I wanted to write you and let you know how much I appreciate your web-sites and teaching. You seem to be one of the few Advaita teachers around that understand the value of samadhi’s and meditation in general. I began TM (mantra meditation) when I was 18 years old. It promised to deliver a silent mind and rested body and well it did on a sporadic basis. The yogic goal was to empty the mind/consciousness and find the transcendental silent source. This conscious silence (called pure consciousness) when repeated in the transcendental mode was to spill over into everyday life. This did not happen quickly as promised. The deal then was to increase the amount of time in meditation. Again, after extended months in meditative isolation the practice did extend silent well being for extended periods of time. It was, however, like a drug that wore off. I can say, however, to some extent there was some seeming permanent growth in the direction desired but not the tease of expectation.
During my late twenties I felt I had to get serious about a career and put aside my preoccupation with spirituality as a lifestyle. I continued to meditate twice each day for 20 minutes or so but now my attention was on the relative world. I got my MA and quickly rose in the automotive business world to VP status and enjoyed a challenging but stressful life for twenty years.. After 20 years or so of meditation I felt I needed to expand my notion of spirituality. Transcendent experiences by definition are temporary and cannot fully be the basis of Self realization given the Self must be ever present not just visited.
I knocked around the spiritual circuit for sometime (e.g. met Bernadette Roberts) until I met Ramesh Balsekar about twenty years ago. His advice was significant in pointing out the value of witnessing life (as if watching a river go by from the river bank). It seemed to me that was good advice as the subject of experience was conscious yet without objects (i.e. the pure consciousness I found through transcendence/samadhi). I thought now I could at least expand my range of pure consciousness to 180% by being the rear view witness of the world in front of me. It actually worked and was natural and supported later by the Douglas Harding experiments (which I’m sure you are aware of). I continued my mantra meditation but now I added the practice of abiding as the witness space. I later read more of Advaita – Shankara, Balsekar, Ramana Maharshi, and Sri Nisargatta. Nisargatta, particularly got my awareness expanded and bubbling.
About ten years ago, I naturally noticed I had reached the first goal of TM (called cosmic consciousness) and stopped mantra meditation. I reasoned if the mantra was a vehicle then I did not need it upon arrival at my goal. The first goal in TM is to experience “pure consciousness” during all states of consciousness. I simply noticed one day that this was the case. Awareness is always present even during sleep. It feels like all states of consciousness have been reduced to one. After this realization I started to meditate by simply relaxing all tension in the body/mind without the mantra. I would simply drop deep into pure awareness without any content for hours at a time. This is not witnessing but emptiness with the light of consciousness present.
Some months after my first goal was meet I started to wonder what was keeping me from the second TM goal of Unity Consciousness. I’ve been told this was a process of grace and devotion but I did not know what that meant. The only thing I could think to do was continue my meditations and read more Advaita/TM Gita commentary.
I followed the traditional Advaita arguments and certainly understood and began to feel the Unity of Consciousness. Clearly, everything relative is only an expression in my consciousness. The next thing that happened was not expected and scary. I hit the void head on and it was not comfortable. It was the deepest experience I have ever experienced and the logical end of emptying consciousness via many years of meditation. It was not only void but a seeming black void. It had the feeling of pulling me into total destruction so I resisted it. It became ever more pervasive inside and out. It is still the most pervasive experience in my life ever though I later realized the witness experienced it so it was no the most fundamental element of life. I really do not know what to do with this void experience and have relegated it to a dimension of depth. It is a depth in everything. It is so impersonal that I often think of it as the abode of God – the rock of ages.
The months that followed this experience gave deeper feelings of Unity Consciousness and visual transparency but it was clear to me that consciousness was still relative and a nirguna Brahman consciousness, based on the true absolute witness was necessary. This is the last goal of TM – Brahman Consciousness. I have been settling into this experience for the last nine years and cannot say much about it.
This Brahman consciousness somehow does not feel complete. Also, I’m not sure I have fully dealt with this void business as it doesn’t feel like I’ve made peace with it either. Long ago I realize that I am not the doer so I’m not into pushing my life around much. I just seem to do a karma yoga type lifestyle that involves doing what’s right, in my mind, and not getting attached to the results. I do spontaneous feel bliss randomly throughout the day but do not make it a goal. There is not a lot of happiness but much contentment. I’ve wondered about expanding the bliss attention but this does not seem natural or a permanent possibility as attention fades.
Reading your articles I’ve been thinking of moving my attention during meditation to the belly and spending some more time deliberately “witnessing the witness”. Maybe I have simply bypassed this “witnessing the witness” work ever though I’ve done a lot of similar stuff (e.g. aware of awareness). Do you have any advice regarding the void, witnessing the witness, or developing bliss in my case?
It is abundantly clear to me the subject of experience cannot be an object of experience. The mind is one tricky bastard and abiding as the Self/Subject is one subtle process. Nothing would surprise me in this regard. Meditation was great but the “pure consciousness” became an object of experience (i.e. silence). This was reinforced by the body associating with this silence during meditation as well. Unity consciousness was great but it pulled my attention to the subtle relative and the void. The void then became the pseudo subject of experience till the witness consciousness said no. Samadhi after samadhi has moved me forward but I’m not sure where I’ve ended up.
Just being a good husband seems to be my primary goal at this point in my life.
Here is my take. You and I have experienced extraordinary states of consciousness that come and go.
Yet I feel unchanged. I feel the same now in terms of my fundamental state while conscious as I did 40 years ago. States come and go and I remain.
I have witnessed states come and go. I became aware I am not affected at all by the content or the coming and going. I am beyond in some mysterious way from consciousness in its many forms and and content. This beyond is not affected in any way by the variation is states or the aging and deterioration of my body.
I can watch the witness, but that just turns more and more of the mystery into the void, but I cannot grasp the witness. But what if I become the witness? What happens? What if I become this very fundamental non-state subject?
A twig snaps, my samadhi (or sleep) is broken, and the world appears! I may or may not feel one with it or separate, because that distinction arises through analysis. If I don't analyze and check my states, I just am. Sometimes in oneness, sometimes in samadhi, sometimes as a person, sometimes as the void. All these things are possible.
I notice I love the world and all sentience in it. With all my heart and soul I want to protect and cherish sentience. I want to become a good person. I want to protect all from harm and misery. I love all, even sometimes only in a distant way. But if a hungry, homeless cat comes up, I will feed him. I will help an elderly woman carry her bags.
In so loving, what do I care about adding further spiritual experiences and knowledge? All of that is temporary and part of consciousness, and I am before all that, but the love I feel drives me to act correctly, compassionately for all sentience within this creation. I cannot help it. Love comes and flows through me, and I own it. That makes my actions personal, grounded.
My spiritual efforts have carried me away from understanding and experiences, to compassion and love, and the personal. Yes, the personal has returned, purified. And I am happy even when shocks and sadness come. There is a sense of peace, of correctness, that everything is right with me and an acceptance of how the world is unfolding. Yet, I also actively help it unfold in a gentler way.
Yes, being a good husband is a fine way of being.
Back at me:
Your response is in line with my current life theme. It is not a popular notion but I think Karma Yoga is necessary at all levels of spiritual development. One cannot release all impediments to spiritual growth simply by meditating. It seems to me if selfish action is the causal level of spiritual retardation then unselfish action must be its final resolution. A spiritual channel once told me it was harder to be a good person than enlightened. It is a notion that has stuck with me for decades.
I know right action does not necessarily involve comfort. This is its greatest impediment. When I was in undergraduate school in the south during the 1960’s people were fond of pointing guns at me for being a civil rights worker and for being anti-war. It did not make for a great college experience but it all seemed right to me.
Compassion and love (ultimate “right action”) is also not popular or easy but I love your answer.
I “own” one abandoned cat and a rescue dog that shakes all the time from past abuse. They provide me with great loving Samadhi’s day after day.
Is not such love perfect?