Online Course Q&A Excerpted from Adyashanti's “Experiencing No-Self” Online Course Q&A
A participant writes: As I spoke about my devotion at the recent Australia retreat, you said it was part of how I was made up. Spirituality for me is also about divine love. So my mind is rather disturbed by the descriptions of losing the self as “bland” and “blankness.” My mind is asking: Why would I want no-self when having a self means that I can experience or be love and devotion? I suppose I’m hoping you will reassure me that no-self is also divine love and not just blankness!
Adyashanti: The no-self state is not bland or simple blankness, although it can sound that way because it cannot be described in positive terms. It is much easier, and more instructive, to describe what reality is not than what it is -- although neither positive nor negative descriptions of absolute reality can ever convey its reality. Always remember that the ego and the self’s experience of God (absolute reality) is not God’s experience of God.
Self experiences everything through the medium of itself. To go beyond self is to go beyond experiencing life through the medium of self, in the same way that going beyond the ego is to no longer experience life through the medium of ego.
Absolute reality (the Godhead beyond God) is the source and substance of all, but it cannot be described as any particular expression it may take, not even love or bliss or being or any other expression of the Divine. That is why I say that no one can desire what the Absolute actually is, only what they think or imagine that it is.
Nonetheless, at the very depth of our being we are inescapably drawn to the Absolute, even though there is nothing for either the ego or the self in it. That is why I say that the true impulse for liberation is an irrational impulse -- irrational to both the ego and self, because it will eventually mean the end of both of them.
Of course, this all sounds quite negative until you remember that liberation is to experience life, reality, and the true nature of God without any medium. Strictly speaking this cannot be described, it must be lived. But I can assure you that nothing else holds a candle to life lived beyond self.
So follow your desire for divine love all the way until it takes you completely beyond ego, self, and even love, where all that is left is the Divine itself.
© Adyashanti 2015
Our primary cause of suffering is that we think deep inside we’re going to win the argument with what is. “What is” may be the world outside you, or you can be sitting all by yourself and you can be at war with yourself, saying, “The way it is, is not the way it should be. I want it to change.”
The problem is, the way you are at any instant is the way it is. That’s reality. Reality rules. It doesn’t change because you or I think it should be different. It’s very simple. And yet, when you really see it, you realize how easy it is to get lost in a literal state of insanity where your mind, your ego, is always telling life: “It’s not the way it should be. I’m not the way I should be. You’re not the way you should be. Something is wrong.”
That sense of wrongness has been around for a long time. But the only thing that’s wrong is that we keep believing there’s something wrong. And when we believe there’s something wrong, we treat the world badly.
You treat yourself badly when you think there’s something wrong with you. The more wrong you feel about yourself, the worse you treat yourself. We’re afraid to let go of that because we think unconsciously, “If we let go of that, then everything would spiral up and out of control. We wouldn’t feed the hungry and we wouldn’t pay attention to the needy and we’d all be self-absorbed. The world needs my argument with it. Otherwise it’s never going to become better.” It’s just insanity.
Where we are, we got here precisely because we argue with what is. And then our hearts close, and our minds close, and the inherent creativity of Spirit shrinks, and our options seem to diminish, and we’re walking in blinders. And the more we have blinders on, the more justified we feel in our reasons to oppose our lives.
At some point, something hits you: “Oh, that’s insane. That’s an argument I can’t win. I can’t win the argument with life. I can’t win the argument with myself. It has no validity to it, none whatsoever.” And then maybe it just starts to collapse.
And isn’t it when the heart opens, when the mind opens, that you and I join with right now? It doesn’t matter how “right now” is. Right now you might feel like a real disaster. You may feel absolutely horrible right now. If you totally join with even that, at the moment you join with it, it’s perfectly fine. It’s the cause of your freedom, just joining with life.
From Adyashanti's Asilomar Retreat, 2010
© Adyashanti 2010
Following is a French translation of Adyashanti's "True Meditation."
La véritable méditation n'a ni direction, ni but, ni méthode. Toute méthode vise à atteindre un certain état d'esprit. Tout état est limité, transitoire et conditionné. La fascination pour les états mène à l'asservissement et à la dépendance. La véritable méditation est de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale.
La véritable méditation apparaît spontanément dans la conscience quand l'esprit n'est pas fixé sur des objets de perception. Quand vous commencez à méditer, vous remarquez que l'esprit est toujours dirigé vers un objet quelconque, qu’il s’agisse de pensées, de sensations corporelles, d’émotions, de souvenirs, de sons, etc. Il en est ainsi car l'esprit est habitué à se concentrer sur les objets et à se contracter. Alors, l'esprit interprète machinalement ce dont il est conscient (les objets) de façon compulsive et déformée. Il se met à tirer des conclusions et à faire des suppositions basées sur des conditionnements passés.
Dans la véritable méditation, tout objet est laissé à sa fonction naturelle. Cela veut dire qu'aucun effort ne doit être fait pour manipuler et supprimer un quelconque objet dont on est conscient. Dans la véritable méditation, l’accent est mis sur le fait d'être conscience; non pas d'être conscient d'objets, mais de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale elle-même.
La conscience primordiale est la source à partir de laquelle tous les objets surgissent et se dissipent. Alors que vous vous détendez doucement dans la conscience, dans l'écoute, la contraction compulsive de l'esprit sur les objets s'atténuera. Le silence d’être se révélera plus clairement dans la conscience comme une invitation à vous y reposer et à y demeurer. Une attitude d'ouverture et de réceptivité, libre de tout but ou d'anticipation facilitera la présence du silence et de la tranquillité, qui se révéleront être votre condition naturelle.
Le silence et la tranquillité ne sont pas des états et, par conséquent, ne peuvent être produits ou créés. Le silence est le non état à partir duquel tous les états surgissent et se dissipent. Le silence, la tranquillité et la conscience ne sont pas des états et ne peuvent jamais être perçus dans leur totalité en tant qu’objets. Le silence est lui-même le témoin éternel sans forme ni attribut. Alors que vous vous reposez plus profondément en tant que témoin, tous les objets reviennent à leur fonction naturelle, et la conscience se libère des contractions compulsives et des identifications de l'esprit pour retourner à son non état naturel de présence.
La question simple mais profonde «Qui suis-je ?» peut alors se révéler, non pas comme la tyrannie sans fin de l'égo-personnalité, mais comme la liberté d'être non objective -- la conscience primordiale dans laquelle tous les états et tous les objets naissent et meurent en tant que manifestations de l'éternel Soi non né que VOUS ÊTES.
© 1999 Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Adyashanti's “The Way of Liberating Insight” Online Course Q&A
A participant writes: I have been sensing into awareness, but I have not previously thought of it as the ground of my being; it hasn’t had any spiritual connotation for me. I have, however, experienced it as a quiet alertness, warm, comforting, peaceful and loving, and somehow both young and old. Whenever I relax into it, all the stress goes away and my mood becomes softer.
If there is a problem, it is that I know I am aware but not that I am awareness. I also know that I am not my thoughts or emotions, or even my body. But when I consider I am that which is aware, so far I haven’t seen what “that” is, even though you and others have offered teachings to help me recognize it. I need to see.
Adyashanti: I appreciate your inquiry into the nature of yourself and awareness. It is true that we can never see ourself as a thing, or as an object of awareness. And we certainly cannot ever see awareness; we cannot see our own seeing. But there is a mysterious and profound way in which our true nature recognizes itself -- not as something “out there” that we can see or relate to, but as the totality itself recognizing itself.
Such recognition is intuitive, spontaneous, and immediate. And it happens when we no longer try to recognize ourself as apart from anything, when we are no longer looking for ourself as some piece, or part, or subject of our experiences and our perceptions. For there is no part or distinct subject who awakens; rather, it is the whole or the totality that awakens.
And all along we are the totality. Even our sense of individuality and human uniqueness is itself the totality appearing in a unique way.
© Adyashanti 2015
I’ve been asked many times, “Adya, I’m experiencing this strange sort of fear, like I’m at the door of some void, and it’s just going to swallow me. And somehow I’m strangely, deeply compelled towards it, and absolutely terrified of it, because it feels like it’s going to be the end of me.” It’s very common in doing this kind of deep work that you can run into this.
Ultimately, in the end, we see through self, but at that point, self isn’t a thought and it’s not really a feeling, except for fear. It’s something you can’t identify, like some sort of presence of being that feels extraordinarily threatened. When this really opens up, you quite literally experience the disappearance of everything you know. It seems like the body, the mind, the entire world—all of existence blinks out of existence.
In a certain sense, the most real sense that there can be, you actually do go through a death. It’s not the same thing as a near-death experience—as transformative as those can be—it’s a death experience. It’s the thing we’re afraid of, because you think of your body dying, which is what most people are afraid of. But you’re only afraid of your body dying because you think that you are associated with the body. What is it that’s associated with the body? It’s you.
If you were 100% completely convinced that you survive your body dying, death wouldn’t feel like a threat to you at all. But since the identification runs so deep there, any threat to your body feels like a threat to your life—as a threat to your ideas can feel like a threat to your life. If you let go here, it feels like, “I will cease to be.” This is to experience the death of the entire ego identity. If it really happens all the way through, something doesn’t come back from it. There is an irrevocable change or transformation. The good news is that you aren’t what you feel is going to die. The only way to know that entirely is for it to die.
My hunch is that when the Buddha associated nirvana with extinction and cessation, this is what he was talking about: to yank identity up from the root. Because until then, it is the journey of identity: “I’m me”—whatever your sense of yourself is—“Oh, I’m not, I’m the aware space.” And then you have emotional identities: “I’m this open, wide, loving, benevolent presence. That’s what I am—beautiful.” Or “I am That—everywhere I look, there I am.” Or if you’re a little bit differently oriented, “Everywhere I look, there’s the face of God. Okay, now that is what I am. I’m a son or daughter of God.”
The fear of it is that it is the death of identity, which is almost impossible to contemplate. The journey is that the identity gets more and more transparent and boundless, until finally identity itself falls away. Then the question “What is it that I am?” is no longer there—not because you have an answer, but because identity is no longer relevant.
In conventional language, you may give it a name like “the infinite.” I call it “pure potentiality.” There are different ways the void is talked about, and this is one of them. Pure potentiality would necessarily be void if it’s pure—no manifestation at all—pure potential, pure creative impulse.
That doesn’t mean that you no longer have a personality, that you no longer have human things about you, that you no longer have a certain kind of principle that orients you—you may even call that an identity. But you no longer find self in identity, and so it’s freed up.
When the Buddha says “enlightenment,” one way of articulating it is that it’s the freedom from identity, from having to be or not be anything. Does that mean you no longer experience the oneness, being everything, seeing the face of God, your true being, or Buddha nature in everything? No, that’s still there. Things are still there, but there’s no longer identity in them. I don’t really know how to describe that, because the nature of it is beyond description. You can’t even think about it. It’s the borderline between being and nonbeing.
So this is just part of the journey: awakening at the level of mind, heart awakening to the unity of all things, and each one of these provides more spaciousness and openness. Your sense of yourself gets more and more transparent, therefore there’s less to defend. There’s less necessity to assert yourself in the world, which doesn’t mean you are not an assertive being. You can still be a very assertive being.
How does all that translate down into your human experience? There’s still a human being there. The human being hasn’t started to glow and become incapable of any stupidity. It hasn’t suddenly become God’s shining example of utter perfection. Each dimension of being exists within its own dimension.
In my experience, what it does is it frees these dimensions up so they’re no longer in conflict, and life is no longer about protecting and asserting a kind of ego structure. It’s about something different. There are still other dimensions of our humanness that need attention if we want to be able to function well and have what we’ve realized be able to flow out into all the dimensions of what it is to be a human being.
From Adyashanti’s Omega Institute Retreat, 2017
© Adyashanti 2017
From the ordinary standpoint, which is where we all start out, spiritual practice has a quality of being a goal-oriented activity. We’re doing it for a particular reason. We’re hoping for a particular result. We hope it will help us to awaken or reveal the truth to us, or help us find peace or freedom. That’s entirely understandable. It’s a way of relating with whatever our spiritual practice is that feels honest. That’s a conventional view of practice, whatever the spiritual practice is.
The most important part of any spiritual practice is its authenticity, its honesty. And that’s something that’s often missed. The spiritual path is an embodied form of being really true and honest with yourself. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially at the beginning.
To be aware is to be confronted with whatever the reality of your condition is at any particular moment. That can roll off the tongue very easily, but when you go to do it, it can be very challenging to really show up in your life authentically for whatever’s unfolding at that moment. We’re always trying to change what is, or explain it, or justify it, or anything other than a direct encounter with the raw reality of our condition at any given moment.
It’s not easy for human beings to be really honest with themselves. It’s one of the most stringent, demanding practices that there is—to not knowingly, intentionally deceive ourselves or others. Just start with yourself. That’s enough for any given day. It's what needs to be informing our spiritual practice.
Spiritual practice becomes effective and powerful in direct proportion to how true and real and honestly it’s undertaken. That's authenticity. And so much of being honest and real with ourselves is realizing what we don’t know. Knowing that we don’t know takes a lot of honesty. A space opens within the mind and even in the body when we start to know that we don’t know. We open to uncertainty: “I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what enlightenment is. I don’t know what God is. I don’t really know much of what I thought I knew.” Sometimes that can be tremendously liberating, when you let go of a painful idea or belief or opinion that was really burdensome. That can be very freeing, just to get that far.
From the standpoint of realization, practice looks very different. Practice is actually an expression of the state of realization. It's an embodied statement. At first, we can see something like meditation as a means to an end: “I hope this helps me get to where I want to get to.” But from a realized perspective, meditation actually becomes an embodied expression of that realization. It’s not the only expression by any means, but it’s one embodied expression. So then the practice and the realization become the same thing.
The underlying attitude that needs to inform our spiritual approach is basic honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness. To whatever extent we can become honest, truthful, and sincere right from the beginning, we’re actually participating in an embodied form of realization. So we can actually utilize aspects of realization far before we’re even realized.
From the viewpoint of realization itself, not only is practice an expression of realization, but it’s also simultaneously a way that realization explores itself, that reality explores itself. Again, it’s not a goal-oriented activity, because realization itself is infinite. Realization itself has no borders. It has no boundaries. Reality can always be realizing more of itself. When it’s reality doing the realizing, there’s no goal. There’s no end. There’s no anxiety. Strictly speaking, there's no seeking, because there’s no goal orientation. How could you make something that has an infinite capacity into a goal? Because if it’s infinite, by definition, you’re not going to get to the goal.
So practice can been seen from this other orientation, the orientation of a deeper realized state. And we can utilize some of that orientation, even if we don’t think we’re realized yet. We can use some of that attitude, you might say. In fact, it’s essential that we do use that attitude, because spiritual practice itself actually isn’t confined to specific spiritual disciplines. That’s another mistaken idea of spiritual practice, that when we're meditating, listening to a talk, or inquiring, we're engaged in a specific spiritual practice. But spiritual practice actually transcends all of those particular forms. It expresses itself through those embodied forms of spiritual practice. The forms are embodied expressions, but what informs all of those forms is something else.
What informs all of those forms of practice is the commitment to realization itself, which goes back to honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness. These are the primary spiritual practices. In that sense, they’re not limited to any particular form. They’re not limited to a time of meditation. You can practice honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness at any moment of your life, in any situation you might be in. Literally, these are the fundamentals of spiritual practice.
From Adyashanti's Authentic Spiritual Practice, UK Retreat, 2018
© Adyashanti 2018
To the extent that the fire of truth wipes out all fixated points of view, it wipes out inner contradictions as well, and we begin to move in a whole different way. The Way is the flow that comes from a place of non-contradiction—not from good and bad. Much less damage tends to be done from that place. Once we have reached the phase where there is no fixed self-concept, we tend to lead a selfless life. The only way to be selfless is to be self less—without a self. No matter what it does, a self isn’t going to be selfless. It can pretend. It can approximate selflessness, but a self is never going to be selfless because there is always an identified personal self at the root of it.
Being selfless isn’t a good, holy, or noble activity. It’s simply that when there is no self, selflessness happens. This selflessness is very different from having a moralistic standpoint. When action is selfless, it tends to do no harm. It tends to be the salvation, the secret alchemy that awakens and removes conflict. It’s a byproduct of not having a self. It just so happens that reality is overflowing with goodness and love.
This is radical emptiness—where everything is arising spontaneously. There is no more need to discriminate with the mind between what seems to be the right thing or the wrong thing to do. In ego-land it’s helpful to have an ego that can discriminate between right and wrong, but at a certain point, that’s not what you are operating by. You are operating by the flow of the Tao, which is a higher order of intelligence. You don’t need to intellectually discriminate anymore because the Tao discriminates without discriminating; it knows without knowing; it moves without moving. There is no sense of being enlightened or unenlightened. Since there is no self, there is nothing to be enlightened or unenlightened.
We can talk about enlightened beings and non-enlightened beings, and conceptually that has a use. But when there is no self, when there is radical emptiness, the whole enlightenment thing is sort of irrelevant because reality has become conscious of itself, which is enlightenment. That’s what is often missed. People believe that enlightenment is an improvement on reality, like becoming a super human being or God-knows-what. But enlightenment is when reality is awake to itself as itself within itself.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
Awakening to the truth is a deep realization of what you are as an experience. What is it that is feeling? What is it that is thinking or sensing? This is not about coming up with the right name for it, so don’t name it for a moment. It’s about just noticing, just experiencing. Feel it. Sense it. Welcome it. Spiritual awakening is realizing what occupies the space called “me.” When you listen innocently, you’ll see that there really is something more here than a me.
Your me is always experiencing this moment in relation to some other moment. Is this moment as good as it was two weeks ago? Will it be the same today as it was yesterday? The me worries about what it knows and whether or not it is good enough to get enlightened. Your me might call itself Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Advaitan, atheist, agnostic, believer, or nonbeliever, but no matter what your me is identified with, when you become very open and relaxed, you can suddenly be aware that something else is occupying your body-mind. Something else is looking out from your eyes, listening from your ears, and feeling your feelings. That something has no qualities. Realizing your true nature is realizing what is present without qualities. We can call it the emptiness of consciousness, the Self, or the No-Self. To directly experience this emptiness—the aliveness of it—is spiritual awakening. It is to realize yourself as beautiful nothingness, or more accurately, no-thing-ness. If we say it’s just “nothing,” we miss the point.
When your image of the me takes a break, you’ll find all you are doing at that moment is just being open. You feel quite relieved that you are not trying to get to another moment or a better experience. You feel yourself just being in a very relaxed, easy sense of peace. You haven’t gained anything at all—you’re not smarter, you don’t necessarily know more than anyone else, and you haven’t suddenly become holy. If you are resting as your own true nature, then you feel that there is really nowhere else to go.
At that moment, you feel as if your path has ended. It can be hard to end it when so much is invested in your path, but if you really want to be free, you must want to know the truth more than anything else. And when you do, you find that the truth is so damn empty. There is so much nothing to it. There is so much nobody there, just a very vivid awakeness.
But even then you can realize the truth and still not operate from it. You can have a very deep awakening experience and still not function from that awakening because the me is still convinced that a me is necessary. The me always brings you back into relationship with another—it can be the world and me, my job and me, the dog and me, whatever. Have you noticed how the way you relate to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations is often slightly adversarial? How it’s never quite the right moment? How it’s almost perfect, but not quite? The Buddha said, “All suffering originates from craving, from attachment, from desire.” This is the movement of the me who always wants a little more out of the moment.
The me is clumsy. As my mother used to say, “You’re like a bull in a china shop.” Did you ever hear that? If you let your mind imagine a bull getting loose in a china shop, that’s how the me is. It’s knocking things over, things like the most precious china. With a whisk of its tail, there goes . . . grandma’s four-generation-old antique china cups! Boom—they’re gone. When your me is operating, it’s like that bull. It tends to make a lot of noise because it’s always in a slightly adversarial relationship with its moment. It produces noisy thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or opinions. It also likes to search, moving its head around, scanning for the right emotion in the body, scanning through the mind for the right concept. It’s always in movement like a radar, looking for the right thing to happen.
As soon as you move your attention away from the radar scan, you start to notice something else. Inside, there is something that is not creating nearly as much noise as the me. This something else, this openness, this awakeness, is not searching for the next moment or scanning for the right emotion or experience. You can get the sense of it now. What does it feel like to simply be awake? Whether you think you are awake or not doesn’t matter—don’t worry about that for now. What does the awakeness itself feel like? What is the experience of that awakeness before you try to be more or less awake? Just with a willingness to open, you can start to feel it. How does this awakeness feel? How does this openness feel? Just by bringing your attention there, just by noticing without any effort, this formless or empty sense of being heightens itself as if to say, “Someone is finally paying attention.”
When this openness is present, you can recognize how it experiences your body. How does openness experience a feeling, emotion, or thought? How does it experience the movement called “me”? Allow yourself to get a real taste of this. This openness is in a completely different relationship with everything that exists, starting with you. It’s in a different relationship with the moment; it’s not going anywhere. Have you noticed? It’s not trying to achieve something else. It hasn’t elevated you or demeaned you. Start to sense the profound innocence of this openness. It’s not perceiving from the past—not from the last moment, much less from the accumulation of a lifetime. It’s perceiving only in this moment.
Openness has not accumulated anything, so it’s free. It has a profoundly innocent but wise relationship to everything. It is something primary, awake, and alive. You can sense how incredibly precious it is. When you look right into it, there is nothing there. Let yourself experience this openness, this nothingness. Let yourself see how it experiences your body and mind right now, in this moment. It’s so different from the experience of the me. This nothingness is the peace that surpasses all understanding, and it’s right here at your fingertips.
Awakeness is inherent in all things and all beings everywhere, all the time. This awakeness relates to every moment from innocence, from absolute honesty, from a state where you feel absolutely authentic. Only from this state do you realize that you never really wanted whatever you thought you wanted. You realize that behind all of your desires was a single desire: to experience each moment from your true nature. You find that simply walking outside and seeing a leaf in the breeze or seeing a street person on the corner is the most exquisite of experiences. You don’t need anything big; each moment has a beauty all its own. Even the very ugly moments have a beauty when experienced from this innocence, this beautifully disarming state of awakeness.
During any moment, you can ask yourself, “What is it like for emptiness to experience this moment? What is it like for awakeness?” Really listen, because openness is quiet and soft. You can’t insist upon it. You can’t grab for it, so don’t reach. Just open. Look for the openness, feel from the openness, and relate from the openness. It can freak you out if you’re not used to it. If you find yourself in a place that you don’t like, just ask how openness is experiencing this moment. A shift happens, and you find yourself saying, “I’ll be damned—it’s actually enjoying this!”
This relationship from your heart, from the truth of your being, from openness—is something that can’t be taught. I remember what it was like when I went as a Buddhist to undertake the precepts. You read through them, study them, and kind of take them inside. You do whatever the little me does with them, like deciding you are going to do a really good job of it—until you find out otherwise. You think you know what the precepts are, then you really awaken to your true nature and realize that this is how your true nature naturally sees things. It’s very simple. That’s it. Now you don’t need any precepts because your true nature sees that way all the time. You don’t need to be reminded of how your true nature sees. You only need to be reminded of what your true nature is.
So if you want to find out how openness relates to each moment, just go inside. Be that openness. Be that emptiness. All you can do is ask yourself, inquire for yourself. How is it relating to this thought in my head? To this person? To this moment? You can see this. Go directly to the source, to the only authority that is finally liberating: your own awakeness, your own emptiness perceiving this moment. It will teach you how to live.
Berkeley, California, March 17, 2002
© Adyashanti 2006
Many seekers do not take full responsibility for their own liberation, but wait for one big, final spiritual experience which will catapult them fully into it. It is this search for the final liberating experience which gives rise to a rampant form of spiritual consumerism in which seekers go from one teacher to another, shopping for enlightenment as if shopping for sweets in a candy store. This spiritual promiscuity is rapidly turning the search for enlightenment into a cult of experience seekers. And, while many people indeed have powerful experiences, in most cases these do not lead to the profound transformation of the individual, which is the expression of enlightenment.
In speaking regularly with spiritual seekers, it dawned on me one day how addicted so many of them are to the power of charisma. They swap stories about how powerful this or that teacher is and compare experiences. They get a charge from it, many mistaking charisma for enlightenment. Charisma attracts at all levels: political, sexual, spiritual, etc., and it feeds the ego's desire to feel special. The ego loves getting hits of power—it's like a form of spiritual candy. The candy may be sweet but can you live on it? Does it make you free?
Freedom is not necessarily exciting; it's just free. Very peaceful and quiet, so very quiet. Of course, it is also filled with joy and wonder, but it is not what you imagine. It is much, much less. Many mistake the intoxicating power of otherworldly charisma for enlightenment. More often than not it is simply otherworldly, and not necessarily free or enlightened. In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good. Because if feeling good is your goal, then as soon as you feel better you will lose interest in what is true. This does not mean that feeling good or experiencing love and bliss is a bad thing. Given the choice, anyone would choose to feel bliss rather than sorrow. It simply means that if this desire to feel good is stronger than the yearning to see, know, and experience Truth, then this desire will always be distorting the perception of what is Real, while corrupting one's deepest integrity.
In my experience, everyone will say they want to discover the Truth, right up until they realize that the Truth will rob them of their deepest held ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. The freedom of enlightenment means much more than the experience of love and peace. It means discovering a Truth that will turn your view of self and life upside-down. For one who is truly ready, this will be unimaginably liberating. But for one who is still clinging in any way, this will be extremely challenging indeed. How does one know if they are ready? One is ready when they are willing to be absolutely consumed, when they are willing to be fuel for a fire without end.
If you start playing the game of being an "enlightened somebody," the true teacher is going to call you on it. He or she is going to expose you, and that exposure is going to hurt. Because the ego will be there, standing in the light of Truth, exposed and humiliated. Of course, the ego will cry "foul!" It will claim that the teacher made a mistake and begin to justify itself in an effort to put its protective clothing back on. It will begin to spin justifications with incredible subtlety and deceptiveness. This is where real spiritual sadhana (practice) begins. This is where it all becomes very real and the student discovers whether he or she truly wants to be free, or merely wants to remain as a false, separate, and self-justifying ego. This crossroad inevitably comes and is always challenging. It separates the true seeker from the false one. The true seeker will be willing to bare the grace of humility, whereas the false seeker will run from it. Thus begins the true path to enlightenment, granted only to those willing to be nobody. Discovering your "nobodyness" opens the door to awakening as beingness, and beyond that to the Source of all beingness.
Do not think that enlightenment is going to make you special—it's not. If you feel special in any way, then enlightenment has not occurred. I meet a lot of people who think they are enlightened and awake simply because they have had a very moving spiritual experience. They wear their enlightenment on their sleeve like a badge of honor. They sit among friends and talk about how awake they are while sipping coffee at a cafe.
The funny thing about enlightenment is that when it is authentic, there is no one to claim it. Enlightenment is very ordinary; it is nothing special. Rather than making you more special, it is going to make you less special. It plants you right in the center of a wonderful humility and innocence. Everyone else may or may not call you enlightened, but when you are enlightened the whole notion of enlightenment and someone who is enlightened is a big joke. I use the word enlightenment all the time—not to point you toward it but to point you beyond it. Do not get stuck in enlightenment.
Ego is the movement of the mind toward objects of perception in the form of grasping, and away from objects in the form of aversion. This fundamentally is all the ego is. This movement of grasping and aversion gives rise to a sense of a separate "me," and in turn the sense of "me" strengthens itself this way. It is this continuous loop of causation that tricks consciousness into a trance of identification. Identification with what? Identification with the continuous loop of suffering. After all, who is suffering? The "me" is suffering. And who is this me? It is nothing more than a sense of self caused by identification with grasping and aversion. You see, it's all a creation of the mind, an endless movie, a terrible dream. Don't try to change the dream, because trying to change it is just another movement in the dream. Look at the dream. Be aware of the dream. That awareness is It. Become more interested in the awareness of the dream than in the dream itself. What is that awareness? Who is that awareness? Don't go spouting out an answer, just be the answer. Be It.
Enlightenment means the end of all division. It is not simply having an occasional experience of unity beyond all division, it is actually being undivided. This is what nonduality truly means. It means there is just one Self, without a difference or gap between the profound revelation of Oneness and the way it is perceived and lived every moment of life. Nonduality means that the inner revelation and the outer expression of the personality are one and the same. So few seem to be interested in the greater implication contained within profound spiritual experiences, because it is the contemplation of these implications which quickly brings to awareness the inner divisions existing within most seekers.
Spiritual people can be some of the most violent people you will ever meet. Mostly, they are violent to themselves. They violently try to control their minds, their emotions, and their bodies. They become upset with themselves and beat themselves up for not rising up to the conditioned mind's idea of what it believes enlightenment to be. No one ever became free through such violence. Why is it that so few people are truly free? Because they try to conform to ideas, concepts, and beliefs in their heads. They try to concentrate their way to heaven. But Freedom is about the natural state, the spontaneous and unselfconscious expression of beingness. If you want to find it, see that the very idea of a someone who is in control is a concept created by the mind. Take one step backward into the unknown.
There is nothing more insidiously destructive to the attainment of liberation than self-doubt and cynicism. Doubt is a movement of the conditioned mind that always claims that “It's not possible,” that “Freedom is not possible for me.” Doubt always knows; it "knows" that nothing is possible. And in this knowing, doubt robs you of the possibility of anything truly new or transformative from happening. Furthermore, doubt is always accompanied by a pervasive cynicism that unconsciously puts a negative spin on whatever it touches. Cynicism is a world view which protects the ego from scrutiny by maintaining a negative stance in relationship to what it does not know, does not want to know, or cannot know. Many spiritual seekers have no idea how cynical and doubt-laden they actually are. It is this blindness and denial of the presence of doubt and cynicism that makes the birth of a profound trust impossible, a trust without which final liberation will always remain simply a dream.
All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future). Thought creates time: past, present, and future. So fear exists and comes from the perceived existence of time. To be free of fear is to be free of time. Since time is a creation of thought, to be free of fear you must be free of thought. Consequently, it is important to awaken and experience your Self outside of thought, existing as eternity. So question all notions of yourself that are creations of thought and of time—of past, present, and future. Experience your eternalness, your holiness, your awakeness until you are convinced that you are never subject to the movement of thought, of fear, or of time. To be free of fear is to be full of Love.
Many spiritual seekers get "stuck in emptiness,” in the absolute, in transcendence. They cling to bliss, or peace, or indifference. When the self-centered motivation for living disappears, many seekers become indifferent. They see the perfection of all existence and find no reason for doing anything, including caring for themselves or others. I call this "taking a false refuge." It is a very subtle egoic trap; it's a fixation in the absolute and all unconscious form of attachment that masquerades as liberation. It can be very difficult to wake someone up from this deceptive fixation because they literally have no motivation to let go of it. Stuck in a form of divine indifference, such people believe they have reached the top of the mountain when actually they are hiding out halfway up its slope.
Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative. With the dawning of true enlightenment, there is a tremendous birthing of impersonal Love and wisdom that never fixates in any realm of experience. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.
Maybe I can point you to the great Reality within you. Maybe you will awaken to the direct experience of Self-realization. Maybe you will catch the fire of transmission. But there is one thing that no one can give you: the honesty and integrity that alone will bring you completely to the other shore. No one can give you the strength of character necessary for profound spiritual experience to become the catalyst for the evolutionary transformation called "enlightenment." Only you can find that passion within that burns with an integrity that will not settle for anything less than the Truth.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with states of consciousness. Whether you are in ego consciousness or unity consciousness is not really the point. I have met many people who have easy access to advanced states of consciousness. Though for some people this may come very easily, I also notice that many of these people are no freer than anyone else. If you don't believe that the ego can exist in very advanced states of consciousness, think again. The point isn't the state of consciousness, even very advanced ones, but an awake mystery that is the source of all states of consciousness. It is even the source of presence and beingness. It is beyond all perception and all experience. I call it "awakeness." To find out that you are empty of emptiness is to die into an aware mystery, which is the source of all existence. It just so happens that that mystery is in love with all of its manifestation and non-manifestation. You find your Self by stepping back out of yourself.
Ramana Maharshi's gift to the world was not that he realized the Self. Many people have had a deep realization of the Self. Ramana's real gift was that he embodied that realization so thoroughly. It is one thing to realize the Self; it is something else altogether to embody that realization to the extent that there is no gap between inner revelation and its outer expression. Many have glimpsed the realization of Oneness; few consistently express that realization through their humanness. It is one thing to touch a flame and know it is hot, but quite another to jump into that flame and be consumed by it.
First published in the Inner Directions Journal, Fall/Winter 1999.
© 1999 Adyashanti.
The real search isn’t a search into tomorrow, or to anywhere other than now. It’s starting to look into the very nature of this moment. In order to do that, you have to “stand in your own two shoes,” as my teacher used to say. What she meant by “standing in your own two shoes” is you have to look clearly into your own experience. Stop trying to have someone else’s experience. Stop chasing freedom or happiness, or even spiritual enlightenment. Stand in your own shoes, and examine closely: What’s happening right here and right now? Is it possible to let go of trying to make anything happen? Even in this moment, there may be some suffering, there may be some unhappiness, but even if there is, is it possible to no longer push against it, to try to get rid of it, to try to get somewhere else?
I understand that our instinct is to move away from what’s not comfortable, to try to get somewhere better, but as my teacher used to say, “You need to take the backward step, not the forward step.” The forward step is always moving ahead, always trying to attain what you want, whether it’s a material possession or inner peace. The forward step is very familiar: seeking and more seeking, striving and more striving, always looking for peace, always looking for happiness, looking for love. To take the backward step means to just turn around, reverse the whole process of looking for satisfaction on the outside, and look at precisely the place where you are standing. See if what you are looking for isn’t already present in your experience.
So, again, to lay the groundwork for awakening, we must first let go of struggling. You let go by acknowledging that the end of struggle is actually present in your experience now. The end of struggle is peace. Even if your ego is struggling, even if you’re trying to figure this out and “do it right,” if you really look, you might just see that struggle is happening within a greater context of peace, within an inner stillness. But if you try to make stillness happen, you’ll miss it. If you try to make peace happen, you’ll miss it. This is more like a process of recognition, giving recognition to a stillness that is naturally present.
We’re not bringing struggle to an end. We’re not trying to not struggle anymore. We’re just noticing that there is a whole other dimension to consciousness that, in this very moment, isn’t struggling, isn’t resentful, isn’t trying to get somewhere. You can literally feel it in your body. You can’t think your way to not struggling. There isn’t a three–point plan of how not to struggle. It’s really a one–point plan: Notice that the peace, this end of struggling, is actually already present.
The process is therefore one of recognition. We recognize that there is peace now, even if your mind is confused. You may see that even when you touch upon peace now, the mind is so conditioned to move away from it that it will try to argue with the basic fact of peace’s existence within you: “I can’t be at peace yet because I have to do this, or that, or this question hasn’t been answered, or that question hasn’t been answered, or so–and–so hasn’t apologized to me.” There are all sorts of ways that the egoic mind can insist that something needs to happen, something needs to change, in order for you to be at peace. But this is part of the dream of the mind. We’re all taught that something needs to change for us to experience true peace and freedom.
Just imagine for a moment that this isn’t true. Even though you may believe that it’s true, just imagine for a moment: What would it be like if you didn’t need to struggle, if you didn’t need to make an effort to find peace and happiness? What would that feel like now? And just take a moment to be quiet and see if peace or stillness is with you in this moment.
Excerpted from Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering
© Sounds True 2011
CURRENTS OF POSSIBILITY
From the "Redemptive Love" Study Course
A participant writes: How do you define “Acceptance of what is now,” and how does that differ from resignation to what is now? How can I get to real acceptance rather than resignation?
I am in great gratitude for what I do have and experience, but often life now seems quite flat. The more I have released, the more empty I have become. Nothing in the world seems of real interest now, yet my heart is desiring something it cannot clearly define but longs to feel.
Adyashanti: To be resigned to What Is can still be an act of resistance, in the sense of there being a sort of standoff or deadlock between you and your inner state.
Redemptive Love blooms when you as an ego let go of your resistance and your resignation, and allow room for something to arise that the ego cannot create. The key here is to completely and absolutely let go without reservation. Only then can the divine power of Love gain access to your heart and mind. You have to completely let go of what you cannot control and utterly depend on the loving presence of Grace. This is not an act of resignation (which is of the mind); it is an act of surrender (which is of the heart).
We go through life walking in the immense darkness of unknown realities with a little flashlight in our hands, imagining that only what our little light makes visible is real. We generally see and experience only an infinitesimally small sliver of what actually exists and remain strictly within the confines of what our tiny light illumines. The true power of life does not lie within the confines of our tiny light, but in the immense darkness of unknown realities that are the greater story of our lives.
Our lives are much more immense than we know, and connected to vast currents of hidden influences and possibilities. But we must stretch out into the darkness with the full measure of our longing, and surrender to the greater unknown context of our lives in order to begin to embrace and be embraced by a Love that is awaiting our invitation. And it is not only an invitation in word but also in deed—the act of offering our Being and the fullness of our lives to the darkness of the unknown currents—eternal possibilities that we cannot control but must instead invite with heartfelt surrender.
THE TRUE CONNECTION
From the "I Am That" Study Course
A participant writes: It seems that a direct connection between the spiritual teacher and the student is very helpful and necessary for guidance. Is there hope for those of us living so far away from you?
Adyashanti: The direct connection between the spiritual teacher and the student is a matter of the heart, not proximity. Think of all of those who are transformed by their connection to Christ or Krishna. The true connection happens within the human heart. When the connection is profound, it makes the transmission of the teaching infinitely easier. So focus within your own heart; there you will find great connection and ultimately the living truth that we are one and the same.
Sometimes it can be quite advantageous to not live in close proximity to your teacher because then you are thrown back again and again into your own resources and can develop your own intuitive awareness and wisdom. Many people think that the primary function of the teacher is to answer their questions and tell them what to do, but actually the teacher is a living presence that you open to. That presence is there to reveal you to yourself.
The above Q&As are excerpted from an online study course with Adyashanti. Learn about his current course on the Study Course page.
© Adyashanti 2014
What is it like to live an awakened life?
While the world is trying to solve its problems and everyone around you is engaged in the same, you’re not. While everybody around you is trying to figure it out, trying to arrive, trying to “get there,” trying to be worthy, you’re not. While everyone thinks that awakening is a grand, noble, halo-enshrouded thing, for you it’s not. While everybody is running from this life right now, in this moment, to try to get there, you’re not. Where everybody has an argument with somebody else, mostly everybody else, starting with themselves, you don’t. Where everybody is so sure that happiness will come when something is different than it is now, you know that it won’t. When everybody else is looking to achieve the perfect state and hold on to it, you’re not.
When everybody around you has a whole host of ideas and beliefs about a whole variety of things, you don’t. Everyone on the path is getting there; you haven’t gotten anywhere. Everyone is climbing the mountain; you’re selling hiking boots and picks at the foot in the hope that if they climb it and come back down, they may be too exhausted to do it again. When everybody else is looking to the next book, to the next teacher, to the next guru to be told what’s real, to be given the secret key to an awakened life, you’re not. You don’t have a key because there’s not a lock to put it in.
When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, being simply what you’ve always been, you’re actually very simple. You basically sit around wondering what all the fuss is about.
When everyone is sitting around saying, “I hope that happens to me,” you remember when you did that. You remember that you didn’t find a solution to that. You remember that the whole idea that there was a problem created all of that.
When you’re being what you are, when you’re living the awakened life, there’s nobody to forgive, because there’s no resentment held, no matter what.
The truth of your being doesn’t crave happiness; it couldn’t actually care less. It doesn’t crave love, not because you are so full of love, but because it just doesn’t crave love. It’s very simple. It doesn’t seek to be known, regarded highly, or understood. When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, there’s no ideal for you anymore. You’ve stepped off the entire cycle of suffering, of becoming; you’re not interested.
It’s a curious life you find yourself in. You find yourself . . . where you are. Not where I am—where you are, where you really are, where we really are. It’s a curious place to be (especially in the beginning) not to be driven by anything—pleasure or displeasure, helping or hurting, loving or hating. The only thing that will move you (and I don’t mean to be too poetic about this) is the same thing that moves a leaf hanging from a tree. It’s simply because the breeze blows that way. So you always know what to do. The breeze blows that way, and that’s the way you go. You don’t ask questions anymore. You don’t evaluate why the breeze is blowing that way because you know that you don’t know why. And you know you can’t know why. There’s never been a leaf anywhere that knows why the wind blows that way on that day at that moment. That breeze changes the orientation of your life, moment to moment to moment, simply because that’s the way life’s moving. And when you’re living in your awakened self, you have no argument with the way it’s moving because it is the same as you are.
And you know that the breeze was always there, from the very beginning, and that it wasn’t reserved for special people. If you didn’t notice it at some point in your life, you know it was because you weren’t listening, or because you thought you had to figure something out before you could listen, or because you thought there had to be some conclusion before you could just listen so deeply, so without agenda, so without hope of a better future that you would feel the movement.
Many of you know what I’m speaking of.
Truth never explains why it’s moving that way at that moment. And if you ask, it won’t give any information. It would be like a leaf asking the wind, “Why are you moving that way right now?” The question doesn’t make any sense to the wind.
But your argument with the way the truth would move—whatever that way is—is no longer there for you. You’re no longer arguing with it. You’re no longer trying to figure it out. Mother Mary didn’t figure it out. Buddha didn’t figure it out. Ramana didn’t figure it out. None of them figured it out. They just became That. Simple. Ordinary, in the same way a leaf is ordinary.
When you’re living in your awakened being and living in an awakened way, power on any level is not an issue for you. It’s not interesting. The power to control another human being is not interesting. Intellectual power is not interesting. The power to control yourself is not interesting. The power that people want to give you is not interesting to you—not because it shouldn’t be; it’s just not. What would you want to do with it? You see that there’s nothing you want to do with it.
You realize, in the truth of your being, that you are the totality itself, but you have no interest whatsoever in doing anything with that knowledge, with using that knowledge.
Finally, you realize that you really don’t want to change anybody, not because you shouldn’t want to change them, because you just don’t. You might not want to be around everyone, but still you don’t want to change them.
None of this is an ideal—it’s the end of ideals. None of this is holiness; it’s the end of holiness. It’s the beginning of wholeness. None of this is something to achieve, because it’s not achievable. It’s simply what is in the truth of your being. It’s just what is. You can’t attain what’s naturally so. And nobody anywhere can ever tell you when or why, or to what degree you’ll let go of untruth; you will let go when you let go, usually when nothing else works.
When you’re living in the awakened way, in the awakened being that you are, you’re alone, and you’re finally comfortable with it. You’re alone, but you’re not lonely at all, because the only one who was ever supposed to meet you where you are—the only one who ever could meet you where you are one hundred percent—was you. Nobody else could ever fully meet you where you are—maybe ninety percent, maybe ninety-five. Nobody can meet you fully but you. When you finally do, then you don’t need anybody else to do it for you. Then you’re alone, more alone than you could ever imagine. And strangely—very strangely—you are more connected, more intimate, more at one with everything. More. And you would have never thought that those two could in any way be together: total aloneness and total oneness. You would have never guessed that that’s the way it would end up. But it does, and it always has.
And finally, when you’re just living in the awakened way that you really are, you’ll never form an image again of what it’s like. Even as it’s happening, you won’t form an image because you’ll know they’re all images, dust. The way it was yesterday won’t be the way it is today.
© 2003 by Adyashanti. Awakened Living Intensive. Berkeley, CA. October 5, 2003
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