19 October 2011

Awakening and “Progress”

There are many different concepts about awakening. But in Advaita—Robert/Ramana and Edji’s awakening, you are either awake or you are not. It is not a progressive thing. What happens is that your spiritual intelligence is awakened. It is not a matter of spiritual experiences or kundalini experiences, or emotional experiences.

One day, in an instant or insight, you see through the mind and all of its stories. The mind is seen to be just thoughts that form a loose network, and which creates “you,” as a person with an identity and a history, and also creates a world that you as an apparent entity live in.

One can have many, many, many samadhis prior to this awakening of intelligence, during which the mind disappears and you can have oneness experiences, or what Ken Wilber called, “No-boundary” experiences. But these oneness experiences are temporary. You go deep into your subjective experience, the brain feels heavy and dense, you feel like you are falling asleep, then “you” disappear, the mind falls away, and you become One with everything you see, feel, touch and think. You become the space and the phenomenal totality.

But you can experience this state—or similar, for the precise manifestation differs from person to person—thousands of times, and not awaken. For these are special states brought on by intense concentration and focus on one’s internal, subjective experience. They do give a taste of what awakening is though—the experience of no boundaries and emptiness, but not permanence. Simular to awakening, but different. One is an experience, the other is a new understanding that changes one's perspective, such that the world becomes an appearance, not real.

I know, I know there are all kinds of theories about Samadhi and permanent samadhis, etc., but once again, this is a theory about progressive transformation and growth—which I reject, and I’ll say why later. Mostly though, there is no proof anywhere that any act or method caused the dissolution of the network of thoughts--the Maya.

On the other hand, constant introspection on one’s subjective sense of self, existence, I Am, gradually makes you more and more aware of one’s internal emptiness or Void, the space and “container” of all experience. You might say this Void is the subjective manifestation of the externally manifested space that contains all “external” phenomena. The space perceived through meditation and introspection “inside” oneself, occurs in one’s “imaginal” subjective space, which is like the “warmth” or presence that fills one’s body and mind.

In a sense, looking inside, meditating on the emptiness, on awareness or consciousness, especially that part of consciousness that most feels like “me” or the I-Am, is the highest method recommended by Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Robert Adams, Jean Dunn, and myself.

We keep focusing on one’s own sense of presence, one’s “ego” some might say, or the sense of “I-ness,” and one day we realize that  all that we are is emptiness; the rest of existence is concept only with no real form. I have no form. The world has no form. Yet the belief we are a person is incredibly deep. I am an Ed, an Alan, a Joan, Jo-Ann, Tina or a Janet is so deep. The process of building this belief that we are a person starts soon after birth and continues until we are 7 or so. These images, ideas and memories that make up this belief run to the core of our being, which may be so damaged by developmental trauma that they are either not there, or they are so colored by emotional pain and confusion that we cannot touch them consciously. We remain prisoners of our damaged development.

On the other hand, the Transpersonalists like Ken Wilber and Dan Brown, state ego has to be healed and whole before there can be a transcendence and awakening--at least they were saying it in the early 80s. To me, this is bull. You see, as I quoted Nisargadatta in a recent Satsang, when he referred to both the ego and the I Am, he said such entities do not exist. They are knowledge only, and knowledge has no form. You, as knowledge, have no form or existence in the world of manifestation. There is no "thing" to evolve or heal, only misconceptions to be dissolved.

Even prior to this knowledge of I Am, or the simular I-concept or ego, is the “principle of knowing,” or we might call it the knower, but if we do that, we can make a mistake of making that principle an entity, which is what we have just disproved. We can call that principle that knows knowledge, the knower, pure awareness, the Absolute, Parabrahman, etc., but we run the danger of then making it into something real and perceivable in this world. It is better not to think about it at all or give it a name which congers up the idea of existence and form. Rather, we need to feel it as a mystery, as endless potential.

Now, the Transpersonalists by creating a progression of developmental levels and milestones, are piling theory upon theory, and necessarily creating a developmental sequence both of the ego and the eventual goal of awakening. To me, this is a great mistake because it posits a model of progressive mental health culminating in awakening. You see, now instead of just awakening the native intelligence of the knower, the Absolute, which dissipates the illusion we are people isolated within the body, wrapped around a physical existence, we now have to “heal” all the major parts of “brokenness” in our early development. We have added years onto our task of awakening. The transpersonalists say we have to fix previous developmental failures.

I do not believe that. To me, the entire edifice of ego, self, I-Am, personhood, etc., is just an insubstantial, changeable, impermanent interconnection of ideas, concepts that form how we feel about ourselves and others, and impose moral principles of behavior, etc., in the form of societal “nicety.” But when you see all of that is just thoughts hanging together, the boundaries and limits imposed by these personal and societal patterns fall by the wayside and are “seen through” by the knower, by pure intelligence.

This is why the appearance of movement or spiritual progress is an illusion and a trap. Awakening or progress to it is not made up of many samadhis or even intense emotional patterns that come to the surface in relationship with each other or with your teacher. Being in a deep relationship with another or with a teacher can activate movement towards emotional healing also, but this is movement on the level of the personal and really does not have much to do with the awakening process, nor do I believe it is a causal prerequisite for awakening.

A relationship with your "beloved" can activate one’s spiritual intelligence through the words spoken, and the love felt can activate past behavioral patterns as well as bring out the failed developmental sequences, which may or may not be healed and made successful this time, or at least accepted as injuries and brokenness that will never be transcended.
This is why even strong movement on an emotional level should not be seen as strong progress towards awakening, and really, maybe not even of healing on a psychological/developmental level. All that we can really say when there is strong movement on an emotional level is that there is movement, possibly not at all of even healing, and certainly not of an awakening of the Absolute to its own truth, to its own existence, which may be even more deeply buried by the noisiness of the emotional unfolding.

This is where I differ too with Jeff Brown and his talk of authenticity, truth body and all that. To me this is just another movement on the personal level, made into a conceptual "spiritual" movement of mankind as a whole. Really, he is talking about overcoming social roles and individual oughts/shoulds within a context of the previously socially acceptable.

So, from the perspective of awakening, don't feel too elated if there is a lot of emotional unfolding, nor despair if there is a lot of trauma and drama at the emotional level. Nor should you feel despair if nothing appears to be happening on a spiritual level in terms of samadhis or kundalini experiences, because although these can be signs of something deep happening in you, it may not be at the level that results in awakening, which Nisargadatta’s teacher, Siddharameshwar calls the causal body and deeper levels. The awakening of intelligence where the illusion of me and the world is seen through, and then even that consciousness itself is an illusion compared to YOU, really does not appear to be directly tied into any sequence or path involving emotional growth, authenticity, or progressive meditation of any sort with the single exception of certain types of self-inquiry, like abiding in the I, loving the I Am, and loving the self. Even then, the mechanics are explained by no one, only metaphors are given to explain the process.

Many, many, many people write to me about their experiences, from various meditation experiences, various kundalini experiences, various experiences of emptiness and presence, and ask me to explain their experiences or ask whether they are signs of progress.

Usually I try to be encouraging so that they continue to practice rather than give up. But you see, all of these things they experience are only experiences, they are not permanent. Awakening means YOU, as the "knower", intelligence, has seen through the mind, all concepts, all prescribed moralities and behaviors, and even consciousness itself. At first, the seeing-through may be strong, or it may be tiny, but the lamp of intelligence has been lighted and the path now seen.

One moment you are spiritually blind, and the next, you are transformed and live in an entirely different world. How or why this happens is a mystery, and that is why we call it "grace."

This is just the beginning. This cutting intelligence must be turned on everything inside and outside of you, including all of those “rooms” inside of yourself that have existed in the shadows. Zen calls this the deepening of the awakening, and ultimately a return to the marketplace, a return to zero, ordinary mind.

Once a student asked Robert how he saw the world, with lights and energies, or as non-existent. He said, "No, I see it just like you do or else I could not function. But I know its truth. It and everything is only consciousness. There are no things, no world, no I, no you." To others he told something more radical, that even consciousness does not exist by itself, it is a perfume of you, the unmanifest, unborn nothingness.


  1. So true. At least for me :)

    Anyway, Ed, just wanted to ask what do you think about vipassana? Mindfulness practice. Watching it all out, till everything is seen through, all the mechanics of mind, all the workings, etc. Why they do alert people to avoid "sinking mind" because, according to them, it leads to void and it is not 'good'.
    For example, if i am not interested in mechanics of the mind, but am more interested in that which watches, am I omitting something?

    Arvydas (from there where are no motor cars :P )

  2. Ed, this is very informative and worth reading again and again. Thanks for the love, time, and energy that went into this.

    With Love,

  3. Hey there Ed! thanks for writing this, I appreciate the time and honesty you put into helping us as best you can. Reading this at once fills me with despair and stillness and pushes me again toward surrender as I feel incapable of reaching any goal on my own. 'Awakening' seems to be the only hope I have left in life, or at least the greatest one. It is a concept so it can't be achieved, can it? What can I do? Surrender is the only option. I hope I can surrender completely! Thanks again.

  4. Thanks Rich for expressing your feelings, your heart. Beautiful!