01 November 2009

Hi Ed,

I just stumbled onto your site via “stumble”. I picked up a book at the local library called  “The power of now”, thinking it was sort of popular science. I had never read a “spiritual” book in my life, less even given the subject any thought whatsoever. Anyway, I seem to know what the guy is going on about somehow. I try “getting in touch with my body”, the first time I ever tried to “meditate” and have some very profound experiences. Anyway after that all my fear and anxiety seem to have fallen away. I’m not skipping around in some sort of spiritual bliss or anything, I just sort of feel nothing matters, that I know/feel something ( that I can’t explain ) that everything is  alright, a contentment. 

So, I join this Eckhart Tolle web site, now I just don’t want to sound like a spiritual crazy  but most of what’s being talked about I feel is not right. I don’t know how or why I know this but I start writing on these threads about shit I know nothing about and I’m thinking after, “what are you doing, writing all this stuff about awakening blah blah” I bump into your site and realize I’ve been writing about things I just read this morning. About stopping thinking (or how you can’t), the imaginary universe and body, lots of stuff I have absolutely no idea about. I have been writing stuff recommending people do this or that “en contra” to Tolle’s teaching, mad, what do I know? 

I like Tolle’s teachings but the more I listen the more I just think he’s skirting around the edge of something, flowery roundabouts, poetic musings. I can’t put my finger on it but I just know he doesn’t have what I want. 

Is it possible to know things, you don’t consciously know? I couldn’t talk for 1 minute about self-realization, but I “know” or feel a lot about it. Am I deluded, an over active ego? Maybe, maybe that is it! I wasn’t going to write about my “Meditation” experience because I feel such a fraud amongst all the knowledgeable and savvy people on the internet articulating their experiences......like you.....talking about lots of different meditation techniques etc.
Well anyway, It was beautiful but also frightening at the same time ( or in different phases) I felt myself going inside myself in stages. I got something like a strong electric shock from my toes right through my head each time. Not a nice sensation and each time I had to stop myself coming “awake” out of the whole thing. My body jerked each time, it was a very strong sensation. I could hear the traffic outside so I knew I wasn’t asleep. Basically I just felt like an atom shining in space at the end. I felt like everything had fallen away from me but I was enveloped in (I don’t know what ) I can only say that nothing mattered anymore. I was free (no wonder people sound pretentious writing about this stuff!)

I feel I am at the crossroads of something, what should I do?


Hi M,

I have been away for a while. My mom was very ill--still is--and I am
going back and forth between LA and  Phoenix and Sedona and will be doing so through November. I hope to see Mary Skene in a few days, Robert’s left hand woman for many years.

My intuition is that you are correct about Tolle and most of the neo-advaitins. They have got a tip of the tongue understanding, but no deeper. I admit I have not read any of them, so I am speaking from ignorance. I rarely read anything in the area of spirituality, and if I do, it is usually Robert, Ramana, Nisargadatta, or a few of the old Advaita scriptures like the Rhibu Gita.

I admit my knowledge of the neo Advaitins comes from Facebook, email questions, watching a video, etc., but I have never got the impression that any of them actually have practiced self-inquiry as taught by Ramana, Nisragadatta, or Robert, or just went to the teachings of no self and stopped there.

Most of them quote Nisargadatta and read he practiced self inquiry by contemplating “I Am” for three years, which, by the way, is an amazingly short time, yet few if any talk about the need for practice.

Ramesh Balsekar for example, never talks about practice,and accepts the concept that enlightenment is about the understanding only that there is no I or self. They glomb onto that understanding and attempt to deepen it by just holding onto that understanding. But there is far, far more than this to Advaita.

The origin of the discovery of No I is an experience of the emptiness of all concepts and forms. It is a state that generates an understanding. Without experiencing that state, the understanding is only concept with no ability to actually change you. You just have new concepts. I describe that state on the http://itisnotreal.com website. 

You have to go further and "apperceive" that that state itself is observed by something that is beyond that state, and YOU are THAT. The neo Advaitins stop with an acceptance of waking consciousness and the sense of presence as the final understanding, or experience, and equate that with "enlightenment."

They also love to repeat there is no enlightenment because there is no I or self to be enlightened, but again, this is only concept and only an apparent contradiction. 

I think the problem may have started when they read about Ramana's initial enlightenment experience, where he pretended to be dead and concluded that since he was still aware of his waking consciousness, that the waking consciousness was ultimate, beyond which there was no further understanding or experience. Just realize and bathe in the sense of presence.

They fail to realize that what Ramana actually did was to glimpse that consciousness and all that is contains, is different from the body, even though there would be no waking consciousness without a body, nor dream or deep sleep either. His initial awakening would be described in Zen as Kensho--the initial awakening or enlightenment experience.

He also apparently realized there was no object that the word “I” referred to or anyone in charge of his body and mind. He, as observer, was just along for the ride. He stopped using his name, but still spoke of God, his father, ruler of all, more or less as the "other," or God, or Arunachala. There was still duality.

I am not sure he had become aware at that time that he was the only one, the Witness of all, or that the world itself was illusion, and waking consciousness was illusion.

Ramana then spent years deepening his understanding, penetrating through the dream and deep sleep states also, until all consciousness runs out and you are left with the mysterious Witness of all that is in consciousness. All the states of consciousness, all the four outer bodies of yoga are just superimpositions on YOU, the Witness of all. Anything you say about that ultimate state or Witness is absolutely a lie. Nothing can be known. It is not an object. It does not have existence as an object, but it does as a subject which is an ultimate existence as opposed to a conditional existence.

The stories of Ramana's sadhana (practice) during the next  ten or fifteen years are legion, sitting in Samadhi for weeks at a time until insects burrowed into his legs causing infections and bleeding that stuck him to the floor of the temple. They talk of samadhis where he was beyond the world for days and weeks at a time. 

I never hear about the new gurus spending days and weeks in silent meditation and Samadhi.

As Robert said, "Everyone wants to get in on the act." No one wants to
be a student.  I am just amazed by all the web teachers and what they say.

I feel I am at the crossroads of something, what should I do?

M., I can only suggest doing more of the same. Since you wrote 3
weeks ago, I assume you are doing more of the same. Introspect. Try to find the source of your “presence,” your sense of existence. If that does not work, just sit in the totality of the emptiness of your consciousness—the world of your waking experience.

Whatever you experience, know that it is temporary and any understanding gleaned is also temporary.

The hardest gate to go through is knowing nothing and being comfortable knowing nothing, being a nobody. None of the current gurus seem comfortable knowing nothing or being nobody. They have to be somebody with busy minds, busy with quotes, poetry, etc., even about knowing nothing. Robert used to say, the great ones, you never hear about.

They just can't let go and be nobody.

Just keep going.


  1. I realize Tolle's is this Oprah-hype and all this, but I don't know if we should diminish his teachings in advance.
    He does indeed speak of not knowing who you are, and then accepting that fully; becoming nothing.
    He also seemed to have his no-self experience brought on my severe anxiety rather than spiritual practice, is perhaps worth mentioning.

    Anyway: arguing about it is pointless, though (just thought I'd chip in). Is there any other contemporary teacher that you like? Adyashanti and the likes, are the all the same?


  2. I must admit I have read nothing by Tolle or all the others such as Sailor Bob, etc. Therefore my understanding is superficial and should be regarded as mere ranting.

    However, what I do see on facebook and other places are people posting snippets of thoughts, poetry, quotes, poems, and nothing about practicing self-inquiry, or asking questions about the different states of consciousness, the witness and the Witness. It is as if they have rejected self-investigation and stopped with an understanding.

    Advaita is really, really easy to understand, but to get the understanding into your bones is really hard. It takes some time before it become natural.

    That is why Michael Langford's book is helpful for many, it emphasizes the effort and dedication necessary.

    Yet many of these people reject Langford just because he advises single minded attentiveness and self-abidance because they say self-inquiry is not possible because there is no self.

    It is one thing to know that as a concept and quite another to transcend that sense of presence.

  3. Now I'm hardly an enlightened spirit (even though I am - heh!), but I feel Tolle's got some insight - even though he is much of a media phenomenon right now.

    Thank you for the input. And I'm sorry to hear about your mother.