how does one know what is right action? How does one know if one is acting from this state of awareness or just conditioning?
c) I am having a lot of trouble with Kundalini [subtle energy] experiences. Whenever I meditate for extended periods of time, I fall sick—i.e. get super hot and then completely sick. My mind is crystal clear but my body just is not able to handle it. Do you have any suggestions? I had to stop my Zen training because of these experiences.
Being free of "I am this, I am that" identifications. Maharaj very clearly said it once to a group of us: "Just as you would look at that table over there, and realize, 'i am not that,' so also realize you are not the body-mind."
Moment by moment, as these identifications fall off, because there is no interest to create or maintain them (e.g., identifications such as i am a man, i am happy/sad, i am spiritually realized/unrealized, i am the one reading these words on the computer screen, i am sitting in the chair, or whatever), what remains is simply an open, empty, expansive, vast, free "consciousness" or "beingness," as Maharaj called it. Then, he said on a number of occasions, this basic "I am"-sense of sheer beingness is itself absorbed into the Vastness of Pure Awareness. He also said numerous times that the world and body-mind sense arise in the consciousness or beingness, and that this, in turn, is like a mere bubble in the vast ocean of infinite-eternal, spaceless-timeless Awareness.
You also wrote:
Great question. I wish more spiritual aspirants—and those presuming to be "teachers"—inquired so conscientiously in this way. :-)
At first one is a bit confused in certain situations as to what is right action, right speech, right livelihood, etc. Eventually, if one is really open and obedient to the Self's Intelligent Divine Guidance from within, the prompting voice of conscience becomes clearer and more explicit. Socrates said that he had a Daimon (Divine Guide or Muse) who spoke to him from within at crucial times—this Guide did not so much tell him what to do as warned him against what not to do, and his moment by moment path was thereby clarified.
I've written an essay about what to do in the face of perplexing situations in which the power of choice seems flummoxed by confusing elements. We don't feel clear and "choicelessly aware" of what is the right course, and we feel stymied, at an impasse. Here's the link to the short essay:
You also wrote:
Sorry to hear about these challenges, Vinod. Well, there's no need to sit in meditation for any long periods. Back in 1980 i recall Annamalai Swami (a spiritual son of Sri Ramana Maharshi) inviting me to be open to the same degree of Atma-Realization while walking in the most bustling part of the busy town of Tiruvannamalai, South India, as when sitting serenely in meditation in a quiet locale. These kundalini experiences could be a sign to keep the energy moving a bit more. Are you okay with Zen-style walking meditation? How about long periods of aerobic exercise? Ambles in nature? (Are there any parks, gardens, beaches, hillsides, etc., near to where you live and where you could take long meditative walks?) The point is: realization does not need to happen while in seated meditation or any one posture. (No need to try to contain your spirituality in sitting meditation.)
If you still experience problems with an agitated kundalini energy, i recommend the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN), which has been active for over 20 years helping people with various things, such as smoothing out and cooling down agitated kundalini states. Their website is www.cpsh.org (Center for Psychological & Spiritual Health). In 2006 there passed away a yogi i saw in the late 1980s, Yogiraj Vethathiri Maharishi, who did a lot of work in India and the West to help pacify and cool down overheated kundalini cases. Here is one website with some of his free online articles: www.skysociety.org.sg/articles.htm.
Vinod, i hope all of this is of help to you!
Be well, dear brother, in the glorious Atma-Self which always transcends these ups and downs, these challenges and confusions of life. Such things are, in truth, non-eternal, passing, dreamlike and ultimately empty. They are movies on the pristine screen of Awareness. This Awareness is, truly, the solid, changeless, real Presence-Witness-Substance. Suddenly or gradually, this Reality will affirm ItSelf consciously for You. It must, for It Alone—Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss-Light-Love, Your true Nature—is the Real.
Bowing down to Thy Infinite-Eternal Presence,
"Vinod" then responded on July 16, 2007 with a few questions, saying he'd been very busy taking care of his sick baby. I responded to his Qs with the following:
Timothy responds to Vinod's questions:
So sorry to hear that your baby is sick. I wish your little one (who is actually vast, free Spirit!) all wellness, in Godspeed time.
>a) J. Krishnamurti says that if one can grasp that the "Observer is the observed" one is free. Can you elucidate what exactly he means by this.
The "Observer is the observed" when there is no more identifying with any separatist position that feels estranged from or in any way attached to or aversive toward the play of bodily-mental phenomena ("the observed"). This is freedom. One cannot "grasp" it. If that term is used in any of the J.K. material, it's only a figure of speech, not literal. What You ARE is not an object to be grasped. You can only BE this SELF or AWARENESS, you cannot make an object out of it and grasp "it." This is "pure experiencing" (as the great Yoga Vasishtha text says) or "choiceless awareness" as J.K. terms the way of being free of the sense of being caught or stuck as the "me," the "doer," the "chooser," the "knower."
What's interesting is that all the Indian traditions speak of the need to initially disidentify from the "observed," or the "known"—i.e., to free up Purusa (Awareness or Noumenon) from the imagined involvement in Prakriti (phenomenal objects of Awareness). In other words, one must realize that one is pure Siva distinct from the play of Sakti, or pure Âtman/Brahman distinct from the Mâyâ play of the elements, koshas [sheaths or bodies, from the dense "food" body to the "causal" body of bliss experienced in deep sleep and trance], etc.
But finally, in the natural nonduality (sahaja samâdhi) of Advaita Vedânta tradition, Kashmir Saivism, Jñâneshvar, et al., Sakti is none other than Siva; Mâyâ is none other than the play of Brahman. This is why they say in Zen: "First there are mountains and rivers. Then there are NO mountains or rivers. Then there ARE mountains and rivers." In the last "stage" of consummate, balanced, full-circle Zen, appearances are not separate from or an obstacle or distraction for Sûnyatâ (Openness-Emptiness).
>b) I am reading Prior to Consciousness by Nisargadatta Maharaj and in the conversations reproduced in this book Maharaj keeps talking of the state Prior to consciousness. What exactly is he talking about?
Maharaj often distinguished between "consciousness" (sometimes spelled with a capital "C") and Absolute Awareness. It's the same kind of distinction made by the Vedanta Upanishads, for example, between "turîya" (the "fourth" or Witness beyond the three states of waking, dream, and sleep), and "turîyâtîta" "beyond the fourth," i.e., the Reality or Absolute Awareness beyond even the sense of being a separate "witness" of phenomena. In turîyâtîta Siva is Sakti—there's just one infinite, eternal Reality which is both Formless and Formfull, and there's no need even to try to stand apart from phenomena as their witness.
"Consciousness" in this schema from Maharaj is simply the cosmos-manifesting OM or pranava energy, the primordial creative-emanative vibration involved with a sense of "beingness" or "I amness" (these last two are other words Maharaj used). In other words, this "Consciousness" is what is involved in producing and experiencing the sense of a multi-leveled cosmos and sentient beings. Awareness, by contrast, is simply the Simple!—the Absolute, not involved, not dreaming anything.
In a way, this distinction by Maharaj between Consciousness and Awareness is similar to the distinction in Christian medieval theology between what was called "God the triune creator" and "the Godhead, before/beyond creation."
So, experientially, Maharaj is inviting people to relax, let go, and simply abide as the "I amness" / "beingness" / "universal Consciousness"—and then, by the Grace of the Absolute Awareness or Divine Godhead, one is awakened from the entire phenomenal dream and is thereafter awake only as the One Single Divine—before/beyond any worlds.
I personally observed Maharaj warn people not to get too entangled or confused by this distinction between pristine, absolute Awareness and universal Consciousness. It is enough if one does not egocentrically identify with body-mind and one stays free of complicating attachments and aversions as far as possible.
>c) I have reading some of Stephen Wolinsky's interpretations on I AM THAT and he says that the IAMNESS state is accessed by imagining a state of mind where one is free of thoughts, perceptions, knowledge. He said keeping that state is the IAMNESS. This makes no sense to me. If the "I" itself is the product of thought, how can imagining or dis-identifying oneself from thoughts free you? How can "I" not imagine I am not a chair or my body.
Don't worry, Vinod, about "imagining" or "not imagining" anything. As Maharaj urged, "Just be. Don't get restless about 'trying' to be—Just BE." Moreover, when asked about samâdhi states, he said that real samâdhi is simply "leaving the mind alone."
In person, he counseled that one need only realize that one is always already disidentified from the bodymind just as one is naturally disidentified from, say, the nearby table. Realizing one is not the bodymind, that all bodily-mental phenomena are just functions playing out, like that table over there, one is then entirely free to "Just BE," to "be still." Then the Divine takes over and does one's spirituality.
So: keep this very, very, very simple and clear, and then nothing can go wrong. Your real nature is Awareness, in which all happens as an amazing dream. You are infinitely vaster and freer and more blissful and peaceful in your Reality as Awareness compared to anything, any events, any phenomena that happen.
Be well, dear Vinod. Love to you, to your family, and to all beings.
P.S.--I realized with all the "busy-ness" of the last months that i never answered your Qs from an earlier post.
You actually anticipated my answer to one of your Qs today in the realization that the final wisdom is to "just BE."
Vinod, the desire for enlightenment is really just the innate God-Self or Buddha-nature's timeless Knowing that Awareness is always free as Self-shining Luminosity (the "Clear Light" as the Tibetan Buddhists call THIS Awareness). So our real Nature is Free Awareness or Freedom, and this Freedom makes "us" (the personal consciousness) as free as possible so as to be transparent for our original, innate Freedom. This is how Our Divine Nature turns "sinners" into "saints."
Therefore, you're right to discern that a "desire for enlightenment" is paradoxical and unproductive if the desire is "thick" in a way that only reinforces the sense of an ego desiring anything, including some special "state" called "enlightenment." Yes, there is no other way than "Just Be," and allow the mind or intelligence, the discerning factor, to realize "I am not this, not this" (i.e., not any phenomenal state that might arise). One trusts with simple Faith that one's real Nature— formless, invisible, shapeless and not to be sought as an object— is this infinite, free Subject or Context in which all phenomena happen. Finally, as mentioned earlier in the email, Formlessness and Formfulness are realized to be, paradoxically and mysteriously, Nondual. The mind initially balks at this— How can the Formless also be none other than the Forms? —but such is the mysterious nature of Siva-Sakti and the play of manifestation out of the Unmanifest. I suggest reading 13th century Advaita sage Jñâneshvar of Maharashtra or the Zen masters and early Mahâyâna texts for more on this ultimate nonduality of the Unmanifest and Manifest, the One as Many (and Many as the One).
Vinod, you also wrote:
Perhaps. But where would the wiring come from? Ultimately, even if you say genetic or environmental features, one could always go behind those factors and say "karma." And then, why did some people have the karma that they happened to have and other people had other karmas? And it all goes right back to God or Buddha-nature, the original "seed" for all the distinct "seeds" of karma and "differentiated sentient beings." (Yet, paradoxically, this Divine Nature is intrinsically "seedless," not at all tainted by any kind of limitation or ignorance or anything at all.)
You can be reassured, Vinod, that enlightenment or awakening from the dream of "me" has also happened for many people who practiced hard and long. I could name you hundreds... thousands. So—practice or no practice—WHAT ARE WE before/beyond all practices?
Just stay relaxed, open and sincere, live from your natural integrity, and, as much as realistically possible, be a giver not a taker (i.e., be as generous as you can, yet don't be a "doormat" for selfish people to walk all over you and exploit you financially, emotionally, etc.). And eventually, naturally, the Sun will dawn— i.e., your True Identity simply "re-cognizes" that this Self or Awareness is the "wall-less container," the open, free Context for whatever happens. With this realization comes a profound sense of release and relief, the re-discovery that you have never been in the world, the world is in YOU, the Self of all. Here is true freedom, true peace, true bliss. Your Real Nature.
Vinod, you also wrote:
Don't worry or get too concerned about other people's experience, Vinod. Find out, right now, what is THIS openness, this vastness, this clarity, from which you always function, think, feel, see, and perceive, and which is the unchanging, constant (and therefore REAL and SOLID) "groundless Ground" for "your life" and all that happens.
>I am beginning to see that this impulse in me is very similar to the "Realm of Hungry Ghosts" in Vajrayana Buddhism. The craving for experience, blissful or pleasurable. Avoidance of pain.
Right. No need to crave anything. Just find out what happens when "bodymind (and all desires) drop off," as Dogen Zenji said. Find out NOW. What are YOU, the real YOU, right now? Before and beyond thoughts, feelings, desires?
As Zen master Bankei (1622-93) said, stay as this changelessly "Unborn" Reality and nothing can go wrong.
Love, peace and sheer, clear radiance.
Vinod responded later that day:
Excellent!! It is obvious that you have thought long and hard, and also experienced the state you are talking about....
I would like to share with you this interesting experience that I had during my first Zen retreat. It was when I solved my first koan and it was like my world exploded. Suddenly, there was no observer and there was just the world and my mind. For two weeks after that I felt completely empty, that is the only way I can describe it. There was no "me" filtering the experience, it was just experience.
However, this feeling went away after two weeks and I could never experience it again. Is this possibly what you are talking about? There was no observer but I was perfectly functional. Is this the state that I should stabilize in?
Thanks for your help.... I hope to meet you sometime soon.
Greetings again, dear Vinod, and thank you for sharing the experience of your first Zen retreat.
>There was no "me" filtering the experience, it was just experience.... There was no observer but I was perfectly functional.
Vinod, this splendid experience is both "profound" and "not so profound."
It is profound and quite grand and revelatory in that it revealed that life can be "pure experiencing" without the sense of fragmentation between observer and observed and also without the "me"-filter and yet you were not tranced out, either, but remaining capable of straightforward functioning. This is wonderful! As the Buddha said so long ago in the Udâna Sutta to the ardent practitioner Bahiya: "When for you in the seen is merely what is seen… in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that.’ When you are not ‘with that,’ then, you will not be ‘in that.’ When you are not ‘in that,’ then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering (Nibbâna)." (i.10)
Now, Vinod—and this is most certainly NOT an insult—the experience you shared above from your retreat is, in another way, "not so profound." For if it could come and go, it is of the nature of time, and therefore not your Timeless Truth. Only your real Magnificence as the Âtma-Self or Buddha-nature could have expressed itSelf as the two-week period of clarity and release from egocentricity.
So: right HERE and right NOW, what is Your Real Timeless Truth whether there is a complete absence of the "me"-filter, or a thinly arising sense of "me" or even a thickly arising sense of "me"? What are you as Self or Buddha-Nature, absolute Awareness-Aliveness, immediately HERE and NOW, before and beyond any states of time, the mind, the "me," or anything?
Just as arising sensations of blood coursing through the veins on a bodily level don't obstruct or distract from WHAT YOU ARE as Awareness, so also any arising "mentations" of a "me" or a "world" etc., don't obstruct or distract from Your True Identity as Awareness—Vast Openness-Emptiness, closer than your own mind.
Breathing happens. Sensing happens. Thinking happens. "Me-making" happens. Life happens. YOU are prior to and beyond all this, yet YOU thoroughly pervade all of this as your Divine expression.
>Is this the state that I should stabilize in?
Vinod, you are already THIS Awareness in which anything/everything happens. This glorious Divine Truth that you really are is NOT a special state that needs to be maintained or "established." As Zen says: "No need to push the river."
Just be the flowing, floating Freedom. And be freely passionate (not restlessly driven) in staying simple, natural and clear—clear of anything that doesn't feel like freedom but feels more like "binding likes and dislikes."
Yet, even if such samskâra-reactions do arise, note how they have already passed away—i.e., vanished!—by the time you notice them and so are not really even "binding." Everything in the realm of phenomena is always vanishing, moment by moment. Only YOU always remain as unchanging Awareness. Maybe there might seem to be a fairly continuous current of such samskaric arisings-vanishings-arisings-vanishings.... Just realize, again, that whatever can arise in the first place is NOT your unborn, undying, unchanging True Identity as Absolute Awareness or Pristine Freedom.
Therefore, regarding all transient, phenomenal "states": just see them off. They go the way they came: from Openness-Emptiness back into Openness-Emptiness. That is, Awareness. There is always only THIS Awareness, on "this side" of the mind, i.e., right HERE.
The establishing in/as Freedom will in fact happen, because Freedom is your Real Identity, right NOW. Lose interest in all "states" or the "maintaining" of any state, and then the Source and Substance of all states looms clearly revealed as your Eternal Truth, the Open Context for whatever happens.
Welcome to lucid dreaming the dream of life...
>I hope to meet you sometime soon.
Yes, by Divine Grace, Vinod, these unique, distinct bodymind personalities will meet soon, probably in the Fall after this one has returned from extensive traveling. Truly, though, we have already met, as Self unto Self! And when these persons do meet, at "the appointed time," what will happen? Phenomena will interact (bodies hugging, voices sounding, eyes gazing into eyes, heart feeling into heart), yet, as medieval Hindu sage Jnaneshvar declared, "it will be like taste tasting itself to savor its own Sweetness"! For there will be what has always only been the case: Absolute Awareness, ever the Self-same Self of all, abiding in/as bodiless, mindless, wordless Glory and Splendor, enjoying the play of vibrating forms made of the formless.
Oh, what eternal, infinite, nondual Delight!
Be well, dear Self!Enjoy thySelf in all beings and circumstances...
Thanks for all your emails and explanations. The pointers are extremely valuable because this is the first time someone has been able to explain to me what exactly "enlightenment" is. I was getting disillusioned because nobody could answer my questions or let me know what this was all about. My path is open again. I am inspired to start working again, it has been a long time since I felt so energized.
So what you are saying is that having an observer or not has nothing to do with enlightenment. This awareness that you are talking about is behind all this manifestation, this play of words, dance of life. Wow!
[And Vinod here quoted the enlightenment stanza from 6th Ch'an Patriarch Hui-neng:]
Fundamentally no wisdom-tree exists,
[Note from Timothy: Hui-neng is revealing that there's no need to compulsively "polish the mirror" of "the mind." You are always THIS which is before and beyond the mind. Your Real Nature includes the mind--this parade of thoughts, memories, plans, fancies--but clearly transcends the mind as Pure Awareness.]
February 28, 2007
Hi Timothy, i found you by googling 'truth realization sangha Santa Barbara'. You have a very comprehensive website. i've apparently been on this 'path' for over 15 years and 'i'm' [age deleted]. Something happened several months ago and it feels like 'spiritual life' has just now begun. i'm deep in some sort of process. Very attracted to meeting you. Phrases on your site like "abide freely in this boundless Awareness" ... "utterly awake, HERE and NOW" have me veryattracted to meeting you. i read I AM THAT [conversations with the potent sage Nisargadatta Maharaj (d.1981) of Bombay, India] ten years ago... and currently again. Also read lots of 'apparent others' that are suggested on your site, Douglas Harding, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Ramana; and many others like Jed McKenna, Richard Rose, Alan Watts, Tony Parsons, Wei Wu Wei. My main obsession is discovering the truth of what 'i' am.You've obviously dug into this question ferociously. Really look forward to talking with you. I have a girlfriend who is looking for a 'gathering in divine truth' who would like to participate as well. i look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your email. I'm really happy to hear that you have been so sincerely involved in deep spirituality for so many years (lifetimes!). Anyone who is inspired to make the connection with Nisargadatta so young and stay with it all these years--exploring the viewpoint of Sri Ramana, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, et al.--is a true Dharma-sister.
Alycia, your use of quotes around 'i' and 'path' etc. tells me you're well aware of the dangers of selfish posturing or masquerading/identifying as something. You've probably seen somewhere on my website that great quote from the early Persian Sufi poet-saint Hakim Sana'i: "You think you are something. That 'something' is nothing. La ilaha illa Llah! (There's nothing but God!)"
If you've really understood (INNER-stood) what Nisargadatta, Ramana, the late Douglas Harding and other truly wise friends are sharing (have you seen Doug's website, www.headless.org, especially the delightful "Experiments" section?), you know that "the truth of what 'i' am" is this wonderfully immediate, immaculate, intimate, and utterly clear, simple and profound NO-THING-ness that is on "this side" of the felt-sense of being a bodymindego personality.
Yes, Alycia, your simple true Identity (before you can even "think about it") is this Vastness, this Boundless Infinity of pure, clear Awareness. It's crucial to realize that you can't make a perceptible object out of This, anymore than the fingertip can touch itself. In other words, your Real Self (the Self of us all) need not be "object-ively" found "out there" in the mind. Rather, this Self or Pure Awareness or Isness-Aliveness is "SUBJECT-ively obvious" to your purest intuition, right HERE, closer than your own mind or body sense. As our most ancient wisdom text, Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, wonderfully states: "This Self is the unseen Seer of seeing, the unheard Hearer of hearing, the unthought Thinker (or Host) of thinking..."
Thus, this spiritual way of coming home to No-thingness is so very, very SIMPLE.
Having emptied out--or, rather, having seen that you were always, as Awareness, completely empty and clear of "stuff/mind/ego/etc" and FULL as Love, Peace, Clarity, Openness, and real Bliss-- there's no "I" to "obsess" about "discovering."
Because your real nature as Awareness is never an object for ItSelf, there's no longer anything or anyone to search for. This does not mean that real spiritual deepening and amplifying of virtue and blessing force can't happen--in fact, once you're abiding as Truth, an amazing "holy Divine aspiration" ensues, and the Divinity in/as you finds all sorts of ways to express more and more "Godliness" in various aspects of the life of Alycia.
If your devotional heart wishes to love, honor and worship the formless I-Self as the Divine Beloved, then look and feel all around you: EVERYONE and EVERYTHING you meet in this life-DREAM is the adorable Self in disguise. And this includes the bodymind known as "Alycia." She, too, is the literal embodiment of God/Goddess. (Look in the mirror and you're seeing the manifest embodiment of God.) So, too, everyone in your life, including all the characters on the world stage (including brother W. Bush, an amazing Guru—indeed, a Divine Avatar—challenging all of us progressives to authentically live love, compassion, and kindness!)...
You are the Great Spaciousness, wide open for a world to happen in. Truly, Alycia, your real Nature is the Goddess of all possibilities....
I trust you've found ways to live this openness, emptiness/fullness, love. And, to paraphrase our late friend Mother Teresa of Calcutta, it doesn't matter how big your projects and accomplishments are, it's how much love you allow to flow in each tender moment, even during the most apparently "banal" or "ordinary" moments--whatever happens is Divine epiphany (revelation).
Whatever manifests is ThySelf and is profoundly Sacred. A chance glance at someone who might be a total "stranger"--actually your True Self in form, and knowing that the "stranger"'s real Identity is Who I Am.... —this is the way of nondual love and wisdom.
Okay Alycia.... this is "preaching to the choir." You already know all these truths.
Enough of words. Breathing is happening. Energy is flowing. Hands are moving as instruments of Divine-action-within-a-dreamlike-world.
You are the Dancing and the Formless Dancer—O Shakti-Shiva in the beautiful form of Alycia!
If you've a moment, email me and let me know how you're expressing this Truth/Beauty/Goodness that you are within the life-dream... And of course you and your friend are welcome to attend our Tuesday night gathering. (Directions to the satsang space are given below [Deleted here for the internet])
Be well, dear Self
March 1, 2007
Hi Timothy, What an extraordinary, breath of lightness, email. Thank You! However the goodnesss of this bodymind is being used, it occurs like listening for signs from the universe then going with it. Listening to that inner intuition has taken me down 'many apparent' areas [NOTE: much good personal material deleted here concerning "Alycia's" many learnings, skills, talents, and professional expressions of these talents].
With all this apparent motion, there's been a real dropping away of ambition the last several months. There isn't anything in me that actually believes that anything is going anywhere. That doesn't mean that things don't get done. Many apparent things are getting accomplished with no-ambition, seemingly less effort. Quite an odd new place. i keep re-reading your email. The first Tuesday evening i can come is [deleted]. Do you have time to meet up for lunch or tea some time next week? My friend's name is ___. i showed her your email and she cried half way through. Thank you again for your fresh, in-depth, insightful aliveness! There's so much i look forward to asking and talking with you about.
Namaskaram, dear Alycia
Thank you for you email and kind words.
I'm so glad to hear of your really multi-faceted creative work—i wish you well with all your projects[...] I was also especially glad to hear your beautiful, wise words:
>With all this apparent motion, there's been a real dropping away of ambition the last several months. There isn't anything in me that actually believes that anything is going anywhere. That doesn't mean that things don't get done. Many apparent things are getting accomplished with no-ambition, seemingly less effort. Quite an odd new place.
To which, Alycia, i can only reinforce this freedom and power of "doer-less," "ambition-free" action with the old line from Lao Tzu's [Taoist classic] Tao Te Ching, "The sage does nothing, yet nothing is left undone." This is a crucial part of real mastery—the sense that everything is "happening of itself" (tzu jan, as our Taoist friends say), by the Grace of God/Tao, without "me" having to push the river. It's all just flowing, once we open up and "allow the God-Self," in Whom we (the personality) live, move and have our being. This is, of course, also the crux of the message of Hinduism's Bhagavad Gita and Krishna's instructions to Arjuna on "doer-less" action, surrendering all fruits/results of actions to the Divine, the One Who Alone IS.
Alycia, the last several years i've had very little time for socializing—given the massive amount of commitments within this "Divine dream" (truly all a wondrous dream, nothing binding at all). Yet, unless the schedule is really "crazy busy," i'm always happy to briefly meet with sincere souls like yourself and your friend who genuinely aspire to live the Divine Dharma more completely. (And, of course, you're entirely welcome to ask any and all pertinent spiritual Qs whenever you can get time from your undoubtedly busy schedule to attend the Tuesday night gatherings.) We thank the God-Self for appearing as lovely souls like you and your friend—two angels here on earth to love and serve!
Be well, dear Alycia in the clear Radiance-Love that you ARE...
Timothy writes to "Marian," a young businesswoman who had asked a question at an earlier Tuesday night free satsang:
Jan. 1, 2007
Nice to see you at the Tues nite satsang gathering with our dear friend "N____". I was remembering a poignant Q you asked that night that i don't think i properly (or at least sufficiently) answered.
You had asked about a feeling of being "alone." I pointed out to you the distinction between feeling alone—which can feel full and spiritually complete as "All-one"—and the different experience of feeling lonely, wanting to experience the very natural and appropriate human feeling of sharing meaningful and rich experiences with fellow human beings.
The other thing you might wish to know is that younger people coming deeply into spirituality will often experience this type of loneliness simply because their karmas have not yet come to fruition yet—in the form of meeting the dear friends with whom they have good karmic connections and are destined to meet in this life.
When i first woke up to a deep spirituality in my 16th year, it was very difficult for several years to find more than a handful of people with whom to share any of this. I would visit religious and spiritual gatherings from time to time, but it was not yet the destined time for me to meet some of the dear friends with whom i have old karmic connections, so there were several years of going solo in much of this.
The essential point, Marian, is that you are not alone in this. You have friends and angels and God Herself/Himself/I-Am-Self very, very close to you, in fact, permeating your very heart-mind-soul as your very Self.
It is a real paradox in authentic spirituality: there is only this One, Nondual Self, the Divine One who alone IS, and, simultaneously, this One is Many, the multitude of bright, shining souls who love one another and are each other in all beatitude and bliss.
What a Divine Party--so many luminous souls, so much feeling of loving solidarity with each other, yet only one single God-Self is here, playing all the parts!
Enjoy, enjoy, dear Marian.
In the Light of Your Divine Truth
P.S.--this 'feeling sad and constricted' emotional state that you also reported is a very ripe state, spiritually. You're getting a chance to witness and feel first-hand the plight of samsara [the worldly cycle], the heaviness of having desires and hopes go unfulfilled. So here's some real powerful wisdom: allow the feeling of sadness and constriction to be the "meditation object" in your mindfulness. The power of Awareness will open up any state to the Reality of Divine Being and melt it into pure aliveness energy.
Incidentally, I've got an entire page on emotions at the website that you might find very useful as a "roadmap" for diving deep into authentic emotional experience and releasing the emotional energy contained in the "packages" of sadness, disappointment, anger, etc. Here's the link: www.enlightened-spirituality.org/emotions.html Powerful stuff, these emotions.... They are windows onto the realization of our Divine energy, the primordial Shakti.
I look forward to hearing from you, O Divine Adventuress!
[In subsequent counseling work with me, "Marian" learned insights about relationships and energy dynamics that are also presented at this link on relationships.]
June 13, 2007
[Dear soul “Ganganath” had driven some 4 hours from his place of residence with his good friend and business co-worker to visit this one a few months earlier; I was very fortunate to have the darshan [sight of the holy one] of these two very radiant, wholesome-hearted gentlemen. “Ganganath” writes:]
I am reflecting on everything you told me [that first day], especially what you told me when we were leaving for [home]."Your body moves, the car moves, the scenery changes, but YOU do not move"
Also I often go over the other emails that you have sent me.
I am still looking for answers to the following questions.
1. Why am I doing whatever I am doing? [i.e., Ganganath’s job in the corporate world, etc.]
Hopefully by divine grace I look forward to finding the answers to these questions.
Namaste, dear "Ganganath"
Because, ultimately, you have no choice about the matter! The Divine Intelligence is manifesting the perfect situation for a soul (Ganganath) to have a certain set of experiences, meet certain people, and so forth, as destined by prarabdha karma [Divine destiny].
>2. What should I do? (more specifically should I continue to do whatever I am doing, go to school for higher studies, or go back to India, stay here, etc .....)
There's nothing you should do; again, the prarabdha karma for Ganganath will unfold as needed, and you will find yourself gradually, strongly--maybe even suddenly-- guided (on the personality level) to move toward one course of action or another. There is a sense that you have a choice about saying "yes" or "no" to the guidance, but ultimately whatever happens will be by Divine Will, i.e., God's Grace.
Ganganath, i would mention that there is a short essay i've written specifically on the topic of "what to do?"www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Guidance_on_choices.html
>3. Is there really a purpose to whatever I am doing?
On the absolute level, nothing's really happening here but a Divinely dreamed Dream of non-solid events and experiences. A grand lila [Divine play] for the One masquerading as Many. So, in Divine play, there's no "purpose"--i.e., whatever happens, whatever "you" are doing, doesn't have a meaning in terms of some other context or frame of reference. Whatever happens is what it is.
Now, in answering your Q on the level of the personality, Yes--whatever happens has a purpose: to consciously awaken jiva to Siva, i.e., to awaken the individual soul to its True Identity as the One Alone. Thus, whatever you are doing is exhausting karmas, stimulating certain inquiry, provoking you to "let go, let God," and allow for the cultivation of various godly virtues--loving-kindness, compassion, generosity, fearlessness, desireless, patience, courage, and so on.
>4. Is there any way I can know about the purpose so that I can tune myself to it.
I wouldn't worry about this, Ganganath. As i said, guidance comes. In the meanwhile, the apparent "unknowing" or even bewilderment about "not knowing my purpose" is actually a wonderfully ripe state for the blooming of all Divine qualities. Let me say this: your wholesome desire for authentically living, manifesting, or expressing the Divine in a truly "Godly" way insures that all will work out quite well. Ganganath, you are such a sincere, good individual, and it is this sincerity and goodness that guarantees all auspiciousness. Mangalam. Truly, your soul is transparent for God, God Alone. This Divinity Who is your Real Self is most gloriously and intelligently unfolding the play of "Ganganath" toward a spectacular climax of God-Realization, and along the way, there is, in your case, only God, only God..... The saintliness that has already blossomed as Ganganath will, by Divine Grace, only continue to flower in ever more unspeakably beautiful and richly-abundant ways.
To quote the "4 Truths" of the great sage Yoga Swami (a Tamilian from northern Sri Lanka who flourished in the first half of the 20th century):
1) Oru Pollappumillai—Nothing is wrong. (There is no intrinsic evil.) 2) Naam Ariyom—We do not know—Who knows? 3) Muluthum Unmai—All is Truth, or Sarvam Sivamayam—All is Siva. 4) Eppavo Mudintha Kariyam—All has been perfect from the beginning.
Love to you, Ganganath, and to all beings--the jivas who are really Siva!
[“Sara” of India wrote to me after reading a couple of essays by myself posted at the Inner Quest website, asking for the link to the Sun magazine interview with me; I sent the weblink. She responded:]
June 8, 2007
Thanks a lot Timothy. The interview made things a lot clearer and your site is a revelation. Your essay on the terrorist phenomenon was an eye-opener. There’s a lot to learn from your site and I’ll certainly make use of it.
As for my way… it began with the usual discontent with a corporate job at age 40. Quit the job, and freelance work came my way – meaningful finally, along with volunteer work. Being single and always in search of an uncluttered life, it was only natural I took to this path. Began reading the Bhagavad Gita, attending discourses, switched teachers… But although I value my current teacher a great deal (he is a student of Swami_____), he focuses on the level 3 and 2 of reality as you put it.
[NOTE: in the Sun magazine interview (which is linked at the Engaged Spirituality section of this website), i identify level 3 as the level of conventional, pragmatic realm of morality and immorality, justice and injustice, help and harm, pleasure and pain, etc. Level 2 is the more “psychic” or “soul” level wherein it is realized that “everything is working out perfectly” for all souls, who are spiritually evolving over lifetimes into more and more virtue, luminosity, and joy, culminating in God-realization. Level 1, finally, is the perfect Realization “nothing is really happening”—all of this is a dream, there is only God, only God. All three of these levels are simultaneously true, level 1 being "absolutely" true, while levels 2 and 3 are "relatively real/true." I have a separate webpage outlining and even "charting" these three levels here.]
[Sara’s letter resumes about the teaching style and content of this particular teacher with whom she has so beneficially studied:]
Right action, motives, karma ….Extremely analytical (actually far better than his guru), he has certainly made me aware of the ego as the base of all problems. But I sensed that although this path towards ‘self-development’ was right for me at the time (I think he fears his students may not respond to pure advaita), I had begun to want something more. As it happens, I came across [the modern classic book of conversations with sage Nisargadatta Maharaj of Bombay] I Am That and that was it for me. Read Ultimate Medicine [Robert Powell's book about Nisargadatta’s teachings], then some books by Ramana Maharshi as well. Right now, what Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi say is what I am truly convinced about. I’m trying to practice awareness and trying to be thought free but one is so forgetful! I haven’t heard of anybody in Bombay whom I’d like to listen to. Somehow, was never attracted to Ramesh Balsekar [who claims to be “teaching in the lineage of Nisargadatta”] and the exposition in Inner-quest.org [about Ramesh] will ensure I’ll keep away. So ___ [name deleted] (my current teacher of the Vedanta) is good for me along with my readings. But I need to ‘remember’ more and more. Yoga is good for the body, but am now trying to use it as a tool towards that silent state – a little bit of time in being quiet without getting carried away. The good thing is that I have begun to look inwards and I’ve begun to see events in an integral way. They must have a reason and all of them teach me something valuable.
My current problem is: Reading is quite an addiction, and it is using the mind, it is not being still. So after work, I have to really remain far away from books for a while to just be and not think. Although I try to have a sense of the ‘I am’ even while I read, but when working, I get carried away from the I. Seems a bit too involved although very concentrated. Don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Working on it, rather, have to be earnest….
Thanks a lot for taking time out to write and listen.
Thank you for your kind words. Glad to hear something of your spiritual process.
No need to have a dilemma between stillness and reading. For a sage, it doesn't matter whether there is a mind or "no-mind," a body or "no-body" (pure nirvikalpa formlessness). The real issue is coming from the Freedom that we are, whether or not a body-mind-soul complex is active or not.
For this, the classic method given in the Upanishads, by Shankara, and Ramana and Nisargadatta, et al., is the old triple-method of "hearing, pondering, meditating on Truth" (shravana, manana, nididhyâsana), and Nagarjuna (a father of Mahayana Buddhism) identifies the same triple-method of hearing, pondering and meditating (shruti, cintâ, bhâvanâ) on the Absolute as Emptiness-Openness.
Spiritual reading of authentic liberation wisdom from the sages is part and parcel of the "hearing and pondering" stages. Until you are completely free of any Self-doubts, it's useful to keep the upadesha wisdom-teachings from your friends, the sages, close at hand. Someone once said to Nisargadatta, who had asked the visitor to converse with him about spirituality, "I want only to meditate with you in silence [read: stillness]." Nisargadatta replied, "Let's have words first, then silence. You must be ripe for silence." The point, of course, is that Nisargadatta wanted to ensure that the visitor was fully clear on the wisdom level before going into silence-stillness-samadhi states, which, without the Self-shining clarity of real wisdom, will tend to verge into stuporous laya (yogic sleep) states.
>trying to be thought free but one is so forgetful [...] I need to ‘remember’ more and more.
>My current problem is: Reading is quite an addiction, and it is using the mind, it is not being still. So after work, I have to really remain far away from books for a while to just be and not think.
Alright. The restless activity of the mind is part of an old process of the Divine Atma pretending to be identified with a jiva-personality. In most cases (someone like Ramana Maharshi is an exceptional case) the mind's restless activity isn't going to just wind down overnight or within a few months or even a few years.
So, you don't even have a "choice" about whether to think or not think. Thinking happens. So does breathing. So do sensations.
The problem is not so much the mind and the body and their activities as "where" you take yourSelf to be. The great sage Annamalai Swami once confessed, in his youth (after he had already become an accomplished yogi), to Ramana that he still felt some feelings of lust. Ramana told him: "such feelings are of the mind; you are NOT the mind." (Annamalai Swami was thinking that he was somehow inside the mind and implicated or impacted by its contents; Ramana simply and swiftly freed him from this erroneous identification.)
So, Sara, whether the mind reads words or not, whether the mind serves up thoughts or not, whether the mind "remembers" the Self or not --is NOT the point. :-)
Our Self, the actual, authentic Self of Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss-Light-Love, is always already what we are, right HERE (closer to us than the mind), right NOW (at the root of every moment, before the body-mind-soul complex can even be re-created, moment by moment). This Self is the continuing, changeless, undiminishable, unimprovable Reality underlying all body-mind-soul states.
>Although I try to have a sense of the ‘I am’ even while I read, but when working, I get carried away from the I.
Okay, Sara. I am so very happy to hear of your sadhana [spiritual practice] on cultivating the sense of the "I am" presence. But this statement "I get carried away from the I": Ramana clearly said, over and over, that there is only one Self, not two (self and Self). There is only the Self and Its states of mind and body, which are actually never a problem for the Self, which is essentially, in Its own Nature, actually mind-free and body-free.
Remember that Ramana said that, strictly speaking, we don't even need to "realize" the Self, for it is always already Real; the "only thing necessary" is to stop perpetually giving a sense of reality to the body, mind or soul, which are fundamentally and ultimately dream-like, not solid, not lasting, not always present--their absence in deep, dreamless sleep proves this--while the Self, so "bare," so "empty," so "open," so "vast," continues all along, our root sense of Identity.
Therefore, what is it to directly know THIS by simply being this Self that we really are, underneath the body-mind-soul complex? Let the entire body-mind-me fall off. WHAT remains? The Divine Intuition within knows THIS Divinity right HERE by always being THIS. Know THIS and be free.
Nisargadatta told a group of us assembled in his mezzanine loft-space in early 1981: "Look, this is so easy. Just as we would look at that table over there and realize, 'I am not that table,' do this with your own bodymind--realize 'I am not that.'" This is the simple, radical dis-identification, the only "thing" needed for awakening to the Self. It's like awakening from a dream. Formerly we took it to be real, to be "me and my world." Now we don't. We have awakened from it, "subrated it" (undermined its sense of being real, solid, permanent) by snapping out of the hypnotic dream or trance of "me"--and now we are simply being LUCIDLY AWARE of whatever happens as dream-only.
The really beautiful happening, as Nisargadatta, Ramana and so many others testify, is that, upon awakening (and this awakening may need to happen again and again as old samskaras-vasanas might arise to recreate the sense of being the "dream-me"), we realize not only that we are no-thing/nobody, but also we are every-thing/everybody. Maharaj said this clearly on a few occasions: "Wisdom says i am nothing. Love says i am everything."
Sooner or later, there is a conscious conviction that we are always only THIS one single Self of all. Sankara said that the words of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and the words of all true sages, are the awakening reminders of this sole Truth that there is always only THIS Self, this resplendent, glorious Atma-Self.
Sara, you might enjoy reading consulting two more resources:
First, a section on the "four modes" of Self-awakening and some Q&As i've shared in an article on nonduality for a book for mental health professionals (scroll about halfway down to get to parts three and four). www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Nondual_Awakening_Source_and_Applications.html [see excerpts from Part 3 and 4 above, and also the weblink for the entire article].
Second, the "Experiments" section of a website sharing the wonderfully simple, clear, unpretentious approach to Self-Realization by my late old friend, the eminent British mystic Douglas Harding (1909-2007). Douglas was a genius in coming up with delightful, childlike exercises for realizing what we are as the "headless," empty-open-infinite-free Awareness, always right HERE, closer to us than the mind, "zero distance from ourSelf." www.headless.org/english-new/experiments.htm
Enjoy, dear Sara, this Self that is the Self of all selves.
I love your great dedication, sincerity and honesty! All these beautiful qualities that characterize you as a soul will come to fruition, sooner than later. You really are the God-Self. There can only be this God-Self. You and all beings will eventually, in time, awaken to this God-Self--and time is nothing for the Timelessness that You Are. Enjoy the process that you are--the Self awakening to ItSelf.
You are the One who Alone Is, O Devi [Goddess].
In the Light of Your Divine Truth
June 10, 2007
Thank you Timothy. I am beginning to get the point of disidentification and not being obsessed about every moment. Will read what you suggest. Thanks very much.
Just wanted to add two things to what i wrote to you the other day, in light of what you had earlier written:
1) I'm glad that you take out time for silence each day after your period of work. It is quite helpful for there to be some periods of literal silence and "no-activity" (just stillness and complete emptiness-openness) for the body-mind jiva-soul from time to time.
2) About thoughts, there's an old idea that when one dis-identifies from the ego complex, then selfish thoughts subside, and "God-thoughts" arise, spontaneous thoughts of loving-kindness, gratitude, compassion, and creative sankalpas for helping people in various ways (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually). So, again, the issue is not really about becoming literally "thought-less," but thought-free, free to host all sorts of spontaneous Divinely-motivated thoughts of satya-dharma-shanti-prema-seva [Truth, Virtue, Peace, Love and Service], just as one does not become literally "body-less" in awakening, but body-free, Free to manifest and wield a body as part of this dream-like Divine Manifestation (the Cit-Sakti-Lila or Play of Divine Awareness & Power) for the sake of interacting with and inspiring fellow aspects of the One Atma-Self.
In Prema, Shanti and Ananda [Love, Peace, Bliss]
June 13, 2007
Thank you very much for once again taking the trouble to explain in such detail. The links you suggested are very, very helpful indeed. Will go through those sites on an ongoing basis. Douglas Harding’s experiments were quite a revelation. It seems like the nature of the body is programmed for the likes of Harding to discover the connection between it and the idea of nothing/space.
Would truly appreciate just a few more clarifications, then I won’t bother you. You have a million things to do and a million mails to reply to. If there are some links which give some more pointers to these points, would be great.
1. When you say ‘stillness and complete emptiness-openness’, does this mean that one also needs to be physically still if possible? Somehow being physically still does help give rise to the feeling of openness, but is it essential to be physically still for some time at least? Which leads me to ask how helpful is meditation as a practice for a beginner like me? If you do recommend it, then for how long should one meditate?
2. About dis-identification with the ego - reminding yourself over and over again that you are not the body, mind and ego, would that automatically lead to being ‘thought-free’? I still have to convince myself conceptually about one’s true nature and really believe in it. I guess this positive conviction and the ‘not this, not that’ go hand in hand.
3. Also, being ‘thought-free’ as I understand from you, does not imply ‘not having thoughts’, but means that thoughts may be there, but they are not the kind which are likely to disturb you. If for example, a thought comes along about merely observing a difficult happening and not really fighting it, but accepting it gracefully, would that be ‘thought-free’ or not? Any kind of disturbance, I take it, would not be a thought-free state. Is this right? If not, could you throw some more word-clues about this ‘thought-free’ state?
4. On Ramana Maharshi’s method of ‘self-enquiry’ – Being curious of the source of all and being self-consciously aware of what one is doing and thinking sound like two different things to me. I can’t say for sure that I am truly curious of where I came from. But, the idea of being self-aware somehow appeals to me. This may be due to the fact that a course in Vipassana made me a bit more self-conscious (aware of the moment). Is there a difference between the two and if so, how should one bring about this curiosity?
Thank you again and again for all this help!
I'm glad you investigated Douglas Harding's way of "seeing from no-thingness." It's so simple, clear, accurate, and PROFOUND.
You asked some great questions:
Sara, one doesn't need to be physically still, but it is helpful to allow the "doing, having, striving" of old conditioning to settle down and clear out. It's like the ancient Zen idea of letting a roiled-up pond settle down. If we try to clear the pond by manipulating the sediment, it only gets more roiled up. So we let be, we allow the sediment to settle down, and then the pond is clear all the way to the bottom. This is only a metaphor, but a helpful one. When we allow the bodymind to settle down and relax in a literal stillness, so much of our intrinsic energy that is chronically dissipated in all that activity and busy-ness has a chance to gather together and become focused like a laser. In this literal "no-doing" state, there is a re-cognizing that one is always the Self, not the body-mind-ego. This is why so many mystical traditions have recommended stillness over busyness (worldly busyness or religious busyness). The most important of the ancient pre-Socratic Greek mystics (Parmenides, Empedocles and other mystics of the Apollo cult) and the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers both spoke of hesychia-stillness. The ancient Psalm in the Hebrew Bible urges us to "Be still, and know that I Am God." Ramana Maharshi, Swami Gnanananda of Tirukoilur, Yoga Swami of Sri Lanka and others all invite us (in Tamil language): summa iru, be still. Sai Baba of Shirdi said to his disciples, "Only keep quiet and I will do the rest."
This stillness recommended by the sages is really pointing to "inner stillness" or abidance in our Absolute Nature as Spirit, beyond the changing body-mind-soul states. But it also involves a certain amount of outer stillness of bodymind.
>is it essential to be physically still for some time at least?
We don't need to make rules or regimens about this, Sarasvati. Many sages, male and female, spiritually awoke while doing chores, walking down the road, bathing, etc. So i won't say "it is essential." But let me say that many sages did awaken to the Self while sitting/lying/standing in stillness.
>Which leads me to ask how helpful is meditation as a practice for a beginner like me?
Meditation can be very helpful. As you probably know, there are many forms and styles of meditation. I've delineated these at a book-manuscript excerpt at my website:www.enlightened-spirituality.org/meditation.html You might especially want to read the very first essay linked within that particular webpage on "demographics, styles, stages and goal of meditation."
>If you do recommend it, then for how long should one meditate?
There need not be any "should" about it--again, no artificially self-imposed rules and regimens. Yes, yes, i'm well aware that many spiritual teachers talk about the need for regularity for meditation in terms of time and place, such as for one hour from 5 am to 6 am. It does create a certain nice rhythm in one's life to have this regularity in meditation, for instance, very early in the morning before one has become active with the day's duties and responsibilities, or late at night when all such duties have subsided. Yet other sages have taken the approach of recommending the jnana-marga [wisdom path] "self-inquiry" or else the Buddhist-style sati "mindfulness" or vipassana "insight" meditation whenever one doesn't need to focus the mind on a specific work task. So that can be at various irregular moments throughout the day and night.
As for "how long one should meditate," again, there need not be any rules. Ramana Maharshi wisely and wittily declared that one should meditate until there is no longer any sense of a "meditator" a "meditation object" or the act of meditation. Obviously, the more time spent in meditation, the more chance of going very, very deep into the root-layers of the mind (seeing into the nature of the samskara-ego tendencies and unlocking the ego-knots of the heart).
The "danger" is that many people can slip into that soporific, sleepy laya state, about which many great sages warn. Like deep sleep, it's very relaxing and even healing of certain conditions. But it's not a state of clarity, it's not a state of consciously being the vast, infinite Self or Pure Awareness. It tends to be more like a swoon or trance, not characterized by harmony and clarity or sattva (sattoguna) but characterized more by inertia and dullness or tamas (tamoguna).
>2. About dis-identification with the ego - reminding yourself over and over again that you are not the body, mind and ego, would that automatically lead to being ‘thought-free’?
Sara, the "neti, neti" (not this, not this) Advaita Vedanta way of dis-identification does not "automatically" lead to being thought-free, but it certainly tends to do so. The reason i say this is because some people merely fall into a kind of mechanical, "rote" formula-pattern, a merely mental or conceptual way of saying to themselves, "i am not the body-mind-ego." This is not authentic flourishing as transcendent, free Awareness.
>I still have to convince myself conceptually about one’s true nature and really believe in it.
This is all part of the classic threefold inquiry (vicara) path that Shankara and Nagarjuna recommended: hearing the Truth, deeply pondering the Truth, and meditating on (or being meditated by) the Truth. The "convincing myself" stage is the intermediate pondering part of the process.
>I guess this positive conviction and the ‘not this, not that’ go hand in hand.
You are absolutely RIGHT that Self-realization is a CONVICTION, a massively solid, unshakeable, firmer-than-a-rock CONVICTION that one is this Self of all, this open-empty, fabulously-full, ever-free, transcendent-immanent Awareness or Spirit or Reality. This conviction, this real wisdom-knowing that you are the no-thing-like yet all-pervasive Self, will gradually dawn or suddenly erupt, because THIS IS YOUR ETERNAL TRUTH. The false, fleeting identification with being only the body-mind-ego will eventually fall off because it is only a passing dream. YOU REMAIN, as simple yet glorious Awareness.
>3. Also, being ‘thought-free’ as I understand from you, does not imply ‘not having thoughts’, but means that thoughts may be there, but they are not the kind which are likely to disturb you.
Exactly! What can disturb YOU who are never ever trapped inside a mind, for YOU are the true I of Awareness, right HERE, "closer" than the mind... always the basic Reality before the mind (or body or ego sense) arises moment by moment.
You also wrote:
>If for example, a thought comes along about merely observing a difficult happening and not really fighting it, but accepting it gracefully, would that be ‘thought-free’ or not? Any kind of disturbance, I take it, would not be a thought-free state. Is this right? If not, could you throw some more word-clues about this ‘thought-free’ state?
Sara, I would nuance it this way: some thoughts seem more "rajasic" (rajoguna) than others, and thus tend to be more "disturbing," if one buys into them. So... if one is simply noticing in a relaxed kind of way various thoughts, emotions, psychic and bodily states arising, moment by moment (without being obsessive about trying to observe every thought, emotion, sensation, that arises), realizing that all these vibrations (physical, emotional, mental) happen in the vast open Awareness that YOU ARE, this is being "thought-free": free to Host various vibrational impulses, acting responsibly and lovingly and creatively with some vibrations, not acting on other vibrations, and just being in the flow of grace and intelligence and loving-kindness. With this openness and clarity, all sorts of selfish thoughts and impulses are "seen off" and tend to subside, disappear, and not reappear, for there is no longer any samskaric tendency for them to recur. This is what the sages mean by having one's samskaric "seeds" "fully cooked," no longer capable of sprouting. It's simply an ego-tendency that one has outgrown. Just like you probably no longer feel any urge, as an adult, to play with certain juvenile toys or hit your sibling--whereas when you were a two-year-old you might have done so. So also, the more you are consciously established as the Self of all, the more so many ego tendencies simply fall off. They're just no longer interesting, not worth fueling, not worth "cathecting" (investing any energy in), as they say in certain psychotherapy circles.
>4. On Ramana Maharshi’s method of ‘self-enquiry’ – Being curious of the source of all and being self-consciously aware of what one is doing and thinking sound like two different things to me. I can’t say for sure that I am truly curious of where I came from.
When we talk about the Source, we're not talking so much about this Source as a past cause for a present effect ("where i came from"). We’re really speaking about and intuitively pointing back to what YOU ARE, right now, as the upstream Reality from which bodymindego arise, moment by moment. YOUR TRUE REALITY is both the Source and the Effect, i.e., the Unmanifest and the Manifest, the One and the Many, Noumenon and Phenomena, Awareness and objects of Awareness, formless Siva and Shakti's play of forms.
You also wrote:
Sara, when you say "self-aware," we can certainly be mindfully aware of the body-mind-ego self's manifestations—what the Buddha identified as the "five aggregates" (Skt.: pañca-skandhas): namely, 1) the bodily form or energy, 2) sensations, 3) perceptions, 4) samskaric reactions (including both emotions and volitional impulses), and 5) the egoic sense of "me" as cognizing consciousness.
One cannot be Self-Aware, in the sense of making a perceptible object out of the Self (what the Buddha termed the “featureless Consciousness,” or asamkrta vijnana). One cannot be Aware of Awareness as an object. Thus, this infinite, open, Aware Self that we are (Tat Tvam Asi, That You Are, as Chandogya Upanishad repeats over and over) is simply Awareness. We don't need to find this as any kind of thing or entity. JUST BE this Self, "Aware-ing" whatever arises. And whatever objects do arise are the Awareness or the Self in disguise. This is why the Kashmir Saivas and Nath tradition and others speak of the dynamic play of Siva as Sakti, Formlessness as Formfulness. Your "self" is Sakti's manifestation. Your SELF is Siva's unmanifest formless vastness or infinity.
Be as YOU ARE.
This is true peace, this is true freedom. This is the glory and splendor of God, zestfully playing the play of being a beautiful human being--Sarasvati.
Love all, serve all, by being the graciously loving Self of all.
January 23, 2007
Timothy, I have just read your "Real Advaita" article on inner-quest.org, and following the instructions there I would like to request a copy of the entire interview you did with the Sun magazine, referenced in the article. Thanks. --"Charles."
["Charles" then heartfully responded at length to my brief response and sending of the link for the Sun magazine interview (posted in full at the Engaged Spirituality section of this website).]
Thanks for the links and the encouragements. I am writing to you now before visiting those links, so if you have already answered these questions through your previous writing, then please accept my apologies for maybe wasting your time. On the other hand, from what I have read from you so far I think you will "bear with me"...
Just to let you know what led me to your article: I started reading a book I got from my local library, called "From Onions to Pearls", and quite frankly I soon found myself feeling uncomfortable with what the author (Satyam Nadeen) was saying. It seemed as though he had never learned how to understand suffering in other people, and one sentence (which I thought was peculiar, maybe offensive) stated that an earnest student's Zen meditation and a Hutu's daily slaughtering of Tutsis are both essentially "a perfect expression of Source in manifestation pretending It is limited". It led me to wonder if Nadeen had a true understanding of the concept of "non-duality", it seemed as though a limited understanding was being applied to something that belongs on a totally different (higher ?) level - it didn't seem right to "apply" something experienced in a state of ecstasy (or from a mystical state) to "ordinary life" that way, primarily in order to avoid conflict. After trolling the Internet I eventually got to your article posted on inner-quest.org, where I then read [in another essay] that "Ramesh [also] put 'a Hitler and hundreds of Mother Teresas' on the same level"...
[NOTE from Timothy: this kind of confusion or mixing up of "absolute level" nondual teachings with "conventional level" pragmatic realities by Ramesh Balsekar, Satyam Nadeen, and others, is a particularly grievous confusion afflicting much of the neo-Advaita or pseudo-Advaita nondual spiritual movement of our era; i have posted a long critique of this pseudo-Advaita at this webpage.]
However my life has been primarily dedicated to work and family responsibilities [with several children, etc.], and very seldom has a spiritual "event" interrupted this process, and my limited spiritual "insights" have not really evolved into anything more that an unsatisfied hunger to get to grips with this aspect of my being in a concrete and purposeful manner before I die. I do remember as a young man, when I studied religion at college, reading that Hindu men were expected to raise a family before retreating to a cave or whatever for spiritual purposes, and I took that as very good advice.
I read your explanations about the various types of "realized" individuals versus the imitators or charlatans. And your explanations of the various levels of life a person must integrate as part of being fully human.
With what I understand (which is limited) about Hindu and Buddhist thinking, I am particularly interested in understanding the role of attraction and suffering in a "realized" consciousness. Since Buddhist instructions (from my understanding) are geared toward to "cessation of suffering" through the reduction of "afflictive" modes of thinking and the cultivation of "non-afflictive" modes, it seems to be stated that attraction and the subsequent suffering as a result of attraction are essentially negative aspects of life and to be avoided through right meditation and living.
But my experience of trying my best to be a good husband (failed at that!) and father (mostly succeed at that) tells me that without attraction, bonding, familiar feelings, ordinary basic love and the willingness to be involved in worldly processes and emotions, and the willingness to suffer, I will contribute nothing to those around me. The essential role of being a good person in this world (or at the very least a good genetic blueprint to another generation of humans) seems to require "duality". At the very least I need to be willing to be male to a female, father to a child, worker to an employer. If I "run out of energy" for the demands of any of these then I have failed in the endeavor. So far, I have run out of the energy to keep up the dialog required for a marriage, but thankfully I have managed to "keep it up" for my children and my work.
I guess this is where I feel a conflict between what some of what the "non-dualists" are saying and what I experience. Even if I instinctively feel I want to withdraw from engagement from those around me in the various conflicts and tensions of everyday relationships, I cannot, because my sense of duty and love requires me to respond to the demands placed upon me. Even if I find a level of equanimity and peace in myself, a "non-dual perspective" if you like, I cannot often translate this meaningfully to the people I am responsible for in anything other than yet another act of "duality" - but hopefully one that is somewhat full of "loving-kindness".
It "gets worse"...
Sometimes I cannot help feel like crying whenever I see a sentient being kind to another being, whether it is "so obviously" manipulative like a TV program where really nice people get given new homes from other really nice people, or where "nerds" and "beauties" break down their barriers and become somewhat real with one another, or a cat enjoys the company of a dog or a bird. Certainly I deeply appreciate every kind thought and feeling I get from my children, and can give to my children.
This seems "so wrong", in terms of being a "realized" human being, in terms of being a "non-dual" kind of person - why should I care, and be subject to feelings? Why should I feel any pain, my own, let alone anyone else's pain? Why are feelings so bound up with a "duality of consciousness", and what is wrong with that?
I believe it is wrong when the mind is attracted to and obsessed with "feelings" and "suffering", when one derives a wellspring of energy from this kind of fixation, without any higher reference.
However, I do not yet believe it is wrong to have feelings at all... I cannot help wondering if I might one day experience something wonderful in / through my feelings.
[Material about shamanism and advaita deleted here.]
Thanks for getting this far - if you have!
Namaskaram, dear Charles,
So glad to hear from you--and to hear of your spirit of loving service, kindness, and integrity in relationship with family.
I could write an entire book in response to the beautiful points you make and the questions you raise. Alas, not having the time to do just that, i can only send a few sketchy remarks along to you. First let me say that, yes, pretty much all of your questions will likely be resolved upon reading that Sun magazine interview and the several items at the Nonduality section of our website (e.g., you might especially want to read the first part of my critique of neo-advaita).
Let me also clarify that the neo- or pseudo-advaita rampant today (in the talks and writings of dear folks like Satyam Nadeen and Ramesh) completely ignores the conventional ethical/moral level of the classic advaita or advaya "nondual" teaching of the ancient Vedantins and Buddhists.
Be aware, Charles, that the world of duality/multiplicity is not negated by realization of nondual truth. The eminent Hindu Vedanta sage Shankara [flourished circa 700 CE] clearly stated that "world as [mere] world is unreal, world as Brahman [the expression of the Divine] is real." Buddhist sage Nagarjuna's teaching [in the 2nd century CE] about Shunyata (Openness-Emptiness-Void) is not teaching nihilism, oblivion or negation of the world of relationships and karmas good and bad. His letter to the king and other writings are ample proof that the realization of Shunyata does not negate relationships or ethics but empowers them and ennobles them, raising them to their highest level of expression.
Let me say, too, that there's nothing wrong with having a "functional ego-I sense" for being responsible, accountable, and loving in relationship. All the great sages had this functional, responsible, accountable self-sense for maintaing appropriate behavior in relationship. They weren't blanked-out, unfeeling, unresponsive zombies!
Ramana Maharshi, the king of modern-era jnanis (nondually oriented sages) used to love to have stories of devotionally-oriented bhakta-saints read out in the old hall where he sat with disciples and visitors, stories of great devotion to God, courage in the face of adversities, and self-sacrifice on behalf of all. Ramana would often openly weep during the reading of such stories. When asked how he could be so interested in such "dualistic" stuff (devotional love of God, etc.) and how he could weep over it, Ramana responded: "How can one not weep upon hearing of such love and devotion?"
This poignant pathos is one aspect of what the Buddhist teachings on "Suchness" (Tathata) are all about. Zen and Pure Land Buddhism have each in their own way gone very deeply into this heartfelt appreciation for the suchness and beauty of the Infinite Buddha-Nature playing as the finite beings, conditions and circumstances.
This is duality/multiplicity within unity. The One playing as many in the context of the One Alone. Formlessness displaying as Form. God dancing, feeling, striving, suffering and celebrating as creatures, the dreamed figures within this Divine Dream.
To ignore or dismiss such poignant expression of the Divine One, the Divine No-thing playing as everything/everyone is to completely miss the heart of Reality and the essence of Life.
So much of neo-advaita (or other cheap, distorted forms of mystical nonduality rampant today) tends toward a de-personalizing aloofness or apathy. This is not Self-Realization or God-Realization. It is a stunted form of development. It has no warmth, kindness or emotional generosity.
May all beings be awake to the clarity of Divine Truth and the poignancy of Divine Love.
Charles--your own sensitivity and integrity will be the qualities that awaken you fully to what is True and Good and Beautiful--the Divine Reality or God-Self. No need to worry about anything. God is awakening you to God--pure and simple.
If you're so inclined, read the aforementioned materials at the website, then feel free to call me if you have any more questions. Wishing you everything wonderful.
P.S.--Re-reading your lovely letter brings up two quick further points for clarification, which i've gone into in a number of essays i've written and that Sun magazine interview--all posted at the website.
First, the essential point here is that a mature, balanced, full Realization paradoxically entails being fully involved while being utterly uninvolved, fully engaged while being unattached.
Second, the goal is not to become emotion-less or thought-less, but emotion-free, thought-free. That is to say, entirely free to have feelings and thoughts, not be "had" by them, i.e., driven and run by them.
Thoughts and emotions/feelings are spontaneous expressions of the Self-nature, just like body-sensations. All are vibrations emanating in/from/through Infinite Awareness. You are both this formless, infinite Awareness and this dynamic play of Shakti-vibrations. Shiva and Shakti. Two, yet nondually one. A Divine paradox, mystery and miracle.
Praise this God-Self (Brahman-Atman / Buddhata / Shunyata) from Whom All Blessings Flow!
Blessings all around and right inside! (Finally: no inside or outside.)
Thanks so much for replying to my inquiry, and in such an encouraging way...
Your replies, especially in this message, touch on something I have been struggling with for most of my life. "Being fully involved while being utterly uninvolved". Maybe this implies two "streams" - involvement and detachment - I and I AM, mind and Mind - left brain and right brain - soul and spirit??? - running parallel to one another - maybe sometimes connecting, but essentially preserving their strength and flow from their source to their destination. Like slow moving green water and rapidly moving white water.
Yet, because they are simultaneously flowing so close to one another, sometimes they also connect, and maybe feedback to one another and derive an increased flow from their combined force - the somewhat turbid green water benefits most while the white water's flow is mostly undiminished. But maybe sometimes their interaction just produces eddies: cloudy, confused, strange, stagnant water - especially in the slower moving green stream. Finally, of course, they merge at their destination....
The "issue" seems to be that while they are still separate streams our "job" as "realized" human beings is to be able to fully experience both at the same time...
If this is a reasonable metaphor for your statement that one must be "fully involved while being utterly uninvolved", then surely a state of duality must always exist while these streams remain. They do not merge until their destination is reached, but then they are no longer streams, they are part of the ocean, whatever that means to their previously separate identities. Until then they are separate. One cannot be both fully involved and utterly uninvolved without experiencing a duality. There is no way to interact with the world and with "God" without embracing (or at least surrendering to) duality.
From my rough metaphor, if these "two streams" exist, then I would like to fully understand, indeed experience, another of your statements that "All are vibrations emanating in/from/through Infinite Awareness". In my streams story, the streams might come from the same Source, from Infinite Awareness; and in some way they might be ultimately powered by / through Infinite Awareness; and in the overall scheme of things, in the landscape in which they flow, they are most definitely in Infinite Awareness.
But "in themselves", in their own "self-consciousness", they are the green stream and the white stream. I myself am in the "green stream" 99% if my time, I remember brief connections with the "white stream", and long for more experiences of the increased energy and clarity that I felt, but - in my consciousness - I do not know how to be in both the green stream and the white stream at the same time. [...]
[...] How can they even seem like related substances, even though they are both "water" and they both "flow"? Of course, as you pointed out, he must accept that all are vibrations of Infinite Awareness, spontaneous expressions of the Self-nature....
[...] There is a whole world of examples of green stream people who have gone mad from trying to get themselves out of the green and into the white, or to drag the white into their green. If the result is harmless they are considered somewhat "nutty", but if they hurt others as a result they are called "mad", or - especially when an urge for power and a misuse of sexual energy is involved - "rogue messiahs" or (Western prejudice here) "gurus". Sometimes though, they succeed in finding out how to do this, and they do not end in madness, and then we might call them saints, "realized", or at least - good people. Maybe even gurus.
To complete the extra exposition, let me make one more comparison between the streams metaphor and viewpoints about human nature, because this is what my question to you is all about...(the original question was to ask for a comparison between shamanism and Advaita, and I was particularly thinking about how they might transform "ordinary reality")...
If you accept the streams metaphor, then in Western psychological terms, can you please give me your opinion on whether the streams can represent the so-called "Conscious" and the "Sub-Conscious" mind? If so - which stream is which? If not - perhaps the Conscious and the Sub-Conscious mind are levels in one of the streams - I would suggest the green stream.
Dealing with Conscious and Sub-Conscious mind, with the goal to transform reality, are both Conscious and the Sub-Conscious mind "imaginative"? That is - can the sub-conscious "make up" stories, and "manifest reality" to the conscious mind? Or is the sub-conscious waiting for instructions from the conscious mind before it can generate the images it is so good at creating?
There are many documented "psychiatric cases" where it seems evident that an individual has instructed his sub-conscious to create a new reality so that the conscious mind can escape into the new reality in order to avoid conflict and pain. However, it could be viewed the other way around, that the sub-conscious mind, "aware" of the pain being suffered in the conscious mind, "interrupts" consciousness with a new reality that allows consciousness to reintegrate, and thus diminish its suffering.
In terms of conscious and sub-conscious mind, which do you think is "in control", or maybe neither are?
In terms of the "realities" of consciousness, do you think that these realities can be actually "real", or are they are just phantasies based on the world, or other worlds, or some dimly remembered taste of "white water"?
The question about the creativity of the sub-conscious mind arises because in my reading about shamanism and some psychiatric cases there is often a statement that the sub-conscious mind is essentially directed by the conscious mind, that is doesn't initiate manifestations of "reality", just creates them as a result of directions of the conscious mind. Essentially, in this view, the sub-conscious mind is not the director, not the prime mover. This is contrary to much of Western psychological thinking...
In either scenario, the "reality" that the sub-conscious mind generates is unique to each person, but there are commonalities... These might arise because every person has essentially the same issues to resolve. But, to include the spiritual dimension, the commonalities might also arise because every individual consciousness taps into the same "higher reality". To revisit the streams metaphor, there is only one white stream that all green streams run parallel to - the white stream is the "human spirit", or maybe even "God".
[... Material deleted about shamans and their adventures with hallucinogenic plants, painful austerities, etc.] I have never tried any of these things, as it all seems so very messy and frankly pretty scary, besides which I think that if you wanted to be a shaman then you would have to dedicate your life to being one, with no guarantee going in to it whether or not you would succeed. You might just go mad.
But shamans have been part of human society since Paleolithic times. Certainly shamanism could be called the oldest religion, and the most natural religion. But in terms of the dual / non-dual thing, it seems an intensely “dual” practice, at least “going in”, having to deal with so much stuff in another whole world.
Where do you fit this in to your understanding of Advaita? Does your tradition deal with these things, or not? If so, are they part of the “practice”, or are they considered as unprofitable digressions?
I love your passion and your intense devotion to truth and authenticity. I appreciate your lush metaphor about the two streams. I was especially interested in your musings about the conscious and subconscious mind and insights on shamanism (have you looked at my brief analysis of shamanism at the Religion & Spirituality section of the website and my lament for the loss of so many indigeneous tribal peoples and their shamanic culture?)
Given my severe time constraints [...], you can see that i must maintain some "functional boundaries/limits" on how much time i can spare with my dear friends--both new and old friends.
So, alas, i must be all-too-brief here, Charles. You might want to start an occasional or regular study-group in your area to discuss with any like-minded friends your interests and concerns, and pool all your research efforts to come up with some answers on your own. Again, i've compiled a massive amount of material at the www.enlightened-spirituality.org website to help folks like yourself and any others interested in these topics.
To be brief, then, i'm going to leave behind your beautiful metaphor of the streams (unfortunately it's still a bit too separatist for the purposes of our discussion--please pardon me for saying this after all your efforts to so wonderfully develop the metaphor)-- to shift beyond metaphors to looking at some observations from physical and cognitive science.
For starters, I would simply remind you that the very nature of physical reality itself on the deepest subatomic level is paradoxically BOTH "particle-like" AND "wave-like." But these are both contradictory states! How can subatomic reality (e.g., photons, electrons) be BOTH "fixed" in space-time as a particle-like "thing" or "entity" and yet also spread out in spacetime as a "wave" process? This is boggling to physicists--so much so that some decades ago it began to be joked in a neologistic way that these subatomic "particles" must be wavicles.
For another scientific reference to the paradoxical nature of reality, in this case the paradoxical nature of consciousness, i'd inform you about Robert Jahn, an engineer and historian of science doing psi research on ESP (e.g., remote viewing) and PK (psychokinesis, remote influence) at his Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research / PEAR project at Princeton University. Jahn has clearly shown us another paradox (well-known to psychics and spiritual masters): that human consciousness usually seems to be functioning out of a "particle"-type mode, insularly identified with this "local," narrow, finite, limited body-mind-ego, and yet human consciousness can quickly shift (as Jahn has observed repeatedly with hundreds or thousands of volunteers in the PEAR program) into a "nonlocal consciousness" mode capable of being "spread out in space-time like a wave" to function with ESP or PK capabilities.
So these two examples from science--physics and parapsychology--tell us that reality and/or consciousness can PARADOXICALLY show up as TWO DIFFERENT MODES or ASPECTS that seem "distinct," "dualistic" or even "irreconcilable." But we know that they are reconcilable because both modes exist in each instance (the "wavicle" phenomenon in high energy physics, the local/nonlocal phenomenon of human consciousness).
Likewise, with respect to this even deeper truth about WHAT WE ARE, pure spiritual Awareness, the God-Self: this Self or Awareness is transcendent, uninvolved, pure peace & bliss ("subtler than the subtlest" joy), and yet also simultaneously manifests as a body-mind-self-sense, i.e., the human being or any other kind of sentient being (dolphin, discarnate soul, angel, etc.).
It's not that the two modes one day "merge"--as in your metaphor of the two streams--it's that BOTH THESE MODES are somehow nondually "one" right now. It's like when you hold up a coin: there are two completely different sides to the coin, and if you only looked at one side of the coin you would see only that one side, "heads" or "tails." For instance, on our coins here in the USA, the "heads" side has the face of Lincoln or Jefferson, while various Washington DC monuments are displayed on the flip side.
Obviously these two sides of the coin are distinct and different, and yet they are nevertheless both just different "faces" or "facets" of ONE SINGLE COIN. It's not a question of them "merging" one day in the future. They're both true right now, they're both distinct, and yet somehow they're still both one.
We don't really have any "perfect" metaphors for this "nondually two in One" nature of Reality. Perhaps the best one is the old metaphor from India: a multitude of waves on one single ocean. The waves seem distinct from the ocean in one way, but truly these waves are not other than the very same H2O of which the ocean is composed (not to mention the salt here!).
Charles, you wrote:
I'd call it a functional polarity, but not a separative or schizoid-inducing "duality." We've got to throw out Aristotle's entrapping, limiting "either-or" binary logic and work with ancient India's "four-cornered logic" (A, not-A, both A and not-A, and neither A nor not-A).
You also wrote:
A correction/clarification here, Charles: the ancient nondual teaching of Advaita Vedanta, Ch'an/Zen, etc. is not that "one interacts with God [Tao, Buddhata, etc.]," rather, the realization and teaching is that one is the Absolute or God which paradoxically also can manifest/emanate a dream world of apparent objects with which one feels OneSelf to be "in a relationship." This is the more precise and accurate way of stating this mystically.
Yet it is still paradoxical. Advaita and Kashmir Shaivism put it this way "Brahman and Maya [or Shiva and Shakti] are two, yet one." Mahayana Buddhism's pithy little Heart Sutra (recited daily by Zen practitioners) puts it, "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Form is not different from emptiness, emptiness not different from form."
I'm tempted here to quote our most ancient known advaita sage, Yajnavalkya, heavily featured in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "Don't ask too many questions about this or your head will explode!"
In other words, the conventional mind, conditioned by distinctions of space-time, subject-object, etc., cannot wrap itself neatly around its own Source.
One can live this paradox, abide as this paradox, but not "understand it" in Its fullness. Which is why my old friend, the late great Danish mystic Sunyata, who lived in India for 45 years, sat with Ramana Maharshi, etc., would invite everyone to intuitively INNERSTAND rather than "understand," i.e., "stand under the burden of concepts."
Re: my notion, "it's all vibrations," you wrote:
One simply lives the paradox. Dogen Zenji taught: "Ah spring is here; flowers are in bloom. So are the weeds." One utilizes viveka (discernment) and vairagya (unattachment) to bring as much virtue to every situation as possible, as best you, the jiva-self, know how. Your own deep sincerity and passion for goodness and authenticity will bring in a certain element of Divine Grace & Guidance, which sometimes will seem more powerful and clear than at other times, when the Atma-Self delights in having the jiva-self feel entirely befuddled, lost, and unsure as to "what to do."
Simply let Divine Life live in you, as you. There's breathing.... Seeing.... Hearing.... Feeling body sensations ... and emotional vibrations....
Let your own conscientiousness respond to your children and all other significant "others" (your Self in disguise) with loving energy and what needs to manifest will manifest.
And incidentally, in only a passing nod to your extensive reasoning and questioning about the conscious mind and subconscious mind, i would mention (i hope it doesn't sound too glib) that the mind is still so very mysterious in so many ways, and seems to shade off in a continuum into the Self ItSelf! Thus, we do better to really distinguish (as did Roberto Assagioli and C.G. Jung) between mind, subconscious mind and super-conscious mind. The sub- and super-conscious mind aspects or elements will emerge from time, usually during those lovely "uncovering periods" of clarity about mind-dynamics (e.g., in meditation, odd moments during the day, dreams, the period between waking and sleeping and vice-versa). While being sensitive to the mind's contents, and not letting yourself be pushed around by the mind's less wholesome aspects, I wouldn't get too obsessive about any of the contents of the mind; better to intuitively abide as Source of the mind--i.e., Pure Awareness, Openness-Emptiness-- and play on as the jiva-self under Divine inspiration and guidance in all your relationships and activities.
There may be, in your mind's useful judgments, "mistakes" or "errors" or "sins" or "flaws" that occur from time to time in your behaviors. Fine. Learn from this mental discernment process of viveka as a kind of psycho-bio-feedback system, and see what happens next time you are in a similar situation.
Bottom line: no need to overly "problematize" your behavior. As God-man Meher Baba (d.1969) put it: "Do you best, then, don't worry, be happy!" (the last part of this line immortalized by Bobby McFerrin in his famous song of several years ago.)
Hope this helps, Charles!
Be well in your "natural" (Sanskrit: sahaja) state....
Jan. 28, 2007
You have, once again, gone beyond kindness in your reply. Thank-you very much! Your reply has given me a much better handle on what is going on, and what you pointed out about the nature of mind is much better information than the metaphor of streams.
While reading through your explanations my immediate responses were along the lines of "OK, but I still cannot see both sides of the coin at once, how do I ever do that?".
But when I reached the paragraph that said that I must "bring as much virtue to every situation as possible, as best you, the jiva-self, know how", and later on "Let your own conscientiousness respond to your children and all other significant "others" (your Self in disguise) with loving energy and what needs to manifest will manifest", I really believed what you said was correct for me, and I felt very peaceful about that.
I have always wanted to "get a handle" on the "spiritual dimension", but I have instead been more or less "reduced" to having to get a handle on just being a standard kind of guy, with all the resulting responsibilities.
However, as you encouraged me to "Simply let Divine Life live in you, as you. There's breathing.... Seeing.... Hearing.... Feeling body sensations ... and emotional vibrations.... ", I realize that, if I am happy to accept these everyday events as part of Divine Life living in me, then I am actually not too impoverished in the spiritual realm. To "respond with loving energy" might be, probably must be, the ultimate thing for me to do in my current life. Although I really hunger for the ability to fully function as a spiritual and insightful being, I am also willing to concede that apart from dealing with my daily life, there is little I can do about it.
Still, I would like the ability to meditate, or enter a trance, or to lucid dream, or whatever, but for these things I have no technique. So it is intellectual insight, a feeling of love and some kind of certainty of "spirit", and the occasional experience of a some sort of "rush" up my spine, sometime a trembling in my heart, etc. that sustain me. But as you've encouraged me, I should consider that these are my riches, and therefore are of great value to me.
So, thanks once again for your reply Timothy, I will carry on much encouraged... There is nothing I can do to repay your kindness, except maybe give you something [artwork] that I can create.
Alright, we're zeroing in here (being NO-thing, NO-body!)...
Remember, Charles, that such words i gave to flesh out the "both sides of the coin" are part of a metaphor, and just a metaphor. In the case of this Siva-Sakti dance, or Awareness and objects/vibrations arising in/as Awareness, realize that only the Sakti/vibrations/objects "side of the coin" can be seen, witnessed, or perceived. Your real nature as Awareness is NOT AN OBJECT to be "seen," "perceived," "known" or "grokked" in any way. There is simply a profoundly clear INTUITION that You are this no-thing-like, no-body-like Openness-Emptiness-Aliveness-Awareness-Bliss. Which is why Nagarjuna and the Mahayana Buddhists so often deploy this term Shunyata, Openness-Emptiness-Void.
This Openness-Awareness that you ARE is, therefore, not an object and there need not be any attempt to "see" yourSelf object-ively. As Zen would say, that's like an eyeball trying to see itself or a fingertip trying to touch itself. It's useless, futile, and pointless. Awareness stands before and beyond the split between knower and known, perceiver and perceived. So, intuitively realized, the Open/Empty/Full Self is Subject-ively obvious but not "object-ively obvious." Hence all these words we have from the advaita sages and texts: "just be the Self," "abide as the Self," "come from the Self."
So-called "Self-Knowledge," therefore, is pure, objectless, wisdom-knowing that you are the Self. But "what" you are is not directly observable or knowable as any mere object.
IF YOU WANT TO "SEE" THE SELF AS AN OBJECT, just LOOK AROUND YOU! All these perceivable objects (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, inner/outer touch sensations) ARE THE OBJECTIFIED SELF. In other words, all the lovely beings and things constituting your cosmos are the "perceptible Body of God," the Form of the Formless. Your children are the manifestation of God; so is your food. So is the page-down button or arrow key you're using to move through this email!
The "problem" for most spiritual aspirants until they wake up to Self-shining Truth [and everyone will awaken to this Truth] is that they are looking for God or the Self as "something else" beyond the recognizable people, animals, things and events of life, some special "Reality" not fully evident here as Awareness but "elsewhere" in the realm of concepts, objects, hopes and dreams.
The Self is not some lit-up obect (like a neon sign!) that one comes upon as an experienced object.
No, in awakening to Spirit, one realizes that God is everywhere and nowhere (Now-Here!) ... That your children, the people at your job, this computer you're looking at, your hands, the air you breathe, and all the various arising-passing sensations, perceptions, thoughts, memories, emotions, and so forth are all the Blessed Form of the Formless God.
Where else could God be except right here as the changeless, boundless, spaceless, timeless, formless, Awareness (your Real Identity), sweetly cherishing and loving itSelf in all Its blessed "creaturely" forms, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the so-called "profane" to the so-called "sacred" (i.e., archetypal visions of Krishna, Jesus, the Kingly Being of Light).
Upon awakening spiritually, it is obvious that "mundane reality" is the extraordinarily Ordinary, the utterly Sacred realm.
You also wrote:
Charles, I hope that you allow this "reducing" process to go all the way until you are utterly no-body, no-one, and no-thing, with no more capacity to hold/handle anything! Thus zero-ed out (as in Buddhist nirvana; the Muslim Sufi term is fana; an old equivalent Greek Christian word for this complete self-emptying is kenosis)--you will realize yourSelf as THIS which is entirely EMPTY yet completely FULL. Empty of selfishiness, grasping, restlessness, pride, shame, frustration, etc., and absolutely Full of Aliveness-Isness-Bliss-Love.
Spirituality is not a "dimension"--It is the zero-like Infinity which is the spontaneous Source of all dimensions. And don't worry about what kind of "dimensions" are showing up. These prosaic 4 dimensions (3 spatial dimensions, 1 temporal dimension) are enough of a wonderland (far-better-than-Disneyland). No need to go looking for special dimensions, special states, special energies. That's the trap of "spiritual materialism," what the Buddha would call pseudo-nirvana, getting lost in deva [heaven] or asura [demon] realms with their fantastic forms, objects, and powers.
If you think there is, as far as dimensional objects or forms of energy, anything more "spiritual" than your children, the people and things at your job, or this Sacred Moment and Circumstance of your sitting with your computer, you'll get quite lost and confused and frustrated! So, let go, let God. Be fully Here-Now. THIS IS THE "OTHER WORLD"! A dream-world, to be sure, but how magnificent that the Divine can dream this sacred, precious dream of "mundane" living. (--Recall this word "mundane" comes from an old Sanskrit root mand, for "sacred circle"!)
Yes, if these things are meant to happen, they will. One can always train for them by simply giving time and attention. But never put the cart before the horse or lose the forest for the trees--You are the Supreme, Changeless, Formless Awareness right HERE, right NOW. No meditative or any other kind of trance state is more important than THIS. Special "states" are all downstream--You are the SOURCE, without which nothing happens or is recognizable or experiencable.
Thus, i would emphasize the importance of BEING CLEAR over "trying to get high." The latter trip only produces fleeting ups and downs, changing "special states." Whereas getting really CLEAR about what's HERE as AWARENESS is to be clear about the Reality underlying and permeating all changing states of body/mind/psyche.
By the way, as you probably intuit, this Source-Awareness is not "yours" to own or usurp in a selfish way. I.e., this ancient-yet-always-now spiritual teaching about your Real Nature is not the philosophical dead-end known as "solipsism."
Everyone/everything you encounter has, as its "interior Nature," this Self-same Self or Awareness. There is only one Self here, playing all the parts, all the "soul-roles," but this Self is not "yours" or "mine" in any narrow way. Solipcism is guilty of the colossal form of megalomania wherein it is felt/thought that "all of you are but figments of my mind/consciousness." The spiritual Truth, by contrast, is that "all of us finite selves/personalities are being dreamed by the One Divine Dreamer, i.e., Infinite Being-Awareness."
You also wrote:
Yes, Charles, here you are right on the verge of falling back into your Real Nature. There is a conviction or certainty that your real Identity is pure, no-thing-like Spirit--VAST and FREE and OPEN. Occasional rushes of energy, visions, special "high states" definitely occur, by Divine Grace (your Real Nature). But all such things/events come and go. YOU ARE THIS WHICH DOES NOT COME OR GO! Namely, the changeless Openness in which all events happen, the One Substance of which all events are made.
Your Infinite Identity as Openness-Awareness is the supreme value, which lovingly shines the Self-effulgent Light in such a way as to manifest (out of Its own No-thingness) and also illuminate an entire cosmos of beings-things-events.
You wrote (about what i wrote):>>"...breathing.... Seeing.... Hearing.... Feeling body sensations ... and emotional vibrations.... "
Charles, You are supremely Rich, full of Life, Peace, Joy, Beauty--indeed the Totality of existence, with its wonderful, wild, wacky and sometimes woeful play of opposites (light-dark, good-evil, beautiful-ugly). The Divine One in this perfectly-scripted "Divine Comedy" makes use of moments or periods of tragedy, terror and trauma as part of the One experiencing ItSelf as the Many... There's no cinematic film that could ever be as intensely "real" and riveting as this life....
You also wrote:
Function with loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity (the four ancient "brahma-viharas" or "divine abodes/qualities" as taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago), and realize the Buddha's wisdom about the "3 marks of existence" (anicca, anatta, and dukkha-- impermanence, insubstantiality and "not-worth-grasping-onto")--this is the essence and acme of "functioning as a spiritual and insightful being."
>there is little I can do about it
Who is the "doer"? Really, enquire with me now: "who is the doer"? Are you personally growing your hair, digesting your food, consciously carrying out the metabolic processes of your c80 trillion cells and dozens of organ systems? No... as the Taoists say, "tzu jan," everything's happening "of itself" by the power (te) of Tao. Fully surrendered and emptied out in all naturalness, simplicity, and humility, let God/Tao (your real Identity) "do" "your" life.
This is the mystery of the Father incarnating as the Son (see Meister Eckhart on this from 700 years ago); this is the love-play of the Beloved and the lover.
Ultimately, the intuition dawns that the Two are One, always only One.
I salute Thy Infinite Truth-Beauty-Goodness, O Divine One Who Alone IS!
P.S.--thank you for your kind offer, Charles, regarding your gorgeous artworks[....]
Jan. 29, 2007
So many thanks for "zeroing in" to help me... It has been so encouraging to read what you have written to me, and just the fact that you have written, despite the many issues you personally need to deal with, is very humbling.
I laughed when I read that "one realizes that God is everywhere and nowhere (Now-Here!)" - it is so true! As I read that re-statement of NOWHERE, my mind immediately leapt to the fact that the titles of many of my artworks, which I have only just shared with you, are about "Trails to EREHWON", which of course is a deliberate reversal of NOWHERE. But to consider that this in fact is also a declaration of NOW HERE was absolutely delicious and even somewhat spooky, as I realized that the very thing that led me to make the art was a weird and febrile perception of nothing and everything - both at the same time - representing everything and nothing; longing with no fulfillment; questioning and surrender; asking and giving up asking; meaning and meaninglessness... Maybe, to quote a phase I have read only recently - "the path is the Temple".
Now-Here, and Here-Now - I not only believe it, I have faith and the beginnings of knowledge of it...
But, I guess like so many of my generation, I want to experience the spiritual role of the human body, to experience spirit in my body. Intellect and intellectual understanding are not enough. Even spiritual experience is not enough if I cannot somehow "capture it", bring it back, into my "body of senses", if I cannot "remember" it.
[...] It is very difficult for me to "be at peace" with God NOW HERE, to REALIZE it, without the benefit of real KNOWLEDGE on a level I can feel in my BEING. Maybe there are more decades ahead of me before I finally "get it", but I "fear" that I will run out of time to find the thing I am looking for, or to realize how to know the thing I am looking for is HERE, NOW, to surrender to it before my body and mind give up the struggle...
Still, I am very encouraged by your message and I am going to try and put that kind of consciousness into my everyday life.
Thank you for files of images of your beautiful artwork. The EREWHON - NOWHERE connection is really delightful. I'd not consciously thought of it when i wrote you...
Anyway, you wrote:
>I do not feel it for myself [...]
Again, Charles, i salute you for your passion for authenticity, no mere acceptance of all of this on just an intellectual level.
I'm still hearing here the quest for a specific state recognizable to the mind on a feeling level. This is a very common situation for spiritual aspirants. Now, just let this desire or yearning for a special state completely drop off, along with all other yearnings, and find out or intuitively see what remains.
Check out the "experiments" area of the lovely website dedicated to the life and work of the late Douglas Harding (who just passed away a couple of weeks ago, one month shy of his 98th birthday): www.headless.org.
Your real nature--and God's Self-same Nature--is not a specific experience or feeling. As Douglas used to point out, what the theologians say about God's real Nature is identical to what we are in our real Nature when we enquire deeply into this Subject of Who/What am I? Pointing back at the invisible, unseen Seer of seeing, the unheard Hearer of Hearing, the unthought Thinker/Noticer of thinking, the unfelt Feeler of feeling, etc., we find that this Reality or Real Identity right Here right Now, "zero distance from ourself," is entirely Birthless, Deathless, Timeless, Spaceless, Boundless, Changeless, Emptiness-Openness-Fullness, Aliveness, Awareness, the Source or "Creator"-Emanator of the world (i.e., the world does not exist without Awareness aware of a world).
But none of these Divine attributes true of God-Self can be "felt" or "experienced" or "seen" in an objective way. As i said before, they are Subject-ively obvious, not object-ively obvious. In other words, one knows OneSelf by simply being OneSelf. Thus, the way or path and the culmination of the path are utter relaxation, being content with being nobody, nomind, no one in particular. From this "no-thingness" it is obvious that the entire world of body-mind-emotions-world-relationships-sentient-beings is a miraculous dream-appearance arising (and instantly disappearing each moment) in Awareness and that this Awareness is one's true Nature and the true Nature or Identity of everyone and everything.
So again, the "way" is letting go, relaxing, softening, smoothing out, "dying" (as in Jesus saying "lose your life for Everlasting life" or Muhammad "die before you die"). Welcome to holy Infinity, your real Nature, not experiencable as a specific "state" or "feeling" or any-thing, but quite be-able.
Charles, when you write "to experience spirit in my body" --i would say that the body, upon deep investigation, IS spirit, this openness-emptiness itself. After all, what is the body made of but absolutely fleeting, vanishing sensation-ripples in a field of energy that is ......... WHAT? What is THIS? What is the nature of each bodily experience, or, for that "matter," each emotional or mental experience? On a deeply, deeply, deeply "felt-sense" level, what are any of these sensation, emotions or thoughts? What are they made of?
Buddhist mindfulness or "connoisseur sensitivity" of each and any kind of experience yields the realization that each "thing"/event is just the dynamic, finite play of Infinite Spirit or Awareness.
No need to get any more complicated than this. Stay very, very simple with this. An old Meister Eckhart line: "God is simple, man is complex." Now, being human, let us come from our Divine simplicity while enjoying and being as responsible and loving and compassionate as we can with this "complex" dream world of appearances and relationships which, upon close, deep (but non-obsessive) investigation, moment by moment, turn out to be VOILA, nothing but no-thing in disguise!
All hail the transcendent-immanent Divine One!
Praise God-Self from Whom all blessings flow!
In love and light
I am definitely taking all your advice, and thank you— once again.[...] Your advice to stop searching, and to find out or intuitively see what remains, makes perfect sense. Whatever remains, after thought and feelings are quiet or not allowed to distract, could only be the next thing I need to know, which could just be nothing. So, thanks Timothy!
(You wrote:) >Going Nowhere...
Beautifully and Graciously... The Clear Light expressing as amazingly colorful light—and black and white and all gorgeous shades of gray!
Be well, dear Brother, O Self of us all.
>“Richard” writes, in an email entitled “Jnani search” (search for a sage):
April 15, 2007
I stumbled onto an article you wrote [posted at inner-quest.org website] regarding Ramesh Balsekar while preparing to make a trip to India to visit with him. I immensely enjoyed the article. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I later asked David Godman [NOTE: longtime librarian at Ramanashramam and author of several fine books on Ramana Maharshi and his followers] if he could recommend a suitable teacher for me. Unfortunately, here is what he concluded:
“Unfortunately, there is no living teacher [in India] I know of at the moment who is accessible and who has convinced me that he/she is both realized and has the power to transmit something of that state to others. I am sure they exist somewhere, so good luck with your search.”
I am hoping you might have some ideas on who I might contact. I am also attaching an email [deleted here] I recently sent to Alan Jacobs at the Ramana Marhashi Institute in London. Some of your material inspired the email. It should give you a good indication of what I seek. I have the time available to travel to India this year. There is no telling how long this opening will remain in my career. I do hope you will make a recommendation.
By the way, I have a very close friend in Santa Barbara, who I visit frequently. I would like to visit you on my next trip, if you would allow it. Satsang with your group sounds delightful.
So nice to make your acquaintance--i'm glad to hear of your passion for really living the Truth of who we are, beyond samskara attachment/aversion reactions. You're quite welcome to attend our Tues nite satsang group anytime you're in town, and whenever i'm in town (send me an email if you're going to be in town, just to confirm).
Regarding advice for your upcoming trip to India—in earlier years i often recommended a visit with Mata Amritanandamayi as usually very inspiring and deepening. (See www.amma.org; her main ashram is Amritapuri in Kerala state, P.O., Kollam Dt., Kerala 690-525) But the scene around Amma has become absolutely huge since some friends and i first welcomed her to San Francisco in 1987 on her first world tour and there are some troubling tendencies in both Amma and the movement such that i no longer am inclined to recommend participation in the M.A. movement. But a lot of sincere practitioners are to be found in the huge crowds around Amma, so there is much supportive energy for sadhana/practice, be it self-inquiry, seva/service, or bhakti-devotion. (Obviously, any one of these approaches can happen spontaneously, nondually, without a sense of "doership" or "goal seeking," purely a spontaneous expression and celebration of Awareness-as-Love-&-Service). It is still the case that Amma can be experienced as not tied to a body and available as nonlocal, loving Consciousness, operating as a tremendous force of opening and liberation— dissolving the “knots of the heart” and releasing old samskaras / vasanas. The last chapter of my book Women of Power & Grace features Amma’s life story in great depth, and over 50 pages of her teachings, most of which i selected for their strongly nondual flavor.
Our friend Ganesan, a grand-nephew to Ramana Maharshi and longtime editor of the Mountain Path journal, holds daily talks at his house near Ramanashramam; he has many lovely stories about Ramana and knows much about the Maharshi's teaching. The jnani-sage Ajja (whom i never met but read some good things about) has just passed on in 2007; the old rascally "unguru" UG Krishnamurti also just passed on (you can read all you need to know of his teachings about the non-"spiritual" natural state on the web; he was a lot of fun, albeit awfully sour and sarcastic about humanity, when i saw him in Bombay in early 1981 and thereafter a few times—I think it was his ruse to role-play being such a curmudgeon to liberate people from making idols out of human beings). I hear from some friends that the largely silent sage Nannagaru is worth sitting with—he spends a lot of time in and around Ramanashramam and Tiruvannamalai, South India. Lakshmana Swami, whom David Godman wrote about (i saw David at Lakshmana's little ashram up in Gudur, north of Madras, back in 1988), is impressive to many people. I found Lakshmana intense, and with quite an air of transcendence, but not a very "friendly" fellow at all--and the several westerners around him all seemed to be racked with guilt because of feeling that they did not measure up to his expectations. By strong contrast, Lakshmana's young enlightened disciple Sarada was very accessible, very powerful and much friendlier. I don't know what the two of them are up to these days, what the scene is around them, etc. [A friend reports that they are now in 2007-8 mostly living in Tiruvannamalai, but largely in seclusion, granting only a brief glimpse daily to their well-wishers while riding around in a car with tinted windows.] Guruji Sainathuni Sarath Babuji is a saintly disciple of Shirdi Sai Baba (the original Sai Baba, d. 1918); Guruji comes to Tiruvannamalai frequently and holds sublime silent darshans. [UPDATE: Babuji died on Nov. 13, 2010.] In Chennai (formerly Madras) lives Ma Jnanananda Saraswati, a female renunciate sannyasini and guru who has taught Self-enquiry & advaita (nondual) Vedanta for many years with a strong devotional bent; she spends much time in samadhi. I can vouch for her spiritual simplicity and inner/outer beauty and virtue. (Write first before seeing her, to Sri Jnana Advaita Peetha, AI 66, 5th Main Rd., Anna Nagar, Chennai 600 005). In North India are a number of saints such as Siddhi Ma, who is connected with the energy of the late Neem Karoli Baba and travels around to his different ashrams. In the Rishikesh area are present-day saints/sages like Chandra Swami and Swami Candrasekharanand Sarasvati.
You can also read Anne Cushman & Jerry Jones' book of several years ago, From Here to Nirvana: The Yoga Journal Guide to Spiritual India, for further "holy people and holy places" to visit.
There are several other so-called "Gurus" who've come on the scene in India in the last decade, but i'm not very impressed (and i won't mention any names here)—most of them have commodified spirituality with a series of expensive "courses" and "trainings." Is there now a "Become-a-guru" MBA business program at some of India's universities? They're emulating the Mahesh Yogi (TM), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Muktananda SYDA Yoga financial model, i suppose. Bless their hearts, may they attain the fruits of their desires....
For myself, i would simply sit in the old hall at Ramana's ashram, where Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi [1879-1950] has never left, and also spend time at the nearby vacated ashram of our old friend Annamalai Swami (a true jnani-sage and spiritual son of Ramana), a couple of hundred meters to the west (i'm not sure who's living there now). And i would spend time on the holy mountain Arunachala and in its little cave ashrams (Skanda Ashram and Virupaksha Cave Ashram) partway up the mount, and also circumambulating the mountain, as well as perhaps visiting some of the aforementioned sages and saints who live in the area or visit from time to time. Tiruvannamalai is still a very hallowed place—if you don't mind the hordes of neo-advaitin self-styled "enlightened teachers" and their "disciples" who've descended on it, creating a far different atmosphere, rather like a circus ambience, in stark contrast to the quiet 1980s and earlier decades.
Ah, different vibrational states—only One Awareness.
Richard, you well know that there is no place to go, and that Satsang with the Inner Guru of open-empty-free Awareness is the crux of spirituality. I like your report of "nothingness aware of nothingness." Now just realize that this No-thingness not only transcends but also pervades/permeates the "Richard" body-mind and all body-minds, all relationships, and then full-circle, balanced spirituality is flourishing. You simply realize that your True Nature is entirely beyond all, yet poignantly within all beings, as their essential Reality: pure, pristine, seamless Awareness.
You might be helped by lots of material on nonduality at our website (www.enlightened-spirituality.org — see the Nondual Spirituality section), and also the website of my dear late friend Douglas Harding (1909-2007), who for 50 years showed people through a delightful series of experiments and insights how to simply "come from" open, unreifiable Awareness [unreifiable= Awareness is never a thing], not as a mere concept. See the website created by our friend Richard Lang for Douglas at www.headless.org and go straightaway to the Experiments area (click the tab near the top of the webpage).
Your aspiration to fully live Divine Truth is to be fully encouraged, Richard, not stunted by some neo-Advaita teaching to merely "call off the search" or have the mere "understanding of the truth" that my old friend Ramesh and his followers promote. Yes, all neurotic, narcissistic seeking must fall off, the sooner the better, yet a spontaneous "holy aspiration" to have "God be fully God in you" can still unfold. This is "ego-free deepening and transformation in natural freedom," not a strategically egocentric search to "get something" or "attain something." This ego-free, spontaneous aspiration for full liberation (what Mahayana Buddhism terms "anuttara-samyak-sambodhi," full, irreversible enlightenment, not just the "satori" or "kensho" glimpse experiences that Zen warns about) can take different forms: for instance, spending lots of time in meditation, in satsang with fellow aspirants, in ashrams/monasteries/holy places, practicing intense (yet gentle) self-enquiry, or being consciously, fully present with your relationships and work/career.
My mentor Nisargadatta recommended great sincerity and earnestness as the major factor in becoming really free beyond merely a cognitive, conceptual understanding of the Truth of who we really are.
I sense this sincerity in you. This is all that matters. One day, sooner than you can "think"-- in fact, it can be right at the beginning of THIS MOMENT, before your mind even has a chance to dream up a scenario of "i'm unenlightened"-- you'll realize that you are this vast, spaceless, timeless, changeless Openness-Emptiness-Fullness in which "Richard," "Timothy," and all beings/events arise. You are the Self-shining Host for all "Guests" (all phenomena) to appear in your wall-less, infinite House of Being. To know that all manifestation, gross or subtle, is a dream happening within this Awareness is real Wisdom. To love, honor and serve all "Guests" that arise as a spontaneous, beautiful "Suchness" display of the Divine--this is real Love. Stay quite simple with this (Meister Eckhart: "God is simple, man is complex"; "God is at home, man is abroad"). No need to complicate the uncomplicated. As Nisargadatta Maharaj said, "Just be. And don't get restless 'trying to be.' Just BE."
Then, Richard, it is the case that the God-Self is "doing your spirituality," breathing you, growing your hair, meditating you. All is flowing as Grace. You are no one and everyone. Yes, it's all "just" a dream. And Wow, what a dream. Only Your Divine Self could be dreaming all of this.
In the Light of Your Self-Luminous Self
You have given me more up to date information on Indian sages than I have been able to accumulate in over a month of research on the net. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I really want a copy of your 2 new books [on India’s sages, past and present]!
It just seems to me that everyone with a known track record is dieing the moment I discover them: Ajja, UG Krishnamurti, Poonja, Harding. The list goes on and on. [… ] Your time with Nisargadatta must have been precious. His book, I Am That, is a centerpiece in my study.
I am in the hunt for “zero gravity” [NOTE from Timothy: I had reported to Richard how i once asked Annamalai Swami in 1980 about the nature of enlightenment, and Annamalai Swami responded, “It’s like zero-gravity—nothing is pulling you anymore.”]
[“Richard’s” letter resumes:]
I have some time on my hands and I have come to realize that this [trip to India] is something that I have needed to do for decades. I just put it off in my intense pursuit of maya [illusion].
Time for “great sincerity and earnestness.”
April 17, 2007
Just a quick note before we talk today, and to put it in writing so you don't forget:
All these external "guru"/"unguru" figures are dream-figures pointing you back to the Awareness that is reading these words. Any true sage is simply coming from this Self-same Awareness with a minimum of, or actual annihilation of, the samskaras or binding attachments/aversions. So the only purpose for satsang is resonating with someone who is none other than your Self, modeling a degree of freedom from samskaras. Now, because any true sage doesn't identify with a bodymind, except for functional purposes, these sages are just as present formlessly within you as appearing in a human form "outside" you.
So, dear Richard, i strongly recommend letting go the search for outer figures, let go the feeling that you need to see someone to rescue you or validate you. Just come from your Self in all simplicity, lovingkindness and good cheer, knowing that all these bodyminds are being dreamed by the Divine Dreamer, your real Self, the Self of all of us "selves."
Your family, your job-situation, the environment of ___ [a state in the USA, we’ll say “Alabama”] where the "Richard" bodymind resides, all of these wondrous manifestations arise in/as the Opennesss-Vastness of Awareness that you simply are. Drop the personality of hankerings and fears, then let your Divine Nature animate the bodymind personality for the sake of love and service, bringing kindness and joy to the lives of all whom you meet. Be a Buddha-for-Alabama and for all boundless realms by coming from your intrinsic, unborn Freedom. You can't not be what you ARE, so no need to strive to "become" something; as Zen says: no need to add legs to a snake. No need for a fingertip to try and touch itself. Awareness can't make an object out of Itself or find Itself as a "something."
Just BE, and love all, serve all.
“Richard” quickly wrote back:
Here is my dilemma:
I feel like a snake who has already grown some unnecessary feet and would like to cast them off. Easier said than done.
Not a lot of specific recommendations out there, although I understand there is a lot of discussion of this in The Gita and Upanishads. I studied both texts is prep school, but, the student was not ready. Now, I am ready.
I get the inside self/ outside reflection guru picture.
Here is my motivation: experience has shown me that I “learn” more from the vibrational presence of others than I ever will from reading, sort of like the magnification of depth I achieve meditating with others, rather than alone.
I also have a “curious” nature; I enjoy the company of people on the path.
That’s all it is.
If it is meant to be, it will happen, if not, back to the screening room for more fascinating film of “Richard’s” life and the Divine Play.
Richard, you wrote:
Richard, this is great. And now I’m going to engage you in some "corrective language games"--à la the Chan/Zen masters, since language and psycho-linguistic conditioning are major factors creating and re-creating the sense of limitation and misery for so many beings... I'm sure your own deep Knowingness/Beingness will resonate with everything said here. This is certainly not about "me vs you" but rather the I-that-is-Us clearing up any possible vestige of confusion.
So, Richard, you wrote:
So, Richard, there’s nothing to get. Don't let mind fixate anywhere.
And you've perhaps heard the old wisdom aphorism: true surrender is realizing there is nothing to surrender, nobody to surrender to, and no one to do the surrendering.
>Here is my dilemma:
Okay, ...yet i invite you, Richard, to realize that all sense of "dilemma" is a mind-created affair, and you are, in your original and ultimate nature, NOT the mind. The mind will have all sorts of dilemmas. But where are these in deep dreamless sleep or in mindfulness meditation on the breath, or in playing with or serving your family in straightforward loving activity?
>I have been “pulled” back into mind by emotional triggers I do not understand.
I have a fairly long and very substantial essay on seeing/releasing emotional energy at this webpage at the "Soul-full Spirituality" section of the website. You might find it very helpful.
>the power of my mind is overwhelming to me. I have witnessed it, but, that, in and of itself, has not freed me of it. Now, what to do about it?
It's like the old Zen warning about trying to clarify a roiled up pond by stirring it further.
You also wrote, Richard:
>I feel like a snake who has already grown some unnecessary feet and would like to cast them off. Easier said than done.
The entire point of this great Zen saying, Richard, is that snakes simply do not have and cannot have "legs" or "feet." Which means that you don't have to worry about anything that seems extraneous or problematic in your life. Clear, compassionate Awareness (compassionate both for "self" and "others") will ultimately "see off" any unneeded egocentric tendencies (problematic thought, behaviors, emotions), and you'll find yourself dancing/slithering (ha!) through life-situations knowing you are, in your real Truth, the great Vastness-Openness-Emptiness-Fullness in which everything happens like the beautiful, poignant, amazingly wondrous (and Divinely-dreamed) dream that it is.
Richard, you also wrote:
>If it is meant to be, it will happen, if not, back to the screening room for more fascinating film of “Richard’s” life and the Divine Play.
Yes, YOU are the projecting Light and movie-screen of Being-Awareness-Bliss-Love conjuring/projecting the film. Enjoy the show!
May we all be Divinely purified and empowered to love and serve as many beings as possible, one by one, moment by moment...
Dear Richard, just feel the immense blessings all around, all in the God-Self…
With love from your brother,
[Richard subsequently called for a most enjoyable mutual "phone satsang."]
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