An Unfinished Poem by Adyashanti
Listen now, or lose your life, for what I have to say is what you have imagined in quiet moments but have failed to realize in full. Perhaps you were too timid or astonished at the critical moments, or couldn’t find the courage to step through the veil of your frail life when the door was opened for you.
Or perhaps you wanted to keep your life as your own, and chose to hold onto a few pennies when you could have had gold. No matter, for yesterday has passed into the dust of remembered dreams, and tomorrow’s story is yet to be written.
Which is precisely why you and I are now here together. You and I. You and I. Oh, the sheer mystery of it—how could anything be more grand? Stand with me here at the precipice and take my hand in yours, for I am good company to those ready to depart familiar ground. If not, then let loose of my hand now and take that of a more familiar companion. For where we stand is known, but our next step will not be—nor the one after or the one after that.
So shoulder all of your longing and intent and leave all else behind. I give you fair warning: The world you are about to leave will not be there when you return. For nothing truly left behind is ever the same upon our return. Let us not waste any more time on discussions or debates; you have surely been caught in those tide pools too long already. Too much talk is wearying to the soul and evades the spirit of things. Longing is the true measure of a man or woman and alone has the power to draw us out of ourselves and into the vast air of eternity. But we shall not rely only on the winds of longing, for they can be fickle and unpredictable. We shall also need the fire of intent—that fine-tipped arrow of courage flying true and straight to its goal, piercing through the fabric of our dreams as it goes.
This is as fair a day as any to begin the journey back to your origin. So lift your foot together with mine and we will step off the well-trodden paths and into the uncharted woods where the essence of things lies waiting for you to open your eyes.
It is time to begin watching your steps, dear companion. For you have already wasted the goodness of too many days stumbling along with the unconscious drove. Today I bid you to place no foot upon the earth without feeling the sinews, skin, and bone of your feet with each step. How awake you are to the least of things will determine how awake you become to the greatest in due time. For in the play of time, the great and manifold diversity of things in the end proves their unity. And it is toward the end that we are headed, for it is only by means of the end that we arrive here, on this spot, free and immortal.
I can see in your eyes a fear and confusion. All this talk of endings brings a tremble to your bones. But fear not, for I do not speak of death or chaos except to point out that you have already fallen prey to both. No, I talk of awakening from the death of sleepwalking in dreams and veiled imagination. Beyond the veil all is well, and more well than I can attest. Within the immortality of what you are, there is a contentment and peace born only of your true identity.
Have you not been told how grand you are, how uncontained, how limitless? I for one maintain that you are as unseen and eternal as the space that spans beyond the myriad universes. I praise the immortal self—not one self among many, but the self within all selves. For everywhere I go, and in each and everyone I meet, I greet my secret and unseen self. For I know each man and each woman as I know myself, none greater or lesser in essence or worth.
I have no desire or pull toward the gods, nor sacred relics, nor holy books. For I have waded through the various dogmas and found them lacking the essential vision, the unitary glance that reveals God’s hand within every gesture. Why should we go looking for more than we are, when we are what we are looking for? Beware of a misguided longing, for it leads in the end to brutality. How much blood has already been spilled in God’s name and how much more to come?
I bid you, dear companion: Throw off the yoke of belief, for to arrive at the nobility of truth you must be cleansed of all borrowed knowledge till you are as innocent as the day before you were born. You must forge from within your longing a fiery sword of discrimination, unsheathed from the past—starting now on this hill we stand upon, determined to never again take anything secondhand, but instead prove true or false each statement yourself.
For truth belongs to neither man or woman, nor holy book, nor well-reasoned philosophy or belief, but only to itself—immortal and pure. I seek only to remove untruth from your mind so that you may be restored to the unitary vision which is your everlasting inheritance.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
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.
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
Rediscovered years later in an old file, the following talk was written by Adyashanti in preparation for the first silent retreat he taught, in July 1997:
Starting right now, this moment, I am asking you to become the Buddha. I am asking you to take your stand, to stand absolutely firm in your intention to awaken to the Truth of your Self.
This is what the Buddha did. He didn’t say, “I’ll try.” He didn’t say, “I hope I’ll find the Truth.” He didn’t say, “I’ll do my best.” He didn’t say, “If not in this lifetime, then maybe next lifetime.” He came to the point where he didn’t look for anyone else to tell him the Truth or show him the Truth. He came to the point where he took it all on himself. He sat alone under the Bodhi Tree and vowed never to give up until the Truth be realized.
The power of this very simple, yet unshakable intention and absolute stand to be liberated in this lifetime propelled him to awaken to the simple fact that he and all beings are liberated—that all beings are freedom itself. Pure awakeness.
The Buddha was no different from you. No different. That is why he serves as a good model, because he was as you are now. So don’t worship the Buddha. Don’t put him on a pedestal. Don’t even look up to him. Become him. Have the same intentions, take the same stand. Be the Buddha now! Put an end to all delaying, to all excuses, to all bowing down to saintly figures of the past or present. Stand up!
You are the Buddha! You are freedom itself! Stop dreaming your dream! Stop pretending that you are in bondage—stop telling yourself that lie! Stop pretending to be someone, or something! You are no one, you are no-thing! You are not this body or this mind. This body and mind exist within who and what you are. You are pure consciousness, already free, awake, and liberated. Stand up and walk out of your dream. I am here to say that you can do this.
Step out of the dream of your concepts and ideas. Step out of the dream of what you imagine enlightenment to be. Step out of the dream of who you think you are. Step out of the dream of everything you have ever known. Step out of your dream of being a deluded person. Stop telling yourself those lies and dreaming those dreams. Step out of all of that. You can do it. Nothing is holding you back. There are no requirements and no prerequisites to awaken. There is nothing to be done, nothing to think, nowhere to go.
Just stop all dreaming. Stop all doing. Stop all excuses. Just stop and be still. Effortlessly be still. Grace will do the rest.
At each and every moment from here on out, have the intention to directly experience Truth, your true liberated Self. Don’t think about the Truth—directly return to your experience here, now, moment to moment. Experience Truth. Experience your Self. Dive into your experience. Your experience! Your experience of hearing, of seeing, of tasting, of breathing, of your heart beating, of your feet touching the floor, of the birds, of the wind.
Experience the vastness of who you are. Experience the freedom of who you are. You are the Buddha—experience that. You are the Buddha.
© 2005 Adyashanti
There is a wonderful story about a young man who checks into the monastery, full of juice and ready to be enlightened yesterday. He asks the abbot, "How long will it take me to be enlightened?" To which the abbot answers, "About ten years." The young man says, "Ten years! Why ten years?" The abbot replies, "Oh, twenty years in your case." The man asks, "Why do you say twenty years?" The abbot says, "Oh, I’m sorry. I was mistaken…thirty years."
If you really get it, you realize that to even ask the question gets you ten years. As soon as the thought, "When will I really be free?" comes up, time has just birthed itself into existence. And with this birth of time you have to think, "Probably at least ten years, maybe forever." Where can you go in order to get here? Any step takes you somewhere else.
This is surprising to the mind because the mind always thinks of freedom, or enlightenment, as some sort of accumulation, and of course there is nothing to accumulate. It’s about realizing what you are, what you have always been. This realization is outside of time because it’s now or never.
As soon as your idea of enlightenment becomes time-bound, it’s always about the next moment. You may have a deep spiritual experience and then ask, "How long will I sustain this experience?" As long as you insist on the question, you remain time-bound. If you are still interested in time and the spiritual accumulations you can have in time, you will get a time-bound experience. The mind is acting as if what you are looking for isn’t already present right now. Now is outside of time. There is no time, and the paradox is that the only thing that keeps you from seeing the eternal is that your mind is stuck in time. So you miss what’s actually here.
Have you ever felt that you really didn’t like being here very much and that you wanted some wonderful eternal experience? That’s what is often thought but not said when the teacher says, "Be here right now." Inside you are feeling, "I am here, and I don’t like being here. I want to be there, where enlightenment is." If you have a really true teacher, you will be told that you are mistaken, that you have never been here. You’ve always been in time, therefore, you have never actually shown up here. Your body was here, but the rest of you went somewhere else.
Your body has been going through this thing called "life," but your head has been going through this thing called "my fantasy about life" or "my big story about life." You have been caught in an interpretation about life, so you have never really been here.
Here is the Promised Land. The eternal is here. Have you ever noticed that you have never left here, except in your mind? When you remember the past, you are not actually in the past. Your remembering is happening here. When you think about the future, that future projection is completely here. And when you get to the future, it’s here. It’s no longer the future.
To be here, all you have to do is let go of who you think you are. That’s all! And then you realize, "I’m here." Here is where thoughts aren’t believed. Every time you come here, you are nothing. Radiantly nothing. Absolutely and eternally zero. Emptiness that is awake. Emptiness that is full. Emptiness that is everything.
To move beyond all pairs of opposites within oneself is the heart and soul of spirituality. Awareness itself is not a female or a male awareness. It doesn’t belong to me; it doesn’t belong to you. It’s not a right awareness or a wrong awareness. Awareness itself, consciousness itself, lies beyond and before the opposites.
The fundamental ground of your nature is inherently already and always free, inherently already and always complete. This part, when it’s discovered, is where you realize everything is One. It is an exquisite place beyond the pairs of opposites. It is in the very heart of every being, and it is the same in every being. This is a wonderful thing to realize, because then you can start to connect to that which is indivisible. And that is an entirely different place to live one’s life from.
Most human beings are living their whole lives from the pairs of opposites because it’s the only way they know. But when you discover that there is within you this place that is beyond the pairs of opposites, and that place, that state of awareness, is actually what you are, you start to realize you can live from that place.
To live from that place, self-grasping must be let go of more and more fully, because the only thing that keeps anybody from living from that place is holding onto thoughts, ideas, judgments, regrets -- all those things that cause you to hold onto yourself. They literally create your self, and as soon as they are let go of, that self is not there anymore.
Living from that place, you start to choose to be simple, to give your attention to the simplicity, to what’s awake in you, to what lies beyond the pairs of opposites: your inherent nature as awareness or consciousness itself. It’s a very simple thing. Through this, it introduces you to the fundamental nature of yourself, the fundamental nature of reality.
You’ll know when you get there, because you stop asking, “Have I gotten there yet?” It’s an exquisite place to get to. It’s very liberating when you discover yourself as you truly are. It’s that place within you that is free, within and from the pairs of opposites. The exquisiteness is the sense of freedom. It’s what brings rest.
Excerpted from the DVD “Beyond Opposites.”
© Adyashanti 2013
Human beings have a drive for security and safety, which is often what fuels the spiritual search. This very drive for security and safety is what causes so much misery and confusion. Freedom is a state of complete and absolute insecurity and not knowing. So, in seeking security and safety, you actually distance yourself from the freedom you want. There is no security in freedom, at least not in the sense that we normally think of security. This is, of course, why it is so free: there's nothing there to grab hold of.
The Unknown is more vast, more open, more peaceful, and more freeing than you ever imagined it would be. If you don't experience it that way, it means you're not resting there; you're still trying to know. That will cause you to suffer because you're choosing security over Freedom. When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast. As the experience of the Unknown deepens, your boundaries begin to dissolve. You realize, not just intellectually but on a deep level, that you have no idea who or what you are. A few minutes ago, you knew who you were—you had a history and a personality—but from this place of not knowing, you question all of that.
Liberated people live in the Unknown and understand that the only reason they know what they are is because they rest in the Unknown moment by moment without defining who they are with the mind. You can imagine how easy it is to get caught in the concept of the Unknown and seek that instead of the Truth. If you seek the concept, you'll never be free, but if you stop looking to myths and concepts and become more interested in the Unknown than in what you know, the door will be flung open. Until then, it will remain closed.
I've seen people who have never meditated come to satsang and have a deep experience of the Unknown, and I've known many who remain in the trance because they stay with the mind's techniques and strategies. There is no prerequisite for experiencing the Unknown. Everyone has equal access to it.
© 2002 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Spiritual seekers are some of the most superstitious people on the planet. Most people come to spiritual teachers and teachings with a host of hidden beliefs, ideas, and assumptions that they unconsciously seek to be confirmed. And if they are willing to question these beliefs, they almost always replace the old concepts with new, more spiritual ones, thinking that these new concepts are far more real than the old ones.
Even those who have had deep spiritual experiences and awakenings beyond the mind will in most cases continue to cling to superstitious ideas and beliefs in an unconscious effort to grasp for the security of the known, the accepted, or the expected. It is this grasping for security in all its inward and outward forms which limits the perspective of enlightenment and maintains an inwardly divided condition which is the cause of all suffering and confusion.
You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself.
Shortly after I began teaching, I noticed that almost everyone coming to see me held a tremendous number of superstitious ideas and beliefs that were distorting their perceptions and limiting their scope of spiritual inquiry. What was most surprising was that in almost all cases, even those who had deep and profound experiences of spiritual awakening continued to hold onto superstitious ideas and beliefs which severally limited the depth of experience and expression of true awakening.
Over time I began to see how delicate and challenging it was for most seekers to find the courage to question any and all ideas and beliefs about the true nature of themselves, the world, others, and even enlightenment itself. In almost every person, every religion, every group, every teaching and every teacher, there are ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that are overtly or covertly not open to question. Often these unquestioned beliefs hide superstitions which are protecting something which is untrue, contradictory, or being used as justification for behavior which is a less than enlightened.
The challenge of enlightenment is not simply to glimpse the awakened condition, nor even to continually experience it, but to be and express it as yourself in the way you move in this world. In order to do this, you must come out of hiding behind any superstitious beliefs and find the courage to question everything, otherwise you will continue to hold onto superstitions which distort your perception and expression of that which is only ever awake.
© 1999 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Spiritual people often want unconditional support and understanding from their friends, family, and mates, but all too often seem blind to their own shortcomings when it comes to the amount of unconditional support and understanding that they give to others. I have seen many spiritual people become obsessed with how unspiritual others are and assume an arrogant and superior attitude while completely missing the fact that they themselves are not nearly as spiritually enlightened as they would like to think they are.
Enlightenment can be measured by how compassionately and wisely you interact with others—with all others, not just those who support you in the way that you want. How you interact with those who do not support you shows how enlightened you really are.
As long as you perceive that anyone is holding you back, you have not taken full responsibility for your own liberation. Liberation means that you stand free of making demands on others and life to make you happy. When you discover yourself to be nothing but Freedom, you stop setting up conditions and requirements that need to be satisfied in order for you to be happy.
It is in the absolute surrender of all conditions and requirements that Liberation is discovered to be who and what you are. Then the love and wisdom that flows out of you has a liberating effect on others. The biggest challenge for most spiritual seekers is to surrender their self importance, and see the emptiness of their own personal story. It is your personal story that you need to awaken from in order to be free.
To give up being either ignorant or enlightened is the mark of liberation and allows you to treat others as your Self. What I am describing is the birth of true Love.
© 1998 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Life without a reason, a purpose, a position... the mind is frightened of this because then "my life" is over with, and life lives itself and moves from itself in a totally different dimension. This way of living is just life moving. That's all.
As soon as the mind pulls out an agenda and decides what needs to change, that's unreality. Life doesn't need to decide who's right and who's wrong. Life doesn't need to know the "right" way to go because it's going there anyway. Then you start to get a hint of why the mind, in a deep sense of liberation, tends to get very quiet. It doesn't have its job anymore. It has its usefulness, but it doesn't have its full-time occupation of sustaining an intricately fabricated house of cards.
This stillness of awareness is all there is. It's all one. This awareness and life are one thing, one movement, one happening, in this moment -- unfolding without reason, without goal, without direction. The ultimate state is ever present and always now. The only thing that makes it difficult to find that state and remain in that state is people wanting to retain their position in space and time. "I want to know where I'm going. I want to know if I've arrived. I want to know who to love and hate. I want to know. I don't really want to be; I want to know. Isn't enlightenment the ultimate state of knowing?" No. It's the ultimate state of being. The price is knowing.
This is the beautiful thing about the truth: ever-present, always here, totally free, given freely. It's already there. That which is ever-presently awake is free, free for the "being." But the only way that there's total and final absolute homecoming is when the humanness presents itself with the same unconditionality. Every time a human being touches into that unconditionality, it's such peace and fulfillment.
In your humanity, there's the natural expression of joy and love and compassion and caring and total unattachment. Those qualities instantly transmute into humanness when you touch into emptiness. Emptiness becomes love. That's the human experience of emptiness, that source, that ever-present awakeness. For the humanness to lay itself down -- your mind, your body, your hopes, your dreams, everything -- to lay itself down in the same unconditional manner in which awareness is ever present, only then is there the direct experience of unity, that you and the highest truth are really one thing. It expresses itself through your humanity, through openness, through love. The divine becomes human and the human becomes divine -- not in any "high and mighty" sense, but just in the sense of reality. That's the way it is.
The only price is all of our positions. The only price is that you stop paying a price.
Copyright ©2004 Adyashanti.
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.
Everything that’s spoken in satsang is only meant to strike a recognition, an aliveness, a remembrance in this moment, and nothing more. The truth is only true if it’s living for you, for me. If it’s alive within us, it’s real, and it transcends anything we could say about it. If the truth remains only in its spoken form it dies. Even your own insight, if it becomes rigidified in your mind, will die. Even the greatest sutras die as soon as they aren’t alive within somebody. When they become just words they die because all teachings, the truest teachings, need you and me to bring them to life, to find the life within them. When you find the life, then you can bow to the teaching and be the living of it. At that point the words don’t mean a whole lot.
I think of this teaching as I think of this sangha. The reason we call it “Open Gate” Sangha is that just like the teaching, the sangha is something for this moment. This is the sangha -- whether or not we’ve met each other before -- this is it. After we leave this gathering, as soon as you walk out the door, the next person you meet is your sangha. Then you go home, and that’s your sangha. Then you go to the grocery store, and that’s your sangha. Then if we come back together someday, that becomes sangha. It’s not a fixed form, it’s not a club. The door is open on the way in and open on the way out. Both doors are open so that something can keep flowing. It isn’t a community we join -- except at our birth. We’re birthed into sangha, into sacred community. It’s called the world. It’s flowing and it moves, and as soon as you don’t move with it, it dies, does it not? The teaching dies if it doesn’t stay fresh. Your own realization dies if you don’t move with it. That’s why I always suggest to live in a state of discovery -- not a state of discovery where you are looking for an ultimate conclusion, for that’s the greatest illusion of all. Live in a state of discovery because that’s how the truth lives.
Excerpted from a talk in Pacific Grove, CA on September 16, 2005.
© Adyashanti 2013
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