Q: Why do you say we are confused?
R: The best evidence of confusion is the incongruence between one’s thoughts, words and actions ……………. and the greater the confusion, the greater the desire for some authority or some teacher, to follow.
What we know is that the state of dreaming proves that the mind, by its power of imagination, can not only create a body and a world, but also simultaneously delude itself that its creations are real. Taking imagination for reality is the hallmark of confusion.
Q: Does consciousness create the world?
R: In the strict sense of creation, it does not. Creation would mean an end product that is something other than That Which Created and this is not the case. Many other words are used instead, manifestation, emanation, projection, radiation, etc. I won’t get caught up in the quibbling over which word is best. I believe these words sufficiently point to it.
Q: Is consciousness inside me or outside me?
R: It’s not an either-or issue. You are suffused with consciousness. It is inside you; it is outside you. It is everywhere; there is nowhere it is not. In consciousness, the subject-object opposition is resolved in the Unity which is at once exclusive and inclusive, transcendent and immanent. The alpha as well as the omega, while transcending us infinitely, reside in the depths of our heart.
However, it is better to concern oneself with the location of this “you” than with the location of consciousness.
Q: What is mind?
R: Consciousness particularized is mind. Mind is the stream of thought with “I-am” being the first thought. “I-am” particularized becomes “I-am-this”.
Q: Where does someone who is totally new to all this begin?
R: Begin by acknowledging the primacy of consciousness or subjectivity in the relative sense. In its absence, the world cannot be known. From there, distinguish between that which you know and that which you believe. Then verify every belief you have by clarifying how you acquired it and whether or not it is true.
Q: What mistakes should I look out for along the way?
R: I think that the most common mistake that is made is that one takes an instruction or direction to be global in nature. That is to suggest that what another is told also can apply to you. It may, but it’s far from a certainty.
One man wants to come to Bangkok from Tokyo, another wants to come from Sydney and a third comes from Los Angeles. The directions that they receive are different and the time it takes for them to arrive are different.
Q: I’m considering going on a week-long retreat with (teacher’s name redacted). Do you think that’s a good idea?
R: Do you want to know if the retreat is a god idea or if being with this teacher is a good idea?
Q: I guess both.
R: Within each being is the subtle desire for union with, identity with, or conscious awareness of, an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. If it is successful, it results in a guidance to the immediate awareness that is not reached by either perception or conception.
When you attend retreats held by the teachers that are currently in vogue, they often give you exercises designed to yield certain types of experiences. But the experience is not the thing. At best, it’s like a movie trailer of the thing. And like a trailer, if it’s a good one, it makes you want more.
Now you’re hooked into the search for it. Searching is a lifelong activity unless you short circuit it. So, if you’re looking to add to your lifelong activities, go for it.
Q: What is the difference between experiencing and witnessing?
R: Experience requires subjective contact with a phenomenal object. I cannot experience Paris without being in Paris. Witnessing is not the same as experiencing. Because experience requires involvement, identification is necessary for the Self to experience Itself. The experience of being something in particular requires an involvement with that “something”. Witnessing observes, without commentary, judgment or involvement.
Q: Can anything be a teacher for me?
R: Yes, but only if you’re paying attention.
People think that the teacher must be a person, but teacher is really only the first person, the real ‘I’ within us. However, not satisfied with this first person, they go seeking a second person to be their teacher or guru.
Q: Why can’t we just rely on what the Bible says to live our lives?
R: One reason is that to do so, one has to be selective. Do you “love thy neighbor as thy self” or is your approach “an eye for an eye”? Selectivity, in my view, disqualifies it as a viable sourcebook. Another reason is that most holy books are not authentic resources. They are most hearsay, that is, what someone said someone said someone said.
Q: Ramesh Balsekar suggested that sages retain their egos even after enlightenment. He said that their responding when called was evidence of the presence of ego. Would you agree?
R: I believe that responding when called is evidence of personality, not ego. My dog responds when called yet I would never argue that he has an ego. He has a personality and sages have personalities also.
Q: So, he was wrong?
R: We have different points of view.
Q: I recognized that I am conditioned. Just about everything I do arises out of that conditioning. How can I break out of it?
R: Once you realise that your mind is conditioned, then you have begun to loosen the conditioning. Step two is to see that the door that keeps you in is also the door that lets you out. Conditioned thought that seeks to modify or change itself merely continues the conditioned state. Where, then, is the source of unconditioned thought?
It is in silence and this silence has the power to dissolve all conditioning.
Q: Why does this process take so damn long?
R: There have been reports of instances were people woke up instantly. I can give you theories about why it can take the time it does. But that’s all they would be, theories. Let’s just say that not everyone gets to fly direct, non-stop.
Q: Why do you say we are confused?
Q: My question has two parts: what is enlightenment and is enlightenment really possible?
R: Enlightenment, realization or self-realization is the polaric opposite of narcissism. It is the perception of the world absent any self-centric filter, the clear discernment of the underlying unity present in multiplicity.
Enlightenment is a revelation insofar as what had been veiled is revealed. It is not so much an awakening as a re-awakening.
The Gita suggests that it occurs in one in one million cases; I suspect even that’s a bit optimistic. My hunch is that the possibility of enlightenment is one in five million. That’s a somewhat arbitrary figure, but the point is that it is possible but not likely.
I say that enlightenment is acausal. I’ve yet to hear anyone answer the question “What is the cause of enlightenment?”.
However, this needs a caveat. The absence of evidence must not be taken to be the evidence of absence. As such, until there is causal evidence, I say it is acausal.
Q: If enlightenment can’t be caused to happen, what’s the point of all this chasing enlightenment?
R: That’s a fair question.
My stance is simply that I haven’t seen any conclusive evidence that proves that a variable or any number of variables can be said to be causal. It makes better sense to say that the single incidence of cure was an anomaly of spontaneous healing. Similarly, with the high failure rate of any spiritual practice, it is better to suggest that an enlightenment event is a spontaneous anomaly.
If we took ten thousand people and had them meditate for an hour a day for ten years and took another ten thousand and forbid them to meditate but instead watch an hour of cartoons each day, I suspect that the resulting number of enlightenments in either case would be the same: zero. If enlightenment does occur in one in a million, twenty thousand people is to small a sample to produce a meaningful result. Second, meditating for an hour a day for a decade is only 3650 hours, far short of the ten thousand that is commonly recognized to be required to attain “expertise”.
Regardless, a medicine that cures one in a million cancer patients can’t be heralded as the cure for cancer.
If enlightenment is the return to that condition prior to the spontaneous arising of self consciousness, is there something that someone can do to reverse that spontaneous arising?
Q: Can’t it be said that Grace is the cause of enlightenment?
R: Sure it can, but what is Grace? I plant a seed pack in a pot and water it diligently. Some seeds grow, others don’t. Is this Grace at work?
When you and a friend are jogging down a hill, you both stumble and you break your leg, is that Grace? If he breaks his leg and you don’t , is that Grace? Can Grace be personal?
If something happens in your favor, it is said to be Grace and if something goes against you, we say it is bad luck or bad karma. What, then, distinguishes Grace from simple good luck?
It has been scientifically proven that there is no such thing as luck. Events occur; some events favor us, others don’t. Streaks happen. Why must we assign divinity to it?
All of this brings me full circle back to the idea of acausal, but I could be mistaken.
R: A belief is an unverified idea. We use them to provide security for ourselves in what is perceived as an unstable world.
The absence of the requirement of verification provides belief with great latitude and our beliefs become like idols that we worship.
However, in our coming together here in this present moment, you have the option to choose either the real or idolatry.
Q: Are there any shortcuts to realization?
R: Surprisingly, yes. Mind is consciousness in movement and precedes all mental states. As the finger cannot touch itself, the mind cannot know the mind. When you set aside time to forget yourself, remembering happens.
Self remembrance is the shortcut to self realization. The more the Self is remembered, the closer to realization one gets.
Q: I’m not happy and I want to become happy. Yet, I remain unhappy. I’m stuck; how do I get out of this?
R: Becoming is endless. Even when we become what we wanted to become, we identify something better still to become.
There is the erroneous assumption that happiness and peace are states that can be experienced by striving, by effort. Don’t attach yourself to a single thought, perception or idea and tell me if you are not happy.
Q: I am struggling in these meetings. I find that you speak rather briefly on any topic, and don’t develop it fully.
R: You are not mistaken. Over the years, a style has developed which requires that you really listen, that you truly be present. If someone merely hears what I say, they might as well stay home.
Q: What is the role of intellect in understanding?
R: The intellect cuts both ways. It can be an incredible tool for progress.
Yet, intellect results in boredom; the greater the intellect, the more easily bored one becomes. Then, thought becomes the primary distraction and one succumbs to the attractiveness of the familiar.
Psychological thought is a burden. It weighs you down.
When your digestive system is working as it should, you have no awareness of it. Likewise, once the mind is workly properly, thought no longer calls out for attention. When psychological thought ceases, the burden is lifted. Yet, it can’t be said that you gained anything.
Q: I have to admit that altough I’ve listened to you a few times, I still don’t understand a damn thing you’re talking about.
R: (laughing) Then you’re a lot closer to the truth than most.
It is impossible to understand the Absolute with the mind because it is where the mind can’t go. Too, it is impossible to understand the Relative, because all perception is filtered through the fourfold apparatus of ego, mind, intellect and underlying default consciousness. In this fashion, perception becomes distorted.
The conclusion from this is that, contrary to any beliefs one may hold, in one’s present state one can’t understand anything.Q: What is true surrender?
R: It is a sanctified life.
One could say that it is a surrender to the Will of God. But that opens up the question of whether or not God would have preferences or a desire for a specific outcome. I would say that it begins with an acceptance of What-Is, whatever it is. This matures into a welcoming of What-Is and, in full bloom, it is gratitude for What-Is. It is the hallmark of humility and is recognized in the declaration “I mistook what was Yours (capital Y) for mine”.
Q: Would you give me a simple definition of consciousness?
R: Like thread is the basis of all cloth, consciousness is the basis of all appearance. As salt dissolves in water, appearances both gross and subtle dissolve in consciousness.
It is formless; once form is assigned to it, it is limited.
It is the father of the mind and its three phases of waking, dreaming and sleep pass over it. It is the cause of your feeling alive.
Q: I’ve heard you talk about stillness but never about the experience of stillness. What’s it like?
R: It really cannot be confined to or defined by words. One’s experience of this stillness is like that of an illiterate mute who has a dream. Only he knows about it; he cannot communicate it to anyone else.
Q: Can you explain wu-wei, actionless action?
R: Actionless action is not based on attachment, involvement or aversion. It is a spontaneous movement that arises, uncalled.
Q: What are your teachings?
R: I have no teachings. People ask questions and I answer them. That is all.
Q: If someone asks you “How do I get enlightened?” what do you tell them?
R: I tell them whatever is appropriate for them.
Q: The advice you gave a friend of mine the other day is inconsistent with what you said earlier today? Can you explain the inconsistency?
R: It’s only inconsistent if we are comparing apples with apples.
People who start from different places need different instructions to get to the same destination.
Q: You have said before that, with rare exception, most people won’t get it, won’t get enlightenment. Why do you think that’s so?
R: My opinions on this, and that’s all they are, are threefold. The first, to paraphrase the ancient scriptures, is “The Self chooses whom It chooses”.
The second is that it’s not reasonable to expect a full payout for part time effort.
The last is that mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth, craving for sensations, false perception, despair, the inability to concentrate and the lack of authentic humility all may serve as impediments to Recognition.
Q: Do you find that all the questions become repetitive? What are the best questions you’ve been asked?
R: In these gatherings, many diverse questions are posed. Although all are well intentioned, many actually take you farther from your seeming goal than nearer.
Although it doesn’t always happen, my preference is to remain in the realm of the hard questions. Let me give you a few examples.
Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What could be the raw materials that went into the creation other than God Itself? What are the implications of the heavens and the earth being in and of God”?
Here’s another: it’s the one question that scares the hell out of neuroscientists: “Does the brain create thought or does it merely receive and process thought?”
Too, what is the proof of the reality of the body since the only modality through which it is known is the sensing system of the body?
Others include “By what light is darkness discerned?”, “To whom does the person happen” and “Can there be a truly inward movement that does not feed the ego overtly or covertly?”
These hard questions and others like them require that you stop and actually ponder because the answers can’t be found in all the beliefs and hearsay that you’ve accumulated.
R: The truth is, none of us has ever had a single thought. Why?
It is through our conditioning that we have come to believe that in this body, there could be a thinker of thoughts. If one looks closely, one will find that there is no one there at all.
The only correct thing we can say is that thoughts appear in consciousness, are perceived for a few seconds, and then disappear again. Only consciousness remains.
There is no I thinking those thoughts, for that I is just another thought. One thought does not think another thought. That is why the statement ‘I think’ has no validity.
Q: But, there are thoughts.
R: Thought is a process sourced by experiences accessed from memory. When self consciousness comes online and is able to access memory, ego or the I-am-this thought is
The problem does not begin with thought, but with believing thought to automatically be true.
Q: The thoughts don’t seem to stop.
R: Yes, if one had to write down every thought that appeared, there would be no time for anything else.
A shorter, yet more meaningful list, would be one of all the beliefs that aren’t true.
Q: Are mind and thought the same?
R: Mind is the river in which all mental phenomena flow in differentiation. There is consciousness of mind and body, consciousness of mind, and consciousness. These
correspond with what we call waking as the return of the sense of being something in particular, dreaming as the observing without an observer of the images that appear and deep
sleep as a lapse in the stream of appearances without a lapse in being.
Using the mind to look for reality is only an act of deceiving yourself. The mind develops concepts which must lead to an abandonment of the underlying Substance, the indivisible
Q: Can the mind correct itself?
R: The primary problem cannot be solved by the mind because the primary problem is the mind. Investigate what it is that recognizes that the problem is the mind. This is the
Q: How, then, can we recognize Reality?
R: There is an ineffability, an indescribability to Reality. This Reality is not relative reality, mediated through a body/mind, but that Ultimate Reality which cannot be predicated in
terms of conventional conceptual categories, as it transcends the familiar realm of words and ideas. Everything we label negatively is also part of It. This is clearly seen when the
labels are dropped.
Nonetheless, it can be realized as it truly is via intuitive understanding.
What is therefore required is the release of all views, beliefs and attachments that interfere with our innate ability to know Reality.