Monday, December 5, 2011

Teachers Who Are Not Fully Cooked

As a result of the miracle of the internet, people all over the world now have access to hundreds of teachers who discuss non-duality.  You can read thousands of articles, listen to podcasts, or watch video segments from those who claim to be self-realized.

This technology has made non-dual teachings available to just about everyone -- and that is truly a blessing.  However, there's another side to this explosion of teachers.  Some of these self-proclaimed teachers of non-duality do not have an abiding realization of their true nature.  Almost all of them have had powerful glimpses of their true nature, but there's a significant difference between glimpses of Truth -- and a stable, abiding realization.

There are a number of non-duality "teachers" who are now disavowing their previous teachings or admitting that their views about non-duality have changed.  Some speak of working through psychological issues and suffering.

I applaud these teachers for their honesty.  Better to admit when your teachings were not entirely accurate.  Furthermore, it has been my experience that the vast majority of such teachers are loving, sincere people.  They never set out to mislead anybody or to make money from false teachings.  Many of them make little or no money at all.  They share their message out of love for the Truth -- and the benefits they have gotten by seeing life in a new, expansive way.

I am not saying that their teachings have no value.  A person who has had powerful glimpses of Truth can help you with your non-dual inquiry.  However, if that teacher does not have an abiding self-realization -- and has not worked out their psychological issues and suffering -- their teachings will be of limited value to the student seeking self-realization.

Those people (students or teachers) who have not worked out their own psychological issues are commonly referred to as not being "cooked."  If we're engaging in self-inquiry, we know that the process involves being "cooked."  I have been simmering for years.

Even the sages go through this "cooking" phase.  If you have engaged in self-inquiry for any length of time, you know that the feelings and emotions you have repressed for decades are going to bubble up to the surface.  It feels like you are being cooked, that the heat is being turned up.  This is a very healthy, natural part of self-investigation.  These psychological issues are being burned up in the light of Awareness.

My point is this:  if you are still cooking and have psychological issues to resolve, perhaps you are not suited to call yourself a "teacher" of non-duality.  This is simply my view -- admittedly my judgment -- and I am not calling for these people to stop teaching.  I am not saying you shouldn't follow these teachers.

What I am recommending is to be vigilant in choosing teachers.  If you want fun discussions and find a teacher you like to listen to or hang out with, that's fine.  However, if you have a burning desire for self-realization, I would suggest making sure that the teacher you follow has a stable self-realization and is free of psychological turmoil.

I am not saying that the teacher with an abiding self-realization is not gaining new insights or modifying his or her expression of the Truth.  There are always new insights to be gained, even for the sage.  However, you will find that the teacher with the stable realization is not modifying his or her core teachings significantly.  The Truth they realized five years ago is the same Truth they realize now. 

Furthermore, the self-realized teacher has resolved the psychological issues already.  That is, they are fully cooked. 

How do you know if a teacher has been fully cooked?

There is no simple test.  What I have noticed, however, is that the body language of the teacher with the abiding self-realization is quite different from the body language of the teacher who is not fully cooked.  Self-realized teachers carry themselves with a sense of ease.  Their bodies reflect it.  Their words reflect it.

These teachers retain their unique personality traits.  They don't become "perfect" body/minds and smile all day.  They might exhibit anger, impatience or what you interpret as ego.  Not all of their prior body/mind conditioning is erased.  But there is a certain calmness and ease in how they live, how they speak and how they interact with people.  You can see it and feel it.   The clarity of their expression is also a sign.  They are not "all over the place" and rambling when they speak.  Call it a natural eloquence.

Non-duality is impossible to accurately put into words but the genuine self-realized teacher is able to communicate your true nature in a way that registers in your mind and heart.

There is no shame in being not fully cooked.  99.9 % of the population is not fully cooked.  But if you're looking to realize your true nature, be careful to find someone who has been cooked.  It's where you'll find the most powerful, effective non-dual teaching.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Presence -- Two New Books by Rupert Spira

I have attended meetings and retreats given by Rupert Spira and find him to be one of the clearest and most effective communicators of the nature of Reality.  Rupert lives in the UK but makes regular trips to the USA and also travels extensively throughout Europe -- offering meetings and retreats.

Rupert is also a very caring man, with an intense love for the Truth.  He exudes love and sincerity.  He is unique in the world of non-duality because of the emphasis he places on EXPERIENCE.  He invites each student to refer to his or her own experience in realizing the nature of Reality -- and offers many meaningful exercises and meditations to assist the student.

Rupert recently released two new books, both of which are published by Non-Duality Press:

Presence (Volume 1) :  The Art of Peace and Happiness

Presence (Volume 2):  The Intimacy of Experience

Here are Rupert's own words, taken from a passage in Presence: The Art of Peace and Happiness:

"Your self, Aware Presence, knows no resistance to any appearance and, as such, is happiness itself; like the empty space of a room it cannot be disturbed and is, therefore, peace itself; like this page, it is intimately one with whatever appears on it and is thus love itself; and like water that is not affected by the shape of a wave, it is pure freedom. Causeless joy, imperturbable peace, love that knows no opposite and freedom at the heart of all experience….this is your ever-present nature under all circumstances."

I highly recommend these books to anyone who has been drawn to investigate the nature of Reality.  Don't be intimdated by the use of the word "Volume" in each book title.   Each book is a paperback of approximately 200 pages each -- and contains mostly short essays or answers to questions raised at meetings.  It is very readable -- and enjoyable to read.  You will be struck by the profundity of Rupert's unique expression.  He has a precision and depth that will penetrate you.

However, this is not the kind of material you can skim or read quickly.  You will want to savor every word and let it sink in.

I purchased my copies through Amazon.com in the United States.  It is also available through the publisher's website:  http://www.non-dualitypress.com/ .  You can also benefit by visiting Rupert's website, which is http://www.rupertspira.com/ .  His website includes a schedule of upcoming meetings and retreats and he also offers audio downloads from actual meetings.

Many of Rupert's video interviews are available online through YouTube and elsewhere on the internet.  Just put his name into a search engine and you will gain access to many of these interviews.  If you are not familiar with Rupert Spira, that might be a good first step -- to see if his message resonates with you.

Rupert's first book, "The Transparency of Things," also published by Non-Duality Press, is considered a masterpiece in the field of non-duality.  I highly recommend that book as well; however, it is not an easy book for a beginner (or even an intermediate student) to understand and fully appreciate.  In my view, the two PRESENCE books are written in a way that is easier to understand for students of all levels.

After reading the two PRESENCE books, treat yourself to a reading of "The Transparency of Things" -- assuming, of course, that the PRESENCE books resonate with you.

I fully recognize that while Rupert's teachings resonate deeply with me, that will not be the case for everyone.

Rupert is a rare gem among non-duality teachers.  I hope you derive as much benefit from his teachings as I have.



Friday, September 9, 2011

There's no ME but There Still Seems to be a YOU

At a relatively early stage of self-inquiry, we begin to see that the individual separate entity doesn't exist -- other than as a thought.  In other words, we see that there is no ME that has an independent existence.

Thus, there is no separate entity making choices or initiating actions.  If that is the case, then the same reality must apply to everyone else.  After all, if there's no entity "inside" my body operating my individual body, then surely there's no entity inside the bodies of others operating those bodies.

It sounds so simple and obvious.  Yet a funny thing happens.  While we see through the false ME, we still feel and act as if there ARE others making choices and initiating activities.

We continue to judge others and see them as separate entities.  For example, we see a cruel act and say to ourselves, "How can he do that?"  Or, we see someone make what we consider a poor choice and think, "Why did she do that?"

Consider your interactions with your spouse, family members, co-workers, or strangers you pass on the street each day.  They are pushing our buttons constantly and we fall into the trap of treating them as separate entities.

What should we do about this?  Nothing.

Just see clearly what is going on.  You may continue for quite some time to treat others as separate, independent entities.  Let it be, but see it clearly.  Clear seeing weakens the sense of separation.

If you're the analytical type like me, you may wonder why you see that there is no ME yet there appears to be separate others.  As best as I can figure, it's because we really haven't seen (and experienced) at our core that there is no ME.

The idea of ME has been significantly weakened but not completely seen through.  When there is truly no ME, it is likely that there will be a clear seeing that there is no separate YOU.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chocolate Cake and the Spirit

Ask religious or spiritually inclined people if they believe in some essence called Spirit, and all of them will say YES.  Then ask them WHERE the spirit is located.

You're likely to get a bunch of blank stares as they ponder the question. 

WHERE is this essence called Spirit located?

The overwhelming majority of people believe that the Spirit is somehow located inside the skin line of the body.  They may explain that the spirit is not a material object, but they believe it is somehow hovering within the line of the skin and bones of each particular body.

Ask these same people where the Spirit goes upon the death of the physical body.  You'll get more blank stares.  They will be embarrassed to admit their belief that somehow the spirit jumps out of the body at death and enters some heavenly or eternal realm.  They believe the Spirit is eternal but haven't any reasonable explanation about how the Spirit "leaves" a human body and where it goes from there.

Is the Spirit located inside the body?  Does each person have their own Spirit? 

Isn't it amazing that we never investigate these crucial questions?  Is it possible that the Spirit is not located within the body?

Clearly, most people believe (and also FEEL) that the spirit is located inside their own body, whether they will admit this or not.

Let's assume there is a man named John who weighs 150 pounds.  John believes the spirit is somehow located within the skin line of his body.  Now, if John eats lots and lots of chocolate cake, and his body "grows" to 160 pounds, does his spirit EXPAND to fill out his "new" skin line?

Conversely, let's say John goes on a diet and eats only low calorie fruits and vegetables.  His body becomes smaller and he now weighs 140 pounds.  Did his spirit shrink to fit within the confines of his new slender body?

These examples are utterly ridiculous.  Yet hundred of millions, if not billions, of people have beliefs that correspond to the spirit being physically confined within the body line.

In addition, if you ask someone whether their own spirit extends beyond their own skin line, most will say NO.  Thus, John would most likely say that his own spirit is NOT located one foot outside the boundary line of his arm.  John will also say that his own spirit is not located in the body of his neighbor, Mary.  That's where HER spirit is located.

Do we have any proof at all that there are "individualized" spirits or that they are located within the skin line of each body?

When we are willing to investigate this issue, we are likely to conclude that spirit is not localized.  Many of our existing beliefs will have to be discarded, opening the way for a fruitful examination of our true nature.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reaching for Blissful States

Most seekers equate enlightenment with feelings such as peace or happiness.  They believe that if they gain enlightenment, they will be peaceful or blissful all of the time.

All nonduality teachers are quick to point out that it is useless to try to reach any particular state.  What you are is not a state to be achieved and maintained.  All states come and go within YOU.

Peace comes.  Peace goes.
Happiness comes.  Happiness goes.
Anger comes.  Anger goes.

Put your attention on what is NOT coming and going.  Call it Awareness, Presence or whatever word you like.

In the early stages, and even in the intermediate stages of our investigation, we reach for blissful states.  We want to FIND peace or happiness, to somehow "connect" with it.  We think that nondual inquiry will bring us these states -- if not 24/7, then at least most of the time.

If you go to nonduality meetings you hear comments from participants such as these:

"I had this wonderful feeling of openness, joy and expansion....and then I lost it.  I can't seem to get it back, no matter what I do."

"I felt at ONE with everything.  I saw no boundaries and realized there was no separation.  It was pure love. Then I lost it and the separation returned.  I can't get back to that place."

This strategy of reaching for a state always fails.  The reaching is a trick of the mind, tempting us to search for something we think is NOT here now, but which can be obtained in the future. 

Whatever we ARE, we ARE right now.  Nowhere to go to "get it."  Whatever we "get" will eventually be lost.  We are focusing on the changing, instead of the changeless.

When you find that you are reaching for a blissful state, just STOP.  As you observe your tendency to reach for a state, you will start to get some distance from it.  You'll also be less likely to reach for these states in the future.  You'll drop the urge soon after it arises.

You will know that your investigation is maturing when you no longer reach for states, but allow whatever state is there....to be as it is.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can You Realize Your True Nature By Reading a Book?

You can learn a lot about nonduality and awakening by reading books.  There are many excellent books to help guide you.

However, it is extremely rare to realize your true nature simply by reading a book, or even several books.  In fact, I've never come across a person who claimed that a book -- and nothing more -- led to an abiding self-realization.  In many instances, a book may trigger an intense interest in self-inquiry, and it may provide a powerful glimpse of truth about one's true nature.

But a book, even one written by a self-realized master, will not lead to a clear understanding of the nondual reality.  Many of us have had the experience of reading a review on Amazon or some other website, telling us "this is the last nonduality book you'll ever need" -- as if reading that book will offer us the complete nondual recognition and answer all our questions about reality.

Yeah, right. 

It always ends in disappointment.  The book doesn't deliver what we want.

That being said, nonduality books can be quite valuable.  The vast majority of those who are attracted to nonduality read LOTS of books on the subject of nonduality, enlightenment, or awakening.  I think it's fair to say many seekers become addicted to reading books on nonduality.  It's not the worst addiction you could have.

I've been a nonduality book junkie for a while, although the habit was much more intense a few years ago.  I read nonduality books because I love these wonderful, unique expressions of the nature of Reality.  I feel more relaxed, more peaceful, and more loving as I read nondual books and materials.  There's something in them that touches me deeply.  And I appreciate the varied ways in which Truth is expressed.  There is simply a joy in reading the beautiful expressions of Truth that come from those who have realized their true nature.

The trap many seekers fall into is this:  they think that the next book they read will give them the nondual recognition.  They believe the book CAN induce that abiding self-realization they crave.  They read the book and it doesn't trigger the immediate awakening they hoped for.  So, they get another book....and another book...and another 12 books...and still, they haven't "gotten" what they're seeking.

They're chasing a state that they think is not accessible to them right now.  They think enlightenment is a state of continuing peace and bliss.   I used to do the same thing.  It's hard for a seeker to avoid this trap at the outset. The mind latches onto the idea that enlightenment is just around the corner, to be found in the next book, the next video, or the next satsang. 

The mind/ego believes that enlightenment is not here now, but can be achieved as a goal in the future.  This search leaves us frustrated, until we see the error of our ways and STOP.

I still enjoy reading nonduality books, but I no longer read them in the hope that the book will miraculously produce my awakening.   I read them for the pure peace and enjoyment of reading about Truth.  I don't expect to get anything from these books.

So, if you are one of those who reads nonduality books, consider WHY you read them.  If they touch you and resonate with you, enjoy reading these materials.  Read for the joy of drinking in these beautiful expressions of your true nature.

However, if you are looking to get something from them, or hoping to accelerate your realization or understanding by learning some new technique or information, consider that you may be moving off course.

Better to relax and simply BE. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Kind of Memory Loss is OK

Over the last 3-6 months, I've noticed a significant difference in certain aspects of my memory.

I can't seem to quickly recall many of the details regarding people and events in my past.  For instance, I'll think of a person I've known very well for years -- and yet it will take a while to come up with that person's name.  I used to have an excellent memory for past details in my life, but that bank of information isn't easily accessible now.  It's as if the files containing that information have been deleted, or have been moved to a remote location.

It's not a physical issue or a matter of aging, such as when we say "I'm just getting older and more forgetful."  I'm sure it's not that.

Intuitively, I know that those details of the past are no longer as important to me.  These details were important when I was attached strongly to the individual ego identity.  However, as nondual investigation matures, and I see beyond the limited, separate self (at least most of the time!), these "facts" of the past lose importance and are no longer at the forefront of my thinking.

At first, I found this quite surprising.  I'd be thinking about something that was so important to me for years, and find that I had little or no recollection of the details of the event.  However, it makes a lot of sense to me now.

As the mind begins to see through the personal story, the focus is more on the present.  There's no need to cling to the personal story of the individual.  Instead, there's a letting go of people and events of the past.  This is a healthy development, as I see it.  This is one kind of memory loss that's ok.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Answer to (Almost) Every Question

Before I was drawn to self-inquiry, I wrestled with the questions that typically occupy the minds of spiritual seekers and/or followers of self-development methods.  These are questions such as:

What is my purpose in life?
How can I make a difference in the world?
What can (or should) I do to save the environment?
How can I create better relationships?
Why is there evil in the world?

I'm sure you could add your own questions to this list. 

A funny thing happened after I became involved with nonduality teachings.  I discovered that when asked these questions, sage after sage, teacher after teacher, gave the same simple answer to all of the questions raised above. 

The answer?

Find out what you are.

Could that really be the answer to all of these questions?  It seemed way too simple.

At this stage of my life, I'd have to say that the answer rings true in my heart.  Yes, if I want to know the answer to all those questions, all that is needed is to find out what I am. 

When we discover who we are, the rest begins to fall into place. Many of the questions dissolve as unimportant or no longer relevant.  For instance, do we need to have a purpose?  The mind may need to identify a purpose, but does BEING need a purpose for anything?  In addition, who is the one that has an apparent purpose?  Can that one ever be found?

The same holds true when you look for answers to questions about love.  What is love?  Can the mind ever come up with an answer that will satisfy?  Here's a better answer:

Find out what you are.

Perhaps that will give some insight about love.

Whatever "heavy" questions you have about life, free will or anything else, you just might find that the answer to all of them is:

Find out what you are.

If action is needed, it will flow from that understanding.  If inactivity or silence is preferable in that moment, you will know it.  Let the mind rest and stop trying to figure out life. The mind, and its conditioning, does a lousy job of answering these questions.  As long as we take ourselves to be limited, separate individuals our answers will be flawed.

Whatever your question, consider the possibility that the answer is to be found in the wisdom offered by many sages:

Find out what you are.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Mind is Quickly Cornered

It's amazing how quickly the mind is cornered during nondual investigation.  If you are open to investigating the personal identity, you are likely to discover, in a relatively short time, that this personal, limited entity you've believed in for decades is a phantom.  It's nothing more than a thought about a separate "me."

No matter where you look, or how you look, you can't find a locatable, personal entity inside the skin line of the body.  A skilled nondual teacher, or even a well written nondual book, can reveal this to you in one sitting.  Your logical mind is no match for this inquiry.

And yet the vast majority of seekers continue to act and feel as if they are a separate, limited entity for years after the mind has been cornered.  This is a strange game indeed.

When we begin self-inquiry we get very excited because we get a quick understanding that we are not what we took ourselves to be.  We see through much of the mind's trickery.  And we expect the mind to go quietly into the night, surrendering to our new understanding and allowing us to realize our true nature.

But it doesn't happen that way.

The mind is quickly cornered, but its deception continues.  It has a lot more tricks in its arsenal, the most potent of which are FEELINGS.  No matter how convinced we are at the level of thought that there is no "me" -- the level of feelings present a different challenge.   We continue to feel separate and we retain the feeling that we are still located inside the body.

It's frustrating because we can see so clearly that the individual does not exist.  It is obvious that it is a thought that comes and goes.  Yet we seem to be imprisoned by our feelings, many of which are deep rooted. We feel separate or insecure even though these feelings make no sense to us anymore.  Why won't these illogical feelings just go away?

This may continue long after we see through the THOUGHT that we are a separate entity.  Allow the feelings to be there.  Fighting or resisting the feelings only strengthens them.

It's an important step to corner the mind and to see through the belief in the separate, limited entity.  But it is by no means the end of the investigation, so don't start your celebration dance yet.  If you've been doing self-inquiry for a while, you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Fight with the Body

We are conditioned to resist the condition of our bodies.  We don't like something about the way we look.  Either we're too fat or too thin.  Our nose is too big.  We don't have the kind of hair we think is most attractive. 

Our resistance is not limited to our appearance.  We're also at war with our bodily feelings and sensations. We don't like certain sensations that show up, such as soreness, pain, or tightness.  We feel the need to change them -- right away -- so we will feel better.

Most people spend their entire lives engaged in a battle of trying to change the condition of their bodies.  I took that approach for many decades until I realized it didn't work.  I thought, as most do, that resistance was helping me, motivating me to make desired changes.

Thus, if our muscles are tight, we will be unhappy with that condition.  We may begin doing stretching exercises or attend yoga classes regularly.  We may visit a chiropractor or a doctor to see what kinds of physical manipulation will help to alleviate our discomfort.  All of these efforts might help our condition to some extent, but in most cases, the relief is temporary.

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with stretching, yoga, or seeking the aid of chiropractors and other medical professionals.  In many cases, they can contribute significantly to our health and well-being.

The key is whether we engage in these activities or treatments out of resistance to our current situation.  When we come from resistance, we are likely to get temporary relief only.  We're also likely to make less than ideal choices.  We may say that the yoga or stretching are helping us, but if we're honest, we'll admit that shortly after we leave the class or the treatment, we once again feel tight or sore.

When we allow the discomfort to be there and listen to it, we are then guided to take certain helpful actions.  That may be yoga, stretching, or perhaps doing nothing.  The mind rebels against the possibility of doing nothing to counteract pain, as it convinces us that we must do something to change the current feeling as soon as possible. 

Allowing the feelings to be as they are does not result in an immediate cure.  If you try to use this type of investigation to cure discomforts and illnesses, you are going to be very disappointed. 

Allow the body to be as it is, and expect nothing.  To the conditioned mind, this approach is insanity.

However, as the mind quiets and listens to the body, without resistance, an environment is created where the body will tend to relax.  When action is needed, you will take that action -- but it won't be coming from resistance.  It comes from the open, clear nature of your Being -- and will be the appropriate action for that moment.

When we don't resist our bodily feelings and sensations,  there's another benefit.  We may uncover the deep seated emotions that are often the cause of the discomfort.  Massaging muscles can make us feel better temporarily but that kind of physical manipulation will not get to the core of the emotions that are causing our muscles to be knotted.

If you have the courage to take this approach, you won't like everything that unfolds.  Certain sensations and emotions will arise that you have been suppressing for decades.  In fact, you may feel even worse in the short term. If some type of exercise, treatment or medical intervention is needed, you will be guided to it.

End the fight with the body.  It is trying to tell you things and to guide you.  This guidance is not limited to your body but also points you to your true nature, which is far beyond the limited, separate self most people take themselves to be.



 

Monday, February 28, 2011

It Has Already Been Welcomed

Whatever shows up in your life, or in the world, for that matter, has already been welcomed.  How do you know?

Because it's here.

That presence of Awareness,which all teachers and sages have pointed to as our true nature, welcomes every appearance.  How else could anything show up?  Every appearance has been invited to the party.

Something (though not a tangible "thing") has chosen or decided that whatever is here is supposed to be here now.  I admit that words like "chosen" or "decided" are somewhat misleading when talking about Awareness or Consciousness, but I think you get the idea I am trying to convey.

Students of nonduality are always taught to welcome or allow whatever phenomena appear.  That includes thoughts, feelings, emotions, perceptions, and experiences.  We are told to allow everything.  Welcome everything.  Resist nothing.

At the early stages of self-inquiry, it's difficult to "apply" this advice.  The mind has a natural tendency to judge phenomena and to want things to be different than they are.  Thus, when we have a headache, we don't want to welcome the headache.  We want to be free of pain.  We reject what is.

It seems like we have to make an effort to welcome whatever appears.  It's almost like the mind is learning new rules -- to welcome all appearances instead of judging them and trying to change them.  But the mind is still active at this stage. 

I've found that as the self-inquiry matures, a deeper understanding sinks in.  Namely, that whatever appears has already been welcomed.  Awareness, Presence, Spaciousness, Spirit or whatever you want to call it, is a completely welcoming, open space.  Whatever appears in the space has been invited to be there.  It is a welcome guest from the outset.

No effort needs to be made.  The mind doesn't have to strain to accept any appearance.  Keep the mind out of it. The fact that something shows up means it has already received an invitation from the Divine. 

It's easy to see this when we're talking about a smiling baby, a beautiful sunset, or a hot cup of your favorite coffee or tea.  Not so easy to see or accept when the appearance takes the form of murder, pain and cruelty.  The mind doesn't want to welcome the latter.

Yet the invitations have been given in all instances.  Everything has already been welcomed.  Bypass the mind and see this.  Feel this.

If you are still fighting what appears, that's ok.  It only means the mind is still trying to change phenomena as they appear.  That resistance has already been welcomed!  It's another guest at the party. Welcome whatever you see, think, or feel.

The time will come when you begin to welcome everything and see that whatever your mind has to say about the current appearance is utterly meaningless.

We come to see that there is no need to resist or fight what has already been welcomed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Satsang Know-It-All

If you've attended a few satsangs, you're probably familiar with The Satsang Know-It-All.  This person is an attendee at the meeting.  Typically he or she sits at the front of the room.

While it's possible for The Satsang Know-It-All to be a woman, I've noticed that in almost every instance The Satsang Know-It-All is a man.  I'm not quite sure why.  For convenience, I'll refer to The Satsang Know-It-All as "he" throughout this message.

The Satsang Know-It-All wants each person at the meeting -- including the teacher -- to be impressed with the depth of his knowledge and insight.  To accomplish this objective, The Satsang Know-It-All will raise his hand early in the meeting and you're likely to hear from him several times throughout the satsang.  He loves to talk and to be the center of attention.

His questions and comments are never short and to the point.  Instead, he launches into a long, detailed speech to demonstrate the scope of his knowledge and wisdom.

While most people at satsang raise their hand to ask a particular question, The Satsang Know-It-All doesn't usually have a burning question.  Instead, he wants to offer comments and tell stories about his experiences and in-depth knowledge of nonduality teachers, books and ancient spiritual texts.

The Satsang Know-It-All always quotes the sages and likes to make sure you know that he has been in the presence of many masters.  You'll hear him say something like:

"As Ramana Maharshi said..."
"As Adyashanti said in a retreat I recently attended..."
"While I was having breakfast with Douglas Harding in his house, he told me......"
"While I sat at the feet of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in India forty years ago,..."

As The Satsang Know-It-All nears the end of his speech, he will often say to the teacher, "What is your opinion of that sage's statement?" (referring to the sage he just quoted)

The Satsang Know-It-All also likes to ask the unanswerable "WHY" questions, such as "Why does God play this game of hide and seek?"  Whatever answers are offered by the teacher will be of absolutely no use to The Satsang Know-It-All in terms of self-realization.  Then again The Satsang Know-It-All doesn't seem all that interested in self-realization.  He's having too much fun talking about realization and spiritual matters -- and drawing comparisons between teachings and teachers.

Ironically, from the non-dual perspective, The Satsang Know-It-All is none other than YOU...and ME.  The "person" I am judging and making fun of is none other than myself.  Yet we're allowed to play a little and have fun at the relative level of existence.

By the way, as much as I poke fun at The Satsang Know-It-All, I sometimes find myself approaching him during the meeting breaks.  You know what I've found?  The Satsang Know-It-All is actually a very interesting, kind, and generous person.

The Satsang Know-It-All is an integral part of the satsang.  Being in his presence will offer opportunities for your own self-inquiry.  The annoyance you may feel at the antics of The Satsang Know-It-All can teach you.  Allow the annoyance to be there.  It will quickly melt.

Notice your judgment of The Satsang Know-It-All.  You may ask yourself, "Who or what in me is judging this person?  Is there really a judger, or is the judger simply a thought?"

You'll also recognize that you have the same traits that The Satsang Know-It-All exhibits, although to a lesser degree.  After all, do you ever talk on and on about something to demonstrate your knowledge on a particular topic?  Granted, there are few who can match the ego of The Satsang Know-It-All, but he is a mirror for traits that all of us demonstrate now and then.

There are infinite levels of insight you can gain from your encounters with The Satsang Know-It-All.  Be open to the possibilities.

By all means, find the humor in The Satsang Know-It-All.  He's part of the show at satsang, and often a very entertaining part!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nonduality Teachings and Free Will

In the last post, I discussed the confusion often generated when nonduality teachers respond to questions about free will.  What follows are some additional observations about free will and nondual inquiry.

I've come to the conclusion that discussions about free will, for the most part, are not helpful in realizing our true nature.  The mind loves to engage in these discussions, but in the end, the mind is never satisfied with the responses given.  So the search goes on and further mental activity ensues.

The mind tries to convince you that you must get some solid answers about the extent of free will.  The mind will tell you something like this:  "If you can just get a final, clear understanding of free will, you will be able to have a breakthrough and realize your true nature." This, as you may have already discovered, is a lie.

Nondual teaching reminds us over and over that we already are what we are seeking.  We don't need any further information to be what we already are.  That which actively engages the mind seems to slow down our inquiry.  That which stops the mind seems to enhance the inquiry, at least in my experience.

During self-inquiry, the moment my mind looks for an answer, I realize that I'm in for trouble.  And inquiries about free will activate my mind, big time.  The end result is always frustration. 

The discussion of free will DOES play an important role in one sense.  In the early stages of self-inquiry, most of us feel that we are a separate entity with extensive control over our thoughts, emotions and activities.  Nondual teaching introduces us to the possibility that we are not in control as we previously thought.  It begins a process where we can observe our thoughts and emotions -- and see, through our own experience, that most of what we thought was in our control, is in fact, not in our control.

This finding immediately softens the mind, and sets the stage for deeper inquiry.

However, when we try to figure out the precise extent of our free will -- and many of us are obsessed with this issue -- the mind climbs back into the picture and the ego is strengthened.   

There seems to be a natural tendency in human beings to cling to the notion of having free will.  I think many non-duality teachers are subtly influenced by this preference as well.  The idea of not having any control just rubs us the wrong way.

We want the Truth we find (through self-inquiry) to include some type of free will for us.  We desperately want to feel like we have some control, and preferably, a lot of control.

Perhaps it is simply the limited, separate ego thought that prefers control or has any concern for it.  It would seem that only the mind would care about free will.

As I mentioned in my last message, the notion that the Absolute has free will to choose whatever appears is empty and meaningless to the mind.  There is no "juice" to free will if the choices are made by an unknown entity spontaneously.  All the fun with free will comes from knowing in advance what the options are -- and making a selection. This is what the ego craves, a sense that it has a significant role in running the show.

So, if you are wrestling with issues of free will, perhaps that is all coming from your mind.  And you might begin to see that any answers you ultimately come up with, or search for, will not lead you to an understanding of your true nature.

I'm not suggesting that you should resist whatever thoughts or preferences come up for you.  I'm just inviting you to examine if the mind activity is helping you.  Think of it this way:  no matter what answer any sage gives you about free will, do you really, in your heart of hearts, think that the response will resolve all your questions and doubts about your true nature?  Will it resolve anything?

It's interesting that I've never heard anyone report that they realized their essence or true nature by hearing a discussion about free will.  I think it's just the opposite.  Free will discussion confuses, rather than clarifies.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nonduality Teachings Aren't Clear On This Issue

There are so many gems that come from the mouths of nonduality teachers and sages.  The eloquence and insights offered by these teachers stop the mind and penetrate the heart.  You can sense that the wisdom they are conveying is from a source beyond the mind.  Their words bring clarity and a feeling of expansion.

However, there is one issue discussed by nonduality teachers that leaves me confused.  I've probably read more than 50 discussions of this issue (some from the most respected sages) -- and heard more than 100 discussions of this issue (in person and through online audio/video), and I must confess that there is still no clarity here.

I think the overwhelming majority of nonduality students remain unclear on this subject, despite the fact that the issue is discussed over and over again.  Teachers offer detailed responses, yet the students remain confused.  The answers offered simply don't resonate.

After the teacher finishes the answer, the student's mind is busy with more questions.  Sometimes the student persists and asks follow up questions, but more often than not, the student eventually gives up, knowing that a satisfactory resolution of the question is not forthcoming. 

What issue am I referring to?

Free will.

There's no doubt that the extent of our free will is a popular topic at nonduality meetings and satsangs.  Even those who have no interest in nonduality engage in lively discussions about free will.  We all want to know how much control, if any, we have over our lives and the choices we apparently make.

I'd go so far as to say that the mind is obsessed with this topic.  I think it's one area where the seeking mind/ego can strenthen and perpetuate itself. Trying to figure out the extent of free will
keeps the mind in seeking mode, always looking for new information or insights that will resolve the question once and for all.  The resolution never happens, so the mind continues its seeking.

I'm not looking for nonduality teachers to come up with a uniform answer on this topic of free will.  Part of the beauty of nondual teachings are the varied ways in which teachers discuss each topic.  There are many common denominators in the discussion of most nonduality topics, but each teacher has his or her own unique expression.

For example, let's say that I have listened to ten teachers discuss the personal identity or the welcoming of all emotions.  Each discussion is slightly different and yet all may resonate with me.  I don't leave the discussion confused.

And yet, I've found that if you ask those same ten teachers, "Is there free will"? or "Do we have control over anything in our lives?" you will get 10 very different answers, and perhaps 11 as the discussion wanders.

I've observed over the years that teachers approach the free will issue from a few different angles.  Some will advance the "puppet" position, namely that there is no free will whatsoever.  There is no individual entity, they say, and therefore no one to make a choice.  Everything arises spontaneously.  Just face it.  The body/mind is nothing more than a puppet or a robot.

Other teachers will say that there is no free will except that we have the ability to choose where to place our attention -- too see ourselves as universal consciousness/Awareness, or to see ourselves as a separate, limited entity.  They will take issue with the "puppet" position.

Yet two minutes earlier in the meeting, these same teachers convincingly stated that the individual has no control over his thoughts, emotions and events -- and that they arise spontaneously. 

So how can this non-existent entity make a choice as to where to place attention?  What happened to the spontaneous arising of thoughts and events? 

I've heard several teachers explain this seeming contradiction by breaking up the inquiry into two parts -- free will from the perspective of the separate entity and free will from the perspective of Awareness or the Absolute.

The limited entity, they explain, does not have free will.  How can a non-existent entity make a choice?  So far, I'm with them.  Makes sense.  However, they go on to say that universal consciousness has free will.  While this might make sense at first, I'm still left in confusion. 

To the mind (at least this mind), free will means knowing the choice in advance.  That's the only type of free will the mind is interested in having.  To say that Awareness or the Absolute has free will is meaningless since the choice is not known in advance.

I realize that using the words "in advance" brings in the concept of time, and many nonduality teachers (and scientists) will tell you that time doesn't exist.  Sorry to inject even more confusion here.

It seems obvious that Awareness or the Absolute "decides" what is to be manifested.  While we could call that the free will of the Absolute, it is an empty or meaningless concept....at least to the body/mind organism.  If the body/mind has no control whatsoever, and all is the result of the spontaneous movement of Awareness, why even discuss the concept of free will?

I would challenge you to read the discussions of sages such as Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj on the issue of free will.  Then go read or listen to discussions of free will by the nonduality teachers you most respect.

After doing that, can you honestly say that you aren't confused?  Is your mind quiet or full of questions? Do the "answers" you received bring peace and contentment....or confusion and agitation? 

I have a few more comments to offer on this issue of free will but will save them for the next blog post.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Personal Identity

From early childhood, you are conditioned to believe that you exist as an independent, personal identity inside the body -- somehow separate from others, each of whom also has an independent, personal identity within the boundaries of the body.

Well, if you exist as the personal identity called _____ (and you can fill in your own name here), where is this individual person actually located?  What is the nature of this entity you take yourself to be?

In essence, I am asking "Who or what are you?" and "Where are you located?"  These questions have been asked, and investigated, for thousands of years.

For purposes of this message, let's assume we are referring to a person named Robert.  If I approach Robert and ask, "Who are you?," what is likely to happen?  Robert will start to THINK about who he is.  He will search his mind and he will tell me facts or descriptions about himself.  Thus he may say that he is a man, has a wife, and two children.  He might tell me what kind of work he does, his religious affiliation, or when he was born.

These are all facts about Robert's life situation.  Do these facts tell us anything about the essence of Robert, about who he really is?  Is Robert simply a bunch of facts that make up his biography?  Very few of us would say that's what Robert is.  We sense in our hearts that Robert is more than that.

Furthermore the facts could change -- and the essence of Robert would not change.  If Robert gets divorced or changes his job,  that wouldn't change his essence.  If he has amnesia and thinks his name is Charles, that wouldn't change his essence.  Robert can't be the facts that make up his personal story.  Robert's true nature is changeless and beyond any description of his life situation.

These "facts" or descriptions are nothing more than thoughts or beliefs in Robert's mind.  These thoughts and beliefs are not who he is.

Many people would say that Robert, in his essence, is Spirit (inhabiting a human body).  Where is this essence of Robert located in his body?  If there is a personal identity called Robert making decisions for this body, then Robert's essence, or control center, must be located somewhere.  Where is the personal identity located in Robert's body?

If asked this question, the vast majority of people say that the personal identity is located in the brain.  No other part of the body would seem to be a likely candidate.  The arm is not the essence or control center of Robert.  The leg is not Robert.  None of the other internal organs would appear to be Robert, although some people identify the heart region as the location.

However, if we remove Robert's heart and put it on a table, I doubt people would say, "That's Robert."

The brain seems to be where the personal identity might be located.  Is there a personal, limited consciousness located inside the brain? 

Here again, if we remove Robert's brain and put it on the table, I doubt anyone would confidently say, "That's Robert.  There he is."  The essence of Robert is more than a few pounds of brain tissue. 

The cells that make up the brain tissue are constantly changing -- so how is it that Robert's essence does not seem to change?  Robert's "beingness" or his knowingness that he exists has remained throughout his life, despite the fact that none of the cells from his childhood are present in his body now.

In addition, I do not know of any scientific proof that has ever been produced to establish that the personal identity is located in the brain. 
Perhaps what we consider to be our personal identity (our name, nationality and other descriptions) are nothing more than thoughts.

"I am Robert" is a thought.
"I have two children" is a thought.
"I am married" is a thought.
"I have such and such religious beliefs" is a thought.

What these thoughts DO have in common is that they all appear in Awareness and subside in Awareness.

Thoughts change, they come and go.  What you are, your essence or true nature, does NOT change.  In addition, any thoughts or descriptions you may feel are part of your personal identity are not present 24/7.  Thus you aren't thinking all day about your name, your religion or your job title.  Those thoughts come and go.  While you sleep, these thoughts aren't there at all.  Yet something about you never changes -- and that something (actually not a "thing") must be what you are.

It would appear that what you are is non-phenomenal and unlocatable.

Nonduality teachings invite us to investigate if we are Universal Consciousness or Awareness, as opposed to a personal, limited entity inside the skin line of a body. 

I am not suggesting that you should deny the physical body or refuse to acknowledge others in the manifest world.  Nor am I presenting this so that you will form another belief about your identity.  Your mind will never figure out what you are. 

It's more a matter of seeing what you are NOT.  Then, through grace and understanding, it may begin to dawn what you ARE.  Your focus will shift from a preoccupation with the changing phenomena....to a focus on the changeless.

If this question of personal identity interests you, the inquiry will unfold in its own way.  You will be led to people and resources that are appropriate for you -- and you will begin to do your own introspection.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Purpose

Many people are obsessed with purpose.  They feel it's important to have a  purpose in life and then to pursue that purpose.  Perhaps you feel this way as well.

The main challenge you face is to figure out your purpose.  It isn't always easy to determine.  If purpose is so crucial, why is it often hidden from us?  We have to use our mind to come up with our purpose.  How can we be sure that we have found our TRUE purpose -- as opposed to something our mind has concocted for personal gain and ego gratification?

The other thing we notice is that even if we think we've figured out our purpose, our purpose changes over time.

Has your purpose (as best as you can discern it) stayed the same?  Or did you have a different purpose 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even last month?  Purpose seems to be a moving target for most of us.

I think purpose is a learned habit -- not something that is inherent such as the drive for food and survival.

We've been conditioned to believe that our lives will be empty and unsuccessful if we don't find our purpose and take action to fulfill that purpose.  There's nothing wrong with having a purpose or mission.  At times, it appears to provide direction in our lives.

Once we give our mind the job of identifying a purpose, the mind will strategize what our purpose SHOULD be -- and as you know from experience, the mind will take into account wealth, prestige, security and the like.  It will choose a purpose that it believes will bring us those things.

What if you dropped the notion of purpose entirely?  Would your life suffer in any way?  Can you live without having a purpose?

We often believe that those who don't have a purpose in life are destined to become lazy bums who accomplish little or nothing, and contribute nothing of significance to society.  Those who are willing to question the notion of purpose and engage in nondual inquiry often experience periods where they aren't "active" in the normal meaning our society attributes to that word.  Something inside has called them to slow down.  These people might even have the audacity to turn off their cell phones on most days -- and rumor has it that some of them don't even own blackberries.

In my view, this has nothing to do with being a lazy bum.  And in almost all cases, the person who engages in nondual investigation will become very active as the investigation matures and a different level of seeing emerges.

On this issue of having a purpose, I once heard Mooji ask someone in satsang, "Why does life have to be about something?"

It's a very good question.  You might take a moment to ponder it and see what comes up for you.

Is purpose really necessary?  Perhaps it is your mind/ego trying to get you to run around in a frenzy of activity, as you assure yourself that you are saving the world or making a difference.  Can you make a difference by going with the flow of life -- even without a purpose?

Consider this scenario:  your child (or your young niece or nephew) comes up to you and asks, "What is your purpose for loving me?"

You'd probably be stunned for a moment, smile, and say something like, "Love doesn't need a purpose."

If love doesn't need a purpose, why does your life need a purpose?

Love just is.  Your life just is.  No purpose required.

We can allow life to unfold each moment without labelling anything as "my purpose."

Furthermore, where is the individual who is choosing your purpose?  In my investigation,what was revealed is that this individual is a thought.  Can a thought pursue a purpose? 

I find it's better to put this purpose stuff aside and just live life as it comes.  That's what is happening anyway, even if your mind suggests otherwise.  If you dig deep, you will find that there is no individual choosing a purpose or controlling the activities taken to attempt to fulfill that purpose.

This subject is a bit tricky since it seems at times that our purpose HAS directed us to achieve certain results.  We may be dedicated to some cause or outcome and feel that our concentration and commitment to this purpose moved us forward and influenced others. 

We often rush to the judgment that a purpose or mission is required although we never in our adult lives attempted to live without having a purpose or mission mapped out in advance.

Living without a purpose doesn't mean we live an aimless, insignificant life.  On the contrary, those who live in the flow of life are often very active and make extraordinary contributions in the world.  When you are in the presence of someone who has this degree of trust in life, you will feel it in your being -- perhaps as peace, love, and/or aliveness.  It awakens something in you.

What would happen if you dropped the idea of purpose? Lots of people would tell you that you're crazy but you might make some interesting discoveries.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nonduality Teachers and Money

The amount of money charged by nonduality teachers can be a delicate issue.  There are those who believe that no teacher should ever charge money for communicating this sacred teaching.  They will tell you that the truth is "not for sale" or words to that effect.

I can respect this position, although I don't feel that way myself.  I just don't see a problem with charging reasonable amounts, especially in today's society, where the teacher is incurring significant expenses relating to the transmission of the information (including maintenance of websites and securing meeting facilities).  In addition, the teacher may have little or no other source of income and would be unable to devote considerable time (or full time) to being a teacher.

I think many who are vehemently opposed to the idea of charging for nonduality meetings are thinking of situations years ago (in places like India) where sages held open meetings without charge and welcomed all truth seekers.  However, it is my understanding that sages in these communities had all of their personal needs taken care of by others in the community, i.e. food, clothing, shelter, medical care, transportation, etc. 

Such is not the case with most teachers today, especially in Western countries.  The members of the community do not offer to provide for the basic needs of the teacher.  How can a teacher in Chicago or London pay his or her living expenses (and in some cases support a family) without charging any money or receiving significant contributions?  It would only be possible when the teacher has another job that provides adequate income.

I'll offer some of my observations and judgments regarding fees charged by nonduality teachers.  Naturally, these comments represent my own biases and conditioning. If you are relatively new to nonduality meetings and retreats, these comments may provide some helpful guidelines.  If you have attended meetings or retreats, I'm sure you have your own preferences and opinions on this subject.

In my view, the overwhelming majority of nonduality teachers charge very reasonable fees for their meetings and retreats.  These teachers are not involved in teaching in an attempt to build wealth.  They have a love of Truth and feel "called" to spread the teaching.

The amounts charged for meetings will vary with the locale and the cost of living in that locale.  Therefore, we would expect meeting charges to be different in an area where the average income is thousands of dollars per month as opposed to areas where the average income is hundreds of dollars per month or less.

In the United States, it has been my experience that most nonduality teachers charge in the range of $10 - $20 for two hour meetings.  Full day meetings (approximately 6 hours) are in the range of $60 - $75. This can be called a registration fee, or in some cases, a suggested contribution.  This is an extremely good value, as I see it.  In addition, I don't know of any respected nonduality teacher who would deny admission to a person who was truly unable to afford the registration fee.

With regard to retreats, the range for 5- 7 day retreats is typically in the area of $300 - $450, which covers only the registration or tuition charge.  Here again, I consider that a very reasonable fee for what is being offered.

Retreats can get expensive when you add in the lodging cost and food cost, as well as travel expenses to and from the retreat, if the retreat is not held near your home.  Thus you may hear that someone paid thousands of dollars to attend a retreat in Costa Rica or Hawaii, but the lion's share of the expenses were for travel, lodging and food expenses.  The teacher did not pocket thousands of dollars from each student.

Of course, you will find exceptions.  There are teachers, or should I call them charlatans, who will ask for thousands of dollars and promise that you will realize your true nature by attending their meetings or studying at their ashram or retreat center. 

No legitimate teacher of nonduality will make promises that you will recognize your true nature within a specific time period -- and they won't promise that you will ever self-realize.  I would be very wary of any teacher that asks for significant amounts of money upfront or makes any promises about what results will come from his or her teaching.

Some nonduality teachers charge consultation fees for phone discussions or email communications.  In the U.S. and Europe, I've noticed that teachers charge in the area of $50 - 75 per hour for such communications.  There are also many teachers who conduct phone discussions and email exchanges at no charge.

I admit that I'm not a big fan of consultation charges, especially when it comes to email.  Many of the best nonduality teachers will answer your email questions at no charge, but they simply don't have time to answer all email inquiries in detail -- and it may take them a long time to respond due to a large volume of email.

Can you imagine a popular teacher like Adyashanti trying to answer all of his email inquiries?  It's just not reasonable to expect a teacher to do that.

If you are in the beginning stages of nondual investigation, email is not usually effective.  You will tend to ask questions that can't be answered in a short email response.  And whatever response you receive will trigger more questions.  You can't expect every teacher to spend all day conducting email satsang with you.

Regarding phone discussions, I can understand why some teachers charge a fee.  If there is no charge for phone discussions, many people abuse the privilege.  They will want the teacher to spend hours answering all of their questions.  This can be a tremendous time burden for the teacher.  I think most teachers who set fees for phone consultations are not looking to make money from these discussions; rather, they want to discourage those who are not "serious" from calling and wasting the teacher's time.

It has also been my experience that nonduality teachers are usually willing to speak to you on the phone (or provide email responses) at no charge when you are deeply committed to your nondual investigation and need to clear up a few specific issues.

Almost all nonduality teachers are extremely generous in providing free resources, especially through the internet.  Most of the popular teachers have websites, where they provide essays, books excerpts, question and answer exchanges, as well as audio and video materials.  Some resources may be offered for sale, but in almost every instance, a generous supply of free materials is offered directly from the website.

There's also the issue of teachers who set up their blog or website to allow site visitors to make a donation.  I see nothing wrong with that and only a few teachers are very aggressive in soliciting donations.  The vast majority have a short statement that donations are appreciated and there is no other mention of money. 

Some people like to support a teacher's efforts, realizing that the teacher is spending time to assist the site visitors and is not charging for his or her services. It's a nice way for the student to give something back to the teacher.   I don't think many teachers are making a lot of money from these donations.

Finally, I salute all of the teachers who are willing to travel to conduct meetings and retreats, even when their appearances will yield little or no money for the teacher.  There are many fine nonduality teachers, especially in the early years of their teaching, who get requests to travel to different countries (or different parts of their own country) to conduct meetings.

In some instances, the attendance at these events is very small -- perhaps only 15 or 20 people.  The teacher is often getting nothing more than payment of his or her travel expenses.  In other words, they earn nothing from the meeting and yet it requires several days of their time, when you factor in the travel time.  They come because of their love for sharing the teaching.

You may have your own opinion about the fees charged by nonduality teachers.  I am just grateful that there are so many outstanding, sincere teachers who willingly share the teaching without being motivated by how much money they can make.

It's true that a small percentage of nonduality teachers earn quite a bit of money.  What's wrong with that?  They deserve it and I see no reason why they should have to take a vow of poverty.  As long as they are coming from love and sincerity and charging reasonable fees to students, it's all fine with me.