Q: How do you explain why so many people say they want liberation, yet so few achieve it?
R: There is a price for such liberation and for most, the price is too high. The price is your self, this “me.
What is required is the giving up of all goals, even spiritual goals. When there is no longer any need to become, when specialness is unimportant, when the perpetual desire for positive outcomes ceases, a space is created that allows unselfconscious, impartial clarity to rush in.
Q: I have been searching for more than twenty years. Can you tell me when my searching will end?
R: Searching ends with the cessation of the desire to escape from What-Is. It can happen right now, if you so choose.
Q: Would it be fair to say that death is the permanent loss of body/mind consciousness?
R: Death is the end of a temporal sequence. It is the end in believing that one is so-and-so. It is a returning to that which was before this life. At death, left to itself, the body will decay and break down into the elements. In that sense, nothing has died. A form has become other forms.
Q: To follow up, where does reincarnation fit in?
R: Any examination of reincarnation must begin with an examination of incarnation. We must ask “What incarnates?” The body doesn’t incarnate so it can’t reincarnate. Likewise the mind, which is a process of the brain in the body. Where does that leave us?
Q: The soul?
R: But we have no evidence of the existence of a soul, other than in belief systems. However, we do know that the Conscious Life Energy embodies, which can be said to mean incarnates. At death, only the host form dies and the Conscious Life Energy returns to the disembodied state, if you could call it that.
In that sense, the only thing that can reincarnate, that is take another form, is the Conscious Life Energy. Whether or not it reincarnates doesn’t seem to me to be very important in the scheme of things because it doesn’t drag along any adjuncts with it. There is no personal continuity.
Q: Are the Conscious Life and Energy and God the same?
R: We name so that we can refer. We name everything, even God. This will continue as long as God remains an “other”. Once a man realizes the truth, anything like an I or a Thou or a He loses meaning. What remains is the motionless in all that moves, the one in what is multiple, and that it is simultaneously interior and exterior to all things, everywhere identical with itself.
Q: I came to be with you so that I could become something bigger, greater than what I already am. Can you tell me what I need to do?
R: Whereas the biological imperative is to survive and perpetuate the genetic material, the psychological imperative is to become.
Be clear about how you are driven by this psychological imperative. We spend our entire lives chasing security and permanency. In point of fact there is no security or permanency. As such, we become conspirators against reality by forsaking it for the illusory. Begin by pleading guilty to this charge.
Q: Would you please distinguish between the Conscious Life Energy and embodied consciousness?
R: This Conscious Life Energy is a limitless force responsible for all the phenomena seen and for the act of seeing them. In comparison, embodied consciousness depends on the condition of the brain and the senses. The mind is a force operating on the brain. The thoughts of the world are in the brain within the body. When a man dreams, he creates himself and the world he occupies. It is only a mental projection. This waking state is another. In this sense, nothing can trouble you except for your own imagination.
No matter what the condition of the moment or the condition of the world, you are. Without you, nothing is. This is the focal point.
Q: Are you suggesting that the world is then inside me rather than outside of me?
R: Exactly. The world cannot be experienced from outside of the world. As such, an instrument for experiencing, inside the world, is required. This instrument is the brain in a body. We imagine that experiences are something we have rather than something that we are. Yet, even that is inaccurate. We are not the experiences; we are the experiencing.
Q: I have been a practitioner of Zen Buddhism for the past fifteen years. I can say that I have made some progress but must also say that I am not “there” yet. Do you have any thoughts about Zen?
R: I have always viewed Zen as the path of hard work. Zen practitioners, as a group, are making tremendous efforts. Yet, you raise a very valid concern. If fifteen years brings “some progress”, how much time is required for arrival or completion?
Q: Yes, that’s the issue.
R: What would you say if I told you that you could arrive today? Would you be interested in that?
Q: Of course.
R: Well, it’s really quite simple. Stop being somebody.
Q: Lately, I have been feeling very scattered and off balance. What advice can you give me to help me regain my center?
R: When there is a center, there must be borders. Where there are borders, there must be limits. When we are clear, life goes on but without the ‘me’ as the center. This is unlimited life. It is the final transcendence of the selfing process, the realization that “I am from an Other for Whom there is no other”.
Q: Why can’t my beliefs provide me with true freedom?
R: Belief can never know reality. Belief is the result of conditioning or the result of seeking comfort from an outer or inner authority.
Many of you claim that you want to be free, yet you come here seeking my authority. Can you see that freedom is freedom from authority?
I am not an authority; don’t make me into one. Don’t accept anything as the truth, my words included, until you can affix your personal stamp to it. Your confusion can only end when you are the sole authority.
Q: Why are you so against thinking?
R: It isn’t that I am against thinking. We need to think in order to function in the world. I do find, however, no value in psychological thought. All that it serves to do is to perpetuate the seeming self.
The thought process is cyclical. A thought appears, receives attention for a finite amount of time, then dissolves…………….. and the whole process repeat itself with thousands of thoughts waiting in queue.
Between two thoughts there is a silence which is not related to the thought process. The full experience of that interval liberates.
Q: How do you explain why so many people say they want liberation, yet so few achieve it?
Q: Is this a talk about non-duality?
R: A common quality of most scientists, scholars and philosophers is that they want to relegate everything into its appropriate box. They want to make it fit in somewhere. Any parsing between duality and non duality is itself a duality. Why get all caught up in it?
Consciousness without an object is non dual. As soon as phenomena are introduced, that is duality.
I guess one could propose a nonduality of duality and nonduality, but that only makes most peoples’ heads hurt.
There is only one reality, this world, right here and now. But this world may be experienced in two different ways. There is the relative, phenomenal world as usually experienced, which is delusively understood to consist of a collection of discrete objects, including “me”, that interact in space and time. Then, there is an Absolute sense of that same world but as it is in itself, incorporating both subject and object into a whole.
That’s what this talk is about.
Q: I am a seeker of Reality. What advice do you have for me?
R: You may invite Reality, but it comes to you when it chooses. You may say that you choose Reality, yet in truth it chooses you. Against this backdrop, what is there to be done?
Q: Is becoming still the answer?
R: The biblical injunction is “Be still”, not “Become still”.
Being still and becoming still are two different states. Time is the instrument of becoming. Yet time never takes one to the timeless.
Q: I came here today merely out of curiosity. Ramana Maharshi is my teacher. Do you have any words to add to his?
R: Only that the best way to honor your teacher is to be his teaching.
Q: Ramana had no outer guru, yet he said that a guru is needed. Do you see that as a contradiction?
R: (laughing) First of all, far be it from me to be critical of Ramana in any way. That having been said, for many, the task of finding an external teacher will precede finding the internal one. Any outer teacher is only a projection of That Which Teaches.
Q: Why is inwardness difficult to sustain?
R: That’s an excellent question.
The senses function in order to provide data regarding the body in the world. As such, living as sensate creatures, our perspective is outward. Those interested in other dimensions of knowing turn inward. What is found there is the ineffable, a state before words. It is the end of the confusion between that which merely plays the music and the one who wrote it. The character in the book stops masquerading as the author.
Q: What has to change in order to attain enlightenment?
R: Enlightenment is not an attainment. The sages have been telling us this for thousands of years. It is a shift in viewpoint.
Consciousness stirs and projects the mind, which in turn projects the world. These phenomena of mind and the world mesmerize us. This is what we consider as the normal way of things.
The clarity that I am referring to is a shifting from being conscious of phenomena to being conscious of being conscious.
Q: How will I know when I have seen through the falseness of the idea of “me”?
R: When the falseness of the “me” structure is seen, the falseness of other-than-me must likewise be seen. That’s the yardstick.
Q: How can I get clear of “me”?
R: Yes, you say that you want to break out of your self enclosure, of this prison that you have created for yourself. You are told that all that need be done is to stop believing that you are a person.
Now you are conflicted. You want to break out but you don’t want to give up your individuality to do so.
This conflict is the existential neurosis.
Q: The personality must go then, yes?
R: We have to be careful here. Even Ramana had a personality, as seen from the outside. So the distinction is that the behaviors of the organism may continue as before, but from the inside out, there is no longer a belief in a self as an independent entity.
Q: How does the world need to change so that there can be peace?
R: The solution does not reside in any modification of the outer. This is a misuse of intellect, one of the cunning ways the self consciousness utilizes to perpetuate itself. When you look through a yellow prism, everything appears yellow. Change to a clear prism and all becomes clear.
As such, it isn’t the world that needs changing but only one’s view of it.
Q: That’s bullshit.
R: Please, tell us what you really think! (laughter)
When we see two islands, are they separated by water, connected by water, or does the water hide what connects them? Ask ten different people and you’re likely to get at least three different answers. It’s because each of us perceives the world through a set of biases that we have acquired either through society and genetics. Our respective worlds may have similarities, but they are hardly the same.
Q: You speak of consciousness in a different sense than the everyday use of the term. What do you mean by consciousness?
R: The person and the world are discontinuous. They appear, linger for 15-18 hours each day and then go. When you are in dreamless sleep, where is the person, where is the world? What the Advaitins refer to as illusion is the taking of this discontinuity to be continuous.
If we compare the three discontinuous states that occur daily, we find that something continuous must remain in all these to observe them.
What is this commonality?
In the first state there is consciousness of external and internal objects. In the second also there is consciousness, but of internal objects only as presented to the dreamer. In the third state no objects appear, but there is no cessation of consciousness. There is merely nothing to be conscious of.
The commonality is Consciousness, both in the presence and in the absence of phenomena. It is the sentient screen on which all phenomena appear, linger, and disappear. It transcends all speech and thought. Here even the Witness falls mute.
It is the Mover and the Perceiver or Knower. Its name is I; I am That Which Is. What more can be said? It is is betrayed by any attempt to articulate it.
This I becomes a corrupted-I when there is association, identification or attachment with some thing.
Q: Is this consciousness the same as enlightenment?
R: Enlightenment is a location. It is that point in time and space where the idea I-am-this used to be. It is the cessation of all attachment to phenomena.
Q: How can the witness or observer be accessed?
R: When a doctor wants a non-invasive means to look inside a patient, he can insert a viewing device which transmits images back to him.
The device is not the observer. It is the instrument of observation.
There is no observer separate from the observed, other than as a figure of speech. Observer and observed are the twin poles of observing.
The realization that the observer and the observed are a functional unity is the end of the concept of outside and is the portal to the non-dual.
Understand that duality is a pre-condition for experience.
Consciousness experiences its manifestation, of which its instrument, the body, is one part.
The way conscious functions is characterized by regular cycles of phenomenization that proceed without effort.
In man, it cycles from the absence of phenomena through partial phenomenization via mind to total phenomenization by the manifestation of the world and a self referential center.
Q: Why is emptiness so elusive?
Man has an inherent aversion to emptiness. He will attach his attention to anything in order to avoid it.
When the attention refuses to land anywhere, thoughts are no longer problematic.
Have you ever noticed a small child, how easily it is distracted? He has a little toy he plays with. You put a piece of candy in front of him and he forgets the toy. You hand
him a colored ball, and he sets the candy down.
Unfortunately, we don’t outgrow that as we get older. Only the distractions have changed.
There are the external distractions: bigger, louder, wilder, etc. Then there are the thoughts, the internal distractions.
Q: Most teachers aver the use of books but you seem to suggest otherwise. Would you comment on this?
R: All that the truly great ones had that was worth transmitting died with them if it wasn’t written down. When it remained only in oral form, their disciples took what they could seemingly remember and created bibles, sutras, and other so-called holy books many decades after the great ones’ deaths.
Reading the words of the great ones provides access to the understandings of the great ones.
I’m not suggesting that it is a substitute for direct experience. Ultimately, there is only one book, the living book that is within you.
Q: How does one find a teacher?
R: What do we mean by “teacher”?
Is it someone that teaches or is it an experience that teaches?
Most people that come to teachers really don’t want to be taught.
They arrive with unbridled arrogance regarding what they think they already know. If what the teacher says conforms to their viewpoint, the teacher is accepted. If it challenges everything they believe they know, they reject it without analysis.
By all means, question the authenticity of the teaching. However, once satisfied of its authenticity, quiet your mind and live from the teaching.
When a child is taught “one plus one equals two”, what are his questions? What are his challenges?
The only question of real value is the one whose answer brings an end to questioning.
Any true teaching cannot be said to be intellectual. One simply takes what the teacher has said as fact. Those who refuse the teacher’s facts refuse being taught.
To these, a true teacher may encourage efforts only to teach the futility of effort.
Q: Does the teacher cause realization?
R: I feel it’s important to use caution when we begin to delve into causation. You see, every seeming cause is also the effect of some prior cause. That’s why it can be said that a cat sneezing in Beijing affects the snowfall in the Rockies.
Preoccupation with causes is a feature of the waking state only. Humanity’s need for the assignment of causation likely stems from our unceasing desire to maintain some iota of control over our lives. That we are simply victims of luck and randomness may be exhilarating to the few, but it is altogether discomforting to most. By seeking straightforward explanations at every turn, we preserve the notion that we can always affect our condition in some meaningful way. Unfortunately, that idea is a facade.
To get caught up in determining causes is hitching a ride on an infinite regression. Do you care to identify the cause of spontaneous combustion?
Consciousness is often referred to as the causal state because it is from where all causes emerge. In that sense, it is the First Cause.
Q: I want to slow down my thoughts. Should I meditate?
R: First, I try not to prescribe. If there is a need for meditation, there will be movement toward meditation.
That having been said, it is important to draw a distinction between the suppression of thought and the suspension of thought. The former is a type of violence, of one aspect of life seeking control over another.
However, I believe we have all become much too preoccupied with the content and the pacing of thought.
Let’s say we walked into your kitchen and we opened the cold water faucet fully. Then, we retire to your living room to watch a movie. Thirty minutes into the movie, if its any good, we’re completely engrossed in it. When I ask you if the water is still running in the kitchen, your initial response would likely be “I don’t know”. It was outside of the field of awareness that was prevailing and became unimportant.
It’s the same with thought. If your attention is firmly fixed elsewhere, whether or not the flow of thoughts continues becomes unimportant.
Now, let’s tie that in with meditation.
The Sanskrit word dhyana is usually translated as meditation, although contemplation is a bit better. When Bodhidharma brought the practice to China from India, it was translated as Ch’anna and later shortened to Ch’an. As the practice moved through Korea it became Seon and then finally Zen in Japan, although there evolved considerable differences between dhyana and Zen.
Directing the attention and holding it one a single object is not meditation; that’s concentration. Meditation is turning the attention on attention itself and abiding there.
One could stop there, but here’s a little known aid you may find helpful.
There seems to be considerable credible data to suggest that slowing down the brain’s processes facilitates deep meditation. This makes good sense; the brain consumes about 20% of the total energy used by the body. To slow it down would allow energy to instead be redirected to attention which is the activity of consciousness.
To do this, you want to remove most but not all of the incoming sensory data creating an environment of deprivation. Total deprivation often leads to hallucinations and that’s not
what we’re aiming at.
Since we are primarily a visual animal, complete darkness limits the sensory input going to the brain. Depriving us of all visual reference, darkness shuts down the major cortical centers in the brain, depressing mental and cognitive functions. Emotional and feeling states are enhanced, especially the senses of smell and touch. We become more open.
Too, the issue of eyes-open/eyes-closed is removed.
Darkness dramatically alters the chemistry of the brain, manifesting especially in the neuro-endocrine systems. Seratonin, an important neurotransmitter involved in the waking state,
converts into melatonin, a regulatory hormone that turns down the organ systems, quieting the body in tandem with the brain.
So, if you meditate, you might play with meditating in as close to total darkness as possible.